Day 30 – Writing Rabbit Holes

Have you ever been working on a story or book and known exactly what it is you need/want to happen in the scene you’re writing, written a sentence that sparked some random thought that then spirals off into a digression about the background of a minor character that suddenly decides he/she wants more page time?

And wow, how about that run-on sentence?

Seriously, though, I was working on my current novel FIXATION (shapeshifting jaguars, Olmec deities and  other goodies) and all I had to do was get my heroine through a garage to her little cottage in the backyard of an old SF house.  Simple, right?

Well, theoretically, yes.  But my mind started off on a tangent involving the contents of the garage, the heroine’s landlord, dumpster diving and art.  Yeah, I know… WTF?  I have 200 pages (the standard length of a Ravenous Romance novel) to play with and lots of action and sex to get in this book.  And yet my brain insists that I need this extra bit of information about a character who, before I had my heroine enter the garage, was never going to actually get any “screen time.”

Now, however?  He’s looking to feature fairly heavily in the plot, all because I started wondering what this guy would have in his garage.

My mind works in mysterious ways.

Day 12 – Research

Yikes, I was so busy a: taking care of kittens (okay, playing with them); b: putting Advantage and new collars/tags on our resident felines (got all but one of ’em!); and c: researching and writing on FIXATION last night that I totally forgot to put up a post for this morning!  And I don’t have any cute pictures on hand to toss up and caption so I’ll have to actually have… gasp… CONTENT.

Which brings me to the research portion of my c: category up there.

I’ve never been huge on preemptive research for my projects.  If I need to find out something specific, sure, I’ll grab a book or use Google and figure out what I need on the spot.  I’ve written a lot about what I know (places, subjects, clothes, food, zombies) and didn’t really need a lot of help getting going on stories or novels. I find the more I write, however, the more I’ve been relying on research to lend credibility to even the most fantastical plot elements (zombies, shamans, were-jaguars, flu vaccines gone REALLY wrong, and just how would the military deal with a zombie outbreak?) on one of my current projects, I’ve been using it to help spark ideas to expand a short story into a book.

FIXATION was originally a short story for the Ravenous Romance anthology FANGBANGERS (I’ll let you figure the title out) about a girl with psychic powers who encounters a shape-shifting jaguar shaman trapped at a place loosely based on the Exotic Feline Breeding Facility, where I’ve volunteered for over twelve years to varying degrees. I did a little research for the story on Meso-American cultures, trying to figure out where would be the best place to have my shaman originate, what culture I wanted to use as the historical starting point and inspiration for names/gods/goddesses/type of magic … stuff like that.  I spent about an hour trolling the web and our home library for what I needed.  And then the story pretty much wrote itself.

The book, however, has been proving more problematic because my writing muscles over the last few months have not been exercised as much as they’d been the previous three years.  For a number of reasons to be found in my blog archives, I pretty much took a break from writing with the exception of re-reading my first Ashley Parker (formerly Ashley Drake) novel with an eye towards revising for its paperback re-release with Titan Books.  So my brain has been very reluctant to get back with the program as far as coming up with fresh ideas.  I could make a bad joke about not needing fresh ideas for a zombie novel, but I’ll just let that one sit and rot.  HAH!

ANYway, a friend of mine (thank you, Maureen!) loaned me a bunch of books on South and Central American culture, shamans, spirit animals.  I’m halfway through JAGUAR (about Alan Rabinowitz, the man who established the world’s first jaguar preserve in Belize) and it’s fascinating, heart-breaking, and the most random bits have sparked ideas and filled in huge gaping plot holes.  The actual writing is still coming very slowly compared to my previous speed (I am a word count whore, okay?  I admit it!), but it’s coming and I’m putting the time in.

All in all my attitude towards research has changed and I’m no longer looking at it as taking away from my writing but rather a part of the process as a whole.  Of course, I have to watch that I don’t use it as an excuse to not put the time in on the actual writing and acquisition of precious word count.   I’m great at rationalizing and I do love to read.  As with many other things in life it’s all about balance.  And word count. And kittens. 

