Sunday, February 28, 2010


That sigh of relief felt around the world last Monday was me meeting one of my deadlines and getting my all day workshop behind me. For the first time in about three months my pulse slowed down from a gallop to a mere trot level and my blood pressure went down about 15 points (my doctor will be so happy!). I had made it; I had crossed two finish lines and had only one to go. And the thing is, having only one deadline now feels like a cakewalk.

I find it incredibly galling or fascinating, depending on my mood, that during this time of the highest professional stress in my entire working life, my family got hit with mini-crisis after mini-crisis, from health issues to academic set backs to major life decisions, they all came tumbling down at the same time I was trying to juggle all these deadlines. And boy, was that a perfect illustration of plot layers! A perfect demonstration of how our lives don’t stop when we are presented with a huge new challenge.

It also made me grateful that I am a writer, because I could recognize a Supreme Ordeal when I saw it and act accordingly. But mostly, it's just a wonderful thing to be on the other side of some of those things!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Watch Out Bakersfield!

Here I COME! Armed and ready for an all day workshop! Can't wait!

But before I go, I wanted to share to amazing quote I discovered this week (via Kate Coombs) because they really made me aware of fantasy's long-reaching arm and I wanted you all to have a chance to mediate on them, too.

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. --Albert Einstein

When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking. --Albert Einstein

Don't those rock?? From EINSTEIN, no less!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Treading Carefully and Raising Stakes

So one of the things I was struggling with over the last couple of weeks was unicorns. The fourth Nathaniel Fludd book centers around unicorns, and as I began to collect my unicorn lore for the the Fludd Book of Beasts, I became aware of just how tricky a thing it was that I was dealing with.

When dealing with something like unicorns, there are a number of people who adore them and their mythology (a large portion of them in the 6-10 year old girl population who will be reading the book.) Then there are others who find unicorns tedious or ho-hum or too rainbowey for their taste. However was I to accommodate both camps?

What I ended up doing was going back to all sorts of early accounts and mentions of unicorns in early literature, from the 4th century BC to the early 1700s. I combed through all of those readings, looking for common threads and strains and studied the data as if I were a beastologist. Then I took all that data and classified it as if I were a scientist. (For example, I determined that when broken down, it appears as if there are eight distinct species of unicorns.)

Then I had a little fun playing with some of the unicorn conventions and turning them a bit on their head.

The other thing was, no matter how I dealt with the unicorns, they simply weren't as threatening as basilisks or wyverns. They lacked a certain inherent danger and dramatic stake that those other beasts brought with them to their respective books.

This is where the notion of raising the personal stakes as a way to bring drama to a story became infinitely helpful.

For this book, it wasn't so much the beast that was fueling the dramatic tension, but rather Nate and the choices and actions he was forced to deal with. I hadn't consciously planned it this way, to have one of the less ferocious beasts be paired with one of the more highly emotional and dramatic phases of Nate's journey, but I'm guessing my subconscious did because it sure made for a nice balance. Or that's what I think today. I might have a totally different opinion once I reread the thing. :-)

Monday, February 15, 2010


Yes, that joyous shouting heard round the world today at 3:00 p.m. pst was ME! I finished the fourth Nathaniel Fludd book. Hoo-rah! I have now put it aside where it will stew and simmer for five whole days, then I'll pull it back out for a quick polish on Sunday and Monday. Then I will email it to the Best Editor EVER.

I gave myself a whole two hour break this afternoon, then began fiddling with Theodosia Four while dinner was cooking. :-) No rest for the wicked. But it feels awfully good to have one down and only one to go.

AND, we have a winner for last week's drawing! The lucky number was 2:

So Karen, email me with your snail mail address and I'll get your copy of THE LOST CONSPIRACY out to you. I think you'll really enjoy it.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Queen of Napping

This afternoon, as I was contemplating just how slothful it would make me if I took a second nap of the day, I had an epiphany.

You see, everybody should have at least one area of expertise, and I've decided that mine is napping. The thing is, I'm a World Class Napper. I excel at napping sprints, long distance naps, and even endurance napping. I'm queen of them all.

The really cool thing is that being a champion napper dovetails very nicely with being a writer. It is absolutely 100% true that napping helps my writing. I can often squeeze out an extra few pages after a taking a nap. And even if I don't quite manage to produce pages, I always end up with some inspired plot point or scene development.

And I have to say, there is no greater satisfaction in the world than to be able to tell someone to leave me alone, I'm napping. And it's work. Love that.

Napping is also great for nipping the frisson of an anxiety attack in the bud. Slow deep breathing, emptying one's mind, and boom! Calmness is achieved.

I'm a hugely versatile napper. I love me my twenty minute cat naps, as well as the more common, hour long versions. Sometimes, I even go for those deep, two and a half hour, bed-hair type naps, although those are usually only when I am fighting a migraine.

The other thing is, my bedroom is the Ultimate Napping Room. And it's not just me who thinks so. People (okay, family members mostly, who shall remain nameless) come from miles around to nap on my bed. There is just something about the slant of afternoon light and the quiet outside the window, the very stillness of the air, that makes it the perfect napping room.

And really, if one has been given a perfect napping room, then it would be highly ungrateful to not take full advantage of this gift, no?

So how about you guys? Are any of you nappers? Leave a comment and tell me about your napping practices, or lack thereof, and I will enter you in a drawing for a copy of Francis Hardinge's THE LOST CONSPIRACY, a book I am reading right now. When I'm not napping. (Or meeting my deadlines.)

It's an amazing book that I highly recommend and would love to share with someone. All you have to do is talk about naps and you're entered! :-)

Monday, February 01, 2010

Upcoming Workshop

Wow, I have all sorts of things I wanted to talk about craft-wise, but I have to save every d@ng word for my writing. I've definitely reached the crunch zone. My brain keeps flashing big red signs at me screaming DEADLINE! DEADLINE! while loud buzzers go off. Not pretty.

Anyway, I did want to let any of you out there in Southern California know that I'll be teaching an all day workshop over in Bakersfield on Saturday, Feb. 20. The workshop is called, Architexture, and here's the blurb:

In this workshop, we will explore a wide variety of tools such as: using setting to echo the theme and conflict of your novel; using specific, selective detail to build a three dimensional world and evoke universal themes and archetypes, creating layers of subtext to add weight and texture; using deep character point of view to bring your world to life. There will be lots of hands on exercises.

Basically lots of the same stuff we talk about here, but BETTER. 'Cause it'll be in person. With exercises.

You can check out all the deets here.