Magic of the Everyday, Writing

On Hitting the Mysterious, Mayhem-inducing “75% Done and It All Sucks” Spot

Yes, it’s true. I’m 75% done with this novel. (cue the cheering and confetti.) It’s been slower going of late due to many “real life issues,” but I’m chugging along just as fast as I can when I can, and I’m seeing great progress, which I love so much! It’s heartening to see the end approaching, and that encourages me to write more–a good positive feedback loop, for once!

Buuuuut … (there’s always a “but,” isn’t there), on the other hand, I’m at the 75% point. Which is the time when I start to feel omg this is all trash, I don’t even know what I’m doing, or why I thought I could ever write, and yes it all suuuuuucks! Yes, the self-doubt goes into overdrive, and my brain only thinks bad stuff and is sure that the entire novel is flawed beyond repair. And this happens even while a part of me realizes what’s going on and knows that it’s just part of the process (and not just for me, but for many, if not most, writers; I’ve read about so many others who struggle with this! So if it’s you, too–you’re not alone.).

I think I’ve mentioned that this is the most-planned novel I’ve ever written, and that is helping me immensely. When I sit down to write, I always know what I’m writing toward, and where it’s going from there, on both the internal and external arcs, so I can write faster than ever–YAY!

Yet even so, I’ve deviated a bit from that intensive planning here and there, when, as I go along, I realize that no, this character wouldn’t think that, or I discover a better emotional response to a development, or whatever. Is there’s still the thrill of discovery going on in each day’s writing, too. Without that, I’d get bored. And if I’m bored with writing something, you’re sure gonna be bored reading it!

Anyway, all this is to say, “YAY GO ME! Write write write!” And also to encourage you, if you’re writing or doing whatever creative thing you’re doing, and at some point all the energy and positives seem to leak away. Just keep on going, and finish your project. It’s not the project actually being bad. It’s just your brain being overwhelmed at this stage. If you push on, you’ll see your brain was lying to you (man, I wish my brain would stop lying to me. It does it too well!). And then, when you finish, I’ll be cheering and sending virtual confetti to you, too!

Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life, Today's Desk

Writer’s Desk, 6/14/22

Out the Window: hazy, hard-edged pale gray-blue skies with huge white puffs of tall-climbing cauliflower-clouds and super-high humidity. Meaning it’s going to rain this afternoon/evening. Again. It is the rainy season, after all. Yay?

On the Desktop: a small bowl of carrot bites. I’ve discovered that I like crunching things while I’m thinking my way through hard story bits, and carrots are the perfect thing! Also my water bottle, nearly empty. And a folder of pertinent novel notes and maps and such.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Today’s Work-in-Progess: I’m over halfway through my next novel, tentatively called “The Mastery Books.” It’s split alternating chapters of two POV characters, and I simply love them both so very much, although they’re also so different from one another.

This is the first time I’ve tried this new work process, and I have to admit that it seems to be working for me rather spectacularly (so far, fingers crossed!). I haven’t written a novel so fast and so painlessly ever before. We’ll see how it goes in edits, but I think this method I’ve stumbled on through trial and error (and error and error) may be the one I keep!

And Another Thing: We’re hip-deep in kitchen renovations! Which basically means I have no kitchen in the kitchen. It’s wallboard and cement, wiring, and right now, new tile floors being installed. Maybe tonight or tomorrow we can grout. (Grouting Day comes twice this year! My knees are complaining already.)

The fridge is in the living room, there’s a camp stove and the microwave out under cover in the lanai, and the dishwashing station is now the largest bathroom’s counter. It’s like camping, with dust and too many tools, inside your own house. (I highly recommend it to anyone who’s taking the conveniences of modern life for granted!) But when it’s functional again, and the pans, food, dishes, etc, are restored, the new kitchen will be wonderful and lovely. I just have to keep holding onto that dream until reality reaches it. (Hey, it’s kinda like writing, then, isn’t it! LOL)

Magic of the Everyday, poem, RIP

What the Ending Ought to Be

My baby came home from school today
Crying, afraid. 
There had been gunshots, and lockdown
Not a practice but for real.

My baby came home from school today
But his best friend didn’t.
He went to the hospital in an ambulance that didn’t scream,
Without the lights running at all.

My baby came home from school today
And now all I want
Is to hold him, hug him, let him cry in my lap
So he doesn’t see my tears and terror
Because too soon, I’ll have to send him back.

