Archive | January, 2013

What’s Earlier Than Eearly?

I have a new writing partner. He’s only two, and he actually doesn’t write at all, but since he insists on waking up at 4:45 in the damn morning, we’re sharing the predawn hours, just us too.

This is a mixed blessing, to say the least, insofar as he is really cute, but I’m not getting much done.

Usually, Daniel takes the kids in the morning so that I can write, but 4:45 is stupid early, so I’ve started just grabbing the little guy and bringing him upstairs with me so that Daniel and Celeste can get a little more sleep.

This morning, after I changed his diaper, he said “ducha” and marched toward the shower (ducha being Spanish for shower – he really speaks more Spanish than English at this point), because that’s what we normally do in the mornings, and I said, “no, no docha.” And as I’m carrying him up the stairs he says “oguurrr,” to which I responded “no, not time for yogurt.”

I sat him on the couch next to me. I opened my laptop, handed him a book and told him we were working.

Surprisingly, he actually seemed to get it, at least, for a little while. He sat and “read,” then tired of that and wondered around the living room playing with toys. After about half an hour he grew too curious to keep from trying to help me work and he started reaching for the keyboard, but thankfully by then Daniel and Celeste were up anyway, so they came to collect him and start the morning routine.

I’ve actually been thinking about getting up before 5, because another 15 minutes of writing would be awesome, but it seems too crazy. Then again, 5:30 seemed crazy at first, until I realized that I had to wrap it up by 6:30, and by the time the coffee kicked in, I only had about 45 minutes to write. 5:30 became 5:15, which soon became 5. Honestly, getting up this morning at 4:45 wasn’t so bad. (I can’t believe I just wrote that.)

So while I do hope the little man starts sleeping later, I’m actually thinking about making this a permanent schedule adjustment. Maybe I’ll just bite the bullet and set the alarm for 4 and get 2+ hours of writing in every morning. Who needs sleep when there’s writing to be done?

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Writing Every Day – Serioulsy

Okay, so I know it looked to you like I just kind of forgot to post for the last two weeks, but I was actually experiencing a complete WordPress meltdown.

Two days after I posted my last entry, I went online to draft my next post and I got this crazy error code. Couldn’t even get a login page. Arg! I mean, I’m pretty good with WordPress once I’m in the back end, but if I can’t get there, I’m lost. Luckily, a friend from the Kleverdog co-working space gave me a good rate on some FTP magic and viola! I’m back online.

So, let’s see, what have I missed telling you about since the 18th? Well, we’re still in the process of moving offices. So I’m currently working on a round conference table, with my keyboard WAY too high, which sucks, but it’s temporary. I’ve become a bit of an ergonomics Nazi, but frankly, I don’t know how people work long days without good positioning. I just ache and ache if things aren’t set up right. Which reminds me, I just discovered a new mouse called the RollerMouse. It’s awesome. You can read my review of it on the company blog here.

I continue to plug away at the novel. I’m currently doing a pass to fine tune the language. Really nit-picking stuff. Some mornings I plow through three pages, other mornings, like this one, I spend an hour and a half on one paragraph. It would be discouragingly slow if I didn’t see a real difference in the pages before and after. Certain sections are expanding, gaining detail and nuance, but mostly I’m cutting. Trim, trim, trim.

The thing I’ve most wanted to blog about though is that I’m re-reading a book called The Writer’s Portable Mentor, by Priscilla Long. If you’re a writer, you really must check it out. It’s by far the best book I’ve come across about writing as a craft. It’s full of exercises, most of which I ignored the first time I read it, but now that I actually have a project in full swing, it’s giving me some great insight into how to hone my skills and really look at every sentence for structure and sound and meaning.

The most basic lesson is to write every day. I’ve heard lots of writers say that and I’ve thought “yeah, totally, every day, except days I  oversleep, or weekends, or you know, if I don’t get around to it,” but something clicked this time when I read that. Every day. Long says to set a timer and write EVERY DAY for 15 minutes in a journal. This is meant to be totally separate from any other writing you do, and it’s a safety net. This is my new understanding of it. It’s that, even if I don’t get to my  novel on any given day, or week, I will still be writing, even if it’s just those few minutes before bed, or on a coffee break. Every day. I’m about a week into it, but I’m telling you, something clicked. I intend to write every day for the rest of my life. Seriously. Every day.

So that’s what’s been happening. I’m very excited to be back online.

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Goodbye Kleverdogs

It was with mixed emotions today that I packed up my things and left my co-working space. I’ve been there for 5 months, I love it. There’s coffee and people to talk to, and folks are always baking things to bring in and share.

