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4 posts from May 2013

Do the MathMay 27, 2013

I'm on deadline, and I've just hit the point in revising the book at which I finally believe it will probably be good. Up till this point, it's been the WORST book ever written, but since this is my seventh book, I know that I feel that way every single time. 

When I reach the point at which I love the book, right when I fall in love with it, I send it away to my editor. She, in turn, will find areas I can make better, and I'll hate the book briefly and viciously again. Then I'll revise again, and it will be the BEST book ever written. 

What's nice to realize is that neither of these things are true. They're just feelings. I haven't ever written the worst, or the best, book in the world. Nor will I ever do so (thank god). 

All that matters is doing the math. Isn't that funny? That writing comes down to numbers? But it does, for me. 

My books are about 90,000 words long. I write first drafts more slowly than I revise. I can reliably write 2-3k words of new stuff in a day before my brain fizzles. I can reliably revise 6-8k words in a day. 

I look at my calendar and I map it all out. Every day that I'm not at the day-job gets a word count goal (thanks, Google Calendar!). If I have thirty days available to write a first draft, then I need to write 3,000 words each day. I keep a chart for every book, so I can tell you exactly how long it took to write any given book. Somehow, it's comforting to me to look at the numbers. 

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Click to biggify

You can see that I'm doing this revision quickly, much more quickly than it took me to write the first draft. (And yes, you can tell by the above math that I didn't write the ending the first time through. I never know how my books end until I've written them at least twice. It's not ideal, but it's the way I work.) 

This method works, by the way, for writers not on deadline. How long do YOU want it to take to write a book? Do your math. Say you can manage to write a page a day (only 250 words! You can do that in fifteen minutes!) on your work days and you can up that amount to 1000 words/day on your weekends. That's 90,000 / (5 x 250) + (2 x 1000) = 28 weeks, or about seven months. That's seven months to a first draft while working full time. Not too shabby, my friend. (Seriously, I love doing math like this. It's like doing our budget, which I also love doing, now that I use YNAB*.) 

And if you're an average-paced writer, you can pull this off while only writing 3.25 hours/week (1000wds/hour). That's nothing! Everyone can find that in their week (unless you're the mother of newborn twins, in which case, good lord, you just get a hug from me along with my eternal respect. We'll see you in eighteen years).

And what do you with all that time you're not writing or fretting about not writing? That's when you're planning! Sitting down to write words every day only works when you know where you're going (I say that lightly but plotting is the hardest thing, to me). Do THAT instead of doodling in meetings. Plan the next scene while you're in the shower. Then plan the next one. Make notes on your phone or on your hand. If you're bored thinking about a scene, nix it. Don't write it. Only write the exciting parts, the parts you love. I recently found myself--literally--writing a city council meeting. I bored myself. When I woke up from my little chair-nap, I made someone take off all his clothes at the meeting (Elbert Romo, if you remember him from earlier Cypress Hollow novels). Do what you have to do.

And remember the most comforting thing of all: Your voice is your voice is your voice. The words that came so painfully last Tuesday will just read like all the others when you look at them next month. The book you hate today will be the one you love later.

Do some more math. 

Then write some more words. 

* $6 off coupon HERE for YNAB, which stands for You Need a Budget, and it's the best thing we've done this year. We're actually saving money now, and we know what the money is for. PLANNING AHEAD. Who knew we could do this? Highly recommended, and I think they have a 30 day free trial. I've actually learned where our money goes, which was something I literally had no clue about until this year. Perhaps I'm growing up. PROBABLY NOT THOUGH.

** I got some mail! Real mail! Seriously, so exciting. I'm going to try to write back to each one. And yes, this trick (see previous post) got me to the post office. 

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*** We also prettified the porch. I'm in love with being out there. Yay spring! 

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MailboxMay 17, 2013

Y'all, look at what Rena set up for the Boston Love Blanket(s)! A Facebook page with photos

RESUME: 

I have many skills, y'all. I am a rice whisperer--my rice (sushi rice, white, brown, jasmine, even cauliflower rice!) always turns out amazing. I can make grumpy people laugh. I can tell a joke well even if I've forgotten the punch line. I can sew a dress and knit a sweater without a pattern. I write books, from Once Upon a Time all the way through to The End. 

But hey-zeus, I can't get to the post office. 

I owe books from the last drawing.  I swear, that must have been a month ago. The books are still on my porch, sending me evil glares every time I walk past them. If I owe you a book, I haven't forgotten you, nor did I ask for your home address just so I could come watch TV with you some random afternoon (although if you're watching Nashville, scoot over, I'm watching with you*). 

