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

Writer’s Desk, 3/19/20

Out the window: Clear blue skies and oaks in greens shading from newly leafed spring green to a contented have-been-here-a-month-now darker green, while the grass is turning a crispy shade of tan.

On the desktop: oh what a mess! Notes, a water glass (it’s the dry season, and not only the grass gets crispy without hydration), a pack of gum, the dog’s toy (so he’ll just nap already!), about 15 gagillion notebooks (no I don’t have a notebook problem why do you ask?), more notes, a scattering of various pens, a to-do list, the type of toner cartridge my printer needs written on yet another note, printouts of chapters for editing, and a Lamy fountain pen containing beautiful Diamine Red Dragon ink.

Today’s Work-in-Progess:  I’m doing another pass of Unspoken, this being the final one before beta (alpha?) readers get their hands on it. It’s nerve-wracking, seeing what you thought was “really good” writing at the time, and now seeing all the problems with it. Like, “What was I thinking, this is terrible and why didn’t I just do thing X here instead? The whole novel is a trashfire” type of problems.

And yet, my friends tell me this is completely warranted at this stage of writing. I’m sick of this book, seeing and reading the same stuff, over and over. And yet, I still love this world, and my characters, and…

I gave myself a break this past week. I worked on short story editing. It felt great. Like a huge breath of fresh air and energy. Subbed out a few shorts, and now have two stories on hold–YAY! “On hold” doesn’t always result in a sale, of course, so there’s still room for disappointment. But it did the trick and I feel ready to attempt novel edits with renewed enthusiasm.

And Another Thing: Novel corona virus. Social distancing. Isolation. Ugh. This stuff is real, and really bad. Wherever you are, I hope you stay safe and healthy. Wash your hands, please, and stay home whenever possible.

Writing

Halfway Through November’s NaNoWriMo; How’s It Going?

I know, I can’t quite believe it either, but here we are at November 15. Halfway through the month, and for those doing NaNoWriMo, panic may be setting in.

I’m not exactly doing NaNo–it doesn’t fit with my way of writing, and would just frustrate the crap outta me. Combine that with some serious home stresses right now, and well. Recipe for disaster, anyone?

Still, I have a goal for this month. I’m doing deep revision on this novel, and the goal is to get through the “giant swampy middle,” otherwise known as Act 2, by the end of the month. I’m a tad behind, but only a little bit, so I’m not really concerned. Instead, I’m kind of surprised I’m not more behind than I am–which means I’m actually quite pleased! So … wow. I’m making this happen after all! Go me. 🙂

And if you’re doing NaNo, good luck. Don’t panic. Not “winning” NaNo doesn’t mean you’re a failure, or not a writer. It just means that, like me, NaNo isn’t for you. Just keep writing, at your own pace. Good luck.

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

Writer’s Desk, 10/22/19

Out the window lanai: High clouds quickly burning off as the sun’s glare rises above the treeline in the east, until they thicken to the west and flow back east, making the sun play hide and seek. Green, green everywhere, after the rains last night and yesterday’s sprinkles. And with the rising heat, the humidity is already beginning to feel oppressive. Birdsong and a jay’s scolding screech mostly mute the distant hum of traffic as I sit outside in the screen room this morning.

On the desktop: Since I’m outside, there’s a potted jade plant taking up much tabletop real estate. Other than that, this computer, two notebooks (one for the novel, the other holding today’s To-Do list), my glasses case, a book to read, and a pen. Pretty austere, but it’s all I need for now.

Today’s Work-in-Progess:  I’m editing this draft of Unspoken, my novel-in-progress. I’m nearing the end of a rather large section that needed 100% new words, and am looking forward to faster progress once I burst through to the next “revision edit” section (instead of a “rewrite edit”). I made a rather significant plot change near the end of the last draft knowing this would entail some dramatically rewritten sections, and I don’t regret it in the least. Now I can see how much better the book is, how the character is gaining a clear arc, how the plot is moving along much more quickly. It’s both gratifying and motivating to see this happening; to have proof, of a sort, that my writing actually doesn’t suck–because, you know, writers are always fighting those Brain Weasels that tell them they’re the worst ever. Even once they’ve made it to full “active” SFWA membership.

Of course, the dog is another “work-in-progress” who demands attention, too. We’re a week post-surgery right now, and he’s not allowed to move. I carry him outside to pee and poop; he eats meals lying down in his crate; if I’m not there watching he has to wear the Elizabethan collar; he puts no weight on the leg that was operated on, and if he bends that leg much he’s in such pain he gasp-whimper-kreels until I can straighten it again. So, yes, divided attention.

And Another Thing: Supplies for the walls that will make our back yard terraced are supposed to start showing up today, and I can’t wait for this to begin–so it can end and I can actually have a usable back yard! The herbs and veggies I want to plant along the wall edges will make my gardening and cooking heart so happy! But, with the scattered showers we’ve had, and which are predicted for the next week, who knows if delivery will occur today or not. So, fingers are crossed but I’m not holding my breath.

Besides, it’s hard to type when your breath is held too long. lol

Happy Tuesday, y’all.

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

Well There Went Two Months…

Gah! Don’t turn around or time will come ’round and bite you in the rear end. Hard. Like it just did for me.

Since last we chatted, my husband was sick, then finally recovered, but he still needs to schedule his knee surgery. My dog is now currently having knee surgery, after a strange bout with some increased seizure activity. At home, we at long last got the okay from our HOA to get our steep and slipping back yard terraced, and with the rain now stopped, the landscaper can begin moving in supplies. All by hand, because of tiny gate area to the back yard. We got two rooms of our home painted (before this the whole house, inside and out, was pale mocha with white trim, inside and out, and I was dying of boredom), and I’m hoping we’ll see more rooms in color before too long. The pool solar has been replaced after unexpectedly dying. And all along, I’ve been working on the revision of the novel.