Day Eleven – Tsavo and Fairy Lights

I’ve been trying to set a mood at home conducive to writing.  Back when I lived in Glendale and had a house with a fireplace, I’d shut the curtains, put a firelog on and light candles.  Then I’d find the appropriate music and the creative portion of my brain would automatically click on.

As much as I love my house in by the beach in San Francisco, it does lack a fireplace.  It also has fewer places to place candles where they’re not a fire hazard due to our ‘bunctious felines. 

So instead of lighting multiple tealights and candles, I followed the decorating example of my bf Maureen (that’s ‘best friend’, not ‘boyfriend’ btw) and got creative with decorative string lights and fairy lights.  I’ve got several crackle glass mosaic jars throughout the house and each now has a coil of white fairy lights inside.  The effect is gorgeous and, while not totally cat-proof, a better choice than candles.  As you can see from this picture, Tsavo knows a good photo op when he finds one.  


Fragments on Friendship… or Friendships in Fragments

I’ve had two recent experiences with friends of mine that have made me very thoughtful. Both experiences were negative, with one being pretty heinous in terms of thoughtlessness, deliberate cluelessness, and lack of accountability. The other was more understandable, but still upsetting.  I don’t really want to air my dirty laundry on the internet; at least not the specific colors and sizes.  So I’ll call them Red Shirt and Blue Shirt.

And yes, I’m aware of the Star Trek reference to ‘red shirts.’ Just in case any of you were wondering.

So let’s start with Red Shirt. We were supposed to get together with a third friend down in San Diego. Red Shirt still lives there. I was traveling down from SF and the third friend (Pink Shirt?) flew in from across the country specifically for this get-together and another event the following evening.  Plans were made via email.  Again, I’m not gonna go into great detail.  Suffice it to say Red Shirt made other plans and didn’t tell us until she picked up Pink Shirt at the airport and dropped her off at her hotel room (which she’d gotten to make our get-together more convenient; she has family in town she could have stayed with).  I found out about Red Shirt’s desertion when I arrived at the hotel to meet my two friends for our evening.  Pink Shirt and I had a good evening anyway … but we both were amazed in a ‘did she really do this?’ sort of way throughout the evening.  What my cousin calls the “Wet Haddock in the Face” feeling.  Which comes from the total shock you’d feel if someone walked up to you at random and smacked you in the face with a big old wet fish.  You’re so shocked you can’t process it right away.  Although honestly, if someone hit me in the face with a fish, I’d be taking that fish and beating them about the head and shoulders with it pretty damn quick!  But you take my point.

Had Red Shirt been up front (as in informing us her plans had changed) and had I been the only one involved, I would be a lot more understanding about her actions.  After all, I was going to be in San Diego anyway and already was struggling to find time to see everyone I wanted to see.  The perils of visiting one’s home town, plus find time to play tourist with Dave so he’d have a sense of being on vacation instead of tagging along with me in my efforts to see old friends.  As is, I set aside the night in question and most of the next day to spend with Red Shirt and Pink Shirt.  Pink Shirt, on the other hand, spent money on a plane ticket AND a hotel room for this get-together.  I can’t even begin to understand in what universe Red Shirt thought it was okay to blow her off because something else came along.  I really can’t.  And especially to do it in such a gormless way.

Got an email from Red Shirt a few days later saying we’d have to make ‘better plans’ next time for getting together. I waited a few days, then nicely called her on it.  And I do mean ‘nicely.’ I was honest, yes. But not mean and I did NOT once call her a ‘bastard person.’  I have not yet heard back.

