Why Retreat When You Can Write Full Time?

Last week, I drove two hours north to the Pennsylvania woods, where I rented a cabin with Maria V. Snyder for a week-long writing retreat.

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I suspect some of you are wondering why I’d do something crazy like that.  I mean, I have the luxury (and the responsibility) of writing full time.  Why spend a total of four hours in the car to go to a place where I need to carry in bedding and pots and pans and food, all to write, just like I write at home?  (For reference, I’ve written an article about writing retreats — how to set them up and why do do them — here.)

Short answer:  It’s not just like at home.

For one thing, I’ve driven two hours to get there, and I’ll drive two hours to get home, so there’s a time cost to going there.  Far more importantly, there’s a family cost to going there — I’ve left behind my husband and our cats, upsetting human and feline schedules alike.  I’ve turned my world and the world of those I love upside down.

So I damn well better be productive while I’m there.

In an ordinary week, when I’m writing at full speed, I produce 15,000 words of solid first draft.  Those words aren’t perfect, and there will likely be fairly substantial revisions in specific language, but the plot is set and the general sequence of events and the backbone of the writing.

In the four full days of the retreat (Monday through Thursday, plus a few hours on Sunday after I arrived), I drafted almost 30,000 words.  That’s one third of the new Jane Madison novel, JOY OF WITCHCRAFT.  Those words are more likely to survive editing than my usual words because they were written quickly, in close proximity to each other.  (I find that I do my best writing fast.)

In addition to drafting all those words, I also built a Scrivener file that contains all the Jane novels in one large project.  That file makes my writing vastly more efficient — I can search one file to see if I’ve used a name before, or to track down the characteristics of a crystal or an herb,  or to recall the name of a spell.  It took  me a few hours to do the work (see, Sunday evening), but the labor will benefit me for all the Jane novels to come.

Usually, I alternate writing time with breaks — taking long walks in the woods, heading down to the lake, etc.  On this retreat, alas, it rained *buckets* on Monday.  And then on Tuesday, the temperature didn’t get above 25.  (I took a short walk, but I headed back when the wind nearly blew my frozen ear lobes off my head.)  On Wednesday and Thursday, the words were flowing and the temps were still glacial, so I kept my head down and wrote, wrote, wrote.  On Friday, before we left, I did take one relatively long walk, but it was mostly a chance to say goodbye to the site.

Maria, I’ve discovered, is a great retreat-mate.  We keep very different hours.  I wake up relatively early, write a chunk in the morning, break for lunch, write a chunk in the afternoon, break for dinner, write a chunk in the evening, then go to bed around 11:00.  She wakes up much later (around my lunch time) and she works must later (till 3 or 4 in the morning.)  Therefore, we both have “alone time,” the same way that we have “together time.”  It works out well.

I have two other retreats already scheduled in the new year — mini-retreats that last a weekend and take place at the homes of writer-friends.  I’m looking forward to them, to the socializing, to the discussing business, to the short intense bursts of writing.

But I’m also already planning my next retreat in the woods.  Because I’ll have another third of a book to get drafted.  I always do.  :-)

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Not Dead Yet

Not dead.  Not carried off by the camelback crickets that insist on taking refuge on the ground level of our home (and some of them are HUGE this year!) Not king yet.

But, um, where did the past ten days go?

Let’s see…

We had houseguests visiting from Canada — the charming Julie Czerneda (in the midst of her book launch tour for A PLAY OF SHADOW) and her husband, Roger.  They arrived with flavored coffees (blueberry! maple!) in hand and a ***gorgeous*** matted photograph of a unicorn ice sculpture, taken by Roger himself.  We enjoyed long conversations about writing, books, publishing, politics, music, travel, and I don’t know what else.

Julie and Roger were in town for the World Fantasy Convention, which took place in a hotel just a couple of miles from our house.  I didn’t attend the con as a member (I’ve been publishing too little fantasy!), but I did hang out in the hotel lobby and bar for two days, visiting with friends and catching up with folks I haven’t seen in far too long.  I also had a chance to meet some Book View Cafe members for the first time in person — I’d love to have a chance to visit each of our co-op members, because communicating face-to-face adds so much more to our online chats!

With Julie and Roger in tow, we went to hear Suzanne Vega play at a small venue in DC.  Stranger to music that I am, I only knew a couple of her songs, but I loved her performance.  Stevie Wonder was playing a huge arena show just a couple of blocks away, and I think we *totally* made the right choice for the evening :-)

I’ve begun outlining my next book, JOY OF WITCHCRAFT, which will be the fifth Jane Madison book.  I’m having a wonderful time getting back into Jane’s world.  Poor librarian-witch! Nothing goes easily for her!

