New Year, First in Series

The Marked

Well, we made it to the new year, so I reckon that calls for a few celebratory discounts.

My book about grief and living tattoos–The Marked–is $2.99USD at Kobo until January 31, and is also part of their Buy One, Get One sale on thrillers until then. Which is a pretty sweet deal, I have to say.

Roadtrip Z

Cotton Crossing (book one of Roadtrip Z) and HOOD’s Season One are both available through certain retailers for $1.99USD until January 31. Just click on those links (or the covers in this post) to be taken right to the list of where to find them at that price.

You can also find them on Payhip for the sale price–Cotton Crossing here, and HOOD‘s Season One here.

If you like HOOD, the Complete Serial ebook is 25% off at Kobo, with the code “25JAN” entered at checkout, from January 19-30.

Remember That Damn Werelion Book? From January 17-31, it’ll be on sale for $2.99USD through certain retailers, and on January 4, She-Wolf and Cub will be on sale for $1.99USD in ebook.

Please take special note of the dates and links; I can’t alter either the dates or the distribution platforms these sales are available through once they’re listed.

And another first-in-series sale! From January 16-31, book #1 of the Watchers series will be on sale for $.99USD at AmazonBarnes & NobleApple, and Kobo.

It’s not quite a sale, but the publisher for The Dead God’s Heart is running a Goodreads giveaway from January 9 to February 6, 2023. You can enter here.

Please note that the giveaway is for a print ARC of Spring’s Arcana, which comes out in May 2023, and I am not running it–the publisher is. I have never really done a Goodreads giveaway before (though I think maybe a YA publisher did one for Strange Angels back in the day) so questions about eligibility and the like should be taken up with said publisher or Goodreads.

Speaking of Spring’s Arcana and The Salt-Black Tree, Barnes & Noble is running a 25% off preorder sale! Preorder either (or both!) from January 25-27 with the code “PREORDER25” at checkout, and come release day (Spring’s Arcana in May 2023, Salt-Black Tree in August 2023) you’ll get the discount.

…holy Happy New Year, that’s a whole lotta sales. I’ll be updating this post if more come in, so stay tuned.

Monday, On Mastodon

We’ve reached the “hose off all your internal surfaces with mucus” stage of whatever respiratory bug this is, which is gross and hopeful at once. (It does NOT seem to be Covid; currently the evidence points to it being RSV.) Short, easy exercise sessions, plenty of hydration, and only the bare minimum of decongestant are in order–as well as the last of the garlic soup my daughter made, of which the last few days’ worth of consumption is no doubt leading allium byproducts out through my pores.

Bodies are weird, yo.

There’s been yet another massive wave of people joining Mastodon instances (servers). My own is closed because I can’t afford the cost of adding more members–most instances are entirely volunteer-funded, so the waves of new users make things creak and shudder a bit. But all in all, a highly decentralized system really is good at absorbing this kind of mass migration. There are those people who have joined just to complain1 but that’s the case in any situation like this. The learning curve for the fedi2 is a trifle uncomfortable at first, but no worse than it was for, say, early Twitter or Facebook.

The important thing is to find a few people to follow so your home timeline gets populated a bit–and to use a third-party interface if the regular web interface doesn’t work for you. (I like Mastonaut and Toot!, and a lot of people like PinaforeSocial.) And to remember that the fedi has its own culture, built up over the years3 and while people are helpful and kind there, they are also not willing to have a lot of Johnny-come-latelies tell them what to do.4 I really, really recommend watching and learning for a bit, following people, having your manners on, and muting/blocking at will. Those few things will help make your experience a lot better.

There are migration tools like Fedifinder and Debirdify available, if you want to find your Twitter folks who have migrated to the fedi–though the recent tantrums by that Musk fellow and the firing of three-quarters of Twitter staff, including those running API support, might make them a little wonky. All in all, we’re doing the best we can to help new users, though drive-by complainers and bad actors get short shrift.

…I did not mean for this to become a “here’s how to join Mastodon” post, but I’ve been asked several times over the past few days, including on my subscriber Discord channel, so it just worked out that way. I’m a little sad to see Twitter go–I had, after being there since ’09, just finally achieved some traction so I could tell people about my books.

