Happily lost in the weeds: balance and the writer’s life

Sweet William. CC BY SA 3.0. Natania Barron
Sweet William. CC BY SA 3.0. Natania Barron

At my last job, I once got stuck “in the weeds” during a meeting. At least, according to the Boss. You see, I was in a meeting with Dudes Higher Up. And they had Opinions. And their Opinions came into direct issue with my Experience. And I’m not someone to Shut Up and Say Nothing. In other words, getting stuck “in the weeds” meant that I didn’t back down. I asserted myself. The full context of the conversation was, “Next time that happens, don’t get stuck in the weeds.” So, in other words, back down next time. Don’t assert yourself.

This encapsulated the heart of my frustration at the previous place of work. Which is all over and done with and, thanks to the heavens, I’m at a place now where my opinion isn’t just listened to, but appreciated. People come to me with questions. They actually care what I have to say and want my advice. There are tons of bright, intelligent women all around me. Ditto with the dudes (but, no offense dudes, you’re not exactly hard to find in the business world–while there were some brilliant women before, there were so few women to begin with it was always overwhelming to be in such a minority).

Which is to say that I’m feeling very satisfied lately. My brain is in a good place. Writing’s been slow, but that’s to be expected. I had thought, at some point, that motherhood would be enough. It’s hard to admit that I didn’t feel fulfilled as a full-time mom. Even with my son’s ASD and my daughter clearly needing me around, it felt selfish to say: “This isn’t enough.” They were a different kind of weeds, I guess. I turned to my husband one night during the whole Great Work Debate of 2013, and said, “Y’know what’s the worst part? I just feel invisible.” And in some ways, it was the same kind of invisibility at the last job. I’m just the kind of person who does my job. I do it really well, to the very best of my ability. But if I’m just left to my own devices, I sort of shrivel. I’m by no means an astrology follower, but I’ve always been a bit of a stereotypical Gemini. I crave conversation and collaboration and thoughts and ideas.

Balance isn’t easy. And there are some days that I don’t feel I get any. I crashed and burned a little this week, having ended up with pink eye and a sinus infection on top of all my allergies. But I’ll recover. The thing is, up there in my head, things make sense. Natania is a person who is appreciated and listened to, who’s a part of a great team at home, at work, and during extracurriculars (because who would I be if I didn’t have a half dozen projects going at once?). Natania can flourish as a writer when she feels appreciated and listened to in the real world. Her happy little fantasy worlds (which aren’t exactly happy, let’s face it) can grown and flourish when all of Natania is happy.

And apparently I slide into the third person in some cases.


Anyway. Once upon a time in a far away land, I imagined that I would raise children and be blissfully happy, writing every evening and conventioning. But the truth of the matter that, well, that still costs money. And full-time mommying is hard work, man. Like I said, I wish that it was completely satisfying for me. I wish that said dream could just materialize. But oddly enough, I like having a 401K plan. I like dorking out with my coworkers about social media.

Do I have more time than I had before to write? Well, no. But I have a little more brain space. Sure, there’s been a transition period. But for the first time in a very long time I’m working a flexible job that actually allows me to go home well ahead of dinner. I get time with my kids, I can fiddle in my garden. Then once the kids are asleep I can write. (Or, uh, watch Doctor Who or Doctor Who, which is totally, ahem, the same thing.)

My rambling point? It’s okay to embrace the weeds. It’s okay to admit you can’t do stuff. It’s okay to admit you feel fulfilled even if you aren’t writing 100% of the time. Full-time writer status is something so few people find. And someday, sure, I’d like to be there. But I have a feeling I’ll be in retirement by then and hopefully writing isn’t write-to-live, but write-to-love.

Watcher of the Skies and Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

from Flaxman’s Iliad – 1792. Public Domain.

So, my last post really did make it sound like I wasn’t doing NaNoWriMo, mostly likely. And apparently that’s the thing that got me going. Or something. I’m not going to try and explain it in too much details, but it goes something like this. I screwed up my back. I had to take medicine. I found out my kid does, in fact, have Asperger’s. My brain was mushy, I was in need of escape in the form of writing therapy that wasn’t going to require much editing (see: medicine), and my best friend Karen started talking to me about Joss Raddick. Readers of Pilgrim of the Sky know Mr. Raddick well, a godling of the water variety from Second World who eventually (and rather reluctantly) joins up with Maddie to help her get to Alvin in First World and prevent All The Bad Stuff. This isn’t the first time that Karen has birthed a book into my mind by just saying a few words. The entirety of The Aldersgate is due to her saying to me once, “I’m surprised you’ve never written anything with cowboys” or something to that effect, and I wrote back and said they’d have to be cowboyknights and, all that stuff happened.

