Back-To-School Disorientation

Ugh… what day is it? How is it already the 28th? Oh, well. I met my word count goal for Camp NaNoWriMo, but I have one more chapter to complete in the rough draft of Traveler’s Guide to Mythical Beasts. Now I’m back to simmering all day in a subtropical office. (87 degrees F and 79% humidity. If the two were closer together, we’d have indoor rain, and I could grow orchids at my desk. Welcome to the prosperous world of public education!)

This sequel probably won’t be ready for release until spring, when it will coincide with the publication of a stand-alone comic fantasy novel called The Genesis of Max Variel. Remember, though, that the second Makkarios novel comes out in October. Still no word from OakTara about the re-release of the third Keeper novel, but (if you’ll pardon the pun) that’s nothing novel. For a publishing company, OakTara isn’t the best at communication. Still waiting for my mid-year sales reports too, which were supposed to be sent out at the beginning of August. [Insert grimace here.] Once we get the third book redone, we’re going to have to come up with a different plan.

But enough about publishing issues. Anybody found any really good books this summer? I’d love to hear about them, if you know of one. I tried to read The Magicians by Lev Grossman, but I didn’t last past three pages. I deal with “genius” teenagers who act dead common all the time at work. I don’t need to read about them. And anybody can tell that his Fillory is just Narnia in a thin disguise, however hard he tries to assert otherwise. So I’m looking for something genuinely out-of-the-ordinary. Otherwise, I’m going back to biographies this autumn.


Speedy Update on Camp NaNoWriMo – August 2012

Nearly to 40,000 words now, with eleven days left. I can give you the title of the sequel novella: Traveler’s Guide to Mythical Beasts. The terrifying hag just told / made the narrator hallucinate a story. Things are going well. Further updates as the month’s end draws nearer. (So… much… fun!)

“Slowly I Turned”: Drowning in Privilege

I’ve been extremely sporadic in updating my blog during the summer so far. I admit it, and I regret none of it. If I must go for two months without pay from my day job, then you’d better believe I’ll use those two months to indulge my creative side as much as is humanly possible. So far, I have finalized the cover art for the second Makkarios novel (release date still holding steady at mid-October); I have plunged headlong into the planning stages of a sequel to Faerie Tales for Travelers, which shall be my project for August’s Camp NaNoWriMo. I’m rereading my way through my fiction library, now that I have rescued my books out of their boxes. Because I’m a word person rather than a numbers person, I’m attempting to achieve a respectable level of skill at Sudoku and bolstering my math-related skills on Khan Academy. (I am mildly addicted to Khan Academy.) I’ve fallen behind on my efforts to teach myself how to play the ukelele, sadly, although I picked up a new set of chord charts that should help me figure out where my fingers are supposed to go. Also I still want to learn how to make my own ice cream; as yet I’m lacking the proper tools for that job. On top of all these things, I have discovered the fun of baiting the aggressive, not to say officious, salespeople at Becker Furniture World in Roseville (hint: all you need to do is walk around looking at their stock piece by piece without stopping or slowing long enough for one of them to latch onto you to “help” you; deliberately making eye contact and saying hello to them only adds spice to the game). I have no idea how some of my coworkers can say they get bored if they don’t have recourse to their school-year duties. There’s always so much to do.

On all these fronts, I shall keep you posted as often as I can. Suffice it to say that nonfiction is not one of my higher priorities these days. Since I have been liberated temporarily from those phenomena that comprise most of my writing struggles, I shall wallow in the privilege of that freedom to the uttermost. Some things are well worth forsaking income for a time.

“Slowly I Turned”: Nomad’s Land

Peregrination seems to be written into my genetic code. My family moved a lot when I was little, and in the past thirteen years I have moved six times. I suppose this is only to be expected. One doesn’t become a writer for the sake of money (normally there isn’t any) but for the love of writing. I work full-time to support my writing compulsion. Since the only other option isn’t an option—i.e. marrying rich—I accept this necessity. It has had an inconvenient side effect, namely, that I am often compelled to find new quarters for myself because I can no longer afford the ones in which I live. This might be because of rent increases, or because a roommate gets married; or even, in one peculiar case, because my landlord was getting a divorce and the house was to be sold. That instance was a more apparent blessing than the others. If I see another cockapoo in this lifetime, it will be too soon.

