Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Weight of Glaciers

Though I had good intentions of finishing Chapter 4 before I had to go back to work at my day job today, it didn't get done. I severely underestimated how time consuming family togetherness can be. There was, of course, a minor family crisis, lots of drama, and lots and lots of cooking, which I don't do often and had forgotten takes hours upon hours to do properly. So Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were non-productive for writing or even thinking about Project Reach. The subsequent days would be wholly set aside for writing, or so I thought. In reality, I had saved the latest draft of Chapter 4 to my trusty thumb drive...and left it in the port at my work computer! I couldn't get any momentum with the chapter since I was missing a rather crucial transition that I'd written during some downtime at work last Tuesday, so I just left it be and focused on some other pressing tasks

On three of my five days off, I slept very late into the day. There was, of course, the aforementioned family togetherness. I attended an Ugly Christmas Sweater party and spent the day after recovering from it. I began refinishing my living room floors so I can install my wall of bookshelves and finally remedy my critical lack of book storage. I did laundry and put away my summer clothes at long last. I painted my toenails and gave myself a manicure. These are all things that were overdue. Things I had put off in deference to Project Reach. And now that they're done, or on their way to being so, I can make another push at Claire's narrative.

I'm more than a little concerned with the pacing at this point. But there's little point in fretting about it now, as I won't even be able to evaluate the pacing properly until I have at least six chapters strung together. At least I have a better feel now for my own writing pace now and can adjust my expectations for progress accordingly. My pace is truly glacial! But I'm at peace with that metaphor. Glaciers may be slow, but they are an irresistible force and possess fierce beauty.

Also, not all of the verdicts are in, but now that we're two chapters in with David, none of my readers can abide his tone. It's distracting. I knew this was a danger when I began to conceive of David's style of internal dialog. But I'm still waiting on the verdicts of a few other of my trusted readers before I make any determinations as to amending David's tone. I knew that first person narrative was a bit of a gamble, and that present tense risked coming off too 'literary' but I honestly believe that the most crucial bits of the story can only be told properly using the technique of altering first person narrative in the present tense. And one of my readers may have been a bit confused by the switch from past-tense to present between David's chapters. Her comments suggest she read David's present tense chapter as a continuation of his character narration and not as his present reality.

Reach Reader commentary on Chapter 3:
I am once again assaulted by words, that seems to be the beating I will always get from David...He seems more arrogant now, but he also just seems to have no filter when he speaks about himself. He's just saying the truth, as he sees it, that he really does know a lot.
So many weighty considerations. I am not above performing a complete re-write if my approach to the story is completely untenable. However, I still have faith enough to rely on my skill to uphold my creative decisions.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Plan

Just because it's the holidays, doesn't mean I'm taking a break. In fact, I have big plans for the "downtime" that I will have on this long 5 day weekend. I had the opportunity to make an editing sweep of the half of Chapter 4 that I have written while I was at work on Tuesday, so all of that is fresh in my mind. Today, our electricity was out for most of the day, so I got all of my last minute shopping and giftwrapping out of the way so that I'll be able to focus on writing tonight and tomorrow (when I'm not cooking or hanging out with my family). Friday morning I intend to put in a good four hours before heading out to an Ugly Christmas Sweater party. Saturday ad Sunday, I have no plans but writing. The hope is to get Chapter 4 completed in less than however many months it took to get Chapter 3 in the proverbial can. And if I'm very, very diligent, perhaps I'll be able to get a jump on 5 and 6.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Words I've had to add to my Spellchecker


Chapter 3 finished

Chapter 3 is finished!! Finally. I stayed in (bed) and worked on it all day on Sunday. Being able to put the lid down on it at long last was a really good birthday present! (Even though I finished up at nearly 4am, so it wasn't actually my birthday anymore.) I'm really pleased with the transitions I created to stitch the chapter together, and I'm especially thrilled that the pacing and smooth flow carries over from Chapter 1 so seamlessly because it's really just an extension of David's introduction. In Chapter 3 we get caught up with who David is now, what his academic status is, the state of his personal finances, and what his major dilemma will be for the duration of the novel. Next up is to get Claire from The Deck, through campus, and to the catering drop off. Doesn't sound too eventful, does it? Even so, I expect it to take about 1,500 words and should link up nicely with what I already have written for Chapter 4. I'm always unsure where the chapters will end, so Claire may have a short conversation with MarLo, too, which will be really fun to write. In any event, my chapters are tending to be very short - about 3,000 words each - so the trick is to keep the narrative from feeling disjointed. So far I don't think it's been a problem, but I'll ultimately leave that judgment up to my readers.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Who Hub Interview


Friday, December 19, 2008

Gearing Up

The last two days I've been focused on remedying some computer issues that have been plaguing me. The thesaurus wasn't installed in Open Office on my new Linux laptop. When I'm at an absolute stall in my writing, I live and die by the thesaurus. I'll just go trolling around in Visual Thesaurus until I stumble on a word that gathers more words around it. Eventually, I end up with a sentence. So I'd been trying to figure out how to get my Open Office thesaurus function to work and was messing around with command prompts which ended up royally screwing up my operating system to the point that I couldn't save a document without the Open Office program crashing. Not good. So I had to roll my laptop back to the factory settings by booting it off of the recovery disc. While trying to accomplish this, I inadvertently wiped the hard drive on my desktop. This could easily have been a major disaster, but I'm very diligent about backing up my files. As it stands, I have all of my most important works backed up on a thumb drive and an external hard drive. I have over 500 poems that I'd hate to loose. But I could never loose all of them in a single, catastrophic event because the bulk of them are backed up on pathetic.org and the earliest works are stored on floppy disks. And of course my Project Reach files are all on my laptop, desktop and on my USB flash drive. The completed chapters are further safeguarded by being uploaded online as Google Docs.

So after toasting all the data on my desktop, I just went ahead and installed Ubuntu on it and will work on moving my files over from the external hard drive this weekend or over Christmas break. So I'm all converted to Linux now. That's progress.

Having my head all junked up with tech, I wasn't in the right state of mind to write David, but I did work on a poem I began jotting down while at work. I haven't written a poem in more than months; it's been whole seasons since I've completed a verse. But this piece, although slightly disjointed, is good. It's not 'there' yet, and I'll likely make at least two more editing passes at it, but it felt really good to output some verse. I can feel MarLo in this one. Or maybe there's just a lot of me in MarLo.

I have been meaning for a few months to send out a round of poetry submissions, but never followed through on my intentions due to computer and printer issues. I was shocked to realize that I haven't published any verse since 2006, and even that was a piece from 2005. It's just ridiculous to think that I haven't sent any submissions out in over two years because some of my absolute best works (or at least my current favorites) came out of 2007 and 2006. I have a list of journals and magazines that I've checked out. It's just a matter of choosing appropriate pieces for the forum, formatting to the publisher's standards, taking that deep, sickening breath, and hitting the send button (or dropping the letter in the mailbox). I fully intend on seeking to publishing at least a half dozen of my better poetic works this coming year in an attempt to beef up my credits so that when Project Reach is finished and I send out queries to agents, mine will perhaps be slightly more appealing than those of other freshman novelists who maybe have no publishing credits at all.

It will be a big help during this submission push to have a functioning printer. I've gone years without a printer at home because my Epson, though technically still functional, was such a pain about the ink cartridges always being full and I could never afford to keep all seven of them in supply. Eventually the nozzles clogged to an insupportable degree and I just gave up using it altogether. But for Christmas, I bought my mother a color copier, printer, fax, scanner combo. One of her hobbies is to color copy her snapshots and cut them out to make collages. It's not even in the same league as scrapbooking, but she enjoys it immensely. She used to drive all the way into the next town to go to the offices of the local newspaper and pay 75 cents a page to make color copies on their machine. So I got her a Brother color copier/printer for Christmas. It's got big, back lit, mom-friendly buttons and only four ink cartridges, the refills for which are the least expensive of all the major brands. I keep it on my desk hooked up to my desktop computer upon her insistence, and I'm very happy with it.

In addition to sending out a round of poetry submissions, I also dream of applying to some local artist residency programs. I should fill out the applications I've had lying on my desk for over a year now. It would be good for me to sequester myself for the purpose of writing. I just find it so difficult to get anything written in the evenings when my brain is out of juice for the day. I did get to snatch a few minutes of time to write at work today. 36 minutes to be exact. This was broken up into about five separate intervals of varying lengths. But in those few short interludes I was able to fix a transition in Chapter 3 that had been bothering me and extend he narrative by about three lines. That doesn't sound like much, but it's a lot of progress in such a short time. I take it as further testament to the fact that I do my best work during the day when I'm working and not free to write.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

David's Internal Dialog is Evolving

I'm really happy with the direction that Chapter 3 is heading...finally. It's taken a long time to get it this far, but I have no complaints about the gestation period of a given chapter so long as the finished product is of a very high standard.

A few nights ago, I was making another editing pass of 3 and started beefing up the science content. It's caused me to have to put in some extra research time, but it has gone a long way toward solving the problem with David's tone that I'd been having. My readers and I both have been concerned that David's elevated vocabulary can get downright annoying, but I am trying out a new tack for David's internal dialog. If he exhibits his brilliance by drawing clever parallels between the science of neurobiology or cutting-edge cognitive research and his everyday experiences, then he won't have to exhibit his brilliance through words alone. The language aspect I have a handle on and don't spend as much time hunting through the thesaurus as I've been accused of having done, but the science is mostly new to me and it's a challenge to hunt down facts that fit seamlessly into the narrative.

