Pixie dust

Sometimes life feels a little bit charmed.

This has been one of the toughest, most stressful summers of my adult life. There’s been bad stuff, there’s been good stuff, there’s been planned stuff that took a long time to come together and there’s been totally unexpected stuff that hit us broadside. But here we are at the end of the summer, and things are settling down a little.

We moved out of our large, dark rental into a much smaller and cuter home that is OURS. John has his own office, I have my own office, the kids have their own rooms painted to their specifications, and the gaming table fits perfectly in the dining room. We lost 600 square feet, a household-worth of Stuff we didn’t need, and gained a simple, cozy, beautiful home. The first meal we cooked here we got to share with a band of traveling friends who were passing through on Tuesday. It felt so good to sit everyone around that table and enjoy food and laughter with such kind people. The best kind of housewarming, even with the boxes still stacked against the walls and the bookshelves empty.

I changed jobs. I had worked for the same company for eight years–John and I had many despairing conversations over the past year about the lack of opportunities and how unhappy I was, how stuck I felt there. This new job pretty much fell into my lap, and with it came a significant salary increase and an organization that seems too good to be true. People love working here. I still get to work from home (in my beautiful green office!) The job itself entirely plays to my strengths, and I think I’m going to really enjoy doing it.

I haven’t been writing, because there’s just been too much to do in the evenings. That will change this weekend, when we’re finally done with the old house entirely. I still have a short story deadline, and I think that now that all of this transition is mostly done and I’m not occupied with worrying about dozens of things I’ll be able to finish it. I’ll get back to the novel in September, after Worldcon.

This weekend is our first wedding anniversary, and it feels absolutely right that we are here to celebrate it.

I feel really, really good. Unburdened. Like I’m where I should be. Like life is a little bit charmed.

The news from 7000 feet

Hello from Wyoming!

I’m in Laramie, WY this week, attending the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, which has so far been amazing. I can’t say the altitude has agreed with me–I didn’t really sleep for the first three nights, and the trek across campus leaves me winded still. I am currently fighting some kind of stomach bug (which conveniently struck just as we were leaving to go to the observatory last night) :/ but I will not let it stand between me and SCIENCE. This is an experience I wouldn’t miss for the world.

Speaking of worlds, last night I got to see roughly 10 billion of them in the form of Andromeda. It left me stammering “wow” through tears. We are so small.

While I’ve been away Grant Stone’s story “Young Love on the Run from the Federal Alien Administration New Mexico Division (1984)” went up at StarShipSofa. I got to narrate part of this with our mutual friend Matthew Sanborn Smith. It was awesome to get to work on a project with two good friends, and I’m glad that Grant is pleased with the results. Go check it out!

And lastly, Beneath Ceaseless Skies posted their 100th issue this morning, which includes my story “The Three Feats of Agani.” Many thanks to my DieselBears for their help with the story.

Updatery!

Last week I went to Seattle for an agency retreat with the BGL gang. It was amazing–like a tiny little convention in which every attendee is on every panel. The late-night shenanigans were epic. (Important safety tip: Do not put jelly beans in wine.) I went in feeling very insecure (wow, there’s a surprise, right?) but by the time the weekend was over I was feeling like yeah, I can do this, I belong here. It helped that BGL only seems to collect incredibly nice people, and I had a few friends already going in. Now I have many more, and couldn’t be happier about it. Many thanks to Barry, Joe, and the astounding Tricia for putting on such a cool event, and for building such a supportive community.

Also, Understanding Agent understands the whirlwind that has been my life recently, and graciously changed my deliverables to something more manageable, with the gentle admonition that I still need to get the damned thing done this year.

In other news, I started running again using the Couch to 5k app, which is a pretty cool program. I was doing great right up to starting Week 4 (the morning I left for the retreat), and then my ankles decided that this was too much punishment at my current weight, and decided to not stop hurting until, well, today. It’s a drag, because I really *like* running, and really hate almost everything else, but the impact is just too much. So I’ve stopped running for now and am back to the elliptical until I can drop mumblemumble pounds. It dawned on me that it was exactly this time last year that I injured both ankles while running, shortly after I’d started using the standing desk, and subsequently had to take it back down. I hadn’t put it back up, until today. So now I’ll go through the two weeks of foot and hip pain again (it’s not adjustable so I’m committed) as my body adapts, for the sake of a longer life and (I hope) a quicker path to fitness.

