Every year, my family packs their bags and heads to southern California for the in-laws’ family reunion. There is whining about not having enough time to pack, people sneaking video games instead of packing, people wailing about missing undies, blankies, and swimsuits. Sometimes, one off-task child will come galloping through the bedlam, wearing another’s clean underwear like a jaunty French beret, taunting and just out of reach.

I’m not pointing any fingers. I’m just saying it happens. If your drawers aren’t in your drawers, they might be on someone’s head.

This year, though, I needed to be at work. I dropped Cami and the kids at the airport and waved them off. And despite a full plate at NASA, I’ve found myself with a bit of extra time. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

Book Four is well underway, with about 45% left to write on the 1st draft.  I’m really excited about the story and motivated to move forward on it every night when I get home from work.

Even more, I’ve noticed that my writing process continues to evolve. I wrote DARTS cold, start-to-finish on a whim and made improvements over the course of three years. I produced RINGS in three months, with a bare idea and a novella’s worth of backstory to start from.  By the time I finished RINGS, I’d also roughed in several important scenes for SWORDS, and had a holey outline (unwritten).

SHADOWCLOAKS has been very different. Its core concept sprouted as I was drafting RINGS and dreaming up SWORDS, and this allowed me to set up clues in advance. Unlike the first few drafts of DARTS, SHADOWCLOAKS naturally contains a novel arc and a series arc, and I’ve had to outline  more as the complexity and depth grow and the story components suggest recommend unexpected plot deviations. Whenever my outlining gets especially thick, descriptive, and prosy, I cut it from the outline and paste it into the main document, making little islands of story until they all start to join together. But more on outlining in another post.

I like funny things and funny people. Sometimes they like me back.  OFFICE MONSTERS has been distracting me from the stuff I’m good at, but forces me to think about different angles for storytelling, reducing word count, and looking for the humor in everyday situations.

So I’ve written scripts for 10-12 comics, and Marta is drawing and coloring them.

I got my science fiction manuscript back from a potential agent.  It was his second review, but PlagueRunners didn’t make the cut. That stings a little, but I’ve only submitted it to one agent, and he read it twice and gave specific and useful feedback for improving it.

Sometimes when I get home in the evenings, I’m too drained to write, but I’m not too drained to read aloud. Just need to dig out the Shure SM57 Microphones from the jazz combo days. Anyone interested in an audiobook?

With any luck, I’ll be finished with the first draft of SHADOWCLOAKS before my family gets back from vacation.  And one other thing I’ve learned this summer:  Worrying about who will criticize or hate your project is death. Thinking about how behind schedule you are is death. Looking for underwear cartoons for your blog post is . . . probably not a good idea.

Above all, the best thing that’s happened this week (besides phone calls from California) has been spending afterhours on something I love. Being thankful for that time—productive or not—has made all the difference.

Be thankful.



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