Home Office, Or, Trust Me On The Pants

dhammza / Foter

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames. Check us out!

As sometimes happens, I got nothin’ for a blog post, even though it’s my day here at the Dames. I would have some braincycles, really I would, except for the cold my loving son brought home from elementary school and the line edits due back tomorrow, as well as the lack of sleep and a few other things. (Like, Dinosaur-Sized Personal Things.)

It’s enough to make a Rex Velvet out of anyone.

Often, people will think writing is a glamorous or lazy job. Sometimes I wish they could see me in my Jedi bathrobe, unwashed and hacking up a lung, Kleenex scattered through the living room and my bloodshot eyes burning with hellfire as I try to crunch through work to meet a deadline. (Or, you know, think up a subject for a blog post while my brain is line-edited sludge and my immune system is desperately imitating the Charge of the Light Brigade.) There are nice things about my morning commute being a shamble to the living room, sure–but I also don’t get to walk away from my work. It follows me, peeking out of cracks and corners, even when I’m staggering down the hall for bed after turning in a 12-hour day of line edits. This shit is not for the faint of heart or stomach.

Which is a somewhat roundabout way of saying I’m digging deep into my cortex for a Three Things post. Here are three things nobody told me about working from home:

1. Solitude is your friend. Until it’s not. I need large chunks of alone time. I can function without them, but it’s not pretty. But even I sometimes go grocery shopping just so I can see the checkout lady and remind myself I’m human. (The kids can rarely help me with that one, because I’ve raised them–they don’t have much of a basis for comparison. They tend to think I’m normal, poor things. Their therapy bills are gonna be HUGE. Anyway.) Paradoxically, my job involves a great deal of observing people so I can build characters effectively, and further requires that I interact with fans, editors, editorial assistants, Production and Marketing staff, and fellow authors (just to mention a few) without sounding like a troglodyte or a crackhead squirrel-feeding mouthbreather.

Which I manage with varying degrees of success, all told, but those interpersonal skills do tend to rust when you spend long hours moving around the people inside your head and making the words sit straight on the page. Exercising them enough to not (overly) embarrass yourself (much) in public is just another thing to add to the ever-growing to-do list.

2. Still gotta get dressed. Mostly. To call the dress code here at Office Saintcrow “relaxed” is, well, an understatement. I joke about work not requiring the wearing of pants, but really, getting the pattern of your office chair’s upholstery tattooed on your nethers isn’t a good time. (Don’t ask.) And when I have correspondence to deal with, I’ve found it goes a lot better if I’m showered and at least reasonably attired. It’s like the old advice about standing up and smiling when you’re on an important phone call–it makes you sound brighter and better. Sometimes I’ll dress up to write a particular scene, and there was one book (I am not going to say which one) that I had to go through the copyedits while wearing heels and eyeliner just to remind myself that I was a professional, dammit, and I was not going to start throwing things.

3. Save somewhere, spend somewhere else. So I don’t have the associated costs of a morning commute–petrol, wear and tear on the car, wear and tear on the nerves–but my caffeine habit consumes the GNP of a small island nation. Not to mention my book habit, because getting them delivered is easy, right? What I save on postage costs through email I spend on high-speed Internet and various apps and software. Sometimes working at home is cheaper, sometimes it’s not. I finally broke down and got an accountant to do my taxes, since she knew how to compute home-office stuff, and frankly she saves me from needing a boatload of Xanax and ulcer medication every April. See? It’s like trying to fit eight pounds of Silly Putty into a five-pound burlap sack–no matter how you smash it, something’s going to bulge out somewhere.

…that was probably not my best simile, but what the hell. The cold medication is kicking in, the line edits were slaughtered early this morning and will be sent off on time tomorrow, both dog and cat are snoring in their respective corners, and I may be able to steal a half-hour’s worth of rest before some damn thing else lands in my inbox.

Still, I’m not bitching. This wordmonkey gig is a pretty sweet deal.

Even if you do (really, trust me on this) have to wear pants.

(Most of the time.)

The Click Of Critical Mass

Joseeivissa /Stock Photos

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames. Check us out!

