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At (very) long last, I have wrapped edits on Tocara. It’s been an extremely long slog through this rewriting pass, working in suggestions made by several very helpful critters and working around two household relocations, selling one house, and buying another. If I haven’t screwed it up, I think it is a pretty good story.

We will see if La Agent thinks so, too. >:-) (She probably thinks I’ve fallen off the face of the planet. Sorry for the awful delay, Shana.)

One of the hardest things for me has always been striking a balance between boring the reader with too much detail and frustrating the reader with too little. I am trying very hard to move my pointer on that spectrum a bit closer to the “more detail” end of things. An early editing draft bore the moniker “Obvious!” as a reminder that what is transparent to me is opaque to others. Here’s hoping I’ve managed at least an incremental improvement.

***

What’s the story about, you say? It’s a secret history about the magic, and power, of belief. It’s set in Spanish Colonial Florida and Havana, and involves a stolen bell, and hostile Indians, and empire-building Spanish dons.

I should probably work up a good logline now that it looks like I might get to use it.

Best yet, from this point forward I get to spend time with the next novel without feeling guilty!

***

At the farm, there are no eggs yet. No worries; four months of age (18 weeks) is the low end of when hens usually begin to lay. I have seen indications that the hens have been investigating the nesting boxes. They’re all roosting at night now, which is good, as the overnight temperatures have begun to drop. Some day soon, there will be eggs.

There are some consolations. The pole beans have begun to fruit – after being blown over, restaked, staked again, staked again.... The weather after the hurricane blew through (hi, Irene; bye, Irene) was gorgeous and cool, so I went out that Sunday afternoon and turned and smoothed out enough of one of the empty garden rows to get some of the fall seeds in. I’m trying a couple of different kinds of radishes and some Harrier beets. I got some collards and Laciniato kale in, too.

The meadow portion of the long field in the back is gorgeous with black-eyed susans and ox-eye daisy and redtop meadow grass. The sumacs and the black gums have begun to show a hint of the scarlet color they’ll develop as September heads toward October and the cool evenings turn cold. Somewhere in there, we’ll run the bushhog over the meadow one final time for the year and neaten everything up for the winter.

We’ll be harvesting sweet potatoes inside of a month. Can’t wait to see what we end up with – we know the soil in this former forested field was not the richest it might have been, so I will be satisfied if we get a decent three or four potatoes from each of the vines, but I am hoping for enough to share (and sell – the microfarming venture has nearly recouped enough in sales to have paid for the plants we bought at the outset).

Plans are being made to bring in a big truckload of sifted topsoil, the good stuff, and a couple more pickup truck loads of horse manure to be sheet composted over the winter and turned under again in the spring, together with the straw that will be protecting it all from the weather.

I’m already salivating over plans for next year. >:-)

***

The earthquakes have not stopped. I thought for a couple of days they’d slacked off – and then we got hit with another whopper, 3.4, enough that the beagle hightailed it down from my son’s bed and into ours and Kay, my dog, all but crawled into the shower with me. I am so very fed up with random shaking. My nerves jangle for an entire day after one of those.

Enough!
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We caught the edge of a thunderstorm last night and, as a result, this morning is about ten degrees cooler than it's been most of the rest of the week (that is, 72 instead of 80). It'll get awful again in a bit, as soon as the sun comes up above the trees, so I'm taking the opportunity to bake up a squash casserole.

One of my books calls zucchini "tiresomely productive" - I have never heard a more accurate description. >:-) Just as it starts to get really hot in the afternoons, the zucchini begins to pop fruit left and right. If you don't keep up with it, you'll very quickly end up with a dead plant surrounded by a bunch of baseball bats. Of course, the plants are usually short-lived anyway, thanks to the bugs, but while they're healthy you have to pick them every day. Which means you pretty much end up with a fridge full of zucchini!

This casserole is a great way to use up some of that excess. It's my mom's recipe, and the one my son insists I use. Feel free to substitute any portion of the zucchini with yellow crookneck (or straight neck) or any other summer squash overflowing your kitchen.

