The Body Gift

I worked on the novel all weekend.

And it was good.

All day Saturday we sat under the grape arbor. I wrote, David worked on a project for his herb class and Isabel hunted a packrat through the grape vines.

All day, she hunted this rat. At one point, it came crashing through the leaves, hit the ground and dashed over to the massive climbing hydrangea to hide. That was a dramatic moment though. For the most part, her project was as quiet as ours: lots of stalking. The occasional creeping over the vines and wires, pink jellybean toes wrapping for purchase.

She sat in the sun on the adobe wall for so long she had to retreat to our shade and lie there, panting.

And I’m nearly done. I think I have about 25 pages to go. It’s been slow-writing as I tie in each plot thread. Much like the beginning of the book, the ending has seemed to require that I immerse. I only wrote about 4,000 words over the weekend, but I was in it for hours all day Saturday and Sunday. When I started back in February, I did the same thing: low wordcount, lots of noodling.

I’m excited to see it come together like this, seeing moments from early in the story bear fruit.

I’ve decided on a working title: The Body Gift. The ending is confirming that choice, with all kinds of resonance. Of course, I don’t delude myself that the title will make it all the way through publication, but I’m happy with it for pitching and querying.

But now: to finish.

Swarms and Sobriety

Saturday night over the weekend turned out to be so gorgeous that we scrapped our plans to eat at the delicious-but-no-ambiance Mariscos la Playa and instead drove out to Rancho de Chimayo, to enjoy their lovely patio.

On the way back, they had all highway traffic funneled through a sobriety checkpoint.

My mom and Dave were horrified, because they’d asked my David to drive. We debated whether he should admit to the margarita with dinner. The cops didn’t ask, though.

They had cops of every brand on site, including the Tesuque reservation police. Cranes shone down bright spotlights on the stopped traffic in both directions. Our interrogators were downright cheerful, however. Clearly they’d been carefully trained. One cop on David asked to see his license, where we were coming from and oh, was dinner at Chimayo good? Meanwhile another cop talked to me in the passenger seat and my folks in back. She asked if we were having a fun and safe night, even as she shone the flashlight around our feet.

They sent us on with cheery goodbyes. It was kind of surreal.

When we got back to the house, the rains had brought out a swarm of beetles. We had to leap over them to enter the house. Turning off the porch light slowed their frantic activity, but all night we heard them, banging against the screens, like little zombie insects frantic to get in and eat our brainz…

In the morning they were gone. Though I still see one toddling along here and there. A lost remnant of the zombie beetle tribe.

I’ll break 90K on Sterling today and I’ll be done within the week. This also feels surreal.

I’m pleased to report that my crew has finally arrived at the Midsummer Festival. I’m oddly not enjoying this part so much, because things have gotten very bad. I know it’ll get better soon and there will be some triumph to mitigate the disaster, but right now it’s very bad for my heroine. And I feel quite close to her.

It’s also hard to believe we’ll wrap up our time together so soon. I’m tempted to drag it out, even. I know there will be revisions and polishing. Then, perhaps, the sequel. Or another story altogether. I woke up this morning wondering what I’d be writing next. It’s probably good that I’m thinking about it, but I also can’t quite envision it yet. Which is likely also a good sign.

And then I’ll send it to the agent who called it a stellar concept with a cheery goodbye and wait.

Just another step on the road.

Blooming Right Along

The cholla are fulfilling their early promise and have burst into full bloom.

Some cholla more than others, which I never quite understand. It’s the same with our desert four o’clocks out front. Ours are big and lush, but haven’t bloomed while smaller (and larger) clumps unattended out in the desert are blooming away. There’s almost certainly a reason, but I don’t know it. In my solipsistic universe, that’s pretty much the same thing.

In a similarly random bit of selection, my photos are up on the contest site, but one didn’t make it, oddly enough. I’m to give them 48 hours, then we’ll see.

I’m confessing right now: I didn’t end up using any of the ones suggested to me, though they were all in the pot. I started out with over 30 finalists and culled down to 12. I didn’t use the cholla blossom, because there are so many other similar and better photos. I didn’t use the Isabel at the horse trough because it wasn’t signature New Mexico scenery. I doubt I’ll come close to winning anything, especially because I have no intention of asking anyone to vote. I really hate the trolling for votes thing. Soon it will cease to be the thing – can’t wait for that day. Swing, pendulum, swing!

