Forgot to get the Sunday Circle check-in up last weekend, so wanted to make sure I got to it this week.

What am I working on this week? Still chugging away on all the brain-work Draft 2 will require to get off the ground and into the air. At times it feels like I’m just treading water, but important (and previously ignored) details of character and plot are being worked out at long last, so it is moving forward. Just slowly. By the end of the week, I’d like to be summary drafting the new scenes that need to be inserted into the big overview draft (and adding their cards into the stack of plot cards).

What’s inspiring me this week? Just finished reading Blind Descent by James M. Tabor, which was one of my favorite reads so far this year. Just…epic. Loved it. And started plowing into Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline, which has made me want to get back into sewing my own clothes. Also just watched the first episode of World War II in Color on Netflix, and it seems like a fantastic way to fill in all those info-gaps I feel like I have when it comes to all the intricacies of that period of conflict. Really interesting, and somehow, more horrifying for being in color–it just makes it that much more…present.

What action do I need to take this week? I need to get back into reading regularly during weeknights–Jessica Jones, and a few other shows had subtly slipped into our nightly reading sessions and overrun them–so I really need to make reading a priority again and probably take a look at what I’m reading right now, and what I think I can finish by the end of the month.

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You know that feeling: the thrill of a beautiful photo of food on Pinterest, the flutter of optimistic certainty (I could make this!), the diligent determination when hunting for the required ingredients (all of which, even if you’ve never liked them in the past, suddenly take on a new, dew-dripping freshness that makes you hold that rutabaga or celery root and think, Where have you been all my life?). You roll up your sleeves and set to work, grinding and chopping and peeling and boiling and mashing, and as you work, you think, This is going to be a-MAZ-ing.

And then you hit reality square in the face?

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Nailed it!

Ugh. There is also nothing worse than that awful, awful feeling of having slaved away on something for over an hour or two, and realizing with slowly settling dread that somehow, SOMEHOW the recipe writer must have skipped a step, or used some kind of magical stove that actually *works*, or–you wonder maliciously–maybe they just store-bought something completely unrelated and labeled it “magical vegetable food your kids will love!”

I’ve never quite gotten the hang of breadcrumb crusts. I’ll admit that. I’m a pretty darn good cook most of the time, and pride myself on delicious meals, but every so often, there’s a recipe that I just. cannot. get. right. Potstickers? Sure. Enchiladas? Definitely. Fancy roasted veggies with some delicious, unusual sauce? Tempura? Fried tofu buffalo bites? You betcha. PAN-FRIED BREADCRUMBED ANYTHING?

Yeah, no. Apparently not.

I must have made a mistake somewhere, though at every step, things seemed to be coming together just as expected. Ah well. It happens. And now I know what recipes not to bother with. But let me just say, if you struggle with beautifully crispy browned bread-crummed things…don’t bother with veggie nuggets. No matter how lovely they look on Pinterest.

Been a little while since I checked in on the Sunday Circle hosted by author Peter M. Ball, but not because I haven’t been working! (Okay, so maybe I’ve been half working, but progress is being made.) March was a tough month for getting things done, between houseguests and ridiculously unending illness of any variety (and the sleepless nights that entails with a wee one), so I’m about two weeks behind where I was hoping I’d be by the end of March. But I’ve made some concerted steps in the right direction, so hopefully it won’t overflow much more than the two weeks.

This week, I’m working on: Hammering out the details surrounding a new ending for the second draft. There were quite a few weak points in the initial summary draft finale, so this week–now that I’ve gotten all my problems and think-items listed out in a notebook–I’m tackling the rethink of that. Lots of strings need to be tied up and connected, so I won’t be 100% surprised if I don’t get the whole thing mentally finalized by Friday, but I’m going to try. If I can tack that down, I’ll be in good shape to find solutions to the other remaining issues that need detailing.

What’s inspiring me this week?: I have been absolutely, out-of-my-mind obsessed with the book Blind Descent by James M. Tabor. It’s a non-fiction account of several attempts to discover the world’s deepest supercave, and I’m losing my mind reading it. There is so much I didn’t know about caving (other than that there’s very little chance I’d every try it), and about the cave environments (like the fact that caves “breathe”–they have air-flow due to barometric pressure changes, and the bigger the cave system, the stronger (and louder) the wind (even up to hurricane speeds!)). I’m having a delightful time armchair spelunking, and it’s definitely lighting some inspiration fires in my head.

What action do I need to take this week?: Mostly, I just need to get serious about getting back to my day-to-day schedule. Now that everyone’s relatively healthy, there’s no excuse for not getting work done. Also, need to resubmit a story I got back Saturday and make a proper market-submission itinerary for it.

Snooooooooooooow…

So we’re several hours into the latest Nor’easter, because apparently March is like, “It’s winter. Right? Right, guys? Winter? That’s still a thing, right? Here’s some snow!”

