Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy Cake & Puppets! + Writing Retreat Redux

sunset, Manzanita Oregon

Hello! Before any writing retreat stuff:


It's a Kindle Single, which is hugely exciting! I hope new readers may discover my world of Daughter of Smoke & Bone by way of Zuzana and Mik. You can get it for Kindle or Nook, from many library e-collections, and independent bookseller websites, and to be honest I'm not exactly sure where else because I'm not a user of e-readers. But I hope it is easy to find! I had the most incredibly fun time writing this piece. Would that writing could always be so delightful. I really hope you enjoy reading it!

And now, my writing retreat ...

With a final-final-final-no-really-actually-final deadline upon me, I had to do something drastic. And that something drastic was go away. For a week. Ulp. A week. That's a long time! My wonderful husband had, fortunately for me, just met a harrowing deadline of his own and was free to hold down the fort. Free and willing, which is key. (Thank you so much, my love.) I've "retreated" three times before, always for 2-3 days, always at a hotel in downtown Portland, just minutes from home. The productivity was insane. But I needed productivity of uber-insanity. I needed the week. And I didn't really want to be in a weenie little hotel room for a week if I didn't have to be, with traffic sounds outside etc, and walls pressing in, so I decided to go to the coast and stretch out a bit.

From Portland, it's about an hour and a half to the coast, a lovely drive through farmland and forest.

I didn't realize until I was on my way what a weird full circle it was. I began writing DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE in earnest on a mini-retreat several years ago with two local writer friends, Lisa Schroeder and LK Madigan. Hm. No, not several. Considering that I was just barely pregnant with Clementine at the time, I suppose it was five years ago. Crazy. On that trip, the mountain pass was scary-snowy as I recall. It was January. I'd been hungering to start this book for months, and finally was free to let myself. 

The first scene I ever wrote of DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE (after the initial freewrite that was its inspiration) was the scene where Karou first goes to Marrakesh to meet Izil. I wrote it in Manzanita, and it was back to Manzanita I went in hopes of wrapping up the trilogy.

I love Manzanita ...

I took a suite at the Inn at Manzanita, steps from the beach. It was the top floor of this cottage:

An unexpected bonus, a baby dragon lived right outside,
and peered in the window at me all day long: 

Isn't that crazy? It's not trimmed to look like that. Completely serendipitous wild tree dragon. LOVE.

Besides the dragon, I had, for company, one fox in short trousers. 

His tag says: "Sit back and relax. I'm here to finish the book for you. Go eat some fries!" He came in a care package mailed to the hotel by my wonderful best friend, Alexandra. Also included: bath salts, caramels, fuzzy socks, and other wonderful goodies. I was so spoiled! Also received beautiful inspiration flowers from Jim and Clementine:

I arrived Sunday afternoon and got all set up. One of the first things I did was tape my calendar page to the window beside me, along with my check-list. Hopefully I've blurred it beyond readability:


You guys know the calendar/sticker trick, right? 

What that calendar shows is ... monumental for me. A monumental feat of retreat. In six days, I wrote: 

25,000 words.

That's huge for me. HUGE. HUuUuUuUuUuUGE.

It was such a huge luxury to be able to do this. It is, I know, a mainstay of many writers' creative process. It's harder for some people to manage than others. Hardest for moms, maybe. And probably most critical and luxurious for moms too! I missed Jim and Clementine like crazy, and was missed in return. It's not easy! But I can't stress enough what a godsend this was, this week of full immersion. I'm not kidding that it would have taken me at least a month to write this much in the ordinary routine, and that's if it was reallllllly flowing, and there were no Clementine sick days/weeks (because come on, it's never just a day!) or any other of life's little surprises. Or, you know, non-surprises, like a house to maintain, meals to worry about, etcetera. 

I'm back home now and still working away, striving to make this book everything I dream it to be. I'm reburying my head in the sand for the next couple of weeks to continue to immerse myself in it until it is really and truly finished and polished, and in the meantime, I really really hope you enjoy NIGHT OF CAKE & PUPPETS! 

Jim & Clementine came to meet me at the tail end of the retreat; here: Oswald West State Park. So beautiful!

And now good night. My head misses my pillow. 
They're not getting a lot of quality time together lately!

Theirs was a love torn apart by deadline ...

Monday, November 25, 2013

"To find the colors again"

(this next sent to me by @whatsmynom on Twitter; thank you! I'd never seen it!)

"Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofus, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?

We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.

They can keep their heaven. When I die, I'd sooner go to Middle-Earth."

- George R.R. Martin

(Hi! I'm back from my writing retreat -- it was a massive success but I'm still not *quite* done -- PRIMAL SCREAM!!! Will post about retreat soon!)

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Hello and goodbye, friends. I am retreating. Tomorrow. I am vanishing into a cocoon of writerly, book-finishy silence. Away from home, away from humanity (well, not really, but there will be less humanity there.) No company. No family. No writing kindred spirits. No books to read. And no internet. A key component of retreating is wirelesslessness, and I am ready to RELISH IT. 

(Add to that: WRITE YOUR NOVEL.)

