Hahahaha, how is it already MAY?! Oh man, I’m so behind, or I feel so behind, or I just feel like time started accelerating at a hundred miles an hour this past month, and I’m holding on for dear life, trying to figure out why all my plans keep flying off behind me.

One of the things that I’ve struggled with this year is reading time. I need to make more of an effort. I know I’ve devolved back into just watching TV in the evenings rather than reading. I could blame a thousand things, but really, in the evenings, I’ve just been tired. I have started reading right before bed, which is a good place to start, so I’m hoping to hold onto that, at least, moving forward. I’ve read some amazing books this year, so I may just be a bit tapped out, or book-hangover-ing, or just being lazy. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

But that hasn’t stopped me from having a ridiculous number of books I’m simultaneously reading, because…well, that’s what I do. And the more books I have on my list, the more likely it is that I’m just not super into most of them at the moment. Not because there’s anything wrong with them, they’re just not scratching that itch I’m apparently looking for (yet, may have no idea what it is…)

Notes:

Clockwork Angel – I’m just being super lazy about reading this book. I picked it up initially as a pseudo-research book regarding clockwork, fantasy, and steampunk sensibilities and how it differed or was similar to my own work in progress. It’s a fine book, but at times it feels a bit overwrought, and I’m getting a little sick of the wide-eyed “but what’s happening?!” of the main character, and the helpful inserts of explanation by other characters who should probably already know most of what they’re telling each other. It’s okay.

Bored and Brilliant – Still need to pick this one up again. It’s fine, but I just haven’t been as interested in the core idea it postulates lately, and I probably need to revisit it, now that I’ve had some time away from it.

Worlds of Wonder – I forget what it was that turned me onto this particular book, but it’s been very interesting and informative so far on approaching fantasy/SF writing.

The Year’s Best DF & H 2014 – I haven’t made any progress on this one in a while. And I really just need to make an effort to read a little bit every week. If I did that, I could make pretty good progress through this thing. Really, though, I think I need to commit a month or something to STRICTLY short fiction reading to re-familiarize myself with the length and form.

A Rage in Harlem –  I should really be able to finish this book this month. It’s super short, it’s action-packed, it’s a fast read, and it’s Chester Himes, so it’s amazingly emotive. Not quite as much of a rollercoaster as If He Hollers, Let Him Go, but still a fantastic read. I could learn so much from him in terms of brevity with depth. You get this rich world with very quick sketches.

The Everyday Parenting Toolkit – I need to make an effort on this one again, too. It’s been very interesting so far, and I think there are a lot of tools included that would be perfect for working with an independent, oft-defiant almost-four-year-old to minimize frustrating clashes and make life smoother and simpler for all of us.

Damn Fine Story – I *am* going to read this one sooner or later. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve encountered of it so far, and I just need to spend some time with it.

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony –  With this one, I think I need to set a page requirement per day. It’s a wonderful read, it’s so fascinating and makes me think so much, that I really need to get back to it. It’s just so chewy, it’s challenging to mainline it without risking losing hold of a lot of the thinks it makes me feel. Two pages a day would be perfect, actually. Will try this, and see if we can make some decided progress.

I haven’t been listening to anything lately, which may impact my overall reading progress, too, though I haven’t been doing much in the evenings at all. Maybe I should get back into doing kitchen chores after Bug goes down, and I can force myself to listen to words, at least, which is better than nothing…

