So I’ve been glassy-eyed with mild fever for a few days, aching all over, and with a nose not as full of snot as it could be. It took my writing partner saying, “Maybe it’s flu?” for me to figure out that perhaps, yes, some sort of virus. Great. Just wonderful.

What the hell? I hate being sick. I don’t have time. I have climbing to do, running to get out of the way six days a week, revisions packed tight for the next six months and oh yes, two books to write in the next six months too. (Well, six to ten months. STILL.) My immune system needs to get on the stick, for heaven’s sake.

Let’s see, what can I report? Copyedits for the first Bannon & Clare were finally bled dry and sent in a neat package back to the editor today. The Little Prince has expressed a desire to take karate classes. (This is going to be fun.) I am still addicted to Glitch. (Also fun.) It’s concert season for the Princess’s choir. (Oh God.) Plus, I am eying the upcoming holidays the way a mongoose eyes a cobra she’s not quite sure she’s big enough to bite to death. (I could write about why my childhood makes me view holidays as poisonous, but that would take more energy than I have today.) Oh, and one of those books I have to write? Deals with plague. OH, THE IRONY.

I know I should write the last half of the Battle of Pelennor Sunroom. It’s just…release hath followed upon release, and I went on an Internet semi-fast for a little bit. Just didn’t have the bandwidth, plus, it is my firm belief that a writer should not respond to reviews, and if one cannot keep one’s mouth shut it is best and easiest just not to look. This is the same principle I avoid watching television on.

On the other hand, the smell of autumn and falling leaves does not disturb me nearly as much as it has in years past. The Moon last night smiled down at me as I jaunted out to the rubbish bin, and it struck me that at this time two years ago, I was just barely afloat; a year ago I was healing but still fragile. The faith that time will heal a wound or two is a fragile thing, and cold comfort at best, but it kept me going during the dark times. (Along with a healthy dose of tough love from my Chosen Family.) It is always a shock to look back and see how far one has come.

Now if I could just kick this virus in its snot-soaked, irritating little nads and send it crying away, I’d be all set.

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

lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Nov. 4th, 2011 10:23 am)

So last night’s fall at the bouldering wall seems to have no lasting soreness. It was just one of those sessions where I was clumsy all the way through, always fun. I went up to grab a hold from an undercling, missed it, and tumbled. Fortunately I was relaxed when I hit, I landed on a well-cushioned part of my anatomy (seriously, you’d think I would have no ass left with as much as I run, but OH NO) and I rolled. I stretched out after the session, came home, drank a bunch of water, took ibuprofen, and went to bed smelling of homemade Tiger Balm. (My writing partner has many, many talents.) This morning…no soreness, barely even a bruise. Which is good, because I’m climbing again today (I promised) and dealing with copyedits, which means a lot of sitting on that tender, much-abused buttock.

I know, I know, you really wanted to read about that.

Let’s see, what’s the news? I have a story, Gallow’s Rescue, in the just-release Courts of the Fey. Like Eleni, Wolf, and Tarquin, Gallow and Robin have a much longer history, and I wish I could write their story. Trailer-park fey and epidemic disease, who wouldn’t want that?

Also, I’m over at John Mierau’s place talking about Frank Herbert’s Dune, the Litany, and how I wanted to be a Bene Gesserit. And the winners of the belated release day prizes are up!

Other than that, I’m hip-deep in copyedits for the first Bannon & Clare, and the water is rising fast. Plus I’ve got to update the Books page, and that sound you hear? It’s the gears inside my head gummed up by snot. That’s right, I’m coming down with a cold.

Not in single spies, but in battalions. By the way, if you have a good smartphone app that can alert one to changes in barometric pressure, let me know? I’m tired of the pressure changing and half my head wadding up like agonized tinfoil.

Anyway, I’m going to climb, fill myself to the brim with fluids and vitamin C, and fillet more of these copyedits until they are bled dry. The crankiness of physical misery might even add something.

Over and out…

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

I have a croak like a raven and a slight fever, so the Tale of the Squirrel Surfer will be put off until tomorrow. I just don’t think I can do it justice in my present condition. I keep wandering away from the computer to go lie down for a little bit and put together scenes of an alternate almost-Dickensian London inside my aching, stuffed-up head.

It’s weird being me.

Anyway, in lieu of the Tale, I shall instead present you with this: what happens when you put me and Captain Jack Sparrow in a room together. Hilarity abounds. (I had so much fun with this.) Also, there is a zombie cupcake. And there’s a three-book giveaway involved–I’ll be giving away a signed set of the first three Strange Angels books to a lucky US commenter. Go, read, hopefully be entertained, and possibly win some stuff.

