Fall is for Writers, Not for L.A.

rain-girl-sketch-illustration-blogIt was raining in Los Angeles for half a second. I’m ready to bake pies and warm my cockles by the ovenside. The crock pot is cold and lonely.

This is my first week off from my book. I wrote it in a whirlwind, NaNoWriMo style, in exactly one month. This was in July, after I left my job (which, by the way, was more invigorating than frightening…but also kind of frightening). Then I spent another couple of months editing, and enjoyed three immobilizing days of a final marathon read. I find that step, reading the manuscript from start to finish as fast as I can, particularly helpful for wheedling out repetitive words, finding inconsistencies and plot holes, and taking a sweeping look at character development. It doesn’t allow you to forget what’s already been read.

Now it’s November 1. First day of actual NaNoWriMo and I feel like I’ve come out of the wrong chute, even though I’m obviously relieved to see the first draft long finished and so ready to leave the revised version in the hands of beta readers. But, temporarily bereft of a major, moving creative project, I’m trying to avoid the deadlights of limbo. Nothing really replaces the feeling of having your own book to work on every day.

I told myself I’m allowed a break after three months of frenzied writing and editing; one day into relaxation, I can already feel myself floundering and sinking into that weird postpartum that always arrives during beta reads and, particularly, querying.

I have plenty to do, though, so I’m going to try filling in the gaps with serious business–not the least of which is embarking upon freelancing (for real). I let myself put it aside because how often do you get a chance to work on your own project day and night? But it’s probably time to be an adult again.

~S.Z.

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September Blogathon Challenge Accepted

september-blogathon-inconsistent-blogger-illustration

I’m participating in a blogging challenge with some of my fellow Book Rioters this month! The idea began with Sarah S. Davis of Broke By Books, and the point is to challenge ourselves to be consistent bloggers by holding each other accountable to our individual goals.

My goal is to post original content at least once a week, whether vlog, art, or your standard talky blog entry. I’ll also be reposting some of my Book Riot posts, but those won’t count towards my goal–that’s just extra.

And if you’re looking for more bookish blogs to follow, check out these Rioters who are on the struggle with me this month:

 

 

Iron Henry

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Henry swigged a melting mouthful of the hearth witch’s tea and clutched his chest. Eyes bulging, beet face glistening, he waited on the precipice. A grand suck of air. A glimmer of gritted teeth. The medicine took. After his affliction smoothed its feathers and he could breath again, Henry slid down the wall of the well and grated a coarse hand across his shining brow.

A bit of cold water would have gone a long way, but Henry knew better than to stick his hand into the iris of the well to freshen his face. And yet…Henry peered down into its mirthless depths for one look, but the frog was gone again. Plucked. Stolen. The well witch’s pincers had dragged him back down to her breathless underworld. Was his prince happier with that sea serpent? He couldn’t be. What a silly idea. Henry repeated these mantras as uncertainty sickened his mind with hypothesis and jealousy. He rapped on his chest three times with four knuckles like knots in birch and lumbered up from his seat wondering when his prince would appear again.

“Fool,” Henry said, the word lush with longing.

The next day Henry again squished through the rank marsh to the green-furred well and called down into the water, watching his pleas ripple across its glutinous surface.

“Prince! My prince! Your man calls you,” he sobbed. The forest responded first, laughing at poor Henry. Birds shrieking slurs, dripping hot white fervor to the forest floor. But a pale specter grew out of the well’s thunderhead. An emerald body rose. A horror. An extraterrestrial sun in the familiar night sky.

“My prince! Ah,” Henry said, doubling over as his heart swelled against its cage. His cry held the power of resurrection. A hand shot up thin and bare as a wintered branch to pull the frog down, down, down to the bottom of the well.

Henry slid to the damp grass and nestled his head against the mildewed stone, salting it with fresh loss. When a long time later he lifted his face to the darkening day, Henry found himself staring at the witch, her arms hooked over the sill of the well to pillow her brown, waterlogged cheek as she looked sidelong at the man and clucked.

“Poor Henry,” said the witch. “I am sorry.”

“You aren’t though,” Henry said, too weary to brew stronger poison. “You have him and you couldn’t be happier.”

“Oh Henry, it’s not that simple,” the witch said as she brushed a water moccasin away from her face to peer at the man with avian ferocity.

“I’m confined here. You’ve known love while I’ve known nothing so deep as my own well. My heart will never find home with another, but at least I’ll have a companion now.”

