First, Pleasant Coffee

That first mouthful of coffee, first thing in the morning. I can feel the caffeine soaking in the moment I raise the cup to my lips, though I’m sure it’s merely psychological. Very little is as pleasant, even the fact that I got a great deal of the proofs out of the way yesterday and consequently have somewhat less to do today.

Somewhat. Not a whole lot, but somewhat.

I also have a new monstera plant. It was left over, looking sad and lonely and shaggy amid racks of brighter, better-trimmed, much smaller species, and my heart just cracked. Now he’s in my office, basking in a bigger pot under bright indirect light.

Yeah, I know. I can’t do much about the state of the world at large, but I can get a plant and nurse it back to health. It keeps me busy, I suppose. Attempting not to look at the news in the morning is good for me, I know it’s good for me, but I suppose I’m afraid the world will end and I’ll be the last to know.

Which wouldn’t be so bad, once I think about it, but the fear doesn’t think so. In fact, the fear, irrational as it is, tends to intensify if I don’t distract myself with work or… well, more work. If–and it’s a huge if–I can just drag myself out of bed in the mornings. Thank goodness for the dogs; they don’t give a damn about the state of the world. Their concerns are more immediate: breakfast, a good wee in the yard, walkies at the accepted time and along the accepted habitual route.

Heaven forbid brekkie or walkies change in even the slightest; the dogs, especially Boxnoggin, are creatures of strong habits and dislike any tiny deviation. He even gets miffed when the squirrels don’t show up at the same places he’s seen them before. I imagine him very much as a stage director tearing out his hair over some particularly enthusiastic and experimental actors.


I’d talk about the state of the world at large, but you probably already know and in any case, I’ve said what I’ve said and I stand by it. I am extremely disappointed that the media seems to be doing its best to elide ongoing protests, but what can one expect from corporations owned by one or two super-rich?


Anyway, there’s walkies to accomplish, a run to get in, and hopefully, if I am very disciplined today, the rest of the proof pages to knock off. Normally I do these on paper, because I don’t “see” the errors as well on a vertical screen. Fortunately I have a tablet and pencil, so I can pretend it’s paper while playing with something penlike. Which seems to be just enough to fool my brain into thinking I’m working in the accepted way, so it clicks over into “critical reading” mode. I don’t know how readers will like this book, but at least it’ll be the best I can make it before it toddles out into the world.

In between, when I’m taking breaks or before I really get going, I’ve been poking at Moon’s Knight. Of course I have other projects sitting and simmering, but that’s the one filling in the cracks while most of my bandwidth is taken up with Poison Prince. I’m deeply worried I won’t be able to pull off half of what I want to with Bloody Throne or Black God’s Heart, which is pretty usual at this stage of the game.

Part of the frustration is that I am not working at even close to my usual pace. Go figure, a worldwide pandemic, fascist coup, and massive protests seem to be giving everyone a smidge of trouble in the concentration department. I’m trying not to feel bad about it, but there’s that strange anxiety thing where the ability to cope with disaster is never good enough. At least I’m feeling more relaxed than I was–finally, finally nobody is telling me I’m “too sensitive” or “overreacting.”

Sooner or later I’ll be back to my usual speed. Or, you know, catastrophe will mean I’ve other problems. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, all I can do now is continue as I’ve been. I hope you find a little peace and self-care today, dear Reader.

We need all we can get.

On the Holidays

I hate the holidays. Publishing shuts down, you can’t get an answer out of anyone–unless it’s “I’m salaried and clearing my desk before I get a vacation, but you can work right through because you’re freelance, can’t you?” Also, the shops are full of overstimulated children with misbehaving parents clamping down quite unreasonably upon them, both stressed because they can’t service the TV-fueled expectations of gross consumerism. And let’s not even talk about the racists at the dinner table that nobody will challenge because “holidays” and “let’s all get along.”

Fuck getting along. Racists deserve to be challenged wherever we find them, kids shouldn’t be dragged through holiday crowds, no parent should be tormented into stress-related breakdown because they can’t afford whatever toy is hot this year for their spawn, and I won’t repeat what I think should be done about publishing.

You can tell I’m in it today. I’m pushing to get the zero of Finder’s Watcher done, or at least hit the 50k mark for NaNo that will give the book enough critical mass to drag me across the finish line, then it’s straight into bloody revisions for that epic fantasy. Which means I’ll be producing a novella’s worth of text in just under two weeks; tell me again why I do this to myself?

Oh. That’s right. It’s my job, and if I don’t write, we don’t eat. Simple!

I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m simply remarking upon suboptimal conditions.