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So far, we don’t even have enough on the ground to properly shovel, which is driving Bug absolutely nuts, and it’s driving me nuts, because Bug keeps asking every ten minutes if it’s time to shovel yet… I mean, I don’t really mind the snow so much. I’m a New England girl and it’d be nuts to totally hate snow up here. But that said, those few days the last couple of weeks where we had those beeeeautiful sixty-degree days? Yeah, that can come back and stay anytime.

Books, books, books, books, books…

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I have a problem. That’s the first step, right? Admitting you have a problem?

Well, I do. And I blame my brother-in-law for setting me down this hard, cruel path, because he’s the one who introduced me to Thriftbooks.com. So, if you haven’t been introduced to this bewitching place, let me just say: many books are around the $3.75 mark, and if you buy $10 worth of books, shipping is free.

FREE.

So that’s like, three books, and it’s free shipping, and this has been THE WORST thing for me to discover, because now anytime I want any book at all, I look on Thriftbooks first, and then add like five more books I wasn’t intending to buy yet, and there we go. A PROBLEM. Needless to say, I’ve added quite a few books to my collection now, but I will say, it’s kind of awesome for acquiring research-related books when I don’t want to spend a fortune. Also, I now think of books in $10 blocks…

Into the Chasm…

So as March, I’ve started the read-through of the novel’s 2nd draft/summary. It’s about forty pages of stream-of-consciousness, and at this point I’m just reading through to get the flow of the story back into my head and to map out the scenes and timeline. I’m about half-way done, and I gotta say, I’m having a lovely time. The story’s got some significant gaps I still need to address, but the overall flow and structure is SO. MUCH. BETTER. than the first draft. I’m optimistic. After I get this thing mapped out, my next step–I think–will be to make a problem list I need to fix, and then translate all the various scenes onto index cards to enable some combining/swapping and to stick new scenes and info in where needed. Once that’s done and organized (hopefully by the end of the month?), then I’ll start the actual prose-drafting of Draft 2.

In the past week, I submitted two short stories. Two.

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YEAH THAT’S RIGHT. Oh man, I’ve been spending so much time working on the novel (draft one, rewrite plan, summary draft–my word, is it ever going to seem better than crap?) that it’s been quite a while since I got a submission out. AND IT FEELS GREAT! Oh man, how I miss those bittersweet rejections, the tang of a close-but-not-quite, that zesty thrill of turning a story right back around and marching it–the tears still wet on its cheeks!–back out the door to a new market. (Sorry, the metaphors started getting mixed up there, and it’d dinnertime, and whatever.)

I have missed it. So much.

Of course, for the next several months, all I’m expecting to work on is–you guessed it!–the novel DRAFT TWO. First there’s the summary read-through, the timeline map, the scene list, the attempts to wrangle all the problems into some seemingly reasonable solutions, and THEN–THEN! (I’m apparently really into em-dashes today)–onto the actual blood-and-tears drafting of fateful #2 (which will probably be worse than #1, and now I’ve apparently gone maudlin and also swapped em’s for parentheses…)

But I never thought I’d come to crave story rejections so much. I mean, if you’d told me any number of years ago that I would actually be excited to collect a rejection–even a form rejection! I’ll take it!–I would have laughed in your face. (No, I wouldn’t have, that’d be so rude and mean, and I’d be mortified, so instead I would have probably nodded, laughed, smiled awkwardly, and privately rolled my eyes.) But it’s true! Madness, perhaps, brought on by the long hours of novel-work, but still. It’s the proof, though, right? The evidence that you’re trying, you’re putting work out there, and even if it’s not hitting home, it’s still proof that you’re serious about this whole career thing. (Not that spending months writing a novel isn’t proof of seriousness, but it’s a hell of a longer time before you get much feedback–even bad feedback!)

But of course, almost immediately after the rush of submitting, I start checking my email for the response like a madwoman…

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So I got crazy lucky last week and managed to submit not only February’s short story, but ALSO a random second short flash piece, which I wrote Thursday on the fly, tweaked a bit, and sent out Friday. Oh, short fiction submitting, how I’ve missed you!

What am I working on this week?: Of course, this week, we’re back to novel revision process after having rested the summary draft for a month. This week, I need to wade into the read-through and start the time-map/scene list. If I get half-way through this week, that’ll be excellent.

What is inspiring me this week?: Just finished reading The Letters of Vincent van Gogh which was incredibly thoughtful. I really enjoyed his ruminating on art, color, and religion, and am still processing it. The letters are so intimate, it really feels like you’ve been having a conversation with him one-on-one. Now I really want to see that oil-painted animated bio-pic/movie about him.

Also just watched Meru on Netflix, about the eponymous peak and a climbing team’s attempt to be the first to make the summit. It’s a fascinating documentary about commitment, evaluation of risk, the heights of human aspiration, and the nitty-gritty of what it actually takes to climb a nearly vertical peak for nearly a week. I’m not afraid of heights, per se, but there were more than a few shots that had my stomach dropping with vertigo (I’m pretty sure most of my stress-dreams involve either big waves or incredibly steep mountains). But it really captures that obsessive nature one would need to do something like that, the absolute (and death-defying) fearlessness, and–as one climber states–a bad memory that forgets how hard and terrifying things were the last time. But I do so love movies like this, and have a number of books on my shelf (harvested from Thriftbooks) about various climbing expeditions. It’s beautiful, too, and also rather horrifying. But mostly beautiful.

