Saturday, December 31, 2011

Books Read in 2011

43 books read this year. I'm counting the chapter books read aloud to The Son, as long as I'd never read them before. I don't know how I made it through a bookworm childhood without discovering Ramona!

House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Lady Doctor Wyre by Joely Sue Burkhart
Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer
The Old Silent by Martha Graham
The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi
Matched by Ally Condie
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
20 Master Plots by Ronald B. Tobias
The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Story of the World, Volume III by Susan Wise Bauer
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer
City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende
Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
Endymion by Dan Simmons
Cane River by Lalita Tademy
Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary
My Life in Dog Years by Gary Paulsen
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary
Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary
Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary
Henry and the Paper Route by Beverly Cleary
Archangel by Sharon Shinn
The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray
Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
1-2-3 Magic by Thomas W. Phelan
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary
Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold
Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction by Philip Athans
Waiting for Daisy by Peggy Orenstein
Jovah's Angel by Sharon Shinn

By far the most blow-me-out-of-the-water read of the year was the Hyperion quartet. Wow. 3,000+ pages of seriously epic Science Fiction, with the fate of all humanity hanging in the balance, and a surprising amount of romance.

I also really loved the last book I read this year: Jovah's Angel. I liked the world of Samaria as depicted in Archangel well enough to put the next book in the series on my Christmas list, but the characters kind of got on my nerves: the villain was ridiculously puppy-kicking evil, and the romance was reeeeaaallly old-school: lots of glowering hero and "feisty" heroine who flounces away rather than just using her damn words. Someone once said that the conflict in a romance shouldn't be something that two four-year-olds could clear up over the phone, and while it wasn't that bad, I did find myself rolling my eyes quite a bit at the drama of it all.

Jovah's Angel is a much better book with a much quieter romance, and much bigger themes: what we owe our God, our society, and our hearts, and how we manage when these demands conflict with one another. It was pretty much the perfect book for me.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Return

Hey. Long time, no write. Fall pretty much kicked my ass-- more health troubles for The Husband. But things are good now (knock wood), and I'm starting to feel the itch to get back to TSE. I'm signing myself up for JanNoWriMo and planning to kick ass!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monster Scene

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." --Douglas Adams

Well, I'm behind schedule. Life has really not been polite and respectful of my writing time this last week. But, there's good news: 1) this is The Son's first full week of school, and since I don't have many tutoring gigs going yet, I should have plenty of time to write; and 2) I'm anticipating that the scene after this one will be far, far easier to write. So I have high hopes of being back on schedule by the end of the week.

I'm almost done with the dialogue. This is a very talky scene, so writing the actions shouldn't take nearly as long as writing the dialogue has. I hope.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Linky Friday

Today's tidbit comes from author Holly Lisle, with this article about how to decide when to scrap a writing project. I've been doing some idle thinking about EN lately, applying what I've learned from plotting TSE to the raggedy areas of EN's plot, and re-reading this article just reaffirmed for me that EN has great potential and that I do not want to give up on it entirely.

I'm still writing the dialogue for Climax #1. Between my evening tutoring gig starting up again, evening meetings at The Son's school, and one nighttime visit to the ER to remove a crafting supply from The Son's nose, I'm exhausted and scattered. But I have a giant cup of coffee and almost two hours left of nursery school, so I'm going to buckle down and try to finish the dialogue this morning.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Climax #1, Day 4

Yes, my book has multiples climaxes. Go ahead and giggle. Pervert.

Man, this scene is going to be a total bitch to write. It's long, with tons of dialogue, by far the most characters onstage of any scene in the book, lots of da-da-DUM! secrets revealed, and a small but dramatic fire caused by an oil lamp knocked to the ground by an antagonist in the grips of a personal and religious epiphany.

Just filling in the scene sheet took forever, since I kept having to stop to figure out what the hell happens. Nothing like writing the climax early on to shine a huge spotlight through all those plot holes you thought you'd done a fine job filling. I stared at the wall a lot, and scribbled new problem/solution chains in my notebook, and then just hoped for the best and plowed ahead with the spin. I swear, that spinning down the page thing is magic, far better (for me) than any other free-write method I've tried. I worked out so much more about the scene in just a half hour of typing incomplete sentences.

Tomorrow I'll take a stab at the dialogue.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Linky Friday

Here's a blog post by author Lazette Gifford that illustrates how almost any idea-- even a story a friend tells you about her cats-- can mushroom into a novel.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ahead of Schedule? What's That?

I finished the closing scene today, for a total of 3,183 words on TSE so far. It's pretty good, actually. The writing is cheesy, but the bones of a powerful ending are there. It did feel a little strange to write the resolution of the romantic storyline before I've written the scene in which Irsa and Akenam meet.

So I'm a few days ahead of schedule. Good time for it, because next week's scene is Climax #1 and a lot of it is still a big question mark in my mind. And it's got TONS of dialogue. We'll see if the scene sheet helps to sort it all out.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Closing Scene Week, Day 4

Good writing day. I spun for 30 minutes on the closing scene, and wrote the dialogue. I've been having a hard time focusing on writing the past week or so, but today The Son went to play at a friend's house for the afternoon and it was amazing, the difference it makes to work without being interrupted constantly. We are both so so ready for nursery school to start back up; he is bored and restless, and we're frankly just kind of sick of each other.

I'm looking forward to fall in general. It's my favorite season, and the one in which I traditionally have had the most writing time (The Son's in school, but tutoring's not busy because no one's gotten a report card yet). 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Checking In

Between the hurricane and the book club get-together, I'm already woefully behind for this week. I haven't even finished the scene sheet! But I've got some child care set up for tomorrow and Thursday, and I should be able to catch up. Of course, that means not even glancing at the Fringe DVD that arrived from Netflix today. That show is like crack for me.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Opening Scene Week in Review

I finished the opening scene today. 1,646 words down, ~85,000 to go.

Tomorrow I start work on the closing scene. That's another interesting thing about this "write the key scenes first" scheme: you don't write those six scenes in strict linear order either, but rather in resonating pairs. The opening and closing should resonate together, as should the climax and the mid-point, and plot point one and plot point two.

I'm not sure how the hurricane will affect my writing plan for the next few days. I assume we'll lose power, but I don't know for how long. And I'm supposed to host a book club meeting at my house monday night, and the house is a mess. Ugh.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 5

I'm still working on the opening scene, building it up from the dialogue. I spent most of a writing day dithering over an opening hook before deciding to cut my losses and write the rest of the scene first. The hook is not coming easy.

I also have to keep reminding myself that just because I have a detailed plot outline, doesn't mean the actual writing is going to be any better than my usual crappy first draft writing. It's been a while since I wrote a rough draft, and I forgot just how rough it can be.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Another Experiment: Dialogue First

I wrote the dialogue for the opening scene today-- two pages worth. That's another Weekend Novelist scene-building trick: once you have a good sense of what needs to happen in the scene, you write just the dialogue; nothing but two voices speaking back and forth on the page. Then you build the scene around it. My first draft dialogue tends to be just dreadful, but for this scene at least, writing the dialogue in a kind of vacuum really helped. I still need to let what I wrote cool a bit, and then read it out loud to make sure it plays right, but I'm pretty happy with what I got.

I'm also excited to find that despite the detailed planning I've done for this novel, I am still discovering more about it as I write. I just found out that Irsa's father has a cleft lip and a serious speech defect, and that that's why he's so stoic and taciturn. Who knew?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 2

Not a lot of writing time today, but I did manage to spin for 30 minutes, and got a 700-word sketch of the opening scene.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

First Draft, Day One.

Today is the day!
I'm off to great places!
I'm off and away!

Sorry. I can rarely resist an urge to quote paraphrase Dr. Seuss. (That poem was read as part of our wedding ceremony.)

I'm mixing it up a bit this time around. In The Weekend Novelist, Ray suggests taking the first six weeks of the first draft to write the six key scenes (opening, plot point one, mid-point, plot point two, climax, and closing). I have always been a linear thinker and writer, so I immediately pushed this idea aside as Not For Me. But it stuck with me, and more and more I've come around to thinking that as someone who has trouble keeping her plot ducks in a row, this might actually be tailor-made for me. So I'm giving it a try. I'm going to take eight weeks because I have eight key scenes; my climax scene is really three scenes that wrap up the three plot layers one at a time.

Step one in this process is to complete the scene sheet, so this afternoon I sat down with my laptop and my notebook and cards and worksheets, and wrote down everything I could think of that belongs in the opening.

And I picked a working title: The Shadow Emissary won out at the eleventh hour. (I considered changing it to The Sixth Emissary, but then I tried saying that out loud without lisping and thought again.) I don't love it-- it's like too goth or something--  but it'll do for now.

So The Novel Known as New Project, or NP, will henceforth be referred to as The Shadow Emissary, or TSE.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Excavating the Relic" 100th Post Extravaganza and Linky Friday Kickoff

Yes, it's my 100th post. No, no, please-- hold your applause.

Today is also the first in my new "Linky Friday" gimmick. Every Friday I'll link to an article, exercise, or other online writing resource that intrigues me. Since today's the kickoff, and the 100th post extravaganza and all, I thought I'd post five links: four to resources I have previously linked to, and one new one.

