Freeing, Not Optimal

Jozzie & Sugar Belle

Writing epic fantasy is very…different. For one thing, I’m not getting the “oh, this phase of the project is done” hit of dopamine as regularly as I’m accustomed to, and that makes me cranky. For another…well, let’s just say that working under another name is freeing, certainly, but it’s not even close to optimal. It would be better if the books weren’t regularly orphaned, or if I wasn’t treated like an embarrassing bodily noise instead of the person who’s writing the damn books everyone else’s job relies on.

But hey, you know…nothing’s perfect.

Anyway, I’m super cranky today. Lord Boxnoggin is whistling with his desire to get out the door for a run or get down the stairs to find a cat, whichever. And yes, his whine is so high and prolonged it sounds like a whistle. Not a train whistle, more like a kettle at low boil, right before all the water evaporates and you’re left with a lump of metal melted to the stovetop.

Not that I’d know anything about that, no sir. *clears throat*

I know exactly why I’m so upset. I dislike being ignored when it’s my work that creates the value for everyone else in the stream; if I’m not going to be granted a reply to my quite reasonable questions I shall work to please myself, and that might mean finishing another story or two for some sweet sweet dopamine before I go back to this beast. I have to have faith, and trust that the Muse knows what the hell she’s doing. Fifty-plus books in and I’m still having to hold my nose and step blindly where that bitch leads.

It’s enough to make me want to call the girls for a drunken night, stay absolutely sober, and write another Jozzie & Sugar Belle. At least that was fun and I got answers when I bothered to ask anyone about Tuckerisation or the like.

I suppose a run will put me in a better mood. I’m not being allowed to do my usual detailed work from start to finish with these books, and it irks me far more than I thought it would. In any case, I’ve learned my lesson: if I ever write YA or epic fantasy ever again, it will have to be for a publisher who doesn’t think readers are stupid or treat me like a rancid afterthought.

I hope such beasts exist.

*wanders off to run, muttering*

Rules for Chasing

I have Poe’s Spanish Doll running inside my head this morning, a stagger-step of nostalgia and loss. The dogs are in fine fettle, especially Boxnoggin, who has taken to rolling over and begging for tummy rubs with the single-minded intensity and desperate cuteness of Oliver Twist asking for some more. He seems to have finally realized he’s not going back to the shelter, and it does him a world of good, poor fellow.

He’s not going to like running in the rain today, but he’s full of fidgets and I am too. If it’s any consolation to his dainty-pawed self, it’s a short run.

My writing partner gave me a clutch of walnuts, which she dislikes but I happen to love. I even like the faint bitterness of the skins and bits that cling to the brain-folded nut. Plus it’s fun to put a couple on the deck railing and watch the squirrels lose their tiny little minds over it. Remember that cartoon with the squirrel and the cocoanut? Much Ado About Nutting. That’s pretty much exactly what it looks like when the little bastards stumble across a treasure.

That was one of my ex-husband’s favorite cartoons. He had a passion for Buster Keaton too–the little guy who keeps getting bashed by circumstances, especially when he thinks he’s on to something good.

I know, it’s kind of…well, there was a reason that resonated with him, let’s just put it that way.

Anyway, one of the rules of Looney Tunes is that the “villain” or the hapless butt could stop at any time. This is most famously expressed in Chuck Jones’s Rules for Writing the Road Runner, which may be apocryphal but is damn insightful anyway.

The coyote could stop at any time. Now, they add, if he were not a fanatic, but that’s really gilding the lily. What makes the Road Runner cartoons–and plenty of other Looney Tunes–so funny is that it’s true, the pursuer or comic butt could stop at any moment.

They just don’t.

The kids and I have been talking about that a lot lately. It’s a good thing to halt in a dust cloud every so often, look around, and consider, what could I stop if I wasn’t so invested in? The answer may not be what you think.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time thinking about the current project, and came to a number of decisions. A few things I do with my books aren’t helpful in the current situation; I need to get out of the way and let my agent take care of a couple problems instead of sitting on them and brooding.

We all know how I love sitting and brooding. *snork*

So, my dear chickadees, I leave you with this question: what could you stop at any time? Are there diminishing returns? Is it a sunk costs fallacy? Is there anything that, when you stopped doing it, you would feel relief and have energy freed up for things you like better?

