On Dailiness: Morning Pages and the Contents Thereof
Life has to return to normal sometime. So this is me, trying to establish a normal, work-a-day writing pattern. I have historically not been good at this. But it's a new year, one that's forced some life-altering changes on us right from the get-go. As long as I'm trying to get my feet back under me, I might as well try to put them down somewhere sturdy.
(Everything's changing around here. With Uno away into the great beyond, all our cat-having habits have no place and all the legacies left by our cats--which is to say stains, hair collections, and broken bits--can now be addressed in a permanent and non-futile fashion. Also, a second burner on the stove has given up the ghost. Suddenly we're shopping for large kitchen appliances, considering new flooring, picking out new bed sheets, and replacing the leaky shower head and the wobbly up-lamps and the toaster oven that hasn't had a working toast function in years.)
So, writing habits. Daily ones. Here's one I'm returning to, one that I both love and hate--or, rather, appreciate and dread: "Morning pages," a la Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. Morning pages, very simply, are three long-hand pages of writing committed first thing in the morning. Cameron recommends doing them before anything else, especially before reading or writing anything else.
Ideally, I'd open up my eyes, roll over, grab my notebook, and do it. In practice, best case scenario finds me heading to the kitchen first for a fresh tea bag and water for the electric kettle. I also fiddle with my fountain pens a bit. That's what fountain pens are for: all the colors in J. Herbin's catalog, and also fiddling.
Less good cases involve oversleeping, racing through my morning, and eventually slowing down long enough to do my pages. If I ever get there. I'll be trying harder to get there this year.
So I appreciate and dread the practice for roughly the same reason: It forces me to confront the contents of my brain. It's a lot like appreciating and dreading hard exercise, like the off-skates workout that Give 'em Elle put us through at derby practice Sunday. I know it's good for me, but I know it's going to hurt.
Not many people really know this, but--I don't much like what's in my brain.
Still, what I don't confront, I avoid; and what I avoid, I tend to obsess over in the avoiding. Weird, right? Perverse as all get-out. (I'm telling you, my brain is out to get me.) But that's the way it works, so it's probably best to hit the nasty things head on so that they don't follow me throughout the day and get between me and the world. Or between me and the page.
That's the theory, anyway. I'm not 100% convinced it works. I mean, does journaling about nasty brain contents lay the ghosts, or does it just create new associations for them to haunt? Sometimes it goes one way, sometimes the other. I can never tell in advance which it's going to be.
Argh. Enough blog therapy. Moving on.
A significant few paragraphs of my morning pages tend to focus on my Plans for the Day. They are optimistic, my Plans. They aspire. And they impose a structure so that I don't lose my day in a wishy-washy haze of "Better write. Eek! Writing is big and scary and I can't do it!" Planning it out makes it something that I can, presumably, do. Unfortunately, my thoughts soon turn to how my Plans for Yesterday fell through (guilt! despair! shame!) and how I'd better adhere to my Plans for Today to prove myself (pressure! stress! more despair! more avoidance!).
This would be another of those love/hate aspects of the morning pages ritual. I'm kind of a mess.
Sometimes I spend a page or more working on a current story problem. This character needs motivation! What does these two characters mean to each other? Let's make up some character history.
Sometimes I spend a few lines noticing a handwriting habit I could fix. Then I write very slowly for a short while, repeating the letter combination I've been tripping over. I would like to have nice handwriting.
Sometimes I write down my dreams.
Sometimes I get distracted by the world outside the window. The deer across the street Saturday morning, just grazing their way around the senior living center's tiny dog park, were a particularly eye-catching distraction.
Sometimes I get distracted by sudden thoughts, which I mustn't forget. I try to just make a note of them rather than interrupt the writing to act on them. But I have to make a note elsewhere, because I generally don't want to reread my morning pages until quite some time has passed.
The thing about writing down the contents of my brain, it's like writing down a story's rough draft or thinking out loud. (I talk to myself a lot. It's embarrassing when someone catches me at it.) I don't really know what's in my head until my physical senses, eyes and ears and touch, can experience it. I think I know--wouldn't you think you'd know what's in your own head?--but I don't, not really, not until I am forced to experience my thoughts as words in real time.
