Monday, April 9, 2018

Time for...

Yesterday morning, I spent a couple of hours drafting a couple of ideas for a post to run today. They weren't quite complete posts, though, because they never are. Even when I really, really work at pre-writing a post, when I sit down on Monday morning to get it done here on the blog, it's never as simple as a straight cut-and-paste job, or just retyping in the blog box what's in the Word box. No, the Word document tends to be a guide, and it takes a surprising amount of brain power to go from even a pretty good draft to a finished blog post. Well, here's where my brain power is at these days:


It's been like this for a while now: posting is never easy for me, but it's become increasingly difficult and that means it's time for a break. I was kind of thinking the entire month of April, but, well, last week was easy. And then you need a post saying it's break time, right? So, here's the official "I'm on break" post. I'll still be around, will still be visiting the blogs I usually visit, I just won't be posting here.*

I should also point out, it's not just the blog. For the last couple of weeks, I've been kind of dragging, my energy levels pretty much bottomed out. I suspect at least some of it is weather related: after having 60 degree weather in the middle of February, March has been shit, quite frankly, and April has not been much better, with limited sunshine and persistent, irritating snow. It's ten degrees outside right now. Ten! On April 9th!

At any rate, it seems like a good time to take a break, and recharge the batteries. The nice thing is, I've got a mini-vacation coming up at the beginning of May, one that is much needed, because April starts the crazy-busy season at work. I'll be back in mid-May, and I'll see you around the blogs in the interim. Enjoy my break!


*Which of course means in a week's time or so I'll have a burning, gotta post it now moment





Monday, April 2, 2018

Reading List, 2018 (Part I)

Howdy, folks. Can't believe we're already in the fourth month of 2018--time is flying! So, here's the list of what I've read so far:

The Education of Dixie Dupree (2016), Donna Everhart. I feel like I know Donna from around the blogosphere. I enjoyed this book, in as much as you can be said to enjoy a book about a girl dealing with sexual abuse from an uncle.

The Girl in the Spider's Web (2015), David Lagercrantz, translated by George Goulding. Shortly after starting, I realized I had never actually read the third installment of Steig Larsson's Millennium series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. It didn't impact the reading of this all that much. I enjoyed the first two, mostly, but this was a battle.

The House on Hope Street (2015), Menna van Praag.

Vanishing Girls (2017), Lisa Regan. My old blogging buddy scores with another thriller!

The Woman in the Window (2018), A.J. Finn. Agoraphobic alcoholic woman spies on her neighbors. Reminiscent of The Girl on the Train, yet not derivative. I blew through this one in about 24 hours.

Cannery Row (1945), John Steinbeck.

At Heaven's Gate (1943), Robert Penn Warren.

Stone Arabia (2011), Dana Spiotta.

The Great Alone (2018), Kristin Hannah. This felt a little too YA at times for my liking. Nothing against YA, but it's like taking a drink from a glass thinking it's Sprite and finding out it's club soda instead.

Hey, how about that--not a single Stephen King book in the mix!

I feel like there might have been another book between At Heaven's Gate and Stone Arabia, but I can't remember what it was. Nine books in three months is perhaps a little slow; my reading definitely tailed off in March, for reasons I can't explain. (Bruins too busy, perhaps? They've played literally every other day since around March 2, except for the weekend, when they played both days.)

Other things:

-Had an unusual dinner yesterday in which we Skyped the Catbird in from college. Set the laptop up on the end of the table and chatted with her while we ate. It was very futuristic in a 1960s kind of way.

-Last week during a program, I declared the end of winter. Thursday and Friday, I noticed actual, new green poking out through the mud. Yesterday, we had a dusting of snow. Right now, it's about 28 degrees outside. This is upstate New York in April. It's coming, but sloooooooooooow.


That's it for me, what about you? What have you been reading lately?
 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Fire forged

In one of my manuscripts, an unlikely hero steps up in a critical moment and saves his small town from sliding into chaos. Initially, he shrugs it off, telling another character, "Someone had to do something." Later, in a moment of reflection after the dust has settled, he muses over what he's done in relation to a slightly shortened quote from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." Considering the character's pretty unremarkable life up until that point, he's not quite sure where he fits.

Watching the March for Our Lives events--indeed, since the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School--I've been wondering about this in relation to the students we've been seeing. Ever since Emma Gonzalez stood before the crowd and cried, "We call--BS!" and stood toe-to-toe with NRA flack Dana Loesch; ever since David Hogg calmly brushed off those who said he was at best coached, at worst, a paid crisis actor. These students have been passionate, intelligent and articulate; they have started a movement that is having real impact. And I can't help but wonder about them: were they always like this? Were they activists? Were they outspoken? Were they the leaders in their school already, members of the student government, captains of sports teams and debate teams, editors of school newspapers, kids that everyone knew? Or were they shy, anonymous, kids that stayed out of sight, out of mind, on the edges of the MSD community, either by choice or circumstance?

The citizen in me applauds them and doesn't care much about what they were, only about what they are, and what they will become. The writer in me wants to know.



Monday, March 19, 2018

Random Thoughts

It's been a tough week, capped off by the long drive to get the Catbird back to school from spring break. Here are some random thoughts:

*Defenestrate is a great word, but, boy is it hard to work into everyday conversation.

*There is nothing more optimistic in this world than a dog.

*Waking up to single-digit temperatures again kind of sucks, but it looks like we're at least going to have a snow-free week.