Notice I’m not saying any action other than thinking is required here. I’m not saying you have to immediately stop chasing your road runners, whatever they are. I’m just saying…think for a minute. Just consider. The option’s there, even if you don’t want to take it–and sometimes, knowing that an option exists frees up plenty of mental and emotional energy you didn’t even know you were pouring into a hole.

I often say I can put up with anything if I know when it’s going to stop. Or when I decide at what point I’m going to halt chasing the road runner and just order a bento box from Acme instead.

Now it’s time for me to take the dogs on a run. Sure, I could stop that at any time, but tired dogs are well-behaved dogs and I need the exercise. Besides, we took yesterday off, so we’re rested and ready (for whatever variety of “ready” we can muster) today.

See you around, friend-os.

Irritability, Meet Shark

One of the kids has been leaving the heat on overnight, which, added to flannel sheets and my favorite green blanket, means I sweated almost to death last night and the one before. It’s definitely time to change out of said flannel sheets. Contrary to popular belief, winter is over.

Boxnoggin, however, loves the heat. Loves it. Miss B doesn’t mind, since she has all the air trapped in her undercoat to keep her insulated, but she’s spending more and more of the night flat on tiled loo floor, soaking up coolth.

There’s been a lot of rejection a la Chez Saintcrow lately. Publishers (both trad and otherwise) don’t want to make a decision within a reasonable timeframe, so I’ve been taking my toys and going home. Technically I’m the one doing the rejecting, but it’s also frustrating as fuck. If you don’t want my work, just say so in the first round and we’ll be done. Don’t try to keep me in your back pocket while you shop around for something younger, sweeter, more tractable. I never was that girl, and that goes double now.

I don’t mind a publisher saying “not for us, thanks!” What I do mind is them sitting on submitted work for silent months, then getting shitty with me or my agent when we pull the work they’ve had for a significant amount of time to make a decision on. If they’re too understaffed to make a decision, that’s not my problem–a publisher’s poor planning is not my emergency.

Nobody’s poor planning is my emergency, except for my kids’. That’s it.

It’s nice to be at the stage in my career where I have the confidence and the tools to say so and make it stick, but I wish I could work with these people instead of despite them. We could do such amazing things together.

I’m probably also a little irritable because I’m on somewhat of a social media fast. I took the Twitter app off my phone and only interact with birbsite during scheduled, outside-of-work times. Of course I have Whalebird open while working, but Mastodon (especially my instance) isn’t nearly as toxic. It feels exactly like a detox, and I’m in the cranky phase.

Add to that the problem of The Poison Prince1, and I’m snarling halfheartedly at everything in sight. It doesn’t help that my running mileage has taken a helluva hit lately.

So today I’ll probably do a reset. Take the dogs on a long walk, put my headphones in and my head down, and stretch my legs while I think about things. I need to decide what mountain I’m going to scale next–probably the Dolls book, but in order to get there I need to clear Poison Prince off my deck and get both the new Watcher book and maybe the lightning-god book at least to zero draft.

It would be nice if I could sleep at night, too, so today means no more flannel sheets. I’ll miss crawling into a bed that isn’t cold to begin with, but such is the price of waking up without damp sheets clinging to hip, ankle, wrist, neck while sixty-plus pounds of dog attempts to put his nose in my ear.

That’s probably why I’ll never date again, honestly. I hate sharing the bed, unless it’s with dogs. At least when they keep me up it isn’t because they have a need to tenderize their victim for psychological warfare, it’s because they really can’t help it. I could just toss my dates out but that sounds like too much effort, and I don’t like sleeping in other people’s beds. It would take something very special indeed for me to change my mind, and I’m almost halfway through my life with no time to look. I’ve got too much to do.

…wow, this post has gone everywhere, hasn’t it? The irritation means it’s time for me to get back to work. But first, a ramble with the canines, both to work their fidgets out and to make some decisions.

Publishing requires one to be sharklike–never stop swimming lest you suffocate, and always smile. Some silly people think the smile is weakness instead of an amused warning.

See you later, chickadees.

