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Waking Inside the Dream

Writing this book feels like having a dream that is becoming more and more lucid.

It's the weirdest thing I have ever written, and that feels right. It's populated by misfits and outcasts who form their own little society at the fringes of other people's, and that feels right. Every time I get to a turning point in the story, I write out more than one possibility for what happens next--whatever pops into my head, no matter how horrific or gross or frightening or painful, and then I pick the stream that flows the fastest, and that feels right.

It feels good to slip into my own nightmares, half-lucid and trusting the creative process and my ability to sort it out later. The risks taken in a dream can feel like matters of life or death, but they aren't. We have nothing to lose but the dream itself.

It's important to stay inside that flow state, inside of the dream, to keep the creative energy alive and allow unexpected connections to spark. It's also good to gain …
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100! Thousand! Words!

I may be slow, but I sure am steady. My draft of Matka Danu Miklagarth is now 104,000 words long, smashing last week's goal of hitting 100K. That's more than 100K words of degradation, cruelty, and one extra gross sex part. But also good times! Humor. Cute kids. Delightfully girlish tales of pirates and monsters. Whatever. This book is a strange beast, and I'm along for the ride at the breakneck pace of 100,000 words per year.

The manuscript is not nearly finished. It's going to be a fat doorstop of a book, just how I like it, and I always overwrite the first draft. I've overcome some plotting (plodding?) difficulties. The winds have picked up, and it's (ahem) smooth sailing right now, so I hope to finish the draft quicker than I started it.

Next, I'll go through and cull the words and sentences and paragraphs and pages that aren't worth the paper and ink.

Then I will hand the book to my alpha reader / life partner to catch anything that just plain doe…

"That and a Quarter Will Get You 25 Cents."

This is one of my mother-in-law's favorite sayings.

It applies to situations such as:

I have the best idea!I have won the argument. I am morally, logically, and technically correct.I have the perfect excuse.I deserve this.
THAT AND A QUARTER WILL GET YOU 25 CENTS. I'm keeping Nonna's wisdom in mind lately so that I can stay results-focused, creative, and motivated; avoid trying to be "a good person" at the expense of being a good friend, family member, or neighbor; and kick myself out of all self-defeating habits, doldrums, and rationalizations. My mother-in-law (Nonna) is a fantastic living example of someone who took her own advice to heart, overcoming many hardships, including her own addictions to food and alcohol, so that she could be fit and free at age 70 and spend her nights covered in glitter, dancing at reggae clubs in the tropics.

My writing goal now is to get my manuscript above 100K words before my next weekly blog post. I won't bother regaling y…


Everyone likes surprises, even people who say they hate surprise birthday parties, surprise filling desserts, and popping an unexpected candy flavor into their mouths. Consider the fun of a mixed-flavor bag of candies à la Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans in the Harry Potter series, one that includes intentionally gross, spicy, or sour little landmines. Consider roller coasters that swoop into dark tunnels and horror movies and thriller novels full of ridiculous plot twists. Science and the experience of every childhood tell us that human brains crave surprise--and need it in order to learn new things and to maintain emotional health.

If you are like me, you also enjoy a certain amount of predictability in your life. For example, my family and I just returned from a road trip during which I was the only one who consistently washed my hands, did not eat off the ground, and did not let any semi-feral animals lick the inside of my mouth, and I am the only one who developed a fever,…

Someone Has to Do Nothing

Someone has to be home between the hours of 10 and 2 to accept the delivery. Someone has to be with the kids. Someone has to watch the neighbors' house while they are gone. Someone has to let the cat nap in their lap. Someone needs to chill out or keep it real or be more spontaneous, and that person must be unoccupied, or at least interruptable, for long stretches of time.

Someone has to look out of the window. Someone needs to notice when the sun rises and when the fireflies come out. Someone needs to remember to time the song of the cicadas so that we can measure the heat as it rises.

Someone has to rest. Someone has to be present. Someone has to pray or meditate or break the cycle of anxiety. Someone needs to laugh, and someone needs to watch this, y'all. And someone has to record it on their phone.

Someone has to listen. Someone has to think. Someone has to imagine what no one else has thunk up yet.

I spent my young adult life learning how to speak up and take action. I w…

Lumos! Lighting Up the Nights with Bugs, Bombs, Books, and Bestial Beach Bonfires

This July, my daughter and I are staying up three whole hours later than usual to accommodate all the "bombs bursting in air" and to head off jet lag before a Bastille Day-themed family wedding that will surely involve partying into the night. Daddy still has to go to bed at 7:30 for now, because of his wee-hours work schedule, so that means we girls have to spend that extra three hours of magical summer nighttime either outdoors or being very quiet. And after the fireworks have all burned out, that means two things: catching fireflies and reading extra long bedtime stories.

When my daughter held her sparklers this year, she shouted, "Lumos!" and pretended they were wands from the world of Harry Potter. This summer, we are starting Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and it is trippy--and magical and life-giving and hopeful--to be reading this book as its terrible real-life prophecies come true.

There is also something hopeful and life-giving and magical an…

Logging Hours at the Writing Desk

It's time for another punny excuse for reduced productivity in the summertime! Last summer, I was stuck "in the construction zone." At the start of this summer, my writing hours have been interrupted by--literal--logging hours right outside the window.

Above, my daughter is watching a crew from the power company take down a very large, old silver maple tree that has grown up through the power lines.

Meanwhile, I received the July issue of Real Simple magazine in the mail, and it gave me the following tip for backyard bonfires:
Contact a nearby tree-removal company to get stumps to use as stools.
Wow, my backyard has so much extra hipster seating in it now. We're gonna have to have everyone over for s'mores and meat and potatoes wrapped up in balls of aluminum foil. It will be just like Girl Scout camp, except everyone is invited and we can go inside to use the toilet.

Last year's construction chaos resulted in a super nice, new sidewalk and road, and this y…