Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: The Blog In Review

I had fun putting together some of my fave posts of the year in 2006, so I figured why not do it again, even if it does smack of the severest form of navel-gazing? Then I actually started with January and was reminded that 2007 contained a good deal of sadness and unpleasantness. So be warned: it's bumpy in the early-going.

It's a Bitter Pill to Swallow:
My grandfather loses his three-year-long battle with cancer.

Mark loses his job, then he gets it back, then I have a work hiccup, then everyone else at Mark's company loses their jobs, then Mark's company wins an award for small-business growth and one for bringing biotech to the Phoenix area, then Mark's company moves to San Diego. (I don't think I ever blogged about it, but Mark did get another job without any downtime. He's now in an industry-academia hybrid at ASU and loving it. Much more stable with awesome bennies, which includes nearly free courses for the both of us and substantially reduced tuition for Drewbie.)

When It Comes to the Breaks, Look to the Reason You Keep at It:
Drew the Climber, Drew the Poison Taster, Drew the Escape Artist, Drew the Kisser, Drew the Amphibian, Drew the Digger, Drew the Two-Year-Old, Drew the Candy-giver, Drew the Chef

When the Going Gets Tough, Figure Out Where You Went Wrong:
This year, I began to examine why I struggled with certain things in life and writing and reading, being sure to take the time to snark and explain and warn and laugh heartily along the way.

I'm curious as to what narratives will frame next year's best posts. Here's to an exciting journey toward figuring that out.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Season's Greetings!

I've got a few precious hours to see about steamrolling my way through the rest of the PPR revisions before we have to pack and then it's on to my mother's for an early Christmas dinner. We'll get back, send Drewbie to bed, and Mark and I will snuggle up together to watch Love Actually, which has somehow become our holiday movie of choice. And tomorrow we're off to the airport in the morning to work our way to Buffalo. We'll get back just in time next weekend for me to do a year in review and throw together my goals for 2008. Oh, and write that intro letter and synopsis for PPR so I can send it off for mad praise and publication.

If you're traveling as well, be safe. If you're not, stay warm and cozy with those you love--or their hearts and voices, if you won't be with them. I hope 2007 finishes well for you and that you are ready to tackle another year with all your hopes and dreams.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Pushed Past the Block

For a night, at least. I've been struggling to get back into a groove with revisions even though I've mapped out a whole bunch of things that will guide me through to the last page. Every time I sat down to hack and slash my way through the draft, I would look at the first line in the next scene I had to tackle and freeze, if it was during Drew's nap. Or my brain would decide that was a good time to liquefy if it was at night. The mushy brain happened three nights in a row, which really pissed me off. What is mushy brain? Well, usually, when I prod some higher thought processes from my brain, I have a mental conversation that goes roughly like this:

ME: Ping.

MY BRAIN: Currently left on your to do list for the day: clean up table, wash dishes, tidy Drew's toys, sit at desk and work on revisions. The scene you'll work on first involves the first turning point for your protagonist, so you want to make sure you tighten the conflict and connect better it with her decision that propells her into a new direction for Act 2, and in Act 2, you've made the supporting characters a bit too cooperative with that new direction, so you'll have to work on that as those scenes come at you. Also, you're feeling a bit chilly in general this evening, so be sure to grab your fuzzy slippers when you put on your pajamas.

What a lovely response to my ping. A quick rundown of things that some part of my brain is always monitoring and tracking so the rest of it doesn't have to. Now, when I have mushy brain, the conversation goes a little like this:

ME: Ping.

MY BRAIN: Uh, wha? Is dinner done already? Did we eat meatloaf or chicken soup? Soup is yummy, and warm, and tasty, and...

ME: Ping!

MY BRAIN: Oh, right. Dinner is done. Um. Dishes? No, table looks to be cleared. How the hell did that happen? Maybe Mark did it? Is he putting Drew to bed, or are they in the shower? You need a shower too, get all warm. Use that Winter Candy Apple body wash and lotion and...


MY BRAIN:...and after you smell all clean and Christmas-y, there's that dungeon chapter in Final Fantasy X-2 that you want to beat, level up all those dresspheres, though maybe you should just start all over from the beginning because that's a fun story, especially when you get to the chasing Chocobos part. Was there a better ending than the one you saw?


MY BRAIN: OK. Revisions. There's a scene that needs some work.

Long Pause.

ME: Ping?

MY BRAIN: You know, that scene. You should fix it. Make it tie in with the rest of the arc better.

Another Long Pause.

ME: Ping.

MY BRAIN: What are you bothering me for? You're the one who figured a few things out this afternoon. Didn't you write them down?

ME: Ping!

MY BRAIN: Come on! It was the thing with the arc with the conflict. You know, and then the love interest said the bit that tied into the first scene. And it all comes together and viola! A complete, fabulous revision!


MY BRAIN: Isn't that what you wanted?

ME: ...

MY BRAIN: Maybe you should just curl up in bed and put on a Firefly episode. Oooh! Maybe the one where Simon takes his shirt off?

But, finally, last night, I conquered this loop. For one scene. Now I'm going to tackle the revisions again, and hopefully I can carry on with the momentum from last night. At any rate, it feels good not to be stuck in the same place.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


In composing another post, I happily reminded myself about the Bonsai Story Generator. I had fun with it for SoZ, and I figured it would be good for THUMB. Here are the highlights:

Thematic Goodness:
Vin's gone.
That had to deal with Sela.
Let's hope they grieved in the first place.
Elzie reached out of denial.
She turned away the possibility of death.

A Healthy Dose of WTF:
Anger made it with a mechanic.
Her simple black dress had distracted her head.
The woman shook her own ears.
Elzie opened her body.
The woman shook her tone dry and turned to Vincent Merror's wishes, the solar flare warning system wouldn't have been trampled in the first place.
Then she turned to face flushed with SamCon, denial all over lunch?
He hadn't liked her head.

Simply Intriguing:
Muted was only appropriate for access to the appropriately compassionate woman.
Let's hope they don't mind the possibility of curvy, sultry beauty. Next to touch the woman behind her.
You're going to want to give them as they don't mind the break in.
Cremated, yes, the power of our business.
Forget a venue for word to examine the bones.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Stalling? Me?

It's hard to tell if today's distraction is part of my insanity regarding PPR or my outright terror over what to do with THUMB. However, it did make for an entertaining morning.

It started with a dream, as a good amount of writing inspiration is wont to do. My dream was about zombies (represented by Lurch, for some reason) and how a friend and I were holed up in an abandoned hotel room as our food supply (represented by a bar of chocolate) dwindled. Coworkers (nobody I know, actually) joined us, and there was much rejoicing in discovering we were not the last non-zombies left on Earth (represented by gathering around the Xbox that the room's previous occupant had left behind, no doubt as part of his zombie-fugue). Then one of the coworkers and I decided to scavenge through the hotel to see if we could find any more cool things (like a Wii or maybe, I dunno, food other than chocolate). Surprisingly, we found a terrified father and son hiding out in another room. The son, a teenager, donned an angsty attitude right quick, which the coworker felt compelled to rectify. This left me to check out the lobby area nearby, whereupon I discovered Lurch trying to nonchalantly get some towels. I called out to him, and suddenly the hotel went black. Cue sound of mass zombie attack.

It wasn't a particularly scary dream, but I had it toward the end of my sleep, and that's usually when I can exert a little narrative power on my dreams. These scenes were coming at me with some backstory, with links to related imagery that enhance the story, and with possibilities for conflict between the characters running around in the hotel. So I sketched everything out after I woke up, developing the story and characters in places as I went.

What made this so much fun and unique enough that I would sacrifice much-needed revising time on PPR? For some reason, this zombie tale framed itself to me in the form of a paranormal romance. Because nothing is sexier than a reanimated corpse, let me tell you. I shouldn't be surprised as my romantic elements in the stories that I'm thinking about for the pseudonym are fairly dark and not exactly in-line with that whole Happily Ever After thing. This, apparently, is the sort of career I'm trying to create for my pseudonym. It's gonna be hella fun, but maybe not so much with the success. Is it possible to subvert the romance genre from within?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

When Neuroses Collide

My deadline for PPR is under a month away, and I still have to write a 2-3 page synopsis and introductory letter in addition to finishing the revisions. And an entire week of the upcoming month is going to be "lost" to the holidays. (I say "lost" because it's not like I mind spending time with the in-laws and family, it's just that I won't have that time to write and must accomodate that in my writing schedule.)

Welcome to Kellie's Crunch Time Neuroticisms. Surely you remember them from before? Here's the pattern they follow:

1. Early in revisions, start thinking that my story is pure gold and that it will launch my writing career in many improbable ways, but launch it nonetheless.

2. Shortly thereafter, I fear the launching of my writing career and suffer a hit in productivity levels, crooning to the whimpering parts of myself that really, change is good, particularly this change, it'll be all right, you'll just keep writing only you'll get paid and isn't that what you've always wanted.

3. Revisions resume with a vengeance, if only to keep the beautiful and terrible images of success at bay one night at a time.

4. Approach the middle or end of revisions and suddenly become aware of the Vast Quantities of Suck in the manuscript. There's no arc! There's no conflict! My characters are stooopid! Logic took a vacation in this chapter and that one! The climax is broken!

5. Progress grinds to a halt as I curl into the fetal position and wonder just how in the hell I ever could have considered myself a writer.

6. Mark, utterly perplexed by the sudden morph of one insanity into another that seems so opposite that he cannot comprehend how my brain can possibly contain both at the same time, gives me a look.

7. My muse, realizing that her writer will not have any company in her misery, mutters, "Oh. Just. Hell," and starts trying to find the narrative thread and the pieces that work and sits down to stitch something together, by God.

