Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Birthday Dinner, Christmas Decor

Another year older. My birthday tradition is heaps of Dungeness crabs.
(This must look really unappetizing to non-crab-eaters, whoever you are!)


Also yum:

With the deadline madness swiftly followed by the trip to New York, there has been zero holiday nesting time, or baking time, etc, which is a bummer because I LOVE THAT STUFF. Still did the basics though.


See you after Christmas!!!


Saturday, December 21, 2013


Back from a quick pre-holiday trip to New York!

After going to NY unexpectedly -- and briefly -- last December, I had a hankering to go again, with a little more intention and time. My mom and sister joined Jim and Clementine and me for five days of holiday-time New York City. It was a blast, but over too soon!

West Coast (above) to East Coast (below). Gorgeous.

The city itself:
(first ever time up to see the view from the Empire State Building :-)

The view from our hotel window was of Carnegie Hall:

Another first: ice skating in Central Park!

Followed by meeting Santa at the Plaza; FAO Schwartz; window displays on 5th Avenue. 
Bergdorf's, below, were the most beautiful we saw (didn't see them all).
They were the most beautiful last year too.

(the above really is upside down; it's in honor of April Fool's Day; below; Arbor Day)

The Yeti windows at Sak's were delightful: 

A bit further away, Macy's windows were okay. Kinda old school. Clementine loved them.

We love the holiday markets. Bryant Park is so pretty, but the booths there are only so-so.

The Union Square holiday market is awesome, though.
A favorite booth, Hazel Village:

An owl came home with us last year, with a modest wardrobe. This year Clementine thought owl needed a "husband" and picked her out a dashing fox complete with a black tailcoat and stripey trousers. I can't even tell you how much I love this stuff. Having a daughter is only an excuse to shop here!

Not far from Union Square, across from the Flatiron Building, is Eataly, the gourmet Italian marketplace, with the Birreria on the top floor, all glass ceilings. Lovely, and fantastic food:

Of course, major highlight of the trip: the plays.
We saw Matilda and Cinderella and they're both fantastic. Matilda was a bit mean-spirited to be really awesome for a four-year-old. Clementine still enjoyed it, but we were all taken aback by the abusive language throughout. For older audiences, though: hilarious and gorgeously produced.

Cinderella, though: perfectly suitable for younger kids. A+

It's the Rodgers & Hammerstein version that was written for TV in 1957, performed as a live broadcast starring Julie Andrews. Viewed by 103 million people. In 1957. Can you imagine?? I guess it's also the one that was remade with Brandi a decade or so ago? Didn't see it. Anyway, it's entirely lovely and sweet and romantic and such a beautiful spectacle. The costume changes -- rags to ball gown, etc -- are instantaneous onstage. True costume wizardry. And there's more to the story than one usually gets with milquetoast Cinderella. Some political rabble rousing, a secondary romance, monsters, etc. Oh, and it's funny. Highly recommended.

Rockefeller Center, of course.

And this old place.

Clementine got sick in the middle of the trip so we spent a day inside; it snowed on and off all that day, we watched it out the window. That was the day we would have gone to the Met. Didn't. My mom and sister did though. Was so sorry to miss it. I've only been once, on my first ever trip to New York, when Jim and I were young(ish) starving artists and stayed in a youth hostel.

Never enough time to take photos. I'd love to just go on photo safari. Winding down here. Spent our last morning in Soho. This chocolate shop, MarieBelle, is to die for. Look at their cafe, so beautiful:

Not to mention their actual chocolates:

Five days (minus one for sickness) and going at a child-friendly pace, you know, it's not enough time in New York. But we had a blast, and would love to do this every year. 

Though Vienna has been proposed for next year ... (*ponder face* :-)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"DONE" + my mental state in gifs

Isn't that cool?? Love it. It makes me feel all trilogy-completey. Which ... oh. 


I'm all trilogy-completey, guys! THE BOOK IS DONE!!! 


But oh, wait. Pardon me for joke reusage if you follow me on Twitter but ...


ha ha ha!

Because PSYCH! Books are NEVER DONE!!!!! There's always a next phase! FOREVER!

Okay. Not really. But there are lots of next phases, and some of them are still ahead.

Editorial notes back from my speedy and amazing editor Alvina Ling, and fabulous assistant editor Bethany Strout, and from my wonderful agent Jane Putch, and my fabulous husband Jim Di Bartolo. Thanks, gang! And so I plunge into the next draft ....





Whelp. Okay. Back to it. 

Feeling this curious need to say that I love you. Whoever you are.

