Check-out the blog next week for more about creation of the cover and in the upcoming weeks for excerpts and snippets!
One of my first courses in earning my degree at library school brought up ethical conundrums a librarian may face. Having never really considered this before, I was surprised by the many different ways librarians are challenged. From the books, and other media, to possible restrictions on sites that may be accessed by computers, all are ways to either help or create barriers to community.
I recently thought back to those as I am fact-checking my current historical fiction. Needless to say my search history would not give anyone pause, but it was interesting to reflect that before the internet my searches--some already frustrating--may have been even more so. My searches have led me as far as afield as when tea, and what kinds, would have been available in Britain during the 1810s--which lead me down some rabbit holes and I now know more about the Opium Wars and how that interacts with the larger history of trade. I now know more about gin, champagne, and bourbon as well. Those led to more interesting results.
But what my searching has shown me, is there are a lot of really passionate people in this area. A lot of the culture, clothing, housing, has come from blogs in addition to other sources. A lot of digital archives of census records and museum archives has helped provide detail and depth in ways that surprised me. The internet has helped make a lot of passion projects reality. In thinking back to my librarian training days, I am reminded that the ability to access information is a privilege hard-won whether that information is on the popular form of decorating or on accurate maps.
My wonderful readers, I have updated my Coming Soon page here on the blog!
Mainly because the muse is the director, and I can only sort of quietly nudge her back into the lanes I thought were mapped out.
To that end, the third and fourth books in the Ravanna Series are drafted. The third, Bone Marrow, is more or less complete--yet I am struggling with moving it forward. When I wrote the story the plot went in a particular direction. Those books in general are written in an odd way, and it did so sort of wild. I am struggling what to do with it. Until, I get it planned out, there can be no third or fourth book. So they are planned. They will continue--just without any definitive time.
The second book in the New World has a title, and I really thought I would start writing that second book immediately. That’s what I did with the Ravanna Series--in fact I really wrote straight through books 1-3. That has not happened so for now there’s a title, I am excited for that universe--just not right now.
So the big news actually, is the next book is (tentatively because this year has been a mess) scheduled to release May 2021. I’m pretty confident where I’m at with it and hope to stick to my guns. That means watch this space for the cover reveal and teasers and count down! The book, Middle Ground, is a historical romance. I can’t wait to hear about what you think of Eveline and her story!
In general, I’ve been sticking to one book published every two years. A part of me would like to go faster, but then my brain tends to decide it doesn’t what to write, and also kind of would like to talk to other people. As always the book writing, editing, formatting, proofreading, cover designing, all happens around everything else.
More details soon!
The image is a quote from Rebecca Solnit’s book, “The Mother of All Questions,” which is a book of essays. I’ll admit, I haven’t read all the way through the collection (I’ve read her indomitable, “Men Explain Things to Me,” if that helps?).
But the quote, which literally is in the first essay, I immediately stopped and wrote down. Truthfully, I think you could swap “woman” in the quote to read for any label or identity. The heart of it remains, how do we ensure we are living our own meaningful lives? How do we go back not just rejecting the restrictive nature of a question, but no longer even debating the question itself? Have we actually sat down and thought about what meaningful means to us? There is a trajectory so many of us expect to be on when we’re young, and I often look around and go, what is that unsettled feeling?
The quote was excellent prompt for me to actually sit down and write out what I wanted from life. I had been wrestling with this for quite some time. I think anyone attempting to balance passion projects against full time careers, relationships, children, knows there can often be a reckoning. Without careful attention, bitterness can seep in.
So instead, I sat down to actually process (I know so healthy!) my emotions and go, what do I want? Not what the world tells me I should want.
Because there is the steady rhetoric that we should all want to work at what we are passionate about that we should all have extremely fulfilling careers where we enter that “flow.” We should want any of our “side hustles,” to also make us money where we can turn down the corporate ladder. We should want to make a living as a travel blogger. We should want to make our van into our home. We should also want to climb the ladder--to be the boss. All that and we should also have a beautifully decorated home--that we own--along with a partner (preferably married) that fulfills us and some kids. Also a dog. Possibly a pet fish.
The contradictory nature of what makes life meaningful is its own head spin. The fact that our thirties are set up by the decisions we make in our twenties even more frightening of a prospect.