“So you have spoken. Now leave me be,” said Henry, clutching his heart.

“It was unfortunate that you and your prince came along, but that can’t be helped. I’ll not spend my centuries alone,” the witch said, trailing off. She studied Henry. “What have you done to yourself, Henry?” she said. “Something in you has changed.”

Henry grimaced. “I had the blacksmith cage my heart in iron,” he said. “To keep it from bursting.”

The witch sighed as Henry rallied. “What if I offered you a deal?” the witch said. “A chance to regain your beloved’s life.”

Henry’s spine snapped into place. “I dare not believe–” but the witch stopped him with one uplifted hand.

“Even if you succeed, you won’t get all that you want. But your prince will be free. He will recover his true shape and a life outside my well.”

Henry stood. “Tell me then. I have nothing to lose and my true love’s freedom to gain.”

The witch, leaning too far over her well, cringed back. Henry drew close to hear.

“There is a princess in the next kingdom. It was her ancestors who banished me to this well. If I find her a prince to marry, my spell will be lifted. Should you convince her to take the prince for a husband as he is, his spell too will be lifted. But you must not tell her his true identity and they must remain husband and wife or he will be called back to me. And if that should happen, your prince will turn frog again, never surfacing to see you.”

Henry said nothing for a long time. “It will be done,” he decided at last. “My prince will see the sun again, if not his faithful Henry.”

Iron-Henry-Icons-Frog-Final

The princess was out walking in a brightly scented meadow. Every now and then she slowed her step to toss a ball into the air. High above her the golden orb gleamed, dazzling the sky as its gems caught the sun’s fire. It would have put the queen into a spin to see the princess toss her hard-won golden egg, but the young woman knew her mother wouldn’t notice if it went missing for an hour or so each day, and she took wicked pleasure in using the priceless treasure as a plaything.

With a thrill of jubilation and daring, the princess flung the egg as hard as she could up to the sky and as she did a shadow fell over her. Before she could even sound her alarm a fury of feathers swooped down from the sky taking hold of the egg with precise talons.

“Oh no,” the princess cried, chasing the bird through the woods. She barely looked down from the hunt until something heavy fell on her shoulder and pulled her back.

“No, princess,” warned a low voice.

“How dare you,” the princess spat at the man who had clapped his hand on her shoulder.

“The well,” he said, and the princess looked back and saw it then. The chase had so consumed her, she had almost tumbled heel over head into the black pool.

“You saved my life,” she breathed. “But, oh, my egg,” she wailed.

“Your egg?”

“A golden egg all crusted with jewels. Like nothing you’ve ever seen.”

“But I think I have seen it,” he said, holding out his palm. The other hand held hawking gloves, but that was behind his back.

“Ah,” the princess gasped. It was the egg, as perfect as ever and even more so for having been found. As the princess reached for her prize the man pulled back.

“I will return your egg to you on one condition,” he said.

“I’ll give you my pearls and my jewels,” the princess huffed. “I’ll even give you the clothes on my back–just give me my egg.”

“I don’t want your pearls or your jewels. And I’d ask that you keep your clothes on. All I want is the promise that you will accept my prince as your companion. Let him sit beside you at your golden table and eat from your golden plate and sleep in your golden bed and promise to love and cherish him.”

“A prince,” the princess said, disguising her interest with coyness but too late. “Is he as beautiful as you?” asked the pouting coquette.

“He is,” said the man, and there was such sorrow in his voice, it drove the princess ravenous.

“I’ll have him,” she said and snatched up her egg. But when the prince, all green and gray brindled, rose to the water’s surface the princess shrieked her disgust and fled into the woods.

“Wait, princess! Your promise,” Henry called after her  gauntlets pressed to his heart. But she was gone.

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The princess was dining on pheasant with the king and queen when a knock traveled to them from the castle door. The king left their table to discover the meaning of the interruption and returned with a young beauty and a frog.

“This man says you broke a promise made to him,” the king said to the princess. “Is this true?”

“He tricked me into promising my companionship, my plate, my bed, and love to that creature,” she said and scowled at the intruders.

“What trick was this?” the king asked the young man.

“No trick,” said Henry. “I only recovered the princess’s golden egg when she lost it.”

“Golden egg?” said the queen. “Excuse me.” She left the table and returned with the golden egg. “This golden egg?” she said.

