I have entirely fallen off of doing 30 in 30, which is a bummer, but "I can write a sentence a day" is not the same as "I can write a one-sentence story a day" and honestly I haven't been even wanting to write a sentence a day. I got new arm braces that let me knit without damaging my arms, and apparently knitting and writing take up the same space in my head, because since then I have had no interest in writing at all. The sweater's coming along great, though. I realized that I wasn't going to have enough yarn, and that entire brand has been discontinued, but some Ravelry stash-sleuthing turned up someone who had two skeins of it (after several responses of "Huh, I thought I had that but I can't find it now"), so I should be able to finish the sweater at least as a vest, and might even have enough for sleeves.
A friend came over for dinner tonight, so I tidied the living room and dining room before she got here, and did the dishes after. Now everyone's asleep and the house is tidy and the dryer is humming and it's so peaceful. We had really good conversation, full of belly laughs and deep feelings, and the late-night calm is the perfect counterpart to an exuberant evening.
Everyone's mostly asleep, anyway. Kit's working up to unassisted walking, and that tends to come with sleep disruption. They've been whimpering in their sleep a lot, and sometimes fully waking up. They don't generally need anyone to come in—they're a pro at self-soothing to sleep, and very good about doing it on their own if they can—but it's clearly not super restful sleep, and they've been pretty tired during the day.
All the adults in the house have also been sleeping badly. This morning I went to bed at 5, woke up at 8, and then went back to sleep and had a really horrifying nightmare about the end of the world. ( TW for solar apocalypse )
And then I woke up going ????????. Eventually I went back to sleep and had another dream about going around the city with some friends I hadn't seen in a while, and that dream also tried to turn into a nightmare (about it being our last hurrah before I died of heart disease that I'd allowed to go untreated) and I refused to let it. I don't often have conscious control of my dreams but for that one I explicitly would not let the scarybad storyline happen. So that wasn't terrible, at least, but it was not what one would call a restful night.
And J's had awful insomnia, and Kit's whimpering sets off the monitor and wakes X up. J and I have suggested giving up the monitor altogether, because if Kit actually yelled X would hear it through their bedrooms' shared wall, but X doesn't think it's time for that yet, so I think we're going back to me turning their monitor on when I go to bed, rather than them having it on all night. Anything that helps any of us sleep is a good thing.
I'm going to do the last of my chores and get to bed; I have Kit-time tomorrow afternoon while X and J have a date, and it'd be nice to get up early enough for some family time before that starts. Maybe if I go to bed a little earlier, I'll sleep better. Stranger things have happened.
's last day in print is TODAY. *sob* If you want to make my final royalty check a nice big one and benefit We Need Diverse Books while you're at it, buy your copy now
. (The bundle with Hidden Youth
is an especially sweet deal!)
A couple of months ago, I joined the space_swap
fic exchange and wrote a 7500-word story about Steven Universe and the Gems going to the Empire City Polyamorous Families Conference
, because once I got bitten by the idea it would not leave me alone. The story is about figuring out how to be happy even when you feel weird and different and alone. It's also a wry love letter to all the polyamorous folks and communities I've known, with their joys and flaws, and has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it alt.poly shout-out. The tags include "fusions use they/them pronouns" and "I didn't mean to write an entire episode". (In fact, I was actively trying not to write an entire episode. But I couldn't really do the idea justice in a shorter space.) It's the first work where I've ever gotten past writer's block by outlining and I am extremely proud of how well I outlined it and stuck to my outline and pulled it together.
The only snag is that my gift recipient, for whatever private reason, declined the gift. I've been really sad all week that no one was enjoying the story and I couldn't promote it because author names hadn't been revealed yet. My only goal with fanfic is to make people happy and it stung to have that rejected. So now that the anonymity period is over, I would really appreciate any of you Steven Universe
fans taking a little time to read the story
, leave kudos or a comment if you're moved to do so, and share the link with anyone who might like it.
I grew a plant from a seed. It is a tiny adorable little plantling, visibly larger every day. It will, in theory, grow up to be a great big nasturtium bush. I'm just astonished that a little dry seed can turn into a little plant that can turn into a big plant. It's the same astonishment I feel when I watch my child practice standing up and remember that they used to be a little white dot on an ultrasound. Like... how?! But that is how life works, somehow, some amazing way.
Our repotted basil is also growing so well that I may need to set up some sort of trellis for it. I used to feel too protective of it to actually eat any of it, and now I'm eagerly pulling off the big leaves so that the smaller ones have more room to grow.
It has been a rough few weeks of mostly bad sleep and occasional panic attacks and arm pain and not going outside enough—not just because of the unseasonably cold wet weather, though chilly rain does not encourage me to take walks—but there are many good things. I just want fewer unpleasant things, is all.
EDIT: Apparently my gift recipient has sent some people over here (or they came over just because they felt like it) to explain how and why my gift was not the correct gift, and some of them have left useful comments and some have not. I appreciate the useful ones and am now disabling comments on this entry.
These one-sentence stories are almost impossible to do with dialogue, which makes me realize how dialogue-focused my stories are! Fortunately the nature of Regency English allows me to abuse sentence-lengthening punctuation with impunity.