The original text of Keats’s poem, “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer”. I get giddy about the handwriting.

Anyway. The words have been spilling out, most appropriately considering Joss’s nature. The book is entitled Watcher of the Skies, and while it bears the same title as a Genesis song, it’s taken from Keats’s poem “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer”. Last night, though I didn’t think I was going to get much done because of feeling kinda crappy, I almost got another 3K in and brought the book to 30K which is, quite frankly, a really good chunk. And this draft is surprisingly solid. Or maybe not surprisingly. I’ve been contemplating Joss’s story for quite some time, and it was just a matter of getting the details right. The book is set up in a frame narrative. The beginning features Maddie and he talking, and he invites her to hear his whole story on a rather appropriate godling level. It involves a hand full of water and mushy ice cubes and one of my favorite phrases to date: “a drunkard’s communion.”

No, this is not the book I was going to write. But it’s the book that needs to be written right now. It’s perfect timing, which I think is the way that working writers can succeed at endeavors like NaNoWriMo. I really hate the pressure people put themselves under. As a novelist, it’s not like November is the only month I can write books in, and if I don’t it somehow means less. But life and projects have conspired to make this a most amenable month of writing–and it isn’t as if I’m writing that much more than my usual 1K a day. The stars have aligned and I am enjoying myself immensely.

One of the most exciting parts is that I’m getting to explore Second World. If there’s one thing the reviewers let me know it’s that they’d wished I’d dabbled more in alternate history. Well, I’m doing just that. The book takes place starting in the late 18th century and moves to the early 20th–and let’s just say the historical/religious/economic landscape isn’t the same as you’d expert. I’m not going to be too spoilery, but there’s lots of poets, cameos by Percy and Mary Shelley and Keats and Byron and Wordsworth and Coleridge, and even mention of crazy old Blake (okay, some are significantly more than cameos, but y’know). Plus I get to explore various twains in their previous incarnations–Randall, Matilda, and Alvin are all present, sort of. Other versions of them. And I finally get to have fun with Athena. She’s a cross-dressing theatre owner of African descent. You know, as you do. I’ll have a lot more to share eventually, but for now, I’m just giddy about this book.

My pithy advice to those of you writing this hectic month is to be kind to yourself. Learning to write is like any good habit. And while it’s lovely that so much energy is poured into the month of November, it’s not the only time to write. It’s okay to step back and say it’s not a good time, professional or fledgeling or proto-fledgeling. It doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you a person who has a life and deadlines and responsibilities and maybe, just isn’t ready yet. If you want to be a writer, whatever that means, you’ve simply got to write. You’ve got to strike when the iron’s hot, and when it’s not. My issue with NaNo is that it doesn’t produce a book. It produces part of a draft. In 2008, when I “won” (whatever that means) it was very helpful, because that book did become Pilgrim of the Sky. But it’s been four years since I made an effort, and time it was primarily because of a need to escape and an excuse to keep away from Rock Revival. The timing was right for me. It may be right for you. But it may not be. And that, friends, is really, really okay.

Anyway, I have a few hours alone for the first time in almost a month, so I’m going to put it good use. For all your NaNoers out there, good luck to you!

Joss meets Andrew La Roche, Randall’s predecessor, in a tavern, while his friend William Wordsworth encounters Samuel Taylor Coleridge for the first time.

“You still haven’t told me your name,” La Roche said, taking up a cup of tea and stirring it gently. He managed to do so without a single clink against the China, so precise he was.

“It’s Joss,” I said. “Joss Raddick. I’m from Cumbria.”

“I daresay you are, it’s written all over your vowels,” La Roche remarked with a knowing smirk. “But I knew of you the moment you were born. The others argued with me, but I have a sense for these things. As you do.”

I nodded. “I felt you. Until you snuck up on me.”

“Slipped beneath your senses,” he said. “I was out of the rain, out of the river, out of the water. I dry rather quickly when I want to.”

