Two archaeologists walk into a bar

The title of this post pretty much sums up how my weekend is going to play out.

I’m heading to Austin, Texas today for the Society for American Archaeology meetings. I’ll be presenting two papers, attending sessions, and listening to some interesting talks. But mostly the conference will consist of a bunch of archaeologists hanging out in a bar, drinking and catching up.

In the end, then, archaeology conferences are not very different from writing Cons.

This will be the first time I’ve attended the meetings in several years and I’m excited to see old friends from graduate school and from my fieldwork in Honduras. Since I’ve funneled my money and time mostly into writing workshops and Cons these last few years, I expect it’s going to feel a little strange to be at a big convention filled not with Doctor Who enthusiasts but people whose eyes light up at the mention of lithic analyses and studies of surface treatment on pottery.

Clearly the two communities to which I belong are unconventional, albeit in different ways 🙂

The flight to Austin is pretty long, so I’m hoping to take advantage of the time to work on revisions to my novel and begin preparing critiques for the upcoming Paradise Lost Writing Retreat (also in Texas, one week from today).

I didn’t get as much writing and editing done while on vacation last week as I intended, though I did come up with a whole new plan for the ending of Project Awesome, so I have a very full to-do list. Plus, as soon as I get back from the meetings Spring Break will be officially over and end-of-semester madness will begin. Any serious writing I want to accomplish between now and the end of the May will probably get done in the next five days or not at all.

So–to the airport and adventure-bound!






Cookies and Eggnog and Grading (oh my!)

The holidays are getting into full swing around the Suri household. Our tree is up and decorated (so pretty!), I’ve finished all my holiday shopping, and I’ve made my first batch of homemade eggnog. Today is Cookie Day.

Every year Sid and I throw a big Holiday Party at our place, where I serve eggnog and bubbly and tea sandwiches and…cookies. Now, I’m not usually a cookie person. They’re a lot of work and, in my view, not as good as cake or creamy desserts. But at the holidays, cookies are a must. This year I’m trying two new recipes, Lisa Dupar’s “Crack Cookies” and Carmelitas (both on my sister’s recommendation).

I’m endeavoring to make all the cookies today and then freeze them for next weekend’s party (when I’ll be busy making the aforementioned tea sandwiches, which – btw – are a shitload of work but so worth it).

The house is warm from the oven running all day and smells like ginger and cinnamon and sweet cream cheese and caramel.

These little treats (as, of course, one must taste, taste, taste when cooking) are helping the weekend’s other big project along — grading. We’ve come at last to the end of the semester. My final exams are still looming, but I have a big ole pile of research papers to get through by Wednesday.

In between the cooking and grading (and Pilates classes!), I have gotten some writing done. Actually, I’ve had a bit of a breakthrough on Project Awesome and pounded out about 3k this weekend. As regular readers know, I’ve been getting stuck and unstuck and stuck again on this novel draft A LOT. So, for now, I appear to be unstuck. And that, dear reader, is worthy of another celebratory cookie!

Happy Holidays 🙂

Writer’s Workspace: 11/5

Welcome to this writer’s workspace. Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk.

What I’m working on: Today is an editing day. Final edits on two short stories I’m about ready to start sending out to markets and some edits on the latest draft pages of PROJECT AWESOME. Edits and tea. Yup. That’s what’s up today.

Snippet from the screen:

I let myself in and continued on through the entry to the living room. I expected to find it empty–mom was usually out in the garden this time of day and dad would be at the University. To my surprise, though, my mom was sitting in the living room, dressed to the nines. And she wasn’t alone.

She appeared to be hosting the Stepford wives for tea.

There were three of them, all frosted blonde hair and afternoon pearls, plus my mom. I leaned against the door jamb, unhappily aware that I’d left a smear of blood on the cream paint.

Keeping me company: Mr. Ramses is perched, as per usual, in his Tower of Terror, looming behind me with baleful eyes….(okay, maybe that last part is a minor exaggeration)

In my mug: a steaming cup of Harney and Sons Palm Court tea. So yummy 🙂

On the iTunes: Anyone Else but You, by the Moldy Peaches

Out the window: winter. It is apparently now winter. Cold, grey. You get the idea. (makes a frowny face…)

Procrastinators Paradise: if you haven’t already checked it out, I have a book review of Jenna Black’s YA book REPLICA up on Adventures in SciFi Publishing. Good book. Fun read. There’s also an interesting post up on Jody Hedlund’s blog about deals we writers make with our readers and the consequences of breaking them. Though, be warned, the post contains spoilers for Veronica Roth’s Allegiant.  Also, IO9 has got a bit up on some yummy F/SF books coming out this month. Check it out!

