Silvercliff or Bust

I know a week of silence here is not something out of the ordinary, but I will be offline for the next week. I will be at Silvercliff Ranch in Colorado with a bunch of high school kids. No cell phones, no email, no Twitter. It is nice to be unplugged for a few days.

Gideon and Mom

Gideon and Me

I know 24 hours on a bus and then a week of late nights and early mornings with a bunch of teenagers sounds terrible to some of you. I think it is one of the best weeks of my year. I will miss my boys, but I will be in the mountains, which for me is the sum of all good things.

When I get back, I am going to announce an exciting project for RWA Conference at the end of July. Authors, even if you are not going, you will want to know about this. Stay tuned.

The Best in This Moment

When I wrote Mob Rule Learning, it was the longest piece of writing I had undertaken at that time. Before that, the bulk of my writing had been articles and blog posts. The glory of writing for the web is the constant feedback, discussion, and metamorphoses a conversation can undergo in hours, days, or months. Writing long form non-fiction was painful because it is like writing in an echo chamber. I spent a lot of time wondering, “What the heck do I know any way?” and “Does this tripe even make sense?”

Since then, I have completed three fiction manuscripts and I have one WIP (work in progress). The process of writing the first draft of fiction is wonderful. I love the worlds I have created and I love the process of weaving words together.

I took the next step and found an editor I thought would mesh well with my writing and my goals and who would challenge me. I am now in the middle of development revisions for the first book in a series I want to release next year and I have learned something valuable.

This stage of fiction writing is just as painful as writing long form non-fiction.

The reasons are different for each type, but it boils down to the same questions, “What the heck do I know?” and “Does this tripe even make sense?”

In facing these questions again, but for different reasons this time, I know that no matter what kind of stuff you write, if you are author, you spend time wrestling with these questions. The secret is to get past them quickly because they can mire you in indecision and immobilize your brain.

This morning, when you sit down to do the thing you do (write, teach, cook, lead, or change the world) be the best you can be today, this moment, and keep pushing forward. If we do it right, each moment teaches us something new and wonderful and each moment we improve.

Development revisions are painful and I have spent the last week pulling out my hair, but I want what comes at the end, a better book, and so I persevere.

Here is what I’ve been reading…

I have read some fantastic books in the last month or so and I wanted to share them with you, dear readers. I know all of you have plenty of time to read as many books as you want, right? Exactly.

ProTip: I keep track of what I have read and when on a Google Calendar called Books Read. It makes creating a list at the end of the year a breeze and I can access it easily.

I read mostly fiction, but every once in awhile I will read a nonfiction for research or for fun. I recently read Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink and it is the best nonfic I have read in a very long time. Fink’s style is approachable and she does an excellent job of both laying out the events at the hospital and how the legal case was compiled. Where I think this book excels is the way Fink gives the reader a sense of empathy for all the major players in this heart wrenching story. I highly recommend this book.

I have a weakness for wounded heroes and in the past couple months I have read multiple books with this trope, as you shall see from my list. I read the first two books of the Bec McMaster series London Steampunk and enjoyed them. I want to get back to this series soon. They are paranormal steampunk with very wounded heroes so what could be bad about these?

In a fit of being unable to find something to read (I tried an old Garwood western but it let me down), I reread Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab. One of these good days, Sandra will fulfill my deepest desires and get a digital copy of this up. It is currently out of print but if you ever find a copy, it is worth it’s weight in gold. Fenris is still one of my all time favorite wounded heroes. Lucky for you, Sandra has some other offerings which are digital. Of her recent novels, Bewitched is my favorite.

After a discussion with a friend regarding wounded heroes, she strongly suggested (read: beat me over the head) I read When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James. The witty dialog between the two main characters is what makes this book sing. The glimpses into early medicine were also quite fascinating. I am glad I took my friend’s advice. (Thanks, Katy!)

I caught up on Meljean Brook’s The Iron Seas series. Brook has a way with world creation that explodes my mind every time I read her stuff. The vivid characters she creates to fill her worlds take my breath away. These books are so good I want to devour them, but they end up eating me instead.

I am way, way, sadly late to this party, but I started reading the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh. I am embarrassed to tell you how long all of her series have been on my TBR list. If the rest of her series are even half as good as the first half of the first novel of Guild Hunters, Angel’s Blood, you can all expect to hear nothing from me until I consume them all.

