The Magical Moments Between Magical Books

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I’m taking time off from writing right now … well, okay, time off, sorta kinda. I’m not on deadline with a book, already contracted by a publisher. I’m not doing deadline-related rewrites. But I’m still under deadline—my own deadline of knowing that I have to finish this, this, and this, and write that, that, and that in order to have a clear plate for the next book. So, while I’m off,  you’d never know it. I still spend 8 to 10 hours a day BIC. I still work and write, and don’t get enough sleep. But it’s a different kind of stress, knowing that that no one else is waiting on me. I’m my own boss. Me. Not Mr. Deadline. Not R. Muse with his boots and his whip and his really bad attitude. (Hey, you try being nice when it’s winter and the only clothes you own are thongs and pasties and boots.)

So I thought I’d share what a writer does in his/her down time, maybe ask a few questions, and see where this leads us. Which takes us to my first item.

1. Where will my writing lead me? The time between books (and between contracts, BTW. I have nothing new under contract, which is both freedom and terror) is a time when I can say, “Hey Faith/Gwen/Gary/Writer-To-Be. What do you want to write? What calls to you?” And I can write bits and pieces of things—vignettes—that might show me a new character and a new book and a new direction. Here’s what I did today. It’s the start of a short story. It’s the story-between-books in the Jane Yellowrock books. It may also be the start of a spinoff. It grips me in ways I haven’t been gripped in years! (David, no. I am not talking about Mr. Muse. {Shudders.})

Short story – Blood Taint and Old Spells

I don’t remember much about that first full moon except the pain, the burning, scalding, skin-crawling pain when my pelt wanted to thrust through my skin, when my bones, begged—demanded—to shift. When my eyes went green-gold, and the night came alive in rich blues and greens and the detail of the world was so intense it was like nothing I had ever seen before. The night when the scents on the air became acute, almost brutal in their concentration.

The sensory overload was like being tossed off a high bridge, to land at the bottom of a rock-strewn crevasse, and find myself broken, bloodied, but miraculously alive. Only to have a Mac truck target me down and crush out whatever life had been left. And at the same time, it was like having a live current rushing though me, icy and burning, my brain on fire, my skin roasting, and yet no evidence of it except the funky green gold of my eyes.

I couldn’t stop it, couldn’t make it go away, couldn’t shift into my cat to ease my pain. Kemnebi, the only other black were-leopard on the continent, had refused me aid, standing back and laughing at my torment. Even when Leo Pellissier, the Master of the City, had threatened to kill him if he didn’t help me, Kem had refused, saying I’d brought it on myself. Which I had. Totally. I’d FUBARed it all the way, losing my humanity, the girl I had flipped over—Jane Yellowrock—and probably my job too.

Gee, Leo Pellissier’s Mercy Blade, had told me Jane could help. Which made no sense. Jane wasn’t a were. But something in his voice had convinced me, and I’d found myself on my bike, blasting down the roads and across the Mississippi, into the Big Easy, believing Jane could—and maybe would, even after I betrayed her—help me.

I’ve done about 2 pages now, and though the voice isn’t perfect yet, I totally freaking love it. I can see it taking me new places. I can see 3 books. I can see lots of stuff, including writing from a male POV for the first time in 20 years. It could be fun!

2. I also have rewritten a book that has been under the bed for 20+ years. It’s a Gwen book, the first book she ever wrote. It was amateurish and bland and—okay I’ll say it—pretty awful. No wonder she garnered so many rejections. She only kept a half inch stack of them. There were a lot more than that, way back when. If you think your first book is God’s Gift To The World, um, well, it likely ain’t. But don’t let that discourage you. You learn to write a book by writing a book. And your second one will be better. I have a small press pub for that first book, and now His Blood, Like Tears will be published. The writing is more like what I might write today, but I freely admit that it will never be high quality literature. Not like David’s (DB Jackson) Thieftaker which is totally freaking fabulous, evocative, fast-paced, and that leads me to number 3.

