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RX Day 3

I had two simple goals this morning.

Get up.  (Don’t laugh.)  Friday mornings are hard for me to do D&E.  I made it, but only by going to bed before 10 last night.  I didn’t watch Survivor because I was doing some stuff for the Evil Day Job.  I didn’t watch the debate because I was putting the monsters to bed and then wrote a bit.

Write 500 words.  (Again, don’t laugh.)  I know 1K for a D&E session is more than doable, but for whatever reason, I’ve only been getting a few hundred words this week.  New scene, new POV character, etc. all valid excuses, but come ON.  I need some major wordage here.

I made both goals!  Total scene length:  1676 and it’s finished.

I decided last night that I only get to do NaNoWriMo if I finish these revisions.  I really don’t think I can get the whole book revised in a month.  I need around 40K in new words and probably 15K of the existing draft needs some serious work.  About 40K of it hasn’t even been edited once.  *dies*

It sure would be lovely to participate again and get some nice wordage completed on Return to Shanhasson though…  Dharman and Sal have begun to clamor along with Gregar now, which I suppose is only to be expected.  After all, they really want to nag Shannari.  :mrgreen:

We’ll see.  I really doubt it’s humanly possible to do a decent 2nd draft this month, but Sal is eagerly offering all sorts of assistance.

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RX Day 2

Up a bit earlier today.  Combined with yesterday’s measly word count, I’ve got 847 words in the new scene.  Just flying, I know.  :???:

However, this is the first scene in this new character’s POV and it’s also a new setting.  I’ve had to figure out several things that I didn’t expect.  Aspects of Laredo stymmied me until I decided to just wing it.  Some interesting backstory came out for Quinn too that I didn’t expect.  Some of it will likely get cut back in revision, but it’s good stuff to know. 

I’ll update any additional progress on this entry.

Edited 9:19:  You know, sometimes I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed.  I had the most incredible backstory conflict screaming at me, just waiting for me to do something with it…and yet I almost missed it.  Doh.  I smoothed this morning’s scene and picked up this backstory undercurrent that totally drives this relationship up another notch.

Nothing like family betrayal to sweeten the pot. 

I’m hoping to break 1K in this scene before heading to bed…

Oh, and I forgot to mention that I researched a bit more about the FBI and found an incredible news release from this past month that fits PERFECTLY with what I was hoping to build.  I’m still a bit foggy on FBI procedure, especially involving international trafficking (e.g. from Mexico), but I think I can work my way around any technicalities.

Final word count today (total scene):  1144.

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RX Day 1

Not so much done for the Mayan Fantasy, unfortunately.  I needed to research a good border town between Mexico/Texas and finally settled on Laredo because of I-35 heading straight to Dallas-Ft. Worth.  I still don’t have a good picture in my head of Laredo.  Has anyone been there?  Can you tell me of a fairly disreputable area, perhaps along the Rio Grande?  Warehouse district or something?

Other misc tasks accomplished tonight, in no particular order:

  1. Imported all 2008 livejournal posts to this blog.
  2. Promptly got locked out by server for suspicious activity!
  3. Deena set up my joely AT joelysueburkhart DOT com e-mail, so fire away at will!  Alternatively, you can continue to use joelysueburkhart AT
  4. Talked to a friend who really needed an ear.
  5. Drew a very bad map of Laredo.
  6. Uploaded all my character pictures on the private WordPress blog for NSR.  (They were lost when we moved my domain.)  I need my pictures!
  7. Took the monsters to the dentist.  Dentist recommended new procedure I’ve never heard of before.  Haven’t had time to google it yet. 
  8. Late home from the dentist, and I was very thankful for the frozen meatloaf I’d prepared over the weekend.  I threw it in the oven (300 degrees) before leaving and it was perfect.  Mashed potatoes ala Shedds and gravy ala packet mix.
  9. Worked for the Evil Day Job a bit after dinner.  I’m behind.  Eventually, I’ll be so far behind I’ll actually be ahead!
  10. Spent an hour looking for library books that both Middle Monster and Princess Monster have misplaced.  Swore to never buy them another book or ever step foot in library again.  I know this promise will fail miserably.
  11. Entered the Eppies.
  12. Volunteered to judge in my free time.  *snort*

Here’s to an earlier rising tomorrow.

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Officially Revision Xibalba

October is here and I’m in hell.  Revision hell, that is, or since this is a Mayan Fantasy:  

Revision Xibalba.

I’m not quite as prepared as I hoped, but the best laid plans, etc. etc.  I have a pretty solid vision in my head for what I want to accomplish, although my daysheet is still incomplete.  I do have all my hastily jotted note cards and my timelines.  I plan to fill out the daysheet as I go, recording word count per scene.

