Monday, November 27, 2006

Quick Novel Update

Okay, so I missed a few days during the Thanksgiving holiday, but I'm still on schedule for hitting 30,000 on the 30th. I actually had hoped to go over, but having to make up for those lost days seems to have put the kybosh on that. Unless, of course, I really hit a stride between now and Thursday. So, as of today--November 27--the counter looks like this:

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Weekend in Madison

Jeff and I spend last weekend in Madison--a sojourn we couldn't really afford given the insanity of our work of late and the fact that both Christmas and orthodontia are looming. And, most likely, a new refrigerator. Ours is making weird noises. We just hope and pray it doesnt' give up the ghost until AFTER Thanksgiving. But we have never let small considerations such as time or money keep us from spending time in Wisconsin in general, and in Madison in particular.

For those not in the know, Madison is the capital of Wisconsin. The state capitol sits atop a hill on an honest-to-god isthmus between two lakes--Lake Mendota and Lake Monona. It's an impressive capitol:

We usually stay at the Inn on the Square, which is right across from the capitol and less than a block from State Street, which is a thorofare of shops, restaurants, and bars that extends from the capitol to the University of Wisconsin. State Street is hopping at all hours of the day and night, as long as its fine establishments are open:

This time, though, the Inn on the Park did not have any vacancies, so we stayed at The Edgewater, which is situated (just as the name would suggest) on the shore of Lake Mendota. It was begun in 1941, but the war intervened and it wasn't completed until 1948. It's a little worn here and there, but we were very happy with our room--well, our rooms. We were upgraded to a suite and ended up with two full baths, a living room, a decent-sized bedroom, and an enormous closet. The place had a piano bar with a blazing gas fireplace--and the piano player was not half bad. He even managed to remain cordial when a big lug of a guy asked him if he knew any Joe Cocker. Although the hotel is a bit farther from the action than our usual, it is still within easy walking distance of State Street. The hotel proper is a tower just out of sight to the left; the low-slung wing in the picture houses the lobby, restaurant, piano bar, etc. We would certainly stay here again.

We spent the weekend strolling up and down State Street, shopping--mostly for books, CDs, and Christmas presents. While we were in the midst of our strolling, we managed to catch the Veteran's Day parade, which included veterans dressed up as Continental Army soldiers through Civil War soldiers through to modern day. I think they needed more marching bands, though. Too many hummers with sirens. Not enough music. And speaking of music, we went to Spruce Tree Music, one of Jeff's favorite places in the world. Now he has his eye on an ancient tenor banjo that he played and fell in love with... we may be headed up to Madison sooner rather than later for him to pick it up.

On Saturday evening, we had dinner at Brocach Irish Pub on the capitol square, and then went pub crawling around the area. On our way back to The Edgewater, we ran across a puzzling sign spray-painted on the sidewalk. Jeff was first to notice.

What could it be? Only a sign after our own hearts...

I'm just sayin', any town whose residents spray-paint dinosaurs on the sidewalks is a town I wouldn't mind living in. There's the eensy-weensy problem of where to work, as Madison, like Austin and Berkeley and Boulder and any other very cool university town tends to retain a lot of the folks who went to school there. But at least it's close enough to visit now and again.

And now... for the novel update. One thing I didn't do while in Madison was write. Jeff brought his laptop and I brought the novel on a thumb drive, but, alas. Other activities beckoned. That put me a little behind schedule, but I had a bit of a cushion, and I have caught myself back up and then some:

So... I'm 2/3rds of the way there--and the last few days have been like pulling teeth! I've managed to write more than my allotted 1,000 words, but I can't attest to the quality. Part of the problem is that I've been trying to write chronologically, and I'm finding that what I really need to do is write the scenes I'm most interested in writing. Then I'll find a way to string them together afterwards, rather than trying to lead myself there in order--which was resulting in rather strained prose. Let's see if the new approach works.

Friday, November 10, 2006

What a Drag It Is, Getting Old...

But first, a novel update:

Ahead of schedule! Let's just hope I can keep that going.

And now, to explain the title.

I don't think of myself as old. I truly don't. But sometimes one just has to realize that, although one may still harbor the delusion that one is just as vigorous and healthy as any 23-year-old, one is solidly middle aged. And one's body will be happy to let one know.

Lately, even as I'm trying o, so hard, to get back to the track and my running program ('cause let's face it, folks, if ya run 15+ miles a week, as I used to, ya have an easier time battling the poundage), my *bad* knee--the one with the 20+ year old aerobics injury--has started playing up again. I can walk on it just fine. I could probably run on it too, without pain (although I HAVE learned to avoid that particular error of denial over the years). But I can't bend it all the way back (so my ankle can touch my butt) without pain. This doesn't sound like a big deal, but to someone who likes to settle on the sofa with my legs curled up underneath me, it's annoying. And painful. And forget any quad stretches. While I can still work out (the Nordic Track does not seem to exacerbate this problem), I really miss running. And while I love the Nordic Track, it gets old if you do it every single damned day.

