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 ...


Lachlan Robertson said...

Congratulations on getting all that writing done! The coast there looks amazing.

Ronald L. Smith said...

Wow, how wonderful. It must've been such a thrill to get so many words on the page. Love the cottage, the fox, and, of course, the Tree Dragon.(There's a story there somewhere.)

I'm reading Daughter of Smoke & Bone right now and absolutely love it.

(I want wings.)

persnickety_jen said...

Holy cow. You earned ALL THE STICKERS.

Also... you wrote half a NaNoWriMo project. In a week! My brain cannot even comprehend how insane that is. (Cue voiceover: "Results not typical. Laini Taylor is a legit professional writer and you are a n00b plagued by gremlins.") I am thoroughly and properly awed.

Liz said...

love Manzanita! I really want to get to Oswald West, too. Your life always looks so beautiful.

Laurence King said...

25,000 words in six days! Woo-hoo, what an accomplishment! Manzanita looks beautiful and that baby dragon... well, I'm just going to have to go visit Oregon again.
I just downloaded Night Of Cake and Puppets...can't wait to sit down with it. It will be a delicious treat after writing all day :)

Anonymous said...

Many Many congrats. I love the baby dragon :)

Helen Peters said...

Congratulations, Laini! What a word count. I dream of a retreat like that. It sounds wonderful. And that tree dragon is amazing! We recently moved from London to a cliff top on the south coast of England and discovered a wind-carved tree T-Rex outside our window! Love the serendipitous tree animals.

megan said...

Started and finished Night of Cake and Puppets this morning. You and Zuzana made me late for work! It was lovely, and your blog is always a pleasure too!

lizardek said...

but but what if someone is totally old school (like me) and doesn't HAVE a kindle or a nook?? Is it coming in old-fashioned tree-dead paper format??

Laini Taylor said...

Hi Lizardek! Sadly NO, it won't be, and this is very woeful to me because like you I'm a paper and ink girl. You can download to a smartphone by way of some kind of Kindle app and probably others. I wonder if you can download to a computer? I should know how this works but I don't. I like my books to have pages!


Laini Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenn said...

Glad you got that retreat in and hope you're enjoying the holidays despite the deadlines.

Anonymous said...

As a mum/wife/wannabe writer/fan of yours, I'd love it if you could give me a few tips on how to make the best of a writing retreat... As guilty as I feel to leave my babies and husband for 5 whole days, I've had their blessing and I really want to try and write the guilt away and come back with something to present them with! Is there some essential advice you feel you could give me? (I will definitely try the word count calendar : thank you for that precious writing secret!...)
PS: Did I tell you that I loooove your books, your great writing, your very graphic descriptions, your fantastic characters?... I can't wait to read Dreams of Gods and Monsters.

Joyce C said...

You are KILLING me with this wait. BUT! You do what you need to with this book - take all the time you need. I will seize it the minute it hits the shelves.

And that word count, hoo boy! You've certainly been busy. And Jim and Alexandra are such sweethearts with their encouragement. You are so incredibly lucky and talented - and, of course, dedicated. You're an inspiration!

Wow, that turned out very gushy. Sorry about that. I've just never known an author as fantastic as you!

Wishing you even more productive days! xo

ishhu said...


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