Today’s blog subject is productivity–mainly because I’ve had very little of it for the past few days!

I’ve always been a fast writer. I wrote my first textbook in one semester, a pace that was assisted by my knowledge that I was due to have my second child at the end of that semester. There’s nothing more inspiring than a deadline you know you can’t get around! I write fiction pretty quickly too. In the last 6 months I’ve written 3 novels, 3 short stories, and several pieces of fanfic–on top of my regular academic and household duties. When I’m working on a novel, I average maybe 2000 words a day, but I can manage much more if it’s a short story or if I have a particular reason to hurry.

Ironically, I think one of the reasons I’m so productive is that I’m also very busy. When I sit down for writing time, I’m fully aware that it’s then or never. I rarely have the kind of day where I can futz around with all those little things that waste time without accomplishing much.

I wonder sometimes if I would be as productive if I were able to write full time.     


Today I’m going to share with you one of my deep, dark secrets: I really love doing background research for my fiction.

Once an academic geek, always an academic geek, I guess. And fiction gives me the excuse to research all sorts of topics that have nothing whatsoever to do with my academic specialty but are still really interesting. For example, for the Praesidium trilogy I ended up learning about nineteenth century sailing ships. Didn’t know the first thing about the topic ahead of time.

Also–and I suppose maybe this is more evidence of my geekhood–I love history. Not the boring stuff about which year some war was fought or who signed which treaty. But the cool stuff, like what did people eat in medieval England, or how did the Roman empire affect language and culture throughout Europe, or what were the sanitation practices in Victorian London. It helps when I’ve traveled to some of the places I write about and I can actually picture the houses and the countryside.

Doing research makes me feel a little like a detective. And it gives me a fantastic excuse to talk to people and ask them all sorts of nosy questions, to try just a taste of places or lifestyles or jobs that will never be mine.

Often the research itself suggests plotlines I’d never have thought of on my own. Sometimes the research slows down my writing because I end up on some fascinating detour, but then I never know when that detour will come in handy.

And there’s a really deep satisfaction I get when I’m able to paint details with precise accuracy, even if nobody but a few people who happen to be familiar with the topic will realize how accurate those details are. So if you’re reading one of my works and you come accross a factoid on, say, the weather during D-Day, you can rest assured it’s as correct as I was able to get it.     


So I’m back from New York City and working away. Last night I finished the first draft of my newest novel, tentatively titled Brute. It’s another darkish fantasy, so if you enjoyed the Praesidium books I think you’ll like this one. Now it’s time for editing, which is a process I’ve grown to enjoy. I learn a lot from it, and it’s such fun to see my work get all polished and pretty! It’s also wonderful to get my first chance to see how readers react to a story.

I heard an interview on NPR this morning with Jonah Lehrer, author of a book called Imagine: How Creativity Works. I haven’t read his book yet. But he was talking in the interview about the portion of the brain (it’s in the right brain) responsible for creative leaps as well as things like understanding jokes and metaphors. And he was saying how lots of people experience these creative leaps in bed in the morning or while showering. Hey, that’s me! 

For me, creativity is usually a very sudden process. I can’t force it, but then while I’m driving or brushing my teeth, the solution I’m looking for or the new plot twist just pops into my head, all shiny and tied with a bow.

I’m in New York City for a few days on non-authorly business. I managed to write a couple thousand words on the newest novel during the plane ride. And here’s Equipoise over Times Square:


I just saw the pencil sketch for the cover of my upcoming novel, Good Bones, and it’s terrific. The artist managed to draw the protagonists exactly how I saw them in my head. Within the next two weeks or so I ought to get the final, painted version back, and then I can share it with you.

Next week I’m off to an academic conference in New York, and I’m not ready for it. I enjoy conferences and I’m usually better prepared, but this time I happen to be 63,000 words into my latest novel, and I’d so much rather be writing that!     

My eyes are bigger than my stomach

The other day my wonderful, supportive husband gave me a lecture on over-extending myself. This may have had something to do with the fact that I currently have four books (two novels and two textbooks) in various stages of writing and editing. Or maybe it was because I had just announced to him that I intend to attend the GayRomLit retreat for the first time, even though that will mean traveling to Albuquerque less than two weeks after I return from a conference in Europe. My husband may have had a teeny-weeny little point.

Whenever I ordered more food than I could eat, my grandmother used to say that my eyes are bigger than my stomach. I wonder if there’s a similar phrase that can be applied to life in general?