But I was talking to Daniel a couple weeks ago, about finances and stuff, as married couples are supposed to do, and my office space is a big expense. Well, it’s actually only $300 a month, which is pretty great, really, as office space goes, but Daniel is also paying for an office space, and we had the thought – what if we were only paying for one of those? We’d be saving a lot of money – that’s what.

Daniel works with his sis and it turns out that a space in their building, a bigger space with a separate, second room, just opened up. It’s that second room that’s the big deciding factor. See, one of the reasons I didn’t just move into their space in the first place was that both our businesses require regular phone time, and the space they have currently echoes (hard wood floors, bare walls). Only one person can be on the phone at a time.

But with that back room, we can use it as a conference space/calling room/editing suite. The room is also much bigger than their current space. And it’s only $75 more a month than their current place.

So I’m moving into the office of Divisadero Pictures tomorrow.

I will miss the Kleverdogs, but Daniel’s office is MUCH closer to home, it’s literally two doors down from the preschool our little guy will be going to, we’ll save a big chunk of cash every month, and I’ll get to see a lot more of Daniel, which, I’m happy to say after all these years, is still a good thing.

If you happen to be in the market for office space, you should definitely check out Kleverdog. It’s just north of downtown in Chinatown. Tell Kelly an David I sent you.

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How to Be Happy (No Really)

The other day at work I was doing some uploading and formatting of images for a new site, and rather than listen to music as I usually do, I decided to put on a TED Talk. I was just feeling nerdy, I guess. But man, those babies blow me away every time.

If you’re not familiar, TED is a conference that is pretty fancy. People at the top of their game give talks, and the people who put the whole thing together post everything online FOR FREE. Of course, there’s so much content, that it can be a little overwhelming, but I like to click on the check box for “most viewed,” and it usually turns up interesting stuff.

So this other day at work, I ended up listening to this one:

It’s about how we are better at everything we do when we’re happy. You should watch it if you have 10 minutes to spare.

If you don’t, I’ll tell you the kicker – this guy has done research on how it is we can train ourselves to be happier (and therefore better at everything we do). I did a little screen grab for you:







Three gratitudes means writing down three new things that you’re grateful for every day. The rest is pretty self explanatory, except the random (or as he calls them intentional) acts of kindness – he describes that as writing an email, first thing every day when you sit down at work, to someone saying why you care about them, or why they’re great.

This guys says (and I’m inclined to believe him, because you don’t get to do a Ted Talk just by walking in off the street) that if you do a 21 day training of these 5 things, you will begin the process of reprogramming your brain – to be happier.

If this were an infomercial, I would totally be pulling out my credit card.

So I’ve been thinking how I should do this. 21 days. It would be really interesting to see how I felt as the three weeks progressed. But then I think – the main thing that makes me unhappy is being over-committed. It’s a bad habit I’ve been trying for a long time to let go of.

It wouldn’t take so long. The exercise and meditation would take time, and I guess the journal writing would too. Let’s say it’s an hour every day. Man, if I had an extra hour every day I’d sleep. Or work on my novel.

But maybe I’d be happier if I devoted some time to trying to make myself happier.

In any case, I’ve been going around on this for about 5 days now, and I’m not any happier (or sadder) than I was before. If I did it every other day would I be half as happier at the end?

Who can say?

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My Dependence on the Internet

I generally love technology, especially online technology. Because of Google Apps, Dropbox and IM, I can work miles and miles away from my boss and not feel at all out of touch. It’s almost as if I work in the main office, but I can wear jeans and a Tshirt to work and nobody cares. I also don’t have to commute to Orange county – which, if you’re not from around these parts you may not know – would SUCK.

But what to do when the Internet goes down?

I’m actually writing this to fill a little time (off the official clock of course – just in case my boss is reading this) while I wait for the Internet to come back up. About half an hour ago it got slow, and then it just dropped out, and I can’t seem to make it come back. I’m sincerely hoping it’s a problem that some dozer somewhere is working on and not something I did wrong.

Because the thing is – I can’t hardly work at all without Internet. I can’t review our project list, I can’t edit web content, I can’t even fill in my time sheet unless those little bars at the top of my screen fill in.

This is not the case with my fiction. Oh, sweet fiction, how I love you.

Yes, I do write my novel on my laptop, but I don’t need an Internet connection. And I print copies regularly so that if there’s ever a crash of ginormous proportions I will not lose my story.

Which reminds me –I read an article in National Geographic a few months back that said this is about the time scientist are expecting a series of major solar storms. They come in cycles apparently (I’d look it up and give you the link, but well…) and the last time flares this big hit earth people in Salt Lake City saw the northern lights and telegraph wires didn’t need batteries connected to them.

The article suggested that similar flares could be detrimental to our modern technology. So maybe this is it. The end of days. If it is, I suppose you’ll never read this blog post.

(It wasn’t me, it was some server issue… Anyhow, glad you get read my post. Here’s the link to that National Geographic article.)

