lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Dec. 31st, 2011 06:06 pm)

So, 2011. You’re headed out, no time for a chat? That’s okay. *points at chair* Sit down, this won’t take long.

You think that’s a request? It’s not. Sit down.


You were better than 2010 by a long shot, but that’s not really a compliment, is it. 2010 sucked so hard for me, you were the year of recovery. So, measuring by that benchmark, pretty much anything you did would have been okay. I’m not denigrating your ability to suck less than the previous year, not by a long shot. No way. I’m just saying, that’s not doing you justice.

In the wider world, there were earthquakes and tsunamis and wars and insurrections. There were widespread protests, and they look like they’ll continue. I’d say it’s about damn time, and I only hope the Occupy movement gets bigger and more widespread. So, thanks for that. I guess. But the earthquakes etc.? Not so much. Well, you can’t help that, can you? Nope. You’re just the year, doing your job.

In my own tiny corner of the rock called Terra, well. You sucked way, way less than 2010, and I did a lot of healing. I started the year finally-divorced and ended up actually contemplating going out to coffee with a person or two. I also made my peace with the fact that I’m never going to hear an apology from certain people, and that’s just the way it is. I found out that surviving the years of survival is in some ways the hardest task, and that yes, time does heal broken things. That sort of knowledge is a spiral–you always keep coming back to it, in deeper and deeper layers. Like ogres.

I also found out I can eat lasagna again, under certain circumstances. That I can nod and smile when some of my former abusers say, “I miss you…” Well, of course you do. But you miss the idea of me more than the actual me. Which isn’t really missing me at all…so I can put aside the guilt I feel. It is not my fault you miss what you thought I was instead of what I actually am. Which is a human being with actual rights, thoughts, dignity, and my own reasons for keeping those secrets you’re so terrified I may tell. (Go ahead and be terrified. If it keeps you away from my door, so be it.)

But, 2011, you were all in all not so bad. You taught me how to be reasonably happy again, 2011. You weren’t optimal, but then again, I wasn’t at my best either. We’re about even. You did what you could, and so did I. I think we can call this one a success on both sides, even if neither of us ended up where we wanted to be. Thanks for the time and the opportunity. You were very patient when I was in a hurry, and pulled me along when I really wanted to be still and stagnate. All in all, we did pretty well together, considering. I finished a few books, I had some laughs. I put in another year of raising two of the most beautiful human beings on the planet, and they managed to teach me a lot inside your (completely arbitrary, but that’s another blog post) boundaries. So, thank you for that.

I see you fidgeting and eying the door. You’re tired, and rightly so. You’ve been a hell of a year. Feels like you’re just as eager to be gone as I am to see the new turn of the wheel. Still, we’ve got a few hours here in this corner of the world. Have a drink, and relax for a little bit. I make no demands on you–you can totes hurry out the door and slam it if you want. That’s okay. But it might be so much nicer if we just hang out here, you and I, just a writer and her year, and give each other a weary smile and say, “We made it.”

Yeah. We made it, both of us.

*lifts glass*

Good for us.

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I got to push Anne McCaffrey’s wheelchair once.

It was at an event in Seattle–the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, I believe. One of Anne’s researchers was a friend, and I pitched in to help that weekend, as well as to attend the ceremony.

The best part was standing next to Anne, in front of a glass case holding the typed manuscript of Dragonflight. I’m not gonna lie: I cried. It was that beautiful. It was something I never in a million years I thought I would have a chance to do. It was magic.

Anne was warm and generous, with an ever-mischievous twinkle in her eye. We emailed a bit. I will never forget how gracious she was to a starting-out author. She told me she liked the Watcher series and the Danny Valentine books. I’d sign copies for her, and her researcher would send them to Ireland. It made me warm and happy inside to think she was reading them–that I could maybe, in some small way, give her a tiny bit of joy in return for the great gift of Pern, the dragons, Restoree, the coelura…such richness she gave us, so unstintingly.

Anne passed away today. The world is sadder, duller, and a little more frayed. The dragons are mourning, and the harps are stilled.

Rest peacefully, ma’am. Thank you for your books, and thank you also for having time to be gracious to a scared newbie writer. You were endlessly kind, and I thank the gods we still have your books.

Thank you. Thank you so much. Sleep well.

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lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Nov. 21st, 2011 11:22 am)

Steel-toed boots. Eyeliner. A good-quality trenchcoat. A Zippo, just in case. A pocketknife, a handkerchief or two, electrical tape, and a tiny first-aid kit. These are the things no girl should be without. You can, I suppose, substitute duct tape, but a roll of that is kind of hard to stick in a pocket. Though I have. Once or twice. Just to be sure.

“You need chains,” the Selkie told me, and proceeded to equip me with such. They go in the back of the car, along with the two first-aid kits (softcover survival and hardcover medical), the gallon of distilled water (great for washing the floormats after Sir Pewksalot gets excited), some rolled-up towels, bungees (you can never have too many) and granola bars, the roll of toilet tissue and the extra plastic bags knotted up and stuffed into a milk crate. Antibacterial handi-wipes and extra ibuprofen in the center console, a Sharpie, a tiny tub of Carmex (even if it melts, it will be okay, unlike a tube) and a multi-tool that can break a car window and slice a seatbelt…just in case. Ice scraper. Extra dog leash.