8. I am somehow able to view the Suck without wanting to burn the manuscript, instead looking at how it can be adjusted into NotSuck for a killer story.

9. I resume revisions, knowing the story is gold that will get me in the door...assuming I can hack it together out of the junk in front of me.

I am somewhat nervous to find myself in this same pattern again because, you might recall, when I went back to the manuscript that jerked me around like this before, I realized that the work in question was not just bad but horribly broken, and I had tried to get it published in that state. I've been trying to bolster my confidence by outlining just how much I've learned in the past year and a half, how I've got such a better grip on this story and what it needs to get fixed. I understand so much more about how I write and can find the potholes quicker and know how to fill them.

Or not. Ask me what I think about this story in 6-10 months.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Drew the Chef

The Drew Monster has been big into utensils and measuring cups and bowls for a while now. It likely started when he discovered how much fun it was to take out all the tupperware from the lower cupboards in my mother's house, grab a spoon, and stir just like Momma. We put child safety latches on our cupboards, though, so Drew opted for dragging a chair up to the counter so he could rummage through the cooking utensil drawer (we have long since removed anything sharper than a butterknife from that drawer). He knows the word "hot" very well, not because he's burned himself, but because Momma and Daddy are so freaked about that chance given his predilection for cooking that we've drilled it into him.

He's added a new twist to his cooking fixation. In the past week, I've had to set up a cutting board for him and give him either a piece of celery or a carrot to work on with a butterknife. The kid's learned a lot by watching me, and his fingers haven't once come close to getting in the way. El Boyo Diablo appears to be a natural. Once he cuts up the carrot or celery into a number of pieces, he'll then load up a measuring cup with them. A couple of times, he's tried to toss the contents into whatever pot or pan I'm toiling over. He also tastes his diced vegetable at least once, discovering regularly that, no, indeed he doesn't like raw carrots.

I always try to give him something he can add safely to the pot or pan with dinner in it, usually it's a can of broth to add to the soup pot or something. But he's clearly learning and wanting to do more. I had just started getting items out for dinner and hadn't turned on the stove top when I turned away to take care of something (probably answer the phone). When I turned back around, Drew had climbed up onto the counter and opened the cupboard with all the spices and started rooting around for the perfect mixture.

Mark and I have known for a while that we'd be getting our son planning menus and cooking as early as possible as one of his "chores", but we hadn't realized that he would 1) take so well to it and 2) get a head start on things. Ironically, he's not all that interested in Ratatouille.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Seven Years Ago Today...

...Mark and I decided to give that whole relationship thing a whirl. It didn't take us long to realize that it was a done deal. While I was the one who made the first move seven years ago, it was Mark who, about a month later (maybe less) said something about coordinating careers after graduation (still five or six years away at that point) in the first bold step towards, "Hey, this is rather serious, this thing between us."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Process Examination #16: Zooming Ahead to Revisions (In Another Project)

I'm not entirely sure why I've needed so much off-time from writing THUMB, but my brain keeps asking for another day or another week whenever I try to organize my thoughts on that topic. So I've shifted focus back to PPR, trying to really dig into the text for revisions and learn more about that part of my writing process.

What I've done in the past is just read the completed manuscript of whatever piece I had just finished, marking, deleting, and adding stuff as I go. It's a good way to get a sense of what's working and what isn't and apply some fixes, but I've come to realize that it's not quite effective for actually improving the whole of the text. That is, larger scope issues like arcs and story structure and theme and such didn't get the attention they needed. Not to say that I wasn't thinking about those things as I revised, but that I kept all of those concepts in my head as I read through the manuscript, expecting problems with those topics to pop out at me in much the same way I can find errors in spelling and sentence flow and character portrayal. Not so much, apparently.

I've been suspecting this for a while now, so I've been developing a plan for a couple of months. Or the notion that I ought to have a plan, at least. That doesn't sound like much, but it means that, in the course of my regular reading of blogs and books on writerly topics, I've been looking for methods to help me. And I found some. Rather, I found addtional tips that helped bring some older ones into focus as well as giving me new ideas.

In the past, via Holly Lisle's One-Pass Revision and some other places, I realized it was important to have a scene outline handy while doing revisions. However, I didn't know what to do with that thing. Hence, I just extrapolated from how I do basic edits and tried to keep everything in my head. After working through Jenny Crusie and Bob Mayer's He Wrote, She Wrote Writing Course, I found a way to use the outline much more effectively. Specifically via the concept of scene analysis Jenny outlines here and the critical questions she dumps out here. Now I have a better sense what I'm looking for when I do my initial read-through (which I used to flag scenes that needed scene analysis for tightening and general fix-it stuff).

I completed my first scene anlaysis yesterday and was delighted to discover two things: 1) At least for this first scene, I had a natural rhythym for beats in the scene that kept the conflict going and accomplished a bit for the story, and 2) I have a much better sense of how I can improve a few bits and lines in the scene to reinforce all the big scope concepts I've lost before without derailing those beats. Awesome.

We'll see what Mark things. I've decide he is going to be a beta-reader of my "I've done all I can on my own with this thing" version without any previous exposure to this piece. He'll be my barometer of how well I've revised with the new techniques. No pressure, honey. :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Let's Go To The Movies, Andrew

The Drew Monster has discovered the wonder of animated movies. He had watched bits of movies before, usually while on a long-distance trek in the car, but a month or so ago, he realized that it was fun to watch an entire story unfold from start to finish. His three favorites are Curious George, Finding Nemo, and Ice Age, and Monsters, Inc. seems to be rated highly as well.

The problem (other than the fact that we don't want him to sit and stare at the TV for long periods of time; we're working on this) for me with this arrangements is how often I have to see these movies now. Don't get me wrong, I love pretty much everything Pixar has done (haven't seen Cars), and I can usually enjoy any children's animated feature for it's "Aw, what a cute story" value. But repeated viewing is forcing me to look at all the story elements that unravel, all the small little conceits and all the themes and messages that, intentional or not, are lingering in the background to cast a nasty pall over things. The latter is a big deal for me with every time I see Curious George--theft of another culture's icon and dismissal of its indigenous value and heritage, father/son issues that color a child negatively because his father favored a smarter kid with similar interests over the son, and on and on. Had I only seen the darn movie once, I wouldn't have bothered with all this analysis and critique because the movie's not meant for that.

Of course, El Boyo Diablo hasn't been interested in Ratatouille since his first vieweing, and that's the one I wouldn't mind seeing a few more times since I missed quite a bit (watching movies with kids isn't the way to comprehend a good portion of what you're seeing). It's like Andrew knows this.

It's funny, though. When I was about 11, I would come home from school every day, plop myself in front of the TV and watch The Little Mermaid. Sometimes twice. I guess it's a phase?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Not Quite Coherent, Apparently

My brain's all mushy. Mostly I'm still not getting the sleep I need, it seems. But also, I did finish tweaking the ending to PPR last night, so that could have something to do with it. I'm also somewhat afeared of restarting THUMB, which has sat untouched on my hard-drive for two and a half weeks now, so I think part of my brain is resisting full consciousness. And the weather's all weird today. I was supposed to crit someone's writing today while the Drew Monster napped, but I'm thinking I might need a nap myself instead.

Next week. Yeah. Next week is when I'll get back on the horse.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Momma Downtime

El Boyo Diablo decided to wake up, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and ready for the day at 3:45 this morning. Add this to the fact that I've been taking between 1.5-2 hours to fall asleep every night this past week or so, and I'm quite the zombie at the moment. I had meant for today to be the day that I got back on the horse, but, well, now I'm more interested in sleep than trying to prove to myself I'm not a lazy, pathetic excuse for a writer.

So. Tomorrow. Tomorrow I shall crank out the adjusted ending to PPR (even though I recognize that, while the adjusted ending is generally what I want for the story, it's not quite right in its execution just yet) so I can ship this off to a critique partner and Mark for comments. Tomorrow I shall confront my writing demons and figure out just how exactly to move forward with THUMB when demanding a specific word count at this stage of the game freezes me. (I'm thinking "Finish Act 2, get into Act 3 by the end of the year" might work, though it's a bit terrifying in its vagueness.)

For some reason, 2008 feels like a nice, giant clean slate coming toward me just as I've reached the point where I've mucked things up this year. I can't remember the last time I was so eager to start a year with a new set of goals. But it wouldn't be too swell of me to laze around the rest of the year to get to that clean slate, now, would it?

By the way, one of the things I did while I was lazing around the past two weeks was beat Kingdom Hearts II. My reaction: Meh. The game had its fun spots and neat battle commands, but the story arc really really sucked and got mired in re-hashing all of the Disney flicks. Very much a disappointment after the first game. I wish I could find another game like FFX or FFX-2 to suck me into another world and a compelling storyline along with fun spells and weapons. But that stuff seems to be on PS3 or Xbox, and we're not down with shelling out $500 for a new platform just yet. So I'll content myself to max out all the outfits on FFX-2 and beat the special bosses and finish a first go-round of Ratchet & Clank: Dreadlocked, though it's not quite what I want. I suppose it's for the best, though, as I really don't have time for gaming at this particular juncture in my life.

OK, I think I'm going to ramble on about the odds and ends of my life if I don't end this now and hit the sack. Hopefully regular posting will resume for the next couple of weeks until Christmas.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Drewbie Downtime

We learned this weekend that the Drew Monster can handle two guests in our guestroom but as soon as additional guests take up space my office, he gets a bit off. Of course, we didn't figure out he was not dealing well with this until we couldn't calm him down for lunch on Friday. He'd been fussing a lot every time we had to stop playing somewhere outdoors and go back home. And usually we could get him calmed down within 15 minutes of getting home and he would go back to being his chipper self. Not so on Friday. Finally, at a loss, I took my father, stepmother, and grandmother out and abandoned Mark to El Boyo Diablo. Seconds after we left the house, Andrew calmed down to ate a good lunch and took an OK nap. Dinner on Saturday was very similar. We were a bit squished into a booth, and Drew could not settle down--he even swiped napkins and silverware off of the table and tried to dump a glass of water. Mark took him out for dinner and romping at the McDonalds across the street, and he was fine after that.

