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In four days, I will graduate from college.

In the meantime, among other things:
- My last days at work. I shifted four or five ranges of books today, in order to shelve the lion's share of the previously in-processing books. Talking to my boss and another student worker, I realized how much I actually have put into organizing and neatening the stacks. It's been so gradual that sometimes I forget how neglected it was before I got here. I hope I get to go and do this somewhere else now, I really do. If I never work with old books again it will break my heart.
- The increasingly pressing need to go through my thesis committee's notes on my senior thesis. I keep meaning to do this, and keep doing other things instead.
(- Like look for jobs. Which is useful! But polishing my thesis and submitting it to the library ought to happen before I leave campus.)
- We are up to four mice caught. The problem with old pretty dorms is, apparently, that they are full of holes.
- Movies. Lots and lots of movies. We had a million senior week plans, and none of them really came to fruition except the "watch a ton of movies" one.

Also, I've been reading books. I got a cache of used ones recently: a Sladek mystery (entertaining), Jumper by Steve Gould (pretty good, though I had some plausibility problems--I do want to find the sequels), some Liavek stories by Mike Ford (more straightforward than other work of his I've read), and Sunbird by Elizabeth Wein (which I reread in a gulp, wincing for Telemakos all the way).

And I just finished A Stranger in Olondria (Sofia Samatar), which is...fascinating. It brushes past the edges of societies that could host entire novels. It is about death and life and religion and books and stories. I want it to be in the Imagined Worlds class I just took, except that that class mostly read lighter fare, and this book is very rich. (I dog-eared a page in it, which I hardly ever do.) Reading about it other places on the web, I can tell that I will have to come back to this book, and that I will probably get different things out of it next time.

(I can't tell if Samatar made the mispronunciation of her main character's name similar to the name of the main character in The Dispossessed on purpose. I hope she did. It made interesting things happen in my head.)

I've contemplated, recently, what kind of books I want to write--or what kind of books I have inside of me--as I've been emerging from the college cocoon. The inside of my head is a very different place than it was four years ago. Even over this last semester, writing my thesis, the way I think about putting words-onto-pages has shifted. I think I like the changes, but I am not sure what to do with them yet.

The nice thing is that I have time to figure this all out. Am I the kind of person who writes flashy adventure stories that happen to have queer characters (or whatever) in them? (The world does need those books.) Am I the kind of person who writes thought-provoking books that don't follow any pre-set patterns? Can I combine those? How can I combine those? How does my brain default to combining those, and do I want to do something different? The last couple of novels I've tried to write have been fairly surface-level YA urban fantasy things, and I think maybe I need to dig deeper for whatever ends up being my next big project.

One of the things I haven't had very much in the last four years is a solid aesthetic space (nb: what I mean by this is a little fuzzy even in my own head): it's all been equations and academic prose. When setting up my post-college life, I definitely want to figure out how to both build in time to write (get up super-early?) and to find people or a place to talk about this sort of thing. LJ/DW are a good place for this in some respects, so I might end up blogging some of my process here, but it would also be fabulous to have a not-online version.

...I think that's all I've got right now. I feel a little bit like I'm surfacing; hi, world. I'm still here. Somewhere.
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As nice as the snowstorm was, having a proper true weekend was lovely. I was sad to miss everyone at Boskone (so close, and yet so far), but running away from the semester for a convention would have been a terrible idea.

So I got work done, and I also spent time doing things that weren't productive at all--I even went off-campus for nearly entirely frivolous reasons (the donut shop in Amherst that does gluten-free vegan donuts I can eat (!), and the remainder of a gift certificate to a bookstore there--I got The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland). (Which is nice; it got nicer the longer I read it, and even when I wasn't totally convinced had details that I really liked.)

And I wrote 250 words of fiction this morning, and I don't hate them! I even have an idea of where the words should go next. I'm not sure it's a whole real actual story, but it's more than I've had for a while.

Sometimes I am aware that I'm waiting (for grad schools, for short story submissions, for summer opportunities). I hate waiting. But I am trying to slow down, relax, spend time doing things I enjoy. After all, if I'm enjoying myself, it's not waiting. It's just life.


