Maine, chaos, and the week ahead

We’re back from our trip up to Maine and Acadia National Park. It was truly amazing. Acadia is a fantastic park with breathtaking views, quiet forests, beautiful lakes, the calls of loons and gulls, and plenty of lobster. We stayed in this rustic, charming cabin with our friends Jeremy and Miro (and their dog Kafka) and made lots of fires in the fireplace and watched the milky way spin under cold, cold skies at night. It was awesome and I feel restored and ready to face the new semester and all the chaos it brings.

And, indeed, coming back from vacation always seems to mean being flung into the spin cycle, mid-spin. I’ve got the first real week of classes to teach (we had one, odd-man-out class on the 28th, then nothing till now) and am leaving (again!) for Kansas City to do work on my archaeological project on Thursday. In the meantime, I have to take my cat to the vet (again!) and restore order in our house after a week away. It will be busy. But busy is good.

In the meantime, here are a few pics from our trip to keep you entertained:

A runner

School has just begun. Summer is waning and fall is upon us. And I’m pulling a runner.

I’m up at the crack o’the morning to get on a plane, fly to Portland, Maine, rent a car, tool up the coast, and spend four days here:

Looking at Long Pond from near the summit of Beech Mountain - Click to enlarge

Or, more precisely, in a cabin at one end of this lake near Acadia National Park. Our friends Jeremy and Miro have preceded us with their dog and report that the cabin is ‘rustic but not too rustic’, that there are loons singing outside, and that the rain is predicted to end today. They also report that cell service is possible if one walks to the end of the dock, holds their phone in a praying mantis pose and hopes the planets are aligned. So my online presence is likely to be minimal the next few days. Terrifying, and refreshing.

I plan to eat lobster, drink wine, hike, and take a deep cleansing breath as one season ends and another begins.

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.

Homeward bound

Bon Voyage, Readers! Today I’m jetting off to the lovely Pacific Northwest to spend some time with my family.


I’m looking forward to:

Lazy, sunny days at my parents’ house on Vashon Island

Long walks with the family puppy

Hanging out with my two adorable nieces

Spending a few days eating, hiking, and kayaking on Lummi Island

Camping and hiking at Mount Rainier

And, of course, sneaking in writing time whenever possible

This trip is good timing, as I think I’ve finally got my query letter and synopsis for ABSENT in good shape and am read to start sending them out. Having a distraction to keep me from obsessing over responses (positive, negative, or lack thereof) will no doubt be a Good Thing.

I’ll try to post some updates while I’m away.

In the meantime, stay cool and keep on truckin’

Desert Island Castaway

Spring Break is nearly over and I’m back from my annual father-daughter desert island getaway in the BVI.

It was awesome. The weather was hot and dry. The ocean felt like bathwater. Virgin Gorda is truly a tropical paradise, but it’s not for everyone. There are bugs. There is no air conditioning. The living is rustic. This is the island’s charm.

There is also nothing to do, which is part of the island’s charm as well (unless you are the kind of person – like my husband – who requires activities). You go to read, eat, sleep, and swim. It gets so hot in the middle of the day that none of these activities are feasible, but sitting in front of a fan in the shade and writing is a nice way to wait for the sun to go down. Thus, I got a ton of editing done on ABSENT. This is good because I’ve got two writing retreats coming up for which I need to turn to other (new) projects.

I plan to update the blog and write some new book reviews soon, but right now I’ve got some serious course prep to catch up on. In the meantime, here’s a few pictures from my trip which you can either enjoy or hate, depending on how cold and miserable it still is where you live 😉

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.

Wine Country: Dry Creek Valley

WP_20130215_027To yield 2 1/2 perfect days in Sonoma County, add one part gorgeous weather, two parts luscious wine, three parts incredible food, and a final dash of serendipitous encounters.  Stir well and season to taste.

Even our travel day on our trip out to California was great.  Our flight was on time, our seats not too horrible, and Delta served everyone on board champagne and chocolates in honor of Valentines Day.  Once we finished battling traffic up from SF, we found an impromptu tasting of Gary Farrell’s awesome boutique pinots awaiting us at the hotel.

The evening wrapped up with a wild boar chop at Scopa in Healdsburg that was one of the most delicious, juicy cuts of meat I’ve been served anywhere.

WP_20130215_022Jet-lagged, we were up and at ’em early the next day.  A breakfast of fresh huckleberry scones and yogurt at our B & B (the Farmhouse Inn in Forestville) set us up right for our first tour and tasting at Ridge – home of one of the famed winners of California wines over French ones in the 1976 Judgement of Paris.

Ridge hasn’t been slacking since then and the Zins were delicious.  We also ended up making friends with our fellow tasters, two nurses from SF up in the Dry Creek Valley for the day.  They just happened to be going to the same winery as us next (Preston), where one of the girl’s grandfather was a wine club member.  They invited us along for their private tour of Preston’s sustainable farm and we ended up spending the whole afternoon together.


It was a perfect day — bright sun, blue skies, warm weather.  The farm was beautiful, full of frolicking lambs and chickens.  Oh, and the wine was as wonderful as last year.  We bought a case and they even gave us the wine club discount on it because of our new buddies.  Thanks, Evan and Mel! WP_20130215_040

Dinner that night at the Farmhouse Inn’s Michelin starred restaurant was a relaxing end to the day.  Or, almost the end.  Upon returning to our room, we found the staff had kindled a fire in our wood burning fireplace and laid out all the essentials to make s’mores.

As we woke before dawn the next day, we wondered if Day Two could possibly top Day One.  After breakfast (lemon poppy seed muffins and citrus salad) at the Farmhouse, we headed up to Armstrong Redwood Forest to walk off some of the calories we’d been wolfing down.  It was freezing cold, but silent, still, and peaceful in the woods.

