Soundtrack Monday: Into Something Good

Strange Angels

Sometimes a character requires the most outlandish things. For example, Christophe Reynard in Strange Angels has an extremely narrow musical taste–as in, it pretty much stopped changing when Buddy Holly died. Doo-wop and be-bop, in his opinion, will never die.

The fellow considers Herman’s Hermits, while somewhat late to the party, the absolute acme. So much so, that the very first scene I tried writing from his point of view is Christophe in a grocery store (right after the first time he’s met Dru) humming I’m Into Something Good. It didn’t make it into the finished book–the entire Strange Angels series is told from Dru’s POV, but sometimes I wrote small scenes from other characters just so I could figure out what indeed was happening.

Of course, the song playing during those few short but extremely intense moments of his and Dru’s first meeting (the one that ends up with Christophe catching a shotgun blast courtesy of our favorite svetocha) is, of course, Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat.

He’s a funny fellow, Christophe is, but I guess when your murderous, sociopathic dad’s the current king of the vampires you can be forgiven a few quirks. Psychological standards for djamphir, he would say, notwithstanding.

He might even, being Reynard, say it with a small, fanged smile.

Associated Disruptions

It was a long strange weekend, but at least I got all the housecleaning done. And thanks to the fireworks ban, both the dogs and I were quite calm all the way through. There was artillery in the distance, certainly, but we didn’t have any mortars popping near the house, which I am devoutly grateful for.

Also, I’ve been experimenting with BookFunnel. The first half-dozen or so chapters of Harmony are available for free download here; when HOOD gets its wrap cover and begins wending its way through the last quarter of the publication process there will be a free teaser for it as well. I might put some other freebies up, just to see how they do and if they drive interests to other titles. Might even put up a Freebies & Swag page, but I need to think carefully about whether or not I want the deluge of entitled demands it might spark.

I also spent the weekend polishing off a few books–reading, not writing. The Coldest Winter and The Coldest City, as well as a graphic novel adaptation of The King in Yellow, kept me occupied for an afternoon; I also finished James Holland’s The Rise of Germany and polished off two Christine Feehan novels. The last are like crack, I can’t read just one, kind of like Shannon McKenna novels. Now I’m on to a history of the Byzantine state, which is filling certain lacunae in my understanding of just how things were administered in the late Roman empire.

What I wanted was to get a few more chapters of Season Two done, but the Glorious Fourth and associated disruptions put paid to that little dream. But I got the revised cover list off to the artist, and there’s plenty of time for everything that needs to get done for the next couple books.

I’ve spent a lot of time these past few days thinking about growing up, logistics, rain, how to get a prince back to his homeland, whether or not I want to write The Highlands War, whether or not I truly want to write Hell Tide, how I’m going to get Maid Marian dancing with Prince John, genetic plasticity, and a whole host of other things I’d put on hold to think about after HOOD‘s Season One was sorted. Now all those things have come back to roost and I must give each the time they demand, from a few moments’ worth to a day or so of concentrated thought while the rest of me goes about the business of living.

It’s a form of mental housekeeping. Plenty of writing is keeping the creative cauldron bubbling at a certain pressure so the steam moves everything through one’s internal tubes. Weird facts, historical narratives, tangential fiction–all these things are fuel. So is the habit of observation when I have to leave the house, storing up notes on how these human creatures behave.

Can’t write what you don’t understand or observe. It’s probably the only use of my over-sensitive empathy that won’t drain me to transparency and leave me day-drinking. (Of course, I can’t drink without getting hives now anyway, but you know what I mean.)

In any case, today is for getting a needle back in the groove of work. There’s Incorruptible to revise and HOOD‘s Season Two to pile bricks for, and Hell’s Acre to think about. I’m pretty sure the last will be the next serial, which will be super fun to write. I always did like steampunk.

I hope your weekend was pleasant, dear readers, and that there was a paucity of artillery in your neck of the woods as well. I’ve got a bellydancing bagpiper to listen to while I write, and honestly, since my coffee is staying down, I really can’t imagine anything better.

Over and out.