Feb. 2nd, 2013 10:46 am
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So apparently I've survived the first full week of classes! Almost everyone I know, especially seniors, is going around with haggard faces going "How...how did we do this semester thing before? I do not understand." Hopefully we'll all find our feet soon; having an actual weekend today and tomorrow should help me, at least.

...yesterday, though, I had to turn in my first physics homework in nearly ten months--the price of not taking any physics last semester--and that was tough, though ultimately I think it all worked out. The up side is that I also received a package containing the fun things that Kate and I bought with Christmas money: pirate and Shakespearean magnetic poetry--to go with the queer magnetic poetry she gave me--and a TARDIS-blue teapot that's just the right size for me to make tea for myself in the mornings. Our fridge is now covered in words (and sentences like "Ye wicked homoerotic musket"), which will be awesome for tea parties. (Except that everyone will cluster around the fridge and get in my way when I try to make tea for people.)

Also, I made a post about my work in Special Collections (and how it made me want to be a Special Collections librarian) on the new-and-improved MHC library blog. It was very easy to write, because basically it's the story of my life with old books.

I am nearly done with applications to everything ever (knock on wood), waiting to hear back from grad schools, and meanwhile researching summer opportunities. Almost all the library paid internships want me to be in an MLIS program, which is fair, but also sad. (The others want you to be a full-time student, presumably for the next academic year as well, which--hopefully I will be! Might apply to some of those, just because.) I may end up doing temp work somewhere, particularly if I do end up using my Rare Book School scholarship this summer--most summer programs frown on their participants running off to Virginia for a week to learn about book history. The future is still scary, but I have done most of what I can to figure out what's going to happen.
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I was kindly tagged for this meme by Brit Mandelo. Time for a finals break!

1) What is the working title of your next book?
Whisper-Trail (as I am sure everyone reading this LJ knows by now).

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
Thoughts about urban fantasy--particularly, about the mundane protagonist in urban fantasy novels and how to make that work without any kind of Chosen One thing. These thoughts have been percolating for a while, it's also part of the last urban fantasy novel I drafted (not sure if that one is salvageable), but this is a different take.

3) What genre does your book fall under?
Urban fantasy, with a dash of mystery. I guess early-college-age protagonists aren't quite YA, so it's probably in that weird "New Adult" category.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Shockingly (I am horrible at actors!), I have some for this: Ellen Page as Heather (the protagonist). Evanna Lynch as Eva (Heather's roommate). A younger Natalie Portman as Els. I don't know who would play Francis (detective, sort of) or Marisol (Heather's ex-girlfriend) or a lot of other people--there isn't a very wide spectrum of gender presentation among young-ish female actors. (I do not blame the actors for this.)

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Twilight for sensible people, but with lesbians. --um. Heather helps to solve a supernatural murder mystery, and gets in for a lot more than she bargained for.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
An excellent question. When I find out, I will let you know.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
So far, almost a year (earliest file is from January 17, 2012), due to stops and starts; I'm almost exactly halfway through.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Finder by Emma Bull, which I only realized recently. Also, Lies and Prophecy by Marie Brennan.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
That is a very good question, and I have lost all my notes. (Actually they are probably in a notebook somewhere, but one I do not have with me at the moment.)

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
It's full of queer people! It's full of people frequently being horribly awkward, but well-intentioned, and mostly-but-not-entirely avoiding being total jerks to each other! Also, major restructuring of power within a city, and the problems of how to be a part of a community you really want to be a part of without forcing your way into it. And I am pretty sure the major emotional relationship in the novel is going to be the protagonist gaining a best friend.

Is there anyone who hasn't done this meme yet who wants to? If so, sound off in the comments, and consider yourself tagged.


Nov. 29th, 2012 04:51 pm
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Opening night tonight! I am all kinds of busy but this looks like too much fun to pass up:

Tell me about a story I haven't written, and I'll give you one sentence from that story.
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40030 / 80000

Halfway! If this is as much fiction as gets written tonight, I am okay with that. I have done a bit of reading, and been stressed about a number of things (applications! story submissions! readings being assigned late and not uploaded as pdfs and all the copies being checked out of my library!), and walked to the grocery store to lay in supplies against Possible Huge Storm. And I am halfway done with Whisper-Trail, which doesn't mean all that much in emotional ways but is still a nice milestone.

