Sep 16 2014

Space between

A lot happens between the lines.

I’ve been spending a lot of time “between the lines” the last month. I escaped to my parents’ house in the woods to scramble through the rest of my dissertation—and it was going to be a scramble. To finish it in time to graduate this semester, I’d have had to analyze the data and bang out the last two massive chapters in two months. Not a problem, I thought. If there’s one thing I can do, it’s write. And two months is an awful lot of time when you’re not doing anything else with your life.

Best laid plans.

A few weeks into my mad dash, my professors met and decided they wanted me to collect more data. This meant waiting for their okay on my plan to proceed with this extra data collection, and then waiting for the okay from the university research integrity review board, and then waiting on my study participants to—hopefully—grant me a bit more of their time.

There’s an awful lot of waiting in dissertation writing. A lot of waiting, and dashing, and waiting. But mostly waiting. And thinking. And standing in the yard watching crows bully the neighborhood hawk, if you’re as lucky and as foolish as I am to put your life on hold until you’re done with your doctoral degree.

I’m hanging between chapter breaks here, waiting to finish up this dissertation so I can move on with my life. I’ve got a big, shiny adventure waiting for me when this is all over. But after thinking about it (I’ve had lots of time to think about it), I’m glad my professors asked me to hold off and collect more data. Because the truth is, I don’t think I could have dashed out my dissertation. I could have written the words, certainly. But they would have lacked a layer of meaning and depth, a dimension I couldn’t have achieved by pushing through in a couple of months. There’s more to the process than chewing up your data and spitting them back out. There’s rumination, and digestion. And um, not a good metaphor. But maybe you get where I’m going with this—or rather, where I’m trying not to go.

What I mean is, ideas need time. I don’t just mean at the beginning of the creative process, but all throughout it. They need time to sit in your brain while you sleep, and shower, and eat your toast, and chat with the old man next door after chasing his dogs around your yard, and watch the lovebugs have an orgy on your front porch. Basically, they need to ride shotgun while you live your life. Now and then you strike up a conversation with them or you take them out to a nice dinner, but mostly they just sit there, and sometimes they sleep, and you forget they’re there.

But all the while, they’re changing. They’re picking up bits of conversation and stray thoughts, and they’re making something out of them. They’re getting bigger. And when you do sit down to give them some attention, you’ve discovered something amazing: They’ve evolved.

I needed this excuse to take extra time on my final dissertation chapters—not because the activity of writing itself needs time, but because I need more time for the activities between writing. I need quiet moments and busy moments. My ideas about the meaning of my data are changing in ways I never expected—and I need them to have that time to stretch.

Taking a pause from writing at a spring in North Florida

Fiction happens the same way for me. The initial inspiration for a story can be a rush as ideas click into place like falling dominoes. Scenes bubble up out of nowhere, fully formed, like complex life forms out of primordial soup. Characters, dialogue. Then comes the task of sweeping all those bits together and bending them into some kind of sense, which can bring its own kind of inspiring rush. And then comes the writing, the sit-your-butt-in-a-chair slogs. And all of that is really important to the process, especially the slogging. But the key ingredient—and does anyone ever talk about this?—is time.

For me, it’s just as necessary as all the other steps in the writing process. Some people can pop out fully-fleshed stories at a rate so astounding, I wonder if they’re creating or if they’re channeling some divine voice. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I can’t write more than a thousand words on a single story in a day. Let me rephrase that. I can write more than one thousand words on a manuscript in a day, but not without endangering the integrity of the story. Because just as important as the time I spend writing is the time I don’t spend writing—teasing the dog, taking a walk and smelling the sun-warmed pine needles, frying eggs, catching up on my nonfiction TBR pile.

My stories need to sleep, just like I do. Then they wake up refreshed and ready to do amazing, unexpected things. I think we’re all so busy running around trying to do things, we forget the value of the not-doing. The pausing, the breathing. The place between lines.

That is where the magic happens.

 


May 18 2014

Spring sprang…a while ago, I know

…so I’ll resist titling this post “Happy spring!” But I will still post these pictures of kids and lambs, because…well…cute.