What are you reading?

A Week Off

I am taking a week off of the Writer’s Devos because it is spring break here and we have been having way too much fun for any of our usual stuff.

To divert you from all the snow you are having, if you live in the great white north, here are some fun things to do while you are not working or not writing.

Emma Approved – A fun video series based on Austen’s Emma. Brought to you by the same group who did the fabulous Lizzie Bennett Diaries.

Legography – Photographer Andrew Whyte takes pictures of his Lego minifig and they are amazing.

Do some swooning by poking around on the Outlander series site. Can it please be summer already? I have my bottle of scotch ready.

Staying Informed with Community

I have a set of Tipples out today with FreePint Newsletter (scroll to the bottom). Tipples are quick tips for staying informed.

It was excrutiating to boil down my information consumption into 4-5 places/tools with general appeal. The things I chose to include are things which have stood the test of time, but after making my list I realized this:

The number one thing keeping me engaged, up-to-date, and informed is my community.

My community, tribe, mob, crowd, or whatever label you give it is what influences what articles I read, what books I buy, what RSS feeds I subscribe to, in some cases where I shop, and how my opinion on a topic evolves.

I participate in different communities, because each one offers me a different information set and, occasionally, different values.

The tools and websites I mention are all well and good, but they are nothing without the community behind them and I am nothing without mine.

If you do not participate in different communities or even one community online, you are missing the point of this beautiful, living thing called the internet. Newsflash: It’s not just for porn anymore!

–Jane, loves her tribes

Changing the Process

Yesterday, Ann Aguirre wrote a post about how her writing habits have changed, for the better, and how she has become so prolific. Her post-apocalyptic YA series that starts in Enclave is fantastic. In her post she says this:

Process is not a permanent, indelible thing.

This statement, while I am applying it to writing, can be applied to any work process. It made me think about how my process has changed over the last ten years and that we should be examining our processes periodically to improve them.

When I had an office job, my writing process involved sitting down in my office, closing the door, cranking music, and hacking away. No one interrupted me (well, sometimes) and I could write until I was done with that thought, post, or article. At the time, I did not understand the blessing of interrupted time.

When I needed to write something longer than 1k, like an article or when I wrote my Library Technology Report, I needed whole chunks of time to think and write. I needed to be able to spread out my research and papers in a large area that would not be touched. I needed music.

I left my library job to become a mom and many things in my life changed, but my writing and working process did not. This caused much anxiety as I was writing Mob Rule Learning, which I did in about 5 months. Because I thought I needed those large chunks of time, which you do not have as a parent of a small child, I was only able to write when someone else could watch the Bairn. Since that was not always an option, I started writing while he was playing on his own, which is only in small chunks of time. Sometimes very, very small chunks.

After finishing Mob Rule Learning, I decided to tackle the writing project I have always wanted to do. I wanted to write a book of fiction. With two small kids, instead of one, I had to reassess my process.

It was hard and at first I was more frustrated than anything else. I would write two sentences and be interrupted. A scene would just start to form and then there was whining and crying, usually mine, as I had to feed, change, or console one of the boys.

With a detailed plot outline in hand, I found I could work in smaller amounts of time. My boys are allowed to watch no more than 1-1.5 hours of TV a day and I usually use that time to write. I used to write with headphones and music blaring. Now, I write to the music of Dinosaur Train, Sesame Street, Justice League, and Iron Man. I still wear headphones, but I can only wear one earbud, two if I do not turn it up too loud.

I find those small cracks in the day to write. Some days, I am lucky and will have two hours of mostly uninterrupted time. Those are the days I can churn out 2-3k. Other days, I am lucky to turn my computer on at all. I have learned to accept and take what is offered, but I make time when it is there.

It took me a year, mostly because I was doing some learning about writing fiction verses nonfiction, to write the first book. I have been working on the second one for a month now and the first draft is halfway done.

The difference in my pace is due mostly to the fact that I changed my process. I taught myself to write in smaller segments. There is always something we can improve in our process, whatever your work may be. We just have to brave enough to peer closely at our own habits and pull the weeds holding back our garden.

I still prefer to sit alone for 2-4 hours with music blaring to churn out words. I revel in that, but I do not need that anymore.

–Jane, some weeds are pretty and harder to remove

p.s. I wrote this with Dinosaur Train on the TV and Mumford and Sons crooning quietly in my ear.

