On March 31, 2014, I don’t get out of bed until afternoon. Part of this, of course, is that I’m an insomniac who regularly stays up until 4 a.m., but lately it’s been more than that. My glasses are broken. Which means every minute spent out of bed — and not forever walking into things thanks to legal blindness — is spent wearing custom-made contact lenses that are technically very unhealthy to wear beyond 12 hours. And I always go beyond twelve hours.
But I’m trying to be good today, so I lie in bed and try to think about work-related things. Specifically, I try to think about the one project for which I’m currently being paid. The other six writing and editing jobs currently on my freelance plate are all for – or with – my dear friend Jeff. He and I work on a complicated IOU system.
Thing is, the job that’s being paid in a bizarre thing called money comes with it the request to greatly expand the book’s love scenes, and I am far from in a romantic mood. I am frustrated by the job in general; I got through the previous night’s editing work by, on Jeff’s advice, imagining a meteor hitting the city as soon as the story is finished, removing it from my overstressed life. Today, however, I lie in bed and try to think romantic thoughts. Even if some of them are from different stories, old play-test works of mine that I am willing to steal from outright.
I get up and put in my contact lenses. I check the usual news, immediately feel my anxiety starting to flare up, and play a game of 2048 instead (addictive little flash things). Then it’s time to check on various social media things I’m running for Jeff’s Dawn of Steam series. Of the three people involved in this little self-publishing project (there’s another co-contributor, Jeff’s friend Sarah), I am possibly the best at marketing, and I am appalled by that fact. Jeff doesn’t have my anxiety disorder getting in the way, but all the Facebook/tumblr/Twitter stuff is really rough for him. Don’t even talk to him about code for the web site. Well, I can, but he’ll just say mine is wonderful without having the slightest idea what I’m doing.
When that’s done, I get some orange juice, then open the file for the book I’m being paid to proofread and expand. I put in commas and quotation marks, make tenses consistent, and yes, write two love scenes. There’s admittedly a lot of moving around in my chair to try to get the distance just right for my eyes, the strain being a little harder on me lately since I have to keep my contacts in longer.
At some point, my husband and I notice each other to be home and awake, respectively. We’d somehow missed that. I ask if there’s any news on where his work will be taking us next year. There isn’t. I consider muttering something about ‘gypsy academic lifestyle,’ but somewhere in my mind, a half-Roma amateur anthropologist called Julietta Penn rolls her eyes at me. Now that I’m done with the paid work, I’ll be able to get back to reading the third volume of Dawn of Steam, in which she is one of ‘my babies,’ the characters of whom I’m most fond and to whose characterization I pay extra close attention. I’ve written whole pages of Julietta myself, when it was agreed she needed more and the others didn’t have the time.
Eventually, when peanut butter crackers and occasional swigs of orange juice just aren’t enough, I get out the chicken I’ve had soaking in buttermilk in the fridge overnight, season it, flour it, and fry it up for lunch for me and my husband. Drinking it with more orange juice will help absorb the iron better, so it’s said.
I open up the file for Dawn of Steam: House of the Rising Sun. Yes, Jeff is a huge fan of the folk-blues song made famous by The Animals. Since the third volume of Dawn of Steam is set part in Japan and part in New Orleans, he apparently couldn’t resist. Jeff wrote this entire three-volume epistolary Steampunk story in a single month – a November, to be precise. Most National Novel Writing Month writers are happy if they make the official goal of 50,000 words, but he had to write 300,000 in his first NaNoWriMo. By the time he wrote House of the Rising Sun, he pretty much hadn’t slept in three weeks. In the initial draft, it shows. It really does show. That’s part of why it’s taken me so long to get through it. Massive restructuring will be required, moreso than the first two volumes, one of which is published and one of which is in third-draft edits.
As I read, I e-mail myself a running tally of notes to be addressed later when Jeff and I are less stressed. Since I have been stressed, the notes are a bit snarky in places. I point out an anachronism with simply a reference to the sentence and an ‘oh, honey, nooo.’ Simultaneously, I am exchanging e-mails with Jeff. A little of it is clarifying questions, but mostly just friend stuff. Then he e-mails back a question mark. I realize I sent the ‘oh, honey, nooo’ note to him instead of myself. I apologize and explain the anachronism. It’s no problem in his opinion, but it still annoys me that I was so careless.
Then I have to get up, walk around the apartment to expend nervous energy, and check the mail. The newsletter for my church has arrived. There it is on page 6, “Book Reading, April 22.” There are already little fliers on the church bulletin board saying “My Book Is Out (the primary authors helped)!” I still haven’t decided for certain which passage to read. The beginning is unfortunately the slowest part, but everything else has spoilers. Additionally, I get anxious about reading certain passages to a roomful of progressive-minded Unitarian Universalists without making it seem like the 1815 characters’ patriarchal nonsense is being validated. The irony is that also I worry if certain of my Catholic relatives back home will read far enough and carefully enough into the series to notice the biracial lesbians. My inner pedant immediately corrects me. One of them is not a lesbian; she’s bisexual.
I return to the third volume. Eventually, I finish it. Even though the ending needs some restructuring, it makes me cry. For once, it’s not tears of editing frustration – because I get those too – just normal sentimental tear-jerking on my part.
I fry up some more chicken for a late supper, because there was more chicken left, and not much else. After supper, I sit down and talk to Jeff online about the book. He’s sorry/not sorry about making me cry. We discuss various improvements and additions. As I look at the clock, I start to get anxious. It’s almost midnight in my time zone, almost April, and I let the boy talk me into Camp NaNoWriMo. We have multiple novels, in the series and otherwise, to market or edit, and several short stories in progress for anthologies, and I haven’t done my taxes, but he talked me into doing a special mini-National-Novel-Writing-Month to focus on my own work. I’ve tried NaNoWriMo three times, and never gotten above 2,000 words. I freeze up on non-collaborative projects. Somehow, though, he talked me into it. When midnight hits, I start to type in a new file and have to steel myself against going back and re-editing every sentence eight times. I hit my goal of 333 words for the first night in 45 minutes and surprise myself. I’ll edit it all later.
Soon, it’s approaching midnight in Jeff’s time zone. He’s going to be working on Dawn of Steam 4. Never mind that I’d carefully registered all sorts of things for ‘the Dawn of Steam trilogy,’ the boy had to start us on a Book 4. Sure, sure, it’ll be the beginning of a new trilogy, set a few years later. Still, he doesn’t seem to get it when I therefore call it Breakfast-Time of Steam 1.
We’re getting into the time of night where Jeff normally gives me some stress-and-anxiety-managing tips for the night and the coming day, before I get ready for bed. However, he’s gone into Prolific Writer Mode, and while he’ll stop if I ask, I don’t want to interrupt. Instead, I start searching for indie publishing resources again. I run across an idea that would, in fact, involve writing over 1,000 words all by myself. It’ll be nonfiction, though, so I take a breath and give it a try. I even make myself keep the editing minimal before I send it off, take out my contact lenses, and go to bed.
Copyright © Dawn of Steam Trilogy 2014
Another fascinating day in the life of a creative! To find out more about Kate Perkins-Armond and her projects, click below to be taken to the good stuff! 😉