Being displaced by the window installers meant that last week was not a nutritionally adventurous one. I made a peanut-pumpkin Badger recommended, but otherwise dinner mostly consisted of things from the freezer and stand-by meals.
I did end up at a new not-coffee house though: the Urban Tea Merchant.
There’s this place on Alberni Street, Thierry, see, that I like very much. It’s not too far from Kelly’s office, and they make decent coffee and tea. They sell pricey macarons and very nice little pastries, and the two of us often go there for a quick cup early Friday mornings. After we discovered Thierry, I had thought it might make a good place to hole up and work now and then in a couple of other little windows in my week–times when it’d just be nice to pause and sit before lunging off to the next thing in my day.
Unfortunately, everyone else loves Thierry, too, such that the only time you can get a seat there appears to be at the crack of dawn Friday. They tend to be packed, packed, packed.
So Thursday before last, when I was displaced by construction, I peeked through their door, saw the throng, and walked on half a block to that pretty tea store I’d never gone into.
Urban Tea Merchant is basically a wine bar for tea snobs. They have a tea list, broken down by country and then again by blend, as well as a menu. A pot of tea can go for as ‘little’ as $6*, or you can splash out and spend, I kid you not, forty eight friggin’ dollars on a single pot. They have linen napkins and lovely bone china and an extremely unhurried atmosphere, and since they don’t serve coffee at all, it seems as though one can always find a seat in their tiny tea room, at least at the times of day when I’m looking for somewhere to park my butt.
They also do high tea in a number of forms, including a full-bore splashy morning tea service with baked treats, wee sandwiches, and champagne or tea-infused prosecco. Check out their menu. Marvel.
Having only just discovered the tea room, I haven’t had the opportunity to try a full range of the baked treats, but I will say their chocolate scone is godlike, and comes with a tablespoon of the freshest, most vividly-flavorful jam I’ve ever had.
I’ll be headed back there next time I need a little tea-flavored self-indulgence, and I’m seriously considering saving up some dosh so I can take my honey for one of the splashy tea cakes and sandwich events.
*That $6 pot of tea is quite huge, I should add. It’s pretty typical downtown to pay half that for a wee tiny pot o’ tea, and this is a huge portion of really good stuff. And they’re in no hurry to get you in and out, so if what you’re doing is paying rent on a table where you can scribble fiction for a couple hours while getting caffeinated, it’s not too bad.
I am reading through the Blue Magic page proofs this week (196 days until it’s released!) which means I am going through printed pages that are laid out as the book will be, looking for any small errors. I’ve already gone through the copy-edited manuscript, where all the big errors and inconsistencies have been found and vanquished.
After that, my current plan is to have a hard look at a short story that’s all but done. It’s provisionally titled “Losing Heart among the Tall.” As titles go, I’m not convinced that’s perfect. This polish is half about actually finishing the story, and partly to reacquaint myself with the details of the setting, a place called Stormwrack, which also appears in a number of other things I’ve been working on this year. This includes a story called “Among the Silvering Herd” that I’ve sold to Tor.com. (I’ll let you know when it’s gonna be up, as soon as I know myself!)
This weekend, I’ll be hopping off to VCon to rub elbows with fabulous people like the latest denizen of the Twitterverse, DD Barant, Mary Choo, and Julie McGalliardon. On Saturday evening, at our 9:00 p.m. group reading, I’ll read from my story “Wild Things,” which takes place in the Indigo Springs universe, between the events of the two novels.
Once “Losing Heart among the Tall”‘s events and details are fresh in my mind, I’ll dig into the other stuff set in Stormwrack, for all of October.
Finally, if that goes well and I can wrap up by Halloween, I’m thinking of joining a number of my Nanowrimo buddies-in-crime in November by setting myself a goal of 50,000 words of new short fiction. Since I mostly write novelettes in the 7500-8500 word range, that’d make for six stories. I thought another squid story about Ruthless, perhaps, to go with “The Town on Blighted Sea,” another Stormwrack story for sure, and I have a few other ideas. But I don’t as yet have six ideas, and I thought I might throw the floor open for prompts, requests, challenges, a contest… somesuch thing.
Have any of you done this, either opened the floor to challenges in this way or contributed to a call for prompts? How did it work? Was there a prize? Were you happy with the result?
Happy Canada Day, fellow northerners!
I am a firm believer in stepping away from the Internet when trying to write. I think better when I don’t face temptation in the form of a quick check of the Twitter feeds, status pages, Google reader, etcetera blah blah. One part of Cafe Calabria’s allure, for me, is that it hasn’t really got wireless.