In the garage: the axe handle, the heavy bag, canned supplies and water, extras and just-in-cases on shelves next to the decorations and the boxes of author’s copies. (Maybe I could chuck them at an intruder. That might work.) In the house: bokkan scattered about, the linen closet stocked with first-aid and cold medicine and light bulbs, cleaning supplies, and a weapons check every day. Going through each room and making sure that no matter where I am there is a weapon within easy reach. It doesn’t have to be anything someone else would think of as a weapon, just something I can use for self-defense. Even the souvenir rocks from road-trips can be chucked at a poor soul who won’t know what hit them until too late.

Baby wipes. Sleeping bags. Extra umbrella. Go bags by the front door, both for paranormals (haven’t had a client in years, but still keep it packed and ready) and for emergency/disaster. Important paperwork stashed. Extra pens. Scarves hanging on pegs, gloves in a bucket just in case, flashlights checked and batteries tested. Charcoal, tealights, another survival kit, spare sheets for God knows what, a stack of rag-towels for sopping up spills or ripping into bandages. A stack of old cloth diapers, because they are useful. Cat litter, not just for the cats but also for cleanup of who-knows.

I was told, all during my childhood, that I was flighty. That I’d never make it in the real world, because my head was in the clouds. Instead, I’m the one with a stick of gum, the aspirin in the bottom of the purse, the pocketknife, the GPS or the candle or the cigarette lighter. Motherhood taught me some of that, but my instinct, even while living rough, has been to prepare, as far as possible, for whatever.

I am either going to be in great shape when the zombie apocalypse hits…or on an episode of Hoarders. It’s anyone’s guess which.

The weird thing is, I still think of myself as stupid and flighty. I still have the knee-jerk “oh, I’m a mess, I’m never prepared,” even when I’m the one with the spit and baling wire. I am rarely caught-without in any major way, which is probably helped by the fact that I’ve lived in this house for a good decade now. Which is another thing–even after that long, I’m ready to move at any moment. Ready to pack and torch and flee if necessary. I always have been, but if it hasn’t been necessary for the past ten years, well.

My point (and I do have one) is that readiness is a process, and that I am rarely as helpless as I am afraid I might be. As life lessons go, it’s a good one. I just wish I could get it into my skull so I could relax. Well, at least fractionally. But until that happens, it’s the trenchcoat and a pocket check before I leave the house. It’s checking the go-bags every month and eying the linen closet weekly. It’s packing for just in case and hauling what I might need if disaster, either physical or otherwise, hits. It’s getting ready, being ready, as a state of mind.

What do you do to get ready, kids? I’m interested. I’m always looking for readiness tricks to shamelessly steal borrow. Yeah, borrow. That’s it.

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lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Nov. 10th, 2011 11:27 am)

Let’s talk, dear Readers. Let’s talk about endings. (If you haven’t read Reckoning yet, I’ll do my best not to spoil you.)

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lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Oct. 18th, 2011 02:35 pm)

There’s this scene in the first Tomb Raider movie, where Lara Croft’s geeky genius robot-building sidekick Bryce is rudely awakened. “What’s that smell?” he asks, and Angelina Jolie almost, almost rolls her eyes.

“Five AM,” she says. “Let’s go.”

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This morning, five miles. Along the way there were several sprinklers (Miss B likes to avoid those, energetically, whenever possible), five dogs (four off-leash, when will they learn, it’s a leash LAW, not a guideline or suggestion, for the safety of the pets unlucky enough to have YOU as a goddamn owner), a multiplicity of squirrels we were going too quickly to chase (though Miss B tried, gamely), several bunnies (pets escaped and gone feral, long story, cute and fluffy until you see the TEETH), the hawk in the park crouched over something bloody before it took wing, carrying the unfortunate rag of bone and meat and breakfast, late-summer heatstressed leaves falling and crunching underfoot.

The season is turning. You can smell it–the mornings are crisper, without the asphalt-and-dust scent of high summer. It’s not harvest season yet, but everything’s preparing, and the nights are turning cooler. The sky is not the endless blue of summer. It is paling, still infinite, but it has the washed-and-dried-outside quality of late summer, after the worst heat but before the rains sweep in. Things are ripening, yawning, enjoying the slow afternoons.

I come home to a Little Prince who has grounded himself from the Wii for two days because his legs hurt–when he plays, he jumps up and down from sheer excitement, and he’s sore this morning. “I better take a break,” he informs me solemnly over his cereal, and I try not to smile as I nod and seriously agree, and compliment him for being so mature and responsible. And the Princess, buried under her covers until late, comes blinking out into the morning light and informs me a scene in the fanfic she’s working on has broken loose; as soon as she has breakfast she’s going to dive into it. Their days are long and timeless in summer. When school starts at the end of the month I’m going to miss them–they’ll miss me too, but they’re excited to go back to their friends.

The house is quiet. Miss B is tranquil–the first three miles are to calm her down, the last two are to wear her out. The sneezing cat doesn’t protest when I dose her with antibiotics, though it must taste nasty. She takes the eyedropper gracefully, and there are pets and praise for everyone afterward.