Other than that, let’s see…oh yeah, the Selene & Nikolai reunion story will be in the upcoming Mammoth Book of Hot Romance, which I don’t have a link for yet. You guys seem to like that Nichtvren couple and are inundating me with email! Heavens. I had no idea Selene was so likable–I found her a bit difficult, albeit for some really good reasons. And Nikolai, well, I never liked him. But we all knew that.

Anyway, I’m going to go nurse this cold and see if I can’t get the next few scenes of the sorceress and the logic machine out of my head and onto the laptop. Peace out.

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

There’s a new interview with me over at Reading Awesome Books, where I talk tangentially about Christophe’s plans and why Anna’s a tragic character to me. Later this week Captain Jack Sparrow will be interviewing me over at CJ Redwine’s place. (THAT should be fun. I am told cupcakes are involved. Though the rum is gone.)

Other cool stuff this morning: how words get their meaning, sleeping protects memories, and Taco Bell “beef” is really only 35% beef. I don’t know why that last one surprises anyone, really.

My two thoughtful, lovely spawn brought home a nasty cold from school that is currently trying to colonize my corpse and I’ve got two short stories to dress up and get out the door today, so I bid you a civil adieu, dear Readers. Hope your Tuesday is magnifique.

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

I felt okay until about noon yesterday, when WHOMP! This damn virus descended on me. I’m producing all sorts of phlegm in varied rainbow colors. I’m sure I’m spreading the contagion over everything in my vicinity. I was tired and waspish yesterday, as my writing partner found out. (Sorry about that, kiddo.)

Anyway, there’s very little to report. I sent off a short story and am editing Something Sekrit. I do have Very Good News, but I can’t announce it until everything’s all wrapped. Plus, I still have to write about the squirrels, the gulls, and the CornPops war. I have to wait until I can breathe, because just thinking about it makes me laugh.

I did manage to get out and purchase a “squirrel-proof” birdfeeder. It has a sort of wire cage around the tube holding the seed, and when a squirrel gets on it the cage slides down, barring it from getting any noms. (Almost like this guy, but more decorative.) We’ll see how this works out. If all else fails, it should at least be hysterically funny. I kind of dread one of the little rodents getting a paw caught in it or something, though. Because let’s face it, these squirrels would be the ones to do so. Especially Neo. He’s having some bad luck lately.

ANYWAY, while I was purchasing this wondrous object, I also picked up twenty pounds of birdseed. (What? I like to be prepared. It was on SALE.) Then I turned around…and saw it.

SQUIRREL FOOD.

Can you believe that? I’ll say it again.

SQUIRREL FOOD.

People pay money for this.

I stood there in the Fred Meyer aisle for at least twenty long-ticking seconds, dumbstruck and staring. Three shelves of squirrel food. I cannot believe people feed these fuzzy little cat-kicking ninjas. There was a wide array, from corncobs to corncob-shaped hanging loaves of seeds and nuts, to sawdust-looking cornmeal things that are probably the Metamucil of the squirrel world. There was tons of it.

“No way,” I finally breathed.

At this point, I have to admit, I did think about buying some of the pressed seed loaves and hanging them up in the plum tree. Why? Aw, just for the lulz, maybe.

No, not for giggles. I’ll be honest. Jesus, don’t look at me like that.

AS A BRIBE, OKAY? As a kickback to the little fuzzy commandos so they won’t break my windows with peanuts or anything. But then I thought, you know, you start paying the squirrel mafia off and sooner or later they’ll start squeezing you for more.

“Oh hell no,” I muttered. Well, maybe not muttered. Maybe sort of said out loud. “No way. I’m not being held hostage by a bunch of rodents.”

I should mention that there was a lady in a red jacket at the other end of the aisle, looking at hummingbird feeders. She gave me a startled look and trundled her cart away maybe a little more quickly than was necessary.

I left the squirrel food where it was, shaking my head. All the way through the store I kept having one recurring vision–of nattily-dressed squirrel mobsters doing James Cagney sneers. “Eh, here, you see. We don’t like dat boid feedah. We like the ones that are real easy-like. But if ya wanna keep that one, sport, all you gotta do is hang up some Metamucil. We likes it, see?”

…yeah, I amuse myself all the time like this. It’s what makes me unfit for a great deal of normal life, I guess.