Okay, Blue Shirt.  Blue Shirt, a friend of both me and the bf (his friend first) used to live in SF, then married, had kids, moved out of town.  Wahh!  To the moving away part, not the rest. 🙂 She let us know a while back she’d be coming to town and to set aside an evening. So it went on the calendar with all possible evenings blocked off until we knew her schedule.  Long story short, the visit was shortened and there would be no time for an evening visit and the trip was now being tailored for her kids.  Which is totally understandable and yes, I really do understand that things change when a person has kids. So instead plans were made for a morning/early afternoon jaunt/lunch. Only problem is the plans were made without including me either in the communications sent regarding them or in the plans themselves.  Yes, it was a work day and I do have a full time job.   However… there wasn’t even a suggestion in said plans about finding out if I could take any time off at all to hang out.  The invite was only extended to Dave.  Which yes, hurt my feelings.  Not in a wet haddock sort of way, but more in the way it used to feel as a child when you weren’t invited to a particular party.  I voiced my feelings (again, nicely and with a sincere understanding of why the plans had changed, just wished I’d been included in the communication and plans so I could have at least met them for coffee or something) to both Blue Shirt and Dave, and that was pretty much it.  Haven’t heard back from her either.

Now in the case of Red Shirt, I’m pretty much over it. It’s fairly obvious she’s not going to own up to her actions. Too bad because a simple apology and honest explanation would have, if not fixed things completely, at least put a temporary Band Aid on the wound and give the friendship a chance to heal. Ask most of my friends – it takes a lot to make me burn my bridges.  But the more time that passes without hearing back from her, the thinner the spans on the bridge of this particular friendship become. No matter what happens to the bridge, I wish her nothing but the best. I just feel … kind of empty about the whole thing.

As far as Blue Shirt, this incident came on the heels of what happened with Red Shirt. And I was surprisingly hurt by it even though I immediately cut her a ton of slack. I mean, traveling with kids, plans changing, you can’t think of everything or everyone. I was hurt, yes, but my immediate assumption was it’d been an oversight, not a purposeful slight.    Again, a quick note after the fact (we’re talking after the trip was over and the dust had settled) acknowledging my feelings would have gone a long way, especially since I’m fairly sure the sheer chaos of the trip was the reason for the way things played out.   But since I’ve not heard  back from Blue Shirt either, my mind starts going to dark places and thinking things like, “Well … maybe she really DIDN’T wanna see me.  Maybe she deliberately didn’t include me in the emails or the plans.” You know, those sorts of things. Non-productive, paranoid and damaging.  And believe me, I’m doing my best not to buy into those sorts of negative conclusions.  But I’m still left with the uncomfortable notion that my feelings aren’t important enough to acknowledge.  If this is the case… well, time to re-evaluate things, reset my expectations and my attachment to the friendship.  And even if it’s not, I’m still left feeling kinda crappy about it.

Here’s the thing: I’ve screwed up plenty of times in relationships.  Hurt feelings without meaning to and made stupid and/or thoughtless decisions due for any number of reasons (except for deliberate malice. I hate hurting feelings). And I’m sure I’ll do it again, even with the best of intentions. But the older I get, the more I realize the value of being up front rather than avoiding possible confrontation and the even more valuable lesson of acknowledging other peoples’ feelings even if I don’t always understand where they’re coming from or agree with the interpretation of circumstances that generated those feelings (I’m talking friends, family and work colleagues, not trolls online or random crazy people you might meet, btw).

I’m not even sure what the entire point of this post is other than these two incidents have been on my mind and I’m still dealing with my feelings and an accompanying depression to some degree.  On the upside, yet more fodder for my writing.  And that’s always a good thing. 🙂

Just to get back in the habit…

As my friends and family know, I’ve been buried in work the last few months. Work work and writing work.  I’ve been plowing through the WiP That Wouldn’t Die and have watched two self-imposed deadlines pass by at a speed that’s frightening.  My only social life has been Thursday night wine tastings at Vin Debut and the occasional quick hello to friends, the social equivalent of hit and runs.  And I’m STILL not done with the WiP.  Oh, I can see the light at the end of the zombie-infested tunnel … but there is still work to be completed. 

