Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday Update

I'm blowing through my modest goals! I know it's early in the round, but it's such a relief to feel like I'm back with a system that works. I wish I could remember this feeling every time I feel like sitting out a round. I'm almost doubling my goals, and I'm writing a little more each day. My output's only going up, and that feels really, really good.

Kait Nolan posted this article about the habits of creative geniuses. It's really worth a read. I've got several things in common with them, but there are definitely things to add to my repertoire. Like long walks, and writing in the morning, for the same amount of time or same word count. In other words, these people, like Gertrude Stein and Anthony Trollope, are very disciplined and consistent. That's something I could definitely work towards but there was one point that struck me as especially wise, and I've really been working on it this week:

Stop writing when the ideas are still flowing.

Initially, this felt backward to me. I've always written and written like it was some kind of marathon, every single time. I mean, isn't that how you're supposed to do it? Milk each session for all it's worth? But Hemingway said it was important for him to leave off at a creatively fertile point. That way, he always knew he'd be coming back to something important. This has been working for me. No more exhausting myself over the course of hours, writing thousands of words only to stare at a blank page the next day, agonizing over where to start. The starting point is there, because I made sure to leave some important thing unfinished the day before.

The only thing I didn't do this week that I wish I had was skip yesterday. Lots of errands. We finally placed the little Chihuahua rescue with a loving family, and that involved a moderately long car trip. But it was really important to do it. Worth losing a writing session over. Life happened, in other words, and so I decided to trade Tuesday for Saturday. I'm actually planning to take a writer's break and actually leave the baby with her siblings, and go write over coffee like people do. Hopefully I'll blow my word count out of the water, but if I don't, I think I'll still meet my modest word count goal. And for now, that's more than enough.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: Daughter of Glass

At long last, my stand alone Whitfield novel, Daughter of Glass, is off to the editor! It's been added to, shined, polished, and polished some more, and I'm excited to see which direction my editor will decide to push me. It's a very different project than the original serialization. It's also very close to my heart.

The idea came to me while I was commuting to the satellite campus of my university to teach freshman comp. It was a long drive, and I often filled it with audio books, or conjuring plot bunnies. Our reading material had been emotionally heavy that day. Out of nowhere, I started to think about the range of human emotions, about how unique each one was, and it hit me that they could be actual characters in a story. But how to fit them all into the same plot line? And so Sasha was born- a girl with emotions so strong, so dangerous, they manifested as guardians whose soul purpose was to keep her numb to her feelings. No fear, hate or jealousy. No happiness. No love. But what if someone came along and changed all that? If someone could make Sasha feel again, would she want to feel numb?

Here's an excerpt from the beginning that sets up the story. I'll post release details as soon as I know. Can't. Wait!
Chapter One: Anger, Draped in Metal
I stood in the atrium of the Academy’s newest gallery and listened as people discussed my mother’s suicide. The event was depicted in a colorful painting that took up most of one wall.
“Such promise.”
“. . . mental problems, I hear . . .”
I felt the same at eighteen as I had at eight, when it happened: nothing.
Around me, the faculty of Andreas Academy mixed with what passed for the social elite in the tiny town of Whitfield. Students dressed all in black carrying trays wove through the crowd. They offered golden bells of champagne on long crystal stems, and tiny portions of various delicacies arranged on white plates. They were here through a combination of scholarships and work study, funded in part through my family’s endowment. I wondered what these students felt as they moved through the crowd— bored, repulsed, perhaps eager to please.
I couldn’t feel any of those things.
I’d never have to do work study, either. My future was plotted out for me like grids on a surveyor’s map: orderly, contained, and adding up to a whole I couldn’t quite see. I was the perfect politician’s daughter, adept at fading into the background until my assistance was required. This gathering was no exception. Even though the two largest buildings on campus carried my last name, I might as well have been invisible. Faculty, patrons, and students flowed around me like water around a large boulder.
“It’s all a matter of perspective and light,” the woman drawled, staring intently at the painting. In it, seven shadowy figures all reached out for a single woman. My mother. She shielded a dark haired child behind her with one arm. Me. With the other, she offered the seven her still-bleeding heart, a fist-sized wound gaping in her chest.
The woman’s silver dress dulled to steel gray as she paced back into the shadows. “They look more sinister if you move back from the light, James.”
Her companion, a balding, well-dressed older man, checked his watch. “Seems pretty simple to me. Seven different people come at you like that, somebody’s going down. Never have understood why everyone thinks it’s so brilliant.” He ran fat fingers through thinning hair. “If you ask me, doing herself in was her best career move.”
Comments like that should leave me trembling with grief and rage and hate. He was talking about my mother’s suicide as if it had been a publicity stunt. If I were a normal girl, I’d be screaming at this man. Maybe I’d even hit him. Instead, I watched them argue with the same clinical detachment I’d felt since the night my mother killed herself.
That was the night the seven figures in the painting stopped being abstract art and became very real. Her gift to me: seven guardians from pain, fear, anger, guilt. Her curse: seven wardens to keep me from experiencing passion, pleasure, and joy.
I felt my guardian’s presence before I saw her.  They were all like that, appearing out of nowhere when I least expected them. “Don’t worry, sweet Sasha.” Anger slipped beside me in a whisper of silk and scent.  Peppery sweet, with something bitter underneath. Good; if the bitter was hidden, she couldn’t be that powerful. Yet.
“Anger,” I murmured without turning my head. Her long, blood-colored nails traced patterns across my bare arm. “You don’t need to be here. I’m all right.”
“Of course you are.” I risked a sideways glance in her direction. Her perfectly shaped crimson lips curled into a sneer. “These pretend socialites will never hurt you with their petty jabs and pathetic social pretensions. Not while we’re here to protect you.”
My guardians were as distinctive as the emotions they guarded against. Anger, for example, always wore red. Tonight she’d dressed up a bit, perhaps in honor of the occasion. Strapless red satin swept to the floor, slit all the way up to mid-thigh. She was draped with metal jewelry: chains and crosses, heavy rings, wristlets and studded cuffs. She even smelled like metal. That was one of the ways I knew her. When Anger drew near, the faintest bite of metal infused the air. The scent grew stronger as she became more powerful, siphoning away my rage and hate.
“I’m here,” Anger assured me. “I’ll be watching. You won’t feel a thing.”
She was right. I never did. Not since I was eight years old, when they had changed from guarding my mother, to guarding me. Still, I didn’t dare answer her directly.

