Since the release of City of Mages, I've been doing the prep work for the next revision of For the Wildings (the 6th and final book of Daughter of the Wildings) and I've also been getting back in the habit of writing new words (almost) every day. Part of that has been doing writing exercises from the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King. One of the exercises was to take a description of a neighborhood given in the book and write a scene showing the neighborhood. I started with that exercise, and it kind of took on a life of its own... Not my usual kind of thing, but I hope you enjoy it.
Rescue From Suburbia
copyright 2015 Kyra Halland
"Turn left from Route 9W in six hundred feet," the fembot voice of the GPS said.
Left? Sandra thought. She didn't think that was what the directions had said. But going 65 miles an hour down the highway with a cement mixer crawling up her back end was no time to fumble for the sheet of paper with the directions on it. She had programmed the address into the GPS, so she would just follow that and if it didn't seem right, she would check the directions when she found a place to stop.
The turn came up quickly. She veered into the turn lane without having time to slow down, and the cement truck blasted past her. She waited while the traffic coming the other way passed, then made her turn.
Woods lay between where she had turned and where the business park she was looking for was presumably located. Sandra drove into the shelter of the trees --
Then, in what seemed an eyeblink, she found herself not in the driveway of a large industrial business park but on a winding suburban street. Maybe the business park was beyond this neighborhood, if she kept driving straight through.
The street she was on curved and met a second street that branched off, also at a curve. She slowed down and looked at the street signs, hoping to see Commerce Street. No such luck; she was at the intersection of Mars Court and Mercury Terrace. She braked for a moment and considered; she thought she wanted to go north. Mars Court, the street -- excuse me, court -- she was on continued curving around to the east, but Mercury Terrace seemed to go north.
She turned and followed Mercury Terrace north, then it angled west-northwest. It turned into Venus Lane, Uranus Place -- the kids probably had fun with that one -- and Pluto Circle, then turned into Mars Court again and met another street at a sharp T angle. Jupiter Landing, the new street was. She turned right, hoping to get going straight north again, but Jupiter Landing made a hairpin curve. She followed it all the way around to get back to Mars Court, but right about where she thought Mars Court should be, Jupiter Landing met with Jupiter Court at about a thirty degree angle.
She was lost. Sandra stopped the car and looked around. The streets all looked the same. And so did the houses -- miles and miles of off-white stuccoed suburban sameness. Except the flock of pink flamingos in front of the house at the corner of the Landing and the Court added a nice individual touch. The compass on the GPS unit said she was facing south. Which seemed odd; if it was still morning, shouldn't the sun be on the other side of the sky from where it was? Either she was really turned around, or the GPS was messed up. Or both.
One thing was clear, she wasn't going to be able to just drive straight through the subdivision to the office park. The only thing to do was to backtrack to the highway and find the right exit this time. And ignore the GPS.
Sandra reached over to the passenger seat for the directions she'd scrawled on the back of the envelope while she was talking to the HR person on the phone. As she thought, she should have taken a right turn off the highway. But there hadn't been a right turn where she'd turned; it was a T-intersection. The turn must be farther up. Oh well; she'd left the house in plenty of time, anticipating trouble finding her destination. With any luck, she should still make it to the interview on time. Fortunately, she had the phone number of the woman she'd talked to in her cell phone. She pushed call; the chipper, cheery voice of the HR assistant answered.
"Hi," Sandra said. "It's Sandra Benson. I have an interview at 11:30; I'm having a little trouble finding your office, but I should be there on time. I just wanted to let you know, in case I am a few minutes late."
"Benson..." the HR woman said. "Let me see, I'll put a note on your file, just in case... I'm so sorry, Ms. Benson, there seems to be some sort of mistake. We don't have you scheduled for an interview today... Or any day this week."
Sandra huffed out an exasperated sigh, holding the phone away so that the HR person wouldn't hear her impatience. "It's right here on my calendar," she said, looking at the envelope where she'd scribbled down the information. "Tuesday, October 7, Mega-Lite Industries, interview with Ms. Valance."
