No NaNoWriMo For Me

I had thought about doing NaNoWriMo this year – even after swearing I wouldn’t. I liked the idea of joining with other writers, of pushing myself to get a set amount of words written/edited. In the end, though, I didn’t commit – this month, we have Joy’s 8th birthday (yesterday); Carl’s mother’s birthday (in deference to her, I won’t mention which one); Carl traveling for a scholarly conference, leaving me the sole responsible adult for several days; Thanksgiving; and of course, any handmade Christmas gifts have to get started now.

November is never a great writing month for me.

I am trying to not let myself be lured away from the edits I am properly doing right now, and the short stories I would like to finish before the end of the year, to start a full-length sequel to From the Shadows. I have the faintest glimmer of an idea for it, which properly should be left to sit and develop before any writing ever happens (even if I didn’t have other projects to finish, WHICH I DO), but of course I get excited and want to start writing RIGHT NOW.

Discipline and self-control, right?

Sigh. Being responsible – even being responsible to the story itself by not rushing it, not to mention being responsible to the other stories I have begun and must not leave half done – is hard.

And don’t even get me started on how hard it is to be a responsible homeschool mom when I want to spend school hours writing instead …

Joyful Work

Those of you who enjoyed Magic Most Deadly will be happy to know that I am currently hard at work on revisions of the sequel (thus far, the working title of Magic in Disguise seems to be sticking). You might remember me posting here a few months back that I had finished the first draft? Now I’m filling it out, deepening it and padding it, putting events in their proper order, inserting clues (now that I know both the point of the crime and the criminal, two things I was clueless on when I started the first draft), creating a few red herrings, all that fun stuff.

I know some writers who dump everything into their first draft, and then spend subsequent drafts pruning, cutting away words and tightening it all up. That is not how I craft my stories. No, my first drafts are always the barest of bones (as a teen, I used to write my first drafts as scripts – just dialogue and a few terse “stage directions”), which then have to get filled out a little more in each draft. Right now my chapters stand at about 2500-3000 words each – I need to get them to 4000-4500 by the final draft. Whew!

It’s fun, though. And it’s fun to challenge myself by seeing if I can include enough background details in each scene to keep my beta readers from saying “more details! We need more details!” (I’ve never yet managed it, but it’s a goal). Today, for example, I spent some time figuring out the layout and general decor of Len’s London flat. While the readers of Magic in Disguise won’t necessarily need to know that the flat has two bedrooms, and the exact location of the cloakroom, or what the color scheme is of the dining room, having all that information at my fingertips will make it easier to sneak in subtle details to fill out the story and make it more vivid.

More vivid! That’s what I hope for with all my stories – that they live. I have a hard time re-reading Magic Most Deadly these days – my fingers itch to start editing, to fix all the flaws I see in it now, to make all these improvements. But one thing that does still satisfy me with it is how alive it is. Flawed though it might be (hey, it’s a debut novel), creaky though it may be in places, it does live, and that gives me great joy.

I hope that Magic in Disguise, when it is finished, not only is an improved book craft-wise from MMD, but is even more alive than its predecessor. A joyous, laughing, living book (as much as a murder mystery can ever be those things!), which brings as much delight to its readers as it did/does to its writer.

And now I’d best stop talking about writing it, and get back to actually writing the thing …

Just An Ordinary Monday

Today as part of school, I’m having the kids draw fantasy maps. I want them to include five things: a sea, mountains, a forest, a river, and roads. Other than that, it’s completely up to them. I showed them some examples and left them to it, only stipulating that they sit at their desks so they can’t see each other and and be influenced by what the other is doing.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about making up stories to go along with their fantasy maps. Putting people there, dragons, mermaids, anything they want, and then figuring out how they all get along and how the world functions together.

Economics, cartography, geography, art, writing, social … and they’re having a blast with it.

Some days I really, really love homeschooling.

Switching Mental Gears

I have been working exclusively on Rivers Wide (my 1930s Thousand Islands novel) for quite a while now, trying to get it to the point where I can start serializing it (I have to at least have it in a coherent draft form, and then I can edit/polish each installment as I go). So it took a wrench today to set it aside and immerse myself back in From the Shadows just for a day. My editor’s schedule has cleared, and she is ready for me to send it to her for line edits, and I had just a few issues I wanted to fix before mailing it off to her.

A wrench, yes, but exciting. Because – line edits! That’s a big step closer to publication. And as much as my head is full of Julie (of Rivers Wide) and her cousins and siblings, and their world of dairy farms along the St. Lawrence River in 1935, it was fun to revisit Riss and the crew of Caledonia and polish them up to meet my editor.

September was an exhausting month, with school starting back up (for Carl, for the kids, and our brand-new Classical Conversations homeschool group), the kids’ extra-curricular activities starting, Carl and I going through church membership classes, weekly Bible Studies, and a lovely whirlwind visit from family in the midst of it all. Not much time for writing at all, frankly.

But I knew that was going to happen, which is why I pushed so hard to get so many first drafts done this summer. Because, for me, second drafts/editing/polishing/et cetera, require much less intensive effort than the initial story creation. So I can pick a story up and do a little at a time without it taking me an hour just to get back into my characters’ heads and figure out where the plot is going. It’s still slow going, but it is progress.

And seeing that progress advance another entire step for From the Shadows is tremendously exciting, and I really can’t wait to hear what my editor has to say about it! Only another couple months before publication, guys!

New and Improved

When our kids were really little – like, baby and toddler – I spoke loftily about how they would always share a room, how even if we lived in a place where they could have their own bedrooms they wouldn’t, that learning to compromise and share and work with another person was so important, and that sharing created a special bond between siblings even if they hated it sometimes.