3. I am reading books that have been piling up, from ARCs to give blurbs on, to published novels, to manuscripts from unpublished writers I have been working with 5+ years. I am loving every minute of it. It’s keeping me up late at nights, reading, which is my very favorite thing in the world.

4. The Hubby and I have paddled an icy river several times. It is refreshing, and brain-clearing, and exciting, and wonderful! The birds think it’s spring. We saw so many different species, and the bald eagle pair are fluffing their nest. Whoot! Can you say eagle chicks? I am a new person when I get off the water, even when it’s only a little Class I and II river.

5. I’ve had lunch with my parents, with friends, and done social things I don’t make time for when I’m BIC and nose-to-the-keyboard.

6. I’ve done paperwork. A *lot* of paperwork. Bills. Oy, how they pile up. And I haven’t made any jewelry due to a lingering case of tendonitis. So in that way, I’m unfulfilled and dissatisfied. But my arm is getting better. So, soon, I’ll be jewelry making!

7. I’ve prepared for cons. My first one of the year this coming weekend and I’ll be at RoundCon 2011 in Columbia with Misty Massey and other writers. Come visit! It’s a small conference and there should be plenty of time to chat.

My questions are: Do you do anything different/special when you are not working? Stuff that *is* working but isn’t? Stuff that is pure fun with no work? Stuff with family and friends? Artistic stuff? Do you read more/different/new books? New/authors/genres/ styles? And are you coming to RoundCon or StellarCon or CarolinaCon and meet us????
Faith
FaithHunter.Net and  GwenHunter.Com

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38 comments to The Magical Moments Between Magical Books

  • Mikaela

    I am terrible to take breaks. It’s so fun! But I am learning. I read books, I meet friends, I visit my family. I clean up. Do laundry. You know, boring things :)

    Also, I am playing around with Paint.Net. It’s very satisfying to open a photo of one of my siblings, and turn the offender green. Or blue. Or purple. LOL.

    And, no. I am not coming to any con in the States, but I *am* going to Eurocon! It’s in Stockholm this year! Which means I just have to pay the membership fee.

  • Excellent! I love the idea of painting my sibings. Michael would be shades of yellow and gold. Benson would be reds and sparkles of burgundy. Hmmm. Wonder what that says about my feelings about my brothers.

    You know, we MWers need to go to EuroCon one year. I think that would be fantastic! Life between books is grand!

  • Right now, logging the BIC time in the first place is my big challenge, so that’s what I’m trying to focus on.

    Besides that? Well, the swordfighting has been fun, to the point where I’m going to keep it up after this month’s classes end. I also sometimes draw fantasy maps that give me ideas for stories. My WIP started off as a doodled map. And I keep a log of “impressions”, ideas that aren’t quite fully-formed but may hopefully collide, add depth to an existing story, or eventually fuel a bigger idea.

    I’ll be going to ConCarolinas. Can’t wait!

  • Mikaela

    Faith, you definitely need to go Eurocon sometime! If not Eurocon, a con in Europe :)

  • Faith, first off, thanks for the nice comments about Thieftaker. Glad you’re enjoying it.

    I’m in the exact same position you are. Nothing under contract, no deadlines. At the beginning of the year, I came up with a list of things I wanted to get done this year. The list began with writing a short story with Stuart. We’re done, and it’s good. Second was creating a website for D.B. Jackson. It’s pretty much done (http://www.dbjackson-author.com). And then there were a bunch of writing projects. Right now I’m finishing up a middle reader book that’s been on the back burner for a while. After this is done, I plan to start a new UF that’s rattling around in my head. And then I have another contemporary UF that I want to revise. In April, wildflowers will be blooming here in TN and I’ll be out every morning with my camera. May is spring bird migration; I’ll be out every morning with my binoculars. And so on . . . As you say, no contract = scary + freedom I’m trying to focus on the freedom, and doing my best to stay one step ahead of the scary.

