Friday, July 31, 2015

Writing again!

I am writing again! And it is good! I have almost completely finished my outline—I’ve gotten to the point where most of what’s left to outline is stuff that is staying mostly the same from Cassidy1. That in and of itself is sortof a double-edged sword, since outlining that is boring. And boringly outlining things is unappealing. But I shall power through! Because on the other side of the outline lies... The Narrative.

I’ve been making incremental progress over the last couple of days. Real Life has been complicated, with vet visits happening three out of five days this week. I try to open the file and peck out a line or two despite the mental distress that my sweet little furballs inspire. Also, someone in my writers’ group is going through something extremely exciting that I’m really not allowed to talk about. But I am thinking about it quite a bit.

Right now I’m feeling full of warm fuzzy goodness to be part of a writing community. It’s a small one: pretty much just my writers’ group. I know I could join something bigger, join a forum or a fandom or something, but I’ve always preferred smaller, closer circles. I am just eternally grateful that my group is one that is so goddamned supportive and giving. What would I do if Rachel didn’t like me harassing her on a daily basis, moaning about how hard writing is and how I’m a special snowflake because I’m struggling with writer’s block? I would probably give up, to be totally honest. It’s good to know that writer’s block is ubiquitous, and that I’m not a special snowflake, but that so what, that doesn’t make it not terrible and real, so here have some hot chocolate and quit hitting myself. It keeps things in perspective to know that the most passionate prolific writer I know has days that she plays WoW all day and doesn’t write a single word. (Though, sorry, Rachel, the title of most passionate and prolific may be transferring to Becky before too long.)

I have a tendency to think that there’s a method to do things, a “right way,” like the five-paragraph essay. If I don’t do my outline with this particular formatting, I’m doing it wrong! That sort of fixation is the killer of creativity. Talking to people who all do things different ways gives me the courage to do things my own way and not worry if it’s “right,” because it’s my own and all it has to do is work for me.

I feel like I should try to blog about something other than writing. My daily struggles aren’t super interesting. But it’s all I can think about at this point, so it’s all you get. Until next time, faithful readers!

Monday, July 27, 2015

This book stole my brain last night.

Last night, I was having a little trouble falling asleep. I’d just picked up a new book, shortish; a scant 167 pages. I decided that rather than play phone games (against the rules after 11pm), I’d read a few more pages before trying again to fall asleep.

Though I watched 2am go by, I couldn’t bring myself to stop. There were no chapters, and the “hard breaks” were… not that hard. Finally, minutes after 4am, I finished the book.

Maybe ten pages before the end, I was thinking things like, “Okay, we’ve heard all this before; why are we going through this again; ugh, get out of your head already!” The “twist ending” that I had believed was the twist ending was visible almost from page one and it seemed to be getting more and more obvious as the book went on.


I’m not going to spoil the book at all. I’m just going to say. I was surprised. I managed to fall asleep, and when I woke up this morning, the book was still with me. Solidly. I woke up with Branden at 7:30 and wasn’t able to nap at all, despite considerable exhaustion. And though the fog of the narrative has let me go, I just have to say. This book is one of the tightest I have ever read. It is reminiscent of Hemingway’s six-word story in its capability to pack a ton of punch into a pint of words. It. Is. Creepy. And powerful. And… shiver.

This morning I thought maybe I could still make it to the gym, but wisely I gave up on that idea fairly quickly and decided to tackle the internet instead, which I haven’t caught up on since Thursday. (That’s a lot of missed internet, folks.) I felt that it was probably a lost cause to try to write.

First thing’s first: the foster kitten needs to go in tomorrow for her spay surgery. Call and set that up, no big deal. Then, I decided that ordering my medication was probably a good idea. Which required me to call my pharmacy as usual, then not as-usual to call the neurology department at the hospital. That’s three phone calls for the anxiety of at least six! Have I mentioned that I hate making phone calls?

Then, at lunch, I grudgingly looked at the coupon I had that is expiring tomorrow for a free veterinary exam for my newly adopted kitten. No, I didn’t forget to do this before. I remembered it. I just didn’t want to. So I called and made him an appointment, just under the wire.

Then I emailed my Writers’ Group, to clarify our mission.

Hey, I’m usually a quarter this productive on my best day. WTF?

I was looking forward to playing Don’t Starve since before opening Tumblr, but now I’m feeling like I’ve done all that, plus blogging (plus reading an entire book last night)… maybe I should try to finish my outline. I mean, excessive italics don’t really matter much in an outline.

Today my rambles come in “short” or “ridiculous.” I guess you guys get “short.”