1) Scene Checklist, from author Kait Nolan. Instrumental to the development of my own rampantly OCD scene sheets.  This is the first in a series of blog posts about Kait's "Conversion from Pantser to Plotter", and I recommend them all.

2) The emotional toolbox. I found this one through Joely, and it's a pretty cool way to get deeper inside your characters. It was developed for screenwriters, but the tools are applicable to novel-writing as well. The link takes you to the first of six questions.

3) Concise explanation of Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, from author Susan Bischoff. I've read before about external vs. internal goal, and could never figure out WTF the difference was until I read this.

4) Article about titles. Recently mentioned in my long post about trying to title NP. It's not the deepest article I read on the subject, but it made me laugh.

And now for the new one:

5) Fascinating examination of the "static trait", from author Joely Sue Burkhart. I can't say I've ever managed to fully incorporate this idea into my own characters, but still so worthwhile to think about in the character-building stage.

Enjoy the linky goodness.

Plans for this weekend: Saturday-- take The Son to the fair. Sunday-- start a novel.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Long Writing Day

My mother-in-law took The Son on a day trip across the state to see his great-grandparents; they've been gone all day and he's not due back until bedtime. I didn't do as much housecleaning as I'd hoped (when do I ever?), but I did finish the synopsis. It's only 7.5 pages but man, it took me forever to write it. No wonder everyone hates doing synopses: they're hard. I also did a bunch of note-taking and chart-making, and tweaked around the second half of the book into what I am sure is still not the final version. And I found names for all my thingies and whooziwhats.

I wonder how the 90something great-grandparents fared on their day with an extremely inquisitive, talkative, and show-offy 4.75-year-old boy. I have fond memories of my own great-grandfather, and think it's cool that The Son is getting to know his a bit. They've been married for 72 years, which makes my heart flutter if I really think about it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

T-7 Days

Less than a week until I start Draft One. Eeeek!

I'm still crawling along on my synopsis. I've been having some interesting thoughts about the second half of the story, and trying to decide which of those thoughts are worth applying to the outline. It doesn't look like the first half is going to change much; it flowed out of me that first night I wrote out the problem-solution chain, and it's stayed pretty much intact through all the character work, worldbuilding, and outlining I've done since.

Tonight I spent some quality time with the thesaurus, trying to find names for things. I really, really suck at naming "stuff": futuristic technologies, political groups, and job descriptions. I love to name people, and have even e-published an article on the subject of naming actual non-fictional children, but my first attempts at describing the gadgets in my world usually include the word "thingie".

So tonight I finally sat down with my list of fifteen-some thingies and whooziwhats, and struggled to give them all names that don't suck. I got through ten of 'em. Stephen King once said that any word you have to look in a thesaurus to find is the wrong word, but he can kiss my thingie. We can't all be good at everything, bucko.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Titles. Again.

I believe I've mentioned before that I have a problem with titles. One of my goals for this two-week fiddle period is to come up with a decent working title for NP. NP, as you'll recall, stands for New Project-- my titling prowess at its finest.

I tried googling "titling a novel", and discovered that some extremely helpful articles have been written on the subject. This one was my favorite-- the bit about the "reverse gobbet" had me cackling with insane laughter, because I've totally done that. Anyway, as I read through these articles I realized that I had never applied analytical thinking skills to my search for a title. Having the different categories of titles (Character, Place, Events, Theme, etc.) spelled out for me was a revelation, and I was quickly able to determine that NP needs a Character title. And figuring that out feels like half the battle won right there.

Several of the articles recommended making a list of your favorite books, and then analyzing the titles you consider the strongest. The one I wound up most impressed by was Kushiel's Dart. First, it's like a mini-hook all on its own. Who is Kushiel? Is this a literal or a metaphorical dart? It gets the curiosity flowing before the reader has even opened the first page. Second, it's a Character title, although it's a description of that character rather than her name. Third, it's a title that changes meaning as you read further into the story: at first it refers to a defect in the character's eye, which is a sign of having been touched by a god; later, it is used to refer to the character herself, when she becomes a tool that the god uses to dispense justice. And finally, she mentions the flaw in her eye (although she doesn't yet know it has a name) on the very first page of a 900-page book, which makes the title relevant even to the first words of the story.

That's what I want. And it's a mighty tall order.

So far, I've titled the four "parts" of the story: Act I, first half of Act II, second half of Act II, and Act III. These are not titles I intend to keep in the story; they're more like another exercise in more deeply understanding the story. They are:

Part I: Balhara
Part II: The Shadow Emissary
Part III: Stories and Lies
Part IV: Who's the Fool and Who Wears the Crown

Part I has a Place title; Balhara is Irsa's home and where all the action in Part I takes place.

Part II: has a Character title; "Shadow Emissary" refers to the role Irsa plays in Part II, which thrusts her into the heart of the story's external conflict.

Part III has a Theme title; the search for truth is the theme of the novel, and Part III is where the theme is most strongly expressed.

Part IV has a Quote title; the words are from "Fearless" by Pink Floyd-- which is this novel's theme song-- and express a sort of secondary theme I have going on. I intended for the book to be about the search for truth and how both the search and the truth affect the searchers. But it also seems to be about who has the right, or the obligation, to lead others.

Of the four, "The Shadow Emissary" is closest to what I want the title of the novel to be. It refers to the main character by description rather than name. But it's not right as a book title. It's not how Irsa's own people would refer to her or remember her. And I think "shadow" has a evil connotation in SF/Fantasy; I would expect a novel called The Shadow Emissary to include either demons or evil aliens. This book has neither. It's a coming-of-age novel, with a significant romantic subplot, and a hefty dash of political intrigue... that just happens to take place in the far future, and includes a few characters who have achieved virtual immortality. Should be a cinch to title, right? And yet.

If I can't think of anything better in the next week, The Shadow Emissary will be promoted to working title status.  Level with me: if you heard that title, what would you assume the book was about? Mockery welcome! I have no emotional investment in this title and am longing for something better.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Synopsis

I started a synopsis for NP.  Not like a submission packet synopsis, where the point is to sell the story; this is more of a working synopsis that boils the plot down to its most essential actions. Three paragraphs for set-up and backstory, 2-3 for Act I, 4-6 for Act II, 2-3 for Act III. I figure that, with luck, I'll need to write a submission synopsis for this book one day, and when I do, I'll be glad to have this bare-bones account of the characters and plot to gussy up.

I've got five paragraphs so far, but I keep fiddling with them. For the moment I'm not setting a time goal for this exercise; I've never written a synopsis before, so I'm not sure how long to expect it to take me.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Six Weeks

I've been working on NP for six weeks as of today. I'm giving myself another two weeks to tinker with my exercises and scene sheets and index cards, and then I'm starting the rough draft. That's the plan, anyway.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Checking In

I just finished up the last of my WtBN Workbook character exercises, a neat one with a column of words and phrases such as man, woman, hello, God, oh well, attractive, alcohol, and then columns to fill in what word or words your character uses for each. I've got it 95% filled out for Irsa and Akenam, and feel like it's already helping me to better hear their distinct voices.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Door in the Mind

Just got back from four days visiting friends on a lake in Maine. I did more porch-sitting than writing, but I did make some progress on the WtBN exercises for secondary characters and antagonists. This has been illuminating, but in the process I realized I need some alone time with Akenam, my love interest character. I just don't get him yet-- don't understand the why of the stuff I have him doing, don't understand how he can be all the seemingly incongruous things I want him to be. I put him together a bit too hastily, I think.

Today I spent five hours driving and listening to Ramona Quimby audiobooks, and when I got home I was too fried to even think about writing. But then I found myself nudging at Akenam's backstory in my mind, and a door swung open, and I am so excited about what I saw when I looked through it. One of those dorky writing moments when you work something out and go, "Ohhhhhh... that's so cool. God, it's almost like I know what I'm doing."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Breakout

So have I officially pimped the Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook yet? It's pretty amazing. Maass writes in the introduction that the exercises are intended to be applied to an existing draft, but some of them really seem like good ones to do before you start writing. I plan to do about 15 of them before moving onto the next stage of NP. But this is a good one for Pantsers, too-- it can help you to figure out what the heck to do with the stuff you pantsed. I recommend skipping the original book and just getting the workbook; there are plenty of examples in each chapter to get the feel of what he's talking about. And while some of the exercises will make you want to punch the wall, if you're honest with yourself you'll admit it's because he's right and that element of your novel does need some major work.

(Warning: this book is not fucking around. It assumes you want to write the best novel ever and that you are willing to complete 32 chapters worth of exercises and make literally hundreds of revisions to your novel.)

On Thursday The Son had his day with nana, while I indulged in an orgy of productivity, whipping through six "deepening your protagonist" exercises from WtBN and making notes on my little 3x5 monuments to OCD index cards. I was soaring by the end of the day, so high on accomplishment, so in love with my heroine Irsa, so filled with awesome writing power, I felt like I could probably grind out the book in a week or two if I had to.

