orchids, the dog, Today's Desk, Writing

Writer’s Desk, 05/19/21

Out the window: Strong breezes clatter through the palm and bird of paradise leaves right outside, and rattle the hummingbird feeder’s metal covering against the stake. It rings like an irregular chime, and my new office door (!!!) clunks and shimmies in its pocket. Clouds are thickening in the sky, but it isn’t supposed to rain: we’ll see if Mother Nature read the forecast or not soon enough, I guess.

On the desktop: A cup of Stash Earl Gray tea in a blue, white, and gold dragon cup, giving me that mid-afternoon caffeinated pick-up. A slew of notes, both old and new, as I go through this draft, editing and reminding myself of details for later. My volunteer times for the Nebula Awards Conference

Wait, you know about those, right? And you are going, right? Here’s the info on the conference, which is held online again this year, as it was last year. It was a total BLAST! The dates are June 4-6, and by registering, you get access to the recorded panels and presentations ALL YEAR LONG. In addition, there are other fun things scheduled throughout the year, like co-writing dates with some of your favorite authors. Honestly, you should check it out.

Today’s Work-in-Progess:  The F$&#*^& Novel edits, of course.

Er-hrmmm, I mean, yes, novel edits. They’re going well, actually. After I finished the draft, I took 2 weeks off to distance myself, then started at the front again–and was shocked to see how much my protagonist had changed over the course of the novel! This is good! Eight chapters in, and I’ve fallen in love with the work once again. YAY!

And now, since I’ve finished working on edits for the day, I’m diving into pre-planning for the next novel. Nothing like steaming ahead at full speed, right? Another fantasy, but very, very different. Modern-day instead of secondary-world. With magic, instead of without. It’s giving me some headaches trying to work out the details here and there, but overall? This one is sliding into place nicely. 🙂

And I’m working this part by hand, using fountain pens and notebooks and pretty inks, too. As if writing isn’t reward enough, this is like icing on a delectable cake!

And Another Thing: The dog has been very unwell. It’s eaten my time and my sleep, but he’s recovering nicely now, it seems. I’m so relieved, but I’m still jumping at his every “odd” behavior, and he’s still being more clingy than normal–totally expected after the way he must’ve been feeling. We’re still not sure exactly what caused this, but I’m just happy he’s getting better instead of worse. No looking this gift horse in the mouth!

And One More Thing: One of my orchids just bloomed for the very first time, and I’m so very excited! I bought it smaller than blooming sized from a big box hardware store, just hoping that the picture on the cardboard was something like it would eventually look. I’m happy to say that the real bloom is even better than I’d hoped! Take a look:

Cattleya bowringiana “Coerulea”
Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Writing

Finally, It’s Fall

This morning I woke to a thick blanket of fog rolling up from the low spaces. It hung heavy over the earth, dampening sound as well as grasses and shrubs. As the sun rose, it shrouded the sky higher up, making distant trees indistinct and grainy, and obscured the yellow ball of the sun until just recently. Even the crows respected the fog, remaining quieter, longer.

A sure sign of transitional weather, this is the first fog I’ve seen this season. It means cooler weather to come, and a quick check of the weather proves this to be true. I’m ready for fall–real fall, that sticks around instead of fleeing at the first sign of Summer’s pushback, letting temps climb back into the upper 80s and above. I’m ready for long sleeves, and long pants, and maybe a roast or stew for dinner. Change: it’s good, and it’s time.

I’ve been writing on the novel, but my written words aren’t as prolific as they were at my residency. This makes me feel like I’m slacking, or shirking, while in reality, it’s just life slowly gobbling away my time and attention. I’m trying not to let it get me down, but (like with so much in this world, and this life), it’s hard.

To counter the sense of getting nowhere fast, I’ve re-started a daily word count spreadsheet that some of the people I went to Taos Toolbox with use. We keep it on a Google Docs spreadsheet, available to all of us, so there is a small public accountability built in. And I’ve got to admit, seeing the “smaller” daily word count building up is helping me see that I am making real progress after all.

I’m also taking one day a week to work on editing short stories that I’ve written which have been languishing, unsubmitted, unedited–sometimes only half-written–in favor of the novel. This, too, feels good. The “instant gratification” of a short story, or a short story submission, is a shot of endorphins straight to the brain. “Look, see–I am a writer! I do have submissions out!” Brains, they’re such silly, manipulatable things, amiright?

