A Weekend Refuel

I never, ever thought I’d be addicted to running. Of all the things to get addicted to, I never thought a physical effort that qualifies as exercise would be possible. I’ve had to take a couple days off because of hip and knee pain–looking back through my training log I see I jumped my mileage by five miles (or about 40%), which was WAY TOO MUCH. So it’s back down in duration for a while, then a reasonable mile-every-2-weeks increase for a month or two.

As long as the zombies don’t chase me for more than four miles, I think I’ll be all right.

The weekend was restful. On Saturday I took the kids to the community centre. We spent about four hours shooting pool (I taught the Princess how to rack, break, make a bridge, and sight) and playing table tennis. I was exhausted afterward. I mean, come on, table tennis? But apparently that burns a helluva lot of calories. We were all tired and cranky afterward, so it was Thai food and a retreat home to watch movies and fold laundry.

Sunday was equally uneventful. I didn’t leave the house all day, except for a spring amble between rainshowers down to the store to fetch necessaries for dinner. The Prince resented being pulled away from his video game, and we talked about how we might need to limit his time on the games if he keeps up stamping and sighing when he’s called away from them. After that discussion he was noticeably more sanguine about interruptions.

All weekend I could feel my emotional reserves being refilled. Now the next two scenes in the book are ready inside my head, which means ready to go out my fingers and onto the screen.

But first…I’ve got to run. As addictions go, I like this one. I think I’ll keep it.

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A Love Letter To The Current Book

Oh, you book, you. You feisty little book. This is twice you’ve juked me out, three times if you count that outline I bowed to pressure and did. The one you’ve made me alter and throw out TWICE now.

Oh you little rascal. You just do not know who you are f!cking with.

I’m getting ready for the last big tango of this part of our relationship. It’ll be a great dance full of gunfire and merriment. I’ll get the characters through the crisis while you yawn and grin at me. I can feel the last big push of creative effort sneaking up on me. It’s a constant tickle under the surface of my skin. I can’t finish another task, I walk away from things I’m doing to sit down and eke out a few more words. I sink so deep into the story any interruption makes me blink resentfully while I return to this world of bills and responsibilities.

So just keep smiling, you book, you. I’m not so kind a lover when you tease. I’m listening to the White Stripes and getting ready to drag you out on the dance floor. No more deleting chunks of text. No more feeling around the corners. Oh no.

We’re going to do this, you and I. I’ve got you around the waist and we’re on the parquet. We’re going pedal to the metal, aiming for the horizon, and devil take the hindmost.

I might not be the best date this story’s ever have, but goddammit, I’m going to be the date this story never forgets.

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50K! Hooray!

Yes, I’ve broken 50K on the latest Dru novel. I am still terrified, I still think it’s awful, I am still tearing my hair out and screaming “everyone is going to hate it AND HATE ME! I’LL NEVER GET FINISHED WAAAH!” But that’s so much a part and parcel of the doldrums of a novel’s creation that I’m actually riding the feelings with a modicum of calm. Yeah, it might suck, but at least it won’t be a pile of unfinished suckage. The rest is for an editor to help me with.

You’d think that after how many books I would figure out that this feeling of it absolutely being the worst book in the universe is just a product of the creative process (or emotional exhaustion) and it would fade. The bad news is that it hasn’t by now, it’s not likely to, and the best I can do is ameliorate it by remaining conscious that this exhaustion and the attendant fear are just reactions. I can watch them go by on my mental screen and breathe through them.

50K is usually the turning point, where I start an increasingly-fast race downhill to the end of the book, tying in all the threads I spun out earlier and tipping over the first domino so the whole thing goes the way I want it to. I often refer to this as the Flat Diet part of the book–where you can just slide the pizza under the door and I’ll see you when I’ve typed finis, kthxbai.

Of course, there’s proofs and a clean pass of another book to look at, and the short story due on April 1…so, along with the pizza can you slide some tandoori mixed grill and some naan through? Just leave the wine outside, I’m sure I’ll remember to get to it in a couple hours…

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Audiobook Wow

My God, you guys. I just listened to the boathouse scene in Betrayals on audiobook. (Strange Angels is here.) A copy of it was just delivered today, and OH MY GOD, you GUYS, the woman reading it is spectacular. She just nails Christophe. It’s amazing. I finished listening to the scene and had cold chills.

It’s an exotic experience to hear words that you agonized over read professionally. I just about came out of my skin, I was jumping up and down and squealing so hard. This is the first time I’ve had the chance to listen to my own work in audiobook format. It’s so strange. But ZOMG, wow. I was blown away.

Little things like this totally make my day.

I have to zip, because I’m in a ticklish spot with the current book and I want to get a good handle on a showdown scene before everyone comes home for the day. But I just had to pop in and tell you that. Plus, stay tuned for an upcoming contest! I have a Reader Request for the mark Japhrimel put on Dante’s shoulder; I know what it looks like but I think I need an artist to draw it for me. I think this particular Reader is planning to do something with whatever I come up with, so that’s a consideration.

