Tag Archives: Nonfiction

Endless grind

I am still hacking away at the final book in the Forensics series, which happens also to be my final piece of overdue work. At this point, very overdue. No one is bugging me for it, as my publisher’s schedule has slowed a bit and my editor on that series hasn’t yet finished processing the four mss. I turned in earlier this year, but still. I need to finish. I want not to have to be writing it any longer.

Who would have thought that a 45-page ms. on a straightforward topic would be so difficult to finish? But I’ve now written nine books for this series and am burned out on the subject, and I have other things I’d rather be writing, so my level of engagement is low. I just have to push ahead and do my best not to let my attitude permeate the ms. Fortunately I have had a lot of practice at this.

Every book has what I call the hump, the point at which the process shifts from drilling forward to gliding toward the end. At the hump more of the terrain I must cover is lying behind me than is stretching ahead. Not just page or word count–the hump comes at different points in different books. Even in two books of the same length for the same series, there may be a difference. I am starting to think that in this book the hump is going to come waaay late. Say, the penultimate page.

Looking forward–desperately so–to turning in this ms. in the next couple of days. I can then turn to more interesting matters:

* developing proposals for a couple of new nonfic series that I am excited about

* the unfinished draft of my Nano novel

* some other stuff.

Now back to work. On the bright side, I am meeting a friend for “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” this evening. Hoping to love it.

To the land of ice and snow

Turned in long-overdue ms. of bio of Stephen King not 90 minutes ago. Last 8 days = major write-athon with far too little sleep. Now unable to think or write in complete sentences. Hope I managed it in the ms.

Packing now, and watering yard, and writing note for cat-care person, etc. We leave for Iceland tomorrow at 11 a.m. Last I heard, temps in Portland are supposed to hit triple digits for at least the first 3 days of next week, and generally very high otherwise. Forecast for Reykjavik for same time period: 61 and showers. Yay!

Pix and details on the other side. May all here have an excellent week.

Read or Die

The past few weeks have been full of work.

I’ve been doing all the follow-up stuff (writing captions, reviewing page layouts, etc.) for the books I wrote from November through February. And then I’ve been writing the first book in my four-book series on human evolution; the series is now aimed at high-school age readers and called Origins. While writing, I realized with chagrin that I had been packing information that could be spread out over the entire series into volume one (which is “Earliest Ancestors to Australopithecines”). I took a few days away from writing to do a more detailed plan of the entire series–deciding, for example, in which volume I will put the various sidebars, including one I just wrote called “So You Want to Be a Fossil?” I also put together a Glossary that I can use in all four volumes. That should help me avoid unnecessary repetition.

But it hasn’t all been work. Oh, no. A well-meaning friend gave me a free month of Netflix. Actually, she’s my publisher, so she’ll have no one to blame but herself when I’m even later than usual on my current deadlines. It’s not so much the movies. I mean, it’s convenient to have movies come to your house and all, but what’s really fun–and a time suck–is watching the instant stuff on my laptop. Just yesterday I watched an anime I first saw a couple of years ago and have wanted to see again: “Read or Die” (the OVA, not the TV series, which I have not watched–but now I probably will). It’s no Miyazaki, but there are some things in it that I like a lot. And what a title.

One brief shining moment

At 6:38 yesterday evening I hit the Send button and sent in the ms. of the last of my overdue books from 2007. It was a book about Conifers for middle-school kids. Now, I’m not sure that 7th-graders are all that interested in Conifers–I could be wrong, and I hope I am–but my publisher asked me to write the book and, at long last, I finally did so. The moment I turned it in, I entered a rare and miraculous state of being: I was caught up with work! I almost levitated.

But, by a curious coincidence, yesterday’s date was also the due date for the first piece of 2008 work: book one in my series on human evolution, which of course I did not turn in yesterday. It lies still before me, only party written. My state of caught-up-ness, therefore, was of such brief duration that perhaps it did not exist at all, at least in our space-time continuum.

Now I forge ahead on the work for this year. Not to mention all the messy afterbirth of the books I’ve finished in recent months: captioning illustrations, reviewing copyedits and layouts, quelling the din of hectoring fact-checkers. But I welcome such activities, because they allow me to tick things off the to-do list without actually having to produce pages.

Over the Arachnids at last

Today I finally finished and sent in the ms. for a book on Arachnids that is part of a kids’ series I’m doing on various taxons: flowering plants, primates, rodents, marsupials (that one was a treat to research and write!), and so on.

I suspect that my editor rather enjoyed having me do the Arachnids book, knowing that I am a pronounced arachnophobe. Or at least  a spider-phobe. I’ve never seen a live scorpion, amblypygid, uropygid, or member of many of the smaller arachnid orders. I don’t know how I’d react to them, but I doubt I’d be as shocked and repelled as when a spider scuttles out from beneath my hairbrush. Nonetheless, they are truly fascinating creatures, and it was quite a lot of fun to write about them.

This was actually my second book about spiders. Some years ago I wrote a picture book about them for very young kids. The one I finished today was for middle-school kids. I’ll be finishing up this current series soon, and I’ll be sad to see it end. It’s going out with a whimper, too. The last book is going to be about, Dawkins help me (and I mean that literally, as I have found some useful material in The Ancestor’s Tale), bacteria.