Innocence Found: Purcell Park and Came to Believe

It’s no secret that Stephen King is one of my biggest influences, so I suppose it’s appropriate that he’s made me re-think things. I follow King on Twitter and have been enjoying his tweets about Molly, aka the Thing of Evil. They’ve been great as a fan and, more importantly as an author, in that they made me re-assess my interactions with current and potential readers.

Looking back, this site suffers from the lack of a personal touch. In those rare times where I’ve put the focus on something other than my fiction or the act of writing itself, it’s been to talk about myself in relation to the craft. This includes writing about influences, detailing personal development within the craft itself, and other writing-related topics. I’ve kept you at arms length. Now I’ve never been a “look at me” kind of person, owing to some negative early experiences, and I tend to think that stories should speak for themselves, but I also like to get glimpses into some of my favorite authors’ lives. So, I figured, why not open up a bit, share some things, especially when they intersect with my fiction?

You can expect a blend of slice-of-life and status posts, but I also want to talk about the sights and scenery of the Shenandoah Valley, especially as they relate to locations in Came to Believe and the other forthcoming books in the series. This is not so removed from my personal life as it first appears, as I grew up in the Valley and feel much of its history in my bones; I didn’t appreciate the place growing up, but these days it’s clear just how much it’s shaped and informed my worldview, for better or worse.

This week we’ll start with the very first scene of Came to Believe.

“I said, ‘where are we’?” Her voice had gotten a little higher this time, with a hint of panic at the edges.

 

Answer her, his weak side urged, but still he said nothing. He switched off the headlights and slowed to a crawl, studying the houses that lined the street. The neighborhood backed up to Purcell Park, with its towering oaks, baseball diamonds, and jungle gyms. The park was his destination, and while it might seem suspect to take a teenaged hooker there for business, he had few remaining options for such an encounter.

Here we meet Dean Rohrer, a dentist with a penchant for prostitutes who is taking what is to be his last “pleasure cruise” into Purcell Park, a sprawling blend of multi-purpose fields, picnic shelters, and playgrounds located near the heart of Harrisonburg, Virginia. The park opened in 1954 and is home to a “Kid’s Castle” that was installed sometime in the 80s and was likely part of the reason I went there so often, typically as part of group outings.

Purcell

My memories of these outings are somewhat hazy, though they often involved picnics, baseball, and, of course, said Kids Castle. There may also have been a girl involved, but that memory is hazy at best.

Kids_Castle

I can’t speak for other kids who used that Castle, but it sure put the fear of tight spaces into my heart. I was never a small kid, in weight or height, so it was always a snug fit at best, “age-appropriate clearance” or not. As a result, I didn’t spend a ton of time in the castle itself. My time was better spent roaming through the emptier back fields and trails, stopping for a softball game here or a baseball game there; mostly, however, I wanted to soak in the isolation of the place. What can I say? I was an only child and used to solitude. I loved to break away from the group and wander through the empty spaces.

This sense of solitude and peace, more than anything else, is what drove me to select Purcell for the book. Sure, I could have gone with Hillandale Park, where I was offered my first cigarettes and most definitely had an encounter or two with a girl, but therein lie the problem: I had imbued the place with such a sense of sleaze over the years that it felt too obvious, too dangerous. I preferred the idea of him “corrupting” a location, as it would also offer the opportunity to “redeem” it in the future.

Ultimately, this is all subjective and down to my personal experience. I’m sure a lot of people had quite different experiences with the park in question, but I needed to operate on this level to get the appropriate emotional tone.

As a footnote, I revisited the place during the early drafting stages. As always, everything looked smaller, especially that Castle, but the memories came flooding back. I was also dismayed to see that things had decayed quite a bit, but there’s a revival underway for the place, which warms my heart. So much of Harrisonburg’s history is vanishing in the name of progress that it’s good to see some preservation efforts. Let’s hope it’s enough.

kidscastle2

Oh, one more thing before I go. On November 7th, I’ll be participating in the Extra Life gaming marathon to raise money for the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital, and your donations are greatly appreciated. I plan to stream at least some of the marathon, where applicable, at http://www.twitch.tv/workingdogv1. I’ll be posting a schedule in the coming days. In the meantime, I’d be ever so grateful if you’re able to donate to the cause. Even $1 will help. You can donate by going to my Extra Life page. If you’re interested in participating, I can also answer any questions you might have and point you in the right direction. Thanks in advance to everyone who helps to make this event a successful one.