Squash casserole

4 Cups summer squash, chopped, steamed and drained
3 eggs, beaten
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 Cup butter, divided
2 1/2 Cups saltine cracker crumbs, divided
1 1/2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat your oven to 375F. Grease a three quart casserole dish.

While the squash is steaming, crush the crackers into crumbs (I use a zip bag and my rolling pin) and chop the onion. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup cracker crumbs, the onion, 2 1/2 Tablespoons of butter cut into smaller pieces, and salt and pepper to taste. Beat the eggs in a small bowl. Drain the squash and put them in the bowl with the onion mixture. Stir it around to cool it off a little bit, then add the eggs and mix thoroughly.

Melt the remaining butter in the microwave (should take about 15 seconds; make sure you keep a paper towel across the mouth of your container in case it spatters). Pour the butter into the remaining cracker crumbs in their separate bowl and mix to distribute.

Spoon about a third of the squash mix into the greased casserole dish. Sprinkle the surface of the layer of squash with a thin layer of cheese. Repeat with a second and third set of layers until all squash and cheese is used up. Top with the reserved crumb-butter mixture.

Bake until firm and browned, about 30 minutes.

***

The worst part about heat like this is that it makes it hard to want to be in the garden, or to go outside at all, and so you miss amazing sights like the sulphureous explosion of cosmos, or the way the borage flowers look like stained glass against the sky, or the dragonflies dangling from the Queen Anne's lace.

Go out. Seize the next cool morning and walk. You won't be sorry - probably in need of a shower, but not sorry.

***

On the writing front, I'm in the third act in the Bells novel - oh, let's start calling it by its current name. Maybe then it'll stick. Allow me to present to you Tocara, Cantara, Lloré.

...in the third act of Tocara, having finally made it out of the rewrite of the dreaded middle. Changes in the second act are having their expected ripple effect here. I poked and poked at the opening passage, dissatisfied with the emotional resonances, and after a lot of work I got what I think is a pretty damned satisfying scene.

(I'd share, but it's full of spoilers. Sorry.)

I like this book again. Here's to hoping I can sustain that.

-30-

Jan. 10th, 2011 08:58 am
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Finally, finally the second draft of the novel currently going by the title of Bells is wrapped, and I can stop driving myself in little fits and spurts toward this point. I’m still not satisfied with parts of it, but I can work on those parts while I let my brain take that well-deserved break it’s been begging for. I still need to write a logline to send to the agent along with the novel.

Now’s the time, if you’re at all curious about life in Spanish Colonial Florida and the magic of bells, to speak up. I could use some fresh eyes on this story.

***

Went to the consignment store on Saturday in the midst of an epic round of errands in town, and came away with four sweaters, a nice red boiled wool cardigan/jacket, and a couple of trousers. This is one of the best haul days I’ve had at this store, and I got the top discount on three of the sweaters so the grand total wasn’t all that bad. It’s even better when you consider that these are the sorts of things I went there specifically looking for. You know how when you take your car to the mechanic and it refuses to make the noise that’s driving you crazy? That’s how my planned trips to the consignment store usually go.

***

The Little Woodstove That Could got the house up to 77F in the hallway yesterday evening. I ended up in short sleeves. *g* It was still 67F this morning when I got up (and outside it was 19F!).

There’s a winter storm warning for Monday night and into Tuesday. Nice to know we’ll be tucked up warmly while it’s going on.
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I’m not a big fan of ritual. As anyone who knows me can attest, I am one of the most easily distracted creatures on the planet. I never manage to do a thing the same way twice.

Go to make a cup of tea – oh, there’s a piece of plastic from my son’s lunch-making on the counter; detour to throw it away – trash needs to be emptied, I see; make a mental note to haul it outside while the tea’s steeping – open cabinet where the tea’s kept; remind self I promised to finish some of these boxes before buying more, so instead of reaching for the rooibos I pick up the green tea with mint and extract the last teabag; lay teabag down on the counter while I disassemble the box and throw out the plastic it’s wrapped in (“got to remember to take out the trash, self”); reorganize pile of paper scraps to be carried out to the recycling tub; suggest to myself that I take these out when I take out the trash. Lather, rinse, repeat, until I finally manage to carry the cup of tea back to my office and set it down.