"Well, then, I do apologize," the HR woman said. "It must have fallen through the cracks. I'll go ahead and put you on her schedule, and she'll work you in today, since you've already gone to all the trouble of driving all the way out here."
"Thank you," Sandra said. "I should be there soon."
She hung up, turned the car, and began backtracking. Now that she had noticed the pink flamingos in the yard of the house she had stopped in front of, other yard ornaments came to her attention. A Virgin Mary in a half-buried bathtub shrine, a basketball hoop, a garden gnome, a birdbath, a politcal sign for last year's election, an army of garden gnomes, a Camaro up on blocks, a flock of pink flamingos...
Darn. She was back at the intersection of Jupiter Court and Jupiter Landing. How had she gotten here? She could have sworn she had turned the other way, back onto Mercury Terrace. She called up the map app on her phone and had the GPS find her location; it showed her in the middle of an expanse of emptiness. Apparently this subdivision had been built since the last time the street maps were updated.
There were no signs of life on the streets; probably everyone was at work. Only one thing left to do. She Googled on her phone for a taxi company, and called the first number that came up on the results.
"Galaxy Transportation Company, how may I help you?"
"Hi, I'm at --" She checked for a house number on the pink flamingos house "-- 709 Jupiter Landing. I've got my car and it's working fine, but I can't find my way out of this neighborhood and I'm going to be late for a job interview. If one of your drivers knows his way around here and can lead me back out to 9W, I'd really appreciate it. I'll pay double whatever the fare would be."
"Certainly, ma'am," the cheery voice on the other end said. The connection was funny, from way out here in the boondocks; the sound was slightly metallic. It was lucky she could get a cell signal at all, Sandra thought. "You aren't the first person to get lost in that neighborhood. We'll send someone right out."
"Thank you so much." The rush of relief and gratitude was more than Sandra had expected. She hadn't realized it until now, but she had a really strange feeling about this neighborhood. It was too empty, too new, too weird. Going to a job interview actually sounded like fun in comparison to being stuck here.
She looked at her watch, hoping it wouldn't take the taxi too long to get out there. She got out of the car to stretch; the neighborhood might be empty, but it didn't look dangerous, and it was broad daylight, so it should be okay if she walked around a bit while she waited. The day was bright and held some summer heat that just wouldn't let go.
Then, somehow, the light seemed brighter. She squinted; the brightness hurt her eyes. A chill rushed over her, weird considering the heat and how strong the sun was. She turned to go back to her car, saw at the heart of the bright light something shiny and metallic hanging in the sky, far too large to be floating... Right before the light enveloped her completely and the world fell away, she saw the lettering on the ship, Galaxy Transportation.
At least she wasn't lost in suburban hell any more, was her last thought.
One of the reasons I started writing was to write the kinds of books I wanted to read and had a hard time finding. So it makes sense that I would want to go back and re-read my older books, and I've been wanting to do so for a while. It isn't quite that simple, though. A lot of authors, including me, have a fear of reading their own books. We tend to read our own work in highly critical mode, and we're terrified of finding mistakes, or that our older writing style will make us cringe, or that we'll end up wanting to just rewrite the whole darn thing. Finally, though, I decided I wanted to read my books and revisit those stories and characters I love enough to brave the dangers. So I decided to start at the beginning and read Urdaisunia.
And it was actually a lot of fun. It's been so long since I looked at Urdaisunia that I had forgotten a lot of what happens and a lot of the neat details in it that I love. Once I got over my initial terror of finding mistakes and sucky writing in every paragraph, I even got lost in the story, reading it like a reader would. That's a rare and fun thing when it happens for an author, to be able to read their book from a reader mindset. Would I do some things differently now, 2 1/2 years and many books later? Yes. As with most authors, my writing style has evolved and maybe improved with practice. And I did find two minor proofreading errors that I have corrected in the uploaded books. But I didn't find myself cringing or wanting to rewrite the whole thing; I thought it stands very well as it is. And I was reminded of some story threads to bring into planning the sequel (which is in the development stage, though it isn't at the top of my list of projects to work on).