Next week I’ll talk a little about Halloween in the Shenandoah Valley; specifically, what that was like when I was growing up. Hope to see you then.

Monday Sanity Check: Skyline Drive Edition

“Happy” Monday to everyone. Hope you had a great weekend and got a chance to do something relaxing and peaceful. The wife and I headed out to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and took a ride down Skyline Drive, stopping at just about every overlook to take some pictures. I’m still sorting through the photos (there are easily 100+), but here are some I’d like to share.

Fave01 Fave03 Lookout14 Lookout16 Road02

Checking in – Mid-October Edition

So I promised in my most recent entry that I would be checking in with you guys more often, and this is the proof in the pudding. A complete update on where Came to Believe currently stands and where I think we’re going next.

I’m currently working my way through the largest chapter in the book, Chapter 24. This is the penultimate chapter, in which we finally learn Lindsay’s (she’s the protagonist’s love interest but so much more) dark secret and see them reconcile, taking tentative steps toward a relationship. It’s an important chapter, though I’m guilty of thinking that whatever chapter I might be working on is the most important in the novel. Unfortunately it is actually the longest, and is taking the most time to complete (I’m at 25 days with another draft to go, which blows away the next-largest chapter). There’s just no way to break the thing down into coherent chunks, so it’s all at once or nothing, I’m afraid.

I’m hoping to have the fourth draft done by the end of next week, but that may be a pipe dream. That would align me to finish the novel sometime in the second week of November, at which point I start incorporating critique group comments. Once those are done, it’s time to let the book simmer and start the next novel, which features Lindsay as the protagonist. We’ll talk more about that in the coming weeks.

All told, Came to Believe has taken roughly 26 months to complete. Longest time to finish a novel by far, but keep in mind that I’ve written enough material to have a good chunk of the next novel complete, along with a hypothetical future novel that revolves around Dean once again. So the process may end up shortening later works, which would be a godsend. It’s been an interesting journey, transformative to say the least, but I’ll talk about that in the future as well.

For now, we’ll leave it here and see where I am on the 30th. Hopefully I’ll have something good to report. Until then, I’m a squirrel.

Squirrel

Emerging From The Writer Cave

Hello one and all, I return from my Writer Cave bearing good news. I know, I know, not the first time returning, nor will it be the last, I’m sure. Blame it on an overwhelming drive to finish up this novel in the face of more than two years of work. But hey, at least I’m in the closing stages of Came to Believe! Well, the last few chapters of what is ostensibly the final draft, anyway. A few more steps to go through after that, but I’ll talk more about that on Friday.

Which brings me to the topic of this post: I have a plan for this space now.

Now, don’t expect to see content as ambitious as what I’ve posted in the past. I’ve shifted priorities to focus on quality in my novels, which is rather intensive and eats up a lot of writing time, which means daily posts are just not possible. It’s sad and frustrating, but it’s reality. And at least I do have a reliable process now, after five years of searching. One of the biggest lessons of the last ten months or so has to been to trust this process and understand that it will ultimately provide, even if it seems at times to be magic. Again, I’ll talk about this more in the near future.

My current goal for this space is to provide a “home base” of sorts for my efforts, both writing and marketing. At the moment, this means a weekly post focusing on the major themes of what is beginning to look like a series. This series revolves around the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and, more specifically, the city of Harrisonburg and towns of Dayton and Bridgewater, though other towns are represented. It’s an area that is undergoing a transformation from rural stronghold to metropolitan region, all driven by an influx of student loan money. It’s a rich vein to mine, with lots of ephemera that only shows up on the sidelines in the books but could be expanded upon with the proper time and care. That’s what I want to bring you in the weekly posts.

