Serials and Recovery

Finished the top-to-bottom revise of Hell’s Acre late Saturday evening, so I’m in recovery again. (How many is that this year? I’ve lost count.) It wasn’t until the second third of Rook’s Rose (the second season) that I started feeling good about the duology, which is…instructive. Swimming against the tide of pandemic and other stuff–this serial officially began way back in June 2021, can you believe it–means I just had to trust that the work and the characters were doing what they needed to, since I was entirely occupied with the problem of Not Drowning.

Trusting the work has never led me wrong before, and it didn’t this time either. I’ve figured out where the persistent, nagging feeling of “there’s a hole in this book” came from, too.

I wanted to do something sort of video game-y. Right in the middle of Rook’s Rose I realized that Avery is the most traditional “player character” in the books. He’s the dude with the shadowy past, the dude with the Hellion training, and he even gets a wrist-crossbow, literally “leveling up” near the end of the “game”. But he’s not the protagonist. The story belongs to the character who changes the most, and that’s Gemma–who would be an NPC love interest in a regular ol’ video game. Plus, at the end neither of them gets the…

…whoops, almost gave away a spoiler there. But anyway, that was the persistent sense of “somethin’ ain’t right in this book” I kept feeling. I hadn’t realized just what the Muse was interested in doing. Now, naturally, I’m slapping myself on the forehead and going, “Of course, of bloody course.” She’s just as interested in subverting tropes and expectations as I am. (That’s a lie. She’s way more invested in it than I could ever hope to be.)

So, I’m relieved to say I will be putting these books out for wider publication. A lot will depend on what my agent says; they may snag some publisher interest. But if not, it’s into the self-pub pipeline they go. It’s good to have that decision made; Christ knows it’s been waffling around in my head for about a year.

All of this means I go straight into writing the next serial–which subscribers, both of the patron and newsletter variety, have already heard about. The official announcement will happen sometime in June, right here on the blog and on social media as well. So my working time for the foreseeable future will be spent between Shiny New Serial and Gamble, the third in the Ghost Squad series. The latter’s gonna be a lot of fun, since it’s the medic of the team (Tax) and a wedding planner, in Vegas for the demolition man’s wedding. I’ve been aching to write something contemporary since I’ve been head-down in epic and alt-historical fantasy for a while now; the last contemporary thing I did was Sons of Ymre #2–which is in line edits, I think, and should be out sometime later this year too.

I’ve even got the unedited ebook of Rook’s Rose cut for subscribers, though it won’t drop until somewhere around June 1. It’s been a long strange ride with this serial, and while I’ve loved it I’m also glad it’s over–there’s a weird sense of almost-mourning, too, because writing it was so bound up in the crisis-feeling of getting through one more day. Some ropes hurt one’s hands even as they save one’s life, and while one doesn’t want to complain one can still wince a bit. Having to make the subscription drop each week, come hell high water or whatever-the-fuck in the news cycle, was good practice.

So it’s a recovery Monday. I have some administrivia to do, perhaps a Soundtrack Monday post to write–because I do love doing those–and a little bit of gardening planned while it’s a reasonable temperature outside. That’s on top of Boxnoggin’s walkies and running my own weary corpse, albeit both will probably occur at a far slower pace than usual. I’ve almost absorbed the last of the coffee, so it’s probably time to bid you a civil adieu and get started.

See you around.

Soundtrack Monday: Disease

It’s another Soundtrack Monday! This week we’re going old-school, all the way back to the Society series.

Delgado (for all his sins and mine) really liked Matchbox Twenty. I could reliably get into his head playing a couple of their tracks–not to mention a few bits of the soundtrack for the La Femme Nikita TV series, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post. One of the most reliable songs was Disease, which still makes him start talking inside my head.