I hope it doesn't sound like bragging to say I enjoyed revisiting Urdaisunia and I'm proud of it. My books might never burn up the bestseller charts, but I can say that every book I write is a book I want to read, and I put my very best efforts and all my heart into each book. If I touch even one or two readers for whom that book is exactly what they wanted to read, and they feel the emotions and enjoyment that I put into writing the book, then I've done my job, and knowing I've touched readers this way is the best validation I could ask for.
It's been a while since I did a Friday 5, so here's one: Where the magic happens, or, pictures from my writing room.
1. My writing room is a spare bedroom in our house. I share the space with storage bins full of Legos, the elliptical trainer, boxes of Christmas decorations, and other assorted stuff that we don't really have anywhere else to put. (With one kid married and permanently out of the house, we could put some of it in his room, which we intend to repurpose as a guest room.) Anyway, I have two walls of this room staked out for my own stuff. I have an 8-foot-long folding table that serves as my main writing table. It also serves as my scrapbook table, so from these pictures you can see that my laptop and manuscripts have to share with all my scrapbook junk. It's kind of good because that way I have to put away one project before I can work on the other thing instead of just having all my stuff out all the time.
2. I do have a sewing machine, though I don't actually use it very much, mostly just mending and decorative stitching on scrapbook pages. I did make my younger son a Homestuck costume for Halloween last year (in one day!) that I guess turned out pretty good. Thank goodness for cosplayers who post their patterns online. I also have four paper trimmers (you can see three of them in this picture). I don't know why I have four paper trimmers, I just do.
3. This desk was used by both of my boys when they were in grade school. It's too small for an adult to sit at, but it has lots of shelf space and drawers (one of those drawers is full of nothing but unopened packages of index cards) and I can fit my file drawers into the chair space. When we got the younger one a new desk I glommed on to this old one before my husband could even suggest we get rid of it. Oh, and there's my Kuroneko plushie from Trigun up on top, keeping an eye on me to make sure I stay on task.
4. Of course, since the desk belonged to grade-school boys, it has stickers all over it. Mostly Pokemon, and something called Duel Masters that was kind of a Yu-Gi-Oh ripoff but mostly what they did was send out junk mail with lots of stickers in it. It gives me kind of a happy nostalgic feeling to look at these.
5. My laptop, the first one I've ever owned, which made it possible for me to move all of my writing operations into this room instead of typing on my desktop in a room at the other end of the house which serves as the family computer room and doing manuscript revision in this room and then hauling the pages back to the other end of the house to type in the changes. Now I just use my desktop for formatting and uploading. And you can see my lucky rainbow unicorn Pusheen patch. My (then-future) daughter-in-law sent it to me for Mother's Day last year. It makes me happy :-D
J.J. DiBenedetto, author of the paranormal suspense Dream series (which I highly recommend!), did something fun on his blog today. He wrote a little about the research he did for one of the Dream books, and invited other authors to comment about interesting or unusual research they've done for their books. I talked about some of the research I did for To The Gap, then I decided to expand on that here.
Fantasy usually requires less research than, say, historical fiction, but there are a few things fantasy authors need some knowledge of, like horses, how different weapons work, and a basic understanding of social structures, economics, and forms of government. But Daughter of the Wildings, being set in a world loosely inspired by the American West of the 1880 (and thereby dipping its toe ever so slightly into historical fiction), needed a little more research than that.
Take Silas and Lainie's guns, for starters. I know nothing about guns, so I did a lot of research into them, especially six-shooter revolvers of the sort that would have been used in that period. Not to the extent of naming specific makes and models, which of course wouldn't exist in a fantasy world, but enough to make what the characters do with their guns realistic enough that the gun enthusiasts among my readers (hopefully) won't laugh at me and then stop reading. My search history now shows a lot of Googling for sites that sell authentic replica guns and ammo, as well as Youtube searches for videos about shooting and quick-draw techniques. (My rule of thumb for writers: if your Google searches don't put you on a government watch list, you're doing it wrong :-D)
I also researched clothes of the period, mostly when I was working with my cover artist, Mominur Rahman, to develop Silas and Lainie's look in the cover art. Wild West Mercantile and Western Emporium are two great sites to look at for replicas of authentic western clothing of the period (and maybe buy yourself a little something, too!).
