The best-laid schemes…

I have spent the last few days ridding my house of nauseating Christmas cheer.  The holidays are all fun and games in the outset, but there comes a point where the scale is tipped, and all those decorations begin to call to mind a tinsel and glitter infused bordello – or at least, what I imagine such an establishment might resemble.  I’m not one to suffer clutter for long, so the purge was swift and exact.

Of course, now that the tree is gone, the nephews departed, and the NYE champagne hangover nursed, there is a question of what comes next.

I try to avoid New Year’s resolutions.   Rash promises made in the heat of a self-loathing pity party aren’t normally destined for fulfillment.  In my 41 years, I have only realized one true resolution – a weight loss of 50 lbs some seven years ago. I did keep it off, so maybe that should count double.  Hmm…I digress.  As I sit here on this cold January morning, sipping coffee and listening to Norah Jones shoot the moon, I have the itch to plot a path forward.

So, I asked myself this question:  What do I want to accomplish in 2014?

I had to make a list.

  • Write 2000 words per day, everyday.
  • Finish Retribution rewrite #7 (or is it #8 now?!?) by spring break.
  • Publish one kick ass blog entry per day.
  • Submit a scene per week to the writing group for feedback – or a good laugh.
  • Graduate.
  • Conquer fitness boot camp and run a 5 K.
  • Read two non-academic books per month.
  • Learn to kayak.
  • Take kick ass photographs from moving kayak without drowning.
  • Learn to speak Italian.
  • Attend the U.S. Open – it’ll be Federer’s come back season, I can feel it.
  • Complete an outline for Summer of ’87.
  • Complete a draft for Summer of ’87, and win NaNoWriMo doing it.
  • Survive the holidays without committing a felony.

Too ambitious?  Yeah.  Who am I kidding?  Federer isn’t going to stage a come back this season…or anything other season, for that matter.

As for the rest…well, as much as I’d like to say it’s doable, it’s obviously not.  I have a life – work, family, school, outside obligations, nagging phobias.  After a healthy dose of reality and little soul-searching, here is a more reasonable list:

  • Write four days per week.
  • Publish 3 blogs per week.
  • Post a daily “photo of the day” on the blog.
  • Complete a working draft of Retribution by summer.
  • Graduate.
  • Submit a scene per week to the writing group for feedback – or a good laugh.
  • Read one non-academic book per month.
  • Get within five feet of a kayak; take a kick ass photo of said kayak; post it on the blog.
  • Attend the U.S. Open; cheer for Djorkovic.
  • Consider validity of YA/coming of age concept novel Summer of ’87; participate in NaNoWriMo.
  • Survive the holidays without committing a felony.

A decent compromise, I think; and one that has potential.  It helps that for the first time since last spring, I am feeling creative and inspired – and open to interaction.  The latter is always difficult for me, especially in this particular forum.  I’m going to work on that.

Alright.  Let’s get ‘er done.

Write on.

Distractions

I am writing an action scene today.

Leo Baxter is tracking an Albanian through the dark alleyways of east London.  Little does he know, in about ten minutes he will become the hunted and end up in a dank cell somewhere in…well, I don’t know where they will take him, but rest assured it will be somewhere hellish.

I’ve been quite productive in my writing today, but every now and then I find myself distracted by the sparkle of a new addition to my office decor.  I’m not sure if it is the cucumber lime scent – I am very sensitive to smells – or the way the reflected light looks like little birds flying across my wall.

I couldn’t help myself.  I had to take a picture of it.

Now back to Leo and the Albanian.

IMG_1302

Self-shaming Novel Update

“Panicky despair is an underrated element of writing.”

– Dave Barry

This time last week, I was elbow deep in introduction scenes for both Anna and her brother, Aaron, and my goal was to have two completed scenes by week’s end.

Well, I accomplished half of my goal.

(golf claps all around)

Anna’s scene is rough, and bare bones, but it’s out of my head and down on paper.  Most of it works, some of it needs improvement, but that can come later.

That brings me to Aaron.

<sigh>

How do you solve a problem like Aaron?

(Yes, it’s alright to sing that the way the nuns at Nonnberg Abbey did in The Sound of Music.  I won’t tell.)

I’ve said it so many times – Aaron is a pain in my ass.  However, I think he and I have come to a degree of understanding.  He will play a less significant back up role in this story.  His only real involvement – to briefly aid Anna’s quest by using his unique skill set.  In doing so, I promised not to kill him off before the mid-point.   I thought that was an excellent compromise.

Oh, and I’ve also changed his name.  Aaron and Anna.  Oy.  What was I thinking?  He will now be known as Lenk Schuyler.  Don’t judge.  This new name fits his role and serves a purpose.

In addition to the above scenes, I also worked on reconstructing my outline.  For those of you keeping count, this is version #5.  I’ve made a lot of progress with that.  Most of it is handwritten and as I type up my chicken scratch, I have expanded upon scenes and themes, and will continue to do so.