Having no idea what he was talking about, I added, “You’re… warm. That’s the only way I can describe what I sense. Warm. Bright. Dry.”

“Hmm, yes, indeed,” he said. “And I have a particular aptitude for the healing arts. And poetry.” He said this last word with particular relish. “As you do, so I have heard. You’re a kept man, Mr. Raddick.”

I didn’t quite know what he meant by that statement. “Kept, sir?”

La Roche sipped his tea. “Hmmm… yes. You’ve been tamed, so to speak, by that curious little lake poet, Mr. Wordsworth. I’m sure he’s been a most impressive teacher, as poets are so often, but he’s using you for your light. For your inspiration. Surely you’ve figured that out by now, yes?”

I snorted. Of course I had figured it out. But it didn’t make the situation any less difficult. “He has been kind to me. He’s taught me things, about how to fit in, about how to experience… how to be a human man.”

“And what makes you think you are not a human man?” La Roche asked. “I’m genuinely curious, not attempting to pass judgment on you, Mr. Raddick.”

“Not sure what to say to that,” I said. “It’s just something I know. Humans come from women, born in a big egg that breaks open and spills water on the earth. A stream of blood and birth. That’s not how I came about.”

“Well, we have that in common,” La Roche said. “I was awakened. In a young village lad, some centuries ago. In Southern Gaul. It was quite strange. I awoke, and walked away from the family that had raised the boy. He was no longer. I entered him like water into a gourd, and have since made this body as I’ve willed it. I don’t always have to look like this, but I prefer it.”

Rock Revival: Draft Zero

Composition. Image by Natania Barron. CC BY SA 3.0

I’m very happy at the moment. This weekend I finished the first (zero) draft of Rock Revival. Now, I know, I’ve written books before. I’ve figured out “the method” or whatever of “being a writer” and all that jazz, sure. Except, since having my surgery in 2010 I hadn’t actually finished a novel. Yeah, there was that pregnancy thing that accounted for nine months. But about three weeks after the baby girl was born, I started Rock Revival to my own surprise. I mean, I had other books to write. Speculative books. Good books, surely! Yet, for whatever reason, it’s the story that wanted to be told first (in spite of my attempts to write other things).

I’ve had to change the entire way I write. Much in the same way I can’t play guitar, I can’t just sit at a computer or a laptop. All those great writing tips for busy folk and moms and whatnot? Yeah, not much help. I can’t take my writing somewhere else; I can’t write by hand. I can dictate some, but I’m still learning how to do that. And since my surgery, I hadn’t been able to adapt that into any personal longterm projects.

So for this book, I had to retrain myself how to write. Now it’s not about numbers, it’s about endurance. And, at last, I’ve figured it out. In some ways it’s really the NaNoWriMo approach. I try to clock 200 words a day, on the short end (the “no-matter-what-is-happening-do-or-die” number) and 1,000 on regular days. And now, four months later, I have a book. No to say I was perfect every step of the way, because I wasn’t; but all in all it was pretty damned successful.

The book ended up a little more than 70K, but it’s already up to 72K after deleting and rewriting a bunch over the weekend. I tend to do a Draft Zero Re-read immediately after finishing, and it helps me tie the end to the beginning more solidly. I had a lot of epiphanies toward the end of the book and it’s bee really satisfying to go in and tidy things. There’s one scene I’m dreading writing because it’s really rough but essential to the story. Then, once I’m finished with the DZR I’ll be putting everything into Pages and doing a major edit. Then comes more writing, filling in the blanks–interviews, Wikipedia articles, Tweet exchanges. Seriously fun.

But that’s not all. I mean, I see now how important this book has been to me, personally. Not only did it help me prove something to myself that I’d been living in fear about (not being able to do this again) but it helped me remember something that I’d been neglecting a while: my love of music. For a long time my dream was to be a singer/songwriter. It was an encompassing dream that I gave up only when life got too busy and I said things like, “It’s too competitive” and “Who has time?” Not that I’ve ever stopped playing music, but it became a monthly thing rather than a daily thing.

These days, I’ve been steeped in music. I even wrote a song for the book, the first I’ve written in almost five years. And it’s even good. I’m not saying I’m changing courses to become a rock star, but I am recognizing that it’s a much bigger part of me than I’d let on for a while. I played my dad’s Gibson 339 this weekend, through an honest to goodness amplifier, and hot-damn if it didn’t feel amazing.