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Back from Seattle

Well, it was whirlwind and I think I need a vacation to recover from my vacation, but it was also the greatest weekend trip ever. I had no idea that Seattle was so cool, and it made it glaringly clear to me that I should never attempt to write a story set in a place I’ve never been. There was so much about it that I’d never have known, but that anyone who had so much as visited would have picked on. So glad I went!

A research trip is vastly different from your average vacation. We squeezed in a few tourist things, but for the most part we parked downtown and walked around. We went to the public library. We drove two and a half hours (one-way) to visit a beach to make sure it would be an acceptable setting, then turned around and went back without even leaving the car. (Beautiful white-sand beach, by the way. Totally visit the Grayland State Park. Totally doesn’t work as the setting, though.)

Seattle’s history is fascinating. The construction and the conception, the architecture, everything. Our visit was absolutely jam-packed. The day we got in, we visited Pike’s Place Market (an experience unto itself) before we even checked into our B&B. To get there we took a shuttle, then the water taxi. It was 92° and humid as Satan’s armpit, and I was wearing long pants (of course)—I finally nearly had a panic attack because I felt like I couldn’t breathe and at that point we went back (via water taxi and shuttle, which we took in the wrong direction and had to walk back to the stop and wait another half hour sweating and frothing and generally wishing we were dead) to the B&B and tried to reform our melted forms into human shapes, using such tools as The Shower and Fans and Air Conditioned Rooms.

Sunday we had brunch at SkyCity in the Space Needle, which was breathtaking. The food was well above-average, but I’ve had better, but that’s not why you eat there—you eat there because the restaurant is walled with glass and rotates for a 360° view of the city and the Sound. We went to the Chihuly museum and there was a street fair and then we went to see the Fremont Troll, a public sculpture under a bridge in the suburbs.

Monday was the Library, the 5-hour drive and, ultimately, sushi. We stopped on the way back from the beach in a tiny town with no cell service called Westport for lunch; we ate at The Original House of Pizza, and it was really good. Hit that up while you’re in the area for Grayland beach.

The final adventure came on Tuesday, when we slid into the airplane five minutes before they stopped boarding and were breathing sighs of unmitigated relief and disbelief that we’d managed to check our bag and return the car in time—when apparently the plane broke off its tow bar and we had to disembark and find a new way to get home.

This was probably all our fault—a balance between the luck it took to get to the gate on time and the twisted whims of fate.

Phone calls, runnings back and forth in the airport, hungriness, exhaustion, and finally we got a flight on Delta at 7:35pm that was delayed to 8:40 and got to DIA barely before midnight. We caught the bus with ease and were in bed by 1:40am.

I took a bunch of notes, both digital and mental, and I’ve apparently discovered a place I’d be willing to live in the US that is outside of Colorado. If you ever visit Seattle, don’t miss the library. Or the tour of the underground.

Happy Thursday, all!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Omigosh omigosh omigosh plane ride tomorrow!

So, faithful readers, I have to admit my blunder. I realized on the 15th that I had completely failed to buy the plane tickets to Seattle. I had begun the purchase; I got all the way to the end, in fact. It escapes me that I didn't complete the purchase. I honestly don't know how that happened, because every screen of the purchase process was familiar to me. I guess I must not have clicked that final, fateful button. So, flying to Seattle got a whole lot more expensive. I am so pissed at myself.

On the upside, I did not fail to reserve a room, which I was doing concurrently to buying the plane tickets. So at least when we get there, we won't be wandering the streets begging for alms. (Actually guys, do you have any alms? Considering our tickets cost 134% of what we were anticipating, we could really use some alms. Anyone?)

We're going to do plenty of fluffy touristy things, but we'll also spend a greater-than-normal time just driving around, looking at architecture, layout, neighborhoods. I'll visit the University of Washington campus. Ride the monorail. I need to try to get a sense of living in Seattle in just 48 hours. I guess it's a good thing that Cassidy has only lived there for a week.

Well, Wednesday I was struggling with my outline and chatting with Rachel, who kindly gave me an in-depth critique of my second draft… which I had subsequently put off reading because I was finding the first few notes too emotional to deal with. I didn't think it was perfect; far from it. But the things that got picked on were unexpected, and I didn't have my armor up. So, I put off reading it until I was finished reading all my research reads—and then I conveniently forgot to read it once I was done.

So I was struggling with the outline! and realized that I hadn't finished receiving the critique from my second draft. So I sat down Wednesday and Thursday and reread my second-draft with in-line comments, then read her editor's letter. Having given myself time to know that what I was going to read wouldn't make me feel good and wouldn't be all the things I expected them to be, reading them was a lot less hard than I'd feared. I didn't agree with all of them, but those that I didn't agree with have been made somewhat irrelevant by the changes I already know I'm making to the narrative.