Cinnamon Roll Prospects

It’s one of those mornings. I’m barely vertical and even getting coffee down the hatch seems an impossible task. At least it smells like rain soon, and yesterday I had the great good fortune of getting my finger and toe claws into The Poison Prince. I even got my teeth into that fucking book, and shook it like Sir Boxnoggin with a squeaky toy.

Consequently, now I have a better scaffolding, and I feel like the book, while huge, is also manageable. If I keep biting, eventually I’ll bleed it into compliance. Most of the time, I settle into the story’s world with a thump, like the floor dropping a little during an earthquake. This time, the sensation is of my hands and feet aching and tense, my jaw clenched, while i see which direction the damn thing will veer in.

The Princess and her best friend are in the kitchen. I’m told there’s a prospect of cinnamon rolls soon, but I’d best get out to run before it happens. Maybe, now that I have all my spikes in Poison Prince, I can also juggle it with another work instead of letting it monopolize me. It would be great if I could just work on one book at a time, but the mortgage needs paying and the kids have this habit of eating.

Speaking of which, The Complete Roadtrip Z is available in ebook format through Gumroad now! It’s available for preorder but won’t be released on other distribution platforms until April 9, and Amazon might be later still because they won’t allow you to set an ebook for preorder unless you’re listing through KDP.

Of course, Amazon also lets plagiarists and scammers keep going, because they bring the ‘Zon cash. Which surprises exactly no-one. I’m still waiting for those assholes who came at me yelling when I pointed out “Amazon is not your friend” years ago to produce apologies. Something tells me I’ll wait forever.

I might as well write while I do, but not until I get this coffee finished. My stomach’s rolling like a heavy sea and I can’t wait to get out the door and shake all the fidgets away. I might even leave the last half of my coffee to do so.

Maybe. *eyes mug* Or maybe not. Over and out, dear ones.

Thursday Treachery

Yesterday I walked to Ye Local Auto Parts Shoppe to pick up a new battery for my ailing chariot. I was saved a bit of bother by the fact that I’d written down all particulars and taken a picture of the battery in question; the one they’d ordered for me was the wrong type but they had the right one on hand, thank goodness. I apologized for the trouble, but the Helpful Fellow laughed and said they’d sell the ordered one in a heartbeat, it was a kind that they should have had in stock anyway.

So that worked out. I got a rideshare home (Uber is nasty to their contractors, I much prefer Lyft) with a nice fellow who had a hybrid and offered to carry the battery up the stairs for me.

I told him it was good exercise and lugged the damn thing inside.

After dinner, the kids and I gathered around our mechanical patient. All told, since I’d prepared so thoroughly (including testing the ratchet on the connectors) it took about twenty minutes to wrestle the old one out and put the new one in. Most of that time was swearing under my breath trying to lift the old battery out while the kids held flashlights and wisely did not offer help until I paused to glare at the thing.

Anyway, I finally got my fingertips underneath it, and the kids both marveled at how heavy the damn things are. And now they know how to change out a battery, as well as where several life-giving fluids go into the engine.

Mercury retrograde, while finished, has not given up completely. This morning I got a frantic text from the Little Prince, who had forgotten a thank-you card for one of his teachers. (Long story, but it needed to go with him today.) I held my breath, turned the key, the starter coughed and spun…

…and hallelujah, it started.

I’m still not sure if there’s a problem with the starter or alternator. I think the problem was old battery and loose connectors. With a brand new electrical heart and all the connectors tightened, it should be fine.

We’ll see this afternoon, when I have to pick the Prince up from afterschool activities. It’s a nice day and he could walk home if all fails, or one of his fellow club-mates will give him a ride. If the car doesn’t start I’ll have to get creative, and make an appointment at a mechanic’s.

I did drive around a bit this morning so the battery should have recovered from its maiden voyage. The dogs are pretty pissed that I left suddenly, but some still-warm hash browns (they love the greasy, crunchy little things) effectively obliterated the memory of my treachery from their tiny little heads.

B is under my desk, ready to leap up and follow should I stir a step. Lord van der Sploot is pacing the house on his usual morning ramble, preparing for the walkies he hopes and longs for. I might even take them to the park and yell at asshats who have their dogs unleashed.

Fun for everyone.