The last two days have been significantly more subdued. I've discovered that I don't know any of the other characters as well as I do Irsa. The next WtBN exercises focus on deepening secondary and antagonist characters, and I'm drawing more blanks about their wants and needs, their goals and inner conflicts. I see now that the still-shadowy areas of the plot are a direct result of shadowy antagonists, and am hoping that the next week's work will shine some light into those shadows.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

More About Scene Sheets (Pantsers, Avert Your Eyes!)

I just finished the scene sheets! 52 scenes for the novel, and somewhat to my surprise I figured out some of the shakier plot areas and did some shuffling of scenes. Plot Point Two needs some work, and some of the sheets toward the end there have almost nothing on them-- just the title and maybe two reasons why the scene should exist.

Now I shall I sit in front of the TV and write the scene titles on 52 index cards.

In the interest of full disclosure, here is my scene sheet, cribbed partly from The Weekend Novelist, partly from this awesome post by author Kait Nolan, and partly drawn from my own rich history of writing myself into corners. If you are a seat-of-your-pants, outlines-make-me-itch type, you may want to look away now.

______________________________________
Title:

Chapter:

Goal/Motivation/Conflict*

What is at stake? Why is it urgent?:

3 Reasons for the Scene:**

1.

2.

3.


Place:

Time:

Weather/Conditions:

Sense Details:

see:

hear:

touch:

taste:

smell:

Characters:

Dialogue

topics:

subtext:

Action:

Objects:

Verbs:

Theme:

Character Development:


Notes:
__________________________________________________

I know.

Rest assured, I do not have all this crap filled out on 52 scenes already.


*That is, is the scene :
            -moving the protagonist closer to or further from her goal?
            -providing or changing the protagonist's motivation?
            -bringing the protagonist into conflict with opposing forces?

Not all scenes will perform all three functions, but it's helpful for figuring out what the hell you want a scene to accomplish.

**Kait Nolan says you should be able to come up with at least three reasons why the scene belongs in the book; if you can't, the scene needs to be either overhauled or axed.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Scene Sheet Update

I have one of my sucky three-day headaches goin' on right now, so I'll be brief:

I'm chugging along doing scene sheets. Just hit the mid-point at 27 scenes. I'm planning to finish them ("finish" in the sense that I have a page for each with at least some basic info) by the end of Wednesday, so that I can use my long writing day Thursday to start working on some exercises from the Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Girl With The Spider Tattoo

Almost 15 years ago, I got a tattoo of a spider spinning a web between two blackberry bushes on my left upper arm and shoulder. It was my third (and possibly last) tattoo, and by far the largest. I was in my late twenties, in grad school for fiction writing, and beginning to realize what a hard row to hoe a novel really is. I was scared I wouldn't be able to do it-- would never finish a novel, never be published, never be a "real" writer. All my workshop cohorts from college had long since given up writing and settled into sensible careers like advertising or law. And no offense to any lawyers out there (some of my own parents are lawyers!), but thought of following them down that path was terrifying.

I felt the need to take vows, like a nun or a bride; to make a concrete commitment to the dream I'd had since I was seven years old and decided I, Lianna Williamson, was a writer, just like my childhood hero Laura Ingalls Wilder.

So I decided to get a tattoo of a spider. But not a scary, black punk spider; I wanted a pretty, light-brown, muse-like spider, and I wanted it sitting on the top of my shoulder, so that when I glanced down I would see it and be reminded of my pledge to myself to never give up on being a writer. And I never have-- even when I've gone for months or even years without writing, part of me always kept the faith.

And every time I see a spider-- every time, and our woodland home is surrounded by webs-- I feel like I should be writing.

From time to time, I've noticed something odd about my tattoo: occasionally it kind of puffs up for a few days, so that if I run my fingers over my shoulder I can clearly feel the outline of the spider sitting there. More recently, I've realized that it's only the spider that does this; the web and the branches don't puff up. I mentioned it to a tattoo artist acquaintance, expecting to hear an explanation; but instead he just frowned a bit and said that after all these years I shouldn't be experiencing any inflammation, and that even if it was a reaction to sunscreen or something, why would only the spider be affected?

This spring, after I stumbled and fell during my attempt to at last finish EN, the spider puffed up again. And it stayed that way-- not for days this time, but months. In June, my dear college friend D. came up from Florida to visit, and we took a road trip to our old stomping grounds in Woodstock, NY so she could get a tattoo at Pat's Tats, the shop where I got all three of my tattoos. While we were there, Pat took a look at my shoulder (tattoo artists love to inspect work they did long ago) and asked me what was up with the spider.

"I think it's mad at me because I haven't written lately," I said.

Pat nodded sagely. She's a spiritual old broad herself.

And now, the weird part: pretty much the day I started working on NP, the spider deflated, and has been lying serenely in its web ever since.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Checking In

Productive day! I "spun" 4 times and got the whole plot fleshed out, minus a few holes that still need spackling. I also made up a "scene sheet" template, and have been setting up sheets for the early scenes. I've done eight so far. Even though there's no way I'll be able to fill out an entire sheet for every scene in the book at this stage of the game, I'd like to have them at least started. It'll give me a place to write notes to myself like "mention x here", and help me to define the goal of each scene, and keep track of timelines. At least, I think it will. In case you haven't noticed, I'm pretty much winging this novel thing.

And you'll be happy to hear that the living room, while perhaps not "clean" in the strictest sense of the term, is vastly improved.

Spinning

I have a long day to myself today-- quite possibly the last such day of the summer. Next week is The Son's last week of morning camp, and I should be busier with SAT tutoring through August. So I need to make the most of it!

Today I'm doing something The Weekend Novelist calls "spinning down the page". Basically, you write out the plot of your novel, scene by scene, in a kind of freewrite-meets-bad-poetry form, in short lines
that run down the page
like this
including whatever details
or snippets of dialogue
that occur to you
as you write without stopping to edit
until the timer goes off.

I did this for 30 minutes and got through Act I. I'm going to try to go for three more 30-minute sessions and wind up with a rough scene-by-scene outline by the end of the day.

And I really need to clean the living room. We have an issue with The Son's art supplies taking over every flat surface in the house.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Houston, We Have Plot!

I just finished the problem/solution chain for NP! Eight pages, single-spaced. Three Acts. Rough, yes, and sporting some vague "problems" like "Showdown with Roma". I'm sure it will be substantially overhauled in the coming weeks and months. But still: I plotted a whole novel! Wheee!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fearless

Plotting away. Still doing timed writings, and I typed up the scrawled problem/solution chart for the first half of the story. Hoping to inch forward on that tonight.

I also worked out my six key scenes (opening, plot point one, mid-point, plot point two, climax, and closing), and I've got notes for all of them except the climax, which as always is the toughest one for me to see clearly.

In other news, I picked a theme song for NP: "Fearless" by Pink Floyd. It's a song with heavy emotional ex-lover associations for me, but it is so perfect for Irsa and Akenam I am willing to hand it over to them. Also on my brand-new NP playlist: "On the Road to Find Out" by Cat Stevens and "Pink Moon" by Nick Drake. I am writing about SF hippies, apparently. I'd love to stick a Gorillaz song in there, too-- maybe "Dare".

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Plot Ahoy!

I finished the first round of worldbuilding. I still have more fiddling to do, but I have also decided to give in and admit that I've already plunged ahead into working on plot.

I had the first half of the story roughly plotted out, but the second half was mostly a blank, and I had some niggly unanswered questions that were making me nervous, since the niggly unanswered questions in EN are STILL giving me headaches 128 years into writing it. I don't need to have every little thing worked out before I start writing, but I'm not getting stuck in the "oh crap, I have no idea what my climax should be" place again.

So Friday night, I opened a file where I'd been collecting one-line scene ideas, and began shuffling them around into sections labeled Act I, Act II, and Act III, and adding new scenes as they occurred to me. To my surprise, I figured out a whole chunk of the remaining story doing this somewhat half-baked exercise. My climax scene is still hazy (grr), but I have a plan of attack to get at the heart of it.

I took The Weekend Novelist out of the library while we were on the Cape, and I devoured it. When we got home I ordered it from amazon... only to have a very much "revised and updated" version arrive. At first I was dismayed, since I really wanted to be able to reference the exercises and examples in the original edition, but now I'm over it and combing the book for what it has to offer. I've plotted NP along a Mythic Journey curve, and have begun doing a series of timed writings (with startlines like "This is a story about a character who..." and "My protagonist escapes the cage when...") in hopes of accessing any story wisdom my subconscious has to offer.

That's where I'm at, three weeks to the day after beginning this novel.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Three More Sections

I'm done with three more worldbuilding sections: language, slang, and gestures; knowledge preservation; and etiquette. Three more to do tomorrow, and then I'll be done with the first pass through the worldbuilding stuff. I need to expand ten or so or those sections by adding some information about the post-mortal culture, since the culture clash is part of what drives the plot.

I've got more than another week of worldbuilding according to my self-determined schedule, but my mind keeps racing ahead to plotting and outlining. There's a few sticky plot questions that need answering, and my mind keeps chewing on them, trying to get to the answers at the center.

