There’s a mouse in the house as I write this.
Not my house (and not my mouse)… but a rather predictable little squirt who ventures from behind the stove to speed across the painted kitchen floorboards to a spot behind the water heater every single night between 8 and 8:30pm.
I won’t miss him once I’ve left, but neither will I forget him.
He’s late tonight, or maybe I just missed him. I went out for pizza and got back here at 8:15pm.
Where have I been?
I’m tonight finishing up my spring writing retreat, one I started here in a cabin in South Bend, WA last Friday.
The place is, based on what I can gather from the ephemera left behind for guests to read, at least 112 years old and possibly older. Charming, crooked, knicky-knacky, quiet, with enough space in the kitchen to cook a quick breakfast and a clawfoot tub in the bathroom I’ve enjoyed twice by the light of a beeswax candle.
It’s been a good place to settle into one’s thoughts… at least until junior skitters across the floor each night, his dark little shuffle capturing my peripheral attention. Against every effort, even now that I know to expect him, I let out a little shriek when he sneaks by me, in spite of myself.
Whisper: There’s a new book
While here, I’ve done quite a bit of work on a new novel. It’s not the post-apocalypse one I’ve talked about for the last couple of years (though that one’s burning for a telling), but something else.
I haven’t spoken much about this new project in the blog or the newsletter, mostly because I’d rather just write the story than talk about it, and up until now, my focus has been 100 percent Intention Tremor.
But suffice it to say, the short story I began writing last June—from a dream I had a decade ago—quickly blossomed into a novella until I finally decided to let it grow in the manner of the Himalayan blackberry, sending off tendrils, canes, and berries with reckless abandon until I finally reached the end.
Yes, don’t worry, there’s an end. My approach isn’t quite that reckless. I wrote the end of this now-novel, working title Eminent Domain, last summer. Even if blackberry vines seem endless in the real world, this story isn’t like that.
(Or if it is, maybe there’s a series in it for me… we’ll see).
Halfway up the stairs
In fact, the second half of Eminent Domain is already written into the “mezzanine” draft I’m working on now. I call it that because I decided last fall that the story opening really needed to be started several months earlier than where I’d originally started it.
I’ve since written the new beginning, which includes a prologue, and now I’m writing my way “up the stairs” to the second half I’ve already written… hence, the mezzanine metaphor.
This, for any non-writers reading this, is an unusual set of circumstances. More commonly, authors start their stories too early and need to begin again directly in the action that happens much later (known, technically, as “in medias res“). But as usual, my writing life is showing off its contrarian nature.
[And now I just shrieked again, because little Mr. Whiskers, somewhat tardy tonight, just buzzed right past me.]
I won’t do this one alone
I’m fully locked into this new writing project, having signed up for the guidance, community, and skill-building offered by The Narrative Project, run by coach Cami Ostman, of which I am now officially a registered participant.
With any luck, and with the support of my coach Anni and my peers Shayla and Kristin, and online cheerleading from our private group, I hope to bring Eminent Domain to connected completion by late summer.
Then I’ll give the manuscript at least a couple of deep passes by the end of the year, in preparation for beta readers in early 2023.
But what about that other book?
Meanwhile, my short story collection, Trust Fall, is in the finishing stages for two of the larger stories in the group. Even if they’ve already been published (10 years ago), I feel like they both needed a little more finesse.
Many thanks to my new writing group (what a goldmine of generosity, thoughtfulness, and kinship!) for workshopping these pieces into new and better animals.
Once I finish these revisions, that manuscript’s off to editor Beth for some careful reading. Once it feels “ready for prime time,” I’ll pursue an indie/hybrid press approach for publishing it, with a tentative launch date goal of November 2022.
And about that first book…
Also, let’s not forget about my first baby. I gave my last intentional presentation of Intention Tremor last Thursday before I left for this retreat.
I say intentional because this was an event that was pre-planned, something I prepared for—I gave an author talk before a group of writers in a Boston-based facility who all (with few exceptions) live with MS (the others dealing with equally troubling chronic illnesses).
It was a lovely talk, a felicitous merging of real life with writing life, which truly capped off my first book “tour” with a grace I had not expected.
Still, unintentionally, I expect moments where opportunities to share Intention Tremor will crop up spontaneously.
Take this week, for instance.
During a break from writing, I peeked in on a Zoom reading featuring Meredith O’Brien last night, whose medical memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, recounts her own journey dealing with a new MS diagnosis.
During that time, I was able to chat with her about her own process writing about MS. I left the event feeling like I’d connected with a peer through Intention Tremor in a new and surprising way.
Will there ever be a live reading of Intention Tremor?
Listen, a potential reading in a regional store had me over the moon in January, but it never materialized and, if I’m honest, the disappointment left me hollowed out and bitter. My mental health can’t take that anymore.
Of course, Intention Tremor is still selling and I still have copies to sign. Honestly, I would still love to engage a live audience at a real bookstore in person. If only.
Yet, there are still pandemic-related obstacles afloat that threaten any shot at live readings, even for the lucky authors who are given golden tickets.
News of a brand-new COVID-19 surge (Deltacron) in both Europe and China (with evidence it’s now in the US, and surges predicted here within 4 weeks’ time) means I’m still masking up and avoiding crowds.
So the one thing I have planned this year for Intention Tremor is shared space with the Author Event Network booth at some upcoming outdoor events with other local writers who are also feeling the isolating and demoralizing shut-out from local booksellers. I’ll announce those events as they come closer. It really depends upon safety at this point. Who knows what’s coming around the bend?
Meanwhile, I’m looking to the next horizon. That, it turns out, is good for my mental health.
Truth be told, my new commitment to the 9-month Narrative Project program is pretty intense, and I don’t have brainspace and energy to devote to anything else.
But it also promises to be nurturing, empowering, and a good kick in my butt for getting this book done.
Plus, it’s gardening season for me and I’m doing a buttload (yes, that’s a term, of an agricultural origin!) of new experiments both indoors and out.
Not only are my raised beds keeping me busy, but we’ve got our newly designed “conversation garden” on the south side of the house to install, little by little, over the next few months, and I’m also busy using my new “cultivation station” in the garage for seedstarting and other projects.
(For what it’s worth, there’s a gardening theme in Eminent Domain that motivates me to get outside, and then, when I’m outside, I’m motivated to write, so I’m taking advantage of this gift of synergy.)
It’s getting late, and I still have some lavender bath salts to soak in this last night in the cabin. Thanks for reading, thanks for your support, and stay tuned as I announce Author Event Network events coming later this spring!
PS I’ve named my rodent companion, Moon. Goodnight, Moon!