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No such thing as a pause button

Nov. 30th, 2014 | 12:36 am
mood: contentcontent
music: Kate Rusby, "Drowned Lovers"

So here I am again. A few months later, old dust settled, new dust motes swirling around me, and life is good. I am sipping a Crown and Coke, listening to my folk pandora station, and just catching my breath.

Some of the things that have happened since last status update in no meaningful order:

-re-entered the dating world in a serious way. I've gone on close to probably 25 dates in the last three months, and really reformed my perspective on dating, relationships, people in general and how crazy our culture is in regards to all of this. It would make a fun blog post but I really want to write a play about it.

-survived another round of renovations. At this point I can begin to see the finish line (well finished in the sense of no more exposed beams or floors unless its intentional. Most of the House of Windows is now functional, and my favorite compliment I get when people come over is how much it feels like a home. This has always been my goal, I'm a nester by nature and I wanted a place that felt safe, warm, open, and welcoming. Nice to know its working.

-work. Eh, I just don't want to go there. Still employed, still livable.

So with one month left in this year, I would like to get back up on the saddle of writing. I was making solid progress there for a bit and now that my plate has begun to clear again, I can pull it back on again. Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and now that we head into the season of light in darkness I wish yours kindled with peace, love, and joy.

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Oh Captain, My Captain

Aug. 11th, 2014 | 10:57 pm

I was getting ready to start posting again. Life was calming down, about to go on vacation, and I was finally ready to catch up with everything else I have missed for the last couple of months.

Robin Williams is dead.

It's such a surreal thing to type. I mean of course at some point I knew he would die, we all die. But not now, not this early, not the way he went. I will not speak of the darkness that claimed him. I will speak of the light.

Williams had many brilliant performances in his life. He was, as the best comedians are, able to walk that fine balance and capture the joy and sorrow of life, to make it feel real and wonderful and almost out of reach. Usually when someone wants to point out the brilliance of Williams they go for his Oscar performance in Good Will Hunting. And it is brilliant. That scene with him dissecting the genius and how he distances himself from life is probably one of the best character scenes I have seen in a film. But it's not how I remember Robin Williams.

No, the first time I really noticed him was in the Dead Poets Society. And that role, that movie forever changed my life. Because really, when you boil that movie down, it's all about realizing that you are a human being, that you have a soul, have passion, and that this world that we try to make sense of every day is always beyond our understanding, is beautiful and vast and mysterious and sometimes hurts and sometimes takes our breath away. But we should experience it, we should take the day and live it so much so that our very ghosts will whisper in the ears of those who follow us "carpe diem". It let me know that being different wasn't wrong, in fact being different, being passionate was the key to it all. If I could learn how to harness it and grow my life, maybe it could become something amazing. Mr. Keating was right.

My life is great and full of joy and passion and peace (and of course craziness, no one gets away from the craziness). And a good part of that is due to that movie, to that character Mr. Keating, who never gave up on trying to let people be individuals instead of another cog in the machine. For that understanding Mr. Williams, I am truly grateful. Thank you, wherever you are.

ETA: Three years ago I wrote a post about the realities of mental illness/suicide, and it still applies: http://towersofgrey.livejournal.com/75810.html
Please, talk to me or someone you feel comfortable with about this; there are hotlines everywhere staffed with people ready to listen if you just want to speak anonymously. You are not alone, you are loved. We will get through this together.

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Catie's chapter roughed in

Mar. 13th, 2014 | 10:55 pm

Sick again. Yes, again. When the weather goes from 70 to 32 in two days my body shuts down. But on the good news front I finally finished a rough of Catie's chapter. I need to go back and completely flesh out the final sequence, but the structure is there. Now for some nyquil and bed.

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Now where did I leave my hat?

Mar. 4th, 2014 | 10:01 pm
mood: draineddrained
music: silence

So since the last update no real new words have been written. This is frustrating. Luckily, I have had this experience before and know what is going on: I have hit another thinky think section of the novel. These seem to always happen in Catie's chapters which I don't understand. The scene I am writing is, on the surface, simple enough. An interaction between Catie and Lorrin revealing more of their character, and giving Lorrin the next step he needs for his mission in Mosrovia.

But the more I wrote, the more I could feel my brain slowing down, and then stopping. The gears in the back are still turning, but what I thought was just a simple scene, is having far-reaching implications. Namely, one, what is the offhand comment that Catie makes? What does this spark in Casmir that he is able to put the pieces together and find Zhorah the right restitution for the broken contract? What does Zhorah then do with this restitution gift and how does that tie into her overall arc? How does this set up the first major climax that at this point should only be two pov cycles away.