Today is The Husband's birthday. The Son and I took the annual "Happy Birthday, Daddy!" photo and made it his desktop; we baked a lemon cake which is now waiting to be frosted and decorated; and we have a fabulous evening of Taco Bell and mini-golf planned.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day 18

I can't believe I began work on NP only eighteen days ago. The book already feels so real to me.

I've completed 24 worldbuilding sections and have nine of the trickiest and/or most time-consuming left to do. My MIL is taking The Son after camp tomorrow, so I should have a nice long stretch to work. I plan to tackle Technology, History, and Maps.

Oh, and I've changed my protagonist's last name for the fourth, and I hope final, time. Her new last name reveals her as an ancestor of my male protagonist in EN, which makes me squee a little.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Explored By Nature

I'm at 20.5 of 33 worldbuilding sections completed. I might have done more, but my afternoon was shot after I discovered a big ol' tick on The Son's head, courtesy of Nature Explorers camp. All attempts to remove it failed, so we wound up having to take him to the doctor, who finally wrenched it free, legs wriggling madly, a chunk of my child's scalp still clenched in its jaws.

Go ahead and take a shower before you read on. I'll wait.

So, anyway, I'm done being productive for the day. The Son got to bed an hour late, I still haven't had supper, it's 90 degrees, and my house is a disaster because The Husband tossed every junk drawer in search of the tick spoon we own but have never before needed. Right. Like you're gonna find a teeny-ass spoon with no obvious home location in this house.

On the agenda for tomorrow:

1) Coat The Son in insect repellent before camp.
2) Sort junk drawers.
3) Buy another tick spoon.
4) Do more worldbuilding.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Settling In

48 hours after arriving home, I'm almost done unpacking and doing laundry. I've kept it on the DL, but we've been on Cape Cod these past two weeks. I got the idea for NP my first night there. I just didn't want to announce to the whole internet that our house and all our valuables were left unguarded save for one chubby and easily bribable cat. It was a wonderful vacation: we had glorious weather, The Son made beach friends and played outside like it was his full-time job, we swam every day, and my mom spoiled us with blueberry pancakes. Yesterday we went to our small-town country fair (The Son is a big fan of rides and cotton candy), and then to a cookout with The Husband's side of the family, and today The Son started "Nature Explorers" camp at his nursery school, leaving me 15 free hours a week to tutor and write.

Worldbuilding is going well so far. Out of 33(!) sections, I've completed 16.5 so far. That looks satisfyingly impressive-- only the second day of worldbuilding, and I'm half done! I am the worldbuilding master!-- but really it's that I've started with the easy bits, and have been pretty much just writing down what I already had worked out in my head. Next comes the part where I actually have to think and work things out and do research and stuff.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Last Day of Character Work

I've been working on NP for two weeks now, and tomorrow I'm moving on to worldbuilding. Not that I have all the character stuff worked out-- au contraire. But this time around, I'm spending two weeks each on character, worldbuilding, and plotting. Then I'll take an additional two weeks to look over what I have and fill in any holes that need to be filled before I can start writing.

That's the plan, anyway.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Like, Totally Mind-Blowing, Man

I'm inching my way through the character profile for my 370-year-old bald antagonist. But that's not where the sexy, juicy writing bits have taken place these past 24 hours. And that's what the people want. Sexyjuice!

Last night I had trouble sleeping and found myself on the couch with my notebook and pen. I've been obsessively reading and re-reading skimming The Weekend Novelist lately, and he has a plotting exercise I find pretty nifty, in which you write out your storyline as a series of problems and solutions. For example, Cinderella would start something like:

Problem: The Kingdom needs an heir.
Solution: Have a ball, invite all the single ladies so the Prince can have his pick.
Problem: Cinderella wants to go to the ball, but is prevented by Evil Stepmother.
Solution: Enter Fairy Godmother.

And so on.

I know I said I wasn't doing any plotting yet, but this problem-solution exercise got my mind a-buzzin'. Vague ideas for scenes started locking together in problem-solution units, and when I finally gave in and started writing it down, I got a rough storyline for all of Act I and maybe a quarter of Act II.

Then I went to sleep and had those dreams where you think you're having brilliant creative insights, but the second you wake up you see it was all dream mumbo-jumbo.

Tonight's sexyjuice comes courtesy of this awesome Character Clinic post by the fabulous Joely, in which she discusses using these cards for inspiration and insight. Now, I've been reading Tarot cards for more than 25 years, but I've never had luck using them for fiction. But these are more story-specific cards, and after re-reading Joely's post, I decided to give the online two-card character readings a whirl. I've been pounding away at these character profiles, but I still feel like something's missing-- something that can't be uncovered by compiling more backstory or other facts about them.

So, swallowing my huge grain of salt, I let a computer fortune-telling program give me writing advice.

And, in a word: HOLY CRAP.

Okay, that's two words. But Holy. Crap. I cannot even express how useful this was, because I haven't really begun to absorb it all, but... I feel like I know so much more now, and I know what I don't know  so much better, too. Like, my love interest character, Akenam? Totally has a dark secret. And looking at his profile and his role in the story, DUH. Of course he does. But I didn't see it. And now I do. I don't have a freakin' clue what the dark secret is, mind you, but at least I know there is one and I can focus my character work on it. And it was all like that.

I know, I sound like a crystal-kisser, but dude. Seriously. It was cool.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Antagonist Blues

Still doing character work. I spent longer than I'd planned profiling Saadian, a Helper character who is also prominently featured in EN. I figure it's worth taking a little more time with him, since he's the bridge between the books. Also, it was Independence Day for us USAians, and there were fireworks to be watched and chocolate ice cream to be eaten.

So I still haven't started on the profile for the last of my quintet of primary characters, the big bad Antagonist. Actually, there's another Antagonist, Will, who is far worse, but he starts off comfortable and folksy and my heroine has a bit of a crush on him before he gets all evil and shit. But this one is terrifying to her, representing all that is alien and most threatening to all the truths she holds most sacred.

Here's what I know:

this person is 370 years old, a post-mortal who has been "reincarnated" into a body that does not necessarily bear any resemblance to the original model. A genius, a legend, almost a religious figure-- and now the director of a project to resettle a severely depopulated, post-plague Earth. Bad psychic scars from that disaster-- lost her child, homeland, and entire culture. The surviving groups of humans still living on the planet need to be studied, diplomatically contacted, and possibly confined to reservations... but she believes one such group is responsible for the engineered genocide of her people.

And I think she's bald.

What I don't know:

Gender (I'm using "she" in the paragraph above, but I'm not 100% sure female is the way to go), race/ethnicity, personality, goal, motivation... you know, the little things.

Actually, I think I just worked out a lot of shit just typing that. Thanks!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day 8

Day 8 of working on NP, and I've finished a character profile for Will, one of my secondary characters.  I have no idea how he ties into Acts II and III-- just that he does tie in, somehow-- but that's cool. I'm not plotting yet.

I have two more secondary characters to profile, including the main antagonist. The antagonist has been pretty hazy for me-- until today, I wasn't even sure of gender-- but now I'm pretty sure we're dealing with a 370-year-old bald woman. Still need a picture and a name for her. I think I'll get The Husband to vote on google images of bald women.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Character Work

I just finished the profile for Irsa, NP's protagonist. I've been using Lazette's Gifford's Two Year Novel book as a guideline (I'm already up to week 12. After 6 days.), with exercises in character mapping and goal, motivation, and conflict.

Now I'm diving in and profiling the secondary characters, beginning with Akenam, Irsa's foil/guide/love interest.

Incorrigible

Gah. I know.

So I'm sure it's no surprise to anyone that I haven't written in months. I tutored a bunch through the spring, read a crapload of novels, and let EN get as cold as The Husband's feet on a winter's night.

And then I did something naughty.

About a week ago, I was drifting off to sleep when a character tapped me politely on the shoulder, and asked if maybe I could start telling her story, since I clearly have nothing else going on at the moment. And the next morning, I plunged into a new novel. I've accumulated ~35 pages of character work and plotting ideas so far, and am feeling the giddy rush of the bright shiny new project.

I know. It's awful. You're not supposed to bail on your first novel for younger, prettier one just because the going gets a little tough. That's bad bad bad, and no way to actually finish a book. I should be ashamed of myself.

But I'm not. I'm having too much fun. Picture me with my fingers to my lips in a gesture of feigned scandalization, giggling over how incorrigible I am.

I'm calling the new project NP for now. Catchy, hm? It's a YA/SF that is arguably a prequel for EN... so it's not THAT bad to work on it? Right?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Poor Neglected Blog

I've been a miserable, pathetic excuse for a both a novel-writer and a blogger these last two months, and I can't promise it'll be any better this month. I'm in a major creative dry spell. But in the spirit of new months and fresh starts, I opened EN today and worked for 10 minutes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Things I Have Learned...

...from my mostly failed attempts to write this month:

1) Working more hours = less mental energy for storytelling.

2) It is not possible to write in my house while The Husband is home for lunch.

3) If you're stuck on the opening pages of a chapter, skipping ahead to the exciting part can backfire.

Friday, April 1, 2011

No Foolin'

Ah, spring has come to northern New England. The grass has reappeared, the birds are tweeting in the bare branches, and the flowers are sending up their first shoots through the newly defrosted soil.

