Cardio, Achieved

A bright, clear, cold morning has risen, and brought with it…several notifications from the bank, needing me to call in and verify some charges so we can be sure they’re mine. I don’t mind it–I’m glad they’re paying attention–but good gravy Marie, my heart is going a million miles an hour now. I don’t need today’s planned cardio anymore, thanks.

We had some show showers yesterday, but none of them stuck. It’s a shame, it would have been nice to have a snow day…except we live on a hill, and inevitably, someone slides sideways down it whenever there’s the least trace of ice. And I don’t just mean pedestrians. Pretty much every car belonging to a garage down the hill has slid down sideways at least once in the *mumblemumble* years we’ve been here. Thanks, climate change!

In any case there’s sun, which I will ignore as best I can, and I got 2K out on HOOD yesterday. I’m looking for today being similarly productive; whether that happens in going over yesterday’s wordage or hammering out the consequences of the Big Explosion (that isn’t even the crisis of the book, hurrah!) leading up to the race and Maid Marian’s finding out about King Richard’s proposed return is up to the Muse. I’ve thrown up my hands and consigned the entire mess to hers.

Serves her right, too.

I’m beginning to hate this book and long for it to be over. I’d say “right on schedule” because this is the next step in the process, but it seems to be happening two-thirds instead of three-fourths of the way through, and that makes me glare uneasily at the whole damn text. If it has something up its sleeve, I’d like to know–but the only way of finding out is continuing to work.

Goddamn Muse. I’m telling you, chickadees, that bitch’s sense of humor is almost as uncomfortable as mine.

So. A run to get all the adrenaline soaking my system out and away, a shower, tea, and glancing over yesterday’s work–the morning is packed, and the afternoon not far behind. Plus there’s subscription stuff to get out. I wonder what I’ll choose to send to my Crow’s Nest peeps. There’s an embarrassment of riches on that front.

If I don’t freeze to death while running, that is. I probably won’t feel a damn thing, I’ve got so much cortisol racing through me.

*vibrates out the door*

Spark, Work, Spark Again

2.5K on HOOD’s Season One yesterday. All in revision, which would bother me–except I’m getting ready for the huge push to get the zero out. Then I can switch to The Poison Prince and get that skeleton all arranged and padded. It lingers in my reveries like to a step-dame or a dowager, long withering out a young man’s revenue.

Not that it’s a bad thing, I’m just dreading it because by the time it’s over it’ll be another 200K that I have to trudge through CEs for, probably at short notice since it’s always a case of festina lente. If a publisher paid me enough to be my only client I wouldn’t mind so much, but none of them do anymore and as a result, I do mind and I will not be harried into working weekends when salaried employees don’t.

Well, I will work weekends, but only for me, myself, and I. That’s the only client paying me enough, frankly.

In any case, I am in that twitching, raw space where I want to get this done and move on to the next project. The instant I finish The Bloody Thone–number three in the epic fantasy trilogy–I am going to feel so. damn. liberated. The only problem is that there’s proofs on Book 1, then the whole process on Books 2 & 3, to get through.

I shouldn’t complain. I wanted to stretch my wings and write something different. And I love several parts of this series. There are just…behind the scenes issues dragging at my fingers while I type, which is my very least favorite way of writing. You’d think, after a decade and a half in the business, that some people would assume I know what I’m doing.

Anyway, I am sparking with low-level irritation and the desire to get things done. If I can manage to get to the end of revisions today I’ll be set up for the run for the finish, which will include Marah’s Race and some domestic terrorism for spice, as well as a giant arms heist and the ending stinger–because upping the stakes with King Richard’s return is good narrative fuel. Friar Tuck needs more screen time, he’s the moving part I care least about but that doesn’t mean I’ll spend less time polishing and crafting him or his story.

Well, that’s the work before me. It’s a sunny Tuesday with snow clinging in the corners, bright, inexorable, and dangerous. The dogs wish for a run, but taking their tender paws out onto ice (not to mention the risk of falling myself) isn’t cricket at all.