  • Mikaela

    David, its cruel of you to put up the first chapters over a year before the release. *grumbles*

  • Laura, that is great! BIC is important when other things are trying to rip you away from the *hard work* phase of the creative process.
    You know — we need a MagicalWords badge for the cons. I wonder if I have the time to make something up?
    Hmmm…

  • Mikaela, the Skinwalker books are going to be out in Germany and several other European contries. You are making me think. And Mama could take care of my dogs. I might could make this work!

  • David, the scary part grows with the news (not a flash – more a confirmation) of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Borders today. They owe publishers (including mine) millions. My fear is for a domino effect that shatters the industry. Sometimes having a *what-it* mindset is a real problem. (hiding head under the covers)

  • Well, there *is* Cafepress.com for button-making. It’s a bit of a trial-and-error process, but they have guidelines and helpful instructions. Prices have gone up a bit since I last used them. Shipping is three weeks to Canada, so I imagine it would be a week or so to anywhere in the US. Maybe it should read something like “MW Minion”? 😉

  • Working as a freelancer for the last 7 or 8 years, my life is, on a regular and consistent basis, the way you describe this break between books. And frankly, it’s exhausting, which is why I’m looking to make some changes. I don’t know exactly what it will all look like; I just know it needs to be different than it is now. I’ll let you know what that looks like when I get there.

  • Unicorn

    Dreamy sigh. If only I had deadlines set by publishers who want my stories… Anyway, I sort of know what you mean by “time off” – I give myself some after completing the first draft of a novel and before starting the second draft. I mess around, try to find an idea for the next novel, doodle bits of stories, experiment with poetry, with essays, drama, other forms of writing. When I go to the library I always try to get a book outside of my chosen genre. At the moment I’m immersed in “Cry, the Beloved Country” by Alan Paton (a very realistic drama novel) and Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”. And when I’m not writing a lot – I sometimes get weeks like that, where my muse (considerably less formidable than yours, Faith) is on holiday – there’s plenty of other stuff to do. Usually it involves falling off an exceptionally insane horse, which is always good to get the creative juices flowing. 😉 Or I’ll try portraying my characters in a medium other than words – painting or drawing them, which, oddly enough, often gives me a new idea.
    Unicorn

  • Laura, I like MW minion. Thinking… For now (since time is so short for StellarCon, I may make up stickers to go on Con badges. Assumming I find time in my *time-off*!

  • Edmund, if I lived my life this way all the time it would indeed be exhausting. I salute you, man. And I totally understand why you would switch to something else. I can’t wait to see what you decide.

  • Unicorn, it’s been years since I was tossed of a horse, and my body would not heal near as well now! But I still love the smell of horse and barn and hay and feed and old leather. (very happy sigh)

    You are very wise to read outside of your genre. It will enrich your writing like nothing else. And Shakespear will teach your writer’s mind to think differently, more formally, with a poetry that is often missing (and lacking) from the work of many of today’s unpublished writers, most of whom never picked up a book to broaden their minds, or their deepen their gift. Keep it up! (And stay on the horse. It’s a bit less dangerous. Unless a half-trained one takes you under a low branch. My brother busted a saddle down the middle one time, the saddle thankfully taking the brunt of the mare’s *kill-the-rider* charge.)

  • David said Faith, first off, thanks for the nice comments about Thieftaker. Glad you’re enjoying it.

    Wait a minute! She’s reading it, and I’m not? But…but…you said I was your favorite!

    *weeps*

  • Razziecat

    Due to a day job I don’t have that much time for writing, so I tend to focus on it in those few hours I’m not at work or asleep. I make jewelry, too, and right now I have a fabulous stash of new beads tempting me away from the keyboard; and I’m on vacation this week, trying to recharge–this winter is just taking so much energy out of me, I can’t wait for spring!