So. The new feeder is hanging up. The cats are agog, especially sweet dumb Tuxedo!Kitty, who crouches inside on the windowsill and keeps warbling his throaty little “ohpleaseohplease” song as the birds discover new munchables. No squirrel has attempted it yet. But I’m waiting. And as I sit here, looking out my window onto my front yard, I can see a couple bushy-tailed ninjas frolicking. They stop jumping around every once in a while to shoot me filthy looks through the window.

I have the sandal of DOOM right next to me. Let the games begin.

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

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames, who have a shiny new website!

I’ve spent the last two days heaving blindly into whatever receptacle I can find. My stomach staged revolt, right when I had revisions under a tight deadline. So I’m going to bring out an old Midnight Hour writing post for this Friday’s offering. This is from April 25 of 2008, and I don’t think I’ve ever put it here before. Enjoy.

Permission to Create “Bad” Art
April 25, 2008

True to form, life hath served me my Friday post. Last Wednesday I was at a signing for for Elizabeth Lyon and saw some of my old writing students; we chatted a little bit about this very thing. And I’ve been reading f-listers’ thoughts about this particular issue all week. A lot of people seem to be struggling with it, so I’m going to give my two cents.

Coffee? Check. Comfy chair? Check. Idea firmly in mind? Check. Settle in, dear Reader.

Here’s what I want to say in a nutshell: It is perfectly okay to write dreck.

I’ve seen a lot of people lately agonising over the ‘fact’ that they write, well, crap. The plotting is clumsy, pacing nonexistent, they see the book so clearly in their heads but then go back and look at what they’ve written and it seems pale. Spiritless. Stupid. Pointless. They might as well just give it up because it’s not perfect or even very good. After all, they’ll only get rejected. Or they’ve gotten rejected several times already. And it’s horrible, but they’re starting to question this whole writing thing.

And I reply: God, don’t stop. This is when you’re getting better.

Assuming you are consistently practicing your writing, about every six months, stop and look back over something you haven’t touched for the past half-year. Open up the document and read it. And notice what you’d do differently now. When you’re in the wilds of practice, concerned with camping on the plain of the story every night, you don’t have time to notice how far you’re walking, how far you’ve come. You do have to stop and look back hard to realize it, and to realize how your ‘muscles’ have hardened and your craft grown more sure.

The willingness to engage in consistent practice is the willingness to learn. You’re going to have ‘crutches’ and things you rely on. (Like “that”–one of the most overused words in the English tongue–and dialogue tags, my particular follies. But I digress.) That’s why an editor and a good beta are worth their weight in gold and platinum. (Again, I digress.)

Practice has to start out somewhere. We all start out not knowing a story from a scene, the right verb from the wrong adverb, a passive action from an active one. And we all start out, from Chaucer to Hemingway, writing utter crap.

That’s why I call it writing “practice.” It’s just like dance class or tennis practice or even practicing your scales on the piano. You’ve got to make mistakes and stumble in order to learn.

Writing is a little odd in that we see the finished product on the shelves–the months and years of work that went into it are invisible. It takes far, far less time to read a book than it does to:

1. Write the first draft.
2. Get critique/let the manuscript sit
3. Write other drafts, from one to ten
4. Submit and get rejected a million times
5. Get accepted, wait for contract, wait for revision letter
6. Write other revised drafts
7. Arrive at final draft
8. Get copyedits
9. Get proof pages
10. Wait, biting nails, for the book to come out

That process–of a manuscript becoming a book–is so long and complex, and it allows a book to get better. It also grants a book a stamp of reality the half-finished noddles on my hard drive don’t have, the imprimatur of someone actually paid money for this.

Is it any wonder writers feel uncertain? Especially unpublished ones?

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to the point I started out wanting to make. This is what I used to tell my writing students.

The first million words are practice. They can be as bad as they want to be while you’re learning. It is not important WHAT you write. It is important THAT you write, and write consistently, and keep looking for ways to make your writing better.

As long as you can open up something you wrote six months ago and see that you’ve made some progress, don’t sweat it so much.

You are going to have to accept that you may be too close to your own work to judge it for what it is. Most of the time, this leads to harsh self-judgment, not a clear-eyed appraisal of the work. Plus, the whole system of: crit readers who have egos to feed (possibly at the expense of yours, since there are bullies everywhere), toxic writing groups and classes (not all of them, but we all know my prejudices on this point), rejection by the bucketload (because publishing is a business; it is not about craft but about money, but writers often forget that and think it’s about Them Personally), even more rejection (because your manuscript may be meat to one agent/editor and poison to another), and EVEN MORE REJECTION (insert all other types of rejection here)…well, even the sanest, most thick-skinned writer could be reduced to a bleeding wreck twitching in the water by the end of it, you dig?