2: Shock.( TW: minor injury and blood )
Sunday: I SLEPT. It was glorious. I spent time with X and Kit while J was gaming, and Pablo came over and we all hung out for a while, and then J and I put Kit in the stroller and walked Pablo home (it's so cool that we can do that). We kind of wanted to cook, but the good market had closed by the time I got there—I wish they didn't close so early on Sundays—so we ended up ordering in Chinese food. Kit had a nightmare or something and woke up crying at 1 a.m. but X got them back to sleep quickly enough. I got totally caught up in researching interactions between Europeans and First Nations in early-19th-century Canada but eventually made myself buckle down and get work done. These 10 a.m. Monday deadlines that my new boss is so keen on are hard to get used to. But I got to bed before 6, so that's something.
Monday: I SLEPT AGAIN. Two days in a row of good sleep meant I woke up super perky. I was awake at 1:30, up by 2, and showered and dressed and fed by 2:45. I did some work and made some calls and was generally useful. Kit went right down for their post-daycare nap with minimal fuss, and I Skyped with Miriam for a bit, with the baby joining us after they woke up. They were teething hard, so I had to cut the call short and go ply them with books and Tylenol and milk and food and cuddles and crayons. Poor thing. We ordered in again because Mondays are no-cooking days. J took out the trash and recycling because my arms were pre-ouched and I didn't want to push them into being fully ouched, and then X and J went to bed and I found myself with no obligations other than needing to do some laundry, which mostly does itself. So I put my arm braces on and sat down with my protagonist journey outlines for Valour Advances
and reconciled them and made a timeline... and realized I forgot to put the romance in my romance novel. *sob* ( Writing blather )
And now the second load of laundry is done and I get to go to bed at only 3:30 a.m.! So early! Maybe I'll sleep well for the third night in a row! I sure hope so, because tomorrow's workload is looking pretty intense and it'd be nice to have both time and brains for it.
- thinking about:
behavior.foolishness, behavior.housework, behavior.parenting, behavior.planning, behavior.planning.agley, body.arms, experiences.socializing, experiences.work, people.kit, words.books.valour advances, words.writing
I decided to do this May writing challenge
(found via miss_s_b
) because surely I can manage a sentence a day. Of course, they're supposed to be "one-sentence stories", which is harder than just a sentence! And I'm doing it for Valour Advances the Man
, so no one but me will have much context for it. But let's give it a go anyway, because I really have to get back to writing after bogging myself down in research (though the research is fascinating
). I'll bold the prompts as I do them, to keep track.
In the quiet hours between when Miss Waters went to bed and Mrs. Waters returned from the tavern, when the only sound in the house was the occasional creak of old timbers settling, Nathaniel sat in his chilly little attic room, by his cloudy little window, staring out at London's fog-haloed street lamps; and he allowed himself to picture a much finer house in which, perhaps, another man sat by a much larger and clearer window, staring out over another London street and thinking of him.
Two novels: *are barely started*
Brain: Hey, it would be cool to write a contemporary romance that inverts the childhood sweethearts trope by making them childhood buddies in an urban neighborhood, one of whom comes back to the 'hood after failing at farming.
Me: What. No. No no no. I am not starting a new project. No.
Brain: You know how there are a million books about men who return to small towns after failing to make it in the big city, and the women who've always loved them save them from their dangerous unmasculine ambitions—
Me: YES AND I HATE THEM
Brain: Okay, so, these two girls grow up next door to each other, one boy's Jamaican immigrant parents run a grocery store and the other boy's Chinese immigrant parents run a Chinese takeout place, and the Jamaican kid tries to become a farmer and totally fumbles it and comes back to the 'hood, which is gentrifying, and they both try to keep their family businesses afloat while falling in love.
Me: Another M/M romance, though? Why do I keep thinking those up?
Brain: Make one of them trans, problem solved. Or both, both would be fine.
Brain: I think the Chinese kid's "aunt" is actually her dad's girlfriend.
Three novels: *are barely started*
Five things make a post.
1) First, the ending. Long Hidden goes out of print on May 9th.
*sob* The last copies are being sold at a steep discount, with proceeds partially benefiting We Need Diverse Books. You can get discounted copies of Hidden Youth
while you're there. Go help Bart and Kay clean out their warehouse while they're still allowed to sell the books! All details at that link.
2) Now, the beginnings. J has a new job! He got laid off at the end of last year and the last few months have been challenging. We are all very super excited that his nonstop hustle has landed him an excellent gig doing work he enjoys at a company he likes for good money.
3) X got a bonus and a raise! They inch ever closer to being paid what they deserve.
4) I joined a Slack for queer writers (if you want to join, let me know! All I need is your email address and i can add you) and it's been amaaaaazing for my productivity. People do 20-minute productivity sprints and then share snippets of their work and praise/critique one another in very supportive ways. Sometimes I use the sprints for day job work and sometimes for writing. I've outlined both my novels and passed the 10k mark on Valour Advances the Man
(though a good chunk of that is in scenes that probably won't make it into the book but shhhhh), which is my current focus project. I haven't forgotten the Persuasion
retelling but it's on the back burner right now. They'll inevitably swap at some point. I'm just so pleased to be writing! And it feels so good!