So long, twitter and email and pinterest and even dictionary.com, you evil gateway to internet time-wasting. Packing, just now, I pulled my paper dictionary and thesaurus off the shelf and paused, contemplating them. All three or four pounds of them. And I put them back. 

I'm going dictionaryless, y'all. 


I'm jittery tonight and full of anxiety, because I've piled a lot of hopes on this retreat, and there's the negative little voice in my head going, "You can't do it. You won't finish," and that would be bad. But I'm also really excited about the possibility of MASSIVE UNINTERRUPTED PRODUCTIVITY. I've retreated three times before, always in a hotel in downtown Portland, mere miles from home, for two days, three days. And it was life-saving. Huge surges in word count far, far beyond my norm. And at the end there was always that feeling -- bundled along with desperately missing my family -- that if I only had another day or two, what I couldn't accomplish! So I'm taking a day or two more. Actually -- ulp! -- a week.

Thanks to my sweet husband for making it possible, and sorry to my sweet Clementine who's not pleased, but who will have a lovely time with her papa ... who has just finished a massive deadline of his own (woooo!!!!)

Wish me luck. I'll be back in a week.


Just because.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Finally! TWISTROSE KEY winners!

These two lovely copies of THE TWISTROSE KEY have been anxiously waiting for me to make a decision on the giveaway contest so they can go to their new homes and be loved. I sometimes hear them whispering to each other in the night, wondering at their fates, and consoling each other. I'm sorry it's taken me this long. It was hard!!! Seriously, just now, I caught myself wondering if maybe somehow I could buy copies for everyone who entered! But there were too many entries for that to be feasible, alas. 

(If you missed that post, you were to tell about a beloved childhood pet for a chance to win a copy of this marvelous book.)

The responses are just so lovely and varied. Thank you everyone for playing! And if you aren't one of the winners, I hope that you will still seek out the book because it is amazing. I'm nearly finished rereading it now and loving it even more than before!

Okay, so. To the pets! 

So many memorable ones! Wild and exotic "pets" seem to garner quirkier names than dogs and cats do. Take Vivian the praying mantis, Mr. Darcy the Siamese fighting fish, and a stick insect name Thor. Atari the barn owl, Gary Rosemary the Helix Aspersa snail, Charlemagne the frog. 

And such sweet stories. Currently petless as we are, it's hard not to rush straight off to amend that situation. It brings to mind the wonderful ad campaign for the Oregon Humane Society: 

END PETLESSNESS indeed! Hopefully soon. Okay. So I struggled with this decision. I am still struggling. I'm just writing along here to forestall having to make a decision ...

[pause to calculate how much 78 copies of the Twistrose Key plus shipping would be ...]

Yeah, no. Sigh. So a decision must be made! In which I am helped out by the author, miss Tone Almhjell herself! She fell in love with BeingPerry's story of baby raccoon adoption, and I must say I did too. So Winner #1 for The Twistrose Key giveaway is: BeingPerry! Thank you BeingPerry!

And the next one is for me to decide. 

Oh god. I still can't. I've got it down to THREE, and even that was very difficult, and possibly arbitrary because I love SO MANY OF THEM. They are:

-- Olesya and Gavrik the Russian Siamese cat who totally took down a rat in grandma's dacha. Woo!

-- Jonquill's kitten-saving dog Buffy, who got between a Rottweiler and a box of abandoned kittens.

(I guess I give points for heroism! I didn't know this about myself!)

-- and lastly, Q's praying mantis, Vivian, because praying mantises are SO COOL, and Vivian is the perfect name, and also because the piece is so well written. (Nice going, Q :-) 

So. What am I going to do here? Am I going to buy two more copies of The Twistrose Key to prevent myself from having to make a final decision? 











Yes. Yes I am. So there are a surprise FOUR WINNERS to this contest, and I really hope the rest of you will get ahold of the book too! YAY TWISTROSE!!!

(If you want to read the entries, go to comments for this post.)

Honorable mention goes to Mara Rae's mouse Herman, because he reminds me of Rufus from The Twistrose Key, a brother in pocket-riding :-) (You guys are going to love Rufus!)

And lastly, the humor prize (which is an accolade only), goes to this one:

I was raised by a little packet of mini wolves the size of travel toothpaste tubes. Though I was human, they treated me as one of their own and when I was very wee, I was also given a blessing ceremony similar to Magpie's. Apparently, squirrels, ducks, baboons, raccoons, and even a cockroach gave me special powers that combined allow me to swing from trees, smell a herd of mice from nearly two miles away, and survive a nuclear blast, God forbid. My pet was a little ladybug named Ken. He was my childhood companion until I was seven or eight years old. He had the voice of a baby lamb and would snuggle all cozy in the nook of my earlobe's lobe.

 It's anonymous, alas. If only I could figure out who wrote it. *fake puzzle face* (T'was my best friend :-)

I have emails for everyone except Q. Q, shoot me an email with mailing information if you'd like to claim your book!

Thanks again, everyone! Hug your pets :-)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Inspiration Clearing House!

I was clearing off my horribly cluttered computer desktop and came across random inspiring things that were meant to be posted. So here they are, before they go in the trash!

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