Tag Archives: ELEMENTAL

Another Saturday Random

A Clean Desk

So yesterday I came downstairs in the morning, and discovered that my husband, who’s been getting up at 5 in the mornings for the past month, had decided to surprise me and clean up the office.

And not just the office, but my desk, too!

I will just say here that after three and a half months of back-to-back deadlines, my desk was not a very pleasant sight. Many, many things have been lost in the mess that was my desk, some of which have disappeared for good, or so it seems.

But now my desk is clean! And I’m not surrounded by teetering piles of papers, books, boxes and magazines.

I can walk to my chair using a direct, straight path! I can sit down in my chair and breathe! I can see again that my desk is a natural pine color!

It’s a change I needed, because I’d been avoiding my desk for a while now. It’s been feeling too much like work.

And now it feels like my writing space. I will definitely be finishing up the first draft of ELEMENTAL in the next 30 days. I have it my time all planned out – writing at least an hour a day, I should be able to wrap up this first draft.

Clean deskMy Clean Desk

The book in the picture above, by the way, is Creative is a Verb, by Patti Digh – I have Molly at My Cozy Book Nook to thank for this, as I first read about it on her blog. And yes, it’s as lovely as it sounds. The book, I mean. And Molly’s blog, too!

I’m in such an appreciative mood right now.

(And I’m now intending cleaner bathrooms without having to lift a finger …)

Vampires

Did I say in my last post, I haven’t really taken to the whole vampire sub-genre in urban fantasy?

So wouldn’t you just know it – guess what the next two books I started reading are about?

Vampires. Of course.

It’s not that I don’t like vampire books. In fact, my top read of 2010 was Justin Cronin’s The Passage. And the year before that, I devoured The Strain, which I read one eerie fog-filled day on the shores of Nova Scotia while on summer holidays.

But for some reason, I’ve just not really felt called to a lot of the other vampire-driven books out there – and in the past year, there’ve been a lot of these.

I’ve been enjoying these two latest reads, though. Maybe because they have a different feel to them than other vampire books I’ve heard about.

One is a secret agent thriller, the other one combines magic and vampires and science and history and evolution (yes, it’s as delicious as it sounds).

They are also very different from each other. I’ll be reviewing both this coming week; I’ve already finished Blood Oath, by Christopher Farnsworth (the secret agent thriller one), and am deep in A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness (the magic/vampires/science/history/evolution one), and enjoying it very much.

What about you? Have you read any vampire-based urban fantasies you’ve really enjoyed recently?

Join My Husband on Facebook!

Well, not my husband, exactly – his dojo!

Last year, I created a Facebook page for his dojo, Renseikan Dojo. I’ve unofficially been the “keeper of the page” for the past while (which basically meant, I didn’t do much with it), but recently stepped fully into the role (you can just call me the dojo’s Social Media Director, okay?).

I decided this past week to be the official updater of the page because it occurred to me, even though the dojo is a local business, its Facebook page doesn’t have to be, nor should it.

I mean, it’s a fantastic dojo, a great place to train, but with the emphasis my husband puts on not only the martial arts, but also meditation and the spiritual aspects of practice, it’s a way to share what the dojo’s all about with more than just the actual, local, physical members of the dojo.

I only just started really updating the page this past week, so right now it’s been mainly about the events we have coming up, but I’m planning on regular updates that will feature quotes about Zen, meditation and spiritual practice (that’s the kind of dojo my husband runs, so it’s a good fit) and lots of inspiring videos.

So, if you enjoy the martial arts, or meditation, or Zen or spirituality, or uplifting and inspiring videos, please like Renseikan Dojo on Facebook!

Speaking of My Husband

I know a few of you follow Ward on his cooking blog, Sensei Cooks. And you’ve probably noticed he hasn’t been posting much lately.

We were talking about it a few weeks ago; he told me he just doesn’t like the writing part of it much. He does like writing out his recipes, though; it’s just the words that go before it that he has trouble with, so he procrastinates writing more posts.

So I hit on a great idea. He’s not too sure of it, so I’m working on him. But hopefully, soon you’ll be seeing more posts on there regularly – and you’ll see Sensei Cooks transform into a vlog!

I think he’d be a natural; he’s used to talking to an audience because that’s part of what he does when he’s teaching. All he has to do is talk about the recipe he’s posting, what changes he’s made to it (and he’s always fiddling around with changes), what he liked about it, what he didn’t like.