Of course, Del considered himself not just irretrievably broken but also contagious, a feeling helped along by the awe and fear everyone except Henderson (and Yoshi, and later Rowan) held him in. He absolutely considered himself beyond redemption, especially in the first half of Hunter, Healer. I borrowed a lot of Roy Dupuis’s stonefaced suffering from the Nikita series (and Rowan’s hair does come from Peta Wilson’s amazing platinum mane in a lot of that show), but to this day I don’t know where his particular psychic talent came from. In face, I didn’t even know what he actually did until the second draft of the first book.

Naturally I knew he had some psionic ability, but the details were fuzzy. Once he finally opened up and told me about it, things started to make much more sense and his fear of connection was placed in proper proportion.

A lot of that series also came from X-Men fanfic I wrote in my high school days. None of it survives (thank goodness), being safely hidden in landfills, but its ghost is still on the compost pile inside my head. Nothing is ever truly lost, especially in a writer’s head. Stories germinate in a mound of fertile, rotting material left over from other half-told (or fully told, or even just imagined) tales.

I know there must be people whose heads aren’t full of this stuff, but I’ll be damned if I can imagine how that must be.

Anyway, the Society series could go on–there’s Cath’s story, naturally, and later events. Plus the whole shebang is set in the same universe as the Watchers and Danny Valentine; speaking of which, if you look really closely, there are a few Watchers still around in Danny’s time, though Circle Lightfall’s goals have changed out of all recognition by then. But if I went on with Cath’s story a few dreadful things would have to happen to other characters I like quite a bit and I don’t want to write that. So it’s best to just…let things rest, even though I know what happens next.

There’s no shortage of other stories to tell, after all.

Experiment Continues Apace

Was banging my head against Riversinger and Minnowsharp last night. I know I’m close to the end, I can feel it, but the scene just wasn’t cooperating and I couldn’t scrap it entirely. I threatened, grumbled, stared at the screen, paced my office, tried a bit of the t’ai chi video I’m attempting to relearn the movements from. (Long story, another blog post.)

Nothing doing. Absolutely nothing fucking doing, and Introvert Me is drained from all sorts of socializing in the past few days. So I finally threw up my hands, decided I was the worst writer in the world, and went to bed early. I watched an episode and a half of a Chinese costume drama, read some of Gosden’s History of Magic (Genji is irritating me, so it was time for a break), and turned off the light while gnashing my teeth.

And then, this morning, while Boxnoggin was attempting to wedge his nose more firmly into my armpit and my sunrise clock was just beginning to glow, the missing piece of the damn puzzle sashayed into my head. Either a passing spirit took pity on me, the Muse had enough fun and decided to stop fucking around, or my subconscious could finally get through the static. Can’t guess which, don’t care, just glad I’ve got the goddamn scene now.

The only thing remaining is to write it. After breakfast and walkies and running my corpse, during which I’ll turn the whole thing over and over inside my head, planning and looking for weak spots. I did think I’d get at least one zero draft done this week, but it doesn’t look likely. And the weekend will be spent with copyedits which do rather need to be addressed even with everything else going on.

*sigh* It’s always something.

The Attempting To Be Kind To Myself experiment continues apace. Part of that is not agonizing over using the block button. As Cory Booker so memorably put it, you don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to. And I don’t have to put up with annoying randos, especially the “I didn’t bother to read the article you linked and I have an objection (covered by the article itself) that I DEMAND you answer” ones.

There’s all sorts of stuff happening–publicity requests for the Spring’s Arcana release, household purge-cleaning to do, this business thing and that business thing, nervously anticipating tax season…honestly I don’t even have time to walk into the sea, though the thought of disappearing into a bog and only returning to town every six months with a new manuscript to send in sounds marvelously enticing.

I’ll feel better once this zero is done, and once these goddamn copyedits are off my plate. It’s hard when one feels nobody else in the room even likes the series one has spent so long polishing, let alone is excited about it. Ideally the books would have at least one other advocate; unfortunately that seems impossible under current conditions. I have to believe in the bloody story thrice as hard to make up for it–which is a masterclass in being kind to myself, I guess.

I would have liked some more time on easy mode, but the universe has a vastly inflated idea of my capabilities. Fortunately stubbornness–and a little spite–might be able to compensate.

