Knowing When to Stop

Kindle ranking #2A little while back I mentioned that monsoon season was starting in New Mexico, bringing all that metaphorical and literal goodness to my life. Such a rain of blessings, indeed! Carina Press put Rogue’s Pawn on sale for 99 cents (through July 19, if you haven’t snapped up that deal yet) and it was featured on Book Bub. Amazing results in that it hit #2 in Fantasy Romance. Right behind Dean Koontz, which had us all scratching our heads. Turns out he’s doing more romance and less horror these days.

Still – me and ol’Dean, yanno? Such a major rush to see this book ranked so high.

Br765aqCEAAwF4XI saw this go by on Twitter this week – Henry Miller’s set of “commandments” for himself on getting his work done. I’d never seen it before and thought it’s so very smart.

One aspect I like best here is that he made this list for himself. Who knows, in today’s era he’d maybe have put it up on his blog. But then, he’s clearly addressing himself. I particularly love that he forbids himself from adding more material to “Black Spring.” There are a lot of great nuggets here – the acknowledgment that “creating” doesn’t always feel like it can happen every day, but work can. To work with pleasure and not make it into a chore. The one that really struck me, however – maybe because I’m not sure I’ve seen another writer encounter this – is #4: Stop at the appointed time.

I’ve discovered this is really key for me. We all have the bad days, the tooth-pulling ones. Where every word feels hard-fought. On the worst ones, I don’t get my wordcount and that bothers me. I’ve discovered, though, that sometimes that happens. Sometimes the story needs to cook or I just don’t have the mojo that day. If I’ve put in the diligent effort, I try to cut myself the slack and let it go. Usually the next day is much better. Sometimes I’ll have several days in a row like this and I just have to chip away at it.

The reverse is the true glory. The days that every writer lives for – when the words pour out in a rush, as if from another place, and I only have to type as fast as I can to get it all down. On those days, it can be VERY tempting to keep going. Especially since I usually have time, because I got the wordcount fast and easily. Often I go over on those days by 100 or 200 words.

And I find myself thinking, why not go for an extra 1K?

I used to do this, but I don’t let myself anymore. Which is why I’m fascinated that Henry Miller apparently set this rule for himself, also.

It’s important for a working writer to learn to write through mood. In essence, you can’t let the bad days get you down. I think it’s equally important not to let the good days carry you away. Inevitably, if I milk that flow and push for extra words, push past the appointed time, I incur some damage.

I’m not sure why this is, it just is.

(Okay – I suspect it has something to do with breaking an agreement with my subconscious self, but that gets into complicated territory fast.)

What kind of damage? Usually I’ll trigger a crash and then I’ll get a run of days of shortfall. So much so that, in the overall scheme, I’ll end up behind my timeline instead of ahead of it. Totally not worth it. It would be interesting to know if Henry encountered the same thing.

So this is my rule for myself now, too. I stop at the appointed time or at my wordcount goal and call it done. Has anyone else encountered this? Either in an artistic pursuit or some other arena?

Hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

On Monsoon Rains and Sharing Creativity

monsoon trackingEvery morning when I start up my internet browser, the 10-Day Weather Forecast is one of the tabs that opens. This time of year I watch it very closely, hoping for the monsoon rains to start.

If you’re not familiar with the desert southwest, the monsoon rains are pivotal for us. If we’re lucky, they start in late June and then continue through August. It’s our wettest season – a relative term for most of you – and one we depend on to save us from becoming as barren as the Sahara. As the spring heats up, we dry out. June is hot, dry and windy. It’s not the gentle onset to summer that so many parts of the country have. It’s scorching. It’s when the fires start.

So, we anticipate the monsoons, hoping and praying for the cooling, drenching rain to arrive. In monsoon season, we have bright sunny mornings, clouds roll in by noon, heavy rain until about 4 or 5 pm, and then clear, cool evenings. I’ve learned that the monsoon’s begin when the dew point – the green line in the top graph above – meets or crosses the temperature, the red line. Sure enough, next week that green line finally rises up near that red line and – oh look! – RAIN.

It feels like a miracle poised to occur. A joyful, life-giving one that everyone can share in.

