Solar Powered

It hasn’t been a great month for writing. It’s not that I don’t want to write. I do want to, but to write, it helps if one can think. The trouble seems to be that I’m solar powered. When the sun is up, so am I. Going to bed isn’t so much of a problem. I’ve always been an ‘early to bed, early to rise’ kind of girl. The problem is, this time of year, dawn breaks about 5:00. Sometimes I can push wake-up to 6:00 if I have the black-out curtain and the window closed. One ray of sunlight, one chirping bird, and that’s it, buddy. It takes a little getting used to after the dark silence of winter. I’m trying out some herbs, and they seem to help somewhat. At this point, melatonin is my BFF.

The other day it occurred to me that maybe May isn’t a great writing month in general. This isn’t the first year May has done this to me. Add in the start of gardening season (or, in the case of this year, weeding season) and the start of summer activities, and I’m not as bright eyed and bushy tailed as usual. Seven years of record keeping have proven me wrong, based solely on word count. It’s not May. It’s me.

My plan is to start using the piazza for work. The furniture is out, I just have to schlep out the umbrella and figure out how best to place stuff. I’m sure that will be an on-going thing this year. It takes me a while to figure out the feng shui of a new space. I’ve lived here 2 1/2 years and still haven’t figured out the living room. That’s a whole different story.

As far as writing, I’m polishing up a new short story about a writer who chases his muse around Europe, and I’m making slow progress on the next draft of Dawn Before The Dark. The plan is to pitch it at the final conference (for me) for the year. There’s also the new anthology release I teased you about last week. More about that soon.

 

Advertisements

May The Fourth Be With You

Welcome back!

I’ve been getting emails about new followers, so if this is your first Coffee With Dragons post, welcome and I hope you visit often.

While I haven’t been posting, I have been writing and doing writing-related things. I’m still wrestling with the dragon rider stories, but I think I might actually have a handle on what I need to do with them. I’m in the process of working on book one, which I’m calling Dawn Before the Dark. That may or may not be the official title. It depends on whether I get it in with a publisher or go indy. In case you’re curious, book two is currently called Awakening, and book three will be Red Sky In Mourning. That’s if everything goes the way I think it will, for which there is no guarantee.

I have written a few short stories this year also, and I’ll have big news soon about an anthology my writing group is releasing. I can’t say much about it right now, but if you’ve read any of the Blackbirds Flights books, this isn’t the same. Blackbirds encouraged dark entertainment. We tried to keep the new one light, and there are some features not included in previous books. There are also a couple authors who are not in the Blackbirds books. That’s all you get until the official launch!

It was a cold, gloomy winter here, and we are just now getting into spring. Usually I can tell when we turn the corner between seasons. This year, I thought that three times. The snow shovel and ice are officially in the garage, though, and the piazza is starting to come back to life. The weeds are for sure. I’ve weeded twice this week, and I didn’t get them all.

That’s more or less what’s been happening here. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but between the day job and the house, I’ve stayed out of trouble. When trouble pokes its head around the corner, I grab it and shove it into a story. I should have new things for you to read soon.

Happy New Year, y’all!

Wow, it’s been so long my browser history didn’t have a record of my log-in page, and I had a panicked moment when I had to remember the link. That might also have something to do with a potential virus I may have picked up a couple days ago. It’s never a good sign when someone hugs you and says they’re not contagious. Mmmmhhhmmmm. Gotta get some work done while I can, just in case the next few days are devoted to Netflix and tissues.

So it turns out fall is not a great season for writing. Or maybe it’s that we were so diligent about not over-scheduling summer this year that we sort of forgot to protect September. Once you break the cycle it’s hard to get back to it. Creativity, for me, isn’t something I can easily turn back on once it’s shelved for a while.

On the other hand, it has been a good year for the day job. We launched our new baby church the last weekend in September. It took a little doing to switch the mindset from monthly worship to weekly, but I’ve mostly got a rhythm now. Of course, advent made life interesting, and now I’m divvying up my duties for when we go to Florida next month. There is a lot I can do ahead of time, and even more I can do remotely, but someone has to buy communion bread and take it to church.

Not doing resolutions last NYE seemed to work pretty well for me, so I’m not doing them again this year. I have found myself increasingly impatient with people who make changes on January 1. The whole “new year, new you” seems silly to me. If you want to make a change, you can do it on any date, so why attach so much baggage to a single day? Lately, though, I’ve felt the turning of the year in my bones. Maybe it’s been gloomier than usual, or it’s that I’m getting older, or more in touch with my celtic side, but the anticipation has been palpable for me in the last couple of weeks. 2017 was a pretty good year for me, the best one since the floor fell out from under us in 2013. I credit my co-workers and co-worshippers with a big chunk of that. I feel like we’re finally settling into the cozy wee bungalow and our community in general. We have a beautiful new back yard and have started digging into making good memories here.

I hope all of you are well. Regardless of what kind of year 2017 was for you, I hope 2018 is your best year so far, that you’ll treasure every experience and every learning opportunity, and that you’ll share the year with me.

Happy New Year!

Record Keeping

Ever have one of those days? You’re especially tired, or a deadline creeps up on you? Maybe you have another in what seems like a long line of headaches? Or your pants won’t stay up, and you realize you’ve dropped five pounds? (Me neither, but I hear it happens to some lucky people.)

I’m not naturally gifted when it comes to record keeping. I tend to overthink things and gravitate toward the complicated systems that will be a pain to keep up. And really, what’s the point?

Easy. Accumulation of empirical data.