  • Like Razzie, I have a 8-10 hour a day day-job that leaves me a few hours each night and the weekends for writing. However, I have some hobbies that I also try to balance in my weekly activities. The most time-consuming one is gardening, which is taking up too much time right now because I live in Southern California and it’s time to start prepping and planting for spring. It ate away my entire last weekend and I got almost no writing done . Other hobbies include bread-baking and general fitness. I try to workout at least 3 days a week — running, lifting weights, or going to yoga classes — but lately it’s been less than that. I guess I need to rebalance again.

  • (sticks tongue out at Misty) Nayh, nayh, naaaaayh!

    Razzie, this winter has sucked for a *lot* of people. And I know what you mean about the tempting beads. I about 10 projects untouched since October, and a new bag full of fun, sparkily, pearly stuff. It is driving me nuts! (thumps left elbow) Dang tendonitis.

  • Megan, we all have to find and keep that balance, and it’s a constant struggle to maintain it. I need to get my hands into the soil soon. My need-to-weed self wants lots of dirty activities.

    (scratches head) That came out wrong, but it’s funny so I’m leaving it. Gardening is soul-enriching for me. Baking bread used to be fun but time contstraints have put the kibosh on that. Exercising and yogo-style stretching are musts for me! And the new chair! Oh my! I needed *that* for balance!

  • Sarah

    I have day / night/ until the grading is done job so how much time I have available for writing depends on things like the arrangement of my class schedule and the number of mandatory evening events I have to attend. And lately I’ve been exploring the world of pain management as my headaches become more frequent. So writing is my freedom and my break. I go down to B&N, get a latte or a giant cup of tea, and write like mad until my laptop battery burns out. It’s catharsis and satisfying accomplishment and imaginative freedom all together. My other (new) release time activity is Just Dance 2 – there’s nothing like dancing around the living room to “It’s Raining Men” to relieve work stress and put a smile on my face. And it gets a little exercise into my life. If it doesn’t rain all weekend (and maybe even if it does) I’ll get up into the hills for a little hiking. The smell of chaparral after rain puts my scattered self back in order.

  • Sarah

    @Megan – you’re in SoCal too? Anywhere near Glendora? Maybe we could get coffee some time?

  • Faith, I don’t think that the Borders bankruptcy will start a chain reaction. Borders has long been behind the curve in key ways, like not getting in early on the e-reader craze the way Amazon and B&N did. They also made some very strange and at times ill-advised stocking decisions that hurt their relationships with distributors and publishers. There has been some mention of the possibility that independents might take over some of the locations that Borders closes down in the next couple of months, so it’s actually possible that some good will come of this.

  • @Sarah – Unfortunately, I’m in Lakewood, near Long Beach, and I work downtown, but I’d love to get coffee or lunch sometime. It would be FANTASTIC to meet another writer in person (99% of my writer friends are online or long distance). Any chance you’ll be in either area in the next couple of weeks? If not, maybe we can meet up somewhere in the middle on a weekend?

  • @Sarah – Sorry – I should say I work in downtown LA. I’m not sure if that was clear or not…

  • mudepoz

    Guess since I can’t say anything about worrying about deadlines and writing, I’ll be at ConCarolinas. I’ll be looking forward to meeting everyone.
    Otherwise, I have a lab to nail down, a couple of doggy training articles I need to finish, and a garden that should be attended to. Oh, and two dogs to train.
    My TBR stack is starting to tip over and my Kindle is groaning. Life is good. I am stoned. :)

  • sarah, That sounds like fun — especially the dancing and hiking part! I know Misty dances to relieve tension and stress and to find herself.

    And I’m tickled if any writers find each other because of MW. I hope that could happen. Escept for the voices in my own head, writing is the most lonely job in the world.

    No, it isn’t.
    Yes, it is.
    No–

  • David, I had just heard that, about the indies maybe taking over some Borders! I think that would be great! This is *most* roller-coaster business in the world!