It's a good thing, this forced specificity. It turns big vague scary obligations into manageable, discrete tasks. It turns story outline dilemmas into concrete plot goals. It captures dreams before they slip away. And even the nasty stuff that only gets louder for writing it down, even though it hurts, at least by writing it down I come to know exactly what it is that's causing the hurting, which is a necessary step on the road to doing something about it.
So that's morning pages. I'm doing them again.
Tomorrow morning, too.
Uno LeBoeuf-Little, 1996-2013
I just finished rereading The Last Unicorn. It's my favorite comfort read when I'm grieving because I always cry at the end. The tears that come at the conclusion of a good book hurt less than those of personal grief. They don't leave me with puffy eyes, clogged sinuses, and a headache. They're safe tears, cried over something beautiful but very far away, something that isn't actually making a wreckage out of some very precious part of my own life.
But at the same time, the bit where I cry is sort of too much on the nose. It's the part where the titular character says,
"My people are in the world again. No sorrow will live in me as long as that joy--save one, and I thank you for that, too."
Exactly. You sorrow over the loss of someone dear to you, but that sorrow is only as deep as your joy in them was great. So in the end, even grief is something to be grateful for.
Which is to say: Thank you, Uno, for sixteen and a half wonderful, infuriating, stressful, lovely years. I'll be grieving your loss for a very long time, as befits how inseparable a part of my life you were.
This was my first time actively ending a pet's life. Null took that decision out of our hands, spiraling down from tolerable to miserable to dying so quickly that we didn't quite realize he wasn't going to recover until it was over. The dog I grew up with, Padoo, took the decision out of everyone's hands by simply vanishing one day when she was old and tired. The parakeet I had most of my school years died very suddenly too, with no sign of sickness until the night she simply fell off her perch.
But for Uno, we had to schedule his death. Sunday night, we knew. He tried so hard to eat, but he couldn't--every two or three laps sent him off into a fit of fighting with his mouth. We examined his mouth and saw the new tumors wrecking his gums and teeth and tongue, and we realized how quickly they'd appeared and grown, and we knew there was no more good for him to be gotten out of life. John said to me later, "I cried so much that night because I knew he'd crossed that line."
It's funny. Monday morning, after scheduling the home euthanasia appointment, I hung up the phone and I felt like a monster. I felt like I'd just ordered Uno's execution. All Monday afternoon, waiting for the vet to arrive, I had doubts. Uno was so comfortable lying between us on the couch--purring, bumping John's foot with his head, snaking a paw out for my dangling computer cord as I wrapped it up--that I couldn't help but think, He's happy. Can't we let him go on being happy? But Monday evening, after it was all over, the doubts were gone.
It was partially because I took a closer look at him while he was sedated and after he was dead. For the first time, I could clearly see the horrifying number and size of growths in his mouth. And his left eye, which had watered pretty constantly throughout his sickness, had this strange mottled look to it that suggested the cancer was attacking him there, too. It was time. Things would only have gotten rapidly worse for him. Things were already far too bad to ask a cat to live through.
But it was also because now that the fight was over, now that I wasn't trying so hard to extend his future, I could look back and see how bad it really had been for him day-to-day. If anything, I felt guilty for having let it go on so long.
But there's nothing to be done about that, either. And that last afternoon was all anyone could have hoped for. John and I were together with Uno, and Uno was content. We cried a lot, but Uno was happy and comfortable. And then Dr. Mones and Jenny came over and performed that last rite in a more gentle and compassionate manner than I could have believed possible. They never hurried us, despite whatever their schedules held. They explained everything to us about what they would do and how Uno would react so that there would be no surprises. They waited for our go-ahead for each successive step in the process. Dr. Mones even asked our permission before shaving a small area of the inside of Uno's back leg, though I don't know how he'd have gotten the needle in the vein if I'd said no. And when it was all over--meaning not only that Uno was gone, but that John and I had taken all the time we felt we needed to pet him and kiss him and say goodbye--they bundled him up in blankets as though he were a kitten sleeping so quietly it would be a shame to wake him.
(Dr. Mones gave me the tuft of fur from that mini-shaving he performed, asking me if I'd like it as a keepsake. It's in a little bag now with some of Uno's sheddings I'd attempted to spin yesterday afternoon into thread. Neither was any good for spinning, alas, despite the shaved fur being the softer stuff from Uno's underside. The bag looks like it's got fur from two different cats, the back sheddings being brown-gray and the underside shavings being a very light reddish brown. That bag, and Uno's old collar, are on the altar now, near Null's collar and Beanie Baby tarantula.)