I open the fridge to get the cream for my morning coffee. Stuck, fluttering, on the fridge are cards someone sent me during the dark difficult time not so long ago. You’ll feel better soon, one says, and the other, Keep going. The world needs your light. For a moment, I am arrested by the thought that little by little, things did get better. I put my head down and just went one step at a time, and now I can look back and see the hole I climbed out of. The edges are raw, but not bleeding. I am on the other side. I never have to endure that particular hell again. (I like to make an entirely new set of fuckups each time, thank you very much.)

It’s a funny thing, to realize you don’t have to stare at your feet anymore. That the weight dragging all over you has lessened, that you can take a deep breath and look forward. That you have endured, and now you can begin to glance ahead. Shyly at first, carefully, in case there is a sudden tilt back toward the hole. Later, more confidently, settling the straps of your pack, your steps becoming long swinging strides instead of a spiritless trudge. There is light now, stray gleams strengthening through breaking clouds, the storm has spent itself. A little older, a little wiser around the eyes, scars to tell stories about instead of wounds to triage.

I begin to roll my eyes and see the funny parts now. I get my coffee, and I go back to work. There’s just one thing left, and that is to say…

…Thank you. Thank you very much.

Over and out.

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I’m in Revision Hell at the moment, chopping up and messing with the first Bannon & Clare book to get it from zero to first draft status. So I have the map of Dickens’s London out, a sneezing cat on my shoulder, a dog flopped at my feet with several long-suffering sighs whenever I move in the slightest, and a head stuffed full of story structure, plot arc, character cross-references, and things to look for in the zero draft.

As you might suspect, this makes for some exotic thoughts when I’m not actively revising. Like the peculiar, highly-colored, anxiety-ridden dreams I’ve come to expect during revisions. They rarely involve the story; instead, they’re some version or another of the old “here I am in class, naked and missing my homework” dreams. Last night’s featured Martians.

Seriously, you don’t want to know. In any case, here’s a selection of Things I Think While Revising, different than the normal oddness inside my head only in that the anxiety makes them much more vivid than usual ho-hum “how would I do a shootout in this stairwell” thoughts.

* “I have a tumor. I’m going to die.” This morning while running I had an amazing bolt of pain lance through my head. Wednesdays are my easy days, only three miles and no double in the afternoon. So there I was, trucking along at about two miles, and I had to stop and screw my eyes shut. The dog was confused, and as soon as the bolt passed I wondered if I had a brain tumor and I was going to be felled by it in a matter of weeks. Then I realized I was being ridiculous, and started running again.

* “Pancakes and watermelon are an acceptable dinner, right?” The kids agreed enthusiastically. However, I don’t really like watermelon, so it was grapes, pita chips, and Brie for me. That was when I realized I had grabbed “light” Brie. Let me tell you, such a thing is an abomination unto the gods, and shall ever be, world without end, amen.

* “A hansom only needs one clockhorse, thanks.” Said to the nice lady checking my groceries at the supermarket. She knows me–I’ve been shopping there for a decade now–so she just said, “Another book, huh? I’m gonna give you this coupon, honey. Go home and get some rest.”

* “Armored squirrels. With red eyes. Can I fit them into this draft?” Sadly, I could not. Altered rats, sure. But not squirrels. I’m sure there were squirrels in Victorian London, but I don’t want to dig them up. Let them rest in peace, for Chrissake.

* “I can climb tha–THUD.” It’s not that I overestimate my abilities. It’s that I throw myself at the wall and see what sticks, and while I’m in revision I’m tempted to do the craziest things because they sound good at the time.

* “Oh, God, if I just had a submachine gun right now…” Pretty standard, right? But when in revision hell, the ensuing mental dwelling upon the likely consequences are Technicolor vivid. I…won’t say more.

* “Could I teach the dog to bring me a glass of wine?” I actually spent a good ten minutes contemplating this. Then I ran up against the fact that Miss B doesn’t have thumbs. And decided it was time to go to bed, for I was getting silly.

* “What if it was an alien driving that car…?” One of the things about revision is that new stories start crowding the brain, the what-if muscle working overtime, begging to be used. I have not decided if this is a method of procrastination or a natural result of the creative faculties chewing on the bone and gristle of a zero draft, looking for something a little more tender. Who knows? In any case, I lose myself in little what-ifs like this an awful lot during revision. Even more than I normally do, which is saying something.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Here, have a trailer for a movie about the invention of the vibrator. Hat tip to the Selkie for that one. See, there’s a taste of the random that happens when it’s revision time.

Speaking of which, I’ve got to go back. I’m trying to find chapter names that don’t sound like coffee brands. *headdesk*

Over and out.

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lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Jul. 13th, 2011 06:56 pm)

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames, where there are giveaways. And advice. And pie. Check us out!
I was raised to (by and large) obey unquestioningly.

Jesus. Stop laughing. I’m serious.

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lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Jul. 7th, 2011 08:38 am)

This morning’s earworm: Pumped Up Kicks. Hope the rest of Foster the People‘s album is this good.

I’ve been AWOL, dear Readers, because I’m six scenes or so away from finishing The Bandit King. Yesterday I dumped 4K out of my aching head and made structure-notes for the last few scenes. Hopefully I can get this all done before Saturday. (A vain hope, yes, and Saturday is an arbitrary metric. Still…I can dream, right?)