I don’t know how much “new” blog content I can provide if I’m deep in ripping apart story, so I’ll try to plan a few easy things.  I’ll scan Princess Monster’s illustrated story and put it up one page at a time.  I’ve also got some oldies but goodies from the dead blog that I can repost. 

I’ll also post RX updates here briefly but I doubt many will be interested in my little “400 words D&E – didn’t get up as early as I planned” sort of posts, but it keeps me honest.  Those little notes also go to my accountability partner, Jenna, who meets me D&E.

My update today?  :oops:  Up but later than I planned and I did this blog entry, which cut into my time.  (Note to self:  set up blog entries the night before if possible.)  I did edit the beginning of the new scene I started yesterday (340 words) and have some jotted notes from yesterday when I was waiting for the monsters at school.  Hopefully I can sneak in some real words over lunch or tonight.  I’ll post an end of the day count later.

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Happy Birthday, Year 5

Today, I’m five years old as a writer.  Five years ago, I made a commitment to My Beloved Sisthat I would FINISH Rose (then titled MBB).  I didn’t even dream of publication at that point–I just promised to get Shannari out of that prison cell and back to her barbarian. 

To be honest, I’ve struggled to decide what I wanted to say.  This past year has been hard…and glorious.

I’ve had to learn how to write new books and push existing books through to production at the same time.  Not to mention promotion, which I really don’t like to do much.  Giving away books and prizes are much more up my alley than chats (or book signings in the future), but the introvert must come out occasionally.  As a writer, there’s nothing better in this world than fan letters, though.  Meeting people who actually READ my BOOK is a humbling, thrilling, boggling, stammering-inducing experience.  Lord help me, I’ll be a basketcase if I actually have to talk anywhere.

I think my writing has taken some interesting steps.  I’ve pushed myself in 2008 to finish two very challenging and non-politically-correct stories.  AKA Romancelandia may hunt me down with torches and pitchforks after certain scenes in The Road to Shanhasson…

*Gregar grins and there’s absolutely nothing innocent in his wink*

and beta-readers either love or despise Conn in Letters to an English Professor.  That’s one book I really waged war with myself against.  Again, I almost listened to other people’s advice and filed it away instead of finishing it the way it deserved.  I’m so happy with that story I could just bawl thinking about it, but then Miss Belle would beat me over the head with her pink parasol.

Neither story was within my comfort zone as a writer.  They hurt my heart in many ways.  Gregar is not easy.  I actually wrote his big scene wrong the first time in a vain attempt to sneak around his heart’s desire.  I didn’t WANT to write him that way, but the Shadowed Blood was adamant and patient until I got it right.  Well, he did bring out his ivory rahke several times, and once I swear he grabbed me by the hair and threw me into the Well.  But hey, I finished it, and it is one incredible ride. 

And Letters, well, what the @#*&% was I thinking to write a contemporary?  It would have been much easier to shelve it instead of pushing to the end.  Sometimes I felt like that scene in the original Rambo movie where he’s hauling the POW up the sloppy muddy hill toward the helicopter, which then abandons them to the enemy.  But oh, oh, oh, I’m so glad I kept climbing.

And that summarizes the year, I think.  I kept climbing.  Maybe not as fast as I hoped (my word count took a dip over the summer).  Maybe not as far.  But I feel like my writer’s heart grew a size or two after writing those books.

May every book help my heart grow until it busts right out of my chest.

Here’s to another year.

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Happy Birthday, Year 4

Originally published September 2007

As I said Monday, I turn four years old as a writer this week.  If you’re interested in previous years’ reviews, you can always check the archives–although I noticed yesterday that something went a little wonky with the import into WordPress and some of the entries are doubled.

Two big things occurred to me last year.

So it finally dawned on me. It’s never going to get any easier. I’m never going to have more time. I whine now about having too many ideas and too little time. How much worse will it be if I ever am under contract?


The most important thing the past year has taught me: no doubts. I’m trusting my heart, my instincts, my path. I’m going to write hard and wildly and I’m not going to stop and worry about what anyone else might say or do. Whether anybody else will like what I’m doing or hate it. I’m bleeding Story with my heart and that’s all that matters.

What does this mean?  It means I finally found MY story.  I found the kind of story I *have* to write.  I can write that story with authority, with belief in my heart that it’s the right story for me, right now.  Instead of wavering, whining, and wandering around in the darkness, I hacked my own path out of the wilds.  Most importantly, I FINISH.  When I commit to a story, I finish it.  I think that’s one of the most important commitments a writer can make.

