The Muse and the Spanner

I spent a long while on Cold North yesterday (that’s the Viking werewolves/elementalist story) though I really should have been working on HOOD. But the latter has some things it needs to cogitate upon if it’s not going to take the ending I had prepared for it.

Goddamn Muse. If she thinks I’ll let her off the hook now, she’s dreaming. She can fight all she wants, but we are finishing this goddamn serial. And if she wants to throw a spanner in the works now, she’ll find out I have a bigger one to bounce off her pretty fairy-dusted skull.

I do hold the Muse in some caution and an appropriate amount of reverence, but we’ve been working together for decades now and sometimes one (or both) of us need(s) a brick upside the head. Pretty sure when the Viking elementalist realizes she’s surrounded by werewolves and the first troll shows up, the Muse will decide I am the one who needs said brick.

Mutual application of head trauma is a certain sign of affection between a writer and her angel, I should think.

Time is still doing strange things, stretching like taffy and yet slamming into me over and over like machine-gun spray. Intellectually I know it’s the trauma of the last four-five years (because it started well before the 2016 election) plus pandemic messing with my brain’s wiring, but that knowledge doesn’t stop the strange sick feeling when time begins to get all wonky or I realize that something did, in fact, only happen a week ago instead of months, or a month ago instead of years, or a year ago instead of yesterday.

At least I have a few more chapters of the serial to send to subscribers, so that’s good. I was beginning to think I was either going to have to pause all subscriptions and take a week off or have another nervous breakdown, but things have eased a little. Only a little, but I’m using the pause for all it’s worth.

The news is zany, but not as malignant as it was two weeks ago. I know the damage isn’t anywhere close to being fixed and work is needed holding elected officials’ feet to the fire, but it’s so nice not to be checking hellsite over and over and getting punched in the gut by the sheer malignant sociopathy in power each time. I’ll take it.

It’s about time to tie my shoes and get the dogs out for walkies, though neither of them is particularly excited about the notion for once. Miss B is sulking after being caught in the compost pile (long story) and Boxnoggin keeps looking at me like “Are you nuts? It’s cold out there!”

He’s from Texas, after all. Things were a bit different there, and though he’s been with us for YEARS he won’t let us forget it.

At least I’m still able to run. And it’s probably during today’s workout that I’ll find a solution for the spanner that damn Muse decided to toss into the works. It might be that I’m struggling against finishing because HOOD‘s been one of the things keeping me going through the last year-and-change of hell, and I might not be quite ready to let go of the characters.

But I think I have the next story lined up, which is nice. I can’t wait to share this one with you, too. But first, the dogs and I both need our ramble.

Be gentle with yourselves, my beloveds. Healing takes time, and our survival is still resistance.

Over and out.

Repair or Gasp

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I should be occupied with the copyedits and with finishing HOOD‘s Season Three. I have errands to mask up for–things that can’t be put off, no matter how much I want to. We’ve been in strict lockdown since last year (my gods, what a sentence to type) but groceries still have to be obtained, and delivery is too expensive.

At least there’s rain; the downpours and flood watch means not a lot of other people will be out unless they have to be. The dogs won’t like their walk being so damp, but it’ll mean Boxnoggin won’t feel he has to defend my honor against another dog or a passing van, at least. He’ll be too busy complaining about the wet.

For all his square head (he’s often mistaken for a nanny dog) and big mouth, he is a surprisingly dainty and nervous fellow. Miss B, of course, is an all-weather pooch; still, she is becoming an elderly statesdog and I don’t like making her endure rough weather.

I closed yesterday asking for tiny victories and little hopes, and goodness, did you lot answer! A lot of Readers are into pottery, which I love but haven’t had a chance to indulge in since high school. I took one pottery class and was absolutely enthralled by the wheel. I remember reading in a history book that pottery’s big revolution was the building of a container around nothing, which also represented a leap forward in human understanding, and the idea has lingered in the back of my head ever since.