In any event, I haven't been able to do too much in the way of writing this weekend. I've been learning Linux prompts and broke my text editor by trying to upgrade it. So now I will have to consult with my computer guru on Tuesday and make do with Google Docs for the time being. Which is fine anyway since I need to share docs between two computers and a thumb drive and can never seem to remember where the most current version is saved. Tonight I'm hard at it, trying to get Chapter 3, at least, sewn up. I'm a little discouraged at my writing pace and think continuously that if this turns into a war of attrition, then I might not have the stamina it takes to tell David and Claire's stories to completion. But determination is certainly a learned skill and may be one of the many lessons that writing has yet to teach me.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

More Tools

I should mention that I have acquired another new writing tool. For one thing, a friend of mine gave me a mini travel mouse to use with my Aspire One so that I can now avoid being overly annoyed with the track pad. For another thing, I've gotten a bed table for my laptop with a tilting top so I can type from bed more comfortably. Now I have absolutely no reason to leave bed on the weekends! Hopefully, the acquisition of the Aspire One and various accessories will help me become just a bit more productive. I certainly don't NEED any of this to write the story I have in mind, but having the right tools does help things along. Only today I got several paragraphs written during my lunch hour at work. That's much more than I got written at home during several hours of 'leisure' time tonight!

Progress vs. Productivity

I've had a horribly unproductive week and weekend, but I'm not fussed about it. I'm making progress. Chapter 3 still isn't stitched together into a coherent whole, though the sections are getting consistently more excellent with each passing edit. Chapter 4 still needs the ending to be written. I've jumped ahead to record an interchange in Chapter 6, and Chapter 5 is mapped out in my head as is much of 7 and 8. Though I barely wrote even a single page this weekend, I made huge progress. The insertion of one simple sentence into Chapter 4 completely solved a huge dilemma I'd been having. And the addition of an extra paragraph in Chapter 2 revolutionizes the readers' early impression of MarLo. Six short sentences give us her academic history, hometown, socioeconomic standing, how she got her distinctive name, and the status of her relationship with both Claire and her own father. And I thought cramming David's entire childhood into one chapter was tough! I'm extremely glad to have found a way to integrate this information into Chapter 2, though, as it had been weighing on me. I just hate the feeling of the writer knowing more than the reader. It feels like a failure to me.

As for the next tandem of chapters, it's just a matter of finding the time to find the words. Or at least finding the energy. This weekend I had plenty of time and didn't take advantage of it because I was basically depleted. I have found that the more I pressure myself to be 'productive' the less actually gets done. I spend too much energy stressing over my expectations for speed and have precious little processing power left over to be creative. So I'm trying out a 'write when its right' philosophy. I now have my Aspire One with me everywhere I go, so I'm going to attempt to write when the words come to me as opposed to blocking out several hours of time in the evenings and on weekends during which I attempt to force myself to output words. The problem with this new philosophy is that I'm not a professional writer. I have to work for a living, and I can't just take a time out to write midday during my best hours when MarLo starts talking into my ear. The best I can do is to jot quick notes and refer to them later when I'm at liberty to channel my characters' voices. To date, I have stacks of notes that I haven't so much as glanced at. It's very frustrating. I certainly hadn't started out with the goal to become a professional writer, but it's fast becoming a sort of dream of mine that aligns so nicely and neatly with my current dream job that it's ridiculous to think it never occurred to me before. One can certainly be a contract book designer and writer of novels at the same time.

But, honestly, dreams are all fine and good (necessary, even) but I have to get some real writing done soon. I am very aware of the law of diminishing returns as I've had two abandoned attempts at writing a novel previously. I've learned from both of those failed projects, but David and Claire's story, I'm determined will not just be another 'learning experience' for me.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Re-Writes and Reach Readers

I've just completed ANOTHER re-write of Chapter 2! That's right. Another one. I think I've finally gotten all of the rough patches ironed out, though. There were several pieces that just didn't fit as nicely as I'd liked them to. There was either too big of an idealogical leap between paragraphs or there was too much information in too few words or missing information that would need to be in place before we take on Claire's next chapter. In any event, I've gone over it all again, word by word, aloud, and it's a much nicer read now. There are a few sentences that I can feel David's influence in. They're too highly styled and verbose. But I like allowing Claire the occasional lush observation. She has the ability to comment on so many things that David just doesn't notice.

Updates on the Reach Readers group: Three of my first readers and I were discussing the first two chapters over dinner this holiday weekend when a friend overhead and commented that he'd love to read and critique what I've written. He's involved in professional theatre, and I've seen several of his short plays performed. I was alway very impressed with his stage writing ability, so I decided that his opinion would be really valuable. I just never knew he'd be interested in being a part of Project Reach, or I would have invited him sooner! He has just posted his comments and they're terribly insightful. He finds Claire 'insufferably boring' and I can't say as I disagree with him. I'm hoping that I can keep enough interest in her chapters through the intervention of MarLo and Decker until we get to the meat of her story, but it's a tall order. Claire is dull. One of my female readers is annoyed by Claire because she perceives Claire to be a control freak. This is possibly a problem. I was intending to illustrate Claire's great capacity for compassion and possibly her potential for strong leadership in her debut chapter, not her need to step in and control everyone's lives. But then, Claire is all about control. Self-control. I'll have to keep a careful eye on how I convey Claire's concerns so that Claire isn't misunderstood by the reader. All excellent feedback!

My theatre reader's comments on The Deck:
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading about the deli. EASILY my favorite part thus far. I want to spend the whole story there. Hell, I want to spend a DAY there. It's a character in itself! How unique a place like this is. In just a few short passages we get an entire history of the place, and each little tidbit was more interesting and entertaining than the last. It's a great frame for snippets of action, and allows you to do some great things with mood simply by changing songs - which you've done already! It's such a creative set piece, and I'm really impressed.
I, personally, thought the inception of The Deck was a masterstroke, but I'm biased beyond belief. It's very validating to have someone recognize your good ideas for what they are and very useful to have someone able to draw your attention to the areas that need to brought up to the high standards of those good ideas.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Progress Report

Well, I've got a new tool! My Aspire One is up and running and networked with my desktop. I've written a bit on it. It's not impossible to type on, but it can be tricky. I'm very excited, as evidenced by the following exclamation points!!!

That being said, I performed some very minor re-writes of chapters 1 and 2, taking into account the feedback I've gotten so far from my Reach Readers. Chapter 3 is coming together slowly. It's still in several pieces that will need to be stitched together to form a coherent whole, but at least I'm not scrapping the whole chapter. Chapter 4 is turning out to be a fairly easy write. I've gotten the first three quarters of it written, pretty much in one sitting. The next bit is all in my head, but the challenge will be to get the words on the page. Chapter 5 is sketched out. Chapter 6 is also sketched out, and is where the story really begins. It's also where I'll have another big hangup requiring a lot of research and deep thought. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to put a lid on 3 and 4 about mid-week and then get a good start on 5 and 6 this weekend. I'm eager to post the next tandem of chapters for critique. I'm really excited to bring MarLo into play in Chapter 6.

For now, my pact reader is going to have to settle for incomplete chapters, though. I can't stick to a rigid bi-weekly deadline. I am far too concerned with quality prose and well-thought plot to rush myself. Admittedly, though, I should have gotten more writing done over the holiday weekend, but friends were in town to visit, so I spent more time socializing than I'd originally budgeted. It was worth it, though!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Chapter 4 Begun

I haven't sewn up David's chapter 3, yet, but I had a sudden burst of inspiration last night and had to begin Claire's Chapter 4 right then and there. So I wrote the intro to Chap 4 by hand with pencil and paper last night from my bed as I didn't feel like booting the computer again. I hate writing by hand as I type much faster; and half the time my handwriting is so illegible that when I go to transcribe it, I spend most of my time deciphering instead of typing. Tomorrow, though, my new Netbook will arrive and I opted for a sleek Acer Aspire One running a light Linux operating system that will boot from power on in under 30 seconds. So when those sudden bursts of writerly inspiration hit me, I've got just enough computing power at my command nearly instantly. I'm really excited about this new tool!

So tonight I'm going to type out and edit Claire's chapter 4 and dovetail it with some material I wrote awhile back for inclusion at the end of Claire's Chapter 2 but ended up cutting to aid the perspective switch. The new order of things will gel nicely, I think, and I was really excited about what I wrote last night because it parallels with David's narrative in fresh and subtle ways. They both have a reason to tool around on a chalkboard, for instance, which is interesting as most of us do not find occasion to ever write with real chalk anymore since the rise of the hypoallergenic dry erase marker. One of my favorite aspects of alternating first person narrative is the opportunity to find disparities in perception of a single event and parallels in divergent experiences. I often surprise myself by the clever tricks I come up with to tie stories together, and I've been enjoying this aspect of my POV choice even though it's incredibly challenging in many other ways.

Having Elizabeth (David's mother) come for a visit was beginning to feel like a mistake and I was just about to despair of Chapter 3 ever 'working' and toss it in favor of a sans Elizabeth re-write, but when she connected up with Claire last night, things started falling into place. David just doesn't interact with people very well, and this causes me to dread having to write him in company with others. I was also finding it hard to allow Elizabeth to express herself properly because David is incapable of true insight into another human being. But I did find a concrete way for her to show her concern for David, I just haven't written it yet.

