welcome fall… though the heat is still on

on writing

It’s September! And with it comes the pressing need to get things done before the dark days arrive. Making slow and steady progress with my new writing schedule. I started tracking my word counts sometime in mid-July and have found myself looking forward to writing on the weekends, rather than rushing home to squeeze in a few mediocre pages between dinner, washing up, and bedtime. Since I started tracking, I’ve (re)written a total of 17427 words (the draft now stands at a little over 70k words). There are two and a half more chapters to get through, though I’ve worked past the toughest sections, so the rest should be more manageable. This is the third draft (second major rewrite); I’m going to let it rest a bit and work on some scenes that I need to refine before I try to recruit CPs.

I’ve learned a lot about how I write while working on this draft. Despite all the advice out there, I do believe that we each come to writing in our own way. For me, this means finding what works best for my health and well-being. I’m a fast writer, but if my mind’s not in it, there’s no amount of self-flagellation that will get me to write something worth reading. While there’s something to be said for writing everyday to establish a flow, that method hasn’t worked for me in the last year and a half. I need blocks of time in which to write. I can do that well enough on weekends, but my schedule just doesn’t allow for it on most weekdays anymore (part of the trade-off I made when taking a job with a longer commute but more opportunities for professional growth). Come November, I’ll fast draft (I will NaNo this year); for now, I take the long road.

on reading

A lot of books were read in July. I swept through my bookshelf and got rid of about two bag’s worth of books that I will never read, am just not interested in anymore, or tried a few chapters and didn’t like the style. Among these, were three Georgette Heyers that failed to capture my interest. Given my genre preferences, I really wanted to like Heyer, but after two attempts, I just had to give up. Can’t like them all. I did, however, fall for the new Poldark series, which led me right to the books. So there we are.

on life

New semester, new students, new job roles, lots of stuff to oversee and get done.

I’m on day 20 of a 30 yoga challenge (missed a few days, but I’m back on track now), and trying to get back into my old walking/running habit. My energy has improved somewhat, but there are days when everything just aches and I just want to sleep all day; doing yoga really helps, particularly after sitting at my desk for hours. I haven’t seen any major changes since I started the FitGirls challenge back in April, but I’m definitely more toned and flexible now that I’m concentrating on yoga rather than circuit training.

My hair has also reached a new milestone and is now just grazing the base of my neck… still dull and awful though. I’m seriously considering giving up on this experiment and trimming it back to my usual bob in lieu of a pixie. Ugh, I’m in a style rut and I hate it. I’m going to try a henna dye this weekend to darken it up.

my alter ego

A bit about me… I am a writer, yes, but I am a librarian by day. Why? Because it pays the bills and feeds the kitty. Every so often, folks ask me why I became a librarian, so here’s the story…

I, like many bright-eyed undergrads before me, decided to go to grad school and get a master’s degree in my chosen field–English. What does one do with an English degree you might ask… a lot, actually, but that’s a story for a different day. If you’re like me, you teach freshman comp as a TA and become an adjunct. The life of the adjunct is a cruel and brutal existence, only compounded by the cutthroat battle for tenure endured by hungry PhDs. I chose an alternative route… I got a library degree, stayed in academia, and managed to find a solid job with decent pay and room for growth.

I should like to share some truths and misconceptions about what I do:

  1. Yes, I read a lot. That does not mean that I read on the job. I check out books and read them at home, just like everyone else.
  2. Yes, many library resources are available online. Yes, people do still come to the library for help.
  3. No, I do not shush people. Actually, I’m a radical sort who thinks libraries should meet the needs of the people not the librarians.
  4. Yes, I wear a sweater and glasses. Libraries are cold because it keeps the mold off the books. And I’ve wore glasses long before I ever dreamed of becoming a librarian.
  5. I write a lot on the job. It’s a different beast from my creative writing, but it keeps the wheels going.

changing things up, trying a new method, and the return of first drafting!

More and more, I’m finding that my best work gets done when I can sit at the computer for an extended period of time. When first drafting, I can write just about anywhere, at any time, not so with rewriting and editing (hence the extended period of time between drafts). I’ve been working on weekends and squeezing in about thirty minutes a day in the evenings after work, dishes, washing up, and all the other steps involved in the business of life. It’s worked, for the most part, but as I reach the climax of the story, there’s a speed to the writing that I just can’t get if I’m snatching thirty minutes here and there. During the last two weeks, I’ve completed most of my writing on the weekends. In a day-long binge to be exact. It’s allowed me to get into the story in a way that I just can’t manage during short sessions… So I’m going to do something radical (for me): I’m going to finish the next few chapters during weekend sessions and concentrate on other aspects of my writing during the week. Despite putting in fewer days, I’ll actually be putting in more hours and getting the same amount of work done (let’s face it, 30 minutes, 5 days a week equals 2.5 hours a week, whereas a good binge is between 5 and 8 hours and generally equals a chapter or two a weekend). It’s just another one of those things I’ve learned about myself during the last two years of working on this project.

