Category Archives: Taos Toolbox

27 index cards

Some months ago a protagonist and a premise presented themselves to me. I noodled around with them, on and off, and even wrote a handful of scenes. Then I stopped, because I had sworn a solemn vow not to write my way through a novel without plot, plan, or road map. I’ve done that before, and it hasn’t worked out well for me.

I had the beginning of my book, and the ending. I knew the two or three Biggest Things that happen in between. Almost all of the second and third acts, though, remained a mystery. I needed structure, causality, escalation.

“One of these days,” I told myself, “I will Grapple.” I resisted the siren call of scenes that seductively appealed to be written. Did they even belong in the book? “Must . . . finish  . . . plotting . . . .”

Yesterday afternoon  Bonnie shared with me the dining-room table in her family’s Portland house, several hours of her time, and, best of all, her insightful questions and excellent ideas. We did a Taos-style plot break on my book, complete with color-coded cards. And while we did not introduce a shadowy cabal of Norwegian secret agents, we did create a three-act structure that hangs together and will bear weight. Afterward, as she prepared for the red-eye flight home, I copied those index cards into Super Note Card, feeling grateful and excited.

NaNoWri Mo? NaNoWhyNot?

A Taos mini-reunion

Yesterday evening I had the great pleasure of seeing Bonnie and some members of her family. She and Louise have stopped in Portland on their way home from Japan, and despite being completely jet-lagged they came over to spend a couple of hours sitting on our deck beneath the trees, petting Xerxes, and talking. I got to hear more details about their trip to Japan and some of their experiences at the con, but we barely scratched the surface. We also had good intentions of talking about our respective writing projects but, again, barely scratched the surface. Still, it was inspiring to see B again–like a reprise of the creative energy of Taos. Louise–whose ability to navigate in Japanese sounds pretty impressive–got Xerxes into a state of pure melted-butter affection. And I got to meet B’s sister from Los Alamos, her multitalented brother who lives here in Portland (and whom Zach and I will soon be seeing onstage in a new play that has been described as a historical mystery musical), and her brother’s friend. A very jolly gathering. All that was missing was everyone else from Taos.


Ever have the feeling that you’re juggling so many things that you’re not doing any of them as well as you could?

I have, and I’m not liking it so much. Must ponder solutions. I can do that while I organize the back matter for the Rodents book, and order the research material for the two books after that, and finish typing up my Taos notes, and catch up on my correspondence. And while I’m doing that I’ll just watch that episode of Eureka that I taped last night.

A couple of hours of singlemindedness are in store for this evening, however. Zach and I have passes for a preview of Shadow of the Moon, that new documentary about the Apollo astronauts (some of whom got very weird afterward) and the Moon missions. Supposed to have some cool never-before-seen footage, too. Should be lunariffic.

One down, about nine to go

Well, I’ve almost finished writing the book I rashly thought I would finish at Taos. (How little I knew! The workshop workload was more than enough, thanks very much.) I still have a few pages and a final couple of sidebars to write to complete this ms. on Forensics, and I should probably read it all through again before hitting the fateful “Send” button–but I probably won’t. (Sorry, copyeditors.)

So, here I am, despite my solemn vow not to allow any more distractions until the book was done. I couldn’t, though, resist the urge to write my  first blog entry so that I can see how it looks on the journal page. Too bad these vapid maunderings are all I can come up with. But I can look forward to a pleasant evening at the end of what I hope will be a productive day. Zach and I are going out with friends to eat Malaysian food and see a French horror flick called Ils (Them). When I first heard about this movie, I thought maybe it would involve giant French ants (les fourmies grandes?) but apparently it is more intellectual than that. Pity.