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Welcoming the unexpected

My writing has slowed in weeks past. I knew it would come: the school year has begun again, and finding time has thus become more of a challenge. But I have been writing – I’m in the final third now, and for the first time I (think) I know what actually happens at the climax.

I’m not a true pantser – I outline, I have some sense of the story before I start writing – but I never know the story in full before the end of the first draft. In the case of this particular work, I always knew how things ended (or will end, since I’m not there yet), but I wasn’t sure of the events that made that ending possible. Now I think I do know all the major events – at least, the major events in the action plot. This feels good, and like significant progress.

But I still don’t know the events of what Cheryl Klein would call the emotional plot. Today, for instance, one of my characters threw a total emotional wrench in my MC’s plans (and mine too).

It was unexpected. It will require revisiting a lot of what happened earlier in the book when I revise. There are many downsides to this having happened.

But – honestly? – it’s also kinda awesome. I love this feeling of being surprised, when I write as much as when I read.

Q&A with Scott Hawkins, author of The Library at Mount Char

Last week I posted about reading (and enjoying) The Library at Mount Char. Author Scott Hawkins was kind enough to answer a few questions for me, providing (among other things) some thoughts on fantasy libraries, a recipe I can’t wait to try, and advice for librarians engaged in power struggles at work. Thanks for the great answers, Scott!


TheLibraryatMountCharI’ve seen The Library at Mount Char described as urban fantasy, as horror, and as speculative fiction. How do you think of it, and why?

I think of it as fantasy, but ‘speculative fiction’ works too.  I was a little surprised to see that some people think of it as ‘horror.’  I mean, that’s fine, think of it however you want, I just wasn’t expecting it.  I knew that there were horror elements, of course, but I miscalculated the degree to which some people found them disturbing.  I thought I had the horror dial turned up to maybe 5 or 6 out of 10, but based on the reactions it seems like it was more a 7 or 8.

Continue reading “Q&A with Scott Hawkins, author of The Library at Mount Char”

Passing 30k

A couple of years ago I stumbled upon this blog post. For those of you who don’t want to click through, the gist of it is that many novel-writers get stuck around the 30k word mark.

When I first read it, I was in the midst of writing my first novel. Or maybe I should say, figuring out how to write my first novel (I wound up rewriting it four times; I read the blog post partway through my second rewrite). 30k didn’t seem any worse (or any better) than the rest of it; and because I was doing so much rewriting I would have been hard-pressed to figure out when I was at this point anyway. I wondered if this was my “process” (ha ha) or if, once I was a little more experienced, I too would hit the 30k wall.

I’m currently writing my third book and second novel. I didn’t have any problems at 30k with my second book (which was non-fiction) but I have just, after several grueling weeks of little progress, made it past 30k with the third. I know a lot more about writing longer works now than I did with that first book. Is that why 30k gave me trouble this time? Or is this book simply different, and my relationship with it particular to its needs?

Summer reading

TheLibraryatMountCharI recently finished debut author Scott Hawkins‘ book The Library at Mount Char, and I really enjoyed it. This wasn’t a surprise to me – everything I’d read about the book made me think I’d like it! – but I wasn’t expecting it to be funny.

My saying it’s funny probably reveals something about me, since a more obvious characteristic is that it’s terrifying (some have called it horror; see Cory Doctorow’s review, for instance). But I found a lot of dark humor in this book. I spent much of it laughing out loud while simultaneously gripping the binding, unable to put it down – a combination really hard to pull off, at least in my experience.

Whether you think it’s funny or not, The Library at Mount Char is definitely a page-turner. It’s perfect summer reading.

“Play” – the 2015 Enchantment show


Earlier this summer, I wrote a piece for the New Mexico SCBWI’s 2nd annual “Enchantment” show – a collaborative project between writers and illustrators. I love the Enchantment concept – illustrators create an image inspired by the show theme, which is then assigned to a writer, who writes a (no more than 1-page) piece in response (this article describes last year’s show).

The 2015 theme was “Play.” I received my assigned illustration in May; after much wrestling, what came to the surface for me was a poem. I haven’t written poetry as anything other than a writing exercise for twenty years, so this was a little frightening. But the challenge of writing it, of polishing and revising to make it the best it could be, was exactly what I needed. It allowed me to get back into writing.

Here is my finished piece (gulp):

Along the Red Clay Road

Along the red clay road we go.
We gallop forward, we do not slow –
Our arms enlaced, with matching stride –
Our song, it will not be denied!
With a hey and a ho and a hey-nonny-no….
The sun is our companion, though
it is not constant; night does always follow
day. But through the dark we do abide
Along the red clay road.
Hey and a ho and a hey-nonny-no!
We’re crossing to the other side –
We’ll leave behind the tears we’ve cried –
They were so long ago
Before the red clay road.

The Enchantment show hangs from July 1 – 31 at the Los Griegos branch of the Albuquerque Public Library. If you are in the Albuquerque area, I highly recommend stopping by before it closes!

Deep searching

searchinginsunflowersThe flowers in my garden are full of bees right now – especially the sunflowers. Bees burrow right in and hang out, barely moving, as if they can’t bear to leave their source of sustenance.

This is where I am with my writing today: burrowing in.