In what feels like a parallel to me, yesterday I talked on Twitter with this gal, Elizabeth Lane. She tweeted:

 

Now, she had mentioned something along these lines before. Other people have made similar comments about Ruby, because the hero is a chef at a five-star restaurant in New Orleans. I get little notes along the lines of “Tell Bobby Prejean to make me a sandwich!” fairly frequently. Or they make noises about recreating a certain chocolate fondu scene. *ahem* I figured Elisabeth meant something similar, but when I saw this yesterday, I asked if she really meant it. She replied:

 

So, a bit chagrined, I went and looked at her website.

 OMG you guys! You have to look at what she’s doing. She reads romance novels and picks out certain meals to recreate and then blog about. I may be in love. Once I (belatedly, yes, I know) figured this out, I had to go back to Ruby to figure out which meal she’s doing. After all, there are A LOT in that particular story, as I’m sure you can imagine. Besides, if she was talking mango and cilantro, that was NOT the chocolate fondu scene. Instead it’s this one:

A small table in the corner under draping vines awaited her, lit with candles. A stand held a silver champagne bucket, and the maitre d’ poured a glass for her. The label was French and looked old, not one she recognized. The wine evaporated on her tongue, the sublime effervescence filling her head.

If she didn’t know better, she’d think she was being courted.

Course after course arrived, thoughtful, perfect presentations of the most succulent food she’d ever tasted, all on small plates. She began to feel like a pampered pet, coaxed into trying just a bit more. A popover, lighter than air, a hint of honey-butter perfuming it. A single oyster on the half shell, presented with a subtle sage breading that reminded her of Thanksgiving. Three sea scallops, sautéed to perfection, sweetly juicy and served each in a pool of its own sauce—one a piquant cilantro, the next a peppered mango and the final one a variation on the barely bitter chocolate he’d served that morning, strangely perfect with the salty counterpoint.

She inhaled the Caesar salad—the dressing exquisite, the anchovies aged in a smoky oil. When the waiter reverently laid the main course before her, a perfectly golden mini-soufflé of crab and nine aged cheeses, she heard a woman at the next table inquire about it, only to be told it was reserved for special customers. A heart carved into the crust, inlaid with a brush of cinnamon, confirmed it.

Prejean finally joined her, as she finished the soufflé. He gave her plate a long look and raised his eyebrows, the gold hoop winking. “Any good?”

Elisabeth says she’s focusing on the sea scalllops. Then the best part for me is, when someone else asked when this would go up, she said:



Do you see? She’s INVENTING the recipe from my story! Because, well, she pretty much had to, since I totally made it up. Some of the meals in this story are ones I’ve had in New Orleans restaurants or elsewhere. Others are ones I looked up. Some are ones I fabricated because they sounded delicious and sensual to me. And now Elisabeth is making it real, in a different way than I made it real. It’s like that rising dew point, that passes a certain threshold and makes it rain.

Finally, speaking of blessings from above and turning points, that starred Library Journal Review for The Mark of the Tala is finally available online, I love, love, love this review! Here it is:

OrangeReviewStar de Castell’s Debut of the Month, Romantic Fantasy from Kennedy, Zombie Horror, & More  | SF/Fantasy ReviewsKennedy, Jeffe. The Mark of the Tala. Kensington. (Twelve Kingdoms, Bk. 1). Jun. 2014. 338p. ISBN 9780758294432. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780758294449. FANTASY

markofthetala062714 de Castell’s Debut of the Month, Romantic Fantasy from Kennedy, Zombie Horror, & More  | SF/Fantasy ReviewsAs the middle daughter of the High King, Andi isn’t the warrior (that’s older sister ­Ursula) or the beautiful one (younger sister Amelia has that sewn up), but she does have a distinct tie to her mother’s people, the Tala, that might change the balance of power in the realm. No one in the Twelve Kingdoms speaks of the dead queen or the Tala, so when Andi, while out riding, meets the mysterious Rayfe, she is stunned to find out that he is king of the Tala and that she is destined to be his queen. ­VERDICT The fairy-tale setup only hints at the depth of worldbuilding at work in this debut series. What could be clichéd is instead moving as Andi is torn between duty to her father and the pull of Rayfe and his kingdom. Andi starts out passive, in the shadows, and insecure but experiences great growth as the story develops. This well-written and swooningly romantic fantasy will appeal to fans of Juliet Marillier’s “Sevenwaters” series or Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown.

 

And it’s going to rain. Life is pretty wonderful. Happy weekend, everyone!