We knew yesterday there would be snow today. 

I made Matt promise to get me up when it started — and around 4AM, the snow began. (He was editing someone’s novel at the time, and he does that best when the house is quiet and he has it to himself.)

So he came and got me, and got the kid, who’s 22, but had never seen snow.

And all three of us went out onto the front porch in the cold, just wearing our inside clothes, and for a few minutes we let the cold and the snow bite into us and bring us the ultimate expression of this season that was brand new to Joe, and which had been lost to me for the last thirty years. 

We had one snow in North Carolina when the two older kids were little, and I took them outside in that so we could build snowmen and I could drag them around the street on a sled we only ever got to use that once.

So. Snow. We haz it, and I’m happy.

Got a TON done on the revision of Dead Man’s Party this morning (working four straight hours because you lose track of the time will do that for you).

Some pieces of the beginning of the story connected for me, and made what’s going to be the new middle a helluva lot darker. 

The world itself is pulling in tighter — fitting together better. I love this book in spite of the fact that it keeps trying to turn into a series on me.

Dead Man’s Party is and needs to be a one-off. It doesn’t fit into my Ohio universe, and it doesn’t need to leak into its own larger world.

But I do love the damn thing, in spite of its expansionist tendencies.

So… with fiction done for today, and having gone WAY beyond my planned page count, now I’m starting into wrapping up the upgrade of Lesson 1 of HTRYN.

It’s taking longer than anticipated. But that happens to, and the final class will be worth the extra effort.

Onward then, while happily at home with snow.

 

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So now I’m 59

I turned 59 yesterday. As you get older, your birthday goes from being the high point of your year to something you give a wary sidelong glance as it whips by.

You back away a little. Birthdays start reminding you of all the people who aren’t around anymore to celebrate them with you — grandparents and parents and siblings and friends.

So to have an amazing birthday — that’s an unexpected grace note in your life, something you don’t expect anymore.

My amazing birthday started when Matt and I walked a tiny distance to a local bakery in our new town and bought a bunch of very NOT keto celebratory stuff.

Then we drove to Gnadenhutten, where I showed Matt and Joe the three houses I’d lived in when I lived there — one on Cherry Street when I was three or four, one on Spring Street when I was five to six, and one on Tuscarawas Avenue when I was seven (before we moved to Alaska).

Showed them my school, which was the elementary and high school when I lived there, but which is now apparently just the high school.

Finding places you lived when you were very small is challenging — but while Gnadenhutten has gotten a bit bigger (and is still a lovely town), I was able to locate both the Spring Street and Tuscarawas Avenue houses.

The one on Cherry Avenue is kind of iffy, because I was around three or four when I lived there, and I remember the place only because the lady who lived downstairs from us (and from whom my parents rented the upstairs) had these gorgeous tucked red velvet pillows that she would let me touch when I went to visit.

And because that house was the place where I got my mouth washed out with soap when my rideable Yogi Bear threw me to the sidewalk, and I loudly called him a goddamned bear. S l225

I have tended to wax philosophical in some of my past birthday posts. And I don’t do them that often, because birthdays when you’re an adult are usually just another day.

But here’s the thing…

Yeah, I’m getting older, and getting older carries with it the sure knowledge that you’re pushing toward an ending, and you’d prefer that to remain a long damn way in the future.

But at 59, I’m down a minimum of a hundred pounds and a max of around a hundred thirty from the most I ever weighed. I stopped weighing myself when I hit 231, but I kept gaining weight while increasing another whole WalMart X size. So I don’t know exactly how much weight I’ve lost. I know it’s a lot.

My blood pressure, blood glucose, and overall health are superb.

I no longer have a parathyroid tumor, and am still clear of tongue cancer. We’ll ignore the fact that I have a cold today.

And I now live in Ohio.

As you get older, birthdays stop feeling all that special. But this one — this one was spectacular.

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Home in Ohio — We made it.

The last time I posted, we were in the middle of hanging hurricane shutters with Hurricane Dorian on its way in.

Since then, we:

  • Bought a house in Ohio
  • Sold our place in South Florida
  • Packed our stuff into a Pod (BIG shout-out to the folks at Pods.com, who totally kicked ass from beginning to end)
  • Moved our shit from the Way Deep South to the Hilly North
  • Painted, unpacked, put things places

And I am home to stay after thirty-nine (almost forty, by just a couple of weeks) long, Ohioless years.

The town I moved back to, and the people who live here, are as I remembered them (and I last lived in this particular town 46 years ago).

There was a lot of crazy in this particular move. We didn’t come back here to scope out the area first. Didn’t see anything of the house (and a bunch of other houses) but pictures the real estate agent (Amy Otto, who was AMAZING) took for us.

We moved here based on my deep love of this state, of this town, and very old memories that never let go of me.

And we were right to make the leap, crazy as it admittedly was.

My memory was good.

And home — in our weird, quirky house, in the hills and the town and these people — was waiting when we got here.

I love this place. I love the roll and rise of the ground, the curve of the river, the trees I still remember from childhood, the smell of the air in the morning, the lay of the light in the afternoon, the quiet, the old houses still lived in and loved and kept up in a place where old things deserve a bit of reverence, and the kindness of strangers.