This isn’t what the ending ought to be,
So I’m going
to write a better one, for every other 
Teacher, parent, and child.

My baby came home from school today
Waving his test in hand.
That A meant ice cream
Cool and sticky as it melted and ran
Down a smiling face.
Not a tear in sight as I kissed the top of his head
And ruffled his best friend’s hair.

My baby came home from school today,
And so did everyone else’s.

–M. E. Garber

Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life, the dog, Writing

How Many “Ends” Does a Candle Have?

“Burning the candle at both ends” is a phrase I’ve heard so often, but just now it seems unequal to my reality. I’m trying to query a novel and write another, to finish a home renovation that includes laying and grouting new tile floors while keeping up with the yard and the writing and the other chores, AND trying to take care of my health, AND my dog’s health, AND my spouse’s health…. How many candles does that mean I need to be burning?

So far, the new floors look amazing, by the way. I love Love LOVE them sooo much. But my knees didn’t really like grouting too much–the last time I grouted was 15 years ago! Time flies when you’re enjoying not grouting, I guess–and the poor dog simply did not understand why he was being kept out of ever-changing parts of the house for so long.

Now we’re on hold, waiting for the cabinet maker to nab a truck to send our finished kitchen cabinets to us before we rip out the old ones, tile the kitchen, and replace with NEW cabinets!!!! So shiny! So much work! And all on hold for some indefinite time. Check this space for updates!

Healthwise, a slew of doctor visits is culminating in some medication changes that will mean I’ll soon be feeling soooooo much better–and I already am, a little bit. Just knowing the change is coming makes a big difference. Hurray!

As for the new novel–I’m progressing nicely. At about 1/3 of the way through the first draft, and I’m really loving this book, and the alternating POVs. It’s the first time I’ve done this in forever, and I’m liking it. My two characters are so different, it’s easy to keep them separate in my mind. I love them both, but for different reasons, and can empathize with each of them in different ways. Now I’m just hoping that the renovation stuff doesn’t interfere with my novel’s forward progress any more, because I’m eager to rip deeper into this story!

But just now, the dog is tappy-toeing beside my desk, demanding dinner, and medications, and pool time–it’s swimming season, so good for his aching joints! And seeing him leap into the pool with such enthusiasm brings so much joy into me, too. Almost as much as when he finally wears out and lays down, and begins snoring beside me.

It’s a good life. I hope you’re enjoying yours.

Magic of the Everyday, orchids, Today's Desk, Writing

Writer’s Desk, 2/9/22

Out the window: Sunshine and blue skies, with blissful cool temps of about 60° F. After our recent bout of below freezing nights, the garden plants are soaking up yesterday’s slow rain and today’s warm sunshine like the balms they are. Cardinals song punctuates the air, and the muted notes floating into my office are a soundtrack to spring burgeoning all around.

On the desktop: Right now, just water. But yesterday I brewed up a batch of chai base–the tea, honey, and spices without the milk–that I’ll mix with milk and either reheat or serve over ice later today, once I’ve accomplished some things. Small rewards really work for me.

Today’s Work-in-Progess:  I have discovered the misery of query letters.

I’ve been working on this for over a week, tweaking, twisting, ripping out and replacing wholesale, or carefully excising with a scalpel–so many variations! And I still don’t think it’s “there” yet.

Yesterday I spent hours over on the Query Shark archive, and today I’ve been scouring the new site. Seriously, if you’re prepping to query agents to represent you and your novel, check these out. The information is there, clearly showing what to do and how to do it–and how not to!

Querying is its own thing, a very unique skillset of writing. Just like writing a good short story doesn’t mean you can write a good novel (or vice versa), having written a good novel does not mean you can easily write a good query. But queries are essential to getting agent representation, so…it’s time to roll up my sleeves and learn this skill.

And Another Thing: I’ve been running my orchids in and out of the house as the temps dip below 50°F then turn sunny and humid again for a day. As I moved one outside today, I felt something jump onto my hand and cling–and found an anole had been hiding in the orchid pot for 1.5 days inside my house! Fortunately, I was able to convince the poor thing that the grapefruit tree was a better perch than my hand (eventually).

And One More Thing: We just had a visit by Flat Stanley! He is a character from a children’s book that many teachers seem to love (it’s our second visit by a Stanley), and escorting Stanley around is a fun way to connect with where you live, and others around you. I had Stanley in my purse, and when the grocery store cashier saw him, she demanded I get a photo of Stanley with her in the store! That was so great. Even funnier was the look the bagger gave us, because she had no clue what was going on. I’m sure after I left the cashier filled her in–see, even more connections being made.