Also, I thought up (but did not write) my ending last night. I've had an image in my mind for about a month now that I've come to internally identify as the cover art for Project Reach. I never expected it to be anything more than metaphoric, but it suddenly became real and worked its way into the story. It's a very strong visual and nicely ties David and Claire's unique stories together in one simple image.

Also, I've been pondering heavily what David should eventually settle on for his dissertation research. I know that Dr. Feigner, David's main adviser, did his dissertation on the effects of different stress reduction tools on the human brain (hence his impressive collection of stress balls) and it would only seem natural for David to build on this. And it would fit seamlessly with David's interest in neurochemistry as well as his fascination with Claire, whose life is spent among foods of the comforting variety. Studying the effects of so-called comfort foods on stressed individuals is a worthy line of study that would have possible implications in obesity research as well. It would also give me the perfect excuse to use the above-mentioned cover image and one of my contender titles, The Comfort Foods Cure (which is, incidentally, a line I stole from one of my favorite poetic works). But I am highly averse to allowing a title to inform the story, as opposed to the reverse. I had originally wanted David to study the neurochemistry of love, but I now think I may have been trying to force David into a study of love, a choice I doubt he would have made on his own. Additionally, David, as a grad student, is certainly no stranger to stress. The study of comfort foods is much more natural for David than a study of the chemical processes of romantic love.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chapter 3 Quotes

"Even the infinitesimal weight of a key in the small pocket on the inside waistband of my running tights makes me feel unbalanced. After calculating the probability of someone attempting to enter my home during its half hour vacancy in the early morning hours, I have concluded that the annoyance of carrying a key outweighs the risk of burglary based on currently available crime statistics."

Things I Should Know

David is such an alien creature to me that I find myself Googling the most ridiculous things. Things I'm certain I should know already, like "Do running shorts have pockets?" and "How long does it take an avid runner to cover three miles?"

I was explaining to a friend why Chapter 3 has had such a long gestation period, and she asked if I could just skip it and come back to it. I thought about that, actually. I could skip laying the groundwork and get right to the fun parts where MarLo, Claire, and David are already acquainted and I am free to write their interesting and often humorous interactions, but I'm not going to do it. I have recorded some dialog exchanges just so I won't forget them later, so those will eventually be integrated into the narrative, but those will be the easy writes, the reward for having gotten past all of the hard stuff. Besides, if I write a lot of material to fit into the later chapters before I figure some key elements out (like what I'm struggling with right now, working through where David is in his academic career and what his relationship with his mother is) and some things surprise me (like how David and his mother are on much easier terms than I'd originally thought, owing mainly to Elizabeth's sheer generosity of spirit) then I'll either have a continuity error that will confuse the tone of the book, or I'll have wasted a lot of time and effort on what will end up being an outtake that gets dumped from the final manuscript, and as I'm not a professional writer, I do not have the luxury of writing dross. So in answer to my friend, I simply said, "No, I can't skip ahead and come back to this later. These are things I have to know." The groundwork I'm laying now informs David's character to such a degree that omitting it would inevitably cause major confusion. It is central to David's dilemma. I am trying to relate that an astronomically high IQ, excellent grades and steady income do not guarantee academic success. So much depends on emotional intelligence, work ethic and self-motivation.

The Elusive Rosetta Stone

Owing to a weekend more full of social interaction with my peers than I'd anticipated, I haven't gotten anything written which is slightly tragic as I stumbled across the Rosetta Stone for Chapter 3 while at work on Friday evening. I was thrilled about it, of course, and couldn't wait to get home and start transferring my pages of notes into narrative, but I made impromptu plans to go to the movies with a girlfriend, instead. I didn't think one quick trip to the theater would disrupt my writing too much, but I ended up running out to town on Saturday to drop off a birthday present at my friend's gallery, bought a new winter coat, and then got a call from a friend who was only in town for a very short time and wanted to get people together for a dinner, so directly after I got home I was out again and that turned into a late night of netbook shopping and meeting my other friend's fiance...all impromptu plans, of course. When I got home, I cracked open Twilight for the fifth or sixth time and hit the highlights before drifting off to sleep.

So today I'm hard at it! No football for me until I've at least sketched my ideas into what I already have written for Chapter 3.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Facing the Giants

Well, I feel like I've accomplished something, even if it is just a few minor tweaks to Chapter 2! Chapter 3 is still stalled. I've really got to put some hard thought into the short transitions it's missing. I need to nail down the chronology of David's college career, first, I think, as every time I think about it, it shifts a little in my mind. Is it completely ridiculous to assume that he can complete all of his undergraduate and graduate class work between the ages of 14 and 18? He's a freaking genius with absolutely no interest in social affairs, so it's conceivable that with a full course load and summer classes he could have done it. I'm also assuming he was able to test out of some of the 100 level courses. I'll just have to put a lot more thought into it. Where I'm at right now, though, I have him having completed all of his coursework and a research assistanceship working with cuttlefish and has now been turned loose to work exclusively on his dissertation. He's turned 18 and received the trust that was put away for him after his father's death (which reminds me, I have a few points to add to Chapter 1 about David's father's profession) so he doesn't have to hold a job or worry about money. He is free to focus entirely on that hulking monster of a dissertation. Yeah. That's where I'm at with David. It's daunting. I totally get David's perspective as I sit here, facing down an entire novel. I'll have to keep reminding myself of that over the next few days, to write how I'm feeling about this project, only sanitized of emotion as only David can.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Reach Readers update

I also think I should note that I guilted my first readers into giving me some feedback by including a section on my personal blog which I will excerpt here:

I haven't heard back from (my pact reader) yet. I'm not sure if this is because it was such a bad fragment of writing that he couldn't think of any constructive comments or if he's just madly busy as I have been myself. Regardless, I'm starting to give up on wringing any feedback out of people. I was fully prepared for negative feedback, but the lack of interest, the complete apathy, has me wondering. It's quite discouraging. If I were getting a lot of negative feedback, then I'd likely be much more motivated to make improvements. I'd be incensed, I'm sure. If I were getting positive feedback, I'd maybe build up some good momentum, being then freed from the self-doubt adherent to my style, story and characters. But nothing? I've been a little adrift. But I'm coming out of it. I'm beginning to pick up steerage way again after my first flush of enthusiasm died out. Now I'm settling into it.
Three of my five first readers contacted me within the day to make their excuses for not posting to the Google Group or otherwise commenting on the work I allowed them to read. I didn't intend the passage in my personal blog to be an appeal to them; it was merely a record of my personal feelings on the subject. I simply forget that my friends keep up with my blog. But I'm glad that it did end up jarring some commentary out of them. I have been privileged to have been asked by my friends to be a part of some of their major life events. I've been in their weddings, helped them edit academic papers, driven them to the airport, supported them as they launched businesses or new careers or relationships. I have considered it an honor to be entrusted with my friends' confidences and to lend them my meager talents to aid in their personal and professional advancement. When I decided to undertake writing a novel, I deemed it only fair reciprocity to invite my trusted friends along for the ride. I have enjoyed being a part of their journeys, and it was my hope that they would enjoy being part of mine. I firmly believe that it is not a huge time commitment as it generally takes only about a half an hour to read a piece, formulate an opinion of it, and record those opinions. As I'm interested in gut reactions, if it takes any longer than a half an hour to perform the function of a first reader, then someone's doing something horribly wrong!

But hopefully, I'll be getting more feedback from the Reach Readers soon. And if not, then I'll move down my list of potential readers and invite some fresh eyes into the group. I had previously chosen not to extend invitations to some individuals who had asked to be included, and I may reconsider their petitions if, after posting the next pair of chapters, my current panel does not begin discussing the material.

Learning Persistence

Every day while I'm at work, I think of David and his Chapter 3 dilemma and how to get him from point a to point b in so many words while maintaining forward momentum and a reasonable amount of interest. I sometimes have flashes of insight, which I scribble onto a memo pad during my free moments. At the end of the day, I pull the sheet off of my memo pad and stuff it into my purse (which is bursting with them) and drive home, eager to sit at my desk in my home 'office' and commute my scanty handwritten notations into actual plot. Instead, I get distracted or discouraged and end up wasting time on Facebook or adjusting my Netflix queue. I haven't gotten much real work done on the chapter all week. I've sat at my computer with the working document open, staring at a blinking cursor and maybe adjusting two or three sentences before giving up.

I'm using the excuse that I got a flu shot and have had a mild but persistent reaction that makes me feel just unwell enough to be a little cranky, but not so unwell that I can't function normally.

I think a lot of the real problem stems from the fact that I have gotten to know the child David fairly well, but the man David is still so unformed that I find it difficult to imagine his reactions in the situations I have placed him in. This, in turn, makes it nearly impossible to write him. I'm not saying that David is an unformed character, because he most certainly is extremely multi-dimensional. I simply mean that he, himself, is in the midst of a very dynamic period of personal growth. It's difficult to introduce someone who doesn't quite have a handle on who they are. He is at a crossroads in his life and until he meets Claire, he has no clear direction. It would help if I had some insight into what the pressure cooker of graduate school feels like. I have found some rather helpful blogs, though, and will just have to keep at it until I break through. In every narrative that I've ever written in which I run up against a wall, there is always a single sentence that acts as the Rosetta Stone to unlock the rest of the story. Once that single sentence is in place, every subsequent passage falls neatly onto the page. But getting to that keystone is the problem. It takes a great deal of hard work to figure out what's missing and where and then to fabricate a linguistic fulcrum. I actually say aloud to myself, "There's always a Rosetta Stone." when writing or solving a Sudoku puzzle. It's my equivalent of Cayce Pollard's mantra "He took a duck in the face at 250 knots."

