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[travel|food] Having fun in Newark, CA

Last night’s open dinner at the Bombay Garden here in Newark, CA, was fun. We had about a dozen people show up. LiveJournal is down as I draft this post, so I can’t check LJ to namecheck everybody by their Official Internet Handles, but there was good spread of folks from dear old friends to brand new acquaintances. Author Juliette Wade brought her kids, who at about 9 and 7 reminded me a great deal of me and my sister at their age. Editor Gabrielle Harbowy was there, with Mr. G.H. and her assistant F—. K—, T— M— and her husband, Springtime Creations and Mr. S.C., as well as Dave a/k/a Dad. (I hope to Ghu I didn’t leave anybody off…)

Food at the Bombay Garden was pretty good, the service could kindly be described as eccentric, but that didn’t matter. It was a good bunch of people, and we hung out in the restaurant for about 2.5 hours.

Walked for an hour this morning, now gearing up for a day of Day Jobbery. Flying home tonight. With luck, I’ll finish the current section of Their Currents Turn Awry on the plane.

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[personal|cool] Mysterious lights were seen in the sky, flashing

Yesterday was by design a pretty slow day. [info]the_child was heading off for snowboarding at Mt. Hood, and I had planned only two things. One, to spend some time working on Their Currents Turn Awry; and two, to spend some time visiting [info]lizzyshannon, who continues in the throes of post-operative recovery. After an almost too-solid night’s sleep, I made it so.

Plus as a bonus round, between writing time and Lizzy time, I threw in a quick trip to Powell’s Books. I wanted to pick up a birthday gift for [info]tillyjane (a/k/a my mom), and [info]the_child had asked me to score some Brent Weeks books for her. I signed stock while I was there, picked up a copy of the first volume of the A Game of Thrones graphic novelization [ Powells | BN ], and some brag copies of the April issue of Portland Monthly, wherein I penned a review of Mary Robinette Kowal‘s new novel, Glamour in GlassPowells | BN ] (first line thereof optional).

I left Lizzy’s place late yesterday afternoon feeling pretty tired. I just wanted to go home and go to bed early. (This happens sometimes after I’ve overslept significantly the night before.) I’d done everything I’d planned that day, [info]the_child was away with friends, and, hey, it as Saturday. But I kept thinking about the Lyrid meteor shower due last night. And how clear and beautiful the sky was as I’d cruised around all day in the Genre Car with the top down. And how I wasn’t a sick man right now, and didn’t have to protect my sleep quite so ferociously. And how there would be meteor showers that night.

So I ate, shopped for groceries, then went home and brooded in my easy chair for a while about how tired I was. I then rattled up [info]mlerules to see if she was free. We headed out to the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint, overlooking the western end of the Columbia Gorge, to watch the skies for a while from the comfort of the Genre Car’s fully reclined seats with the top still down.

We were there perhaps an hour. Clouds were moving in and out from the east, which was annoying, as that horizon had been clear at sunset. The sky stayed mostly clear, with stars down to fourth or fifth magnitude easily visible, and perhaps a bit beyond that at a squint, so there must have been some haze at altitude. Still, we saw a ton of satellites, including one Iridium flare. [info]mlerules spotted a meteor trail that I happened to be looking in the wrong direction to see. A bit later, we both spotted a long, bright meteor that trailed across the sky in two pulses. For the win!

Finally, my case of the tireds overtook me. We were there too early for the Lyrids’ peak, but we saw cool stuff. Well worth the extra couple of hours of awake time. And hey, who doesn’t like mysterious lights seen in the sky, flashing?

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[cancer] I got me the brain-eating heebie jeebie blues

Sometimes the universe sees fit to hand me a blunt force comeuppance. Just a couple of days after I blog about how I can always find time to write, and that I am almost never blocked [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ], I am blocked.

Yesterday was very hard for several reasons that don’t have much directly to do with cancer. Thursday night’s misadventures with leaving my wallet in Lincoln City had me both badly exhausted and short slept. These days it’s easy to forget that I’m less than four months out of chemotherapy, but I do still tire more easily than in baseline health. So I started yesterday feeling like hell. Then I spent most of the day at the hospital with a friend. (Yes, everything’s fine, but I still spent most of the day at the hospital.) While simultaneously juggling a difficult set of Day Jobbe issues that ran on well into the evening. (Yes, everything’s fine, but I still spent most of the day juggling difficult issues.)