Thanks, Flat Stanley.

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Taos Toolbox, Writing, Writing Workshops

A Two Bunny Day

Yes, I currently have two bunnies in my garden, right up against the lanai screen, contentedly devouring sweet potato leaves and leaf-stems. Yesterday was a 3-bunny day, a major milestone! Once we replaced our rotted out and falling over wooden fence, the back fence that barriers against a wooded retention pond runoff area was changed to powder-coated metal, which allows the critters to easily slide right through.

Terrible pic, but you’ll still see two rabbits if you squint. I hope. And the new fence that they love.

We’ve definitely seen an increase in backyard wildlife. Used to be we’d get maybe one rabbit sliding through the low hollow beneath the fence. Now it’s all the critters gliding right on in and out to come a-visiting! I’m not too concerned about their eating the sweet potato vines down to stumpy bits; I’ve already harvested and given away more sweet potatoes than I care to think about, and still have about half of the vines left–or, well, I did, until the rabbits decided to help 🙂

Dash getting really spoiled!

I’m so glad for this bit of delight, and the cooler weather that allows us all here to enjoy being and working outside, because not everything’s been bunnies and harvests. Dasher had another scary episode of seizures (he’s idiopathic epileptic). Before that we had the longest span without seizures he’s ever had since his seizures began at about 1 year of age. As he’s nearing 8 years old, every seizure wracks his arthritis-pained limbs, causing more discomfort and pain for longer after he recovers. It’s truly heartbreaking, but I’m glad to report that he’s fine again now, and seems to have completely come back to his good, happy, regularly-abnormal self!

Writing-wise, things were going swimmingly up until Dasher’s seizures started. I had an “aggressive” writing plan for the month of December (aggressive for me, at least!), pushing through the last half of the novel’s edits to be finished before the end of the year. However, I’ve now lost a full 6 days, plus another 1.5 for recovery–I got somewhere between 2-4 hours of broken sleep each night of the dog’s “episode,” and multiple auto-immune issues mean I really don’t do well with that; stress literally turns my thinking capacity to mush. So… I’m still trying to push ahead and finish as much as I possibly can between now and the end of the year, but I’m gonna try to not flay myself if I fall short of that goal (I hope).

Which brings me to another point about writing: if you are a writer, maybe you feel bad when things don’t go well. Maybe you feel like a failure if you don’t get that story, or novel, published. But I’ve got news for you: rejection of your writing doesn’t mean you are a failure. Not ever. As a human being, you have more value than just what your writing brings in. Human value is not transactional. Never was, never will be. The duo of writers that comprise the byline James S. A. Corey (of The Expanse fame) were guest speakers at Taos Toolbox the year I attended, and it was one of their key points: failure happens, over and over, between the successes that all focus on. Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress gave stories of their own professional ups and downs, reiterating that theme. (I say this so you know it’s not just some rando spouting nonsense at you, okay?) This wisdom has helped me, so I hope it helps you, too, if you need to hear it.

Speaking of which…

Taos Toolbox is open for submissions beginning January 1. They plan on hosting their 2022 workshop in person, June 6-19, 2022. It’s two glorious weeks of focusing on writing and its craft, and it’s set on the gorgeous slopes of Angel Fire, NM. Find out more and apply over at their website: http://www.taostoolbox.com

goals, Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Writing

Finished! And Starting a New Novel.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Great news: I finished the draft of the *&*%) Novel, and have sent it off to my beta readers/crit group. In five weeks, I’ll hear from them what they think. (Commence nail biting…)

In the meanwhile, I’m far from resting on my laurels. No indeed. While I’m now working on my agent submission schedule, and things like synopses and query letters (omg how awful these are!), I’m also doing something entirely more fun–starting on a new novel!

This one is going to be contemporary fantasy (instead of secondary world, like the first). And set in a really cool place, too (sorry, mum’s the word for now. I don’t like sharing too much until I’m much more firmly in place with my writing, and planning.) I’ve just now finished the full plot outline, and man is this one going to be fun to write! I love the characters so much, and even the bad guys are interesting. At one point, I texted a writer-friend and whined, “How do I let the protagonists win when I’ve so fully stacked the deck against them?!? Ahhhhhh, I don’t know!”

