Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Travelin' Man

Drew has now been to four states: Colorado, Arizona, Minnesota (our layover this weekend), and North Dakota. He's not even six months old. Pretty cool. I've got a longer post in the works for the weekend and some others that have been brewing since January, but the DDJ became the Frackin' DDJ this week and I use my free time to remind myself to breathe. To tide you over until I have a moment for more interesting posts, check out Drew's latest photos.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Five Generations in One Room

I was going to write tonight. Honestly. Then the fracking car accident on Tuesday kept me up way past my bedtime. Then my brother called late last night and kept me up past my bedtime (of all the reasons to lose sleep, this comes in second to comforting Drew and taking care of him at night, meaning I don't mind). Then Northwest cancelled our later in the morning flight for one leaving at 7:30 tomorrow. And we live an hour away. And DIA is not an airport to chance getting there only an hour before your flight. Do the math. I will be crashing as soon as we are packed tonight.

Where are we going? Grand Forks, North Dakota. Drew will meet his great-great-grandmother and renew his acquaintances with his great-grandmother and his grandmother. He will dazzle them with his ability to smile at the least provocation, to babble excitedly at his pacifier, to grab his toes and roll onto his side, to roll onto his tummy, and to sit up all on his own for long periods of time. And we all get to watch as he experiences a swimming pool for the first time. Stretch-marked Momma will be covered from shoulders to knees and dangling her feet in the pool. (Actually, I really don't care too much what a bathing suit would reveal about my postpartum bod; I just don't feel like trying to squeeze the time and money in to buy a suit that I won't use again before I have lost the last bit of my pregnancy weight. Lemme clarify: I don't care what a one-piece bathing suit would reveal. Ain't no way in hell I'll be wearing a two-piece for a bit.)

Watch for fun pictures on Tuesday.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

OK, Murphy, the Well is Full

I've got enough experience at the moment to keep the well of my creativity quite stocked, but Lady Luck and Murphy think that I could stand to use more, apparently. It wasn't enough to give me the surprise of unexpected proceedures at the urologist yesterday. ("Oh, they'll just do an ultrasound of your bladder" turned into "Now we'll do this quick five minute procedure with a catheter and some tubing".) Last night as I was coming home from my fabulous critique group, I got into a very minor accident. It was on a stretch of road that is notorious for drivers thinking they have more room and turning rather than waiting that the curves of the road aren't tricking them (which they almost always are). I've been driving this bit of road for five years. It's the shortest bit of road on my commute, really on any drive to and from our apartment, but it's the one on which I'm always the most vigilant. More than once that vigilance has paid off as I honked or braked or swerved out of the way to avoid an accident. No such luck last night. The snow didn't help. Neither did the car in the other lane help, cutting off my other escape route as someone tried to make a left turn in front of me. I couldn't swerve without potentially having a head-on with another car. I had to slam on the brakes, which turned into an ice skating adventure, and ended with a minor bumper crunch.

Everyone was fine, it was just me and the other driver involved, Drew was safe and sound, asleep in his crib at the time. And the accident wasn't my fault, so we won't have to do the Deductible Crunch on top of the Bumper Crunch.

I was mighty tempted to just dissolve into tears or hysterics, but I kept it together for the hour it took for the cops to get there and write up the report. I even managed to find the positive. It helped that the other driver was just a kid, (read: 16; I remember the horror and terror of my first accident, also minor; hard to get mad) and his family was very nice to both him and me. It also helped when a car with fireman's plates pulled over and made sure we were OK with a quick thumb's up gesture. And I was listening to Rachmaninov's "The Isle of the Dead" which is a beautiful, haunting piece that does wonders for SoZ inspiration and kept me calm, oddly enough. I think I would've lost it had the radio been on and something cheery and bubble-gummy had come on.