Things to look forward to:

  • I’m approaching the mid-point of the novel! Things really pick up pace after that.
  • Thanksgiving! (and Thanksgiving leftovers!) Yum.
  • Hearing the return of the sandhill cranes as they wing overhead.
  • Watching Dasher get frisky, and run and play longer in the newly cool weather.
  • Anniversary travel in early December. Even though our wedding was in September, our big trip is planned for December. You’ll see why, once I post some photos. 🙂

Well, the crows have ceased their calling, so it’s time for me to start the writing day. Enjoy fall, in whatever form it takes for you (or spring, if you’re in the southern hemisphere!). Linger in the moment, make it a good memory. Something you can see and feel and smell again, over and over, when you need it. Yes, there’s definitely magic in that.

Magic of the Everyday, Writing

A Very Successful Residency, with Sunset Pics

My two-week residency is, alas, over. I am home again, and fully immersed once more in my “real life.” Which isn’t bad–I missed my husband, and my dog, and I’m glad to see my neighbors and friends again, and to be back in my house. But I have to admit that the time I spent at the Key West Literary Seminar apartment was magical. It was so quiet there at the end of the lane! I greeted every dawn from my tiny balcony, watching the sky turn from white to pink to blue while roosters crowed their dominance to the world, and temperatures rose from moist-and-blissful to daytime sweaty-hot. Which meant it was time to retreat inside and write.

My workspace at the residency: spacious and inviting.

And write I did! In just 2 weeks, I managed over 27,000 words on the novel alone! I also edited four separate short stories, and sent one out on submission for the first time. On one particular day, I wrote 2800 words on the novel, then came back later to edit a short story–and I didn’t feel burned out or destroyed! With no other responsibilities on my plate, all my energy went into my writing. I felt (and still feel!) like during this time I was transformed into Super-Writer.

I broke my writing into three, sometimes four, separate sessions, and them divided with time spent walking or biking across the island, taking in sights, or doing activities. I snorkeled at the beach, watched many sunsets, visited the KW Garden Club’s awesome location, rode through various neighborhoods taking in the sights, ate ice cream, cruised Duval Street, toured both Hemingway House and the Oldest House, played pinball, walked the waterfront often, and took a sunset cruise. I caught up on my sleep, read a lot, and felt like I was living in a slightly-fuzzy dream.

Then I look at my novel, at the word count tracker and the number of plot points I’ve already written and realize it was no mere dream. It was real.

A series of sunrise photos:

Thank you again to the KWLS and the people that make this happen. The dream is real; you can apply.

Sunset from Ft Zachary Taylor State Park

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life, Writing

Hey, What the Heck’s Been Going On? A Round-Up

I’ve had an incredibly busy summer–and now that it’s fall (by human reckoning, if not by Mother Nature’s calendar), I’d like to tell you about it. Get comfy–grab a cup of tea, pull up a chair–as this may take awhile.

First off, I’ve been battling some not-fun health issues. I won’t get into them here, but suffice it to say, I’ve not been getting as much writing done as I’d like, and that has made me a bit grumpy. And, it loosed the ever-patient brain weasels–you know, those mad little beasts that like to nibble away at your self-confidence, erode your cheer into fear, etc., at any chance. If you’re a creative of any time, I’m sure you’ve experienced them. Basically, not writing made me cringe, but whatever writing I did wasn’t “good enough,” or even just “enough.” I should have been doing more. Which made me want to not want to write, because it made me feel bad. Which unleashed yet more brain weasels…

You see how this is a nasty cycle. Fortunately, (I think?) I’m familiar enough with this that I just keep plugging away at it. I let the weasels run riot and do my darnedest to ignore them. They don’t go away, but at least I don’t let them monopolize my brain.

So despite the weasels, I managed to finish the first draft of Unspoken, and I’m closing in on my plan for the rewrite, which is what Draft 2 will be: a complete rewrite.

You might think I’d be upset about that, and well, let’s face it–I wish I could just do a quick polish and know it’s “perfect.” Of course I do. But it’s not, and I’m okay with that. I know what I need to do, and I want this novel to be good, really good. I feel it can get there, and this is the way to do it. (Thanks go to my husband, and my VP, Taos, and Codex friends and acquaintances who’ve been cheerleaders along the way, keeping me up when I got down, and shouting down the weasels when they got to me.)

