"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Saturday, July 6, 2013

On Writing and Life

The creek that runs behind our property in
Costa Rica.  This is our personal mountain
refuge, and a place where I hope someday to
have my own version of Ghemena's cottage.
Hello, again.  I've been absent for a few weeks from this blog, and from the internet in general.   What can I say?  Life sometimes demands attention in ways that don't involve a computer network. 

The last time I posted, we had recently learned of the death of my father-in-law; the latest in a series of losses that have marked the first months of 2013. 

I was worn out by then, physically and emotionally., and I decided to shut down everything to accompany my husband to Costa Rica, where we participated in the novenario, a 9-day ritual of mourning, with his family. 

On the heels of the novenario, I attended the annual conference of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation in San Jose, Costa Rica.  This was the 50th anniversary of ATBC, and so the conference brought together a lot of friends and colleagues, some of whom I had not seen in a very long time.  It was a fun and inspiring conference, yet sobering at the same time.  I realized that in my relatively short (25-year) career as an ecologist, the field has been transformed. 

A quarter of a decade ago, we still had our eyes on exploring and deciphering pristine ecosystems.  Now out of necessity, the bulk of our research has turned to rescuing what we have lost, managing what remains, and understanding what we have created.  Ecologists are tackling a host of new questions: restoration of degraded environments, patterns of diversity in urban areas, and so-called "novel ecosystems" -- never-before-seen assemblages created by a combination of native and introduced species.  It's not that there is nothing pristine left to explore, it's just that there's so much more now outside of those pristine areas that demands to be understood and fixed. 

I'm certain I'll come back to this topic, because it hit me in a deep way and continues to simmer in the back of my thoughts. 

As soon as the conference came to an end, I was on a plane back to Kansas City to enjoy a short but wonderful visit from my brother and his family.  They live in Hong Kong, so it is always a special joy to see them, especially my nieces, now 6 and 2 years old.  We've been blessed with particularly lovely summer weather, sunny and cool all this week, so we've been out and about exploring parks and playgrounds almost every day. 

Now July has begun, and I see half my summer has already flown by. 

What have I done with my time? I ask myself, and I feel like I have done very little.

A new helper joined me in the garden this
summer. I think I will call him "Mr. Guende".
Even though I've been to Costa Rica and back.  Even though I've had invaluable experiences with my family, friends, and colleagues.  Even though my garden is looking better than it has in years.

That's because for an author, what one has done is not measured in people and places, but in words and revisions.  This is at once the strength and weakness of being a writer -- the drive to tell stories keeps us writing, but the drive to write can sometimes keep us from living. 

Maintaining a balance between writing and living is such a fundamental challenge.  Like many authors, the pull toward writing tends to be stronger in me than the pull toward experiencing life.  So when life demands my attention, I often have to order myself to STOP writing, editing, marketing, and so forth.  To let it all go for a few days, a week, a month or more if need be, because in the end, some things are simply more important than getting out that next scene. 

Of course, there are many professional writers who cannot approach their craft in this way.  They must maintain their routine of writing at all costs, because if they stay away even for a day, it's that much harder to 'get back into it'.  I guess I'm lucky not to have that issue.

After the world settles down, after the heavy emotions of death and loss recede, after my beautiful nieces give their good-bye hugs and board the plane to China, I can go home to my computer confident that I will be able to continue the story from where I left off. 

Indeed, the sadness, tears, joy, and laughter that life has given me add dimension and texture to my words.  True, I may have to adjust my personal deadlines, and it may take a little longer than anticipated to finish the work in progress, but I truly believe the story I tell will be better, not worse, for the time I've spent away from the computer. 

So this weekend, after a long break, I will be getting back to narrating the gripping events of Eolyn's third and final novel, Daughter of Aithne. 

If instinct serves me well, next week I'll have a report for you on the cover art for the second novel, High Maga, still on track for a spring 2014 release.

After that?  Only time will tell. . .

Together with my nieces, parents, sister, and brother (and Duke!)
for the 4th of July.  This was the first time in at least a decade
that I've been in the United States for Independence Day.