This Moment

This first year of motherhood is overwhelming, joyful, and stretches you beyond your limits. Eventually, the children learn to amuse themselves, though they still need you for many, many things. Once Bairn4 turned one, I started writing again. I wrote a book, Mob Rule Learning.

It was an interesting process, writing non-fiction. I found through the process that I preferred writing non-fiction in the length of articles and blog posts, not books. The process did give me the confidence to try something new and different.

Then Bairn1 came along and I was again in the throes of high maintenance motherhood. The youngest Rochesterling has achieved the ability to amuse himself and thus I have again been writing. All the free time I could squeeze out has been spent working on a new project.

I wrote a novel, a fantasy romance, that has been bouncing around in my head for a very long time. Unlike the non-fiction experience, it was exhilarating. I am now polishing up the manuscript for submission. That part of the process makes me freeze with anxiety and fear. I have determined that one step at a time is the best way to tackle the anxiety of the submission process.

I have begun, in the past year, to drop my ALA committments and disengage from libraryland. Oh, I still follow mostly librarians on Twitter, though they are starting to be outnumbered by editors, publishers, and writers. I will still be presenting at Internet Librarian in October. I loved being a librarian and I may be one again, some day, but my heart’s desire is to write more. Now that Bairn4 and Bairn1 are older, I can write more here, there, and everywhere.

Being at home means I can juggle writing in between quiet time, preschool, and PBS Kids. I am going to use this opportunity to see what I can do.

That is where I am at this moment. A once librarian (and maybe again some day) stay at home mom who wants to write stories with kissing in them.

–Jane, happy with her place

Interview for Wired Campus

I had a nice chat over the phone with Alexandra Rice from the Wired Campus at the Chronicle of Higher Education last week. She posted the interview today.

I really would like the discussion about how people are using the wisdom of the crowd in the classroom to be something that happens more often. A lot more often because I really do feel that this can revolutionize the way we approach the classroom.

–Jane, likes the unpredictable mob

Romance Heroes

I am currently reading Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell. Actually, I am going to set this to post tomorrow and I might have devoured the book by then. If you love romance, you are a scoffer of the genre, or you just do not get it, you must read this book. Now. Go.

It is both hilarious and touching to read how romance has impacted its readership. I am almost halfway through the book and I just finished the section on the top 9 romance heroes. I was a little meh on the list as I read it as none of my favorites were listed, until I got to the top two: Jamie Fraser from Outlander and Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. *swoon* Both books are my two favorites of all time and by extension the heroes are two of my favorite as well.

Outlander is one of the books that I bang people over the head with until they read it. When I was in grad school, my roommate, the only other person I had met up until that point that read as much as I did, had never read Outlander. It was too much romance for her and I never did succeed in forcing that book upon her.

However, about a year after I graduated, got a job, and moved to a different city, my friend and former roommate called me. Instead of the usual greeting, she said, “I want to marry Jamie Fraser!” I giggled gleefully, knowing full well the rabbit hole she had fallen into. Honorable, but flawed, men in kilts. Be still my heart.

There are two heroes not on Sarah’s list that are on mine:

Fenris from Castle of the Wolf
I can not tell you all the ways I love this book and its characters. I have reread it almost every year since first discovering it, thanks to the Smart Bitches. Why do I love Fenris? On the surface he is a snarling, uncaring, and crippled beast, but underneath he is a man who wants only to protect his family and live a dignified life (and find love, though of course he does not know THAT… yet). There are so many scenes in the book that reveal the true heartache of the hero and his struggle to be a better man for the heroine, Celia. The main characters strive to be better in different ways because they love their partner enough to want to be worthy of them. Isn’t that really what true love is?

Mr. Rochester from my real life
I am not talking about Mr. Broody Pants on the Moors by Bronte. I am talking about my Mr. Rochester who recently performed the very important quest of rescuing a silver earring from the drain of the sink, the man who refills my beer (that we homebrewed together!), who does the dishes, loves my cooking, calls me out when I am being less than I can/should be, rolls his eyes at my bad jokes, is a total nerd (just like me but in different ways), makes me laugh, is a wonderful dad, and can still kiss me senseless. Every girl should be as lucky as me.

Whoever your favorite romance hero is, I hope you visit him soon, in the pages of your favorite book or when you lay your head next to his at night.

–Jane, everyone needs a little romance