I remember the awful experience of rushing my parakeet to an emergency vet in Metairie--if only I could remember, I'd tell you which one it was, and which doctor, because I'd strongly recommend never putting yourself or your pets in his/their hands. Mom and I waited in the lobby for hours, living on miserly scraps of news, and finally receiving for our troubles only a small bundle of taped-up newspaper, my beloved White Wing dead and wrapped up like so much garbage. And the vet addressed my mother as though I weren't even in the room: "I'm sorry, Mrs. LeBoeuf." Meanwhile, I stood there, sobbing, probably no older than 14, holding my sad burden and receiving no comfort from anyone in the room. No one at that awful clinic treated me as though I were present and grieving, or her as though she meant anything to anyone.
This was to that like day to night, like summer to winter. I don't ever recommend the experience of having your pet put to sleep, but if you're in or near Boulder and that sad duty falls to you, Alpine Hospital for Animals will treat you right. Just about every member of their staff, doctor or tech or receptionist, has been the model of compassion and empathy. They helped us care for both Uno and Null through their final sicknesses, and I could not ask for more kindness or support from anyone.
Our friends have been nothing but supportive, as well. John kept to his Monday night plans of running a game of Becoming Heroes, saying he needed "a distraction, and for the good guys to win." I came along so I wouldn't be in the house all alone, and it was a comfort to play a bit of Puzzle Pirates in the presence of friends having loud, animated fun. I also drove off and met a couple other friends for dinner. They gave me hugs and sympathy and listening ears and permission to grieve--never underestimate the importance of that permission--and we all ate far too much food and it was glorious.
Today I've been gentle with myself, not pressuring myself to clean up or work or anything. I reread The Last Unicorn, like I said, drifting in and out of dreams in which I watched Uno sit under the wooden stool in the living room and groom himself. And, as when Null died, I'm feeling that huge weight lifted off my shoulders: no more making sure I'm up/home/still awake in time to give Uno his next subcutaneous injection, no more persuading him to eat, no more helplessness to do anything other than witness his pain and decided when to stop prolonging it. No more cats in the house at all--no furry dependents to care for and clean up after. I've been more tired than I realized, not just with the end-of-life care but simply with the job of having pets at all. I'm sort of reclaiming that energy for myself now.
(After Dr. Mones and Jenny left, I thought, I don't want to ever go through that again. But then I thought, The only way to ensure that I don't is to never have another pet.)
One day we'll take on that job again. The house feels empty without cats. Waking up feels lonely without Uno and Null bounding up onto the bed to remind us that it's breakfast time. But for now, we're not in a hurry. We're taking a break from pets. Besides, there can't possibly be another Uno. He was one of a kind. As John pointed out last night, the world couldn't handle two of him. It would just keel over, and Uno and his doppelganger would be all like, High fives! That was easy. What can I conquer next?
On Not Being God
Uno had unprecedented difficulty eating his dinner last night. He bled a lot, too, not just bloody drool but thick maroon gobs. This was worse than his "normal" bad days. John and I cleaned him up and took a closer look at his mouth. There's a new tumor in there. It's the size of a robin's egg, distorting the line of his gum just behind the left canine and unmooring one of his remaining molars. And it looks like there's a third significant growth under his tongue, and the lower gum on his right has a scab-like anomaly resembling something I'd noticed on the left side did last week. No wonder he flinches when we try to wipe his mouth.
Damn it. We'd hoped we could at least keep him stable for a few more months. We've left a message with his regular vet, but we think when she calls back the topic of conversation will be the logistics of saying goodbye.
Lately - well, not today. Today, he's just burrowing under the covers and trying to stay unconscious. But in recent days he's taken to wandering the house as though looking for something, then returning to call out to me with that half-whine, half-baa word that makes up the bulk of his vocabulary. (He's never meowed or mewed. I don't think he's built for it. He mutters instead.) I'll look, and he'll stare back into my eyes with direct intent. It's clear he wants something from me. He's asking, pleading, for something. But it's not clear what.
I'm beginning to suspect the request is, "Ma? Can't you make it stop?"
These little creatures, they trust us implicitly to hold up the sky for them. And when we inevitably let them down, they don't blame us. They don't get angry. I don't think they even realize they've been let down. They just endure, waiting for us to eventually get around to fixing it. They know we can fix anything.