Don’t ask me if the trash got taken out. *g*

However, I was reminded a couple of evenings ago of the value of ritual to the production of words. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to connect with my writing friends who inhabit a particular chatroom on AIM. As far as I know, they’ve been there every evening while I was spending my year in various states of packing and unpacking, but I hadn’t had the mental energy to check in with them. (I’ve been following your blogs, friends, but that I can do on my lunch hour while a dozen competing mental reminders dance in the forefront of my brain. No such luck re writing.) This time, I thought I had the focal ability, and so I checked in.

And I felt like writing. More, I felt like I needed to be writing, because that is what I was used to doing when I went to that room. It was fairly startling.

I’m not sure whether my appearance there engendered momentum (in me; I don’t kid myself that I have any effect on the other denizens of the room), or if it’s more a matter of suppressed natural instinct finally being uncorked, but I’m still feeling the need to open the file on Bells and press forward with the rewrite. My poor agent is probably cheering as she reads this. *g*

At any rate, I hope to build on that momentum and maybe, finally, hopefully wrap up this novel sufficiently that I can send it off like I promised oh, eight months ago. (eep.)

***

As you might have guessed, we’re in the new house. I still am parking outside in the driveway because there are more boxes on my side of the garage which haven’t yet made it inside, but most of my books are up, I have artwork on the walls, and I’m dressing out of the bedroom closet instead of the office closet now that my clothes are properly organized. (The younger cat is thrilled I’ve provided her such a comfy nest on the bottom shelf of my sweater cubes. I’m contemplating caticide while shaking cat hair out of my sweatshirts.)

No hogs in sight, but there’s this weird pinging sound after dark from the cleared acreage out behind our little patch. I’m going to wait until after hunting season to hike down to the back of the former pasture in the dark and investigate, assuming the sound hasn't gone away by then.

New house. And it only took eight months, two moves, seven rolls of packaging tape, three mortgage applications, and two near-nervous breakdowns to get here.

Yay!

eek!

Sep. 14th, 2010 01:02 pm
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I keep plants in the deep window wells in my office downtown. I have terrific windows; they both face south, offering views of the James River and the downtown banking district. (The view used to be better before Mead Westvaco built its new offices down by Tredegar Ironworks. Ah, progress.) I am fond of scented plants – more foliage than flowers, because let’s face it, flowers just don’t last – and a lot of what I have are oddities of one sort or another.

One of those oddities is preparing to bloom.

That really is eek-worthy, as you’ll see if you explore any of the websites devoted to the genus Stapelia, like this one: http://www.plantoftheweek.org/week048.shtml. Stapelia is better known as Carrion Flower.

And it’s in my office window.

eek!

No, I am not going to let the flower buds mature. >:-) Though I may seize the opportunity to pass the plant and its pot-mates along to someone better able to “appreciate” them...preferably off this floor!

***

My son changed jobs today. It was a change he’d been courting, and working toward, for a year or more, and he’s pleased at an increase in pay and benefits. Here’s hoping the new company will prove as good a place to work as his peers have indicated it is.

(See, now I have something new to tell those who ask how he’s doing. My usual response had been, “He’s still employed.”)

***

All my books at home are packed. My office there will soon be reduced to a skeleton. Kay has already started looking worriedly at the mounds of boxes appearing in the hallways and stacked against the walls. (She’s a perceptive dog, yes.) Once I finish with the closet full of craft supplies and the file cabinet drawers, I’ll start work on the china cabinet downstairs. At least, having done all of this in such recent memory, I have a good idea what we can live without for the next month and what we’ll end up needing.

And, wouldn’t you know it, I find myself suddenly with useful thoughts on the tangle in the middle of the novel known as Bells (which needs a new title). I’ve been reading over some of Alexandra Sokoloff’s tips for writers (her website is http://thedarksalon.blogspot.com/, and she’s got a book out on the subject which I just downloaded via Kindle for Mac) and, feeling energized, started picking at Bells again. It’s been hard to find enough time to really sink into the book, but the other day on the bus I had a revelation that I think might be the key to unlocking the plot.