Sigh. When it rains, and all that.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Writing Update

I've been very bad at updating my word counts in the sidebar. I usually remember to update the counts on a Monday or Thursday, when I'll be writing that very night. So I don't update, knowing I'll be changing those numbers in a few short hours. Today I remembered, and I won't be changing those numbers again until Thursday, and then only the Carson's Learning ones (I revise CL Thursday nights, work on SoZ every other writing night I get). And seeing as how I finally came up with a title for this first Velorin book that I like and that lends itself to a pattern for the other Velorin titles, I figured I'd post a writing update and update the darn sidebar.

First big news is that I renamed Strings of Discord (originally Strings of Betrayal) to The Shadow of Zehth. This fits much better with the big problem facing the characters and is a phrase used several times in the book. I won't be changing this title unless those who decide to represent and/or publish it tell me to. Feels good to finally have that settled. I have never enjoyed the titles I gave this project in the past. Now I do. Oh, and the draft creation is moving swimmingly. I had hoped to break 50k this past weekend, but Saturday night was a date night for me and Mark (our third since Andrew came along) and Sunday night I could barely keep my eyes open despite taking two naps during the day. We're going to Grand Forks this weekend, so breaking 50k will have to wait until next week unless I can find some time at work or squeeze it in elsewhere.

The next big news is that I have really enjoyed and seen a lot of success with the alternating works-in-progress I've been doing. I hope to finish my CL revisions on Monday (taking that day off from work, mainly just in case we have trouble getting out of Grand Forks on Sunday, but I'm planning on it being a hefty writing day). I'll leave that project alone for a couple of weeks, do another (hopefully much less extensive) round of revisions, and then submit it to this anthology. While the majority of my writing time will still be spent on SoZ draft creation, I intend to keep Thursday nights as non-Velorin writing. I'll work on the novel that continues the events and characters from CL (it's in The Masque's universe, and I do intend to revisit that novel, but if CL makes it into the anthology, I'd like to have the "follow-up" novel ready to go by the time the story gets published. I'd also like to have SoZ finished then, too, so I have two novels to submit to agents and editors with my "Oh, and I've published a novella" query letters. (Damn, I said if in there. I suppose that's OK for specific publishing opportunities, but if doesn't belong in my general publishing goals.)

That's the State of the Writing as of today. Consistent progress and a submission on the horizon. That'll work.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Upside

A lesson I started to learn when I was unemployed but didn't fully get until I held Andrew while having my c-section incision packed is that there's always a silver lining. Sometimes it's very small compared the huge-ass cloud hanging around, and sometimes you don't see it until the cloud is gone, but it's there. I went through a lot last year, but I got a beautiful baby boy out of it. That's a fairly obvious silver lining. Very strong, very clear, very visible. And while I was going through that pregnancy, I had his kicks and punches inside me. Obvious again. I think there's a reason why all my morning sickness and sleeping ickiness stopped when I started to feel his movement. It gave me that extra boost I needed to push past any mental blocks keeping the first trimester yuckiness entrenched.

Recently, I've been having some more medical problems. Again, nothing too crazy, just some fairly severe abdominal cramping about once a month and some minor cramping more frequently. Add in the fact that my bladder hasn't been "normal" in over a year and a skin lesion that's been hanging around just as long, and we've got a recipe for more medical poking and prodding.

But hey, at least that damn root canal is done.

After reading Tess's post about refilling the well, I've realized that I've got more of an upside to this than the usual (my health is still basically fine despite these few blips--and I've got excellent health insurance, I've got the basic neccessities and then some, I've got time to write, I've got my bouncing baby boy--who just mastered rolling onto his tummy--and I've got Mark and lots of supportive family and friends). I'm just adding to the a ton of unusual experiences I can bring to my writing. And I get to meet a lot of different people in the process (Urology seems very specific for a part of the body that I didn't think would need a specialist; shows what I know). This is just another of my many adventures. Granted, I'd rather stop having adventures that involve my health, and I might go verbally postal at the next phlebotomist who tells me they could draw my blood better if I'd drink more water (I drink 3 liters a day, my veins just aren't easy to find), but it's still a large glom of new experiences waiting for me. And I say this knowing I've got a biopsy of that lesion in my future with the bonus weight of my father's and uncle's recent malignant skin tumor removals to manage. (Excuse me while I take a moment to do some strutting for how far I've come in this particular arena of life. OK, the Snoopy Dance has ceased.) New experiences and new people equals more to draw from every time I sit down to my writing.

