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Category: NotQuiteNaNoWriMoIng

Space Party

This will have to be quick, since we’ve got to leave for our kid’s birthday party soon. (He’ll be 5 next week! His party has a rock and roll space carnival theme. His choice. Tricky to execute, but we’ve done our best.)

Saturday was a good writing day, though I was able to work only in little dribs and drabs here and there. It added up to my most productive day yet this month, though, and I’m beginning to ratchet up the tension in the book. I like to set up lots of complications early on and let them ricochet around and/or quietly tick away like time bombs in the background. I’ve got mystery burglars and a love interest and creepy abandoned cabins all working for me now.

Apart from the writing, the main event yesterday was making sugar cookies for the kid’s party. We cut out various space-related shapes (rockets, moons, stars) and then the boy decorated them with icing, in the style of Jackson Pollack. Very fun. He’s a good little sou chef.

Word count (for what it’s worth): For the day: 2794. Total: 6984.

Notable Line(s):  She found Charlie in the breakfast nook clutching a mug of coffee like he would fly off into outer space if he let go.

Sufficiently Advanced

Yesterday I managed a couple thousand words on the new novel. (I also cleaned the kitchen, because writing a novel — or rather avoiding writing a novel, or thinking about plot — can be a great way to get housework done.) I finished chapter 2 and got partway into chapter 3, and the characters are starting to take on real definition in my mind (and, I hope, on the page). The shape of the book as a whole is beginning to become clear to me as well.

It feels very comfortable, in a way, like this is the novel I should be writing. (Which isn’t really an indication of anything. I’ve sweated blood over novels and stories that read like light and fluffy confections, and some of my more ambitious pieces have poured out of me like I was just a funnel directing the flow of words. All that really matters is what’s on the page when you’re done. Most readers don’t care how it got there.)

This is the first book I’ve written set in the mountains of North Carolina in many years — most of the action takes place just eight or ten miles outside the town where I went to college. Makes me want to go back and visit — though perhaps not in November, as it’ll be snowing a lot there soon. Even the novel starts in May. My characters might avoid the winter entirely.

Otherwise, life continues pleasantly. I got a couple of beers at Jupiter in the afternoon, and went to the library, and picked up my kid from school. I got him from the afterschool program early, which he normally likes — but this time I picked him up just before they went into the cafeteria for nachos, thus inciting the rage of nacho deprivation. I mollified him with the promise of making “fancy nachos” at home, so after we rode the train back to our place he helped me load up tortilla chips with beans and cheese and bake them, then serve them with dollops of guac and sour cream and so on. (I’m lucky it was grocery shopping day, so all the ingredients were on hand.) Crisis averted, love restored via food, which is as good a method as any.

Word count (for what it’s worth): For the day: 2309. Total: 4190.

Line(s) I Like:

“I don’t think it’s a special effect. I think it’s…”

“Sufficiently advanced technology,” Bekah said.

“I was just going to say ‘magic,’ but whatever makes you happy.”

Hungry Mirror

My first day of quasi-NaNoing went well. I successfully avoided writing for most of the morning by doing grocery shopping, messing around online, and debating endlessly about what two of the main characters should be named (I still haven’t entirely settled on names, but I made up placeholders).

Eventually, around mid-day, I vowed to myself that I would not drink the coveted daytime beer until I at least attempted to write something. So I sat down and started tapping away, and managed to get the first chapter done (and just a bit of chapter 2), writing 1880 words altogether.

I then promptly departed for the sunny courtyard of my favorite beerhouse, Jupiter, where I drank first a Moonlight Bony Fingers and then a Lagunitas Brown Shugga, imparting a rather lovely buzz to the remainder of my afternoon.

Ideally, the way this fast-novel-writing thing works is, I write 6 or 8 pages a day, and then think a lot about what I’m going to write the next day, so that when the time comes, I don’t spend a lot of time staring blankly at the page with no idea how to proceed.

As day 2 dawns, we’ll see how well that works out.

Word count (for what it’s worth): 1881

Notable line(s): Charlie was eaten by the mirror about forty minutes later.

A Month of Grace

It’s National Novel Writing Month, and since I was going to start work on a new book this month anyway, I figured I might as well do it NaNoWriMo style (though I haven’t officially signed up) — at least, I think it’ll be fun to post daily updates on my progress. I used to take part in “novel dares” a decade ago, when writers would challenge one another to hammer out a rough draft in 30 days, posting progress on our “online journals,” and it was often fun.