It's up to us humans to know that we've utterly failed them. It's not like there's anything we could have done, but that doesn't stop me feeling like a failure. I also know it's stupid to feel this way. So on top of feeling like a failure, I feel stupid.
But for Uno, it's very simple. Physical pain is simple. So is the comfort he gets from being near us. The emotional anguish of our unrealistic expectations of ourselves, that's a burden for us, not for him.
At least he's spared something.
How the New Year Rolls In
But hey, before we get to this writing thing, there's this other New Year's marker that's worth mentioning, and I mention it now because it's got a lot to do with why I didn't actually end up blogging yesterday:
The Boulder County Bombers' 2013 season is officially underway.
Unofficially, it got underway last week when the bout-ready skaters submitted themselves to the ordeal known as Hell Week. It involved a 6-hour practice on Sunday the 6th (really, more like a 2-hour practice followed by a 2-hour rules clinic topped off by a 2-hour scrimmage) and 2-hour practices every night for the successive five nights. We were allowed two absences, but that's still a heck of a lot of derby in a single week.
Then we had team try-outs on Sunday the 13th. Also a rules test, because WFTDA upgraded the official rules and we all have to be on top of that. Big news: No more minor penalties. No more keeping track of how many minors a skater has so she can go to the box when she racks up four of 'em. Some minors got downgraded to "no impact," but most got upgraded to majors, and majors get you sent to the penalty box. And seven trips to the box will still get you ejected from the game. So this is important stuff, and not just because of its impact on team strategy.
In any case, try-outs resulted in my getting assigned to our B travel team, the Bombshells. That's the team I played on last year, so I've already got the uniform. Also, the pink lacy thigh-high socks in progress will not be knitted in vain.
So I've got two team practices a week plus scrimmage night. In practice, it's going to look something like this:
Thursday noon: Throw some red beans in the crock-pot. And possibly a ham hock. Make rice.
Thursday 7:30 PM: Scrimmage!
Thursday around 10 PM: Get home, devour two bowls of red beans and rice.
Friday 6:30 PM: Team practice. Followed by more devouring of OMG PROTEIN.
Sunday 6 PM: Team practice, red beans and rice, yadda yadda.
Monday: Dear GODS, my jerseys and my shorts and my tights and all my padding stinks. WASH EVERYTHING.
(The tradition in New Orleans is to cook red beans and rice for Monday dinner because Monday was traditionally wash day. Metairie Park Country Day serves red beans and rice every other Wednesday lunch, and wash day isn't a factor. It looks like my personal tradition is going to be cooking red beans and rice on Thursdays and eating them all weekend long, and then having wash day. This is known as cultural drift.)
It sounds like a lot, but you should see the schedule of the skaters who made it into the A travel team (the All-Stars). And I sure as heck don't envy them who're skating on both the All-Stars and the Bombshells.
Meanwhile, Saturdays are MINE, MINE, MINE. If you ask nicely, I might share them. For a good cause. Negotiable.
Now, because I have been very good tonight (unlike last night) and actually kept my brain in gear after a hard team practice long enough to write this, I am going to reward myself with that bowl of leftover red beans and rice and, I dunno, Puzzle Pirates until my eyeballs fall out. Probably as Teshka on the Cerulean Ocean--she still needs her Seal o' Piracy for January. Come play with meeeeeee!
Happy Solstice, Crappy New Year
Or, "Among the Things 2013 Will Bring, One of Them Almost Undoubtedly Will Suck."
Right. So. The turning of the year here at Chez LeBoeuf-Little has had its ups and downs. On the up side, we had a terrific Winter Solstice Eve with a fantastic mix of friends, fun, food, fruitcake, and fire. (This would be one of those rare times when "F-ing it up" is a positive phrase. So long as the fire remains in the grate where it belongs, of course. Which it did.) Also many equally lovely things that don't start with the letter F, like "non-F'ed-up egg-nog" (I will never live down the year I mistook the salt for sugar) and "too much pie" and "Avedan playing Skyrim until she must have got hoarse from shrieking at unexpected draugr" (draugr are always unexpected) and "I actually stayed up all night AND went to Drumming Up The Sun the next morning AND I didn't go alone, either, which was awesome because sleeping until 2 PM in Julie-and-Joe's guest room and then waking up to watch them play Legoland LOTR totally beats the stuffing out of falling asleep in rush hour traffic."
