Everybody says…

…that chocolate is the best cure for the blues.  Everybody knows, though, that the real answer is exercise.  I woke up in a remarkably black mood this morning, so I’m trying both.  I flung myself around on the treadmill at the YMCA until I was too tired to maintain a crabby attitude.  Now I’m sitting at my favorite neighborhood cafe with a steamy, frothy mug of hot chocolate.  The special alchemy of endorphins + chocolate + Friday seems to be working.

So, on to some writerly updates.

I’ve punched out about 7K this week on the second draft of my archaeological time travel novel ABSENT.  For me, this is heavy-duty progress and I feel about 80% confident I can make my self-imposed deadline of April 1st to finish the damn thing and send it off to my writing group.

I submitted a few short stories that had been on the back burner to various markets, which felt good.  I’ve really stopped writing short fiction lately (the two novels I’m cooking up are more than enough to be getting on with), but it’s nice to have the shorter-term gratification that comes with knowing you’ve got a few things out to market.

The other big project on the docket is plowing through approximately 80K of submissions for the writer’s retreat I’m attending in Dallas at the end of next week.  I’ve skimmed over almost everything and started in on a more thorough read-through of two of the subs.  There’s a wide range of material and it’s nice to get out of my own head for awhile and see what other people have been working on.  Still, it is a lot of words, so I’d better get serious…and soon.

In non-writerly news, “the upheaval” continues (and will no doubt do so for quite a while).  My attitude on the whole thing changes with the wind, but right now I’m hopeful some hail Mary passes sprinkled liberally with fairy dust may bring the whole situation to a happy conclusion.  More to follow.

On a more cheerful note, our downstairs neighbors finally moved in yesterday. We are no longer the sole occupants of the 4 unit Brownstone in which we live!  The new neighbors seem nice — charming even.  They appear to have sufficient fingers and toes about them and no sign of horns.  All in all, a very positive development.

Well, there’s lots of reading and writing to be done and my hot chocolate is getting cold.  If you feel so inclined, please share your recent writing goals, accomplishments, and plans in the comments.  It’s always nice to know what everyone else is up to — makes you feel less alone, you know?

Writer’s Workspace: 1/20

Good morning!  Welcome to this writer’s workspace.  Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:

What I’m working on:  I’ve got two projects going right now.  The first is development for a new book I want to start drafting.  It involves an epidemic, so I’ve been working on building an epidemiological model for the virus.  This has been a fun confluence of research, imagination, and ick-factor.  In the meantime, I’m continuing with revisions to the second draft of my archaeological time travel novel, ABSENT.  I’ve made it about 1/3 of the way into the novel and my characters are currently marooned in Ice Age Wyoming.

Snippet from the screen: “Nick was crouched at the edge of the group, his gaze shifting across the barren, grey landscape.  He looked as if he felt slightly ill.  Emily didn’t blame him.  It was one thing to speculate about traveling through time, but quite another to actually find yourself 11,000 years in the past freezing your ass off on top of a glacial moraine.”

In my mug: White tea with honeysuckle and…honey. 

Keeping me company: Mr. Ramses is not so much keeping me company as begging constantly for food.  He seems to be of the opinion that colder weather = development of a Jabba-like exterior layer of fat.  Fortunately for Ramses (and unfortunately for me), he is an expert, extremely annoying, relentless beggar.  Jabba-the-cat, here we come.

Out the window:  Brooklyn is currently clear, cold, and sunny.  Passersby on the sidewalk are hunched into their coats.  Snow is in the forecast for later today, with the weatherman calling for everyone’s favorite, a “wintery-mix” (read: ice slushie).  Good times.

On the iTunes: to keep my heart warm on such a brittle, cold day, I’m listening to Afro-Cuban jazz and remembering the feel of sunshine on my face and wine in my glass from last week’s vacation to the Napa Valley.  It’s working surprisingly well.