Hot Ham Stamper

It’s supposed to be some ungodly-number-of-degrees Fahrenheit today, so I got out the door early for my run without taking either dog. They were vastly displeased by this, but the last thing I need is to carry home a heatstruck hound, or worse, two of them. It was already 70F when I hit the pavement, and the wind holds a promise of a day likely to give one a rash.

I hate the goddamn heat.

Anyway, I’ve been stuffing my head full of creative fuel for the past few days, after taking the weekend off to recover from The Poison Prince‘s revision into respectable first-draft form. I’m still not officially back at work, I’m only in the office for correspondence, but I’m probably going to poke at a story or two anyway.

My writing partner sent me this article about fake truffles earlier today, and it’s just so gonzo weird. Mushroom mafias! Fake olive oil! And, my personal favorite, counterfeit ham stamper.

I keep giggling and muttering “counterfeit ham stamper” to myself, because I’m twelve inside and if I don’t amuse myself, who will? It’s just so easy to reduce me to helpless giggles; I swear if I ever have a nemesis, that’s going to be weaponized for my downfall.

Anyway. Despite having a virtual crown of bees by the time I slowed down (they decided to peel off in search of a flowering bush or two when I shifted to a walk) I came home with no dead insects or branches in my hair. I am super grateful for that, even if just throwing the mess in a ponytail means more trouble when I attend to untangling later. There are a few grey hairs coming in, and they have a distinct waviness to them, which is all to the good. I’ve wanted curly grey hair forever, I think I’ll rock it with my eyes and heavy eyeliner. Good to know my body’s on track.

Stay cool out there, my ducklings, and hydrate like you mean it. I’ve got yet more cool things to stuff into my head so I can spin stories out of the detritus of the passage.

Over and out.

RELEASE DAY: Harmony

I feel kind of like Beyoncé dropping a surprise album. (I’m not nearly as talented, but I think the stomach flutters and sparking nervousness is probably about the same.) That’s right, folks–here’s a brand new book, Harmony, with a lovely cover by the stunning Indigo Chick Designs.


After an accident claims her unconventional mother, Val Smith has to live with her boring, reliable father. Grief and change aren’t good for anyone, but Val and her dad are doing okay—until they visit a place like paradise.

Harmony Home is safe, secure, and secluded, a place where where everyone belongs to everyone else. For a commune it’s a pretty okay, at least at first. There are strange things—the metal boxes in the clearing, the Red House where secrets are kept, and little Sarah, who pushes buttons inside people to “make them glow.” Val and her dad are honored, temporary guests, at least at first, and it’s exciting to be special, to be chosen. By the time Val’s uneasy, it’s too late.

Even heaven can be a trap, and Val’s going to need all her new talents to break free…

Currently available direct, or through Barnes & Noble, Apple and Kobo; forthcoming from Amazon and independent bookstores.


A long while ago, I gave my agent a choice. “I know you want a YA. I have a couple in my head: a cult story and a super-futuristic boarding school.”

She chose the cult. Of course I ended up writing her both–Reader’s Shadow is out on submission, though I don’t think a trad YA publisher will take it. I had to fight constantly and consistently to keep my YAs from being diluted by publisher nervousness over what some mythical bigoted mother in the Bible Belt would take offense at; my teenage heroes and heroines do things like drink, cuss, and think bad thoughts.

Anyway, I wrote Harmony for her. It passed through several drafts, and many publishers had a problem with the ending. (You all know how I feel about the right ending versus the happy ending.) They also want some of Val’s upbringing to be different, and one, I think, really waxed indignant at who eventually drags Val from the fire.

Oh well.

What I wanted to examine was how a cult draws one in. It’s all there–the lovebombing, the prohibitions on thinking in non-approved ways, the threat of punishment, the us-against-the-world mentality. Father Jim also owes a great deal to Thomas Jane’s incandescent and chilling turn in an otherwise ho-hum horror vehicle. What would happen, I wondered, if a cult actually had access to superhuman or extrahuman individuals? How far would they go to acquire such people, and how would they control them once acquired? How does one break free of such groups, especially when a core principle of getting people into your cult is to progressively rob them of outside relationships?