On the other hand, algorithmic suppression and shadowbanning meant my Twitter posts were becoming as useless as non-paid posts on Facebook, which is saying something. The fedi doesn’t have an algorithm shoving shit down your throat all the time. It’s purely chronological, and it depends on organic measures like quality content, replying, and boosting. The people who are really successful at gaming SEO and algorithms–especially on Instagram–to get their stuff seen are having a super hard time with the transition to Mastodon, and a few of them have had tantrum-y meltdowns because of it. *shrug* They’ll learn, or they won’t.

I have deleted most everything except a pinned “here’s how to find me” post from my Twitter feed, and locked it for good measure since harassment was beginning to be a bigger problem than usual.5 If you want to find me on the fedi, I’m here. There’s also social media links on my About page, if you look down and to the right. (I’m also on CounterSocial, which I like for breaking news.) I spent some time yesterday changing Twitter links on my other social media feeds over to Mastodon links or scrubbing them entirely. I just can’t in good conscience stay on Twitter anymore, even for promo–though I do not recommend deleting your account there entirely, since after thirty days anyone can take your username and post rancid stuff with it.

Anyway, my coffee’s almost gone. Boxnoggin has come down the hall once to nose at towards brekkie. He wants walkies; the last couple days I haven’t felt well and he’s been a brat, so he hasn’t had a good long ramble. Today we’ll probably get one in.

Welcome to Monday, everyone. Please keep your limbs and digits inside the gondola, and try not to make direct eye contact with the upcoming week. (Sometimes temporal divisions regard that as a sign of aggression.) Keep your belt buckled and your popcorn handy. Something tells me this is gonna be a wild one…

Not Liking

I would love to like.

It’s part of the online social contract, after all. If you find someone’s social media post pleasant, agreeable, or important, you’re supposed to hit that like button. It’s a duty! A fave is like a big warm hug. There’s a hierarchy–you star or fave something to show approval, or you repost it if you REALLY like/agree/think it’s important.

It’s not that I don’t want to. I would love to be able to hit that button, get that little dopamine hit, share that joy. Unfortunately, anxiety won’t let me. You see, if I hit one fave, one like, one heart, one star, the feeling of being personally unfair mounts. What if someone else I have a parasocial (or deeper) relationship with sees that fave/star/like/heart, and wonders why I didn’t like their post? Will they feel bad? Will they find it insulting? Will I inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings?

I live in dread of doing so. Ideally I wouldn’t hurt anyone at all, but we live in an imperfect world. Thus, if I hurt someone, I want it to be deliberate; I want it to be meant.

I am fully aware of the deep irrationality of this emotional pattern, and yet I cannot escape it. If I like or fave or star or heart or what-the-fuck-ever one thing, I am attacked by the deep dire feeling that I have to do so for everything crossing my feed lest someone feel left out, lest someone suffer because of my inattention. It is not physically possible for me to hit the like button so many times, and attempting to apply a hierarchy of likes to people I follow–who, it must be said, I follow because I think they’re cool, or interesting, or important, or kind, or because I have a deeper relationship with–reduces me to a quivering puddle of maybe I shouldn’t be here at all, I’ll just leave.

Can’t have that stress, it robs me of the energy to write books.

I have no problem boosting or amplifying (retweeting, back in the Twitter day). The sense that I have a platform and am responsible for lifting up things I think are fun, interesting, or important thankfully doesn’t hit the same mental/emotional reflex the like button does. I am at a loss to explain this quirk, I don’t know where the hell it comes from. I only know the guilt of betraying the online social contract by not “liking” anything is less than the panic-anxiety of hitting that button even once and running the risk of hurting someone I might care about, no matter how glancing that care may be.

I fully realize how ridiculous this is. Then again, there is a great deal of ridiculousness in and about social media; becoming a bog-witch who hikes into town every six months to send finished manuscripts out would be ideal for Yours Truly. Unfortunately, without some kind of giant deal (“movie money”, we call it chez nous) or vanishingly unlikely bestseller lottery win, it’s not feasible.