Some of that may be true. But Solnit reminds us to look at the question--and to an extent the questioner and then refuse as needed.
So what do I need? (I fully admit that my Western bias is showing as I focus on the individual) What do I actually want out of life?
The answers to the list were actually illuminating to me and they helped steady me. I’ve wrestled at different times and in different ways that I may never make money from my books and therefore may never be able to commit to writing full-time. It’s also true that I am a bit of a risk-averse person when it comes to financial security. The day job checks a lot of boxes. The doctorate I am currently pursuing may not be in the field I thought I would be in, but I am learning, I am growing, and at the end it can’t hurt only help.
The list also showed me there are things I want, things I can work toward. Like continuing to explore working in print arts, like letterpress printing, like bookbinding. Maybe even paper-making or working on sewing or quilting.
Refusing the question is a process because the rhetoric is so often structurally built in. The first step is in acknowledging the question that tries to restrict you.
Last week was a bit of a heavy blog post. It’s fair to say it’s a topic I could stay focused on, but it’s also true this blog--written mainly for me, let’s be honest--helps catalog my creative output. It’s own privilege to be sure. But I think I’m walking a fine line these days with the mental well-being. Hope is its own dangerous tool, and I am trying my best to cultivate it. To be fair, we will probably go adrift to other topics, because no one lives in a vacuum and I feel that way certainly with art. All that to preface, the blog will still stay mainly a space focused on the writing and other projects. All that to say, I am trying to take my joys, my gratitude where I can, and attempt to acknowledge and work through the guilt my current privilege affords me.
My joy of the week, of the month, of the year was my first ever review! I got the notification and literally braced myself for a bad one--for someone who didn’t like my work, or rated it with only a star and no comments.
Instead, deep breath, a person actually out there in the world somewhere took time to a) read my book, and then b) actually write a thoughtful, positive review. I am still floating!!! Like they had a favorite line and everything!!!
For those who are even remotely curious, yes, seeing those reviews, heck just getting the reports that people actually download the books, yes, it makes my day. I know my work isn’t perfect, but sending it out into the world just fulfills me so much as a person and knowing other people are seeing it makes me want to run and hide but also scream for joy.
Any bright spots for you this week?
Back in June (almost a year ago now), I gave an update on my next project with an oblique reference to a historical romance I was crafting and wasn’t sure I would end up finishing. With the world we ended up in, and the amount of energy to focus on world-building versus stepping into one I had already crafted, I ended up turning my focus back to the historical romance story. I’m happy to report I finished my first rough (very rough) draft last week. My mom asked if this one had a happy ending. [Spoiler Alert] I can say this one does in a much more unequivocal fashion then my some of my other works.
The image I’ve included in the post is one I found on Pinterest originally and has been one of my inspiration or mood pieces for the characters. It evocates a lot of my characters and helped orient me back into the feel of the novel. Before posting the image, I did some further research and believe the image was taken by Michel Brodsky in 1959 of Romy Schneider and Alain Delon. Schneider and Delon were actors and partners for four years but had a relationship/friendship that apparently spanned decades.
In working on stories, I sometimes do stumble on images that ping in my braing connecting it to the story I’m working on. I try not to get too attached to other’s images though as I tend to get disappointed that I can’t use them for my cover art. For the past few works, I also have created playlists on Spotify to help with the plotting. I usually can’t listen to music when actually writing, but it can help on the walks I take to plan. By the end of last book, Don’t Belong to No City, my playlist had about 60 songs to it. The current WIP has abut 45 and may end up getting a few more songs added to it.
It’s true to say writing can channel emotions from disparate parts of my life and what is in the novel may not truly reflect my own state of mind or experiences. However, to fully enmesh in their lives can carry a weight with me that can occasionally catch me unawares. I turned back to the historical romance because I needed some softness in my life. I am about to undertake the editing process, and there is an ease in working through already created work too.
However you are processing this time, I hope you are giving yourself leave to shift focus to other projects, to new projects, to old worn-out stories you have passed the time with in happier moments.
Take Care, Lovelies!