5) I reworked my Story Hospital Patreon tiers
and got more people into Story Hospital Slack, hooray! Now to figure out how to keep conversations going in there. For some reason they just don't catch fire. I will probably be better at that once I'm over this rotten stinking head cold.
6) Bonus sixth thing: the DST changeover happened and I didn't hate it nearly as much as I usually do, probably because I slept 11 hours that night to try to shake the cold. (Didn't work, alas.) Kit's body clock is on the same schedule, of course, so now they're going to sleep at 9 and waking up at 7 and it's WONDERFUL. They have dinner with us! J gets to sleep in instead of waking up at 5! Not sure what we'll do in the fall when the clocks go back but for now we're just enjoying this.
- thinking about:
body.illness, body.sleep, experiences.dst, experiences.endings, people.groups.qwc, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, projects.story hospital, words.books, words.books.valour advances, words.editing, words.editing.venues.long hidden, words.writing
Today I joined the general strike. Instead of working, I wrote a post on how to make art in scary and difficult times
, and then I met with the teens I mentor and talked about writing and reading and why we read SF/F and how to overcome writer's block and stop procrastinating. It was exactly the way I wanted to spend the day. I boycotted the inauguration so hard that I mostly managed not to even think about it.
When I was getting dressed I wore all black, which I basically never do. I hadn't planned to, but I opened my dresser drawer and went "Oh, yes, I think the black turtleneck is what I want to wear today, and the black trousers too". I dithered over jewelry and ended up with my origami peace dove necklace. I came out of my room to greet peripateticmeg
, who was here to babysit Kit (they've had a nasty head cold since Tuesday, poor thing), and she was also wearing all black. X said several people at their office were too.
It's been a really spectacularly terrible week in a lot of ways. The baby being sick means all of us have had our sleep and work schedules disrupted, the power to our house went out for five hours on Tuesday (some sort of wiring issue, apparently), I had some shitty family stuff to deal with, a company made J a job offer but is now delaying on finalizing it, our bank messed up our rent payment (no doom, fortunately, as we have a great landlord and a spotless payment history), Alex-the-cat has been an aggressive asshat to the other cats, Sam and Sophie have been hairballing everywhere, friends are also dealing with unhappy and stressful things, and of course the inauguration. But we are holding on and even finding ways to feel good:
* We've had lots of good family dinners, even when we were all almost too tired to talk.
* J and I shared some good hugs today and went for a nice walk in the drizzle. We've both been so busy and tired that we barely see each other. It was wonderful to get a companionable hour together.
* X and I have been having lovely nightly half-hour hangouts on the couch before they go to bed. We talk about the day and make plans and send each other into bouts of exhausted hysterical laughter. I just remembered that we used to do this when they first moved to NYC; I guess we naturally gravitate toward that time of night as together-time.
* Kit is coughing less, and when their fever spikes occasionally it never gets higher than 102 (which is also much less worrying now that they're over a year old) and responds very well to Tylenol.
* grammar_girl livetweeted an episode of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood
and it genuinely made me cry.
* I had a quick but delightful dinner with teaberryblue
* Long Hidden
and her husband came to visit me at work and we had a good conversation about crowdfunding for anthologies. (Support her fundraiser for Problem Daughters
, a marginalized feminist SF/F anthology!)
* I made plans to see my mother and brother on Sunday to celebrate my mother's birthday.
* Just now Kit woke up and seamlessly transitioned from lying down to sitting up while I was watching on the monitor. It's been clear for a while that they can do that, but I hadn't seen it. They're super perky right now because their fever is down. They're lying in the crib squeaking contentedly and playing with the teddy bear, who was recently named Face Hugs. (Kit believes teddy bears are for faceplanting onto.)
* I've been catching up on laundry. I always feel better when the hampers are empty.
* I've been really on top of my work schedule since coming back from vacation, even with everything else going on. Hanging out on #yuletide has been wonderful for my productivity because people do "word wars" or "productivity wars" that are basically Pomodoro timer installments except in 20 on/10 off instead of 25 on/5 off. I also reworked my Persuaded
outline from scratch and even wrote a little bit of the opening. The character voices are much clearer this time around, though the story hasn't quite found its own voice yet. It'll get there.
And now the baby is finally asleep, so I'm going to do some knitting for the first time in ages
. I still hold out hope for finishing this sweater before Kit outgrows it, though I think I'd better hurry. They keep getting taller!
- thinking about:
experiences.annoyances, experiences.beauty, experiences.teaching, experiences.work, ideas.politics, people.cats, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, places.home, projects.crafts.knitting, stuff.clothes, stuff.money, words.books.persuaded, words.writing
- feeling:holding on
I've been hanging out in the #yuletide IRC channel even though Yuletide is over, because it's a nice community of writers and that encourages me to keep thinking about writing.
Tonight it encouraged me well enough that I signed up for the Chocolate Box fanfic exchange
(I'm on the hook to write 300 entire words over the course of a month, which is something like 20 minutes of writing for me on a slow day, so I didn't feel I was overcommitting myself) and then did a few rounds of "word wars", 20 minutes of writing as many words as you can. So I have 1100 words of Persuaded
that I didn't have before, and 350 of them are pretty good.