“The very same,” said Henry. And the queen gave the princess such a look as would make any daughter or son wish for the earth to gobble them up.

“And did you agree to the promise?” the queen continued.

“I did, but that was before I knew his prince was a frog,” the princess insisted.

“It matters not,” said the queen. “You have made a promise and you will keep it.”

“Father,” the princess wailed.

“Listen to your mother,” the king said, tucking back into his plate. “You will not besmirch our name with your dishonesty.”

The princess opened her mouth but one look from the queen snapped it shut. Henry felt the cord pressing the frog against his hand, pulling him back toward the well, snap beneath the princess’s surrender. He gingerly placed his prince near the princess’s plate and left their company gasping at the pain housed within the iron cage.

“Push the plate close to your companion so that he may share your meal,” the queen said with a tidy, icy smile.

Empty stomach and barren of appetite, the princess took the frog to her room under her parents’ orders. But when she felt the slimy skin against her own and heard the rusty croak of her bedfellow she cried out and flung the frog against the wall. So great was collision that the witch’s enchantment smacked clean off the prince and he was freed from his froggy form.

Eyeing the prince in true flesh, the princess flew to his aid, her heart pounding with new love. The prince, seeing himself in her looking glass, pushed the princess aside and escaped the castle in search of Henry. He found him pale and clutching his heart by the well, the witch stroking his auburn hair. They started at the sight of the prince.

“My prince! You’re whole again,” Henry said embracing his other half.

“The spell was lifted when the princess threw me against the wall,” said the prince.

“Threw you,” Henry raged.

“Ah,” said the witch. “Tricky business, spells. I’m sorry to say that you’re still tied to me, frog or not. Even now the enchantment pulls you back to my well.” And the prince had moved incrementally closer to the witch and the water.

“Wait,” cried Henry. “I have a proposal.”

Iron-Henry-Icons-Heart-Final

The princess heard a knock on the castle door and flew to the window. Just as she’d hoped, it was him. She flung the door wide and embraced her prince on the doorstep.

“You have returned. I knew you would. There is no princess–or otherwise–fairer in the land and now you know and I forgive you,” she said, pulling him in.

“Wait, princess. First you must sever my ties to the well witch. I cannot be yours until you do.”

The princess squared her shoulders. “Then sever your ties I will,” she said. “I have no fear of well witches. Let us go directly.”

They found the witch waiting, hooked to the ledge of the well by her chin, which rested on a soft bed of moss.

“What do we have here?” the witch said through her teeth.

“The princess has come of her own volition to sever my ties,” said the prince.

“Then so shall it be,” said the witch. “Come closer, my dear, and let me tell you how it’s done.”

The princess looked at her prince who nodded encouragement. She lifted her chin, strode to the witch, leaned over the well and splash! In went the princess and off went Henry and his prince to live happily ever after.

The Half-Mature Monster on Holiday

Nature-Summer-WeirdoI work at a school and during summer break calm descends upon the world. Meaning I have more freedom to take vacation days and get home earlier. Before breaks, I spend a lot of time dreaming up all of the things I’ll finally do–go on hikes every day, wake up early and write, read stacks of books, hang out with real human beings.

But then my time off finally comes and once the writing’s done and my Nespresso’s gone cold, I find myself looking ahead at the gray sprawl of time with unease. Distrust.

Okay, I should note that the writing’s never done–by “done” I mean when weird line squiggles and fjifeifejeef lousy up the blank page instead of words. When I’m fed up and begin to wonder if there’s even any purpose to ANYTHING.

With my first book in the far-as-I-can-take-it-for-now pile, bequeathed to the nameless gods for judgment, I’ve been trying to find all sorts of ways to keep myself occupied :coughsanecough:. I’ve taken up more freelance work, started booktubing, inked some bad doodles, hobby gorged under the guise of professional development, and now I’m working on a second book…

This isn’t a sequel or anything like that, it’s a completely new story with all new characters for a different age range. It may seem odd, like I’ve given up on my first book, but I haven’t I swear. Still, I’m not the type who can twiddle her thumbs while waiting and I’m sure that’s not the done thing anyway.

At that LA Times Festival of Books I went to Leigh Bardugo (author of The Grisha trilogy) advised the aging YA panel audience to work on something unrelated while you query. And it was like I’d been given permission to step away from this being I’d put every ounce of myself into; that I’d worked up from the cellular level using an insecure science that leans heavily on the Delete key.

