Archive for The Sequel


Hello 2012

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I’ve always liked the new year and all that it implies — a new beginning, a chance to improve upon the past. It may be that being a child of the 80s with video games teaching us that you just have to drop another quarter into the machine to wipe the slate clean just reinforces the idea that there are do overs. Regardless, I always feel energized when January rolls around. I make the usual promises to myself. To be more healthy, to eat less of this sort of thing (made by friend, Alexandra :)):

And more of this:

To do less of this:

And more of this:

I have a couple of big goals for 2012. One is to finish my novella (draft above) ASAP — I had hoped it would be done by the end of January but that seems unlikely. I do hope to have a solid draft by the end of January and will be happy if I can get that accomplished.  I’m also brainstorming for a new book. This is an enjoyable stage of preparation for me but I haven’t had near enough time to read and that is an absolute necessity. I also plan to do something for this book that I’ve never done before which is to go out and find live sources. And since I’ve never done that I need to bone up on the protocol of approaching professionals who might be interested in helping out a fiction writer with their deep expertise.

I’m always on the lookout for tools that will help me in my writing. I was generously given an iPad about six months ago and it’s been interesting for me to discover ways I’m incorporating it into my writing life. I plan to write a blog post soon on this but in the meantime I’ll just offer a screenshot from the latest app I downloaded. It is a dictation app from the long time leader in that industry, Dragon. It is shocking how the technology has improved over the years. In about a minute I had downloaded it and had it up and running. This was the first thing that popped into my head when I was prompted to speak — let’s hope it is true:

I doubt I’ll make much use of this for actual writing. But it could prove to be very useful for transcribing since I still occasionally write longhand. I think it will also prove to be handy in composing emails.

Oh yeah. I have a new book out! Buy it. Read it. And let me know what you think about it. Reader’s thoughts ultimately count the most. Links are on the right hand side of the blog.

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I’ve never had a good system for managing my photographs. First it’s the matter of getting them off the camera and putting them somewhere. But since I’ve never had a good system there has always been a little nagging feeling that I’m going to lose track of all of them. So when I recently got a new laptop, I decided I needed to get my pictures organized. I decided to try Picasa since it’s a Google product and it meant one less password I need to remember. I was surprised how easy it was and even more surprised to find that within it are tools for easily sharing photos to my social networks. Here I’ve been a Luddite all along and didn’t know it. Anyway, the point of all of this is that I finally downloaded (uploaded? exported?) all my photos off my camera (1500!!) and can share some that I should shared eons ago.

I did the work on the final draft of Sleepwalk at a friends house. She set me up in style:

I don’t have many good photos from my reading at Busboys & Poets back  in May (since my camera had gone AWOL) but here’s one with Fay Jacobs. We are listening to Lisa Gitlin read from her funny novel I Came Our for This?

And some random pictures that I find kinda cool:

These two guys remind me of a few characters in Scapegoat

The sky looking particularly dramatic as I headed out of DC one night

A tiny snake snug in the bark of a tree in my yard

A remembrance of the moment that I discovered a bottle of my favorite beer in the world priced for 1 dollar. I bought it. :-)

George, one of the cutest dogs ever.

Scapegoat, long hand edits, looking atmospheric.

I like this shot because I think it’s a good representation of the way writers hope they will be visited by some kind of inspiration. A lot of people call it the Muse and though I don’t myself I can see why people do. Mainly because it is something that belies explanation. Sometimes it happens and the words come and sometimes they don’t. But it always feels really good when they do.

Categories : Photos, The Sequel
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(Past) Time to Get Serious

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Those who know me well know that I am ever so slightly obsessed with measurement. I love tracking things and generally seeing data that isn’t otherwise obvious at a first glance. Just this morning I heard a program on the Diane Rehm show about how personal genome sequencing is about to become affordable. The thought of having that kind of data about my own nuts and bolts, so to speak, is very appealing (and also frightening). So, in the vein of statistic keeping, as they say on Marketplace, here are the numbers:

You may notice that my word count has not changed much since the last time I posted it. Part of the problem that I’ve been having with the new book is that my current draft is a bit of a hodge-podge. Bits and pieces, abbreviated scenes, things that I’ve moved from one place to another so that the whole thing lacks logical cohesion. In a word, it’s a mess. To get back on track there were two things I had to come to terms with.