A little procrastination never hurt anyone:  First up: an interesting podcast from Writing Excuses on how to turn protagonists into antagonists (or just add a little twist of the dark side to your good guys).  Second: a link I’ve found very useful lately — a slightly older post from Rachel Aaron’s blog in which she lays out her process for plotting a novel.  It’s very pragmatic and detailed and nuts-and-bolts.  Finally, for those of you interested in my aforementioned trip to Napa, or those of you considering making such a journey yourselves, I’ve blogged a wine country travelogue (with reviews of restaurants, wineries, etc.) over on the food blog I contribute to, Between Courses.  Check it out.

Alrighty!  That’s it for me today.  I’m off to get my characters into more trouble (up next: a run-in with an Ice Age giant bear.  Fun!).  What are YOU doing today?

Writer’s Workspace: 11/16

Good morning!  Welcome to this writer’s workspace.  Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:

What I’m working on:  I haven’t had a lot of free time lately, so carving out moments to write has been painful, if necessary, work (mid-semester with a new course prep ain’t a pretty row to hoe).  I’m pleased with the results of my efforts, though.  I’ve managed a few hundred words most mornings, whether I’m headed off to campus or not, and some longer hauls on off days (like today).  Thus, the 2nd draft of ABSENT (my archaeological time-travel novel) is being excreted, word by word, paragraph by paragraph.

Snippet from the screen:

Nick listened in silence.  When Emily was done, he sat back in his chair.  “You can’t seriously expect me to believe this.”

Emily crossed thin arms over her chest and regarded him with a grim expression.  The cut on her cheek looked puckered and angry, and though she appeared small, almost lost, inside her baggy black sweater, she most certainly didn’t look like she was joking.

On the iTunes:  I’m not really in a musical mood today.  The world is too grey and hushed.  But the hubby is working from home this morning, so I’m listening to the tapity-tap of his keyboard coming from down the hall.  That’s music enough for me.

In my mug:  Well, regular readers hardly need me to fill this one out.  Nevertheless: Numi Chinese Breakfast.  Just the dregs left now.

Keeping me company:  Though I have a lovely, cozy office space, today I’m out in one of our equally comfy living room chairs, feet up on the coffee table.  Mr. Ramses is passed out on the couch.   It’s what he does.  Pretty cute, eh?

Out the window:  Fall’s grey cape, my friends.  Brooklyn will see rain before the day is out.

A little procrastination never hurt anyone:  Today I fear that if I go hunting for spicy links to share I may never return.  Writing calls.  And I bet it calls you too.  Get to work!

Writer’s Workspace: 10/19

Good morning!  Welcome to this writer’s workspace.  Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:

What I’m working on:  forward motion on the second draft of my archaeological time-travel novel, ABSENT, is the order of the day (well, that and endlessly making slides for my class lectures).  I hope to squeeze in at least 1K words this morning.  In the scene below, the protagonist, Emily, attends a dinner party.

Snippet from the screen:  “Down the table, Kelly’s husband, James, a real estate agent, expounded to no one in particular about Park Slope housing prices.  His cheeks were flushed and his voice over-loud.  Kelly must have squeezed his leg under the table because he turned an even deeper shade of scarlet and subsided.  Mark was refilling the wine glasses and paused a moment to offer James an affectionate smile.  Emily had always loved that about him; he could find warmth in his heart even for the biggest of jackasses.”

On the iTunes: I’m on an Afro-Cuban Jazz kick these days.  Mongo Santamaria is playing right now.

In the mug: Numi Chinese Breakfast – I am nothing if not a creature of habit.

Out the window: it’s fall at its saddest out there — dark and gloomy, like someone milled children’s tears into a grey film and draped it across the sky.

Keeping me company: his Royal Furriness, Mr. Ramses, King of Cats, is seated on his throne.  Now that I have a Nook, there’s some free room on the bookshelf.  As with any free space in the apartment, Ramses has interpreted this as being his rightful domain.  Perhaps he is correct.

