Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving on the Internets

Two a.m. and I'm only nocturnal tonight by choice. Rick's job is off for four days, and half of Monday till he has to leave for work at 2:30 p.m. and though we're trying to keep to the staying up till one or two a.m. and getting up later so as not to go back to normal diurnal life, we do go to bed earlier than the five a.m. when he gets home (job runs 4:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. but there's a 90 minute commute, which is just unfair).

But tonight it's not a contest. Tonight I'm working on Kaleidoscope Window, prepping it to go out the door after ignoring it for months and months. Apparently I had developed an urge to write novels and stick them in a closet. There are three in there, unedited, on first draft. And tonight KW starts the journey to the real world.

It's not as hard as I thought and, despite hating having lost that much time, the fact that I havne't looked it since whenever I finished it (which I cannot remember at all, the end of March? The end of April?) means I do not remember it clearly and have some distance, allowing me to kill darlings and change sentences that earlier I'd have protected for no other reason than I wrote them. Sometimes I write myself into not corners so much as cul-de-sacs and then unreasonably try to explain why rather than just xxx-ing out whatever it was. The distance changes that.

But what I really love? Sitting in my office in N NV and answering questions about specific locations in San Francisco, or the SFPD district breakdown, or what the executive director of a public access television statoin does - all by way of Googling. There will be phone calls, on Monday, to follow up on things, but for a lot of what I need, it's out there.

I, OTOH, am not. If I've reached p. 100, I'm going to bed. If I haven't, perhaps I can nap on the MS for a while. Though probably not as well as I napped through the exciting penultimate conclusion of "Angels & Demons" tonight... It may be me, but the movie was more about thinking and deducting (things I thought and deducted long before, but then, I had the advantage of not having the lives of 4 cardinals depending on my figuring out blatant clues - I'm sure that would make anyone nervous enough to totally miss saving 3/4 of those cardinals) and much less about action. And there's nothing wrong with a movie about thinking and deducting rather than actioning unless for some reason the music keeps getting louder and faster as if there's action.

Ah. I'm on page 100 exactly. I shall now sleep. Tomorrow is the second thanksgiving, the tradition Rick & I came up with years ago when we were in exile from Reno (well, it felt that way, we were homesick a lot) and couldn't come back on the holiday and cooked our own feast. We liked it so much we still do it. By 'we' I mean I will spend the day cooking and he will eat. Only fair, as he will spend the day decorating while I work on KW between basting and rising and pie-making.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Up the Nile without a Paddle

So the seasonal work ended up being six days in duration. And that was more than enough.

First of all, I had expected since I was scheduled to work 4 10-hour shifts a week and have 3 days off, that the nonfiction and fiction would happen on the 3 days.

It didn't. The 'fulfillment center' where I was temporarily ensconced (I went there voluntarily, but I still want to say temporarily incarcerated) was as dreadful as I anticipated. I spent the 3 days off dreading going back on and having physical reactions both to walking about 10 miles a day on concrete and to the stress of it (go faster, go faster, go faster... sure, there's a training curve, but go faster...)

On the days I worked, I had about 2 1/2 hours outside sleeping in which I was awake and Rick wasnt home and I wasn't leaving yet.

But the second of all, to go with the first of all, is that the nonfiction didn't necessarily pick back up, though it is, somehow, but that I realized how much I did have to do, and started doing it.

I've freelanced since September 1998. I've worked for myself since July '99. I've had two businesses now, the second ongoing. I have never, no matter how burned out or harried or stressed or desperate for work, not appreciated the ability to do what I love.

I've procrastinated. I've feared the blank page. I've put off projects that are well underway on any given day because starting might mean that day I fail. Starting for the day might mean that I got 5 pages an hour the day before and today I get 2 for 2 hours. I've found myself doing ficiton that doesn't have to be done right then because the deadlined nonfiction is too scary (and vice versa.)

But I've never not appreciated the ability to do it. And now, having worked six days in, I am amazingly grateful for my normal life and my writing. I worked Sunday the 8th, and Monday and Tuesday, all 8 hour nights, from 6 pm to 2:30 a.m., and that Wednesday there wasn't enough work and they sent us home after 2 1/2 hours and I hurt. I'm not in bad shape. I'm a runner. But I hurt from that. I then worked Sunday and Monday of this week, and quit before my third 10-hour shift, Tuesday (that week, for whatever reason, was scheduled to be only 3 days.) I still hurt.