After all, I’ve come this far. Believing in myself just a wee bit might not be a bad thing, and is perhaps even warranted.

We’ll see.

Guarding the Doors

Snow is still lingering in patches, but I’m betting the pavements will be much clearer. We had bands of snow and sun yesterday, the weather unable to decide what it wanted and my sinuses throbbing like a particularly dedicated marimba band. Boxnoggin will be very happy for a longer ramble; yesterday’s had to be cut short because of his tender paws, albeit not nearly as short as previous ones where we barely got halfway down the hill. And forget running outside, despite my hopes! It was the treadmill or nothing.

The yard is still a shambles. That’s a problem for another day. Week. Month. Whatever.

I’m slowly getting my fire back under me. It’s difficult, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. If I can just get one particular problem sorted, my productivity will skyrocket. Unfortunately that problem is one that has developed over multiple years and I’m going to have to wait a wee bit longer to get it done up–assuming anyone will listen to me, the person actually doing the work, about what’s necessary to fix it.

I’m not sanguine about that. I suppose part of my hesitation could be a persecution complex, but is it really a complex when the entire industry’s set up to be exploitative? I dunno. I’m bracing myself to be ignored or derided once more, which is hardly the most productive mindset for problem-solving. I recognize this, yet there’s only so much battering even the sunniest optimism can take before it goes underground and leaves cynicism, not to mention apathy, to guard the doors.

On a (much) brighter note, I was pleasantly surprised at a throwaway name in Hell’s Acre turning into a really satisfying (to me) character homage. (Look, I love Jason Statham, all right?) And Sevring the valet has become a quite crucial minor character, which I never expected but is quite useful as I’m tying things up and getting ready to write the climax. I still don’t know who’s going to win the combat scene I’m currently constructing, so I’ll probably be blocking it out mentally while Boxnoggin prances. I mean, I have plans no matter who wins, but I really would like the valet to catch a break…even though he’s far from decent, being the Main Antagonist’s henchman. If he ends up dead it’ll be tragic.

I suppose I’ll have to write it and see, but that can’t happen until the dog is walked and certain other chores are Taken Care Of. Already this morning I’ve done the last few pronunciations for an audiobook, started some email threads, finished others, and dear gods I need more coffee, I’m just not caffeinated enough for this.

At least there’s beer mugs used as weapons and a bit of close-in knife combat. My only regret is that the setting precludes me adding motor oil to this particular scene. Ah well, we can’t have everything, especially on a Tuesday.

Time to get to work.

Soundtrack Monday: Chrysalis Heart

Welcome back to another Soundtrack Monday!

This week, it’s a book I haven’t posted the official playlist for–oh wait, I just did! Enjoy.

Of course Delerium is always good for a nice beat, but sometimes they hit one out of the park with the lyrics too. Whenever I needed to know what Michael would do next, I spooled up their Chrysalis Heart and there it was. Naturally he was also a fan of the Black Keys (especially this track), since he’s an obsessive weirdo, like so many romantic heroes. (Great in fiction…not so good in real life.) Jenna’s far more practical.

Even with all the diaboli, it’s a very sweet little adventure. My favorite part is the feathers, and how cagey Michael is about where they come from. I also really liked Jenna’s determination to be as good as possible under the circumstances. It was fun to work on the book, and I felt like I’d done something worthy when it was over.

I still have to write the next adventure for my good friend Dina. I’m thinking a paramedic will almost run over a very odd fellow–probably a Decurian, because they’re stodgy, which makes them fun to break apart. But a plain old legionnaire with Decurian tendencies might be nice too…

…of course, in all my copious spare time. There’s at least five more books to write before I can even think of it. I keep juggling stories, now until world’s end.


Soundtrack Monday: Whispering

It’s another Soundtrack Monday! I spent the morning in bed reading, which was the right choice. There are a lot of libraries in my work–the magical nod to Robin McKinley’s Beauty in Rose & Thunder springs to mind, as well as The Demon’s Librarian, naturally.