This has never, to my knowledge, happened before. A book has never given me something so lasting and profound in return. And I’m grateful for that.

Anyway. The baby is asleep and there’s a thousand things I need to do before picking up my son, but I wanted to take a minute and smile and pat myself on the back. That elation will only last as long as that big red edit marker lays dormant. I’ll be singing a different tune in a few weeks, perhaps.

Interview with Jesse McLaren, rock journalist:

Tell us about your relationship with Tom. How did it shape your music?
Kate Styx: There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said. I mean, I’m pretty transparent in what I write, and you don’t have to listen to much of our catalogue to hear what I have to say on the matter. I don’t usually talk too much about it, y’know? To me, it’s a short story. We were together a while, it didn’t work out, but we’ve both moved on. He’s a dear friend, one of the best things in my life.

You’ve said that “Lost and Loving” best reflects your relationship. Why is that?
KS: (laughs) I was really mad when I wrote that. We’d just broken up for good, and he was so calm about the whole damned thing. Me? I was a mess. But that song just sort of fell in my lap one night when I was feeling really stupidly sorry for myself. I had a working demo in two hours and woke James up at 4am to get his take on it. He loved it, tweaked it a bit, and we laid down the track two weeks later. Tom really is like a river, as hackneyed as that reference might be. I could tell he was sorry we’d broken up, but he just kept moving on. I wasn’t so good at it. I don’t like to talk too many details, but I still feel that same way in the song. I probably always will.

That was your second number one hit. Do you feel strange having to revisit that raw emotion every time you play live?
KS: After a while, it just becomes a song. Sure, I bet if we broke up and didn’t play for twenty years and got together again, it’d have some meaning again. You know, like the way Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham did with “The Chain” during their reunion special. The air is charged, man. The way they look at each other. I think that’s part of going through something like this with someone and then having to continue working with them. Time is weird. Distance is important. Perspective changes. But I don’t think you ever stop loving someone entirely. You share something special with them. The first few times we played the song live we had to rewrite the background vocals for Kurt so he could sing them. I couldn’t manage it. But now I don’t really think about it.

You famously ousted Sara Plummer and brought aboard your childhood friend Kurt Bastian to replace her. There’s been a lot of speculation about that. Care to set the record straight?
KS: There’s nothing to be set straight. Listen, all my music life I’ve been collaborating with bassists. Before Sara, there was Kurt. When Sara left—and she did leave—I needed someone I could trust, musically and personally. Kurt’s been playing music all his life, and he’s solid. After all the drama of the last few years we really wanted someone strong to root us through the last album and tour. It wasn’t a hard decision to make. But he’s with us for the long haul, and we’re excited to see where we go.

He’s said some unflattering things about James Vayne in the press. How do you respond to that as his friend?
KS: [pauses to think] Listen, I’m not here to gossip about my bandmates or apologize for what they say or pick apart their motivations. They are who they are. No, we don’t always get along. Yes, sometimes we say stuff we don’t mean. But in the end, it’s the music that matters. And right now, we’re as good as we’ve been in years. Ever, really. I think our earlier dysfunction was keeping us from our potential, and now we’ve moved on and we’re making progress. We’re growing.

Tell us something about the new album.
KS: Well, we’re taking a much slower pace, for one. The first three were sort of done at the speed of light. We had crazy schedules and all these big early successes. Not to say we’re not thankful for the fans or the support, but it’s been taxing on all of us. So we wanted to really take the time with this album this time around to do something that takes us back to our roots. I’m really happy with where we’re at right now.

Have the Revivals settled down? You and your bandmate Tom have made some intriguing headlines in the past, especially Tom’s battle with drugs. 
KS: Tom’s doing better. He really is. I’ve had my wild moments, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. It is rock and roll, after all.

‘Cause I’m Short On Time, I’m Lonely and I’m Too Tired to Talk

Image by Natania Barron — CC BY SA

The above lyric is from Keane’s “Can’t Stop Now” and it’s apropos for more reasons other than I just like the song. Life, in short, these days, has been nothing short of OMGWTF. I really don’t want to go into the details, ’cause honestly, this blog ain’t that sort of thing. We’re okay. We’re managing. But I hadn’t been able to write a lick in the last almost three weeks due to the insanity of life as of late but… BUT! (Oh, shit, she’s whippin’ out the caps) I wrote last night and came close enough to the middle mark in the novel that I will call it 50% finished. Close enough for rock ‘n’ roll, as they say.

