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.

Magic of the Everyday, Today's Desk, Writing

Writer’s Desk, 10/25/17

Out the window: Clear blue skies, sunshine, and gorgeous coolness. Fall has landed with a thud on north central Florida. Last night the temps were in the low 50’s, tonight should plummet into the 40’s! That’s a far cry from the 90+ degrees of only a few days ago. And I’m soooooo glad.

On the desktop: Other than the plain green tea? A big old mess, quite honestly. Post-It notes trail off and sprawl everywhere, as I attempt to tame and structure a short story that’s had me flummoxed for over a year. I know the basic plot, and the story arc, but it’s still missing that certain spark that will lift it above “meh.” At least I found the obvious structural flaw that was killing it before, right?

Today’s Work-in-Progess:  The novel with the working title “Unspoken.” What with having been gone nearly 2 weeks (and this shortly after having started the novel), I thought I’d have a hard time diving back into the work. But honestly, I haven’t.

The first day back to writing (and yes, after traveling I took the weekend off to recuperate), I re-read the most recent 3,000 words, just to get back into the flow, and to find my protagonist’s voice and emotional state. Apparently it worked, because I wrote that next 1,000 word scene as easily as anything. And the following day, the next scene of 1800 words flew from my fingers onto the keyboard! It was a combat scene, so the action practically wrote itself, and I felt glorious, so accomplished and good!

Spousal Unit said, “Well, that’s because you stopped writing at a great point, leaving yourself an interesting place to dive into.” To which, I replied, “Well of course! Because it’s ALL interesting. I’m leaving the boring parts out of this one.”

Honestly, I’m trying really hard to conquer STRUCTURE on this novel, both on a macro and micro level. I want the final shape of the book to more than vaguely resemble the first draft, you see, because I’ve learned that nothing kills me deader than a really HUGE, HARD revision draft. (I feel tired and cranky just thinking of that!) Enervation seeps from my pours like a late August sweat at the prospect of such an edit. So, you see, I really needed to do something. Studying my craft (as usual) was the answer.

And Another Thing: How is Halloween just around the corner? If the weather cooperates, I’m going to dress up like a living scarecrow and flop on my porch swing to hand out the candy, freaking out (in a good way) all the kids that come by. So, hope and pray for good weather, okay? I’m feeling devilish! 🙂

research, Writing

Novel Thoughts

I’ve begun work on another novel, working titled Unspoken. This is a secondary world fantasy novel that has involved a fair share of behind-the-scenes world building, which I’ve enjoyed a lot. It also gave me an opportunity to create two entirely new species, one predator and one prey, which, OMG is just fascinating. Talk about your research rabbit holes! I could research critters’ biology and habits until the cows come home, until the power grid goes down, until…well, you get the point. I kinda likes that sort of thing. 😉

My process for this novel has changed from the previous ones, and those changed from the process I used before that. Basically, I’m moving from “pure pantster” to “whole lotta plotter.” This is not something I’d anticipated doing when I started writing seriously. It’s happened organically, and I’m happy with the changes so far, so… *shrugs.* Live and let live, right? Which also means to be willing to try something new if your old way just isn’t working for you anymore.

Unspoken has gone through three full levels of outlining–or outline editing, as I prefer to think of it. I’m thinking of each like a mini-draft of the novel itself, which let me get over the “just outlining” negativity. The first pass was simply taking the bits and bobs of story and imposing an order on them, then filling in the blanks. This was comparatively easy, as it’s how I started adding structure when I found pantsing wasn’t doing it for me. It’s fun. I saw the shape taking form, and it was thrilling (this was the only step I took for book one of Jess, btw).

The second editing level came next. I let the ideas simmer a week, then went back to the rough outline with a “Yes, But/No, And” checklist. The idea here is that every scene should have a protagonist with a goal, and for every scene I should ask “Did the goal get met?” The answer, of course, should never be “Yes” until the very end. It could be, “Yes, BUT…” and then something worse than the present situation came about. The answer could be “No, AND…” so that something worse came about. But always, things get worse, get more complicated, etc–even when some small victory is achieved, there is a setback.

That process drew my attention to where the story was fuzzy in my mind. Where the protagonist wasn’t fully on my mind, just the “really cool world building” or “here I’ll show how tough the desert is” and that kind of thing. Then came another cooling off period, a plot-breaking with others to see what was/wasn’t working, and my final round of editing: the scene/sequel process.