One thing I did a lot of research on was wages and the cost of things in the 1880s West. Money has to come from somewhere, and there has to be a rational basis for wages and prices, and this seems to be something that not a lot of fantasy authors pay much attention to. One of the most useful sites I looked at, that listed prices on items from canned goods to a new house in Deadwood, South Dakota, in the 1880s (based on newspaper ads of the time) is now, sadly, defunct. I was also able to dig up lots of information on other sites, too. This site, How Much Stuff Cost Long Ago, was really useful for calculating prices. So I did a lot of research and calculating and converting from dollars into the currency used in the series, and filled sheets and sheets of paper working out stuff like how much a meal would cost and how much a trail hand would earn on the cattle drive. Maybe it doesn't really make much difference, but I hope it gives a little more authentic feel to the world.
And then there's horses. Horse lovers, I've learned, are as particular about accuracy as gun buffs are. And I have the same amount of real-life experience with horses as I do with guns, which is to say, none at all. Fortunately, I have a number of online friends who know and love horses, who have also served as test readers on my books. They've given me a lot of information and corrected a lot of inaccuracies. And of course, there's always Uncle Google, for when I have questions like how far can a horse travel in a day (I already know a horse cannot gallop 90 miles in one day), and what's that horse color called? Do horses even come in that color? And how much does it cost to board a horse in a stable?
When it came to the cattle drive in To The Gap, I was really at a loss, because I knew nothing about cattle drives except they involved herding large numbers of cattle from here to there. So I set out to find some good, accurate information about cattle drives in the late 19th century - not the fictionalized, and sanitized, versions we see in fiction and movies. Luckily, I came across The Log of a Cowboy, by Andy Adams. Adams was a working trail cowboy in the 1880s. Some years later, he became disgusted with the inaccurate portrayals of cowboy life in the popular culture of the time, so he wrote Log, a fictionalized account of a cattle drive based on his own experiences, which was published in 1903.
From Log of a Cowboy, I learned how cattle drives worked, what cowboys did on them and what daily life was like on the drive, how cattle behaved, and, best of all, what kinds of things could go wrong on a drive. I learned about river crossings and dealing with flooded rivers - and why most cowboys had a deep fear of drowning, the effects of bad weather on the cattle and the work, dealing with stampedes and rounding up the cattle after a stampede, tactics used by rustlers, and all sorts of other fun stuff. If you're interested in learning about that period of history, The Log of a Cowboy is available free online at Project Gutenberg and AmericanLiterature.com, and in various editions at Amazon. Keep in mind that it wasn't written for 21st-century sensibilities, so some readers might find some of the content offensive, even though it was perfectly acceptable for its time.
Some other helpful resources for Daughter of the Wildings research were the blog Wild West History, Legends of America, and Google Earth, which is great for researching physical settings.
Of course, Daughter of the Wildings isn't meant to be a factual account of life in the American West in the 1880s, and the heart of the story is not the research but Silas and Lainie's magical and emotional conflicts and journeys. But I hope that my research makes their world a more authentic, believable place and will help readers have a richer, more enjoyable experience.
Plus, I learned that cows can swim :-D
With To the Gap out, I'm hard at work now on getting City of Mages revised and edited and ready for release. It's funny, with each of my books (not just in Daughter of the Wildings, but all my books), as I start a revision I'm going, Yay, this book is one of my favorites!, and towards the end I'm thinking, Augh, I just want to get this book done and get on to the next one, it's one of my favorites. But really, all my books are my favorites, there's just different things I like about each one. City of Mages is fun because we finally get to see Granadaia, and because it focuses in so closely on Lainie. (Some quotes from Lainie from book 5, though the last one is actually from book 6.) I do have to say that of all the amazing covers for the series, this is one of my favorites.
Preparing the revision was pretty fast and easy (see this post for my revision process). The hardest part was trying to figure out, for the scene cards, if something was one mega-scene or should be divided into two smaller scenes. Last Thursday, I started the actual marking up with the red pen. This version of City of Mages is starting out at 44,000 words; I expect the final published version to come in somewhere around 60,000 words. I tend to "write short" and then I go back and layer in descriptions, fill out bits of action I'd only summarized, stuff like that. So far I've already added almost 1000 words.