On top of all of this, I am trying to evoke a sense of wonder. I want there to be mythic elements to the story. I want the grandeur and the sweep and when that first major climax hits, I want the story to be firing on all the levels including the mythic. But for those mythic elements to work they need to be built into the overall structure, which of course, requires more thinky think. I have a very cool idea about the festival and how it could tie into some of the thematic elements of the book, but I just don't know how I could build the supporting structure to make it carry it's weight. So, I've been sitting, and staring, and doodling, and writing tons of questions, and I can feel my brain moving it forward, but the ding sound has not gone off yet, so I keep pushing. Words, I miss them.

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Feb. 25th, 2014 | 11:40 pm

Wrote tonight, words were both slog and easy. Day was very long, will update post tomorrow with all the normal analysis. Now sweet sleep

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And the day spaces itself with breath

Feb. 24th, 2014 | 10:17 pm
mood: contemplativecontemplative
music: Patty Griffin, "That Kind of Lonely"

Beginning Words: 31,680
Ending Words: 32,048
Tea/Drink: Twinings Orange and Cinnamon Spice Tea
Music: Patty Griffin, American Kid album (Bah-mazing as always)
Reason for stopping: Moving into the midpoint of the scene, want to consider implications
Darling in the words: And wasn’t that the truth? Time didn’t seem to keep itself to its own measurements. Some years passed like a single day, and then one moment could leave her feeling like she left a lifetime between the heartbeats.

So I sidled back up to the novel today. These past couple of days I've brainstormed a little bit, edited a few words, baked a chocolate cake that was an utter disaster (I am not as clever at baking as I thought I was), and dealt with a few real life things. back at it today.

Back in the word mines, I've taken a few more steps forward. I think (oh fingers crossed so hard on this one) that I am beginning to understand Catie as a character. I'm getting her nuances, the thoughts that fill her mind, the way she moves through the world. And most importantly, I'm starting to really like her. I mean I've always liked her concept as a pov, thats why she was included in the first place, but that was the theoretical. Writing her actions, seeing her in play in the city, I beginning to see what she adds to the story, the necessary lightness and breath that this novel needs, the balance to some of the other heavy povs. I can already feel the reactions of some of my alpha readers to her; half will probably love her and half are going to be annoyed by her. And for some odd reason that makes me inordinately fond of her.

In terms of actual words, I do worry that I natter on a little bit too much in the transitions in this chapter. I have a lot of scaffolding right now as I'm still feeling things out, but I will check it in the next draft. Right now I right on the precept of the interaction between Catie and Casmir, two povs. I wanted to sleep on the implications of this interaction. How will the react to each other?

Catie's reaction, I'm pretty sure, will be to be saucy with the cute young foreign man which makes me laugh, because she knows how awkward its going to make Casmir blush. And I know that the plot token will be the offhand remark that Catie makes to Casmir that enables him in his chapter figure out what he needs to bring to Zhorah. But I want more than just that. How do I add the layers, and what are the right layers for this scene? How do I relay facts about their world, the fact they speak different languages, two different cultures, and the pressure cooker that is Mosrovia in festival season. Blergh, think think think.

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So tonight

Feb. 19th, 2014 | 10:48 pm
mood: amusedamused
music: Ellie Goulding, "Burn"

No words;) Today I finally started back up on a project for work that involves a tricky bit of technical writing. It deals with some fairly complex topics that I need to write about for an audience with little to no prior exposure. Fun! Actually I don't mind the challenge, it takes the juice from thee same side of my brain as novel writing so end result of no words on the novel.

Instead, I baked tonight. One of my friend's birthdays is coming up and I promised her a dessert. I had found this recipe recently for a chocolate cake that looked amazing online. Aside: the perfect chocolate cake recipe is one of my grail quests for me right. I have found for my taste buds the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe, and now I need the complement of the chocolate cake and my chocolate addiction will be complete.

So I started down the list of making this. I have to say, and maybe this is just sheer laziness, that I begin to resent a recipe that calls for more than three mixing bowls to complete. Because truly good chocolate doesn't need much to make it shine. A little bit of sugar, a little bit of salt, some vanilla, and butter and you have nectar from the gods.