April Fool! We actually had a raging snowstorm today. The birds and shoots are pissed off.

But anyway...

New day, new month, new goal. I'm back to counting words. It seems to result in more forward motion for me than any other method of tracking progress.

So far, I'm at 635/20,000 for April, and I'm pretty damn psyched to be moving forward again.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Break Out the Bean Dip and Jello Shots...

...because I finished the Scene of Doom!

I am so massively relieved. I have been working on this motherfucking thing for basically the entire month of March. Empires have fallen in less time than this.

"But Lianna," I hear you say. "How can it have possibly taken a month to write a mere three and a half pages?"

You are right to wonder, dear reader.

First, I had to write crappy version #1. Then I had to get disgusted with what I'd written, and try to rewrite it, resulting in the even bigger rambling mess of crappy version #2. Then came the frustration ("I've been working on this forever and it still sucks!"), the self-pity ("Why does it have to be so hard?"), and finally the Dark Moment: the loss of faith ("What if the whole book is as badly written and ill-conceived as this scene?").

Then, being the tenacious workaholic I am, I said "fuck it" and spent the next ten days reading novels, eating candy, and doing no writing whatsoever.

Then I felt guilty about being such a slacker, and figured if I couldn't actually write the scene, at least I could blog about not being able to write it. I got a few lovely comments (shout-out to LibraryHungry and Joely!) that gave me the courage to just open the damn file, delete crappy version #2, and start over. I was so loathe to work on it, I set myself tiny goals: work on the scene for 15 minutes, then you can go back to outlining Bresher's scenes. Slowly, I made an outline. I realized I was trying to cram too much information into a small space, and that the scene was in danger of becoming an infodump. I figured out what really belonged in the scene, and what lines from crappy versions #1 and 2 could be salvaged.

And then I wrote a fairly decent scene.

Please tell me that all novelists have Scenes of Doom that just about break them. And please tell me I'm not due for another for at least 25,000 words.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rung By Rung

I'm climbing out of the hole, folks. I worked for a half hour today-- not touching The Scene of Doom with a ten-foot pole, mind you. Instead, I started outlining Bresher's yet-to-be-written scenes. But I am feeling buoyed by the encouraging comments on yesterday's post, and I think tomorrow I'll put those outlining skills to work figuring out exactly what the hell I want from The Scene. I'm getting an inkling that part of the problem may be my own inflated expectations; there's been so much lead-up to these two finally meeting when they are both adults and finally having more than a few hours to spend together, that I feel like every line of it has to be earth-movingly profound. But at the same time, they both have plenty of WTF? questions for each other. "Why have you forgotten how to speak my language since the last time I saw you?" "Why did you have my hand tattooed and make me sleep in a shed?" That sort of thing.

Christ on a stick. Are all novels this complicated? More and more, I'm wandering the fiction aisles of bookstores in a state of almost religious awe. All these people went through this??

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pathetically Modest Goal Surpassed!

I worked for 25 minutes instead of 15. I'm calling that a triumph.

My goal for tomorrow is 30 minutes.

Stuck

It should come as no surprise, given my lack of recent blog posts, that the writing is not going well.

Actually, it's beyond "not going well". The writing's not going, period.

Sure, there are some real-world factors at play. Work's picked up, and I now have a tutoring gig #3. This is a good thing, since we could certainly use the money. But I'm not getting those two-hour stretches of uninterrupted time anymore. After several weeks of insomnia, my body rebelled and I slept every moment I could for a week. And the world has provided plenty of bad news to distract me.

But really, the problem is that I'm stuck. It's not that I don't know what comes next; it's more like I feel like I can't write what comes next. I've lost faith in the story. I don't even want to think about it, because when I do, all I feel is a rising panic that I've wasted years of my life toiling over a novel that is irredeemably bad.

Ugh. I hate this. I've been here many times before. But this time, I don't want to let this dark period cost me more months or years of progress. I've had a few weeks of a break from the book. I'm reading a lot, which is the best thing for me-- it fills the well and gets me excited about fiction in general. The next step is to sloooowly start working on EN again, in as low-pressure a way as possible.

So here I state my pathetically modest goal: today I will open the EN file, and work for 15 minutes on some aspect of it. If I can't face going back to the scene where I floundered, that's fine; I can work from my list of little changes. But I need to touch the book every day, to keep reminding myself of what the book is and what I want it to be, so that when I find my way out of this creative desert to the green lands beyond, I can just plunge right back in and start moving forward again.

Monday, March 7, 2011

50 Word Story

Check it out! I wrote a microfiction piece for the 50-Word Story website, and it's been published there today!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

EdMo Day 5

 6.25/50 hours for March.

Today was a challenge. I'd planned to log 45 minutes during The Son's gymnastics class, but then a friend of mine turned up at the gym with all three of her kids and no husband (he was sick), and asked me if I'd keep an eye on her 4-month-old while she did the "shadow" class with her 2-year-old (her 4-year-old is in The Son's class). The idea was that the baby would sleep while I worked, but it didn't work out that way. But that's okay-- I got some baby snuggles, and some killer baby smiles, and even changed a diaper! (I know I'm a weirdo but I kind of miss changing a tiny baby's diaper. It's sort of nice that their needs are so simple.) We spent the rest of the day visiting friends. Finally sat down to work in the evening, but The Son was doggedly determined not to sleep tonight, and came out of his room multiple times, breaking my concentration. I did manage to log a total of an hour, but it was like fighting a tiny war.

I've reached the part of the novel where the romance heats up, and I've been feeling like I'm floundering a bit. After realizing that the scene I've been writing, in which Somi and Bresher attempt to re-establish a rapport after a long separation, lacks a certain... ugh, it's just dull, okay?  So I devoted most of my writing time today to reviewing goal, motivation, and conflict for those two, and now I understand what the big conflict is for the scene. I'm still not sure how to write it, but at least now I have an idea of what it should be.  I also wound up making some valuable notes about ways to ramp up the conflict in earlier scenes.

Tomorrow I'm taking two solitary, consecutive hours to write. If The Husband isn't up to taking The Son on an outing, then I'll go to the library and work there. I think I need to throw out the last few hundred words I wrote and start over. This scene is tricky, and I'm going to have to choose my path through it carefully.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Checking In

Okay, so I know it's only been three days, but so far I am loving EdMo. I've only logged four hours, but I'm getting 500 words an hour, which is a very respectable pace for this draft. If I keep producing at this rate (which I'm sure I won't, but still), I'll have 25,000 words by the end of the month!

4/50 hours logged for March.
2,041 words.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Valley of the Shadow of the Middle

So after all that moaning and pissing, I worked for one hour and got 532 words. I'll take it. I'm doing NaNoEdMo this month, so that's my first hour logged! Maybe I won't set a word count goal at all this month, and just work the 50 hours and see how much I can accomplish.

The novel is at just over 60,000 words right now. Although I'm well past the mid-point of Somi's story, that's still halfway through the overall story (projected length is <120,000 words, and I'll have ~20,000 words for the hero's POV to add when Somi's tale is done). So I am diagnosing myself with the mid-novel blues. It just feels like I've been working so hard and so long, and OMFG I still have as much as I've done left to do???

I know: break out the violins. No one tied me up and forced me to write a novel. No one but me will care if I never finish it. So it's up to me to find a way through this valley.

Lion

Oof. Not a good few days for the novel. It snowed, again, and then iced over it. I'm sick, again, and will probably wind up on antibiotics this time. The rattle in my chest sounds like the freakin' ghost of Christmas past. I'm cranky and tired and my head is out of the story and I'm SO OVER winter and my kid is driving me crazy (although I suspect it's me and not him) and I fell short of my February word count goal to the tune of 5,000 words.

Enough of that. New month, fresh start. My only goal for today is to write for one hour during quiet play time (I napped for the entire 2.5 hours of The Son's nursery school session, and I have tutoring gig #2 tonight). I may not get that many words, but I need to get my head back into at least dreaming about the story.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Finally Found a Way In

Two days later, I finally found a way into this chapter. It's that same old first lines issue I tend to have: if I don't have an opening line, I find it really hard to just skip ahead and write the chapter. Last night, while driving down dark, winding country roads to tutoring gig #2, I talked out loud to myself about the chapter and what I want it to achieve, and came up with a tentative first line. It's only 8:15am, but I've already smoothed out that line and written a total of 138 words while The Son ate breakfast. We're snowed in today, but I'm going to try to get in an hour of writing time during quiet play time.

So my word count situation hasn't improved. But I did work on EN during the two days of no forward motion. I have this list of little changes to make to what I've already written, little notes to myself that say things like, strike all references to x, or, plant two mentions of y. The list had swelled to 20 items, and I managed to cross out 15 of them. No one thing on the list requires a lot of effort or deep thought, but taken together it's a time-consuming bunch of chores. It's a relief to have three-quarters of it done.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Man, I Missed Editing

So I actually edited a scene yesterday.  Technically, this whole draft is supposed to be editing, since it's the third draft and all. But for the last 20,000 words, I've been writing from scratch. In every draft, that chunk of the book was always the weakest and most poorly-conceived section. I knew something had to happen during those years of Somi's life, but for a long time I didn't know exactly what it was, or how to make it interesting, or how to tie it in to the rest of the plot. I'm happy to report that I think I've pretty much fixed that problem.