The one I’m thinking of now is the self-healing one in Moon’s Knight, with its orrery that owes a great deal to Aughra’s (of Dark Crystal fame). The red sun in that book is partly Darkover, partly Dark Crystal, and partly Krypton, I think, with a heavy dose of my own tiredness during lockdown.

Moon’s Knight burned through me during the worst of that uncertainty. I needed an escape, and what better than a portal fantasy? I wasn’t even planning on publishing it; I just sent the first draft to beta readers hoping to provide them with a little relief from the crushing terror and agony. I don’t like thinking about that time, but thankfully the book itself doesn’t give me the willies. The response from the betas was a howl of “no, this book helped, what do you mean you’re not gonna publish it?”

So…I had to. And I’m glad I did, if only for the amusement of that one “reviewer” who didn’t like that the main character has a bone to pick with the god who would kill her best friend.

Ahem. But amusement aside, the full soundtrack is here, starting with Gin’s feelings at the funeral and ending with…well, you’d have to read to find out.

Of course the song that gave me the key to the prince in black was Alex Clare’s Whispering, which expresses him very well. He doesn’t show a lot of what he’s actually feeling–probably a function of his age–and his motivations aren’t the best in the world. And yet, the story is what the story is. Since I was writing only for myself, I didn’t have to coax him into being anything else. He is as he is, and so is Ginevra and the rest of that world.

Anyway, Boxnoggin needs his walkies, and since I spent a few hours later in bed the rest of today’s work will no doubt be a boondoggle. But I regret nothing. Sometimes one just has to say “fuck it” and refuse to let the piddly little fact of dawn interfere with one’s plans. It’s been a while since I wrote solely to please myself, and I think I will soonish, once I get a few other things cleared.

I’m looking forward to it.

Almost a Mercy

I need more coffee.

This is somewhat of a constant, but this morning the necessity feels particularly dire. I’m in a state I recognize from other books–itchy, annoyed with anything that takes me away from the work. The two projects on deck right now are both in uncomfortable spots. One is spiking for a conclusion, the other has just reached a scene that’s been in my head for over a year. The Muse is demanding, my fingers ache with the urge to get cracking, anything that takes me away from work gets a side-eye, and quite possibly the stink-eye too.

The recent unpleasantness seems to have died down a bit, since I have a habit of making general announcements instead of giving individual bad actors any oxygen or direct attention. It also helps that I’m not really on Twitter anymore, and the places where I am hanging out–Mastodon and Tumblr are where I’ve settled–have robust block and mute tools.

Still, that was an uncomfortable few days.

My office window is still too bright with the cedars gone, but the low-light plants hanging in the windows seem to be enjoying the change. Fortunately there’s little to no chance of actual sunburn, they’ll just grow a bit differently, which may mean needing to be watered or fed more frequently. This is a happy problem to have, and one I don’t mind at all. Of far more daily consequence is having to harness Boxnoggin every. single. time. we go out into the yard, since the back fence is now nonexistent. The neighbor swears they’ll get that taken care of; I hope they’re truthful.

A week off running didn’t do me any favors, either. Of course the weather was awful, I avoided slipping on ice-patches and cracking my fool skull, and it was time to give my body a rest anyway. So it was fortunate…but still wears on one’s nerves. Which has been the theme lately. “Well, this isn’t the worst it could be, it’s actually almost a mercy, it’s annoying but it will end up better in the long run…”

When on earth did I become an optimist? Or maybe it’s just self-defense, given what we’ve all endured the past few years.

I’m shifting nervously in my chair as I type, very ready to be in another world. There’s the subscription drop to finagle today, and also some news about a new Patreon tier. If I get that all settled before lunch I can spend the afternoon getting Hell’s Acre ready for the lunge-to-the-finish of Book 2, and then it’ll finally be time (once I’m warmed up) to attempt Naciel’s Run.

Not bad for a Thursday, even if I could never get the hang of those.

See you around.