So I continue being ridiculous, and wishing I could smash that fave/heart/star/whatever button like everyone else. I try not to look at the numbers of boosts or likes or faves or whatnot. Social media is pretty much yelling into the void.

Sometimes the void answers back and that’s nice, though it’s strange to realize I’m a void too. There are a million reasons for silence. You can have yours.

This is one of mine.

Change and Social Detox

Didn’t have time for a Soundtrack Monday post yesterday. I am incredibly irritated with a world that will not simply leave me alone to write my weird little stories. Descending into the sewers to live as a cryptid–or donning a cape and wandering into the woods, never to be seen again–sounds very appetizing indeed. If I could get coffee and reading material delivered in either situation, I’d probably be gone like a shot.

I suppose some of the irritation is detoxing from Twitter. The site seems to be imploding, and despite knowing it would happen, I’m still upset. A sizable chunk of my professional life and connections were stored there, largely because I had no choice. We all knew it was a bad deal, but it was the only one on offer.

This is no longer the case. It’s fascinating to see the realization percolate.

It’s also interesting to watch a lot of people fleeing the implosion, attempting to get the same dopamine hit and rush of indignation elsewhere. I’m hearing the same complaints I did when Twitter started, when Livejournal died, during the Yahoo buyout of Tumblr (now there’s a cautionary tale for dumb billionaires), during the several waves of Facebook emigration, etc., etc., ad nauseam, ad infinitum. In particular, watching people arrive on Mastodon and try to replicate Twitter experience on a platform that was specifically designed to avoid some of birdsite’s more rancid problems and practices has been…well, I wouldn’t call it entertaining, but there’s certainly an aspect of can’t-look-away. Making the shift to a place that isn’t centrally controlled, where ads aren’t part of the ecosystem and the “home” algorithm isn’t controlling what you see and when, is disturbing for a lot of people trained by years of the Twitter Character of the Day, the ads, and the constant shadowbanning and suppression not of fascists but of their opponents. Add to that the fact that people are mourning the loss of a service that wanted, as Dorsey himself admitted, to be a public utility and gave many the hope and interaction they needed to get through the first few years of pandemic, and it’s rough.

It’s really rough. A lot of people aren’t being their best selves right now. Change is difficult–I joke about dogs and toddlers being absolutely unable to cope with disruptions to routine, but adult humans aren’t far behind. The server slowdowns of a decentralized, volunteer-run system looking to absorb such massive waves of new users are entirely reasonable and expected–but not pleasant.

I’m really looking forward to marginalized communities coming out from under the weight of having to fight Twitter’s deliberate devaluation of their posts, as well as the encouragement and intentionally engineered ease with which birdsite was used for harassment and silencing of women, people of color, and indigenous groups. I’ve heard the objection that defederation and banning on Mastodon will lead to “silos”, and I think it’s entirely specious. We already know that bad actors don’t want to be locked into their own little cesspools, they want to pollute the drinking water for everyone else, and force us to listen to their nasty bigoted howling. That’s their entire goal, and being able to lock such people out with a few clicks of a button–especially if one is an instance admin–is in my opinion a net good that will only increase over time.

“But social justice won’t go viral on Mastodon!” Uh, I’ve already seen calls for help, calls to action, and news rip through the fediverse at light speed. The only difference is that they often have content warnings. So I find this objection to be specious as well, from my own direct experience.

“But Twitter was freeee!” some people howl, like the rusty gates of hell. I dunno, my friend, was it really? Already the internet requires the investment in hardware and privilege to access, and birdsite only appeared free because user info was being sold, ads were being forced into the stream, attention was being bought by corporate actors, and governments were busy subsidizing and payoff-placating Dorsey the way they have been subsidizing Musk, Bezos, Murdoch, the Waltons, and Mango Mussolini (among others) for decades. It was never free, you just didn’t see the cost because it was folded into the daily scramble to make a living and pay taxes, both activities which end up lining the pockets of bazillionaires because that’s how our society is set up.

