Category Archives: Thunder in a Cloudless Sky

Riverside writers’ retreat

I was here over the weekend, and it was wonderful. (This was Saturday, after the rain stopped–the view downriver from the upstairs deck.) We had workshops with a creativity coach who talked about recapturing the joy in writing, and how to be happily interrupted and other such things, plus there was time to write, and a concert, and white elephant gifting. Some of the white elephants were lovely. Some were…not so much.

The location was a house on an island in, I believe, the lower Colorado River. The only access to this island is by barge, or aerial tramway. It rained all day on Friday, the day we arrived, too wet, really, to cross on the barge. So we crossed on the tram.

The tram was WAY up in the air! And it was small. The wind was blowing, and the car tilted sideways, and it swung back & forth when it crossed the towers (that’s the first tower in the picture–the barge landing is right below it, to the left). And I’m real nervous about heights. But I did okay. I did not scream and clutch at the handrails or cower on the floor. And I stopped shaking once we got on the ground. 😉

It was just a wonderful weekend. Everyone brought potluck for meals, and we had WAY more than anyone could eat. We didn’t even open the ham someone brought.

My BFF Belinda came down from Waco with her fella, and they spent the night Thursday. Then Friday, in the pouring rain, we drove the “back way” down to the river house. We had to come a different way from everyone else, because the others were all coming down from Houston, and we had to just slide down the coast and come inland some from our island. Belinda and I drove in my “bus” and Ken followed us. In the rain. He likes to drive around and look at the country side. We were driving through flooded fields on both sides, lined with moss-draped trees. It was lovely. (Okay, the several junk yards we passed by weren’t so great, but…)

The only access between the downstairs “quiet” floor and the upstairs “brainstorming / workshop” floor was an outside staircase, so we got a little wet carrying things up and down. Mary (whose house it was) got REALLY wet, driving the golf cart to pick people up. She was so wonderful to open up the house to everyone, and work so hard to get everyone there.

B and I got there around noon, so we could just wallow in the experience, and wallow we did. Belinda had a one-on-one session with the coach. I did Tarot readings for at least half of those who came, including the coach. Some of them told me what their question was, and others didn’t, but they all said the readings were amazingly spot on. Well, one said she didn’t see some of the things, but… Anyway– I got a kick out of doing that.

Saturday night, Kathryn the coach, who is also a singer- songwriter, gave us a little concert with some wonderful songs. She did not bring enough CDs for everyone, and I don’t have mine yet. But let me tell you, the song LIVING WELL is a fabulous bluesy creation and You Need To Hear It. I fully expect to hear another of her songs performed by some bigtime country singer in the near future.

Then it was time for the white elephant. I didn’t get an elephant. I got a gun rack (for my (non-existent) rifle collection). Yes, those are deer hooves. Real ones. With fur and everything.

As you can see, I did bring it home. It’s going in the Lions’ Club white elephant Christmas party game this next year. :)

I told my son to bring his friend Walter over to see it. Walter grew up on a farm/ranch outside Tyler, TX. I think he will appreciate it. (Yes, the picture is sideways, but the deer feet are the right way up.)

So now, it is time for me to run to the grocery store for ice cream and Cokes. (In Texas, all sodas are Cokes, whether they are Coca-Cola or not, but I really am going to by Coke Zeros.) And then pack my car and head off to the parents’.

I started rewriting a synopsis for White Elk, Red Sword while I was at the retreat. Mostly I was there to refresh and renew, but I did start on the synopsis. I finished it yesterday. So now I’m reading research books, and I hope to get back to work writing next week. I aim to get my head back into the story so I can do it.

I should Write Something Profound

Instead, I … well, won’t.

I got a great letter from my agent about my historical not-a-romance novel I sent her as a half-finished ms. She wants me to finish it asap. There are things I need to fix, and watch for as I write the rest of the book. I still have to do some research to get the ending right. It’s still a romantic adventure story, like pretty much everything else I’ve written, but it’s in an unusual-for-a-historical-novel time period and location, and it’s less romance. The main plot of the story isn’t a romance. So, I’ll write a synopsis and get the current partial out the door, then I’ll focus on Thunder in a Cloudless Sky.

I still have to bake cookies for my writer’s retreat. (Instead of “Retreat-a-thon” we should be calling it “Eat-a-Thon” given all the yummy goodies everybody is bringing.) And pack. Decide which book files I’m bringing. And figure out how to get everything waterproofed. This location is on an island. We can’t drive up to it. And the boat taking us over has no cover from rain. Rain is predicted all weekend. I may pack my clothes in an ice chest…

My friend B is coming in from Waco this afternoon, with her fella. We will go out for shrimps tonight. They’re like us. Want to eat shrimp whenever they get to the coast. I got no problem whatsoever with that!