In August, however, I plan on being back in the blogging habit. Not only here at the Den, but the bi-weekly Ravenous Wednesdays on UnBound, my Monday posts at Fatal Foodies and my bi-weekly Sunday posts on Make Mine Mystery (if the latter two haven’t replaced me in disgust by now). 

I’m hoping to have good news to share in a few weeks, but in the meantime… I write.  I walk on the beach. I play with kitties… and I write some more.  

I miss you, world!!!  See ya soon!


The War of Art


If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you’ll know I’ve been running into roadblocks on my current WIP. This is the same book that started out with such promise (I wrote the first fifty pages in a week, wheee!!!!). I love, love, loved it, knew it was the best thing I’d ever written and was gonna finish it in record time.

Well, the honeymoon period has been over for a couple of months.  My WIP won’t take out the trash, doesn’t tell me I’m pretty any more, and the relationship has just been stagnating, the two of us sitting on the couch together, but not really communicating. I’ve tried sneaking around the road blocks in the story, but keep running into new ones.  I’ve questioned myself (Is it me?  What am I doing wrong?); my WIP (Why are you such a cold-hearted bastard?!  Talk to me!!); and life in general (Maybe I’m not meant to be a writer. Maybe I should just resign myself to admin work the rest of my life).

So this morning I open this book, THE WAR OF ART by Steven Pressfield, on the Muni and read this:

“Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North – meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing.

We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others.

Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel towards pursuing it.”

Talk about a cosmic wake-up smack on the back of the head (which kind of hurt ’cause I’m on my second week of serial migraines).  I love moments like these when you read, see or hear exactly the right thing to flip a stubborn switch from ‘off’ to ‘on’ and help you move forward. 

In other words, my WIP and I may be going through a shaky period, but it’s worth the time and effort to make this relationship work. I have a damn good book in the making and I’m gonna finish it even if I have to take out the trash every night.

Come on, WIP.  Tell me I’m sexy.  You know you want to. 🙂  

Just a quickee…

…I’m on a grueling (yet exhilarating) deadline and have been writing my butt off (yup, looks like it’s shrunk a bit!) all last week into my lovely long weekend.  Can’t say much more right now other than zombies are involved.  So you KNOW I’m having a blast!  The kitties have been a great help by keeping their rampaging down to a minimum, so I’m posting the picture below in their honor. 

See you all later, and definitely look for Ravenous Wednesday at Un:Bound this week!

Thank you!

Thanks to everyone who donated to the feline cause and a lucky break with one of our local humane societies, we will be able to get all five cutie kittens spayed/neutered the end of July, which means they’ll be able to go to their adoption center up in Santa Rosa (if they’re not adopted out first, of course!).  Moxie, the mom-cat, was spayed July 2nd and is enjoying a kitten-free convalescence with M, while the five rug-rats are currently skittering around Dave’s and my guest room.  Fun to have them, but I’ll be relieved when they’re gone.  So far our permanent feline residents are handling the invasion with good humor and grace (in other words, no random peeing or destruction of clothing/books/other property).  I just don’t wanna push our luck or their patience.

So thanks, everyone!  And thanks, MY momcat for sending a check ’cause she doesn’t do that Paypal thing.  🙂

In other news, I have just been too damn tired to do much of anything in the way of posting. I believe it’s called ‘Total Burnout.’  Either that or ‘Insidious Depression.’  If the latter, I’m sure it was caused by the former.  So I’ve been taking it easy on myself, catching up on emails, and lying in the middle of the guest room bed letting kittens swarm me.  Ever been swarmed by five purring kittens, all looking for dangly bits on your clothing to attack?  I highly recommend it as a pick-me-up.  I hope to be back in full on writing mode after this weekend and just a few more nights of letting my brain rest and not forcing it to think or do anything it doesn’t feel like doing at the moment.  And lots of sleep.

I did have a flying dream last night, where everytime I started to lose the power to fly, I’d just tell myself I could do it, and WHOOSH, back up in the air I went with more control than I’ve ever had in one of my flying dreams.  Pretty sweet!