And maybe one day I’ll get him to actually let me film him doing the cooking, going through all the steps!

That’s my bit of randomness for this Saturday. What have you all been up to this past week?

Saturday Random

A little bit of Saturday randomness …

Yes, I’m Back

So you might have noticed, despite writing excitedly last month about getting into a blogging rhythm, I then kind of disappeared off the face of the blogosphere (and Twitter and Facebook).

What happened? Back in October and November, I had several clients ask me, “We’ve got a project(s) coming up in the new year – can you prepare the index for us?” “Why, sure!” I said, enthusiastically. But since there were no set dates, I didn’t actually have anything to set down in my calendar. My Basecamp account rules my work life, and I’ve gotten into a rhythm of sorts – if it’s not in Basecamp, I forget about it.

So January arrives. I have a handful of deadlines and I’m quite pleased, since I was SO busy in the late fall and early winter; I could do with the slower pace.

Then the emails come. Those projects have all decided to be ready for me at roughly the same time, and before I know it, I’m actually busier for the last three weeks in January than I was in December (which I’d been calling my “busy month”).

I wasn’t really prepared for the avalanche, but thankfully I got through it, and yes, I am back now for real, and I’m hoping this year to stumble onto a way to even out my workload so that I won’t ever have to go through another too-busy period again. (Wish me luck!)

Free Time? It’s Overwhelming!

So you’d think I’d be having a blast with all the time I’ve been having lately. But I’ve been going through a period of adjustment – to be honest, I’ve been finding myself quite overwhelmed with the idea of actually having time to do all the things that I want to do.

The problem is, there are SO many things on my list (good things, I mean – stuff I really want to do), and I’m having a hard time deciding what to do. And the result has been a lot of sitting around doing nothing, and then looking back and wondering how I managed to waste the whole day away like that.

Thankfully, Janel came to my rescue: she pointed out that after having put my brain through such a long workout, I really need to just give myself time to get used to the new schedule. Go with the flow, so to speak. So I’m doing just that, and it feels a whole lot better.

Short but Sweet

I wrote my first short story in over twenty years! When I was younger, I used to get ideas for shorts all the time, but for the longest time now, I’ve been immersed in ideas for novels. But I’ve started reading short stories recently, and it’s so true: you’ve got to read what you want to write.

The idea came to me one night and I was thrilled – beginning, middle and end, all there! In the bright light of day, though, the ending looked a bit trite. So my brain worked on it a bit more when I wasn’t looking, and gave me a new ending. Okay, to be honest, it’s not a not-trite ending, it’s just not quite as trite as the first one.

Anyway, I then sat down and just decided to write it. (I have my iPad to thank for being so conveniently on hand). Trite or not, I figured, I’d better start somewhere.

More good news on the writing front: I uploaded what I’d written so far of ELEMENTAL ISLE onto my iPad in pdf format, and after giving the whole thing a read, I found myself wishing I’d written more (because I wanted to know what was going to happen!), so I sat down and wrote more. I’ve added two chapters so far, and I’m hoping to work on the novel every day.

Reading, Reading, Reading

I’ve been getting back into a reading rhythm again, too, and that feels very nice; it’s lovely to have the time to sit down with a book from start to finish, instead of dipping in here and there for a few moments of pleasure. I’ve completed a few books, and will be posting a few more reviews soon.

Hercule Poirot and Nero Wolfe were my constant companions last month. I listened to them while working and at night before drifting off to bed, and the two of them helped me keep my spirits up as I worked through all those deadlines.

Not Another Blogging Rhythm?

I most certainly am not going to jinx myself by saying I’ll be going back into a blogging rhythm now! But I’m hoping I’m now back into a regular schedule of blogging, and blog reading (I really missed the latter, although I’ve noticed my TBR list hasn’t grown much as a result).

NaNoWriMo Win!

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I did it! I must admit, I got so bogged down with deadlines, for a while there it was all a “maybe”.

But yes, I did it. 50,329 words. I’m only about halfway through, so plan on finishing up by the end of the year.

Now back to all those deadlines …

My Real NaNoWriMo Goal

So it’s still the 6th day of NaNoWriMo, and right now my word count is at 20,381. This is good, but actually not quite where I was hoping to be by today.

