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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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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A heavy chain-link fence nearly surrounds the concrete and metal structures that will eventually be the Janey II apartments. It’s the “nearly” part that intrigues me. One small section of the site is sealed off by a wooden wall and a padlocked wood-filled door.

Wood. My favorite. It’s the timeless material that fits in a prehistorical tale about velociraptors and can still make a fashion statement the Portland 2059 world of Book Three.

The first draft of Book Three mentions an “eco-fiber Fem-Form” that covers the body of my main character.  She’s basically dressed in wood. Or, to be more exact, cellulose. My imaginings? No way.

Leave it to the Finns, who have as close a relationship with forests and lumber as Oregonians do, to be working on a cost-effective way to turn wood into threads for the garment industry. According to Finland’s VTT Technical Research Centre, fiber from wood-based biomass is an eco-alternative to water-intensive cotton and petroleum-based polyester fabrics. […]

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For those of you who read the Viva Scriva blog, this is the same post that’s scheduled for May 5. Just saying. There’s a bunch of good stuff on Viva Scriva, too. Try it, you’ll like it.

The Janey II is at the rebar (reinforcing bar) stage. This blurry photo shows a construction guy building the mesh of heavy steel wires that provide tensile strength to the concrete walls. (Yes, guy. I’ve seen no construction women on site. Sigh.) Rebar helps to support and spread the load. You don’t see rebar in the finished structure, but you’re glad it’s there.

I happened to be reading John Green’s first book, Looking for Alaska, at the same time the rebar guy was doing his thing. That’s when it hit me. John Green is a genius at enmeshing literary rebar into his work. Looking for Alaska is such a solid story in part because it’s been built to last. […]

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Ah, spring. The sky is blue…sometimes. This is Portland, after all. And spring rain helps to prevent summer drought, so I’m content. There is new green growth everywhere and the flowers are blooming like crazy. The daffodils are yellow, the tulips offer a rainbow of color, and the construction site is…pink? Really?

Now I suppose I could go ask the folks on the site what the pink slabs are for, but that would spoil the fun. I’d rather use my imagination. Recycled marshmallow peeps for insulation? Bubble gum for holding everything in place?  I’m sure the pink stuff will play some significant part in the construction of Janey II.

I am also just as sure that magenta hair will play a significant part in Book Three. My main character and her mother both have magenta hair. I don’t know exactly why, but they have been quite insistent. Now all I have to do is figure out the role that their hair has in the story. […]

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There’s definite progress on the Janey II. They’ve stopped reallocating dirt and laying the foundation. Last week I watched the two-day process of putting up the ginormous crane that seems to swing ridiculously close to my dining room windows. Now the sky is blue, the winds are calm, the temperature is both brisk and balmy, and it’s time to work, work, work.

I’m working, too. Not as fast as I thought I would be at this stage. Still, I’ve got the major characters down, not just my three chickens (Louise, Tillie, and Yetta). I’ve learned how male goats (bucks) in rut display their intentions, and I’ve conjured up a visor that’s linked to a criminal justice databank.

The construction crew on the Janey II has gotten serious. It’s time I did the same for Book Three. Back to writing. Bye! […]

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