Everything about pottery fascinates me. Jude’s breakdown while slamming clay in The Marked gives me goosebumps to reread; writing it was one of those times I felt I was channeling something else instead of Being In Charge, so to speak.

If I had the energy, I’d go on a digression about the different altered states one falls into while writing, or indeed during any creative endeavor. I’m not sure what portion of creativity is fueled by the fact that humans just love getting high in whatever fashion–the states of flow or channeling or grace or what-have-you while Making New Things have a lot of similarity with chemical enhancement of various sorts.

I’ve also been told that I’d enjoy The Repair Shop, which I should add to my queue. I do have to watch the second season of The Mandalorian first though, since my beloved Left Hoof really wants to nerd out over it with me.

It’s strange to be looking forward to things, however dimly. I spent a lot of 2020 just trying to keep my head above water. I’m swinging wildly between faint hope and deep despair, for obvious state-of-the-world reasons, and each time I’m in hope there’s just so many good things lying about to be discovered.

The despair, though… it’s a real doozy.

Enough. I’ve to finish this coffee and get started. The lights are flickering; the wind and rain might put paid to any errands. Which would be upsetting, since I’m setting aside a run today to get them bloody well done, but it would also be all of a piece with 2020’s lingering effects. I’m unsure whether the faint flickers of hope are the timeline healing itself or the last gasps before we plunge downward yet again.

I know it’s not a cheerful thought, but it’s where I am this morning. I’ll probably feel better once coffee (and dog-walking) is done.

I wish you safety today, dear Readers, and I hope if you have errands they can be achieved quickly and with a maximum of social distance. I can’t right the entire timeline, but I can try not to make my tiny part of it worse, and that’s my entire goal today.

Dream big, and all that.

See you around.

RELEASE DAY: The Poison Prince

I told you there was a release day coming up, didn’t I? I’ve been writing epic fantasy under the name S. C. Emmett for a while now.

I do not intend to stop.


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The Poison Prince

The crown princess has been assassinated, reigniting tensions between her native Khir and the great Zhaon empire. Now her lady-in-waiting, Komor Yala, is alone in a foreign court, a pawn for imperial schemes. To survive and avenge her princess, Yala will have to rely on unlikely allies — the sly Third Prince Garan Takshin and the war-hardened general Zakkar Kai who sacked her homeland.

But as the Emperor lies upon his deathbed, the palace is more dangerous than ever before — for there are six princes… and only one throne.

And now, the killing begins…

Now available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and independent bookstores.


This is book 2 of a trilogy, dear Readers, and it’s a meaty one. Intrigue, court ceremony, assassination, armies, barbarians, tea, lovely dresses, more assassinations–it’s all here, and I’ve had a helluva time. Book 3 has been written and is resting with the editor now; believe me, finishing the third of a great sweeping epic in 2020 has been a task.

I wasn’t sure, even up to the finish line, that I’d make it.

Many of my books are love stories–for example, Cormorant Run was my love story to Soviet-era sci-fi, and the Romances of Arquitaine a love song to chivalric epics I swallowed whole as a teenager. Hostage to Empire (my own personal name for this series) is no different; I’ll let readers find out in their own way who I’m singing to, and why. It’s been a very long bumpy ride, but I don’t think I’ve done too badly.

Of course, the editor will tell me, probably after the holidays, if I have or not.

In the meantime, here’s Book 2, and I hope you like it. It holds several scenes I’ve been just dying to share–mostly Yala’s Ride, but also a few others. My heart was in my throat and my entire body tingling while I wrote most of it, and I can only hope some of that excitement comes through.

What a sorcery it is, little ink-marks on a page (hopefully) transmitting my joy and enthusiasm to you. I’m very grateful to have this job, my beloveds; you can’t know how grateful.

I hope you like what I’ve done with it. And now, as is usual on a release day, I’m going to go stick my head in a bucket and have some nerves. You’d think I’d be used to releasing books by now, but each time, I am a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs, as my grandfather used to say.

Off I go.

From Earworm to Mad Science

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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

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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

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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

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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.