Monday, January 29, 2007



I may be very sparse this week as I am actually in Sacramento with Child. I'm typing on Dad's computer just now while Child is asleep in our room. We had a helluva trip to get here: 1 delayed flight (with us "circling"), 1 cancelled flight, a 3-hour or so wait in the Salt Lake airport, and of course our luggage didn't make it until the next day. {sigh} But we made it in the end, hubby is off doing business stuff, and we are happy here in an excellent grandma and grandpa house, with everything a 4-year-old could possibly want. Today we went for a walk by the American River and just hung out and played--tomorrow, the Science Museum.

That's it for now folks. Must go have other people's ice cream bars. :)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Nana's House

I got my assignment done yesterday, because I rock. {buffing fingernails} Back to regularly scheduled work.

On Sunday we're heading out to go spend a week with my dad in Sacramento. He hasn't seen Child in a while, and I haven't been back to Sac since we moved to Montana, so we're going to get in some quality grandparent time.

This made me think of my own grandparents, and how I loved going there when I was a kid. As an exercise for myself, I wrote this little bit this morning describing what it was like to wake up there. Well, starting to describe. I have an inkling that this might be the beginning of that short story I was talking about the other day. In any case, here's what I came up with this morning:

From Nana's House, copyright 2007 by Susan Adrian

The bed is warm, and snuggly if I don't move too much. When I try to roll over the 30-year-old springs creak and poke at me, protesting. So I stay here, on my back, staring at the saggy lump that is my brother in the top bunk. I hope the bed holds, that he doesn't come crashing down on me, but I figure there's no reason it should break right now. Except it would make an interesting story.

The grown-ups are moving out in the family room, talking, making more and more noise. They always do that when they think we've slept enough, and they're getting impatient for their breakfast. If I don't get up soon they'll start to make comments about it. "My goodness, are they ever going to get up?" "I don't think you ever slept this late when you were their age." My grandmother wakes up at 4 or 5, so by 8 she feels like she's been up for a whole day already. That's what my dad says.

Actually it's just me they want. My brother is 14 now, so for some reason he's allowed to sleep through breakfast; he's a teenager. He'll emerge, with rumpled hair and marks on his face, in a couple of hours, yawning. They still wait breakfast for me.

I sigh and push back the blanket—the electric kind, yellow with a shiny strip at the top—and swing my feet onto the floor. It's cold. It's hard tile, gray-black, and it always feels cold in the morning, even in summer. I hop to the rug and just stand there for a minute, blinking. A little light filters in around the edges of the shade, but mostly it's dark, that brown-dark that tells you it's really daytime even if you're trying to sleep. The room smells of dust and chalk, and old books, but I like it. That's just how a grandparent's house should smell.

{end snip}

Medieval Word of the Day: knapscall: Some kind of helmet or headpiece; generally worn by persons of inferior rank; perhaps originally by the servants of the men-at-arms.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Run in run out

I got thrown another get-it-done-in-one-day project, so I'm busy accomplishing that. But I know you all must have your:

Medieval Word of the Day: hoten: promised.

Maybe more later, maybe not!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My card? Why yes, of course

Just to clarify, yesterday's post was primarily a joke. I do get burnt out on research periodically; it's part of the process. But I'll write a short story to clear the system (I already have one working in my head) and I'll be all good. I'm not really that pitiful! {g}

On to new diversions. I love this:

Isn't that cool? I made it here. I may keep a small version of that on the blog, I like it so well. I am a word, book, and library geek.

The free books--Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife and The Birth of Venus--are going out today.

And back to the

Medieval Word of the Day: poustie: Power; spiritual power; might; authority.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Historical Burnout

I'm afraid I may be suffering from a case of Historical Burnout.*


*Historical Burnout: A disorder common to writers of historical fiction.

