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Progress

Well, I finally finished revisions to Project Awesome. There are still edits and some trimming to do, but this baby will be ready for the light of day very soon. Yay!

For personal reasons, the last 6 months have been the hardest of my life and I’m really proud of how, in spite of everything, I never let this project fall by the wayside. Progress may have been at times slow (frustratingly) but it was always steady. I finished the draft a little before Christmas, got all my Beta reader feedback by mid-late January (thanks, guys, you are the best!), and just finished making all the plot/character-level revisions Friday. Not as fast as I’d like, but pretty good under the circumstances.

Today and Wednesday will be devoted to drafting the query letter and synopsis, and this coming weekend I’ll be making my annual pilgrimage to San Antonio for the Paradise Lost Writing Retreat. I anticipate having lots of time to work on editing and getting some feedback on a few of the bigger changes I made to the novel. Plus, writer friends! And sunshine.

Even though work remains before the novel is truly done, I’m gonna chalk hitting this milestone up as a win and let myself feel good about it.

Go me!

Brooklyn Blues

I’m back in Brooklyn, y’all. And lo and behold, winter is still clinging on by its toenails. There have been some rumors of 60 degree weather, but they have yet to materialize, so I’m holding tight the memory of warm sun and sand between my toes.

The vacation debrief. In short, it was fantastic. Perfect weather. Calm waters. Very few people. A friendly beach dog. Good times with my Pop Pop. Great food and plenty of drink. What more can you ask for?

It was also pretty productive. During the hottest part of the afternoon, when a shady porch and the fan were advisable, I managed to revise about 8 or 9 chapters of the novel, bringing me within striking distance of the finish line. I also read a metric ton of books on the beach, everything from Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga and Marko Kloos Frontlines books to Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent series and a couple murder mysteries on the side.

So, I’m settling back in to reality. Teaching. Cold weather. Work and family-related travel. Some not-very-fun medical stuff coming up. etc.

Still, the echoes of vacation linger.

A long cold winter

Will it or won’t it…thaw that is?

An apparently unanswerable question out here in the northeast. No matter what the weather forecasters predict, the mercury stubbornly refuses to rise. Maybe today, we all whisper. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe…never?

My winter coat, just months ago a prized and delightful new purchase, is now a despised rag I grudgingly strap myself into before heading into yet another icy, bitter wind. My boots, once saviors in the NYC/Hoth wasteland, are now the footwear that led me to a treacherous fall, a suspicious character to be donned with a whiff of resentment and mistrust.

And my gloves. Oh, my gloves. Discovered in a charming shop in Norway and envisioned as a snuggly winter reminder of a lovely vacation…well, after clutching many a subway pole and railing to climb from the ice-encrusted depths of the city’s wretched Ton-Ton-esque belly…no amount of washing can take those stains away. I now feel queasy each time I slide them on my pale, shriveled fingers.

Enough is enough. Maybe it will warm up today. Maybe it won’t. But I don’t care. I’m outta here.

Tomorrow it’s just me, my Pop Pop, and a suitcase full of bikinis and sunscreen. I’m southbound and may never come back.

If you need me, you can find me here:

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Laters, winter!

14. 41. 61.

That’s 14 days until Virgin Gorda, 41 days until San Antonio, and 61 days until Italy.

Today, of course, is a day with an important number too. It’s the first day of Spring. El numero uno. Also, here in New York, a snow day. Naturally.

So, also naturally, I’m dreaming ahead to warmer days. I love the onset of spring because it’s also typically the time of year I start traveling a lot. And I do love to travel. Travel is hope and excitement and inspiration. It’s something to look forward to and work toward and dream about.

Travel makes home better and more cherished and it makes the world bigger and smaller all at once.

Love to travel. Love it. Did I mention LOVE?

My upcoming trips run the gamut from an annual father-daughter trip nearly 15 years running, to a writing workshop, to a vacation with my husband. There will be lazing in the sun with a Caribe in my fist, working and networking, hot air ballooning, wine consuming, and plenty of sightseeing.

So, as I brace myself against the latest (last? PLEASE BE THE LAST) snowfall, I am keeping just three things in mind: 14, 41, and 61.

Oh, and also the number 21, which is the chapter I’m currently on as I work my way through novel revisions. So, do your worst, winter! I am busy at my keyboard and keeping my eyes on better days to come.

The Big 40

Gosh, 40 years old today.

This is one of those milestone birthdays, I guess, where you take stock because you’re halfway through your life journey and all that. Personally, I’d like to think I’m not halfway there yet. I plan to be around, having adventures, and giving Sid trouble well into my 90s. But, you know, 40 still feels like a big one.

