From Earworm to Mad Science

I woke up with R. B. Greaves’s Take a Letter, Maria playing inside my head. If it means anything, I’m in the dark about precisely what. The Princess would have helped me analyse it along with my dreams, but she says she’s never heard the song. Which I know is inaccurate, since I listen to it in the car whenever it comes on for whatever reason–the lure of familiarity, I suppose. This probably just means I need to listen to it a couple times today to get the song out of my head.

Go figure.

It’s a nice cloudy Monday. I have a new keyboard and took a few days almost-off social media. We call Twitter “hellsite” and it’s beginning to sound less like a tongue-in cheek observation than plain unadorned truth, or even understatement. Still, it has its uses, and I spend most of my time on my Mastodon instance anyway.

The dogs are quiet, for once. They’re probably still exhausted from yesterday, since they had to supervise housecleaning, window washing, and the making of bruschetta. The Princess has a recipe for mimicking the Trader Joe’s tomatoes-garlic-basil-oil-vinegar spread, which is our very favorite over tangy sourdough and fresh mozzarella. (The secret? Citric acid! You can find it in the canning aisle of the supermarket, or King Arthur Flour has some I personally prefer.) I’ve been experimenting with chana masala and cocoanut curries, and she’s been on a real Italian appetizers kick.

In short, there’s been some good eating around here lately. Since we’re mostly still quarantined (for when we’re not, there are plenty of masks, since my writing partner’s way of coping with the first boomerang of the pandemic was to get out her sewing machine) it’s pretty much taking the place of all socializing or field trips.

The Prince (sadly, I cannot call him the Little Prince anymore, both my children are taller than me) has been on a homebrew science kick. I let him take apart my old, battered keyboard to find out how it’s constructed and how it works, and he was thrilled with the idea of repurposing bits of it for “experiments.” I don’t ask questions, I just order the supplies and enthuse over what he tells me of the results.

I feel sort of like a mad scientist’s corporate backer, but I’m sure there are worse fates.

Living in historical times is exhausting, physically and mentally. I want to retract like a salted slug. I know not seeing the disaster is a privilege, I know the disaster is continuing whether I look at it or not, I know if I don’t find some way of settling back into work we’ll be in even worse shape in a few months. Plus, there’s a part of me that sniffs you wrote a whole fucking book about this and they didn’t listen, let them sit in it. I know it’s not fair of me to think it; there were other people far smarter and more famous sounding the alarm who were ignored as well.

I just can’t help myself.

So now it’s finishing coffee, taking the dogs on their ritual ramble, getting a run in, and keeping social media shut off for the day while I go back to work. I don’t want to look at the schedule and see how far behind I am; I just want to put my head down and lose myself in a world where anthropomorphized gods are visiting parties, or a court where the politicking continues while the state’s ship goes down (it occurs to me my main difficulty with the last Hostage book is probably that it feels so familiar), or the Robin Hood IN SPACE story where everything is heating up for the final half of the final season. At least with the new keyboard I’m not in a state of high irritation while typing; I hadn’t realized how much the missing stair behavior of the old one was affecting me.

I have a bunch of Cowboy Junkies and Cocteau Twins queued up, though I’ve listened to Take a Letter, Maria about five times so far today, attempting to scratch whatever earworm itch is in my head. We’ll see if it works. What the Muse wants, the Muse gets, although I’m not sure she’s the one in charge of the sound system this morning. It seems suspiciously like there’s gremlins lurking in my cranial folds.

It wouldn’t be the first time. Might as well just let them play.

Happy Monday, my beloveds. I hope your weekend was calm, and I hope for a sudden volte-face in the state of the world. The latter might not be very likely, but at least I can hope. Dum spiro, spero, and all that.

Usual June

The coffee is particularly nice this morning. I got the perfect proportion of cream to bitter, and I am sipping it while not watching the world at large shred itself to pieces. Later today there will be gallons of tea while I mark up proof pages, always a fun time. The kids are looking forward to pizza if I spend all day doing that; finishing a zero, looking over CEs, or proof pages mean Mum might not have enough oomph by the end of the day to attempt anything like cooking.