    And for those of you who don’t know — Mud is stoned because of an injury and great pain. Which probably takes the fun out of the experience totally.

  • Razziecat

    Faith, you should see these beads…they’re coffee bean beads! They’re shaped and colored exactly like coffee beans. What could be better for writers than a necklace made in honor of Caffeina…come to think of it, maybe that’s my muse. I’ve been wondering…:)

  • I think Caffeina sounds like a wonderful Muse! But she’ll keep you awake at night.

  • The job that’s paying the bills is 10+ hours a day and mentally exhausting. Then there’s the house to clean, the bookcases to build, the dogs to play with, the shopping, the cooking, the son…

    Writing *is* my vacation time.

    Not planning on any Cons toward the Carolinas, but I am going to CoastCon in Biloxi. Anyone else?

  • Faith> I have the “time off? hrm…” problem, too. So much to do (like Sarah, teaching/grading/mandatory meetings + conference papers, etc). A lot cuts into my writing time, and even more so this week, which is really irritating me. I lost Tuesday and will lose Thursday, too (usually my writing days after I teach in the morning). Maybe Friday I’ll write some. I’m so close to being done and being able to print my manuscript and read through it! GRRR.

    I tend toward “days off.” And usually they center around my bf’s work schedule and mine. We’ll take a day and I’ll just spend it with him, watching stupid tv, or running errands, or sleeping. Those days I try to focus on that part of my life.

    Otherwise, like Sarah, I’ll write at a coffee shop. Sit someplace and write like mad for a few hours (or stare like mad at the screen…)

    Megan> I’ll be in S Cal in May for a week (visiting Sarah and then in Bakersfield for my fam) maybe we can hang out then…

  • Yay for a Magical Words SoCal gathering! We’ll have to all keep in touch…my email is listed on the Magical Words Betas group, so email me from there as the time gets closer.

  • Lyn, suggest that they invite me next year. I used to vacation in Biloxi back with mom and dad. It was a great place. And it sounds as if writing is not just your down time, it’s your balance.

    Pea Emily, that is one purpose of this site. To remind us all (speaking to myself here, too) to keep it all in perspective. Becoming a published writer (and staying among the published) requires the skills of a master juggler and a master sergeant.

    Megan, and you others, it’s very cool that you will get together! As we do on the river, write a trip report!

  • Lyn Nichols said Not planning on any Cons toward the Carolinas, but I am going to CoastCon in Biloxi. Anyone else?

    Oh golly, I wish I was…Gary Graham is your media guest!!!!! He was the most unexpectedly romantic sci-fi hero on Alien Nation, and I’ve loved him ever since.

    Yes, this is me, the squeeing fangirl. 😀

  • Unicorn

    Faith – I’m finding Shakespeare very different from today’s writers, but nonetheless beautiful. So poetic. Dreamy sigh. And yeah, I’ll try to stick on the horse, but I like to train mine myself so when I start with them they’re not half-trained, they know nothing. I hate those times when you’re riding happily along and the next minute you’re lying on the ground with bruises and the horse disappearing over the horizon, wondering how the heck you got there.
    You guys are making me soooo jealous with all your con talk… Well enjoy them anyway, they sound so cool!
    Unicorn

  • Young_Writer

    Faith, I hope you can get back to making jewelery soon! Have fun rewriting Gwen’s first book, I’m sure you’ll get it published.

  • @Misty – this will be the first con I’ve gone to in probably 10 years. It’d be fun to see you doing a fangirl ‘squeee!’
    I’m under orders from the Author GOH to be there (an old friend I haven’t seen in too many years!)

    @ Faith – I will definitely ask them to invite you next year! (BTW – enjoying the first JY book)

    @Unicorn – I used to breed and train Quarter Horses, American Whites, and Paints when I was younger. And I remember – very well – those, “Wha-? Why am I flying and where is my horse going?” moments. Too well.