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Wrangling (failing)

I’m supposed to be brainstorming my next novel project. Instead a flood of ideas for a sequel to THICKER THAN WATER are pouring into my brain, demanding to be written down, examined, and expanded.

In my Coursera classes, I’m trying to grasp the concepts behind the properties of planets and what determines their temperature but the physics is making my brain jump sideways and backwards and all I can do is scribble the word “albedo” over and over in my notebook and think about what a pretty word it is.

When I take a lunch break and watch Neil degrasse Tyson talk on COSMOS about the life cycle of stars, rather than interrogating the concept of a hypernova all my brain wants to do is get weepy when Tyson pontificates in his deep, calming voice about how we’re all made of stardust.

Much as I try, I can’t seem to wrangle my brain today.

COME ON BRAIN! WE HAVE WORK TO DO.

Or I could just drink tea and listen to Tyson and doodle the word “albedo” all day.

It has been an interesting summer so far. The disconcerting global weather, the awe inspiring New Horizons Pluto flyby, the start of the run-up to the presidential nomination race (by turns fascinating, depressing, and hilarious), the tumult of the EU-Greece drama, and so much more. It makes you feel hopeful and discouraged all at once.

The world whizzes on, but here in New York things are slower in the summer. Quieter. The city always seems to slumber this time of year. Even with the tourists, New York depopulates in the summer. With so many people seeking refuge up the coast or out on Long Island, those of us who remain have the place to ourselves. Granted, our prize is sticky, hot, and often quite smelly, but there’s nothing I love more than New York in the summer.

It’s a wonderful time for writing, too. One can hunker in the air conditioning during the middle of the day, typing like mad, then venture out for inspiration in the evening. Walks in the park with a melting ice cream offer time for contemplation. There are lectures (I went to one last week on facing the engineering challenges of searching for Earth-like planets around other stars) and classes, museums, shows, concerts in the park, or just strolling the city’s neighborhoods, watching the human drama unfold.

It’s like New York takes a Valium this time of year and everything feels possible but not too urgent. Dreamy.

The temperature is over 90 out there today, so I think I’ll pull the shades and write. But later…later there will be ice cream on the stoop while I watch the city go by.

The Doneness

And by that, I mean my current novel project.

Yes, it is done! As soon as I finish polishing my pitch materials, I will begin querying agents. So, for the time being, this project is completed and it is time to begin the next one.

First, a small celebratory dance  <dances around apartment until cat bites her>

Ahem. Alright. That’s out of the way. What’s next?

One of the things I most enjoyed about working on Project Awesome was delving into the mind of an outsider trying to find her place in society. I’m pretty sure I’m not finished with this idea and that it may play some role in the plot or theme of my next project. But, I also know that I want to try my hand at a new genre. I love urban fantasy and I’m sure I’ll write more of it down the line. Heck, if I sell Project Awesome, I’ve got plenty of ideas for sequels. For now, though, I’m thinking along the lines of a science fiction novel.

I really want to explore some of the ways society will change under the twin pressures of time and technology and I like the hopeful idea that we’ll one day succeed in making it off this rock and out into the vastness of space. So, that’s where I’d like to venture in my next novel.

Before I get too far down this road, though, I need a primer on the universe. My knowledge of the solar system, galaxy, universe, and our place it in is pretty rudimentary. So I’m brushing up by taking a few courses on Coursera. I’m enrolled in an AstroTech course from the University of Edinburgh, one on the Origins of the Universe from the University of Copenhagen, and a class called Imagining Other Earths from Princeton. All for free! I love Coursera!

All the traveling I did early in the summer impeded progress on these classes, as did finishing Project Awesome. But now that I’m in Brooklyn full time for the remainder of the summer and Project Awesome is off my plate…it’s time for some learnin’!

Stay tuned. I’ll no doubt share some of the fascinating things I come across in the classes, as well as my evolving ideas for the next novel project.

I’m launching a new blog. No, it is not a replacement for this one. I’ll keep blogging away about my writing life here on Comedy or Tragedy, but I’ll also start posting recipes over on Gluten Free, No Substitutes.

So, yes, the new blog is a food site devoted to recipes that those (like me) who eat gluten free can safely prepare and eat. BUT, it is also a food site devoted to really good food that just happens to not include gluten. So, by no substitutes I mean no weird tapioca-rice-potato flour bread or strange corn-sawdust pasta or sad almond-sand-gravel pancakes.