On the flip side, I’m drafting the preliminary outline for the “sea story” and I’m not using Scrivener… I’m using Evernote. Yes, you read that right, I’m using an app to draft the next story. Why? Because I need a portable program and I can’t install Scrivener on a chromebook or iPad, so my ability to work anywhere is hampered by the need for to haul my laptop around. Like I said, I can draft anywhere, and I like being able to set up shop wherever I go. Evernote lets me organize my notes by folders to keep them tidy, and then copy and paste the final content into Scrivener when the time is right. Added perk, I can use my phone to store story snippets straight into Evernote whenever inspiration strikes, rather than struggling to dig out my notepad from the depths of my bag, or send myself an email that I promptly forget to open.

Change is good, especially if it means being able to up my productivity without sacrificing quality.

wrapping up, July

on life

It’s been a miserably hot month, but I’ve managed to stick to my workout schedule despite the unrelenting heat and humidity. Speaking of miserable heat, a couple of weeks ago I had a thought regarding my lack of energy during the last few months… I was refilling my weekly pill-box and noticed that the bottle of Synthroid was surprisingly warm. Now, it’s been hot year-round, but especially since my last refill. I decided to test my theory by finding a different place to store my meds, and I think it’s panning out, as I’ve started noticing some real changes in my mood and energy levels. I never really gave it any thought when I lived at my mom’s place, since the house was generally cool, but my apartment features wall A/C units that I only run while at home, so the place warms up during the day, especially during the summer months. Given the extreme temps this year, there hasn’t been  a cool day since winter. If the heat altered my meds, it would explain why I’ve been so drained for the last few months. Some days it’s been nearly impossible to work up the desire to do more than the minimum, which has really put a damper on my writing and exercise routines. I’m not entirely back to normal; I feel the way I felt when they were first trying to get my thyroid to normal levels, but I do feel better. Tired rather than bone-weary on most days. I hope this means that my energy be back to normal after a few more weeks, but I’m trudging along for now.

on writing

Day 100 has come and gone and with it two more chapters revised. All in all, some good work this month. Once the words started flowing, the words started flowing. I wanted to get a third chapter finished before the end of July, but that’s likely not going to happen until I can sit at my computer for an all day writing marathon on Saturday.

The book is out and an article I co-wrote with some of my fellow library gals is in pre-pub, so all is well in the world of academia.

on books

I’ve been in a trashy romance sort of mood. After reading the Grisha trilogy, I had a hard time finding anything that really sparked my interest, so I started making my way through the adult manga section of the library and weeding my way through my TBR shelf. I found a few gems and some fun reads, and then I picked up a used copy of Teresa Medeiros’s Yours Until Dawn that I purchased at some long ago library friends’ sale and was instantly hooked. Thus began my foray into romance novel binge reading as I devoured several more of her books. Sometimes I just need some sexy fluff in my life. I’m cool with that.

the view from sunday: back to basics

One of my friends gave me a William Blake tarot deck for my birthday. It’s a tarot for self-deprecating creative types (e.g. me). It’s more of a tool for self-reflection than divination (and I’m still learning how to interpret the spreads), but it’s pretty spot on.

My dilemmas are definitely in the cards… and some possible solutions as well. I read today’s spread as a need to celebrate what I’ve accomplished and get back to what I do best by relying on methods tried-and-true. The biggest hurdle is letting go of the fear that it’s all meaningless drivel and just enjoy the writing, even when working to craft a strong scene.

Part of getting back to basics is getting back to those old habits I wrote about earlier, so I’ve started counting days and words. Even if it’s a small dent in the overall project, keeping score of my daily word count helps me see the work I’ve accomplished in a way that is more significant than just using the calendar method. Both methods help, but I really need to see those numbers adding up to spur me on. I also tallied up the total number of days I’ve spent writing; as of today, that total is 95 days and counting. My original goal was to finish the draft within three months, but I did not anticipate the mass revision I was about to engage in, nor did I expect the various derailments along the way. So I’m going to celebrate what I’ve accomplished and look forward to a finished draft.

I’m also going to celebrate my professional writing, which is a huge part of what I do on the job. I will celebrate the reviews I’ve written, the article that was just accepted, and the book that is about to go to print.

a little serendipity

I lost my grandfather last fall. This is the first time he hasn’t been there for my birthday. Every year he gave me a card and a $20 bill, and every year I thanked him and told him that I appreciated it, no matter how small. He was always concerned that it was too little, blame it on years of dealing with my cousins. This year, there was no card and the loss was palpable.