I finished reading all the critiques and started hammering away again at the outline. I made some progress, and I continue to be happy with the development. I'm starting to get invested in just the outline, where before it felt a lot like pulling teeth. And I'm realizing some more things that need to research. Like: If someone took an alias a long time ago, how does a PI trace that person back to their original identity? We all assume that without something like witness protection, we'd have a very hard time picking up a new identity, but honestly, how would you know if the guy in the next cubicle used to be named Harold Muller and wrote fliers for the IRA? Seriously, I'm asking.

On an unrelated note, have you guys heard anything about the London rents crisis? This is the only thing I've seen about it, but based on this it seems pretty messed up.

Until next week!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Posting on a Tuesday? What?!

Does everyone here know about Dracunculiasis, which people in places with no access to clean water can contract by drinking water that contains guinea worm larvae? The infected person becomes a host to a worm that, a year or so later, decides to leave by erupting through the skin of the leg. To keep the worm moving, the people treating the infected patient will allow the worm to bite a matchstick, then rotate the matchstick so that the worm is wrapped around it. They continue to wrap the worm around the matchstick incrementally as it slowly emerges, until finally, from hours up to a week later, the worm has left the body. Breaking the worm in the extraction process is not a good idea, since the remains of the worm can cause problems in the patient’s body.

That’s pretty much how writing my outline has been.

The upshot is, from objective reading of my outline so far, it seems much more in line with the traditional format of the detective novel. Less meandering, less navel-gazing, less weird uncertainties about motivations or progression of events. I really like how it’s shaping up in this draft. Of course, the actual writing writing hasn’t started yet; I’m very much itching to do so, but I know the importance of finishing the outline. I carefully wrote down most of the good ideas I was having during my research month+, and when I came back to visit my vault of genius I learned that I didn’t actually write down all that much: I had inflated it in my memory. My outline must be complete, because I know that I’ll accidentally get to the end of it, flying along, then go back to it to figure out where to go next and realize that I left myself hanging.

But yes! I did start writing my outline last Friday. I put on my music and turned off the faucet that likes to spew forth uncertainties, distractions, and the idea that I have a choices in the matter. I learned that writing an outline with kittens frolicking in your lap is actually possible. (Not easy. But possible.) Made easier by moving the work station upstairs, where kittens get easily bored.

The tragedy happened when I finished for the day: I brought my laptop back downstairs and plugged it in. Found out the next day that it hadn’t charged at all: finally, however-long-worth of kittens using my power cord as a toy had finally done it in. (At least, I hope and believe that’s the problem.) A new power cord is on its way to me as we speak, but in the meantime, Branden has kindly allowed me use of his Chromebook. And Google Docs, amiright? Why would you use anything else? Or at least, anything stored locally?

And so, today, I am back to the grind of the outline, as soon as this post is posted.

But that’s hardly exciting. The exciting thing I have to report is this: This coming weekend, Branden and I are visiting Seattle, mostly for fun but using my novel as an excuse! I really, really shouldn’t write a book set in a place I’ve never been. And even though we will only be there about two days, I’m hoping to squish a bunch into the visit. I’ve been aimed at the Chihuly museum, the troll under the bridge, and the library; is there anywhere else we should endeavor to visit?

I’m hoping to finish my outline in short order and get to the meaty meaty writing. Wish me luck, everyone!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Reading complete!

I finished The Big Sleep last night. It’s a wonderful book and I’m certainly going to be reading more Raymond Chandler from now on (in fact, I have just now checked out Farewell, My Lovely from the library). He is where all the awesome hardboiled tropes come from. He warms my guts.

I feel like I am armed and armored, where before I was naked and wielded only a stick. Yes, I survived the wilderness, but I wasn’t pretty at the end.

My metaphor isn’t holding up too well. That’s okay.

I am very excited to begin writing again. Given the changes I feel are necessary to make my book not just good but great, I’m going to have to start by outlining—again. Yes, I’m starting completely over once more. But this time, I’m keeping all the same characters and they’re playing the same roles, if in different ways. This means that I will almost certainly need at least one more draft between this one and the final draft, but hey, what else am I gonna be doing? Might as well write something worth reading.

As with the first day of anything, I start out excited and quickly become overwhelmed and terrified. (Not to mention that I’m tired as balls.) My brain is trying to tell me that it’s okay to play some Don’t Starve before getting started. My brain is wrong. The metaphor for my feels about writing is, if I were to have five energetic kittens fighting each other in my lap, playing with my hair, pulling on my earrings, that’s about how focused I feel. This may be at least partially because this is actually happening to me right now. I need to put myself into an environment where I control the stimuli. It doesn’t have to be quiet but the noise and tumult should be present by my will.