The others, though... talk about your shitty first drafts. Maybe 400 words are okay and then the last 350 are awful
. I could hear the dialogue going clunk clunk clunk
as I typed it, and dialogue is where I'm usually strongest. The characters have no characterization. It's very sad. I said on Twitter that I was going to try to consider the shitty first draft a canon that I then get to write much better fanfic of, but characters are what make a canon worth ficcing, and Austen's characters are why I want to write this book, and if I don't have the characters at least somewhat clear in my head then I need to fix that before I tackle this.
I think I need to go give Persuasion
a good close reread (thanks to Project Gutenberg, I just downloaded it to my phone) and maybe rewatch the 1995 film for good measure, and then replace the clunky bit with something worth reading.
In my defense, I'm fighting off the sort of head cold that has few physical symptoms (I had a sore throat for less than 12 hours) but leaves one utterly exhausted and oatmeal-brained. So it's pretty impressive that I wrote 350 words I'm happy with, and that I wrote 1100 words at all.
I need a better writing userpic. (This is not my writing userpic. I'm just aware that I need a better one.)
Now I'm going to go sleep a whole lot. A whooooooole lot.
Yuletide reveals are revealed! My stories this year were "Two for Tea"
, a Questionable Content fluff-fic about Faye and Bubbles opening a tea shop with Hannelore as their tea sommelier, and "The Odds"
, a mashup of both* Ghostbusters
films and Daniel José Older's Bone Street Rumba books, in which Holtzmann and Reza make out on the firehouse roof and Patty and Winston join the battle against the corrupt Council of the Dead.* 1984 and 2016. There are no others.
Both stories were pinch hits. I've been on the list for ten years but this is the first year I've actually done anything with it, which is ridiculous! "Two for Tea" was done within seven hours of picking up the pinch hit; I got the central idea right away, and the only question I had was whether to do it as a story or as a series of scripts for comics. Then I started writing it as scripts and it worked and I went with it. When it was done it was done, minimal tweaking, totally painless. I am desperate for some Questionable Content fan artist to illustrate it.
While I was in fanfic mode, I started thinking that it would be fun to do a Holtzmann/Reza crossover sometime. Then a Holtzmann prompt came across the pinch hit list and I leaped on it.
"The Odds" took me a week, including pretty extensive workshopping. It was a really good week. When I reached the 1500-word mark the first night and realized how much more story I had left, I was a little daunted, but I kept going and kept going. One night I hit the wall of tired that usually means I need to stop for the night, and I thought "I'm not actually that tired, I bet I can write more" and I wrote another thousand words. I want to bottle that feeling.
Every time I needed inspiration, I found it somewhere. Of course there were some factual things I had to research—Baptist funeral customs, double underarm holsters, what kind of nuclear physics people do at Berkeley and how many women are in their physics PhD program, what the roof of the Ghostbusters firehouse looks like—and I reread Midnight Taxi Tango
and rewatched Ghostbusters 2016
to study character voices and make sure I had my references right. But to my eyes the story is one long litany of other nods: to the original film and the awesome backstory for Winston that was cut from it, to Daniel's phenomenal word-portraits of Brooklyn and of black women building amazing lives for themselves (it's not coincidence that Patty has to leave the Ghostbusters world for the Bone Street Rumba world to find fulfillment), to a friend's experiences as a female physicist and other friends' experiences of being neuroatypical and hard of hearing, to someone I knew once who is way too much like Kevin, to my own queer New York life before and after my years in California, to the early days of my relationship with X, to my collections of books on urban history and astrological phenomena, to what it feels like to be building a happy life on the brink of a troubled era, and to my beloved city. I personally recommend every one of the Chinatown restaurants named in the story, by the way, and Ginger's is a pretty good place to shoot pool and chat up queer ladies. And if you're in Lower Manhattan in the summer, you'd better hope a thunderstorm comes through and makes it smell nice for a bit.
Being on vacation was essential
. If I'd had work on the brain I don't think I could have sat down every evening and written a couple thousand words. Of course, if I hadn't been on vacation I wouldn't have been picking up pinch hits.
I was really nervous about the amount of AAVE in the dialogue and ended up haunting #yuletide and emailing people on the beta list and even spamming friends of mine in search of a native speaker who had the time to read a 6500-word story right before Christmas. (I did eventually find one.) I'm also not the biggest GB2016 fan and know nothing about how Holtzmann fanfic is typically written, so I found more betas who could cover that. Then one of the betas pointed out that a black woman having nothing to do except set up her white friend with a love interest was a racist cliché, and she was totally right, so I wrote the Patty and Winston scene and that made it 8000 words. I did a lot of nitpicky revision, pass after pass after pass, and made my last update about two minutes before the archive opened. And then I spent something like 24 hours feeling high as a kite on accomplishment. IT FELT SO GOOD. The writing, the critting, the revising, all of it just felt amazing.
After the bulk of "The Odds" was done, I beta-read a bunch of stories for other people, which was fun and a good use of all my post-writing energy. A long time ago I gave up on the idea of writing groups, but I had such a great experience both beta-reading and being beta'd that I started thinking maybe I should reconsider that stance.