Okay, heading home to get ready.

I know I just did two blogs in two days–I’m trying to work up to Two blogs a week, instead of just one–and I will try to space them out better in the future, but I haven’t made it yet. Y’all bear with me. :)

Writer’s Weekend

I had a wonderful weekend. A Writer’s Weekend.

My best friend–the one I went to New Mexico and Arizona on a research trip with a couple of years ago–came down to the island on Friday with her husband, because she didn’t want to drive through the big-city traffic by herself. My fella was out of town on business, but her guy did very well staying out of the way. 😉

I took them out to lunch at my favorite “local’s hot-spot”, and then we went downtown to see the hawk show they were having for FeatherFest. (This bird is actually a Sea Eagle, and he’s checking us out.) After the hawks and a walk around town to look in a few shops, we had ice cream at the son’s favorite ice cream parlor. (Mine, too. But I won’t let myself go there unless we have company in town.) We drove around the historical district a little bit, and then headed back to the house for a little while.

B and I (we sign our e-mails by initials only–I think I started it because I’m bone-lazy, but our little group all started doing it, since we all have names with different initials–and now we call each other by our initials) had exchanged a few pages for critique, so we went out on the back covered patio to go over our pages, and while we were out there, it rained. We were under the roof, so we didn’t get wet, but after an hour or so, it started getting cold and we went in. Had supper at Tortuga’s Mexican Restaurant and watched the wind blow the palmettos around. Then we went back home again and plotted a book for B.

She brought her sticky notes and her big foamcore plotting board and her tape recorder (which kept stopping intermittently unless she smacked it–we decided it had become masochistic…) and a spiral notebook and her AlphaSmart. I never realized just how much equipment was necessary for plotting a story. 😉 She had a huge cowboy boot box for the sticky notes, because the first time we tried plotting with sticky notes, we kept saying things like “We need more colors–we need a color for the villain, and for the hero’s internal conflict, and for the suspense subplot, and for–” So every time she sees sticky notes in the store, she checks to see if they’re a color she doesn’t have already. I think she has enough sticky notes to last the rest of her life.

By this time, we were really tired, so we went to bed. Her fella had crashed a while back–the driving stress tuckered him out.

Saturday, we got up, drove to McDonald’s for some breakfast take-out, and after we ate it, we plotted a book for me. Of course, I have more books plotted than I have time to write, and am having to take a week off working on Old Spirits to drive back to the panhandle this week and supervise the moving of the rest of the furniture, so I’m going to be writing even less (which upsets me no end), but we plotted yet another book for me. While we were plotting, her hubby went out walking down the seawall. He went into every souvenir shop along the way, and wound up walking all the way to 6th Street. Which is almost 5 miles from our street. And then he had to walk back. We’d have come to get him if he’d called, but he never did…

B and I went out and walked a couple of miles on the beach-or maybe only one. I was too busy talking and looking at all the birds to pay attention. I even saw some terns. We did walk out on one of the jetties–one with a paved walking path. It was quite chilly, or we might have gone walking earlier, but we wanted to wait for it to warm up. And we still wore out windbreakers to go walking. We weren’t really hungry, so we went back to the house and had peanut butter cheese crackers and watched movies, then went out to one of the better seafood houses on the island for supper. (Had the charcoal grilled/fried shrimp combo–very good.) The man in the house was snoring by 10 p.m., because of his 10-mile hike…

Sunday, we got up and did speed-writing drills. We wrote 10 opening sentences. Not opening sentences to anything in particular, just opening sentences. Then we switched pages, and drew numbers, and wrote scenes to go with the opening sentence that matched that number. I got one that said, “Oh, honey, with a package like that, I’ll do ya for free.” (B is a stinker, because she KNEW I would have to write from her sentences, and put that one in just so I’d have to write something beginning with that… :P) It was a lot of fun, and we laughed a lot.

After that, I had mentioned a free reception and tours of one of the big mansion museums on the island, so we went to that–looked at all the stuff on display in the basement, and went upstairs to look at the living area and take pictures on the spiffy-cool front porch and such. (This is B and her fella on one end of the porch–yes, it’s a round gazebo-y area.) Then we went to eat at a Louisiana-style seafood place downtown, and look at the stores on that end of the street. And then, alas, it was time to say goodbye.

