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How Much Longer

It started with onions and garlic.  After many years of thinking he had a sensitive stomach and various possible gastrointestinal issues, my husband figured out that he had a food allergy.  Annoying and frustrating, but as soon as he cut the onions and garlic from his diet, his digestive issues started going away.  Yay!

But cutting the ingredients alone wasn't enough.  He started to notice reactions to other things that didn't obviously have onions and garlic.  Dried food that had "natural spices" as one of its ingredients.  Canned vegetables from companies that also spiced versions.  Salads at restaurants where the same cutting board was used for the onions as well as the tomatoes.  Breads baked in the same room with onion rolls.  The list of what he can eat without a reaction has been getting smaller and smaller and smaller.

And the reaction has been getting harder and harder to deal with.  Eating a contaminated food will cause gastrointestinal pain and problems for 3 to 5 days.  Eating or being around an airborne contaminant will cause itching, burning scalp for 3 to 5 days as well.  Either can trigger extreme irritability or depression.  Fortunately that usually only lasts an hour or so, but it doesn't take long for the feeling to spread to the rest of us.  And every time he reacts to something he has a panic attack until he can figure out what might have triggered it, what else he needs to add to his poison list.

I don't know how much longer he can go on this way.  He loved cooking, but what's left to cook with?  He can't go back to work because he can't go anywhere there might be other people's food.  I mean that.  He's had a reaction to walking the dog past a Mexican restaurant, to riding in a car with a bag of fast-food leftovers, to our kids cooking a toaster pizza or microwaving a pot pie. He's now trapped in this tiny, messy house, knowing that he's making our lives more difficult, knowing that he can't do the things he used to for the family, knowing that he's not able to make money to help fix some of the things that would make all of our lives better.

I don't know how he manages to maintain any semblance of coping, because I'm finding it harder and harder as the days go by.  I didn't have enough time to manage everything that needed doing before this, and now?  There's days when all I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry... but someone has to get a paycheck, someone has to make sure the kids get to school and do their homework and find something they can eat every day.  Someone has to maintain optimism long enough to start over with another allergy doctor who might take the time to help instead of handing off the problem.  Someone has to believe that things can get better... but I don't know how much longer that someone can be me.
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Got Workshop Brain Today

Which is to say- it's both burned out and busy, and having trouble focusing on my day job work.

I attended Mary Robinette Kowal's Short Story Intensive workshop this weekend, and can recommend it highly if you're able to dedicate the whole weekend to it.  The first half (Friday evening through Saturday) was focused on exposition and dialogue.  The second (Saturday evening through Sunday) was on plotting and sizing for a short story.  The class size is small (8 max) and the style is indeed intensive, as she claims.  Both in-class and home exercises, with deadlines for the assignment and the critique of others' assignments (two critiques each time, rotated through the class).  The critiques were very friendly and focused solely on symptoms- marking your reactions as you read and not picking apart the problems.  Mary has a video about this critique style, if you're curious.

On the whole, I learned a lot, had fun, and now have another great group of beta buddies to work with!  (But day job work is suffering a little today...)
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Weight of a word

Writing a novel synopsis is hard I found, harder than writing the novel.  A novel is carried by the story, the characters, the world, and lots and lots of words to describe them.  A synopsis just has the words, trying to make the story and characters and world shine as quickly as possible.

Each word carries so much more weight in the synopsis where it's one in a thousand, versus in the novel where it's one in one hundred thousand.  That's not to say that individual words aren't important in a novel, because they are, but there's just a few places in a novel where individual words matter that much.  All the words in between in a novel can get away with being okay as long as they don't distract from the story and characters and world.  There are no in between words in a synopsis; every single one has to matter and has to be good because those words are the only chance your story and characters and world have.

No wonder it's so much harder than writing a novel.
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No Plot Survives Contact with the Page

It amazes and delights me that, no matter how much outlining and planning I've done, the moment I set pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) I always learn something new about my characters or their world or the story I'm telling.  Wheee!  I love being a writer.