Symptoms: Violent envy of writers of contemporary fiction, who don't have to worry about endlessly researching "real" dates or places, or when exactly bloody certain rooms (or "chambers") were built, or what palace was used when, or what frigging shoes or headgear people were wearing, or drinks or food they were eating, or even which #$@% words they might or might not have been using at any particular time. Disillusionment with research. May manifest itself in:
(1) moments of bitterness towards writers of non-historical fiction ("those who have chosen the easy path");
(2) an explosion of brackets within the writer's current manuscript (e.g., [check drink]);
(3) a sharp increase in swearing within those brackets (e.g., [who the frig cares what frigging gypsies were wearing on their heads at this point, but bloody well check it anyway]); or
(4) a careless disregard for historical facts or conventions; the writer may, in extreme circumstances, choose to include the word "brat" without brackets, because it conveys the character better than any historically correct word.

Diagnosis: A quick glance over the writer's recent work will allow for an easy diagnosis. Symptoms can also be seen in conversations, emails, and chats, particularly with other writers. Watch closely for clues in conversations with non-historical writers, or occasionally in blogs.

Causes: This disorder is usually caused when a writer is attempting to write a book based in a completely unfamiliar time or setting. Unfortunately it can recur while writing the same book, and even when cured can often recur with the next historical.

Treatment: For mild cases, a diversion into contemporary short fiction can be effective. This treatment can (1) distract and/or energize the writer and (2) correct the common delusion of this disorder that contemporary writing is in any way "easy". Some writers find successful recovery by introducing a time-traveling modern character. More severe cases may require a break from the historical or the simultaneous writing of a contemporary novel. Unfortunately in the most grave cases the entire historical, or even the entire genre, may be shelved, and the writer may veer off permanently into writing hot urban fantasy.


I think it's just a mild case so far, so we might try the contemporary short story. {g}

P.S. Medieval Word of the Day? Who bloody cares??

Monday, January 22, 2007

And the winners are....

Jen and Julie K.

Congratulations!! Send me an e-mail at susan ., and tell me which book you choose and your mailing address.

Thanks for playing, everybody! That was so much fun I may do another one soon.

Double check your entries please!!

Two people have told me that they had entered over the weekend and their comments didn't please double-check to make sure that your comment is visible on the entry post.

I'm going to extend the contest for another hour so you can re-post if yours didn't get recorded. Sorry about that!!

No, there is too much, let me sum up

Yay, lots of entries for the giveaway! This makes me inexplicably happy. I'll do the drawing at noon today and post the winners, so check back.

This weekend I:

--wrote about 1000 words on Book 2 (rock)
--made chocolate chip cookies with Child. Between us we consumed almost half the dough before it even got near the cookie sheet. (what?)
--took Child with me to the salon, where she got her First Ever Haircut by someone other than me. Just a trim, but it's groundwork, baby.
--went out to dinner with friends, and had lots of Chianti
--pulled Child on a sled around our yard (wheee) and made snow angels. It was gorgeous yesterday, clear and sunny.
--went to a concert to see The Watercarver's Guild yesterday with hubby and Child. A father/sons folk-y trio. Good stuff!
--plus errands and stuff that are, frankly, not interesting.

Busy, eh? But good busy. Today it's back to work for me. Hubby is home with some kind of weird low-level illness he is finally going to see the doctor about, so we'll keep an eye on that.

See ya in 3 hours for the drawing! (Er...that means 3 more hours enter if you haven't. Just comment on the previous post.)

Medieval Word of the Day: evenlength: The time of year when the days and nights are of equal length; the equinox.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Book Giveaway!

Here it is, my 200th post!! Blabby thing, aren't I?

To celebrate, we're going to do a book giveaway contest. Here's how you enter:

1. Grab a nearby book or manuscript. Writers, feel free to use your own work! Turn to page 200.

2. Post the first line you find at the top of page 200 in a comment to this post. Make sure to include your name if you post anonymously.

And you're done. {s}

--you have until noon Mountain Standard Time on Monday, January 22
--one entry per person
--two people will win, by random drawing
--each winner will get to choose one book from those pictured below, and I'll send it along to you
--if you have questions, feel free to email me at susan dot adrian @

The Books:

What? Apparently I had a Jane Austen theme going on there for a while. {s} Anyway, I highly recommend all these books for various reasons. I'll be intrigued to see which ones the winners choose.