What action do I need to take?: Just need to get back into a regular routine after Bug got a bad cold last week that threw off the usual pattern of life. Need to read in the evenings again, too, because that very easily slips by the way-side. So: regular hours, and reading in the evening.

So… last month was a bad month for reading, for some reason. The good habits I’d established in January kind of fell apart in the face of vacation-time and watching the Winter Olympics in the evenings, and then unexpected (but thankfully short-ish lived) sick-y-ness, and I never quite got back on track. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading at all, I just haven’t been finishing things (and I’ve been naughty and started a new book, too, because, why not?). I’m very close to finishing a couple books, I just need to force myself to engage with them exclusively for a bit, and I’ve been bad about that.

But in spite of all that, I did finish two books this month (And Be a Villain, by Rex Stout; The Letters of Vincent van Gogh, by–well, van Gogh, but edited by somebody else). The Stout was a standard Nero Wolfe, and just what I needed to get my Archie Goodwin/Wolfe fix. It’s all about character and world in those, and one simply wants to live with these folks from time to time.

The Letters was surprisingly fascinating. As I’ve recently gotten myself back into art lately, and started edging back towards oil painting, like I used to dabble in, it was enlightening to read van Gogh’s rumination on art, oils, and the artistic life, as well as religion and other famous artists. What struck me most was how incredibly ordinary he seems in his letters, which probably sounds stupid to a degree (of course, he was an “ordinary” guy like most people who do great works), but the creative concerns he expresses are so much the same concerns every creative person I’ve ever spoken to has talked about. It’s a bit weird, reading it in retrospect, because of course he has no idea how successful his work will someday be, that he’ll be a household name, and he struggles during this period with relative anonymity and self-doubt. He’s incredibly sensitive, and his discussions of the utilization of color are brilliant, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed his thoughts on religion, too. He seems like the kind of person one would very much like to meet, though might have difficulty sustaining a lasting relationship with. Towards the end, obviously, things get pretty heavy, which was what slowed me down–the end of the Arles period, moving into the asylum, and then back up to the Paris area so briefly. If only he’d lived a little longer, with the way he worked, one can only dream about the kinds of things he might have done next.

But without further ado: the list of what I currently have on the “Reading” pile:

Notes:

The Year’s Best DF & H 2014 – A good chunk into this one, and got through the fabulous “Silence in the Forest of Shades” by Brandon Sanderson (it’s one of those stories that both delights and secretly crushes your spirit because it’s so damned fun and fine and you think, ok: will I ever write anything a quarter as fun and fine as this?), which was holding me up a bit because it’s closer to a novelette, but I really do just need to set aside some time to focus on reading it. Maybe it’ll become by “before bed” reading…

Bored and Brilliant – This really should be an easy finish. It’s a quick-ish read, and I just need to plow through it to wrap it up.

Clockwork Angel – This, too, should be an easy finish. It’s long, and I’m not super far into it yet (maybe a fifth?), but it’s easy reading. This might compete for “before bed” reading, provided I can get into bed early enough to get some progress made…

Two Years, Eight Months… – I’m really enjoying this audiobook, but for some reason I’m finding myself not making time to listen to the last few hours of it. I need to get back in the habit of doing dishes right after putting Bug to bed, as that’s when I got a lot of listening reading done before. (And I need to remember to listen before it expires…again…)

The Everyday Parenting Toolkit – This is an interesting read, and one I feel like I seriously need right now, as Bug and I have been clashing a little more often than usual over basic daytime/bedtime routines. It’s also a short book, so I probably just need to commit some time to it. I just find that with the van Gogh letters and other non-fiction kicking about on my “reading” list, I tend not to grab this one.

The Marriage of Cadmus & Harmony – I will finish this book, I will finish this book, I will finish this book. I love it, dang it, but it’s not a quick read (at least, it’s an easy read, but it makes so much think happen, I often have to stop, because the brain fills up). I just need to set aside a little time every evening to read five, ten pages and chip away at it. I love it SO DARN MUCH, I just need to nibble at it.

The End of Fashion – I started this one this month, because as anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m fascinated by fashion even in as much as I’m miserably unfashionable myself. Does that make me an “armchair fashionista”? But I quite enjoy it, and I’m looking forward to receiving another non-fiction about the fashion industry pretty soon called Overdressed, about the fast fashion mega-complex.

Lumberjanes #2 – I haven’t actually read #1 yet, so I hope I can still pick-up and go with this one, but I’ve been meaning to check it out for ages, and my library had them on ebook, so I snagged this one (#1 was checked out). I must say I HATE HATE HATE reading this on a phone, but at least I can zoom the phone with more ease than I can reading it in my browser. Still…buh… I would really need an iPad to read e-comics properly…

Other books I may start this month, because I’m feeling very naughty…