Making Mistakes

"The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way." -Dale CarnegieI’m not actually much of a Dale Carnegie fan, but something about this quote from him struck me as appropriate for any writer facing edits. I now have all three edits back from Liana, and actually began work on book 1 this week. The good news: Liana reported significant improvement in my writing between books 1 and 3. The bad news… there’s a lot of work to be done on all three books. I had hoped to churn through edits on the first before the end of the month, but neglected to take into account my work load.

Last week was heavy with reporting and oodles of other activities, so I don’t have much time before my promo effort kicks off July 1–especially since we have plans both of the next two weekends. And because we seem to be entering another phase of illness and hospitalization in the family. Worse, they’re happening in other states, so all we can do is sit on the phone to gather and disseminate updates, providing what moral support and spiritual encouragement we can from a distance.

Oddly, this week seems to have been the week of considering travel. It kicked off with hubs sending an article about a student who had visualized the major roads of the Roman Empire as a subway transit map. Then he forwarded a “bucket list” of Virginia spots to visit (a few of which we have already seen). And today I discovered that a friend from what feels like a former life has started up her own blog… focusing on travel.

In between I got sucked down the rabbit hole of research for my books, and learned more about Yakutia, the largest “statoid” in Russia, or the world. I also learned more about journalist Anna Politkovskaya via a review of her posthumous book “A Russian Diary”. The latter plays into why the long arm of the KGB (which Liana keeps pointing out to me no longer exists… except that it was the source of training for the most senior Russian politicians and leaders of the FSB) is such a bogey man in my Red Slaves books.

And then there was the link to visual art as social commentary that hubs sent. The author of that post starts with the quote, “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable,” but doesn’t attribute it to author Cesar A. Cruz. However, that quote in the introduction is perfect for the kinds of think-pieces presented. While all the images spoke to some level of truth, the one most ironic to me was the commentary about Facebook feeding the ego. Potentially that ego trip trap exists for all authors.

Which brings me back full-circle to the need to focus on editing for the next while. Strip my ego from my words and make the stories sing for my readers.

Meantime, we keep walking. Through what feels like a swamp, since the average humidity in the area has hovered in the mid-70 percent region. (One night, our household weather station reported 96% humidity… but no rain and 71 degrees. It felt like we were walking in a bathtub.) Still, my phone says I averaged 5,490 steps per day, which is another jump for me, and I hope represents some improved conditioning for both of us.

For some silly reason, I’ve also gotten active on NetGalley again, picking up three books there in the past week. I’m about a third through one of them for which I’d had high hopes, but so far it hasn’t actually grabbed me enough to make me want to finish it. Still, each of the books has a deadline for a review, so those are now part of my goals, too.

I’ll be back next week to report on my progress, but in the meantime, encourage you to see how the other ROW80ers are finishing up this round.

Conversations

Deep conversations with the right people are priceless.I’ve been broadening my supporting cast of author services recently, deepening my relationship with my latest editor (the fabulous Liana Brooks, if anyone is considering a content editor), adding marketing support (via Chelsea Author Promotions), and a new cover artist (Kelley York with X-Potion Designs). This weekend I saw the first results for Dust to Blood and was all of a sudden excited to broach the book 1 edits I’ve been sitting on since Liana sent them to me a couple weeks back. Especially since she sent me book 2 edits this weekend too. I’m going to have to do a cover … re-reveal soon enough, because Kelley’s work so captures the intersection of intrigue and paranormal that reflects the story I tried to write. And it’s beautiful.

As for the story, apparently I needed more experience as an author to understand the ways my conflict aversion IRL make for a deadly author trap. Sorry-not-sorry to all my future characters who will have to wade through the issues I was likely to have glossed over previously.

😀

Along those lines, hubs forwarded an interesting article about things people with anxiety experience but have difficulty talking about. Then I found an article that talks about neuroplasticity in relation to Buddhism, and puts a more universal spin on what scientists are learning about the impermanence of self. These put a new twist on a potential sequel to The Builders, and give me a certain kind of support for optimism about humanity.

Of course, this week we also watched Wonder Woman. It was excellent. It was so refreshing to see a woman’s perspective front and center, and the scenes with the rest of the Amazons… the director aimed for a female version of the 300, and blew me away with grace and strength and dexterity and power. It’s sad that cadre of performers haven’t been featured in the marketing for the film. It was a vision of female centricity I don’t think I’ve ever seen before in that kind of film. The subtlety of the transformation of all the main characters, who mature from the callow every-youth who’s sure she knows enough to face the realities of the world, to adults who make hard choices that validate their original sense of purpose. It was moving on so many levels, and we will be buying the Blu-ray to watch it over and over again. I’m glad that despite choosing a different marketing path than what fans had hoped for, the movie is proving to be a box office winner.

Contrasting that is Paulina Porizkova’s recent op-ed about feminism. Women still have a long way to go in America.