Have at it!

Relaxin' Jackson

Good morning!

I have coffee, my brochure is done and sent out on time (WHEW), I got some writing in last night, it's already 20 degrees, and it's Friday. Aaaahhhh.

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm going to do a book giveaway today to celebrate my 200th post (this is #199). Look for details in a little while. Don't touch that dial!

I'm also starting to go back and label my posts. The writing ones are mostly labeled "craft".

Medieval Word of the Day: shewel: A scarecrow. Also in hunting, something hung up or set up to keep a deer from entering a particular place, or from going in a particular direction.

Hmm, that one might be useful.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Good news (and a little slacking)

Speaking of discipline or the lack thereof...{cough}. I didn't write at all yesterday--instead I brought in my copy of TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG and succumbed to the temptation to finish it at lunch.

This is why I have to be careful reading pleasure books when I'm trying to write! However, I have to say it was worth it, as I got to finish without interruptions (rare at home!) and truly enjoyed the end. So there you go. Back to it today.

I have developed a strange addiction lately to listening to 80s music at work. I think it's because I'm doing layout work, which doesn't require me to focus on editing text. 80s music just makes me feel happy, anyway. Though high school sucked, I guess I enjoyed the tunes. {g}

One news item before I head off to the brochure that's due today. Though I don't think she reads this blog, I'm sending a shout out of huge congrats to Jo Bourne of the Compuserve Forum, who announced yesterday that her agent just secured a two-book deal with Berkley for her historical romances. Woo-hoo Jo!! She's been a tremendous influence on me and everyone else over at the Forum, and she deserves it! Yay!

I also just noticed that I'm coming up on my 200th post--this is #198--and to celebrate I'm going to do a giveaway contest. Look for it in the next couple of days!!

Medieval Word of the Day: gisarme: A kind of battle-axe, bill, or halberd, having a long blade in line with the shaft, sharpened on both sides and ending in a point.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A day with the gypsies

Welp, got caught up in (pshaw!) work yesterday, and only got it to 6900. More today. Poor Isabella is now being carried upside down in a sack by a bunch of gitanos (Spanish gypsies). I have no idea how or why that happened--is this a frigging historical, or what?--but we shall proceed from there. I do know she's only gone for a day. I guess she wanted a little adventure.

Second term starts today, but in spite of the temptation to load up with classes I refrained, and kept to my 4 units. Discipline, people! Sometimes it pops up in me unexpectedly. I don't want to lose the momentum I have going on Book 2, and the plans I have for TMT revisions. Which I will get on as soon as I finish reading TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG.

I got this postcard in my work mail yesterday, and put it up on the wall directly. Diligence is what will make it all happen.

More later--must get back to the legislative brochure now!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

And then what happened?

I got some great work done on Book 2 yesterday, and added some more today at lunch when I wasn't hampered by eating. {s} I'll try to work on it a bit more later and get it at least to 7,000 by the end of the day.

Yesterday I realized a trick that I pull on myself to keep my motivation going, and thought it might be useful for someone else.

When I stop for the day--which is usually because of time constraints with me, but sometimes just because I've done enough--I try to stop in medias res. Right in the thick of the scene, often even at a cliffhanger. I don't wrap things up neatly at the end of my workday, with a resolution or with the character going to sleep.

Why? Well, I hadn't even realized I did this until yesterday, but when I thought about it for half a minute it was clear. When you're reading a good book, what keeps you going? What keeps you turning the pages after you meant to go to bed, or keeps your thoughts flying back to the book-world during the day? Tension, and uncertainty. So I do the same thing when I'm constructing a story. To keep myself thinking about it and intrigued enough to tackle it the next day, I end with a hook for myself.

Yesterday's hook for the end of the day was:

I stopped when I saw the gypsies, but not in time.

So today I had a fascinating place to start, and I was eager to get back to it and find out what the heck was up with the gypsies. I wonder if this also helps to make sure there is continued tension in the book--if I'm constantly trying to interest myself, maybe it helps to keep readers there too.