This morning my neighbor said, “Hey…you can use my ladder if you want to get those Frisbees down from your roof.”

“Actually,” I said a little ruefully, “I kind of leave them up there sometimes. Because as soon as I get them down, the kids throw them back up.”

“Well, I thought you wouldn’t have any trouble getting up to get ‘em–I saw your rock climbing videos.”

I laughed, we talked about how we were both uncaffeinated (it was pretty early this morning) and we both trundled back to our respective domiciles to get some java. It made me think.

I’m afraid of heights. Getting up on the wall is a victory over my own fear each time. There’s an arete at my regular climbing wall that freaks me out, and whenever I do corner-climbing it’s claustrophobia and acrophobia all at once. Good times.

I don’t like to run away from things that scare me. If you run, the thing you’re scared of is now behind you where you can’t watch it, and you’re only exhausting yourself. So every time I clip in, it’s a victory. Every time I touch the wall it’s another. And every time I make it even halfway, it’s yet another.

I had vague thoughts of rock climbing making it easier for me to get on ladders. I was wrong. I fear and loathe being on my own roof. (Cleaning the gutters multiple times in fall/winter is always incredibly FUN.) It is not any easier now that I’m climbing multiple times a week–just like slogging through the Slough of Despond part of writing a novel never gets easier. At least, it hasn’t for me–or if it has, the easing has been in recognizing the Slough as part of the process, an obstacle instead of a barrier. I could start viewing the shaking nervousness on ladders as just part of the process. It’s hard to do when your body’s high on chemical fear.

There are things to run away from in life. (Gunfire, abusive relationships, and restaurants that epic-fail their health inspections spring to mind.) Sometimes avoidance is a valid solution. Just be very clear on what you’re avoiding/running from. And that is my deep thought and possibly-useless advice for the day.

Maybe I should get the Frisbees off the roof today. *sigh*

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lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Jul. 4th, 2011 11:27 am)

Today’s post comes to you courtesy of Reader Kassandra A., who asked me:

Long shot here to get a response from you but still worth it for me to try. ;) I am going to attempt to start running. I am a 34 year old mother of two who tends to delve into my enormous TBR pile of books to escape the reality of life more times than is most likely healthy. *shrug* The way you have talked about your running routine has brought an already (although very dormant) existing interest in doing the same for myself to light. If you have insight into how I can get started (and keep going) I would love to hear your thoughts. (from email)

I got this email and thought, but why would you ask me? I’m not a professional or anything. Then I sat down and looked at my running journals. They’re year-long sort-of-diaries (I like this kind) where I can note mileage, my route, speed (if applicable) and notes about how a particular run felt. I’ve been running for almost three years now, keeping a log for about a year and a half. So, maybe I do have something to say, even though I’m not a professional.

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The current book has taken a screaming left turn into dark territory. This surprises me every time it happens. I will think I know a book, I will think I have it all planned out, either in my head or on paper (I have recently, under protest, started outlining. But that’s another blog post.) or what-have-you, and then all of a sudden…this.

The book starts behaving organically, like it is its own creature. The critical mass point is reached and as it coalesces, suddenly the book is a living thing and I am no longer solely creator but also midwife. It’s a funny thing, to have one’s brain taken over in such a manner. Even funnier to admit to it in public, despite the risk of the nice men with the white coats being called.

Anyway, the book just decided that the handwavey holes I had in the outline are of course places for thus-and-such to happen, even though I had no idea thus-and-such would fit neatly into the hole. Almost as if made for it. It’s faintly creepy, you know–my job is just to show up, and the Muse drops these custom-made pegs into these very specific holes. The fairy dust happens reliably when I do what I’m supposed to–sit down, shut up, and write.


For extra fun and games today, here’s Chuck Wendig’s Six Signs It’s High Time To Give Up Writing.


*dives back in*

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lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( May. 6th, 2011 02:55 pm)

I was out earlier today with my writing partner; we pillaged a local Powell’s. (We looked for Genevieve Valentine’s new book, didn’t find it, will have to order it.) I scored a book on the Beast of Gevaudan, which I actually happy-danced in the aisle over. So I’m late getting to the table today, so to speak, which is a shame because I have a veritable garden of Friday links for you.

* First, the shameless self-promotion: I’m over at SmartPop with an interview. There’s an excerpt from Defiance there too, and on Monday there will be a giveaway.

* Look, it’s not just me who has trouble with squirrels. I’m just sayin’. (Hat tip to Elaine Corvidae for the link.)

* A peek inside famous authors’ homes. Honestly, I expected the Hemingway one to have more booze. But I suppose Papa wouldn’t have left any behind, now would he. Also? Norman Mailer was freaky. But I guess we all knew that.

* The Rude Pundit (hint: don’t click if you can’t take adult language) is looking for stories. No, not that sort of stories. If you or your kids have been damaged by the public education system, he wants to hear about it. Go tell him.

* Speaking of damage by the public education system, gee. How about getting a whole town to beat up on a rape victim? That’s got to be some sort of record.

