This wasn’t in the plan

Sometimes I think my life is an extended lesson in how you can’t plan for everything. But those things that weren’t in my plan always lead me to interesting places. It happens in life, it happens with books. Books don’t proceed according to neat plans. I always have a general road map to follow, but if a character wouldn’t do a certain thing, forcing it to stick to the plan is a bad idea. Much better to ask, under what circumstances would this character do that? Or is there some other choice the character might make that would accomplish the story goal in an even better way?

I need to add a section to the site explaining why I have 3 werewolf worlds. That was not the plan. I started off with one world (Wolf in Cheap Clothing, Wolf in Shining Armor, Wolf at the Door). I wanted to do a full-length werewolf novel. But when I got the opportunity to do that at St. Martin’s, there were story requirements that went against the rules of the original werewolf world. To accommodate that story (Animal Attraction) I needed a new world with different rules. If you’ve read both, you see what I mean. Animal Attraction couldn’t happen in the world of Wolf in Cheap Clothing. But Animal Attraction presented me with interesting facets the first world did not, and exploring that in Red Queen has given me chances to do some incredibly cool things. And then for Claimed by the Wolf, yet another set of requirements called for yet another world. Writing 3 werewolf universes wasn’t my plan, but the books have all succeeded in their own ways and they’ve let me explore variations on a werewolf theme, which I couldn’t have done in a single universe.

We’re packing up boxes to move again, and for people who hate to move, no, this was also not the plan. But after we moved to the beach house, see, the husband got the perfect job offer. And taking the job meant moving cross country. And the only way to really get to know an area and find the right place to live is to live there and house-hunt. Which we did, and found a great place, and now we get to move there. The place we’re moving to suits us better than any place we’ve ever lived, so the change is good even if we don’t particularly like change. It’s far, far better than we could have done if we’d tried to arrange a permanent house from a distance. (We’ve learned the hard way that doesn’t work out well.)

I don’t think the answer is to quit planning; planning has too many benefits. But there is benefit to the “hold on loosely” approach to life. You can’t control everything, it’s useless to try, and it wouldn’t be as good in the end if we could. Sometimes the best things are surprises we didn’t plan.

I’ll make that my mantra as I go back to writing this book.

The pros and cons of lots

I added up all my projects already completed and slated to complete from May ’09 to May ’10. Um, it’s a lot. It comes to the equivalent of 5 books, but since 2 are novella collections that add up to novel length (Wishmasters and Take Me, Lover) and others are standalone novellas, it’s a lot more than 5 projects.

There are pros to this: I wanted to clear out a bunch of my inventory of works in progress, and I’ve done that. I wanted to set up a bunch of e-releases to increase my monthly income. I’ve done that (still doing that, actually, it takes time for the payment/release cycle to hit). I wanted to see how much I can actually do without overloading my brain, and what I’ve learned from this exercise is that I’m capable of a lot without strain, but that the accumulated load of blurbs/cover art/contracts/edits/proofing/promo for each individual project adds a lot of work to the same word count if I’d just done novels. That’s a pro, because I learned something. Also in the pro category, writing to different lengths works different story muscles and that’s been good for me. I’m definitely keeping my name out with frequent releases. And finally, I’ve learned that I really am more productive working on multiple projects than focusing on one at a time and it seems to minimize the “I finished the book” mental black hole effect.

Cons: Adding a lot of work to the same word count for 5 novels.

So, while I am happy to have done most of what I set out to do, and will continue along that path as I keep turning stuff in through May, I’m going to take what I’ve learned and set different goals going forward from that point. I’ll switch to focusing on novels. I will always come up with the odd idea for a novella or novellette or a novella collection, but I’m going to put my main focus into bigger projects. Hopefully this will strike the optimum balance between the workload that works best for me and frequency of releases.

More on feng shui fixes

I bought a book called The Feng Shui Directory a few years ago and it’s incredibly useful. It explains principles of feng shui, which pretty much come down to knowing yourself and supporting what you’re trying to accomplish. I’ve been re-reading sections of it recently as we prepare to move.

One of the things we want to change is how little rest we’ve had the past few years. So the new house is going to be more geared to recreation and relaxation. How do you do that? Soft furniture with soft lines. Fewer squares and straight lines, more curves. Cozy spots that invite curling up with a book or two people unwinding at the end of a day. If you think about how you want to use your space, you can start to see how to make it work for that purpose. And that alone sends an important message to yourself, that what you want to do matters enough to arrange your life to accommodate it instead of shoving your wants and goals into what exists and trying to make the best of it.

Think about restaurants, which are often designed to shove people in and out as quickly as possible. Uncomfortable chairs, noise that keeps people from relaxing. If you don’t want to be hurried away from every meal, get comfortable dining chairs and set up a relaxing atmosphere instead of one designed to encourage people to flee at the earliest possible opportunity.

I work best when I’m relaxed, so these changes will be good for me. Creativity thrives in places that cater to naps and day dreams. I literally can’t work at my desk here. I keep trying, and my back is to two open doors and I get up and go sit on the bed with my back to a wall. If you can’t work at your desk, look at the layout of the room and see if there isn’t a more supportive way to arrange your work space. Nobody can relax with their back to a door. (I’d move my desk but there’s no way to do it in this space. So I fixed the problem by working at the dining room table and in the bedroom. Not ideal, but better than not getting any work done.)

Maybe you’re not moving or ready to change furniture, but you can still use feng shui to make improvements. Look at your entryway; chances are good that it’s cluttered and dirty. Tidy it up, put things away, throw away accumulated junk mail, and clean the area. Just having a clean, inviting entryway makes a difference in how you feel every time you come home. Small changes in the environment we spend most of our time in can make a big difference in the quality of our lives.

Guest blogging and getting rid of what isn’t working

I’m guest blogging at Genreality today on the writer’s weekend. Should be live by 9 Eastern time.

I’m also getting rid of some things that aren’t working. For instance, my cell phone. It’s developed this nasty habit of shutting off when I push the answer button. Fortunately it was my husband calling and not a business call, but still. Time to go find a new one. And my hair is really not working for me, so I need a nice low-maintenance cut that is also an actual style and not some sort of default state that looks like my hair and I gave up on each other.

It’s good feng shui practice to replace, repair and otherwise get rid of items that aren’t working for you. The fewer annoyances you struggle with daily, the more energy you have for the big things in life, like dealing with parenting challenges and writing books. It’s easy to let annoyances pile up when you’re busy and tired, but those things lead to being more busy and tired because they waste time and energy on a regular basis. It’s worthwhile every now and again to just go through and replace burned out bulbs, throw away that broken lamp, get rid of the socks with holes in them and buy a new pack of socks, get a haircut, replace the demonically possessed cell phone.

Books I can’t wait to read in 2010

Yes, I’m still up to my eyeballs in playing post-holiday catch up and regaining schedule buffer, so today you get another list.

Books I can’t wait to read in 2010:
1. Hold on Tight, Stephanie Tyler
2. Black Magic Sanction, Kim Harrison
3. Changes, Jim Butcher
4. Cryoburn, Lois McMaster Bujold
5. Everything by Lynn Viehl under her various names
6. Lessons in French, Laura Kinsale
7. Whatever the final title ends up as, Shannon Stacy (Carina launch title)
8. Devlin Group #4, Shannon Stacy (You’ll get it out this year, right Shan? Right?)

What books are you looking forward to?