Anyrot. Music has been one of the things I feel like has been keeping me going the last few weeks. I am so grateful for it. It’s been something constant in my life since I was a child. No, even before I was born; music was around me in utero. When I was less than two, I used to rest my head on my dad’s knee while he played guitar, listening to the vibrations. It really is a part of me. Something that runs in my blood. It’s a marvelous, marvelous gift.

Rock Revival has taken some curious turns in the last few weeks, including the almost death of my heroine, a visit to rehab, and a total detour in the ways of love that I hadn’t anticipated. I’m realizing that sometimes the best stories are found when I veer as sharply as possible from romance and the expected. It’s a good thing.

A bit of an excerpt, and a live version of “Can’t Stop Now” with a very sticky Tom Chaplin being very rockstar with the crowd.

James greeted me at the front door; I’d managed to avoid him entirely since I got back, sneaking late into the studio and corresponding mostly by text, and sparingly at that. He smelled like cardamom and was wearing a way too warm wool sweater that scratched my face when I hugged him. He hugged me for a long time, long enough for me to take in the smells of curry and roasting meat and hear the sound of the rest of the guests in the back of the house. It sounded like more people than just Kurt and Tom.

“Please don’t hate me for this,” James said, pulling me away and holding me out by the shoulders. “I tried to keep it intimate. But Tom’s got some ideas, and he really wanted everyone here.”

“Everyone? Please tell me this isn’t some fucked up musical version of ‘This is Your Life’…”

“No, hah. Nothing like that. Just everyone that’s, you know, part of us. This. The band.”


“And it’s a dry party — so everyone will be sober.”

I blinked at him.

“Please don’t leave,” he begged.

I didn’t leave. I followed him like a dog shamed after pissing on the carpet, and saw that indeed, “everyone” was there. Kurt and Tom, of course. And Dusty. And Jeff and Ian and Clarke, our engineers in Nashville; also, Peter and Clive, our producers in the UK, Denny our agent, Ralph our head roadie, and our own personal label executive, a chick by the name of Kelly, who, in attempt to look casual, had donned a lovely J. Crew ensemble to set off her positively middle-American girl next door looks.

There were hugs and well-wishes, and some tears, but really I could see through it all. Likely Dusty got wind and wanted to use this as some kind of proof to the label folks and everyone else that we’re working with on the album that I’m not dying, or dead, or incapable of working.

The food was really good. James had my favorite Indian restaurant cater, and so we all ate way too much. There was zero alcohol to be found anywhere which, I knew, was an attempt to keep me from feeling weird but, honestly, it just made things feel stranger.

Do you ever have those moments where life just seems to turn a page? You know, it’s like you’ve just reached the end of one chapter and started a new one. Even if you’re in a familiar place it’s like you wake up, or turn around, or open a door and everything just looks slightly different. That was that night in a nutshell.

Reading the tea leaves for 2012

Well, hello there, readers. It’s been a while! Rather than sit here and give excuses, I’ll just apologize briefly for being not the best blogger lately. It happens. I’ve been blogging for a long time, when you look at the big picture, and well, sometimes there just isn’t a whole lot of time for sitting down and pondering the writing craft these days between family and the full time job and other things. But it’s not like nothing is happening. So here’s a bit of what’s been happening about these parts.

First and foremost, I’m currently heading into week 25 of my second pregnancy. And I’ll tell you: being pregnant does a number on your brain. Not only do you lose gray matter (like, your brain loses weight… so trippy) but hormones coursing through your body can change your personality (not to mention that your kid’s–and by extension your mate’s–DNA floats around in you permanently). For me, I’m under a nice, warm blanket of calm. If there are stresses in my life, I just seem to let them roll off my back. Oddly enough, stress tends to fuel my writing, both fiction and blogging and otherwise. I don’t feel that desperate need to create because, well, I’m creating. Right now. The little one is currently almost a foot long and weighs about a pound and a half. She’s a squirming, somersaulting, dancing little creature who, quite honestly, takes up most of my thoughts during the day. (No, I’m not writing SF right now… why do you ask?)

