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It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of an upcoming vacation, must be in need of a week’s worth of chaos.

I don’t know why this happens, but it does. I’ve got a week’s vacation scheduled, I remind folks at work that it’s coming, I give ample warning about tasks A and B that must be completed before I can do task C, and then, as if it’s all a big surprise, everything crashes down in the last week—pandemonium, panic, hair-on-fire memos from management asking why task C is “suddenly” at risk—and I’ve got to pull a rabbit out of . . . somewhere . . . to ensure that we do meet our deadlines.

Toss into that week the unending cyclone of Fire and Fury. North Korea. Gaza. Iran. Pruitt. Cohen. Mueller. Net neutrality. Tax code reform. Immigrants. Amazon vs. Seattle. Trump vs. everyone. Even effing volcanoes.

Mix thoroughly, sprinkle it all with a layer of pollen the proportions of which have been absolutely biblical, bake at 350°F for an hour, and serve warm with a generous side of agita. Pairs well with angostura, over-brewed coffee, and tannic reds.

Every. Damned. Time.

Luckily, my irises, after extensive negotiations, have decided to bloom.

And I love my irises.

I grow the beardless, or Dutch, type of iris. They remind me of the Douglas irises of my youth, old friends well-met while hiking the back-country trails in the Point Reyes National Seashore, tramping through the hinterlands, munching on miner’s lettuce and sourgrass, breathing in the mixture of coniferous humus and salt-sea air like a tonic. Not normally one for flowers without fragrance, I make an exception for these happy flowers. In their deep, saturated colors and elegantly curved tricorns I find serenity.

I was upset by their unexpected (and inexplicable) delay. The mild winter? The effects of a changing climate? I don’t know. What I do know is that the blooms of late March/early April, those upthrusting spears surrounded by a spray of thin tapered leaves, they went on strike in February and did not come back to work until this week, when they all decided to show their colors and burst into static fireworks of cool purples trimmed with heady gold.

I never cut my irises for bouquets. I leave them where I love them, in the garden. When they get sad, I pinch them off to encourage a second bloom, and I sometimes trim the bent, broken, or yellowing leaves, but mostly I leave them alone and simply enjoy the fortnight of their display.

Perhaps they knew of my upcoming week of vacation and, knowing the week prior would be a hell, held off until now to help me go the distance without committing murder or career suicide (or both).

Regardless the cause, I’m glad they’re here this week. I need ’em.

k

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Pushback

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I breached the 20k-word mark on the current WIP, and everything was going fine, just fine, until things began to . . . happen.

No, it wasn’t the few days of fine weather that demanded a drive (or two) in Pepper, nor was it the completely frenetic week I had at work, where no sooner had I gotten a handle on Task 1 than management pulled me off and told me to work on Task 2 (I’m currently on Task 4, which is not only a black box I have to crack open and suss out, but it’s also on fire and has a digital readout that keeps counting down toward zero).

Nope. None of that was the problem. Continue Reading »

Planning Ahead

 

letter-handwriting-family-letters-written-51159.jpegWork on the new novel is moving along pretty well, now, and I’ve achieved what (for me) is a rather brisk pace. I’m not threatening to break my personal best, set back when I was under contract to deliver the Fallen Cloud Saga, and I’m nowhere near the blistering pace consistently set by some writers I know (cough cough Barb Hendee cough), but I’m not complaining. I’m about halfway through Chapter Three (regular readers may note that I’m now posting progress in chapter increments, not in scenes) and settling into a new groove.

Experience, however, has taught me that “settling into a new groove” is, by itself, insufficient for success. New behavior can easily be scuttled when faced with distractions or downturns, especially in early days, when anything shiny is a temptation to wander.

To keep things moving, I need something more. Continue Reading »

sparrows greet us
escalating commuters
as we rise to the surface
grey-faced warriors
morlocks in the dawn
they sing to us from
guano-stained signs
hopping word to word
to teach us their lyrics
of sunrise and birth

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This week’s progress was slowed by a few issues.

First, Season 4 of Bosch dropped, and that simply had to be dealt with.

Second, I had some serious pain due to a nerve regrowing in my big toe (long story) and that made it impossible to concentrate on anything for about thirty-six hours.

Third, I was still on-call, and the weekend was punctuated with several job failures, including two early morning alerts that came to me in error. (Thanks, guys. Who wants to sleep in on the weekend anyway, amirite?)

With this as preamble, it wasn’t surprising that, once I finally got underway with chapter two scene one, my lack of concentration let me slip my lead and run down some research rabbit holes. Continue Reading »

p=mv

This is what momentum looks like.

Despite work deadlines, two days down with a stomach bug, a major financial planning session, and getting a windshield replaced, I still managed to get another scene completed and entered. This was Scene 3 (begun last week), which ends Chapter/Day One, and it was the first time for a couple of things.

Continue Reading »

Writing on the novel continues, albeit slowly. In the middle of Scene 3, now.

In talking to my wife about my struggle, I mentioned that it felt like I’ve broken through a barrier, and that both my interest and enthusiasm had increased, to which she responded with a question: why is that?

I honestly hadn’t thought about why—I was just glad it was—but it engendered an interesting discussion.

Last week, I posted about how in this character-driven novel, I must engage in a lot more forethought. As I explained, writing about how a character reacts to action is a lot easier than writing about their motivation before that action is undertaken. That reality hasn’t changed, certainly not in the last week or so.

What has changed, though, is that I’m finally getting a handle on who my characters are.

This is a critical point, for me.

I’ve built and rebuilt my characters’ backstories close to a dozen times. I’ve changed family structure, occupations, names (lots and lots of names), affiliations, history, and well, damned near everything except their gender. I’ve also worked and reworked my outline, refining it, bringing in subplots, dropping subplots, chucking extraneous secondary characters, tightening it all up.

So, when I started writing, I had a pretty good handle on where my main characters had been and where they were headed.

All set, right?

Wrong.

Continue Reading »

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