Writing research, or this week’s list of reasons the NSA is watching me.

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Behold, the dreaded spife!

Last week I posted a list of the items I researched while working on my latest thriller for The Resistance Cycle. This week, I continued to make slow progress on the manuscript, but once again, I needed to know certain … things. For example, can those lettuce knives you see on late night infomercials kill or maim someone?

Here’s this week’s list of questionable internet searches:

So, about those lettuce knives.
According to wisegeek, lettuce knives can deliver “deliver a nasty nick, although it certainly can’t cause mortal damage.” Boo to that.  And there are some hilarious five-star reviews of a plastic knife on Amazon, billing it as a great first knife for a child. Good-bye, possible plot device!

Okay, but can you really hurt someone with a plastic knife? And don’t give me “you can hurt anyone with anything if you really apply yourself.” I’m looking for a lethal plastic knife.
Yes. After reading many pages of Google results, I now know that apparently you can, if you file a plastic knife down. Or if you 3-D print a dangerous knife. But you really need to a) be up a creek and need protection of any kind to do this, b) really want a plastic knife, c) be a destructive, yet crafty sociopath. (Just imagine the Pinterest board.)

Fine. I need this to be easy for my protagonist. What are some dangerous office supplies?
And that’s when I ended up on the Bloomberg’s How to Weaponize Office Supplies infographic and lost 10 minutes of writing time laughing.

Okay, but seriously, guys.
Scissors, idiot, says the Internet. But this is not really what my character needs, so I’m not satisfied with this. Looks like it’s time for a field trip. If you need me this weekend I will wandering around Staples, taking notes.

The spife photo is by XenoL-Type at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons.

I’m cheating on my novel with another novel.

cheatingonnovelI started a brand new novel.
Why did I start a brand new novel?

It’s not like I don’t have anything to write. I have three serious fiction projects going on right now. One is my webserial. One is the novel I wrote two drafts of in grad school. And one is the third Beware the Hawk book. People are waiting for all of these. I’m committed to all of them.

Fiction-writing time is precious these days, because I’m working as a freelancer at home, and when I’m not freelancing, I’m taking care of my young son or helping my husband figure out this puzzlebox of an old house we just moved into. (“Why is it 80 degrees in some rooms and 50 degrees in others?” “What does this random knob on the wall do?” “Can you bring the baby monitor into the basement and help me figure out a thing?”)
Despite all of these things that have a claim on my time, I opened up a new document, and started writing a brand new novel last month.

Guess what I’m spending all my fiction-writing time on. I don’t want to do anything but write it. It’s the thing that gets me into my office in the morning and it’s the thing that keeps me from leaving for lunch. I think about the plot and the characters constantly. I write it in my head when I’m shoveling snow and when I’m going to sleep at night. I’m basically having a writing affair with it.

And of course, because it’s an affair, I feel guilt. Guilt, because I have a trilogy to finish, two thirds of which have been published and have actual, honest-to-god readers who occasionally message me on Twitter and ask after my protagonist. (Guys, I love you for that. Just saying.)
Guilt, because the people I went to school with keep asking me when I’m going to finish my drag queen/Shakespeare literary fiction novel and send it out to agents.
Guilt, because I am spending my time writing this manuscript that makes me so, so happy, and it’s a full-fledged swords-and-sorcery fantasy novel, and sci-fi/fantasy has always been my first love, no matter how much Flannery O’Connor and Graham Greene charmed me later in life.

But this book I’m working on makes me feel like a kid again. It reminds me of my first glorious unfinished novel, which I wrote when I was fifteen years old. I’d finish my homework and sit in my father’s office, writing this crazy fantasy epic with talking horses and hell-tunnels and not really a coherent plot, on one computer while my dad worked on the other. I’d write until my parents loudly announced that I had to go to bed. I had not developed an inner editor yet, and I never planned to show anyone what I was writing, so I didn’t even care if it was good. It was just for me, and that time I spent writing was my favorite time of the day.

Writing that behemoth was just pure joy, and I never thought I’d feel that again. And maybe I won’t, but this new novel comes close. Maybe it’s because I’m writing fantasy, and I just love fantasy. Or maybe it’s because at this point, this book is just for me. There’s no writing group or editor waiting for this one. I have no grand rewrite plans. I have no commercial plans for it. My ideal reader for this book is me.

I’ve spent my adult life writing things for other people: newspapers, editors, writing groups, teachers, mentors, whoever. It feels like a gift to be able to write something for myself. I just wish it weren’t taking away from the time and energy I should be spending on other projects.