Most of the time, there are at least three of us on our Writers’ Weekends, but our third couldn’t get away this time. But since, despite his ten-mile hike and aching legs, her husband had a good time on the island, I don’t think I’ll have a lot of trouble convincing them to come back. Maybe if my fella’s here next time, the guys can go fishing. I know mine likes to fish, and I think hers does too… We didn’t even ride the ferry or go out to the state park. And maybe our third can come next time too… Can’t wait.

Now I have to just get busy writing Old Spirits, so I can write another couple chapters of Thunder, and get a little farther toward finishing it, and then I can write Time Catch, and then I can write the third, still-nameless blood-magic universe book, and then I can write this book we just plotted. Sometime in 2010, maybe???

Geeky Fan Girls

There is no age limit. On either end.

Hello, my name is Gail and I’m a geeky fan girl. Woman. Whatever.

So, yeah, I didn’t make it by last week. I tell ya, this dayjob is really eating into my time. Along with everything else in my life.

I did get 14 pages of Thunder in a Cloudless Sky written, enough to earn my charm this month. I think I’ve made it to the halfway point. This book may turn out to be 8oo pages. (sigh)

And I went to Austin over the weekend to try to help my parents get ready to move. They’re leaving the big city Austin traffic for a little house behind my sister’s in a little town about an hour away. I spent most of my time going through decades of pictures and sorting them into piles according to which sibling had the most kids in the picture. Then we bought photo boxes and put them in with divider cards, etc. Not hard work, in the least, though I did help carry a dining table down the steep driveway to a trailer. (That driveway is another reason for them to move–it’s hard to climb up and down that thing!)

It just so happened that this weekend in Austin was the opening weekend of the South by Southwest film festival. SXSW is more famous for the music festival part of it, but the film festival is becoming more important. I think “Knocked Up” had one of its early screenings there last year–maybe its premiere. And this Saturday night, the midnight movie was the world premiere of a film with a villain played by an actor whose career I’ve been following for a lot of years. And since I was there…

So I trekked downtown to see if I could get in to see the movie. And maybe, just in case, some of the people who worked on the film might possibly, maybe show up. Hadn’t seen anything anywhere saying that anybody would, or even might, but what the heck. I was there…

Met up with a friend who’s also a fan. Hung out on Sixth Street, listening to music and watching all the wannabes and gonnabes and already-ares mingling. And the guy showed up. And I got to chat with him a bit. And take a picture of us together, just to prove that, yes, I met Tony Curran. I don’t care that you don’t know who he is. I do. And I was such a totally geeky fan girl, I forgot 3/4 of the things I wanted to ask him. But I was there.

Try to guess what movies he’s been in before you go off to look him up on the Internet Movie Database

I didn’t get in to see the movie. They let in people with badges before they let in the peons who only want to see one thing, and there were too many with badges who wanted to see it. At one point, someone came out asking whether there was any more press, and I almost claimed to be a stringer for the paper I work for… And I found out today that I should have, and that the paper would probably have published any story I wrote about it.

I have to go back this weekend to meet the folks at the house they’re moving to, so I can help them unpack and get organized. The movie is playing again this coming Saturday night. I could go again, and get in to see it this time, and write an article next week… I’ll let you know what happens. I may be too tired. I may go back home to my island.

I saw bluebonnets today, blooming on the island! Spring Is Officially Here. YAYYYYY!!!

Life, Interrupted

But then, isn’t interruption life’s constant?

This week has been the pits as far as getting any writing done. I think I got a page on Monday. Maybe two. It was a holiday for the fella, and he didn’t stay gone as long as I thought he would. Tuesday, he had a meeting in Austin, so I went to visit the aging parents, and shopped for fabric with Mom for my costume for the Victorian Christmas festival.

Mom is getting forgetful, and kept saying things like “Oh, that will be so hot.” Whereupon I had to remind her (several times) that no, the festival is at Christmas, and it won’t be hot, but might be warm, which is why I picked a pattern with a jacket, so I could take the jacket off, if it was warm. We looked at a bunch of stores and a bunch of possibilities–black, seafoam green, a pinkish lavender (really nice suiting wool), and even a gorgeous satin in royal blue with embroidered silver butterflies. I figured I needed to pick the jacket fabric first, then pick the fabric(s) to make the dress to go with the jacket. And there wasn’t enough of the only fabric that I really thought would go with the blue and silver to make the huge, hoop skirt. (Good grief, I’m probably going to have to make a hooped petticoat too, huh?)