How can you not love this guy?

The dog has been mostly good, fortunately. He had a pretty hard seizure yesterday, but it’s the first for a while. Since he’d been kenneled, I’m not sure what the trigger was for this one–maybe just stress? He is a homebody and a cling-on boy, so it may well be the case. Other than this, he’s been good. No surgeries, no real illnesses (other than a startling case of allergy to some pollen or another), just chillin’ away the summer heat and humidity. So YAY!

How would you even describe that shade of purple?

At the beginning of summer, the plum tree went berserk, and I managed to make all the plum jam. Now the beautyberry bush is in full lavender berry, and I’m making beautyberry jelly. It’s really very good, and made a terrific ice cream! Fiddly as all get out to pick the berries off the stems, and pull out the leaves and other various debris, but worth it in the end. The recipe I used is here.

Spousal Unit and I celebrated our anniversary recently–a big one, too. One that’s valued as a precious metal, even–Silver! (But it’s odd, I don’t feel that old.) To celebrate, we went to Disney World (hence the dog being kenneled), and stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I got to wake up and look out our balcony window to see giraffes, zebra, antelope, springbok, and more. I was in heaven! Interns from various African countries worked at the lodge, and were very happy to discuss their countries’ various cultures, animals, foods, economies, etc. It was really amazing, and I loved every bit of it. Here are some pics, just because I need to share the joy:

Giraffes from our lodge

Reaching for that palm

Mama and baby Nyala antelope at the lodge

Another stretch!

Sunrise antelope

Evening at the lodge’s main viewing station: pink pelicans, giraffe, wildebeest…

A great group of interns finishing up their year at Disney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That last pic is of a fantastic group of interns we met while in line at the Pandora ikrom ride (which is awesome!). They were finishing up their yearlong internships at Disney, and would soon be heading back to Singapore. We had a great 50 minutes line-wait chatting together, and they had nothing but good to say about their experience.

Which brings me back to home. And the upcoming trip…

This next weekend, weather and hurricanes permitting, I’m heading off to a 2-week residency in Key West, where I’ll be feverishly working on the novel’s rewrite. I’m so excited I’m bouncing at the prospect of 2 full weeks with nothing to do but write and, well, basically keep myself alive by eating and sleeping. I’ll report back once I’m home, but don’t expect to see a lot from me (yeah, I know–what else is new?!?) during the end of September. Maybe on Twitter now and again, but probably not too much.

I’ll leave you with a bit of good news: my story Cold Currents has gotten a publication date! You’ll be able to read it in January 2019 at Abyss & Apex Magazine. Hurray! And yes, I’ll be sure to update with a reminder at publication time.

Until then, enjoy September!

 

 

awards, goals, Writing

A Residency!

current mood: jumping for joy

I am very pleased to announce that I’ve been selected for a two-week writer’s residency in Key West this fall. The Key West Literary Society sent me an acceptance email this morning, and I am still bubbling over with my joy and enthusiasm for this amazing opportunity, and at the thought of having two weeks totally dedicated to all things writing (and editing)! Until then, I’ll be editing the novel in bits and pieces, hoping to get the first revision pass done and the novel sent out to my  beta readers.

Now, can we all just cross our fingers that no hurricanes blow in and toss this lovely plan into the weeds?

food, Nature, Personal Life, signal boosting, Writing

When Life Gives You Cracked Plums…

…make Jam!

The rain and the birds are conspiring to give me a bumper crop of split, pitted, or cracked plums. The week-plus of drenching rains has swollen the fruit too quickly, and the birds sense the nearby bounty, so they peck an unripe plum. Once its skin is breached, it splits and ripens fast, falling to the ground, where the birds will feast.

That’s where I step in. Several times a day, whenever the rains let up long enough, I step outside and scan under and around the tree. I scoop up the fallen fruit, and pick any cracked fruit still hanging on the branches. These get cleaned, then pitted and tossed into sugar and a bit of lemon juice to macerate. The following day, I make a small batch of plum jam. So far, I have one half-pint jar in the fridge (which didn’t “take”), 5 on the counter that did, and another batch (which should yield about 3 or so more jars) ready to cook later tonight or tomorrow morning. All I can say is “yum.”