But then, I’ve been on Mastodon since ’17, keeping my eggs in more than one social media basket the way I keep publishing eggs in more than one container. (The effort required to do so is disruptive to my productivity, but can’t be avoided under current conditions.) I’m in the luxurious position of already being over the first bump of the learning curve–and there really is one, with any social media platform–but the angry biting from some people who are determined not to like a new-to-them system because “it isn’t Twitter and I’m mad and grieving” is counterproductive in the extreme.

Not that it can be helped. We’ve seen this all before, every time a social media system implodes under the weight of corporate malfeasance and greed.

I just want to write, dammit. And manage this detox. The way Twitter and Facebook–and Instagram, and and and–are engineered to take advantage of some very basic brain chemistry is amazing, but it also makes tapering off and moving away rather hellish. Maybe I’m wrong and the site won’t fully implode. I’m astonished that World Cup traffic hasn’t done it in, though I still can’t reply to anyone in DMs and the user experience is growing increasingly janky. I thought it would break irreversibly this past weekend, and can’t decide whether I’m happy to be mistaken.

And I keep thinking, if breaking the addiction to birdsite is so uncomfortable for someone who has been in the process of mitigating exposure to it for five-plus years, it must be dreadful for those who never wanted to leave. Things will shake out, though, and people will eventually find other ways of getting the connection and access to breaking news they need. Personally, I’m using CounterSocial for news and Mastodon for most everything else, though at least one of my publishers really really wants me to keep my Instagram fresh and oh fuck, how did I get on YouTube anyway?

If you’re suffering a dopamine shortage from fleeing Twitter’s protracted strangulation at the hands of Manbaby Melon Husk (one of my favorite euphemisms for the site’s new owner, I gotta admit), try to be kind to yourself. It feels uncomfortable because your brain was being hit with the equivalent of weapons-grade casino-type sucker-retention tricks daily, and now it’s…not. It’s gonna take a little while for things to normalize.

Me? I’m gonna finish my coffee, grab some toast, and get Boxnoggin walked. He certainly doesn’t care about a massive shift in the online social ecosystem–he’s got things to sniff, and at least one attempt to crap in oncoming traffic to check off his daily to-do list.

But that’s (say it with me) another blog post. See you around.

Autumn Shift

Slowly swam into consciousness this morning; my sleep was heavy as it has not been for weeks. I knew why when I lay still and listened.

Rain! Tapping at the roof, but not hissing through the leaves–they were already too wet. A good soaking has descended from heaven, trickling through the gutters, beading up on the freshly sealed deck, replacing some turgor pressure in tree limbs, cleaning the air, and blanketing tired dust. Now all yesterday’s activity makes sense–there were at least seven male stellar jays in the backyard most of the afternoon, screeching and carrying on amid several robins and a whole host of smaller birds. The corvids periodically came through as well, moving almost in a picket line while digging through grass and shrubbery; the squirrels were in a fury of burying anything nutlike and chasing each other away from hidden caches. Stink bugs were climbing any surface they could, a great risk while the birds were out, and it was just generally a busy rumble.

Boxnoggin is nonplussed. It took a bit of coaxing to get him out of bed, since the window is still dark. Dawn is obstructed by a pall of heavy grey–just the way I like it, in fact, the only proper way to greet that rosy-fingered goddess–and he was very nice and cozy. I rousted him for a trip to the backyard, following our usual morning protocol, and while he is very fond of habit and routine, the fact remains that he immensely dislikes rain since it is cold on his delicate paws. He gave me a startled look when the first drop hit his shoulder, then proceeded with a long-suffering sigh to attend his business before hurrying back inside. Now he’s in the living room, resentfully tongue-cleaning whatever fragments of moisture managed to reach him.

He’s not going to enjoy walkies as much as usual, but them’s the breaks.

My soul is expanding. I needed rain. And while I was rising through layers of consciousness, the solution to a particularly knotty plot problem in Cold North appeared, laid in my brain like a gift. I knew the Muse would drop it on me while I was occupied with something else; it was only a matter of time. The solution will mean a little more work, but at least I have it now.

The shift has happened. The world has tilted, and things are as they should be. The cedars are murmuring with joy, and the Venerable Fir’s boughs have started to lift again. There is even a bluejay on a handy branch along the back fence; I think it’s Ed, though he’s not screaming. He’s merely surveying his domain with a satisfied air, and probably waiting for Stede to arrive so the two of them can get into trouble with their gentleman crew.