But it sucked not being able to edit. I kept thinking the last draft would have at least skeletons of some of these scenes, and then I'd look, and nope. The scene existed only in my mind. But then yesterday I hit a portion of the book that I do have usable scenes written for. It was seriously heavy editing, nothing like the shuffling and polishing I did to the first 35,000 words of the book. But it was still a relief to have that skeleton to hang the meat on, so to speak.

One thing that's really struck me is how much my dialogue sucks in that second draft. Now, when I wrote that draft, I wasn't trying to make it "sound good"; I was just trying to get the story written. But still. I'm not having any trouble rewriting it to be what I think is actually good dialogue; I'm just continually unsettled by how startlingly, aggressively bad it is. It sounds like a sequel to The Lord of the Rings written by an 8th grader.

I'm at 9,190 for the month. I just finished a chapter, and don't have a first line for the next one, so today will probably be a lot of work for not that many words. Unless the childcare fairy visits me and I get a magical full day off from life between now and next Monday, I'm probably not going to reach 15,000. But I'm not beating myself up for once. Progress is progress, and I'm proud of myself for sticking with it this month despite all kinds of obstacles. Go me.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Genre Rant

I belong to the writing community WriYe, and while I don't participate in the yearly challenge or post very often, I do wander over to the forum once a week or so and check out the posts. Now, WriYe's membership is largely high school and college age writers, mostly female, mostly writers of Young Adult Fantasy. They are a lovely, bright, dedicated bunch. Many have little or no support for their writing from either family or school.

One posted that she recently got an idea for a story stuck in her head, started writing it, and realized to her surprise that she was writing ChickLit. After several sources gave her grief about ChickLit being trivial and "unworthy", she posted a question: do you think ChickLit is worth writing?

Here is an expanded version of my reply:


Anyone who would declare an entire genre Unworthy of being read or written is an elitist jerkwad. Are there crappy chick lit novels? Of course. Are there well-written chick lit novels that are in their own way the equal of the best of other genres? I would be astounded if that weren't the case.

Literary snobbism irks me like few other things. High school teachers refusing to allow Fantasy for independent reading because it's "garbage"? College creative writing classes with a "no genre fiction" rule? Literary critics using terms like "bodice ripper" and "space opera" to dismiss all of Romance and SF? Bullshit, all of it. In the first place, all fiction is "genre fiction", dumbass. Second, aren't we supposed to, like, encourage young people who actually choose to put down their iPhones and read or write something, instead of shaming them for their preferences? I'm pretty sure I read that in an education manual somewhere. And third, the whole concept of genre as a measure of literary merit belongs back in the day when the term "The Great American Novel" could still be uttered without irony, when we actually believed one white guy's experience could sum up everything for all of us.

Even more depressing is when writers themselves buy into the idea that genres can be ranked. The SF crew look down on the Fantasy folk, and both of them scoff at the Romance gals, who sneer at the Erotica crowd... and everyone picks on the poor Fanfiction bastards. And looming above them all, sitting smugly in their castles made from old copies of The New York Times Review of Books, are the LitFic elite, the genre so cool they won't even admit they are a genre-- never mind admit that they can write some seriously crappy books themselves. They also have no problem pillaging from the hacks when it suits them. Most forms of Literature-with-a-capital-L include some elements of "genre". The brilliant SF and Fantasy writer Lois McMaster Bujold once referred to Romance and Mystery as literary "universal donors"-- everyone takes from them. But one of the big tricks of LitFic is that when you steal borrow from a genre, everyone acts like you invented it. As a Science Fiction reader and writer, it bugs the shit out of me that when Margaret Atwood or Cormac McCarthy write about the future it's not genre, it's "a daring exploration of form". It's also a fucking Science Fiction novel, and not a particularly original one, so get the fuck over yourselves.

Most infuriating of all, the ones that go around unilaterally bashing another genre have usually read virtually nothing--or sometimes just plain old nothing-- from that genre. Hey, who needs to read it, right? Everyone knows that Science Fiction/Fantasy/Romance/Mystery/Erotica/Inspirationals/Young Adult/Fanfiction is crap. And get a load of that cheesy cover! If it doesn't have a black-and-white photo of an abandoned doll and the words "A Novel" on the cover, it ain't Lit'rature. I learned that in grad school.

I think I hate this crap so much because I used to be a believer in it. In college I was a poet, and then a writer of contemporary short stories. Then I attended an M.F.A. program that was All LitFic, All the Time. I rolled my eyes at entire sections of the bookstore. And then, as a lark, I started writing Science Fiction... and then quickly figured out I had to start reading Science Fiction, too. To my shock, a lot of the novels were actually good. Some of them were actually better than the LitFic stuff I'd been reading. My little mind was blown, and I have never been the same since. So when I see smart people who should know better clinging to these ridiculous outmoded ideas of genre, I want to slap them, hand them a copy of Four Ways to Forgiveness, and challenge them to explain to me why that book is not Literature.

Look, I'm not saying that everyone has to like everything. Subject matter can turn you off; nearly every woman I've mentioned to that I'm writing a SF novel has told me that they don't like SF. Every genre-- including LitFic-- has its conventions, and sometimes they're just not a good fit with your reading preferences. I don't care for Horror, most Mysteries, Fanfiction, Mainstream, contemporary Romance, or Chick Lit. But I have faith that when readers tell me there are sublimely written and deeply satisfying examples of these genres, they know what they're talking about.

I have a dream. I dream of a day when the best books of every genre will share the right to be called Literature; when writers let go of using junior high school lunchroom politics to rank their fellow artists; when Science Fiction and Romance are reviewed alongside LitFic and Memoir; when no young person will be told by a teacher, a reviewer, or another writer that the books they love to read and to write are Unworthy.

In conclusion: yes, I think ChickLit is worth writing, if that's the story you have to tell, and you tell it well.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Don't Mind Me. Just Writin' a Novel in My Car.

It's weird how sometimes adversity will totally derail my writing, and sometimes it'll make just make me more determined to succeed. I've been such a whinypants lately about my cold, the snow, and the demands of motherhood conspiring to attack my word count. But while all that stuff really was going on, I think my less than stellar February has more to do with the Mid-Novel blues than any external factors.

But now I'm on a roll. The last few days the writing has gotten better and easier and more every day. And then I come to today, which has been ripe with excuses not to write. I had my first night at tutoring gig #2 last night, got to bed late and then had terrible insomnia, so I'm operating on a major sleep deficit. I just got my period and am in pain. (Side note: Hello, menopause? I'm ready whenever you are.) The Son had gymnastics camp again today, but when I went back to the lovely little coffee shop where I wrote yesterday, they were blaring Harry Connick, jr. (seriously, jazzy standards were not meant to be played at speedmetal decibles) and I knew there was no way I could work there-- and nothing else nearby is open yet at that hour. Then Oberon the laptop started acting up; there's this horrible screeching motor sound when he boots.

A few days ago, I would have said fuck it. But I wrote through the sleep deprivation and the cramps. When the coffee shop was too loud, I drove to library and worked in my car while I waited for it to open, while people walking their dogs gave me WTF looks. When Oberon started freaking out, I transferred the files to the desktop that's still set up in the dining room from my last laptop emergency, and wrote there during quiet play time. And I have 840 words so far today.

If I could just figure out how to be this tenacious about my writing every day, maybe I could finish a novel in less than a decade.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I Think I Hear the Quittin' Bell

I'm at 1,572 words, and I think I'm going to stop for the day. Somi and the main antagonist are having a nice little chat by the hearth, and I need to do some thinking on how the rest of it is going to unfold.

No Luxury Like Time

I dropped The Son off at gymnastics camp this morning and then went to a café and wrote 746 words in just over an hour and a half, which is a blistering pace for me. Picked The Son up and dropped him with grandma, who plans to take him swimming. I bet he falls asleep in a matter of seconds tonight. I just had lunch and am now going to wash my hair, and then will settle down for another 1.5-2 hour writing session.

It's such a luxury to have the kid-free time to work. The Son has an hour of quiet play time every afternoon, but when I write during it there's always a part of my brain that's in mom-mode, going, Oh, crap-- what was that big crash? It's just not the same as how I can concentrate when he's out of the house, being cared for by someone else.

I have my first evening at tutoring gig #2 tonight, so I might not be able to check back in with the day's word count total until tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Priming the Pump

EN is off its ass and moving again, to my massive relief. I hate that "stuck in molasses" feeling. I got 528 words today, and probably won't get any more than that tomorrow. But if everything breaks my way, on Thursday I should have essentially the whole day to write. Getting some words down before then helps to prime the pump, so to speak.

I haven't abandoned my goal of 15,000 words this month. I might not make it, but gosh darn it, I'm gonna give it my best shot.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mid-Month Check-In

Ugh.

February is kicking my ass.