So I trot off to the doctor, who manipulates my knee, hears all the pops and skritches it makes (and has made for as long as I can remember--the cause of many gross outs for classmates in the days when we used to squat by our desks to get our stuff out of the cubby under the seat), and says that she doesn't think it's anything but a soft-tissue problem, but I'd better get it x-rayed just to be sure.

Now, arthritis is a legacy in my family. On both sides. My mom wins the prize: She is on her second set of knee replacements. She got the first ones so long ago that they wore out! I have expected the diagnosis since I first injured the knee, 'way back in Boston, 'way back when. I'm pretty sure what they'll find.

But I'm wrong. They don't find anything. Not the slightest, eensiest bit of arthritis. No problem whatsoever. So, despite the aches and pains, right now I have the osteoarthritis at bay. But I still have to go for physical therapy to have them assess what is causing the problem. I just hope they tell me I can still run.

Now, the next insult:

BRACES. As in ORTHODONTIA. Now, as one who suffered through two years of the metal mouth and at least four or so with the retainer (and never lost it until I tossed it out on purpose), I really don't relish this. But the perfect bite and smile my first round of braces produced is going haywire in the form of an ever-widening gap between the front teeth that used to be so jumbled and close that they overlapped. Not a huge gap, but a widening one.

So it's back to the brackets and the wires. At least this time they expect it to take only 8 months or so, and the metal bands have become a thing of the past. That front wire, though... And the cost... oh well, you can't take it with you, right? A week in Paris including airfare, or braces? In a perfect world, I could afford both!

At least I'll get to experience the joy of feeling smooth teeth again after they take the braces off--something I figured was only a sweet memory.

Perhaps it's not getting old that's the drag--it's the repeating some of the less than stellar aspects of youth.

Oh, yeah. And being far and away the oldest person in the orthodontist's waiting room.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Another Update

Just a quick update: I just finished Chapter 21, and I'm a thousand words ahead of schedule.

I really need to sit down and organize the scenes I know I have to include (and flesh out a few new ones that I know I need), so I just don't start writing on blind faith that the thing will wrap itself up on its own. Heh.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Novel Progress Update

Thanks to Dave Wilson, I now have a lovely progress meter. As you can see, I'm twelve percent nearer my goal. I have to admit, though, it's been like pulling teeth, but the stuff that's flowing from my fingers through the keyboard and into the manuscript is surprising me.

Here's the thing: I came up with the basic idea for this novel years ago, and I formulated an outline of the first fifteen chapters or so. At first, I didn't know where the novel would go from there, but eventually I admitted that what I really did not want to happen had to happen (no way to avoid it), and I had a plan for the ending.

Well, with a few extra chapters thrown in--content that just presented itself as I was writing and worked--I got to the end of Chapter 16 and just stopped. I still had a few chapters to go in the outline, but I let the thing languish on my hard drive for about two years. I never stopped thinking about it, though. Back in the spring, when Jeff was working like crazy on his novel, I opened the file again, read what I had written, and liked it. I decided to go back to it, and I wrote to the end of the outline: through Chapter 18. And then I abandoned it again.

Then came NaNoWriMo, and I thought, well, maybe I should give the concept a try, at least. Now I'm in the midst of Chapter 19, but I've already written Chapter 20 (I knew that I had to write something--a lot, actually--between chapters 18 and 20, but the inspiration for Chapter 20 hit, so I let it flow). Now I'm backtracking just a little. But I'm in uncharted territory, now. I have several scenes that I have to fit in somewhere, but I'm making my way into the second act, and I'm not exactly sure where it might go or how these various scenes will work themselves in. That is making this venture rather exciting, but it's also pushing me into nail-biting territory.

Let's see if I can stick to it, and let's see where this puppy is at about 80,000.

My pal Lee wants to see excerpts... hmmm. I'm not sure I want to expose the latest prose to the light of day...yet. Maybe when I get nearer the end...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


November is National Novel Writing Month, where you can sign up to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. Do the math. If you write about 1,667 words per day for 30 days in a row, you have written the equivalent of a short novel (or maybe even an actual short novel: set-up, build, crisis, denouement, the whole shebang).

Well, I already have nearly 50,000 words of a novel that I've been writing for, oh, years now. Since before I met Jeff! I work on it in earnest for a week or three at a time, and then I just obsess over how I'm not working on it for months--sometimes years--at a time. The characters haunt me in my sleep for a while, and then they just give up in disgust. Since Jeff recently polished off a nearly 600-page novel in a matter of months, I'm feeling a tad chagrined at my literary laziness.

So, while I'm not going to sign up for NaNoWriMo, I am going to try to jump-start the rest of my novel by following its precepts. Well, kinda.

Here's what I pledge to do:

Work on the manuscript every day for the next thirty days, starting today.

Aim for a minimum of 1,000 words per day, without setting an upper limit. (When you're in the zone, you're in the zone.)

And that's it.

Fingers crossed that by December 1, I'll be pushing 80,000 words total, and it will be so close to done that I can actually have a ghost of chance of crossing off that perpetual New Year's Resolution.

Oh, by the way, my count for today, November 1, is 1,049 words. I made it--just barely!