This year, I decided on a different NaNoWriMo goal. Rather than aim for 50,000 words, what I’d really like to do is get the first draft of ELEMENTAL completed.

You know how a story idea can stick with you through years and years? That’s ELEMENTAL. And now that I’m finally putting this story into words on a page, I’m finding a real eagerness to just get the story down.

This eagerness is fanned by the fact that I don’t know how the story ends; I’m finding out as I write.

As Stephen King says in On Writing, make it your priority to just get your story down on paper first (I’m paraphrasing here, because, as always seems to happen, every time I want to quote from On Writing, I can’t find the book. Then, when I have no need of it for citation purposes anymore, up it pops – which usually happens to be when I dive in for a re-read …).

I found myself very excited this year as NaNoWriMo approached, and a large part of the excitement came from this desire to finally get the story down. To have a completed first draft.

My goal is to write 4,000 words a day. I met this goal on Days 1 and 2, but fell short on the other four days. Day 6 is not over yet, but I have a work deadline to complete, so I don’t think my word count will change today.

My intention was also to make writing my first priority by getting my writing done first, before doing anything else. I didn’t do this on days one to four, but did manage it yesterday and today. And yes, it’s much easier when I do my writing first!

I hesitated to post about this goal of mine, mainly because I wasn’t sure at all if it would be something I could actually do. Challenges are not fun if I feel they’re insurmountable. Now? Well, yes, I think I can meet this goal. I really do.

Of course, there’ve also been some NaNoWriMo bashing posts going around (most famously, this Salon.com post), but for me, that’s neither here nor there. I’m generally not deterred by the opinions of people who don’t know me.

I’ve always been a fast writer; that’s not going to change just because some people feel that all quickly written works are devoid of merit. All first drafts are rough; that’s the nature of a first draft (unless you’re Isaac Asimov, who often didn’t need to do a second draft).

Getting to the final draft that can be submitted? That’s what revisions are for. And alpha and beta readers. And more revisions.

But first, you’ve got to get the story down. Before you can do any of that, you need that first draft. And this month, that’s my goal.

Creative Noodling

NaNoWriMo Day 1:

ELEMENTAL: 5044 words

FORTUNE COOKIE (my “unofficial” NaNoWriMo project): 0 words

PiBoIdMo Day 1: one idea down, 29 more to go

It’s 12:40 am as I type this, and to be honest, the only reason I’m writing this and not relaxing in bed with a glass of wine and a good audiobook is because my cousin is over here replacing our makeshift plywood stairs (long story, you really don’t want to know) with proper stairs (you know, the kind you normally see in a house. As in, not made out of plywood and those metal joist hanger things.)

And since we can’t go up and down the stairs until the new stairs are installed, my cousin and his friend don’t plan on leaving until they’re done. (And even if they wanted to, I’m not going to let them.)

So here I am waiting … and waiting … and then I got this brilliant idea. I’ll write a blog post!

I’ve been thinking about doing “creative noodling” recently. I used to do this last thing at night, right before I fell asleep, but I recently discovered a meditation CD that I’m liking very much, and the best part of it is that I can do the meditation as I’m drifting off to sleep.

So no creative noodling at night anymore.

I realized last night, though, that if I’m going to end up with something halfway decent at the end of this year’s NaNoWriMo, I’m going to have to find time for creative noodling. And since the moments before drifting off to sleep are out, where else could I find the time?

I’ve come up with a few good possibilities.

On the treadmill. This time is normally my iPhone game playing time. I like doing this because once I get involved in a game, the time just flies, and before I know it, I’ve walked those 1.5 miles.

I discovered today that I can just as easily daydream while I’m walking on the treadmill, and yes, time did fly by, and before I knew it, I’d walked 1.5 miles. I don’t know for sure if it will always be like this, but for most of November, my treadmill time will qualify as part of my creative noodling for writing time.

Cleaning the kitchen. Yes, another rather mindless activity, during which I usually listen to an audiobook. For this month, I’m considering giving up my nightly audiobook treat while cleaning the kitchen.

I’m just considering it, though. I haven’t yet decided if I’m willing to give up my audiobooks. I don’t know if I’m that self-disciplined!

Occasional moments. And of course, I will have occasional moments throughout the day during which you’ll find me staring blankly into space. I do this on a regular basis, actually, only this month I will be a little more intentional and organized about it.