There was a plan as to how I was going to finish this novel by early December, but that is not going to happen unless I NaNo the remaining 40k-or-so, and, well, that's unlikely what with thesis and the fact that Hamlet goes up the last weekend of November and so on. (Though if I brought my laptop to full runs and so on I could probably get a lot done; Rosencrantz is not really onstage that much.)

Other fun thing that's happened recently: class schedules are up for next semester, a.k.a. Alena's Last Semester of Undergrad. I should probably email a couple of professors, but there is half a chance I could end up taking two history of the book/reading classes at Smith next semester to counterpoint the Electronics that's required for my major. That...would be a pretty awesome schedule, really.
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39624 / 80000

So close, so close! Aaagh. I know what the rest of this scene should be--it mirrors and inverts the first scene of the novel in a lot of ways, and it is basically exactly halfway through the book, and that's so cool especially because I did not do this consciously (except now that I've noticed, I am doing it consciously, and trying really hard not to mess it up)--but have not yet written it. See above re: trying really hard not to mess it up. (I know, I know, it's a first draft.)

But still--words. Any day that has words is a good writing day.
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39022 / 80000

Words! Actual words! My Tuesday seminar was canceled this week, so I ended up spending an hour and a half at a cafe with a cookie and tea. I established a new writing notebook--my old one, which I began just before leaving for England this summer, was pretty much full--and then wrote a Whisper-Trail scene in it, which I typed up this morning before class. Now I ought to write the next scene, but I am not totally certain what that is.

In the meantime, drafted part of my thesis's introduction tonight. It's got [citation needed] scattered throughout the text, and some of it's a bit mushy, but that's okay. It exists, which is what matters, really. Something! Something of a start, something to hang on to.

Other than that, not much is going on. Had rehearsal tonight for Hamlet; was reminded, yet again, of how huge a shock it's going to be when we do the full run-through. I'm Rosencrantz, see, and so all of my rehearsals so far have been "add more physical comedy, add more silly, no, more silly than that..." (This evening I played the Ministry Of Silly Walks clip for my Guildenstern.) I am told the rest of the play is, well, rather different.

The Halloween orchestra concert is Friday night. We are all hoping it is not actually cursed and we do not, like last year, end up pelting across campus terrified in a blizzard with tree limbs falling all around us. (And lose someone's glasses and have no power for two days.) A Halloween orchestra concert with soundtrack music and waltzing is an excellent tradition, and I would hate to have to give it up just because it was cursed.
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Thanks to some good suggestions/feedback here and elsewhere online, I graphed my plot today:

...x-axis works by chapter; y-axis, which is "relative plot importance", runs from "that's cool" to "OH SHIT BEARS". Each plot thread has its own color of marker. As I was saying on twitter, it is a very squishy scale, but hey--whatever works.

I have realized that part of why I am running out of steam at this point is because I am not very good at large-scale plotting. There's a certain amount I can extrapolate and make bigger and then my brain stops working. Maybe I need someone to kick me and say, "More explosions!" Maybe I just need a brain that can handle all fifteen plot threads and character arcs and put it all together for me. Maybe I need to stop whining and just write the damn thing.

(This is also a "change feet" moment, where the big green plot thread recedes and the brown one soars up again. Changing feet in a novel is always hard. No momentum for the moment, a calm before the storm, a point where Heather has to stand up and drive events herself, and so particularly hard to jump back in after a long time away.)

But I have skipped/skimmed through a lot of Whisper-Trail-so-far in making the graph, which has gotten the novel-so-far considerably more back in my head than it was, anyway. Maybe one of these days I will start putting words down again; that'd be nice.
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I finally have a desk to work at. (Background: my desk does not fit through the doorway between the rooms of our in-dorm apartment. There is not room for a desk plus a chair in the bedroom. I found this slightly unhelpful.) It only took a month--and contacting Facilities Management twice--and contacting Res Life twice--and a few misunderstandings--for, finally, an email the other day saying, "Facilities says they can send some guys over tomorrow or Friday, but they want you to be around. When will you be in your room?"

...I told my boss I couldn't work this afternoon. If someone was actually going to show up and do something after an entire month of the runaround, by God I was going to be there. Waiting. Watching the door like a cat watches a mousehole. With bells on, if necessary.