I visited these little guys on Easter–by accident, actually. I’d run out of eggs the day before and decided to visit the farm to buy some more that Sunday. (I only buy local pasture-raised eggs, because I’m a nut like that.) Right. Only later did I remember it was Easter Sunday–so, shopping for eggs? Brilliant move.

I happened to get the last dozen they had left.

I also got to meet the newest additions (I almost wrote “editions”!) to the herd! Future milk goats and sheep. Thought it was kind of appropriate for Easter that I bought my eggs and saw the baby animals. The only thing missing was a bunny. Next year, maybe?

(For anyone in South Florida who’s curious, the farm can be found here.)

Mmrf! WEEDS! Heck yeah!

Mmrf! WEEDS! Heck yeah!

Mine!
MINE!
Mine!
What do you think you are, a seagull?

All's well that ends well. And a mouthful of...whatever this is..is a swell end.

All’s well that ends well. And a mouthful of…whatever this is..is a swell end.

Meanwhile, the lambs are behaving themselves.

Meanwhile, the lambs are behaving themselves.

Be well. :)

 


Feb 14 2014

Happy Valentine’s Day. :)


Feb 8 2014

2013 in Review

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Wow. It’s been almost one year exactly since I last posted.

Blogs have always scared me. It stems from my sort of constitutional social awkwardness. (There’s probably a reason I sit in a closet by myself all day, pecking at a keyboard.) At least, in real life, I’ve mostly gotten over my shyness. All right, so sometimes I laugh a little louder than socially appropriate or say something inane, but I’ve discovered that–hey–it doesn’t kill me, and sometimes in the process of making a fool of myself I also make a friend.

But I haven’t quite gotten there with blogging. Whenever I think about posting, I automatically hit the same blocks that kept me from interacting with people: Who wants to read about that? I’ll think, or I’ll bore them, or worse, I’ll sound like an idiot.

Shyness. Plain and simple.

But then…admittedly…also a tad bit of laziness. What can I say? After plugging away all day on my dissertation and current fiction projects, usually about the last thing I want to do is write more. As much as I love writing, I also love taking walks, cooking, socializing, and–uh–well, it’s nice to get sleep sometimes, too.

So, now that I’ve finally got myself in a social, blogging mood, let me do my annual Year in Review for 2013, a couple of months late. Mind you, not a lot of noteworthy things happened last year. A lot internal growth happened, but I won’t bore you with the philosophical stuff.

I went vegan. Vegetarian. Ish. When I do eat animal products, I try to keep to the sustainable. What’s sustainable? The definition always seems to be changing. It’s enough to make you crazy, but I try. (To keep sustainable, that is. I’m already incurably crazy.) I’m not going to stand on a soapbox and spout out how I think people should eat. Good grief, no. But I do like to go on about organic farms and happy goats and all of that hippie nonsense, and I hope you’ll bear with me. Happy growing things apparently make me happy.

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On that note…this is probably the single most beautiful thing I saw in Norfolk, VA.

I traveled exactly one place out of state. That’s a real change from the trend. For a few years now, I’ve been going at least a couple of places a year. In 2012, it was Utah and Vermont back-to-back, then Oregon a month or two later. But 2013 was like a bog. I felt mired down in it.

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But, I did travel down to the Florida Keys to have this spectacular view on my birthday in August. (It’s one nice thing about living in South Florida.)

I passed my comprehensive exams. These are different at every university, apparently, but basically it means that I finished the coursework for my degree and get to move onto my dissertation. In fact, I’m just about to start my research now. Once that’s done, I get to write it all up and submit it and, hopefully, by this time next year you can call me Doctor. Yes, that’s right: Dr. Danse. Sounds like a super villain, doesn’t it?

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Koalas have nothing to do with my comprehensive exams, but I *did* feel kind of like this one afterwards.

And that’s…about it. So what am I looking forward to this year?

TRAVELLING AGAIN! I’ve got a trip to Oregon planned in the summer. It’s for a research conference, but it’s in Portland…and really, I’ll take any excuse to visit.