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Alif the Unseen

I don’t do book reviews on this blog. I’m generally not one to review books at all, but I do love talking about them, so if you’ll allow a little digression, I’d love to tell you about the book I just finished. No spoilers, promise.

“Alif the Unseen” came to my attention when it appeared on a list of top ten of debut novels for 2012. If you read along you know I’ve been trying to read more debut fiction to try to get a better sense of how my first novel will fit into the marketplace. The thing I’ve found is that a lot of debut fiction reads like debut fiction. Not to sound like a total snot or anything, but even the debut fiction that is recommend or makes it onto some list somewhere, often strikes me as needing qualification: “it was a great book, for a first novel.” I’m not interested in qualifications.

And so I loved Alif. Partly I loved it because it took me to a world I know little about (the middle east), and partly I loved it because it dances along a line of fantasy without ever (though I suppose this is debatable) crossing over. I also thought it was just beautifully layered with theme and imagery. “Alif” is a code name for the main character who is a hacker, and the lead female wears a full veil covering her face, so you get all these different versions of what it means to be hidden (or unseen). It was just good.

So I get to thinking about my own debut novel. When it comes to my own work I am particularly not interested in qualifications. I want to write a great novel. I understand that I may not get there on my first attempt, but I’m not looking to write something that is “pretty good for a first try.” I’ve even considered putting this book away when I finish it so that I can write the second novel and put it out into the world as my first novel – thereby cheating, kind of. But honestly, I’m far too impatient for that.

So I’m left simply terrified, especially now that I’ve gone and shared how much I don’t want to write a mediocre novel. What if my first novel is “pretty good for a first try.” I mean, the truth is, it is my first try. Is there some shame in that? No. But given the choice I would opt to create something more than that. And really, I am given the choice, every time I sit down to work on it.

I know there’s no such thing as perfection.

I heard someone once say that you should work on a story until it’s as good as you can possibly make it. Honestly, truly. As good as you can possibly make it. Then, if the critics (when the critics) tear it to pieces, you will know you did your best, and you can hold your head up high.

This is all really just to say – “Alif the Unseen” was a great book.


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Card by Card

So here it is, my whole novel, laid out scene by scene.

Don’t bother trying to enlarge the image to steal all my fabulous, mind-blowing ideas. Even if we lived on the Starship Enterprise, where simply saying the word “enhance” would make it all come into focus, you could never read my handwriting.

So why am I teasing you?

I just think the process of writing is cool. Or rather, the byproducts of the process of writing are visually interesting.

It’s the same reason I took a picture of all the drafts that came back to me with feedback this summer.

The thing you can’t see is how long this took. This simple arrangement of cards took hours and hours to produce. I pulled out 11 cards, moved some up, others down. I adjusted chapter breaks and shortened flashbacks.

Then, after all that work, I made a list of notes about what I wanted to changed, took a picture and scrapped the whole thing (because really, in a house with a 5 year old and a 2 year old, it wasn’t going to last long anyway).

The good news is, none of the changes are too crazy. Most were about pacing and rhythm. I don’t think I’ll have to do too much redrafting.

So I’m going to work on those big changes, and then I’ll go through one more time to really fine tune the prose.

We’re getting close here, people.

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Goals, past and present.

I’ve been blogging long enough now that I am able to use this site as a record of my life. Sometimes I need or want to look back over the novels I’ve read (check out my bookshelf in the right-hand column there if you’re curious), other times I want to justify a period of low output (I can now say objectively that having a baby totally messes with my daily page output), and when the new year rolls around, it’s fun to look back on the resolutions I made 12 months ago to see how I did.

Here are the goals I set last year:

I’m going to finish my Northern California book by the end of January.


I will finish the current draft of my novel.

Eeerrrrr…. almost.

I will get new business cards,


and here’s the biggie – I will double my writing income from 2011.


That last one is, of course, thanks to the official job that has not only (more than) doubled my income, which, lets face it, wasn’t very high in 2011 (please refer to the above mentioned baby), but also brought in health insurance for the whole family. Stable income is nice. There, I said it.

So I’m 3.5 in 4. Not bad, really.

Here’s the revised list for 2013:

I will finish my novel (I’m so close, I really am).

I will drink less coffee (official goal is no more than two cups a day).

I will finish the Tough Mudder this April in Vegas (woo hoo).

I will finish two short stories and submit them to journals.

I’d like to say I’ll start the next novel, but really, I think that’s just setting myself up for defeat. Besides, it’s already outlined in my head. If you count what’s in my head, I’ve been working on the second novel for about 6 years now.

So let’s stay out of my head and I’ll just put down “”Start novel #2” as an alternate goal, you know, in case I plow through those other ones and need more to do.

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