In novel-land, I’ve printed out my first, very rough, draft. Today, I get to spread it all out on a table and begin the painful process of whacking, slicing, dicing, deleting, and rearranging words and scenes. Inserting new bits will come later. Right now, I’ve got to adjust the flow and pace, and cut the excess (I always write to excess, and must trim back later), and make notes where I’ve changed things mid-draft so I can correct those once I get back to the electronic file.

Why in print? For me, it’s easier to visualize how long a scene is when I can see it plainly laid out before me. And I can see how 3 long scenes running together might be too much–or how too many short ones are creating a sense of rush that the narrative isn’t justifying. Or…well, you get the idea. I can’t see all that when I’m scrolling on a computer. I’m hoping that one day I’ll be able to hold all this in my head. But that day? It isn’t here yet. So I’m doing what I have to do in order to make this novel work. After that, I’ll work on making it sing.

Oh, and how about a bit of good news? Another one of my VP classmates has had a novel sale! Read about it here. I’m so excited for him! (In case you missed it, the first of my VP classmates with a traditional novel publication offer is written up here; I think I may have only tweeted this one, so I’m putting it here on my blog where it belongs now.)

food, Nature, Personal Life, Writing

Mid-May Already?

Time is flying, like it always seems to do. But I have some lovely fruit coming into harvest right now, and just have to show you today’s harvest:

The plums are just hanging in thick clusters on the tree, dragging the branches to sweep the ground. I have to duck low and creep under the higher ones to get inside their barrier in order to harvest–and to clean up the ones the previous two days of rain have knocked off! Fortunately, if I leave them on the counter for a day or so, even these have ripened nicely. This certainly makes up a bit for last year’s harvest of 6 plums (due to a late frost!).

The blueberries are in their first year. We just planted them in early April, so I can’t take credit for their bounty this year. But we are definitely eating said bounty with gusto!

And the strawberries. Well, if I can keep the pill bugs and the squirrels away from them, they are delicious, as always. They just keep popping out scrumptious fruits now and again, throughout the season. It’s all yum.

After having gone through some rather scary health issues and followup physical therapy, I’m now getting my head back into writing, as well. It’s a relief to get back to the novel, but not so pleasing to still be writing the first draft I thought would be finished by April!

It is what it is, though, and all my angst won’t make the draft done if I don’t write it. So, I’m off to do just that, right now.

Happy May, everyone.

 

Reading, signal boosting, What I'm Reading

Book Review: Jade City

I’ve never done this before, but I guess there always has to be a first. I’m placing my Goodreads review of Jade City here, just so that more people can see that I found this book WONDERFUL and IMMERSIVE, and gave it a very, very rare 5 stars!

Jade City (The Green Bone Saga #1)
by Fonda Lee


Just wow. I don’t often give 5 stars, but this book deserves it!

In this secondary-world epic fantasy, a certain type of jade gives human beings superpowers–but only those with training and a built-up tolerance can wear it without becoming suicidal.

The jade supply is centered on tropical island, and the whole setting has a modern south-Asian feel that sinks into your bones as you read. The author does a magnificent job of setting the scenes, of giving us the feel of each place, of making you feel like you’re there, experiencing this place. She also delves into the minds of her numerous POV characters, none of whom are alike, some of whom we don’t think of as likable. And yet, each one acts in perfectly understandable, believable ways in the situations they’re placed in, and the whole plot moves forward in an inexorable push towards clan war, though most of the characters don’t want that.

Plot twists kept changing what I thought would happen in wonderful, unanticipated ways that were utterly spot-on and true to life. Perhaps most amazing is that, while the threat of impending warfare keeps the tone grim, there is also a lightness to enough of the scenes, especially in the building of familial bridges, that keeps the book from becoming too dark and depressing overall.

If you love epic fantasy, and political wranglings for power with magic, and have been looking (often in vain) for the next book/author to love, this one is for you. The whole thing is engrossing and wonderful, and you may find yourself wanting to curl up with the book to finish it in a single sitting!

One word of caution for the more timid reader: the opening chapter for me, while immersive and wonderfully voiced, was also one of the most violent. If you’re not a fan of on-page violence, just get through that and the rest will be worth it. I promise.