It was so strange to see Drew act out in this way. Yesterday after everyone left and today, though, Drew has been fully back to normal. It's interesting that just one extra person and one other room being occupied did him in, though. Next time we have that many guests, Mark and I will be sure to schedule in some Drewbie downtime with either one of us alone in the house at least for an hour. And we'll look for similar signs of overstimulation when we have any overnight guests in the house in the future (which will be this weekend, actually; Mark's brother John is staying with us so he can run a marathon down in Tucson on Sunday).

Given Mark's introvertedness, I shouldn't be surprised that three guests and two rooms off-limits at once rubbed Drew wrong. Hell, it's probably a tall order for any toddler used to it being just him and Momma most of the time in the house. Mostly I'm just happy that the bouts of cryfests and crankiness and acting out so unusual for him (or at least, unusual for how long they went on) seemed to be unique to the stress of the situation, and not a sign of the coming norms.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Eat Well. Be Safe. And Shop!!

My dad, stepmother, and grandmother are due in any minute now, so I'm going to sign off for the Turkey Day weekend. I might be back on Sunday. Or not.

While I'm gone, take a look at these fine new products from Holly Lisle. This is a great time to work through a writing block or to stock up on products to help you nail your 2008 writing goals.

Just the How to Beat Writers Block course:

Just the 21 Ways to Get Yourself Writing When Your Life Just Exploded book:

The bundle of both above items as well as all of the "Create A" Clinics (a seriously good deal):

Holly's got a lot of great new things in the works, and the How to Beat Writer's Block audio course (plus bundled goodies) is the first of those. Her clinics have been great writing tools for me (I can't speak highly enough of the Create a Language Clinic), so check these out and maybe tell people where to shop for Christmas (if you do that, have them go through an affiliate--not necessarily me--so you can give someone else a holiday bonus; I recommend Lazette Gifford, click on either Ruins or Muse in her sidebar to take you to the shop through her link).

Process Examination #15: In Which I Finally Hack My Brain (Or a Portion of It, Anyway)

There's more going on here than just looking back at the mess of Act One and realizing why it's 40K long and mostly pretty dry stuff (that would be the logic stranglehold). Now I'm trying to figure out why I can't seem to drag myself on with the novel. I think I pieced together some of it last night.

I fear letting a first draft of a novel be really, really rough. I can't let myself write full-on crap just to get to the end and have a complete story unit to look at, analyze, and perfect into an actual novel. Not at 100K words a pop, at least. With short fiction, this isn't a problem. Take PPR: the original draft of that story was 8K words, and I kept only 2K of them in the revised story, which ended up being 29K total (yes, I finished it Monday night; now to let it alone for a couple of weeks before I tackle the next round of revisions). That's 25% of the original story that stayed, and it comprises only 7% of the current draft. Translate those percentages into the 100K words of a novel's first draft, and yikes! That's a lot of words that get cut and take a while to create in the first place. It doesn't sit right with me to be so wasteful and inefficient with something I have so little time for in as it is.

But I looked closer at the comparison to PPR. Those original 8K were quite rough indeed, in the sense that my big reveal at the end was 2-3 pages of infodump that would have been much more satisfying revealed in the course of the story with my MC getting enough pieces of the puzzle to put some of it together herself. Also, the central conflict needed a good deal of work to make sense beyond my initial sketch. And the two characters in conflict were neither of them likeable, though they were interesting. While it was fun to write that way and part of me wants to see if I can tweak those 8K into a different interpretation than the one I went with, I overhauled the story into something with a good arc, with good character tension each step of the way, with a logical though not transparent plot and narrative flow, and with a complicated ending that didn't make things overly nice and tidy like I'm beginning to hate in some books. For some reason, just because it's a novel, I'm expecting the first draft of THUMB to deliver all of that already. I'm not giving myself permission to fail in order to see how to succeed with this story because that means risking a lot of words and time in creating those words.

How to fix this? I've started this a little. The past 2K of THUMB that I have dragged kicking and screaming out of my fingertips are definitely not going to stay in their present form. It's pretty much all infodumping on my gee-whiz tech in the story, but I wrote it because it provided a chance to get my MC showing her stuff, it led to some fun dialog and character action, and I know I'm going to end up keeping snippets in some fashion because at some point, I'm going to need a "Here's Where I Geek on Future Tech" scene. Today, I'm hoping to grit my teeth and summarize a bunch of activity as my characters get the ship ready to roll so I can finally write the fun piece that officially kicks off the conflict of Act 2. Hopefully I will keep giving myself permission to write outlines and sketches and distillations to keep me moving along.

I think part of the problem has been in trying to hit a word count goal in the first draft of a novel. It keeps me tied into the concept of "this is a lot of words, and I may lose a lot of them." Short fiction has shown me that my first drafts are very exploratory and take as much or as little as they need. And I find it very interesting that THUMB gummed up right around the 35K mark. I think I lasted to about 45K in SoZ before I came up against this wall. That time I forced myself through it, not thinking about the story or what the block could be telling me, and I got thoroughly off-track. There may be a very good reason that my first novel, HD, is told in three parts of about 30-35K a piece over the course of thirty or so years and many critiquers have complained that each part feels like it's trying to be a novel on its own and not part of a whole. A draft beyond 35-45K is outside of my natural comfort zone, apparently. And a draft that actually gets the novel out of Act 1 is problematic, as well, it seems.

I would find this more fascinating and helpful were it not for the fact that it took one complete but very broken novel (100K words) and three aborted attempts at novels (135K words) and myriad pieces of short fiction (hmmm, maybe a total of 100 or 150K?) spread out over five and half years (actually, seven if you count the very first 10K I wrote in HD before I considered myself serious about this writing thing). I don't like taking this long to figure something out, especially if it's about myself (though I have taken longer, and will likely take longer still in the future), and especially if not knowing the piece of information delays events that will get me closer to the dream of writing full-time.

Ah, well. I'm just going to have to get over that, aren't I? At least I did figure it out. Isn't that why I'm doing this series of posts anyway?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sing Along, Sleep Along

The Drew Monster has started to sing. It's usually when the Backyardigans theme is on, and the singing is mostly in the vowel of "Ah" and the same note, but he is singing. He's pretty intense with it, too, as if he can tell that the sound he's producing isn't quite up to par with what he's hearing and he's trying to match the two better.

This warms my heart to have Andrew doing something that is clearly in alignment with my interests. I don't know if he's just mimicking the TV or if I've done enough random singing around him that he connects singing with me as well, but it's nice to know that, even if only for the next month or so, we'll have this little thing in common and laugh about hitting bad notes together.

As for another thing we've discovered he had in common with his father, I am less than thrilled about it. Drewbie suffers from occasional night terrors. Actually, he's more prone to them when waking up from a nap than during the night. We had somewhat suspected this after a few episodes over the course of the past year, but yesterday's nap made it very clear.

This wouldn't bother me nearly so much if I didn't have firsthand experience of what his father's sleepwalking is like. What I wouldn't give for the sedate getting up and shuffling to the kitchen and then shuffling back that seems to be the general consciousness regarding sleepwalking. No, as I've detailed here before, Mark likes to bolt upright out of bed, spring to his feet, vault over furniture, and run screaming through the house during his episodes. And I've recently learned that night terrors is often a genetic thing and will evolve into sleepwalking in the preteen years.


The good news is that keeping a regular schedule with plenty of time for sleep seems to keep the night terror episodes at bay. And staying low on the Stress-O-Meter seems to stave off the full body antics of the sleepwalking episodes. Life doesn't always let you keep a consistent schedule with good sleep hours or keep the stresses low. I'm just going to keep my fingers crossed that High School Drew and 15 Years Older Mark don't have simultaneous bouts of high stress, low sleep periods. I might have to lock them into separate, well-padded rooms.

Friday, November 16, 2007

WGA Strike

Just in case you aren't aware, the screenwriters of America are on strike. I could try to sum up the reasons for it, but, really, just watch this lovely YouTube video brought to you by the folks who write for the Daily Show. If you already know about the strike, then you've likely seen this. I know I've seen it linked to in about five different places today alone. I've watched it most of those times. It's funny. It's informative. It puts things into a great perspective. As someone who gets her news from the Daily Show, I can only hope the matter gets resolved soon.

One thing I'm curious about (and wondering why the corporations pushing against the writers aren't talking about) is how profit from DVD sales and internet downloads breaks down to pay the production costs. I mean, asking for 2.5% of the profits to go back to the writers sounds ridiculously low. But if 95% of the profits has to go back into production costs, then maybe, just maybe, I might understand reluctance to part with that 2.5%. Of course, then I would also wonder about their business model.

It would be very amusing if, during the court battles Viacom and other coporations are bringing against YouTube, their language to justify yanking residuals from writings is used against them to tank their piracy case. I wonder what whether the lawyers involved are sweating this possibility. That might be what gets this strike resolved.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Convenient Lacks

I had meant to post this a good two weeks ago, but I got distracted halfway through composing, then decided I wanted to answer the Global Warming Debate with my response, then I realized that I just wanted a quick sketch of my reactions to this article. So here's the post, at long last.

Via Holly Lisle, I read this interesting article about inaccuracies in Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Given that this article comes from an organization "dedicated to sound public policy based on sound science" that strives to separate reality from rhetoric, I found the following three things very interesting.