1. Things will have to be cut.

One of the most fundamental flaws I have as a writer is that I am loathe to lose any material. At all. Being obsessed with word count I hate to see that number move in the wrong direction. On top of that, sometimes the material that needs cutting is good — it just doesn’t fit. But it takes me a while to let go of it. (I never really let it go — I just put it in another file in hopes I can use it elsewhere.)

2. Work-a-day. The most fun part of writing for me is sitting back in a comfy chair with a notebook and just letting things flow. It’s not always easy and it often doesn’t flow at all but when it does, it is the closest thing that approaches enjoyment in writing. The work-a-day stuff is getting out the red pen and slashing and trashing. It is also shifting and shoving and making diagrams and notes and making sure it all fits together the way it should. I have finally had to accept that my book as it stands right now — a cobbled together Frankenstein’s monster — needs some serious surgery. So I have traded the comfy chair for the hard desk and bright lights. I am in full attack mode and already feel the better for it. I can see the book’s shape emerging from the chaos and once I am finished this hard bit  I can move forward. It’s ugly but it has to be done. Ugliness below (with spoiler-y bits redacted).

So, I forsee that during the next few weeks my word count will remain largely constant as I finish clean up. After that, it’s full speed ahead.

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Tick Tock, Tick Tock, Tick Tock…

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The horror, the horror… It’s time to get serious and I admit I am feeling a little pressure. I am not a fast writer. Nor am I as methodical as perhaps I should be. I don’t outline and this has always nagged at me a bit. Afterall, I write thrillers which typically have somewhat complicated plotlines. I am slightly reassured to have recently read that Stephen King does not outline either.

I lean more heavily on intuition, and have been able to do that because my books tend to be based on situation rather than story.

I don’t think that applies to my books which are very much plot-driven. King also says:

Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice.

I don’t think this is necessarily true though I can see his point. Plot in some genres has to be primary — otherwise the story just isn’t going to work. I think the key is to elevate character to an equally primary role so that the main character’s psychological journey is as important as the main plotline.

I do like King’s simile of a story unfolding through excavation — this seems to ring true for me. He sees a story as a fossil and the writer’s job is to unearth it. So in the next six months that’s what I’ll be doing. Picking and scraping and finally smoothing and buffing whatever emerges. Onward!

P.S. I have a new working title:

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To iPad or not to iPad

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So I’ve been thinking about the iPad lately. A lot. Mostly in an Isn’t it pretty kind of way.

But I’ve also been thinking Should I or shouldn’t I? I obviously don’t need it. Or do I? I tend to approach my technology very practically. How will this improve my life? It was a big decision for me to get a smartphone, a life change really. And for the first couple of weeks I thought I had made a big mistake. But now that I’ve discovered most of its ins and outs, I find that it has made a positive impact.

For one, I am on my computer much less. Need to check a movie time? Fandango App. Need directions? Google Maps app. Plus I am more organized. I have an app called ColorNote where I have little widgets on my home screen for all of my to do lists. One for each grocery story, one for the pharmacy, one for “Today”, etc. I also have my current manuscript with me at all times in a Google Doc, reached from a link on my home screen, which is hugely helpful. So what could an iPad do for me other than make the regions of my brain that respond to things that are aesthetically pleasing light up? Well, for one, lots of cool apps. Here is link to a few apps for writers.

Corkulous is very appealing to me for developing plot ideas and such. Especially since you can drag the notes, rearranging them whenever you have the whim.

I’m going to continue to think about it — it is one more electronic device to maintain, keep charged, etc. But it sure is pretty.

What else is going on? I crossed the 45k mark in word count for my next book!

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