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.

Release Day: JOZZIE & SUGAR BELLE

Five or six friends got together in a Google Hangout. All writers, mostly drunk, they are Very Funny Ladies. Happily, I was one of them; sadly, I was stone-cold sober. One of the ladies is an Australian, and her care packages sent to us poor benighted fools in the Northern Hemisphere are legendary; apparently, a recent one sent to a Dear Husband of a Writing Lady included several kangaroo-scrotum tchotchkes.

Because yes, they use all parts of the ‘roo, and the scrotums can be coin purses, corkscrews, bottle openers–you get the idea. (Look, I’m not gonna link any of this, you can traumatize yourself with Google just fine.) The Dear Husband could not contain his glee, and showed off his new gifts.

“Wait,” someone said. “What if that was a kangaroo shifter’s ballsack instead?”

Being the only sober one in the room, I was charged with writing the story. A few hours later, we had all the main characters fleshed out for a fucking series of these things. (The echidna-shifter one sounds particularly hilarious.) The Writing Ladies eventually separated to nurse their upcoming hangovers, or, in my case, shambled to bed giggling.

And lo, I wrote the kangaroo-shifter novella. The working title was Scrotum Search, but good luck getting that past any Amazon algorithms, amirite? And now, my dear friends, you can read it too!

Jozzie & Sugar Belle This ‘roo has problems.

Jozzie Shale, missing a particularly intimate piece of his person, lands in LA with a hangover and plenty of determination. He needs help, fast–and fortunately, he’s got the address of a witch who owes his buddy Petey a favor.

She’s a solution.

Sugar Belle, of the Virginia Belles, is only mildly amused when a drunken shapeshifter shows up in her tattoo chair. Add a warlock with a necromantic book, coyote shifters, the end of the world, plus a few hundred pounds of cheese, and even a witch of Sugar’s caliber might be in for a bad night.

It’s gonna be a bumpy weekend…

Available through Gumroad, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. The print edition is now available, too.

As for the others there that night (you know who you are), the gauntlet’s thrown, bitches. I expect your novellas in short order.

*runs away, laughing*

On AFTERWAR: Research

Afterwar I began gathering supplementary materials1 for Afterwar in late 2015; work commenced on the book in earnest in March-April 2016. I knew I was going to write it, but not how it would be received or even if it would ever be sold. It’s too outlandish, I thought. I’ve been saying this is where Fox News and the like is going to end up for a decade and a half, I thought.

Much to my surprise, my editor at Orbit wanted the book with a white-hot passion, and since I trusted her implicitly to have my back–to let me write the book that needed to be written without committee interference from internal groups that would want it watered down–I went for broke. I tore my heart out, and ate the bitter organ whole, retched it free and did it again.

And I pestered. Goodness, how I pestered. Knowing more than a few vets, I bought drinks, bought lunches, went to coffee, peppered them with questions. “So…if you were running an insurgency in the American Southwest…okay, so how successful is asymmetric force really when you’re the boots on the ground…look, I need to know how far a Humvee can actually go in offroad conditions without refueling…so, what did it smell like? Really?…what’s the one thing you were always short of, in combat…?” You get the idea. I’d start out with questions, and then I did what any writer who wants to learn does.

I shut up.

Once people know you’re sincerely interested in them and their lives, they will talk endlessly, and with active listening you will find out more than you ever dreamed. At that point it was simply a question of who had the better bladder, since a loo trip not only breaks conversation but also breaks “the seal” and you have to pee every five seconds afterward. (Or so it seems.)

None of them asked what my book was actually about. Most of the time I had introductions from other people they’d served with, and once word got out that I was trustworthy, gentle, and genuinely interested in their experience I had more contacts than I could ever plumb and the social credit to spend on slightly more outré questions. “Say you’re behind enemy lines and on your period, what’s the planning for that?2 How common is diarrhea in combat?3 If you could only take two weapons with you to operate in unfriendly territory, which would you? What kind of coping mechanisms have you seen others use under combat stress?4

My other research was not so nice or so enjoyable. I’ve spent years reading about the Eastern Front in WWII, and about the occupations of Ukraine and Poland by several successive totalitarian waves. It’s been an interest of mine since reading Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad because, I thought, there was no way I would ever write about something so brutal and horrific. Having something to read that, even though awful, wasn’t grist for the story-mill, was necessary in order to give my brain a break.

Perhaps the Muse was precognitive, and prepared me well beforehand. Authoritarian and totalitarian regimes follow the same damn playbook, with only small adjustments for culture and territory. Plus, I had taken a bath in American Civil War history, and still picked up logistical and other studies, just on the principle that it’s always good to know how an army will feed itself on your home territory.

Everything I’d been reading and thinking about for years crystallized. Afterwar took on a life of its own.

And then, the election happened.5

I saw the beginning stages of my private nightmares playing out in realtime. I don’t think I’ve quite recovered from that, but I had other problems as well.

Not content to reflect current events, Afterwar was about to get blindsided by publication woes as well.