I wonder sometimes if the people who make these recipes are more interested in showing off fancy techniques than actually making something delicious. I mean, yes, I can whisk the eggs to fine satiny sheen, and then slowly fold in the dry ingredients in thirds until it runs smooth, but if the end result is a middling tasting cake with a frosting that is only slightly better than store bought, what's the point?

Sometimes simplicity is the key. And with that, I'm off to bed.

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Words come if you wait

Feb. 18th, 2014 | 10:15 pm
mood: artisticartistic
music: Ellie Goulding, "Burn"

Beginning Words: 31,362
Ending Words: 31,680
Tea/Drink: Twinings Orange and Cinnamon Spice Tea
Music: Shirley Horn, "The Good Life"
Reason for stopping: Got a rough on the opening of the second scene
Darling in the words: The sun hit her face bright and insistent. In the moment between deep sleep and realizing just how very late she was, Catie had a desire to share sharp words with the sun and its bearer Cordus. But that thought was lost as she surfaced into awake.

So I got the introduction to my second scene tonight. It's still rough, and I want to tweak a few of the interactions, but most of its on the page. The only concern I have is it being twee instead of warm. It's a hard balance, but I don't want to be dark and hopeless just for the sake of being a "serious writer". As things stand right now, its the morning after the nightmare night and the dust is coming back down to the floor for Catie. Kya has come through the worst of the Wild Parade, although how it has changed her won't be evident for at least a few more chapters. Lorrin has begun to calm down and is reverting to his former self, even though pre-revealation of his identity/Wild Parade incident Lorrin no longer fits. That will be his next chapter.

And Ghost? Ghost is busy loving on Catie, which is so much fun to write. I love their playful banter, I love that they love and respect each other. And I just want to make sure that it comes across as real for the reader too. So tomorrow I'm going to go back over the emotional nuances of this opening with a fine tooth comb and make sure they all lay right. Then I'm going to dive into Catie's world further than chapter one, showing how she built her business, and how she still finds time for developing herself.

Looming on the event horizon is the festival plot device, which I need to flesh out further. I had a rudimentary understanding of the festival before I started writing, but I've quickly come to the conclusion that as one of the major threads tying the povs together, I need more. I've already had a few ideas (as always they come from Zhorah's pov and how as a Blood she never celebrated the festival as that was a Cities East, Weldonian tradition) but I need more, and I need to make sure that the thematic structures resonate from pov's plot to the overall plot through the festival. Especially since it's culmination is going to lead to the first climax of the book.

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Onwards, and onwards

Feb. 17th, 2014 | 11:21 pm
mood: determineddetermined
music: Patty Griffin, "Trapeze"

Beginning Words: 30,490
Ending Words: 31,362
Tea/Drink: Nada
Music: Patty Griffin, "You'll Remember"
Reason for stopping: Finished editing first scene, need to consider second scene
Darling in the words: It was as a wild shot in the darkness, but that was life. Sometimes it felt like all she did was sit in the darkness and will for the light to come. Sometimes it did.

Tonight I got the first scene of the chapter done. I actually did a bit of writing over the weekend, but didn't post here as it was mostly fine tuning work of plot. Most that was figuring out what this scene was trying to do. And I think I got it. On the first level its the reaction to the end of Lorrin's chapter, absorbing the plot implications of the Wild Parade on the povs. On the next level it's another step forward in the relationships of the povs, Ghost and Catie's relationship finally being shown, and Ghost and Lorrin's liege relationship taking the next step forward. But the heart of the scene is about Catie, how Catie takes what life hands her and finds a way to keep moving forward.

Catie hasn't had the easiest life. Her first love was brutally killed in the Restoration War, her employment ripped away from her as the family she served was destroyed and the noble daughter who she served as a companion killed before her eyes. But somehow she keeps picking up the pieces. And even in the middle of night, when her lover shows up with a girl broken by the Wild Parade, she won't be stopped and does everything she can to help. And when that is done, she goes to sleep so she can try to do more the next day. And she has built an amazing life, something I hope I can show in the next scene.