If you’re not an artist, don’t worry. There will be a contest for you to win something too!

Anyway, off I go. I am grinning foolishly and not at all calm right now.

Some days I love being me.

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The Plot-Pant Continuum

Crossposted to Deadline Dames. So you want to know how the Dames got started? Stay tuned…

Someone once said, “You don’t know how to write novels. You only know how to write the novel you’re writing NOW.”

Wise words.

Writers fall on a continuum. You have your pantsers, who tend to store things in their head and blithely run through a novel; then you have your plotters, who have a variety of strategies for deciding on what happens in a novel before they write it. (Strategies like outlining, 3X5 cards, mapping a novel on butcher or kraft paper, Post-Its, you name it.) Anywhere you land in that process is fine as long as you come up with a workable product at the end.

I’ve been an inveterate pantser for most of my writing life. I generally work hot and fast after a protracted period of getting the book clear inside my skull, led on from point to point by the Muse, halting only for those places where I have to feel out what happens next like a woman with a plug in one hand searching for a socket in a dark room. (While artillery goes off all around and rats are trying to eat me…) Sometimes (as we discussed last night on Twitter) I stick inessential or don’t-have-it parts in [square brackets] and flail onward while the momentum is hot. Things like [big fight goes here, yadda yadda, get gun kicked away in struggle and wound to hip]. You get the idea.

Then there comes a book to change all that.

I’ve actually outlined the rest of the book I’m working on, in square bracket chunks.

This upsets me a little. I tend not to “plot” so much because the few times I’ve tried it, I’ve ended up feeling confined by the strictures and throwing them out anyway. It’s like someone peering over my shoulder as I write, which is the kiss of death for any kind of peace of mind for me.

Part of having a sustainable writing career is learning to take these sorts of changes with a minimum of flailing. Or, at least, scheduling in the flailing so you can meet your deadline.

So now I’m forced to take a deep breath and repeat to myself, Be mellow. It’s another way of doing the book. As long as the book gets done, we’re OK with however we get there. Just do what the novel needs now, and don’t worry so much about it. You’ve done this thirty-odd times, and each time it’s been different. You finished the other books, you can do this one, outline or not.

So my message for this Friday? Relax. Each book, short story, poem, what-have-you, is unique. Some won’t get finished. Others need different preparations along the plotter-pantser continuum to come to fruition. If this was easy, or if one size fit every novel, well, this would be a lot easier.

But it isn’t. Just ride the pony you’ve got for now.

Now, when I start losing my mind in another twenty thousand words, can someone point me back at this and thwap me on the head until I chill out?


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Shake That Into Place

I am doing #Askawriter tonight at 6:30PM PST. For 20-25 minutes I will answer questions on Twitter about writing and publishing.

I climbed on the treadmill yesterday. A half-mile later, the simple answer to my dilemma hit me right between the eyes. Security cameras. That’s how that character knows what he knows. Duh! So then I had 2.25 miles to think about it and the implications.

That’s the big secondary reason why I exercise. Physical movement often shakes the creative nuts and bolts enough to jam things into place. I’ve always been good at thinking on my feet.

So today is for seeing just where that revelation will end us up in terms of Dru 4, and also for reading Public Enemies. (Yes, the movie was based on it. But it’s about So Much More than the movie. Did you know Pretty Boy Floyd, the Barker Gang, Bonnie & Clyde, and John Dillinger were active at the same time?) It’s a fascinating book, and Burrough obviously loves his material. He’s not half bad as a writer, either.

So, um, you guys can stop sending bonbons now. The Muse was deluged. I’m sure she’s throwing stuff at me now in self-defense. I have not-very-nice thoughts of letting her eat her way out of the pile of beribboned boxes…but then I decided to lend a hand.

She is my Muse, after all.

Over and out.

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Give That Bitch Some Bonbons

The Muse, again. Taking the story through a bootlegger’s turn, and now she’s sitting on her red velvet fainting-couch, selecting bonbons from a beribboned cardboard box, and thinking through how she’s going to tell me to fix this thing. I can’t go any further until I figure out how Character A has received the information he’s going to impart to Girl Friday. I know there’s a solution, it’s on the tip of my brain. The goddamn Muse is sitting on it.

Some days she’s like that.

I am just going to keep throwing bonbons at her until she takes pity on me or until the solution wriggles out from under her and into my head. In the meantime, I’ll be working on another project to make this one jealous. Making books jealous of each other is a good way to jolt them free. If I’m not working on one thing I’m working on another, and that’s what’s saving my sanity.

Such as it is.

So. I’ll be shoveling bonbons and working on the homicidal-fae book today if anyone needs me. If you see the Muse, throw some choco at her or kick her pretty little derriere, willya?

Thanks. You’re a pal. I couldn’t do this without you.

*exits stage right, hands fisted in hair, muttering*

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