To be continued…

Summer, Overwhelmed

The Summer Queen is in her full array, and last night was almost too warm for sleeping. Poor Odd Trundles doesn’t like it when it’s warm, and his breathing kept me awake for a long while. I mean, his breathing is always audible, because of his poor compromised airways, but last night it was particularly stentorian. I’m sure it informed my dreams, which included astronauts, pregnancy, and murder. (Sort of a cross between that ST:TNG episode where Troi gets knocked up by a tiny shimmering alien and that Charlize Theron movie, The Astronaut’s Wife.) Poor Trundles, summer means all his crevices need to be greased daily and his preferred napping spot is on cold hardwood or tile instead of comfy carpet.

Also, revisions for Rattlesnake Wind have landed, so I’m in the “running around like a headless chicken” phase. I have to revise both Rattlesnake and Harmony, when I’d rather be writing HOOD. Late mornings always make me feel overwhelmed, and that goes double for revisions. I should also leave the house to fetch kibble for the four-legged carnivores I live with, and perhaps for the two-legged omnivores as well.

But first I have to run, which will be just fabulous in the sticky humidity. All signs point to an exceedingly uncomfortable day. I should just get on with it instead of sitting and staring blankly at my desktop screen.

Oh, hey! There’s an interview with me over on Unreliable Narrators today. The Princess listened to it and thought it was aces, so perhaps I didn’t sound as uninteresting and silly as I often feel while being recorded.

I don’t mind summer, but this one is turning out to be particularly…moist. And now it’s time to hit the pavement before it gets any worse outside. Thankfully, most of today’s run-route is shaded, and it’s a tempo run, so it will be over quickly.

Stay frosty out there, my friends.

*disappears in a cloud of steam*

Poster Beware

Add one more reason for me to delete my Facebook and never look back: the proliferation of scammer feeding grounds packed with vulnerable people. Just take a look at this horseshit going down in FB-town, my friends:

Facebook, by making desperation so easily searchable, has exacerbated the worst qualities the treatment industry. A word-of-mouth industry with a constant supply of vulnerable and naive targets who feel stigmatized and alone is a scammer’s paradise. Facebook does have tools to report groups that are abusive, but given the murky definition of patient brokering, Facebook’s legendary lack of transparency, and the fact that it already went to a lot of effort to promote the earlier incarnation of Affected by Addiction, which Mendoza himself admits was a deceptive marketing scheme, Facebook hardly seems like a good arbiter. (Cat Ferguson, for The Verge)

Now, if FB had some transparency, or some motive beyond profit, I might be willing to cut them some slack. But they don’t, and I’m not. Facebook exists to monetize your desperate loneliness for ad companies, and it’s a fishing ground for other scammers looking to do the same.

Caveat emptor, indeed.

Monday’s Sun

Sunshine through trees in field
© creativecommonsstockphotos | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Mid-80s yesterday, and the dogs were happy to bask and even happier to go inside and spread out on the cool tiles of the dining room. I managed a great deal of gardening–never again will I allow stinking geranium to spread unchecked. I mean, I know it’s supposed to be good luck to carry, but there’s only so much of that smell I can take. Plus, it was choking what peas managed to ward off the slugs, and providing a lovely sunshade for said slugs and their snail cousins. Which would be fine if the slugs would eat the damn weeds and leave the damn peas alone, but that’s too much to hope for.

Anyway, I’ve a mild tan on my shoulders and I’m sure my body has no idea what to do with all the vitamin D it’s bathing in. We have reached the sunscreen half of the year, when I lather on layers of the stuff.1 Miss B had her daily brushing out on the deck, which means her coat picked up pollen and various other things as she rolled around in ecstasy. She really likes being brushed, and contorts herself in a variety of ways during the experience. Odd, of course, can’t roll onto his back without difficulty breathing, and he’s sensitive so brushing is kept to a minimum so as not to irritate his skin or make him tetchy.

A tetchy bulldog is a terrible thing. The groaning is long and involved, and the mournful looks are so heartbreaking, in fact, that one must laugh or be considered completely soulless.

Anyway, I finished my chores early yesterday and settled in to read Alexander Werth’s magisterial2 Russia at War. You can tell it was published in the early 60s; Eastern Front scholarship (and the opening of confidential archives after the Soviet Union dissolved) has advanced a long way since. Still, it’s an epic work, even if Werth was rather too inclined to believe the “official” Soviet versions of things. Part of it was that he didn’t know any better, since the archives were still closed; part of it is, no doubt, his fellow-feeling for the ally he was embedded with during the earthshaking events of WWII. He tends to ascribe to Stalin rather more charity and clarity than that fellow actually possessed, and I have Volume II of Kotkin’s new biography of the Iron Tsar on the docket next as somewhat of a corrective.

I’d have preferred for Gareth Jones to survive and write the definitive work, especially since Jones went walkabout in Ukraine during the Holodomor and did the only real reporting on that disaster.3 While reading Werth’s asides on Ukrainian nationalism, the swallowing of the “official” Soviet line (and its giveaway term, “Banderite” as a pejorative) is glaring. I’m glad I read Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine before attempting Werth. History is a puzzle, the pieces painstaking assembled and constantly reframed.

As a result of spilling onto the couch and reading for a few hours, I don’t have my usual feeling of “I need a weekend to recover from the weekend’s frantic activity.” It’s a nice change, but now I need to roll around in a few more layers of sunscreen and hit the pavement before the temperature climbs. Really, anything above seventy is Too Sweaty for my adapted-to-the-PNW-mushroom self. I’m already longing for more rain, and it’s only May.

Off to the races, then.