So it’s upward and inward, and all those things I’d fiddle with to procrastinate have been folded away and put to bed. Nothing before me but the task I must accomplish…

…and there’s some shortbread dough in the fridge, of course, but that’s neither here nor there. One needs something to look forward to in order to work most effectively, right?

Right?

Conversation, Research, Edits

Yesterday, my writing partner and I played hooky and hit the Concordia Library book sale, where I got a solid foot of Penguin Classics for eight bucks and Costain’s four-book History of the Plantagenets in its original box. Since we were on the south side of the river, a trip to Everyday Music was in order, too. Then a leisurely lunch at Ginger Pop, and by then the heat was getting a bit much, so we called it a day.

The entire time we were sharing industry gossip, finishing conversations we started years ago, continuing ones we started even further back, and starting new ones. Along with in-jokes, meta analysis, and just plain zaniness, it makes for a stimulating verbal stew.

Of course I came home to a fresh crop of hatemail about Afterwar. I was going to do a whole post about it, but for fuck’s sake, who’s got time to deal with preshus manbaby feefees? If you’re afraid you might be mistaken for a nazi because you act like one, well, try not acting like one. *shrug*

Today it’s back to work while the air conditioning hums and Odd Trundles snores, blissful in the coolness. I should get a run in as soon as my sunscreen finishes soaking in and before the worst of the scorch settles; I must also decide what to spend serious working time on before Lammas. Maybe I can get the vampire erotica in reasonable zero-draft shape; it’s a relatively short work. And there is, of course, Robin Hood in Space to consider. Lammas, of course, is when I have to start serious revisions on The Maiden’s Blade; the competing agendas in that book need to be clearer. Half the edit suggestions are “why is X doing Y?” and my frothing reply of “BECAUSE A, M, AND S” isn’t helpful because it’s not in the text. Just because it’s clear inside my head doesn’t mean it’s reasonably outlined on the page, and that’s one of the major reasons to have an editor–to have another pair of eyes searching for those lacunae.

Which also means, now that I’ve finished Morton Smith’s Jesus the Magician, I should begin the clutch of further research reading I need for Maiden’s Blade and its two follow-up books, starting with a survey of Japanese literature in the shogunate. I’m really looking forward to that and to an exegesis of The Tale of Genji, but the REAL prize is a doorstopper anthology of women writers in ancient China with accompanying critical articles. If I’m very good, I might even split my daily reading between the anthology and the survey, and keep the exegesis for a chaser.

So that’s the plan. And now, before it gets too hot to breathe comfortably, there’s a run to accomplish.

Over and out.

Release Day: JOZZIE & SUGAR BELLE

Five or six friends got together in a Google Hangout. All writers, mostly drunk, they are Very Funny Ladies. Happily, I was one of them; sadly, I was stone-cold sober. One of the ladies is an Australian, and her care packages sent to us poor benighted fools in the Northern Hemisphere are legendary; apparently, a recent one sent to a Dear Husband of a Writing Lady included several kangaroo-scrotum tchotchkes.

Because yes, they use all parts of the ‘roo, and the scrotums can be coin purses, corkscrews, bottle openers–you get the idea. (Look, I’m not gonna link any of this, you can traumatize yourself with Google just fine.) The Dear Husband could not contain his glee, and showed off his new gifts.

“Wait,” someone said. “What if that was a kangaroo shifter’s ballsack instead?”

Being the only sober one in the room, I was charged with writing the story. A few hours later, we had all the main characters fleshed out for a fucking series of these things. (The echidna-shifter one sounds particularly hilarious.) The Writing Ladies eventually separated to nurse their upcoming hangovers, or, in my case, shambled to bed giggling.

And lo, I wrote the kangaroo-shifter novella. The working title was Scrotum Search, but good luck getting that past any Amazon algorithms, amirite? And now, my dear friends, you can read it too!

Jozzie & Sugar Belle This ‘roo has problems.