Calabria is not an entirely distraction-free environment, but its diversions feel more human and, somehow, worthwhile. I don’t begrudge the occasional moment spent trying to comprehend the italian lyrics of Frank Senior’s eclectic musical choices, for example, or eavesdropping on the other early-morning regulars. As I write this, the fellows I think of as “Chatty Guy,” “Brother of Chatty Guy” and “Their Friend” are chewing over the ethics of hunting. They’re good with it in cases of self-defense, I’ll have you know and mostly all right with the idea of hunting for food. (“There’s something so right about killing something and eating it,” one of them opines.)
The conversation has bogged down, though, over the issue of sport fishing and catch-and-release. It is a typical morning jaw over java, and the longer the conversation goes on, the less sense it makes. Friend Of seems to be saying that you might as well eat fish because you don’t know they wouldn’t attack you if they could.
(Obviously that isn’t what he is actually saying, but it sounds funny as hell. Usually they talk about Celine Dion or Arnold’s Divorce or the Canucks. I find this topic preferable.)
Calabria is across the street from a Starbucks with fairly robust Wi-Fi, which has been tricky as I adapt to writing on my newest toy, an iPad. I can just barely pick up a feed if there are no big trucks parked on the corner. And the pad will sync if I’m online, which is a nice little hedge against data loss. So every now and then I get sucked into checking: is there Wifi after all? From there, it’s a short hop to The Forbidden: checking my Inbox.
In other words, I have not perfected my new regime.
I did write 187 words on Thursday–revising again, and adding as little as possible–which brings me to 35% of my Write-A-Thon goal of 20K words. And not having the 5 pound laptop on my back wherever I go is a very nice lifestyle change. Having got the weight of the laptop off my shoulders, the next goal is to give my hands a break as much as possible, so I’m working to make more effort to dictate things like e-mails and blog posts. I like the iPad version of Dragon, especially the part whereby I don’t need a tangly-corded external microphone to use it.
Of course, though I am trying to make the gadget serve my writing and health needs, I really spent the three months saving for the thing because I wanted a damn TOY. I spend a lot of time in the App Store, looking for the two dollar piece of software that will change my life forever. Have you found it? I am a fan of Simplenote and Dropbox, but I was already using them on the iPod. And though I love Flipboard, and am having fun with Sketchclub, I have yet to find anything, you know, miraculous.
My 2011 fiction writing plan is vague in the same way last year’s was: it’s composed of a lot of “drop everything,” as in:
If X hits my desk, drop everything and do it. If Y comes in, ditto.
In other words, I still have a lot of stuff in progress and lines in the water.
In 2011 the priority will be on turning around completed works as they are given to me. BLUE MAGIC is scheduled for 2011, for example, so it’s certain to hit my desk three to four times before November. Meanwhile, I have three other big projects that might go forward soon, or later, or possibly not. In theory, three or even four drop-everything projects could land on me at once. How I will deal with that, if it happens, will be interesting.
What’s more likely (she said optimistically) is that the priority stuff will stutter in in dribs and drabs over the next two to three years, and I will have some downtime for working on other things. The goals for this hypothetical allotment of time are:
1. Finish either of the two novels drafted in 2010.
2. If 2010’s proposal is unsuccessful, write a 2011 Canada Council proposal and thirty sample pages of another new novel.
3. Finish the outstanding short stories from 2010.
4. Draft short fiction rather than novels in 2011 until some of the above projects shake out.
The upshot, if I’m not buried in drop-everything projects? Six stories drafted, three finished and to market, and a novel finished.
Last year, at about this time, I set out the following 2010 goals:
1. Draft a novel.
2. Finish a novel.
3. Draft a story.
4. Finish a story.
5. Sell a story.
(This is just the fiction portion of a larger business plan. Non-fiction, promotional work, and other targets are separate.)
Draft and finish were separate items specifically because I’m working on multiple projects: drafting one book didn’t necessarily mean finishing that same book.
As plans go, this one looks rather fuzzy. The reason specific projects weren’t named (Finish this book, draft that story) in the above list reflects the fact that I spent a fair amount of 2010 waiting for other parties to get back to me on things. The timing on when I received edits for my next novel, for example, was entirely up to my editor’s schedule, and out of my hands.
So I kept it modest, and a little vague. And, of course, a nice thing about modest goals is that it’s often possible to overachieve. So here’s what I accomplished, working from the above plan:
1. Drafted two novels.
2. Finished one novel.
3. Wrote a series proposal and two sample chapters, polished it all, and sent it off.
4. Wrote a grant proposal and thirty sample pages, polished that, and sent it off.
5. Drafted, finished, sold and celebrated publication of a novelette, “The Cage.”
6. Drafted three short stories and embarked on a fourth that proved to be a false start.
7. Finished two 2009 stories, which are now off at market.
8. Sent a novel to market.
9. Sent out material relating to a potential short story collection, after I won the Sunburst.