Middle age, man. It’s such a mixed bag.

But back to the happy things: The morning I left for the retreat (kind of an eventful morning) I woke up to good news! “My Mother’s Body” will run in Daily Science Fiction, probably toward the end of this year. This is a story that I read at FogCon, where it was received well. I’m happy that it has a home. This is my ninth sale, and my second to DSF. Special thanks to Lisa Rodgers for her enthusiasm and encouragement on this one.

I read you a story!

And it’s a good one. It’s called “Crystal Halloway and the Forgotten Passage,” by Seanan McGuire, and it’s a story that John included in Other Worlds Than These. It was fun to read. You can find it here:

StarShipSofa #245 Seanan McGuire

It’s the first narration I’ve done for the Sofa in a long, long time. I miss doing it, but I screw up SO MUCH while reading that it takes me hours to edit it down to something Tony can use, and I don’t have a lot of free time these days. I was getting good at it for a while, but now I’m out of practice. Anyway, it feels good to be participating again. I hope I get to do more soon.

It was only after I had finished the file and sent it off to Tony that I realized the Truth Fairy should have sounded like Carole Kane in Scrooged.

In unrelated news, I’m trying out a new theme here. I’ve done a little bit of tweaking but I’m sure there will be things that need fixing. Bear with me while I get it sorted out.

Oh, and Happy Higgs Day! Also happy birthday, USA. Nothing too celebratory over here–today has been largely devoted to home improvement and hair color. Tomorrow I leave for Seattle, for a four day writing retreat. I’m excited! I haven’t made much progress on the novel lately due to Life Stuff, so I’m really looking forward to just being a writer and nothing else for a few days. If I drop off the internet for a few days, that’s why.

Cheers!

And then I got told.

Writing a Novel by John Braine

Writing a Novel by John Braine

I’ve had this book on my shelf for at least ten years. Probably more. The first book on writing I ever bought was Lawrence Block’s Telling Lies For Fun and Profit. This was the second. So maybe more like fifteen years.

I was pulling books off my Books About Writing shelf the other day: Writing the Breakout Novel. The Weekend Novelist. The Art of Fiction. And this: Writing a Novel. They just sat on my desk, in case I had a break and needed to occupy myself. Today I picked up this one.

I’ve tried to read it several times, but it was just SO DRY, so LECTURE-Y. Since I was 25 years old I’ve been trying to read this book. I’m now 40, damn near 41, and finally–FINALLY–I’m ready for it.

Exhibit A:

A vigorous realism is the only possible way for the novel. Only through a vigorous exactitude of presentation can the essential strangeness of life be conveyed. If you don’t see the surface clearly, then you’ll never see what’s beneath.

You’ll never be able to write a novel as long as you have the illusion that only a special kind of world is worth writing about, that the world you know is too dull and commonplace.

-John Braine, Writing a Novel

So that’s sorted, then. Santa Barbara it is.

Next up: Voice.

Familiar flowers and writing what I know

Bird of Paradise from Wikimedia Commons

Bird of Paradise, from Wikimedia Commons

Today’s Words: 1022
Found Objects total: 24725
Exercise: None
Other Stuff on my Mind: Writing what I know

I can’t stand bird of paradise plants. I had them in my backyard growing up, and they seem absolutely ordinary to me. I know other people who love them and think they’re very exotic, but they are just about the last things I would choose to put in my yard today*, and I certainly wouldn’t think to write about them. But I do know them well: I know their shape, their colors, the waxy texture of their broad, dark-green leaves; how they look in all weather and seasons, what it takes to cut them, and what makes their homes on or near them. So if I had to choose a plant to write about, I’d probably do well to pick bird of paradise.

One of the things I’ve really struggled with in this project is choosing a city to set it in. From the very beginning I was determined that it needed to be a middle-American city: Minneapolis, Denver, Detroit, Columbus, Chicago. This presents a problem, because I’ve only been to each of those cities either as a child or for a weekend, and can’t possibly know enough about them to write them convincingly.