Revising is slow going at the moment. I’m writing a couple entirely new chapters to replace a number of chapters that are cut completely out. By changing the plot/character arc near the end of the last draft, I knew this work would come along…and sure enough, here it is. It’s gratifying to see the work coming together into a cohesive whole, but it’s also a slow and tedious process right now, since this is the first thicket of change–and area where the changes cluster and make totally new drafting necessary. I’m holding onto that memory of revitalization I felt at WorldCon, and using that to shove myself through the work each day. Until the end of the day’s effort, when I sit back and realize, Yeah, this is actually working. This is sounding like an actual novel. Astonishing!

In the natural world, autumn has crept in while I wasn’t looking. Here in the Orlando area, that means that I’ll wear long pants and t-shirts in the mornings, and again in the evenings, while the daytime temps still reach the balmy upper 80’s or low 90’s. I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to actual winter, and being able to turn off the AC, and maybe even wear socks.

Once the terracing is complete, I can begin planting the back yard (just in time for the cooler, garden-pleasant weather!), making the fairly bland space it is now vibrant with plants that smell wonderful, that bring birds and bees, and some that we can eat. I’ve brought a few starts from the old yard that are really wanting spots in the ground, and can’t wait to get my hands in the dirt. And of course, once Dasher recovers from his surgery, he’ll love the flat area to chase a ball or frisbee in, instead of crashing downhill into the fence at the bottom, as he used to do. [Poor dog. No wonder his meniscus gave out! (Well, not really; we didn’t use the back yard at all, but tossed toys in the open, flat front yard instead.)] And I’m going to absolutely love not killing myself while cutting that steep slope, especially the bouncy area over the tree roots that were being washed out from underneath. Aaahhhh, it’s going to be sooo wonderful.

Until then, I’ll keep dreaming of how wonderful it will all be–the book, and the yard. And I’d be glad if you’d do the same. I hope you enjoy autumn, no matter how it exhibits where you live.

Personal Life, Today's Desk, Writing

Writer’s Desk, 5/29/18

Out the window: Low, dense clouds that sometimes spit sprinkles of rain. The forecast calls for storms later this afternoon, and as it’s getting darker, it looks like the forecast may be right. Oops. There it is–heavy rain, hitting the metal roof hard enough to echo and reverberate in a mysterious, lovely way that makes me crave a good book, and a nap.

On the desktop: Not much, really. The usual odds and ends of notebooks waiting for words, my glasses case, Burt’s Bees lip balm, and a pack of gum.

Today’s Work-in-Progess:  Structural edit notes to my novel, Unspoken. I’ve gotten a printout of the novel and am marking it up by hand, so I can see at a glance the length of each scene, how many pages each one is, and how many slow or fast scenes are bunching up. I can flip pages to see how long the pace has been fast, or if it’s gone from “a breather” into “catatonic,” and make notes to fix this, as necessary.

Sometimes this is a faster process than writing, and other times, it’s far, far slower. Regardless, it’s a process that definitely needs to happen, and I’m learning much from it–about myself as “a writer” (vs as “an editor”),  about my craft and skill levels, about my protagonist, and about what the novel is really, really about.

And, while yes, I wrote these words, I’m reading them from enough distance now that they’re almost new to me. And this is a good thing. I’m not just slipping over them, but I’m reading them the way I’d read another’s novel, and seeing all those flaws (OMG, the flaws! There are so many!). I’m also seeing the things I did really quite well. Which is always a pleasant surprise.

And Another Thing: Oh my gosh, the plums! The little tree is just ripening those fruit so fast now that it’s a challenge to keep up with them all, and the rains keep knocking them off the tree to the ground… We’ve had plum jam, plum cake, and plum ice cream. Next up is a plum crumble, I think. And of course, more plum jam. I think I’m going plum crazy!

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.)

plain silliness, Writing

On Not-Writing

The dog sleeps contentedly, the chores remain caught up.
Looks around for something else to do, but the eye rests on nothing undone.
Even the cat has been waxed, and run off yowling.
(It is not my cat, but a friendly neighborhood stray. I fear I may have offended it.)

Nothing for it then.

Pours Japanese green tea in fancy Thai teacup.
Sips. Dreams.
Opens file and at last, and begins to write.

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life

Solstice 2017

Today is the winter solstice here in the northern hemisphere, and the longest night/shortest day of the year. I’d been hoping to have a bonfire tonight, to light a very real blaze of bright against the encroaching darkness, but heavy rain in the wee hours have put an end to that idea; the wood, waiting patiently in the fire pit, is now soaked.

Instead, I’ll be lighting candles throughout the house. If not one big blaze, then two dozen smaller ones. Maybe more. I’ll still make my attempt to shove back the dark and the dreary depression that often comes with it. The light in my heart burns, sometimes bright, sometimes dim, but always there. And when I light my candles, my heart will rejoice.

The build-up to the holidays and the end-rush into the new year always sneak up on me with more force than expected, and this year is no exception. I’ve been “slaving away” on the novel (well, I am enjoying it, but it’s taking far longer than expected–as usual!), and trying to sneak in short stories (mostly unsuccessfully) around the corners and in free moments. In addition, it’s cool enough to do gardening, so the garden has been plumped and preened a bit, and the holidays demand cooking and baking, and the dog is full of ball-playing enthusiasm with the cooler temps, and…

…and back to that darkness. Sometimes you want to shove back the dark; other times you embrace it and simply take a nap. Yesterday, and tomorrow, I did and shall nap. It does the soul a world of good, too, being a gift to yourself.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, I wish you a happy one. And a good winter’s nap, afterwards. Today, I wish you a flame–even if it’s a candle in your heart–against the dark.