Jozzie Shale, missing a particularly intimate piece of his person, lands in LA with a hangover and plenty of determination. He needs help, fast–and fortunately, he’s got the address of a witch who owes his buddy Petey a favor.

She’s a solution.

Sugar Belle, of the Virginia Belles, is only mildly amused when a drunken shapeshifter shows up in her tattoo chair. Add a warlock with a necromantic book, coyote shifters, the end of the world, plus a few hundred pounds of cheese, and even a witch of Sugar’s caliber might be in for a bad night.

It’s gonna be a bumpy weekend…

Available through Gumroad, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. The print edition is now available, too.

As for the others there that night (you know who you are), the gauntlet’s thrown, bitches. I expect your novellas in short order.

*runs away, laughing*

Always Tomorrow

I was going to talk about the hatemail I’ve received about Afterwar, but I’m a bit cranky this morning. On the bright side, it cooled off overnight and Odd Trundles slept all the way through so I don’t have to worry about his fuzzy ass nearly as much.

It was a busy weekend–we got some concrete laid, and I managed to get a layer of sealant on the freshly-washed deck floor. Of course daubing all the railings will be time-consuming, but the kids can help with that. The big thing was getting at least one layer of sealant on freshly pressure-washed wood. I also caught up on some reading. I’m finally old enough to read Faulkner, I guess–I tore through As I Lay Dying, my heart in my throat, waiting for the next damn thing to happen. I also attempted a translation of Gogol’s Taras Bulba, which was difficult to finish, not least because the misogyny. I also have serious questions about the economics of Cossack raiding as portrayed in that particular romance. After a while, you’d think there was nothing else for them to steal and nobody left to murder.

In any case, I’m glad I read both, and I am setting out my plan of attack for more Faulkner once I finish Jesus the Magician (highly readable) and work through a few books on The Tale of Genji1 and some on classical Chinese literature. Both are research reading for the epic fantasy. I need plenty of material inside the well before I start on book 2.

I also finished Harmony revisions and sent them off, which means I can focus on writing HOOD and getting the scripts for Blood Terraform2 done. Plus, I really want to go back to Imprint, which is just-plain-vampire-erotica. It will be nice to be writing instead of revising for a while. I do need to sit down and think about Blood Terraform, since comic book scripts are different than novels. It’s been a while since I wrote one–I think the last was Serafim? Once that’s out of the way, revisions on the next Steelflower can commence. I’m still on track to release the first half of Kaia’s adventures in Skaialan later in the year.

But first, I think, a run, and eventually I do need to leave the house and pick up more sealant for the deck. It’s always something, and I can always write about the hatemail tomorrow. It’s not like the hatred’s going anywhere, I guess.

Over and out.

On AFTERWAR: Research

Afterwar I began gathering supplementary materials1 for Afterwar in late 2015; work commenced on the book in earnest in March-April 2016. I knew I was going to write it, but not how it would be received or even if it would ever be sold. It’s too outlandish, I thought. I’ve been saying this is where Fox News and the like is going to end up for a decade and a half, I thought.

Much to my surprise, my editor at Orbit wanted the book with a white-hot passion, and since I trusted her implicitly to have my back–to let me write the book that needed to be written without committee interference from internal groups that would want it watered down–I went for broke. I tore my heart out, and ate the bitter organ whole, retched it free and did it again.

And I pestered. Goodness, how I pestered. Knowing more than a few vets, I bought drinks, bought lunches, went to coffee, peppered them with questions. “So…if you were running an insurgency in the American Southwest…okay, so how successful is asymmetric force really when you’re the boots on the ground…look, I need to know how far a Humvee can actually go in offroad conditions without refueling…so, what did it smell like? Really?…what’s the one thing you were always short of, in combat…?” You get the idea. I’d start out with questions, and then I did what any writer who wants to learn does.

I shut up.

Once people know you’re sincerely interested in them and their lives, they will talk endlessly, and with active listening you will find out more than you ever dreamed. At that point it was simply a question of who had the better bladder, since a loo trip not only breaks conversation but also breaks “the seal” and you have to pee every five seconds afterward. (Or so it seems.)