Today holds a mountain of work. Now that I know the next solution in the revisions, it remains only to reach the particular point where it needs to be inserted. If I keep my head down and go straight through there might even be time for some narration after dinner. (The “narrate Victorian erotica with a straight face” project proceeds apace, too.) There was a Twitch outage yesterday so I couldn’t do the planned Reading with Lili, but I think I’ll do it this Friday instead of a tea.

Adaptation is the name of the game. And the title will be “Dracula, HO” because I am twelve inside.

There’s even homemade banana bread with plenty of walnuts for breakfast, once I finish coffee. I keep stopping to gaze out my office window at the inky-wet cedars, and each time I do my soul heaves another small sigh of relief and expands just that fraction more. Rain. Rain, rain, rain. Thank the gods.

Summer is over; I can begin to live–and work–again.

Resting Time

Not sure whether it’s a promise or a threat…

It’s been a busy month and I am frayed down to the bone. I’ll be taking now until Monday off to re-wrap the insulation on my nerves, not to mention get some serious work done on revisions. Consequently, there will not be a Tea with Lili today, though you can find old teas on YouTube.

I might also do some more narration of saucy Victorian stories for the new channel, just because. Yes, it’s blank right now because the first episode drops this very evening; I’m excited and nervous. It could all go terribly wrong…but at least I’ll learn a lot.

Have a lovely weekend, my dears.

Past the Crest

I’m choosing to find more things hilarious these days. It’s a welcome change, even if the laughter has somewhat of a scream-y edge. As a coping mechanism, it’s better than many others.

Not much work got done yesterday, but correspondence and a video meeting were dealt with, so there’s that. I might be doing a livestream reading of The Eye of Argon in the near future. (Blame Curtis for this one. HE’S RESPONSIBLE, IT’S NOT MY FAULT.) I know of the novella, certainly, but I’ve never read it before. So I’d be doing it completely cold, until I can’t go on or the story is finished. It sounds like a good bit of fun, and I’ll keep the recording up for a couple weeks. I might even ask Eustace the sock monkey (my newsletter readers know all about him) or Clara the rubber vulture for help during it. (Harlowe, Eustace’s best friend, isn’t interested.) So there’s that.

I also got the most hilarious review late yesterday evening. Normally I don’t look at reviews, but I happened to glance at a certain werelion book‘s page while updating some info and…well, apparently picking a VC Andrews-esque cover, crafting breathlessly purple copy to go with it, and OPENLY saying “this book is an homage to the wonderful nuttery that the writer of Flowers in the Attic was known for” wasn’t enough to warn some people, and they might be…shocked. Or startled.

Good. I don’t know how to signal any more clearly “there are nutbar hijinks in this book”–one would have thought the shamelessly brazen pseudonym alone would give it away–but here we are. Do not get me wrong–it’s a fabulous review, it shows that I did exactly what I set out to do, and I am utterly grateful for this particular Reader, not to mention all the others. I’m absolutely chuffed. I could not have asked for better feedback, and I am still giggling like a mad chipmunk this morning every time I think about it.

There is a great deal of satisfaction in knowing one not only understood the assignment, but knocked it out of the park.

Also, it smelled like rain this morning. There won’t be any, we’re still in the dog days and the sky is that pale shade presaging a very dry, warm afternoon. But we’re past the crest of summer and it’s all downhill toward autumn’s damp from here, and I’m ready. So, so ready. The first real rains will probably trigger a great burst of productivity from me, which is grand. I need it.

It’s probably over a month away, too, but at least I can look forward to the event.

My coffee has cooled, Boxnoggin cleaned his breakfast bowl for once (the dab of bacon grease in the bottom might have something to do with it), and there is a cool draught from my office window. The birds are calling every once in a while, readying themselves for the day, and the birdbath has seen a great deal of action already to judge by the peanut shells littering its bottom. I’ll clean that out before I go on a run.

I wish you a pleasant day, my beloveds. Try to laugh a bit, if you can. Everything is absurd and we’re all locked in the same room for a while.

Might as well enjoy it.