So, my costume is going to be red. Not a bright red, more of a dark cranberry red. The jacket is a jacquard upholstery fabric–the kind with texture in a floral pattern. But it will work for jackets too. The skirt is a darker red, almost maroon–I kept having to explain to Mom that no, I didn’t want a white or cream skirt, even though that was what the pattern showed, because this festival is outdoors, and I didn’t want to be dragging a white skirt through the streets–and the bodice will be an old-fashioned pink rosebud stripe (pink stripes alternating with pink and green rosebuds on off-white), so I think it will look very mid-Victorian-ish. The construction is VERY complicated, which is why I’m starting now. I’ve got eleven months to finish it. I’ve got six weeks to cut it out, before I can go get my sewing machine. So this is my project for the year, even though I haven’t finished projects from previous years. I will probably be putting in the miles and miles of hem the Friday night before the event, knowing me.

Ah well. Now I’ll have to give a regular “costume report” too… (It’s lined, both jacket and bodice, and interfaced, and there’s supposed to be boning in the bodice, which I don’t know if I will put in, but we will see…) Seriously, y’all, wish me luck.

I did actually think about the writing while I was there. The aging parents are getting ready to move–even though they haven’t actually put their house on the market yet–and have been going through their books. They found a copy of my old Master’s thesis on China missions, and I read through most of it, checking on my research. A couple of things I thought I remembered, but couldn’t confirm, I found in there–like the city on the Yangtze usually referred to as Wuhan is actually made up of three cities on 3 sides of the river (it’s very river-y right there), Wuchang, Hanyang and Hankow–I don’t know how they’d be spelled in the current transliteration, though. Anyway–I could remember Hankow, but couldn’t remember what the other two cities were. And they had a huge world atlas where I looked up the maps of China to check on city names and geography of my story, etc. So I did think about it. Just didn’t do any. Also judged a contest.

Haven’t done any writing today either. Had a dentist appointment this a.m. and now have very clean teeth, and no need to go back for more work. (YAY!!) Other things are developing–but I’ll share when I know more.

Think I’m going to stay in out of the cold nasty wind and rain (mostly drizzle, but it rained hard on me when I ran into the post office) and coddle the cold I’m trying to get so I can sing Sunday a.m. Good thing I essentially sing bass. I have never (knock on wood) completely lost my voice, but it has been known to drop into the cellar. I used to scare my Girl Scouts when I got hoarse, because my voice got so deep and rough. And maybe I’ll try to get a newsletter out. I’ve owed one to my subscribers for a while now…


As in, I need more of it! It’s running away and I can’t catch it!

Actually, I think it’s dribbling through those cracks in the sidewalk. Or something. I’m not sure how it gets away from me. Hmm. It may soak into the white space on the pages of books…

ANYWAY. Life has absolutely NOT slowed down. Made a mad dash trip to Fort Worth last week for a nephew’s Eagle Scout court of honor. It was great. Everybody in this picture, except the guy behind the guy in the red shirt, is a relative. And all the guys are Eagle Scouts.

Now see, to me, that is what constitutes an Alpha male. Eagle Scouts are quintessential alpha males. They are leaders and protectors, but they’re not arrogant SOBs, because most of the time, you can’t be a real SOB and get people to follow you. There’s a difference between expecting and inspiring people to do what they’re supposed to do and browbeating them into doing what you want or controlling their every move. Admittedly, I’ve met a few Eagle Scouts who tend to get a little controlling, but very, very few, especially given the number of Eagles I know. In order to become an Eagle Scout, not only do they have to earn the requisite number of merit badges (which isn’t an easy thing), but they have to plan and lead others in a service project, which can range from painting fire hydrants to demo work on old, dangerous church playgrounds. They’re not supposed to do the work themselves, but organize the troop and the community to do it. And believe me, teenaged boys aren’t going to put themselves out for an arrogant jerk. If a guy can get past his “jerk” phase as a teenager, usually he’s not going back to it later on.

Okay, there’s my segue on what I think makes an alpha male and why I tend to write about good guys. I know too many of them. :)

So. I got back from the trip north and labored mightily to get back into the writing. Monday, it was a real, true struggle. I just want to get my 25 pages on Thunder written for this month, and it seemed even my own brain was conspiring to keep me from it. I wrote a grand total of 3 pages. Tuesday was better. I wrote 7. (Yay!) Then I drove across the causeway for my RWA chapter meeting. (I DO love being in a town where I can actually attend monthly meetings.)

