Two Weeks

glendale stationFriday was my last day of work. As I have been working remotely all this time, I had to make my way down to Orange County to return all my company-owned gear: laptop, cell phone, back-up drive, various cords, company credit card, etc. And since it was Friday, and traffic is horrendous heading north into LA on Friday afternoons, I took the train. It was kind of awesome.

Daniel dropped me at the Glendale station, which is a surprisingly lovely little piece of antiquity in the heart of Los Angeles, and instead of cursing my way through four hours of traffic to make the 100 mile trip to Orange and back, I sat back, relaxed, and started re-reading the latest draft of my novel (before I launch into rewrites during my two weeks off).

And that leads me to this week, the first of two weeks where I am unemployed, but don’t have to be looking for work. It’s a first for me. I love it. And, of course, I have totally overbooked myself. I have a whole list of things I hope to get done with this time, from finally finishing a family photo album, to taking the Pilot in for an oil change, but the most important item on the list is to work on the novel.

I’m about half way through reading my most recent draft. The beginning is good. I’m happy with it, but around page 70 it slows. That, I know, is largely due to the fact that I have rewritten and reorganized the middle of the book so many times that the whole middle section is almost like an outline, but at least now everything is in the right place. I hope.

I have struggled so long with this novel. The only real up-side to those struggles is that I have learned an enormous amount about how to actually write a novel. Never again will I just dive in. I have wasted literally hundreds of pages writing down the wrong path. Thus the fifty page outline for the new project. I never thought much of outlines, but I was wrong.

So I hope to finish reading the draft tomorrow. I might have been able to do it today, but I’m taking the afternoon to go to the spa. In addition to celebrating a new chapter in my life, I am rewarding myself for hitting the writing goal I set 4 weeks ago – six mornings a week, 500 words a morning, for four weeks.

Once I finish reading it, I’ll jump into edits. I don’t know how far I can take it in two weeks, but time will tell.

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Wrapping Things Up

full moon
This should prove to be an interesting week.

My company (for five more days) takes today off, so I don’t have to work, making my last week with the company a short one, and frankly, I’m totally fine with that. I’m working to transfer all my files to a new (to me) computer, so that I can return this lap top to my employer, along with my backup drive and my phone. So there’s a lot of logistics to deal with.

But not today. Usually, when the kids have a day off, we’ll do something fun as a family, but Daniel has to work, so we went ahead and signed the kids up for a gymnastics camp. It’s the first time they’ve ever done anything like this together. Due to the 3.5 years between them, he usually isn’t old enough for things she wants to do, so it’s kind of an exciting milestone. Even more exciting (for me) is that I convinced Daniel to take the morning off and lay around in bed with me. It was awesome. Just like when we were first dating. We even watched a movie and ate popcorn in bed (among other things I won’t be discussing here).

I plan to spend the rest of the day working on my fiction. The challenge I set for myself a few weeks ago (to get up every morning, six mornings a week, for four weeks) is going really well. I haven’t missed a day. This is the final week. The coolest part is, when I set that goal, I had no idea I would be accepting a new job, and that the end of this week would also mark the end of my work with my current employer. So assuming I can keep it up for another 5 days – I get my reward next Monday. I’m going to a spa near our house because it’s lovely, and has a sauna and nice spaces to lay around. I will get a massage, but I’m also going to lounge for a bit on either side of the massage, really embrace that fact that I hit my goal, and have a little time to spare for a change.

Writing 500 words a morning, even during all the chaos that has been going on, has been really good for me. The new project is up to about 13,000 words. However, starting next week, I’m going back to the other novel for a bit. While I have two weeks between jobs, I really want to make some progress and see if I can’t get a new draft ready for a read. So it’s back to “The Feathered Tale of Tallulah Jones.” I’m a little daunted to get back to it, but I also see these coming two weeks as a great opportunity to pretend I’m a full-time fiction writer. Not on retreat, not carving out some time, but actually writing for three or four hours a day, working around all the other things that still have to get done.

I suspect I’m going to love it.

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I Got the Job!

Last week I told you that I was talking with an engineering company about a full-time writer position they are looking to fill. Shortly after I posted that, I had an in-person interview with the man who would be my supervisor, which went really well, and all signs were pointing toward it being a really good fit.

Then we scheduled a phone call with me, the President of the company, and their HR lady. I knew this would be the brass tacks call, so to speak. That wonderfully fun conversation where all parties dance around the topic of compensation, because really, really, man oh man, nobody likes to talk money.

So I knew I needed to decide on what I wanted to ask for in terms of compensation. I called my mother-in-law, who was a pretty fancy CEO up until she retired, and who is still active with a lot of start-ups in the silicon valley. She gave me some pointers. The main thing it came down to for me was that I wanted to work less. Given the choice between more time and more money, I wanted the time.

The next day, on the call, I framed the discussion in terms of working 80% full time. That was what I wanted more than anything so it just made sense to frame the discussion starting there. I was pleasantly surprised when that suited them just fine. We worked out the details, and came to an agreement. The next day they sent me a letter highlighting the basics of what we had agreed to. I signed it and sent back and ka-zam – I got the job.