Like with books 2-4, I'm starting out thinking this one won't need as much work as the others, and then that turns out to be wrong. To the Gap especially took me by surprise how hard it was. On the surface, the storyline is pretty simple, but there was a lot going on beneath the surface, the progression of Silas and Lainie's feelings and motivations and how they were thinking about things, that needed a lot of pacing and fine-tuning. On the other hand, the plot of City of Mages seems more complex, and there are some things going on beneath the surface that have been a little tricky to work out (who knows what when and how they know it and what they think about it, that kind of thing), but the emotional and motivational character arc is pretty simple.
I still can't really say when City of Mages is going to be out. We're taking our younger son back to school at the end of this month, meaning a road trip of a couple of days, and in mid-October we'll probably be hosting a wedding reception for our older son and his wife (they have a bunch of other stuff to take care of first, and late-September/October is the best time of year for having outdoor events here), plus in addition to the time there's always the fatigue factor that I have to consider. I'd like to say late October, though it could go sooner or later, into November. In the meantime, I'll be working hard to get it out as soon as possible without short-changing the quality.
Back to work :-)
July turned out to be one of those months where you're even afraid to wonder what's going to happen next, just in case the universe takes it as a dare. From the good (our older son's wedding and numerous family gatherings and visits) to the bad (a night at the ER with my husband - he's fine, but it was a little scary there) to the weird (dental work with the temporary crown from h3!!) and everything in between. And those are just the highlights. A few months earlier, I had figured I could get To the Gap out in the early part of July. As it was, I still managed to upload Saturday afternoon the 31st, so technically I hit my July deadline.
Edit: No, Saturday was August 1 :-P So I missed my deadline by one day. Still, all things considered, only missing it by one day was pretty good.
I've been a little nervous about how To the Gap will be received. It's a little different from the other books, more focused on Silas and Lainie's relationship against the backdrop of a cattle drive and hints of a worsening situation in Granadaia, and it leads towards a crisis point in the series. But there's also a lot of fun things in it, and at least one really awesome (I hope!) fight scene.
All other projects got put on hold while I made it through everything going on last month and concentrated on edits on To the Gap. With that done, I'm going to take a few days to prepare the next revision of book 5, City of Mages, and see where I am with my other projects and decide what to tackle next. If things settle down and I can recoup some mental energy, I'd like to go back to working on two things at once. Well, not exactly simultaneously, but dividing my writing time between two different projects. I've got several things waiting for revision, but I'd really like to finally get The Healing Tree (working title; hopefully I can come up with something better for the real title) written, and I'm also working out ideas for a follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings. It's nowhere near ready to begin writing, but I've got the basic concept and the plot idea for the first book.
I've been doing some reading, and I'll post roundups soon, but towards the end of the month, I was mostly playing tons of Pokemon Shuffle and Angry Birds when my brain got too fried to word any more.
And onward. I'm not even going to try to guess right now when City of Mages will be out. As soon as possible, is all I can tell you, maybe 2-3 months? In the meantime, I'm just going to lay low and hope the cosmos forgets I'm here and leaves me alone for a while. Even just typing that makes me feel like I'm saying, "Go on, I dare you!" *shudder*
For this week's Friday 5, here are five of my must-have writing tools beyond the obvious (computer, printer, paper).
1. Liquid Story Binder (writing software) http://www.blackobelisksoftware.com/
Kinda old now, but full of useful features and amazingly flexible. I can go from brainstorming and outlining to writing to revision and spellchecking all in one program. Scrivener is the really popular writing program now, and it has a lot of features in common with LSB, but I found it a little too regimented. This image shows a working layout from The Lost Book of Anggird, with a timeline, the Builder I wrote in (Builders are a tool that collects a lot of files into one larger file with a "table of content" on the side that lets you add, delete, and move smaller individual files around), and a listing all the files in that project.