Sterling is coming right along. I think I have a real working title now, though I might run it through a few more people. I have one no vote and several enthusiastic yeses so far. I’m reliably hitting 1.5K now. A bit of rest always helps build endurance.

Love these full-bloom days.

Solstice Calendar

Yesterday was Summer Solstice.

The longest day of the year, somehow both Midsummer and First Day of Summer. Thus do science and tradition collide.

For the last couple of days, the setting sun has come squarely in our western bedroom window and cast long rays right on the fireplace screen on the living room kiva. Our own Solstice calendar it seems.

Our builder was Norwegian and I wonder if he aligned it that way on purpose.

The new novel, Sterling, has been hurtling towards a Midsummer Solstice festival since the beginning. Maybe hurtling is the wrong word. Creeping slowly towards. Reluctantly, but with fascination. Now my own reality has gone past the moment in the book. Which should mean nothing, except I can’t quite shake the feeling that I’m having to catch up now.

I worried about not writing while I was at my mom’s. I knew I wouldn’t get to and I thought the hiatus might knock me out of my rhythm. Instead, it turned out to be a good break. I wrote yesterday with a sense of the well being full and cool. It helped that I had hours of driving while David studied, to mull over the plot. I know now the sequence of remaining events. Though I woke up this morning realizing I hadn’t accounted for one plot thread.

It’s in my head now, though.

I passed 70K yesterday, which means I’m between about 60% and 80% done. By my feel of the story left to write, I think it’s closer to the 60% end, but we’ll see, won’t we? I’ll know the end when I get there.

It’s always tempting to see Summer Solstice and 4th of July weekend as the Summer being half over. Which is funny because most of us in the US anyway think of Summer as June, July and August – partly due to growing season, partly due to school calendars. By that measure, Solstice is neither the beginning of Summer, nor the middle, but somewhere just shy of the first third.

Demarcations and divisions to measure the progress of the year.

Write Fatgirl Write!

So, I might have overtrained.

Yesterday I crashed a bit. I could tell when I started that I wasn’t up to par. Some days I can just feel it, that the words aren’t going to flow.

I don’t want it to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, so I make myself write anyway. But I’m not sure that’s best.

For some reason, Tuesdays are often like that for me. I’m kind of considering taking Tuesdays off from writing, if they’re all going to turn out like that.

I didn’t make my 1.85 K. I wrote 1270 new words and deleted a whole bunch of stuff. Frogging again. I kind of hit a blind pocket in the story and, in brainstorming with KAK, realized I had to go back and redirect an earlier scene, which meant deleting an entire scene that now never occurs.

The upshot is I ended up 200 words down. Alas.

Now I have to stop there and acknowledge that writing 1270 new words is really good. A step up from my 1K. So not bad for a “bad” day.

Elizabeth Ryann asked me in the comments yesterday if it helps that I have a definite time to stop writing, because I switch to the day job and I cavalierly said yes. Which is true, it normally does.

However, yesterday was such a grueling day with so little accomplished, that I had Sterling up on my personal laptop for most of the day, trying to add a little more when time allowed, trying to hit that finish line.

Finally I realized I was doing the equivalent of Simon Pegg in Run Fatboy Run, dragging myself along in the middle of the night, long after the marathon has ended.

There’s something to be said for pushing yourself, for holding yourself accountable to meet the goal. But there’s also a time to realize that you’re only exhausting yourself.

And likely only putting down words that will have to be deleted anyway.

So, I’m still going for my 1.85K each day. But I’m holding myself to my stop time. If I’m feeling it and I need to, I might do another hour or so at the end of the day.

Feel the burn!

A Single Step.

These yellow columbine are growing with crazed bushiness right now. I’m thinking I need to plant some rose bushes behind them, in the corner just there.

Pink ones.

Maybe a climber with a trellis. I still haven’t put up any of the trellises I brought from the old house. Now I must be more ready to deal because I’m thinking about them and about climbing roses.