I also paid attention to the state of the market, New York publishing, and how that fits with what I like to write.  When I stumbled across Drollerie Press and saw mythic transformative fiction and the glorious graphics on the site, I can’t explain it.  My heart skipped a beat.  I felt a resonance deep inside.  And I knew I had to submit.  Three pieces officially accepted for publication this year!  Another under consideration.  Inspiration brimming inside me.  A brilliant editor who’s teaching me to keep my voice while fine-tuning the story to our utmost ability.  What more could I want?

Well, someday, a NY contract too and an agent would be nice.   But I’m writing what I LOVE, and I found a place that loves the same thing.  It’s a great opportunity to grow with a new house, and I’m loving every minute of it.

So this year, I learned to listen to my heart.  I committed to daily writing, 500-1000 words, even if that means getting up at 4:00 a.m. to do it.  I have an accountability partner, my beloved sister, and my dearest friend, Wanda, all whom I trust unquestioningly. In 2007, I’ve written over 194,000 words already and finished SEVEN projects.

I have a vision for where I’m going, and I’m writing stories I love to get there.

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Happy Birthday, Year 3

Originally published September 2006

Oh, the exuberence, the giddy joy, the frantic nerves when I received the news TWO years ago today (rather, the night before). That was the pinnacle of my first year of writing. As with all Freshmen, I was too stupid to know that I didn’t know anything.

My writing birthday is September 30th. I’m nearly THREE years old. I look back on this last year, and MBB is still sitting in NY (is there a record for the longest submission? I mean, TWO years!).

I’ve been slogging through the Valley of the Shadow of Death much more often than scaling any glorious heights, but I wouldn’t give up this Journey for anything. My Shadowed Blood walks with me every step of the way, as well as my very dear friends.

These past two years taught me heartache and doubt. I wondered if I had any hint of talent at all, or if I should simply go bowling instead. I feared every word I wrote would be meh at best. When I finally realized how awkwardly I built MBB, I was afraid I’d never write anything I loved as much again. Despite its glaring flaws, I still see magic in that beloved story. That first dream suffered a painful death after the hopes and joy of the first full request, but was reborn in a new vision. I sacrificed Shannari and sculpted her again from blood and suffering, already carrying just a little bit of Shadow. A new vision, a new promise, a new heartache waiting to happen.

I learned all these things about character development and plotting and structure, and instead of improving, my writing tanked. I lost something, and I was afraid I would never get it back. I was afraid I’d never FINISH anything again.

But I also learned several truths while stumbling around in the dark.

Writing really is a Hero’s Journey, not just “to publication” or for a specific manuscript, but every single day. I will find myself in the Ordeal, the Inner Cave, not once, but over and over and over, and the only way out is to keep writing. The night really is darkest right before the dawn. The light never looked so miraculous unless you doubt deep down in your heart whether the sun will ever shine again. The road less traveled really is the only way for me–I must forge my own way, and fail and slog and struggle and bleed on my own. I can’t hand the reins over to anything or anyone ever again and expect to keep the magic alive. I learned the truth of the old saying about opening up a vein to write. Without blood pouring out of me and onto the page, the magic isn’t there for me.

I don’t know what the future holds any more than anybody else. I don’t know where this path leads, whether I’m bound for the Valley again, or whether the current foothill of joy and success will lead to a new marvelous peak.

It doesn’t matter in the long run. There are many more mountains to climb.

For so long, I wondered whether the path was right. One of the great agonies, I think, of the aspiring writer who works and has family with very limited time left over for writing. What if I wasted a whole year on something stupid? What if I chose a different project, a different path–would I reach a mountain any sooner?

If nothing else, this past year has brought me a certainty that I treasure. I know my path. I know it’s my path, and every step resonates with a melody that only I can hear with my heart. If that’s sentimental and foolish, so be it. If this path never leads to Mount Dhoom, so be it. The Impossible lives in my dreams, and all I can do is try to capture that beauty with words to the best of my ability.

When the Butterfly soars, I will rip off its wings and offer the blood on my hands as sacrifice. When the Butterfly crawls, I will throw it up into the sky again with heaven ablaze in my eyes. Because the Butterfly will fly again, as long as I keep writing on this endless mercy mile.

So here’s to another year of writing.

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Happy Birthday, Year 2

Originally published September 2005

In a few weeks, I’ll be two years old as a writer. Two years of conscious commitment to writing.

I’ve got three monsters under the age of 6, so the terrible twos are all too familiar. The “baby” turned two in June. Several times this summer she has caught me unaware. I’ll look at her and think… Who is this little person? Not a baby, no, she’s a child. An independent, strong willed child, yet at the same time, she’ll turn away and hide her face against my shoulder or leg. Confident and strong, she climbed to the top bunkbed yesterday and gave me heart failure. But the next moment she’s afraid to try something new. I never really know which way she’ll act until she does it.

