New year, new aims, to include writing and reading but (sorry) a bit less blogging. Short posts, for a while at any rate.

The holidays put a dent in my revising energy (in this case, “dent” = chasm too wide to get across), but this post is proof that the dent has been repaired (bridged) and I’m back at work. I’m still uncovering the plot, but I know how it all ends. I just need to shepherd the characters along the way.

I was keeping a list of books completed in December, and then lost it, so this is only a partial list: About Time (Jack Finney), The Doldrums (Nicholas Gannon), Proust Was a Neuroscientist (Jonah Lehrer), Whose Body? (Dorothy Sayers), The Best Man (Richard Peck), and The Hired Girl (Laura Amy Schlitz).

Happy New Year to all my readers.

Posted in Am reading, Am revising | 4 Comments

A fountain of youth

One of my favorite bloggers reviews one of my favorite books.


Natalie Babbitt: Tuck Everlasting
Bloomsbury 2003 (1975)

Who wouldn’t want to live forever? To extend one’s life so that one could savour life to the full, have new experiences, perhaps even be invulnerable to injury? There are no downsides, surely?

But a moment or two’s thought will soon reveal the drawbacks. Losing one’s friends as they grow old and die; witnessing perpetual change and not only for the better; being feared by other humans, becoming paranoid, lacking a sense of purpose or a reason for continuing. As many a fine mind has pointed out, death gives meaning to life.

This is the dilemma Winnie Foster faces when, constrained and restricted by her family, she determines to escape her bounds and go into the nearby woodland. This one act, determined on at the height of an oppressive summer, combines with two other coincidences to put Winnie in danger, the Tuck family…

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Jumping right in

Edward Gorey, “The Unstrung Harp; or, Mr Earbrass Writes a Novel” (1953)

Not “weeks”, but “one day” later (and minus the sherry), I’ve begun the revision which, truth be told, is every bit as “loathsome” as described in TUH. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be crankier than usual as I try to excavate a plot and some interesting characters from my 180-page MS.

Started today: a re-read, with notes of who’s who. Prognosis: there just might be something there.

For those who wish to know, my WIP’s title is Split Ballot, and it’s a dystopian sci-fi thriller (too many genres? you think?), set in 2024. I’ll reveal no more for now. But I will say that a friend who writes thrillers has offered her 15-year-old daughter as a beta reader (I politely ignore the implications of her proposal), which makes me want to get on with the revision in order to send the daughter something by March or April.

It’s going to be a busy winter.

PS: What I’ve been reading lately — Jonathan Auxier’s Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes and Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster, along with the next books in Eric Kraft’s Peter Leroy saga. Pratchett’s and Gaiman’s Good Omens is working its way up my TBR stack.

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Edward Gorey, “The Unstrung Harp; or, Mr Earbrass Writes a Novel” (1953)

Unlike Mr Earbrass when he finished his first draft of TUH, I didn’t spend the day after just wandering aimlessly through my apartment, although that was tempting.

Usually I give myself a month’s break, but this year is different — I don’t have a raft of students’ papers waiting to be marked, nor end-of-term faculty meetings, nor applicants to interview. (Thank you, retirement!) I have an almost commitment-free December ahead of me. Oh, the possibilities!

Therefore, for the first time ever, I plan to get right back into the MS, possibly as soon as tomorrow.

Let’s see if that actually happens.

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And that wraps up another NaNo

I crossed the finish line at 9:30 am NYC time, and what a wonderful feeling that is. I now have a first draft, and I get to spend the rest of the day feeling like I’ve done something. Here’s Mr. Earbrass’s version of this moment:

Edward Gorey, “The Unstrung Harp; or, Mr Earbrass Writes a Novel” (1953)

My “lower right-hand drawer” is actually a file on my computer, and my feet haven’t fallen asleep, but my calm is as deceptive as Mr Earbrass’s. I’ll need to walk it off. More of a writer’s story (Earbrass version) to come.

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Back on track

Courtesy Transport for London

Good news: My NaNo funk, version 2018, has ended, and I’ve used the last 4 days to push myself past 45K words.

It’s not exactly all downhill from here, but the end is nigh. And by that, I mean the good type of end: the end of this year’s NaNo, the end of this first draft, the end of figuring out where this story is going.

Of course, what comes next is worse, but I’ll save writing about that for a future post.

So, hoist a drink of your choice to all NaNo-ers, around the world. We’re a stubborn crew, devoted to the written word, and to the insanity of reaching that 50K word-count. (FYI, NYC NaNo-ers have written 28.5 million words as of 4 pm today. 45K, or 0.15%, of that total is mine!)

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Who’s big idea was this anyway?

Edward Gorey, “The Unstrung Harp; or, Mr Earbrass Writes a Novel” (1953)

“On November 18th of alternate years Mr Earbrass begins writing ‘his new novel’.”

Did Edward Gorey predict NaNoWriMo? Probably not, but every November I have to reread The Unstrung Harp, to remind myself that every stage of the creative process is well known and documented within this tiny (just 30 pages) book.

I’m now at the stage illustrated above (p. 14). I hate all my characters and would love to put them on a one-way boat to nowhere, and then just curl up with a good book and a box of chocolate. Maybe just one big explosion will take care of them all for me.

But I also know this will pass. Already, my mind is toying with new ways to put my MC into mortal danger before she finally escapes.

Thanks for letting me vent. Happy Thanksgiving to my US readers, and a happy rest of the week to all. Keep reading, keep writing.

Posted in Am procrastinating, Am writing, NaNoWriMo | 4 Comments