Everyone wants someplace to belong. Once they find that place, most people will do anything rather than lose it, especially if they believe it’s the only place that will ever accept them.

The psychological steps of cult indoctrination fascinate me. Brainwashing itself is pretty straightforward–lack of sleep and lack of protein can break even the strongest person. Cults–from the most innocuous to the most profitable and far-reaching–have to tread a little more carefully, and have to put policies and procedures in place to streamline the process. In many cases, the processes are arrived at through trial and error; the indoctrination doesn’t have to be applied by people who are consciously trying to manipulate someone else in order to work–they can be applied by people acting in good faith but in a bad environment.

In short, manipulative people and groups have the same playbook, and it works. Over and over again, it works, and plenty of it depends not on the charismatic leader but on the second- and third-in-command groups who may be acting out of the best motives, genuinely convinced they are bringing something special and valuable to people who need it.

We are not drawn into sick systems by our worst qualities, but by our best.

And of course, because it’s one of my books, there are extrahuman talents to consider. Still, it’s not those talents that allow the survivors to break free. I shall leave it to the reader to discover just how that happens, at least in the small fictional world of Harmony.

I’m really glad this book is out in the wild now. Amazon really doesn’t like getting one’s books out in a reasonable timeframe unless that book is done through KDP. On the one hand, it’s their distribution platform, so they can do as they like. On the other, it’s little things like that which drive home that I’ve made a good decision shifting my main ebook distribution elsewhere. (Gumroad customers can get a Kindle .mobi as well as the .epub, so if you’re an Amazon-based creature, I’ve still got your back.) And fear not, a paper version is well on its way.

I hope you enjoy it, dear Readers, and I’m looking forward to hearing what you think. And since it’s a release day, if you want me I’ll be in the corner rocking back and forth, with a bucket to stick my head into.

Plus ce change, and all that…

Eggs, Multiple Baskets

Today, I have placed my thumb upon my sword-guard, and there is an inch of blade showing. I am ready. READY, I TELL YOU. But that’s neither here nor there.

The Verge has a good article up about Cockygate and Kindle Unlimited. After a careful reading, I’ve made the decision to start taking the Anna Beguine books out of KU. It’s just not worth the risk of their algorithms suddenly deciding I’m doing something naughty. Basically, KU seems like a giant scam that other giant scammers are taking advantage of, and who suffers? Real authors, and readers. Fortunately I only have two books left in there, and the last will be free in October.

An object lesson in not putting all one’s publishing eggs in one basket, indeed. I’m glad I’m already conversant with

The only other news is that I have an appointment to take Odd Trundles to the vet today. He’s just…not himself. It’s not like him to turn his nose up at food, and the weight loss is marked enough that I’m concerned. So it’s loading him into the car today, always fun, and then the poking and prodding he’ll put up with because he is a sweet-natured pup even when he isn’t feeling well. I really could have done without a vet bill this month, but it’s a small price to pay for his goofy, lovely little self.

I’m tense and shaking already, hoping it’s something easily fixable. But he’s getting old for a bulldog, and his health has never been ultra-good. It’s hard when one of the furbabies isn’t feeling well; they can’t use human language to tell you what’s wrong. If it’s something severe I’ll be kicking myself for not taking him in earlier, if it’s something small I’ll be relieved and a little guilty at stressing him out by dragging him to the vet. And of course Miss B will be furious at being left behind, even if I ran her hard this morning to get her fidgets out.

You just can’t win most days, so I’m not even going to try. Just doing the best one can is enough.

Over and out.

Baedeckers

There was a whole SHELF of ancient Baedeckers at the library sale Wednesday. I looked at my writing partner, she looked at me, and we both said, “Room With a View.” Then we began talking about Julian Sands, and there is a reason we’re best friends. (The phrase “rats down his pants” was bandied about with glee.)

It’s good to have friends. And though I would never in a million years use them, I was extremely tempted to pick up a couple of the Baedeckers.

Sadly, though, there was not one for Italy.