One of the tools Ms. Sokoloff recommends is the notecard. Not coincidentally, one of the improvements I am planning for my new home office and workroom is a nice, big, blank wall for notecarding and storyboarding and tacking up drawings for review. Maybe with more space, I’ll figure out how to use notecards in multiple layers! It would be nice to master this technique everyone seems so enamored of.

And nicer yet to actually have the space and time in which to work on it....
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Here we are several days before solstice, and the garden and orchard are in full swing. The spinach and radishes are done. The beets are producing lovely jewels for my lunches. Early peaches have already finished, though the late ones aren’t ready for picking just yet. The Damson plum tree is bare of fruit, while the red plum (Santa Rosa, perhaps?) still has further to go. Zucchinis are growing under the shade of those huge, prickly leaves, and the cucumbers are just getting started. The persimmons are marble-sized green buds tucked up inside their calyxes.

I’m not doing any canning just yet; those things I will can, will be put up this autumn after spending the summer in the freezer. I’ve got a big bag of plums already in there. The early peaches got eaten – how can you resist peaches that actually smell like peaches? – but the late peaches will get put up once they’re ripe enough.

Feast your eyes! (There are more photos on my Flickr page, here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8556491@N07/)

Early peaches:
peaches

The beets rub elbows with the cucumbers and a lingering patch of cilantro:
Beets

You can see why I was talking earlier about withy hurdles! I already have my eye on willow branches, the traditional material, to use as withies for some of the hurdles.

***

Am I writing? Yeah, in moments grabbed here and there. I have a better synopsis of the Bells novel and am currently revising the novel based on that. This is the pass where the symbolism gets noticed and tightened and the stuff I usually fail to get on the page, the characters’ motivations mostly, has to be teased out and made explicit. I wish I could learn not to under-explain. I haven’t gotten to that plateau yet, though.

***

Word from the World Cup is that the US is ahead of England on goals scored in their bracket and hopefully will advance. This is a great time to have acquired a DVR, eh? *g*
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People digging out their driveways for the second damned time in eight days, of course.

Okay, New Englanders, who wished for less snow this winter? I want you to take it back right now. Snowpocalypse is fun once a year. We've gotten more snow this year than New York, for dog's sake, and enough is enough.

***

Would you believe I've lately been trying to research the species of birds that might have migrated across Spain in the early 1700s in such numbers that a colonial-born Spaniard would know about the migration and be able to reference it? (I don't have an answer yet, so if you do, please feel free to chime in.) This is further research for the Bells book, of course.

The other thing I've been doing, writing-wise, is ponder the impact I want this book to have, emotionally, on the reader, and figuring out what to do to make that happen. It occurred to me last night that this is the first book I've written where I really know, in actual words and phrases, what the book is about. That's kind of startling - not that it's the first, but that I actually know what it's about. I'm not a writer who writes from outlines; what hits the page is what occurred to me when I got to that point on the page, not before.

Now, whether I manage to pull off the stunt of getting the book to resemble what I want it to say is anyone's guess. Let's just say I intend to work really hard to push it in that direction.

***

And what is it with this habit of writing winter scenes in summer and vice versa? Anyone else find themselves falling into this?

***

Thanks to snowpocalypses #1 and #2, my freezer's full of baked goods. There's at least four different loaves of bread out there: lemon poppyseed (what else are you going to do when your lovely little lemon tree gives you five lemons in a single year?) and cranberry orange batter breads and the second of the two white sandwich loaves I baked up yesterday. I had plans to work up another batch of yeast dough to make cinnamon rolls if work had turned out to be off today. Alas, my mixer is saved for the moment.

There'll be no starving during a snowpocalypse on my watch. *g*

***

In case you have not yet discovered it, there's a magical, novel experiment in progress over at http://www.shadowunit.org/. On Saturday, they posted the first episode for 2010 - an entire freaking novel, folks - and it's awesome. Slip over there, read some of the back episodes from the previous two years, and sink into the alternate reality that is Shadow Unit.
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I need some help working out the title by which a ca. 1720 master craftsman (a bell-maker) would have been known, both to his clients and to his apprentices. I have been suggested, by various online sources, the term "maestro," but that carries baggage I'd rather avoid. I've also noted "alarife," which appears to connote "architect" or "master builder." This is closer, but I'm hoping there's something in between those two terms. If you can lend a hand with the etymology, I'll be very grateful (to the tune of a bar of Green & Black chocolate, variety your choice)!