 

CoveredBridge15

You can also expect a bi-weekly update on the status of my latest works and talking about my overall writing, pitching, and marketing process. These will be quicker entries, just a few hundred words to get you up-to-date.

In the meantime, I’ll also be updating my Facebook Author Page, Pinterest boards, Tsu page, and Twitter with relevant content; for example, you may see me talking about Halloween in the Shenandoah Valley here and sharing some photography from past and present Valley Halloweens over on Pinterest, all while talking about this year’s festivities on the Facebook author page.

It should be an interesting adventure, and I hope you stick around for it. More in the near future.

 

 

A Bad Idea

Having another in a long chain of busy weeks, so I’ll keep the update brief and novel-focused today. Hit the halfway point on the second draft of Chapter 18 yesterday and I’m feeling good about its development. Should be one of those chapters that is good for review after the third draft, which is always a pleasant surprise. Some are more difficult than others. The current schedule looks like I’ll get to Chapter 19 right around Memorial Day week, which leaves the actual start date somewhere up in the air, as Mary and I are going on vacation that week. Sometimes I write on vacations, but I’ve found that weeks off can also be beneficial, so we’ll see how that all shakes off.

I’ve been setting long-term goals lately and I’m going to be doing my damnedest to get the initial version of the novel done by Labor Day weekend (the second anniversary of its creation). That gives me about 12 weeks to get through 6 chapters. Tight schedule, but doable with a good project plan. From there it goes to beta readers in early September and then on to my editor in early October, after which I’ll start shopping it around for an agent. I’m hoping to place it by the end of the year, but clearly that’s out of my hands beyond the submission process. I’m not sure when you’ll get the final version in your hands, but I think the delays have been worth it so far.

Speaking of release and previews and whatnot, my good friend Mary Doyle tagged me on a “777” challenge last week, wherein you’re supposed to share 7 sentences from page 7 of your work in progress, and tag seven other writers to share their own. I knew that would be a challenging portion of the novel, but I went for it. Unfortunately, it didn’t go so well. Didn’t get many comments or likes and no one took up the challenge, the sort of thing that’ll make a writer incredibly insecure, especially when you’ve poured the better part of two years into a book.

It sounds odd, but the good news is that the sentences came across as kind of creepy and weird; I say good because it’s not a reflection on the novel itself, but rather the format. As Mary (the wife, not Doyle) pointed out, Dean seemed like a serial killer in the posted snippet, one who was leading a naive 16-year-old girl into an abandoned park. Robbed of context, it had quite the sinister air. Now, Dean is many things at the opening of the novel – a womanizer, a snob, and a total asshole, but he’s not a rapist and/or killer. I mean, there’s skeevy and then there’s SKEEVY. He’s the former, not the latter.

Concerned about the long-term health of the novel, I shared the first three chapters with Mary (again, the wife) and she liked them, agreeing that context was essential to understanding the scene. Wipe the sweat from my brow on that one.

So, yeah, note to self, never share this kind of stuff without proper context, as it can come across quite disastrously. Strictly proper previews from here on out, and you’ll be the first to know. Live and learn, and whatnot.

Anyway, back to other matters. Catch you next week.

Gimme That (Old?) Time Religion

Hey everybody, it’s Wednesday, and you know what that means. That’s right, blog time!

I have a few things to talk about this week, but let’s start with the status update. Last week I had just finished Chapter 17 and planned to move on to Chapter 18 and…that’s where I remain. I’ve made some progress, just not as much as I would prefer, as the critique group intervened on the latter half of the week.

And that’s okay! I get so much value out of the experience that it’s not exactly a sacrifice. I got through the work with nary a scratch and traveled to the dreaded Baltimore for the meeting. As you can see, the place was in flames and I’m lucky to have gotten out with my life:

Baltimore2

 

Anyway, Chapter 18. I would like to be farther along, but the last few days have been focused on honing the chapter’s opening paragraphs. The problem? It felt too non-committal, too vague, which happens when your protagonist is blasted out of his minds on benzos. The scene needed juice, but how to get it? Ah, of course: look at it from the point of view of a critique. One thing never really added up, and it provided a hook for the scene. You see, Lindsay takes Dean to her place and Dean’s knowledge of the street on which she lives makes him a little uneasy. That prompted the question, how did he know of the street’s reputation, and what about it made him uneasy?