My husband is driving 90 miles to get to a job now, and working nights. I have become nocturnal too, so that I can see him. He leaves at 3 in the afternoon, and I procrastinate and feel guilty and worry that the night's work will suck and everyone will know it.

And I'm grateful for all of it. And night before last I worked 7 hours straight on nonfiction, on something I'm not behind on, and every now and then surfaced from The Zone because I was so happy.

There's no lesson here. Maybe I'm wimpy that I couldn't do seasonal work for an entire season. Maybe I'm lucky to have found enough work to see me through. Maybe it will all dry up and I'll be left with no seasonal work and no paying writing. I doubt that, and the plus will be my feet won't have exploded and my knees won't have swelled up so that they don't bend and I won't still be lost in the warehouse as a computer tells me to go from where I am all the way across two sections to pull one object for shipping and then back again.

I can't even say at least I'm not taking something from someone who needs it - because (so to speak) is still hiring. For everyone starting there, I hope for the best.

But I need to write.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I believe, and I refuse to stop

The writing has slowed. There was a frenetic space in October, where I was determined to hit a variety of deadlines that frankly no one but me cared if I hit. I wanted to submit to various anthologies, and wanted the resultant short stories, and I got far more than I would have expected for a short, short period of time that was rife with other complications.

I also had those things that happen to stories that can't necessarily be fixed when there's no extra time. One story was intended for a 'terror on the high seas' type anthology. It came in at word count, and I like it considerably, and it was rejected promptly. I wasn't a bit surprised, since the terror lasted about half a page and after that it became a family-reunion-with-selkies story. I like it, but it's hardly what I was aiming for.

Meanwhile the novel goes in fits and starts. When it goes, it does over 1500 words at a clip, most of them pulled out of my head without too much blood and gore. When it stops? Full stop for many days.

The nonfiction is also fitting and starting. Two long paying projects, a third that is wrapping up, but nothing I can invoice on right now and many, many unnecessary complications from unnecessary angles. I'm lucky to have the work, and am actively looking for more, but in the interim, am taking seasonal work. It's the first time I've worked for anyone other than me in 12 years and it starts tonight. The amount of dread I feel is so intense that 1. I can't imagine using this for a character, as any editor would consider it the worst sort of overwriting/purple prose and 2. I'm calling it my execution.

Another writer who I adore and whose blog I read daily is now actively searching for part time work. She recently sold a couple new novels so I think she's looking for healthcare though I could be wrong. When I was at a master class for fiction on the Oregon coast in fall 2008, they talked about having to go back to the day job for a while. At the time, I still hoped it wouldn't happen.

Someone on one of the writerly lists I'm on posted that he thinks print is dead, and hence my title here. Because I don't think it is. Maybe Borders is closing a lot of stores (please, please don't close mine, our Other Major Chain in My Town is not up to making up the difference) but our Friends of the Library just held a 10-day big sale and the first weekend was jammed. People are reading. They want to escape. They want books. I understand this writer's point of view. He, too, is looking for seasonal work, and doesn't sound much happier about it than I am.

But isn't it possible we're looking at a slump, rather than an ending? I'm no expert, and with my new, rather savage time constraints, unlikely to research here, but it seems likely there were slumps in book publishing during the depression, probably during WWII, and at other times.

It's possible I'm just desperately hopeful, because I not only want to see my first (and second through fiftieth) book out there on the shelves, but I want to see it in print. I am not entranced by ebooks, in that a stack of books or bookshelves full of waiting books, brings me pleasure and invites me to dig in, where a hard plastic thing with knobs invites me to work, not relax. I'd be perfectly happy to have my novels appear on Kindles and Sony's and the rest -- after the print runs.

I believe books will survive.

I think the nonfiction will survive too. I'm not sure what will happen to magazines, and though they were my bread and butter, there were a lot of very narrowly-focused magazines out and about. I'm not sure how they're fairing (this whole post is from my pov, not from any sort of research, it's Sunday morning, after all, and I'm due to be executed at 6 p.m.) but a winnowing is probably to be expected any time there's so many of one thing. Not that it's good, just that it's not unexpected.

That said, I have a novel in progress which I'm finally liking a bit (it hit that 17,000 word mark and started acting like a 17-year-old and I was not liking its company), more short stories I want to write, a new article assignment, a couple leads on work, some sample chapters to write and three proposals I want to write on my own for nonfiction. I believe that print is not dead, and I refuse to stop believing.