I am so excited about this, that for days I’ve been waiting for them to call up and say they made a mistake of some kind. I get to be a full-time writer, working four days a week, with super cool science nerds. I won’t be making any more money than at my current job, in fact, I’m taking a small cut, but if you break it down to an hourly rate, I actually am getting a pretty good bump in pay. And anyways – who cares! Full-time science writing. No more project management (which has always stressed me out). I get to just go to work, do a great job, and go home at the end of the day.

Daniel took me out to celebrate on Thursday, and I gave notice on Friday. My boss wasn’t thrilled, but he’s been very understanding. He knows this is a great opportunity for me, and it’s not like he’s loosing the client. My last day will be February 20th. After that, I’ll have two weeks before I start at the new job. I’m going to take the time to wrap up some projects, not the least of which is my novel. I don’t know that I can get it across the finish line in two weeks, especially considering some of the other things I need to get done (take the car into the shop, help my sister plan her wedding, run the kids to soccer practices), but I can make some good progress, I’m sure.

2015 is off to a great start.

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Unexpected Possibilities

An interesting thing happened to me at work a couple weeks ago.

I was on my regular conference call with a client, the President of a civil engineering company. We check in twice a month and he updates me on what’s happening with the company, so that I can then draft articles for the company blog, and update their website, and manage their social media. He mentioned that they needed to create a job posting for a full-time staff writer.

I reminded him that we (meaning the company I work for) would be happy to do the work, but he admitted that it didn’t make sense financially for them to hire a consultant to do full time work. They wanted to create a new position within the firm.

Treading carefully, I asked if I could be considered for the job. We both got quiet and agreed that we shouldn’t talk any further without first talking to my boss. Which I promptly did. Which is why I feel I can write about this here, even though it is still very much speculation. They’re not exactly sure what they’re looking for, but basically, they are doing a lot of drought management work, and they need someone who can understand the science, then translate it all into easy-to-read reports for the decision makers and board members of water districts across California.

I don’t want to get my hopes up, but this sounds like an amazing opportunity. My background in science, combined with my masters in writing, and experience in local politics (at my current position) make me a perfect match, if I do say so myself.

Anyhow, there’s not a whole lot more to say about it right now, but it is an exciting and unexpected opportunity. I will keep you posted on how it unfolds.

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Starting a New Story

writing spaceAt the end of last year, I was feeling frustrated by my novel, again. I promised myself that if I could push through to the end of the year, then starting January 1, I would start drafting this new idea I’ve been outlining.

I was excited to make the shift, I really was. But I slept in on the first, then it was the weekend, so I didn’t really get started until a week or so into the new year. And once I did actually get started, I struggled. If you follow the blog, you know I have a goal of 500 words a morning, six mornings a week. I get up at 5am and sometimes I’m done super quick. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth.

The first half of January was like pulling teeth.

My theory is that it’s just been a really long time since I started something new. I just couldn’t hit a stride with it. Then I started oversleeping, missing precious writing time. At one point, I even seriously considered giving up. I told my husband that I was just too tired. Getting up early every day is hard.

He gave me a little pep talk and reminded me that I love writing. That hour and half of fiction writing every morning is what keep me grounded in the fact that I’m not just some hack working in marketing. I am a writer. And so I must write.

Of course, that doesn’t make getting up so early any easier. So I’m bribing myself. Starting this morning, if I can hit my goal of six mornings a week for four straight weeks, I will reward myself with an afternoon at a spa and a massage. Over sleeping is allowed (because honestly it happens some times) as long as I hit my 500 word goal every morning.

I love a good massage. And a good challenge. Hopefully this will help me rebuild the habit and make it easier for me to keep my regular writing time intact. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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The Adventures of a Helicopter Pilot

Dad with book
Due to the timing of a number of factors, not the least of which was that damn broken wrist, I completely forgot to tell you all about my dad’s book!

The Adventures of a Helicopter Pilot is my dad’s memoir about flying H-34s for the Marines in Vietnam. His job was particularly scary, as he would fly into the middle of active zones to did emergency medical evacuations. He took a lot of fire, lost a lot of friends.

When it finally came time to publish, he asked me write a blurb for him. Here’s what I put together:

Thoughtful, funny, and full of death-defying escapades, “Adventures of a Helicopter Pilot” is a treasure trove of stories. Bill’s writing captures the feeling of sitting around a campfire with cold beer and old friends. The perspective and humility he brings to the narrative are those of a once brazen young man who has lived to tell the tales. A great read.

ADventures coverThis book is particularly moving to me as his daughter. In the time since the war, so many vets have committed suicide. My dad had his struggles too. For years. Should you ever meet him, you will be surprised what an easy-going, sweet and thoughtful guy he is, but I remember a man from my childhood who was deeply troubled. Thankfully, he finally got help. My step mom had a lot to do with that. She encouraged him to get therapy, which he did, and I truly believe it saved his life. And now, for him to finally finish this memoir and send it out into the world, it just feels like he was finally able to wrap up that part of his life.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon. It makes a great gift, too, if you have any military pilots on your list. He’s been doing book tours all over the west, and is a big supporter of vet associations (as you might imagine). You can always reach out to him for more info. You can find him on Facebook.