The street itself doesn’t have a bad reputation back home; my impression is entirely based on my own experiences. So why not share Dean’s experiences? It would give the reader more backstory and increase his anxiety about what might happen. That pushed things forward, and now I’m up to the part where he sees her apartment for the first time. Hopefully I can get farther in the next few days.

Now that other item that I wanted to talk about. I want to share a quick…well, ‘response’ is not quite the right word. Inspired post? Maybe that’ll work. On Saturday I was sitting around waiting for breakfast when this wonderful post from my friend Aniko Carmean popped up. I tried to write a few responses on her site, but they all felt kind of flat. The thing is, she was bravely sharing about a spiritual matter in her life, and everything felt like an empty pat on the back rather than a one-to-one relation. Thinking more about it, I realized it was a blog post. So…here you go. But first, read her post, it’s a good one.

Aniko, I get you. I’ve always been a spiritual seeker, and felt that hollow space in my life for a long time. I grew up Mormon, though we weren’t the most devout of members (at least until I was about eight years old). Still, even without being devout, I felt that I had some answers about what the afterlife looked like, what it meant to be spiritual, and the general shape of my “religious life”, for lack of a better term, going forward.

Then my teen years happened and, as teenagers often do, I found myself dissatisfied with the answers. Problem was, I looked around at my friends and most seemed pretty happy with what they had. My Baptist friends went to their church…well, religiously, and believed in the doctrine. Same for my Mennonite friends. And so on. It seemed that most people had not only been given a formula for spiritual happiness, but accepted it and found happiness. Age has revealed my situation to be far from unique, but it was a scary place as a kid growing up in the Bible Belt.

Maybe I didn’t have the right set of answers. I attended the Baptist church, sat in with the Mennonites, Brethren, Apostolic, Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist…. I would have gone to mosque or temple or whatever else if they had been available to a poor rural kid in the 90s. I craved one of two things: either a “peak experience”, that one moment of insight, the universal curtain pulled back; or a sense of spiritual satisfaction.

Both proved elusive.

I turned to other methods of pursuing it as I got older, from drugs to meditation to magick, and while meditation proved beneficial, none of them got me to where I wanted to be. Still I had that aching spiritual hole, and I ended up acting in desperate and self-destructive ways as a result of this absence. Things didn’t change until I started attending 12-step meetings. Though the concept is usually accused of centering on Christian values, I found that it fused my mindfulness lessons with some Buddhist philosophies. I don’t know if it was the system itself or simply being in the right place and right time in my life, but it brought me to a place where I finally started to achieve that peace. I learned how to be happy with what I had, to accept that I can’t control everything (or even most things), and to look for the beauty in the moment.

My understanding has continued to evolve, and I’ve since learned that my temple, my church, is right here, on the page. The sanctuary for my soul is literally at my fingertips. Writing is my form of communion, a connection with the beauty that underlies life and what some might call God, or the universe. I prefer to think of it as the initial creative impulse. I’ve given up on a precise definition for my beliefs. This very absence defines the one thing that has eluded me this whole time: an understanding that you can’t (or at least I can’t) “pin down” a religious experience. It’s ephemeral by its very nature, a butterfly flitting from one petal to another. Each of those experiences over the year was my religious practice, whether it happened in a pristine chapel or a dirty basement, under a Protestant roof or a Catholic tent. The very pursuit was an authentic religious experience, with my obsessive quest for some sort of resolution or ending as a fools’ errand, focusing on the finger rather than the stars to which it points.

I’m not always happy or sedate. I have my bad days like anyone else, but I do at least have some refuge to which I can return on a consistent basis. I would worry about what happens when it goes away, but what is the point of that? The moment is what matters. That’s all I need, literally, for right now.

