What Condition My Condition Is In


I’ve been home just over a month now, and haven’t had much to say for myself, at least where writing is concerned. I know this blog ought to focus on my ‘professional’ life, but oftentimes it misses the mark in that regard. My emotional life, my personal life inform my writing (some might say to an uncomfortable degree), and I can’t help delving into these things.

Today all I can say is, I’m feeling creatively bankrupt. I’m waiting on a few developments to, well, develop in my personal life, and when they do I believe I will be freed to take the necessary steps into this new/old New York life. My needs are simple: a place to write and writing compatriots with whom to share the experience of writing. A support network.  And a feeling of joy, which is elusive right now.

Send joy, if you’ve got some to spare.


Jack Hammers and Dim Sum and Snow…Oh, Why?

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So, I moved back home. Back to Manhattan, land of my birth and of my grudging love, affection and respect. Back to the insanity of subway construction, snow, sleet and sludge, and all the memories good and bad that go with this place. I’ve left the land of manana in the realm of yesterday, and I’m off to new-old things.

I won’t go into the whys and wherefores. Suffice it to say there were reasons, and I hope they were good ones. Once the daffodils begin to poke their heads out in Central Park, I know I’ll feel excitement for the future, but for now I’m mostly grateful for good friends, good food (sayonara, green chile!), and, most recently, for finishing the copy edits on LAST CHANCE LLAMA RANCH, which is in really great shape and nearly ready for its August pub date.

I don’t tend to toot my own horn, but I really feel this book is my best work to date. As I write each novel, I learn something new about the craft, and after 7 complete works of over 100,000 words each, I feel I’m beginning to come into my strengths as a writer and shake some sloppy habits. I’m so excited for it to go out into the world and find its audience.

Meanwhile, I go out into the (still!) frozen tundra in search of bagels. Because I can.

Great, but does it have legs?

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I’m brewing up a new book idea.  It’s fresh, it’s clever, and I don’t think it’s been done in women’s fiction before. (Of course, this can be tricky with my genre, as one wants to be innovative without straying too far from the fold.)  But the important thing is, I’m excited about it.

Like, when I talk about it with friends, kernels of ideas pop and things get wacky.  My favorite part of writing – the “Ooh, and then maybe this happens, and then, like, that happens, and THEN…” – the spitballing, brainstorming, brewing, and machinating all kick into gear.

Later, it gets tricky.  Because you have to wrangle all that out-there energy and wrestle it into one coherent plot. Characters get nailed down, and storylines emerge, from which one best not deviate.  The hard work ensues.  What makes sense?  How do I get the protagonist from A to B to C?

And all the while you wonder… does this kooky idea have legs? Can it go from clever premise to 400 solid pages?

Now’s a time of possibilities, and uncertainty.  Anyone who knows me knows I love the former and loathe the latter.  I appreciate this time of creative freedom – I really do – but I’d like to know I’m on the right track… soon.

So this idea… I won’t say much, but I will say two movies are inspiring me right now. Galaxy Quest and The Net.  Whee!

Refilling the Well

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Since I handed in Last Chance Llama Ranch, I’ve been wondering… what’s next? I’d hoped to leap instantly from Merry and her fluffy friends to our next enchanting heroine, but… I discovered the creative well needed a few days to refill.  So, I’ve been taking it easy, crocheting and watching gobs of TV, enjoying Santa Fe while the weather’s good. It feels amazing to have finished another novel, but… I won’t be passionately engaged again until I’m working on my next project.

I’d thought about doing NaNoWriMo, but after handing in a novel the very day before it started, there was just no way. I sat there with my laptop open, and… nothing.  Zip. Zilch, nada, nowaygo. Now I think I may have the beginning of a cool new plot forming in my fevered brain.  It’ll take some research (which I hate, because it’s such a stumbling block to getting started) but it may be a lot of fun.  We shall see.

What I do know is that, while creativity is not necessarily something you have to woo with flowers and chocolate, it does require a little finesse. Perspiration may lead to inspiration, but there’s something to be said for creating a non-threatening environment for it to sneak in, make a little nest for itself, and feel at home. Trying to bludgeon a new idea into being wasn’t going to work. I needed to let it wander around at will, and still need to, though I think I may have laid out the welcome mat now.

Wish me luck nurturing this new zygote into a novel!

Last Chance Llama Ranch, At Last

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Last Friday, October 31st, I finished my novel and handed it in to the publisher. After a year of death, divorce, and devastation, it felt like a Herculean task, and I have to admit there were a lot of times I wasn’t having fun writing it. But I learned something about writing. You don’t always have to be having fun to do your best work.