Oddly enough, I've found the "Luminous Fish Effect" episode of Big Bang Theory to be a bit of an insight into how David must be feeling. In the episode, genius theoretical physicist Sheldon gets fired and subsequently loses all focus and spirals into a sort of frenzied tail-chasing. It's an incredibly comedic account of what I think must be going on in David's head during this juncture.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Research Titles

I have two new research titles of note to share. One is a delight to read and is highly creatively inspirational. It is A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman. Very nice bedtime reading. I've also picked up a copy of How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker, but I find it to be poorly organized and difficult to read without becoming bored.

Chapter 3 Quotes

"I believe the usual advice in this situation is to ‘write what you know.’"

"I do not find that at all helpful as it applies only to those who, frankly, don’t know very much. If I were to ‘write what I know’, as you suggest, the product wouldn’t be a dissertation, it’d be an encyclopedia. Or at least something on the scale of Carl Sandburg’s six volume biography of Lincoln."

Chapter 3 progress report

I've finally made some progress on Chapter 3. In this chapter, I've been exploring the rather unconventional relationship between David and his mother Katharine. She is visiting him, ostensibly in town on business interviewing a professor of political science for a feature article, but really she wants to make sure he's getting settled into his house well and isn't missing the dorms too much. She's surprised by his adaptability, as he's usually averse to any sort of change in his daily routine.

I knew this chapter was going to be very dialog intensive, and I'm petrified to write dialog...so no work was done on this chapter for the longest time. I got scared off by my perception of my own weaknesses. But once I got David and his mother in the same room and started them to talking (actually talking out my own frustrations) things started to come a lot more easily. It's a shame I'm so exhausted now and have to get to sleep so I'll be fit to work tomorrow, because I'd like to continue and build on the two pages I've output this evening. So now that I have a handle on how David and his mother interact, now I have to work through David's internal dilemmas doubting for the first time his ability to succeed in academia as he struggles to come up with a dissertation topic. He's at loose ends now. He excels in classes and as a research assistant because there is a set curriculum or procedure. When David is left to make his own choices, though, he drops into paralysis. Much like me faced with the prospect of writing large chunks of dialog!

So I'm hoping to keep up the pace and get two more pages written tomorrow. I think I was helped greatly by my pact partner who sent me three very short plays to read over for him. Plays are completely outside my area of expertise, but it was interesting reading them out and pinpointing their weaknesses and brilliant moments of clarity and comedy. I think it helped put me in a good headspace to write some serious dialog.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I've been slogging through some major self doubt. I'm not into the meat of my story yet, which will begin during Claire and MarLo's Halloween party, and so it's been nearly impossible for me to motivate myself to go through the necessary setup and development to get to the good stuff. But I do have some direction for the next leg of my journey owing to two weeks of hard thought on David's relationship with his mother and how his inability to emotionally connect with others must deeply injure her. I have a good friend who recently married and now has a 6-yr-old stepson who is not an affectionate little boy. He doesn't hug or snuggle or cuddle, and this makes it very hard for her to connect with him. I've been observing them closely and trying to get inside of Katharine's (David's mother's) head, and inside David's head when he contemplates her. It's ... tough. It's alien territory. I haven't been pushing myself at all, though, and I don't think this is a bad thing. The relationship that I'm contemplating, that I will be exploring in Chapter 3, is a delicate one, very fragile, the kind of relationship that if one party pushes too hard on the other, the whole superstructure collapses like a house of cards. So I've just been trying to be a quiet observer to see if I can get a feel for how the mother and son interact.

I am going to re-read my first two chapters and see if I can't get at least a very rough and horrible sketch of Chapter 3 done as I will have to polish it up on Friday night and Saturday in order to get it to my pact reader on Sunday night. And I won't be able to work on anything all week except for Wednesday. I'm going to the opera tomorrow night and Thursdays are always booked up with a political discussion group...at least until after the election, then I'm going to a once a month schedule which will be a huge relief. It will take the strain off of my budget and free up a huge chunk of time, and hopefully will help me stop smoking once and for all. I can go all week without a single cigarette but Thursday nights at the pub kill me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Baby Steps

Only a small bit of writing done today during my lunch break at work. It's almost unbearably rough, but it's something. I haven't made much of an attempt to write this week as I've been preoccupied with my plans for a new sewing project to keep me busy during the long winter (as if writing weren't enough to keep me busy!) But I can't abandon all of my regular pursuits just to write, write, write. That would be an awful and frustrating existence. I need something to blow off some steam. I have been reading some Henry James, and his internal dialog is very interesting and might inspire me to get back to writing on Chapter 3.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Well, though I've invited my first readers to read my first two chapters, so far the response has been...nonexistent. I'm quite discouraged by this and I realize now that I'd been counting on some positive feedback to keep me energized for this next chapter, which I have not yet begun (having wasted the entire weekend refreshing my memory on all things Jane Austen and enjoying Jon Jory's delightful stage adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice" at Louisville's Actor's Theatre). I am starting to realize that I have to be careful not to let external factors control my motivation to write. I have to write for the pure joy of it, even when it's a trial to sit and type. So I'm trying not to be too disappointed that my friends aren't fawning over how brilliant I am. I know that one friend who has been desperate to read my work had some difficulties with the Google Group sign in and that prevented her from accessing the chapters this weekend. She will try again on Tuesday. The others have busy lives and I shall excuse them for their lack of enthusiasm. I cannot, however, excuse myself of my lack of enthusiasm. Tomorrow I shall start afresh and try to sit and write no matter the cost in terms of time or energy. Perhaps I'll even take a pencil and paper to bed and write longhand as a sort of punishment for my sloth this weekend.

Also, I've order my own copies of Emotional Intelligence and Mind Wide Open. They are such useful references. I should also like to get a copy of Proust was a Neuroscientist, but I'll have to wait for my next pay cycle for that indulgence, I'm afraid.

Chapter 2 Quotes

"She attempts to throw a wet arm around my shoulder. She misses and punches me lightly in the ear instead. I study her through sleep-swollen eyes. She doesn’t look as if she’s had an amazing night. She looks almost as if she’d been waterboarded and enjoyed it. Her generous application of eyeliner and mascara stream down both cheeks, and her usually spiky hair is plastered to her forehead and neck in dripping tendrils. When I look into her eyes, there is no genuine mirth there. They are unfocused and filled with a dull horror."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Road Trip!

Oh, to have a laptop! Procuring a laptop will become a priority very soon. I've planned an excursion to Bloomington in two weeks and will need to be able to have my computing powers on board with me as I travel. I'm going to double book the weekend since I will just be walking the campus to get a feel for it anyway. The plan is to rent a car (which will pay for itself in gas savings alone) for the weekend and head up early on a Saturday, stroll the campus and take a lot of snapshots, sample the local fare and soak up some atmosphere. Then I'll head out of town to a camp site and spend Sunday doing a lovely autumnal hike before driving back home and dropping off my rental. The fall foliage should be at or near its peak then, so I'm hoping for a gorgeous drive, a balmy day to explore campus and a breathtaking hike.

I've also discovered BloomingPedia, a wiki dedicated to all things Bloomington. Very helpful.

I'm ridiculously nervous about hearing back from my Reach Readers. I'm almost positive that everyone I've invited will come on board, but I am unsure of the reception the written material will get. I'm afraid it's still a little dense and, well, boring. And I'm still not absolutely sure that I have the talent to pull off alternating first person POV. There are so many challenges involved. Sigh! I'm going to log off and meditate and perhaps that will help soothe me.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Chapter 2 Revisions & Reach Readers!

Completed a major edit of Chapter 2 last night. I can't believe how much it was improved by simply reordering some of the paragraphs and deleting some extraneous information. It's much more focused now and has a tighter, cleaner read.

This chapter took me by surprise. I had wanted to have Claire introduce us to her hopes for the future, but she never got around to it. Instead, the focus of the chapter became her concern for those around her. Chapter 2 is Claire's compassion (and a healthy dose of the history of The Deck and MarLo's academic career). And I guess it's a good thing that I have so much leftover material that didn't make it into this chapter, because I really hadn't put much thought into what I'm going to have Claire thinking and doing next. Her life is fairly dull for the time being, so I've tried to remedy the lull by having her focus on her friends and co-workers who have more active lives.

I'm excited to get started on David's chapter tonight because I have decided that his Mom will drop in for a visit. She's ostensibly working on a freelance science article and needs to interview one of the professors, but I suspect she really just misses her son. I have a lovely conversation between them planned that exposes the reader to David's emotional blindness. I wasn't
going to explain away his style of relating to the world, but I've come to see that it's necessary. And his mother is the perfect tool for me to use for this exposition.

But the most exciting thing is that I now have a completed pair of chapters to upload, which means (JOY) I can FINALLY invite my panel of first readers to the Google Group. It's taken much longer than I thought, but I'm not fussed about my writing pace. This is a marathon, not a sprint. As long as the quality is there in abundance, then I can take as long as I want to write the book...so long as I have it completed before I turn 30, because that's the goal! But there's no real danger of Project Reach stretch out for that long. I'm still working on some self-discipline issues, but I've made a pretty impressive commitment so far and I don't intend on relenting.

