The Year That Time Changed

Jackson, dramatically posing at sunset.

I had a funny thought this morning, as I decided what clothes to put on. Not that this should be any kind of decision worth the mental energy. When I’m at home writing, which is most of the time, I wear pretty much the same thing every day with minor variations. Today I decided to wear a white tshirt with a lion’s face picked out in rhinestones. It’s a fun summer shirt and I always get a bit of shiny feeling wearing it. I’m also a stickler for putting away white clothing after labor day. (Don’t @ me on this. I like rituals that define seasons and special holidays.) So, it felt like a treat to put it on today, along with some shorts, and I thought “Wow, it seems like I’ve been waiting for summer to get here and now it’s almost over.”

Neither of which is true, so I don’t know where that thought came from.

Weird.

Time has always been a weird thing for me, how it changes speed depending on what I’m doing. The COVID-19 pandemic has really changed the flow of time in odd ways. At first, during lockdown, things felt like they slowed to a crawl, even though my daily life wasn’t much different. When my folks visited for two weeks, that time flew by – we were having fun! – and now it’s slowed again.

I alternate in my mindset, too. One day I’m missing travel – the beach! – and the next I’m rubbing my hands with glee over the unbroken months ahead in which to write All The Things. I mourn the fun events that got canceled, and all the suffering the pandemic has brought, but I’ve also watched spring emerge with a close attention I’ve never been home enough to pay attention to before. I think that’s why it’s felt like summer arrived so slowly, day by day unfolding. My first morning glory bloomed today – which is early, as they often don’t bloom until the end of August – so I’m looking forward to months more of gorgeous blossoms.

I’m hopeful, for the vaccine we’ll likely have by December, for a change in the political climate, for so many things.

When we look back on 2020, I wonder how long it will seem.

Head Full of Dreamthink

Always good to find a nice little den, huh?

My head is totally wrapped up with finishing THE PROMISED QUEEN. I’m revising now, and am on page 151 of 368 (so far). I still have to finish out the last few chapters, and I’m guessing the book will end up being somewhere around 118K (~430 pages). It’s due next Wednesday, so I think I should be in good shape to turn it in on time. Or *maybe* a day or two late. That’s usually not a problem, but we’ll see.

Normally I’d write a blog post today, but several ideas for the book came to me this morning in the Dreamthink and I’m itching to write those, not anything else.

Hope you all are finding a good port in the storm like Jackson has!

THE FATE OF THE TALA Not Yet – But Close!

This is the time of year when kitties display their cunning in knowing when and where the rising sun will hit – and their wisdom in knowing to be ready for it. Also: tongue baths and sunbaths go together. Jackson, cat guru, at your service.

So, today is January 15, 2020. But no, it is not the release day for THE FATE OF THE TALA.

For those who don’t follow the podcast, I can officially announce that THE FATE OF THE TALA is done, done, done!! It came out at just shy of 109K and is in the hands of my fantastic editor, Rebecca Cremonese. I told her not to bitch at me about how long it is; she said not to bitch at her about how long it takes. So we’ll see. As soon as I get her edits, I should be able to turn that around and get it formatted within a couple of days. I’m hoping to get it uploaded and on sale the last week of January.

And wow: that book was a difficult write. Some books go slower than others, and that one was determined to unspool at its own pace. With a Prince

It’s not just me, either, because I’ve switched over to moving some other projects forward and those are speeding right along. One thing I’ve noticed – in trying to figure out why my overall wordcount production has dropped – is that some genres also write faster for me

than others. I could see from my handy charts that 2014 and 2015 were my highest wordcount years. I went to writing full time at the end of 2015, so this was NOT the trend I expected. What I’ve realized, however – and what the chart doesn’t show – is that I also moved to writing a LOT more fantasy, and much denser fantasy, and pretty much stopped writing any erotic/contemporary. The closest I came was writing books two and three of the Missed Connections series, WITH A PRINCE and SINCE LAST CHRISTMAS, in 2017 – and, notably, 2017 was my third-highest wordcount year. It’s anecdotal data, but the correlation is enough to satisfy me.

I’d forgotten that I used to alternate writing Fantasy stories with Erotic/Contemporary ones. And that worked for me. Many of you know I hadn’t finished the last two books I’d planned for the Missed Connections series because they just weren’t selling as well as the Fantasies. But, heck, even books that don’t sell amazingly well are better than books I haven’t written! Besides which, some of my other erotic stuff – PETALS & THORNS, the Falling Under series, and the Facets of Passion books – have all continued to sell steadily. Clearly writing those has served to keep my words flowing all around.

Also, the Missed Connections books have very nearly earned out my investment – I’m only about $500 in the hole on the three books so far – so those of you waiting for Julie and Ice’s stories may yet be in luck! Also, I think I’ll write more short erotic stuff, if only as a palate cleanser. Dark Wizard, anyone? You know I’ve been stewing over that one for a long time.