None of them asked what my book was actually about. Most of the time I had introductions from other people they’d served with, and once word got out that I was trustworthy, gentle, and genuinely interested in their experience I had more contacts than I could ever plumb and the social credit to spend on slightly more outré questions. “Say you’re behind enemy lines and on your period, what’s the planning for that?2 How common is diarrhea in combat?3 If you could only take two weapons with you to operate in unfriendly territory, which would you? What kind of coping mechanisms have you seen others use under combat stress?4

My other research was not so nice or so enjoyable. I’ve spent years reading about the Eastern Front in WWII, and about the occupations of Ukraine and Poland by several successive totalitarian waves. It’s been an interest of mine since reading Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad because, I thought, there was no way I would ever write about something so brutal and horrific. Having something to read that, even though awful, wasn’t grist for the story-mill, was necessary in order to give my brain a break.

Perhaps the Muse was precognitive, and prepared me well beforehand. Authoritarian and totalitarian regimes follow the same damn playbook, with only small adjustments for culture and territory. Plus, I had taken a bath in American Civil War history, and still picked up logistical and other studies, just on the principle that it’s always good to know how an army will feed itself on your home territory.

Everything I’d been reading and thinking about for years crystallized. Afterwar took on a life of its own.

And then, the election happened.5

I saw the beginning stages of my private nightmares playing out in realtime. I don’t think I’ve quite recovered from that, but I had other problems as well.

Not content to reflect current events, Afterwar was about to get blindsided by publication woes as well.

To be continued…

Color and Form Again

Jozzie & Sugar Belle We’re about a week away from the release of Jozzie & Sugar Belle, also known as Scrotum Search (I couldn’t use that as a title, though God knows I wanted to) and “that damn nutless kangaroo shifter story”. The print edition is available, ebook all set and pretty for release on the tenth, and I am quietly giggling each time I think about it.

I wish I was better at writing humor. I’d love to be able to consistently write comic stuff; it’s way harder than angst and I’m just generally not a funny person. The things I find hilarious tend to be somewhat macabre, which is, I’m sure, a drawback.

Last week was somewhat terrible. Finishing several large projects one-after-another caused a sort of blowback; I thought I was going to get Harmony revisions done and also get serious wordcount on HOOD. Neither happened. Instead a black hole threatened to swallow me, and I was on the event horizon (everything turned grey, light struggling to escape) for a while, skating around and grabbing for handholds. Both kids reminded me it was okay to feel tired, and we talked a lot about how managing your own energy and self-care are sometimes the most difficult things. It’s good to be able to discuss adult coping skills with both of them, and show them that it’s a process rather than a destination.

I used to think it was bad for them to see me struggle, but as they’ve gotten older, it’s opened up chances to talk about things like burnout and respecting your own limits. Both kids seem to have healthy boundaries, so perhaps my own struggle to acquire some was useful not just to me.

In any case, I got enough sleep and woke up at a reasonable time this morning. There’s a run to accomplish today, and it’s back into Harmony revisions. I suppose I’m just annoyed at the thought of ripping apart the last third of the book and drawing out the crisis for a few more chapters. I think when I was finishing the zero I got tired, and who wouldn’t after 100K words? Part of revision is to fix that very thing. It just seemed insurmountable last week, though I knew exactly what needed to be done.

So I’m back on the horse, and the world has color and form again. Odd Trundles is sprawled in his bed, snoring with a vengeance to make up for lost sleep, since he was (the horror!) bathed as is usual every weekend and it set his nap schedule back something awful. B is sleeping too, but her nose is resting on my left shoe so she cannot possibly miss me standing up and moving away to go on a run. She’s determined not to be left behind today–poor thing, as she gets older she can only go on short, slow runs. I work a lot more of those into my schedule so she gets the exercise she needs without going overboard.

I suppose I should wake her up and get going. Recovery is okay–I got a lot of reading done–but now it’s time for work again.

Over and out.