I have a theory about corporations–I am certain it isn’t my theory, but I can’t dig up where it started. Anyway, the theory is this: after a certain point, a company stops acting like a group of disparate people who have a vision and turns into an organism with its own set of priorities (top of which is self-preservation) and preferred methods. A lot of corporate behaviour makes sense once one views it thus. (Or at least, is slightly less puzzling.)

I mention this because there is a certain point during the writing of a book (usually around 30K) or a short (usually somewhere right before the crest of the plot arc) where the story, for lack of a better term, jells. It stops acting like a bunch of separate pearls on a string and more like an actual necklace. It acquires its own momentum and its own shape, and at that point, the act of writing is less like hammering together a houseframe and more like excavating an already-built structure.

This does not mean it gets easier, mind you. There are still the long dreadful shoals of God, Please Help Me Stab This Book So It Will Die, Stab It Again, Stab It Again to get through. This is where a lot of ‘new’ or aspiring writers stumble–they think the book is broken, when really what is happening is that it’s behaving like its own thing and requires multiple wounds before it will lay down and die.

…you can tell I have a bitch of a cold today, can’t you? Anyway.

A book can be broken for any number of reasons, but it’s hard to tell if it’s broken or just unfinished. (I talk about broken books a little more here.) A finished broken book can most likely be fixed; a broken unfinished book can be strip-mined for other stuff. Nothing’s ever really wasted, even the unfinished trunk novels that sit in the graveyard and clatter every once in a while. How can you tell the difference? It’s difficult, but finishing a few books (broken or not) will sharpen whatever ability to tell you do have. It will also teach you loads about your own process for getting a whole corpse on the table for dissection, so to speak. (See: Finishing Requires Finishing.)

It will also accustom you to the particular “click” that happens when a book acquires critical mass and begins behaving like an organism instead of a Frankenstein jumble of parts. For me it’s a very physical sensation. I feel it in my chest and fingertips, and suddenly the world of the book, which had a narrow focus like a pencil light’s beam, broadens and I can see every shot in wide-angle. Not only that but the colors take on the peculiar cast of the series’ (if it is a series) “lighting” instead of a sort of tinted sepia. It’s gotten to the point, after several books, where I wait for that click and then shift over, kind of like dropping a car into a different gear, into “excavation” mode instead of “building” mode. It requires a different set of mental muscles, and I think that shift throws a lot of ‘new’ writers for a loop. All of a sudden the work is behaving oddly, and the circle of “am I doing this right, oh Christ, why is it different, what the fuck?” panic bleeds off energy needed for writing. And that’s no good.

After all, the name of the game is to keep on, correct? Keep on, and stab the goddamn manuscript…

Death By Rodent-Chasing Canine

So my dog tried to kill me this morning.

Well, really, it wasn’t her fault. She saw a squirrel across the street and twitched, thinking to bolt in front of me to go get it. Unfortunately, this was right where I tripped and fell last time. So down I went with an odd sense of deja vu, tore up my hands nicely, jolted my shoulder and my right knee this time. Just to change it up.

We run with the leash wrapped around my waist; I thread her collar and the leash through the handle a few times to make a pretty secure knot. It keeps it short enough that she can’t get far enough away to hurt herself, but it also means that her darting in front of me is a hazard. She’s gotten a lot better about it, true–most of the time I run right through her, not to be mean but just to teach her that she is not to get in the alpha’s way. But every circuit in her little doggy head fuses when she sees one of the little tree-rodent bastards. It would be funny if it hadn’t ended with me bleeding and actually crying from frustration and pain while lying on the sidewalk.

Yes, you read that right. I burst into tears. The pain wasn’t really that bad, but I was running off some frustration from earlier in the day. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. It’s just…some days, a killing spree seems like a good idea just to get things all cleared up and moving. Especially when I get horrendous and frustrating career news and other silly, stupid, complex problems pile up on me before 9AM.

So we ran the rest of the day’s mileage and I limped home, still bleeding but drained of adrenaline. Which has been a boon today, honestly. Other than just one (totally justified, because hey, I was BLEEDING) crying fit, I could have had several and a psychotic break too! Big fun. As it is, I have just taken to calling Miss B “Killer of Joggers” to add to her other honorifics, and she doesn’t care because she enjoys the accompanying chest-skritches and pets and loves. In fact, she rolls over and grins, panting happily, while I scratch her belly and recite her long list of titles, including “Mighty Squirrel Chaser” and “She Who Will Not Eat Dry Kibble.”