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Why I Love Instagram

notebookAs I mentioned in my last post, my one goal for 2015 is to start actively taking notes about the world around me. As writers, the one thing we must be is observant, and I think the practice of actively looking and (most importantly) taking notes is critical.

So I found myself a lovely little notebook that fits easily in my purse, and I’ve taken a note on SOMETHING almost everyday. Like everything else in life, I find that the more I do it, the easier it gets – the more I begin to notice things that I need to jot down. It reminds me of the reason I love Instagram.

I’m a social media dabbler. I have a Facebook page, and I sometimes tweet, but my favorite platform by far is Instagram. My love for it developed pretty quickly when I found myself looking for beauty, everywhere I went. I still take the obligatory head-on shots of the kiddos posing arm in arm, but I dig a little deeper when I start to think about how something might look with an interesting filter. I’ll try a different angle, wait patiently for an unusual shot, or set up something in the background to give it depth. And I’m a novice compared to a lot of Instagramers. Truth be told, the results are fun, but it’s the frame of mind that I love the most.

It’s like a much simpler form of my writer’s notebook, which works the same way, insofar as it pushes me to consider things, to look more closely, to try to find the story, but with Instagram, once I’m done, I tap a button and share the moment with my friends. Honestly, I wish all of my friends were on Instagram. It’s the best.

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Writing Goals for 2015

xmas walk
I am so excited for 2015, mostly because 2014 sucked – culminating in a broken wrist that had me out of commission for almost a month. Well, out of commission is relative. The truth is, I already had a week of vacation time planned for Christmas, so I was able to rest the hand and not type, but there were cookies to bake and ornaments to make. My whole family rented a house on the coast in Oregon so we could spend the week together – the photo above is from a walk we took on Christmas morning, during a break in the rain. It was so beautiful.

We didn’t do much for New Years Eve. I had to work, and it’s impossible to get a babysitter, so really, Christmas week was the big deal this year. I’m hoping it marks a turning point, away from the sucky suckness that was 2014 and into the wonderful world of 2015, gravid with potential.

I usually do resolutions, but this year I’m lowering expectations. I have only one goal for this year and it is to revive my writer’s notebook. I used to be so good about jotting down ideas and observations. Any line I stood in was an opportunity for a character study. I wrote about the way light hit different scenes and the nuances of unusual smells. Anything. It’s been years since I did this on a daily basis, and I truly believe it is critical for a writer. So that is my one resolution.

Of course, I also hope to finish “The Feathered Tale of Tallulah Jones” and finally start sending it off to agents. In my wildest dreams I also complete a rough draft of the new novel, the one I have all outlined. Then there’s the blog. All while working full time, raising two kids, and you know, spending the occasional bit of time with my guy.

As usual, I am overcommitting.

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My Broken Wrist

castThere are not a lot of injuries that can take a writer out of commission. Broken ribs, cracked femurs, severed toes – I’m not saying I want any of these troubles, but the truth is, a broken wrist/hand/finger is particularly frustrating to me as a writer because I need to write. It’s how I make my living.

So you can imagine I’m pretty upset to report (with the most un-fun one-handed typing I’ve ever struggled through) that I fell last week and broke my wrist. Honestly, I have a lot to say on the topic, but every freaking word is a labor of love at this point.

The doc predicts I should have the cast off by Christmas, which isn’t so bad. I’m going to take a pass on blogging for the time being, and focus on work, as I can only type so much before it really starts to ache.

Grumble, grumble…

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A New Look for My Blog

So long MojaveLovely readers, it’s been too long.

About a year ago, I posted that I was feeling overwhelmed and that something had to go, to make space for my top two loves (family and fiction) as well as work (boo).

Since that last post, I’ve found myself writing blog posts in my head. Very clever little things, believe me, you would have loved them, but the point is not all the wonderful blog posts I never wrote. The point is that I was missing my blog.

So I am very pleased to announce, here in this post, that it’s BACK!

Yeah!

I have redesigned it, as you can see. No more desert images. I still love the desert, but I am working on a new project, one more broadly based in California, and I wanted a design that wasn’t as locked into a theme.

And as for what I’ve been writing, it’s been an interesting year. I spent the first six months of 2014 outlining a new project. I’m very excited about it. It’s about parenthood, and love, and what it means to grow older. It took me six months to outline it because I did three rounds. At this point the outline is over 50 pages long, but then, in June, I had to set it aside and come back to Tallulah Jones.

I just couldn’t stand that I had abandoned my first novel, so close to the finish line. Taking six months away from it allowed some much needed breathing room, and I’m so I’m back to it again. It is getting close, but wasn’t quite as close as I thought. I am giving it my full attention (that is to say, this is what I’m working on from 5:00 to 6:30 every morning), but I’m getting sick of it again and I find I’m just itching to dive into writing the new project.

As a compromise, I am taking the next couple of weeks to continue working on it, but as of January 1, I am setting it aside again to start drafting the new novel.

I’m finding that I rather like having two larger projects in the works. It feels like I have options.

So that’s that haps. It’s good to be back.

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