Alright. That’s all from here. Back to editing!

Writer’s Workspace: 9/3

Welcome to this writer’s workspace. Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk.

What I’m working on: Today I’m toiling away on the first draft of Project Awesome (tentatively titled THICKER THAN WATER). I’m about 45K in and have just bumped up against the vaguest portion of my outline. This means a fair bit of floundering around as I suss out exactly what I want and need to have happen with the plot and character arcs. Fun and frustrating in equal measure. Here’s a little taste of what’s been going on with Julia, my angry broken doll of a narrator…

…Snippet from the screen: “I opened the cab door, sliding across and ceding the driver’s seat to Jake. He climbed in and palmed the keys off the dash. I shivered, realizing how close he was, how his murderer’s body was just inches from mine and his murderer’s hands were touching the same steering wheel I’d held a thousand times.”

Keeping me company: the Suri household is unusually full this morning. There’s Mr. Ramses, of course, snoozing in his heated cat bed. And my work-from-home buddy Jeff is here. My husband, Sid, is also working from home today, as the office building he and his colleagues recently moved into has broken AC. So, we’ll all either inspire each other to the greatest heights of productivity, or we’ll get absolutely nothing done.

In my mug: I’ve recently expanded my stable of delicious favorite teas to include Kushmi’s Russian Breakfast. It’s not as strong as I usually go for, but still delicious. I recommend it.

Out the window: humid. overcast. thunderstorms. But, I’m not letting it get me down. We’re leaving for a long weekend in Maine tomorrow, and I anticipate plenty of cool, pleasant early fall weather up in Bar Harbor.

A little procrastination never hurt anyone: I can’t actually subscribe to this philosophy today. I got zero work done over the weekend due to various crazy things and, as mentioned above, we’re headed out on vacation tomorrow. As far as writing for the week goes, it’s now or never. That said, I do want to share one link — to the announcement for this year’s Hugo Award winners — and a big congratulations to all those nominated and victorious (but especially to my VP instructors John Scalzi and Patrick Nielsen Hayden and fellow VP graduate Mur Lafferty. VP represent!).

What’s that, you say?

Oh, I know, it’s TERRIBLE. I haven’t written a blog post in weeks! I am undoubtedly a bad person, or maybe at the least just a busy person. But, aren’t we all? Busy, I mean.

Anyway. I’m here now.

It has been busy. I’ve been in Seattle visiting my family for the last two weeks and it turned out to be a lot more go-go-go than I really expected. So, not much time for blog updating. Too busy living and doing and…well, eating. Yeah, did a lot of that. After all, it’s summer in the Pacific Northwest. That means raspberries and fresh carrots and peas. And beets. And chicken eggs from the coop, positively electric orange and rich. I was even lucky enough to pluck some early blackberries, plump from the sun.

I went camping at my favorite place on earth, Mount Rainier. I ate at the Willows Inn on Lummi Island (yes, more eating), possibly one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to (and those who know me well know this is *quite* a statement). I tried kayaking for the first time, and found out it makes me spectacularly seasick. I spent a lot of time with my nieces, who are growing up so FAST. I gardened and went walking and caught up with family friends.

I also wrote. My parents house on Vashon Island is perfect for writing. My mom is a gardener, well, really she’s an artist who happens to use a garden as her palette. The place is completely amazing. Like fairy story amazing. It’s a super beautiful, zen place to sit with a laptop in the shade munching raspberries and thinking deep thoughts.

Since I’ve finally finished ABSENT and begun the scary-exciting process of submitting it to agents and editors, it’s back to PROJECT AWESOME. I had previously outlined and then drafted about 1/3 of this new novel, but after submitting it to a few workshops there were changes I wanted to make. I spent two days reworking some of the backstory and further developing the magic system. Then I revised the plot, working especially on beats and structure. Then I reworked the first 30K to reflect the changes.

Now I’m pushing forward with the rest of the draft. I’m extremely excited about it. ABSENT was a blast to write – an adventure-y romp that let me use a lot of my knowledge of academia and prehistory to tell a great story. But this book is different. It’s dark and tackles hard issues, and I think it’s the first time I’m really baring something as an author that will truly surprise people. At least, I hope so.