I think in a lot of ways I’ve gone through these same things as a writer. That first year was glorious. The rush of finishing not one but two full-length novels. Seeing some moderate successes. Waking up and burning with excitement, the need to sit down and put those words on paper. Toddler-like impatience when anything kept me from doing what I wanted to do. My job? Dishes? Laundry? You’re kidding, right?

Like any reckless, impudent child, I believed I could do anything. I could climb to the moon if I wanted. I could write anything and everything if I set my mind to it. I was invincible.

And then I fell and scraped my knee. It wasn’t a huge injury at all. Just a bump in the road. But it was enough to scare the child writer in me. I needed to hide my face for awhile. I needed my pacifier. I started carrying my blankie around. I kept quiet, afraid to say too much and look foolish. Mostly I was ashamed that I fell in the first place. Didn’t I know these things could happen? Did I expect it to be a cake walk? Instead of picking flowers alongside the road, I should have been doing something useful, more important, more…

No, maybe I should just stick to flowers after all.

Long after the Band-Aid was no longer necessary, I still remember that injury. I have been afraid to try again. What if I split my head wide open next time? What if I fall and never get up? What if everybody SEES me fall again–how embarrassing would that be?

Eventually, though, I missed playing too much to hide with my blankie. I started writing again. One thing–safe. One thing–crazy. If I needed solace, I knew where to go. If I wanted to feel the rush of exploration again, I had that, too.

Recently, I noticed something. Even the familiar safety I expected is no longer there.

Somewhere, somehow, I grew into this gangly clumsy teenager, pimply faced and all knobby knees and sharp elbows. I look at my work and think, my God, what happened to that sweet, pretty little baby? Look at how awkward and sparse this is! Where’s the childish glee? The headlong rush of words? The capering play and laughter?

Once I grew a little, I learned I couldn’t go back. There’s a little bit of innocence lost. It doesn’t matter how much I long for the carefree days of heedless writing and boundless joy, deep down I know I really don’t want to go back there. I can see the childishness. While there is a definite charm and sweetness in that writing, it’s clearly immature.

The problem is that I don’t like where I am now, either.

The gangly teenager writer is struggling to figure out how in the hell these learned skills and ability work together. Instead of running, I trip over my own feet. Instead of singing confidently, my voice breaks at the oddest times. The more I understand, the less I know with surety.

Even the safety net doesn’t feel safe any longer. I wonder if I’m butchering it. While I know exactly how I want to eliminate some of the immature writing, I’m not sure that what I’m doing now is really any better. Part of me wonders if perhaps I should leave well enough alone. Maybe I should let that beloved work remain a child with all its sweet innocence.

And so I trudge onward, stumbling and blushing as I go. I work on my writing every night. I’m working through the growing pains. I’m trying not to be too dependent on external confidence.

[Sis? Wanda? Waaaah! Does this suck?]


The adolescent writer looks in the mirror and grimaces. No figure. Stick body. Stupid hair. Pimples. Glasses.


The mother in me looks at that child writer with amusement and aching love. This too shall pass, and before I know it, I’ll look back on this awkward year of growth and remember it fondly.

Well, one can certainly hope. In the meantime, I’m a bull in a china shop. I’m a two-year-old writer; watch me bust everything all to pieces and throw a temper tantrum.

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Happy Birthday, Year 1

Originally published September 2004

Remembering this past year….

When I first gave MBB to my Beloved Sis, it ended on a huge cliffhanger. Literally, Rhaekhar turned around and said something like, “We may already be too late!” Molly knew something terrible was getting ready to happen. Shannari was trapped in a prison cell. She’d nearly died twice already, while Rhaekhar had been stopped on the road to her aid by an army of outlanders.

Here’s Molly’s response (with her permission):

Joely, you gotta write more! They HAVE to get back together! Vulkar forbid they should spend even a week apart….

Now to the casual reader, this may not mean so much other than a tug on the heart strings thanks to her loving encouragement. But what struck me the most was her use of MY language. MY world. She didn’t say “God forbid.” She said “Vulkar forbid.” Vulkar, the Great Wind Stallion, the Fire God of the Sea of Grass that lives in a three-crowned Mountain belching fire and smoke to the heavens.

How could I NOT finish this story? How could I leave Shannari in that prison, and Rhaekhar frantic to reach her? How could I ignore Vulkar’s demand to finish the story of His Chosen Khul? How could I turn deaf ears to the Blessed Lady’s plea to continue Her last Daughter’s fight against the greatest Shadow the world has ever known?

I couldn’t. So here I write every single night to document their story.

Thanks again, Sis.