I'm still not totally over my cold (I had a sinus headache all weekend). My annual midwinter urge to hibernate is kicking in (I went to bed at 8:00 on Saturday night). The Son-- normally a pretty easygoing kid-- is having a hard week with lots of limit-testing and meltdowns, and I feel sucked dry every night when I put him to bed. I'm exhausted and burnt out, I can't concentrate, I have practically no free time, and I've been dicking around trying to write the same goddamn sentence for three days. All I feel like doing is watching Top Chef and playing this ridiculously addicting flash game.

The word count situation is bleak: I'm at 4,009/15,000 for the month.

But! There is a teeny ray of hope: tonight I applied my butt to the chair and managed to get PAST the sentence of doom. I only wrote about 200 words, but any forward motion feels like a triumph right now. Tomorrow my friend/childcare provider L and I are going to swap childcare, which should leave me with an hour or so to write before the tutoring gig. Later in the week The Son will have a total of 4 hours of gymnastics camp. And mother-in-law #1 will almost definitely take him for an afternoon. If I can use that time wisely, I'll be back on track by the end of the week.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Gift From the Sandman

Plans worked out better today. I have 713 words for the day so far, and I plan to write at least another 200 before bed.

Last night, just as I was drifting off to sleep, I figured out how my hero and heroine's first kiss is going to play out. I've had their big sex scene all mapped out for ages (um... but not in a pervy way), but the kiss was always a question mark. They both have so many reasons not to take that risk, and either one taking the "dominant" role just rang false for their relationship. I tried out a variety of scenarios, but they were either too prosaic or too romance-cliché cheesy.

And then last night, in that magical half-asleep headspace, the whole thing played before my eyes like a scene from a movie. It's still a bit on the romance-cliché cheesy side, but it feels authentic to the characters, so I'm happy. Now I've just got another few thousand words to write to get to the kiss!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Long Post That Is Mostly Not About Writing

I had grand plans for today. I'd drop The Son at preschool, and then do a quick co-op run for the ingredients I need to make both a batch of cookies for the preschool's Valentine's Day party and a batch for the fundraising bake sale the next day.  Then home for a solid 2 hours of writing before work. I'm about to plunge into a scene where both the antagonists are on stage at the same time, and I was looking forward to finding my way through it. I had hopes of putting up some big word count numbers.

But everything went awry before we even got out of the carport. I strapped The Son into his car seat, threw it in reverse, and got stuck in a snow bank. (Yes, in my own driveway. Don't judge until you've seen the driveway.) Spent 20 minutes trying to dig myself out, in 3 degree F weather. Still stuck. The Son suggested walking to school, and I was too proud of him for being such a New Englander to wimp out. So we walked to school. In 3 degree weather.

Walked back, and spent another 30 minutes or so on the car, helped toward the end by The Father-in-Law (thanks, man! you rock!), who finally got it out. Went to the co-op and discovered they do indeed have heart-shaped sprinkles. Came home and was so frazzled and cold and hungry I decided to spend my remaining hour of kid-in-school time on a hot bath and Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code. Picked up The Son from school, took him to L's house for childcare, did the tutoring gig all afternoon, picked up The Son from L's, went home, made supper, had The Son help me make cookies for his class, dealt with bedtime-related freakout by The Son, and did laundry.

I haven't written today, is what I'm saying. And I'm not gonna. I'm doing the bath and Artemis Fowl thing again and then going to bed early.

But I have grand plans for tomorrow.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Back in the Swing

The weekend was not kind to the novel. Too much snow, too little time to myself. I wrote a few hundred words here and there, but I just couldn't get my head in the story, and I was super cranky in that book's-not-going-well way.

This morning I had an emergency dental appointment (I broke a molar and need a crown for it) that was over much earlier that I'd predicted, leaving me with two kid-free hours to write before tutoring gig #1. And just having the house to myself for a while got me back into the right headspace to write. I've gotten nearly a thousand words today, and the crankiness has abated.

Mostly.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Lack-of-Progress Report

Well, the inspiration fairy has left this house. The last two days I've had almost no time to write. Yesterday I had to do some subsistence-level housekeeping (dishes and laundry) during The Son's school time, and then when I sat down to work my mind kept racing ahead to all the time-sucking errands of the afternoon, and I couldn't get into the flow of the story at all. I finally gave up trying to be creative and ticked a few items off my list of "little changes to go back and make to the first half of the book".

Picked up The Son from school and went over the river to the gymnastics studio, where I signed him up for another round of classes, and also for a two-day "camp" held over February school break (yay for more writing hours). Then we drove 30 miles to the rural ghetto so I could be fingerprinted for tutoring gig #2. (Don't get me started on how insane it is to have to get fingerprinted every time I get a student from a new town. It's crazy and there has to be better way. Let's just leave it at that.) Then we drove 30 miles back and got to the hospital just in time for The Son's 4-year-old pediatrician visit. Then home, where I managed to write 333 words during quiet play time. Then in the evening I had book club, which stereotypically included much wine and more discussion of our kids than the book. Had a great time and didn't get home until 10:40, which is roughly equivalent to what getting home at 4:00am would have been to me at 21.

Today The Son doesn't have school, so the whole day is pretty much shot. I tried to write during quiet play time, but he kept coming out of his room and interrupting me and I couldn't get in the zone. I'm going to write for at least an hour tonight and try to get some words, but I also want to hang out with The Husband.

If these first few days of February are any indication, 15,000 is a more realistic goal for the month.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Inspiration and Goals

Another snow day today, and with a socially approved reason to hide out at home in my PJ's all day, I've been doing a lot of "thinking work" on the book. I'm having one of those days where it's like you've struck a vein of ideas and can't stop them from gushing out. Even with The Son around, I figured out a lot of scenes for Bresher's POV chapters, which have always been the sections that give me the most trouble. And I made some notes for the Sexy Next Book (TM). And I sketched out a few of Somi's upcoming scenes. I wrote ~500 words on Eleven Names. I even thought of a great hook for EN's eventual query letter. If I believed in muses, I'd guess mine had an extra latte this morning.

But I've also been having some goal angst today. It's the second day of February and I'm still dithering over my word count goal for this month. My idealized 2011 schedule has me doing another 20,000 this month... BUT this month has three less days than last month... AND it includes a preschool-free week, during which I will not have the luxury of 4 mornings to write... AND I'm about to start tutoring gig #2, which will mean two evenings a week at a nearby boarding school-- two-hour sessions with a half-hour commute on either side. We could use the money right now, but it's also wiping out two evenings of writing time.

So with all that, I'm thinking 15,000 is more realistic. But then that seems like copping out. I dunno. I'll brood over it some more.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Last Lines and First Lines

Writing this draft, it has become clear to me that the first lines and last lines of chapters are a big thing for me. Often I'll think of the perfect parting shot for a chapter when I'm about 3/4 through it, and I find that writing toward that last line makes that last 1/4 gallop home. If I haven't thought of one to write toward, that same 1/4 feels like a slog on a half-lame mule.

And first lines can trip me up. Usually I find them easier than last lines, but today I spent a total of three solitary, concentrated hours trying to write the opening of this chapter and getting nowhere. I hated everything I wrote, and it was driving me crazy that I couldn't come up with the right first line. I tried to skip ahead, but without the first line I didn't have a tone, and tone was going to be key in this chapter: the last chapter ended at the mid-point, and left Somi in an emotionally low place. But Somi (who is a first-person narrator) is the kind of person who would try to change the subject when things get too heavy, so I wanted it to sound lighter. But not too light.

Then, finally, with 10 minutes left on The Son's quiet play time, I got it.

As Kimor had threatened, I had to learn to ride a horse.

Doesn't seem like much for three hours worth of work, does it? But it set the tone, and I managed to get up to 413 words by the time The Son went to sleep, in little 5-minute spurts stolen while preparing dinner or running the bath. And I know where I'm going next, which means I'm not dreading opening the file. The right first line can take me pretty deep into the chapter before I have to stop to puzzle over my next turn.

New Day, New Month, Blank Page

Funny thing about writing: no matter how many milestones you cross in a day, the next day you still have to get up and fill another empty page with words.

Yeah. It's going slow. I'm at the beginning of a new chapter, that is itself the beginning of the second half of Act II. I know where the chapter has to end, but to get there, I need to fast-forward through ten years of Somi's life. And I'm just not sure where to start. I've been diddling around with it all morning with nothing to show for it.

I have a few errands to run in preparation for being housebound in the blizzard we're getting today/tonight/tomorrow, so I think I'm going to go do that now and hope I can return to the blank page later with a fresh perspective.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Wow, Milestones Much?

I did it. On the last day of the month, I reached my word count goal (20,023/20,000-- never let it be said that I don't go the extra twenty-three words) and won JanNo.

I also finished a chapter today. (Dude, chapter Twenty-freakin'-Four. And I'm only halfway done.)

And I passed the mid-point of Somi's story. Which is a grand achievement and all, but what's really got me giddy is that I came in less than 500 words over target! That's nothin'! I'll cut more wordiness than that on the next pass through (a.k.a the Fiddle draft).

I'm at 51,400 for the whole draft right now.

Woot!

Productive morning-- I'm at 19,837 (I know! so close! but I have to get ready for work and then go pick up The Son from school). I'll post when I break 20,000!

Last Day o' the Month!