Anyway, enough rambling. Hopefully that made some semblance of sense. If not, I’ll be back next week with a lot less ramble. See you then.

Just Like Starting Over

Happy Wednesday, everybody, hope your week’s going well so far? Mine’s going okay, certainly better than the last few weeks. No sprained knee (well, still sprained, but feeling much better), and no cold. Some allergies, but hey, it’s Spring, and at least it comes along with the annual Springtime energy boost.The rites of Spring, you know: flowering trees, watery eyes, and 10,000 words a week. Or something like that.

Work on Came to Believe is moving along at a much quicker pace these days. Finished Chapter 17 yesterday, which brought the incubation time to a little over two weeks. Sounds slow, but believe me, it’s a major improvement on the debacle of Chapter 16.

So this means that self-edits on Chapter 17 are knocked out and to the critique group. Then the beta readers and editor and so on. I think that means the chapter will have gone through six or seven drafts by the time it reaches your hands? Anyway, we’re all about the rigorous quality control over here, that’s what I’m trying to say. The chapter came out better than expected, as digs into Lindsay’s more awkward (and endearing) qualities and draws the reader closer to understanding her, all the while showing a growing self-awareness in Dean’s head.

Stepped a bit outside the box on this one by doing something I had not done before: for a brief moment I separated the narrator from Dean’s headspace. Here’s the deal: at this point Dean is starting to experience new emotions, but he doesn’t have the emotional intelligence to sort through them or to even begin to put words to what they mean. Normally I’d just refer to them as an amorphous blob that he didn’t understand, but in this chapter his actions are kind of inscrutable without understanding the ambivalence he’s suffering. So I took the risk. I ran the idea (and the paragraphs) by a few people and they thought it worked okay, but we’ll really see if it pays off when I put it to the critique group. I just don’t want to risk the reader losing their connection to the character. We shall see.

Next up is Chapter 18, which I’ve described before, I believe. This is the scene where Dean goes back to Lindsay’s place for the first time and gets his first real glimpse into her day-to-day. I’m looking forward to it, as it’s a  joy to write Lindsay and this is another Lindsay-centric chapter. I’m getting really excited about writing her novel.

Not sure how much of Chapter 18 I’ll get to work on this week, as this is our critique group weekend and there are three sets of pages to which I must attend. No resentment here, though; the process always energizes me and makes me more excited to return to my  work with new insight. Good stuff, always.

 

Really rediscovering my love of writing. I suppose the “love” has always been there, but at times it’s the equivalent of a marriage: stable, happy, and reliable, but sometimes it’s a great deal of work. That sort of love. I’m talking more about the honeymoon phase, the very romance that led me to name this site Shaggin the Muse. Everyday I look forward to spilling  new ideas and emotions onto the page, really digging in and spending time with the characters. I can only credit the time off for illness a few weeks back, but whatever, it’s paid off. I’ve missed this feeling and hope that it can keep going for awhile. Writing  is awesome when you strip it of the desperation and frustration of the business. Sometimes you just need a reminder of the beauty that’s contained within the process, of the transcendent qualities of art, regardless of whether you reach an audience at all. Hopefully it shines through in the final product.

That’s all I have to say for this week. I’ll be back next week with some more information on Chapter 18 and maybe some more information on that Lindsay novel and my vision for the series.

 

Part of the Big Plan

Hey all, yeah, I know, I haven’t updated in about a month, maybe a little over. Sorry about that. The last month has been a total and complete…well, morass would be the more PC term, but I think clusterfuck is more appropriate. Started off with a major work disappointment (though that one looks more like a blessing in disguise as days go on), then a busy schedule for a major release at work, then the dual whammy of a bad cold and a leg injury. As you can imagine, productivity took a dip. Last week was the worst, though; imagine a cold where you only develop the token symptoms of a runny nose and rusty voice but your brain is complete and total fuzz and you just want to sleep 23 hours a day. Then imagine trying to write through that mess. Yeah, didn’t happen so much. Not even work, where writing is a simple recitation of facts and analysis, was possible, let alone hard work where I dig into my emotions and experiences.

