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 …

Comfort … Snacks?

I loved hearing about all the different comfort drinks that people crave – thanks so much to everyone who chimed in with an opinion! It’s always immensely fun for me to learn about the ways in which people are similar, and where they’re different. (Why no, I’m not a character-based writer at all, *coughcough* yes I totally am.)

Prompted by the variety of comfort drinks people have, I asked on Twitter about comfort foods, specifically snacks, and so of course now I want to expand that here on the blog as well. Dark chocolate is a common theme (count me in on that one), as well as various baked goods.

So, what’s your comfort food, more specifically your comfort snack? That which you eat alongside your comfort drink?

I love food, a lot, so it’s hard for me to narrow it down. Basically, if I can eat it easily in one hand while reading, and it goes well with a cup of tea, I’m going to enjoy it. But like I said above, dark chocolate is definitely toward the top of that list. Scones, also, or biscuits, or homemade bread … I’d better stop there, or I’ll make myself (and all of you) too hungry.

Have at it in the comments! I’m having a blast with these posts.

Tea, Coffee, or ???

I have a serious tea addiction. Well, not quite an addiction, because I can go a day or two without it without getting any withdrawal symptoms, but my day does tend to feel unfinished if I don’t get my cup of black tea at some point.

At some point before 3:00, that is, because after that I can’t have any caffeine that isn’t chocolate-related, unless I want to stay awake ALL NIGHT LONG.

This is a bit of a problem sometimes, when it gets to be mid-afternoon or early evening, and I want some sort of cozy, comfort drink. Sometimes I can make herbal tea work, and sometimes hot chocolate, and sometimes I just have to suck it up and endure until the next morning.

I enjoy coffee, but it’s a normal food-and-drink related enjoyment. Tea, I enjoy as much for the experience as for the flavor. What is it Nora says to Anne in Anne of Windy Poplars? “Anne Shirley, do you think a cup of tea is a panacea for everything? It’s you who ought to be the old maid, not me.” (In her defense, Anne was being particularly grating at the time) But yes, along with Anne Shirley and Miss Marple and countless others in literature, I think of tea as a cure-all for all ills.

But I know some people feel that way about coffee (ahem, Lorelai Gilmore), and some people don’t understand a fondness for hot drinks at all. Which got me wondering: what do most people choose for their comfort drink? I asked on Twitter, and then decided it was a question worthy of a blog post – or at least more worthy than most topics that float across my mind these days.

So. What’s your preference for a drink that’s experience and flavor, something that can bring you comfort no matter how grim everything is? Because inquiring minds want to know.

And you never know, at some point I might want to write a character who doesn’t love tea as much as I do, and I’d better have some realistic alternative for him or her!

To Live In Joy

This has been a really awful few days. The shooting in Ottawa hit me just like a sucker punch to the gut. Ottawa is the closest city to my hometown (yes, we were closer to a Canadian city than a US. REALLY rural, and REALLY far north in NY State); we are very familiar with it. It’s a beautiful, warm, welcoming city, and to think of such a horror being perpetuated in it was awful and personal.

The next day, I found out that the local college in my hometown – the school I attended for my freshman year before transferring to the state university the next town over – had to shut down because of threats on social media. MY town. MY school. Once again, the fury I felt was personal as well as abstract.

Today is the third anniversary of my grandmother’s death. And rather than continue to dwell on the things that make me angry, things I cannot change or stop directly, I’m going to do what Grandma would have done, and share some things that bring light, laughter, and hope to the world.

I’m certain I’ve posted this video before. Kurt Browning is one of my all-time favorite skaters – he is one of the greats – and this is a routine that never fails to brighten my day, no matter how bad it gets.

This song makes me cry. Every time. But they are good tears, tears of love for and pride in my grandparents and all those who choose joy instead of bitterness in the hardships of life.

Speaking of Patty Griffin … I love this song, too.

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I snapped this with my phone last weekend on our mountain hike. Glorious beauty in the dying of the year.

Not a picture or video, but – we have started reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to the kids before bed (Carl reads, I sit and quilt and surreptitiously watch their faces). They weren’t too sure about it at first, but last night the four children had supper with the Beavers, and neither girl wanted to close the book after that. They’re hooked.