*I need to find my next writing project.

*The Bruins are doing their best to make a believer out of me.

*Waiting is still the hardest part.

*There is nothing quite like a good bagel in the morning.

*It's nice to have it still light at 7pm, though I'm not crazy about waking up again in the pitch dark.

*Black Panther was a lot of fun.

*It's going to be hard for season 2 of Jessica Jones to top season 1, but two episodes in, they're off to a good start.

*David Byrne sounds like David Byrne--yet he doesn't. I find this video strangely compelling, and the song has been stuck in my head the last couple of days. It's funny how people's voices change as they age.


That's all I've got for today--what's on your mind?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Another day...

...another winter weather advisory.

Roughly a third of the snow that has fallen on my corner of the world has come down since March 1, according to the National Weather Service. It feels like this has been the case for at least the last four years or so. When we moved here 15 years ago, most of the snow fell in January and February, but it's been shifting later and later. As have the seasons in general.

At least this storm doesn't look to be too bad here, just four or five inches. Folks on the coast look like they could  get slammed (again--it's been a tough couple of weeks out there). Hopefully, we won't see a lot of power outages again.

That's about all I got today, sorry to say. My brain appears to be in a bit of a down cycle. What's new with all of you?

Monday, March 5, 2018

In search of judgment

The greatest gift for every writer is judgment--Obari Gumba
 Back in December, Agent Carrie and I had our annual strategy session, where we set the course for the upcoming year. One of the things Carrie wanted me to do, once I was finished writing the first draft of the WiP, was to take a new look at an old project, one long-time readers will be familiar, first as BARTON'S WOMEN, then as POWERLESS. (Quick rundown: this was the project that received the offer of representation from Carrie; it went through several submission rounds before we opted to pull it). The story was deemed by some editors as being a little too dystopian, and dystopia was dead, in the wake of several years of Wool and Divergent and The Hunger Games.

But Carrie had been hearing rumblings, that publishers were opening up again to dystopia, and she encouraged me to take another look and consider potentially revising it and putting it back out there, so I did (take another look at it, that is).

It was a bit of an eye opener.

Last summer, I took an online course through the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop (written about here and here), which is where, in the first week, I encountered that quote from Obari Gumba. There was another quote, from novelist/playwright Kia Corthron that I wish for the life of me I had written down. I thought I did, but I couldn't find it. (I may not have written it down because I think I thought at the time I'd have access to all class materials, including lectures and transcripts, forever; I do not) It went something like this: "The first draft, say your point clearly; say it again a little quieter; say it again a little more subtly still." In other words, subtlety is your friend. Don't spoon feed the readers.

Looking back through POWERLESS, I am amazed (and disturbed) by how obvious and heavy-handed I was, not just with some of "the points" I was trying to get across, but just with character thoughts and emotions. There's a hell of a lot of explaining going on, a hell of a lot of spoon feeding, a hell of a lot of making sure any future readers will get exactly what I was going for, no room for interpretation. There was little subtlety, little good judgment. Ugh.

I'm hoping I've moved past this. Some time in the not-too-distant future, I'm going to crack open the WiP with the responses of beta readers to guide me. What will I find? Spoon feeding? Explanation? Dictation? Or will I find I've exercised judgment, given my readers space to fill in some of the gaps themselves, a demonstration that I've learned something in the last few years? Time will tell, but I know what I'm hoping for.

Have you ever had similar reactions to your past work? Have you found your judgment has improved over the years?
 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Hello, Square One

Oh, hello, Square One, I...wasn't expecting to see you here. How are you? It's been a while, hasn't it?

Four years? Really, that long? Time flies, huh? Sorry I haven't kept in touch, you know how it is.

Well. I'd love to stay and hang out, but--

Yeah, sure, we can hang out a little. Catch up a bit, sure, I guess I can do that. Is there anything you'd like to do?

...

Sure. Yeah. I guess we can look at the old spreadsheet. I guess it's around here somewhere...yeah, there it is. Geeze, what a lot of work we put into that, huh?

Yeah, I guess we can update it. Wow, what fun. You really haven't changed much in four years, have you?

Wait, you want to do what? Query writing? I haven't written one of those in...four years. But I do sometimes write query-like paragraphs, so I'm not totally out of practice. Oh, but guess what I still do a lot of? Waiting! Yeah, I'm still pretty good at that.

Well, it sure has been fun catching up with you, Square One, but I'm sure you've got places to be and I don't want to hold you up, so....

Oh, you've got time? Lots and lots of time?

...

Yeah, that's great. Just...great.

***

Welp, as you may have figured out, I am once again agent free. It's a business decision, one of those things that happens from time to time. I want to express my gratitude to Carrie for taking me on, showing faith in me and my work, and working on my behalf, and I wish her well in her new position at Laura Dail Literary Agency.

***

Interestingly, on my way to work on Tuesday (before I became a free agent, so to speak), I heard this song on the radio, and remembered how much I like it, and considered slipping it into a blog post somewhere soon. Now, it's more appropriate (I also think I may have done this once before, but if I did, I didn't tag it specifically, so if it's a rerun....). The song is, when you get right down to it, pretty sad. Chrissy Hynde wrote it shortly after the death of Pretenders guitarist, James Honeyman-Scott from a drug overdose, which itself came about two days after the band fired bass player, Pete Farndon for his drug use. Despite this, I've always found something optimistic and uplifting here, and I'm going to be positive. Hope all is well with all of you, what's new?