We went to an amazing Smithsonian lecture on Istanbul, taught by Nigel McGilchrist.  Alas, I knew very little about Istanbul prior to the talk, but I learned a great deal of history (and some information about art and food and geology and, and, and, and…)  One of the great things about Nigel’s lectures is his ability to fold together so many different disciplines as he speaks.  His slides illustrate his points beautifully, and he speaks without notes, making everything feel very real and immediate.  And now, alas, I have more travel destinations to add to my list :-)

And I’ve been preparing for a writing retreat next week.  I’ll be stealing away with Maria V. Snyder.  We’re heading off to a state park, where we’ll rent a cabin (just as the first major blast of arctic air is set to hit the region!)  I intend to get about a third of a novel written while I’m there — and to have great conversations about writing, publishing, etc.  (Maria and I keep somewhat different schedules — I wake up early and go to bed before midnight; she wakes up after noon and works until the wee hours of the morning.  That gives us both some “alone time” to get a lot of work done and some “social time” to talk.  A great arrangement!)  I’m generally very productive on retreats — I have to justify taking the time away from Mark and the cats!

So, that’s the past.  And I’ll be scarce for the next week.  But after that, I hope to be back in the usual swing of things!

What about you?  How’s the autumn treating you?  Tell me something wonderful about November!

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In the End, It’s ALWAYS RIGHT!

Sigh.  The World Series is over, and there’s no baseball to watch on television (until spring training starts — in five short months!)  I knew I’d be mourning the end of the season (even if I couldn’t predict how early my poor Nationals would have been out of the running…) And so, way, way back, when I first started planning the Diamond Brides Series, I knew the last launch would come shortly after the Series wound up.  One last jolt of baseball for the year…  One last visit with the team — the Raleigh Rockets — we’ve come to know so well.

So, this is it!  ALWAYS RIGHT launches today!

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ALWAYS RIGHT is the book I thought of, when I first imagined writing the Diamond Brides.  I knew exactly how Kyle Norton behaves; his superstitions were my very first inkling about the Raleigh Rockets.  Here’s what that tiny seed grew into:

Teetering on the brink of success as a patent lawyer, Amanda Carter is courting financial disaster. She’s juggling her family’s crippling medical expenses and a huge payment to join her law firm partners – nearly impossible burdens because her father stole her identity. If she doesn’t pay up and win her current case, everything she’s worked for will crash to a humiliating end.

Easy-going right fielder Kyle Norton is mired in the worst hitting slump of his career—until a black-haired beauty in the stands offers him her sunglasses. Slump broken, superstitious Kyle is convinced Amanda is the key to the championship his team so desperately wants to win for its dying owner.

Kyle needs Amanda to give him her glasses at every game. Amanda needs to bury herself in work and win the lawsuit—if she can find the money to buy into the firm. Soon, Amanda and Kyle are locked in battle, united by need and consumed by passion. In the end, only one can be always right.

ALWAYS RIGHT costs just $2.99.  You can buy your copy from your favorite vendor:  Amazon Kindle | Apple iBooks | B&N Nook | Book View Cafe | Kobo. A print edition will be available shortly.

So, what do you say?  Ignore the autumn for a day!  Buy ALWAYS RIGHT!  And send the baseball season off in style!

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Want Some Low-Cost Books?

Okay, I was going to say “cheap” books, but you all might take that the wrong way :-)

Kobo is having *another* massive sale this weekend!  From October 31 – November 2, you can buy dozens of books for 35% off their list price.  All you need to do is go to the sale website:

http://www.kobo.com/unlimited35

Browse through the offerings and fill your shopping cart.  Then check out, using the discount code UNLIMITED35.  (And yes, as the code’s name implies, your savings are unlimited.  You can buy as many books as you want, shopping in as many sessions as you want, throughout the duration of the sale.)

You’ll find my Diamond Brides books — CENTER STAGE and STOPPING SHORT.

If you aren’t already a Kobo customer, you might consider signing up.  If you live in the States, you can “team” your Kobo membership with an independent bookstore, so the bricks-and-mortar store gets credit for your purchase. I spent a lot of time talking to the Kobo folks at the NINC conference last week, and I’m really impressed by their business model.

Plus, you know.  Low-cost books.  Cheap, even.

Happy reading!

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Can’t Blog. Brain is Full.

Well, I’m back!  (Did you notice I was gone?  Please say you noticed I was gone!)

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I just spent five days in St. Petersburg, Florida, attending the 2014 Novelists, Inc. conference.  I knew I was in for something good when I looked at the program and there was at least one panel that interested me in every single time slot (sometimes two or three!)  And I suspected I’d enjoy the conference when I saw the resort hotel, with its white sand beaches.  And I was pretty sure I’d enjoy at least the *meals* when I saw the elaborate menus for every conference meal.

But I hadn’t counted on how much I would learn. And how many ideas I’d have, sitting and listening to others. And how many new projects would start to tempt me, as I traded thoughts with other professional writers.

I’ve been to lots of conventions — tons of World Fantasy, lots of Worldcon, a healthy handful of RWA Nationals.  But this is the first conference I’ve ever been to that ran like the librarian and lawyer conferences I used to attend — career furtherance, from keynote address to final thoughts.

It’s also the first convention where I live-tweeted some of the sessions.  Yes.  Me.  @MindyKlasky. #Ninc14.

Pardon me, now. I’ll be over in the corner, revamping my massive to do list.  Don’t laugh.  That’s what I’m calling that massive scroll of a document!  To do.  Sometime before I die :-)

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