We’re having usual June rains for once, which is grand because of drought. It also means I’m productive, though not in the way one would think–I spent most of yesterday on a trunk novel instead of on three paying projects and proofs. Sometimes one just has to give the Muse what she wants, and apparently she wanted a harpy attack on battlements.

Go figure.


It’s been two weeks, and the dictator is still in power after gassing and shooting peaceful protestors for a photo op. The military is still deciding which damn way to jump and the dictator’s cabal is still stuffing the federal judiciary. The media is deciding not to cover the huge ongoing protests, no doubt for a collage of reasons including the risk to reporters1 and the fact that a few in the ruling class now own most of our media outlets. The violent repression will probably go all but unremarked now, and come November voter suppression and other dirty tricks will put the seal on it.

And don’t even get me started on the pandemic. We’re seeing the result of Memorial Day’s “whining for a haircut” gatherings, and it’s just as anyone with any sense feared.

The body count is entirely to be expected with regressives and a criminal cabal made up of malignant narcissists and sociopaths in power. This is the system functioning as designed. It’s not a breakdown, it is the logical endpoint. In short, as many (including yours truly) broke our lungs and throats screaming in warning for decades, this was their game all along.


As usual, though, there’s the dogs to walk and a run to get in, laundry to fold, work to accomplish, voices to boost. The dogs were quite active early this morning, despite the fact that my alarm had not yet rung; maybe it was the rain overnight. Anyway, Boxnoggin was determined to crawl under my covers–probably because he thought the roof wouldn’t shield him from falling water–and Miss B, having decided she was up and wanted attention, was on my other side doing her level best to keep me from seeking solace in unconsciousness when she desired ear-skritches, dammit.

Boxnoggin will hate the morning’s walk, because his precious wee paws will get wet. You’d think he’d be more of a wash-and-wear bruiser, this dog, but instead he’s Nervous and Delicate. Miss B is the smarter and more dangerous of the two, but nobody seems to think so. They see the shape of Boxnoggin’s head and freak out, thinking “pit bull” instead of “oh hey, boxer-terrier mix, that’s no nanny dog.”2 I can’t count the number of people who have said “aren’t you scared?” while looking at him.

The dog can barely find his own paws; the only thing I’m concerned about is him tripping and hurting himself, frankly. But I just smile, because if they’re afraid of my big black doofus, it means I’m safer. Especially since most of the people who cast longing gazes upon him are the middle-aged white men who selfishly want me to stop going about my business to service their random emotional needs, and tend to get aggressive and violent if ignored. *eyeroll*

Meanwhile, I have to keep a sharp eye on Miss B if I’m accosted, because she is done with any bullshit at all and will lunge to nip if someone decides to intrude on my personal space. It’s the cranky old lady one has to watch out for, not the gangly youth in his black coat.

Much time has passed while typing this, mostly because Boxnoggin has been very insistent that he needs tummy rubs and needs them now, thank you, what on earth do you mean Mum might want to tie her shoes or finish a piece of writing first? Clearly my priorities must be readjusted. And of course I should probably take down the rest of this coffee if I expect to have anything resembling clarity of thought for the rest of the day.

Meh, maybe clarity’s overrated. I suppose I could just stagger along without it, the gods know seeing some things clearly has given me nothing but an incipient ulcer and trouble sleeping.

Happy Tuesday, dear Readers. I hope it’s less like Monday, although so far 2020 has seemed a year of bad Mondays.

Over and out.

Adjustment and Loyalty

It’s Tuesday, which means a writing post over at Haggard Feathers for my lovely paid subscribers. (Free subscribers get one a month, paid get one a week.) So far the experiment is going well, but if it doesn’t hit a few targets in the next couple months I’ll be shutting it down. There’s no reason to stay with something that isn’t serving, really.