(Progress. Right. So far this morning: Uh, I’ve thought about the main character’s name. But it’s not even 9 am yet. Consider this an introductory post.)

The novel is tentatively titled Heirs of Grace, and is about a woman just out of college who inherits a house and a sprawling bit of land in the mountains of North Carolina from a distant relative she never knew she had. When she goes to check out the property, she soon learns all sorts of strange things about her biological family, and herself. (I make it sound like a family drama. It’s a contemporary fantasy with lots of odd magic. Said distant relative was a sorcerer, and left a lot of dangerous bits of magic lying around, and there are other people who want some of the things my main character inherited.)

I’ve been thinking about this book, off and on, for years, and I’m glad I finally have a couple of months to work on it. I’m writing this one entirely on spec, for my own amusement, and it’s also an interesting change to have no deadline or editorial expectations.

Wish me luck — and good luck to everyone else embarking on National Writing Lots In Hopes of Having Something Somewhat Novel-Shaped, Albeit Probably Incomplete, by the End of the Month.

Light in Dark Places

NaNo: Nothing on Monday, nothing on Tuesday. On that book, I mean. I did actually complete revisions to City of the Fallen Sky, which included writing another 2500 words or so of new and bridging material, but it’s not on the NaNo book, so it doesn’t count. And the next couple/few days will be devoted to line-editing Grim Tides so I can send it to my copyeditor before I leave town on Sunday. Sigh and sigh and sigh…

Skyrim: Joined the Thieves’ Guild. Oddly, while I feel no qualms about burglary, or even just straight-up assassinating people, I do feel guilty shaking down shopkeepers and mugging people and running protection schemes. This is probably indicative of some profound derangement. I mean, that kind of stuff just seems petty. But I need a fence to buy all the stuff I steal, so there you go. The game is generally impressing me a lot. Leveling is less tedious than it was in Oblivion, and there’s more variety in the dungeons — I went into a cavern last night that had a hole in the roof, allowing in enough sunlight for a small forest to grow in its depths, and it was beautiful. And I enjoy sniping car-sized spiders and then, when they chase me, tricking them into flame traps. Super fun.

Real life: Hanging out with the kid, of course. He’s been especially sweet lately, and is so excited about Thanksgiving and our vacation that he’s pretty much vibrating at all times. It’s great to see him happy.

Near the City’s End

NaNo: Sunday was also a no-words-on-the-new-book day. I plowed through a bunch of the requested editorial changes to City of the Fallen Sky instead. It’s got the more pressing deadline.

I also went grocery shopping for our usual Thanksgiving feast. I’ll do the turkey, the potatoes, the cranberry relish, and my wife will make stuffing and pie, and my sister-in-law will contribute casseroles and salad. Should be awesomely yummy. (It usually is.) I ended up doing a lot of general grocery shopping, too, because the holiday sale prices were just absurd — some things were 75% off, lots of buy-one-get-one-free deals, etc. (Why offer people incentives to shop when they would be shopping anyway?) Lugging a thousand pounds of grocery around with a four-year-old in tow is tricky, but at least we can eat well, and be merry. (Though I’m hoping that tomorrow we won’t die. I’d hate to die this close to my vacation.)

In Skyrim, I slaughtered a dragon or two, got stepped on by a giant (I wasn’t even fighting him — he was dragon-battle collateral damage), killed a murderer, and joined a wizard’s school. A busy day, but rewarding, by which I mean, I was rewarded for my acts of violence.

Mars and Mars and Mars

NaNo: No progress on the novel yesterday. Other novel projects have come piling into me, with deadlines more pressing than this one. I got through about a quarter of my line edits/minor revisions on Grim Tides yesterday, adding about 2500 words to the total count (though I wrote more than that, since I also cut several bits). So, while I didn’t NaNo at all, I certainly worked.

Today is likely to be no better in terms of NaNo production, as I intend to get as many editorial revisions to City of the Fallen Sky done as I can manage in four hours.

Otherwise, yesterday, the boy and I ran around town, pretty much. We went to the library, and got some ice cream, and went up to a park he likes in North Berkeley, where we played rocket ship, blew up asteroids, did not blow up any moons (“because moons have eyes and a nose and a mouth, so you can’t shoot them”), and visited “a lot of different Marses,” as he says — Regular Mars, Sand Mars, Stair Mars, Turtle Mars, Circle Mars, etc. I assume we were flying in some sort of multiverse-traversing craft, but what do I know? I’m just the tailgunner.

