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Friday, October 14, 2011

Is There Life After Novels?

(Shells on the Beach, Southhampton, New York)

There are a lot of drains on my time and energy right now, including a painful shoulder injury and attendant doctor/physical therapy visits and medication related side effects, which, threatened to sideline my writing for a while.

The overuse injury is due in part to exercise and, since it's my right arm and the pain extends from shoulder to wrist, typing surely has something to contribute. I am a fitness and outdoor enthusiast, and a novel writing fanatic.

For the last two years, I've been focused on revising or writing novels and a novella and have a lot to show for it--besides the stupor, brain drain, and arm pain. I'm typing again, a bit slower and mousing with my left hand.

My Cape Cod paranormal romance series consists of two completed novels, Unfinished Business and The Widow's Walk, with the third (working title: Hurricane Watch) partially outlined.

Boulevard of Bad Spells and Broken Dreams: Void of Course, is the first of two, maybe three, urban fantasies. The plot of the second book, likely with the same title and a subtitle involving tarot (as opposed to astrology), is beginning to gel in my mind, my dreams, and my ruminations even before the finishing touches have been put on book one.

That's a total of 330,000 words written, plus the 20,000 I cut out of The Widow's Walk, and the 2500 for the first chapter of Hurricane Watch. In order to keep momentum going, I've had to work on all three over the last twenty-four months, sometimes two at a time, and when the worlds and characters are so different, that becomes a real struggle.

I strive for 1000 words a day, either new material or revisions, and sometimes succeed, though more often I will nod off over the keyboard after a measly 100 or a chapter of revision. Sometimes, I get no novel work done, and I've neglected my short stories, my nonfiction, my reviews, my blogs, and my reading with the result of a to do pile threatening to collapse my nightstand.

I have a new nonfiction gig but have to wait until the ink is dry on the contract before going public. And I'm still reviewing anthologies and collections for Tangent Online and The Portal, with a review of After the Apocalypse by Maureen McHugh due out in the next week or so.

What else have I been reading? Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities, which is somewhat comparable to the setting of Boulevard, except for the fairies, vampires, and werewolves. And a book Nancy Kress recommended I take a look at: The French Lietenant's Woman by John Fowles, mainly to absorb the Victorian flavor. The interesting omni/intrusive narration and footnotes are a curious mix. Both good stories, though.

At this point, with summer done and fall weather here, the Cape characters and scenes are quiescent, with the manuscripts out with three agents.

But I'm so deep into research for Boulevard, having just completed a basic and advanced astrology course, reading backround material on Santeria and Voudoun, and field trips to botanicas and the Bronx County Courthouse that I dream in scenes and drive with a pencil and pad in hand, taking notes at red lights, recording ideas and inspirations, and trying to focus on reality.

It's been a great, productive summer--and the momentum after Taos Toolbox has been exponential--but the problem with intensive workshops is that when one returns to real life, which for many of us involves a full time job (with teenagers), that does not include fiction writing, not to mention a family (with teenagers) there is bound to be some shock and denial, which is probably why I'm in the physical condition I'm in now.

Is there life after novels? Was there life before them? What will I do when they're done, or will I ever be done?

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