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Well, I'm back. It's been a crazypants month over here, and blogging got lost in the shuffle - but that's just how it goes. Quite a lot has happened, though! I had some lovely overnight guests who were headed west from the Carolinas; enjoyed a visit from an old friend (who prefers to remain nameless); finished up my part in a group project (also a secret for now); I wrapped up a major rewrite on The Agony House; watched all of Stranger Things and loved it; voted in the TN primaries; fell in love with the lady Ghostbusters; licensed some official murdery jewelry; bought some hilarious and relevant merch; kind of died at the season finale of 12 Monkeys; spent a week fighting a medical billing error that got sent to collections; did so much yardwork you would not freaking believe; kicked around with a hell of a guy who was passing through; gave an owl a new hairdo; got a new fence; got a replacement gate for the new fence; and probably a bunch more stuff that I'm totally forgetting.

It's been a long month.

And now...I'm back to working on my rewrites for the next Wild Cards project (due at the end of this month), and then I will probably get back to work on The Toll (due November 1), and meanwhile I will continue to work on production for The Agony House. And do DragonCon. All while trying to promote a new book.


You guys, The Family Plot come out NEXT MONTH. And because LIFE IS GOOD it has garnered a starred Publishers Weekly review! ::Kermit flails::

    When Dahlia Dutton’s father sends her and a small crew to salvage a house near Lookout Mountain, Tenn., she finds that what you don’t know can hurt you in Priest’s spectacular modern haunted-house story. Dahlia is no stranger to ghosts, whether she’s being emotionally haunted by a failed marriage or by the metaphorical spirits that linger in old buildings. The concept of home salvage disturbing ghosts is brilliant, and while common elements of haunted house stories are certainly present (a mysterious owner with family secrets, locked rooms, unnatural storms, etc.), Priest (Boneshaker) handles them with tremendous skill, putting the pieces together to keep the reader guessing and more than a little scared. The characters are given a compelling reason to stay (the family business will fail if this job falls through) and their interpersonal dynamics humanize them, making them more than just cannon fodder as the hauntings increase in severity. Priest has written an excellent modern house story from start to finish.

The early Goodreads reviews are smashing, too - though there are a few complaints with the ARC's flap copy. It's drawn from an early proposal, and though it kind of contains spoilers, most of those spoilers are wrong. (For the draft evolved and deviated from the original pitch.) So...yeah. Just ignore that! Think of the PW review instead! I've been describing it as "the DIY Network meets Ted Raimi," so if that works better for you, feel free to come at it from that angle.

SPEAKING OF GOODREADS. If you are the sort of person to participate on that fine site, you can ENTER TO WIN A FREE COPY BY CLICKING THIS-HERE LINK! So get clicking! Throw your name in the hat!

* * *

In other news, as (briefly) mentioned above - our fence finally got finished. It took about twice as long as we hoped, and when it was finished, the gate crapped out on us within about a week. It was just too heavy; the entrance to the yard is fully five feet wide, and the hinges were stretching and bowing (even though the fence guy added an extra set). So we had to order a custom black aluminum number. It took a couple of weeks, but now it's installed and looking great.

The whole fence line looks marvelous, if I do say so myself - for I added half a dozen rose bushes and a coral bark Japanese maple. In the rain. Because it's too damn hot here to do any work in the yard when the sun is either up, or out.

On the left: That used to be a privet hedge covering a twisted chain link fence. (Some of those roses were present already; I cut them back before the fence work.) The privet was about 9 feet high and six feet wide. It was awful. On the right: That's what it looks like now, from the back door. SO MUCH BETTER.

* * *

All pets are doing well. So well, in fact, that the other day we achieved a milestone - deliberate, voluntary cuddling on the part of the cats.

I, for one, was stunned. And delighted. But mostly stunned. The "ladies" get along pretty well - they hang out a lot, and take turns on the bed, and even play a game of whappity-paws every once in awhile. But this is the first straight-up snuggle that we've seen.

* * *

Greyson gets his share of Quinnie cuddles, too. It's adorable, but not so surprising. She likes to follow him around and use his feet for a pillow.

Greyson also had a number of playdates with his best friend Luna. Their playdates all end the same way: two happy, tired dogs...covered in each other's drool.