I’m okay with not writing a ton. Instead, I’ve been reading. As far as publishing and writing go, 2011 was not productive. Not in the output sense. But I haven’t stopped reading. In fact, I’ve read more in the last year than I’ve read in the last 5 years combined (in no small part thanks to my commute and the suggestions of my dear friend Samuel Montgomery-Blinn in the realm of audiobooks). I think of it in much the same way as I do my pregnancy: I’m feeding the creature. The best books I read this last year were Howards End by E.M. Forster (which will forever move me), The Age of Innocence  by Edith Wharton, Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor and The Magician King by Lev Grossman. Yes, that’s an unusual cross-section. But each of those books spoke to me in a really important way that will, undoubtedly, impact my writing permanently.

There’s also the book release. Pilgrim of the Sky has been let out into the wild, flying like the skylark. Overall, I’ve been thrilled with the reception, and have learned (mostly) how to ignore and move on from the less enthusiastic reviewers (how on earth someone mistook my book for YA, I will never know…). Which, thankfully, have been mostly the exception. A first book out there in the real world is a scary thing, but I’m glad to have gone through the experience. I’ve got a post brewing about the book that answers, hopefully, some of the questions/misconceptions people might have. If you haven’t had a chance yet, you can check out some of the reviews posted recently! (There’s a few I know of that are waiting in the wings, and I’m trying not to be impatient!) Additionally, I was interviewed by the Outer Alliance about the queer aspects of Pilgrim of the Sky, and how Maddie’s sexuality fits into the book as a whole; you can hear the interview here. (Additionally you have until the 16th to enter the contest for a signed copy of the book by yours truly.)

Not to mention that, along with the other GeekMom editors, I’ve been working on the Geek Mom book! We sold the book to Crown Publishing a few months ago and are swiftly approaching our deadline. So I’ve been immersed in geeky child rearing, projects, and cooking. Not a bad thing, but definitely doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for even more writing.

The good news is that I’ve settled on my next project (or rather, which project to continue) when February is over and our deadlines are met. Not sure how much writing I’ll get in, what with the brain the way it is, but it’s worth trying. I’ve also started taking a look at some of my back-log of novels and considering What Next To Do. Surely I can’t keep sitting on them. That does no one good!

To everyone who’s supported Pilgrim of the Sky — thank you! I can’t say it enough. My friends, family, and beyond have helped make this experience truly memorable. And it’s just starting, y’know? Here’s to 2012 and beyond.

Needles and other unpleasantries

With the help of an ergonomic keyboard, it’s been typing as usual here. However, that doesn’t mean the wrist pain has gone away entirely. There are still days where it’s intolerable (note the post about pain killers, etc.). So today I went the hand doctor, a specialist sort whose office is covered with lots and lots and lots of hands.

He looked, he prodded, he asked questions. Definitely carpal tunnel. I had symptoms I didn’t even notice until he showed me (like loss of sensation on some of the fingers). Then, he gave me the rundown: shots, therapy and a steroid patch, or surgery. The good news is that he didn’t think I need surgery (yet) — three months of pain, while it seems like a ton to me, is not as severe some cases. But he suggested the needles.

So we had needles.

Gotta say, those were big needles. I don’t mind getting poked, but it was certainly one of the strangest sensations I’ve ever had. I expected some numbness, which I had for a few hours, but what I didn’t expect was the pain. Well, apparently some people get mini flare ups after a steroid injection. I think I was hoping for a miracle cure, but whoa. Today has been barely tolerable. Writing is slow, and most of it has been dictated. So, no progress in that department. I’ve wanted to write, but just couldn’t. Dinner was torture.

Well, I’m hoping that this is the last bout of pain for a while. The doctor said in some cases the shot’s all you need — some people see a complete recovery afterward. I expressed that I’m a writer and, y’know, hands are sort of important (as great as dictation software is, writing spec fic with it is not exactly easy…)

We shall see. I spent some time changing the theme of the site here, and cleaning things up a bit. I like the look so far!

Here’s to tomorrow! Good things will come.

Here’s wishing you the bluest sky
And hoping something better comes tomorrow
Hoping all the verses rhyme,
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the doubt and sadness
I know that better things are on the way.

“Better Things” by the Kinks (or, in my mind, the cover by Dar Williams)

… and then some stuff happened.

I’ve been trying to write a post in what feels like forever, but it hasn’t happened. Well, now it’s happening.