At least the dogs let me sleep in a wee bit today. Though I have to leave the house to pick up last-minute supplies for Thursday I can do so at my own pace, and–thanks be to all the gods–it’s raining. Which means the dogs will be miserable during walks and hurrying to get home, but at least I’m in a good mood.

What’s that? Good mood? Oh, yes. This is just a particularly sharp-edged good mood. I’m not upset, I’m just testing my sword’s keenness and eyeing the battlefield. And I don’t have to spend my holidays with racist fucks because I stopped speaking to those “family” members long ago. Not only that, but I did finish a zero lately, so I can use that fact to batter at imposter syndrome.

You can tell it’s the last week of NaNo; my Week Four guide will go up around 2pm PST. You can sign up to get it on my Substack, Haggard Feathers; I’ll be taking next week off while I recover and choke up a steaming lump of revisions. I’m thisclose to writing “Rocks fall, everyone dies,” and throwing up my hands.

We all know I won’t, but threatening it makes a book behave most of the time, so one works with what one has.

It’s Tuesday. If I buckle down now, I won’t have to leave the house again until next week. Wish me luck, dear ones, and I hope your day goes smoothly.

Me? I’m buckled in my armor, my sword is sharp enough, my charger is ready. Onwards and upwards, indeed.

Epic Fantasy Cake

The day I finished The Poison Prince‘s first-draft revision, I could not word. I was reduced to pointing and going, “The…the thing, that thing,” until one of the kids supplied the proper word. (Which is, not gonna lie, a type of hell for a writer, not to be able to find a damn word.)

So, of course, the Princess decided to bake me a cake. She even decorated it. “It’s a good chance to practice my tip work,” she said, modestly.” It was super tasty and I even had cake for breakfast the following morning.

I love being a writer, but I love being a mother even more. It’s hard, sleep-deprived work in the beginning, but the rewards once one gets over the psychotic break induced by lack of REM are amazing.

Hives and HARMONY

I got out for a run while it was still cool this morning, or at least, cool-ish. Still, I couldn’t take the dogs; the poor things do even worse with heat than I do. They’re unhappy, but it’s better than them getting prostrated by the damn temperature.

They may also be cranky because I’m cranky, having awakened covered with hives. Last night I made the distinct mistake of drinking some red wine–a completely forgivable error, you know–and watching the Assassin’s Creed movie. Frankly, it would have been a lot better if the whole movie had been alt-history instead of alt-historical and modern uneasily bolted together. I could very much have watched a dirty Fassbender lisping Castilian all the way through, thank you and amen.

It still might have turned out all right, except the heat was really bad last night. Normally, up here in the PNW, the heat breaks in the evening and we get relatively cool nights. When that doesn’t happen, the cumulative stress makes my skin try to eat itself.

But it’s all good. I got out for a run and sweated out the worst of the stress, and have rinsed the rest off and made coffee. Even the bees were giving me somewhat of a wide berth today, bumbling over my hands and shoulders instead of nesting in my hair or trying to crawl into my mouth. Maybe they could smell the irritation coming off me in waves.

At least I’m back at work, revising HOOD‘s Season One. We’re coming up on the end of that, and I’ve got so much fun planned for Season Two, you just don’t even know. It’s going to be so much fun, and I have the last season in my head as well. It took longer than I liked to recover from revisions on The Poison Prince, but at least I have an answer for one of the knottiest plot problems in the third book of that series.

Said answer occurred to me quite naturally as I woke up this morning, my skin itching like a hive and my temper frayed almost past bearing. I had consigned it to the great engines beneath the floor of my conscious self, pretty sure that the Muse had an answer she’d give in due time.

Fellow writers often say you never learn how to write books more easily, you just learn how to write this one specific book you’re working on. That’s true as far as it goes, but one of the things an experienced writer can learn is when to consign a question to the great engines and leave it alone until the solution bursts forth, full-fledged, from said writer’s forehead. After a while you can feel the things working beneath the floorboards, chewing and grinding, and can even sense with something’s going to swell and burst.

It’s a particular type of relaxed concentration married to the willingness to keep yourself distracted with other work, with a large dash of learning to trust the Muse. I know I anthropomorphize the creative process, but it helps if I think I’m consigning the problem to her rather than to something impersonal.

So much of this career is learning how to game yourself. How to get the wild thing inside your head that’s fucking up your life and snap the traces on to put it to plow.