You have to find a way to write through all that. You have to give yourself permission to write something that may not be perfect. Even the Grand Old White Men of Litrachur had stinky-ass half-finished pieces of fanfic in their attics. We just don’t hear about those because the books they wrote after ages of practice are now taught in high-school classes. And not only that, but some of the Auld Classics are even crappy books. I can’t read Faulkner to save my life, and some of Dickens’s stuff bores me to tears. I love Dumas but I know lots of people who would rather shoot themselves in the head than read Louise de la Valliere. Even the classics are not immune from bad writing.

If Hemingway, Dumas, Faulkner, and yes, even Shakespeare (dude, have you READ some of the historical plays? YAWN.) struck out occasionally, what makes us think we won’t? Even Heinlein and Bradbury had their less-than-stellar moments. We just didn’t get to see the really horribly dreadful ones while they were learning their craft.

One of the most liberating things I ever read in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way was this: you have permission to create “bad” art.

Yes, we try to be as good as we can, and a certain level of technical achievement is necessary to get published. But you will never reach that level of technical achievement if you’re not willing to make mistakes. Mistakes will teach you much more than noodling over an easy, perfect piece. Every mistake is a chance, every stumble an invitation to create a new dance step. You are allowed to do something badly while you are learning to do it.

Christ, I struggled with this. My parents were insistent that I had to do everything perfectly the first time–which is, I’ve come to learn, par for the course in abusive or dysfunctional households. Just wrapping my lips around the concept that I could write total crap and have it be okay was a brain-bender right up there with the nature of suffering and the existence of the Divine. It still is. I still get wrapped around the axle of “this can’t possibly be good enough.”

Especially when I’m about three-quarters of the way through a Book That Will Not Die, under deadline and short of sleep, and the entire world seems designed to drive home to me how inadequate I am as a writer and a human being. That’s when it’s hardest to give myself permission to just write the damn thing, get the corpse out on the table and then cut it up and prettify it.

Yeah. Like that.

But that’s another blog post.

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

lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Sep. 21st, 2010 08:47 am)

I have a terrible cold. My largest ambition is going to the grocery store to get DayQuil (I’m not completely out of those little orange capsules of DOOM, thank God), milk, and coffee. (Because I used the last of the coffee this morning OMGBBQLLAMA CRISIS AVERTED…) The common cold is actually rather an interesting little thing, when you consider how long it’s been with us, how successful it is, and how ubiquitous too. (This could, of course, be only the fever talking.)

So today is for pottering about and letting the next bit of the story cook. The book broke free last night–that’s the point in a work where I can feel it taking its own shape, where the setup has been done and now it’s just a matter of seeing where the dominoes fall. It’s much more comfortable than the first long slog after the freshness of the idea has worn off and the last long slog where it becomes the latest iteration of the Book That Will Not Die Stab It Quick.

Of squirrels I have only one more thing to report: Squirrel!Neo is the unchallenged master of our yard. Yesterday I was reduced to hysterical laughter as the youngest and silliest of our cats–the one so long and lean and big-eyed we call him the Lemur Cat–threw himself at my writing window to get at Squirrel!Neo. (There is still a little noseprint there.) I will swear to my dying day that Squirrel!Neo, calmly hopping about in the yard with his tail flicking unnecessarily but very aesthetically every few bounds, shot Lemur Cat the finger. He didn’t even flinch when Lemur Cat hit the window, either. He just flipped him off, as if to say “Bitch, I know kung fu.”

The funny thing is that Lemur Cat staggered back from the window and across the living room, where he somewhat drunkenly but very viciously attacked the mild-mannered, inoffensive little scratching post I spray with catnip oil every now and again. (Head trauma in felines is fun to watch.)

When he had taught that sorry inanimate object its place, he tore around the room twice, leaping from THE CHAIR to the couch and knocking various things over. Then he calmly sauntered back to my writing window (the window that even now bears a noseprint), hopped up, and settled down on his haunches, staring unblinking at Squirrel!Neo, who was digging around in the lavender under my window like he owned the place and was going to take a nosegay back to the Squirrel!Oracle.

I laughed so hard I coughed and choked. Which produced (or moved around) an incredible amount of phlegm. So I lunged for the tissues, desperate to avoid spraying my laptop with contagion, and almost fell out of my chair. Almost. Lemur Cat shot me a filthy look, but I did not fall over. And I was actually rather pleased about that, even though that would have made the story much, much funnier. I wasn’t sure whether or not to count that as a victory over Squirrel!Neo.