Yesterday was pretty much a loss from a writing perspective. But I knew it would be going in, and declared it as such. In fact, yesterday was such a loss that I went lights out at eight o’clock last night. That’s way early for post-chemo me. Slept solid for over nine hours, too, so obviously I needed it badly.

The joker in the deck isn’t all that. Physically, I feel pretty recovered this morning. I’m giving myself a break and not rushing into my day as I am wont to do. It’s the cancer stress that’s killing me now, and was almost certainly killing me yesterday as well.

The next CT scan is Monday, two days from now. The next round of oncology appointments are Wednesday, four days from now. These scans are always very, very hard on me. Any of them could be a death sentence for me. Any of them could mean I lose yet another year of my personal, social, emotional and writing life to surgery and chemotherapy. And that’s even if I have no reason not to think I’m clean, that I’m not cancer-free.

Unfortunately, at the moment, there is good reason to suspect I’m not clean.

As you know, Bob, we found a new lesion on my liver as a result of my prior CT scan in February. The clinical status of that lesion is undetermined. But given my personal history of throwing metastases on a roughly annual basis, it’s very, very hard for me to be optimistic about this.

My brain is empty. The stress monster has slurped it up, burped it out, and shit in my empty skull just as a special bonus.

I’m almost certain there will be no writing today. I’ll be amazed if there will be any writing between now and next Wednesday’s oncology appointments. Unfortunately, right now I am in book mode [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]. I have deadlines, admittedly self-imposed, but no less real for that.

Cue a cycle of guilt, recrimination, and irritation. Irritation at myself and at the cancer.

The objective reality of this situation is that I’m nicely ahead of schedule on Their Currents Turn Awry. I budgeted April and May to complete this draft, and I’m only 50-60,000 words from being done. Possibly a bit fewer. Given that I have seven weeks left, and I’m averaging 3,000 words per writing day on this project, I have loads of time.

But objective reality isn’t exactly the point here. The cancer-induced brain-eating heebie jeebie blues are the point here. Or not.

Today, I’ll go to [info]the_child‘s lacrosse game, visit [info]lizzyshannon, have lunch with my parents, visit with my friend H—, and still have plenty of time to write if the vapor lock in my head clears up. Even if the vapor lock doesn’t clear up, I’ll have a fun, busy day with people I care about, who care about me. Tomorrow is just as committed, hiking with friends in the morning, then dinner with [info]mlerules, then an evening conference call on an exciting new project.

I’m doing the best I can here. Unfortunately, cancer laughs at my best. Stupid fucker is eating my life.

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[writing] Speaking of writing time…

…I am (probably) taking the day off from writing. I finished a major chunk of Their Currents Turn Awry yesterday, and I some things I really want to do this afternoon after work that will take the rest of my day.

This is why several years ago I consciously redefined my novel-writing work ethic and functional goals to be “at least 2,500 words per day, at least five days per week.” So I can take a day or two off without feeling guilty.

Of course, I feel a little guilty anyway, but as [info]matociquala says, if you do not finish the book today, you will have to work on it tomorrow.

I have a fair number of tomorrows yet on this book. Starting with, erm, tomorrow.

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[writing] Some more work on Their Currents Turn Awry

Yesterday I managed ninety minutes on Their Currents Turn Awry prior to Mary Robinette Kowal ‘s launch party for Glamour in GlassPowells | BN ]. Things are plugging along, and I’m very nearly at the end of the first third of the second half of this the second book of Sunspin. (Yeah, really.)

So, here’s some WIP for y’all. The usual disclaimers about first draft-i-ness apply, of course.

Read the rest of this entry »

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[process] Muddling in the middle

In the last nine days, I’ve written 24,500 words on Their Currents Turn Awry. Since I started with 66,600 words from last year’s writing, I really only need another 50,000 to 60,000 words to finish this draft. In other words, I’m already a third of the way there.

But I’m also firmly in the middle. And I’m hitting a muddle in the middle so classic that it makes me laugh at myself. “This boring.” “No one wants to read this.” “Why am I writing this?” “Look, there’s some bills that need to be paid!”

One if the reasons this strikes me as funny is that Sunspin as a whole is organized in arcs or chunks. Each chunk is 60,000 to 80,000 words long, roughly. Each chunk has three segments of 20,000 to 30,000 words each. There is no chaptering. So within each segment, I have a middle. Within each chunk I have a middle. Within each book, I have a middle. Within the four book series, I have a middle.

Are you sensing a pattern yet?

Right now I’m approaching the middle of the second chunk of Their Currents Turn Awry, just past the middle of the book, and approaching the middle of the series. It’s as if my muddle in the middle were a nested set of Ptolemaic epicycles and they’re all coming together.