So what’s the low down skinny?

Last week’s goal:  Two workable scenes

Actual accomplishment:  One workable scene, a character redesignation, and a partial outline.

Word count:  1688

Next week’s goal:  Continue with the outline – map through to the rising action, at least.  Write Leo Baxter’s inciting incident scene. 

Until next time.

Self-shaming Sunday Update

I have dipped my toe back into the writing pool.  It’s been a long time since I embraced my WIP and allowed it flourish.   Of course, I still have 3 finals to get through before I can completely commit myself to Anna and her plight.

In the interim, I’ve started to assess where I left off, what needs my immediate attention, and where do I want the journey to take me (and Anna, of course).  When last I left you, I had decided Anna needed a brother – a dysfunctional brother with penchant for trouble.  He’s a thief with problems.  Most of which become Anna’s.  In September, I was having trouble writing his introduction scene, and by the end of it I wanted to just kill him.  Purely a selfish urge on my part.  I didn’t like him, I still don’t like him.  I resent what he is  doing to my story.  Irrational?  Maybe a little.

I am starting fresh with the outline.  Yes, for those of you keeping track – this is outline number 5.   My favorite number.  A good omen?  I’m going to go for optimism here and say, yes.

So, today I am working on two scenes:

Aaron – an introduction to a thief (in action).  He will nearly die.  I will enjoy writing that part, I think.  Of course, he will not die because this incident will spur Anna to reenter a life she left behind a long time ago.

Anna – an introduction.  Her life after the thing that happened years ago that sent her into seclusion.  I do have a great opening written for her in my previous draft.  I am going to recycle it as a flashback scene.  It was too good to give up.  (I am going to choose to ignore Bill Chance’s voice as he tells me: “If you love it, delete it.”)

So there you have it.

Word Count:  0

Next weeks goal:  Drafted introduction scenes for Anna and Aaron.

To read or not to read?

As I wrote in my last blog entry, I’ve just finished reading John le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.  Prior to that I read a few –  okay, eight – Daniel Silva novels in a row.  As much as it pains me to say, I think I am a little spied out at the moment.

So, this bears the question:  What do I read next?  What am I in the mood for?

I have no idea.

I’ve been engulfed in academic reading for so long I’ve scarcely paid attention to what’s trending on the bestseller list.  I suppose I could pursue my nightstand for something.  On second thought, it seems my choices are limited:  Agatha Christie’s Murder in Mesopotamia, Lawrence Schiffman’s Qumran and Jerusalem:  Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the History of Judaism, Elaine Pagels’ Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation, and Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon books 9-11.

Doesn’t excite you either?

I’ve read the Agatha Christie a dozen times.  I know who killed poor Mrs. Leidner and Miss Johnson, and how Hercules Poirot brilliantly deduces the crimes.  After the semester I’ve had the last thing I want to read is scholarly works – Schiffman and Pagels are out.  And as I said above, I’m a little sick of the spy game right now.  I want something a bit more frivolous.  Something that doesn’t require too much thought.

So, what are the hip kids reading these days?

Fifty Shade of Grey.  Paranormal…everything.  Vampires and zombies and werewolves.

Oh my.

I’m going to take a pass on those for right now, because just the thought makes me want to put an ice pick in my brain.

I think it would be best to consult the experts over at Goodreads.

Here are a few on my recommendation page:

1.  Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn:  A psychological thriller with a missing wife and a suspicious husband.  Hmmm…this might have potential, though I am not sure I am in the mood for something so heavy.

2.  The Seventh Scroll – Wilbur Smith:  An archaeological adventure story set in Egypt – sort of an Indiana Jones meets Romancing the Stone.  Definitely different from my usual fare these days.

3.  Crocodile on the Sandbank (An Amelia Peabody adventure) – Elizabeth Peters:  I was skeptical about this Goodreads choice, but the consensus labels it a fun read.  Brain candy.  I could use a little brain candy.

4.  Cleopatra: A Life – Stacy Schiff:  Hmmm…I see a pattern evolving.  Goodreads thinks I need to go to Egypt.

5.  Gorky Park – Martin Cruz Smith:  I’ve seen the movie.  Loved it.  I count it as one of my favorite Cold War murder mysteries.  But, it is a little on the dark side.

Not recommended by Goodreads, but a book I downloaded to my Kindle a couple of weeks ago:

6.  Bound:  J. Elizabeth Hill:  I am actually in the process of reading this novel.  It comes from my WP friend over at Word Flows.  It’s her first publication and has received some great reviews.  I’ll be the first to admit magic and fantasy aren’t something I gravitate to when choosing reading material, but so far it’s a captivating and intriguing story.  Go check this one out for yourself.

So, what are you reading?  I’m open to suggestions.