Just how lacking in compassion does somebody have to be to humiliate a teenage cheerleader in front of the community instead of speaking with her in private with an advocate present? A team of psychiatrists has done work with brain scans trying to determine whether psychopaths are physiologically different from normal people. One thing they note about psychopaths is that they understand right from wrong but have no empathy for their victims. Forget about Silsbee or the Hardin County criminal justice system ever holding any of the people who retaliated against the victim accountable.

I had an exchange with a reporter for The Silsbee Bee in which he was vigorously defensive about how the outside world had, in his view, so unfairly criticized Silsbee. He claimed to have seen the case file in its entirety, and also claimed that anybody who saw that file would stop criticizing Silsbee. I told him to publish the whole file on The Silsbee Bee site. He stopped responding. Do not hold your breath expecting residents of Silsbee to examine their consciences and then to clean out the stinking cesspools that make up their collective moral sense. (

…Yeah. If this makes you sick, it should. If this makes you angry, it should. It’s still not safe to be female pretty much anywhere on the globe. Half of humanity, the mothers and sisters and daughters all around you, have to deal with shit like this, even in fricking America. Just think about that for a little while, I dare you.

* And in case the above story makes you want to go postal, here’s some cute puppies. Get that blood pressure down before you decide what to do.

See you on Monday…

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You know, dry pants do help to civilize one.

This morning I ran several errands with Miss B. along. She still isn’t too sure about car rides, but one of the errands was a 2+ mile walk in the rain, and she was glad to get back into the car after that and spent the rest of the errands snoozing.I did not think of myself as the type of high-energy person who could wear out an Australian shepherd, but apparently, I am. My vision of myself as a sedentary, ambitionless lump is taking rather a hard knock or two.

However, breaking up the errands with that walk meant that for about an hour and a half I was wandering around soaked from mid-thigh down. My feet were okay–wool socks and combat boots, so my toesies were damp but not cold–but my jeans were absolutely dripping. I’m sure I left a trail of moss behind. I have to say, peeling out of wet clothes and into dry is one of the most sensual, civilizing experiences I’ve had the pleasure of encountering. It’s right up there with hot tea, good Thai food, a glass of Sangiovese, and the ability to press a button and hear Beethoven.


Anyway, it’s Friday. I’ve grown away from doing Friday writing posts. It’s not that I ran out of things to say. Far, far from. There just hasn’t been a lot of bandwidth available, what with three books due this year, another few books in revision and proofs and copyedits, gah, plus the constant chaos of two kids, now with extra dog.

*time passes*

I wrote all that this morning, then left for afternoon errands. Now I’m here trying to pick up the train of thought that derailed when I looked at the clock and thought oh, dammit, almost late! It was very White Rabbit of me. In any case, I have limited time now before the set of evening tasks rises up to gnaw at my ankles and demand my attention, so let’s get on with it.

To quote Stephen King: Let’s talk, you and I. Let’s talk about fear.

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I just got one of the Best Presents Ever: a stack of handwritten thank-you notes from my daughter’s English class. They were writing to thank me for coming in to talk to them about being a working writer. Among the highlights was one earnest piece of advice: “If the zombie apocalypse happens I’m going to Costco, you could live FOREVER there.” There was also an anonymous piece of (quite good, certainly memorable) short fiction involving wolves, and certain kid wrote that when I admitted I had trouble with spelling, she realized she could be a writer too. (Which made my Grinch heart swell three sizes.) The notes are absolutely adorable.

I broke down and cried. In a good way. *sniffle*

I also want to point you to Chuck Wendig’s The Writer’s Survival Guide. (Best part: the lava vagina.) He and Stephen Blackmoore talk a little in the comments about viewing writing as a craft; something I wholeheartedly endorse.

One of my writing students asked me recently if one ever gets over the fear of showing my writing to other people. I can’t answer for anyone else. All I can say is that I’ve found different ways of ameliorating the fear slightly so I can cope around it. The fear doesn’t go away, but my strategies for dealing with it are in a constant state of refinement. That’s about the best I can say.

Honestly? At the moment, I’m terrified.

I’m branching out, you see, writing something I’ve never tried before and hoping like hell that I don’t finish and send it to the editor and get a “Well, this is crap, can’t you do better?” in return. My anxiety, always high at this stage in a book’s creation, is given an exponential increase by the fact that I have literally never attempted this sort of book before. I don’t mind admitting this scares the hell out of me. The habit of sitting down and putting my hands on the keyboard is serving me well. The only cure for this anxiety is to just put my head down and go through.

Normally I’d be running to help cope with the strain. Chin-ups and crunches aren’t cutting it, neither is the walking I’m allowed to do until my ankle fully heals. Climbing helps, but only for a few hours. So I’m a spiky ball of restlessness most of the time, but I am not going to quit. I do not like turning away from what scares me. If the beast is coming for me, I want to face it head on, fists up, boots on. The only thing that is going to get this over with is finishing the damn book. In order to finish I need to pull my hood up, stick my hands in my pockets, and just keep slouching toward Bethlehem. (In a manner of speaking, that is.) The important thing is to keep swinging.

*sigh* It’s going to be a long spring…

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There’s freezing fog here, frosting every edge. It’s very pretty if I can just sit inside and watch it. Venturing out into it, however, is a whole different ball of wax. Losing a lot of weight means I have very little insulation, and even with four or five layers on the wet chill just goes right through me. I have never been so glad for the heater sitting next to my writing chair.