A little procrastination never hurt anyone: First, in the “end-is-nigh, the publishing industry will go up in fire and flames” genre, there’s this from the New York Times re: Amazon starting up their own publishing fiefdom.  Second, if your bent is more scientific, check out the latest on DARPA research into long-term space travel.  And, for a lark, John Scalzi challenges us with some rather amusing writing prompts drawn from Scifi/Fantasy movies.

Alrighty, folks!  Back to work.

Please share your goals for the day, what you’re working on, and any juicy links in the comments.

Writer’s Workspace: 9/7

Good morning!  Welcome to this writer’s workspace.  Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:

What I’m working on:  Today I’ve got a full docket – I need to finish my lecture on the Zapotec and I want to start plotting out some revisions to ABSENT (2nd draft, here I come!).  I also have to work my bi-monthly shift at the Park Slope Food Co-op (something I like about as well as scraping poop off the bottom of my shoes).  I’m also working on a new short story set in a steampunk version of 1830’s Florida…

Snippet from the screen: “The dusk crept in and wrapped itself around Elizabeth.  It shrouded the scrub brush of the Seminole swamplands, and with it came a great Charon transport machine, clanking and groaning across the battlefield to collect the dead.”

On the iTunes: Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top (cause, you know, HELL YEAH!)

Out the window: Rain, and more rain…and still more rain.  It’s worse than the supposed “hurricane” last week.  Le Sigh.

In my mug: I have (gasp!) run out of my favorite tea (Numi Chinese Breakfast) and have resorted to a combination of Assam leaves and Irish Breakfast blend to achieve sufficient taste and “wake the hell up, Suri!” zing.

A little procrastination never hurt anyone (especially on such a rainy day): For those you working on synopses or queries, check out Chuck Windig’s 25 Things series on the self-same topic.  Or, over at Practical Free Spirit, you can read along as Amy Sundberg considers whether or not outer space has become an outdated topic for SciFi. Finally, I’ve recently started following K.C. Woolf’s blog.  She writes about travel, writing, and health with both passion and compassion.  Check it out.

Alright.  I’m off to do a little work.  Wish me luck, and share your goals for the day in the comments.  Pretty please?

Writer’s Workspace: 8/29

Good morning!  Welcome to this writer’s workspace.  Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:

What I’m working on:  tomorrow is the first day of the semester for me (eek!) and I still have an appalling amount of course prep to do, but I’m trying to sneak a little writing in as well.  I’m working on crafting the final chapters of ABSENT (yay!), which means the draft will soon be done and revisions can begin.

Snippet from the screen:

“Emily glanced down at the old photograph.  It showed five people, all dressed in 1920’s style clothing.  Two men stood against the exposed face of an excavation trench, bands of stratigraphy clear behind them.  Panama hats shaded their faces from the sun and one had a pipe clenched between his teeth.  But Emily’s eyes were drawn to the two women seated on the ground.  One of them was thin and regal and had her head turned away, as if she was looking at something out of frame.  The other stared straight at the photographer.  Emily gasped.  The woman gazing out of the picture looked exactly like her.

     “So you see it, then?” Reid asked.  He sounded relieved.  “It’s not just me?”

     Emily nodded, slowly.  “This woman could be my twin.”

     “And the man, the one standing to the left of the pipe-smoker?” 

     Emily held the photo closer, narrowing her eyes to try and make out more details.  “My god,” she whispered.  “That’s you.”

One the iTunes: I’m chillin’ to the sounds of silence today.

In my mug: Numi Aged Earl Grey, hot and steaming.

Out the window: in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the Brooklyn streets are slick and filled with debris.  Our neighborhood got a lot of rain and a little wind, but avoided any flooding and downed trees.  After all the build-up and waiting, this felt at once like a let-down and a relief.