And they did show up! Like always when you contact the professionals, they tried a bunch of things that my friends and I tried--take it through! tip it sideways and take it through! tilt the legs through the doorway first! They actually took the door off its hinges, which we had only thought about, but it didn't help much. They took the drawers out of the desk. They unscrewed the feet from the desk and tried tipping it sideways again, but no dice. Finally, what worked was tipping it up entirely on its end and tilting it juuust enough to get the (too-wide) desktop out the door so that the (just narrow enough) rest of the desk could follow.

(To the amusement and eventual amazement of me and my friend M, who were watching and talking about Criminal Minds and particle physics knock-knock jokes.)

So I have a desk now! It has my first-year plant and a nice lamp and my picture of Mount Holyoke before the big turn-of-the-20th-century fire; and I can sit at it on a real chair with my laptop on a flat thing and brainstorm ideas for my thesis and revise grad school essays and and I have a desk you guys.

Of course what I am using it for right now is writing blog posts but that's not the point okay?

All my academic things are done before fall break (which is going to be fun and hopefully I will also get things done, at least sort of) but aaa, extra things, I have so many of them. Preparing a presentation about my research for next week and the aforementioned grad school essays and also Hamlet rehearsal. Fortunately Rosencrantz and Guildenstern don't have very many lines. (In writing news, there is no writing news, but I am getting to the point where I feel like my head will explode if I don't write something fictional. We'll see what happens with that over break.)
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37453 / 80000

Not as much progress as I'd like, but more than none! (Words yesterday; pretty much no other day this week. I need to figure out when I can slip in writing-time.)

I now have, actually and officially, a Complete Class Schedule. It only took...a week and a half. It is full of excellent classes and interesting topics. Work, as always, continues awesome. I have started training in my replacement, have been given a pay boost, and have been granted access to more places I need to go to do the stuff I do. Win.

Also, this happened, and subsequently this. There was also a cloak involved, except none of the indoor photos really worked out, and it was too warm out this morning to make Kate wear a cloak outside. Ah well.

Tonight we're hosting the second of hopefully many Doctor Who parties. The one last week was a success despite a large thunderstorm and--weirdly--a tornado watch (Massachusetts, what are you doing). We were going to bake something this week, but, well, TPotS.

(...and I actually did homework this afternoon, even though our site where professors post readings was down for two hours; I was Resourceful and found the reading on the internet, and by the time I'd finished that, the site was back up and I could watch half of the documentary. So I didn't bake anything. Oh well. Next week, maybe.)

It's interesting how quickly I've slipped back into the rhythms of the semester. It's only been a week and a half, but all the patterns are there: lunches here, dinners here, except on these days when dinners are here; these people; these places...

We're establishing some new patterns, too, of course. Some are good, some not-so-great, but here's to keeping the good ones going and stamping the not-so-good patterns before they get out of the door.
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36624 / 80000

Okay, so, obtaining carrel: best idea. I didn't have PE this morning, so I picked up the box I'd shipped to myself, stuck it in my room, grabbed my laptop, and hied myself to the library for the hour and a half before class. Turned off my wifi, settled into the desk/the quiet space/the nice window with sunlight and fresh air right next to me and just wrote. I am definitely making an effort to categorize it as "the space where you don't worry about the internet" in my head, because having that? Priceless.

Of course, other Mondays/Wednesdays I'll have PE (and then hurry back to my room to change before class), but I will work out other times to do this. Like the hour right now--other Monday afternoons, once I establish a routine, I'll have 1-2 open. If I can figure out what to do with my laptop during lunch (key question! I can't bring my bag in to lunch with me) I could in fact head to my carrel right after eating...

...anyway, I have proven to myself that this works. And I got words! Writing always makes me feel good about myself.
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35625 / 80000

Okay I win now right? Actual words! For the first time this semester! This scene may be terrible, but it now exists. I may have to adjust daily wordcount goals to account for me not writing for a week and a day, but I suspect that once I get my inertia back I could do a thousand words a day (depending on the day), so. We'll see. For now: words! Yay!
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No words! Because I got up and packed the rest of my belongings and then [livejournal.com profile] aliseadae and I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and then there was dinner and the tail ends of packing...