I've got just under a thousand words to write today to make my January goal. And this afternoon I have a long (for me) work day: two tutoring kids, and a couple of hours in my office to write reports and organize student files. But I'll get there.

Somi's just had like the most uncomfortable work dinner ever. Now she'll be heading off to the big city for her intimidating new job as a personal physician/advisor to a warrior prince. Mid-point's coming up!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review

Lady Doctor Wyre by Joely Sue Burkhart

Joely's latest novella is a stew of awesomeness: one part Regency, one part Science Fiction, and one part Erotic Romance, mixed together and seasoned with a delightful heroine who is both a legendary nanotech scientist and a silk-loving girly-girl, and two sexy heroes that she is not forced to choose between. Throw in an evil queen, a colony planet's rebellion, a sassy female pirate, and some hot sex, and voila!

Lady Doctor Wyre is a fabulous romp through an intricate world constructed from the best parts of my favorite genres. My only real complaint is that I wanted more; a novella just didn't seem like enough space to explore such a vast world. But Joely's already at work on another story set in Doctor Wyre's world,  so I'm thinking of this novella as the tasty first course of a fantastic feast.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cold From Hell

Oy, the cold. I'm sorry to keep whining about it, but it's bent on destroying me. I was getting better for a few days, and then whammo! Sinus infection. At least, I hope it's a sinus infection, because otherwise the devil has taken up residence in my left eye socket. For the past few days, I've been trying to write through a splitting headache and sudafed haze. This morning I took the laptop to The Son's gymnastics class and managed to eke out 185 words. Then we went to a birthday party, and by the time we came home, my head hurt so much I could barely open my eyes. I did a steam tent for a while, and then took a nap from which I kept being woken by the cracking noises coming from my face. Seriously, it was like ice breaking up on the river. But I did feel better when I got up.

I didn't get a chance to write again until The Son went to bed, and by then my brain just had nothing left to contribute. I crawled my way up to 408 and threw in the towel. I'm done for the day.

18,329/20,000 for January. Two days left. I can totally do it, cold from hell be damned.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Progress Report

16,493/20,000 for January. I'm on track to complete my JanNo goal. Good start to the writing year.

I'm still not at the job interview scene. Somi has to participate in an interrogation first. I'd planned to just summarize it, but when the moment came that seemed like the wrong thing to do. Tonight I need to do a little research on the "tells" that show a person is being deceptive, and then tomorrow I should be onto Somi's interview, which I'm really looking forward to writing since it takes place in a brothel. Very shocking for my rather sheltered and prudish protagonist, and a taste of what the next 11 years of living in a man's world are going to be like for her.

I can see the mid-point of Somi's story looming ahead, but I think it's a tad far ahead. In other words, this first half of Act II is probably going to come in a little long. Sigh. I think I've decided to just do my best to stay on word count target and not worry about cutting anything else until the entire draft is finished-- Bresher's story, too. If I wind up over 120,000 words, I'll figure out some cuts then. This means I'm revising my January goals to eliminate cutting 800 more words from Act I. I've already cut 2,200 words of unnecessary scenes and wordiness, but now I think I need to see the whole finished book before I decide what else needs to go. And I'm just not going to worry right now about it coming in long. See me not worry? No, really, this is me not worrying.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Checking In

I am rocking the house today. 1300 words so far, and I just finished a chapter. The fight scene and subsequent da-da-DUM! moment took more words than I thought, so I'm not going to make it to the job interview scene today. But I've got another 100 words to write today to stay on goal, so I'll get the opening of the next chapter done.

Whee! Good writing day.

Thank God For Nursery School

Whew! I made up all yesterday's words, and it's only 10:45! I'm almost done with the fight scene, and then this evening I'll do today's words, which should take me through the job interview scene. I'll check back in tonight.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Not My Best Day

I wrote a grand total of 80 words today. The Son's school cancellations are killing me. Today it was open house for prospective students. It was also -20F this morning, so I'll admit it was kind of nice to not have to go out in that. But I just had no time to myself all day, and then I had a tutoring kid, and by the time I got The Son to bed I was exhausted and feeling my cold ramp back up. It's just not happening today.

School tomorrow, and I'm planning to work for every second of it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Lovey Dishwinkle, Lady Detective

Between the weather and my endless cold, The Son and I have been spending a lot of time indoors playing with the wooden spoon dolls we made at library storytime. They're these wooden spoons with googly eyes, and we made them clothes and hats and... look, don't ask, okay? I'm sure it's tough to come up with a craft for a bunch of 3-6 year olds every week.

Anyway, The Son has created this whole story world to go with these spoon dolls. It's this fabulous Wild West Steampunk thing starring one Lovey Dishwinkle, a detective who wears gingham and a big floppy hat, and gets around via jet car or jet boots. Lovey's sidekick is Lovey-Joe, a one-eyed fez-wearing Dishwinkle whose exact relationship to Lovey is vague. Lovey and Lovey-Joe get most of their work from their slightly Brokeback Mountain-ish cowboy neighbors, Chan and Franz, who raise both dragons and giant armadillos. When a case is solved, they celebrate with a clog-dancing hoe-down.

And now some deeply disturbed part of me really wants to write a YA novel based on this. Or maybe even a series! Lovey Dishwinkle and the Armadillo's Lament...  Lovey Dishwinkle and the Fez of Doom...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rilly Big Scene

13,649/20,000 for January.

I'm in the middle of a big turning point scene. There's betrayal, loss, a resurrection, and our heroine kicking a eunuch shaman's ass. Shit's going down.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Where's My Medal?

I've done the math, and found that if I increase my daily goal by just 55 words a day, I'll still make my 20,000 goal by the end of the month. I wrote 706 today-- that's exactly one word more than goal, and I want a damn medal for that word. My cold has moved from my chest to my head, which is the "kill me now" phase of colds for me. I'm massively impressed with myself for writing at all, and now plan to chug some Ny'Quil and take a scalding hot bath, and then try to make it to my bed in time to pass out.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Sorta-Good Kind of Slow

12,227/20,000 for January.

I got my words today, but hoo boy was it slow. Not painful. Just slow. What was nice is that I was able to be okay with the slowness; both time in general and "running late" or "falling behind" are big fat stressors for me, and usually I get hugely annoyed when I'm not writing as fast as I've decided I should-- mainly because now writing will eat up too much of my time and put me "behind schedule". Being a mother has definitely made this aspect of my personality stronger; my free time is more limited, so I have this MUST NOT SQUANDER urgency about my writing time.

But today I (still) have a cold, and with it rather low expectations of myself, so I just kept the file open and kept inching forward. It probably took me 4 hours of sitting at the laptop to get 652 words. But I enjoyed the stroll, y'know?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Evening Check-In

I got another 300+ words, so I'm currently at 11,575/20,000 words, about 1,000 words under where I should be. But I made up some ground today-- and more important, I like what I wrote.

Limping Back; or, Adventures of a Bookslut

I've officially fallen behind. Yesterday was a total bust: we had a snowstorm, I spent an hour of my precious kid-at-school time on the phone with the insurance company, The Son AND The Husband were both having behavior issues, and I have a cold and was hitting the NyQuil by 8:00pm. I wrote not a single word.

Today it seems to be flowing again; I've written over a thousand words so far today and have another hour+ to write before I have to get ready for tutoring gig #1. It'd be great if I could get 2,000 total today and make up some of that lost ground, but we'll see. Just glad to be writing again!

I did a read a lot yesterday, despite everything. Maybe I just needed to fill the well. I'm being a bit of a bookslut right now. Usually I prefer book serial monogamy, but my reading list currently shows FIVE books "in progress":

The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie. Started this in late summer but have bogged down twice. I love Salman Rushdie, and in another life I would marry him and have his slightly demonic-looking babies... but there's always this point about 75-100 pages into his books where I start to feel overwhelmed and overstimulated, like I really am standing on a street corner in India. I have every intention of finishing this, though, since, as I said, Salman's my man.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Read about a quarter of it and then lost interest, but haven't abandoned hope of finishing it one day, if for no other reason than I have yet to see anything but lavish praise for it.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. For my book club. It's good. I'm almost done with it.

The Old Silent by Martha Grimes. I found this in the ladies' room at the hospital* when The Husband was there for his last ct scan. It's a detective novel, which is not my usual thing at all (I think I last read one over 20 years ago), but I started it and got sucked more than a quarter in already. I'll give it to The Parent when I'm done (if she hasn't already read it-- she's a detective novel fanatic).

Lady Doctor Wyre by Joely Sue Burkhart. Advance copy, baby! Erotic Science Fiction Romance? Jane Austen meets Dr. Who? Yes, please! I'll be reviewing it here, so keep your eyes peeled. All five of you.


*with an appointment card stuck in it-- NOT being used as a bookmark, just stuck in the back as a place to keep it-- that indicated the book had been sitting on top of that paper towel dispenser for nearly two months. If I'd thought there was any chance that the owner would ever come looking for the book, I never would have taken it. I didn't steal the book, is what I'm saying, even though I suppose technically I should have turned it into lost and found or something. But what would have happened to it then? At least now it's being read, which is as Martha Grimes intended it. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.