Those are some great up-sides, there. I ain't gonna lie.
The biggest down-side, though, was knowing that this would probably be our last Solstice with Uno, our beloved, first, oldest and last surviving cat.
Uno turned 16 this past summer but remained remarkably healthy to all appearances. But towards the end of November, Uno began eating less and less of his dry cat food. Offering him the wet stuff or even returning to the home-made mix (he'd switched to a prescription food when Null did) didn't seem to help. We suspected chronic nausea. Then, when he evinced pain at our attempts to look in his mouth, we brought him to the vet for what we suspected to be an abscessed tooth. And the vet took one look in his mouth (the one look Uno would allow) and said, "That's not a dental problem. That's a mass."
Mass. As in tumor. As in fucking cancer. Because he was too damn healthy, so something had to get him, right? Gods damn it.
We scheduled the biopsy for the next day, and then we cleared our schedules of everything else for the near future because we couldn't fucking think. I dropped a thousand-dollar freelance gig because there was no way I could bring enough brain to bear on it anymore. John and I canceled our plans to attend the Boulder County Bombers End-Of-Year Ball--that was a real bummer, but, as it turned out, a wise decision; the vet called us with the biopsy results that very night. So either we'd have missed the call or we'd have spent the rest of the Ball crying in our hotel room. Either outcome would have been non-ideal.
The average prognosis is 60 to 120 days, but it could be longer or shorter. We just don't know. For now, we're keeping Uno comfortable and enjoying what time remains. He's on a small army of medications--steroids and pain meds--and he's eating, with a little persuasion and a healthy appetite, two liquid meals a day (and twice a day I bless fellow roller derby skater Coletteral Damage for the blender I took home from her Take Our Stuff Because We're Moving Out Of State And Only Have So Much Room In Our Car party). He's still pretty damn bony from his brief experiment in starvation, but he's using the bathroom regularly so he must be getting enough solids and liquids. And despite his mouth giving him trouble--his tongue's perpetually out, he drools bloody drool, and he sometimes reacts violently to some sensation in there-- he cleans his face after each meal, comfy and casual like anything.
We worry every time he has a bad day that this is it, this is the downward spiral, are we selfish in keeping him alive? Is it time to take that last trip to the vet? But each bad day has been followed by a good day, one in which he sticks his nose pointedly into my food or hops up on the balcony rail to be king of all he surveys. And every day, good day or bad, ends with him purring himself to sleep in our arms, which is totally worth the bloody drool-stains on our shirts in the morning. As long as he seems to be expressing a fervent desire to stick around, we're going to enable it to the best of our ability.
So that's where we're at, right now.
I was going to write about writing, about how with a new year comes a brand new resolution to do it regularly and in quantity. But I've sort of used up my brain for blogging now, so... more tomorrow, I guess? It'll be happier stuff, I promise.
Annnnnd That's a Draft
- 53,489 words (if poetry, lines) long
It's not so much a revised novel as it is a brand new first draft written from a revised outline. It's got a lot of plot holes, its characters need more development, and there are places when I couldn't figure out how to get from A to B so I just jumped over to B and started writing anyway. But as a novel draft it wanders less than the first one. And, unlike the first one, which kind of dribbled off into December, it's got an honest to goodness ending. It's not the right ending, but it's an ending. It's got a denouement and everything.
Two small excerpts are up on my NaNoWriMo.org profile. For posterity, yo.
About the freelance gig we will talk later. Tonight I do not want to spoil my happy with thoughts of the miles to go before Friday the 7th is allowed to get here. Tonight I'm just happy that, this November - or, for that matter, at all - I wrote an entire novel draft from beginning to end.
Or I'll Put You in My Novel
- 26,601 words (if poetry, lines) long
So I just did something rather unpleasant to my female lead. I'm sorry. It isn't even plot-related, not really. It's not that sort of rock. It's just... the world being the world. And me being exasperated with it.
Sabrina is Timothy's ex-girlfriend. She's an aspiring sculptor who is currently paying the bills by waiting tables at a diner. She met Timothy while in an art class at a vocational college in Taos; it's probably got a real-life counterpart, but I haven't done the research on that. Research is for December. But what little I've seen of Taos in person has given me the impression of a very artsy town. So, art. Yay! Also, Sabrina is of Mexican heritage, that being a rather important demographic in the U.S. southwest. In fact, it's rather an important demographic in the U.S. full stop, as a certain presidential candidate learned to his chagrin earlier this month.