As for other goals, summer heat struck this week, so we didn’t spend as much time walking as we had last week. Still, my phone says I averaged 4,304 steps a day. Tashie had her final underwater treadmill session yesterday, and we took the other two along for a fun swim. Except that they experienced the pool as a terror trying to kill them, and I have the nail scratches and bruises to prove it. Santino started us off with a major laugh with his slow-motion pratfall into the pool, but once he was secure in my arms, he was content to float. KouKi, on the other hand… she was certain she was going to drown even with her flotation jacket. There was much hilarity and cursing. And they slept all day yesterday after their swim, as well as all day today, so whatever else they got out of it, they got enough exercise despite the heat.

This week will be full of long days at the office, but I plan on really diving into edits. If I’m lucky, I’ll find a fast pace to do so that lets me re-release book 1 and release book 3 both in July. We’ll see. We still have a week and a half in this round, so we’ll see how far I get. In the meantime, check out how my buddies are doing, and I’ll report back next week.

See What Stays

Let it all go. See what stays.I haven’t looked at any of my recent words in the past three weeks, so when I got a note from my editor that she is expecting to finish her job this week, I had another one of those internal push-pull conversations about whether I should try to start something new now, or just keep on with my mental vacation. Which turns out not to be so much vacation as a lot more day-job work.

It will be interesting to see which elements I have to excise from what I sent her three weeks ago. I hope that what stays becomes my best book yet.

Which should give a small hint that I remain fallow in terms of word production.

On the other hand, I discovered an artist who paints with black light or UV sensitive paint to allow for different views of her space- and ocean-themed work according to time of day and lighting, and I’m trying to figure out how I can make a plan to live with some in some future house of mine…

Of course, I’ve been reading. No novels this week, though I did find and read the latest of The Hotel Paranormal books, Heart of a Thief. I also found a blog that focuses on Native American news and issues. An article listing the many documented mass murders, as well as one about the Two Spirit traditions across a wide range of tribes are particularly useful perspectives in the light of recent news. People who work to gin up fear about murderous attacks (terrorism! radical Islam!) seem willfully ignorant about how bad these things can get, or the range of perpetrators–and at the same time, ridiculously blind to the real source of the worst terrorism: whites and Christians who were so certain their manifest destiny was to rule the world they had no shame about the genocide perpetrated in the “land of the free.”

Contrasting news about a Canadian city that has eliminated long-term homelessness, and a study of the actual impact of minimum wage increases across 78 years of those federal mandates being in place had me thinking again about Carrie Vaughn’s Bannerless, as well as about the whole Star Trek universe, or even my long-time happy place, Pern. The concept of a world where people earn their roles through the work they invest in whatever it is they DO, and basic needs like shelter and food are never actually a concern, sounds so far-fetched in today’s America. But if you look close enough, and particularly at the example of that Canadian town, it’s amazing all the costs you avoid by investing in just those basics.

Yes, I know, I’m a radical for thinking there might be sense to a kind of social support network that allows individuals to contribute according to their skills without worrying about subsistence while they find their niche. It’s such juicy scifi fodder, though, and even hinted at in my book The Builders, I’m tempted to write a follow-on story just to explore how that might play out.

A different plotbunny thought is being driven by people being struck by lightning. I am friends with two people who have been (and no, neither was used as a source in that article), and it seems to me that this “finger of god” experience is not unlike the Native traditions involving the trials and tribulations of a Spirit Quest. What if that were literally true?

As you can see, many thoughts, little action recently. Aside from walking. My phone says I averaged 4,868 steps daily this week, a dramatic improvement over recent months. Tashie’s stamina has so improved that she managed almost 20 minutes on the underwater treadmill going 2 miles per hour during her rehab session yesterday. To compare, when she started, she was so stiff and hobbled it was difficult for her to even get to 1 mile per hour.

Regarding date night….? Hubs and I got to watch our niece in her Spring ballet performance last night. What we’re really looking forward to is watching Wonder Woman this week. I hope the title character’s heroics put me in the proper frame of mind to address the edits coming my way.

In the meantime, this round of ROW80 is wrapping up, with only two more Sundays of check-ins remaining before we start the next round. I may need to work on an editing goal next week and see whether I can bust butt and finish that task this round, or whether the long-awaited final book of the Red Slaves trilogy comes out in July. (Considering Gayla has begun work on a novella she is aiming to put out this month… I’m thinking a July release for mine is most likely. 😀 )

Being Real

We were born to be real, not to be perfect.My mental vacation continued this week with a day of actual vacation. I took Friday off to extend my Memorial Day weekend to four days. My thought was that there have been so many little honey-dos on my list for so long, maybe if I had enough days in a row at home, I might get them done. I did. Finally getting around to hanging mini blinds that have lurked in a closet since we moved in, or putting together the bookshelves we bought last year to hold our burgeoning collection of Blu-rays, or fixing a broken toilet seat might not sound like a lot, but they have combined to create a sense of accomplishment and relief almost on par with finishing my novel last week.