You know I’m big on the one-step-at-a-time thing. I can’t deal with everything at once, but I can get things set up one by one.

The journey of 10,000 miles and all that.

This weekend I went to the LERA meeting (Land of Enchantment Romance Authors) and Gabi Stevens confessed immediately “I always read your blog, but I never comment. I feel really bad about it.”

Which made me laugh. (Hi Gabi!)

And, of course, I told her there’s absolutely no onus to comment. It’s always fun to get comments, but I must admit, one of my blog-reading peeves are posts that are clearly set up only to elicit comments. You know the ones, little more than a remark and a question. To me, that’s less like writing and more like soliciting.

Gabi, whose first book, The Wish List, came out from Tor in May, with two more to follow (I know – sweet deal), said well, yes, but she’s trying to get better at the social media thing and she knows commenting is part of that and that’s her next step.

Fair enough.

(I offered to help her figure it out, so let’s see if she comments with a link to her site. If not, we need to nag her.)

I returned from the meeting feeling fired up to finish Sterling, which is all one can really ask for from a writers meeting. Matt McDuffie, who teaches screenwriting at University of New Mexico, and apparently has little internet presence, gave an energizing presentation on story structure. Nothing I didn’t know before, but still stimulating. Listening to him talk, I could trace my story with it and feel where the next steps are going. I know I’m coming up on the crisis, the Act II climax, though it’s taking a bit longer to get there than I thought. The way it’s looking now, what I thought would be a 90K book looks like it’ll come out around 113K, which is fine. I’m on track for that.

Which is good, because KAK came back from her meeting (lots of RWA groups meet on the second Saturday of the month – kind of an odd synchronicity), where Bob Mayer, who does the whole warrior-writer thing and has and exhaustive internet presence, got her fired up about accountability and goals.

And it turns out he’s a fan of spreadsheets, too. So there.

So between KAK wanting to synchronize our goals and my screenwriting induced re-evaluation of my story arc, I discovered I had to up my daily wordcount goal if I’m going to make it by mid-July.

So no more 1K/day. I’m upping to 1850/day. I made it yesterday, pretty easily. We’ll see if I can sustain it during the work week, too. The story is moving faster now, so that helps. Less time staring at the screen wondering what happens next. If I’m writing well, I can write about 1K/hour, so this should be doable.

One day at a time.


This weekend was hot.

Santa Fe broke the record high on Saturday by hitting 100. So, yeah, not so bad. And it’s a dry heat. Believe me – I lived in St. Louis for a while. Lack of humidity makes all the difference in the world.

We have nice cross-currents for air flow in our house and ceiling fans, so we never felt like we had to turn on the air conditioning. But we stayed pretty still. Even Isabel stayed inside. She’s gone from being the toddler-cat who has to be dragged in from playing, kicking and screaming, then immediately falling asleep, to teenager-cat. Friday night she spent the entire hot, still night in the garage hunting mice. Then on Saturday morning she slept in, got up to eat breakfast and went back to her kitty condo – the cat equivalent of partying all night and watching TV in the darkened den all day.

Then this storm rolled in, creating a dramatic sunset and dropping cooling rain. All of us parched people, animals and plants drank it gratefully.

I’m making steady progress on Sterling. Allison called me “quietly enthusiastic” about it. I said that’s because I’m trying not to be obnoxious. I never thought I’d be one to agree with the write-every-day thing. When I was first working at being a writer and attending every workshop I could, almost every singled writer gave that advice.

Write every day.

Write at the same time every day.

Some would shrug, apologize and say they knew it wasn’t easy, but that it was the only thing that worked for them.

I felt like that was impossible for me. At the time I was finishing my graduate thesis, working full time and taking and teaching martial arts classes most nights of the week. Even if I wrote every day, it couldn’t possibly be at the same time, because every day was different.

So I wrote when I could. Usually in sporadic chunks. I was writing essays then, so I could write an entire essay over the course of a few hours and that worked for me. My first publications came out of that time and my first book. We’d have to agree that worked just fine.

But other things still took precedence. Even gardening and quilting tended to edge out writing time. I would bemoan my lack of writing time, but there it was.