* * *

And on that note, I believe I'll wrap up this post and call it a night. Thanks so much for reading, everybody - and I will try to be a little better about my updates, from here on out. Pinky swears!
I swear I am not dead. I've just been busy, as I believe I warned in the last post or two. Several big deadlines have jammed up against each other, due to the vagaries of publishing schedules, unexpected changes, and my own tendency to overcommit myself against my better judgment. I am - in no uncertain terms - eyeballs deep. This will change, but not for another few weeks at soonest.

At present, I'm trying to pull together a rewrite for my Wild Cards story (it needs a new direction), attempting to wrap up the also somewhat extensive Brimstone rewrites (due at the end of this month), figure out when and how I'm going to manage my contribution to an altogether different mosaic project, and then move on to the first round of Agony House rewrites (due end of July). Following that, I need to finish a draft of The Toll by November.

I thought about compiling a list of all the fiddly things I've otherwise successfully juggled in the last few weeks, but decided against it. Lists are boring, and making one won't make me feel any more accomplished or less overwhelmed.

The only way out, is through.

* * *

Compounding my difficulties with excessive obligation ... I'm getting a new fence. This new fence will begin to happen early next week (probably) and it's going to be a really crazypants undertaking. Let me explain: Our back yard is enclosed by a 4-foot chain link fence, parts of which are at least 30 years old. These parts have two tress growing through them, in addition to decades of English Ivy, Persian Ivy, birdfoot ivy, morning glory vines, and a massive hedge of dying privets that's about 7 feet tall and maybe thirty or forty feet long.

All of this. Growing THROUGH the fence.

One of the trees is going to have to come down; the other we can save, and we plan to. (The losing tree is a hackberry - basically a garbage tree that's menacing our neighbors and we need to do something about it anyway. Two birds/one stone/etc.)

The fence contractor is a guy who's done work in our neighborhood before, and he knows about the tricky terrain/difficulties; bless him, he's taking out the hackberry and extracting/removing/carrying away all the chain link + attending privets - that part was written into the quote - but there are some things we need to take care of before he arrives. For example, we have a row of roses and a massive red quince that need to be drastically cut back to make room for the work. I have to take care of that stuff, and I have to do that some time this week.

In my copious free time.

The fence will take about a week, between the excavation/tree removal/other crap on this jacked-up lot ... but when it's done, we'll have the proper wood six-foot semi-privacy fence that we've been hoping to make happen for the last few years. It's just going to be a hell of a week.

* * *

You locals might've seen me on TV a couple of weeks ago, when I did the ABC affiliate's show "This 'N That" as part of Barnes & Noble's B-Fest for young readers. It was a good time. I had a good hair day. Later, I did a signing with Meredith Russo, and that was good, too.

Big ups to Kelly, the gent in two of those photos with me. He's the B&N media guy who kicked ass all day; and big ups to the girl who showed up in the Princess X tee shirt and a pair of red Chucks that she wanted me to sign. It made my afternoon!

* * *

Heads up - the awesome folks at Badali Jewelry are working up some killer bling based on my Lizzie Borden books (Maplecroft and Chapelwood). I got the prototypes in the mail the other day, and I am merrily wearing them all over the place.

I'll let you know when they're available for sale.

* * *

The household menagerie remains excessively fluffy and adorable, as predicted. Greyson and KittenZilla are still BFFs, the ElderCat is still fussy but tolerant, and everybody is hanging near the AC vents because it's been pretty hot here, lately.

And that's a nice note to end on, isn't it?
Let's do that, then - because I've run out of steam.

Thanks for reading, everyone.
Finally got to Draft Zero of that novella project, now renamed "The Ghost in Room 13" - which is a little corny, but appropriate. The novella itself is dirty and funny, and I only found out literally the hour I typed "the end" that a complication in the world-setting may compel me to rewrite the last third.

But I don't know that for certain yet, so I'm pretending it's just not so because for now, I need to get back to Brimstone. It needs a full and thorough rewrite this month, and it's due back on the editor's desk on the first of July. In a perfect universe I'd have more than four weeks (without two other projects yelling for my attention at the same time) but que sera.