Anyway, I should remind you that if you want to read the first bit of Harmony for free, you can do so right here. Also, I’m hearing that some readers are experiencing quality issues with the Amazon-bought paperbacks of that book; if you are, please contact Amazon customer service. When Amazon folded CreateSpace in, the quality of their printing took a steep dive; this is something I have no control over. I did choose to offer the Harmony trade paperback through KDP instead of IngramSpark’s extended distribution for reader convenience, but if it’s going to mean this sort of hassle I won’t ever do so again.

I suppose I should finish my coffee, check the focaccia dough–of course, it’s going to be umpty-scrump degrees outside and I’m baking, because I lack all sorts of smarts–and get the subscriber perks for the week out the door. That, along with revisions, should keep me busy enough to stay out of trouble.

At least, for a little while. Over and out.

Fire Bad, Books Pretty

Rattlesnake Wind

I finished first-draft revisions of The Poison Prince on Saturday, and spent the rest of the weekend almost nonverbal and staring. I was afraid I’d busted my word-makers, because Saturday night I pointed at a packet of bread and could not, for the life of me, figure out what the motherfucker was called. The kids stepped in, of course, and were highly amused at having to do so. I felt like a three-year-old, pointing and making helpless sounds until someone supplied the word.

It’s much better now, though I found myself staring at the plastic bin I keep my morning gruel mix in (thank you, Bob’s Red Mill, for being awesome) and thinking, milk bits? No, that’s not it…plant bits? Ground-up…Wheaties…what the fuck?, before I finally got to “SEVEN GRAIN CEREAL WITH FLAXSEED,” which I bellowed loudly enough (in tones of complete triumph) to give both dogs somewhat of a turn.

At least I knew what to call coffee. Whether it’s “java” or “precious life-giving fluid that makes the murder retreat,” it’s named correctly, amen and thank you.

So Poison Prince is safely with the editor, and I can return to HOOD. I’m not going to push myself too hard today, since I’m out of the office (and consequently not answering anything even remotely close to work emails or calls) through tomorrow, I figure I’ll just poke at Season Two and also poke around to see what I want to finish next. There’s the storm-god-and-the-witch tale, or the sort-of-Assassin’s-Creed Victorian one, or the profiler-and-the-codependent, or the vampire reaper. It’s the last that interests me the most. I’ve been writing healers for a while, it feels like I need to go back to kickass bitches, and there’s not much more kickass than the woman they call in for supernatural law enforcement. I’m fascinated by the thought of what a society of near-immortals would consider as consisting of law enforcement or capital punishment, and how they would treat the members responsible for dispensing such.

Like, what happens when you’re a relatively young superhuman thing, who remembers your human days but are so gifted you’ve been tapped to basically commit state-sanctioned murder on a regular basis? What would that do to a person? What kind of person would survive that, and how would they get through it–especially if they run across something or someone most of their society would kill to own? Like, say, a young kid with the power to let a Reaper walk in the daylight?

It might not go anywhere, but it’s been a while since I wrote a protector instead of a healer, and I think I’d like to do it again. I’d have to put some deep thought into the rules of the world, especially the engagement with mortal beings. Which sounds like a pleasant way to spend my days off, along with reading.

I finished Max Hasting’s Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy over the weekend, which focused largely on the American experience. Then again, the subtitle makes it clear it’s 1945-1975, and America was the elephant stamping around most during that time, and Hastings is clear upon the point that Vietnamese archives and other primary sources are beyond the reach of most if not all Western scholars, so there are good reasons for the lacunae. Still, my heart aches.

In any case, it’s a warm morning, and I’ve got to get out before it gets worse. At least I have a little time to breath before the next project heats up. I can almost feel the wrapping going back onto my exposed nerves; pushing myself at white heat for two projects in a row will only be a choice worth castigating myself for if I don’t pay attention to recovery time.

Remember to treat yourself gently between projects, my dears. It saves you from lost time and crappy creative choices down the road, an outcome devoutly to be wished for. And, now that I’ve given you that advice, I’m going to go try and take it myself.

Over and out.

Endurance Novel

HOOD

5k on The Poison Prince yesterday, and I can see the shape of the end. All I have to do now is hang on long enough, and it will sort itself out. It’s 85k of epic fantasy, and will only get bigger through the publication process. For right now, though, it’s all mine, and all on me.

I did get to play ES Posthumus’s Kalki several times and write a particular chase scene I’ve had in my head since the series started. So that was pretty awesome. I had to stop before I was absolutely exhausted and done-in for the day, giving myself enough candle to burn today, and I resented every moment of having to feed myself and sleep when what I’d rather be doing is writing, but that’s a given when I get so close to the end of a project. Especially a HUGE one like this.