I have to go early, because if I don’t get across the causeway by 4:30 at the latest, I can’t really get across till around 6:30 because of rush hour traffic. I barely made it out in time. And it was raining. But I spent my time usefully. I picked up a pattern for my costume for next December’s Victorian Christmas festival. (Knowing how slow I am, yes, I have to begin now.) I bought some fabric remnants to use for “green” Christmas wrapping. I bought some books. And of course, when it was time to head to the meeting, it was still raining, and there was a wreck backing up traffic. (sigh) Anyway, it was a great meeting. Colleen Thompson gave a terrific talk on emotional impact from the very beginning. And then I went for a “nightcap” with some of the other members. I didn’t get back to my island before midnight. (It is a pretty long way to where we meet…) But, since it was still raining, and a lot harder than it had been, I got wet coming in the house, and stayed up a while to finish my book and dry off.

So I was up really late, which made me next to worthless during my Wednesday writing time. (See, there was a point that tied back to my main point, which has to do with time.) I was pretty much worthless all day Wednesday. The only thing I accomplished on my daily list of things to do (very low tech, kept in a little, fat notebook) was to write four pages. At least I did get four.

So today, I had a LOT to catch up on. Updating the website. (It is updated! With new pictures!) Making a dentist appointment. (I think I have a filling coming out.) Paying RWA chapter dues. (I’m a member of 6 chapters. (Ack!) Three land-based and three online.) Buying caffeine free Dr Pepper for the inlaws visit starting tomorrow. Joining the Art League. (I haven’t painted a thing in 5 months, and I miss it!) I even handwashed all the dishes, because the dishwasher still isn’t repaired. Oh, and I also got 6 pages written.

I had to persist and crank and make myself not look stuff up in research books, because even on the days I got more written, I caught myself procrastinating. I would realize that I wasn’t writing, I was looking at a map of the island that just happened to be sitting on the card table where I write first drafts. (We haven’t moved the desk down yet.) Or pick up a research book to look up a name and catch myself reading the parts of it that I hadn’t read and that didn’t really apply to my book. Today, I did a little better, but it was still tough, because I finished the scene I knew about, and didn’t exactly know where to go next, but I kept going anyway and made junk up. That’s what writing is, right? Making junk up.

So, I have 5 more pages to write tomorrow to earn my charm. I have to write 5 more than that (10 total) to make my goals for my “procrastination” loop, and I don’t know if I’ll make the ten. With company coming, I won’t really be able to write over the weekend, and I’m planning a trip to visit my forgetful parents next week… I don’t have time for a dayjob!

Okay, so all I can do is gut it up and keep working. Think “Buy” thoughts at all those editors out there for me, okay?

New Orleans Rises

Actually, New Orleans is still about the same height it always was from everything I remember, but downtown and the French Quarter never did flood, even during the worst of Katrina. Anyway, just got back from a few days there where I had a great time, but pretty much walked my legs right off. Yep, that’s right, I’m walking around on nubs now.

They had Katrina tours you could take, right from the hotel where we stayed, downtown, across the street from Harrah’s. I didn’t take one because I sorta felt like it was battening on somebody else’s misery. Maybe it’s not, but I felt that way. And after the four hours of walking we did on Saturday, I was afraid any tour might involve more of that, and I wanted to know exactly how much walking I was going to do and where I was going.

The St. Charles Street streetcar is back in operation, but it only goes out to Napoleon Street, about half as far as its normal route. I didn’t think the Garden District was under water, which is mostly past Napoleon, but maybe it did get wet. The route out to Napoleon Street had just recently reopened, but Copeland’s, a restaurant on that corner we really liked, was all boarded up and didn’t look like anybody had any intentions of re-opening it. We did ride the streetcar, if you couldn’t tell. Didn’t take my camera out that day, though, and when I did, the streetcars were rather elusive.

The hotel where we stayed was maybe half a mile from the French Quarter. It took us about ten minutes to walk down to the Cafe du Monde on Sunday morning. There was a line waiting to get in at the Cafe du Monde, however, and no line at the little Cafe Beignet across the street, so we–the fella, me and one of his co-workers–crossed the street and had our beignets and coffee there. Except I was the only one who had beignets (the fella being allergic to wheat), and I had milk with mine. The pregnant lady had decaf caffe latte, and the fella had ham and eggs. Which you can’t get at Cafe du Monde, so really, the alternate was a better choice for us.

