Tea and SomeEditsy

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After editing, maybe I’ll have time to polish my kettle.

Greetings from the Land of Eternal Edits! ALBATROSS has had its release date pushed back for Complicated Publisher Reasons. A by-product of this extra time means that Bertie and I get to do a FINAL (this-time-really-for-true) final edit.

Of course, this ms has been so thoroughly edited that there are ZERO changes to be made…right? HA! Of course there are changes to be made! There’s always something that slips past the writers, editors, and beta readers. (Rather like searching for fleas on my very floofy dog. And similarly uncomfortable.)

This calls for tea. (And maybe, since I’m still recovering from July’s auto accident, a standing desk.)

But it’s been a while since I sat with ALBATROSS. More recent work (and a big hunk of steel at mumbletymumble MPH) had rather nudged it from the forefront of my mind. And I confess: I’m rather enjoying my time with Dr. Rob MacAulay. And Thomas Heddiman. I’m looking forward to this book being in the world.

ALBATROSS now set to release in November, with SHIMMER to come out in December.

How His Worlds End

imageHard news tonight.  I found myself last Friday on the receiving end of an auto which was busily demonstrating Newtonian physics in action, with associated rattled brain and body. Reading is hard just now. Writing is harder. Accordingly, I’ve been largely absent from social media this past week. So I didn’t know. Until Bertie MacAvoy messaged me. Details have been following. And I’m wrestling with my accident-addled brain to make sense of it, to find words. Because words are what brought Michael Harper to my page, and are what our strange friendship was built from.

Writing is such a weird art form. It’s so solitary, crafting a story. But it’s such an intimately cooperative art, too, because the story never lives without a reader. The story is uniquely THEIRS, their understanding of it shaped by their own experiences and thoughts and ways of being. A writer envisions and shares a world and its people and places. But the reader is the one who actually LIVES in  that world, for a time, shaping the experience of the book by their own essence.

When someone passes, we lose their presence in this world. Also gone, though: their experiences in the fictional arts, the worlds they shaped in their own images. Nobody will ever again read my stories in the form that Michael Harper read them. Whatever his waking walking life was, Michael knew how to read and be present in a book. I so appreciate his bringing his energy to my stories. My head is splitting from the effort of writing this, but I know that of all things, words were what was between the two of us. So I can’t help but share a few in his memory.

Rest, in peace, and I wish you joy amid the stardust, Michael Harper.

 

 

Please Bear With Us

JudyBearwithTeaALBATROSS release date, I’ve learned, is actually going to be September of this year. While you’re waiting, I suggest checking out R. A. MacAvoy’s entertaining tales of her bear encounters, very kindly compiled and shared by Mike Glyer over at File 770! While reading some of these stories, I haven’t known whether to laugh or sit there slack-jawed . . . you should give them a try.

And while you’re over there, if you’re not familiar with File 770, you might as well have a look around. Good stuff to be found.

(Bertie and I have discussed collaborating on a coloring book based on these adventures, and I’ve been sketching. What do you think of the idea?)

 

Turning a Page

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I, like this fairy, read when I’m broken. It’s a good strategy for surviving.

Spring has run its course, rung its changes. Turned into Summer while I was busy looking elsewhere. I don’t know precisely when this little garden sculpture fractured, but I look at its face and find a kindred feeling, and so I keep the little fairy. Momento of a season of transitions.

Summer is starting kindlier. SHIMMER line edits have arrived! Awnna, our editor, has had her time with the pages, and now Bertie and I hold them close one last time before sending them out into the world. It’s hard to let them go, to stop re-visioning the story. But it’s time, and past time, and there are other stories clamoring. So today and tonight and tomorrow, I’m putting some final hours in. Then turning a metaphorical and literal page.

I had telephone call a couple of days ago. Someone I know had been telling another about ALBATROSS, and they’d gone looking for it, and been unable to find it. THANK YOU for the word of mouth, and sharing news of the story! I was very happy to tell them (and I’ll repeat it here, in case you missed it!) that ALBATROSS should be available in June from WordFire Press. And I’ll be posting a link when it’s available.