So…buckle your seatbelts, darlings. Here goes.

One of the current Internet sh!tstorms revolves around this post “Beware of Unprofessional Reviewers.” Of course there was a lot of pearl-clutching over this.

On the one hand, immature and nasty behavior among book bloggers is rampant, and the sense of entitlement from plenty of people who slap together something they call “reviews” is massive and stunning. (This is human nature, and not worth bemoaning more than tangentially.) There are great review blogs out there, but they are sadly more the exception than the rule. And there are some great review blogs that have devolved into masses of self-gratification and one-upmanship. In other words, it’s just like the entire Internet.

On the other hand, naming the actual blogs the author had a problem with…probably not a good move. I might not have done that, but you know what? You write reviews for public consumption, you had better be prepared to be called on your behavior. Put on your big girl panties and deal. Also, it’s the author’s blog, she can say what she wants. She thinks someone’s being a shitheel? Well, she can say so. Period.

There’s a real sense among review blogs that authors should just not say anything other than a gushy “thank you sir may I have another?” no matter how the review bloggers act. Which is just not going to happen, any student of human nature can tell you as much. And seriously, I’ve read plenty of reviews (not even of my own work, thank you) where it’s obvious the reviewer was responding to something personal in their life rather than to the book itself. Or it’s equally obvious the reviewer is engaged in tearing down something they’re jealous of. Expecting authors to not care about that is just pure-d foolishness.

Review blogs do serve a number of necessary purposes. They’re a way for readers to band together and discuss things. They build communities. They serve and fulfill social needs. They can occasionally serve as a facilitator between the writer and readers, which is downright awesome when it’s done right. They can even (sometimes) provide feedback for authors, though this is not (and should not be) one of their prime goals.

But review blogs do not get to tell writers how to act. They can have opinions about how writers should act, sure, but those opinions are not given a lot of extra weight by the fact of them being “reviewers.” Anyone with a laptop can be a reviewer, there’s not a lot of quality control, and one’s opinion as a blogger is not worth a lot until you’ve consistently shown why it should be. This isn’t just on the Internet, it also functions this way in real life. For example, lots of people have opinions about how I should act. Many of those opinions are just not worth a fart in a windstorm to me personally. The people whose opinions I care about–the people I love, or whose judgment I’ve been taught I can trust–are not The General Public. Also, lots of people have opinions about how I should/should not write my books/finish a series/write a character. At the end of the day, I may listen politely, but the decision is still mine. The judgment call is still mine, because I am producing the content. I’m where the buck begins.

So. Yes, the post about “unprofessional reviewers” named names, which is to my mind the only problematic part of it–but it’s not very problematic. You want to act like a three-year old on your book review site, or produce shoddy reviews? Go for it. But do not expect that the behavior will always go unremarked or unchallenged. It’s the Internet. It’s public. Deal. You’re not in the fricking Witness Protection Program. You’re a blogger.

I personally do not respond to reviews one way or another, for reasons I’ve given elsewhere. But writing a post where one takes issue with specific behaviors, offers illustrations, and proffers advice to one’s fellow writers isn’t a crime. It isn’t even worth the pearl-clutching that ensued, even though anyone with two synapses to rub together could have seen the pearl-clutching coming. It’s not going to be a post people who produce book review blogs are going to like, certainly, but just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not valid, and just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean someone’s committed a huge sin.

So, there it is. You all know the comment policy. That being said, go for it. Discuss.

ETA: I see that the post I pointed to has seemingly been modified to take down the names of two specific book blogs. Thanks to Carmen below for pointing that out.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

“…not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” –Ghandi

We are a very little better than we were. But it is not over yet.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.


Regular readers will have noticed that certain things haven’t been mentioned here at Casa Saintcrow for a couple years. They will also have noticed that for the last year or so I’ve been working pretty hard on some personal, private stuff, and that I’ve largely retreated from talking about any aspect of my life that isn’t “professional” or “worth a good belly laugh but in the end, not very revealing”. (Yes, SquirrelTerror, I’m looking at you.) My level of stress has been abominable, but I haven’t felt comfortable talking about it until certain things happened. Now I can finally say out loud now the Reason For All That.

Read the rest of this entry » )

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lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Dec. 31st, 2010 12:15 pm)

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames, where it’s a party like it’s 1999 ALL THE TIME!

2010 was a watershed year. ’09 sucked pretty bad, but ’10 has more than made up for it. That’s the thing about learning: it’s sometimes a painful process.

I plan on greeting the New Year sound asleep, actually, because I need sleep more than celebration at this point. For lo, I am old and boring. But, to mark the fact that I made it through another fifty-two weeks and have largely gotten things Under Control and Well Situated, here’s three things I learned about writing in this last year. (Because one can always learn something new about writing, I think.)

* Changing creative fuel doesn’t have to be hard. “Creative fuel” can be different things for different artists. Some writers use emotional drama to fuel their writing. Messy personal lives are a good source of fuel, it’s true–but the cost of using that fuel can make it unsustainable. It can provide an occasional “kick”, too, and I’m a firm believer that there’s no better way to process something than to strip-mine it for material (that car crash in ’06 was priceless, let me tell you) but constantly using conflict or emotional drama as fuel is not a happy cupcake. Letting go of using that fuel is scary–it’s reliable, it’s fast, it plays into the create-more-drama loop, and it’s got a hell of a rocket kick. But one needs longer-term sources of fuel, especially if one wants to have a longer-term career.