When I came down off the high I started poking at my original fiction projects and immediately froze up. I don't know what it is about prompted, tight-deadline fanfic that frees me to write so fluidly. I hope I can figure out how to write other stories that way, because it felt so good and I want to feel that again. I'm not one of those people who feels coerced by the muse; if I don't enjoy writing, I don't write. But I enjoyed writing these stories tremendously and want to enjoy writing Valour
that much too. There must be a way to do that, right? Even after work picks up again? I really hope so.
It's Yuletide! Hooray! I actually picked up two pinch hits this year because I was on vacation and the prompts spoke to me and why not? And then they ended up being 10,000 words combined. Which I wrote in eight days. D: I don't even know how I did that but it felt GREAT.
While we wait for the reveal, some fics I've loved so far:
ZOMBIE CANNIBAL SHIA LABEOUF. This is exactly the sort of bonkers amazingness that Yuletide is for. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8975062
I asked for trans!Ozma on the pinch hit requests page and didn't get it (maybe next year), but that reminded me to look through this year's Oz fics. This just barely slashy Ozma/Polychrome ficlet is super cute: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/9001966
Two queer suffragists show Dorothy around San Francisco and listen to her Oz stories. So sweet! And full of good SF history, too. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8886220
A wild Oz/Labyrinth/Princess Bride/Neverending Story/Narnia/Arthurian legend crossover. Wow. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8973598
For Fifth Season
fans, pregnant Syenite and tender Innon and adorable poly negotiations: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8829922
And one of Alabaster learning about, uh, that spoilery silvery thing: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8873668
Someone wrote about Aral Vorkosigan asking Captain Awkward for advice because the world is beautiful: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8924812
This teeny little Craft Sequence fic is sly and subtle. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8876092
80s movies! You wanted sweet sassy sexy Ferris/Sloane/Cameron fic, right? Yes you did. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8879641
Lydia Deetz house-sits for the Addams Family: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8888698
And this 21st-century Heathers
fic redeems Veronica in a rather lovely way. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8879437
I don't know The Handmaiden
, but I beta'd this fic and it's gorgeous. Kinky queer girls finding happiness: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8974219Hamilton
crossover with Patty staring down Jefferson? Hell yes. Expect to see this one on a lot of rec lists. http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8952964Ghostbusters
F/F/F/F is the definition of "I do not ship it" and I still thought this was super cute: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/9005827
There are THREE fics that mix Good Omens
with "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" and they're all pretty fun, though my favorite is (of course) the one with the footnotes, "Crowley and the Golden Fiddle": http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/tags/Good%20Omens%20-%20Neil%20Gaiman%20*a*%20Terry%20Pratchett/works
And there are two Hark! A Vagrant pirate/nemesis fics and both are ADORABLE. "Duel to be Kind" just slew me, if you'll pardon the expression: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/tags/Hark!%20A%20Vagrant/works
This adorable sexy postscript to The Grand Sophy
is pitch-perfect: http://archiveofourown.org/collections/yuletide2016/works/8880568
I've got lots more bookmarked for future reading. If you feel like wandering around, the list of included fandoms
is a good place to start.
The other night I dreamed I wrote a book and forgot entirely that I had done so. Blocked it out of my head. So when mrissa
said "I read an ARC of your book and it's pretty good" I was utterly confused. And then she said "But there were some problems with the way you portrayed the Middle Eastern market" and I was even more confused. I felt bad that I had committed racefail and I couldn't really fix it because I didn't remember writing it.
Then there was a lengthy dream scene about rolling up RPG characters. The DM wanted us all to have 200 [something] but the base character I picked from the book only had 60 [something] so we agreed that on any day when I was in a bad mood I'd get an extra hit die because I hit harder when I'm grumpy.
We started playing the game, and I guess we were LARPing because I started doing a folk dance with five of the other players. We danced in pairs and I mostly remembered the steps from my country dance days but it was hard to keep track of the steps and play my character at the same time. My dance partner was much better at it than I was and kept gently reminding me not to keep my legs so straight because this was a different era than the one I was used to dancing in.
In character I was snooty with racist undertones to the other characters who were dancing and as myself I felt bad about it. "Feel bad about racism but have plausible deniability" was apparently the dream theme. Ew. >.<
The dream ended with a giant Jewish holiday dinner with lots of friends and friends of friends. rose_lemberg
called to tell us all that they were getting married, except their child actually made the call because he wanted to and they thought it would be fun to let him. It was very sweet. And the more observant Jews at the table taught me some interesting things about holidays and fine points of observance and schisms and so on.
And then I woke up, wondering how I managed to write an entire book and forget
I'm on vacation! For two whole weeks! I hardly know what to do with myself. But here is a list of things that I would like to at least think about doing:
* do some writing, or at least continue working in my writing journal
* spend time with friends
* phonebank for Hillary Clinton
because when Michelle Obama says to get to work
, I get to work
* take Kit to visit my mother and J's relatives
* maybe start a Patreon-based advice column for writers, if that seems like a thing anyone would be interested in
Despite the prominence of sleep on this list, it is difficult to keep my sleep schedule intact when I'm not working. I mean, it's hard enough when I am working and even harder when I'm not. But I'm going to do my best. Yesterday I stayed up until 7:30 in the morning, which was a bit excessive, but I think I can drag myself back from that an hour or two at a time.