A year of almost no travel has made me realize how much it (travel) defines my life. I practically grew up in the back of a car, and I can’t remember the last year I didn’t fly somewhere. Funny: Travel helps me feel more rooted. It sets my life in context. It gives me a sense of place and movement, and to be without that…well, just plain sucks. I miss it.

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Finishing my dissertation. Because, as scared as I am of leaping out of academia and back into the real world, I’m kind of ready to be done.

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Completing and submitting a couple of novels. Because, well, again: It’s about time. I’ve learned a lot about writing, and myself, in these last couple of years, and I know that I still have lot more to learn. But sitting on these manuscripts I’m nearly done with won’t make them perfect–and it certainly won’t make them published. Time to roll ‘em on out.

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Updating this blog… I hope to get into the habit of regularly posting once a week. Maybe I’ll even find something worthwhile–and interesting–to talk about. I have some ideas, and I’m excited about them. So…we’ll see. ^.^

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Ganesha is here to help me remove obstacles and slay demons. Like…procrastination.


Feb 16 2013

Sniffle

Colds in my house generally smell good. A lot of lemon and ginger tea, garlic, eucalyptus oil, and thyme are often involved. This time around, it’s peppermint and nettle tea, miso soup with gobs of wakame and arame, and fragrant basmati rice. Also, I’m generally surrounded by a misty cloud of essential oils, like an aromatherapist’s experiment gone wrong (or right — cuz this stuff smells really good).

I won’t mention all the Crystal hot sauce, which basically slashes through the yummy herbal aromas.

I have the windows open to a nice cross breeze, because it’s uncharacteristically cool today (probably thanks to all the storming up north), and I’m sitting on the couch with the cat purring at my back. My muse has her office door open and her “open for business” sign out, and I’m chipping away at a chapter that’s been giving me trouble.

So, I’m sick, but it’s actually kind of a nice day. :)


 


Feb 2 2013

The Great Steampunk Romance Airship Tour

Hello! Taking a quick break from procrastination (er, homework) to let you know that Heather Massey over at The Galaxy Express will be lifting off for a grand blog “airship” tour on February 4. It sounds like there will be much steampunk romance goodness — and prizes! Lots of prizes! Including a book by moi (ISLAND OF ICARUS or BEAUTY IN THE BEAST — winner’s choice). For more details, check out the press release below.

Announcing “The Great Steampunk Romance Airship Tour”

Don your brass goggles and come aboard! To celebrate all things steampunk romance, Heather Massey of The Galaxy Express is launching The Great Steampunk Romance Airship Tour on February 4, 2013. This tour is in conjunction with the release of her new steampunk romance, IRON GUNS, BLAZING HEARTS (Lyrical Press).

The tour will run February 4-13. It has two major components: posts and prizes.

At each stop readers will find a fun, informative post about a steampunk romance topic.

When visitors leave a comment at any or all of the stops, they’ll be entered for a chance to win a steampunk romance ebook along with the Grand Prize:

* $100 e-gift card (winner’s choice Amazon or B&N)

* 75$ e-gift certificate to Clockwork Couture

* 1 digital copy of IRON GUNS, BLAZING HEARTS (winner’s choice PDF, ePub, or .mobi)

Dates & participating blogs

2/4 Ex Libris

2/5 Reading Reality

2/6 Smart Girls Love SciFi & Paranormal Romance

2/7 Steamed!

2/8 The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences

2/9 Spacefreighters Lounge

2/10 The Galaxy Express

2/11 Backward Momentum

2/12 SFR Brigade

2/13 Paranormal Romantics

See you there!


Jan 22 2013

Art as Voice, Art as Activism

I was recently introduced to Tegan and Sara’s song “I Was Married” — and, in turn, their album The Con – via a discussion on the gay rights movement. Of the album, the sisters said they felt it had more depth than their previous release. I wonder if this has to do with The Con’s message – an important one regarding civil rights. Listening to the album, I was put in mind of the music of the 60s and early 70s, much of which was so fearlessly anti-war and pro-peace. Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Simon & Garfunkel, Neil Young…they all shared powerful messages, gave voice to a movement.