All aboard the deadline train...
:: train whistle ::
:: toot toot ::

But here's recent progress on my wacky mystery romp that's a little bit The Thin Man, with a splash of Haunted Honeymoon, and a dusting of Scared Stiff - featuring a pair of 60+ year old newlyweds who are playing Nick and Nora on a ghost-plagued riverboat:

    Project: "The Ghost in Room 13"
    Deadline: July 1, 2016
    New words written: 8311
    Present total word count: 14,178

    Things Accomplished in Fiction: Draft Zero! Mystery revealed! Comedy occurs!

    Things Accomplished in Real Life: [Just today] Neighborhood jaunt with the dog; cleaned whole entire house after assembling new vacuum; took out the trash, including old vacuum - which finally succumbed to the excessive fluff of three very furry pets; went grocery shopping; got lunch; went to the bank.

    Other: Look! (Below, at the bottom of this post.) I've passed 100,000 words for the year! Hooray! Alas, that word count probably won't climb any higher anytime soon; it's all rewrites, all the time, until August at soonest. I think?

    Pet Other: 'Tis the season when the dog and the house leopard share their favorite AC vent all day lomg, just chilling their fuzz.

    Number of fiction words so far this year: 107,985
I am officially the world's worst blogger, but what can I say? I've been busy, and regular updates have taken a back seat. On the upshot, I finally finished the pass proof edits for The Family Plot, I'm mostly done with a Draft Zero for "Black Water" (Wild Cards), and my front/back yards are actually in pretty good shape.

I also had my first short story published in ages - via Out of Tune II (Jonathan Maberry, editor). It's based loosely on the old murder ballad "The Knoxville Girl," (which is also the name of the story, natch) and it's... kind of a departure for me, but I'm pretty happy with how it came out. Pick up that anthology, if you get a chance. I'm in some excellent company, and it's a fantastic theme for a collection.

Meanwhile, I have big/fat editorial letters breathing down my neck for both Brimstone and The Agony House, both of which need some pretty in-depth rewrites (which is fine). But today I'm taking a tiny breather to do some yard detailing and drawer-sorting. And maybe a smidge more work on "Black Water." I don't know yet. I'm kind of wiped out.

In other news, Greyson developed a lump on his chest, and he had a vet appointment this morning to check it out. I was pretty sure it was just a little fatty lipoma and I was right. No big deal, but he's definitely gotten fat. I'll have to have a word with the mailman (only one piece of that enormous cookie for the dog, thanks), the UPS guy (the dog is not a slot machine into which you feed biscuits; half of one Milkbone will suffice), the neighbor kids, and so forth, and so on. El Chubbulente is going on a diet.

As for the cats - they are also doing well. Quinnie is up to 13 pounds, and she's not quite 11 months old ... so my theory that she's a house leopard is holding up nicely. She's a little tubby herself, but not too bad - and I can't stop her from eating the eldercat's prescription food, so oh well. And just the other day, the eldercat woke me up in the middle of the night by playing slap-hockey with a ping-pong ball, so she's not that put out by it.

Anyway. I'm burning daylight, here - so it's time to log off and get back to something productive. Thanks for reading, and my apologies for the general internet silence. I'm just navigating some deadlines, that's all. I'll be back around soon.

I've seen the future and it works

Here's recent progress on my wacky mystery romp that's a little bit The Thin Man, with a splash of Haunted Honeymoon, and a dusting of Scared Stiff - featuring a pair of 60+ year old newlyweds who are playing Nick and Nora on a ghost-plagued riverboat:

    Project: "Black Water" (working title)
    Deadline: July 1, 2016
    New words written: 1657
    Present total word count: 5867

    Things Accomplished in Fiction: Did some investigating; asked some questions; took a nooner after breakfast.

    Things Accomplished in Real Life: Neighborhood jaunt with the dog; a little bit of yardwork today; lots of cleanup re: yesterday's content; answered a bunch of emails; went to lunch.

    Yardwork Other: Behold some of my irises. No, I don't know what kind they are. I forget. I sort of grab-bagged a bunch of different bulbs when they were on sale at the nursery awhile back.

    Pet Other: I got curious yesterday and weighed this little monster: She's exactly 13 pounds. Some of that size is pure chub, yes - because she helps herself to the eldercat's prescription food, and there's nothing we can do about that. (Can't put it anyplace where old kitty can reach it, but young kitty cannot - and it *has* to be available to the old kitty.) Anyway, she's fat and glorious.