Tricks we play with ourselves.

Medieval Word of the Day: Hock-day: The second Tuesday after Easter Sunday; Hock Tuesday: in former times an important term-day, on which rents were paid, and the like, Hock-day and Michaelmas dividing the rural year into its summer and winter halves. It was also, from the 14th c., and probably earlier, a popular festival, signalized by the collection of money for parish purposes by roughly humorous methods.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Sensation of COLD

This morning it is -24 degrees. Fahrenheit.

It's difficult to describe what that kind of cold feels like, but for the sake of an exercise, I'll try.

I bundle up of course; you have to. I'm wearing silky long johns under jeans, a long-sleeve shirt under a hooded sweatshirt, boots, a lined coat, gloves, and a hat. I never wear a hat unless it's really cold, but at this temperature it's necessary or there's a very real danger that my ears will get frostbite. It's happened before--with mild frostbite the lobes turn a mottled red and the skin flakes. Yuck. So I'm wearing a pale blue tuque that I got, unbelievably, at a San Diego Padres baseball game. Much more useful here than in San Diego.

I also have a soft black scarf wrapped around my neck and over my mouth. I wish I could wrap it over my nose too, but I wear glasses, and that means instant fogging up. Not good to be stumbling around outside when the goal is to get IN, as fast as possible.

Even with all this protection it's still painfully cold for that top half of my face that's still exposed. The worst, really, is my nose. The instant I step outside my nose hairs freeze--I'm not kidding! It's a nasty sensation. Tickly, but sharp, like hundreds of little doll-size needles inside your nose. I try not to inhale very much, or very deeply. My cheeks and my forehead ache with cold before I take ten steps. My glasses freeze and the metal frames become heavy; I'm aware of each point they touch my face. In spite of my gloves, the tips of my fingers ache and tingle, sending a warning to my body that I recognized even when I was a newbie at this. ("This is ridiculous! Why are we outside in this? Get the hell in!")

Cars, even new, fancy cars, don't start when it's this cold. Our CRV did, but only reluctantly after a couple of tries. Once you do get on the road every car pumps massive clouds of steam out the tailpipe, a rolling chain of fog. Everyone goes slower, because you have to wait for the car-cloud in front of you to clear before you go. If you stop somewhere for an hour or so the warmth inside the car, from your breath or the remnants of the heater, freezes inside the windows, and you have to run it for 10 minutes or so or drive anyway, peering through patterns of ice.

But we're in Montana, and we're supposed to be tough. So everybody smiles at each other once we're in, rubbing our gloved hands, stomping our feet. "It's a bit cold out today," someone says. "But actually not that bad," someone else answers. "Remember when it used to be -40, for 3 weeks at a time? We have it easy now."

Yeah. We have it easy.

Medieval Word of the Day: inlaw: One who is within the domain and protection of the law: opp. to outlaw.

(Okay, I had to laugh at that one. That would be confusing for time-travelers, wouldn't it?)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Go get it!

Oooh! EOS is giving away 20 advance copies of Vicki Pettersson's SCENT OF SHADOWS. Go! Go! Go now!! Everyone will like this book.

The Secret Life of Characters

Goals today:
Writing: 500 words on Book 2.
Work: Keep editing "the Sapphire Report"
Home: Play something fun with Child tonight. Maybe a puppet show, with the penguin stick puppets she just made at school.

Diana Peterfreund was talking about character revelations today--those moments when a character lets something slip as you're writing, and suddenly (AHA!) you understand them better.

It happens to me all the time. As I was writing TMT Katherine kept getting squirrelly about water. It was prominent in one scene that got cut, but it's still there, throughout. She avoided ponds and rivers (especially rivers), but I didn't know why--she just wouldn't go there. Then I was writing a scene about a third of the way through, and she suddenly tells a story to her friend, as a way to pass the time, and as an indication of how close they're getting. Turns out her mother drowned when she was 3, in the River Wear, and Katherine was the only witness.