Anyway, I even managed some work yesterday. A scene with an apothecary fell right out of my head, and now I have a handle on the other scene, the one that was bugging me and needed to marinate a while longer. Maybe I’ll get this damn book done on time after all.

But I’m not holding my breath. I’ll save that for every time I start the car for the next six months.

*rolls up sleeves* Okay, Thursday. You got the first punch in, but I’m no quitter. Only one of us will be alive come midnight.

Sigh, Tuesday, Sigh

Steelflower in Snow

It’s Tuesday. I got out early for a run, but there was still someone with their damn dog unleashed. It’s like a sickness with these people, every time it’s bloody sunny they wander out without properly caring for their dogs. Asshats.

*clears throat* Good morning, all! The mass-market PB size of Steelflower in Snow is now live! (There’s a trade paperback edition of The Marked out now, too.) Note that these are the same books; they’re just different sizes for your convenience. Due to piracy, there is no ebook version of Steelflower in Snow planned. I’m also having trouble working on The Highlands War for the same reason. Why bother writing more Kaia books if people are just going to steal them?

Also, The Complete Roadtrip Z is now on sale in paperback! It’s omnibus time!

If I focus really hard and let go of having to write The Poison Prince in anything approaching linear order, I might even get a zero draft done on time. Might. I know I could just miss the deadline, but I haven’t done that in over ten years and I don’t want to start now.

I just heaved another sigh, thinking about this. At least I have Jonathan Coulton’s new album to get me through the day, and a lunch meeting with a fellow writer. I’m generally the one saying “it’s not as bad as you think”; maybe I’ll get someone else saying it to me this time around.

…I’ve nothing very interesting to say. I’m on a Twitter fast for a week or so; I took the app off my phone and have the site blocked during normal working times. It’s nice not having the firehose of raw-sewage bad news on all the time; maybe it’ll let me work without feeling the world’s on fire and why on earth should I bother since we’re all going to die except the rich?

And even they will strange on blood when the rest of us are gone.

I suppose I’m in the mood to write dystopia again, but why? Nobody listens. (Bitter? Me? Well…yes, a little.)

Yeah, I suppose I’d best turn off the wireless and work before I have to leave for said lunch meeting. I need my fire back in me, and it’s not going to happen if I sit here and think about things going wrong.

Let us band together and kick Tuesday in the pants, my friends. It’s the only way out.

Old Shapes, New Sizes

The dogs are nervous. It could be that my own unease this morning is communicating itself, or it could be that they sense a looming disaster. Either way the warning has been heeded. It does no harm to be cautious, to cross one’s fingers, to inhale deeply and look an extra time before crossing the street.

Especially since I’m going to be out running with their fuzzy asses.

Today is the day the mass-market paperback of Atlanta Bound goes live. I was thrilled when Vellum decided to start doing different trim sizes and went on a binge of reformatting interiors and getting wrap covers redone. There are more mass-market editions coming:

A trade edition of The Marked is on its way, too. The new editions are not revised, they’re simply offered for reader convenience. I tend to prefer mass-market size for a lot of books, but I am by no means in the majority.

Speaking of which, I’ve been told that the mass-market editions of the Valentine and Kismet series (serieses? Serii?) will be going out of print soon, leaving only the omnibuses. (Omnibi? Heh.) While I’m saddened–I love the mass market covers–I am also resigned.

“Resigned” covers a lot of my feelings lately.

Anyway, The Poison Prince and Season One of HOOD continue apace. Incorruptible and Harmony are still out on submission, though Harmony will be coming home for self-publication very soon unless the publisher gets their act together. I could go off on a tangent about publishers expecting a writer to sit and patiently starve while they hem and haw about taking a book or not, but that would be ungraceful of me, wouldn’t it. The business is what it is; I’m just glad to have other options.

Yesterday I finished a conversation between a general and an astrologer, and got a starship loaded. Today is for the Sheriff of Nottingham doing dastardly deeds in Much the Miller’s Son’s direction and a somewhat elliptical conversation between a prince and a lady-in-waiting.

It’s a good job, and I like it. I may even be able to put in a few more lightsaber battles in HOOD other than the sparring in Season One and the giant set-piece planned in Season Two.

But first, there’s a run to get in, and a few bits of correspondence to scribble on and fling out the digital window.

See you around.