And I think this may be my best work.

I think there’s humor, and craft, and solid characterization. I think there’s growth, and interpersonal conflict. And, for what it’s worth, there are alpacas. Lots of fuzzy alpacas. I’m pleased and proud of what I’ve wrought (writ?), and I hope my readers will be too.

So now the $64,000 question… what should the next book be about?

Easy Like Friday Morning

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Today I feel like having a gentle morning. It’s been a balls-out month of writing (30,000 words in 30 days) and I am thrilled with that. I intend to have another good day of writing today too. But I think I need to approach it in a softer way today.

So much of my life this past year has been stressful, dealing with death, divorce, and heartbreak, and soon, a big cross-country move. I’ve earned that new streak of grey hair, for sure. And I’m still kicking–fiercely sometimes. Often, I don’t even feel like I’m breathing; I’m just plowing along, shoulders in the traces, trying to stay alive and not lose the things I still have. It can be hard to appreciate the things that make life beautiful at a time like this, or even to look up and see them.

I haven’t gone to see the aspens in their golden splendor, or hiked my favorite trails in months. I haven’t fed the birds in my yard, or eaten in my favorite restaurants. Haven’t strolled downtown, peeked in art galleries, gone shopping.

I have had some lovely laughs with good friends, here and there. I have had the pleasure of using my craft, and knowing I’m doing the thing I was meant to do with my life. I know things will get better as I move through this phase, and I know there are good things in store. I just have to treat myself in a loving way if I want to get to the finish line.

Writing is like sex… in a very weird way

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I was talking to my friend BB the other day, as we were huddled over our laptops trying to write our books. And I asked him, “Hey, do you ever get that thing where, after you write a really great couple of sentences, you feel like you have to pull back, look away, focus on something else for a few seconds even though you’ve suddenly gotten into the flow better than ever?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Absolutely.”

“It’s like sex,” I mused. “Like, you’re getting too close to your orgasm too quickly, and you have to hold back and not blow your wad, as it were.”

“We guys are very familiar with this phenomenon,” BB assured me dryly.

I still find it weird. Why, just when I’m grooving, do I suddenly need to check Facebook, feed the cat, do a load of laundry? Maybe it’s a fear of getting lost in that flow. Maybe it’s too exhilarating. Or maybe it’s simpler than that, and inspiration only comes out in little puffs at a time, especially these days when we’re all so used to shattered concentration, multitasking on multiple screens. I don’t remember anymore if I used to be able to cruise along in the flow, be carried away rather than resisting. The internet and its distractions have been a part of my experience too long.

For now, I’ll take the little puffs of inspiration, and hope they lead to a satisfying climax in the end.

Pumping out the pages

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It’s true what they say. It ain’t about the inspiration, it’s about the perspiration. I think I’ve written about 25,000 words in the last three weeks, and we’re nearing the home stretch on LAST CHANCE LLAMA RANCH.  Woo hoo!

After a year full of hell and high water, I wasn’t working very hard for a while there, except on keeping my head above those waters.  Now… I’m finally writing like I’m meant to, in the thick of it, the meat and the bones, and quite frankly, the gristle.

Writing is HARD!

Writing is FUN!

Writing is an insane occupation I have no idea how anybody ever came up with. Who the hell sits around parsing words and dithering over it should be “dilly” or “dally” all day? Yet even when I was a little kid on the playground, I’d always be coming up with scenarios for my friends and I to act out at recess, so I suspect fiction has been in my blood a long, long time.

Today, I’m just glad it’s in my fingertips too, and that those fingertips keep tapping the keyboard.

With a Little Help From My Friends

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Challah2Today marks four years since my mother died. I’d planned to spend it cooking and writing, alone in my house. Oh, and did I mention moping?

My writing buddies had other plans.

I still cooked – matzo ball soup and home-baked challah, since it’s the Jewish holidays and these were my mom’s favorite comfort foods – but I wasn’t alone.

“Make me a pot of coffee and I’ll vacuum your place,” Pam said, after I protested I couldn’t have guests because of the cat fur tumbleweeds.

“I’ll bring chocolate and snacks,” said Rebecca, and boy did she ever. (Trader Joe’s has the best EVERYTHING, and I’m pretty sure she emptied the shelves.)

And before I knew it, the glum, grim day I’d expected turned into a party of dough punching, chocolate-almond munching, and writing at the kitchen table with some of my very favorite Santa Fe friends. A day of sorrow turned into one of gratitude, and laughs, and productivity. A day that reminds me life goes on, and brings with it unexpected joys.

I get by with a little help from my friends.