Wow. Cool, huh? Tragic of course, but amazing. I didn't know that about her, but still saw the effects of it on her character, so that it made perfect sense when it was revealed. And little revelations like that happened throughout the writing of the book.

(Edited to say I put that bit up as the new excerpt. You can click on the link to the right, or here.)

I'm experiencing it now, again, with Book 2, and this time with both of my main characters. I haven't had a major revelation yet, but Isabella's showing me all the time that she's not a flat character from a chronicle, nor exactly what I would expect. (She's flirting--flirting!--at the age of 11! I tried to tell her to cut it out, but she is so not listening to me.) And Constanza, who history books peg as religious and dull, is snarky and bitter when she's with her sisters, and oh so full of pride. Just yesterday she called the English "northern fools" and disparaged them for talking during Mass. Who said they talk during Mass? I didn't! And why is she compliant and quiet when she's with the English (which of course is the part that's chronicled), but resentful in private? I can't wait to find out.

This writing stuff is fascinating, isn't it?

Medieval Word of the Day: glent: To move quickly or with a gliding motion, esp. in an oblique direction.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Lack of beverages but lots of fish

My goal today was to write 500 words--which is small, but if I manage that much every day it will add up (at least 2500 words a week, 10,000 words a month, a book a year. Forget that I'm writing a first draft--there will be times I'll write more and faster, as I get into it). I got 420 before I had to stop because I really ran out of non-work time. So why are you writing here, you ask. To which I say--shaddup!

As always, my characters surprised me.

From Isabella:

I wanted to make a sharp comment, to show her my superior knowledge, my wit. But she was my sister, and unhappy. I knelt before her, pulled her to me. She did not relax into my arms--just leaned stiffly, like a statue--but she did not turn away.

Huh. I was sure Isabella was going to make the sharp comment. {shrug}

Did I ever mention that I work on a college campus? So from December 13 through January 17 (oh, and summer), the place is deserted--no students, no professors, no admins. No COFFEE. {le martyred sigh} I can't wait until January 17, when "the coffee mill" will open up again for my necessary afternoon addictive beverage. In the meantime, vanilla tea again, which does not have the same level of caffeine.

In the "kids make old things new and cool again" category, Child received a game of Go Fish for Christmas, and we've been having a lot of fun playing as a family over the past few days. Though hubby kicks our butt most of the time (what IS his secret? No, never mind). I've taught Child to do a solid handshake and say "well played" at the end, whether we win or not. Yes, it's vaguely reminiscent of British people playing tennis, but what the heck. It sounds cute in a 4-year-old.

Medieval Word of the Day: fulsome: Characterized by abundance, possessing or affording copious supply; abundant, plentiful, full.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Cool New Stuff

Still plugging away on Book 2--I'll get some more words out today. I'm trying the POV of the other sister, Constanza, though it's really awkward for me to write in 3rd person. I'm not sure if I'll keep those bits or not. It's a useful exercise in any case, though, as Constanza has suddenly turned out to be quite different in private, and in her head, than she is with people other than her sisters. Hmmm.

I'm also going through Linda Seger's "How to Create Unforgettable Characters" with an idea to strengthening Katherine in TMT, and am already making useful notes. Once I finish the book I'm going to print the whole puppy out again and make edits in longhand on the printed version.

Also thought y'all might be interested in the books I got for Christmas. Strong on historicals, but eclectic nonetheless. I'm read the Jasper Fforde (I LOVE those books) and started the Connie Willis last night.

--Who Murdered Chaucer? A Medieval Mystery, by Terry Jones
--The Boleyn Inheritance, by Philippa Gregory
--Something Rotten, by Jasper Fforde
--To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis
--The Sun Singer, by Malcolm Campbell (a Forumite; I've been meaning to read it for years)
--The Traitor's Wife, by Susan Higginbotham (a fellow blogger)
--Montana Women Writers: A Geography of the Heart, by Caroline Patterson (non-fic)

and a memoir that I'm embarrassed I can't remember without it in front of me; I'll have to check and post it from home. A good haul, eh? {s} So what books did you get for Christmas?