In any case, it’s a thrill to be diving into something new after so long revising.

August is upon us now, which means summer isn’t much longer for this world. School starts up again on August 28th. So, till then, I plan to write, write, write.

How about you?

Oh, and before I go, I wanted share this great link from Laini Taylor’s blog. She talks about how drafting a novel is like a dance between what is Known and Unknown, and she describes it beautifully…take a look.

Why I write

Well, it’s been a hell of a week and a half around here, but I’ve found (as I have in other hard times) that writing can be a pretty good balm for unhappiness.

Since returning from my father-in-law’s funeral in New Orleans, I’ve been slowly trying to reestablish a (small) sense of normalcy.  Writing has been a big part of this.  I’ve continued work on my newest novel project, Project Awesome, which (coincidentally) addresses issues of loss, and I’ve started revising one of the shorts I wrote during my story-a-week experiment.

The Olympics have helped, too – nothing like a multi-week marathon of excellence and victory to lift your spirits (or, if you watch too much, numb you to everything).

This summer has also been one of travel for me.  In fact, out of the 11 weeks since the semester ended I’ve spent over half (6) of them on the road.  And…I’m leaving again on Tuesday for a week-long visit to Seattle.  I thought this might have a negative effect on my writing productivity, but I ran the numbers and I’ve actually written a respectable amount.

Since the summer started, I’ve drafted 15,000 new words on Project Awesome.  I’ve read and processed feedback on ABSENT and devised a plan for revising that novel.  Finally, I’ve drafted four new short stories (totaling about 8,000 words).  I didn’t write at all in Spain, or last week in New Orleans, so excluding those three weeks, that’s about 3,000 words a week (not counting the revision work on ABSENT).

Not my highest weekly average, but not bad for such a topsy-turvy few months.  More than anything, I’ve been reminded through all of the highs and lows of this summer that writing isn’t just something I want or like to do, it’s something I need to do.  Writing gives me a sense of purpose and strength.

Do I want to be successful?  Do I want to sell books and make money?  Of course I do, and I believe with hard work and patience, those things will come.  More and more, though, I’m realizing they are not the reason I continue to write.

I write because it is the most fun thing I’ve ever done, because it provides me with challenges and puzzles and stretches my imagination and brings me joy.  I also write because it’s the best way I can find to make sense of life – especially when life hands me a bucket of really rotten lemons and I have no choice but to drink their bitter juice.

Like right now.

So, if you will excuse me, I think I’m going to make some tea (the other balm for my soul) and go write.

Writer’s Workspace: 7/5

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

What I’m working on:  I’m waiting for a few last critiques on the 2nd draft of my archaeological time travel novel, ABSENT.  Once they roll in, I’ll begin collating and processing the feedback so I can start revising.  In the meantime, though, I’m pressing ahead on my newest writing project (a dark Urban Fantasy set in the Pacific Northwest that I’ll refer to henceforth as PROJECT AWESOME).  I’m about 16k in on PROJECT AWESOME and pretty happy with where it’s going.  My protagonist has just lost everything important to her (or so she thinks) and is hell-bent on some ill conceived revenge.  Here’s…

…A snippet from the screen:  “The fireplace was dark and soot-stained, the walls charred.  Someone had righted the dining room table, though, and as I walked around it I saw a spray of blood stained one of the legs.  I tried not to look at it, but that was like asking a dog to ignore its own shit.  I sat down on the floor, legs splayed out, shoulders slumped, and I ran my fingers up the table leg.  The dark pattern of Daniel’s blood looked almost beautiful against the grain.”

On the iTunes:  I’ve put together a new playlist of generally downbeat, mournful, angry, or depressing songs to help get me in the proper mindset to channel my main character’s bitterness and rage.  Playing now?  Everybody Hurts by R.E.M.

Photo: Ramses celebrates the 4th like he does everything else: asleep.

Keeping me company: Mr. Ramses, H.R.M. King of Cats, has ascended his throne and settled in for his morning/afternoon/evening/nighttime nap.  Until his royal belly starts to growl, I anticipate hearing little more from him than the occasional sleepy-kitty sigh.

A little procrastination never hurt anyone:  LIES!  Sorry, not going to share distracting links with you today, dear Reader.  I have been burning in a fiery pit of procrastinatory you-know-where lately and I don’t wish that on you.  Go and be productive, or take a walk in the sunshine, or read a book…but don’t procrastinate on the internet (she says as she checks Facebook again…).