Then, when they were about five and three and we were living in a house with four bedroom, I found myself putting them in separate rooms. Gracie had started a habit of whispering to her sister half the night, and Joy was getting cranky and miserable from never having a place to go where her sister couldn’t follow. The guest room was transformed into Joy’s room, and life became much happier for everyone.

Now we’re in a two-bedroom apartment, and not-sharing is not an option, though at this point all of us wish it was. Joy is deeply introverted and high sensitive, and is reaching the stage of wanting her space to be neat, tidy, organized, and open. Grace is a chatterbox with no sense of boundaries, and still likes everything she owns to be out all the time, scattered everywhere. Things get tense.

While we can’t give them their own room – and safety rules on campus mean we can’t even let Joy go outside to play by herself – Carl and I did put our heads together to come up with a plan for making life a little better for them.

Behold: desks.

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We cleared out probably half their toys and even some books (weep) and rearranged their room to be able to give them each their own desk, on opposite sides of the room. The desk is each girl’s own space, which the other one is not allowed to touch without permission. Eventually I plan to rearrange the books left in the crates so that the ones that are more Joy’s interest are with her desk, and the same with Gracie.

And we probably lost our security deposit with these, but I don’t even care:

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Above each desk are two shelves, also for that girl alone, for trinkets and special things. And books, of course. The shelves transform the feel of the entire room; I love them so much!

We also bought some rolling carts with drawers, and shallow boxes to go under the bed, and are in the process of organizing their remaining toys so that they are clearly labeled and separated. I’m also thinking of some decorating improvements – new curtains, maybe even an area rug to go over the nasty brown carpet everywhere in the apartment.

It’s not a perfect solution, but what ever is? It’s better than it was, and that’s enough for now. Hopefully, when the girls look back on their years here while Dad was in seminary, the good memories will be the ones that have stuck.

DE Stevenson

“I am grateful for all my blessings; amongst them the Gift of Storytelling, which seems to please and amuse so many people all over the world.”

“It seems to me that this job of interpreting my own people to other people is the most important contribution I can make to the world and to peace.”

-D.E. Stevenson.

I discovered D.E. Stevenson thanks to Goodreads recommending her “Miss Buncle’s Book” to me based on my fondness for Miss Read. Curiously enough, the Miss Buncle series are among my least favorites of her work; I prefer her stand-alones, or the ones with two or three loosely-connected books. However, they were enough to get me intrigued, and now I’ve read everything of hers our library has, and am starting to expand through ILL to others in our network.

Like Miss Read, Stevenson writes stories about ordinary people, stories in which (generally) not a lot happens. Nice, friendly, meandering stories, that give you a glimpse into somebody else’s life and fit into their shoes for at least a few brief moments. Stories which, as a kid, bored me to tears, and now I love.

And along with enjoying her books, I appreciate her philosophy as well. Aren’t those quotes up above lovely? Sums up a lot of my feeling toward writing and storytelling.

So, if you enjoy “quiet” stories, give D.E. Stevenson a try! She wrote dozens of books; if you enjoy them, you won’t run out of reading material for a long, long time. Also? She was the cousin of the great Robert Louis Stevenson!

From the Shadows Cover and Synopsis!

You guys, the time has finally come.

It started as a novella, back last June. After over half my beta readers said, “turn this into a novel!” and I said “no, no, this is fine just as it is,” and then a few weeks later began turning it into a novel, after editing and polishing and more rounds of beta-ing, I am finally close enough to seeing the final product that I think it’s safe to reveal the cover.

I’m excited! I love this story so much. It’s inspired by Star Wars and Star Trek and the Vorkosigan saga and A Wrinkle in Time and Cs Lewis’s Space Trilogy. It’s got moments of pure insane fun, and moments that ripped my heart to shreds when I wrote them. It has a song, of all thing, which I heard so plainly in my head when I was writing it that I started to worry I was unconsciously ripping it off of another artist (I wasn’t; I checked). Naturally I promptly forgot the tune, but I saved the words, and maybe after reading the book some brilliant musician will find the tune again for me. It has shiny silver aliens and humans from every corner of this beautiful planet of ours, a spaceship, honor, friendship, and a heroine who is so very dear to me I sometimes forget she came out of my head, and isn’t real.

My wonderful husband has endured a year of me peppering him with physics questions; my beta readers have endured countless emails from me on it; Amanda of Fly Casual was so gracious toward my finickiness toward every detail of the cover.

I have a projected publish date of November of this year – fingers crossed that we make it, guys – and so, without further ado, here is the cover and official synopsis for From the Shadows.

Whisked from her troubled, solitary life to a spaceship centuries in the future, widowed folk musician Riss Waldon must first figure out how she got there, and then if it's possible to get home. Before long, she is visiting strange and deadly planets and meeting new alien races, and forming friendships with the crew. Even as they strive to discover a way for her to return, she wonders if it possible to step out of the shadows of her past life and stay here. But when the well-being of the entire crew rests on her shoulders, she isn't sure she's up to the task. What if she fails them? All she can do is try ...

Whisked from her troubled, solitary life to a spaceship centuries in the future, widowed folk musician Riss Waldon must first figure out how she got there, and then if it’s possible to get home. Before long, she is visiting strange and deadly planets and meeting new alien races, and forming friendships with the crew. Even as they strive to discover a way for her to return, she wonders if it possible to step out of the shadows of her past life and stay here. But when the well-being of the entire crew rests on her shoulders, she isn’t sure she’s up to the task. What if she fails them? All she can do is try …

Isn’t it gorgeous? Amanda did the cover art for Magic Most Deadly as well, and I’m so in awe of her talent.

Coming soon! Spread the word! It’s gonna be a fantastic ride …