When I went to my doctor whingeing that I was abnormally tired all the time and that my digestion sucked, she suggested I might have a gluten intolerance. I scoffed, mostly because I thought it would be TOTALLY FREAKING IMPOSSIBLE to cut wheat-based products from my diet. No pizza? No hamburgers? NO CAKE? Forget it.

Finally, though, I gave in and tried it. Honestly, giving up those foods was not really very hard. The actual hardest part was finding recipes and meal suggestions that weren’t all about desperately trying to still have pizza, pasta, bread, and cake but made into sadder, inferior versions.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a few pretty acceptable substitutes out there for gluten and wheat flour. But mostly they are awful and, frankly, not exactly good for you. So, my idea is to provide a resource for just avoiding the whole thing altogether by eating simple, fabulous foods in balanced healthy (mostly) meals that don’t include gluten or gluten substitutes.

If you’re interested, click over to Gluten Free, No Substitutes. I’ve got a couple of meals worth of fantastic recipes up and plan to post 2-4 new ones per week. My favorite so far is the most decadent (of course!), the Lemon Mousse with Red Currant Puree.

Let me know what you think!

Summer in the city

The worst/best part about summer is that it’s summer. As a college professor, I have the whole summer off from work. This is, of course, glorious. And it could (should, that is) mean I get obscene amounts of writing done.

But free time is a dangerous thing.

Free time can be used for writing, yes. It can also be used for a lot of other things that do not include writing.

So when summer rolls around I have to be extra vigilant and very organized.

Step one: schedule lots of writing dates with your writing buddies.

Luckily for me, a very awesome fellow writer lives quite near me. We meet up periodically in coffee shops around Manhattan and Brooklyn and force each other to actually write (well, I mean, we chat an awful lot too, but what do you expect??).

Today we’re headed to Chelsea to check out Fika. I plan to slog through the last few pages of edits to the novel and then work on the cover letter, which is currently in a malaise of mediocre.

Wish me luck!

I’m back, again, in New York, and thus end my whirlwind travels for the summer.

Only 6 days after returning from Italy, I headed out again to visit my family in the Pacific Northwest. It was everything a summer vacation should be: warm, sunny, and relaxing (see gallery below for evidence).

Now it’s time to buckle down and get to work.

I have a number of projects lined up for the coming months:

1. Finish polishing Project Awesome and usher it out the door to agents and editors

2. Educate myself about astronomy via several Coursera classes

3. Brainstorm, outline, and begin drafting my next novel project (which will draw on the aforementioned classes)

4. Get ready to participate in the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference and Pitch Slam, taking place here in New York at the end of July

5. Work on my new blog, a site devoted to gluten-free recipes that don’t involve the use of unhealthy, yucky, scary substitute products (more to follow on this as it develops)

And I think that’s enough to be getting on with.

To work!

The Return

It’s 4:30am, Day Two of the Great Jet Lag Escapade, and I’ve just returned from a whirlwind tour of Italy, in which I consumed every edible, drinkable, and cultural experience I could lay my hands on.

The trip was fantastic, offering a glimpse of what the Grand Tour of yore must have been like (you know, if you had a chaperone, gobs of time on your hands, a well-developed sense of superiority, and infinite money). Still, to wander the loggia of Florence, admiring the sinuous bodies of marble sculptures, to climb the towering domes of ostentatiously beautiful cathedrals, and to stroll the shores of rivers like the Tiber and the Arno, turgid with history, was all pretty spectacular.

And the food. And the wine. I partook of it all and I have no regrets (well, maybe a few…eating all that gluten wasn’t exactly without consequences…).

Now I’ve returned to Brooklyn and am eager to get back to work. The last few edits to the novel, and some more work on the query letter, await. I have some ideas for new short stories and plenty of brainstorming work to do for the next novel project. I’m also taking a couple of Coursera classes on astronomy, which are turning out to be very interesting.

A few small items to mention: I have a recipe published in the latest issue of Flash Fiction Online, titled Norwegian Waffles (for weekends, before or after the apocalypse), as an accompaniment to a delightfully creepy story by the wonderful Sunil Patel. Also, upcoming in August, my story The New Arrival will be podcast on Pseudopod – details to follow!

Before I leave you, I thought I’d share a few photos from my journey through Florence, Tuscany, Rome, and Pompeii. Enjoy!

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