    Number of fiction words so far this year: 99,674
Here's recent progress on my wacky mystery romp that's a little bit The Thin Man, with a splash of Haunted Honeymoon, and a dusting of Scared Stiff - featuring a pair of 60+ year old newlyweds who are playing Nick and Nora on a ghost-plagued riverboat:

    Project: "Black Water" (working title)
    Deadline: July 1, 2016
    New words written: 3003
    Present total word count: 4210

    Things Accomplished in Fiction: Got breakfast with a new "friend" who is super-enthusiastic and very annoying to Leo, personally; explained via chit-chat and bloody Marys the basic facts of the mystery.

    Things Accomplished in Real Life: Neighborhood jaunts with the dog; PAID OFF MY STUDENT LOANS, BABY; dragged out my refrigerator manual and did some repairs (long story); cleaned the house; did laundry; did some yard work; hauled out a bunch of trash.

    Other: I still had another six years on those student loans, but a better-than-expected royalty check for I Am Princess X made the pay-off possible. MY EDUCATION IS FINALLY MINE. It's about damn time. And now I am broke again, but I am broke for a very good and grown-up reason.

    Pet Other: Crittergram. It has been suggested that - in this exceedingly dignified shot - Greyson is blowing up Quinnie like a balloon.

    (No, I don't know what Quinnie weighs right now. I do know that the dog weighs 90 pounds. Yes, she is a house-leopard. No, she is not finished growing yet - she's only 10 months old. God help us. Hey, remember when she weighed one pound, and fit in the palm of my hand?)

    Bonus Pet Other: Quinnie saw a squirrel.

    Number of fiction words so far this year: 98,017
Well, it's been almost exactly a month since I posted any word metrics. I don't have much of an excuse - or rather, I have only the same old excuses as always - but that's just how it goes. I've had a lot of balls up in the air, including the production edits for The Family Plot, some travel (Kentucky, if you'll recall), and some medical stuff (which is now as sorted as it's going to get). I also dedicated some time to house stuff and yard stuff. You know how it goes.


I also tried to give myself a little break, for all the good it did me. I've burned myself out pretty badly, but I can't afford to do anything like a vacation; I still have two books to rewrite and send through production, one novel to finish for Tor this fall, and a novelette for one of the upcoming WILD CARDS books.

That last one's due in July, so until rewrites for the two books land, that's what's on my plate. Gotta triage this shit.

Jesus, it's already May.

* * *

Because people will inevitably ask - I do not have cancer of the nose-holes or anything. It turns out, I have a mild congenital defect that messes with the way my sinuses drain ... and I also have a little bit of leftover damage from some surgery on the back of my mouth (20+ years ago). Through a convoluted conflagration of these events, an extra-bad allergy season is causing one of my sinuses to collect fluid - making it prone to the kind of infections that mess with the pressure in my right ear.

I don't want any new surgery any time soon, but there's not much else to be done about it. The most recent catastrophic infection has almost completely cleared up, so I'm on a new round of antihistamines and decongestants. It's not perfect, but it's okay.

At least it's not cancer of the nose-holes.

* * *

The other day, I looked out the den window to see Greyson merrily snapping at some random flying things ... and discovered that we had a swarm of bees the size of a human head hanging out in the hedges. I got the dog inside, did some googling, and found out that there's a whole slew of folks you can call - folks who will be more than happy to come out and collect such a swarm.

"Nat the Bee Guy" called me back within a minute or two (I chose him for his nom de plume, yes); and within half an hour, he showed up with a bee box (or whatever they're called) and standard bee-dude gear ... but he was pleased to note that he wouldn't need it. He declared the swarm calm and healthy, and didn't bother with any of the sting-preventatives.

Nat has a small family farm north of the city. He keeps bees and fruit trees (among other things), and hey - free swarms are the best swarms! Or so I am told. I couldn't believe he'd come out and take them away for free. He couldn't believe that I was just giving him this awesome swarm of honeybees for free.

So everybody was happy. Especially the bees.

He left the box until just after dark, when all the bees were happily humming inside. Then he took it home to his farm. Good-bye, little bees! Live long and prosper.