And you know, as long as I can still raspberry her fuzzy little tummy, things can’t be all bad. Even if she did try to murder me.

But if you tell anyone I cried, I’ll have to hurt you. *wink*

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Subconscious Gas Bubbles

So, I’m developing a girlcrush on Sarah Rees Brennan, for her Gothic Tuesdays. This week’s winner was Collie Wilkins’s Woman in White. (Project Gutenburg can hook you up too.)

LAURA: I’m going to tell Sir Percy Cruelpants that I will marry him, but I love another, so he won’t want to marry me.
MARIAN: Well, he will if he doesn’t give a crap about your feelings, though?
LAURA: Nonsense, I’m sure this will work out awesome. Sir Percy Blackheart, I love someone else and I don’t wanna marry you. Still want to marry me?
SIR PERCY RIDICULOUSLY EVIL: Still rich?
LAURA: Yes.
SIR PERCY THE PERFIDIOUS: Then yes.
LAURA: … That did not go the way it did in my head. (Sarah Rees Brennan)

The whole thing is pure gold. You should also look at her Jane Eyre one.

Also, here’s a free documentary on Haruki Murakami. I enjoy Murakami’s work–frex, I read his latest, 1Q84, in a few long gulps. (No, LONG gulps. Nearly a thousand pages, OMG.) Seriously, you don’t read Murakami for linear coherence just like you don’t watch a David Lynch film for it. They’re both harvesters of subconscious gas-bubbles. (Also, really fricking weird, and not too good with the portrayal of teenage girls, meh.)

And the Heart Attack Grill has its first moment of truth in advertising.

In other news, the first book of the new YA series is back with the editor for another revision pass. And the second Bannon & Clare book, The Red Plague Affair, is heating up inside my skull. Rest is overrated, don’t you think? Plus there’s martial arts for the kids, a four-year-old I’m watching for a few days, and a dog who thinks the Roomba is a demonspawn predator I need protecting from.

So…off I go. Be careful out there, Gothic Lady Sleuths!

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Stop the gig. I want to get off.

Yesterday was a just-plain-endurance sort of day. Take kids to school, a short run, climbing–but only a short session, since I’ve done something to my left arm, both the biceps and the deltoid are Unhappy With Me–and a return home to clean and look after a lovely little four-year-old, the Princess arriving home (half day for everyone! Oh dear!) and a blazing-quick trip out to Cover to Cover to sign a few books, home again and the extra children picked up by their mother, dropping off the Princess at her friend’s house, home again to pick up the Little Prince for his martial arts class, taking the Prince to dinner afterward, home for a brief instant to get the Prince settled and then a trip out to the Princess’s school to attend her choir’s winter concert. Where I stood far in the back and recorded eighth-graders singing on my phone.

The future, it is here.

This morning I took both kids to school again, and it was while dealing with the demolition derby at the middle school that I suddenly looked at the entitlement of the parents using their cars in a giant game of “MINE’S BIGGER!”, and realized why America is the way it is at the moment.

*shakes cane*

Anyway, with the arm the way it is, and my nerves the way they are, I doubt there will be a run today. I just can’t face it. I know I’ll be itchy and cranky by tomorrow, but my body needs the time off, and frankly it’s pretty raw out there.

I should mention that Squirrel Neo, the One-Eyed Scourge/King of the Backyard, is still out and about even though it is cold and raw. If tomorrow is good to me, I shall sing the Lay of the End of the Battle of Pelennor Sunroom, and afterward the Tale of Neo One-Eye and the Girlfriend of DOOOOM. But for today I have some zombie cowboy romance to write.

Over and out…

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Monday of the Sabretooth Chihuahua

Just a few quick things, since Monday is humping my leg like a sabretooth Chihuahua:

* To those of you asking for a Hedgewitch Queen/Bandit King spot in my fan forum, success! Here it is.