1) The author chastises Gore's rep for saying "[Global Warming is] a complex issue" but not referencing all of the scientific papers on which they based their 90-minute video on the movie's website on the page devoted to the science behind the movie. The author of the article then proceeds to only reference one of the two articles the site referenced and doesn't bother to back up its refutations that cannot be found in that one source. If you're going to accuse someone of sloppy scientific arguments, it's best not to make their same mistake. Especially for this loaded topic, it makes you look really bad.

2) Many times the article explains that the environmental impacts the movie attributes to global warming are actually caused by some other way in which humans have destroyed a part of the local environment. The fact that the article mentions those impacts at all is a mark in the author's favor, but the fact that those impacts are left to stand as refutations of Gore rather than exhortations (or even just links, dammit) for policies (or even just their opinions on policies) that can stop such damage makes me wonder about what I'm reading.

3) Several of the inaccuracies listed after the first nine that were upheld by a British court are just repeats. For example, Error #7 is that the movie claims Hurricane Katrina is manmade, and Error #11 is that the movie claims that Hurricane Caterina is manmade. (By the way, for an institute that claims to eschew politics and rhetoric, the explanation of Error #7 is remarkably political, and also wrong. Wrong in the sense that the Democrats didn't cause Hurricane Katrina. The author is clearly trying to say that the Democrats were responsible for the levees breaking and inflates the rhetoric severely in doing so.) Also, Error #28 is that the movie blames global warming for the spread of tropical diseases and Error #29 is that the movie blames global warming for the spread of West Nile. Conflating the number of errors with cheap word tricks or refuting a point in such a way that all similar points of that nature are clearly covered by that refutation (i.e. if someone consistently misspelled words that a spell-check would have caught, I wouldn't say, "I found 22 misspelled words in this document." I would say "This document was not spellchecked." I think the latter is more damning, actually.) again makes me think you have an axe to grind rather than a cogent scientific argument to make.

It's too bad, really. I get so steamed with all this talk about global warming because, looking at the matter from a geological perspective, I think we've got a lot more data to collect before we go blaming anyone other than nature for causing it. In the meantime, science has already shown without a doubt how much damage we our doing to our environment on a more micro scale that may or may not stretch to a macro scale in the future if left unchecked. Why is it OK to dismiss smog and acid rain and local water pollution in favor of fear-mongering over water world? We've got enough environmental problems that we know for sure we've brought upon the world ourselves. Let's get back to those, please, and start where we can actually prove we can make a difference. Seriously, I'm beginning to suspect that global warming was a concept invented by Big Oil and such specifically because it distracts from the reality of the problems in our backyards that they've already been shown to be causing.

By the way, I'm getting really sick of these car commercials from, IIRC, Mercedes and Lexus that show these super environmentally friendly, alternative fueled cars, with the voiceover something along the lines of "Ready for the world, when the world is ready." Idiots, we're clearly ready for it, unless by "ready" you mean that you need a certain demographic willing to drop 1,000,000 for that car so as to make the car profitable. But I have a feeling "ready" means something more along the lines of "when Big Oil isn't going to crush us for daring to mass produce cars that don't require their product."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Process Examination #14: It Seems Cruel That Logic Should Let Me Down

I hadn't intended to take a day off from writing today. The easiest source of blame is Emma Bull's Territory, a story that absolutely sucked me in and refused to let go until I read the last page not an hour ago. But I have to be honest and admit I was looking for an excuse to step away from writing today. I didn't really need to, at least, not where PPR is concerned. It's just that the stutters and stalls and hiccups of THUMB have me all twisted and turned, trying to figure out where things went wrong this time.

As I mentioned yesterday, logic is what did me in. Or, rather, strict adherence to a logical flow of time and events and patterns. I've been writing THUMB in such a way as to cover just about every single waking minutes in these characters' lives, highlighting the dialog and character interactions and downplaying the action. Finally, in the past two days, I figured out why: I had set up a POV rotation pattern that I slavishly followed, forcing events to unfold in this step-by-step way, revealing what happened as the clock ticked on because that's exactly what that POV pattern demanded I do unless I wanted to pass too many important things by. For example, I couldn't skip ahead a couple of days in Jasper's POV because that would mean having to summarize and infodump on important things that had happened during those days in Elzie's and Rafe's POV. And I couldn't not have the Jasper POV scene because I had set up a structure based on it being there.

Logic has been my friend for a very, very long time. I suspect it still is, but it's laughing at me for taking it so literal. The laughter wouldn't hurt so much were it not for the fact that literal logic would get me to a completed draft, but it would take a good deal more than 100,000 words and a couple of months. And the revision process would be murder. Literal logic is not the way to write novels. Rather, it's not the way to write this novel.

So I'm trying to shift gears and ease the POV pattern and loosen my stranglehold on logic for Act 2. And I'm trying to do it without going back to rewrite Act 1. And I'm trying not to think about the fact that writing short fiction, even a novella, seems to be easier for my brain to parse. I want to write novels. I have tons of novel-length stories in me to tell, and I have to tell them. And I'd rather not take years to get each one out of me.

Part of the reason I started this series of posts was to, obviously, examine my writing process in frequent, honest terms that would help me navigate my way from the beginning of a story idea through to the point that I decided to cut the cord and send it out into the world. I can think of a number of different ways to interpret this crossroads I feel is before me and, in so doing, pick a direction. All of them, if I wrote them out here, would likely sound extremely plausible. All of them would point in different directions.

So why don't I cut right to the chase? Any falter now feels like it's admitting I can't finish a novel. That was the Awful Troof I feared back when I set aside SoZ for this crusade. And here I am, roundabouts the end of Act 1, with 40K words in the story, hitting a speedbump that has me looking back at the starting line and wondering if maybe I should try this race over again.

Damn. It. To. Hell.

No. Screw this. I'm going to finish this damn book. And I'm going to do it by the end of January, as I know I can. I'm going to take the ideas I've got to get me to the end and, by golly, use them to get me there. They may not be perfect, they may not work as well as something I'll figure out later, but they will get me to a completed draft and then I'll fix the stupid thing, no matter how painful that process is going to be.

Take that, logic.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

This Period of Silence Brought to You by...

Errand Friday, TusCon 34 Saturday, Christmas Shopping Sunday, and Tired Monday. And I almost didn't post this today because I've been so rigidly locked into schedules and pattern and logic in so many aspects of my writing life that I had a hard time not posting a Process Examination post even though I have stuff to talk about (regarding that rigidity of pattern, actually). So I'm going to break the confinement of the blog schedule and post on that tomorrow. Maybe it will help me break the confinement in my writing tonight.

TusCon 34, by the way, was a fun day. The Con is smaller than my only other fan con experience, Mile Hi Con, but fun nonetheless. I tried on a corset for the first time at a booth in the dealer's room. A very interesting experience, and if I had had $500 to spare, I would have bought an absolutely gorgeous corset/skirt combo that I wisely didn't even try on out of fear I would whip out the credit card before I could stop myself. Also, Emma Bull is great fun to hang around. I'm looking forward to starting Territory tonight, which she graciously signed for me (I used my lunch break to wander to a Borders in town to pick it up after I learned that they didn't have copies for purchase at the con; that's what I get for confusing a writing conference with a fan convention--one day I'll learn, but I've only got a couple of each under my belt at the moment).

Christmas shopping on Veterans Day weekend, however, was not fun. We did hit a lot of great sales and got the gifts we wanted for everyone on our list (except for each other and most of Drew's stuff), but the crowds were thick and the mall had chosen this week to renovate the play area, thus taking the wind out of Drewbie's sails.

It feels very weird that we are only nine days away from Thanksgiving. I've got family coming in town for it, so I'm eager for the holidays. But we're still flirting with the low 90s here. I can count on one hand the times I've worn jeans in the past two months. The only time I've put on a long-sleeved anything since March has been during early morning camping or hiking excursions. I even ordered a peppermint mocha at Starbucks the other day and was disappointed that, while yummy, it didn't taste as good as I remembered from a nippy winter day in Colorado. I will get adjusted to the weather. It's just going to take longer than I had thought.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Onion Makes My Day, Part # 1397

My only gripe is that it's a short piece. More, please! I eagerly await the installment titled "First Person Narrator Witholds Evidence from Self" or somesuch.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A New BPAL Discovery

After realizing that putting the BPAL fragrances on my wrists led the scents to rub off onto my keyboard and back onto my wrist in an odd, not entirely unpleasant olfactory experience daily, I began refraining from putting the stuff on my wrists at all. Instead, I swiped it on my neck and dipped a little in my decolletage, such as it is.

The difference in smell is remarkable. It's much more "pure"--as in it smells more like what is in the bottle. It also lasts longer and stays "intact" as a cohesive fragrance longer. Namaste is still my favorite, but the others improved dramatically by leaving my wrists alone.

I am curious to try this simple experiment with the other perfumes I have. It could be an odiferous stretch of days for the men in the house.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Process Examination #13: It's All a Placeholder for the Real Thing

Sigh. I'm trudging my way through the first draft of THUMB, and I've realized that there is so much I have to fix. Just about every scene has something that is my shorthand for "make this not suck in revision." It was not a shiny happy moment when I took stock of Act One and realized most of it fits into that category. But still I keep slogging, although it's harder to do so when you're staring at a scene that is just mired in Suck, when you're having characters talk about conflict and action rather than actually putting them in conflict and action.