Bad enough I was born with emotions with so powerful I couldn’t control them myself. Bad enough to have guardians only I, like my mother, could see. My father was already convinced I was as disturbed as the brilliant, self-destructive woman who gave birth to me. There were many days when I secretly agreed with him. But I didn’t want people to see me talking to myself. In a town the size of Whitfield, gossip traveled fast. In no time at all, I’d go from being a quiet girl, always on the fringes, to the suicide’s daughter who was seconds away from a meltdown of her own. So I settled for nodding. Satisfied, beautiful red-haired Anger stroked my cheek and drifted away.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Goals? Already? Row 80 Round 2 Inaugural

Not enough sleep. Cranky, clingy teething baby. This is the new reality, and one I have to adjust my goals to accommodate.

Also, I think I was supposed to check in yesterday. I thought the start date was the 11th. Oh well.

My goals are fairly modest this round: write 500 words a day most days a week. Like, five out of seven. So ideally, that'll mean writing before the baby wakes up, after taking the kids to school. Then there's another window during naptime (now). This is modest for me, who's used to being able to crank out a couple of chapters a week, at least.

Reading and editing are not actual goals. Neither is blogging. They're things I do by instinct now, like brushing my teeth. And pr and marketing are finally becoming less fear-inducing. This has a lot to do with just hanging in there long enough. I'm finally getting it that marketing and networking has a lot to do with just being friendly, reaching out, and being nice to people. Also, I'm not gonna lie- having access to my publisher's marketing and pr department helps a lot. (I love you, Nikki Tetrault. You are Da Bomb.)

Specific goals for individual works I'd like to accomplish sometime over Round 2:
1. Get Broken Compass, Bright Stars in to betas.
2. Turn in a rewrite to my publisher.
3. Either A: serially self-publish my space opera I've had brewing for forever, OR B: Finish the Asheroth novella.

See? Modest. Almost uncomfortably so. But I do not need to add the pressure of meeting lofty goals to raising a baby and being the sole shopper, cook, laundress, gardener, errand-runner, cleaning lady, tutor, and therapist to a household of five. Two teenagers and an infant, all at once! Gah!

The hope is that once I'm in the zone, I'll overshoot.

I actually have a real, live Asheroth model now. He's perfect: black hair, pale skin, tall but sleekly muscled. He's excited about being Asheroth, too. The problem? He's sixteen! His parents are cool and he's friends with my daughter, but still, the phrase, "Do you want to model as my insane angel character?" just makes me cringe. Oh well. Anything for story, right?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

ROW 80 Round 2 Goals

So, I've been sitting out these last few rounds, and I can really tell by my output. A big part of it has been the baby. I have writer friends who stay home with babies and young children, and I just do not know how they do it all. In fact, I have a blog series planned interviewing writing parents in the hopes of learning some of their secrets. But the fact remains that I am simply more productive when I do ROW80, and so I'm planning to jump back in for Round 2. Except this time, I'm going to set really modest goals, because frequently those bleed over into larger ones. Like, 500 words a day modest. But this will almost certainly bleed over into longer sessions. After all, once you're in the "zone" it gets easier to stay there. Also, I'll be changing how I structure my blog updates:

Tuesdays: Teasers of works-in-progress and already released titles. You can also expect interviews and features of other writer's upcoming releases, interviews, and the like.

Wednesdays: This is a ROW80 update day, but because I have other things going on like acquisitions work, which I love, books to read and books to review, this is more of a craft-oriented ROW80 update. I'll check in, but not with the focus I'm going to put in on Sundays.

Sundays: The gold standard of ROW80 updates. This is where I'll get down and dirty about word counts, goals met and goals neglected, works-in-progress, and anything else that might be relevant to my writing process.

If you'd like to learn more about ROW80, or maybe even sign up yourself, (round 2 starts April 11th), then you should visit Kait Nolan's blog or check out some of my older ROW80 posts. As the start date gets closer, I'll do a post with more specifics, like precise WIPs, word counts, conference and blogging goals, the pursuit of craft, and so on.