“I heard the universe as an oratorio sung by a master choir of stars, accompanied by the orchestra of the planets and the percussion of satellites and moons. The aria they performed was a song to break the heart, full of tragic dissonance and deferred hope, and yet somewhere beneath it all was a piercing refrain of glory, glory, glory. And I sensed that not only the grand movements of the cosmos, but everything that had happened in my life, was a part of that song. Even the hurts that seemed most senseless, the mistakes I would have done anything to erase–nothing could make those things good, but good could still come out of them all the same, and in the end the oratorio would be no less beautiful for it.” -RJ Anderson, Ultraviolet

I love this quote.

In really, really good news from this week (well, the tail end of last week), my dear friend A.M. Offenwanger published her first book! It is a delightful read. The link leads to the Smashwords page, but you can get it through Amazon or Kobo as well, or as a print version through Createspace.

One final song:

There are some of my happy things! I hope that, whether you are having a wonderful week or a dreadful one, that at least one item in this post has brought a smile to your face.

He Stamps His Feet And Claps His Hands And Turns Around to View His Land

I am decidedly not a gardener, and yet every year right around the time winter is loosening its grip, making reluctant way for spring, I get the urge to plant and dig and tuck tiny seeds away to await them bursting into life.

Granted, most of the time those seeds don’t make it (see opening line), but that never stops me from wanting to try again.

In the past couple of years, we’ve done container gardens.

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We never got much of a harvest from them, but the bits of food that did survive always felt like such triumph. Hurrah! One pea plant! A few tiny tomatoes at the end of the year, when everyone else’s were finished! Two peppers, shrunken and shriveled! And a handful of lettuce leaves the slugs didn’t devour. We are gods!

Living here, we don’t even have that option. There are small garden plots available for each building, but nobody (including our RLCs) seems to know who is in charge of allotting them, or what you have to do to get one. We had thought about joining a CSA, but surprise! You have to do that during the winter. All the spaces are already filled. So we will have to rely on farmers markets for our produce, and I will continue to make all our acquaintances think I’m crazy by cooing at the budding flowers by our front door every time I go in or out.

Took this photo two weeks ago. They all have buds now!

Took this photo two weeks ago. They all have buds now!

Spring fever. It makes us all a little crazy, especially if we’ve no outlet.

Author Vs. Engineer

Me to Carl: I have about a million different thoughts all tangled together right now, and every time I try to pull one loose it gets all snagged in the others and everything gets knotted up worse. Basically my brain is one big messy ball of yarn.

Carl to me: Huh.

Me to Carl: Yeah, I know. Your brain is like an excel spreadsheet.

Carl to me: Well, pretty much.

Oh, THIS Is Why I’m Tired

Got up at 4:30 this morning to take care of Grace’s latest coughing fit. Two nights ago she was up almost all night hacking, so I was happy enough to hand her over to Carl after 15 minutes today and collapse back onto the couch (where I’ve been sleeping while she’s been restless, easier to tend her needs without disturbing Carl) to get a little more sleep if possible.

Woke again at 9, mildly horrified at having slept so late, but glad I was able to catch up on the missed sleep from Monday night. Walked into the girls’ room to wish them “good morning,” only to be confronted with a scene from a horror movie. Blood on the carpet, covering Joy’s nightie, splattered on her comforter, and a guilty expression on her face.

“I tried not to pick my nose,” she said before I could utter one word, “but it’s just too hard.”

I buttoned my lips and hauled her into the bathroom, where we took care of the bloody nose, and then stripped the bed and her and threw all the blood-spattered items into the tub to soak in cold water. Trimmed her nails, and was scrubbing at the carpet when Carl got back from his meeting with a professor.

Made Grace, who was coughing again, some hot lemon-honey-ginger-cayenne pepper, then got both girls some food, and now, at 10:00, am finally ready to start thinking about breakfast myself. After which I will need to go commandeer the washing machines on our floor for an hour. We’re meeting some new friends at the playground after lunch today, and this evening I’m supposed to go to Bible Study, and we do need to fit school in at some point today …

I guess, really, it isn’t that surprising that I’m so tired all the time.