Reach Readers have OFFICIALLY been sent invitations now! I'm so excited, I'm sure I'll never get to sleep. Maybe I'll pick up some of the Henry James I recently bought at a library book sale.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I Don't Write Bones

More writing than blogging, for once. Part of the reason, I'm sure, is because I have had precious little creative output total in the past week and a half, so there is little to spare as pure slush that makes its way onto the blog.

But after having written through the pain of writing poorly last night in order to make my pact deadline, I am feeling spectacularly artistically unrestrained today. I've even started work on a poem, but may not follow through with it as it will distract me from the need to set down David's second chapter.

I picked up a copy of Writing Down the Bones at the library book sale, and I must say it is an absolutely dreadful writers reference. Not only is it severely out of date (having been written before computers were widely relied upon) but it is inane and self-indulgent to an annoying degree. Also, the advice outlined in its pages is completely contrary to how I choose to write. I prefer, since I am not a 'professional' writer and have severe time limitations on my writing sessions, that I not waste energy with unneeded words that will later be edited out. My method of fully imagining a scene before I set down to write it saves me many wasted hours at the keyboard. I can imagine anywhere, anytime. I can even imagine while still functioning in the world. I can imagine at work or on the road. And so I do. In this way, when I do get a chance to sit down to the keyboard, the bulk of the prose is already written in my mind and all I need do is type it out and edit as I go.

I am informed by an Entertainment Weekly article that Nicholas Sparks writes 2,000 words in a day. I average just over that in two weeks. Part of me wants to believe what the world is telling me through articles like this and books like Writing Down the Bones, that I'm doing it all wrong. The rest of me wants to put aside self-doubt and believe what I know: that there is no wrong way.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Media Fast?

I didn't even sit down to write until midnight tonight. This very bad. I may have to kill my TV again.

In the past, I have found it periodically necessary to go on a media fast. No computer (except at my day job), no TV, no radio, no cell phone, no Nintendo DS. Sometimes I will extend the fast to include printed media. I doubt I'll be doing that any time soon, but I will have to keep a sharper eye on how much time I spend watching television instead of researching or writing. I shall have to force myself to sit down and write instead of tweaking my fantasy football roster or trolling for flair on Facebook (two of my favorite time sinks).

And now I'm blogging instead of writing, so I shall have to cut this short and get cracking on Claire's chapter, which is coming along nicely after last night's revisions.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chapter 2 Status Update

Have all the thrilling and exciting discoveries about my characters and story already been made? I'm starting to wonder if the fun part is over and from here on out it's just going to be hard work. I've had a difficult time getting motivated to do any real work on Claire's chapter, but tonight I've thrown out old ideas, made some major revisions, and am pumping up the internal dialog. It's actually really good stuff that needs to be there. I need to show Claire being preternaturally perceptive of the physical and emotional states of those around her. I had a small flash of inspiration the other day and decided to have MarLo and Decker have an intermittent fling. It's not an on-again-off-again relationship, it's strictly casual physicality. I haven't nailed down how old Decker is, yet, but he's definitely MarLo's senior by a decade at least. Claire, of course, has no idea that this is happening, but it has given me the opportunity to leave MarLo at home with a hangover so Claire can worry about her AND I get to have Decker all hung over trying to come in to work so Claire can show us how she takes charge of the Deli right off the bat. And since she's got her fateful catering gig on the same day, we'll learn how well she handles stress when she's really under the gun.

I should pack it in and go to sleep right about now, but I hate to stop writing when I've got some momentum built up. Just a few hundred more words and a couple of hours worth of revisions and I'll have Claire's chapter finished!!! THEN I can finally invite my first readers to partake. (Not to mention the fact that I have a pact deadline this Monday.)

Monday, September 29, 2008


No new character insights to share. I've been writing quite a bit, but none of it will be salvageable. I'm currently facing the challenge of stretching my first Claire chapter. I've found a great stopping point, but it happens to occur a mere 1500 words into her narrative. Not good. Must flesh out some things and give her internal dialog a richer hue. I've been working on this all week. I'm getting impatient to move on to David's next chapters as I've determined that his mother has come to visit him and will introduce him to her suspicion that he has difficulty relating emotionally to the rest of the world. This will be dialog intensive, which will be a bit of a workout for me, but the research I've put into the exchange is fascinating stuff. I can't wait to have the debate out on the page. But I have to inject Claire's debut with some sort of hook first. Her chapter is dull. I can't keep enough interest in it to continue writing, even! Bad sign.

Oh, I've devised a romantic entanglement for MarLo that should prove interesting.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fast and Loose

I got a few paragraphs written last night and a lot more reading done in Mind Wide Open. I forced myself to write rough and it wasn't pretty. It drives me nuts to just slop down a sentence just to get from point a to point b. But, by all authorities, that's the way to do it. I know they're called rough drafts for a reason, but I'm not a drafting sort of writer. I prefer to edit on the fly as I'm writing. That way when the re-read when I'm ready to do revisions won't be so painful.

I shall have to read some Henry James. Evidently, he wrote extensively on nonverbal communication and the cognitive realities behind the significance of one look.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Huzzah! A little celebratory blog post. I just got comments back from my pact reader. He offered some criticism of my pacing (I expected this) and made all the right suggestions. He doesn't know it yet, but I am totally setting him up for a big jolt.

He went exactly where I wanted him to go with David. In the first chapter I scoop the child David up and dump him in college in a few short paragraphs. My pact reader was all WTF? and suggested I develop his transition into college and expound on the social and emotional pressures on David. PERFECT! This is exactly the view of David that I was hoping him to have. The aspects of his experience that David chooses to remember tell us so much more about his personality than having him live through those experiences in the narrative. They're extraneous to Claire's story anyway, so I give them a good glossing over. Also, David is, understandably, a little lost in subsequent chapters. If the reader is lost, too, then they're right there on the journey with David. I have created a sympathy between the character and reader.

And nearly every point that my pact reader comments on is asking for insight into what David is feeling. I nearly broke out singing for joy that I have successfully sanitized David's narrative of all feeling, because that is really, really hard for me to do. Basically, all of my character interactions take place inside someone's head, feeling from within, and it's a treat to have the challenge of writing a character who simply doesn't feel. So, good for me.

And there was one comment that wasn't made that I'm really happy about. There was no mention of the inflated (dare I say academic) voice of David. This is good as it means that my reader either, a) noticed the wordiness but it wasn't annoying enough to detract from the scene, or b) didn't notice it at all. Either way is fine with me so long as it's not going to turn people off.

I have made a few minor revisions that are crucial and that I just didn't catch, so I'm going to have a write a big thank you e-mail to my pact reader tonight.

One more thing, and this is the most important: my reader can't wait for more.

So I declare chapter one to be a success.

Storing up the Sunshine

I bought a new notebook and some mechanical pencils today. I don't necessarily like mechanical pencils but I realize that they writing I do with them is more legible. If I'm in a real fury, I dull my Mirado Black Warrior almost immediately, and then have to result to the fat, loopy scrawl that accommodates the heavy line of a dull point. Mechanical pencils keep their sharp, fine point no matter how I abuse them. But I had to find the kind that click on the barrel. My pens all have to click at the top and my pencils all have to click on the barrel. I don't know why, but I like it that way.

And I got some contact lenses. I feel more writerly when I'm wearing my chunky, burgundy plastic frames, but they just don't do for some events and activities. So now I have options.

Right now I'm going to exercise the option to go lay in my front yard in the sunshine and read some more in my latest research title: Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life by Steven Johnson ("Emerging Technology" columnist for Discover magazine). So far, I'm as enthralled with it as I was with Emotional Intelligence.

To quote myself, I shall now go out and begin "laying away stores of sun-warmed hours
for the long months of short days". This is my last day off in my summer work schedule and I will now go back to my usual 40-hrs/wk. This mean that I get to sleep in for a whole hour longer, but I'm going to make a concerted effort to get up early anyway and put in a solid hour of writing every morning (or at least on some mornings) before heading out to work. It's sad but the sun will be down when I get off of work from now on. Really bums me out.

Chapter 2 Progress Report

I feel like I should have MUCH more written with the amount of work I've been putting into Project Reach. But then I have to remind myself that I'm learning an entirely new field (and an abstract one at that) and that the acquisition of knowledge takes time. AND that I had to get to know Claire and David before I could distinguish their voices from my own prose. Not an
easy task.

The second chapter is stalled for the moment due to lack of insight on my part. I've been having a bit of a struggle allowing Claire to find her voice. What I do have written of Claire's chapter is nice and tight. It's great not having to deal with a lot of back story and introducing a character by sharing her hopes and fears instead of where she's been. Finding a way to tell David's back story without the entire chapter turning into a useless information dump was the biggest challenge I had in writing chapter one. The problem I'm having with chapter two is that Claire's life is rather dull. She's at work, thinking about her life...and it's dull. And I can't reveal any of the most interesting things about Claire, yet. I know something will occur to me that will solve the problem, but as yet I'm at a loss. MarLo would be a good ingredient, but I currently have her retching over a toilet bowl after a night out, so she's out of the picture for this chapter. (Poor MarLo. I hate to do that to her, but I needed to show Claire as a caregiver and give her an opportunity to worry through her darkest fears as soon as she's introduced to us.)

So, to avoid stalling out completely, I'm skipping ahead and am filling in some of the interactions between MarLo and Claire and writing a bit of MarLo's back story. It's interesting that Claire never thinks about where she came from, but she spends a lot of mental energy dissecting MarLo's history and her relationship with her father. And she spends a LOT of time speculating on who David is.