For that matter, if you happen to be comfortable discussing the social classes in the Spain of the time, I'd love to talk with you.

***

Above, of course, means that I'm working on the rewrite and fleshing out of Bells, which book needs a better title. (Now, that would be a good use of my down time. Must remember to work on this.) The first chapter took a bit of effort to get them to match where the novel ended up.

The library ILL desk will see my face this weekend. I have a list of books I need to request. Surprisingly, there were three on my list that are already available locally.
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And it's back to work tomorrow, for the first full week in something like a month. I'm pretty sure that I'll be wanting another day off before we hit Friday. *g*

I did manage to get into the rewrite of Bells at long last this weekend. And I got some baking done - the house smells of lemon poppyseed bread, regular white yeast bread, roast chicken. Two loaves to the freezer, one to toast for the rest of this week, the fourth to work to share there (or I shall look like a blimp).

Kay will no doubt give me sad eyes all morning as I go through the familiar routine of getting ready for work. Little does she know I'd really rather be home with her. I expect a rough, deadline-packed day.

***

Looks like I have another spate of research ahead of me. I left a lot of blanks in Bells on that first hurried draft via [livejournal.com profile] novel_in_90 that now have to be filled in. I want the details for this one to be right so, as I did with the pirate novel, Satisfaction, I'll be headed for the reference librarian to engage the InterLibrary Loan program. A lot of the books I have on my current want list are university publications. I suspect the only way to get them will be via ILL.
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Posit: faith is submission.

Discuss.

(Yes, this is pertinent, and I do want others' opinions on the subject, preferably those of people who consider themselves to have religious faith.)
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This illustrated map of the Middle East (roughly) and the groups who historically have controlled portions thereof is too cool not to propagate further:

http://www.mapsofwar.com/images/EMPIRE17.swf

(As is pointed out in comments below, it's an overly simplistic version of who owned what. Nevertheless, being a visual creature, I find the summarization intriguing, and trust you will do so, as well.)

***

As might be guessed, I'm home from my long travels away for the holidays and done with the enormous work backlog caused by courts who want to clear their dockets for the holidays by ordering responses in their active caseloads. December is one of those months I'm always happy to see the back of. So much expectation, so many deadlines and obligations to juggle! Add in a seriously ill family member, a historical snowfall on the eve of the holiday journey to the parents', and a massive sinus headache that just would not die, and you have an idea what this month has been like around here.

Needless to say, I've not been particularly productive on the writing front. Good thing I declared December mental vacation time. *g*

There have been books read. There have been books begun and ditched for lack of character identification (just could not seem to care enough to bother finishing, though I tried twice with one of them). There have even been books added to the "must obtain a copy for myself" list. I tried valiantly to introduce myself to new works, rather than wallow in the comfortable re-reads that cushion me when my brain is just too crispy or traumatized to function on anything but the most basic levels, and I think with that goal I've succeeded.

Beginning in January, I expect to be back to the writing, this time working on the second draft for Bells - this should be the theme-and-foreshadowing pass. One of the effects of writing for word count (this novel was written using [livejournal.com profile] novel_in_90's 750-words-a-day goal) is that I did not have time to rein in my subconscious, and so I'm having to seriously think about some of the issues that rose to the surface, issues I was aware lurked down there but hadn't really explored otherwise. I want to do justice to this book. I also want to get the draft done and sent off to the Lovely Agent. I worry that the two goals are not compatible.

Ah, well. One does what one can with the time one has to work in.

***

I mentioned above an effect of participating in [livejournal.com profile] novel_in_90. Another effect, very noticeable to me, is an astonishing unguided focus on plot. Bells and its sibling, the unfinished pirate novel Satisfaction, both unabashedly laid down plot point after plot point without any forethought on my part. I cheered! Not for nothing is this blog called Climbing Plot Mountain; I swear, the longer I work at this writing thing, the taller that damned mountain seems to grow. (There's a Zelazny short story about the tallest mountain in the known universe and the urge to climb it, and what one might find at the top, that lingers in my memory. Let's just say that I don't expect to find Paradise when I reach the summit.)