So while it might look like I’m doing nothing, I’m actually doing something very valuable indeed. I seriously don’t think any work of fiction can get written without a good supply of creative noodling.

What about you? Do you daydream or do any sort of creative noodling? If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo or PiBoIdMo, how was your day one? Most importantly, are you having fun?

(And no, they’re not done with the stairs yet …)

My NaNoWriMo Experiment

imageNaNoWriMo is a week away, and today, with a little help from a friend, I came up with a great idea for an experiment.

You see, I had this really epic dream last night. I have really vivid dreams all the time, and my dreams are usually either “oh, what a beautiful, beautiful life” dreams, or what I call the epic story dream. Both are quite wonderful. The beautiful life ones make me feel really good when I wake up; the epic story ones are thrilling, like a great novel that I just happen to be in.

So in this epic story dream of mine, the setting for the last scene was a really vivid one, vivid and wonderfully strange. And when I woke up, my first thought was, that’s the kind of setting I want to use in my writing.

When I write, it’s usually from a movie in my head. I get characters, dialogue and action, and I try to capture it all in words. But the setting is usually never more than a faint blur, which probably explains why my first drafts are short on description.

So I want access to the stuff that comes to me in my dreams. After a few email exchanges with a friend of mine, who has written fiction in this way herself, I’ve decided to experiment with one of my NaNoWriMo projects (I’m going to work on two this year, in keeping with my new multi-focused approach).

I’m already a “discovery writer”, in that I don’t plot and prefer instead to write by the seat of my pants, discovering the story myself as I write. Having said that, I usually know in what general direction I’m writing; I just don’t know the details of the journey there, and of course, the direction itself is flexible and changes as the details emerge.

My WIP ELEMENTAL is a quest tale, and I have a vague idea what the quest is. So I’ll continue writing that one out with that general direction in mind.

But I’m going to play around with my other WIP, experiment with different “meditative states” while I’m writing it. Kind of like lucid dreaming while awake. I’m not going to write this one chronologically, either; I’ll get down the scenes as they (hopefully) come to me, and afterwards I’ll figure out what the sequence is. I already know what one of the scenes will be: the one I dreamt about last night.

So it’s going to be a complete experiment, from beginning to end. I’ll do this one both on the computer and in longhand. I’ll go wherever it takes me, however it goes, and then at the end of 30 days, I’ll see what I have.

It sounds like great fun to me!

Have any of you ever written like this? Investigating other states of being while writing? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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The Cart Before the Horse (Sort Of)

It does seem a bit like putting the cart before the horse, but after spending the morning reading through the archives of agent Janet Reid’s Query Shark, I began formulating the query for ELEMENTAL in my mind.

Since I’ve only written 9,938 words of what will probably end up being a 110,000 word manuscript, it seems like an odd time to be writing the query. But the paragraphs kept forming in my mind, so finally I gave in, and put it all down in a Word document.

And surprisingly, it’s been quite helpful.

I can see now where ELEMENTAL is focused, and how my various story lines do come together in a way that makes sense (to me, at least).

Since I don’t outline, I don’t actually know how the novel will end, but you’re not supposed to give away the ending in a query anyway, so this wasn’t exactly a stumbling block.

It’s also very motivating to see my story laid out in the space of a handful of paragraphs. And it really clarified for me the main choice that my main character faces, the choice that will really drive the novel.

So I may have put the cart before the horse, but in its own way, writing out the query feels more like a carrot. Not to mention, once I finish the manuscript, I won’t be able to procrastinate on the query, since I’ve already got the first draft down and ready to be revised!

Validation, Plot Lines and A Goal (Of Sorts)

I’ve started working on my fantasy WIP, ELEMENTAL, again. It’s the one I started a while back, and found myself writing not only from two viewpoints, first person and third person, but, somewhat to my horror, in two different tenses, too.

I had put the five scenes I’d written on the backburner, because in my worry about the two different tenses, I felt so much resistance to working on the story anymore.

But last week, I decided to send the scenes to my friend Jules. Jules is a writer and a reader, too; she reads voraciously, and has the same eclectic taste in fiction that I have. She had also recently read a book which had a narrative structure very similar to the one I’ve been playing with – the novel used both first person, present tense and third person, past tense – and she found the narrative structure very uncomfortable to read.