This is one of the problems in living within the same 60-mile radius my entire life. I know where I’m setting Temperance when I finally write it: it’ll be in an alternate version of the town I live in now. But for whatever reason I wanted Found Objects set in a big city, one with weather and districts and places one could get easily lost in, and I don’t really have any experience with those.

But tonight as I was struggling to write my character’s experience of entering the city for the first time, I had to really ask myself WHY I couldn’t set it in a place I know. Why can’t it be set in an alternate Santa Barbara? Is it just that I’m not looking deep enough to find what I need there? In a way, setting a portal fantasy partly in a city that is SO VERY CONCERNED with the way it looks (I actually do mean the city here, not the people–if you’ve ever lived in a place that has an Architectural Board of Review you might know what I mean) is actually kind of perfect, because it’s the last place you’d expect to find something like the Lodge or the people in it. It might actually add a whole layer of conflict, and as writers, conflict is something we should always choose.

So I’m rethinking this. What’s the phrase? “Familiarity breeds contempt?” Maybe not contempt, in this case, but things that are familiar do seem very ordinary.

But discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary is one of the things I love best.

* There actually is one in the back yard at the new house. Will it survive after we move in? Stay tuned to find out!

In substantially better news…

…here’s one thing I’m no longer waiting for.

I am stoked beyond belief to announce that I am now represented by Joe Monti of the Barry Goldblatt Literary agency. BGL has been my dream agency since the moment I met Barry in a hallway in Wisconsin two years ago. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Joe well in that time and I’ve learned so much from him already. Everyone I’ve met who is represented by these guys are just awesome people. I feel so lucky to be in such stellar company.

It’s an indescribable feeling, really, knowing that people like them believe in me.

More tears, but the happy kind.

And if this helps to explain anything, I am now one of those “authors on a deadline.”

Waiting

I really had no idea how tightly wound I am right now until last night. I completely fell apart over basically nothing–a television show, it doesn’t even matter which one. Possibly a legitimately moving show, but let’s just say my response was disproportionate at best. Fell. Apart.

The house is nearly done, but our loan hasn’t been approved yet. We get no response from our mortgage broker when we email asking about it. We haven’t done anything at all toward packing or planning a move because we don’t know whether it’s actually going to happen. The other stuff we need to take care of can’t be done until we close on the house, if indeed we’re going to. This process started in April, and we’re now half-way through June.

I feel like I’m just waiting for each day to end the moment it starts. We’re waiting for so many things to resolve right now, all things that are completely outside our control. And they’re big things, which when added to the constant state of waiting that we writers are in anyway, has apparently become Too Much.

I know something’s going to happen soon, but not knowing when is taking its toll emotionally and creatively.

A little light

I’m not done crying. I think maybe I’ve only just begun. But life does go on, doesn’t it, even when it feels like it shouldn’t. I just reread my post from last night and it feels like blasphemy that there should ever be another one.There was something about his being in the world, that it doesn’t seem right that the world continues on without him in it.

I had grand plans to read a Bradbury story every night, but as my husband so astutely observed, reading just one absolutely broke me. So I think that will have to wait for a while.

And life, she does go on.

Last week was hard, y’all. My daughter’s college plans fell through, and I scrambled like I have never scrambled before to find a new path to put us all on. We’ve found one, and tonight she was happy. If you’re a parent then you know: When your kids are happy–not spoiled, entitled, and satiated, but HAPPY and full of hope–that’s absolute gold.

Today I didn’t write. This means that I now have to write 3000 words every single day for the next 24 days if I’m going to finish this draft in the time frame I set out. I actually did not arbitrarily come up with this deadline–it’s based on external forces that I’d love to talk about, but there’s that whole The Ink Is Not Dry factor, so I’ll leave you to guess until it is. (Whatever you’re guessing, you’re probably right.)

It’s been a dark few weeks. I don’t put it out here, of course, because there are other people involved, and sadly there are persons keeping track who I want as far away from me and my family as possible. But tonight there’s a little light: My daughters are happy; I know what comes next in the novel; my sister has found her tribe at SBWC; one of my besties has had a whole world of opportunity open up in front of her; another finished a novel that I can’t wait to read; my husband has wonderful projects of which he should be proud coming out soon.

It really is always darkest before the dawn.

I think I see the sun.