Monday, December 9, 2013

BOOK FINISHING DAY!!! + Retreat Advice

Look how perfect! As I sit down to finish writing the epilogue of DREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERS, a reader sends me this. Thank you Anna! It was her birthday cake, but today it is my mental book finishing day cake. (Funny, there's a recurring theme in the book about cake, i.e. you have to finish your dinner before you can have cake. Metaphorically speaking :-)

So this will be quick because the epilogue beckons. Wanted to check in and say hi! I did another retreat last week, as these are desperate times. (Here is the last, just a couple of weeks ago.) Wednesday through Saturday morning this time, and I did not leave this room:

Okay, actually I left twice. Wednesday and Thursday evenings I went down to the lobby and absconded with a free glass of wine (there's a chapter in the book called "Abscond." See how everything is book-related to me right now?) This is the Hotel Vintage Plaza in downtown Portland. I've retreated there before, but this was a better room than the last one. I splurged a bit for windows, so I wouldn't feel like I was in a cave. It was worth it, especially with all the never leaving!

I actually assumed I would leave the room. I always have in the past. Out for dinner or air or something. But this time I wanted and needed every single second. Friday I did something I've never done before and that was write for 22 hours straight without a break or a nap or anything. And ... I finished the book! Epilogue not included. (And I've been dreaming of writing this epilogue forever. I'm so excited!!!) I was asked in comments to my last retreat post about advice on how to make the major splurge of a retreat really pay off, and I totally get this question, especially coming from a fellow mom. It's hard to get away. Really, really hard. And each time I've done it, I've had major anxiety about whether I could make it "worth it." I mean, if you spend the money, and put your family through the unbalance, etc, you'd better come back with some serious words to show for it! Nothing like a little pressure:)

So, advice. Necessary disclaimer about how this will be different for everyone. This was my 5th one, and locations have varied, but the essentials are the same, and this has worked for me. 

-- Go alone. I think a group retreat would be an absolute blast, getting away with writer friends, sharing meals and support. And I mentioned before that I did this once, on the weekend I started Daughter of Smoke & Bone back in January 2009. It was lovely. It was the beginning of a book, and not the heavy pressure days of approaching deadline. I would definitely retreat with friends if the chance arose, but not at deadline. For that, it's just going to be me in a room. 

-- No internet accesss. This is very important. Go to a hotel without free wi fi and do not buy a connection, and do not ask for a password. Just don't ever go down that path. NO. INTERNET. 

-- No anything. Don't even bring a book. Don't ever turn on the TV. Go for walks if you have to, but your brain is reserved for your story alone during this time.

-- Everyone has their own rhythms, sleepwise, but personally I sleep as little as possible, and find I need  less sleep on retreat than at home. I usually get up at 4 a.m. on retreat because I looooove having written so much by lunchtime. 

-- Be ready. Have your supplies so you don't have to go out. Coffee or tea, easy lunches, or plan on room service. This most recent retreat was the only time I've relied heavily on room service, because I'm cheap and I don't like to pay for room service, but in this case, once I was in, I didn't want to leave. At my recent coast retreat, I had a kitchenette and made most of my own meals. And by "made" I mean: poured water on ramen, or whatever. I bring a big bag of clementines, some trail mix, honey for my tea. I had double tea fail on this last retreat. I hurry-bought 2 boxes at Whole Foods and one was decaf in the tiniest letters of all time, and one was loose leaf, and said so nowhere on the box. So I mostly ordered carafes of coffee from room service.

-- Be READY. Not supplies. Your brain. Your story. If you want to maximize your output, plan your retreat for a time in the process when you know you can make the most of it. For me, this is when I pretty much know what's happening, and what I need to write, and I just need the time to do it. If I were to do a retreat during a time of noodling and mulling, when I'm feeling uncertain of the story's direction, I think it could still be helpful, but not massively effective like I want. Of my 5 retreats, 4 have been at book's end, with deadline breathing down my neck. I'm waaaaaay faster at the end. It's like a stone rolling downhill for me at that point. I did one quick retreat last February when I wasn't anywhere near the end but I did have a series of story beats I was trying to hit and I got a ton done. 

-- Give yourself visual proof of accomplishment. This is what I taped to the window next to my table at my coast retreat: 

The word count calendar and stickers, plus word counts in increments of 1000 to check off (the pink post-its), plus a list of the major beats I need to hit, with big glaring spaces awaiting check marks. I find this stuff so motivating. Break each day into a series of small goals. Hit 2k by lunch, or finish this scene before bed, whatever works. 

Okay, I think those are the main pieces of advice that I would give. I can't even tell you what a gift and godsend these getaways are to me. I can squeeze a couple of month's worth of work into a week, but again I have to stress that it has to be the right time. I do not believe that at the beginning of a book, when I'm in full discovery/invention mode, I would be able to do this. That's when I'm walking on the beach (metaphorically speaking) and stopping to pick up every shell and turn it over in my hands. I don't think sprinting would serve me well at that stage. 

More later, and feel free to ask questions or tell me your own tricks and secrets. I'm going to go write my epilogue WOOOO HOOOOOO!!!!!! 

Euphoria. Pure euphoria. :-)

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