Case in point: My family jokes that I’m solar powered. When it gets dark early in the winter, I’m ready to go to bed shortly after dinner and sometimes fall asleep on the couch. In the summer, when it’s light 16 hours a day, I can’t sleep unless I go to great lengths to darken my bedroom. Until recently it was a theory. Last February, I got a new Fitbit and it tracks my sleep. The amount of sleep I get has dropped steadily since May, so now I have definitive proof. To say I’m looking forward to the shorter days of fall is an understatement.

I’ve amped up my writing records, too. I used to track just word count. That’s the important number, really, but not the only number. I think it was Tim Grahl who gave me the idea to track word count and time as well as the location, project, and applicable notes. Since then I’ve discovered I do my best writing in my office, but sometimes I need a change of scenery. I plot better in coffee shops. Hotels are also productive as long as I’m not in a place where I want to go forth and see things. That’s why Vegas works for me. I’m looking forward to finding out how the new back yard affects productivity. (More on that next week, I hope. For now, I’ll just say I’ve renamed it The Piazza.)

The real beauty is when you take empirical data from multiple sources to reach a conclusion. If you look at my word counts over the last few summers, they’re lower than the rest of the year on average. I thought it was because summers are full of distractions, and they can be, but now I realize a lot of it has to do with the lack of sleep. If I can’t sleep, I can’t think, and therefore can’t write. Now that I have a concrete reason and I know it’s not just me being crazy or lazy, I can take steps to fix it. Or try to, anyway.

Like maybe by buying a hammock for The Piazza.

Record keeping. It’s your friend.

End of July Report

We got back from Vegas last night. My beloved had to go for a work conference, and he doesn’t fly without me, so I had a writer’s retreat. Nope, I didn’t gamble, didn’t see any shows, shoot, I only went outside twice, and the second time it was so hot we got about 100 feet and retreated to the air conditioning. I did a lot of writing, shopped some, and ate some really good (and some really not good) food. It’s not the traditional Vegas experience, but it worked for me.

The month didn’t have a great start. Early July never does since we always have company about that time. Mid-month it picked up a bit since I knew I had my retreat coming up. I got back on the wagon with some world building rather than jumping right back into the WIP, and it paid off. By the time we were settled into the Mandalay Bay Resort And Hotel, I had a clear picture of what I needed to do.

It wasn’t without drama. My laptop died last year, and since I only work remotely a few weeks a year, I write on my iPad with a wireless keyboard. It’s bare bones, but it travels light. This time, I arrived not realizing that while the Word and Excel apps are free, you need a subscription to actually use them. Not only that, but I didn’t have the current version of  my WIP, even though I specifically remember saving it in the right place.

Whatever.

I busted out a new Google Doc and worked from memory. Amazingly, it only required the sacrifice of 38 words when I got home. I’d started with basically what I ended with in Scrivener, but I wrote it better, so the old words got cut. I’m not heartbroken.

Here are the numbers for those of you keeping score:

July time: 32.4 hours

YTD time: 199.67 hours

July words: 12,981

YTD words: 101,227

Yes, that’s right! I broke 100k! Today, as a matter of fact. I haven’t gone back through my old spreadsheets to see if and when the last time was, but I’m pretty certain it wasn’t in July. I have a lofty plan to average 25,000 words a month for the rest of the year so I can break another 100k. I know, the numbers don’t match, but I’ve got a good month’s worth of activities (excluding Christmas, because I don’t know what we’re doing yet) that will keep me away from Balphrahn, so that will carry me right up to the new year. If I plan 25,000 and only hit 20,000 I might not end up too much behind.

In the meantime, the book 1 draft is done, and the book 2 draft is started. I call that a win.

That Time of Year

Late June and July have historically been dry times for me creatively. It starts slowly. Word counts decrease as distractions creep in. We always have friends come to visit around the 4th of July, and it takes a fair amount of prep to get ready for them. Then there are garden chores, weeds to pull, grass to cut. There are Scottish festivals we attend to represent Clan Campbell. Let’s not forget the Bristol Ren Faire–we have to do that a few times in the short summer months. It’s hard to think past the activity and prep work long enough to concentrate on whatever book I’m working on.

I actually didn’t put it together until yesterday. I was stomping around, irritated because the trash hadn’t taken itself out. I felt generally put out and started thinking about what I need to do to get ready for our friends, and resentment started to creep in. That was the moment I realized I was cranky because I haven’t been getting words like I want to. I’ve been in and out of the garret for a couple weeks, and it’s starting to wear on me, but it seems futile to try to get back into the rhythm when I’m going to have someone sleeping in my office soon.

I’m not sure about the solution, but I know there needs to be one. In the future, I need to try to finish the draft du jour by mid-June so I can pick up after the summer dry spell with a fresh project. I might also need to find another creative outlet for a little while. The best part is guilt about not getting any writing done is conspicuously missing. Well, okay, not entirely. It bugs me a little, but I’m not beating myself up over it. I’m not going to meet my word count goal. There might not be a month-end report this month.

The world will still turn.

Busman’s holiday

After looking over the May numbers, I took a look at June. I started the month over 80,000 words for the year. Sooooo close to 100k! Getting there is possible–I have to average a mere 691 words every day this month.

There’s just one problem. We have stuff going on, and people coming to hang out with. While I love my visitors, every day I don’t write piles goal words onto the heap. Add to that the fact that I’m in what CE Murphy calls the Novelist’s Event Horizon on book 1 and you begin to see my dilemma.

I was thinking about a solution, and I remembered reading on Holly Lisle’s blog several years ago about taking busman’s holidays. If that’s a new term for you, don’t worry; it was for me, too. It’s when you take a break from your job by doing something similar to your job, like a bus driver taking a long drive to unwind. Since I’m counting all the words and not just the WIP words, I think I might try something like that. Maybe I’ll pick a prompt once or twice a week and see what happens. I might even come up with a short story I can shop around. At this point I’ll try just about anything that increases productivity.