...so I guess I will be trying to write 1.5k tomorrow on planes. Should be a good time! While at the museum I did scribble down a few plot points, so at least I have some things to be getting on with. And then I'll drop all my stuff off at campus, dash off to visit my grandfather for a day or so, and return just in time to move in properly/figure out my entire schedule/start classes. Not necessarily in that order. It's kind of surreal that it's all happening so soon.

We'll see if I hit 35k proper by the end of tomorrow, but as-is I am pretty pleased with my progress during August. If I keep going through the semester, I should have no problem finishing the draft.

See you all in a couple of days!
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33444 / 80000


In other news, UMass cannot accommodate my food allergies. Which is fun, 'cause my two best options for a physics class this fall are a) at UMass and b) during lunchtime. I'm sure everything will work out--I am talking to the new disability services person at MHC about options--but it's kind of exhausting how things keep going wrong.

Aaand then I went to the Minnesota State Fair, where there was a plethora of gay crop art (at least one piece of it was gay videogame crop art!) and a Katniss scarecrow, and cider freezes and lemonade and roasted corn and a free a cappella concert.

And because somehow this is my life, it turned out to be library day at the State Fair. I got a temporary tattoo that says READ and a library button that says "I got carded" (I had to show my library card to get that one, and asked "which one?" because am I a total library dork? I am a total library dork). Also I scored a color-changing plastic cup that says "I'd rather be at THE LIBRARY" which is definitely going to replace my Census On Campus cup for toothbrushing. (I asked them what color it changes to, but they didn't know, because it was 90-something today and nothing was cold enough for the cup to change color. I will have to investigate.)

Maybe I should pack? I am leaving super-early on Friday morning so probably I should pack but it's possible that I will just crash early and stuff everything into my luggage tomorrow. Other than "write a thousand words and maybe type up that last Anne Conway letter" that's all I have planned, so.
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32404 / 80000

I have succeeded in providing my protagonist with a Deadline. Also, in achieving word-count for today, despite initial uncertainty as to one antagonist/ally's motivation.
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I just got an email saying my library books are due in three days, so I guess I'd better type up a books-read post or I'll forget what all of them were.

books! )

I may be forgetting a few, but I think those are about it.
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31359 / 80000

Some amount of "this is the worst novel, this is horrible, why am I writing it". But I am having fun inventing these secret-rulers-of-the-supernatural-city; that's a definite plus.

Also I started packing for college. It's my last year and that's scary. Packing only makes it more real (although, since I am leaving in four days, it's going to be even more real very soon). Augh!
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30342 / 80000

My subplot is veering wildly between implications-of-romance, BFFs, and total bros. Best relationship or best relationship? (Answer: better than most of the other ones the protagonist has had!)

In any case, past 30k, and word-count for today. Yesterday I wrote approximately nothing and actually I have no idea why; part of it was running head-first into the middle of a scene where I had to stop and think and rearrange the pieces before the conversation became coherent--which I couldn't manage yesterday, but did today. And on account of which I have a new plot complication! Those are always nice.

Five days left in August to reach my goal of 35k. Even with a couple of lost days in there, I have not gotten off track (rah!), and hopefully I will be able to keep it going through the vagaries of Seeing Friends and Packing Everything Ever.
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26885 / 80000

Somehow I am actually getting wordcount, even though Lake Superior is right outside our door. Probably because I have been writing a bit of the book that's one of the images I had in my head when I started it.

...so I am now 1/3 of the way through the official wordcount of this book. People have bowed out, main characters have made terrible plans, information has been revealed at great cost, protagonists have been injured and subsequently rescued from Minnesotan November weather while in shock. I am having fun.

It's interesting, because we've got the Internet here but it's much easier somehow for me to ignore it all and go write a thousand words than it is at home. Even though there's all this gorgeous outside. Not sure why that is; will have to contemplate it.

Um. I am doing other stuff too, though, honest. In non-writing-related vacation updates: stuck feet in Lake Superior, went "oh god oh god oh god it's cold", jumped out, repeated; scrambled about on rocks; got rained on; bought a couple of books and read one of them; and had a shot of maple syrup for dessert, thereby fulfilling a childhood dream. Also, have been silly with [livejournal.com profile] aliseadae somewhat continually. It has been, and continues to be, an excellent vacation.

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