(One of the problems with the first draft: Despite much of it being set in New Mexico, every single character was pasty white. This made me about as frowny-faced as realizing I had only one named female character. The second draft has Sabrina in the protagonist tier and her co-workers, Sonora and Rosa and Jazz, in the secondary character tier. It's a start. Rosa runs the diner where they all work.)
With me so far? OK good. Now, back in October, I had reason to drop my husband off at the airport. Having done this, I took myself off to the TravelCenters of America along I-270 and treated myself to brunch. Then I took home a hell of a lot of Popeye's fried chicken for eating over the rest of the week.
This may sound familiar. But what I didn't mention in that blog post was the conversation I overheard while taking revision notes and eating oatmeal.
It's a truck stop. Truckers go in and get fed. And while they sit at the counter and have second helpings of everything they order (at the Country Pride restaurant, every single menu item is all-you-can-eat; the waitress comes to take your plate and says, "You want seconds on that, hon?" whether you're a 250lb dude who just finished his steak and eggs or a 150lb writer gal who just had oatmeal), they talk about things that are relevant to the interest of truckers. Like, this one Denver-area loading dock guy who doesn't know the first thing about securing a load. Like, the recently approved increase on tolls on New York highways and its expected impact on long-haul freight. Everyone talks shop. Like you do.
But the bit that stood out for me was this one guy. I can't tell you what he looked like; guys who talk this way, you don't look at them, you don't want them seeing you listening in, because then they might talk to you. I can tell you kinda what he said, though, because I nearly snorted milk out my nose listening to him.
He was a genuine conspiracy theorist, I'll tell you what. He shared with his counter-mates his recent discovery, via this secret memo that "they" just released, this secret memo between President Obama and the president of Mexico (who will be hereafter referred to as Felipe Calderón because that is his name, a fact of which our conspiracy theorist appeared oddly ignorant for being so well informed on secret memos and the like) which revealed that Obama and Calderón we conspiring to flood the U.S. labor market with immigrants who would then "revert," that was the word he used, "revert" at a later time...
"What the hell are you talking about?" his conversation partners kept saying. "What memo? What do you mean?" In response, he would simply reiterate, which is to say repeat word for word everything he'd already said. He could not seem for the life of him to tell anyone where he read this, for instance, or who "they" were who uncovered this memo. Nor could he explain what he meant by "revert."
I am still befuddled to understand exactly what he thought was going to happen. Obama was going to relax immigration law specifically to allow cheap Mexican labor to flood the unskilled labor market, until at some point Calderón would give the signal and call all the workers to "revert" back to Mexico, leaving the U.S. economy to crumble in their wake? Or did I mishear him, and the word he repeated was actually "revolt," alluding to a future civil war in which good upstanding white workers will be forced at gunpoint to drop English for Spanish and replace their steak and eggs with huevos rancheros y bistec asado? I honestly do not know. This guy would not explain. He would only repeat.
Finally one of the other truckers turned to someone else and loudly revived the discussion about New York toll increases, and I heard no more from the conspiracy theorist for the rest of my stay.
What all this has to do with NaNoWriMo is this: Sabrina is on the road, half-unwillingly, with the Big Bad. She's helping him in some way to track down Timothy, mainly because the Big Bad has convinced her that Timothy needs their help. And so they have both stopped at a 24-hour diner modeled after that Country Pride Restaurant at the TravelCenters of America, only the one in Limon which I have not been to as opposed to the one in Commerce City that I have. And while she was there, I confess I made poor Sabrina, who absolutely did not deserve it, overhear this conversation.
Not that anyone deserves to get slapped in the face by random casual racism, mind. Or casual sexism, for that matter, which I have also run into at the TA. (Do not get me started on the guys ahead of me in line at the Popeye's who were relentlessly demanding that the woman behind the counter "smile, baby, come on! Smile for us!")
Forgive me. Sabrina totally did not deserve it. But it happens. Adding that conversaton to the scene not only helped ground the book in the real world (which has people in it and also racist people), but on top of that it did help to relieve my feelings about having been Racist Conspiracy Nutbar's captive audience. Though I'm sure if it had been Sabrina there rather than pasty white me, her feelings would have been a lot more intense and, frankly, more relevant than mine. And so, in the scene, they were.