The last week kinda sucked, with our cat nearly dying. We were quite surprised when she didn’t (I thank all the lovely kitty mojo love from Twitter). It’s likely she’s had a stroke, and she’s recovering well. We’re keeping an eye on her and doing our best to keep her comfortable. Minerva, the kitty, is really the most amazing cat I’ve ever known, and she was our first “child”. We answered an ad in the paper seven years ago for a “free black and white cat” expecting the usual tuxedo fare. She turned out to be a cow-spotted ragdoll mix with medium hair and the most delightful personality. She really is our favorite pet (sorry, Calliope).

Anyway, the toll of dealing with kitty issues was much higher than expected. I did a moderate amount of writing, finished a short story which hopefully I can announce soon, and made some progress on a proposal project for [exciting stuff I can’t share yet]. Exciting things are happening, really they are. And I should be thrilled and encouraged and really jazzed about writing in general, except that it’s been unusually difficult lately.

Part of the struggle is just personal. I’ve been writing a lot of short stories, and while I’m enjoying doing so more and more, I’m most at home with the novel format. It’s comfortable. It’s my gravy. But I’m looking at the mounting novels before me, considering what the future may portend, and I’m not sure that–career wise, anyway–more novels are what I need. I’m still tinkering away on The Ward of the Rose, but that still leaves a good chunk of the sequel to Queen of None, not to mention well, Queen of None, Peter of Windbourne, and Pilgrim of the Sky. I’m sort of in a stale mate at the moment, waiting to hear back from various places. It’s not that I’ve stopped writing, it’s just that I feel, well… cluttered, I suppose is the word for it. But I’ve just been sulky in general. I know it isn’t just the writing stuff; it isn’t just the family stuff; it isn’t just the “me” stuff–really it’s a combination of everything.

I just get cranky when I’m not my usual, ebullient writer self. I get cranky with me. Then I’m doubly cranky because I’m cranky. This is what happens to someone who’s almost never cranky. I don’t know how to deal with it, so I get angry at myself. Which is never a good thing.

So it comes down to just getting through, and allowing myself a little wiggle room genuinely be cranky. I mean, heck. This month I’ve written over 25 blog posts (other than my own), churned out three short stories, and written about 7k in The Ward of the Rose. There is no failure there. The only failure is my inability to see the accomplishment there. And that is entirely my own problem.

At any rate! There is some exciting news to be shared, and I will do that tomorrow. For tonight, it’s early to bed for, hopefully, some less than epic dreams. Seriously. I get into enough sword fights on paper.

“Be patient, keep writing” and other things I tell myself.

Pacientia_or_PatienceLast night I finished chapter 20 of Peter of Windbourne, and am now approaching the part in the book in which a series of Very Bad Things happen. The draft is sitting at 101,122 words at this moment, with hopefully no more than five or six chapters remaining (generally my chapters hover between 4-5K). It’s a blind rewrite, as I’ve mentioned, so I’m giving myself some extra wiggle room. I know it’ll be edited down a bit next. I’ve got until November to get it done, because I’ve promised to do NaNoWriMo again this year.

This chapter has been particularly difficult, mostly due to the influx of freelance work that’s come in. When I was in business writing full-time, progress was slow like sorghum, and I’m definitely feeling a bit of that strain. Coupled with the fact that this week has been one endless succession of death and ill-health, ugh. Yeah. Hard to concentrate.

Which is all not to mention other exterior forces that are involved in my writing that I can’t control. I feel a bit stagnant at the moment, as far as The Writing Career is concerned, but there’s really nothing to be done for it. So instead, I’ve crafted a new mantra for myself: “Be patient, keep writing.” I started drafting an email to an expert in the field, and then realized, if I had sent it out, that’s what she would have told me to do. So I saved the virtual ink.  I also keep telling myself: “You’re only 28. You have time. You’ll only get better as a writer in that time. Shut up, and work on other stuff.”

That’s the cool thing about writing and remaining unpublished, something I believe lots of fledglings like me take for granted. I’m at the point where I can write whatever the hell I want, as much as I want, and whenever I want. I don’t have deadlines, I don’t have people telling me what’s selling and what’s not. I’m completely free. If I want to write about a bunch of female steampunk knights chasing around arcane arachnids and lightning worms, I can. And I will.