All that changed when I went to writing novels. Obviously I couldn’t bang out a novel in a few hours. I found I had to work incrementally, building the story piece by piece over the course of months, holding the ideas in my head over that time.

It took me nine months to write Obsidian. No, I didn’t work on it every day. I had several long stretches where I worked on it only a little or not at all. Sterling will take five months. And I’ve really only hit the smooth rhythm in the last two months.

But I do have to write every day. At pretty much the same time. Shockingly enough, it works. That approach also requires that the writing time is my core schedule and I work everything else in around that, even the day job (unless I just can’t make that happen, which can occur).

Some people draft faster, then revise. For me, when I’m done by mid-July, the novel will be reasonably polished.

And I keep thinking that it might be really good.

Which is this lovely bubbling feeling.

My quietly enthusiastic.


My mom is getting ready to sell her house.

This is the one she bought in 1972, just before my sixth birthday. She married my stepfather, Leo, a year later and they lived there until he died a few years ago.

When she remarried, my new stepfather sold his house in Denver and bought a house in Tucson. They’ve been dividing their time between my mom’s house in Denver for the summer and his house in Tucson for the winter.

Only the “winter” in Tucson has grown to be eight months or longer. And she just doesn’t enjoy her time in the Denver house anymore. It’s become a kind of museum of our family and not a living home. Also, the house is getting older and being left unmaintained for eight months at a time is too hard on it, especially during Colorado winters.

So, when my mom and Dave passed through here a few weeks ago on their annual migration north, and I could see how much she was dreading facing the house, I told her that, if my vote counted, that I’m fine with her selling the house.

I don’t think my vote should count, but she knows I have issues. Or did. I used to dream that she sold the house without telling me and I would come home to an empty shell. This is probably due to my dad dying when I was young and I had other issues about trying to hold onto stuff. But I’ve gotten much better about this kind of thing, as I mentioned the other day. Elizabeth Ryann commented that it’s like building a muscle – an image I just love.

So, the other day my mom updated me on the work they’re doing to fix up the house to sell and she mentioned that the park light on the front walk is gone now. It was broken and couldn’t be fixed. And it’s a bit funky for a house sale. I think she and Leo bought it in Taos or Santa Fe when they took out the old park lights and replaced them with new.

I was a bit taken aback – so much for my brave, deleting phase, and my mom replied “I know. I’m trying not to think about it.” So, I really did try not to write about it, I did, but I just had to.

Especially because I was telling David about it and how my mom thought we’d wired up the one broken arm at some point, which I don’t remember doing. He doesn’t either. But, it turns out, he has NO idea what light I’m talking about.

“The 12-foot tall iron lamp you have to pass to walk in the front door?” I say “With the four big arms with globes and another on top? The one that’s been there for 35 years and has formed the backdrop for 27,000 family photos??”

I might have been growing a bit shrill at this point, because he ducked his way out of the conversation. I might have sulked a little bit.

I’ve reached the midpoint of Sterling and I’m working at building the romance between the hero and heroine. Actually, I’ve been building it and now I want some delivery from them. One of the classic ways to show that their love is real and true is for the man to understand things about the woman that no one else does. He would, for example, know how she felt about the freaking park light on the front walk of her childhood home.

But real love doesn’t work that way and I know it.

Come January, David and I will have been together for twenty years. He does understand things about me. And when we go up to Denver, he’ll almost certainly remember that conversation and look at where the park light was and say something like “Oh, that light! I just didn’t know what you meant by ‘park light.'”

See? I know him, too.

I think the real love is in him letting me get a little shrill and sulky and letting it go. I suspect he knows this won’t be the last of the upheaval until the house is sold. There will be much deciding in the coming weeks of what to keep and what to let go of.

I know I can trust him to be by my side through all of it.

That’s the really difficult part to capture in a novel. I’m lucky to have it in real life.

Straddling Fences

This morning I moved the houseplants outside to start the hardening off process.

I noticed in my wisteria-love fest the other day that last year in Laramie I moved the plants out on May 28. (I explained hardening off there, too, if you’re wondering what it is.) So Santa Fe has only moved me up by 16 days. Of course, we’ve been gone and I didn’t want the house-sitter to have to nurse them. I might have done it sooner than this.