The encounter added 600 words and three extra bit-part charecters to the scene, so I guess that's a win? Maybe I can have the Big Bad go back in there and eat them all.
High on Caffeine and Pseudofedrine
- 14,015 words (if poetry, lines) long
This is apparently the only way to get anything done while in the grip of a cold. And even then I didn't really get upright until 7:00 PM tonight. Argh. Have I mentioned that this is extremely bad timing? Extremely.
Just now logged another 2000 words on the novel rewrite, though. I must be feeling better or something. Of course, it could just be the pseudofedrine talking.
The 2000 words all went into a scene I'd created blank and written "I don't know what goes here" in the description. It was going to be a driving scene, which is generally not the cleverest way to make time pass in the novel. But I couldn't see a way to get around it. When the last scene involving Timothy and Rocket involved the latter using his superpower to compel the former to get in the car and drive, the next scene involving them can legitimately take place in the car.
And so it did. It mostly comprised a lot of dialogue, a good bit of US 285 and State Highway 17, and a bunch of emotional reactions on Timothy's part. He has a lot to react to. There's Rocket's rather frightening ability to compel Timothy's actions; there's the idea that the person he thought was his ex-girlfriend was actually a really scary being disguised as her; and, last but very much not least, there's that peculiar embarrassment that comes from spending time, perforce, in the company of someone who inspired your lust-at-first-sight reaction and then kidnapped you. I'm sure you can sympathize, because this happens all the time, right?
A big difference between writing the first draft in 2010 and writing a new draft now is this: To a large extent, I know where it's going. In 2010, I stumbled across the sexual tension between the two male leads rather late in the story -- which is to say, rather early in the story I caught myself saying things like, "The slash just writes itself!" but it wasn't until quite late that I entertained the notion that the slash was canon. This year, I know the romance is coming so I can foreshadow it. Which means I can have a whole new layer of writerly insecurity about whether I'm laying it on too thick.
On the other hand, there's a lot about where the story's going that I don't know, mainly because I introduced an entirely new protagonist. In the first draft, there's a waitress they cross paths with who ends up getting pulled along in their wake. Mostly her role is A) to show how dangerous the coin Timothy found is, an B) to show how dangerous the Big Bad is. Somewhere between then and now, I realized that I was guilty of, more or less, fridging the poor woman. Oh, I tried to give her agency and let her play an active role in the way the story turned out, but there's only so much agency you can exert while essentially imprisoned, isolated, and assumed dead from about Chapter 3 onward. It didn't help that she was pretty much the only named female character in the book, either. I guess the combination of two male leads plus my tendency to underpopulate the story world led to almost total erasure of women from the novel.
For obvious reasons, this didn't sit well with me. So I've changed the character substantially and given her a bigger, more active role. She gets involved in the story for a different reason and she reacts to her involvement actively. She is no longer this random waitress that Timothy and Rocket run into on the road; Sabrina is actually Timothy's ex-girlfriend, who dumped him when it became clear they wanted incompatibly different things out of life. The story will throw them back together, create new conflict between them that has nothing to do with their previous relationship, and, because neither wants to see the other hurt, motivate them to protect each other.
So pretty much any scene to do with Sabrina is a brand new scene, a total departure from the first draft. Which means I'm still writing quite a bit of first draft. Argh. Still, it also means I get to keep being surprised by my novel. That's a plus.
With any luck, improving conditions or continued application of good drugs will mean I can get further progress logged tomorrow, both on this and on the WFH gig. Niki out, hitting the sack with fingers crossed.
More or Less Simultaneously
- 778 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 11,834 words (if poetry, lines) long
So I'm doing National Novel Writing Month. And what's different this year is I'm not writing a new novel; I'm rewriting one. To be specific, the one I wrote in 2010. The story I'm sticking to is this: I have not yet succeeded at revising a novel straight through to Professionally Submittable. I've only ever gotten something novel-length all the way to THE END by participating in NaNoWriMo. Thus, NaNoWriMo is clearly the engine that will propel me to the goal.
The theory is, I spent the months revving up to November in examining the existing draft and making good notes about character development and scene structure and plot. Now all I have to do is type the new draft. In actuality, the new draft bears striking similarities to a fresh rough draft. It's OK, though, because I'm having Big Picture Thoughts to guide my choice of new scenes to write (or new versions of old scenes to rewrite). I am thinking in terms of Theme! and Symbolism! and Parallel Character Development Tracks! This does mean I'm moving through my word count a bit more slowly than I do most Novembers, though. As my word count so far shows.