I found this bit at the old Jim Butcher LJ (scene bit here, and sequel bit here), and he’s carried the links to his new site, so honest, go read them! His “Scene” reiterates the “Yes, But/No, And” process, so for me, “Sequel” held the gold. I’ve always muddied my reactions, dallying too long around the emotions, etc. And even after the second edit of the outline, going through Unspoken scene by scene really let me zero in on the places where I was still dallying too long, or too unsure of what I was saying, or why. It was a frustrating process, but one that showed me–quite clearly and plainly–my own writing weaknesses.

And now I can’t imagine having written off that first draft of the outline! Nor do I want to imagine the process of trial and error to get three full written drafts to structural state this first draft will be–my mind simply boggles at the thought! That said, there are as many ways to write as there are writers who write. Do whatever works for you to get words on the page, and to feel good about them.

As for me and my writing style? I’m still a work in progress. My next novel will probably see yet another change in process. But that means I gotta get back to writing this one. So…*waves and disappears*

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, science, the dog, Travel, Writing

Mid-June Update

Things have been busy here, and I’m still in a bit of a whirl. Dasher is fully recovered, according to Monday’s liver enzyme test, which is the biggest news for me. And the best. He’s been acting fine, so it’s good to see it’s more than just a temporary reprieve.

He also got his shots yesterday, including a new one for the canine influenza that’s hit Florida. With his frequency of appearance at the UF Vet Med Hospital, which is a hotbed of diagnosis for this outbreak, I think it’s wise that he get all the protection a dog can get; after all, he’s had enough issues without adding one more. (Trupanion will probably thank me for this, too!)

Last week, spousal unit and I took a short trip north. Our first night we spent at a friend’s home in New Jersey, near where we used to live. The weather was cool and fine, and we got to harvest some of the last asparagus out of the garden! Oh, so delicious. I miss garden-fresh asparagus so much after tasting that lovely treat! The gardens were also a delight, with columbine, roses, iris, foxglove, and clematis. The long, cool spring held the blooms perfectly for our visit.

Afterwards, we traveled into New York City and absorbed city atmosphere and energy. We walked neighborhoods and parks, ate a a few favorite restaurants and tried a few new ones, took in some new sights as well as revisiting some old favorites. Can I admit that it was relaxing? Yes, NYC and relaxing don’t normally work together, but it was. Both of us just slowed down and enjoyed being on vacation. It was great.

Back home again, I’ve started to dive heavily into the research end of the literal “world building:” How long would the planet’s rotational period be? How about moons–could I have two, and what would their cycles in the night sky be? Could/should the planet have a great rift, like the one on Mars? How would that affect the story, or would it be located elsewhere? What are the different languages spoken by the various peoples, and how are they visually/aurally different? Etc…

Yes, it’s work, but it’s fun work. And it’s calling me, calling…

Bye for now. Time to research biology and form for a cool critter I’m making.

Today's Desk, Writing

Writers Desk 5/18/17

Hey! Lookit here–something new? Oh, what? No, it’s an old feature resurrected. Like a zombie, but with words.

Out the window: Heat and humidity have draped the sky in a colorless high overcast. Breezes gust occasionally, drying out the plants even more, and even the wind feels hot. Ugh. The newly planted gardenias are drooping terribly, and I’m really hoping the weekend brings ALL THE RAIN.

On the desktop: A cup of everyday green tea. Scads of notes and notebooks, both for this book and the next one, and the notes from my recent trip to Paradise Lost. 3 x 5 cards, some with writing, some still blank and waiting.

Today’s Work-in-Progess: Jessamin Stow, Book Three. Still.

I mean, yes, I love this. Honest, I do. but I’d hoped to be finished with it before Paradise Lost. Instead, due to so many things–Dasher and his ill health, my own ill health, home-life drama (let me tell you about the refrigerator dying suddenly, and the termites, and…)–well, I’m not done yet. And it’s making me crazy.

I’m kind of a stickler for making a schedule and sticking to it. None of this has gone to schedule, and it’s not a fun feeling. Which is only adding to my anxiety when it comes to sitting down to write, you know? (Ah, Impostor Syndrome, you know me so well.) The good news is that I’m so close to being done, I can practically taste it! Now to just do it.

And Another Thing: My next novel is all lined up and ready for me to get working on. I have a plot, and characters, and the basics of a world. I need to do more research on various things for world and culture building before I can get to writing the first draft, but OMG I am so excited at the prospect of this new novel!!!! It’s so shiny and fun and cool and I haven’t messed any of it up yet OH WOW!

But before that, I need to sip on some tea, calm down, and finish this novel before me. I got this.

Happy May, everyone.