Of course, it's not all bad. Even in the "slime, filth, putresence" stage, I see the gems still, which means that there are likely more of them than I'm letting myself see at the moment. And all this talking head phenomenon I've got going on and the punches I'm pulling so my characters aren't cut too low too soon (I know where they're going to end up by Acts 3 and 4, so I'm trying to be a little nice to them right now; Bad Author! Bad!) is helping me see where the story's lacking, what I need to fix. I even managed to figure out a better way to do a certain plot and character point last night because of all the vast amounts of suck surrounding me. (By then, though, it was my bed time, so I only managed to choke out about 150 words in that new direction. Thank God PPR is going well so I'm not feeling completely stupid in writing.)

I think I might have even mastered part of the trick of changing plot or characters in mid-story and not having to go back and revise. We'll see as I keep moving forward, though. I feel driven to finish this draft without getting stuck in loops, so I'm going to keep pushing on, asking questions when I stumble to make sure I don't get too far away from the story and the characters that I have to scrap 82K like I did with SoZ. (I know I've said that before. Writers pay attention to refrains, sometimes we even figure out what they mean before our readers do. I'm pretty sure the essence of this motif is this: Me want finish book! Now!)

One thing that might help me through this is to actually track the Things That Suck as I notice them in a document so I can have a revision guide. Of course, that also runs the risk of starting out my revisions in a very negative light. Must ponder.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Drewbie Goes to the Beach

We went camping on Lake Havasu this weekend. It's yet another beautiful area of the state. In fact, most of the drive from Casa Grande to the western border and along it was gorgeous. (The part that wasn't was a stretch of the Phoenix bypass route and a bit of I-10 getting out of Maricopa county. Come to think of it, a good chunk of I-10 treks through one of the ugliest bits of the state that I've seen. I-10 from the westernmost reach of Phoenix through to central Tucson is not the best way to see the beauty of the Arizona desert, though it does have its nice spots even there. Picacho Peak and the distant mountains of the central valley come to mind.)

Most of the state parks over along the Colorado River and Lake Havasu are focused on boating and water activities and are designed primarily with RVs in mind, but we did manage to find a nice shady secluded spot in one park to pitch our tent. The Colorado River valley had some very fascinating mountains around it, mostly on the California side. It was still fairly warm, barely dipping into the 50s at night, but it was just cool enough that we were able to get a fire going without feeling too ridiculous. The Drew Monster thought it was cool.

But the best part of the trip was watching Drewbie go nuts in the lake and along the shore. The water was cold but warm enough that he was able to play in it for about an hour, taking breaks on the warm sand in the sun to warm up for stretches. He went nuts with the little waves, splashing his hands in them, trying to figure them out. Then he would have fun digging up wet sand and carrying it over to where Momma was sitting to proudly deposit it in front of me.

Of course, nothing could quite top his discovery of the ducks in the lake and on the beach. He chased them all over the place, trying to herd them into the water if they weren't there, getting somewhat alarmed when they took off into the air.

We'd like to go back when the water is warmer so the Drew Monster can really go nuts in the lake and river, but it's quite clear that the warmer months will mean very large crowds and lots of boats and jetskis and such. We'd have to pick our travel time very carefully.

Still, it was a great trip and a real treat to watch El Boyo Diablo cavort on a beach. Pictures will likely be posted soon.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Maybe I Should Wait to Watch This...

Via Jacquandor, I read this fangirlsquee about a new Joss Whedon show on FOX. And it sounds really awesome. Like the kind of thing I wish I had come up with first so I could play around in this universe without stepping on someone's copyright toes. I just might fully understand writing fanfiction with this show (assuming it lives up to this killer premise). Here's the show blurb:

Echo (Eliza Dushku) [is] a young woman who is literally everybody's fantasy. She is one of a group of men and women who can be imprinted with personality packages, including memories, skills, language—even muscle memory—for different assignments. The assignments can be romantic, adventurous, outlandish, uplifting, sexual and/or very illegal. When not imprinted with a personality package, Echo and the others are basically mind-wiped, living like children in a futuristic dorm/lab dubbed the Dollhouse, with no memory of their assignments—or of much else. The show revolves around the childlike Echo's burgeoning self-awareness, and her desire to know who she was before, a desire that begins to seep into her various imprinted personalities and puts her in danger both in the field and in the closely monitored confines of the Dollhouse.

Exciting, no? But there's that whole "it's on FOX" thing, which means that seven-episode committment could be all they give us, and we might not even be able to FIND all seven episodes because the timeslot is going to be like playing hot potato, and they certainly aren't going to air those seven in order or anything. And I'm sure they're going to promo to the sex quotient ad nauseum and drive away non-Whedonhead viewers. And there's the added issue that I just don't really like Eliza Dushku very much--I think she clunked on Tru Calling, but that show had a lot of other problems, so I might be giving her bad taint by association.

Anyway, I'll watch the premiere, but I'm going to have to unhook the "gimme good SF" fangirl in me to do so cuz I don't want to get too attached to a show that doesn't have good odds of surviving.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hey! You! Take This Candy!

I thought about saving this for my usual Monday Drew Monster post, but it's just too much fun to wait to share this. Plus, we're going camping this weekend, so I'll likely have lots of new material for a Monday post.

Being new to this neighborhood (and far removed from the concept of trick-or-treating; we've been living in apartment housing that didn't get any of that for the past seven years), we decided not to take Drewbie out for Halloween, opting to stay at home and have him help us hand out candy as we gauged the time window and the age ranges and such. Turned out to be a good choice.

Drew absolutely had a blast handing out candy. He helped Momma pour the candy bags into the plastic jack-o-lantern he's been carrying around since his birthday. Then he demanded I let him sample one of each type. Then he discovered he LOVED the lollipops and had to fish them out of the jack-o-lantern and keep those separate.

When the doorbell rang, he would do his half-dance, half-run thing to the door and open it himself. Using his non-favorite candy, he quickly picked up on the concept of dropping a piece into each bag that got shoved under his nose. Then he'd wave and say, "Bye!" and shut the door as the trick-or-treaters walked away.

The real fun was when there was a lull in between visitors earlier on in the evening. He got tired of waiting for someone to ring the doorbell, so he ran to the door, flung the door open, saw an unsuspecting three-year-old and her parents down by our driveway and went tearing out to them, holding a prized lollipop aloft. Also enjoyable were the times when the trick-or-treaters would be turning to leave with their loot, but Drewbie decided he wanted to give out more candy. He would stand in the doorway and hold out a piece of candy and say, "More? More? More?"

The entire night, he had such a look of purpose and order. There was a process, by golly, and he was going to do his part. He wasn't very interested in the costumes as he mostly zeroed in on the candy bags. He had so much fun dishing out candy that we might have a hard time convincing him that its actually more fun to go trick-or-treating next year.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I met my minimum word count goal for the end of October. In order to stay on track to finish this draft by the end of January, I needed to hit 38,950 words today. I am pleased to announced that I made it to 39,116. I knew I could do this.

Now I must go crash into bed. Tomorrow starts another month of writing no less than 750 words in THUMB at every single writing opportunity. No rest for the weary, and all that jazz.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Progress Report #1: Um, Maybe Overextended

OK, so when I mapped out my minimum end of the month word counts for THUMB and PPR, I hadn't considered that I would also be writing up summaries of the RWA talks at the end of the month. I also hadn't realized that it was my brother's birthday on Sunday and that a bro-sis dinner out would eat up a writing night. I also haven't gotten the swing of factoring in "sick" days, and I was dealing with sleep deprivation hardcore this weekend. And, while the plot points have been coming fast and furious for PPR, they haven't been as forthcoming for THUMB.

What does all of that translate to? I need to write 4K for THUMB by tomorrow to meet the minimum amount of words I want for the end of October in order to keep me on-target for a draft by the end of January. This wouldn't be too far outside the realm of possibility were it not for those summaries I have to do. I think I might nudge those to the 1st as the newsletter they're for goes out by the 5th. That should be close enough for government work. (OK, I really don't like that saying. I don't think I'll use it again.)

For the month of November, especially given that we are having guests over for the Turkey Day weekend, I have already slashed a number of days that, without the holidays, I would use for writing. I think to prevent an end of the month crunch, I'm going to come up with weekly totals to help me stay on track. Assuming the story actually, yanno, decides to make itself known to me often enough to stay on track. Darn Muse.

I'm not worried about PPR in the slightest. That one is chugging along very well. I'm fairly certain I'll be done with it before the Turkey Day weekend, thus giving me some down time before I have to dive back in for revisions. I'd like to get this one out the door by mid-December at the latest. (And I just had a freak-out moment thinking about mailing something in mid-December until I remembered that this opp takes electronic subs only. Sweet.)

This is the last time (this year) that I have to write up the RWA meeting summaries, though I, fool that I am, have volunteered to be in charge of the newsletter next year. So I'm sure I'll be crunched at the end of the month again. Must account for this next year.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Joys of an Increasing Vocabulary

The Drew Monster has added "no" to his growing list of words. Right now, he seems more amused that he can say this magical word that Momma and Daddy have used so frequently, and he likes to babble it while he plays. I'm sure by the end of the week, though, he'll have figured out that he can use this word on us now to extraordinary effect.

We were hoping he wouldn't learn this word for a while longer yet. I guess this means "why" is going to be uttered before we're ready for it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Cut, Paste, Print & Save

Agent Kristin Nelson is doing an excellent series of posts on how to pitch your novel either live to an agent/editor or in a query letter by examining the cover copy of already published novels. The concept is to distill the inciting conflict and unique world elements in as few sentences as possible. Tricky stuff, but her analyses are very enlightening. Check it out.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

OK, That? Was Not Fun

Yesterday my writing got derailed twice. Andrew woke up from his nap forty-five minutes earlier than usual, giving me only fifteen minutes of writing time after my work day ended. I wrote about 250 words. Then I imbibed at dinner on a stomach that was emptier than I had thought with a margarita that was a great deal more potent than I had thought. Brain was not coherent after that. No words last night. Going to bed under these circumstances never makes me happy, but there's only so much prodding I can force my brain to endure, and there's only so much sleep I'm willing to sacrifice. So I retired with my measely 250 words for the day.