Which made her an ideal reader for the scenes I’d written. So I sent the pages off to her and waited for her critique.

In the meantime, I also had lunch with my daughter, Hayley. Hayley is not much of a reader, which I find somewhat astonishing as she’s a very good writer. I mentioned my WIP to her, she was interested, and I decided to give her my five scenes to read, too.

The results? Jules found the scenes worked well; the switches between the two very different viewpoints worked for her. She didn’t find them jarring the way she’d found the novel she’d read a while back to be jarring.

And Hayley read through my scenes in her thorough, methodical way, and when I asked her about the switch in viewpoint and tense, she said she hadn’t noticed.

Both of them were eager to read more, find out where all my little plot points would take the characters.

Validation! Now that I know the narrative structure isn’t a problem, at least not for two very different readers, my resistance to tackling this WIP has lifted. I tell you, it’s hard to write when in the back of your mind you’re thinking, “yes, but I’ll probably have to rewrite this in a totally different tense sometime down the road.”

So yes, I needed this information, this acceptance.

And ever since then, I’ve been inundated with plot lines. It’s all boiling together in a really epic way, and while I have no clue how all the twists will come together in the end, I want to find out what happens.

Every quiet moment I have, my storylines pop into my head and I learn even more.

It’s the best situation to be in, from a writing perspective.

Which brings me to my sort of goal. The fact is, I’m getting really tired of always being in the same position writing-wise. I’m tired of always wanting to write, but never having written. Of dreaming of writing, but never seriously doing it.

The first draft of NANTUCKET is still sitting there, waiting for me to work on it. And now ELEMENTAL is seriously calling to me, too. It feels like I’ve been in this situation forever, almost.

And so I’ve decided that I will just plunge in and get going. According to a friend of mine who does Chinese face reading and astrology, this year is my year for accomplishing the stuff I want to do. It’s my stellar year – and it ends this coming February, when I’m in for a year of relaxation, ease and delight.

I’m also knee deep in my busy period work-wise; ironically, it’s always when I’m most busy that I get my most serious urges to sit down and write. So I’m going to do that, make the writing a priority and make full use of all this writing energy that deadlines always provoke in me.

By the end of this year? I would love to have the first draft of this current WIP finished and yes, Nantucket finalized and ready to send forth into queryland. That’s my sort-of goal.

Two Beginnings, Two Tenses: My First Four Days of WFMAD

I’m heading into day 5 of my new goal to Write Fifteen Minutes a Day (WFMAD), so I thought I’d post an update.

My stats so far:

Day 1: 27:58 min 520 words
Day 2: 34:54 min 969 words
Day 3: 44:26 min 1089 words
Day 4: 22:13 min 648 words

So, over the past four days I’ve written for two hours, 9 minutes and 30 seconds, and have written 3,226 words. (Stats are courtesy of Liquid Story Binder, in case you’re wondering how I figured out the 30 seconds thing.)

I’m also sticking with my intention not to reread any of what I’ve written until I finish the first draft.

Despite this, here’s what I do know. Day 1’s 520 words are already cut – they’re totally out of the picture now – so they don’t really count.

You’ll notice that it took me a long time to get those 520 words down. And then after I finished my writing session, I went to bed not feeling very satisfied with what I’d written.

So on Day 2, I started all over again, with a whole new and very different beginning. Much better. Except … I also changed the tense I was writing in.

Day 1 was written in first person, past tense. Day 2 was first person, present tense.

The present tense seems to be a better fit for the story I’m telling. I already know, too, that when my second MC enters the scene, I’ll be switching to his POV, in third person, to boot. The novel’s going to go back and forth like that.

(This was actually the one thing that had stopped me from starting this WIP in the past  – from the very start, it seemed to me switching from first to third person was the way to go about it, but the whole thing made me very nervous. I would have been far more nervous if I’d known I was also going to do the first person sections in present tense!)

The dicey thing is that I don’t have that much experience writing in the present tense. So this whole thing is quite the challenge for me. And yet, this seems to be the right way to go about it. I’m not writing as fast as I normally do, but what I’m putting down feels pretty good.

Now I just have to work on not leaving the writing until the last thing before bed … I am just so good with excuses when I do that. Luckily, none of the excuses have worked so far, but it’s safer and smarter to get my writing done well before midnight!

How are you doing with your writing or reading goals?