Now my hands and arms ache, though, with the unaccustomed exertion associated with wielding power tools. It was enough to keep me up and restless last night, so I’m grateful hubs gave me a treatment tonight.

I suspect my remaining to-do (closet cleaning/purging) is going to wait for next Round, and my next long weekend at home.

The best part of my time off has been my continued exposure to some excellent creative expressions. Friday, because of my NetGalley membership, I got to read Carrie Vaughn’s newest, Bannerless. It doesn’t come out until July 11, but I posted my review on Goodreads already because literally my reaction after the last page of the story was… WOW. I’ll share one of the more thought-provoking quotes from the book here once more:

The worst storms were the ones that changed you. The ones you remembered not for how bad they objectively were, but for how much damage they did to your own world.

It’s a personal perspective that was reflected in a different way when hubs and I watched Arrival. The odd echo of losing children between the two stories made for an emotional viewing, but hubs and I have been discussing the central premise ever since. This is the kind of scifi I like to write. The kind that takes off on a premise science has explored (in this case, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis) and pushes it in a philosophical direction that allows those who are open to the experience to participate in a different kind of thought experiment. One that might even open their hearts.

An article I ran across this week about how women are underdiagnosed and treated differently than men when they report pain, could easily be a plotbunny of that sort. So could the recent economists’ debate about Thomas Piketty’s hypothesis and its premise that “wealth begets wealth faster than economic growth creates wealth”–and especially the article I read based on Rognlie’s critique of that hypothesis. And then there’s the blogger who urges everyone to work on their story-telling skills.

That last has revived my itch to write again, though I still haven’t decided exactly what. Meantime, we’re keeping our uptick in walking alive. My phone says this week I averaged 3,473 steps per day. Tashie is now strong enough to keep up even at almost two miles, and that makes me very happy.

There are another 24 days to go in this round of ROW80, so I’ll keep checking in, though it’s hard not to feel at loose ends with my major goal of the round out of the way. Meantime, check out how my cohorts are doing with theirs.

Cha Cha

Optimist: Someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it's more like a Cha-ChaWhat was once cause for panic and dismay, this week was more of a sense of accomplishment and celebration: I wrote no new fiction words. It’s always an odd place to be at the end of a project. Should I start right away on something new? Should I wait to get into something new until after I’ve heard back from my editor? Maybe I just need a break.

Actually, I definitely needed a break. We had fallen behind on our shows, so we caught up with both Designated Survivor and The Expanse. We had wanted to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2 while it was still in IMAX 3D, and enjoyed it so much we managed that not only once, but twice. And I had been sequestering myself in my office for so long, pushing so hard against the noodle that wouldn’t cooperate before, all at once, it did and I was done, that it was important to take some time to enjoy each other’s company. Appreciate the fact that I have a partner who values creativity so much he lets me disappear into my writing cave like that. Enjoy the company of someone whose story is as endlessly fascinating to parse and revisit as my favorite written stories.

So this week’s quote is appropriate both for its acknowledgment that I totally let go of one of my goals, but also that I had a lot of fun filling my creative well again, dancing with life. Accordingly, my phone says I averaged 4,285 steps per day, so we beat that goal, at least. I also discovered that there’s a special kind of hammock available in Germany that would entice me to spend a lot of time outside looking at the sky. Maybe someday.

On the other end of the maybe someday spectrum, a friend is currently visiting South Africa as part of a class trip for her degree, and one of the tours she took was of the one square mile town of Alexandra. Trying to imagine a population of over a million crammed into that space, and the variation between the slum and the more commercial areas was stretching my brain in unusual ways. It was an odd echo of an article I read in The Atlantic of the perpetuation of slavery in very recent Philippine customs. The article is written in first person by an award-winning journalist who died the day before the magazine decided to run it as their cover article, and is a profound view into the differences in culture and expectations that exist across the globe. Even in the US, human trafficking has seen a massive uptick this year, so the inclination to view some humans as disposable is still a despicable thread in many lives.

On a related note, fellow author Alicia Anderson wrote another great piece on “being average” this week. She points out the historical context of where averages and statistics come from to make the point that these numeric constructs really have no place in defining humans. Finding and holding people to some fictional norm thus creates a different level of misery.

It’s hard not to want to write a story that gives voice to some of these issues.

Or maybe I’ll take some friends suffering from kidney stones on a few roller coaster rides.

Either way, there are other writing-related tasks I need to finish dealing with this week. As regular visitors might have noticed, I gave my blog a facelift last week, and am now looking into adding the necessary bits to build my in-house mailing list. I’m also participating in a multi-genre party to help introduce readers to new authors this week. (If you’re interested in participating, it’s all online, via Facebook, so easy to check in to and out of as time permits.)

We’re also still a month out from completing this round of ROW80, so the whole group is busily chipping away at goals. I’ll keep reporting on mine, and continue soliciting feedback on which project I should pursue next. Until next week…

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