I'm blessed in that I still have a job and one I can work from home. But it's been an odd two weeks in trying to create new routines, have them trampled, and try to settle up new ones. As an apartment dweller, with a roommate, I found it made sense to work at my desk--which is in my bedroom--a desk that I use for both school work and creative work. I managed to balance in my head school and creative before, I didn't even think that looking at the desk I would see "job." It's true though. The minute I'm done for the day, I can't bear to sit at my desk anymore, even as I switch out computers or tablets or notebooks. I have to physically move to another space. It's such an odd detail that my brain has now latched on to that space. Even now, on the weekend, I'm out at the kitchen table, because I see my desk and start to think of my to-do list. I like my boundaries, and I give work the time it needs, but I don't like the idea of it creeping into my off time. It was an odd realization how physical space can attribute to productivity or attitude. Though as I thought about it, I do tend to sometimes need to leave my house to go to a cafe or a library as a way to signal to my brain, we're about to focus! Now, it's smaller distances. It's time in between to signal, whether that's taking a walk, or doing that dishes, that brain needs to focus on other things. I love my desk, and usually I love to create at it. For now, I'll need to create new routines--an ability I'm thankful to have.
Been a hell of a week.
I woke up this morning wanting some peace, wanting some quiet, wanting some light. So I headed to one of my favorite spots in the city, the Harold Washington Library's Winter Garden.
I was here a little before 9 and waited outside with the usual diverse group for the doors to open. I had my pick of tables, and am now firmly entrenched to get some work done.
Harold Washington Library has the same feel, to me, as a place of worship. There is a stillness here. A stillness not broken by the photo shoot happening to my left, or the security officer talking to the handyman behind me, or the couple admiring the artwork to my right. In fact, the stillness is enhanced by it.
This library is reminder of why public spaces need to be welcoming to everyone, and that everyone deserves the dignity of knowledge, and have the respect of being treated equally.
Whenever I need to know such places still exist, I make my way here.
I'm writing to you from Champaign, IL. It's currently 9 degrees (yes, that's Fahrenheit) and when I walked across the snow this morning I saw squirrels huddling in the trees. The little grey creatures looked at me like I was an idiot for being out so early. Since I didn't have a choice in the matter, I could only march on to my presentation. This year sees me back in the hallowed halls of academia--thankfully, just for the week. The rest of my time earning the next degree will be spent online from the comfort of Chicago. And by Chicago, I mean my couch.
The start of the year always cause me to reflect on the past one. What happened, what didn't. I try not to focus on the should haves. (Like, I should have Catspaw out and don't.) But instead all you can do is focus on what actually did happen--some pretty cool things did get done. And then what you want to carry forward into the new year. When I sat down to write this blog, I wanted to talk about goals. When I actually thought about what I want to accomplish, the long-term aims haven't changed. Keep writing. Keep publishing. Keep moving forward.
The past two years have been an incredible learning experience in how actually to go about doing that. Both from a creative aspect and in a logistical one. I fully embrace now you can only learn by doing. Let's hope the next book reflects all that I've learned.
Until then, keep reading and stay warm!
Good morning Chicago,
To those of you who ran the marathon this morning, I salute you! To everyone else, I hope you are enjoying this gorgeous fall day. I'm currently with friends at a little cafe in Lincoln Park trying to be productive. So far I've had a scone, black tea, and (needing more caffeine) coffee. In the hours I've been here, I'm officially caught up with everyone's lives and done some plotting for the upcoming novel in November.
With days flying by it was great to sit down and do some concentrated novel planning. People tend to have very strong opinions about their magical process to writing and completing a novel. But whatever your process, the more you do it the more refined you get. For me, planning a novel means world building, which can be best the part. The odd thing is never knowing which detail will have a great deal more importance as the book takes shape and what becomes superfluous. Take Moonshine, my original plotting gave shape to the religions within Ravana. It got mentioned through prayer beads in the first novel, but never took on much more life. Didn't fit the characters. You can't consider it a waste of time though, because any planning helps give depth to the world and helps with any of the other subtle details cascading through. Plus who doesn't love planning out characters' names and features? This time around the main character has quite a few tattoos. I'm trying to keep it limited, but the list just keeps growing.
Make sure to keep swinging by. Once November hits, you'll start to hear the griping on plugging through the word count. For now, I'll just be buoyantly happy (and pleasantly caffeinated).