I might even start in on the pivotal Halloween party scene. I've had it running in my head for a few days now and I might as well record what I've imagined before it either gets lost or morphs into something different entirely. I am having trouble deciding what MarLo, Claire and David should be for Halloween, though. Hannah Montana 10 years from now, hooked on Meth for MarLo? David could be George Jetson, perhaps. Or maybe a scientist from the LHC. Claire might just have to be Eleanor Dashwood.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Accomodating Characters

I've spent the day doing some re-writes in Claire's still unfinished chapter. I was hoping to get it finished, but I was too distracted watching Lost in Austen, an amazing miniseries out of the UK in which a thoroughly modern young woman switches places with Elizabeth Bennet...hilarity and heartbreak ensue. Of course, I'm a sucker for all things Austen, so I'm a bit pre-disposed to liking this sort of thing. But I really think the script is incredible. The question, though, is does this count as research for Project Reach? I say yes, though it probably shouldn't.

But to bolster my rather thin claim that I didn't waste the entire day, I have located this fine, scholarly article: Why Jane Austen was Different, and Why We May Need Cognitive Science to See It

My good friend Carly, on whom MarLo is loosely based, turned me on to Lost in Austen when I went to visit her on Saturday. I happened to make an interesting observation about the behavior of a mutual friend and Carly remarked that she loved how I worded it. I said, "I don't know why you're surprised at my command of the English language. I'm a writer now, you know." That was worth a laugh.


I'm a little mad at myself for not completing Claire's chapter this weekend as the few people I've informed are on the short list to be first readers are chomping at the bit to get at the fruits of my labor. I've always had a reputation for being very literary, but I've never had to produce any proof of being so. It's always just been accepted. I'm starting to get a little worried at the reception my characters and story will get when I finally unleash them on the panel (who I have affectionately dubbed the Reach Readers). Re-reading what I've written so far, there's a real danger of the prose being over-styled. I know that a lot of editors would frown on this. It may even be grounds for a rejection. Gasp. But I'm still hopeful that it won't be a turnoff to the casual reader because (and this just smacks of vanity, but I'm going to say it anyway) I'm a master of flow. I have been primarily a poet, after all, and so my sentences are very fluid and natural. They have a certain pace that makes them sound attractive no matter how over-stuffed they may become. Stupid simile time: My sentences are like big, squashy chairs. If you have a really, really overstuffed chair that is upholstered in hard leather, it won't be comfortable to sit in because the leather won't give enough and you'll feel as if you're constantly being propelled out of the seat, and because, well, after awhile you get all sweaty sitting on leather and you start sticking in odd places. But if that same chair were upholstered in stretchy velvet, then you'll sink right into it and remain comfortable for hours. (I warned you it was stupid!)

Luckily, I've designed a character who is a genius and whose vocabulary should reflect his immense IQ, so I'm hoping this will allow me to get away with my propensity for egregious use of bloated metaphors. I may have created characters who accommodate my writing style without having consciously done so. Just one example: my character are unusually taciturn, and I suck at writing dialog. Yay me.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Science and Psi

My trip to the library was very disappointing. I have no new research materials of note, but am waiting on a few things I've ordered to arrive. I should not go to the library when I'm utterly famished, though, because then all I want to do is get out of there and get some food and a coffee.

After I got home, I was reading a rather unflattering review of Dennis Lehane's new book (his first literary attempt) and my thoughts turned to the problem of keeping the science and psi in Project Reach from overwhelming the story. It's tricky. I'll be relying on my first readers pretty heavily to let me know if the science and psi get too overwhelming. I'm fairly good at not letting forcing my characters to stand around and expound on weighty matters. I only worry that I don't write enough dialog into the manuscript. I hate dialog. And I'm not good at writing it. So I just leave it out, which is easier when writing from the first person because internal dialog is sometimes enough to keep reader interest. But your characters can't know everything. Eventually, they have to be told something and then they have to react to that new piece of information.

I think it's rather funny that my two main characters don't have an actual conversation until about chapter 6. By this time, they know each other, they've studied each other's habits, and they have a level of acquaintanceship that brings them into each other's company every day...but they've never spoken to each other. And their first conversation, as I have planned it, is mostly carried out by MarLo speaking for each of them in turn. It's a really comical scene (in my head, at least, who knows how funny it'll be when it gets written?).


I've just submitted my first chapter to a writer friend with whom I've made a pact to adhere to biweekly deadlines. This will be the first external feedback I get. I'm not nervous. I'm rather expecting him to like it, as I know his literary preferences fairly well. But I am anxious to know what areas he finds need the most development and what his initial reaction to David is going to be.


I've also been pondering the problem of Project Reach's identity. It can't stay a project forever. Eventually, I'm going to have to start calling it what it is: a novel. And novels need titles. I'm not too concerned with choosing a title. I assume that the title will eventually choose me. Something that keeps asserting itself in the narrative will eventually just jump out at me and that will be it, the title...or at least the basis of the title. Lux et Veritas, actually has jumped out at me. It's just a little detail on a building that David notices when he visits Yale. It translates from the Latin to "Light and Truth". It's on the Yale Shield and, incidentally, also featured on the Indiana University seal. Light and truth will certainly be major themes in the arch of the story, but I don't want a Latin title. It smacks of 'trying too hard' and pretentiousness. I will keep my title options open for the moment.


I have just explained to a friend of mine why I couldn't get any real writing done yesterday and how useful I am finding my newly acquired knowledge of cognitive and neurological sciences:

I was under an unusual amount of stress at work dealing with a new account and later on I got really pissed off at my oral surgeon's office because I had to wait for a long time. This usually wouldn't phase me a bit as I'm a patient person, and I found it odd that I was feeling so angry at such a stupid (and expected) thing. But then I was like, huh, I must have had a stress-induced surge of catecholamine and cortisol leading to a state of adrenocortical arousal which makes me more prone to get tipped off by stupid things like being forced to watch Ryder Cup coverage while waiting to see my dentist.

Once I identified the neurological processes at work, I was able to better control my mood. And THAT is called metacognition, a concept which is given a brief treatment in the very first chapter of Project Reach.
Unfortunately, my anger and feeling of utter frustration lasted until bedtime and prevented me from getting any writing done last night. Alas, I am a slave to my amygdala.


I had an awful Friday at my day job dealing with a new account, and then getting back late from my lunch break due to an emergency dental visit. Then I took a night off to relax with a girlfriend and soak in her new hot tub, paint toenails and watch a chick flick. But after all that, I'm still in an aggressive, frustrated mood from the bad day at work. I could use this to inform Claire's frustration in her life, but I'm not. I'm going to take some research reading to bed and maybe try meditating. I think I might try going for another run this weekend. Probably on Sunday, as my Saturday will be spent at the library and doing laundry. Not even blogging feels therapeutic tonight.

"Stress of all sorts creates adrenocortical arousal, lowering the threshold for what provokes anger. Thus someone who has had a hard day at work is especially vulnerable to becoming enraged later at home by something that under other circumstances would not be powerful enough to trigger an emotional hijacking. "
From Emotional Intelligence

Damn you amygdala-driven surges of catecholamines!

Friday, September 19, 2008


I love that Louisville hosts IdeaFestival! I have just discovered and consequently formed a bit of a crush on Jonah Lehrer who recently published Proust was a Neuroscientist which I am just now ordering and will read as soon as it arrives at my door. I'm considering taking a vacation day next Friday, driving my giant red truck into town and sitting in on the hour-long $15 discussion Lehrer is giving at the Intl Convention Center. I'll have to think it over. On the one hand, what would be the concrete benefits for me to take an entire day off for a single hour of talk, the entire contents of which I can likely glean from published interviews in a few hours of diligent web research? (Lehrer seems to recycle answers to some common questions, I have already noticed - as do we all.) On the other hand, I freaking LOVE IdeaFest and this is the only session on the agenda that's struck me as a must-attend this year. I'll have to weigh the pros and cons, and see if I can get Friday off at such short notice, of course.

If nothing else, I have gained an awareness of another talented author/scientist to place in my little Pantheon alongside Karl Iagnemma. And there's his The Frontal Cortex blog, to which I have now subscribed and will follow with keen interest.

New Claire Soliloquy

I wrote a gorgeous passage last night lying in bed with my trusty Mirado Black Warrior and notebook. I didn't want to waste time firing up the desktop, fearful of losing the immediacy of the words. I now have two critical Claire soliloquies written that I'll fit in when they're needed. This latest inspiration revolves around Niagara Falls and it came upon me that this location will play a pretty important part in book 3 if I ever get that far. What I wrote last night is a bit of dialog wherein Claire tries to explain how her talent works and how it doesn't. How it doesn't work is how the current research being done in the field of remote viewing describes the process. It's completely contrary to all that, in fact, which is great for me because it frees me up from having to have a rigid procedure and using existing terminology. I get to create my own descriptions of it from scratch. Awesome! Or daunting since I also get to create all my own experiments for David to conduct...and I'm not on David's level of genius by far. And I'm not a scientist. So that's the hard part.