But I digress again. I am currently in the middle of my seventh move. I must vacate my current apartment in about six weeks, give or take, and I have yet to acquire a replacement apartment. In the meanwhile, I have spent each of the past two Saturdays driving a carload of my less-frequently-used possessions to a storage locker belonging to a relative. I apologize, by the way, for my silence of the last two weeks. Moving plays merry hell with my writing schedule. I had set April 30th as the deadline for the first draft of my current project. (Unlikely now.) I had planned then to use May for revising and expanding my sole nonfiction project. (Even more unlikely now.) That would have freed June up so that I could participate in Camp NaNoWriMo’s first session, using that time to work on another novel that I had to leave incomplete last year because of structural issues. (So unlikely now that astronomical odds would be too gentle a description of the situation.)

As my last roommate once said to me, I do need to keep a watchful eye on my priorities. The writing compulsion may be strong, but so is the need for shelter. A few days ago, I did have an abnormal moment that felt like clarity. I felt the impulse to just walk away from everything I owned. I wanted to pack up one spare set of clothes and leave the rest. I spent a quarter of an hour wondering what that would be like, but no sooner did the impulse hit than pragmatism hit back twice as hard. It isn’t practical to leave everything one owns. Even Abraham, the ultimate faith-nomad, packed up his household and took it with him when he followed God’s radical command to walk into the unknown. Et cetera, et cetera. I’ve often had a strong desire for a monastic existence, but I know full well that this is just my usual stress-induced fugue state talking. “Run away! Run away!”

There is a practical compromise. Balance is what’s wanted here. Material possessions only matter insofar as they are of service to me. Beyond that, they entangle. So I’m weeding out my book collection and getting rid of any clothes I no longer wear. They cannot take any hold on me that I refuse to let them have. For the rest, I suppose I’ll have to scrape together the money to hire movers. I don’t suppose anyone can recommend any who are reliable and economical?

Pull The Plug

Technology has been my bane this week. My mp3 player died after a long decline. My DSL modem is following close in its wake—in fact, I had doubts whether it would last long enough for me to post this safely. The mp3 player I can survive without, although I’ve discovered just how accustomed I am to listening to my own music in the car rather than coping with the hit-or-miss rubbish on most radio stations. The modem I could get along without… for a few days… maybe. The trouble is, I do so many different sorts of transactions online that my ability to function in daily life would be hindered severely without that access. Most of my friends live a long way away from me; family too. Oftentimes my only contact with them comes through my computer. (Oh, and that is being fussy this week too, and not only because of the modem issues.)


I’m no Luddite. I appreciate technology’s benefits. It occupies a prominent place in my life, especially in my writing life. Last month’s novel-writing sprint, for instance, would not have been possible without my laptop and my access to the website. More than that, I am bombarded on every side by the mantra that, if one wishes to be a successful writer these days, one must keep up with all the latest technological innovations in social networking, e-book publication, advertising (or, as they now call it, “building a platform”), creating and maintaining an interesting / ground-breaking web presence—be it blog or website or online store, so on and so forth ad nauseum. That settled it: I had to replace the modem, like it or not. (I got a text message ten minutes ago, telling me that the replacement just shipped.)


I was a little depressed when NaNoWriMo ended a week ago. The excitement of the sprint got into my blood more than I had realized. Then I found myself with a piece of graph paper, passing the time by sketching the floor layout of the house where the main part of my project is set. Passing the time? I should say so. I spent the better part of four hours working on that diagram. In so doing, I reminded myself of what called to my inner writer more even than just the writing: the process. There’s more to the process of writing than the mere act. I draw blueprints for every significant building in every novel I write. Doing so helps me, because in many ways milieu determines the course of a story. Sometimes its effect is purely behind-the-scenes, but sometimes the setting turns out to be integral to the plot—the ramshackle house with the weak floorboards, through which a character might fall into who knows what; the inner-city alley where a character’s whole life might be destroyed or reborn in a matter of instants. These actions and these epiphanous events sometimes don’t bear an obvious connection to each other, but by exploring the scenery I often discover a scene already hidden in it.


And I don’t discover this except by drawing the diagrams by hand, with no more complex or cutting-edge technology than a mechanical pencil. Needless to say, I’m no longer depressed about finishing the sprint. I have returned to the process I have loved so long, and thereby I am returning to a more complete view of writing. Technology serves its purpose (when it works). Sometimes, however, I just need to pull the plug and remind myself exactly where the purposes of technology end. To be frank, I think we could all do with a sturdy reassertion of the human soul over the gadgets that baby us through the day. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have ten acres in which to design a neglected Victorian garden. Does anybody know what chokecherries grow on?

A Picture Worth 50,000 Words