All in all, a rather unwelcome series of events, but it may have a silver lining, as I returned to the novel yesterday with a full force that I haven’t experienced in quite some time. Let’s catch up on the status, shall we? I think last time we talked I was nearing the finish line on Chapter 16 and had maybe started Chapter 17. Since then, I’ve finished the first draft of Chapter 17, split its two scenes into two separate chapters (as they were quite different in theme), and both embarked upon and finished the second draft of Chapter 17.

Yesterday was all about re-reading the chapter and identifying opportunities to expand upon the emotional textures and themes. I’m hoping to start that third draft today, but we’ll see. It’s going to be a busy day. I do expect this third draft to be the final version before critique review. Thank goodness this chapter didn’t turn into a morass like Chapter 16. That thing was a nightmare, but also much heavier on the emotional undertones. This is a Lindsay and Dean scene, and like all Lindsay and Dean scenes, something of a joy to write. They have a pretty complicated relationship, but damn if I don’t enjoy every moment that they’re together. Perhaps they’re destined for destruction in the long term, but their personalities work so well in the moment.

I’m hoping that Chapter 18 proves just as easy to write, as it’s a retooling of a scene in the first version of the novel wherein Dean goes to Lindsay’s place for the first time.  In the original version, this scene took place relatively early in the novel and followed their third date, which produced a certain level of sexual tension. In the new version they have never been on a date and it’s following the traumatic events of Chapters 15 and 16. In some ways, it’s actually far more intimate, as both characters have undergone recent traumas and developed a level of trust that didn’t exist at that point in the initial version, but at the same time they’re both very leery of sex. The anxieties and questions hanging between them are very different, but should be fun to work through.

Of course, all this focus on Chapters 17 and 18 meant a delay in the blog entries, and again I do apologize for that, but…I think it showed me what’s important. I’m not going to be writing the big entries like I was before, but I certainly can manage a few hundred words on current progress and where things are headed, if nothing else. Hope everyone has been okay?

Omens and Portents

Welcome back again. I regret to inform you guys that I am still not back up to normal speed. My schedule is so crazy at the moment that I can only fit in the bare minimum for blog posts, nothing like what I’ve been providing to you guys before. I’m hoping that next week gets back to the regularly-scheduled posts, but I can’t make that promise just yet. Work and other commitments are consuming my time like you wouldn’t believe, spilling well beyond work hours into the evening hours.

Isn’t it a strange time to be alive? Things have been kind of hush-hush, but I’ve been following some of the “exercises” in the Arctic and potential confrontations between NATO and Russia. Talk about disconcerting. Add to that the huge sun flare  that caused trouble all over the world and today’s eclipse and it becomes very tempting to regard this as the passage to something very dark. It’s likely all a coincidence, but I can’t deny being on edge more than once over the past week, especially over that whole military situation. That’s one that bears watching, I believe.

Anyway, let’s review what’s going on with my progress at the moment. Great news is that I finished Chapter 16! And I think it’s really, really good. Obviously I’m biased and it’s hard to judge your own work, but I look at it by the metric that it accomplishes exactly what I wanted it to accomplish and does so in a fairly weighty manner. It’s a chapter that needed to have a certain gravitas, and while it took a lot of maneuvering to get it there, I think I have it. Now my critique group will tell me if it works as a whole, but that’s for down the road.

In the meantime, I’m in the throes of Chapter 17, and the first draft is going along pretty quickly. I don’t know that I’ll complete it this week (again, owing to my schedule), but I would not be surprised to finish it early next week, maybe by Tuesday. I’ll do what I can to get at it this weekend. The great thing about Chapter 17 is that it’s relatively light after the heaviness of the previous 3 chapters. It’s a chance for the reader – and the author – to catch their breath. In this scene, Lindsay arrives at the hospital after having learned of something bad happening to one of the main characters, meeting up with Dean outside the entrance to the ER. They have a brief chat and, upon learning that they won’t get to see their friend that night, head back to Lindsay’s place to console one another and really get down to the business of knowing each other. The part at Lindsay’s place is going to be an adaptation of a previously-written scene from the original version of the novel, one that had served as the tail-end of their first date.