And now, with line edits in hand, I can confidently say that sequel SHIMMER will be available this Autumn. I’ll check in with you soon. For now, I’m off to lose myself in the story one final time.

In the Wee Hours

A character has been sitting with me in the wee hours. At this time, the hours hung between night and day, my daily preoccupations haven’t yet caught up. The barriers of “should do” aren’t up, and these presences can cross over and make themselves known. At least that’s what it feels like. Annie is showing me her story, and I’m trying to get out of the way and let the words come.

The world is waking. A bluejay is claiming my back yard. The warblers in the palm trees and hedges have their own claims to the space, and the water hanging in the air wraps us all and scoffs at our ideas of space and ownership. It’s difficult to avoid “the pathetic fallacy” when the place is so blatantly itself.

Versions

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Dreary. Excellent word choice this morning. I was going to reward myself for diligent work with a visit to the Farmer’s Market. Indulgence postponed on account of cold rain.

Happy to receive a message from Bertie MacAvoy in the wee hours today. She got the SHIMMER version with Developmental Editing revisions that I sent to her last night. Yay!

She hasn’t opened it yet. I’m not quite in the clear. But probably okay.

Awnna Evans, our Wordfire Press editor, was such an invested and thorough reader! She  sent us very useful editing notes. Bertie did the heavy lifting on these revisions, while I was enveloped in Big Life Things. I did my turn at editing thankfully, falling back into the story as a small respite from the outer world. And perhaps as a way of processing, understanding, and finding ways to deal with the larger situations surrounding life right now.

We’re so very careful at this stage, nearing completion, passing the “Master Document” back and forth. Versions are SO IMPORTANT. The book shifts, changes form under our hands. And words matter to us. So very much. Word choices are examined, talked about, chosen or discarded: little things that a reader will likely never notice, but which carry nuance to subtly influence a scene. If you’re not a writer, and wonder how this works, here’s an example: in the sentence above, I originally wrote “choices are looked at.” But “examined” is so much more accurate to the actual process. And then I wonder if I should drop the passive voice, and say “we examine word choices” instead. But I want the sentence emphasis to be on WORD CHOICE, not on the writers. So I leave it in the passive form.

And this is in a blog post. Without Bertie’s opinion to counter. So you can imagine how complex editing an entire BOOK is.

(Not everybody edits like this. Robert Heinlein would be rolling his eyes. Fortunately, I don’t require his good opinion. And he’s in no position to voice an opinion on Shimmer anyway.)

Love and care go into these changes. It’s quite upsetting to discover that your work has been done on an old version, and has to be re-done! Neither Bertie nor I have so much time and energy at hand that we care to waste it. So we are very careful with our versions.

We are nearing the final version of Shimmer. Line edits yet to do. I’m so ready to release this book!

*Note to aspiring writers: this fine-tuning is coming during the pre-publication editing process, at the behest of the editor. If you edit your document like this, to publication standard, on your own before submitting it? You may never actually finish your book. Beware falling into the trap of perpetually re-writing before getting outside input. Those fresh eyes are important, as much for telling you when to stop as for anything else. Kevin J. Anderson over at WordFire Press has some useful thoughts on this. 

Escaping

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Began coloring this page from my Naughty Fairies coloring book during a night vigil at my brother’s hospice bedside. Lost myself here for a while in layers of blue.

Last week’s sojourn to be with my brother and sister as they finish up this part of the universal experience was beautiful and devastating and, clearly, as much as my body can handle right now. And the whole thing is Just. Too. Much. I’m sick now, in body and heart, and I cannot return to them as I so very much wish to.

Bless Bertie MacAvoy today, who has flung a double handful of electrons at me today in the shape of her latest round of Shimmer edits. I get to look at them, think about them,  fall into the story and see where it needs to be transitioned.

Exactly what I need at exactly this moment.

Sometimes ducking into another world for a while gives you the break that you need to be able to cope in this one, don’t you think? Even if you’re the one making that other world. Blessings on the artists, the creators, the musicians, the poets, the weavers, and all, who give us respite from our many cares.