I had beignets every morning we were in New Orleans. Frankly, I pigged out the whole time we were there, though pigging out on fish isn’t quite as piggy as pigging out on…well, pigs. Or cows. The hotel backed up to the riverfront mall, and there was a little Cafe du Monde branch office on the first floor of the mall, that opened up an hour before the rest of the mall did. So Monday and Tuesday, I walked over to the mall and had my beignets there. Sat outside and watched the river. (That was the view–the cruise ship wasn’t always there leaving port, but that’s the bridge over to Algiers…)

The rest of this might as well be a list of what I ate too. Saturday night, we took the college folks to dinner at Carmelo’s–corner of Toulouse and Decatur, a couple of blocks from Jackson Square. Italian-style fish. The fella and I shared some calamari (the kind with squiggles included), then had redfish with a fresh tomato-caper sauce, and I had my very first cannelloni, believe it or not. Deelish.

Sunday night, we had dinner with an old friend from the fella’s doctoral class who’s a bigwig in Kentucky now. Went to Ralph and Kakoo’s on Toulouse Street, and–after some fried crawdad tails (aka Cajun popcorn) (our friend got his first taste of crawfish) I dined upon the Shrimp Henry, which the Chef Henry apparently made up that night. It was grilled shrimp stuffed with cheesy spinach stuffing over angel hair pasta with Rockefeller sauce on top. Very yummy.

Then Monday night, we went out with the college folks again, to a place called Tommy’s in the warehouse district. On Tchoupitoulas (I may have left a few vowels out of that streetname, or moved them around in the wrong places, but that looks really close…) Street. Tommy’s had Italian overtones, but wasn’t too, too Italian. At Tommy’s, I had a Caesar salad, then had Veal Sorrentina, with eggplant and cheese and Marsala mushroom sauce on top. (I can get fish & shrimp here, but veal is harder to come by.) It came with these really neat matchstick sweet potatoes cooked almost dry–really good, and different. Then the pregnant lady and I each had creme brulee and the other lady in the group had strawberries with homemade ice cream.

This doesn’t count the fudge I bought that I snacked on way too much. They had it in New Orleans praline flavor, and it tastes JUST like pralines. I told the fella that the chocolate fudge was for me and the praline was for him…but I’m eating too much of the praline flavor too. There are a couple of candy shops downtown here…good thing I don’t go downtown too often, huh?

I did finish my Christmas shopping…”best of the best” Louisiana cookbooks and specialty measuring spoons. And I wandered the French Quarter and took lots of pictures at the perfect time of day to get some good shadows and shots.

I also got a little writing done. Not much, but a few pages. Still working on the SF story, though I need to switch to the WWII story long enough to get my pages done for the month. Don’t know if the brain is working that way though. I’m writing stuff, but may have to slash the whole of it. Oh well.

Have one more week before the daughter, s-i-l and grandboy come for the holidays. She’s supposed to be bringing the tamale recipe. Need to buy a pork roast to cook for the filling…or maybe brisket. Brisket makes good tamales too… but you GOT to have tamales for Christmas Eve, or it’s just not Christmas…

Cold front supposed to be moving in today. It’s been hot. Hot in New Orleans (okay, it was mostly just humid, but that made ME hot) and hot at home. I’m ready for that cold front to get here.

Slogging On

Some people march on, but I happen to be slogging. It’s a slogging kind of month. Or something. Lots of people are participating in National Novel Writing Month this month, or NaNo. I’ve sort of attempted this in the past.

Problem is, I do my first-draft writing in longhand, so if I wanted to do an “official” NaNo, and get my words logged on the Official Website, I would have to first write, then type, then do the upload/count-y thing, essentially doing twice the work of anybody else. And I’m too dang lazy for all that work.

My other problem is that I’m a slogger, not a sprinter. I do best at a “slow and steady” sort of pace. Six to eight pages a day, every week day. EVERY weekday. Sometimes, like when I haven’t been writing for a while, I don’t make it to six pages, but if I really work at it, I can do it. That gives me the 50,000 words NaNo wants in about 6 weeks.

Which brings us to my other other problem. I write long. At least when I’m writing fantasy, I do. Each one of the Rose books came in at just under 150,000 words. (Okay, Eternal Rose came in a fair bit over, but I got it cut!) So did New Blood for that matter. That’s THREE books’ worth of writing, if you count 50,000 words as a book (and that’s how long my Desires were, when I was writing them).

Anyway, I’m still slogging. This week, I finished the synopsis for White Elk, Red Sword.* I also finished the world-building and character development for the science fiction/gene-splicing story, which I am tentatively calling Catching Time. Of course, the world-building will continue to develop as I get into the story and figure out other things I need, but it feels good enough I can work with it. I need to type in the world-building stuff, so I have multiple back-ups. Pen and ink can also be lost/destroyed.