It’s dicey, given their mutual sex addictions, to put them both in one place at a highly-charged emotional period for both of them, but I think them choosing not to get intimate is a way bigger triumph for the characters, a sign that this relationship is a little different, means a little more. And it greases the wheels for the climax.

I also planned out the next three to four chapters last night, which gets me up to Chapter 21. I’m aiming for the book to be between 25 and 27, so the end is well in sight, it’s just a matter of the events that get us there and what the climax might look like. I have a pretty good idea of it, but I’m still allowing it to be somewhat fluid as events change so much between conception and actual execution. I’ve found this to be the best method for telling a story, as I’ve mentioned before – keep that balance between spontaneity and structure.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep cranking away and keep you guys updated. I really want to get this one done by August and a series of events have convinced me that it’s time to redouble my efforts to get there, even if it means pushing other priorities down the list (though not the day job, that one’s non-negotiable). Funny, though, I use that flashback app that rounds up your posts from the previous five years for that date and one of the recent posts talked about how I was going to have to write new chapters for this novel and how it would be a long process – oh how naive it feels.

So yeah. I still owe you guys a longer, more emotionally-charged post, but I’m not there yet, time-wise or emotion-wise. I also owe you the continuation of the questions, but again, just don’t have the time. I’ll be back with that next week, hopefully. In the meantime, hope all is well with you in these strange, strange times.

Something for Now

Hey, heads up right away that this will be an abbreviated entry. Apologies, between this and the late entry last week it must seem that I’m slacking on my duties, but honestly I’m just slammed and at a weird point in my life. I haven’t had a good, restful week in over two months. At least I can share it with you? Maybe that’s the one saving grace of this whole mess.

As I mentioned last week, we lost a beloved pet, which sent me into a bit of a tailspin. Thursday morning started out looking somewhat okay – looked like a snow day, which would mean not too many people bothering me on messenger and a chance to get caught up with work and writing. Went out to do the morning ritual of feeding the cats and guinea pigs and found poor Wendell dead in his cage.

It wasn’t entirely unexpected; he had always been a frail guinea pig, victim of some mystery illness that the vets couldn’t quite sniff out. I suspect some form of cancer, as he had a cyst early in his life and was never quite the same after, but his tests came up clean for some reason.

So we knew our time with him would always be short, and honestly, we were damn lucky to get the four years that we got, but you’re never quite ready for it. It hit us hard, and it seems to have hit the other pigs as well, maybe moreso Quimby than Bertram. The latter seemed a little shell shocked for a day or two, but has returned to his normal self, while Quimby preferred to hide away and shunned any contact for a bit. We hung in there with him, though, and he’s come back out of his shell a bit. We really had no idea that they were so close, as they lived in separate cages and males don’t usually bond that much. All we can really do is be there for him until he gets through it.

Anyway, we’ll miss Wendell, and definitely remember him. He was one of those unforgettable pets.

Wendell4

All right, so like I said, shortened entry this week. Just too much going on between our loss, last week’s storm, a whirlwind weekend, and a job interview. Just wanted to check in with you guys and let you know that I’m still here, still cranking away. Time is by far the most significant issue that I’m encountering at the moment. The desire is still there, along with the will and/or motivation, whatever you want to call it. I just cannot find the time to work on the novel without something else intervening. I mean, hell, I’m managing to write between 10,000 and 20,000 words a week, but it’s always on something other than the book. Frustrating doesn’t begin to describe it.

Next week is going to have to be the center of an attempt to refocus on the novel if I want to finish it this year. At one point I thought I might have this done by July or August, but it’s beginning to look doubtful. Hopefully I can manage a few weeks of just working on it, and nothing but. Maybe a vacation in May? I don’t know. Next time we’ll catch up on last week’s question and get a new one going. Until then…