 

Edits for Breakfast

I did my very first Facebook Live video yesterday! It’s a flip-through of my Naughty Fairies Adult Coloring Book Cleaned Up for Company and it is replete with shaky camera, fast talking, and all the other newbie bits! But it’s me being vulnerable and being myself. People seemed to like it. You can see it here.

In other news, I went to bed early and awoke to find Shimmer edits back from our editor in my inbox! So I’ll be having edits for breakfast. Perhaps I’ll take my laptop and sit under the newly-blooming peach tree out back.  A cup of tea, a notepad, and a sequel. Good way to start the day.

I’m looking forward to a flurry of emails back and forth with Bertie as we discuss and compare and suggest over manuscript tweaks. I’ve missed our daily back-and-forth. Collaboration has its challenges, but I do love that woman and her unique, quizzical mind. She’s a fantastic storyteller. I’ve been so privileged to work with her; she has challenged me and encouraged me and I’m a better writer myself for it. Plus: writing, drawing . . . these can be lonely things. I’d gotten used to having a long-distance companion. I’ve purely missed her daily presence in my life. So edits: yay!

And I’m quite eager to get Shimmer on to its next phase. I have this looming sense that this particular story, with its seeds of hope, wants to be out in the world.

Looking Forward, Looking Back

 

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Spent New Year’s Eve coloring in my own copy of the coloring book I created because I need the message. Kind of meta, huh.

2016 was a year of Big Transitions for yours truly. There were a number of Hard Things to deal with in 2016. But there were a good many wonderful ones, too, and I’m going to feed energy into those amazing things, rather than dwelling on things I can’t change at this moment.

My home-educated son graduated high school. My daily profession of the past dozen years is complete. Maybe it’s better seen as an epic quest, rather than a job? I’ve been trying to prepare myself for his leaving home since . . . oh, let me see. His birth? But I’ve been actively lining up Next Steps for a solid couple of years. I knew it would be difficult. Not only was I having my kid go to college, a culturally normal step, but I was being professionally displaced. And my peer group was abruptly changing: the folks with kids still in school were still going to be caught up in that world that I was about to leave. Those with similarly launching kids were moving in their own unique directions. I knew I couldn’t wait until the last minute. So I started taking classes, submitting stories, working on projects.

Despite my plans, the changes when Atticus left school felt abrupt.

 

My relationship with my son, somewhat strained as both of us figured out the shape of our lives in our new roles, was restored by road trips we took together. We discovered and explored new-to-us places and experiences. It seemed a fitting cap to our years of educating together, and strengthened both of us before his departure.

He went away to school and, to my joy (and really, I wasn’t surprised) flourished on his own, despite the predictions of certain folks from his babyhood who tried to convince me that holding him so much would make it impossible for him to ever leave home. And we now know the answer to that eternal question thrown at homeschoolers, “What about the socialization?” The answer is, “Well? What about it?” And my husband and I have been able to spend more time together, recognizing that this is an important part of learning to live without our son’s daily presence.

And I launched into being a full-time creative professional. Years of prompting by friends and acquaintance, years of study, and I took the jump. #YesThisIsMyDayJob The structure I’ve imposed for myself has kept me from floundering around in the empty space of my days. I’m so very thankful for the opportunity.

I’ve had the continued rare and wonderful opportunity to work with Bertie MacAvoy on a pair of books. Kevin J. Anderson and WordFire Press have agreed to take Albatross and Shimmer. The books are in good hands and will be available this year. They feel so important to me, now more than ever.  Bertie talks about this on her blog.

Some people can work on multiple writing projects at once. I’m having a hard time working that way. Maybe it’s my memory issues. I just don’t seem to be able to hold all the threads of the story in my head at once if I’m wrangling another novel at the same time. The editing process is slow, though. I needed a really immersive project, to take my mind off missing my son.

I had not been accepting any art commissions for a while, and frankly was feeling too bleak for them. So I made the art book I needed for myself, and published it, and sent it out into the world. And it’s being very well received. There’s something so special about watching people’s reactions to the Naughty Fairies! The laugh, the sharp nod of recognition: these are gratifying things. And I’m told that the book is important. That’s not for me to judge. But people are telling me that they’re find it helpful, or cathartic, or a release. I am grateful for the chance to make something that matters to people.