In the end, I think I’d best call it a tie between me and that fuzzy little bastard. But it’s Squirrel!Neo 3, cats 0; or cats .5 if I let them claim me not falling and cracking my fool head open.

I can’t decide if that makes me the referee or the scorekeeper. Further bulletins as events warrant…

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

I was fine until about 10:30 last night, when my stomach decided it’d had enough of hosting dinner and muscled everything out like an irritated bouncer. I’d call it food poisoning, but nobody else shows any symptoms; I’d call it a bug but I have no other symptoms; I’d call it stress but I’m remarkably unstressed for once, having had all the locks replaced and deadbolts put in. Maybe it was the release of stress, and finally feeling completely safe again?

I don’t know. I’ve officially thrown up my hands (when they’re not crossed protectively over my aching middle) and decided to just treat my stomach gently, and devil take the rest.

This didn’t stop me from my first five-mile run this morning. I got on the treadmill determined to only run as long as it felt OK, and to stop at the first twinge of not-really-all-right. Five miles later, I forced myself to stop, but my stomach kept running, revolving like a bus wheel. It just felt so good to burn everything off and keep moving, really. The only problem was when I stopped. And I do seem to have largely sweated out whatever-it-was.

I’m sure you all wanted to hear about the state of my belly. So I’ll just tell you that I’m working (between naps) on proofs for TAKEN today, as well as getting an amnesiac heroine in another lead-spraying fight, and shuffle off stage left, muttering. I had big dreams of walking down to the corner grocery for pesto today, but it looks like that’s not going to happen. It’s eleven AM and I’m beat.

See you around.

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

I’ve fallen into the rhythm of revision. It really doesn’t take that long to do when you can bring all your faculties to bear on a particular book. It’s like watching the jumprope on the playground, catching its beat so you can hop in. Which is about the only part of playing with other kids I ever liked, in school.

Anyway, we’re fifty pages or so into the second YA; second-draft revisions are going well. I halted last night just at the place where I had to make a significant architectural change. It was a good decision to stop there, because I was making various nasty notes to myself about how the story sucked and I hated the secondary characters and should kill them in various gruesomely interesting ways. This is how I know it’s time to step away from the manuscript.

Both the little ones are sniffling and coughing. Colds go through our house like wildfire. I keep telling myself it means they will have nice strong immune systems. This does not comfort me as much when I wake up with body aches and a husky voice. I am pouring down the fluids and taking my vities. (Vitamin C, CoQ10 and L-Lysine might not work, but they make me feel better. And the B vities DO work, I swear.) Since I have a writer’s mixer on March 7–at Cover to Cover Books, we’re going to play Ask The Working Writer–I can’t afford to lose my voice or be cranky at the end of the week. *crosses fingers* (You can RSVP at Facebook or MySpace. Technology, she is wonderful.)

The thing that is making me crankier than the cold this morning is the flood of torrenting. This career is hard work, and people stealing ebooks and torrenting them just makes me…well, I don’t want to go off into a long ramble of cusswords and spleen. I’m glad people like my work. I’m not so glad that people want to steal it. And when I’m spending time demanding websites take those torrents down, I’m not writing. Which means fans don’t get the books as quickly.

This really cheeses my buns. Torrenting ebooks is not freeing information or sticking it to the Man, or whatever people like to tell themselves. It’s stealing. That’s the only word that applies. Naturally I don’t like it when my work is stolen. And don’t even tell me “they’ll buy it if they like it” or “it’s publicity” or “people wouldn’t take YOUR work unless it’s free so why are you bitching?” All those arguments are red herrings, and insulting besides. So don’t go there.

Anyway. I’m thinking I can knock out another fifty pages revised and get total wordcount up by a few K. At least, that’s what I’m hoping. Wish me luck and choco.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. Please comment there.

lilithsaintcrow: (Default)
( Jan. 22nd, 2009 12:11 pm)

Flu bug bit hard. Body aches, full nose, headache, sore throat, the works. Fighting it off with zinc cough drops and drowning it with fluids. Right now I feel like sitting and staring. Not even staring at anything in particular, just zoning out.

Back soon. In the meantime, check out Keri Arthur’s post today at Deadline Dames. Yes, there’s another giveaway. We are evil, aren’t we?

ETA: So my site hosting is having Problems, and the Deadline Dames site is having some troubles with Internet Explorer (though Firefox seems to be workin’ just fine). I do not think these things are connected…but it is enough to make me start twitching with annoyance.

Posted from A Fire of Reason. Please comment there.

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