Of course, while the plot point blind navigation thing worked for Bells (at least I think it did), Satisfaction lingers unfinished precisely because it ran itself aground on uncharted plot and I haven't figured out yet how to drag it off. Josh pokes at me from time to time. I haven't forgotten him or his friends, and I will resolve the problem...someday. Just not today.

I understand that [livejournal.com profile] novel_in_90 is beginning a new round come January 1. Allow me to highly recommend the exercise, whether or not you think you can write to that sort of word count demand. I didn't think I could, either. It's amazing what I learn when I stop fighting myself. *g*

Querying

May. 3rd, 2007 04:23 pm
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It's a rainy Thursday, and the Queen is in Richmond, and because they've closed our entire office block for security reasons (and the street between my building and Capitol Square, and my parking garage) I had time to finish up the edits I wanted to make to Cavalier, and then put together those queries I'd intended to send last week. I've posted five new queries and sent the requested partial manuscript off.

I'd forgotten how useful a significantly long stretch of hours could be when one is in a mood to write. *g* The edits were polishing, really, but I'd been dithering over them for a while. Once I sat down to work this morning, with [livejournal.com profile] corrinalaw's comments, they went quickly.

I'm not sure what comes next. It's still spring, and the design jobs are keeping me hopping in what there is of my spare time. Probably I ought to concentrate on those, since their timeline is finite, and let the two stories I have percolating brew a bit longer. The pirate story is not ready; I went awry somewhere, after a promising start, and haven't yet figured out where. Probably I ought to simply do the [livejournal.com profile] novel_in_90 thing again and just get it written, and worry about the editing later. The Bells story that I wrote this winter with [livejournal.com profile] novel_in_90's help has plenty of plot - shock! amaze! - but needs more characterization.

(In fact, I believe the problem with shooting for consistent word count is that I'm going to consistently miss out on the characterization I love so much but that takes a while to develop; I don't know if this dooms this means of generating words, or not. I guess we'll see how hard it turns out to be to flesh Bells out.)

Partial

Apr. 27th, 2007 09:07 am
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...and what, to my wondering eyes did appear, but an email message from an agent I recently queried, asking for the first 50 pages of Cavalier Attitude.

In a spring that has been non-stop effort on several fronts at the same time, this is a bright spot. I'm trying not to get too excited. *g* Because, of course, she could get those 50 pages and decide the story wasn't moving in a direction that pleases her, and reject it. Rejections will always outnumber acceptances in this business, and it's well to remember that, as well as that it *is* a business. This is not my heart being judged; it's my novel, but it stands on its own. It has to.

So, in addition to all of the other deadlines I'm juggling, I'm focusing tightly on those first 50 pages, making sure they say exactly what I need them to say. Oh, nuance, how I love thee. And how complicated a beast you are to manage!

In other news, and along the lines of that research thing I was doing earlier, I bought some music today that will inevitably influence the writing. Maybe, just maybe, the pirates will come out to play again after listening to Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys. The self-titled Rodrigo y Gabriela cd, an instrumental fusion of heavy metal and acoustic guitars which I heard pieces of on NPR's Saturday Weekend Edition, ought to be useful when it comes to revising the [livejournal.com profile] novel_in_90-generated draft of Bells of Leon y Cantara. And I am not sure what Lisa Gerrard's latest, Immortal Memory, will influence, but I'm sure it will. I listen to selections of her earlier efforts with Dead Can Dance and in movie soundtracks (most notably the soundtrack for The Insider) all the time when I want that deep, bittersweet, achingly depressed mood that makes the words flow for so many of my characters.

Onward! (For, of course, there is no going back, and no sense looking over your shoulder. You don't want to see what's catching up.)

Fin!

Mar. 12th, 2007 01:44 pm
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DRAFT!

Fire and mayhem ocurred as planned, the wrinkle I had not at first foreseen has been put into play, and we have closure. Satisfaction, too, I trust, though the measure of that will have to wait until I can clean it up and get me some readers.