My art colleagues have pressed me into opening an Etsy shop. I’m slow at it posting new things there, but they’ll be coming. And maybe I’ll be making a big painting soon, too.

The real focus, though, to me, is the writing: Albatross and Shimmer and my simmering-on-the-back-burner fantasy novel series. It’s hard to explain the sense I have of these books, pulsing around in my veins. I feel an urgency to get Albatross and Shimmer out into the world. 2017 is offering the chance for that. And I feel the other books itching under my skin. I sometimes worry that I should be doing more for them at this moment. But then a connection will click over, and I’ll gasp and think “Oh, yes, OF COURSE,” so I know that my subconscious is working on the parts my conscious brain is stuck on. So I’m making notes and holding myself open to that story.

I’m ready for this year. Much like launching my son: maybe the reality will be harder than I imagined. But we learn and go forward. Because this is what we do.

Resolute

As a writer and artist, symbols are my daily companions. Symbols are powerful. New Year’s Eve is a special sort of time, when even those who may not look for symbols do so almost unconsciously. A new year is a new beginning. Whether we will it or not, at this place on the calendar change IS upon us. And so the power of the New Year’s resolution: we pause to reflect, to think ahead, to assess. What has been. What is to be. What shape we hope the coming year to take. Resolutions are wishes that we make upon ourselves. Whether we keep them or no. There is power here at the cusp of the year. So I’ve been thinking about this sort of thing, even more so than usual, and looking for a special symbol. A word can be a symbol. Words are my tools. I’m reaching for one of those.

Once upon a time (March 1850, actually) the sailing barque Ptarmigan was renamed HMS Resolute.  Its refitting included extra-strong timbers and a polar bear figurehead. (Note to self: what happened to this figurehead?)  This ship was one of those sent out as a relief vessel to find and succor the lost Franklin Expedition. Or at the very least, to discover what had happened to these men.

The Resolute was eventually trapped in ice. After a long winter, the ship was prepared as best as the crew were able, and then abandoned in her icy bed. Two years later, the ship was discovered, adrift, by an American captain. The Resolute was purchased by the US Congress, restored, and returned to England as a gift of goodwill. (It was also hoped by some that it would be used to search again for Franklin and his men, but this never happened … too much evidence existed that the men had perished.)

The Resolute served as part of the Royal Navy in local waters until being retired and broken up in 1879. Fans of Nic Cage (one of whom is resident in my house) know well what happened next to some of this wood: Queen Victoria had at least three desks made from the remains. One she gave as a gift to U. S. President Hayes, “as a memorial of the courtesy and loving kindness which dictated the offer of the gift of the RESOLUTE a gesture of international solidarity.”

This desk has been used by most of the U.S. presidents since, either in the Oval Office or a different study.

Symbols are powerful. This desk is, note above, a recognition of the courtesy and loving kindness of the United States. As a country, as a people, as individuals: we are flawed. But we can, and have, manifested courtesy and kindness.

Rather than making resolutions this year, I am adopting a word: RESOLUTE.

Oxford Dictionaries definition for RESOLUTE:   admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering.

HMS Resolute did not succeed in its primary mission. But along the way, its crew rescued and provided shelter for another ship’s crew who had been stranded and on short rations for over a year. Abandoned itself, the Resolute remained upright and largely intact until it worked free, and then was recovered, claimed, and cared for. It made its way home, where it continued to serve; after its useful lifetime it remains still as testament to cooperation and kindness. There is much that is dark in our history as a nation, but this too is our legacy: generosity, outreach, compassion.

Each of us are facing any number of challenges this year. I don’t know yours, but I can see some of what lies ahead for us as a nation. And I most definitely see some of what awaits me personally in 2017. Some of it is going to be amazing. Some of it is going to be excruciatingly painful, because life has its path and its pattern and some things are unchangeable. There are opportunities here: to crack under the pressure, or to withstand, and continue. To become more.

I will celebrate the warmth in the world. I will celebrate, not because of conflicts, but in spite of them. I am purposeful, determined, and unwavering. I will do what is in my power and, when I can do no more, I will still stand. And I will stand FOR something.

I am resolute.

 

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