Then the Drew Monster woke up screaming about thirty minutes after we had turned out our light for the night. (This means Mark had been asleep for roughly twenty minutes and I had not even begun to drift off; inebriated or no, I take at least a half hour to fall asleep.) We tried to calm Drewbie down for a good 15-30 minutes, but he wasn't having it (we're pretty sure he had a nightmare). So we snuggled up with him in the living room and put an episdoe of his favorite show on. It still took him over five minutes, but he finally did calm down.

Only problem was, in calming down, he also managed to convince himself that it was morning and he was up for the day. Cue screaming when we tried to put him back to bed after the episode was over. We tried to calm him down for another 15-30 minutes. No joy. So back we went to the TV. Lather, rinse, repeat.

After the second round of TV watching, I took him outside to show him the moon in hopes that he might understand that it was, in fact, night time. He still squawked when we returned him to his bed, but it was brief and it was followed by thrity minutes of actual sleeping. (I may or may not have grabbed a few Zs during this time; it certainly didn't feel like I did.)

Then he was screaming again, and I went to his room and thought maybe if I crawled into bed with him he would settle. And he did, only he didn't settle very deeply, so every time I thought I had heard steady, sleepy breathing for five minutes or more, I would ease out of the bed...only to have him wake up, usually as I was shutting the door behind me. Back to his bed I would go. Lather, rinse, repeat. Finally at about 1:45 I was able to leave him asleep in his bed and crash into bed myself.

Trudging through the day on four hours sleep? Do not want! Likely I'll have to use Drewbie's nap time today to get some sleep myself instead of write. This does not make me happy. It's times like these you really wish your child could communicate exactly what's going on in his head. If he could've just told us exacty what was wrong...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I Don't Go to Bookstores to Be Social

I am not by any stretch of the imagination an introvert. Such a trait would have been a major liability growing up in the military where either you or the folks around you were picking up and moving on to the next assignment almost as soon as you'd settled. Now, I'm not entirely sure I'm an extrovert, either. I just learned how to adapt to my constantly changing surroundings. Mostly.

That being said, I never considered running errands or shopping to be a way to socialize (unless you bring the friends along with you and you shop together). Now, if we're standing in a line or oohing and aahing over the same product, sure, I might strike up a conversation if the mood seems right or the person seems amenable. I've had nice chats with folks around playgrounds, too, while we watch our kids cut loose. (I've also had intensely awkward conversations around playgrounds too, but that was because the need for a deeper connection was so palpable for both me and the person I was talking with that we couldn't easily do the superficial thing; it's hard to be polite and talk about the weather when the subtext screams "I need a friend! Please, be my friend!")

So I had some mixed reactions while reading JA Konrath's post about handselling your own books to folks in bookstores. On the one hand, he lays out excellent advice and gives plausible scenarios that are very informative to folks who need some help on how to handsell. On the other hand, I kept wincing. When I go to a bookstore, it's almost always because I have a specific goal in mind: find this book, or browse the SF section for something fun. I'm in my own world, looking at all the shiny shiny. If I want assistance or an opinion, I'll ask for it. The couple of times that another customer has actually talked to me in the stacks (maybe after seeing me trying to decide between two books or something), I haven't enjoyed it. It feels like an intrusion, another shattering of the illusion of being surrounded by stories just waiting for me to read them. As a customer, I would not like being approached by an another trying to handsell a book. Hell, I wouldn't enjoy being approached by a bookseller trying to handsell a book. If I want a handsell, I'll find you.

I can't see myself approaching customers who aren't in any way signalling receptability in a bookstore during downtime at a signing. If a customer's looking around as if lost, I'll talk to them and see about bringing the conversation around to my books if what the customer is looking for matches up. If a customer approaches me, of course I'll go into extrovert mode. If a customer is hemming and hawing over books that match up with mine, I would have to weigh the situation carefully to make sure an approach wouldn't annoy. If it's really slow, I might also put a note on the table with my books that says "Hey, I'm wandering through the SF stacks, looking for items to add to my TBR pile. Come find me and give me recommendations." Or something.

Of course, that's all very hypothetical since I have not a single published title outside of my master's thesis, and only two copies of that are on shelves and only at the University of Colorado library. I'm sure they'll go flying off that shelf as soon as I make it big, because what rabid fan wouldn't want to read about how I attempted to purify an enzyme and analyze the kinetics of its reaction?

As an interesting aside, I should note that I'm likely to be much more comfortable at a signing in a Borders store as opposed to a B&N store. Most of that stems from having met with my critique group in a Borders weekly for four years. But the rest of it is just because B&N gives me a very formal feel. I have a hard time relaxing and browsing as a customer in their stores because I always feel like if I touch anything, I'm going to set off alarms. I think it's the dark wood and dark green decor. Borders has brighter woods and colors. There's also quite a few open walkways whereas the B&N stores I've been in crowd their walkways with displays, making me feel claustrophobic as well (a perception not enhanced by having higher stacks as well; you can't look over the stacks in a B&N to see the whole store the way you can in a Borders).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Process Examination #12: Juggling Two Projects

I've always been a multi-tasker, sometimes compulsively so. It's very rare that my brain will actually allow me to buckle down and focus completely on one thing. At the very least, I require background music and/or noise for some part of my brain to analyze and follow while the rest of the gray matter addresses the primary task at hand. So I was surprised when, early on the writing of THUMB, I was unable to work on the revisions for another story. But I duly noted the chaos that ensued from attempting to pre-write and start a draft at the same time as revising a completely different manuscript. And I set aside the revisions for later.

Now, here I am making remarkable headway in two projects at once, one of which is a rewrite of more extensive proportions than I had originally thought it would be. And I'm thriving. The key for this success has been to keep the two projects divided by time of day that I work on them. I work on PPR during Drew's naps, and I work on THUMB in the evenings. Reserving the time for both projects had allowed me to focus and not get so hung up on the little stumbles.

I'm reminded of how much I enjoyed research as an undergrad, juggling two different labs in two different states between semesters and breaks. I could concentrate on the project in front of me, shrug away the annoyance of a setback and focus on getting data. All because I knew I would be setting aside the frustrations in front me in favor of another project in just a few months, and that I could come back to the current project with refreshed energy and perspective. (Seriously, there are times I wish I could be paid to be an undergrad researcher, complete with a full course load; I think it was the most successful "career" I've ever had.)

I think the key to this successful juggling is that both projects are well underway. THUMB is just about out of Act One and PPR was already complete in draft form (of course, the departure from the draft is a bit more extensive than I had thought it would be; still, I know where I'm going and what needs to be tweaked to get me there because I've already traversed this particular path). I don't think the juggling would work if I were trying to start a new novel or even working on an already started novel (such as SoZ) as that's just too much to ask of my brain.

(Another aside, it took the ickiness of my first trimester to understand that it is possible to demand too much of my brain while multi-tasking. That led to me running a red light and totalling our car while I was fourteen weeks pregnant. I can still remember quite clearly the moment when I tried to add one more thought to the mix in my brain and my brain just went mushy and came up empty until I realized the car next to me was breaking hard, which meant I should likely be doing the same. Only I was a bit too slow on the uptake.)

So with two projects feeding off of each other, I have plenty of faith that I can reach my goals quite handily for these two projects. Here is the state of their progress:

THUMB: 32,072 of 100,000

PPR: 8,642 of 30,000

Go me and my mad juggling skillz.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Back Outside Again

One thing I never appreciated about the hot summers when I was only in the desert for just over two months each summer: they last a lot longer than two months. Another thin: the inability to play outside might not mean much to a college student, but it means quite a bit to a toddler.

Thus the Drew Monster and I have been ecstaticly welcoming the return of the low 90s and high 80s. We've resumed our daily treks to the mailbox and playground. We've taken to waiting for Daddy to come home by running around in our mostly rock-covered backyard instead of diddling around inside the house. This does mean that Drewbie needs a bath every night instead of every other night because he invariably spends a good deal of time exploring the one dirt patch we have yet to cover with rock.

In the four to five month gap since we've been outside regularly, Drew has grown enough to climb and crawl all over the playground in ways he wasn't able or willing to before, which made my heart beat a little faster the first time I saw him climb one particular set of bars. He likes to race me to chase down balls in the backyard too these days and actually work at kicking the things to me instead of kicking just to see them spin and roll away from him.

It's also nice to be able to explore a lot of the little parks and rec areas within an hour or two drive from our house without having to worry about heatstroke. It's good to be able to get out of the house every weekend and let Drew run around and hike and climb and get dirty. I've got to find a better way to handle the hot months, though. I've got until mid-May to put together a plan.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Great Day to Honor my High School Buddy

Because I am fighting some sort of bug that makes me feel as if to do anything other than crash in bed is the equivalent of forcing me to run a marathon, I will indulge in some lazy linkage and point you all to the crazy goodness that is my buddy Matt (and friends). Be forewarned: this song is an earworm of disturbing proportions. And the video is great for warming you up on a chilly day as poor Matt is not wearing the lightest outfit.