I do not know what my hang-up is. It's true, I hate the post office. That's a given. My post office is one of the scariest places I've ever been. The line stretches around the block, there's only ever one employee who obviously bitterly hates all of humanity, and the bullet-proof glass is dented as if it's been tested more than once. 

But I have a rental mailbox! You know, at one of those fancy Not A Post Office places! I have it expressly so I can get deliveries that are important (because my mailman comes up my walk with the slip that says Sorry You Weren't Home pre-filled out . . . when I am home). My mailbox store is a lovely place, staffed by a smiling man whose name I always forget and Jean, whose smile could split timber. I love going there! 

So why can't I just get the books into the post? Why can't I take them to Jean? I have no idea. This blog entry is by way of apology, a huge blanket mea culpa, to everyone to whom I owe stuff. Please forgive me. I can't explain it. I'll get there someday, I promise. 

(Oooh! I swear I didn't start this post with this idea, but I just had it, and I JUST FIGURED IT OUT. Write to me! Send me a letter! Oh, my gosh, I'd LOVE a letter! A real letter! From someone who is not selling me anything! Oooooh! I haven't received a proper letter in, like, years.  I will TOTALLY go to the mailbox if I think something might be there. I'm freaking out right now with excitement. My mailing address: Rachael Herron, 3542 Fruitvale Ave #135, Oakland, CA 94602.) 

Oooh! Oooooh!

*Because, oh, my. Nashville's Deacon Claiborne. I mean. Damn. He's totally the imaginary hero of the book I'm writing right now. Here's an inspiring screenshot for you. You're welcome. 

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ETA Snowgoddess's wonderful comment: Dear Ms. Herron, Thank you for you continued patronage of our fancy Not a Post Office place. We strive to continue to offer you new and fancier Not a Post Office place services. We would like to introduce you to our newest employee Deacon Claiborne, formerly of Nashville, (actually on hiatus) currently researching a part for his next film, Let Me Do That For You, a lustful romance comedy drama about a fancy Not a Post Office place employee who lusts for a stunning writer wrapped in handknits with seemingly endless amount of packages to be mailed. Oh, and he will supply the strapping tape. We hope to see you soon. Your nearest fancy Not a Post Office Place

Travel PornMay 3, 2013

I travel lightly, so lightly that I now actually use a half-sized suitcase. (I AM SO BRAGGING RIGHT NOW -- I LOVE that I went to Italy for 18 days with so little. I think I've been training toward this Olympic-level packing my whole life.) 

You asked for it! Here you go, the Traveling Lightly List. 

I bought this suitcase, but it's sadly unavailable now. This gives you an idea of it, though. 17 x 10 x 13 inches. 

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Boot for scale. 

So here's my method: 

1. Pack one small roll-aboard suitcase. (Pictured above, red.) 

2. Carry an empty bag. (Pictured above, the black and white one.) 

3. Inside that bag, place your everyday travel purse/messenger bag, fully packed. (Below, in umbrella picture)

There! You just defeated the "one personal item/one piece of luggage" rule of traveling carry-on! They tell you what you can bring on board, not what you can take off with you. As soon as you step on-board the plane you can toss your suitcase overhead, throw what you don't need in your purse into the extra bag and heave that up, too. (Pro-tip: Always wear your heavy coat/sweaters on board. There's plenty of room under your seat to shove those things, or put them up top with your suitcase. Or in that empty bag!) 

I happen to think that after a lot of research, I have the best travel bag EVER. It's the Pacsafe Citysafe 200 Gii, and I got the herringbone color. 

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(Strangely, the only picture I could find of me wearing it. And I wore it ALL the time.) 

A gadget I now find completely necessary and wonderful is the Travel Bungee. The best $15 you'll spend, it secures your extra bag (or purse or coat or small disobedient child) to your suitcase, like this: 

  Bungee

So. Let's break it down, for those of you who, like I do, get off on lists. 

For a winter trip of any duration (did I just blow your mind?), here's what I take and why. 

To Wear on the Plane: 

Jeans - I like the option to put things in my pockets sometimes

Black V-necked t-shirt - can be dressed up or down

Black cashmere thin sweater - I never travel without cashmere. Hello, fiber snob. But it's soft, very lightweight, completely smooshable, and can be used as a pillow. I got my new one (tags still on) on eBay for $25. 

Handknit sweater - I wear this onto the plane because it's a little bulky. I use it as a blanket or pillow.

Wool socks - Handknit, of course. Take off your shoes as soon as you sit down. Your feet will thank you.

Cowboy boots - Your mileage may vary, but damn, I love my boots. 

 

To Pack in Carry-On: 

Black dress - Mine is stretchy, 3/4 sleeves, from Travelsmith. Easy to dress up and down

2 nice t-shirts - I brought one extra black one and a green striped one. Good to sleep in, wear with jeans, etc.