Tess goes to Libya, I go to the urologist.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Everyone's Talking Shop

Well, that's not entirely a bad thing. Maybe a tad overwhelming, though. PBW gathered questions from her readers and started a sort-of meme to get the answers, and started to answer them herself. (This post has the best "what to do when you get The Call" list I've read.) Tam weighs in on the meme. Tess tracks the insanity of her latest book's title. And then Scalzi reports his numbers.

Did I mention my head hurts? And I think my jaw is still sagging after reading Scalzi's numbers. But it's a great article for aspiring writers, because, yes, he does make $100k/yr, but he does multiple projects to get that. He doesn't just push out a book a year and let the dough roll in, which is what a lot of people think writers do.

These are such great essays about the business of writing that I may actually print them out and keep them in a binder somewhere handy. For that day when I will need it. (I think I might eliminate "if" from my vocabulary when it comes to my writing. :))

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Business of Writing, Or "Ow, My Head Hurts!"

Tobias has a great post about writerly self-promotion, and Tess puts a different spin on work-for-hire contracts that many writers need just to survive. I like it when I find articles like these because it reminds me that I have to consider the mechanics of publishing as well as of writing.

And then there's Anna Louise's post about the business of publishing (part of her demystifying publishing campaign), and my head starts hurting. I think I should've read a post a week, not all of them at once. This is good information, good perspectives, good things to keep nattering around in your head as you move beyond the step of getting the darn book written. (By the way, it's frustrating when you know you can complete that step faster but have to go off and do something ridiculous like earn money for forty hours a week. It's even more frustrating when you get a great critique, read some great advice, and have your instincts start screaming, "This is it! This one is going to make it!" but you know you're at best eight months away from submitting your current WIP, and that's assuming you'll be able to finish the draft and revise it in those eight months. Oh, and you'll be moving to a new state sometime in those eight months, buying a house, etc. I'm remarkably more patient than I used to be, but there are days....)

There's a lot to know about publishing after you get that book finished and polished. The author's work does not end with "The End". This is hard for an as-yet-unpublished writer to deal with, though. The primary goal for those of us trying to break into publishing should be to write the best book you can. But you also have to be ready for that fabled moment when you get The Call--with absolutley no guarantees that it will ever happen. So if you're someone like me, whose current definition of multitasking involves plotting while pumping, you'll probably be inclined to hold off on learning the business of writing in favor of just writing, dammit. You'll wait until the business of publishing becomes something relevant to your limited time--usually meaning after you get The Call from an interested agent or editor, and by then you're playing catch-up for the rest of your career. In some ways it feels a bit like preparing to win the lottery, read: a bit of a waste, but probably vital should it ever happen. OK, so I've exaggerated a bit there. But it makes the point: not only is it hard to just write the damn book, it's doubly hard to be prepared for the off-chance of getting published both in the sense of everything you have to know to keep yourself in the game and in the sense of finding the time (which is usually always pegged toward writing the damn book) to learn it all.

That's why it's nice that we have folks in the biz who take the time to distill vital information into easy to read and understand bits and pieces to at least give you enough background that you won't be flying blind when The Call arrives. Yes, I said when again. No ifs today either.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Field Research

Between the general cataloging of my books after the busted pipe and Jenny Cruisie's cover design lecture, I got to thinking about how I buy books. I do buy a lot of books. I never really used to, and I often swapped books out at used books stores to save and still get new-to-me reads. I even dabbled in the local library while I was unemployed, but I found that my SF&F selection was pretty much limited to hardback releases, thus drastically winnowing the genre pool. So I started finding bargain deals and eking out wiggle room in my budget to regularly buy books (it became necessary as my critique group meets in Borders once a week; I have a lot of willpower, but I'm going to cave and snag a book at least once a month given that temptation). I buy books for two reasons: publishing research and pleasure. The books I buy purely for pleasure are new titles from authors I know, and most of the time I grab them as soon as they are placed on the shelves. Those are the books that I bounce around about, eagerly anticipating their release date, scheduling time to bury myself in them as soon as I have them in my hot little hands.