But it is DONE!

Memeage

Mar. 10th, 2007 04:49 pm
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Oh, why not?

Turn to page 123 in your work-in-progress. (If you haven't gotten to page 123 yet, then turn to page 23. If you haven't gotten there yet, then get busy and write page 23.) Count down four sentences and then instead of just the fifth sentence, give us the whole paragraph.

*******

Gí winced as he flexed his own leg. The injured hip had stiffened overnight. Hissing with the pain, he bent his knee and examined a large gash in the sole of his foot. The wash of river water had cleaned it and the smaller scratches around it, and it was not bleeding.

*******

Drat. Not one of the cool parts with maimings and blood. But at least there's misery and foreshadowing. *g*

I know there was research today, but I'll be damned if I can remember what. I'll amend this if I figure it out later.

The story has reached page 307 in SMF, and I am at the point where I have listed the events that still need to happen so I can make sure I get them done before hitting the end, which is ALMOST HERE. *g* And what am I doing? Avoiding like the plague.

(Well, I spent the morning on design work, and then took the dog to the park ("Kay, let's go to the 'ark," because we don't say the P word lest she bounce us down the stairs), and ate lunch, and researched plants for wet places, and read email, and browsed my friends list, and...you get the picture.)

Okay. I've killed all my excuses. Time to get to it.
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298 pages in SMF, for a total of 74,500 words. Life, as they say, is good. I have several more plot points to get through and that will be that. Yay! (Right on time, too; my usual spring landscape design business just kicked into gear.)

Thank you, [livejournal.com profile] novel_in_90. Oh, and [livejournal.com profile] matociquala; without you, the community wouldn't exist, and I wouldn't have gotten this book started, much less this close to the end. Who'd have thought I could be so disciplined in my writing?

***********

Today's research involved visits to several sites to learn about lost-wax metallurgy. One of the bells has lost its tongue and my protag needs to make another.


***********

Dimo is haunting me these past several days. Not surprising; I left him at a pivotal point in his life. I made the mistake of playing Tommy Emmanuel's album Only this weekend. One of the songs on that album is Dimo's theme song. (I think it's called Stay with Me, though the album sleeve is upstairs and I'm not sure that's the right title; second song on the album if you're one of the few who imported this album - and if you haven't got it, and like acoustic guitar, buy it!)

The Dimo who crept into my head after it occurred to me what I'd done was not a pretty sight. Not to worry, though. I've let him stay with me until he found himself to a happier place. If anyone ever asks me who my favorite is, I'll say Dimo, Prince of Angst. *g* Canum is my longest-lived visitor, but he's more my alter-ego. Dimo is my demon child, the clown who lets very few get close enough to see the tears behind his mask.

I miss having him in my head every day. But it's nice to know he's happy again.
clarentine: (Default)
I spent great gobs of time the other day just trying to think of search terms that would get me at the concept of two objects vibrating one another apart. You know, like the footsteps of soldiers in formation are supposed to be able to do, sometimes, to some bridges? Then when I asked a friend about the subject and was trying to explain to her what I wanted to research, the damned word popped right out of my mouth.

Resonance.

Then I cheerfully went off and spent more time reading about resonance.

Oh, and I've been hitting quota, too. *g*

280 pages nets me 70K words in SMF (that's Standard Manuscript Format). My goal is 90K. Don't know how the hell I'm going to get there, but I am officially Not Worrying. That's a problem for revision.
clarentine: (Default)
I hate this part of a book, when I run out of focus and the characters stand around and stare at each other, wondering when the author is going to engage again. The author needs to know what you're planning, silly characters, so get busy talking to me again!

**********

Last night's research revolved around determining the odds that somewhere in Havana in 1720ish there would be an iron beam of the proper length needed to hang this one massive bell from. (You'll recall that earlier research determined the weight of this particular bell, and boy, is it a whopper.) If there is not a beam, how the hell are they going to hang it? Surely the churches had been hanging even larger bells and weren't all using the heavy metal frame I saw on the used bells site. But did I find any hint of alternative mechanisms, or much data at all on the use of iron beams in construction? No.