I wish the weather were at all conducive to going outside and walking around. I just renewed my membership at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens but I can't enjoy it in this oppressive heat, and today's storm was so fierce that even I didn't want to be out in it (though it was lovely to watch from indoors). Maybe next week it will be cool enough for me to take a couple of long walks.
Now that I have Zipcar membership again, it's very tempting to drive somewhere upstate or out on Long Island where there're lots of trees and it's cooler and the air has more oxygen. But if I do something like that I think I'll probably take the train; it's easier on my arms and more eco-friendly even if I do always rent a Prius. I just really like driving. And I'm much more comfortable with it now that I've done the drive back from Readercon. I drove out to New Jersey this past weekend to visit J's grandmother and it was amazingly easy. Anything less than six hours of evening/night driving with the baby in the back of the car feels like a piece of cake.
- thinking about:
behavior.activism, behavior.planning, behavior.relaxing, body.body clock, body.sleep, experiences.driving, experiences.seasons, experiences.seasons.summer, experiences.weather, experiences.weather.heat, experiences.weather.rain, people.family, words.writing
ALEXIS HALL'S FOR REAL
WON A RITA AWARD
AND THEN SARINA BOWEN AND ELLE KENNEDY'S HIM
WON ANOTHER ONE
AND I MAY NEVER TURN MY CAPS LOCK OFF
RWA approved the creation of the Rainbow Chapter in 2009. 2009.
It took them that long
to openly acknowledge that queer romance is romance. And now, in 2016, TWO male/male romances, one of them written by a queer author and published by a queer publisher for a queer audience
and one of them in a contemporary romance category
, are winners of the organization's highest award.
The contemporary romance thing is key because queer romance is often assumed to be erotic, or treated as though it's erotic just because it has queer content. So winning both within and outside of the erotic romance category is a big deal. And the Ritas are voted on by RWA members, most of whom are straight women who have probably never read anything remotely like the glorious queer kinkiness of For Real
Hall's editor, sarahf
, gave a particular shout-out to #ownvoices authors, "queer and trans, black and brown". (Was that the first time anyone's ever said "trans" onstage at RWA? It might well have been.) And Sarah is a cancer survivor and a good friend of mine and so passionate about her work, and has put an incredible amount of effort and energy into making her small queer romance press succeed, and this is their first Rita, so yeah, I was sobbing.
Robyn Carr, who won this year's lifetime achievement award, gave an amazing inspiring speech about keeping your head down and doing the work. And last night I picked up my writing notebook for the first time in nearly two months and read a bit in The Plot Whisperer
, and one particular bit in the section on story structure inspired me to fix the giant gaping hole in my novel outline. (I know what the characters' problems are and I know what the eventual solution is. So what makes that solution so incredibly difficult for the characters to accept and invest themselves in? What psychological cliff do they have to step over? OH HELLO EMOTIONAL CLIMAX scribble scribble scribble
) What with that and Readercon and seeing a book that looks a little like my book win an actual goddamn Rita motherfucking Award, I am pretty fired up.
Copied from a letter I just wrote to a friend:
I have been thinking a lot about writing, and getting into some good conversations about it, and doing some good reading about it. It's making me realize just how little I know about the craft and process of creating a book. I know it abstractly, in broad strokes, but not the nitty-gritty. And some of what I think I know is wrong, which is actually great, because the stuff I'm unlearning is stuff that was holding me back. I'm doing a lot of poking at outlining right now, for example, and unlearning all my notions about how one goes about making an outline--it's not the same thing as a synopsis at all! It's a crafted piece of writing, the way the book itself is a crafted piece of writing, but using a totally different skill set. And there are lots of different possible ways to craft an outline. You can write it start to finish, or you can develop a set of hypotheses and test them (a notion that made me really get the idea of doing preliminary character sketches first, because in order to do plot-chemistry with your characters you have to understand their characteristics and how they interact and what makes them explode), or you can develop your outline as you're writing the book and let them argue with each other, or any number of things. I could even make a flowchart outline with images for the scenes instead of words! I didn't know any of this, really, and the idea of outlining is now much more interesting and appealing than it used to be. It feels like a useful tool instead of building a cage that my story is trapped inside of.
So in retrospect it feels sort of silly to say "I started actively trying to learn things and lo! I have learned things" but the best thing I've done for myself as a writer is to approach it as a student instead of a hobbyist--to think about it every day, and seek out new knowledge and relate it to what I already know, and scrawl angry notes arguing with books on writing (the one I'm reading now asserts that no one will care about your characters until they do something interesting, and that is SO BACKWARDS and made me SO MAD that I nearly crossed it out in the book itself, but I settled for complaining in all caps in my little writing notebook). And it doesn't feel like a delaying tactic, partly because I'm constantly trying to apply what I'm learning to the projects I'm working on, and partly because this skill-building and analytical thinking is so clearly necessary as a precursor to writing. Like learning good form before lifting heavy weights.