And thanks a million to Nat the Bee Guy! You have someone like Nat somewhere near you, I bet - so please don't take a can of bug spray to a swarm, just because it's chilling in an inconvenient location. I spent ten seconds googling "chattanooga bee removal" and boom. Nat the Bee Guy, and about a dozen other folks who would be eager to collect and pamper any unwanted bees.

Just sayin'.

* * *

So here's today's progress on my wacky mystery romp that's a little bit The Thin Man, with a splash of Haunted Honeymoon, and a dusting of Scared Stiff - featuring a pair of 60+ year old newlyweds who are playing Nick and Nora on a ghost-plagued riverboat:

    Project: "Black Water" (working title)
    Deadline: July 1, 2016
    New words written: 1207
    Present total word count: 1207

    Things Accomplished in Fiction: Was unceremoniously awakened with threats of burglars and demands for guns, then apologies from fervent ghost hunters with oddball beepy equipment and a very earnest sales pitch.

    Things Accomplished in Real Life: Missed the neighborhood jaunt with the dog this morning because I had a followup doctor appointment; came home and got to work, finishing up a loose outline for this one.

    Other: I don't usually outline very much, but this is a mystery and a comedy in a very tight space - and I need to keep myself from wandering off course. I've set the target word count at 13,500 because I was given a range of "12,000-15,000 words." So I'm splitting the difference, but anything in that ballpark will be fine.

    Dog Other: Greysongram. (Plus Luna!) I don't know why he sometimes sits like a loaf cat. For dog reasons, I guess.

    Cat Other: The ladies are still doing well.

    Number of fiction words so far this year: 95,014

I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen

Right, so...it's been a bit since I posted, but I did warn you that it might go that way. In brief, as soon as I left town for ConGlomeration the edits for The Family Plot landed in my inbox - so that's been eating up most of my attention since my return. Well, that, and unpacking/housekeeping/laundry/catching up on all the crap that's piled up while I was out of town for nearly a week.

You know how it goes.

ConGlomeration was an easy event for me, because I got to stop at my dad and stepmom's place both on the way there - and on the way back. Bookend highlights include party-time with the 'rents and their Great Danes; highlights of the event itself included party-time with the Apex Magazine crew - notably editor (and old friend) Jason Sizemore, and author Maurice Broaddus, who is everything awesome that I always imagined he'd be - and then some ... plus party-time with new friends Jenna Busch and her sister, Christy.

We um...we may have closed down the bar a couple of times.
Look, these things happen.

In other news, here are a couple of dogs who very badly need to have that leftover gravy poured over their kibble, thanks. If you could be so kind.

On the way home, I caught up on my missing Night Vale episodes and tried to keep my car from exploding - for the "service engine light" and some real funky noises started up as I was leaving the hotel. So to speak. I limped it back to Dad's place and we ran the codes at Auto Zone; it looks like I've got a bad ignition coil (maybe) and some spark plug problems (probably) ... but with a little fiddling, I made it home unscathed. Still the car needs servicing - not that I have the time to spare for it. (And my husband has even less time than I do. One way or another, though. We'll get around to it.)

Anyway, everything in Tennessee was just as I'd left it.

Hm...what else?

Oh yeah, I also went and got that CT scan of my head, so we can maybe find out what the deal is with my sinuses and ears. Long story short, I have a lifetime of allergy and sinus problems, and for the last couple of months my right ear (and sometimes my left, too) is refusing to pop for days at a time. I run around sounding (to myself, when I talk) like I'm underwater - and it's been driving me crazy. The cause could be any number of things, but a CT scan will narrow those causes down.

I don't have the results yet, but I've got a followup scheduled with the ENT for early next month. So I guess I'll get a better idea of what's going on at that time. I hope.

I don't have any pictures of my sinuses to share, and that's just as well. Here. Have a shot of Greyson instead.

In other news, I will try to wrap up these edits before tomorrow night, and slide them onto my editor's desk first thing Monday morning - and then I will get to work on my next project (a piece for one of the upcoming Wild Cards books). I still have that project, and the YA rewrites, and a finished draft of The Toll to cough up before autumn rolls around, and summer is never as long as you think it is ... so I'd better get back to work.

So in closing ... thanks for reading, everyone.
P.S: Dog party.