My writing is going reasonably well right now.  I've got one novel finished and in revisions (and beta reads if anyone is interested).  I'm starting on the sequel.  I'm also researching for the fantasy novel I started the year before last (secondary world, civil war equivalent, early industrialization, gods involved with mortals, fun!).  And I'm positive about all of it at the moment, which is a nice change of pace.  Hope that lasts!
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Amazingly, I'm still at it

Still writing, I mean.  This has been a very rough year in a lot of ways so it amazes me that I've managed to accomplish anything, much less finished one novel and started on another.  But I did!  The first draft of my adult science fiction work in progress is complete- it's got a beginning, a middle, an end, a theme, character growth, decent grammar, and correctly spelled words (I think).  Note, I did not say good writing- it's still in revision! :-)
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Sticking Point

One thing I have learned about being stuck in my writing is that the sticking point is often not where I think it is.

Take the big bad space battle I've been stuck on.  That's preceded by a confrontation (don't do it) with a negative outcome (going to happen anyway) and the subsequent personal revelation (have to stop this).  I had the confrontation written, glossed over the revelation scene since it felt kind of boring, then jumped right into the space battle because that ought to be plenty exciting... except it wasn't.  I drafted and plotted and didn't get anywhere with it.

And no wonder!  The revelation, a major point of character development, skipped because it was boring?  The space battle was the least of my problems.  After a re-read from the beginning, with minor revisions along the way, I now have a plan.  Rewrite the confrontation scene with a few changes that should clear up the problems I was having with the revelation scene, and hopefully the space battle will follow.

Of course, I hate the new confrontation scene.  Not because the change is stupid or boring, no, the change is going to work.  It's true to the characters and it raises the stakes the way they need to be raised at this point of the story, but that doesn't mean I want to do it.

It's going to hurt to write the scene this way... which probably means I'm on the right track.
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June is for Writers

This year at least, June is for writing.  I'm going to the Writing the Other workshop/retreat followed almost immediately by Fourth Street Fantasy.  While I'm pretty excited about this, I'm also behind where I wanted to be in my writing before the retreat.  Instead of being ready for a full revision of the current WIP, I'm still going to be finishing up that troubling big-bad-battle at the end.  Maybe having days with nothing to focus on but writing will help get past the struggles?  Not at all stressed about Fourth Street this year.  It'll be my second time there, so I won't have the how-does-this-work-scaries I did last year.  The possible panels sound good, and they might even include one I suggested.  Fun!
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Dining New Zealand Style

I'm still in New Zealand, though not for much longer.  It's been a fabulous trip!  We scheduled in two weekends for sightseeing, and took advantage of both.  I have now sailed in Akaroa harbor, wandered the botanical gardens in Christchurch, visited the LotR Edoras filming site, and eaten delicious food at many restaurants in the area.

One thing I didn't expect is how much time I spent eating out.  In the US, restaurants are frequently a convenience, one step in your plan for the day.  In New Zealand, restaurants are an expedition.  You're not there to eat, you're there to dine.  No time limits, no pressure.  No tips either, which is a bit different.

In a way dining like this solved one of the problems I expected to have on the trip- those long hours in a hotel room all by my lonesome. Instead, I spend two to three hours a night with my coworkers.  We're a closer team now.  They know a bit more about me and my family, I know a bit more about them and theirs.  That's a good thing.  I've had some simply spectacular food, and that's even better.

I do miss the writing time I thought I'd have, though!
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Not so simple

I need to recognize that my plotting brain does not understand the term 'simple'. This novel I'm working on was supposed to be just that- one PoV, one story, easy to plot and write. Simple. It started out that way, or at least looked like it did. Now, as I'm struggling to write the final confrontation, I have to admit that my 'simple' comes out extremely convoluted.

I've got a space battle involving five groups each with their own goals. Two are bad guys, one with a separate agenda the other doesn't know about. Two are good guys that are fighting each other and don't know about the bad guy involvement. None of these groups know about all of the others involved. Some of these groups are pretending to be other groups. One of these groups is on the kill list for everyone else involved.

I'm not complaining, mind you! I love this sort of complexity. Sometimes I wish I could come up with a story that doesn't involve quite so many layers... but if I did, I probably wouldn't like it much anyway.

I just have to accept that plotting scenes like this one won't come quickly.
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Medical Mysteries

I love mysteries. I love being challenged by a difficult puzzle, figuring out how the pieces fit together, discovering the final picture that the pieces reveal. I really don't enjoy being the puzzle, being the medical mystery I have to hope my doctor will figure out. Soon, hopefully.

Yeah, I'll post more details as soon as I know them, but right now... right now it's just worry and what-the-hell, since no one knows enough to give me anything more. Probably not something scary, my doctor said on Friday. I wonder why that didn't reassure me?