The good news is that other sources of fuel are available pretty much by default, and one is already using them, since one can’t write by drama alone. I can categorically insist and promise with a clear conscience that the other fuels are there, they provide just as much kick, and the hangover from using them is way less intense. You don’t have to worry about whether you’ll have Things To Write About or fuel for writing if you move away from the drama. You will have more Things To Write About, and fuel that doesn’t make your life look like a smoking crater afterward. Which is really a pretty good deal.

* Trust the work. This is more in the nature of recovered or confirmed knowledge instead of “new” knowledge, but it bears repeating. I’ve been terrified over the past year that I wouldn’t be able to produce (due to a number of Personal Reasons we won’t go into until I can make the Public Announcement and get it over with) or that if I did, it wouldn’t be my usual quality. “Terrified” is not too strong a word for how much I’ve feared that.

But my editors are happy. They say I’ve actually gotten better. (Readers’ opinions may vary, of course. I’m okay with that.) And I’ve made every deadline and to spare these past two years, no matter what was going on or how I felt about it. The habit of just Sitting The $&#% Down and Doing It has never stood me in such good stead; and I’ve found comfort and solace in the things I’ve finished. Being able to crawl inside another world, one where I have a measure of control and free will that I might otherwise lack, has been a lifesaver. If you commit to the work, it will help you.

* Physical movement helps. Again, more in the nature of “recovered” knowledge here. I hadn’t realized, until I started losing weight, how physical a writer I truly am. Once my body gets over the “Christ what did I do to you, why are you DOING this to me?” moment at the start of every run, I settle into a peculiar meditative state where plots germinate, characters speak, and things just generally shake into place. I’ve come to depend on that time (see, an alternative source of fuel! I’m so sneaky!) as a part of the creative process.

I am not saying you have to run however-many miles in the morning to be creative. Far from. I’m saying to never underestimate the power of some kind of physical movement to shake things free inside your brain. Got a plot tangle? Character giving you trouble? Go for a brisk walk, do some jumping-jacks, put some music on and dance around a bit. More often than not (okay, a ridiculously high percentage of the time) this will shake it loose, make the character behave, take the work in a new direction. Plus, it’s good for you. We tend to forget how physical an act writing truly is. The brute work of typing 60-100K words for a zero draft of a novel (not to mention however many thousands in revision, dear God) is hard on the body. It’s hard on the fine structures of the fingers and wrists, it’s hard on the forearms, sitting for that long is hard on the back and the legs and your core. Moving around is good for you and will help ameliorate the purely-physical cost of writing.

There you have it, three things 2010 taught me about writing. They’re maybe not new things, and other people found them out way before I did. Still, I gained what feels like a greater understanding. And, you know, I’m stubborn. Mostly, people can’t tell me a damn thing. I have to run into it and bark my toes (or other more tender places) before I Figure It Out. Oh well. There’s always next year.

Assuming I want to change that about myself, that is. I’m not so sure. But that’s (say it with me) another blog post.

So, a safe happy New Year’s to you and yours. Enjoy, be responsible, have some fun, and let’s do that time warp again

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Dec. 27th, 2010 03:05 pm)

I am not my characters, and I am under no illusion that they are objectively real, but while I’m creating, they are real to me. And when we are done with each other, it’s like a good friend is moving to another planet–someplace where the communication isn’t frequent or even feasible.

Last night I sent off the first draft of the final Jill Kismet book, Angel Town, to agent, beta reader, and editor. I cried when I finished the zero draft, I cried when I finished first-revision, and I cried right after I hit the “send” button and the first draft took its first few toddling steps into the world.

I’ll see it again, of course–there’s edits, then copyedits, then proofs to get through–but in a very real way, Jill is gone. Her story is done. I had more to say, certainly, but six books is enough. I can say what remains in other ways. Or, if I can’t, maybe it should remain unsaid.

Jill’s been a difficult character. Not as difficult as Dante, certainly, but aching in her own way. It was hard to say goodbye to Danny and Japh, too. I suspect a lot of it is just that when one spends a long, long time inside characters’ heads, sharing their triumphs and failures, one is bound to feel a certain amount of grieving afterward. I grieve for Jill and Saul, for Galina and Theron, for Anya Devi and even, a very little bit, for Perry.

So today I’m a little raw and tender. It’s a day for listening to the rain on the roof and watching Romeo!Jay and Juliet!Jay at the birdfeeder. Maybe some easy cookie-making with the kids later on in the afternoon. That sounds good.

Vaya con Dios, Kismet. And thank you. You got me through some rough spots, and it’s been a Hell of a ride. (Get it? Arf arf…)

Over and out.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.

lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Dec. 24th, 2010 02:12 pm)

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames. Have a great holiday!

I honestly couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t string a thought together inside my noggin until I realized I hadn’t had coffee before I left the house this morning. Now, safely returned and soaking up caffeine, I’m amazed nobody got hurt. It’s a big ol’ zoo out there. I’m glad to be settled in now, listening to my windchimes rattle and watching rain speckle the window.