Speaking of which, writing in that little notebook is hard on my arm, and I did a fair amount of it tonight after going to a really splendid panel on transgressive fiction (Ellen Kushner, C.S. Pacat, Sarah Rees Brennan, Damon Suede, Marie Rutkowski, and Eloisa James--stunning lineup, wonderful conversation). C.S. Pacat said some useful things about developing and maintaining tension as a matter of writing craft and I wanted to make sure to write them down before I forgot them, and then I just kept going because it was a long subway ride back to Brooklyn. But then I got home and did a lot of editing and now I really need to stop typing and go to bed.
It's coming up on a year and a half since Valour Advances the Man
started kicking around in my head. I still want to write it. I haven't put any new words on the page since last fall. And yes, we had a baby, all of that, but there's other stuff in the way too.
I've been poking at this in various places, and today I did the thing where I ask Twitter to solve my problems
mostly so that I can see what I dislike about people's suggested solutions, which in turn helps me define the actual
problem.( Definitions )
=====( Analysis )
Realistically, it seems very unlikely that anyone is going to hire me to write a novel that I haven't already written. First novels are nearly always written on spec, and I say "nearly always" rather than "always" only because I'm sure there must be exceptions somewhere, not because I personally know of any. (Also, honestly, if I were an editor, I wouldn't hire someone with my résumé to write a novel sight unseen.) But I feel much better having come up with what feels like a plausible scenario for success. I'm going to set it aside for a bit and go get some work done, and let the back of my brain work on figuring out how to mimic or approximate those conditions.
Wednesdays are often slow work days, and today was especially so. That suited me fine. I don't fast or take time off work for Yom Kippur, but I try to observe it as a quiet, low-key day.
So after I finished my work, I put on sunscreen and took my laptop out to Prospect Park. I had a picnic lunch, honoring my grandmother's scandalous custom. Then I opened up Scrivener and reread everything I'd written so far, and decided to tackle the scene where Nathaniel comes out to Algernon as trans.
Whoof, that was a hard one. Usually I can write 1500 words or so in a couple of hours. Today I wrote just over 800 words in two hours before J met me for dinner, and then another couple hundred just now to wrap it up. I know I can fix a lot in revisions, but this scene is so important to get right, because of how it influences their relationship development and their own individual stories. J and I talked it out a bit and he reminded me of the importance of maintaining dramatic tension, which is good, because of course I personally don't want to leave Nathaniel hanging for a minute
, but it is kind of important for the book's arc--and for character accuracy and historical authenticity--if Algernon isn't perfectly understanding and cool with it from moment one. So I wrote the ending I wanted the scene to have, and then I cut that ending and put it in a separate file to attach to a later scene where Algernon (spoilers) decides he really doesn't mind if his boyfriend is a somewhat unusual boy. Poor Nathaniel, and the poor reader, will just have to endure the wait for that scene. (Fortunately there are plenty of other things that can happen in the meantime.)( A snippet )
I did my week of not reading Twitter, with the exception of my mentions and the very small group of people I follow from my private account. It was awesome.
In fact, it was so awesome that I locked my main Twitter account.
Everyone who was following me still has access to my tweets. If I post something, people see it and respond. But I don't get followed by spammers, and I don't get trolled, and I don't hover over my RT and fave counts, and people can't embed my tweets in their blog posts and articles. It's everything I like about Twitter without everything I don't like. It's perfect
With 5300+ followers, I still think of it as public; of course anything I tweet can be screenshotted and passed around, and I have no idea who many of those followers even are. But I can still relax and unwind a little. I also took my professional affiliation out of my bio. That account is just for me now. In theory it always was, but in practice it was very hard to separate personal and professional. Locking it makes that separation clear.
I'm still not reading most of Twitter. (I glimpse it occasionally via my phone's Twitter app, because Tweetdeck on Chrome for Android is deadly slow and checking my mentions on the app is much faster.) I know there are things I'm missing. For example, I didn't hear about Ferguson Is the Future
until after the fact, and it sounds incredible. But even if I had heard about it well in advance, I wouldn't have been able to go. So I mostly don't feel bad about missing the news and gossip, because I wouldn't be able to do much with it anyway. And when I'm itching for a conversation, I start one.
I am sad about missing milestones in my friends' lives. But there's no way to filter Twitter for only those things, unfortunately, and I can't really expect people to remember to tell me everything individually in addition to broadcasting it. I guess I'll just have a lot of catching up to do once I'm ready to be social again.
What I'm doing with all this free time and brainspace:
Catching up on work. I'm taking a week off from work in October, which means I need to start working ahead now. And our annual Best Books feature is coming up alarmingly soon.
Reading books! I read a book last week and another one last night and another one tonight. I don't think I read three books in the entire month of August. It feels so wonderful to be gulping down books again.
Thinking a lot about my own book, and tentatively moving toward working on it again. I figured out how it ends! That was a huge relief, and knowing the ending removes a lot of my hesitation and anxiety around the actual writing.
Snuggling with J and X and X's belly (there are very definitely 3.5 of us now). Doing relationship maintenance, and savoring our last months of adults-only time. Getting the house ready for the baby. Being cozily domestic.
Cooking. It's cooking weather and I can't wait to cook up lots of soups and stews to freeze for January, when we'll have a tiny baby and be too exhausted to safely handle knives or fire.
Walking all over the city, loving the cool breezes. (Autumn at last, at last.) Going to PT. Trying to get back in the exercise groove.