In case you're wondering (and I'd wonder if you didn't), this is a related work for a SciFi comedy TV show that Matt and his buddies were working on to submit to the New York Television Festival. I'm told that there may be more disturbed YouTube videos from this project, and I will happily post them here so I don't have to exert myself to come up with actual content.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to try to force myself to write my minimums today so I'm not horribly behind on my writing schedule despite feeling like a zombie. I'm curious to see just how deranged the content I generate will be today. Good info to have for when I'm sick while writing toward a publisher-defined deadline.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Consumerization of the Reader

I've never been interested in reading or writing media tie-in novels or the Harlequin contemporary romances, but I never understood why. I just shied away from the displays in the stores and shrugged away calls for submissions to those lines. But as I burrow deeper and deeper into various writing communities, I'm coming across a lot of people who read and write tie-in novels and category romances. And I've read a couple of the romances, trying to see if I could spot the "difference" I gave those books in my attitude. I really couldn't.

A couple of weeks ago, though, I figured out why the entire concept of tie-in novels and Harlequin's categories rubbed me the wrong way. Those books don't make me feel like a reader, they make me feel like a consumer. Coming from someone who easily spends $500 a year on books (one year I'm going to terrify myself and track the number; there's a very good reason why Mark handles the vast bulk of our finances), this might seem like spliting a microhair.

As a reader, I pick up a book because I'm interested in the story. (Well, OK, so I also pick up books to research the market and the industry; but always the bottom line of that research is to compare the story I read vs the data point that brought the book to my attention.) While publishing is a business out to make its profit just like all the others, whenever they push a product, they don't appeal to me as a consumer, they appeal to me as a reader: blurbs, cover copy, artwork, newsletters with excerpts or anecdotes from authors. Hell, even the Borders Rewards newsletters don't just stop short of giving me a coupon and laundry-listing the titles to be released. They often have interviews and excerpts and company exclusives (songs or "deleted scenes", etc).

How (according to my perception) are tie-in novels and category romances different? The tie-in novels feature cover art that has the medium it's based upon front and center. It makes sense to do this in order to get the established fan base of that product in another medium to buy the book. Hence I feel like a consumer: you like this TV show then buy this book and continue with the characters. The focus is not about informing me of the story, it's about moving product through brand recognition. "Buy me! Yes, there will be more of the tangled Starbuck and Apollo angst that you enjoyed in last season's episodes within these pages!"

With Harlequin's books, it's the way they are packaged and sold that kills the illusion of the barrier between reader and consumer. They are on a rack, in categories, sometimes with remarkably similar titles. And they cycle through to a new title every month (or less). I see that display, and I don't hear the siren call of books calling to me with entertaining stories. Instead, I hear: "Buy me! You are a middle class woman with time and money to spend and you are always jonesing for stories about men and women navigating their way to Happily Ever After! And come back in a few weeks and BUY MORE! We know you read approximately 9 books a year! Wait, don't pass us by! Come over here and bow down to the statistics of your demographic! We can show you our research! In pie-chart form!"

Now, I don't harbor any illusions that the other books on the shelves are any different. The team that got that book from manuscript pages to the product in front of me are trying to maximize the chances that I will buy that book instead of the one next to it. But, unless the author is a Big Name, they have only the story to recommend, so all of the decisions they made regarding that book are focused on bringing out the interesting elements of that story to give me a package that says: "Buy me! I will entertain you with a great story!"

Here's the thing, though. The folks behind tie-in novels and Harlequin's category romances know full well that consumers will ditch a product that doesn't deliver. And success in one medium is not going to translate into another without delivering the goods that is expected from that other medium (as well as the added tangle of not detracting from the enjoyment of the original show or movie). And even the most voracious of readers won't buy books if they've been consistently disappointed. So the stories have to deliver in those cases just as much as they do for any other book. You might argue that they have to deliver more because of their differences from the sea of single titles around them.

However, in a world where not a day goes buy that someone doesn't make me feel like a stat to move from "THEM" to "US", I appreciate a product that doesn't do anything overtly to make me feel like anything other than a reader wanting to be entertained by a good story. As I learn more about the publishing industry (hopefully from the perspective of a published author one day soon), I may come to see all books as treating me like a consumer over a reader. It would be nice, though, if instead I got over my "I'm a purty snowflake with unique reading tastes" knee-jerk reaction to tie-ins and category romances.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Process Examination #11: Notebooking Again

It's funny. Now that I'm fully into draft composition mode and buckling down for a regular writing schedule, I managed to forget the tricks that did well during pre-writing and the initial stuttering. For example, while laying down the law for my writing times, I went on about this "freewriting" thing. It was a good idea at the time, born out of a feeling that I should be writing at the computer during my writing time, even if it's just brain spew vaguely or not at all related to the novel. I never kept myself to that concept of getting the fingers typing, though, and I didn't really need it until Sunday. And I just froze up.

Now, part of the problem was that I had just picked up J.R. Ward's latest Black Dagger book, and those books are like crack. I can't really explain it. I seriously can't put those books down. As a writer, I want to know how this is done so I can do it in my books. Is there some subliminal printing thing going on? Are the pages dipped in a narcotic? Maybe the ink is laced with something that forces the eyes to follow it? I can't even pin down the story elements and the construction that really grabs me. That's how totally I get sucked into these books. If my interest wanders at all, I can usually figure out why, but that doesn't happen often. At any rate, being in the middle of this book did not make it easy for me to immerse myself in my writing on Sunday.

But I finally figured out that the bigger problem was that I hadn't notebooked the upcoming scenes and chapters at all. I don't mean outline. What I write for notebooking is taking a general concept of what has to happen in the next scene (sometimes it's as broad as "Jasper is the next POV character; need some action and plot revelation here") and then I sketch out ideas as they come. It really ends up sounding like a conversation (details are variabled out so as to prevent spoilerage):

Maybe I should have Jasper say this while doing that, and Celestina gets pissy?

No, because then she'd never let him do that other thing, and that has to happen in this chapter or else the next chapter isn't going to flow.

OK, so maybe Jasper does X because of A that happened ten years ago, and Celestina was part of bringing A down on his head, so she gets to grin and--

WAIT, Lutgard shows up and totally has to say E while doing Y so that Celestina gets G piece of information that Jasper completely misses, but he gets H piece of information, and so does the reader so Elzie's next chapter makes sense.

Me rikey.

Don't worry if you didn't get that. Chances are, in another couple of months, I won't get it either. But it's exactly what I need right now in order to write the next scene. And when I set up my writing schedule last week, I completely forgot to work time in for that. Not that I need a lot of time. I can usually get the notebooking done in the first half hour or so I sit down to write and then still make my minimums. Or I drag out the notebook during the day and scribble stuff down as I'm working or running after Drewbie.

I'm sure when I get to the end of draft comp and also during revisions that I will have similar process examination posts that amount to a "Duh!" with regards to forgetting about the power of notebooking. Maybe I'll be quicker on the uptake next time.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Power of Suggestion

The Drew Monster is really starting to work on his vocabulary, mostly by deciding he likes to try out the words we ask him to say or the ones he hears us say a lot. You'd think that latter bit's a set up for the traditional toddler uttering of a four letter word in an inappropriate location. Nope, not our son. Not this family. No, the word he learned via repetitive hearings from both of his parents and tried out for himself is (drumroll please):


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Update and Such

The plan I put into place Tuesday (with the minor tweak when I checked my math and actually counted my available writing days until Jan 31; I have to write 775 or 900 words every writing day in THUMB in order to hit 90 or 100K by Jan 31) has worked fairly well. I've writting beyond my minimums each day with the exception of Thursday night. But I got the words I missed and more by squeezing in some writing time before my chill time with the hubby on Friday night. And I feel great about my progress.

The one thing I still struggle with is the freewriting and getting myself on-task at the beginning of my writing session. I'll track that a bit more this week and see if I can modify the freewriting concept so it will actually be appealing and helpful. Such a concept.

Completely overcome by energy this weekend (I gave up on my turn to sleep in so that we could explore Phoenix's South Mountain park, which was much more remarkable than I would have guessed), I spent my early morning time with the boy by reorganizing my book shelf. I culled my TBR pile of 24 books, which left a staggering 84 titles in the stack (and, of course, we went to Borders today and I picked up two more; why, no, I never do learn, and, besides, self-control in book buying is for sissies).

Also, I am doing the second sniff test of Namaste. It is definitely lovely, although the lemongrass fades away too much for my tastes as the scent wears on, leaving mostly patchouli in its wake (not bad, but not quite as happy as lemongrass).

Saturday, October 13, 2007

My Fragrant Prezzies Arrived!

The Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab perfumed oil blend I ordered in honor of a character from THUMB arrived today along with three imp's ears (samples). This was a reward for my quick, focused revisions on the first few chapters of THUMB. As I anticipated this one package so much over the past two weeks and was thrilled when I received it today, I just may be using this as a carrot for me in the future. I love BPAL's site and the whole concept of putting allegorical ideas into smells and could play around there for a while, creating a cache of fragrances that I can go to for my writing (give characters and settings an extra oomph with actual smells to reference).

Riffing on Sarah Monette who brought BPAL to my attention in the first place, I give you the results of the sniff tests.

In my utter glee at receiving this package, which was a reward for reaching a milestone in THUMB, I got a bit overeager and, instead of simply opening one of the imp's ears to smell straight from the bottle, I splashed a small amount on me. Thus, Jezebel became the first sniff test. It is described on the site as a blend of honey, roses, orange blossom and sandalwood. On me, it smelled like baby powder with a faint trace of cotton candy, which made me think of J.R. Ward's lessers.

After my shower, next up was the stuff from the 5ml bottle I had actually purchased: Undertow. Described as a blend of lotus and juniper with a hint of mint, it was quite sickly sweet strong upon opening the bottle. It took a few minutes for that strong cough syrupy smell to alter into a light, crisp floral with a trace of something very near to citurs. Mark likes it, but I'm somewhat on the fence still, both how it smells on me and if it actually matches the characer for whom I bought it. (The scent's literary description is why I purchased it, because it nicely followed an arc for the character.)