At least the pandemic has taught me that. To be fair, it’s a lesson I learn every few years. I am ridiculously loyal, well past the point of pain, but I’m learning to be far more selective about what and who I’m loyal to.

When you can’t change something about your own personality, you learn to get sneaky.

In any case, I’m no longer feeling quite so at sea. My office is cleaner than it’s been since we moved into the chez, and all the open space gave me a weird sense of decompression for a few days. Now it’s natural, and the dogs enjoy the acres of floor. Of course they don’t settle on their (expensive microfiber and memory foam) beds–no, that would be too simple. Instead, they wrestle (at high energy and volume) on the bare carpet and end up flinging themselves down back to back and snoring (again at high volume) at various times during the day.

I’m glad they’re happy, even if my ears are ringing.

Now I’m just waiting for the end of shelter-in-place, so I have a chance to take the books purged from the my shelves and move them to where they can find new homes. That alone might be a six-month project once quarantine lifts, but small increments are how I get anything done, apparently, so it’s no great burden. I’m also looking forward to going to the library again, whenever that happens.

The world has changed. So have we. It’s alternately comforting and terrifying to be settled into that change now, and mostly adjusted to the new “normal.” The Princess and I were talking yesterday; I mentioned the last great economic crisis and she cocked her head, looking thoughtful.

“That makes two I can remember in my lifetime,” she said.

“And you’re so young,” I added, at which point she made a face at me.

I’m feeling like we might survive, but I grieve for those who haven’t–and those who won’t. It didn’t have to be like this. I hope we all remember that, every single one of us.

…well, I meant to be more cheerful this morning, but apparently that’s not going to happen. I suppose I should get the dogs out the door for morning walkies. Maybe my mood will improve.

I wish you a pleasant Tuesday, dear Reader, and well-placed loyalties.

Weekend Victories

It was a long weekend. I took the opportunity to clear a lot of things from the house that were just not working. Translation: I cleaned the garage, rearranged my office and bedroom, and there was a pile of stuff marked “Free” at the end of the driveway. I also did some library maintenance, but most of that will wait for next weekend.

Of course the dogs are beside themselves. Any change is bad to creatures of such routine, so they’re both exhausted and wanted to sleep atop me on two very warm nights since the weather took a turn as it sometimes does in May, bringing us above 80F.

I hadn’t taken the flannel sheets off my bed, so sleep was at a premium. I’m a little cross-eyed today, and covered with interesting bruises from moving furniture.

The kids were thrilled. “You mentioned Marie Kondo the other day,” the Princess said, “so I figured it was about time for a purge.”

“Just glad it’s not the Purge,” the Prince chimed in, and that cracked us all up but good.

The Princess turned her hand to clearing and organizing our kitchen pantry; the Prince was a free-floating particle of helpfulness for when one of us needed an extra pair of hands. Now when I pull into the garage I won’t see a mess.

Also, the kids put together a frame for my heavy bag. It used to hang from the garage ceiling in the old house, which meant the entire place shook when I went to work. I’ve missed those sessions. “I used to think you were fighting monsters in the garage,” one of the kids said, and I agreed that I probably was. Not a lot of technique but a whole lot of punching is my preferred heavy bag strategy; one of these days I’ll take a class or two.

Everything in publishing is delayed gratification; it was healing and comforting to see actual, physical changes taking place right in front of me for a change. I made it through the last wicket of burnout and straight into a laughing fit, the absurdity of the world reasserting itself once more.

Once I start laughing, it’s okay. Or at least, I’m past the point where implosion is a danger.

I can breathe a lot easier in the house now, even if the new corners exposed by missing furniture have to be endlessly investigated by a pair of dogs who will eventually decide the house has always looked like this, will always look like this, and they have no idea why they’re nervous so it must be the other dog’s fault.

I used a lot of trash TV, especially laying in bed at night, to get through the past few weeks. It’s not optimal, but as a temporary measure to keep the weasels in my head busy and give the Muse some quick food to chew on, it wasn’t bad at all. Getting back to reading instead will do my sleep cycles no end of good, I’m sure.