Will there be excerpts? There probably will not be excerpts. As this thing gets closer to "hopefully publishable," the whole excerpts-on-the-blog thing becomes more of an issue in terms of first rights and encumberment. Which, drat. But hopefully I'll have other fun things to post, like Niki's Plot Dilemma Of The Week or Essay Topic: Why My Characters Hate Me. It'll be fun. For certain values of "fun."
Within the NaNoWriMo community, I also continue in the volunteer position of Municipal Liaison for Boulder, and Boulder is requiring a little more planning this time around because there are so darn many of us. We've exceeded several write-in venues' capacity, prompting me to come up with new plans in a haze of emergency panicked inspiration. I do not like emergencies. I do not like panic.
Too bad! Because this month I've also picked up a new work-for-hire gig which is very similar to the National Novel Writing Month thing in that its official deadline is November 30. It is unlike NaNoWriMo in that the word count requirement is twice as big. Also, like every other WFH project I've undertaken, it's not fiction. It requires research. The words must be correct, factually and stylistically, the first time around.
I am beginning to doubt the wisdom of this timing.
No, no, it's OK, I can do this.
Also in the work-for-hire category, Demand Media Studios is a viable source of income again. They've finally rendered a decision on whether I can write for their Fitness & Well-being channel, and the decision is "Approved." My reaction, given my long history of writing LIVESTRONG.com articles for them, is sort of "Well, duh," but you never know. They rejected me for the Garden channel despite my long history of writing for GardenGuides.com. So OK. In any case, I now get to chose from a huge list of titles that I can actually feasibly write for $20-$30 per article (as opposed to two or three titles which nobody can write and that's why they're still available, and by the way they only pay $15 per article).
And hey roller derby! Did you know Boulder County Bombers are in their off-season? Do you think that makes much of a difference to any of its members' time commitment to fast-skating, hard-hitting awesomeness? The correct answer, in case you're wondering, is it does not. Were you thinking that? You probably were. Congrats! You Are Smart.
tl/dr: I got a lotta stuff going on this month. If I seem in a hurry when we pass on the street, I promise I'm not avoiding you. I'm just in a hurry.
And I seem to be coming down with a cold. GREAT TIMING, IMMUNE SYSTEM. Feh.
One More Duck
- 6,000 words (if poetry, lines) long
Today I finally secured resort accommodations for Sirens 2012 . I purchased early registration while attending World Fantasy last year, then said to myself, "I have oodles of time before I need to do anything else!" That statement ceased to be true some time ago. The Skamania Lodge (in the majestic Columbia River Gorge, in Stevenson, Washington) showed no availability via their online reservations. I called the 1-800 number in hopes of receiving better news. A charming and pleasantly chatty reservations operator found me the very last room available and slotted me in.
Meantime, we also talked about French last names ("LeBoeuf" may have to be spelled a lot for people outside New Orleans, but it could be far, far worse), urban fantasy (she recommended Laura K. Hamilton; I recommended Carrie Vaughn's Kitty and the Midnight Hour), and various inspirations for writing fiction. As phone calls to hotel reservations go, it really was an unusually pleasant example of its type.
Now I just need to get my train tickets to Portland. I'm pretty sure I'm going by train. It's a straight connection from the California Zephyr to the Coastal Starlight. I've never been on the Coastal Starlight before. It's got wifi! The entire journey takes two overnights, not materially worse than Denver to New Orleans, though the Denver-to-Sacramento leg is 31 hours compared to Denver to Chicago's 18. But, you know, meh. More time with me and my laptop and/or knitting and/or sock-darning or jeans-patching. And less time trusting my belongings or my person to commercial airlines and airline!TSA, which trusting I'm slightly allergic to. (Amtrak!TSA exists, as far as I can tell, exclusively on video loops on infinite play in the Chicago terminals. I'm OK with that.) I can only rejoice in my spouse-given freedom from the 9-to-5 world that allows me to extend a weekend excursion by 48 hours on either side. Thank you, John! Now, to get this "writing" thing up to the "possibly making a living off it" speed...
Speaking of which, got my doubly-signed copy of the contract for the publication of "Lambing Season" back in the mail this week. Hooray!