(See below)* I am informed there are some copies of Reckoning floating around out there with a printer error. As in:

Just finished reading Reckoning. Very confused. Book pages screwy? After p278 went to p215 with repeat through p246 then ended.– A fan on Twitter

There was a printer error, and they thought they caught all of them, but such is obviously not the case. My editor is asking around about how to solve the problem. So, hang in there–as soon as I know more, I’ll share it here.

* This last Saturday my friend Zen E. participated in the Portland Boulder Rally at the Circuit NE. I was on hand with the video camera, and it was a great event! I am constantly surprised by how supportive the climbing community here is. Out of all the people I’ve met since I started climbing, there’s only been one outright-nasty person. The rest of them have been kind, thoughtful, polite, cheering on everyone and just generally being good sports. It’s amazing. Anyway, Zen stuck her last route of the day, one she’d been working for a while during the competition, and it was great to see. (The video of the occasion holds audio of me whooping with you when she makes the last move and her hands stick at the top. I was Very Excited.) Thanks to everyone who made such a great event possible!

* I’m getting a lot of mail about Steelflower lately. Guys, even if I had time to write the second in the series, there are other considerations. I know you want to read about Kaia and her troupe heading off to Rainak Redfist’s homeland to take back his birthright, but it might not happen for a while, and being angry with me won’t help or solve anything. I have the last two books of the series in my head–the third book deals with Kaia and Darik’s return to G’maihallan. But like I said, it may be a while. I am looking at a number of different options. That’s all I can say.

Coming up this week: my thoughts on epub-only, the Pyrrhic Victory of Pelennor Sunroom, and possibly (if I can figure out how to meld the music into it) a podcast. Not sure about the podcast, though. It takes me a while, and much swearing, to get those right…

Over and out.

ETA: Heard back from the publisher–no more than 200 copies escaped with the error. If you received one of them, contact the publisher’s Customer Service directly. If you can’t take the book back to the bookstore from whence it came, they can send you a new copy. (Note the “IF.”) Thanks for letting me know about this, guys–I got six emails in a 20-minute span about it on Monday, and about had a heart attack. Whew.

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An Ill And Tired Little Mongoose

So I’ve been glassy-eyed with mild fever for a few days, aching all over, and with a nose not as full of snot as it could be. It took my writing partner saying, “Maybe it’s flu?” for me to figure out that perhaps, yes, some sort of virus. Great. Just wonderful.

What the hell? I hate being sick. I don’t have time. I have climbing to do, running to get out of the way six days a week, revisions packed tight for the next six months and oh yes, two books to write in the next six months too. (Well, six to ten months. STILL.) My immune system needs to get on the stick, for heaven’s sake.

Let’s see, what can I report? Copyedits for the first Bannon & Clare were finally bled dry and sent in a neat package back to the editor today. The Little Prince has expressed a desire to take karate classes. (This is going to be fun.) I am still addicted to Glitch. (Also fun.) It’s concert season for the Princess’s choir. (Oh God.) Plus, I am eying the upcoming holidays the way a mongoose eyes a cobra she’s not quite sure she’s big enough to bite to death. (I could write about why my childhood makes me view holidays as poisonous, but that would take more energy than I have today.) Oh, and one of those books I have to write? Deals with plague. OH, THE IRONY.

I know I should write the last half of the Battle of Pelennor Sunroom. It’s just…release hath followed upon release, and I went on an Internet semi-fast for a little bit. Just didn’t have the bandwidth, plus, it is my firm belief that a writer should not respond to reviews, and if one cannot keep one’s mouth shut it is best and easiest just not to look. This is the same principle I avoid watching television on.

On the other hand, the smell of autumn and falling leaves does not disturb me nearly as much as it has in years past. The Moon last night smiled down at me as I jaunted out to the rubbish bin, and it struck me that at this time two years ago, I was just barely afloat; a year ago I was healing but still fragile. The faith that time will heal a wound or two is a fragile thing, and cold comfort at best, but it kept me going during the dark times. (Along with a healthy dose of tough love from my Chosen Family.) It is always a shock to look back and see how far one has come.

Now if I could just kick this virus in its snot-soaked, irritating little nads and send it crying away, I’d be all set.

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