The books I buy for research purposes are another matter entirely. Into this category fall: books that were recommended by authors I like; books that were recommended by my writing family and friends; books that were recommended by non-writing family and friends; books that I've heard have similar elements to my ideas; books I snagged simply because the cover drew me; books I picked up in a bargain bin that seemed marginally interesting and were only a buck or something; books that got good industry buzz; books that had a unique marketing approach; etc. Now that I've budgeted for it, I tend to buy a lot of books for all the reasons the publishing folks say sell books. And then I assess how well each method works in a very anecdotal, memory of patterns sort of way. I don't keep tallies, don't keep notes. I just kind of go with my gut, wing it, get an impression, and file the information away for my use later. (By the way, I tried this with the music industry once and only once. I find that I'm willing to risk the $7--or less with the deals I tend to find--on a book that I will end up not liking, but I'm unwilling to risk $12 on a CD that I will end up not liking. This is because I can still learn a lot from a book I didn't like and put that $7 to use in a very tangible way, but that $12 is gone unless I can find a used music store willing to take the CD for anything close to what I paid for it.)

All this translates to a spectacular To Be Read pile. Or not so spectacular, depending on whichever book I pull out of the stack. It's all very haphazard, but I really like it that way. Sure, I could make science out of this, catalogue each book by reason I bought it, note my impressions, etc. I could create very pretty spreadsheets and such. Talk about sapping the fun right out of everything. And it seems to be a bit contrary to the reason I do this. Instinct can't be quanitified. Reactions can't be measured. This is something I do purely to get a sense of the market, the industry, what readers are actually looking for and drawn to. It's already paid off in that it keeps reading as a fresh hobby for me (I never know what I'm going to pick up next and why sometimes), and I think it will pay off when I have to start thinking about things like cover copy and covers art and such. And, yes, I said when. No ifs today.

Monday, March 13, 2006

What SF & F Mean to Me

A while back, Tobias had a great post about the fun and relevance of SF. He talks a bit about how he came to love SF and maps the history of his reading adventures. That got me thinking about my own journey to reading SF and fantasy and to writing it.

Before we moved to Germany, SF&F would've been right up my alley. I used to play "V" on the playground, orchestrating who got to be the aliens and who got to be the resistance and who would be captured. I think there was often a queen alien involved, though I don't remember if that was a part of the show. The game often devolved into a lot of running around and screaming and kids pretending to rip off their faces to reveal the alien underneath. Then there was the really cool set of trees in the play area across the street from my house, where we made a little gathering area in the center of the trees (I think they were really dense weeping willows; they would have been right behind that lighter colored pavilion-looking thing not too far from the center of this shot). In addition to the generic playing of "house" in this nifty spot, I created some sort of fantasy world with magic and some dire problem we all had to fix, but the tree place was "safe." I remember playing that particular game until dusk, and the willows looked especially ethereal then.

We moved to Germany in the midst of a family crisis, and I buried a lot of my creative instincts, thinking that they wouldn't serve the needs of the family. Still, I managed to do a lot of day-dreaming that I kept entirely to myself. It helped living in neat little villages--sort of hard not to let the imagination run away every now and then. Our first house in Germany had been the local pub haunt of Schinderhannes, the German Robin Hood. Our second house was at the edge of town, right before farmlands that sloped into a forested valley where a very old castle ruin sat (four walls, that's about it). I could get lost in the stories I would spin while climbing the cherry trees at the edge of town or while hiking through the valley around the castle ruins. Our third house in Germany was also at the edge of a village, overlooking yet another valley, this one a bit steeper. There was a lot of mystery buried in that valley, but no castle. (Actually, the castle in this town was perched on top of the hill, rather than buried in the valley; also, the castle had undergone extensive renovation to be some sort of resort/hotel-like thingy.) No, in this valley, we'd sled down at a breakneck speed during the winter, dodging the fences of animal pens; and in the summer we'd run down the valley as fast as we could without breaking our necks and then go tearing down the lane that led to someone's hidden cottage. After this fun spot, we moved into the housing on the military base, but we were still at the edge of the base and had ample forest to wander through before bumping into the barbed wire fence marking the base boundary, thus making up for the drastic lack of imagination one could find in base housing itself.