Then I can go back and type in the synopsis, and edit it as I do. Type-in is my 1st edit, giving me a second draft on the computer. Then–maybe this weekend, maybe starting Monday, I can rewrite the opening of Chapter 3 for WERS, putting all of it (at least so far) in the hero’s point of view, and it just might be ready to ship out to the agent.

I want to pull together a partial of Catching Time after that, and after that–we may be into the new year, when I think I need to go back and work on Devil in a Red Dress. I also need to write another 25 pages or so on Thunder. I might actually get them done before this month ends. We’re not going anywhere for Thanksgiving. It will be a small gathering here on the island, but the weather promises to be gorgeous. It is right now, anyway.

Beach report: I’ve only gone down to walk on the beach once this week. It was quite warm, and I wish I’d gone in my flipflops so I could have walked in the water. But I didn’t, so… Lots of little rocks and broken shells along the high-tide mark. Lots of sea gulls.

I did pick up my Bird Book when we went back to Clarendon. I now know that the larger of the sandpiper-like birds are willets, and the little flocking ones are sanderlings. I’m looking forward to seeing them in their summer plumage.

I walked in my neighborhood one day–the day the cold front came through. I thought about walking the other way, around by the bayou (which is actually more like a big opening to the bay than it is like a bayou, but that’s what they call it so…), but the wind was really whipping, and it was cold, and coming off the bayou it would have been even colder, so I stayed on the residential streets.

Today, I walked a little bit over in the historical district–or one of them. This town has a bunch of historical districts. Anyway, I’d gone over there to see someone about getting my fancy black dress altered, and there were some neat looking houses with For Sale signs in front of them, so after I was through trying on the dress for her and had it all pinned up, and went back out to my car, I decided to walk around a little and see what there was to see. Some of the big ol’ houses had been divided up into apartments. Some had been restored and some hadn’t. But it was fun to walk around and look at them. There was even a brand new house that fit exactly into the neighborhood. The inside layout wouldn’t work for us, but it was a neat house. Until we find a place to buy (and hopefully sell the old house), I think my hobby’s going to be driving/walking around looking at houses. Maybe afterward. I like looking…

Okay, I’ve driveled on long enough. Time to stop this and go do something useful. Or play Mah-Jongg… Whatever.

*Title subject to change, if it ever sells/finds a publisher.

Chugging along

So. I’m going to make myself show up here on the days I go out to walk–at least the days I walk on the beach. We will see how this goes.

I got my revised partial of Thunder in a Cloudless Sky off in the mail yesterday afternoon. And as a reward, I went to the Hastings store on the island and bought the new Karen Chance book, Claimed by Shadow (the title in in dark red on a dark charcoal gray cover, and it’s really hard to read–but the author’s name is in white, so it’s easily visible. The cover is gorgeous, otherwise.) and read it. Good book. I may have to read it again to be sure I followed everything, but I liked it real well.

Today, I pulled out an old book I want to rewrite, and it’s really going to be hard going. I think I’m going to have to back off and start from scratch, instead of trying to keep the good stuff from what I had before. My opening scene with my heroine sucks–at least what I have so far, because it’s all blithering about the scenery. I need to just jump into the action. I have to open with the hero getting his talisman and having a vision–I think. Yeah. That’s really where I want to start. Then I want to jump right into the action…and I’ve got my heroine strolling across campus thinking about concrete. ACK!!!

So maybe tomorrow I can get my head on straight and write a decent chapter 1. Because I think the vision thing will be a prologue. Even though I will probably call it chapter 1. It’s the day that everything changes. But it’s not really where the action begins. It’s the hero’s call to adventure.

Today’s the local RWA chapter meeting, so it’s my chance to head into town and shop the “big” bookstores. (The Barnes & Noble and the Borders are practically right across the street from each other.) And I’ll probably hit the mall too. I want some throw rugs. Then I have to figure out how to get to the restaurant where they’re meeting with the speaker for dinner before.

Beach report: Big Rocks are back on the beach, at least between the 61st Street pier and the jetty opposite the grocery store, and some new pieces of the big rooted seaweed. Last time, there were only tiny little shells and rocks, but today, big ones. Surf was up some, sky was gray, but light right at the horizon, where you could see those streamers that mean it’s raining.
Cool morning. Didn’t really want to get my feet wet. If it gets much cooler, I’ll either walk later in the day, or wear shoes. (It’s not letting me upload pictures, so I guess I’ll show you my cool pink shells and where I walk at the beach next time…)

Beach Watching

Before I start: Big hey to Lindi, and tell your mom to send me your address!