The easy part will be when I get to the point of describing what Claire can do that no one else can, it's going to be so much fun to write. I'm really going to get to stretch out and light up the page. But I'm not there yet, and I have to be extra careful to strip Claire's day-to-day activities to their bare, ordinary essentials with a minimum of color so as to make her extraordinary passages really pop and stand out from the rest of her life. That will take a lot of restraint for me. I'm worried about readers getting bored with Claire's life in the first oh, say, six chapters. Claire isn't all that interesting outside of her talent and her penchant for being a little dreamy and prosy. If I take out the dreaminess and prosy-ness to highlight her talent when it comes into play several chapters in, then won't those introductory chapters get dull? Maybe I'll force David to take the brunt of keeping reader interest. All of his interesting dilemmas manifest early on anyway, then he sort of drops away into his studies and doesn't reassert himself until...book 2, I guess.

One difficulty I'm struggling with is that David being a serious academic in the field of Cognitive Sciences and then going all rogue and delving into psi (however rigidly scientific his interest may be) is going to piss off a lot of cognitive scientists! I brought the subject up to my research partner and he thinks it's touchy. Cog Sci doesn't want to be associated with parapsychology as it's a young science and is still struggle for acceptance and funding and all that. So I'll have to tread lightly when David 'goes there'. Fortunately, it makes sense that his interest is piqued by Claire's talent, so I won't have to go to any extremes to justify it. One of my biggest fears, though, is getting the science all wrong. That would, undeniably, suck! I don't want a real scientist to doubt David's authenticity.

I might have to read some Jung for research. And Karl Iagnemma's new book. My list of research titles keeps growing!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chapter Two Quotes

"After weeks of summer drought, the rain sounds alien to me, but welcomed. It puts me in mind of a tender reunion between lovers, as if the sky were bending to kiss the parched earth in apology for staying away too long."

Lean chapters

Hmmm...every time I doubt that there's enough material in my outline to pad out an entire chapter, something wonderful happens in the actual writing that takes my breath away. Details materialize, delicious interactions assert themselves...there is always so much for the characters to say and do that I should only worry about there being too little space to fit it all in! Of course, then I put on my editing hat and it all has to go! I'm left with a lean 2,500 words.

Back to work!

Drunk on Power

Me plus Spiced Chai, plus ELECTRICITY equals a happy writer.

I am so thrilled to have electricity again. I am positively drunk on power. I've got several lights on, unnecessarily, and many appliances whirring away in the background just because I can! The remnants of Hurricane Ike swept through Indiana on Sunday causing a massive wind storm (or, as I like to call it, the Great Bradford Pear Massacre of 2008) that damaged every house and yard in my little town and wreaked havoc on the power grid. My weekend of 'writing and recuperation' was spoiled. All was not lost, though, as I did get a fair bit of research done. No writing, though. I couldn't bear to do it the old fashioned way with a pencil and a notebook. It's a good thing that Claire has a mild personality and hasn't been insisting on being written or it might have been a very frustrating week. I will have to get a lot of work done in the coming days, though, as I have a pact deadline looming on Sunday. So it's double-time for me! No time for blogging. Must write. (And tweak my Fantasy Football lineup.)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Claire's Chapter begun

I was right about Claire's chapters coming along a bit easier than David's. Her voice is much more natural to me. I got a bit of work on done on her chapter today. It's still unbearably rough, but it's conceivable that I can finish it up tomorrow. There are some larger issues with pacing that I will have to address eventually, but they aren't critical at this point.

I'm all drugged up for the time being and am going to go pop in Dopamine to research.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Chapter One put to bed

I have a lot of nervous energy today about my oral surgery tomorrow. I'm hoping to be able to put this to good use and get some writing done (maybe on Claire's second chapter as I can see how a skittish tone would be perfect) but I attend a political discussion group every Thursday, so that cuts down on my writing time. I didn't get much more than some revisions on David's running transition done last night. I am still unsure if the transition works or not. I'm going to leave it up to my first readers to tell me if it throws them too much or not.

But the first draft of chapter 1 is officially put to bed!!! (Does small happy dance) It's a start.

My little world population is growing, too. The Decade a Day owner is suddenly a much larger presence than I had anticipated. He's very hands on and feels himself to be very lucky to have Claire on staff (and don't we all want to be appreciated by our bosses ;). He trusts her implicitly and may suffer an illness and leave Claire in charge for a bit, which will give her a chance to show us how she shines under pressure. I believe his name will be Mr. Decker, adding further credence to the nickname The Deck.


My niece, who is 11 and in 6th grade, has a school friend whose mother recently died, so my niece decided to write her a poem. And she didn't stop there. Her teacher shared a story about her husband dying to help the kids understand their grieving classmate, so my niece wrote her teacher a poem, too. She shared these poems with me last night. I have a reputation in the family for being very literary. I thought, this is just the sort of thing a young Claire might have done. I realize that Claire may share a lot of traits with my niece. Perhaps I even based her personality off of my niece to some extent. It's even possible that Claire is an imagining of my niece as an adult. But not really. Claire is Claire.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Chapter 1 Quotes

"The inside of my head was awash. It felt as if someone had dropped a stone directly onto my corpus callosum, sending ripples radiating outward to collide with my skull with an almost audible throb."

Chapter One Quotes

"I find that physical exertion sometimes allows me to escape my intellect, as if I could outrun the nebulae of thoughts that pollute my cerebellum."

First Readers Forum

I'm getting awfully close to sending out invitations to first readers. I think I would like to have five members of the panel. It seems like a lot of input, but then there will be a built in cushion if someone joins the panel and then later decides they aren't up for the time commitment. I thought about adding a sixth member to allow for an even number of men and women, but sometimes I place too much emphasis on symmetry. I'm very fortunate to have friends with diverse interests and distinct personalities. And they all belong to the right age demographic. Big smiles. I already have my 'dream team' in mind, but we'll see who accepts the invitation. A couple of my dream teamers are in grad school right now and might not have the time to nitpick my prose.

My Reach Readers will operate off of a closed Google Forum and will have exclusive access to a chapter by chapter Google Notebook containing key research data in case they feel the need to fact check me. (Seriously, the folks at Google Labs are geniuses. They make my life SO easy!) The panel will be able to post forum topics to discuss the work with myself and with each other. If they do not wish to have their comments made public, they may e-mail them to me. They will also have the option of downloading each chapter, notating and making corrections with the "Track Changes" function in Microsoft Word, and then uploading their revisions to the Forum. I will then retrieve these revised documents for review.

I will be sending first reader invitations in the near future (which I've been saying for the past few weeks, but this time I mean it.) By the time I've received responses and granted access to the forum, I will have Claire's chapter finished. I was right about her chapters being easier to write than David's, at least so far.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Q and A

Q: Do you want to come over and watch the Colts game?
A: Nope, gotta stay home and write.

Q: Do you wanna go get some coffee after work?
A: Nope, gotta go straight home and write.

Q: Did you see the season premier of such-and-such show?
A: Nope, I was writing.

Q: Can you come over and help me with...
A: Nope, gotta write.

Momentum vs. Burn Out - a delicate balance. How to keep up the momentum without risking Burn Out...this question has weighed on me very heavily lately.

I'm trying not to alienate my friends by dropping off the face of the planet, but I've got a good start on Project Reach, I just need to follow through, get a little work done every day, and keep inching towards the goal. I try to put in two solid hours of research and writing every night, but it's difficult. It's almost like having a second job! I think it'll be easier to manage once I've gotten a laptop, but until then I have to try to remember not to hole myself up at my desk for too long lest I stagnate and run up against a block. Part of my strategy for avoiding the dreaded tandem of writer's block and burn out is this blog. Whenever I'm frustrated, I air my head out a bit right here instead of junking up the manuscript with observations that will end up being edited out in the end. I do worry about putting too much energy into blogging and not enough in writing, but that balance will eventually shift, I'm sure, when I've cleared more of the research phase.

Speaking of research, I'm a little mad at myself for not having read more of my research titles. But I have to remind myself that this is a marathon, not a sprint. I can't absorb everything all at once, and I just have to be patient. If I learn something that informs or negates a passage I've already written, it's never too late to go back and make changes! I have months and months ahead of me to dedicate to reaching my research goals. I have added some fiction titles to the mix, though, to help lighten the mental tax that research papers and textbooks have placed on my brain. "Stranger than Fiction" and "A Beautiful Mind" are on the list. I doubt I'll finish reading the Raymond Chandler book I started. It's served it's purpose for the time being, and I need to move on to something more illuminating.

I'm considering - since I'm switching my operating system to Ubuntu next month, anyway - making the leap from Microsoft Word to Open Office. I am comfortable with Word. I know it's capabilities and it's weaknesses. Learning a new software program might set me back for a few days, but it might be worth it in the end to have the ability to update my thesaurus and have a more dependable word processor. Word has been shafting me with auto-save fails that crash the program lately, and I would have to have to lose a hard-won paragraph because of a software error. I would be very, very unhappy if such a thing were to occur.

My sister told my mother I was writing a novel. She said, "Good. I hope you sell it and make lots of money." I do, too, but I think she's missing the most important point.

A friend of mine who follows the blog observed that:
Claire + David = Will Hunting

Haha! He's right!

Progress at long last

Well, I've gotten three workable paragraphs in at the end of David's chapter. They'll need heavy revision, but they're lightyears better than what I'd had in place as of last night. The real reason I'm reporting in at 3am, though, is that I have begun Claire's chapter. It's not the street scene that I'd envisioned. I'm going to put that off until the next pairing of chapters. First I'm going to allow David to air his academic woes and perhaps have his mother come up for a visit to fill a few pages and give us an outside perspective on David's peculiarities (as only a mother can) since we won't have the benefit of having Claire's view of him until later. That should be good. I had been pondering where to fit her in anyway.

