Here we are in 2015. The sign for the Janey II apartments still boasts the official opening in Spring. Look at all the windows they’ve put in! The place is really shaping up, at least on the outside.

So, what’s happening with Book Three? A lot. I wrote like crazy in December, which is why this blog has been comatose for weeks and weeks. The first very rough draft is done. DONE! Now I rest my Book Three brain and get some distance from the manuscript, all the better to revise it later.

The best news is that while I’m taking a vacation from Book Three a bevy of bright and creative graduate students at Portland State University is not. Per Henningsgaard, the Director of Ooligan Press, will be using Book Three as the literary guinea pig for his class aptly titled Book Editing.

What a delight! Let’s do the math. […]

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In case I haven’t mentioned it before, the Janey II building is under construction right next door to the original Janey apartment building. As you can see from this picture, there’s all-done Janey on one side and work-in-progress Janey on the other. Will they be identical? Probably not. I figure the blueprints are very similar, but the builders learned a bunch from constructing the first apartment building, and they’ll use that knowledge in building the second.

That’s how I feel about my companion novels. Book Two aka The Ninth Day is similar to Book One aka Blue Thread. Both have similar blueprints. Time-traveling Serakh appears and intertwines two teenage girls living centuries apart. Book Three aka Book Three shares in that blueprint, although one time period is in the past and the other is yet to be. What I learned in writing Book One went into writing Book Two. What I learned from them both is going into Book Three. […]

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Seeing as it’s the end of October in Portland, the rain is back. Nothing new there. But what is new on my street is this wooden canopy over the sidewalk, a neat way to stay dry thanks to the construction crew of the Janey II. There’s a lot of building activity on the upper floors of these apartments-to-be, and I expect the wooden canopy has nothing to do with precipitation and everything to do with protecting pedestrians from objects raining down from above.

Book Three has no such canopy. I sometimes wish it did. I sometimes wish that the scenes I write in later chapters wouldn’t drop inconsistencies and other pesky problems on earlier parts of the narrative. I sometimes wish that all aspects of every character and plot would stay just as I originally conceived of them months ago. How much easier writing Book Three would be!

And how boring. […]

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How did it get to be October? No matter. The Janey II guys (yup, all guys as far as I can see) are working away. I am working away. They make their usual construction noises; I make mine.

But then one day last week, I heard a series of screeches that forced me to separate myself from my computer and rush to the window. OK, I didn’t HAVE to. I was ready for a break. Be that as it may, I looked outside at the Janey II crew. And there was this flash. You can see it in the photo, that bright white dot at the corner of the building. Welding. The bond that stays bonded. The union of all unions. Zap!

I strive mightily for such a zap, a flash of literary clarity and beauty that says, “This is exactly what I mean to tell you, dear reader. This is the hub, the gem, the essence, the oh- baby-you’re-so-fine.”  I write hundreds and hundreds of words, and then rewrite two-thirds of them, and then maybe, if it’s a really could week, I might get a mini-flash, the kind that rounds out a scene or describes a character perfectly. […]

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Lay down steel. Pour cement. Repeat. The construction workers on the Janey II are getting up toward the middle of the building. And (ta-dum!) I am getting to the middle on my first draft of Book Three. They’ll have lots of interior work to do eventually, and I’ll have lots of revising. Still, Team J2 and Team B3 are both showing definite signs of progress.

But now our paths diverge. The construction crew aims to erect room after room and floor after floor with a certain sameness that works well with apartment buildings. My aim is to make the middle of Book Three anything but the same old same-old. Middles can be middling if you don’t watch out. The first part of the story has the advantage of newness (NOVELty, as it were), where readers discover who the characters are, where and when they live, and what drives them. The last part has the satisfaction of bringing everything together. […]

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So there I was, at breakfast today, chowing down my regular oatmeal and yogurt on a regular weekday with regular summer weather (unlike the recent scorchers). But something was oddly out of whack. No construction noise. I checked out the window and this is what I saw: lots of steel and concrete and not a living soul. Hey, where’d everybody go?

Builders build. That’s the way things are supposed to work. For months now, that’s what I’ve come to expect from the Janey II crew: five days a week, and sometimes on Saturday, from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. at least. Bonking, banging, clanging, whirring, slamming, whamming, and the occasional BOOM! This morning’s quiet was unnerving.

Builder’s block? The silence reminded me of remarks attributed to Philip Pullman about the dreaded syndrome known as “writer’s block.”

Writer’s block…a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. […]

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Today I put aside my competition with the construction crew of The Janey II. No way can I write the next scene in Book Three, as I remember Margot Adler, who took time from her life last year to write a review of my most recent book, The Ninth Day. She called the story “riveting.” Who could ask for more?

Still, I did.

I was hoping to meet Margot in person this fall during the reunion of participants in the 1964 Free Speech Movement. I wanted to thank her again, this time in person. I wanted her to autograph one of her books, Heretic’s Heart. I wanted, and I wanted, and I wanted.

Margot and I are not destined to meet in this lifetime, as she died yesterday. From what I understand of Margot’s Wiccan beliefs, she has made the crossing into another aspect of the continuum which, now that I think of it, is not so different from the universe-eternity olam I write about in Blue Thread and The Ninth Day. […]

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The construction crew has been busy since early July, and so have I. Look at all these apartments-to-be in the Janey II. Their erector-set walls and ceilings will turn into living spaces for someone, real homes with a kitchen and bed and bathroom, and maybe a corgi curled up on a corduroy couch.

I’m building habitations, too, only not the physical kind. These last couple of weeks I’ve laid down the basics of four chapters in which Book Three characters talk and eat and tease and grieve. Like the Janey II apartments, these chapters of mine need a lot more labor before I’m satisfied that the characters in them are fully alive. I’ll have to add more emotion, more action, more color, more atmosphere. Then Viva Scriva will have a go at the chapters. By the time we’re done, there won’t be a corgi on the couch (no dogs are evoked in Book Three, at least not so far), but I can tell you that my characters will be moving about in a world as complete as I can make for them. […]

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Look! A new floor! The Janey II construction crew has covered up the foundation and basement areas and taken the building to a whole new level. Of course not everything is perfect below decks. There’s still lots to fill in. But it was time to move on.

My sentiments exactly! I’ve spent months laying the foundation for Book Three and drafted and revised the first main chunk of the story. There’s about 15,000 words on Portland in 2059. For two weeks our main character, who is eM Zarfati in this draft, languished in action limbo between leaving her house in Portland and landing 500 years earlier in Istanbul. Finally, she’s where she’s supposed to be in the story.

What was it like in Istanbul in 1559? I mean really. The history writer in me needs to get this part as accurate as possible, to balance off time travel and fictional characters. […]

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I must confess, I’ve slowed down the writing in the past couple of months. The Janey II construction crew is way ahead of Book Three. I have an excuse: a recently diagnosed mild and manageable blood cancer. It’ll take a while to get body and brain settled into living with a disease that, honestly, is less horrid than it might sound, but is getting a lot of my attention these days.

Meanwhile, as I go off to doctors and figure out what’s what, the Janey II crew keeps building. They remind me of the Stratemeyer Syndicate as they create the first floor and then the second floor and so on, in anonymity, or, rather, in the name of Lorentz Bruun Construction.

Edward Stratemeyer and his group of ghostwriters produced the Nancy Drew series, the Hardy Boys series, The Bobbsey Twins series, the Rover Boys series, the Tom Swift series, and others.  […]

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