For the sharp-eyed among you who noticed that 2019 was the lowest wordcount year since I began tracking (*sigh*), I attribute that mainly to taking off most of July and all of August from writing – the longest break I’ve taken in ten years! Also, everything I did write was Fantasy, one project worked up an entirely new world in a new-to-me genre, and one was the very slow moving THE FATE OF THE TALA. So it goes.

Now, off to write something erotic… ~rubs hands together in glee~

Revision: God’s Work, or the Devil’s?

We had a lovely warm day on Saturday, and I got out the lounge chair to do a bit of sunbathing. Jackson elected to go with the package deal: sunbathing AND affection. He leads a pretty good life. Good thing I’m not concerned about my tan lines!

Otherwise I’m deep into revising THE FIERY CITADEL, sequel to THE ORCHID THRONE, the first two books in my Forgotten Empires trilogy. This is the series – totally new world and characters! – that I’m doing with St. Martin’s Press. I turned in the draft of book 2 in April and my editor, Jennie Conway, sent developmental edits back to me while I was at Nebula Conference. She’s a terrifically insightful editor and gave me great feedback on tweaking the story. That’s a primary reason to go with traditional publishing, if all goes right (and some of this depends on having a good agent and serendipity), then you get to work with a fantastic editor who really brings out the best in your work and helps you to grow and move the story into the next level.

But… you know what they say: growth is painful.

I’m one of those writers who loves drafting. I used to say I hated revising – and I did – but now my feelings aren’t so strong. I don’t love it as much as the freefall rush of drafting, but it feels like good, necessary work now. Some of that is working with a good editor.

I used to have a critique partner who was the opposite of me: she *loved* revising. She called it “God’s work.” For me, revising always felt like fixing the mistakes I shouldn’t have made the first time. I’d tell her she had the wrong deity.

What’s funny is, now that I’m writing full-time – and theoretically have more bandwidth, hours, and concentration for my stories – I’ve become less demanding of myself that way. I no longer regard revising as “fixing mistakes,” but as part of the process. If we compare sculpting to writing, then my first drafts now are the rough of the figure with the surrounding marble chiseled away. The figure is recognizable, perhaps even showable, depending on your standards. In the revision stage, however, is when I bring out the shadows and highlights, when I polish the features so they have the perfect expression. I layer in the surrounding details, giving the figure context and deeper meaning.

Huh. Kind of does sound like God’s work.

Certain Social Standards and Choosing the Happy

My two boys, enjoying the new recliners and the lovely sunlight of a winter afternoon. I feel sure if Jackson could make his recline, too, he would. 

 

The recliners were a Christmas gift for David. The family all pitched in and we replaced the couch with them. There’s the Before and After. We actually ended up keeping the couch and moving it to another room, which entailed moving stuff from THAT room to an entirely different room, which meant moving the dresser into the closet, and the Big Closet Reorganization, that you may have seen me posting about the last few days. (Mostly on Facebook and Instagram, but there’s a pic here, too.) 

It’s funny because, when I saw Megan Mulry Monday night (we saw The Favourite and had dinner after – if you want to hear my thoughts on the movie, you can listen here), I showed her the pics of the rearrangement. She’s house-sat for us before, so she was familiar with the previous set up. She agreed the recliners were a great idea – so much easier to swivel to watch movies, so comfy! – and then asked what I’d do about the fact that I have two other armchairs on the other side of the room. I started laughing and said, “Nothing! I’m leaving it as is, but my mother said the SAME THING.” So Megan starts laughing, too, saying “Omigod, me and your mom.” (Who she’s met and they enjoy each other.) And I said, “Yeah, my mom said, ‘but you can’t have chair, chair, chair, chair.'” Megan is still snorting into her beer, and says, “I know – like a meeting!”

I suppose I could put a conference table in the middle… 

The thing is – and this is part of why Megan was laughing, because our mothers are very much alike, with Certain Social Standards – the reason I “can’t have chair, chair, chair, chair” because “it looks like a meeting,” is a consideration for entertaining. That’s what Certain Social Standards are all about. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’m very glad that my mother taught me the social skills she did. I know a lot about entertaining and putting events together, skills that have come in very useful in my corporate work, my career as an author, and in my volunteer work for organizations like SFWA and RWA. Social skills are critical for careers of all kinds, even largely isolated ones like being a writer. My podcast on Friday has engendered a lot of conversation on the etiquette of thanking authors who provide blurbs. 

But in this case, I draw a line, because David and I very rarely entertain. I do not host the Junior League meetings in my house, nor the Bridge Club. We occasionally have parties, though less often than we used to, mostly because it’s so much effort, but even then we have them outside whenever possible. When we do have a dinner party, we move everything around anyway. So why would we arrange our home with an eye toward having OTHER people like it?

I work from home. David is home a great deal, as he has irregular hours. We have a very pretty house with incredible views that we worked hard and dreamed long to acquire. It’s a place of peace and delight to us – so we set up the furniture in a way that adds to our relaxation and pleasure. 

I think this speaks to a larger point of why we make the choices we do. How many of our choices are made to please other people, or to meet their expectations? How often do we make a conscious choice to go against Certain Social Standards and instead do the thing that people might laugh at, but that makes us happy?

Something to ponder.