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.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Not Quite Into the Tricycle Concept

The Drew Monster hasn't warmed to the idea of pedalling just yet. He doesn't mind being pushed on it. And he certainly enjoys pushing the trike around himself, and he loves putting rocks in the little "trunk." But actually using this device as a mechanism for self-propulsion along a sidewalk? Not so much.

His biggest birthday hit seems to be all the coloring implements, though the Diego Rescue Cell Phone was a required traveling companion for a couple of car trips after his big day. And every morning starts with a rousing round of music on the new xylophone. But, of course, he had the most fun on the day of his party by pulling all of the tissue paper out of the big huge bag Uncle Brad put the Diego phone in. And we still haven't set up the Thomas train set yet, so we'll see what sort of play time that gift gets in the coming days. Of course, Momma and Daddy are very happy with the clothes and birthday money which we spent on clothes as he's starting to get too tall for his current wardrobe and definitely needed better fitting cooler weather wear.

So thank you everyone who helped us celebrate Drew's 2nd Birthday. We'll be sending Thank You cards shortly, and each one will include a Drewbie Original Scribble for extra collector's value. The art will most likely be in either blue or purple, his colors of choice. Or pen, perhaps, as Andrew Thomas has been known to wield ink as a preferred medium.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Two Years Old

We have now officially entered the Terrible Twos. Some days it feels like we've been here for a while, others it seems impossible to put the word "terrible" anywhere near our son. But no matter his mood, there's no escaping the excitement of watching Drew grow and learn and change day by day. Right now he's interrupting me by demanding I cover my ears with my hands like he's doing. No, I have no idea why.

He may not speak very clearly, but he certainly has a lot to say. And it's quite clear that he understands just about everything we say these days. I wouldn't be surprised if he figures out the spelling trick long before we're ready for him to do so. Right now he's wowing us with his ability to point out animals in his favorite books on demand. We'll tell him, "Show me the yellow duck." And he'll flip through the pages of the book until he gets to the page with the yellow duck on it and will proudly crow and point to it.

A year ago, the Drew Monster's favorite toy was a mini-keyboard thingie. He quickly tried his parents' patience by pressing one button over and over that started a series of songs. Nowadays, his favorite toy is the couch in my office. He loves to take all the cushions off and walk around on the wood framework (it's an IKEA piece) and straddle the slats and otherwise contort himself around the thing or bounce on the cushions on the floor. We're getting him a tricycle for his birthday this year, so we'll see how he manages with that and how it changes his favorite toy rotation.

It's very hard to believe it's been two years, and I don't think that's a feeling that's going to go away ever. Eventually, whenever someone asks me how old my son is, I'll probably end up replying, "Older than I think."

Happy Second Birthday, Andrew Thomas.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

On the Recent Silence

I wrote a good 2000 words in a couple of hours Sunday night, and it seems that those 2000 words were most of my allotment of words for the week as everytime I've sat down to write since then my brain has produced a dribbling, novocain-lipped, incoherent babble that rapidly degenerates into "Ugh". Hence the silence. And it seems like it's going to continue as my in-laws arrive tonight to visit and help us celebrate Drewbie's 2nd Birthday tomorrow. (I will manage to drag a nice coherent post out of my gray matter tomorrow for that.) Maybe on Sunday I'll get back into the swing of writing here.