Just returned from a fabulous 5-year wedding anniversary trip to my old hometown of Philadelphia. Many nostalgic walks were taken. Dear friends were visited. All the food (as in, all the food in all of Philadelphia) was eaten. It was good.

Now I’m back at my desk and hard at work (anything to postpone that much needed morning trip to the gym!). With our trip, and the preceding week being occupied by a house guest, I’m not quite as far along with my final edits to ABSENT as I’d like. I’ll pick that back up today, continuing to hand edit the printed manuscript, enter the changes, and then read each section aloud for final tweaking.

This process is working well and I feel the final draft is tighter, cleaner, and lacking in some of the kinds of tiny POV slippage errors that can sneak by if you don’t read the manuscript. Thanks to my awesome batch of final readers, I’ve also got a few small revisions to make as well — in particular, switching a couple POV chapters (the novel has two main POV characters) and clarifying some of the rules (and consequences for violating them) of time travel in this universe.

I leave for another trip (to visit my archaeology colleague at his home institution in Kansas City) next Wednesday, so I’m using that as my deadline to finish this thing. So, hold me to it: I promise ABSENT will be done exactly one week from today. Then it will just be honing that query letter (which I’ve begun to draft) and researching agents to find the right folks to pitch the novel to.

In other news, I’m doing a fair bit of Beta reading these days. The two novels I’m doing this for are both about magicians and are both dark and funny. Beyond that, though, they’re pretty different — and both inspiring and fun in different ways too. I always enjoying seeing what my friends are up to, and since I’ve been reading for many of them for a long time, it’s also cool to see firsthand how we’re all evolving and changing as writers.

Since I have a background in academia, I always tend to think in term of “cohorts” (in grad school, this was the graduate class you went through five kinds of hell with, graduated with, became abused junior faculty or adjuncts with, and – in a perfect world – eventually rose to comfy tenured positions with). You suffered, grew, shared, and evolved together. I feel like my VP13 writing “tribe” (and the folks absorbed into that group over the years) is much the same. It gives me warm fuzzies.

Okay. Lots of reading and editing and not wasting time on the internet to do!

ABSENT is, at last, present

Yesterday afternoon I finished the most recent (and hopefully final) major revisions to ABSENT, my archaeological time travel novel. It clocks in at 95,700 words. This version was the third full rewrite of the book, coming on the heels of an extensive round of reader feedback.

There’s no denying this is an important milestone in the life of the project, but finishing up yesterday felt anti-climatic–I suppose because I’m still facing down several editing passes.

I’ll do one for word and sentence level issues (10% Solution-style), one for character consistency and body language, and one for white-room correction and description issues. One section of the book is set in the 1920’s so I’ll also do a sub-pass on that section for period details. Then the novel will go out to a smaller group of readers for minor tweaks and, barring large plot-level issues cropping up, I’ll start prepping it for agents.

I have to say that while it might have felt like a non-event yesterday, being done with the rewrite portion of the draft feels pretty fab this morning–as if a hairy, three-toed monster with six eyes and bad breath has finally been banished from where he was lurking over my shoulder. This revision took longer than I planned or wanted, and I have a number of other projects in varying stages of completion that have long been angling for my attention. It’s glorious to know I’ll be able to turn to them soon.

Spring break starts at the end of this week, which means I’ve got seven days of beach time coming up. This beach, to be exact:

Spring Bay Beach, BVI
Spring Bay Beach, BVI

This offers the perfect editing deadline to shoot for, as well as the perfect opportunity to load the finished draft on my Nook and give it a proper look for readability. Plus, if I identify serious problems, there’s always a bottle of Caribe to drown my sorrows in 😉

So, yes, at long last I am done with major rewrites on ABSENT. I would be amiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to my Beta readers. The changes I’ve made to the novel are substantial and many were inspired by the insightful feedback I received on the previous draft. So, thank you Steve, Cath, George, Micah, Christian, Eric, Kris, Barbara, and Phil — as well as my crit groups from the Vegas workshop and Paradise Lost II.

Okay. So, my reward for finishing the draft is a weekend spent grading exams, followed by heavy manuscript editing…thus, no time to waste!

Back to work.

June gone too soon

Another month, another monthly run-down.

1. I’m happy to say that June saw me bring the thunder on my rough draft of ABSENT.  I hammered out nearly 25,000 words this month.  Most of those words were of the craptastic variety, but as Chuck Wendig has rightly said: the draft is for writing the words, the revision is for making the words not suck.  I’m almost done with the novel, but finishing it will have to wait until I return from the field in mid-July.  As will the aforementioned ‘making it not suck’.

2. I started a new short story this month–a steampunk/horror mashup set during the Second Seminole War that focuses on skull collectors and the nefarious uses they put to their macabre prizes.  It’s threatening, though, to turn into a novel on me.

3. I’ve got 5 other shorts, plus BLOOD RED SUN, out to markets and agents.  Lots of waiting on that front.  World-building and outlining on my urban fantasy novel has stalled; set aside in favor of trying to finish ABSENT.  I hope to return to that in July.

4.I did a bundle o’beta reading this month: one novel for my crit partner, Eric, which I finished, and another that I’m halfway through.  In addition, I did three short story crits this month.  All told, I read and critted well over 180,000 words in June.

5. Even with all that beta reading to do, I managed to squeeze in a fair amount of pleasure reading, making my way through Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (a re-read), The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie, Hexed by Kevin Hearne, The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

6.  School’s out, so no day job to weigh me down.  Ah, lazy, lovely summer.

7. In the travel department, I journeyed to Miami to visit a friend and am off tomorrow to Honduras to work on my archaeological field project.

So, June was busy, as every month seems to be, but it will pale in comparison to what’s coming down the pike in July.  I’ve got the aforementioned archaeological expedition for the first half of the month, then a trip up to Boston to attend Readercon, and then the hubby and I are moving into the apartment we’ve just bought.  So, deep breath….here we go!

How was your month?