January 2018

I had no inspiration for the title of this post! But here we are, almost through January already. The holidays were packed with work, work, and more work, and despite using several vacation days at the end of the year it feels remarkably like I didn’t have any time off.

This year I’m taking a slightly different approach to tracking my writing progress: instead of setting word-count goals, I’m listing the projects that I want to work on and focus on getting them done, no matter how many words it takes. I’m still going to use an Excel file to keep tabs of how much I write (and editing counts as 1,000 words an hour), but the raw number isn’t the goal.

On the nonfiction front, I’ve just completed working on updating some athlete bios for an encyclopedia, and I’m involved with the production of an open access textbook. I also have a local history that I’m pitching to a publisher and I need to get an outline/scope of work done for that. If that’s not enough, I still want to develop my thesis into a book, but somehow that project keeps sinking to the bottom of my list. Enough of the excuses! Time to get to work on it, too.

Fiction is coming along, too: I’m finishing up edits to my novel, Seacombe Island, and I hope to have it ready for publication in March. And we Corrugated Sky writers are brainstorming our third anthology. I have a few other project ideas, and some short stories that I need to finish. This year is going to be about completing projects!


Ray Bradbury and Me

I have two chapters in this book about Ray Bradbury. The book is part of Salem Press’s Critical Insights series.

Toward the end of last year I was invited to write a biography and a critical context entry about Ray Bradbury for inclusion in Salem Press’s Critical Insights: Ray Bradbury. The book has been published and I received my author’s copy last week, just in time for the holidays. It’s a lot of work to research and write these kind of articles, but it’s always a pleasure to see them in print and to see what kind of other articles there are in the book.

Last summer my husband and I attended the Maine Astronomy Retreat for the first time. One day we left camp and drove to Belfast, Maine, and spent the afternoon strolling around. I saw a paperback copy of The Martian Chronicles in the window of an independent bookstore, and I was drawn to it, but in the end I didn’t buy it. About a month after vacation I received an email about this book project and all I could think was “Why didn’t I buy that book when I was on vacation?”

Odd things like that seem to happen to me fairly often. I suppose I could claim to have had an intuition about the book, but I think I was drawn to it because I’ve been thinking about rereading some of the books I read as a teenager, and The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 were both on that reread list. I read both while working on the articles, and in fact I devoured them each in a day or two, staying up way too late because I just could not put the books down. I don’t remember that fascination the first time I read the books, and in fact I found The Martian Chronicles a bit hard because I’m more of a novel reader and less of a short-story reader. I always wanted to stay with Bradbury’s characters longer than he did!

My essays are a short biography, “Ray Douglas Bradbury,” and a longer piece, “Big Brother, Little Sister: Ray Bradbury, Social Pressure, and the Challenges to Free Speech.” You can work out from the title what it’s about, so I won’t go into details here. But, I would recommend reading Bradbury’s work, especially if you’ve only seen the movies. His word choices, the characters, the pacing of the stories — those are part and parcel of the atmosphere he brought to the worlds he created. You won’t go wrong spending an evening, or a few days, immersed in his work.



Makin’ Smoke

Whew! November is over, and NaNo is over, and we’re halfway through December. I’m struggling to get back on track with several projects, although I’m making some slow progress on editing my novel and I have a few short articles to get done before the first week of January.

I haven’t written much about my story “Hekatite,” which appears in Smoke and Steam, the second anthology published by Corrugated Sky. In this one I get top billing. We’re calling them novellas because the stories are fairly long, and the book comes in at 260 pages. “Hekatite” takes place in the same universe as my forthcoming novel, Seacombe Island, and includes some of the same characters.

Writing the novella was a fairly straightforward plot, but it was an interesting way for me to fill in some of the backstory for the novel and figure out the dynamics between characters. As sometimes happens in writing, one of my secondary characters has become a favorite and is in danger of eclipsing my main character. But as I go through Seacombe with my final edits, I’m finding ways to strengthen the main character because I’ve finally figured out how some of the interactions need to take place.

What I need now is a good long vacation to deal with the task of writing, but unfortunately that isn’t going to happen. I’ve been using up my remaining vacation time a day here and a day there, and pretty much squandering any downtime by running house errands, and whether I travel or not, the holidays are not good writing time for me.

So, here we are nearly at the end of the year. My goals through the first week of January are to get at least halfway through Seacombe edits, finish four short articles on athlete bios for Salem press, and get back into research on my nonfiction book on Victorian detectives. And wrap up my author proposal for another book project. Not too many things, eh?

NaNo 2017, Almost Toast

It’s been a long haul this year for my NaNo adventure. I had the ghost of an idea for a book and was hoping to tease out the plot during the month of writing dangerously, but that hasn’t happened. I need more time to think this through, and it will probably get shelved once November is over because I have several other projects in the works. Still, NaNo isn’t a waste, as it’s force me to get back into the habit of writing daily, and it’s a bit surprising how many words I can type in an hour if I push myself.

On the flip side, my hands are hurting from the typing. It’s not carpal tunnel, it’s just aches and pains from jamming the space bar and muscles that aren’t used to marathon writing sessions. My first office job was in a typing pool, and as much as I like to write I can’t imagine ever doing that as a full-time job again.

So, it’s early on November 29, which means today and tomorrow to wrap the novel. It’s almost toast! Just two more days, and I’m at 47,132 words, so I have no doubt I’ll reach the 50K mark, but the story won’t be at an end. I think instead of writing chapters for the next two days I’m going to write chapter synopses and try to find a suitable finishing point for the story. Then if I pick it up later I’ll have the skeleton of a plot to follow and can flesh out the writing.

In other writing news, I’ve started talking to some people in the hopes of getting a history book project underway. I have an interested publisher, but I need access to archival materials and I may need permissions for using materials. I also have some encyclopedia articles on athletes that I’m working on. Here’s to a verbose December!