My novel was my baby, but now my baby’s my baby, so how exactly do you write with a baby?

There are two things I’ve heard/read about writing with a baby.

The first is from Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird: “I used to not be able to work if there were dishes in the sink. Then I had a child and now I can work if there is a corpse in the sink.”

The second is a column in the Guardian by Maggie O’Farrell, author of The Hand That First Held Mine. I will not pretend that I’ve managed to nail down O’Farrell’s writing-with-the-baby-sling approach (he squirms!), but I can now understand Lamott’s point about the corpse in the sink. The thing is, I can’t make that work yet. Let’s be honest: the novel might howl for my attention figuratively, but the howls of my son are literal. When he needs me, he needs me. The novel can always wait. His naps are still unpredictable enough that I can’t concentrate on what I’m writing. I’m only writing with part of my attention. The rest of my attention is on him, listening for that next cry.

So sometimes, if it’s me and him at home alone, I don’t write. Sometimes I choose to unload the dishwasher, or throw in laundry. The laundry is less complicated, and demands less of me than the latest chapter of my novel.

But I still have to write.

I have to produce a chapter a month for DinoLand. (Although I wrote a backlog of material for the serial, I am getting to the end of that now.) I have a freelance career. I have to write the final novella in the Resistance series. I have to finish the second draft of my drag queen novel.

And also, I don’t feel quite like myself if I’m not writing fiction. Some people go for a walk to clear their heads. I write stories.

So the writing has to happen. But sometimes it just doesn’t. And that can be pretty frustrating.

Right now, I’m dividing my time into Stay-At-Home-Mom Days, Work Days and Writing Days. On days when my husband is away, I just concentrate on being a mom. On days when he’s home, I work on my freelance career and what writing I can, and once a week, I pack up the child and my laptop and head to my parents’ house where my wonderful mother watches the baby while I go to my dad’s office and write.

It’s not a perfect arrangement, but for now, it works. I do worry that I’ll have to come up with something else when my son is walking and talking, but possibly by then I’ll be used to being a mother and able to write fiction more frequently again.

Parents who write, how do you make time for your work? Does it get easier or harder?

 

Chapter 4 of DinoLand is up this morning at Geek Eccentric.

It’s aliiiiive. Or rather, it’s liiiive.

Chapter 4 of DinoLand is posted at Geek Eccentric as of half an hour ago.

In this month’s installment, the zoology team attempts to help a sick brachiosaurus. How do you do that? With armored vehicles, a team of acrobats and tranquilizers fired from a cannon. While praying. With a few ambulances on standby.

How does it go? That would be a spoiler. Click over to Geek Eccentric and check it out.

Chapter Two of DinoLand is live at Geek Eccentric today!

Picture 1It’s the first Sunday of April and that means that DinoLand’s second chapter is online today at Geek Eccentric.

This month’s chapter features a new point of view character, a brachiosaurus with a problem and a possible business deal that could cause even more problems for the people at the park who love the dinosaurs. Oh, and a child disappears.

Head on over and check it out, sci-fi and dinosaur lovers.

 

Calling all readers! What are you reading and why: a survey

Recently, a piece was written on AVClub.com about the bleak state of American fiction. This generated some discussion online among writers about whether, in fact, things are bleak for American fiction.

It’s not a new argument. A debate constantly rages in the writers’ community about the state of reading among adults in our society. Is the future of books dim or do we have to wear shades? What are people reading, and how much, and how often?

But here’s the thing: talking to other writers about writing isn’t always the most productive conversation to have when you’re trying to understand the state of American fiction. You know who we should talk to instead? Readers.

Below is a link to an 8-question survey I put together aimed at book-lovers. I’m not the only person to have put together a survey for readers, but I am curious about certain specifics. So please take this survey, share it and encourage others to do the same. It’s anonymous, so there’s no judgment at all. Be as honest as you can, and thank you. I want to know what you’re reading and why. In fact, every writer on the planet does.

Bring me to the survey.

Chapter 1 of DinoLand debuts today!

Chapter 1 of DinoLand is live over at Geek Eccentric right now. DinoLand, Ch. 1I’ve just run around the house yelling “Ahhhhh, it’s alive” and now that I’m settled down, I’m posting here while I can sit still.

If you like dinosaurs, sci-fi, or thrillers head over to Geek Eccentric and check out Chapter 1. If you really like it, return on the first Sunday of each month for a new chapter.

(FYI: I’m going to be changing this page today so that you’ll be able to access the latest DinoLand chapters right from the menu at the top.)

I really, really, hope you enjoy this. Rawr.