I had meant to stop there tonight, but I was too curious to leave the other two scents untried. (This means that my nose may not be smelling right anymore, or at least not smelling distinct blends properly. I will repeat the sniff tests in the future and report back on my findings, of course.)

Next I tried Namaste (sandalwood, jasmine, rose, patchouli, cedarwood and lemongrass). I smelled the lemongrass immediately, though the sandalwood and patchouli and rose are there with a closer sniff, and the lemongrass doesn't overpower the other smell after a few moments. I liked this one best as it is bright yet complex and overall very soothing.

Last I put on a small amount of Vampire Tears, which had the following laundry list of contributors: wisteria, white grapefruit, neroli, green tea, jasmine, white ginger, honeysuckle, iris, and tonka. It smelled like candy out of the container and immediately on my skin. The more floral and muskier tones came out after longer wear. Not too bad.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Things You Shouldn't Do Near Writers, Part the Many

While it might decrease the fodder for our novels, I'm beginning to think writers should wear some sort of identifying mark on their foreheads to keep people from acting in ways that are just begging to be put into their next novel. Lots of folks don't like finding themselves doing something stupid in print, even if the names have been changed to protect the idiotic.

For example, my mother was recently in the hospital (she's out now; fun with ulcers!), and I had to take her something outside of visiting hours. I went through the emergency entrance, and was promptly required to sign in (I'm pretty sure she checked my ID, but can't remember). I got a badge that said "VISITOR" and the day's date, but, while there was a space for it and the lady knew exactly where I was going because I had told her, not my destination. I then proceeded to wander through the guts of the ER nurses station, trying to navigate my way into the main hospital and patient rooms. A kind nurse pointed me in the right direction. I passed another nurse on my way through the halls, and then walked right by two more nurses at a station in the patient area who didn't appear busy. I passed one more nurse deep in the patient hall before arriving at my mother's room. I smiled pleasantly at everyone and looked them in the eye, giving each one of them a chance to stop and confirm what I was doing there where I wasn't supposed to be. I'm not a mystery or thriller writer, but even I couldn't help but think of all the ways such a system could be manipulated for an antagonist's nefarious purposes.

My next example is much more bold as the person in question knew for a certainty that I was a writer. But it's also a trickier situation. I'm pretty sure he tried to proposition me for an affair. Why am I not certain? Well, I'm seven years removed from the meat market, so I could be rusty on interpreting "interested male" signals that aren't coming from Mark. And it's not like he said anything conclusive. But he did go out of his way to engage me in a conversation (we were in a large group setting and he had no reason to chat with me in particular over the several folks around him). Also, when I shook his hand in greeting, he slid his index finger up to the pulsepoint of my wrist. He also had that lean-in-close, keep eye contact, and smile with 1000 watts thing going throughout our conversation, which I kept centered on our respective families, just in case I was being hit on.

Let's say he was trying to start something. This just makes the writer in me go friggin' nuts, all because of one question: why? What sort of married person solicits another for an affair? Is he from an open marriage? Is he a compulsive adulterer? Was he bored? It was a convention-type setting were most folks were from out of town, so maybe he just didn't want to be lonely in the hotel that night? Maybe it was a sting operation, and I would've ended up on some warped Dateline special with my face all blurred and my voice distorted as part of an expose on the state of marriage in the US.

Going in the Mary Sue/Glittery HooHa direction, maybe I'm just that hot and fascinating that he couldn't resist. Or maybe we knew each other back in high school or something and I never noticed him then and he's always had a crush on me.

OK, I can't stop laughing at those last two. I stopped writing wish fulfillment stories in college. Hell, when it didn't take long to recognize that Denise in HD was quite clearly me, I tried to kill her off right away. Tried, but she separated herself enough from me and got very insistent that the story needed her. I don't quite believer her, which is yet another reason why I've set that novel aside in a nice deep, dark drawer.

Anyway, people, you've got to be aware how much a writer will put you under a microscope to figure out what makes you tick, why you did something. We'll engage in armchair psychoanalysis before you can blink. We'll also scrutinize just about any venue and event for a means of exploitation, for an opportunity to really jump start the conflict and make a story of the situation. Be careful what you do around us unless you don't mind seeing how we take the truth of what we see and dig for interpretations you might not like.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Delayed Milestone Announcement

With the activity surrounding Drew's birthday and with Mark's parents being in town, I totally spaced on blogging about the other big day that happened last week.

Mark and I celebrated our fifth anniversary last Friday.

We left Drewbie in the capable hands of my in-laws and went out for a very nice dinner at the Ahwatukee Melting Pot. I don't know if all of the tables were set up this way, but in our section of the restaurant, each table was enclosed in a curtained-off alcove. We had no idea that was how the restaurant was set up, but we couldn't have planned it better. They were also having a neat Mediterranean-themed special dinner, which was delish.

The only downside of the evening was discovering that the Barnes & Noble on the way back to the highway only sold books, not music and movies. (We had gotten on the topic of 80s hairmetal toward the end of our meal--the perils of living with a writer as I'm writing a book that makes liberal use of said music.) We were craving some Def Leppard and were bummed out to find only a vast stretch of books in the store.

We were further disturbed by the group of insanely young-looking kids mobbed outside of the store after 10PM on a Friday night. Some of them looked to be 14, but most of them looked to be about 12. I know I was raised with some fairly strict rules and curfews, so I may be drastically out of touch with the norm for what kids are allowed to do these days, but damn. What kind of parent lets their twelve-year-old hang out at a major strip mall (there's a movie theater and several other big box stores around the B&N) within spitting distance of a big-city interstate on a Friday night after 10PM? Drewbie may hate us for it, but not just no, but hell no if he ever asks to do that.

How appropriate that, on our fifth anniversary, Mark and I proved to the world our full emergence into the adulthood state of pining for old music and shaking our heads at kids these days. All we needed to complete the transformation was to have chatted loudly about "when I was that age..." to each other.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Process Examination #10: Lowered Expectations (aka Reality Bites)

OK, so I finally did some number crunching and frank assessment of THUMB and another project that has come up.

(This other project is a revision of a novelette into a novella for a sub opp with Samhain publishing, which is primarily an e-book publisher and their stock is primarily romance. This project is much more toward paranormal romance than SF, so I'm going to submit it under a pseudonym as a nod toward perhaps starting a career in that genre and in e-books. The career that I want is in traditionally pubbed science fiction and fantasy novels, though, and I've seen more than one writer suffer due to a backlist in a romance genre and in e-books. Hence the pseudonym. But I do have a number of shorter pieces and ideas that don't seem to fit in with the SF short fiction markets, so I might as well see if I can turn a coin where they might fit better.)

Anyway, a draft of THUMB is going to be 90K minimum and 100K maximum, and I've only written about 23K so far. That's 67 or 77K by the end of the year if I want to hold myself to my original goal of a draft by the end of the year. I was thinking I could buckle down and likely make this work. But with the sub opp that fell into my lap, I need to add a minimum of 12K to the novellette and a maximum of 22K to bring that story into the range this opp is looking for. So that means about 80K minimum and maybe even as much as 90K by the end of the year.

While I would like to be producing at a level that would have me reliably writing 30K a month, I'm not there yet, and with holiday guests and travel coming up and my stubborn refusal not to give up one night of downtime with my husband every week (I will not sacrifice my family or my marriage for any career), I just don't think it's possible to get 80K or 90K by the end of the year. Because the sub opp is due Jan13, I pushed my THUMB goal back by a month, giving me just under four months to finish that draft and about three months to finish the paranormal revision.

It's a bit more manageable, but I know that I have to push myself harder than I have been, hold myself to what I'm capable of doing each night. I'll be revising the novelette during Drew's naps (that's an hour of guaranteed work), and in the evenings, I'll be working on THUMB. I can fairly reliably produce a minimum of 500 words for every hour I have my BIC, often 750, and sometimes 1000.

So I'll need 24 to 44 days of pure writing at 500 words to get to the right word count on the novella. Add in 15-20 for pre-writing and rewriting, and I'm set for meeting the sub opp deadline with a good amount of wiggle room.

As for THUMB, I need 134 to 154 days of pure writing at 500 words/day to get to the end of the draft. Given that I usually have more than an hour to work in the evenings, I think I can shave off 30-40 days from that estimate. I'm also going to work out a weekend schedule with Mark that gets me a couple of extra hours during the day and boost my output that way as well.

Basically, I've taken a hard look at my writing goals, at my writing output, and at the habits I've fallen into that reduce the output for no good reason. For example, when I had a great writing night last week and then felt my brain turn to mush the following nights, I gave myself a half hour each time and called it quits without trying anything to get words. I'm going to start employing freewrite mandates at times like those. If I feel in any way that the words aren't going to come the way I like that lets me write my usual output, then I will start freewriting in fifteen minute intervals. The freewriting can be an examination of why I'm not feeling the words come, it can be a rambling examination of the chapter I'm trying to slog my way through, it can be the same word over and over and over and over and over again. But I have to freewrite for fifteen minutes and then re-evaluate how I'm feeling about producing actual draft content. Given how I've seen my mind and muse work in the past, I'm pretty sure that this will trigger something I can run with, if not in the first fifteen minutes then definitely in the second. And if it doesn't, then at least I will have tried.

This is the way I'm going to get a better handle on my regular writing abilities and start treating myself and my goals seriously in yet another way. I want a career in which I write a book a year at minimum, preferably two. I think I'm capable of it, but I really haven't given myself a chance, haven't worked on discipline enough to see what I think of a schedule that would give me that output. I know I'm happier when I'm consistently producing, regularly working my way toward the end of a project. I think this is going to have great results.