I’m not big on faith or miracles, but on Monday my mom told me she found a stack of greeting cards and letters. Somehow, a sheet protector filled with envelopes found its way into one of her storage boxes. I have no idea how it might have ended up in that box. I don’t even remember packing them up, but somehow one of my grandfather’s cards ended up in that box and inside was a $20 bill.

picking up old [writing] habits

I’ve been easing my way back into a regular writing routine. Looking through my progress calendar, there are a lot of gaps starting in mid-April, most of May, and the beginning of June. I started the year strong, but struggled with some life drama and other issues along the way that made writing less of a priority. Not an excuse, just a fact. I post these updates as a way to stay accountable, even if no one else is holding me to task. There are days when I just want to stop, but there’s this need that keeps me from doing that… it’s a compulsion at this point; even when I’m not writing, I’m picturing scenes in my head. If only it weren’t so hard to take what I picture and put it into words.

By my count, it takes me about a week to edit and rewrite each chapter (except, not really… at least, not if I tally up the number of days when I engaged in some form of active rewriting, but it’s a good estimate based on the average time spent on each chapter). My goal was to be done (DONE) by May. Then it was June. Things happened. Things didn’t happen. Here we are. I’ve decided to stop working towards an arbitrary date and take this “bird by bird,” as Anne Lammott says. I have four chapters left and another round of reading through the early chapters (my editing style changed midway through this draft and I find that later chapters received better treatment). At this point, I just want to get it all down.

I read somewhere that writers should read in-genre for every 2000(?) words, 20000(?) words written. Something like that. Whatever the number is, I should be reading in genre. So I’ve started making a concerted effort to read more fantasy, particularly more magical, elemental magic type fantasy. Uprooted really sparked my desire to write, as well as Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy (why were these waiting on my shelf for so many years?!). The only trouble arises when all I want to do is kick back and read, but that’s what happens when you’re a total book nerd.

finding normal

It’s been a pretty rough week. My birthday was the day after I lost Didymus; it was the saddest birthday I’ve had in a very long time. It was a few days before I felt like doing more than wandering around or lying on the couch reading, but I started writing again on Monday. The boy has been very supportive and managed to distract me with a Back to the Future marathon. There’s been a lot of soul-searching; it’s been a year full of loss and I’m just hoping to find a new sense of normal in light of it. I took in one of my mom’s special needs cats yesterday. He was born with ingrown eyelashes and lost most of his vision in one eye at a very young age. He had his eyes “fixed” last year, but he’s an anxious little cat and very jumpy. He’s getting used to the new sights and sounds, but he hasn’t eaten much and spends most of his time in the hollow under my couch when not demanding cuddles. I wasn’t really ready for this, but I promised my mom long ago that I would take him in after Didymus passed (he wasn’t open to sharing his space, so I couldn’t do it earlier). There’s a lot of post traumatic stress to deal with, I just hope little Cara acclimates enough to start eating and drinking.

grieving the loss of a cat

This morning, I lost my Didymus the Cat.

Didymus was the only surviving kitten in a litter of five (I like to think he’s the one looking back, but he could be the one firmly attached at the front–he was a voracious eater).

It was a litter of outdoor kitties and his siblings didn’t make it. I won’t go into details but it was a case of cruelty involving minors so there was no justice in the end. Didymus was 5 weeks old when he appeared in our garden, hungry and scared, but alive.

We weren’t allowed to have pets in our apartment, but I begged and pleaded to keep him until my mom let me have my way. I said I would find him a home and I did–with me. He was a funny little cat from the start and enjoyed being carried so much he learned to lift his front legs into the air whenever he wanted to be picked up.

His markings became darker with age, until he was mostly gray and black with a white belly.

And he always had the most amazing blue eyes.

He was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma after I discovered a strange lump on his shoulder. He underwent surgery in February, but the bump was back within two months. The vet wanted to try again, but I refused. I knew it was a terminal illness and that it was progressing too fast to have any real hope of long-term recovery. I made the decision to watch and wait. His quality of life started to take a turn for the worse on Tuesday evening. It was getting harder for him to walk and lifting his head to eat was becoming difficult but he was still eating. Last night it was nearly impossible to get him to take more than a few licks of the moistened food and the only thing I could get him to take was a spoonful of yogurt. I knew that I was only prolonging his suffering so I asked my mom to take him in to the vet to see if there were any other options for palliative care, but there were none. I knew it was time to let go. I wasn’t there when it happened. I felt obliged to go to work for a meeting and because I needed to take care of business before going on vacation; I drove as fast as I could, but I couldn’t be there in the end.

I keep thinking he’s just around the corner every time I walk into the living room, plopped across one of his many blankets. It’s going to be hard to put his things away. There will never be another cat like him, though there will be others. The pain of losing a pet is real, but it would be more painful to not experience the love they bring.

I said goodbye to him this morning and he work me with a happy little mreow this morning. This is the last picture I have of him. I took it when he came to wake me at 6:30 am. I was surprised that he was able to make it to my room, he was that tired, but I was grateful to see his little face at my bedside one last time.

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