well, i was writing full-time…

And then I happened to land a part-time job teaching at a college. One that, because I didn’t hear back from them, I assumed I’d been passed over. I never expected to get it anyway…. Apparently I was wrong.

I do, however, have a theory that taking on a part-time job will leave a person with more time and energy to write than a full-time writer. Just like getting out and exercising can lead to an eagerness to get back to the computer. I’ll save up my thoughts here, and let you guys know how this goes.

fortuna

I locked the two cats in my bedroom, so that I could stare at the living room floor in peace.

The birds started small, just like she did. Baby sparrows, fallen from the nest, their nests neatly snapped as Fortuna laid them on before the back patio door. Her kill was almost dainty.

After that, I found a live bird in the garage, nestled in a temporary haven between the step in the concrete and the garage door, feathers strewn around its hiding place. I picked it up and took it outside, and I petted its feathers. Just another sparrow, the kind you’d find anywhere. After a few minutes, it chirped twice and flew away.

My mother blamed herself. We had a bird feeder in the back garden, its post wrapped in metal to keep the squirrels out (ha!). And when the birds would come in, they would pick through the mix of seeds to get to their favorite treat, spilling some of the rest on the grass below. By the bushes. And when the birds would run out of seed, they’d fly to the ground to pick at it there. Our cat was less than a year old at that point, but she displayed talent for the hunt. And she liked birds. Moving from the city suburb to northern Idaho did not hinder this. Especially since, courtesy of our new houses’ last owner, the house came with a series of dog doors.

Fortuna was a beauty. Her fur was short, black, and glossy, her body small and lithe. Some cats chase string when you dangle it. There was nothing that Fortuna wouldn’t chase. She’d go for blades of grass, keys, phone cords, even my wooden practice daggers (courtesy of martial arts training). She’d scratched and bloodied my hands several times, whenever I was stupid enough to try to make her pounce on the toys I offered. Always enthusiastic, never cruel.

We were a dismayed, though, when we found the dead bird scattered around our new house’s bedroom halfway through the remodel. From what I could tell, it had been another sparrow, but this time all we found were feathers and a head. Another followed that, in another room. Then she’d managed to catch herself a starling.

Back to the living room. We had tiled and carpeted the floors. The rooms had gone from a hideous 80’s pink-walls-with-a-green-carpet to boring beige, which in a house of this make was really all that could be done. Asian furniture in cherry graced the corners, and managed to make the giant iron wood-furnace less hideous. Nothing there could distract from the large black duck.

Black, gray, and very dead, it reclined on the new carpet just past the tiled entryway. Its neck held a particular angle that suggested that it had been snapped. Feathers were missing from its tail, torn out and played with all along the hallway.

And to think, I’d been petting that cat…

and now, for something completely different

I now live in a town between a lake and several mountains, with a booming, thriving population of under seven thousand. Having grown up in Seattle, this is a bit of a change, though welcome. The little town has some very… interesting aspects. The Seattle-ite in me is aghast that there is no recycling service. The tomboy in me delights that wearing my nice, long skirt with combat boots is an entirely respectable choice. My internal weapon enthusiast noted that the thrift shops sold gun racks in their entryways. And the bookworm in me is amazed that pulling into the library mid-morning, we were pressed to find a parking space. I’ve never seen a busier library.

Granted, the selection of books isn’t huge, but there’s plenty of interesting things to read. I’ve taken to finishing a book a day recently, and after three days of three different fantasy novels, I decided to take a short break from the genre. My manic, unreasonable side presses that it would be fun to start at the end of the fiction section and work my way up the ranks, so that I might someday say that I’ve read every book in the library (it will never happen; you have my full permission to point and laugh). I picked up the last book, a contemporary novel: The Other Shulman, by Alan Zweibel. I opened it, read the first two chapters there, checked it out and brought it home.

My mother had decided to make the trip with me, as she also wanted to visit the library. In her case, it’s partly for books, partly because of some design work she’s doing. My mother reads nonfiction, and prefers biographies.

Still, I couldn’t help but read a few lines of my book to her, and mention that to get myself out of the fantasy groove, this book is about an overweight middle-aged guy trying to redefine himself by running a marathon. She liked the lines. I read a few more, when an especially good part came up. The novel really is hysterically funny, real and casual enough that she was certain that it was nonfiction before I pointed out the big ‘fiction’ tag on the spine. I went to go avoid working on my NaNo writing, curled up on the carpet, and continued my book.

Around page forty-five, there is a section about this poor man, trying to gasp in air, somehow recover his breath in the second session of his marathon-training program, walking, walking, taking longer strides… and then a girl jogger passes him, a young, cute blond with a tattoo just above her pant line. And he takes off like a creature possessed, trying, striving in a euphoria of vivid, poetic, and humor-streaked language describing his attempt to pace her, just so he can see more of that tattoo. I began snickering, shaking, and then fell over on the carpet laughing so hard that tears squeezed out of my eyes and my mascara ran onto my cheeks.