Updates, Predictions, and Whatnot

So spring has sprung, and I've been largely off the internet for a week or so. I needed a break after the death march of the Brimstone draft, and I've been playing catch-up on other writing and/or writing business miscellany...and beginning the seasonal yard work. I hired a little help to get things underway, and now the place is looking pretty keen: everything is mowed and trimmed; perennials have been tended to, and are growing in nicely; and annuals have been added in the usual pots and positions.

I swear, the yard went from dead-of-winter to full-on-spring in just a few days. It's gorgeous, and I'm thrilled - and I'll be even more thrilled in another few weeks(?) or so, when we finally get to install a new fence. Or so I cross my fingers.

At present, we have a four-foot ribbon of chain link that's decades old, warped like crazy, and growing through one tree/two shrubs/one privet hedge/the remains of another privet hedge, long deceased. God, I wish I was kidding.

We overpaid on our taxes two years in a row and this year, we're cashing in - thus the high hopes for six feet of wood in a semi-privacy perimeter. It won't be cheap and it won't be easy, but maybe we can finally swing it.

We intend to save one imperiled mulberry tree, but we need to take down an overgrown hackberry that's menacing our neighbors and throwing black fungus/dust all over one corner of our yard. And the privets. Those have got to go. (Probably with the fence they've grown through - all in one weird bundle of wood, leaves, and twisted chain link.) So I say all that to say this: It will be a far more involved process than a mere fence-building. It's more like removing an art installation that's been sitting in a jungle for fifty years. Then building a fence.

I really do hope we can pull it off.

* * *

Hmm...what else, since last I posted?

Well, let's see - I went and saw an Ear/Nose/Throat specialist because I've been having some trouble with my sinuses. It was a frustrating, tedious visit ... but I could use the CAT scan, so I stuck it out for the sake of the referral. No word from them on the CAT appointment yet, but I assume word is coming.

Or maybe not. I didn't leave that office with a great deal of faith in it, TBH.

* * *

I also went to lunch with my aunt and cousin, who were passing through town. After noshing, we went out for pedis. I chose a disco sparkle orange, then changed my mind a couple of days later. Now they're grape-jelly purple.

Let the record reflect, I kept my promise to only post this picture - in which my aunt does not look like a serial killer ... like she does in the other picture I took. Which I am absolutely not sharing here.

* * *

Dog party.

* * *

In other news, posting will continue to be light for a little bit - as I'm heading up to Kentucky on Wednesday. That's right, I'm leaving the husband behind to care for the "kids" and driving up for ConGlomeration, in Louisville. (I'm stopping at my dad/stepmom's place on the way there, and on the way back. Thus the Wednesday departure.)

I'm really looking forward to it! My very first sci-fi convention EVER was RiverCon in Louisville, back in ... 1999, maybe? 2000? It's been awhile. (And that event closed down a number of years ago, I believe.) So besides the convenient parental stopover, I'm wound up for the sheer nostalgia of it all.

But I won't be on the internet much, except (no doubt) to post to Twitter as I'm able. So until I get back home next Monday, feel free to join me over there. Or don't! Whatever makes you happy. I'm cool either way.

Thanks for reading, and I'll be back on the wordcount hobbyhorse next week...
Here's today's progress on my rural gothic monster story about small-town secrets, old family lies, accidental legend-tripping, and a missing newlywed in the Okefenokee swamp - where you can drive SR 177 from west to east and cross six bridges...or take it from east to west, and you might hit seven. (But you’d better hope not.)

    Project: The Toll
    Deadline: November 1, 2016
    New words written: 1611
    Present total word count: 20,612

    Things Accomplished in Fiction: Checked into a hotel; followed the music to the bar; showed a picture around; got a really weird vibe.

    Other: Took yesterday "off" to clean the house and run some errands. This is all I've gotten done today - and I might do more this afternoon/evening, but it's the end of a chapter, so... yeah.

    Things Accomplished in Real Life: Neighborhood jaunt with dog; yesterday's aforementioned house cleaning; laundry; grabbed lunch; sent some important emails; waited impatiently on another important email; not much else.

    Dog Other: Earlier this week, it was allegedly "National Dog Day." I had no idea that was a thing, but here's our beloved shelter mutt, dogging for all he's worth.

    Cat Other: Quinnie is now nine months old and roughly the size of a leopard. A squeaky, demanding, fluffy-toed leopard.

    Number of fiction words so far this year: 93,807