Everyone’s taking shelter-in-place time to do those home projects they’ve been putting off; our neighborhood is full of activity. It’s vaguely comforting that we all had the same idea. The hard thing is stopping so I can get some of my actual work done; I like the tangible results so much it’s easy to fall into the trap of putting it off so I can get that dopamine hit of a task finally done.

It’s back to copyedits now, hopefully with some of my zen restored even if my acuity is suffering from what passes for a minor heat wave and lack of sleep. Here’s hoping you’re holding up too, my friends, and hoping your weekend contained at least a few victories.

Release Day: HOOD’s Season Two

That’s right, friends and neighbors! HOOD‘s Season Two is now live in the wild!

HOOD: Season Two

All of Sharud is singing about a man in a hood. He could be a hero–if he wasn’t so determined to destroy himself. Robb Locke is doing his best to hit bottom, and even his childhood friends Ged Gizabón and Marah Madán can’t help.

Explosions, riots, political unrest, assassination, and the threat of starvation are still swirling through the entire system. And now the Parl Regent Jun Planetagen’s flagship has entered orbit for the First Harvest Fête. Jun has plans of his own, especially for Marah–and those plans are murderous indeed.

The war is over, but “peace” is always a relative term…

Season Two now available direct, or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores.

I like calling my serials “seasons” because they’re structured as smaller arcs within the overarching arc of the whole story; we’re well into Season Three now and subscribers get weekly chapters fresh out of my brain as well as the unedited and edited ebooks–the latter, indeed, before the book goes on sale anywhere.

I’ve talked a little bit about the genesis of this series, and there’s also a soundtrack over on Spotify. A huge helping of thanks is due my beloved subscribers, since I wouldn’t be able to tell these vast, sprawling, interconnected stories without them. You guys are the best.

Now, since it’s a release day, I’m going to go hide my head in a bucket. It’s traditional, after all. And the hyperventilating makes it sound like the seashore. It’ll be almost like a vacation!

Almost.

Season Three Begins!

I’m excited today, my friends. Not just because I have a very good cup of coffee to start the day1 and not just because I’m working on three paying projects (hallelujah) at once, but also because today marks the first day of HOOD‘s Season Three!

Every single one of my subscribers–Gumroad or Patreon, Latte’s Worth to Nest Egg–will get the first two chapters today at around 2pm PST. I love writing serials; they’re good practice, and I really like having something new for subscribers every week.

Also, the regular monthly support, no matter how small, is a rock to cling to in an unsteady career. It allows me to write much longer, more complex stories without a lot of interference, which is always nice.

This particular serial started while I was still writing Roadtrip Z and looking for the story that would come after Ginny, Lee, and the gang reached the end of their journey. I’ve always been fascinated with Robin Hood retellings, but I didn’t want to write even more historical-flavored fantasy. So I was watching fanvids of Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisbourne, and all of a sudden it hit me…

…well, a lot of things hit me when I watch Richard Armitage, but this particular time I thought “what if Robin Hood was coming home from a space war? The society would have to have a semi-feudal structure, how would that work?”

Of course current events inform plenty of my work, and a discerning Reader will see the threads, as well as the terminology2 for certain things carried from Old Terra to Anglene. Some things have happened that I didn’t expect–Giz’s true aims were a mystery to me until halfway through Season Two, the exact dimensions of Robb’s athleticism and gifts continues to surprise me, and Alladal has become much sharper-edged than I thought. Which is good–her handling of Wat the Tinker gave me flat-out chills.

Anyway, even with all this excitement, there are dogs to walk and wordcount to get in today. I’m feeling how I usually do when working on the last book of a series–anticipation with a sharp edge of fear, just enough for seasoning. I’m always afraid of dropping one of the narrative threads while braiding everything in. And there’s a whole lot of moving parts in this one, from Alladal’s decisions to help (or not) to Giz’s body count (I suspect it will grow steadily) to Robb hitting bottom (or so he thinks) to Jorah Smahl’s critical part in the plan to spring Robb from jail (not to mention his part in the return of a certain prince) to what, exactly, Marah will risk for what she thinks is right (in a word, everything). And that’s not even counting Will and Kameny’s relationship (such as it is), Sharl Notheim’s plans (mostly to cover his own backside, as usual with such men) and the little question of Gil Blamaíne.