We’ll see what next year brings. By all accounts it’s been a cool Spring all up and down the Rocky Mountain states.

But it’s snowing in Denver and Laramie, so I have plenty of smug to fill my bowl of contentment.

I talked to Catherine Asaro yesterday on the phone, about Obsidian, which she graciously read for me. She’s really a wonderful gal and a terrific writer, so if you haven’t read her, you should seriously pick up a book or two of hers. And I’m not just saying that because she read my mss and said lovely things about it.

So, while it was great to hear her tell me what a wonderful writer I am and how good the book is, there’s no super-new news there. She thinks I’m not going to get an agent with it because it’s too outside the box. She says that’s what I get for forging a new path. Which sounds kind of cool and glamorous, except that it really means that it’s difficult to sell.

“It starts out as excellent, gritty urban fantasy,” she says, “then moves into also excellent fantasy. But from a feminine perspective, which is really different.”

One of the things I’ve learned? When all those publishing industry folks say they’re looking for something really fresh and original, they’re not, really. What they want is the same creature dressed up in a fresh, new outfit.

Not that I’m bitter.

Actually, I’m not feeling bitter at all. Catherine says pitch directly to editors because I’ll surely find one who wants this. So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll keep working on Sterling, too, which (as I think I’ve mentioned twenty times or so) should fit quite neatly into urban fantasy, with no genre-defying cross-overs.

That always seems to be my deal – I do stuff that nobody gets, then five years later it’s the thing. It would be nice to think I’m cutting-edge, but really that seems to be someone else most of the time. Suddenly my thing that no one got is all the rage or even old hat.

I could give you a bunch of examples, but they’re boring. I swear it’s true.

When Catherine said that forging a new path is difficult, I pictured myself in a blizzard, struggling through knee-deep snow. Too dramatic? That’s how it feels. Ice pellets of rejection stinging your face, energy seeping out of your muscles until you feel like you’re simply too tired to go on.

But what’s the alternative? The literary equivalent of lying down in the snow to die. It would feel nice, I hear, the cold changing to warmth as hypothermia sets in. Yielding to the overwhelming sleepiness as the falling snowflakes bury you. Erasing you.


Forging onward!

(Anyone got some Polar-tek?)

Wistful Wisteria

A moment before this, an Isabel tail was sticking straight up through the iris blades, fluffed with furry excitement.

Alas, I missed the moment. Whatever she’d pounced on moved, or bit back, and she shot out of there like a bolt of grey lightning.

Fine cocktail hour entertainment.

And a lovely end to a lovely day. I worked my way back into Sterling. (Thanks to KAK for nattering with me about it.) We went for the first bike ride of the season, checked out the local garden place.

I bought a Wisteria vine.

Does this seem like not such a big deal?

It is. It truly is. In fact, it’s enough of a deal that I’ve apparently already blogged about it before. I’m always amused to find, after almost 1.5 years of blogging, when I’ve used a label before on a topic I thought I’d never mentioned. But there it is: Wisteria. And the post is even titled Wisteria Hysteria.

It’s interesting for me to read that post from May 28 last year. (Apologies if it isn’t interesting for you…) We ended up not moving to Canada. And even though I could have dragged all of my plants to Santa Fe, in the end we flat ran out of room, at 11 o’clock at night, in the moving truck. So I neither had a plant sale, nor gave them away – I left a bunch of them there in the sun room, for the new owners.

I wonder sometimes if they’ve taken care of them or if they all got kicked to the curb.

I’m not allowed to wax sentimental about my abandoned houseplants, however. The bougainvillea made the cut, but the hibiscus and orchid stayed behind. The orchid was in pretty dire shape anyway and people would give me these “are you completely nuts?” looks when I talked about how it could come back.

I get those looks a fair amount.

But, yesterday I bought and planted a wisteria vine, which I know will grow here, because I’ve seen them on other houses. One house we looked at shot straight to the top of my list because it came pre-wisteriaed.

Now I have one to nurse along. Funny how things work out.