“Don’t do that. I’m warning you.” My mother was reading a cookbook, watching me intently through her reading glasses.

I had another mental image of the events from another angle. I couldn’t reply; my throat had almost closed up, my chest ached.

She pounced. “Back! Back! I’m reading this now! Don’t you have writing? Go! Go! Do your writing! It’s my book now!”

“Mom!” I accompanied my wail with poorly executed attempts at snatching the book back. My martial arts instructor would be ashamed.

“I’m reading this. You’re on page forty-six.” And my mom curls up on the carpet where I had been crouching and turns back to the first chapter. “Look, I’m already enjoying it. Go write your book.”

This, I think, is the peril of having a very young artist-mother who also enjoys books. From experience, this is going to result in having my library book go mysteriously missing every few days, only to wind up perched inside a sofa cushion, or inside my mom’s sock drawer. I’ll come back from the restroom, only to find that in the middle of the climax, my mother has gone back to chapter five and is again snickering about the marathon-trainee sprinting desperately after the woman with the tattoo.

almost on schedule

In other news, it appears that I’m not dead. 🙂

It’s been a hectic few weeks, leaving the story virtually untouched as the house gets remodeled. It’s hard to think about writing in a house mostly lacking heat, not to mention the predominant smell of fresh paint and a roofer tromping back and forth directly above one’s head. The wrong carpet was ordered (we’ve got our furniture on pressboard), which means that everything gets moved out of the carpeted rooms and back in again as of a week from today. I have also refrained from blogging about off-topic adventures, such as ‘My car protests the northern Idaho cold’, or ‘Why is the cat in the duct work?’, and “Haha, let’s not try to transport drywall on top of the car again’.

We have three and a half days until November 1st. Despite all these little adventures, I’ve been getting ready for NaNoWriMo. I even suspect that taking this month off to do so much distracting house work was good for me. My mom contends that truly excellent fiction is written by people who have experience in real-life situations and relationships, that pure escapism deadens even the most poetic prose. I’m not sure if that’s entirely it (reading and writing often helps), but I wouldn’t discount the thought.

Note to self: get a life.

I’ll see you guys in November!

making up a schedule

I admit it, I’ve been gone lately far more than I have in the past. Things have been a little crazy.

I quit my job two weeks ago (and four days after that, they laid everyone off at the company), moved up to a more remote location. I was set then to write full-time, but the new house has needed a lot of work. Old, smelly carpets to tear out, popcorn ceilings to scrape off, walls to spackle, everything needs to be painted. I’ve also taken on an informal job designing a logo, business card, brochure, and website for one of my neighbors, in exchange for a huge, gorgeous wooden desk that’s soon to be the center of all writing-related activities (not to mention the crowning glory of my bedroom).

So, the short of it is, we’re not moved in yet, and we’ve got a metaphorical ton of work to do before carpets get in, much less furniture. It seems that I’m taking a longer break from my book after all. It has, however, emphasized something that I’ve been thinking about for writing full time. You need a schedule. You won’t make the time if you don’t think of this as a business.

Or, at least, I do.

So. Since November 1st is the day our short-term apartment lease runs out, as well as the first day of NaNoWriMo, I’ll be sticking to a schedule, most of which centers on writing.

Priorities:

  • Write ‘Blue Crystal’ (no side projects): 2,000 words a day. Estimated time… 4 hours?
  • House remodeling. I’m not stupid enough to think it’ll be over by then. 1 1/2 hours.
  • Spanish. Because I’m stubborn, and determined to learn it. 1/2 hour.
  • 3d, art, and design work (such as that commission I took on). 1 1/2 hour.
  • Exercise. I’m cranky if I don’t move at some point. 1/2 hour.

That’s eight hours. I figure that my house remodeling hour and a half will be replaced by my internet social networking time once work is done (it’s so much harder to keep up on now that I don’t have a boring desk job). So, with a bit of scheduling… my tentative schedule will look something like this:

09:00-09:30 – Exercise.
09:30-10:30 – Writing.
10:30-10:40 – Break.
10:40-11:30 – Writing.
11:30-12:00 – Spanish.
12:00-12:30 – Lunch.
12:30-02:00 – House remodeling/housework/blogging/networking.
02:00-02:10 – Break
02:10-04:00 – Writing.
04:00-05:30 – 3d, art, and design.

That’s a full eight hour day. If I don’t make my 2,000 words, then I get overtime. Too harsh? Too much to do? Anything I’m forgetting?

illness

There’s nothing like feeling as if you want to curl up and die because the pain killers aren’t working to take one’s mind off of writing and craft. Don’t worry– it’s not a serious bug, just a miserable one. Bleh.

I’ll be on hiatus for a few more days.

end of my writing-hiatus

When I finished my novel, I decided to take a week-long break before I began working on the third draft. I finished my book on the early hours of last Wednesday morning, making this the last day of my writing-hiatus.

