1. “Stupid is not to be underestimated,” I told my friend J. “Stupid things can save your sanity when life is out of your control.” And it’s true. An hour or two of doing something silly and mundane and all yours is a precious thing. My most fervent hope for this evening is that I get to spend an hour alone in my sitting room watching a new episode of Ghost Hunters. If that happens, I will not think the day a total loss. If it doesn’t happen, then I will watch the tape during some other precious hour, and having DVR’d it, the day will not be a total loss. One has to stay flexible.

2. And speaking of flexible, I’ve lost roughly 30 pounds in the last month. (My God, has it only been a month? Feels like several weeks more than that.) I say roughly 30 pounds because I made a decision some time back to live without a scale, so that’s based on the last time I stepped on a doctor’s scale. I may have lost a bit of that before the current month, but I’ve definitely dropped a lot of weight since September 14. What do you know? Eating less and running around a lot do help you lose weight. Fewer aches and pains, too. I haven’t got time for them, so they’ve been banished to the aethyr.

3. I poked at my novel, The Numberless Stars yesterday. I don’t know if I have the energy/time to write new prose again, though. I thought of revising something already written, but I didn’t have the stomach for that. Sustained focus is difficult these days.

4. My mother decided to make mini cheese cakes because a friend is coming to dinner tomorrow. Mom has always been someone who loved feeding people—and overfeeding people. I encourage her to do things like this because it makes her feel better about herself, and stronger. I thought she’d make her usual dozen, but when I got home from work last night, she’d made three dozen and was in the process of making another two. “What??” I asked. “I decided to make some for the girls at the dialysis center, and some to send home with L. and some to send with you to work.” We didn’t finish up until about 9:30 last night. I’m glad she’s feeling better. It was not how I’d planned my evening, however. Flexible!

5. J. and I were just discussing the strange culture of tipping. I am usually a 20% straight across the board tipper. Service is hard work and I want people who do work for me/serve me to know that I appreciate that. (Plus, 20% is so much easier to calculate than, say, 18%.) I realize not everyone feels this way and some are scandalized at tipping over 15%, but these days that seems a little on the low side to me. I say this even though I am feeling something of an economic pinch these days myself. If I can’t afford the tip, I should not expect the service.

J. was saying how the first time he went to his barber it was Thanksgiving, so he gave him a larger tip than he otherwise would. The second time was Christmas, so again he gave a larger tip. Now he feels like he’s always got to give that same tip or risk insulting/hurting the man’s feelings. “If you’ve got a barber you like,” I said, “best not to make him mad.” J. concurred.

The current novel, The Numberless Stars, may be doomed in today’s market.  (The story of my life.)  I seem to be writing a female POV picaresque fantasy novel, and I don’t believe there’s any tolerance for that sort of thing in today’s instant gratification climate.

Of course, at this stage of the game the novel sucks (it’s a barely there first draft), so perhaps it isn’t a valid test of the viability of the picaresque, fantasy or otherwise.  It’s too twee, too infodumpy, too lacking in immediate and identifiable conflict.  Maybe the fault, dear Brutus, is not with the genre but with myself, my execution of said genre.  A story which wanders hither and yon and uses satire to point out a society’s flaws may indeed have some place in today’s world, but a wandering story which doesn’t engage the reader in some fashion early on is just a badly written novel.

Lord knows my first drafts take way too long to get to the point.  I spend enormous amounts of time getting the feel of the characters just so and have an unfortunate tendency to throw it all on the page.  My rewrites consist of paring down and refining, taking out gallons of character and tangential lard and boiling it down to make candles. And that’s for the novels that aren’t picaresque.  God save me if I actually write a novel where wandering around and having episodic adventures and living by one’s wit is built into the genre.

Because even if the conflict is there on the first page, it’s rather broad and cyclical:

  • Hortensia versus the Western Society of her time.
  • Hortensia versus her family.
  • Hortensia versus deity, leading to transformation.

Then cycling back to:

  • Hortensia versus her family, and finally,
  • Hortensia versus the Western Society of her time.

God help us all.

Some of you who have known me for a long time, and read my stuff for a long time, may remember Hortensia Bustamante. She’s the strong-willed sister of the Bustamante Brothers of Dos Lunas County, the first white settlers to invade the Kintache Indian homeland.

Ever since I finished Venus in Transit, my Dos Lunas County novel, strong-willed Hortensia has been bugging me. “Where my novel?” she’s been asking.

I’ve explained patiently that I’m working on other things now, to make a change from Dos Lunas, but Hortensia has never been one to listen to the reasoning of her writer when she’s made up her mind about something. “Where’s my novel?” she repeats at every chance.

I staved off her insistence some time back by writing a 30k plus novella, but—although she liked it quite well—she’s informed me that it isn’t sufficient. Her story deserves expanding and exploring. I have been thinking along those same lines myself for some time and even had several ideas on how to do that, but I hadn’t thought of taking on that challenge at this juncture.

“It’s time,” Hortensia insists.

I find myself sighing fatalistically a lot these days. My imagination ping ponged all last week between chapter two of the Carmina novel and a short story, and I’ve been considering that maybe it’s time to start the rewrite on Venus in Transit. All the while Hortensia kept crooning in my ear: “It’s time. Where’s my novel? It’s time.”

I pulled the novella out today just to, yanno, look at it. Hortensia squee’d with glee. I told her not to get her hopes up. She scoffed.

So I don’t know what I’m working on now. Perhaps Hortensia would be the antidote to my restless. I’m sure Venus would be. Maybe I’ll let Venus and Hortensia and Carmina and Sea Eyes from the short story fight it out amongst themselves. Just let me know when you’ve figured it out, gang. Only, don’t start sending me tweets advocating for yourselves. That would be one step too far over the line.