I've also come to another conclusion. I think I am going to try to work on the novel every day, even if it's just for a few minutes. I can feel the momentum starting to swing forward, and I think I have an opportunity to get farther in the novel. The plot is already in my brain, I just need to get it down on the page. And stopping every four days, won't do that. From a real life aspect, the next phase of house renovation starts in May, so I really just have two months before my life gets thrown in chaos again. While not tons of time, it's more than enough to get me close to the finish line. I've been doing a lot of building on this novel in my mind, it's time to let things start gelling on the page. Night all:)

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Kindness is and kindness does

Feb. 13th, 2014 | 11:35 pm
mood: gratefulgrateful
music: Patty Griffin, "Faithful Son"

Beginning Words: 30,172
Ending Words: 30,490
Tea/Drink: Twinings Orange and Cinnamon herbal tea
Music: Patty Griffin, "Faithful Son"
Reason for stopping: Almost to the middle of the scene, need to double check if this is what I want to be with a night of sleep
Darling in the words: None, uncertain if I am keeping this words

I will talk about today's writing, but first I want to capture something else that happened today.

Round 2 or 3, I'm losing track, of the winter storm decided to hit somewhere around 5 today. Unfortunately for me, I was at dinner, and not paying attention outside. So when I finally walked back out at 7, the roads had gone from touchy but okay to nightmare spin out variety. Honestly I think this snow was worse than yesterday's. Yesterday it was the hard, crystalline snow that just crunches down, and in places turns slick. Tonight it was thick fluffy wet snow that weighs everything down, and clumps up in tire wells and makes everything hard to do. Sitting in my living room and I can still hear branches snapping off trees throughout my neighborhood. Not the most reassuring sound.

So there I was standing, looking at the roads. I don't drive an AWD, I don't even drive a 4 wheel drive. I have my nice little four door 2WD sedan that I love and in most of the storms we get here in the Mid-Atlantic is more than enough to get me around. But once snow gets over 5 inches, I'm done. I was mentally trying to do the calculations about how high the snow was, as it kept on getting higher with every minute that pass. So I jumped into my car for what is normally a five minute ride home, figuring I should be able to make it. Forty five minutes later, I was grateful to get inside my house.

I live on the back of a cul de sac at the top of a hill. All the roads up to that point my car could handle (with a little bit of finesse). But on the upward slope of wet snow, my car just couldn't take it. The snow was too high, and getting jammed in my tire wells, and I wasn't going to make it.

Of course, me being me, I just grabbed my snow shovel and started at it, trying to dig myself out. But even with moving the snow in front of my car, there wasn't enough space to get momentum (ha, the story of my life right now), and all I succeeded in doing was helping get myself even further stuck as the snow kept piling up.

At the point of just wanting to give up, I saw the door open to one of my neighbor's house and two men came hurrying down the hill. The first man said that his son had seen my from his window and said that his father and grandfather should help that poor bear man. (I have a full beard, I get that a lot from small children, it really just makes me laugh)

So they shoveled in front of the car for a good two hundred feet, halfway up the cul de sac, and pushed as I gently tried to steer the car to a safe spot on the side of the road so that the plow truck could make his pass. Without those two men, I would still be stuck on that hill right now, and they helped because they felt they should.

So many bad things get mentioned all the time, about how people are selfish and uncaring that I forget that most people are really good people and want to help. I tried to thank them so much, but they just kept saying we were neighbors and that's the way things are. But I won't ever forget the kindness. (I am planning on making some chocolate bread, even though that is small thanks for what they gave me)

I mean I think sometimes its not about actions. Sometimes its just knowing someone is there and cares and wants to help that takes a situation that feels so hopeless and bleak and turns into something amazing.

But back to the words. I finally got a little momentum tonight. A 300 word night is a beautiful thing. I am about half way through the first scene of the chapter. Some things are clicking for me. I I keep touching on the edges of the emotions and the complicated interplay relationships of the characters in this scene.

That said, I don't think they are all the way there yet. I got another layer with the awkwardness between Ghost and Lorrin who have just started down the line of knight and liege, with neither one completely confident of where they stand in that bond. And showing this from Catie's perspective that adds another layer of her concern for her lover Ghost and what this means for their relationship, adds a dimension. I want to show that trust doesn't come from nowhere, and also every decision made impacts the people in our lives. I still need to figure out if I want to put more emphasis on Catie's full life in this scene or let the other two carry the fact that while she is Ghost's lover, she's a business owner and has interests all her own which have nothing to do with him. Because they are grown and have full lives.

Another concern, I have is that the scene is not doing enough from the plot perspective. I mean there is a lot of work going on in the characterization, and I am starting to go back through and drop world building bits throughout Catie's observations, but I just don't feel like that plot line is taut enough. It might also be the exhaustion and brain fickleness so I'm going to sleep on it, and see if the words look any different tomorrow. Hope you are safe and warm wherever you are:)

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