And last night I played more Skyrim, where I went from being an amateur murderer to being a professional assassin, which is progress, I think.

My Sunday began with a clogged sink in the kitchen and a pipe section that dissolved into powdered rust when I touched it. Not an auspicious start. The hardware store around the corner should be open in five minutes or so…

Eleven and a Half

NaNo: Not a single word written yesterday. I worked from 8:30 am to 8 pm yesterday at the day job, with a lunch break during which I was unable to write — it was a particularly brutal deadline day at the magazine — so, yeah, I was pretty much done working by the time I got home. I drank a couple of glasses of wine and played a lot of Skyrim instead.

As I’ve mentioned once or twice, we’re going on vacation soon. (We depart a week from tomorrow.) In the interests of not working while I’m on vacation, I have to do a lot of work before then. I got my editorial letter for City of the Fallen Sky, which my editor would like as soon as possible, ideally before I leave. I need to do a last pass through Grim Tides (which needs at least one new scene) to send to my copyeditor before I leave, so she can actually read the thing and send me corrections before I start serializing the book on January 2. I have to write dust jacket copy for a book that’s coming out early next year. And I’d like to get another 18,000 words or so written on the current novel-in-progress.

I am confronting the sad realization that I might not get everything done. My aim is to get as far through Grim Tides as possible today. My wife and I are dividing up childcare — she’ll watch him half the day so I can work, I’ll watch him the other half so she can (she’s got a freelance writing gig). And I guess I’ll try to get some NaNo words tonight after the boy goes to bed. It’s a work party… and nobody but me is invited.

Stories. For your buyings.

NaNo: Another late writing session last night netted me about 1450 words. It’s deadline week at my day job, and the last couple of days in the schedule are always rough, and tend to turn my brain to mush by the time I get home. It’s remarkable I got any writing done at all, and since this is deadline day itself, tonight I may accomplish nothing. (I would not be surprised to work an 11 or 12 hour day today, though I hope we finish before that.)

Last night I… sat around a bit, in a mush-brained state. Played some Skyrim, walking up 7,000 steps to the top of a mountain and killing an ice troll along the way. (There’s something satisfying about spraying torrents of flame from each hand into the face of some virtual indigenous wildlife.)

I have posted some e-books to the Amazon Kindle store ( will follow shortly). Some 99-cent stories for your reading pleasure:

“Little Better than a Beast,” a Marla Mason story, featuring time-traveling monsters and sexist jerks.

“Mommy Issues of the Dead,” another Marla story, this one set early in her career, when a semi-evil sorcerer hires her to plant a bomb inside a rival… who happens to be his brother. Soon Marla gets entangled in a truly dysfunctional family feud.

“The Christmas Mummy,” by Heather Shaw and I, a heartwarming holiday tale of mummies, ninjas, and other things.

“Rangifer Volans,” a very cryptozoological Christmas story, about the quest for that most elusive of all cryptids: the flying reindeer.

Raise Up the Sky

NaNo: I wrote 1900 words last night. Back in the saddle. Or, rather, back in the rocking chair in the corner by the bookshelf where I sit with my laptop and type.

Otherwise: I got my editorial letter for City of the Fallen Sky back, and it’s not a demand for a complete teardown (always a relief). Actually, it’s all fairly minor stuff, probably only four or five hours of work to get the novel into shape. Unfortunately carving out four or five hours to finish this book before Thanksgiving and our departure for our vacation is going to be tricky, at least if I want to do so without sacrificing forward momentum on drafting this other book. And, you know, giving up Skyrim, which is basically my only form of relaxation at the moment. I’ll just have to sleep less, I guess. (This is also deadline week at my day job, and my wife has a freelance gig she has to finish this weekend, so time is short all around.) Oh well. That’s the writing life.

Oh, and I have to do a last line-edit pass on Grim Tides to send to my copyeditor, also before I leave on vacation. Ergh. This is a bad week to lose my day off.

This is normally my day off, but we’re going to press on the magazine tomorrow (short schedule due to the upcoming holiday), so… I’ll be at work. And so will my kid. It’s the return of officeboy! Wish us luck.