I wish I had more to say about writing right now. Being at the very beginning of a new draft makes for thought storm but word drought. So I will talk about other things.

My friend and Writers’ Group cohort Becky has been participating in Twitter pitch contests, and that is most excellent! She actually has a finished book to pitch. I’m a little jealous, not gonna lie. But it’s been making me think that I could really use a community. Blogs I follow, comment on, and/or contribute to. Twitter banter. Forum friends. Self-promotion would probably be a lot easier if I felt like less of an internet spectator and more of an internet participant.

I would love to have shorter stories to share, so that people might read my work and enjoy it, and maybe long for more. I have shared a few things on deviantArt, but have never gotten any feedback. Does anyone have suggestions about where to share short fiction with a community? I’m not a writer of fanfic, though I sort of wish I were; that comes with some built-in exposure.

Later today I’m going up to the city park to sign a petition to recall all members of the Jefferson County school board, because reasons. Though I do not and will not have a child in any school district, I still believe that education is basically the most important thing when it comes to bettering one’s life, becoming a creative person, and becoming a good neighbor. Having a school board dominated by people who prioritize money and “patriotism” over quality of education will simply perpetuate the problems that exist in society today.

Anyway. I’m gonna wrap this up, I feel I may be participating in avoidance behavior at this point. Wish me luck, and happy writing, all!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Still. Reading.

So, July has begun. My high hopes of having a third draft by now are flapping, shredded, in the wind. My hopes of having a third draft sometime this year are hiding behind things, hoping to not get stomped by hard-hearted reality as it thunders past.

I finished The Maltese Falcon (67,000 words, by the way). 179 pages (the other 10 were discussion questions) never took so long to read, ugh. The book is good, and tight, and I enjoyed it, but it would never have gotten published today. The book starts off with the physical description of the protagonist, followed immediately by the physical description of the secretary, followed immediately by the physical description of the femme fatale, followed immediately by the physical description of the protagonist’s business partner… there were step-by-step descriptions of how Sam Spade rolls a cigarette, how he sits up in bed, how he eats. I can’t imagine how long the book would have been if Hammett had been forced to cut those descriptions, like he would be if he were trying to get published now. The prose is utilitarian and without flourish. You can clearly hear the whisky-and-cigarrette-smoke-ruined voice reading the book; growling, begrudging, yet trying to hide the fact that he’s enjoying himself.

It was a relief to finish the book, and I immediately tried to check out The Big Sleep, but of course it was checked out of the library. Instead I checked out a copy of K Is For Killer, a book that was picked on by Hardboiled and High Heeled as dealing directly with women filling traditionally men’s roles, their independence, and the theme of the “wrong body” that pervades the female detective genre. I read it in about three days and found it highly enjoyable, and when I finished it, The Big Sleep was still checked out. What to do now?

I read for pleasure for a few days, but today I was just starting to get an itch in my britches to start writing again. Just in time, I got an email saying that The Big Sleep was back in stock—thank god! Who knows what may have happened if I had started writing, all willy-nilly. Perish the thought.

My third draft is going to be very different from the second; all in good ways. It’s not going to be quite the reinvention that happened between Cassidy0 and Cassidy1, and I’m very happy about that. It is in my nature to look at my experiences and average them, and make predictions based on them. Like, “The first time I ever wrote a second draft, I completely rewrote the whole book from the very ground up.” So, obviously, that’s what every subsequent draft will be… until I have a larger sample size to draw from. Now, I’m looking at keeping most or all of the same characters, tweaking their roles minimally, tweaking their personalities considerably, adding scenes aimed at developing characters and themes, and generally grab the steering wheel and aim the car back onto the more acceptable, less self-involved road (where the “self” is Cassidy). It’s fascinating to me how a book can be vehicles for themes and messages that aren’t visible to the naked eye; one must unwrap them, one thin layer at a time, like an onion, to arrive at the pungent nugget of truth underneath.

Maybe it’s just true that, when you’re writing, you see the jewel of the message you’re trying to convey. The words are the wrapping paper. Your finished product is never going to look like that jewel, but that’s okay, because if it did, it wouldn’t be interesting—it’d be a necklace with no neck; a mustache with no one to twirl it. The reader needs to arrive at the jewel on their own to grasp the full impact.

Anyway, I post this and I begin The Big Sleep, as one. Happy reading to us all!