2. Index cards.
I'll confess, I kind of have a fetish for index cards. One of my desk drawers is crammed full of unopened packs in both 3 x 5 and 4 x 6 sizes. I use these for outlining, putting each scene idea on a card, then I can see where the blanks are that need to be filled in and also rearrange them as needed. I also use them for revision. I make a scene for each card (as described here: http://www.kyrahalland.com/blog/daughter-of-the-wildings-revision-progress) with a one-sentence summary of the scene, notes on the purpose of the scene, the situation or conflict it addresses, what changes in the scene to move the story forward, and what revisions I need to make in the scene.
I use a ton of post-its, or sticky notes. I put them on my revision index cards to give myself an idea of how much work each scene needs (I'm almost never right) (also see the post linked above). I also use them to mark the place in my manuscript where I left off editing, and also to leave notes to myself in the manuscript of things I think of that need to be changed later on. For example, in the crossing the river scene in To the Gap (upcoming book 4), I put a sticky note saying "Mrs B rides across fully clothed". Cryptic, but I know what it means, and when I get to that part I'll know I meant to change that. (rides across fully clothed, as opposed to swimming across the river in her underwear like everyone else has to do, if you're wondering.)
I use this on days when I'm having trouble focusing, set for 15 minutes at a time. Or if I have other chores I need to get done, I set it for 30 minutes at a time, then go work on other stuff for a bit. Or if my work hours have been slipping, I set it for the number of hours I need to work that day to make sure I get them all in.
5. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1st edition.
My parents gave me this for Christmas (or maybe my birthday? they're close together) when I was in, hm, 5th or 6th grade, and I still have it. This is the original edition, with an extensive section in the back on word origins, which is great for coming up with fantasy words. It's huge and heavy, and since it's over 40 years old its eleventy-gazillion entries don't include the latest slang and buzzwords (but since I write other-world fantasy I don't need those anyway), but it's my authoritative go-to for spelling, definitions, and usage (the extensive usage notes have been a lifesaver more than once). An oldie but goodie, and I have no plans to quit using it.
Well, what do you know, it's a week into June already and I still haven't done the monthly wrap-up and look ahead. Basically, most of what I'm doing is still working on edits of To the Gap, book 4 of Daughter of the Wildings. It's going really well, and so far everything's on track for a release in the first part of July. I know I've blogged about this before, but here's a rundown of my writing/editing workflow:
1. first draft
2. deep, major revision
3. out to test readers
4. 2nd major revision
5. refine dialogue, descriptions, action, pacing, flow
6. fix mistakes, awkward sentences
7. proofread on paper
8. proofread on Kindle
A lot of times, if the manuscript is really a mess, I do a second copy edit between steps 6 and 7. But so far, on step 5 on To the Gap, I'm not finding a whole lot of changes to make. So hopefully I won't have to do that extra step.
On days when I finish my editing quote on time, I've been working on outlining the Healing Tree, a novel set in my world of Estelend. Should be ready to start writing soon. I found the perfect soundtrack for it, the new album Haven by Kamelot. Here's a video of one of the songs from the album:
I'm still reading from A to Z. Up to V now; the end is in sight! For a while there I kept finding books that I couldn't finish. I'm not going to say what they are; this indie author gig is tough, and taste is subjective, and I don't want to be the one putting down a fellow author. Instead I'll just focus on the books I do read all the way through. I've been discovering some amazing reads; watch for another roundup soon!
I keep telling myself I need to start thinking about what comes after Daughter of the Wildings. At the moment I have three novels in draft awaiting revision, a fourth about ready to be written, and a binder full of short stories related to Chosen of Azara and The Source-fixer. And I've started developing ideas for a follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings; I know the basic series conflict and the basic plot of the first book. I've been so deeply absorbed in Daughter of the Wildings it's hard to focus on anything else. But at least I know I won't be running out of things to work on any time soon!