Spending time with family and close friends. It's the high holidays and there's a baby shower coming up and J's mother is in town and lots of other people are visiting in the next few weeks. I don't lack for socialness right now, which makes it much easier to step away from social media.
I might even start knitting again. Today at work I spotted a book of one-skein knitting projects for babies. It literally had not occurred to me until that moment that the entire vast realm of cute baby knitting projects is open to me now. So that could be a huge timesink if I let it. I'm very tempted to let it.
There are definitely times when I feel like I ought to feel guilty for the way I'm using Twitter now. It's arguably very selfish of me to tweet things and hope for replies while not even reading most other people. But I don't feel guilty at all about this generally being a very inward-facing time for me. Everyone needs to focus on self and/or home sometimes. I'll come back when the pendulum swings the other way. By then some folks may have unfollowed me or otherwise moved on; that happens. And other folks will say "welcome back!" and pick up where we left off; that happens too. It's all fine.
- thinking about:
body.exercise, experiences.reading, experiences.work, food, food.cooking, mind.wiring, people, people.groups, people.groups.twitter, people.kit, places.home, projects.crafts, projects.crafts.knitting, words.books.valour advances, words.writing
Remember how I started writing a novel and then the whole pregnancy thing happened and I kind of dropped it for a while? I'd like to get back to it, but it's hard to regain my momentum.
A technique I've seen for getting past a writing block is to write fanfic of your own characters--it feels less serious, and you can play around and get to know them a bit without being constrained by your plot outline.
To that end, I would really appreciate it if you could toss a fanfic prompt or two my way. Obviously you haven't read the canon, because it doesn't exist yet. :) And I'm not quite certain enough of my outline to share it. But here's jacket copy of a sort:Nathaniel Axton is in a bit of a bind. The printing shop he works for, Carroll & Co., is losing money hand over fist. Everyone expects him to marry the shop's owner, Eliza Carroll, but he's mostly interested in men, and she's mostly interested in printing salacious Sapphist poems to sell to her bluestocking friends. Cautious Nathaniel isn't sure the potential profits are worth the risk to the shop's reputation--or the chance that someone will discover that he too was once a bluestocking.
Sir Algernon Smythe enjoyed his years in Canada, hiking through the woods by day and fooling around with his fellow explorers by night. Then his father summons him back to London to start building the family fortune. Algernon hopes to marry Sarah Silverthorne, the daughter of a well-known and wealthy adventurer. But she's looking for someone to build a home with, not another man who will abandon her for years at a time. And Algernon soon realizes a wife isn't what he wants at all.
When Algernon strolls into Carroll & Co. and locks eyes with Nathaniel, both men are smitten. When Sarah approaches Eliza about publishing a book of poetry, sparks fly. Can the four lovebirds find a way to make all their dreams come true?
And ( here's the backstory of the protagonists. )
And to refresh your memories, a bit of Nathaniel and Eliza at work
and Algernon's grand entrance
Is that enough to inspire a prompt or two? Perhaps? Help me out here, folks; I'm really struggling to get anything like back in the groove.
EDIT: No AUs, please, but I'm willing to introduce speculative elements.
Shiny new userpic! The typeface is Grit Primer
and the image is from an 1813 painting by James Green that was used to illustrate "The Library" in Rudolph Ackermann's Poetical Sketches of Scarborough
That library is about five times the size of Nathaniel and Eliza's little shop, but it gives you a sense of the space, and the customers. I love this drawing so much.
On Sunday I felt frantic and overwhelmed by overdue work. I spent all of yesterday working my way through the heap and catching up. Which meant that today I could write. And I actually wrote
, putting down the opening scene that's been in my head for months. I cannot begin to articulate what it's like to have the text overlaid on the more nebulous mental concept, or vice versa; there are places where it doesn't quite feel right yet, and somewhere in the back of my head (and trying to come to the front, though I won't let it) I'm already writing editorial notes to myself. But: draft first, revise later. I even caught myself starting to revise when I was about 500 words in, and I made myself stop revising and keep writing. And now the scene's done, at about 1270 actual honest-to-gosh words.
Writing at this length is so freeing! There's room for banter, for character development, for delicate lashings of exposition! I can sneak in the occasional reference to obscure historical figures! (I have helpfully footnoted them in the excerpt below.) I plan to write long, long, long, gloriously long, and cut it down later. 1270 words for just one scene--not even a full chapter! Such a luxurious change from reviewing a book in 200. :D
It's a rough draft it's a rough draft it's a rough draft. I will tattoo these words on my eyelids. But since you've all cheered me on so much, you deserve a peek at the fruits of my research, and so I will stop tweaking the damn thing and just post it. You all understand it can and will change between now and whenever I consider the book actually done, right? Right.( A taste )
Positive and supportive comments only, please; I am v. vulnerable around this and not equipped to handle even the smallest and most helpful suggestion. If you think it sucks or you want to go on a rant about people speaking with contractions in 1810 (p.s. they totally did) or you want to make sure I know about the very obscure law forbidding people named Hawthorne from becoming butchers or whatever, I'm sure you can find another place to express those feelings, secure in the knowledge that I will re-research every word of this book once I write those words