Writing books is like magic. You spend countless hours working on this thing and then not much happens and then you start over again. See? Magic.

I don’t mean that don’t listen to me. Anyway, I’m determined to have some capers both on and off the page. I’m probably not going to hike every day (who even does that?). But I am hiking with a human being tomorrow. And my dishes are washed. Hey maybe I’ll spend the rest of the summer trying to turn into an adult only to reach fall before I’m fully cooked and instead become some horrible half-mature monster. Or maybe I’ll just eat at more restaurants and give this shiny new book some legs. Anything can happen when you have a little time.

Best Place to Write in Los Angeles #7: Daily Dose, Downtown Los Angeles

I basically use my Instagram feed to discover new cafes and restaurants. My Daily Dose cafe discovery came courtesy of one of my favorite artists, JAW Cooper. Daily Dose is a rustic, urban cafe tucked away in an industrial zone (considered the Arts District as well) of Downtown Los Angeles. It’s become a thing for chic new cafes primarily catering to creatives and loft dwellers to share space with packing and wholesale districts. I’m guessing it’s because the rent is cheap and the warehouses and old industrial buildings are being converted into residential spaces for artists and the like.

It’s easy to forget you’re in a somewhat gloomy, congested area even after the difficulty of maneuvering around big rigs idling on the road and hassling to find parking (lots of No Parking signs, so be sure to read before you park). There’s a sign on a nondescript strip of street pointing you down a cozy alley. You pass ivy-covered brick, tables made from what looks like reclaimed wood and old wood produce boxes, and walk up to a charming, rickety door. Inside, the cafe is bright and warm, and the staff smiles at you, offering recommendations. They have a seasonal, mostly farm-to-table breakfast and lunch menu–you will want to come hungry.

I ordered The Guildsmith, a grilled cheese chock full of tasty veg. They give you a number if you’re dining in, and seating is all outside (if I remember correctly). I can imagine this place getting crowded on weekends; take note that seating is limited and many of the tables are communal picnic tables. But I showed up on a weekday just before noon and found a table for two easily. Your table neighbors will most likely be well-to-do creatives, or artsy interns and freelancers. I saw a couple of people with laptops.

If you order food, you won’t want to pause between bites to write. I didn’t look up from my plate until everything was gone. It’s hard enough to find a decent meal and even harder to find it at a cafe. The cappuccino was also good, by the way. I think every barista is now required to be an expert in foam art.

I got in about an hour of writing before I felt like maybe I was taking up space what with the lunch crowd filtering in. Next time, I’ll try coming at an off hour like 2:00 p.m. The Wi-Fi is free and they’re open until 8:00 p.m. every day except Sunday (4:00 p.m. is the closing time, but check the website).

I’d come back any weekday to write and on the weekend with friends. I love the atmosphere–I almost felt like I’d found my way to an old city of creeping ivy and brownstone. Tiny birds fluttered around, it was overcast. Perfect.

This only gets a four out of five because my actual writing time was limited by seating. As far as cafes go, generally speaking, it gets a five.

Viscosity: 4 out of 5

Best Place to Write in Los Angeles #6

Random Updates from Random Me

Well well well. We meet again.

Non-Fic. I thought I would check in with some updates, starting with the news that I’m writing non-fiction again. Not exclusively, mind you. But I have missed that scene and I’m the type of person who levels up better while under pressure. That’s not an invitation, oh mystical Fates, but…yeah. As luck would have it, I was offered a great opportunity to do more food writing, so here you are, my first contribution to Men’s Journal:

Cinco de Cocktail….

Cinco-de-CocktailFic. And then there’s THE BOOK. I’m getting things done. Trust. The process of flinging it out into the world at this stage is boring so I’ll spare you. Okay, it’s not boring…I’m just oddly hesitant to blab about it. I might be living in a perpetual state of breath-holding. It’s hard to speak under these conditions.

I’m also writing short stories again, having been stuck under an editing rock for so long. I don’t sleep.

Reading. At the moment I’m reading Foundation by Asimov. Hitting up them classics. And enjoying it so far. Next I’m determined to get to Pratchett’s Hogfather at last. I’m actually audiobooking Foundation and physically reading Birds of America by Lorrie Moore. I fear genre insulation.

Stuff. In my spare time, I doodle and take long walks on the beach while trying to avoid the sea monsters because I only take long walks on the beach in my frightfully vivid dreams.

SCENE.