40 also seems sort of impossible. I mean, I remember my parents being 40 and somehow in my mind this is their permanent age. Like it’s the defining age of a parent. Which I suppose is ironic, as I’m without offspring at 40. So if I’m not a parent at 40, what is 40 supposed to mean?

I don’t know.  Maybe nothing. Probably nothing.

Sometimes I feel like I’m way behind. I mean, where am I in life? I teach part-time and do some writing and travel and don’t have kids. And I’m 40! What have I “accomplished” (you know, other than being happy). Maybe a better way to put it is: what’s my purpose in life?

Other times (most of the time) I feel like I’ve pulled a fast one on all sorts of life expectations. After all, I’m 40 and I live in a fabulous apartment in the greatest city on earth. I have a loving family and wonderful friends. I travel to all sorts of awesome places with my handsome, brilliant husband with whom I have a true partnership. I only have to work part time (and at a job I really like) and I spend the rest of the time dreaming up stories. I don’t have the joys of children, but neither do I have the obligations of children. I have a lot of freedom to do things I enjoy and that give me pleasure. That’s quite a luxury.

So, I suppose there are two sides to everything.

Even so, turning 40 makes me feel like I’ve got to get a move on. Especially with my writing. I’ve been at it since 2009 and I’m starting to have some success selling short stories and I can see how much I’ve improved. But I want to sell a novel. It’s time. So maybe 40 is a little bit of a kick in the pants to put extra fuel on the motivation fire. Maybe that’s my purpose.

Either way, I hope to have 40(+) more years to work on it.

Last Day

I sit in the predawn darkness, huddled under a blanket with a cat snoozing at my side. It’s a Wednesday morning, and a cold one. Snow gleams under lamplight outside and asphalt shines through dirty slush.

Today is the last day before the start of the semester, and thus the last day of what I’ve come to think of as Neverending January. Which, of course, is ending.

The CUNY system, in which I teach, has a particularly long break between Christmas and the start of the Spring semester. Often my husband and I will take advantage of this time to travel, but for various reasons we did not do so this year. In fact, this is one of the first times since we’ve moved to New York that I’ve spent nearly all of Neverending January at home (under said blanket and next to said cat).

Once upon a time I believed that vast swaths of uninterrupted time would be super awesome for my writing process, but actual experience has shown this to be false. In fact, I work a lot better when I’m busy and have a sense of pressure. So Neverending January has been a struggle.

Here’s what I’ve accomplished (or not):

1. I’ve rewritten the beginning and ending of the same short story approximately 1 billion times (Sad. Also, frustrating)

2. I’ve Beta read 1 1/2 novels (Not bad!)

3. I’ve processed, organized, mulled, and begun to prepare revision notes based on Beta feedback from Project Awesome (Progress: acceptable but slow)

4. I’ve cooked a lot of things that take all day to make (Tasty, but not writing)

5. I’ve spent a fair amount of time staring out the window wondering if it was going to snow more/less (Also not writing)

6. I’ve binge-watched shows so bad I am unwilling to admit to them in a public forum (No comment)

At the end of all this, I’ve come to two conclusions.

First, we should always travel in January.

Second, it’s probably a very good thing the semester starts tomorrow.

And, on that note, I must go. After all, it’s my last day to pretend that January will never end.

The Solitary Writer

Going through the feedback on PROJECT AWESOME from my amazing Beta readers I am reminded yet again how much the idea of the Solitary Writer is a myth. And not just a garden variety myth but a harmful one.

Perhaps there are a few rare geniuses out there who can produce brilliant works without any critical feedback, but most of us need an outside perspective. A pair (or three or four) of trusted eyes is invaluable to help us gain distance from our work and see what is and is not working. That feedback isn’t gospel, but it is a good starting point for thinking more deeply (or at least differently) about our characters, world, and story.

Many writers start their journey believing it will be a lonely one in which they must toil in secret, hoarding their words and stories until they are “ready” (read: perfect), a day which will likely never come without the wisdom and support of fellow writers. What a shame.

In most professions, collaboration is not only important but expected, except (it seems) in the world of art. The idea of the artist alone in their garret (or writing shed) is powerful. There is a part of every artist that wishes to believe we can create something amazing drawing only from our inner well of creativity, something that is ours and ours alone. Buying wholly into that vision, though, implies we have nothing to learn and nowhere to go. Our talent is innate, but also inert.

Having someone else look at our works in progress and say “hey, but what about…?” does not diminish either our creative ownership nor our original vision. It sharpens it. Builds it up. Makes it better.

So, today I am grateful to my fellow writers and especially to my Beta readers who have given so generously of their time and thoughts.

You are making me better, and I hope I am doing the same for you.

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