Now I've just got to fill up Claire's opening chapter with some an interaction with MarLo that I dreamed up on my lunch break today. I might steal some dialog that I've outlined for a later scene that I'd meant for David to witness, but it's not crucial, so I might use it up front to establish Claire and MarLo's relationship.

This is all feeling an awful lot like work. And I'm starting to really suffer from the sleep deprivation at my real day job. If I thought I were doing this all for vanity's sake, I don't think I'd deem it worth all the mental energy! If I were "writing solely for my own entertainment" like a lot of authors claim, I wouldn't even consider continuing. My entertainment is just not that high up on my list of priorities. But then again, that's the lack of sleep talking.

Also, the first person narrative choice is working out well. I know that it's absolutely vital to later aspects of Claire's experience, which is why I chose it in the first place, but it's turned out to have several other advantages, too. I'm starting to doubt my decision less, though I still have to evaluate how to differentiate the individual voices of Claire and David. Yesterday's revisions went a long way toward cementing David's voice, though I don't know how an outside reader will react to it, yet. It might be misinterpreted as style on my part. I guess I'll find out when I have my panel of first readers to consult on such sticky issues.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Chapter 1 revisions

Sigh, I undertook another major revision last night instead of putting the chapter (and myself) to bed and giving Claire her say. I realized that I had stupidly stopped the narrative to go off on a tangential description of a completely insignificant character. So I cut all of that except for a few nicely worded images that I managed to sneak into later sentences (that, naturally, are meant to tell us more about David's powers of observation than to illuminate a disposable character). I've also broken the "never name a background character" rule...twice. But people have names. You won't remember them. But they have names all the same. So now the pace of the first chapter is much improved. I'm glad I caught those little gaffes, but wished there were more time last night to write because I just couldn't seem to get anything accomplished on the last few paragraphs. Wording is essential here, and by the time I'd gotten around to working on them, my mind was muddled with exhaustion.

I know I can manage the transition in just a few short sentences, but those sentences have to be tightly-worded and still read weightlessly. (That makes sense to me, I swear!) There's a lot of pressure on those few sentences to be perfect. They're critical.

Sigh. I wish that transition were already written. Claire wants to talk now. I can feel her voice getting clearer in my head. I'm going to spend my lunch break capturing at least a snapshot of her first chapter, then I'll plug away at David's transition later.

I'm also attempting to gather contact information for former military remote viewers to see if I can set up a phone interview with someone. I might just have to settle for reading their books. Sigh. The ones I've sampled so far are awful writers!

Oh, and a salient point: Claire thinks she's way more messed up that she actually is. She doesn't recognize her good qualities. David, on the other hand, never even guesses at how dysfunctional he is because academia tends to reward his particular brand of dysfunction. I have a feeling this may be key.

Oh, and I've re-envisioned the No Name Cafe. It will now be the Decade a Day Cafe (known locally as The Deck). They play a compilation of music from a specific decade every day. It's a casual theme. There are no costumes or elaborate decor. It's just the music. The owner had a vision of "educating" his young student patrons by exposing them to music they may never have heard. Claire likes to call out pop quizzes to diners: "Free coffee to whoever can name this band!"

Entertainment as Research

I have decided that renting Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls is considered research. Evidently, the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale is featured in a chase scene!

Other movies I've watched recently for "research" purposes:
Breaking Away
Stranger than Fiction
Jane Eyre

Next up:
A Beautiful Mind
The Cell
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The Long Kiss Goodnight
Minority Report

The Cognitive Sciences Movie List might just be my new favorite resource!

**=really excited about this title as it seems fairly pertinent to what I'm trying to accomplish.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Subtlety just smacked me upside the head!

I want to make David into the kind of character you fall in love with because you want to fix him, to teach him how to feel, like Stephen Maturin in O'Brian's sweeping naval chronicles who is equal parts brilliance and dysfunction. Or rather David IS that kind of character, but I'm hoping to have the skill to write him as such. I don't know if I'm up to the task, though. There's a level of subtlety required that I'm not sure I possess.

Case in point: Most of what I wrote yesterday will be cut out of the manuscript immediately. I went on a run with David, and it's too much. It'll have to go. I had detailed the entirety of his daily route through campus. He pretty much took us on a tour, and THEN he went home and ate breakfast. UGH. It was awful! WHO CARES what David eats for breakfast?! (Actually, it's rather funny, and I will add it back in to the story if David starts taking himself too seriously and we all just need to laugh at him and shake our heads.) I realize that it's vital for ME to know all of these minute details about David, but it's completely useless to the narrative at this point, and really just an excuse for me to indulge in a glut of description. I had a DUH moment today and realized that I have an ENTIRE NOVEL to showcase my descriptive chops, so I shouldn't be in too much a hurry to exhaust my options.

That being said, the gods of subtlety and ambiguity must have smiled on me today, because an alternate close to chapter 1 occurred to me, and I think it will be far superior. I will just let David have his run...without stalking him every stop of the way. David needs his space, and I have learned to respect that need. He doesn't have to explain to me (or a reader) what he wants out of life, or where he's going, or how he ended up where he is. I will not force David to ponder the mysteries of his being as he runs. One thing I learned from my research run yesterday is that outside of the simple act of keeping my feet moving and my arms pumping and my lungs from exploding, which is all more or less automatic, I wasn't thinking anything. I was just running. It's a completely different animal than taking a walk. I didn't know that before. But now I do. (Yay for me and my hair-brained research ideas paying off!) So I will let David run. I will let him be free from thinking for a few moments of his day. It's a little like the "No games. Just sports" Nike ad in the movie What Women Want.

And part of this new approach to the end of chapter 1 is to test out how vague I can be without it being off-putting. I want to see if it's too confusing to an outside reader to leave David's present situation in the realm of possibility for a few pages. So I'm going to transition to Claire's chapter before revealing that we're now in Bloomington, and then lead the reader to infer that David is there with us. But I won't delve into David's academic status until a later chapter, perhaps before he runs into Claire on the street in the second/third chapter.

And I have only just realized that I haven't given a physical description of David. I myself don't even have a concrete vision of him yet. He has been so young and so changeable up until this point that it wouldn't make sense to waste energy describing the child David and then have to repeat the effort to envision the man David. His dominant feature is simply his youth. And of course he's an avid runner, so he has a runner's lean body, but that pretty much goes without saying. I think I'll just leave David's physical appearance up to interpretation, at least until Claire has a reason to take notice.

I've also determined that I've either inadvertently or instinctively chosen a good starting place for the story. We'll all have a chance to settle into the science and settings without jumping too quickly into any major conflict, but will some small relationship tension be enough to keep us occupied until we get to the conflict? I don't know yet. This is all very hard.

My writer's pact, I've decided, will give me a week to write a paragraph and then a week to tweak it. I'm hoping I can push myself to just get it all out in a week. That would be awesome. But then again, I'm worried about rushing myself.

Writer's Pact

I did actually go on a run today. It sucked only slightly less than I expected it to. I nearly passed out twice, but it would have been somewhat enjoyable had my lungs not threatened to explode. I can almost see why some people like running so much, but not quite. Perhaps if my body were up to the task, I wouldn't view it as such a negative experience!

Today I made a pact with a writer friend of mine to keep a to a cycle of two week deadlines. He will submit 7-10 pages to me for critique and I, in turn, will submit a rough chapter to him. Hehe, I don't think he knows what he's gotten himself into, because I am a cruel editor. But then again, I've read his work before and he's not a bad writer, some minor style issues, perhaps, and there are always some things that need more development, so perhaps he won't have to have the nightmares about red ink that our mutual friend reported having after he'd allowed me to edit one of his works! Two weeks seams like a really, really short span of time, though! I'm going to try not to stress out about the deadlines and rush my writing, but I'm doubting my ability to keep up the output. This is probably a really positive pressure, though, so I'm going to give it my all! I would absolutely HATE to put all of this thought into Project Reach and then get lazy this winter and let it get stale to the point that I get bored with it and abandon the project altogether.

I would feel like I were letting Claire and David down if I didn't finish this tale. They deserve to have their stories told! Okay, so it's really Claire's story. I've determined that much. David doesn't have much of a story to tell beyond his interactions with Claire. So he will be helping me tell Claire's story from an outside, scientific perspective. His own story will be minor and will pretty much only serve to illuminate Claire's personality as she is the catalyst for all of David's growth as a character.

Another major development. I've finally nailed down my chronology!!! I'm essentially working within the confines of having a novel told in one semester, at this point. I will almost certainly extend the story to cover a second semester, but this story deserves it's own arch. There will be new characters and larger conflicts and the reader there will be additional requirements on the reader. The first book of Project Reach will have a lot of latitude in regards to reader skepticism. The second book will require some suspense of disbelief. The third (yep) will require a total suspension of disbelief. IF I write it correctly, that is. Now, I have no idea what kind of word counts I'll be dealing with, here, as I haven't been in the trenches writing the story for long enough to judge how many words will be required. These 'books' could be large enough to stand on their own, or they could be internal books in a larger volume. There's no way for me to know, yet. But the book 1 chronology is secured at long last. I knew it would come if I didn't force it, and I'm quite pleased with the layout as it stands. It seems natural, but stays compact.

I'm still tweaking the end of David's chapter, though. NFL Week 1 turned out to be too much of a distraction to get much writing done. But perhaps I'll sacrifice a few hours of sleep and stay up to finish.