And the fact is that a helluva long time after I got dragged away from here against my will and my vehement protests, I fit here as I have never fit anywhere else.

These are my people, this is my place.

I’m home.

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Hurricanes and Roving Thug Block Parties

Image of Hurricane Dorian is a cellphone screenshot from WeatherUnderground.com

Imagine you live in a neighborhood where, from time to time during the autumn, roving thugs invade the entire area. They pour into your house and the houses of everyone else in the neighborhood, stick guns to your head, and for a period of a week or more hold their guns to your head and the heads of anyone else who is with you, threaten to destroy everything you own and to kill you and everyone you love — and you can put shutters up on your windows — but if the thugs are serious, that won’t stop them from doing what they’re going to do.

One of three things then happens.

They do nothing, getting bored with their game, and just go away.

They trash some places but not yours, kill some people, but not you… and then they go away.

Or they destroy your stuff, or kill you.

They might come back again several times during the same year. Might just disappear into the woodwork for a while — but you KNOW they’ll eventually be back.

Well, the thugs are in my living room right now. Our sky is gray, it’s raining, and there are intermittent gusts of wind bending the palm trees in front of our place.

I KNOW Hurricane Dorian is supposed to turn.

I KNOW.

But you look at the size of that monster, and to the outer bands that are already over us, it’s very hard to NOT think, “Weather forecasters have been wrong once or twice before about hurricanes… and what if they are this time, and what if it doesn’t?”

And even if if does, there’s another one already building out there.

This needs to become Florida’s State Song.

It already is for me.

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MONDAY. Ugh. But words in spite of that

The chaos has expanded.

My writing time has contracted.

In spite of which, I got 1136 NEW words on the Dead Man’s Party revision, today, which came out to half a scene.

At the moment, it’s going to have to do, and I’m glad I at least got some words, even if I didn’t get the 2000 I wanted.

Chaos, after all, will not be circumvented.

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The last few days have been wordless because of the ongoing chaos, which still has to get a lot worse before it can start getting better.

Today, though, I managed to write Chapter 9 — 1956 words. Again because this is still inside the first twelve chapters where I had not yet figured out the story I was telling or where and when it took place, these were all brand-new words, and from the POV of Laurie, the brand-new character who picks up a part of the story I needed but mostly missed in the first draft — that of the Caravan Volunteer.

I like her. She’s too young for the job she’s taken, but she’s tougher than her years. And she’s going to be a very cool secondary hero.

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Still all new words in the type-in revision. Today was a brand-new Chapter Eight.

Five, Six, and Seven were three different takes on the same event — the point where things go from “wow, that was pretty bad” to “okay, the world has now officially fallen apart.”

Chapter Eight brings in the character who WAS my primary protagonist in the first version, now named Cali (folks who have taken How to Write a Novel will know her as Amanda).

Today, I got to play around inside her head a little, to see how she’s been coping after the Fall, and to see how she’s planning on dealing with the novel’s Big Bad (nod to Joss Whedon for the term).

I like what I got.

Personal stuff is still chaotic.

The only way out is through. So I’m head down, pushing through.

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I knew this would happen.

The raw first draft of the novel was 50,718 words in length.

I figured during my read through revision that I’d add 10,000 words (because in revision, I always end up adding words — my first drafts are thin).

So I thought, Hey, I’ll shoot for 60,000, but I’ll give myself a little extra elbow room on this one, just because.

So I set my top limit plan at 70,000 words.

As of today, if I continue as I’m going, the novel is going come in at 81,000 words.

Eighty. One. Thousand.

My line-for-scenes build-out gave me 34 chapters, same as the raw first draft.

But this time I know what’s going on from the very beginning, I know the world I’m writing in, and a lot has to happen in each chapter to get me where I’m going.

I’m contemplating eliminating the three POV scenes for the villain — but that’s still on the table. If I don’t show him from his own POV, it’s going to be significantly tougher for readers to understand WHY he’s doing what he’s doing.

Word count for today: 254 words. It meets my one-chapter-per-day revision schedule.

Those 254 words comprise one full scene from my villain’s POV. It’s my compromise for now. I’ll do the villain POV scenes, but keep them short, tight, focused on his actions.

When this goes out to my bug-hunters, I’ll get feedback on him, and work from there.

 

FRIDAY SNIPPET (this is my current opening to the novel).

[The Snippet Disclaimer: This is raw first draft, Copyright Holly Lisle and All Rights Reserved. Do not quote, review, or bug hunt. The contents of this snippet are subject to change, and during revision I will not see any problems you find here.]

 

In the beginning, there was the Hero. And the Hero moved Heaven and Earth to create a place of Joy and Excitement, a retreat from the Suffering and Toil of Humanity. And the Hero declared that access to this Second World beneath the World — this glorious Underworld — should be made a human right given regardless of race, color, creed, or ability to pay to every human being on the planet.

And so it was done, and all of Humankind rejoiced.

Introduction to The History of The Underworld: The Authorized Edition, by Nathan Ardement

 

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