Keeping me company: Mr. Ramses enjoyed all the extra attention he got this weekend (some friends who were forced to evacuate stayed with us during the “storm”), but now he has to catch up on his snoozing and loafing about.  No worries, though — he’s a professional loafer.

I’m pretty busy today, so no time for procrastinatory links!  Sorry.  Feel free to share some of your own in the comments, though.  And let me know what you’re up to today.  Writing goals, anyone?

Writer’s Workspace: 8/17

Good morning!  Welcome to this writer’s workspace.  Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:

What I’m working on:  I’d love to be able to report that words are flowing from my fingertips like a BP oil spill, but that would be a lie.  With just two weeks until fall classes begin, my focus is on course prep.  I’m teaching a new class this semester (Aztec, Maya, and Olmec) and I’ve got a bazillion lectures to prepare.  I am getting a little writing done each day, but it’s rather slow.  Safest thing to say is that I’m inching my way towards the end of the rough draft of ABSENT.  Not great, but inching is better than flat-out stalled.

Snippet from the screen: “Emily followed Nick down the long slope from the ziggurat to the expedition house.  Dark clouds scudded across the sky, and to the west a streaky sheet of rain could be seen falling on Nasiriyah.  Winter had come to Iraq.”

On the iTunes: just the sweet sounds of silence (broken occasionally by the bus pulling up to the stop out front)

In my mug: Numi Chinese Breakfast tea

Out the window: from my awesome new office, I have a lovely view straight out the window.  There’s a big old Maple tree, snatches of sun and sky, and lots of light.  I love it.

Keeping me company: since the move, Mr. Ramses seems to prefer lounging in the sun by the big bay window in the living room to hanging out at my desk.  He will occasionally come and drape himself across the glass desktop, as if to say ‘never forget, I am King”, but mostly he snoozes on the sofa like a hibernating bear.

A little procrastination never hurt anyone: rather than share links with you today, I’m going to ask for your recommendations.  So:  if I only surfed the web following your suggestions, where should I go?  Please share your favorite links in the comments!

The New Digs

As many of you know, the hubby and I have recently purchased our first home, a three bedroom apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  Squee!  Terror!  The last week or so has been taken up with packing, moving, and unpacking, but we’re finally settled (more or less) in our awesome new place.

There have been all the usual adventures involved with buying new construction and being the first to move in…including working out adjustments with the hot (or not) water, and getting the washer/dryer to overcome its overly high-tech qualities and actually turn on.  Here’s a shot of the hubs trying to see behind the unit to figure out if the hoses were hooked up:

The laundry closet is hungry...stay clear of its maw or pay the price!

We’re still short a few pieces of furniture and haven’t hung any of our art yet, but here are a few pics to give you a general idea of Home Sweet Suri:

The lovely living room
Cook's central
Where the writing magic happens (or: I FINALLY HAVE MY OWN OFFICE!!)

Bonus points if you can spot Ramses, who is hiding in one of the three pictures….

So, now that we’re moved in, I have no more excuses and have to get back to work.  Naturally, I’ll be traveling again soon (a trip to Seattle in a week and a half), so I’m tasking myself with finishing the rough draft of ABSENT before I go.  Once I get back, it’ll be time to start gearing up for the fall semester, so it’s now or never!

What do you think of our new place?  What’s new in your life and what are your writing goals for the week?

Writer’s Workspace: 7/21

Good morning!  Welcome to this writer’s workspace.  Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:

Yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted a Writer’s Workspace – mostly because it’s been awhile since this writer has had much time to work.  Between excavating in Honduras for several weeks, traveling to Readercon, and preparing to move into our new apartment, writing time has been about as scarce as tropical seabirds on the ice planet Hoth.