2 pair thin black socks - These are what I wear under my boots for lots of walking. 

1 extra bra

2 extra pair underwear 

Black down jacket 

2 shawls - for variety. I brought one green, one red. 

Black boots 

Merrell barefoot sneakers - I packed these on a whim, and I'm so glad I did. I had one day of blisters, and I wore these the next day and they basically fixed my feet. They weigh almost nothing and take up almost no room.

2 pair tights  - one red, one black. 

That's it, folks. Even on the coldest, rainiest day of our trip, the cold couldn't penetrate my t-shirt, cashmere, handknit sweater, and down jacket, topped with a cashmere scarf. I did forget a hat and gloves, so I had to buy some. (Unless you're trekking to Outer Mongolia, you can buy what you forget to bring. Don't overload on Band-aids and neosporin and Tylenol and tampons--that's all available where you're probably going.) 

Also, remember: No one cares what you're wearing. Well, if you wear the big yellow shirt covered with parakeets and the jingly-bell necklace, and you wear this outfit twice in three days? Maybe the guy at the corner store will remember, if you're in town that long (but probably not). If you're in mostly black? NO ONE WILL KNOW you really only have two basic outfits. No one cares. 

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A pop of color goes a long way.

I'm sure you know this already, but roll your clothes. It makes them tiny and prevents wrinkles. I lay out my biggest piece (the dress) and lay everything else on top of that, then roll it into a clothes-burrito which I shove into a medium packing cube. I carry all my toiletries/medications in a small packing cube. Chargers/converters get their own little sack. I tuck extra knitting in the suitcase, also, because . . . you know.

 

In My Purse - Everything else

MacBook Air, kindle, iPhone, knitting, notebook, pens, duct tape (wrapped around half a chopstick, great for blisters!), earphones, eyemask, earplugs, snacks (Lara bars and nuts), corkscrew, GPS unit for geocaching, water bottle, umbrella (I never bring one but always end up buying one). That purse up there? Holds all this plus room for shawl/hat/bottle of wine. It's a great bag.

But What About Clean Clothes? 

Dr. Bronner's Soap. I keep half a bar in a ziplock bag and I use it both for bathing and clothes-washing. IT IS NOT HARD TO WASH AS YOU GO, friends. When you wash your face, throw your socks and underwear into the sink, rub 'em with soap and rinse. In seconds, you're done. T-shirt? You really only need to wash the pits and where you dropped the spaghetti. Jeans? Wash them once on the trip. If that. No one will know. 

To dry: Wring out the clothes the best you can. Then lay your towel on the floor, doubled long-ways. Lay your clothes on top of it. Roll tightly, and then stand on the roll. Your clothes will be almost dry when you take them out of the towel, and they'll dry overnight unless you're in the tropics, in which case, you're just wearing a bathing suit anyway, so who cares? 

 

Coming Home

Put your souvenirs and gifts in that extra bag you brought and check it (or check your clothes and carry-on the gifts). I don't mind if my luggage gets lost for a while on its way to me when I'm comfortably at home, but I prefer not to have that happen while I'm on the road. 

 Then get home and do what we all do! Leave all the bags in the corner for a week because you can't stand to touch them anymore (I actually love unpacking, too, but sometimes it takes me a while to get the energy back.) 

 

Last Random Thoughts

Instead of washing undies, bring your old worn-out ones, the ones you've been forgetting to throw away. Wear, and toss! It feels delightfully decadent. 

And of course, this whole list is absolutely thrown out the window when I go someplace like a writing convention, when dressing up and networking is actually part of the game plan. In this case, I take a normal-sized carry-on suitcase, and I still manage to not check a bag -- I still roll my clothes and I just make sure my most fabulous Fluevogs match most of my outfits. 

What are your favorite tips for packing light? I'm dying to know. 

It's Official!May 2, 2013

From today's Publisher's Marketplace announcement: 

Rachael Herron's PACK UP THE MOON, in which a woman who has suffered the loss of her family has the opportunity to be a wife and mother again, if she can untangle the complications of her past, to Danielle Perez at NAL, in a two-book deal, by Susanna Einstein at Einstein Thompson Agency (NA).

You guys! You-guys-you-guys-YOU-GUYS!

I'm so excited about this book. It's not a romance (although there's a love story); it's more of a bring-a-Kleenex type book. No exact release date yet, but possibly in Spring, 2014. I'll let you know when I know more (and you can stay posted by being part of my mailing list--I never spam or sell names). 

I've worked hard on this book, and I'm completely overjoyed it's going to make it to your local bookshelf.