I haven't posted all week because I've been working really hard on To the Gap amidst a number of distractions and other things I've needed to pay attention to, but now it's time again for the Friday 5! This week: five things I do besides write. There are actually a lot more than five things I do besides write, but most of them are boring, like doing laundry and cooking dinner and exercising. So here are five of the more interesting things I do (this was actually going to be a whole series of blog posts, but I decided they're not really THAT interesting):
1. Play Pokemon. Okay, so I already did a whole blog post about this. But I wanted to mention it again, mainly so I can post this picture that I took of my Pokemon Y character in front of the Pokemon League in my pink and black sparkly bolero dress. I seriously want this dress IRL. I've since started on Pokemon Omega Ruby, and I don't think you can change outfits in it :(
2. Secretary in the children's program at my church. No, I don't sit in an office and answer phone calls, thank goodness. I don't even answer the phone at home unless it's someone I really feel like talking to. And I don't get paid; it's volunteer. Though I didn't actually *volunteer*; they asked me to do it. Basically, I'm in charge of handling paperwork and supplies and being organized. Which is kind of funny, because me being organized is in direct opposition to the natural order of the universe. If I ever get my act together and really get organized, it'll mean the end of the space-time continuum as we know it. But someone's got to do it, so it might as well be me. I enjoy it; I love being with the kids and enjoying how cute and smart and spiritual they are, but I don't have to actually wrangle them like the teachers do. This picture is from the beginning of the year, when I was redoing the teachers' binders with the lesson manuals and picture kits. I had to get this all cleaned up so my husband could do the taxes on this end of the table, but the other end is still covered with stuff I cleaned out of the supply closet and am trying to "organize".
3. Scrapbooking. I've been doing this for about sixteen years now. I'd never really been a visually creative person, so it's fun to have a chance to use those creative muscles. I even combined my two creative endeavors in a scrapbook page about my books:
Since I started publishing, I don't scrapbook as much as I used to. This is mainly because my scrapbooking table also serves as my writing table. Which means when I switch from one to the other I have to clean up after myself :P (I don't actually sew with the sewing machine, except for some mending once in a while. I mostly use it for decorative stitching on scrapbook pages.)
4. Watch anime. I started with watching Pokemon with my boys when they were little, and moved on to Sailor Moon, and went from there. Here's my current DVD collection:
I've watched a lot more than this (and I haven't gotten around to watching everything I own yet). I've watched Monster, which was good but shied away from being as mind-blowingly weird as it could have been, and FLCL (the first time I watched it, I had a nightmare that night about being a Rod Stewart groupie. Which was really strange because Rod Stewart just isn't on my radar at all. So if you go to watch FLCL, be warned), and Fruits Basket, which is cute, and Bleach up until about episode 5734 when the same battle had been going on for the last 300 episodes (seriously, let's move the plot along already!) and a bunch of others, mostly when they used to have anime on Cartoon Network late at night.
Sometimes I even make scrapbook pages about anime!
One of these times I still mean to tell the story of how Sailor Moon got me back into writing.
5. Feed my cats. I must have the world's most high-maintenance cats. Seriously. Here's a picture of Themselves in a rare moment when they aren't eating:
And now that I've told you what I do when I'm not writing, it's time to go write again. I should finish the second major revision of To the Gap today, then it's on to the fine-tuning and final editing stages. Still looking at a release date in July.
Ducking in for a quick look back at March and look ahead at April. Yes, I know April is almost halfway over! I've been busy. March was basically working on revisions of The Rancher's Daughter (I discovered that about a zillion other books, mostly western romances, have that title, but mine's the only one with an old blue shaman dude on the front!). April is working on revisions and edits on The Rancher's Daughter and getting it out. Tentative release date April 28 (though I'm really shooting for a few days earlier). I still want to write The Healing Tree but right now I'm finding it hard to shift focus. Still, now that Daughter of the Wildings is almost halfway out, I've started thinking ahead to what comes after. I've got three novels waiting to go through initial revisions and a whole bunch of Estelend short stories including the Tales of Azara collection. And I'm still developing ideas for a sequel to Urdaisunia and for a follow-up series to Daughter of the Wildings.
The A-Z reading challenge is still ongoing. Up to N now, been reading some really good things and some things that aren't quite as good. I'll have a round-up again soon with some recommendations and notes.
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