Still, even though tomorrow is the day of the Big Move, I am determined to carve a little me time out this morning.  After all, there’s not much packing left to do.  We’ve gotten rid of 85% of our furniture, thrown out half our clothes, and donated half our books.  I even parted with a beloved Le Creuset pot on the reasonable grounds that, though it is beautiful, I never use it.  All we have left is a couple of chairs, a bed, a mountain of self-replicating cat hair that was living in the back corner of the closet — and, of course, my workspace.

What I’m working on: with limited time, I’m doing something easy — working on entering edits I made on my hard copy of ABSENT while in Honduras.  Creative?  No.  Necessary?  Yes.  As the example below illustrates, I am a Wordy McWordschmidt when I draft.

Snippet from the screen:

Nick shoved his gun back in its holster, stepped forward, and wrapped his arms around her.  Emily went limp, clutching him, her gloved hands gripping fistfuls of his jacket and .  She was panting, her breath coming fast and her breath was hot against his neck.

They were still standing like that when Reid came tearing tore up to the top of the ridge.

“I heard a roar,” he said.  “And screaming.”   His face was white wild with fear and concern.

On the iTunes: The Dog Days are Over by Florence and the Machine

"Pack these shoes and I'll cut you!"

Keeping me company: Mr. Ramses is deeply unsettled by all the kerfuffle in the apartment of late.  Where, he wonders, is the furniture he so lovingly marked with this drool?  What has happened to all his good hiding places?  And, if we’re throwing out everything else, can his Friskies be next?

Out the window: I don’t know why I always think it’s going to lovely and summery in New York.  Three years here should have taught me better by now.  It’s near 100 degrees and humid enough for me to think I never came back from Honduras.  I’m sure our movers are going to Super Enthusiastic about lugging our boxes in this weather.  I know *I’m* sure looking forward to it!

A little procrastination never hurt anyone: first up, here’s an interesting post from N.K. Jemisin about the limits put on womanhood in the fantasy genre.  Another fun post worth a look is Amy Sundberg’s discussion of the reasons writers are like superheroes.  Finally, Writing Excuses recently did a podcast about writing query letters.

Well, I’d better seize my opportunity to do a bit of writing and editing before the packing gremlins whisk my computer away!

What are YOU up to today?

Writer’s Workspace: 6/22

Good morning!  Welcome to this writer’s workspace.  Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:

What I’m working on:  with exactly a week to go before I leave for the field, I’m powering ahead in a last ditch effort to try and finish the first draft of ABSENT before heading south to Honduras.  I estimate I’ve got to write around 5K per day to meet this goal, and, in all likelihood, I will not make it.  Most probably, I will fail spectacularly.  Still, gotta try!

Snippet from the screen:

“Davis smiled at them genially enough, but his curiosity was clear.  His eyes lingered on their jeans and T-shirts.  “Where did you say you were from again?”

“We’re Americans,” Reid said.

“Ah.  Americans!”  Davis nodded as if this explained everything.”

On the iTunes:  at the moment, I’m listening to “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum.  But 3 minutes and 57 seconds from now, it’s anyone’s guess.

Keeping me company:  Well, my good-for-nothing cat is supposed to be lounging nearby, looking adorable, and occasionally allowing me to pet and feed him…BUT he’s opted instead to snooze on top of the refrigerator and utterly, completely ignore me.  Ungrateful cuss.  I’d include a photo, but since it’d just be of one of his ears barely visible above the cabinet edge, what’s the point?

Out the window:  it’s a beautiful, sunny day in Brooklyn and I’m enjoying the air conditioning while it lasts (it’s 96 degrees and 2,000% humidity in Honduras right now, and the village we live in while excavating is a 100% air conditioning-free zone).

In my mug:  Numi Chinese Breakfast tea

A little procrastination never hurt anyone:  first, you can head over to my archaeology blog and read up on my field project in Honduras.  Then, check out Chuck Wendig’s 25 things to know about writing a novel – funny and true.  And, if that ain’t enough for you, my dear, insatiable reader, mosey on over to Query Shark for a little truth smackdown.