I don’t head over to the beach every day, not even every other day, but I try to get there at least once a week. It’s my reward for living here. :) And for working, and for getting out and exercising. And every time I go to the beach, there’s something new to see.

Some days, it’s the cool patterns the waves make as they pull back from the shore when there are little shells and stones in the sand. Some days, it’s all the open-but-complete scallop-type shells scattered in just one spot on the beach. Last week, the beach was pretty much swept clean. All the seaweed that had been littering the sand was gone, no shells, no rocks, just sand.

This week, the seaweed was back, except it was a different kind of seaweed. The other stuff I think was sargasso–no roots, crinkly leaves, and tiny grape-looking…grape things. The stuff this week had roots and thick fleshy stems. I think the stems had arrow-head-shaped leaves on the ends–some of the stems still had leaves on them. But mostly, there were just roots and stems and some places where the stems thickened into bulby-looking things. A few of the stems were still green, but mostly, they were brown.

And there were rocks on the beach. Very few shells, but lots and lots of rocks of all sorts, including some concrete chunks. There’s a concrete driveway/ramp I walk by between a couple of the jetties that’s been undermined a pretty good distance beneath, so maybe the concrete came from there, but who knows? (these jetties are built about every 100 yards, made of huge chunks of pink granite, to break up the waves) Not me. This just seems to be rock week. I haven’t seen any more of those pink barnacle shells since Humberto roared by, but we’re not even getting many mussel/scallop shells now.

And of course, there are the birds. It’s amazing what some of these poor birds survive. Last week, there was a sandpiper (at least I think that’s what they were–they were as tall as stilts, or maybe a little taller, and speckled brown with a brown beak instead of being black and white with orange beaks–I left my bird ID book back in the panhandle…) that walked with a funny, kicking-out gait on one side. It had a little trouble keeping up with the other sandpipers, and flew a lot more when trying to get away from me as I walked down the beach. (They always seem to run ahead of me down the beach, instead of going to one side or the other.) I finally decided that it had broken that left leg some time or other, and it hadn’t healed right, so he had an odd kick in its gait.

Earlier this week, I saw a couple of one-legged seagulls. Actually, they had two legs, but their feet were messed up. One was missing a foot completely. I know it didn’t just have one leg tucked up under it, but was actually missing a foot because it was standing there with two legs dangling down. One leg just stopped before it got to the foot part. And when it walked, it would put its poor little stump down on the sand. (Mostly, it flew, but apparently I didn’t disturb it that much.) The other handicapped seagull had both legs too, but one of its feet had been mangled someway. Or maybe it had the seagull version of a club foot. Instead of the webbed triangle shape of its other foot, the bad foot was a kind of wad of web at the end of its leg. Poor baby. But they both looked fat and sassy. They still had their wings, after all.

Today, the footless seagulls were apparently out shopping for breakfast elsewhere, because all the seagulls I saw had both feet. Today, I saw a snowy egret fishing on the beach. The egrets usually fish over on the bayside of the island, because the water’s quieter there, and further inland, it’s shallower. I thought at first that this one was a bit nervous of the waves, but as I watched, it stood right at the edge of the water, intent on the incoming wave, until it pounced. I wasn’t sure it caught anything until I saw it swallow the tiny fish. So apparently egrets will fish in the surf too. It was so cool to watch.

(The picture is of an egret I saw over at Pier 21, near the “pirate ship”. It was fishing off the chain–I didn’t get a picture after it spread its wings for balance…but that was cool too.)

I have noticed that the younger gulls will fly away from me before the older ones will. Most of the mature gulls just saunter off while the youngsters are flapping out to sea. How can I tell they’re young, you ask? (I know you’re not asking, but I’m going to tell you anyway.) Because young laughing gulls have brownish feathers and adults have gray ones. The adults lose their black courting caps in the winter when their heads all go more-or-less white, but they’ll grow their black heads again in the spring when they have to look spiffy for the opposite sex. Yeah, I’m a geek. My sister got me into bird-watching, and I’m still stuck.

So, back into the writing. Gonna get my 25 pages done on Thunder and start working on…something else. Not sure what yet. Read my first book this month–a Roberta Gellis I’d been looking for, Enchanted Fire, about Orpheus and Eurydice. I have all her other Greek god myth books, but this one… Have it now. Enjoyed it a lot.

Thanks so much for keeping me updated about where you find my books. Y’all are the best.