(Did you know that the Indians--the subcontinent ones--used iron beams in construction as far back as the 12th Century?)

To be fair, I had only about 25 minutes before I had to shut things down and be upstairs to catch the newest Criminal Minds episode. I can't think of search phrases to use that I didn't try last night, though, so I'm not convinced that additional time would have turned up more definitive hits.

And, to make matters worse, I suspect there were no such beams in the islands at that time. Iron needs some very specific handling in blast furnaces and the like for it to be malleable and structurally sound, and while the raw materials may have been available I am not sure that the furnaces would have been. This is not blacksmith-level work, though blacksmiths use a very small version of the blast furnace; that's what they're doing with the bellows you see in so many depictions of smiths at work. And, with wood so very much more and more cheaply available in the New World, why take the time and expense to import iron beams?

Ah. Maybe I should be looking up iron production in the islands/New World at the time. If only to confirm my suspicions that they will have to find an alternative method of hanging that damned bell.

**********

Is it misdirection--or I should say is it improper use of reader expectation to talk so much about hanging the enormous bell and then have events overtake the intended action so that it does not occur? *g*

[livejournal.com profile] matociquala talks today about the Criminal Minds episode and how the writers did not choose the epiphany that so many people apparently expected, and how she thinks this is cool. My spouse, who was also watching, did not think it so cool; he thinks they flinched. I recognized that my expectations had not been met, and puzzled over that for a while. I think it's like the difference between a chapter break and the end of a novel.

The End requires a tying up of most of the loose ends, or at least the revelation of the mechanism by which they will eventually be tied up. Failing to resolve a major plot thread is grounds for bouncing the novel off a wall and abandoning interest in that author's future projects.

The chapter (or scene, if you prefer) break, on the other hand, should end with a resolution of something occurring in the chapter, but it should also end with a question so that the reader has to keep going to find out what happens next. It can be abrupt--a cliffhanger--or just a transition to the next challenge in a long line of challenges.

It's this element of the sense of continuity that I think the CM writers were giving us last night. Spencer Reid's battle with substance abuse is not done. The novel is not finished.

That said, though, I do think they underplayed the one thing that was resolved, that Reid has committed to fight that demon. I had not thought, when Reid started talking with Gideon in that last scene of the episode, that any other outcome was possible--and perhaps that's where this expectation thing falls down. If I had truly thought something else might occur, the simple announcement that he had chosen to stay with the team and the job might have held more drama for me.

I am, however, an Angst Queen. Really. *g* And more emphasis on the angsty possibilities of Reid's conundrum, while satisfying to me, might not have been the best thing for the overall story.

I hope that, when it comes time for me to deal with this bell, I meet everyone's expectations. Including my own. *g*

**********

And just think if I'd put that much work into actually getting words for today!
clarentine: (Default)
Tonight, I'm poisoning someone. It won't be fatal this time, though the victim is not a happy camper. As I don't know for certain what's being used, I foresee more macabre research ahead.

Suggestions? It's (currently) being dispensed out of a pepper mill. The year is 1722 or thereabouts, and we're in Havana.

*********

Research this week has included information on the weight of big bells. Anyone who wants to buy a good used church bell, do I have just the website for you: http://www.brosamersbells.com/church.html.

Also researched: tobacco farmer revolts in Cuba - did you know that Canary Islanders were recruited for emigration to Cuba as the Spaniards were settling the island? - and the names of Cuban governors/captains general. I was unable to find any data on the cause of death for one particular governor, so I am making it up out of whole cloth.
clarentine: (Default)
Thirty-eight chapters and 225 pages into this book, and it occurs to me--now!--that a lot of short chapters sure make it easier to rack up the page count.

Sharp as a wedge of cheese today, we are.

My goal, as always, is about 90K, which is 360 pages in SMF. I have more than 100 pages to go, then...but I feel like I'm cheating when chapters end on something other than a full page. (Chapter 37 ends with one line on the page. I'll need to go up, in revision, and rework the paragraphs to pull that up onto the previous page, because I can't stand to see that line all by itself. Ditto paragraphs all lonely at the end of a chapter.)

Ah, well. I'm pleased I'm making pages. I'll have to settle for that.

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