Medieval Word of the Day: fool-largess: Foolish lavishness, prodigality.

Friday, January 05, 2007


Moving, moving, moving...keep those dogies moving...

Isabella was talking last night, and I got a good whole scene out and expanded on it today. Yippee! I love that high. I ran out of time at lunch to start the next scene, but I'm percolating. Maybe I can squeeze in some more time tonight, and I definitely will tomorrow.

Go Isabella!

I also ran across another reference source, thanks to Susan Higginbotham (whose book I got for Christmas, BTW, along with about 10 others).

Medieval Word of the Day: kythe: To make known in words; to announce, proclaim, declare, tell.
(OMG, did any other Madeleine L'Engle fans know that this was a real word?)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Progress and Men of Snow

I made a little itsy bitsy bit of progress on Book 2, which currently feels like a shuddering mess. A short shuddering mess. Fortunately I know this is mostly what happens when I take too long of a break and my confidence falters, so I will sit down and stare at it again tomorrow.

On Books & Writers they were looking at first lines of chapters today, so I did a quick skim through TMT...and discovered I have an awful lot of chapters with Katherine waking up, or the start of a new day. I don't like this, but I don't think it's something I should address now. I definitely will keep it in mind as Book 2 solidifies, though. Once you recognize a pattern it's time to change it.

We had fun making a snowman after work last night, as we briefly had sticky snow wet enough to roll. Usually we just have the powdery dry stuff that falls apart, so we have to take our snowman opportunities when they come. I think most of it melted today, though--we'll see how much is left of him when we get home!

Tomorrow we're having delayed Christmas dinner and present exchange with my mom and stepdad, since I was too sick on actual Christmas, and we've been gone since. Yay, more presents. I like to stretch good things out as long as possible!

And's almost time to go home and eat. I've been starving all day.

Medieval Word of the Day: rammish: Of smell, taste, etc.: Rank, strong, highly disagreeable.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Vacation Wrap-Up

We're back!

Ah, it was a grand vacation. We hung out together, ate out a lot, soaked up the sun, and visited some of our favorite places. I only have a few minutes to post, so I won't do a detailed recounting. But here's a list of a few of the haunts we managed to get to:

--The beach, but of course. Child made mud pancakes, ran in and out of the waves with me, chased seagulls, and gooshed with her toes. Heaven.

--Sea World. A little crowded (after Montana, everything is crowded!), but we had a good time. My favorite: we went on New Year's Eve, and Santa was there on vacation, beach chair and all. Child loved it.

--The Science Center, which we visit primarily for the KidZone.

--The luverly park next door to the Science Center. We spent a lot of time there this summer, and it was fun to go back and just let Child run around and play on all the swings and various kid things.

--The Stephen Birch aquarium. This is right near the hotel, so we always must go there. Wonderful aquarium, if you've never been.

--Fin's Mexican Eatery. Twice. Mmmmmmmm.

--Chuck E. Cheese. Because we've never been, and we've seen ads on TV and all. I had to laugh when Child admitted that she hadn't thought it was a real place, but a cartoon. She had a ball, and so did we.

--Spicy Thai food with other grown-ups, for an adult-only dinner with old friends while the kids played together (the other couple's kids are 14 and 11). Nice.

--Our old apartment. We walked through the complex, and it gave me an eerie sense of deja vu. You can never go home again and all that, and I wouldn't want to, but that IS the place we brought our baby home to. For that reason it will always be special.

We were pretty tired out yesterday, as we had a 6 AM flight from San Diego, which meant getting up at 4. {yawn} I think I'm almost caught up now. Now I can start to read through all those books I got for Christmas!

Medieval Word of the Day: piggin: A (small) pail or similar vessel, esp. a wooden one with one stave longer than the rest serving as a handle; a vessel of this sort used as a milking pail. Also: a (wooden) drinking vessel; a scoop or ladle consisting of a can with a handle on the side; a lading-can.