So, hell yeah, I’m muddling. This is where I know not to decide the idea is boring and stupid and go chase some other shiny, cool idea. How do I know not to do this? Because I am an experienced writer.

Everybody’s middles suck. At least to them, while they’re writing. Giving up at this point is the biggest mistake newer writers make. And it’s a mistake that tempts at least some of us older writers.

Luckily for me, my desire to see how the story comes out waaaaay trumps the middle-muddling going on.

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[conventions] Norwescon Day Four

Well, that was an easy day. Woke up, worked out, spent some time with [info]lizzyshannon, packed, checked out, loaded the car with the help of [info]the_child, hit the panel on book covers which was oh so ably managed by John Picacio, with supporting roles from Jack Skillingstead, Mary Robinette Kowal and me, then hit the road for home.

I hadn’t expected to write much if at all yesterday, but I did managed 75 minutes in back seat of Irene Radford’s car, pulling out 2,600 words of Their Currents Turn Awry. Given my state of mind and body, I doubt they’re very good words, but that’s what revision is for.

My next writerly appearances are a DAW reading in Seattle on the evening of May 10th, then the Paradise Lost conference the week after that in San Antonio. For now, I’m staying home, working on the book, and trying to keep my happy ass out of the oncology ward.

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[personal|child] Hitting the Oregonian News Network Meetup

Yesterday afternoon, amid a frenzy of drafting Their Currents Turn Awry and packing for Norwescon, [info]the_child and I hied on down to the Lucky Lab on SE Hawthorne for an @ORNewsNetwork meetup.

@ORNewsNetwork is the Oregonian News Network, a blog syndication portal sponsored by Oregon’s major daily newspaper. (Disclaimer: To state the obvious, this blog is part of that syndication portal. Hence me being at the meetup.) I’d worked with editors @georgerede and @corneliusrex online, but never in person. It was fun to meet them. Also met some cool bloggers, including @TheBugChicks, a pair of young, hip, funny entomologists, along with folks covering topics as diverse as urban foraging, consumerist issues and documentary filmmaking.

[info]the_child is a veteran of many conventions, conferences and other large-scale social venues, but this was her first meetup style event. She had a few nerves going in, but that was quickly dispelled. She did a lot of talking and listening, and I hope learned a few things. Amusingly, we also ran into a family from [info]the_child‘s school while at the Lucky Lab.

As I said to the kiddo in the car on the way there, I’m doing my best to bring her as much experience of the world as possible while I still can, just in case I’m not here for too much longer. The meetup was fun for me, educational for her, and a good way to spend an hour or two on a Portland Wednesday afternoon.

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[conventions] Almost off to Norwescon

Tomorrow I’m off to Norwescon with [info]the_child and [info]lizzyshannon. My public schedule, for them what wants it, is here: [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ].

Saturday afternoon/evening is crazy, otherwise, my schedule is reasonable. I’ll be relaxing as much as possible while also being in convention mode, if that makes any sense. Plus trying to knock in at least an hour a day on drafting Their Currents Turn Awry. Because, well, that’s how I roll.

See some, all or none of you there.

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[process] Watch that first step, it’s a doozy

Diving into a substantial project for the first time, or back into it if I’ve been off for a while, always includes a moment of challenge for me. There’s a point where I say to myself, “Whoa, I can’t do that.” For Pete’s sake, I’ve written nineteen first draft novels. It’s not like I don’t know how to do the work at this point. There’s just a sense of biting off part of an elephant. It’s biiiig.

This happened to me yesterday as I geared up to once more start laying down significant first draft word count on Their Currents Turn Awry, Sunspin volume two. I’d spent the previous couple of days reading through the 66,600 words of draft I already had in the can. That effort got me back into the headspace of the books, the terrain of the characters. Yesterday, though, I needed to step off the edge and take the plunge into the next 70,000 words or so.

For one long, slow moment, teetering at the edge, I felt like chickening out.

I didn’t. I never do. But the temptation is always there, right at that launch point.

In fact, I went on to write 4,500 words of first draft yesterday. Two character segments. With gunfire, and crashed spaceships sinking into the waters of a frigid mountain lake, and murder at a production studio. It’s not like it wasn’t fun, or interesting, or engaging, or entertaining. Writing (almost) always is those things for me.

I just get a little spooked by the size of my ambitions sometimes. Then I remember that I am bigger than the story, that I must be bigger than the story. It is contained within me, and only I can let it out.

The multitudes are marching. I will be for a while plural.

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