What does this have to do with reading and writing SF&F? Well, all that day-dreaming and those unique surroundings kept my creativity going despite my efforts to squash it. I didn't read anything beyond the standard bubble-gum pop-ish fare for my age group, and that didn't bother me--reading heftier books was for school. I watched a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and that added a lot of fuel to that creativity thing I kept telling myself I didn't have (I was a scientist, dammit). All of those experiences mished and mashed and melded until I got to my senior year of college and realized that I had periodically been starting a story or a novel a couple times a year while at school. And I discovered that the fluff I was letting myself read was distinctly boring and not doing much other than annoy me in the precious little down time I had from classes and research. I can't remember why, but I felt the pull of the SF section of the bookstores in South Bend. And I started wandering through them, trying to figure out which were the gems and which were the sparkly poo. I picked up Anne McCaffrey's Freedom series (she was one of the few names I recognized; I think my mother had read the Pern novels at some point when I was really young and the covers must have caught my eye), devoured it, and found myself disappointed in its lack of detail. I wanted more. So I went back to the bookstore and found the thickest damn book in the section that caught my eye. It was Melanie Rawn's Exiles.

I. Was. Hooked.

Since then I haven't come up for air, trying to make up for all those years that I read only Sweet Valley High or The Babysitter's Club and so on. In some ways, I'm glad I waited to discover SF&F all on my own after my formative years. It makes me feel like a kid again everytime I'm in that part of the bookstore, dazzled by genre, comforted by it, belonging to it. It's my own, something I went and found after I worked my way through a bunch of crap growing up.

Writing SF&F is another matter. I first started writing because I had a Point. Yes, the awful, dreaded lecture was the impetus for Human Dignity. That's the main reason that it might be quite some time before I go back to it. I have a Point in all my other projects, but it is always secondary to the Story. Or, rather, the Point is reflected in the Story instead of the other way around. And because SF&F as reading material was my own discovery, it felt natural to stick with that genre when I discovered writing as my own dream--not anyone else's, not what I thought anyone else wanted my dream to be.

Science Fiction and Fantasy unlocked something in me, or it was there when I unlocked a part of myself I hadn't realized I had been shutting away. Other genres are fun to read, and I certainly enjoy including other genre elements in my writing, but I don't think I'll ever leave SF&F or let another genre into my life as completely as this one.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Nearly a year ago, I had a fairly nasty toothache--on top of all the joys of morning sickness. That toothache turned out to be decay so bad, the tooth needed a root canal. So at 12 weeks preggers, I prayed my stomach would tolerate the hour and a half under the dentist's drill to clean out the tooth. I did well. Very well. Then came the next appointment to get the tooth ready for the crown. I didn't do so well. I tried again to get the whole business over with. No luck. One last time, I scheduled an appointment--and cancelled when I came down with shingles (I think I was around 27 weeks pregnant at that point). At that point, I gave up hope of finishing the tooth business while I was pregnant and scheduled an appointment for a couple of weeks after Andrew was born. Had to cancel that appointment when they told me my c-section incision was open and infected. Finally in December I scheduled this appointment again--only by this time, I had to switch dentists because my old dentists had stopped taking my insurance somewhere in all of this. And a new dentist meant getting approval from my insurance company to go forward with the procedure. On Valentine's Day, I finally got that damn tooth prepped for the crown.