This Friday, instead of a process post, I thought I’d get into the holiday spirit (so to speak) and list a few things writing has given me. It’s difficult for me to understand how people get on without writing, but a lot of people find it just as difficult to understand how I get along without watching telly. Fair’s fair.

Writing is what I was made and designed to do. I suspect that when I was being made someone poured a dose of graphomania into my bones. I cannot conceive of not writing, I know I would not have survived a few things if not for the act of stringing words together. That act, an old and deep magic, has saved me uncounted times, and it continues to save me every day. These are a few things writing has given me, or taught me:

* Endurance. I’m a big fan of stubborn endurance anyway. Well, maybe not “fan”. Maybe “unsuspecting idiot who can’t do anything else”. Writing, especially writing for publication, has fed that deep-down stubborn refusal to quit I’ve carried around like a load of lead in my bones my entire life.

Example? When I was learning to ride a bicycle, I didn’t get that you had to pedal backward to brake. It just made no sense to me. So I simply got up to speed, and when I wanted to stop I just picked something to run into. This was a bit uncomfortable (it’s a miracle I didn’t break anything, really) and it took a month or two before the “click” happened and my body figured out about the pedaling-backward-to-brake thing. I could give another hundred examples, but I think that one will do. I approached publication basically the same way: I kept going until I found out how to make it work. And the several iterations a book has to go through before it’s publishable (draft, draft, draft, copyedits, proofs, ARGH) are a test of that stubbornness. Good or bad, writing fuels it, and in doing so, writing has taught me a lot about just picking up and carrying on.

* The habit of observation. The world can be a cruel, malicious, terrible, nasty, brutish place. Human beings seem to love nothing better than helping it along down that path. Or at least, that’s what I was convinced of decades ago, growing up in an emotional desert and struggling to survive. The habit of observation to gather material for writing, however, has crept in and loosened some of that. Yes, the world is a nasty place sometimes. But it is also good. Things work out a ridiculous amount of the time. Not only that, but the act of observation is critical to the act of art, which is (to me) the act of transforming the world. Observing in service of writing has taught me that yes, life is suffering (thank you, Buddha) but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Beauty lies under the surface, and the potential for beauty can be seen and made.

* Value. Or perhaps more accurately, worth. For most of my life, I have struggled with an acute sense of worthlessness. I was told over and over that my value was essentially zero, or even negative. Writing taught me this was a lie. Not because I write things people eventually end up buying (though that is super-awesome, don’t get me wrong). No, it’s because the act of writing, of creating something out of nothing, has to have value. When I say writing has saved more than my life, this is what I mean: writing, creating something that wasn’t there before, teaches me in a very basic way that I have worth. Over and over again, this magic is performed for me. I just have to show up.

* Everyday increments count. This is my bargain with the Muse: as long as I keep swinging, she keeps pitching. I make the commitment to show up every day, and she brings the rest with her. I may only get a couple steps staggered down the road some days. But each inch I move forward gets me closer, and sooner or later, I get to the top of the mountain. Writing has taught me about breaking a journey to Mordor up into single steps, and taking each step one. at. a. time. Boring? Sometimes. Slogging? Yes. Thankless? Mostly. But it gets me there.

* Holding the line counts too. I got a lovely Christmas card from a reader. Inside, she wrote, “Thanks for throwing the line.”

I cried.

Writing is pursued in solitude. It’s easy to lose track of the outside world when you’re sewn up in a manuscript. When the book goes out into the world, it’s hard to remember that other people are picking it up and handling its internal world. Shouting into the void is a writer’s trade, and when the void answers…well, I can’t easily describe the feeling. I’ve had so many people write to me, or tell me at signings, of one of my books affecting their lives. Giving them strength or an escape, a shock of recognition or a few hours of release. It’s humbling and proud all at once. And it makes me ever more determined to hold the line, since you never know when someone might catch at the other end.

* Companionship. Writing has been my spur, my solace, my refuge, my vehicle, my weapon, my shield, a faithful friend and a constant lover, a source of strength and comfort, a necessary frustration and a saving grace. Whatever it is in me that searches for words to build a framework on, whatever accident or quirk that cracked the bedrock and gave me this secret spring, is a reminder that even in the desert I have an inner resource. One can be lonely even in a crowd, but writing makes my essential aloneness less lonely. Writing has never disappointed, failed, or betrayed me. It has literally saved my life and soul, and it asks so little in return–just the commitment to show up every day.

There are other things writing has given me, but this would turn into a Gormenghast of a blog post. (Can you tell what my reading project in the new year will be?) Anyway, this is just a few of the reasons why I write, why I will continue writing, why I can’t see stopping and why I say writing saved me. It has given me so much. And now we come to the point. (Yes, I had a point.)

You, whoever you are, have something similar inside you. Your bedrock is cracked too, and you have a secret spring. Don’t be afraid of it, or minimize it. Get down there and drink all you can. It doesn’t matter if it’s genius or pedestrian, if it’s novice or amateur or professional, it just doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. There is something inside you that can transform the world. It will always be there for you, no matter what. It’s yours, and nobody can ever take it away. It will remain with you always, and it is never too late to start dipping your cup.

This is a gift that is given. Grab it with both hands.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. You can also comment there.



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