The third book is going to kick my ass, I can tell. But between then and now, I need to finish the zero of this one, and the zero fo HOOD‘s Season One too. After those two zeroes are in the can and marinating, I can take a look around and think about what I want to do next. Probably Dolls, though I want to write a high fantasy epic with dragonriders and do it right.

What I don’t want to do is write The Highlands War, which was next on the list. Most people have been exceedingly lovely about the format choices for Kaia’s stories, but there’s always the bad apples. It will happen if it’s meant to, I suppose.

I feel like I’ve always been writing Poison Prince, like there’s never been a day I’ve not been writing it, and like I will be writing it for-fucking-ever, world without end, amen. Every novel is an endurance race, this one’s just…longer. If I stay stubborn enough, I’ll eventually get there.

…it occurred to me I have Harmony and Incorruptible to revise, so maybe I’ll do that while the zeroes are marinating and push off the decision about a fresh new world to play in for a little while longer. Getting more work out and before the eyes of the ravenous public would certainly feel better than this hack-slash-cut at a book that refuses to die no matter how many times I stab.

Five more scenes at bare minimum, then I can be done with Poison Prince. I’ll love the book again, probably in revision when I come across bits I don’t remember writing. But for right now it’s just one more enemy to slay.

I’m ready. I think. I mean, I suppose.

*buckles on goggles*
*the goggles do nothing*

Advent Madge, and Clarence, Too

Gallow & Ragged

April was difficult. Between recovering from several birthdays, late celebrations of said birthdays, freaking out over approaching epic fantasy deadline, and worrying about everything under the sun, it’s a wonder I didn’t lose what little sanity remains to me.

I did wake up today with Jody Watley and Glenn Campbell duking it out inside my earworm space, so at least there’s that. And I have, courtesy of a bead show, some new chandeliers to try earring designs with.

There’s also this beautiful lady:

Her name is Madge. I did some work for Dee’s Darlings, and Madge decided to come work for me for a bit as a thank-you. She is adorable and gets along well with Veronica and Isabelle. (You’ve met Veronica the Office Oracle, Isabelle is…difficult to explain. Maybe later this week.) Veronica in particular is happy to have an amanuensis, though Madge’s shorthand is impossible for anyone but her to read.

Veronica: CHICKEN SCRATCHES. AND I’VE NEVER SEEN A CHICKEN.
Madge: YOU CALL IT SCRATCHES, I CALL IT JOB SECURITY.
Isabelle: YOU TWO AREN’T FIGHTING, ARE YOU? WE ALL NEED TO GET ALONG.
Veronica: NOBODY’S FIGHTING, IZZIE.
Madge: *scribbles furiously*
Isabelle: ARE YOU SURE? BECAUSE I COULD BRING YOU SOME FISH–
Madge and Veronica, in tandem: NO FISH.

…yeah, things have been interesting around here lately. I should tell you guys about Clarence the Squirrel. It’s more of a title than an actual name, because Clarence is “the squirrel what’s actually got the peanut, you see,” and dinner hour a la Chez Saintcrow has gotten really strange since the kids love to put out a handful of peanuts while we eat, then wait for developments.

Anyway, the Clarence is the mug what’s got the peanut, and Ralph and Jeff are the mugs what don’t, and the deck has become the scene of a dinnertime drama almost Lynchian in its feverish intensity. (I almost made a Blue Velvet ether-sniffing joke the other night and caught myself just in time.) Clarence constantly wishes to keep their find from Jeff and Ralph, and the instant one of those picks up a peanut they become Clarence. (It’s kind of like Olsen Twins, who, being older no longer vibrates at such a high frequency.) Jeff and Ralph usually team up against the Clarence, and once a squirrel loses a peanut they become a Jeff or Ralph.

Understand? Good, because I didn’t for days and the kids had a sort of “Who’s on first” routine they were running. And poor me, with my head stuffed full of preindustrial technology and travel times, not to mention worrying about the damn mortgage, didn’t quite catch up with the train for a bit.

Parenthood, man. It never stops being a complete and total trip.

I even got some gardening done this weekend, which only brought home how much more there is to do. Maybe I’ll just grow nasturtiums this year instead of turning over the veggie garden.

In any case, it’s time for a run, and if I play my cards right, I can finish the zero of The Poison Prince this week. It would be nice to get that corpse on the table so it can be revision time instead of “I keep stabbing this book and it won’t DIE” time. Of course once I do, it’s time to get the zero of HOOD‘s Season One out. Then there’s revisions on Harmony, and and and…

…so, just as usual, my chickadees, I bid you a fond farewell until tomorrow, and vanish, cackling, in a cloud of scented smoke.