But now, with some helpful prodding by said friend, I’ve figured it out. As always, some bits were serendipitous, little things that just fell into place because of what I’d determined before, but seemed so well planned. (Thank you, subconscious brain!) Other bits, like the ending, were so harrrrd to wrestle into place.

It’s not entirely done. I still have plenty of brackets in the outline, like this:

“They then do [some cool things], but things don’t go entirely as planned [how? What fails?].”

So I’m not ready to start drafting just yet. But I’m getting close! And it’s just such a palate-cleanser from the last novel. Something new and juicy and not yet slogged through four times in a row. With luck, this means that when I get feedback on Novel the First, I’ll be able to look at it with refreshed eyes, and in a mood to rip right on into the work and send it out! (Heh, cross your fingers on that, okay?)

In other news, I have moved so much mulch! It has to be done before 10 am, when the temps and humidity and sunlight combine to make life utterly miserable for the rest of summer. Yesterday, for example, hit a high of 101F, and the humidity made it seem like my lungs were working double and my muscles were wilting on the afternoon (VERY short) dog walk. But the gardens are looking great!

Not so great is the front yard, where a mole has taken up residence and keeps lifting up tunnels that I, daily, sometimes 2 or 3 times daily, smash back down. We play frisbee with Dasher there, and if he steps on one and falls through, he could easily break a leg. Even if he doesn’t, jolting his limbs like that really hurts, since his arthritis is so bad. But he is not about to give up his 15 minutes of frisbee–not for heat, not for moles, not for anything. So here I go, smashing down mole tunnels.

That’s it for now. The afternoon storm has arrived in force. Lightning cracks and whitens the outside as rain sheets against the window, and the lawn outside. Time for a cup of tea, and a good book…

food, Magic of the Everyday, Personal Life, publication, the dog, Writing

Hello again, hello!

It’s been a year, hasn’t it?

I’ll just leave it at that. We all know what we’ve been through, and I don’t feel like re-hashing every nasty blow and tanking all our fragile moods by doing so. So, let’s move on the next thing, shall we?

It’s a gray and rainy day here, and a bit cool (for us) with off-and-on showers coming throughout the day, and tomorrow, too. Rather a relief, honestly, as we’d been heading into drought-like conditions. But now my veggies and fruits are breathing a sigh of relief (as is my water bill-avoidant self!), and the grass is growing lush and green. The dog is a bit miffed that his sunbeams aren’t available on the lanai for his snoozing enjoyment, but I think he’ll survive, the poor dear, with an extra treat and an extra snuggle on the sofa.

Right now, I’m taking advantage of the cool to make a big batch of chicken stock, which I’ll can later. I can’t believe we were out, but the pantry was bare of chicken stock. Not for long! Afterwards, I’m hoping to make a bunch of Jasmine madeleines, a recipe I’ve been longing to make for a couple years, since I found the recipe in a Thai cookbook, in the “Thai Influences” section. I had to order jasmine extract from online, and it just got here a few days ago, so I’m eager to try them out. (I’ve been making that recipe using coconut extract instead, and it was very, very good.)

I’ve been making baby quilts, and finished one, which has arrived to it’s new tiny owner. The next one is nearly done–only the binding needs to be appliquéd onto the backing, and a label attached. The third, fortunately, isn’t due until July. And it hasn’t been started yet. I’ve gathered images for the pattern, at least!

Oh, writing? Well, yes. Of course. I’ve been struggling, along with so very many others, when it comes to motivation in isolation. But I’m nearing the very end of this draft of the novel–HURRAY! Then I can set the whole thing aside for a few weeks and work on something else while I let the draft sit and think about what it’s done! Or, more seriously, while I consider how much further editing it needs and if I need to continue with it or trunk it. Right now, I’m in no proper headspace to decide that.

I’ve started the process of working out my next project, and I’m pretty happy with the work on it, so far. Working on this is my treat for finishing my daily output on the first novel, so I don’t get carried away and forget the “work” for the “shiny.” (Always a fear, for me).

And to end this catch-up post on a high note, I’ve sold a short story! The next issue of Speculative North will include a story of mine that I love so very much. I can’t tell you how glad I am that it’ll be out in the world at last! I’ll give you more news nearer to the release date, of course. Good news is meant to be shared!

To close, I’ll leave you with a picture of Dasher napping inside, for a change:

Making do with a carpet inside, without a sunbeam. Die arme Hündlein!