And yesterday, finally, at very long last, I got the permanent crown cemented to the piddly remains of my molar. It wasn't without a bit of insanity. The only way I can tolerate the drill at the moment is with a nice dose of valium. So yesterday, I went home early (not actually for the dentist, but to be there for flippin' FedEx--long story), curled up with a book for a bit, took my valium, and walked over to the dentist. It shouldn't have been an issue. I've taken this drug before and it didn't affect my motor skills at all. But I had forgotten to eat lunch yesterday. Hey, what can I say? The book was engrossing. I didn't actually start to stumble until I was in the dentist's parking lot. And it made for some fun maneuvering to get me in the that stupid dental chair, but I didn't fall once. I must say, though, that I was remarkably chilled when they went to drill out a cracked filling after cementing the crown and discovered they hadn't numbed me quite enough. My bite's still a little off as I've been chewing pretty much on only one side of my mouth for nearly a year. It feels wierd to chew on the other side--I have to consciously move food over there for mastication.

But no matter: the Root Canal from Hell is DONE.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Happy International Embarrass Yourself as an Artist Day (Belated)

A while back, Elizabeth Bear challenged other writers to post "the awfullest, grottiest, ancientest piece of juvenilia you still have a word processor that will open." You see it's taken me some time to embolden myself to accept this challenge. I know I have older and far more retched pieces than this, but this is pretty darn awful. So much so, that I can only bring myself to post the first paragraph (it goes on for 20 pages...ouch). I still remember what I was thinking when I wrote this and why I wanted to write it and a good deal about what I was trying to do--enough so that I might revisit it one day (after having printed these 20 pages, shredded them, and fed them to a fire or let the cats use them as litter or something else equally satisfying).

Without further ado, here is the first paragraph of In the Frame of a Golden Sunset (and excuse me while I gag again at such a soap-opera-ish title, blech).

Missing. Missing. Missing. A funny mantra. But his own, his creation, or lack thereof. The business of his life seemed to meet the socially acceptable requirements. Successful job. Respect from his peers. A loving family, mother and father and sister, no wife, of course. After unsuccessful attempts at this world’s pathetic excuse for relationships, he had buried himself in that successful career of his. He had found himself attracted to a number of shallow women. He often wondered how he found them. Seemed to migrate toward them. One rather painful episode triggered him to embrace his work. It filled his life then. But no longer. And now that damned mantra. Missing. Missing. Missing.

I can find problems not only with each sentence, but nearly every word. The POV wanders, slips and slides. I've managed to create a character that, as written here, I already want to kick off a bridge--maybe that's a sign of latent talent to accomplish that in a paragraph? And I love that "no wife, of course" bit, how it seems to qualify the "socially acceptable requirements" of his life. Gag, gag, gag. I even somehow managed to give this ponderous oaf the name of a rather recognizable celebrity without realizing it at the time. That gaffe is the only thing that makes this piece even remotely entertaining (my character is a satirist, writes books and columns and such; the poor man I accidentally named him after does nearly the exact same thing). To think that I wrote this very early in 2000. I've come a long way in six years. A VERY long way.

Now please excuse me while I go scrub my fingers and eyeballs for ever having written and read this.

Monday, March 06, 2006

And Even More Pictures

Finally got the scanner back up and running and the last batch of photos from Ye Olde Point 'n Shoot are up. And since it was such a beautiful day yesterday (and will be again today), we went to a nearby rec area for a nice walk and, of course, took some pictures with the spiffy digital camera we got for Christmas.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Helping Another Writer

Many aspiring writers think that getting published equates to getting a bunch of canvas bags with big dollar signs on them. Get that Great American Novel into the publishing houses, and get busy moving into your mansion, buying your fancy cars, shopping at Cartier, etc. That only happens for a very small percentage of writers. I'd say less than one percent, but that's a SWAG (Scientific Wild-Ass Guess). Most writers slug it out every day to earn enough money to keep them solvent for the next year, or even month. And, in the case of an amazing woman who manages to write a ton as well as run Forward Motion, Vision, and a host of other writing-related things, she's down to getting enough money to make it through the next day. I'd like to wave a magic wand and give Zette those canvas bags with dollar signs--filled with the green stuff, of course. I'm going to do the next best thing in this mundane world: direct interested folks to buy her e-book and do so using her HollyShop affiliate link, and not mine. Just click over to Zette's site, and then click on the sidebar box. I tried to figure out how to give you her affiliate link directly, but I don't want to do anything that might screw up her comission stats and whatnot.