To warm up, we drove over to J Vineyards for a tasting of their sparkling wines paired with a three course lunch.  Our tasting buddies this time were fellow New Yorkers.

WP_20130215_011There were two big problems with the tasting at J.  First, the wines were really, really good.  Second, the pours were big.  You do the math.  We had to spend about an hour and a half in the parking lot sobering up before we could drive back to the Farmhouse.  However, I suppose if the day’s biggest inconvenience is having to push your spa appointment back and being “stuck” in a beautifully landscaped setting amidst vines under a warm sun for a few hours…well, life isn’t too bad.

The day seemed like it might end on a downbeat, as our dinner at locally popular Zazu restaurant was a bit of a miss (bad service and mediocre food)…but then we got back to our room and found freshly baked cookies and milk waiting for us.

WP_20130215_003We woke this morning to a deep and lovely fog, as well as the plaintive cries of Charlotte, the Farmhouse cat.  As we pack up, she watches us from her perch on the end of the bed, occasionally licking her paw in contentment.  I know how she feels.

Today we head east to Carneros.  Assuming our stomachs can keep up with our itinerary, we’ve got two more days of excessive eating and drinking.  Wish us luck!


Been meaning to post a quick update, but have been doing such a good impersonation of a chicken with its head cut off that I haven’t found time – plus, its hard to type when you have little chicken feet 😉

Yesterday I escaped the bitter cold of New York and flew out to California for a long weekend in the Napa valley.  Now that I’m lying in bed in the pre-dawn darkness, hanging out with jet-lag as I adjust to Pacific time, I finally have my opportunity to blog.

So…here’s what’s been going on of late:

I turned 38 last weekend.  Which feels strange since I often catch myself thinking things like, “well, when I’m grown up, I will (fill in the blank)”.  So, let’s roll with ‘young at heart’, shall we?  It was a good birthday, including a tasty dinner out with friends who have been in our life well over a decade, nice presents (like a new computer monitor for this increasingly blind 38 year old and a Trogdor the Burninator T-shirt, which is made of awesome), and lots of love and good wishes from friends and family.

My novel BLOOD RED SUN also made the first cut in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest (meaning it survived the hacking of 10,000 manuscripts down to 2,000).  Still a ways to go, but nice to be in the running a little longer.

Classes and course prep continue to swallow me whole, but I have carved out a little writing time here and there (including about 3 hours on the plane yesterday), and am happy to report that the light at the end of the tunnel of my revisions to ABSENT is growing substantially brighter.  Plus, I’m pretty happy with how the manuscript is shaping up.  I think this one has a real chance.

Finally, with a day off for President’s Day, Sid and I were able to sneak away for a 5 day trip to Napa.  We’ll be tasting fabulous wines and indulging in delicious food between now and next Tuesday.  If the slooooow internet connection here at our hotel in Forestville cooperates, I might even post an update or two.

That’s what’s new with me.  How about you?

It burns us!

Sorry for the vast, echoing silences around here lately.  I finally kicked the bronchitis, emerged from my cocoon of misery, and discovered I was so behind on my work that there was nothing to do but take a deep breath and dive headfirst into the deep end.

It’s been non-stop lectures, review sessions, grading, exam prep, more grading, more exam prep, and even more grading ever since.  Just to add to the insanity, Sid and I are off this weekend to visit his mom in New Orleans.  Awesome timing.  At least the plane ride is good for grading…

Three more weeks stand between me and the end of the semester.  I’ve got quizzes, a stack of research papers, a late midterm, and two finals to deal with between now and then.  My reward at the end of the tunnel?  Eggnog.  Lots and lots.  Homemade.  With bourbon.

I’m not complaining.  I’m just saying.  Probably won’t be a massive amount of updatery around here until the holiday rolls around.  Or much writing for that matter 😦

Hell, I don’t care.  At least I’m out of bed and dressed in proper clothes, which is more than I can say for most of the last month 🙂

Okay.  Gotta go pack.

Hasta la pasta, folks!  I’ll see you later.

A month without travel

Normally I’d consider a month without travel akin to a month without sunshine, or food, or episodes of Dancing with the Stars.  But nothing about the last few months has been normal and the fact that we aren’t going ANYWHERE for a whole four weeks feels, quite honestly, awesome.

Our most recent trip (to London) was rife with highs and rather awful lows, and all I want to do right now is stay at home in Brooklyn.  In fact, we have a party to attend on the UES tonight and even that feels like an unreasonably long distance to travel 😉

What will I do with all the the extra time?

Well, midterms are looming, so there’s exams to write (and then exams to grade).

There’s lots of soccer to watch, and plenty of writing to do.  My goal for the month is to finish the current draft of ABSENT and if I’m going to make that deadline, I’ll need to knuckle down.

Also, I’ve been offered a temporary (Spring semester) position as a Visiting Assistant Prof at Queens (I’m currently working there as an Adjunct).  This is deeply awesome, but it also means more work — most notably in the form of developing a new course on the Archaeology of Identity.  That shit ain’t gonna prepare itself.

So, time away from travel doesn’t mean I’ll be lolling around eating bon bons and bathing in champagne (well, except on the weekends).  And, of course, it’s only temporary.  In November I’ll head to San Francisco for an anthropology conference and to New Orleans to spend time with my mother-in-law, and then there’s Christmas in Seattle and a writing retreat in Vegas.  So, never fear, your favorite always-on-the-road writer will be back to her old tricks in no time.

For now, though, I’m happy to be home.