I also recently read Aleksandr Voinov’s Incursion, a science fiction novella about shape-shifting near-humans that was, in part, a response to “a discussion on what constitutes a ‘real man.’

This all got me to thinking about how powerful art is as a medium for raising voice in deeply important, and often controversial, matters. Some (much?) of the most striking, most beautiful, most enduring pieces of art — be they written, painted, or performed — are a response to issues surrounding human rights and violence.

Art as voice. Art as argument. What makes it so powerful? Perhaps because art reaches into us and taps into our emotions. We can debate with each other, reason with each other, explain our perspective, yell and curse, type and type — all until our voices are raw and our fingers, bloody. But art draws into us like breath; it punches us; it inspires emotion.

Instead of reasoning with the person you are trying to persuade…you make her feel.

Addendum: How could I forget! Richard Blanco’s poem for the presidential inauguration, “One Today,” is a poignant, stirring reminder that we are all one people. A beautiful example of art as voice — talk about message! His words still ring through me today.


Jan 21 2013

Memento mori, tempus fugit


Jan 4 2013

2012 in Review: A Year in the Life of Christine

The world may not have ended in 2012, but the year was certainly special for me. It’s the first year of — I think — my life with no significant angst or drama (thanks to several difficult, but wonderful, decisions I’ve made in the last couple of years), but plenty of creation, learning, travel, and laughter.

Here are the highlights!

(Scroll your mouse over the pictures for extra notes.)

I visited New Orleans in February for a nursing conference. I arrived on the night of Mardi Gras — alone! — and stayed holed up in my room while the city went wild.

(But my classmates and professors arrived the next day, and I had a fun time out on the town with my friends — eating gumbo, going on ghost tours, and visiting my favorite landmark: Cafe du Monde!)

My second novella, the M/F steampunk fantasy Beauty in the Beast, was released on March 5, 2012 by Carina Press.

I visited Oklahoma near the end of March to spend time with the Cherokee Nation for a cultural diversity class. I won’t lie: The beauty here surprised me.

In May, I went on a writing retreat to Disney World with my writing partner, the exceptionally (multi)talented @ehfoster. In truth, it was more of a retreat FROM writing. The iPad pictured here was mainly just a prop. ;)

Epcot’s annual Flower and Garden Festival was going on while we were there. The park was filled with gorgeous flower arrangements and topiaries.

And I found this neat hat that ACTUALLY FITS ME! (I wear large hats. It’s hard to find hats that fit me!)

In June I went to Utah for another nursing conference. I took a ski lift to the top of a mountain then decided to hike back down (in backless shoes, no less). I roped my friend into joining me. We, uh, got lost on the mountain side for a while and almost walked off a cliff. Finally, we found the path again and somehow made it back in time for dinner. For days after, I was so stiff I was limping. A preview of what it’ll be like to get old. Great. Sign me up.

From Utah, I flew to Vermont for my second — and final — week of herbal apprenticeship. One of the best weeks of my life.

The beauty there in Vermont was just…indescribable.

It was magical.

Just magical.

For my birthday in August, I visited my good friends Bender and Quazi in Southern Oregon.

My heart lives in the Pacific Northwest.

For Halloween, I went to my first witch’s ball. (It was probably also my last. Partying with strangers is just not my thing.)

In December I graduated with my master of science degree in nursing…

…visited Disney World for my family’s annual holiday trip…

…and wrote a 19,000 word novella in 15 days, from handful of notes to completed manuscript with a synopsis and query letter. Seven of those days were spent in Disney World, and the manuscript was half written on my iPod touch. A manuscript in half a month is a record for me — even if I HADN’T been on vacation when writing half of it!

I also made my walk-in closet into a micro-office. Finally–a place all to my own to write! :D

And that…is it! I finished the office a couple of days ago. Now, I’m getting ready for a new semester of university to start in a few days.

I’ve got a lot of stuff planned for this year: three manuscripts to rewrite and polish, three rough drafts to write, my doctoral comprehensive exams to complete this summer, and my doctoral dissertation proposal and defense this fall.

Cracking my knuckles!