I’ll get it done the same way everything else gets done, I know. Tiny bites, well chewed, like the Shel Silverstein poem about eating the whale. And I’m super glad to have my subscribers along for the ride.

Now it’s back to work.

One Pleasant Thing

My current mood is Rebecca Ferguson in Doctor Sleep, cooing “…hi there,” to an unsuspecting victim. Of course, I’m not a child-killing maniac, but every once in a while a little unapologetic menace is good for the soul.

At least, good for my soul.

It’s a sunny morning, and warm enough that I think the bees might be out. If so, I’m going to have to braid my hair so they don’t get caught. I love the little bastards and I don’t want them tangled up. Of course, if they’d just leave my hair alone we’d be good, but if it hasn’t happened in years I hold out no particular hope of it happening now.

I’ve been working on Sons of Ymre at a feverish pace. The story is… odd. It wants to kind of be a romance, but the monsters won’t let it, and I don’t think there’s a happy ending. Of course, HEAs are somewhat overrated–we all know my feelings on the story will have its proper ending, world without end, amen. Still, I’m pulling for both these people to at least be friendly when the whole thing reaches the finish line.

Whenever that will be. It’s at 65k now and just past apogee. All the pieces are in place and moving, the next few steps in the dance are all but inevitable, and all I have to do is follow the line.

I’ve told myself that I’ll work on it just until I get the publication prep for HOOD‘s Season Two finished and set aside, then I’ll turn my attention to the other projects screaming for my attention–like Season Three. I think Sons really wanted to be a two-book series, but I’d rather have it a larger single book to avoid the dreaded “the editor tells me a new reader might be confused, so here’s boring exposition” work. I tend to throw my readers in media res and let them swim, and nowhere is that tendency more pronounced than in series.

I respect my readers and their ability to pick up details in context. I also think that if you’re picking up the second or third in a series and haven’t read the others, you should expect a little bit of confusion and be ready to, again, pick things up in context or let them slide.

The desire to spoon-feed readers might be an outcropping of modern laziness, but I shall not bend to it. I don’t fucking truckle, dammit.

Anyway, some breakfast is probably a good idea, and getting out the door to walk the dogs. Both of them will like the sunshine; Boxnoggin got a run yesterday and is consequently powerfully mellow.

It’s a nice change.

I’ve taken to calling Lord van Der Sploot “Butterbutt.” When he came to us he had a lean and hungry look, but his shoulders have filled out considerably, his coat is glossy enough to put your eyes out, and he can no longer leap to the same altitude because he’s got so much more mass to get off the ground. People often gasp when they see him, and Miss B (she of “Fuzzbucket” name and fame) rolls her eyes when they do, shoving him aside to get pets and greetings first as is due her station as The Dog What Was Here Before Him, Thanks.

Anyway, Miss B is elderly and consequently a walk around the block is more than enough exercise. She doesn’t even mind that Boxnoggin Butterbutt gets to run alongside Mum for a few kilometers without her, which threatens to break my heart. When Miss B and I ran, we quickly fell into moving as a single unit, and she damn near read my mind when it came to turns.

Boxnoggin… does not. He thinks he’s in charge of picking routes, and gets anxious at the responsibility until I firmly remind him he is not in charge, not even close, and I shall be doing the deciding, thank you very much. Having to do that a few times per kilometer is wearying, but I’m pretty sure it’ll all click soon.

Anyway. In a few minutes, flanked by Fuzzbucket and Butterbutt, I shall be going around the block, waving away bees. It’s not a bad way to start a Thursday, and it will improve my mood immeasurably.

I hope your morning holds at least one pleasant thing, dear Reader. And now I bid you a civil adieu.