While you're there and giving a little commission to Zette in addition to royalties for buying her book, check out Hunting the Corrigan's Blood by Holly Lisle. It's a e-book reprint that starts out with the MC in close quarters with a corpse. Talk about a hook.

All told, you'll spend less than $14 for two books that are both non-traditional (and, if you ask me, worth checking out for that reason alone for market research purposes), one by an established print author, and another by an established electronic author. And you'll get those warm fuzzies for helping out an author in serious need.

Where's the Conflict?

Here's Andrew helping me puzzle out a plot point. He's concentrating harder than I am, but it obviously helped. I passed 40K in SoD last week. I celebrated by buying myself new pants that 1) aren't maternity pants and 2) actually flatter my current figure, but 3) aren't my original size, but the next one up. While I'm still irked that I can't fit back into my regular pants, I'm VERY happy to have put away all of my maternity clothes now and actually feel something other than frumpy in work clothes. Progress.

Anyway, I found myself asking about conflict the other day as I prepared to keep chugging on SoD. The chapter was just a bear anyway as I had to fully transition into the middle of the book (never my fave), write toward a later scene without really knowing what's going on in this one, describe a new subset of Velorin society, keep some tension going about a subplot, and do all of this in Raynal's POV, which is my hardest POV to write. I forced and stumbled my way through getting everyone to an oasis, introducing the problem at the oasis, setting up camp, and dealing with the problem a bit. I was set to write a scene about a lively campfire dinner and dancing in order to introduce the cultural subset and reveal some backstory of another character. But it just all seemed so flat. Mainly because I had no idea what the conflict was. Rayn has come to some sort of peace with the new insanity in his life, the nomads he's with are nice people, the problem I've introduced has been dealt with for the moment (it'll bite him in the posterior later), and everything's pretty peachy-keen at the moment.

As Tam so elequently noted, that just won't cut it.

So I tried to figure out where there could be tension. I thought there might be something in the backstory I needed to trot out, but it wasn't there. At all. I toyed with the idea of skipping the chapter and writing the scenes beyond it, but I need the information that I know I can beat out of my mind to make the next scenes easier to write. Finally, I figured there might be some conflict if I had Elaynor (Rayn's traveling companion) decide to blather on about The Plan to Rayn while he's trying to listen to a campfire melody that may contain new information about a history he's trying to write--and he doesn't understand the singer's dialect unless he concentrates. Not the craziest conflict, but it was the best I could do. I set out to write it, pulling each word from my fingers, wincing at just about everything, knowing that my next major rewrite was going to start right at that scene.

Then Rayn surprised me. He dropped a clue about himself. As he was taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the campfire celebration, he remarked about how wonderful the laughter sounded and how it had been so long since he had heard any. I had to stop and look at those words for a while after they fell out of my fingertips. I tried to pester Rayn with questions, but he didn't want to talk after that. I kept writing, hoping he would drop a few more morsels. And he did. I now know a ton about his outlook on life and what he wants, why he's hunting for history and what he's avoiding with that hunt. I know his internal conflict. Can't really use it in the scene much right now, but damn is it going to make his POV scenes easier to write. It'll make the eventual rewrite of this putrifyingly bad chapter easier.

And following the meager conflict I was able to determine would be in this scene, the natural progression led to a very tense moment, rife with conflict that led naturally into the next chapter. Nice when it all comes together. Helps to know which questions to ask. Helps when your characters actually deign to respond.