Advertisements

I feel as though I’ve been terribly remiss in posting new thoughts of late. But it’s been a strange-to-document kind of year. Last year about this time, I was flying through the rough draft of The Mistress of Frosthaven, half-blind, half-mad, and rounding up on the finale by the end of June. It was exhilarating and exhausting, but it was done. I wrote and submitted a new short story in August, but it’s a very specific story, and I’m not yet sure whether it’s got a home out there in the wilds, or if it’s destined to live in a drawer for a while. I came back to the rough draft of tMoF in October/November, and started messing around with a summary draft of what the edited/second draft should look like. After a few false starts, I got the framework in place, and set it aside to let it cool while I edited and rewrote two older short fiction pieces I’d been meaning to get out. I’ve managed to keep those two in orbit out in the wilds, which has helped get me back into the swing of things, but the edit is dragging. I shouldn’t be surprised: this is my first attempt at a serious edit of a novel, and honestly, I have no. idea. what. I’m. doing. There’s the inclination to cut and burn EVERYTHING and start over from scratch. There’s the instinct to gently coddle it and change as little as possible for fear of losing “that spark.” I think I’ve finally gotten to a middle-ground, focusing less on changing the major bones (save a few that need excising and/or shin-lengthening á la Gattaca) and more on building out what I’ve already got down.

There’s still a lot of work to do. I’m still not 100% sure when I’ll actually be confident enough to start the second draft (or at least, confident that I’m not diving in head-first as clueless as I did on Draft 1–I ought to know a little more about the world/characters/plots/etc. by now). I’m hoping I can get all the essential holes thought through by the end of May enough that I can wheel into Draft Two – The Prose Edition in June.

But like with all longer projects, it seems, I’m hitting that productivity panic point. I like writing new words. Not producing new fiction is making me a little eye-twitchy, like I’m just sitting on my hands, even though I’m thinking a ton about the book. March and April were crapshoot months. My daily schedule fell apart (first due to seemingly perpetual illness, in myself, or Bug, which means nobody’s getting any sleep; the second due to having gotten out of the habit and procrastinating with a dozen other urgent needs-attention things that popped up unexpectedly, like away-from-home dog-sitting, planning a surprise b-day party on short notice, and getting sick. Again.), and this is the first week where I’ve started trying to get back on the horse. It’s not that I’m starting off where I left off in February, I’ve actually done lots of thinking since then, and ideas have simplified and strengthened, but thinking is such an ephemeral part of writing. You can’t clock it all that well. It’s hard to gauge whether you’re “on schedule” (whatever that means). There’s no easy metric to measure (“Well, I popped and ate six thought-bubbles today, so all in all, a good day’s work!”), it’s tough to spend so much time chasing dead-ends, and so much of it feels like wasting time, even though I know–so much, particularly after that first draft–how important the thinking is. I need to spend time thinking. I just wish there were some easy way to show myself that I’m not just putzing around, using “thinking” as an excuse not to get words down.

But I’ve also learned, in the past couple of years, that while I can bounce between projects that are separated by chunks of time (a month focusing on X, the next month on Y, etc.), I can’t mix them up together during a week. It’s too much to keep in my head at this point, even though I’m finally getting to that parenting phase where thinking about fiction is something I can do again even during the day. I’m less exhausted now, but that’s partly because I realize how much I have to compartmentalize each project. There are so many things I want to do and work on, and getting mired in the thick, tough, uncertain bog of thinking about this book is making me slightly mad, all the more because I know I have to do it. I must do it. I literally cannot skip this step.

But today, for the first time, I started to feel the engines revving again. Up until now, despite mapping out a ton of backstory and character traits and shifting some major characters around, it’s felt like shoveling snow, in the Dance, Dance, Dance kind of way: you move some over there, it snows more, you need to move more, continue until dead. But after this morning’s bit of work (I get about an hour a day, at the moment), I finally started feeling the zeal again. Just a bit. Not enough to plunge into prose over, but enough to feel like maybe, maybe the basic thinking is coming to an end and the story will be ready to go again. Round two. It’s not ready yet, but it’s giving me hints that it’s getting closer. Maybe, maybe, chipping away at it this month will get me where I need to be to climb into the story, shut the door, rev the engine, and floor it in June.

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.

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?

IMG_5177

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!”

sarcasm-gif-23

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…

Animated-gif-dancing-in-the-room-full-of-books

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.

giphy9

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…

tumblr_m82lyvyQVh1r1rhh2o6_r1_250