So in the meantime, I thought I’d take my mind off of the story with other things:

  • I saw the new Producers movie. It was entertaining. It even made me twitch during some of the scenes, and the end of the movie is different from the first.
  • I also watched V for Vendetta. I had not seen it before, but I have decided before the movie was even finished that I adored it. The only downside was that I couldn’t help but wonder how similar it was to my own book. Just a few plot elements– anarchy, revenge, plague, politics, men in masks– but it made me a little uneasy for a short while before I dismissed it. They’re different enough.
  • I started reading Roger Zelazny’s “Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming”. As much as I loved some of his other work, I ended up putting it down halfway through. I’m simply not the sort of person that can stomach satire.
  • I started reading one of the Forgotten Realms ‘Drow’ novels– Dissolution. I probably will finish that book (a good friend gave it to me, and I use the drow in gaming), but I can’t help but roll my eyes at the characters. In some four story lines so far, there’s only one I even remotely care about. I despise how D&D novels handle magic, I really do. There’s no art, no logical systems, no consistency to it. And this book in particular has an annoying habit of describing someone’s emotional reaction to something before mentioning what just happened. And the POV characters have this ‘magical’ insight as to what other characters are thinking, but don’t say how. ‘By their expression’ is not good enough. Stop being vague, you idiot writer. Give me details! And stop putting people out of character to attempt an omnipresent viewpoint!

… I’m done now. But it is true. Read bad books. They can be more helpful than a good book.

I also picked up three more crit partners in the last week. I think I’ll keep two of them; one is an older woman who has written forty first drafts, but never has published anything. I don’t think she knows about rewriting, or if she has, she’s dismissed it. There is a good reason not to stay on a first draft.

fearless

I gave my notice at work today. I’m a project lead, not a tester, so I gave three week’s notice instead of two. Starting October, I’ll be officially writing full time. I have savings enough to live comfortably (if frugally) for several years. I’m also going to be moving to a small town in another state, between a lake and a mountain. Farm country.

On the wall beside my desk at work I taped a piece of paper, on which I’ve written, “Please don’t annoy the writer. She may put you in a book and kill you.” On the bottom left corner of that sheet I’ve taped up a dove candy wrapper. It’s nothing special, just wrinkled aluminum with a fortune cookie type message printed on the inside. This one says, ‘Be fearless.’

I think I’ll take that one with me when I go.


As for the book’s progress (for the curious)… I’m starting the last scene of the last chapter of the second draft.

… and i return!

I got back from my holiday last night, after a long car ride. I think I’m going to break my self-imposed rule to leave out personal information on this blog for a (very) brief moment.

The score:

  • 7 days on the shore of the Pacific Ocean.
  • 17 pieces of handmade chocolates bought.
  • 13 pieces of aforementioned chocolates consumed.
  • 7 art galleries visited. I love sculpture.
  • 4 balls of wool yarn and a bamboo crochet needle purchased.
  • 2 crochet lessons during the daily church services.
  • 1 winter scarf created, striped in blues and orange.
  • 1 trip to Powell’s Books.
  • 11 books purchased. I’m an addict.
  • 1 helicopter ride.
  • 2 sunburns.
  • 1 giant sand castle, built with my parents.
  • 1 bottle of raspberry wine purchased, one third consumed (slow drinker).
  • 3 games of putt-putt golf. I was even worse than my mother.
  • 1 and 1/3 great novels read (still working on the second).
  • 8,000 words written on Blue Crystal.
  • 1 and 1/2 chapters completed. Three chapters until the end of this rewrite.
  • 75% of this rewrite finished.

Aside from the (fairly obvious) point that I had a fantastic time and was sorry to leave, these last few items on the list bring a very good point to my attention.

People who keep up with my book’s progress know that I aim for about 4,000 words a week. That’s a little over five hundred words a day. I spent lots of time last week relaxing, reading, shopping, playing on the beach, learning new things. And though I didn’t set any writing goals for myself, my progress on my novel doubled even without a disciplined schedule.

I have a hard time seeing how much energy my job takes away from me. Sometimes I consider taking what savings I have and writing full-time instead. I’m lucky; my mother is an artist, an oil painter enamored of landscapes and still life. Though she doesn’t care for my genre, she understands what I’m doing, and my parents would support me if I did turn my attention to my novel full-time. My dad’s been searching for a job in his field, and may have found a good one by a lake in a smaller town just out of state, though it’s too soon to say (negotiations being what they are). I’d love to be able to write somewhere like that.

I have a good job. I still enjoy it, after a year and a half staying here. Even so… lately something about its feel has changed subtly, like toes brushing against the edge of shoes that used to fit, like Italian bread with a woody crust.

This should be interesting, any way it goes.

vacation

Last time I took time off was Christmas week, back in December. Before that, I took another week off for Thanksgiving to fly over to Indiana (and meet up with an internet writing friend of mine). And now, next week. I’ll be in Oregon from Saturday to next Sunday.

I’ll have the internet, but I’m not sure if I’ll be around. This could give me lots of writing time, or completely distract me from my book altogether. Still, here’s my leave-of-absence notice, which I will almost certainly violate sometime during the week. Hope that I meet cute boys, revive from work, and get lots done!