Project 1: I have put my most recent novel, “Being Ruby,” to bed for a while. It will rest until July, when I will take it to the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference (http://www.unm.edu/~taosconf/). I hope to find out if the manuscript is readable and engaging, and to learn if there are major flaws. I think Taos is one of the only places, maybe the only, where you can get several readers to commit to 300 pages. That seems worth it. Of course it also means I’ll have to read 1500 pages of others’ manuscripts. Manuscripts are circulated in May, and after one is sent in, it cannot be edited again, so I expect I’ll be doing some furious editing between now and May. It’s a compulsive thing. It may even be helpful to read with the eyes of an “other.” After that… I don’t know.
Project 2: I’ve been invited to submit a paper to a peer-reviewed journal, RoSE, which stands for Research on Steiner Education (http://www.rosejourn.com/index.php/rose). They reviewed one of my non-fiction books in Volume 4 Number 2, and I guess that admits me into the club. The bad news is, I don’t know much about Rudolph Steiner, their patron saint. He’s the guy who founded Waldorf education and the first Waldorf school. The editor says I can write about anything germane to their theme topic for that issue, observation of mental activities, so I’m sketching an article on consciousness and creativity. I have no idea if it will fly.
Project 3: I have a hard-boiled cop novel that’s been resting for almost a year. It’s called Desert Dream, and concerns a tough Tucson police detective who also writes detective novels. It highlights scenery around Tucson and southwestern Arizona. I wrote it as an exercise in voice. I wanted to see if I could write a consistent, distinctive, narrator. I’ve decided to serialize it online at Critique Circle (http://www.critiquecircle.com/queue.asp) to get feedback. There are some experienced writers at CC among the beginners, so there is always a chance of a good critique. The exercise will force me to re-edit each chapter before I post it, hopefully fixing the problems I know are in there, then I should get feedback that will tell me at least if the story and the voice are engaging. That starts in two weeks and might run 6 months, or until I get tired of it, or until the readers do.
Project 4: I’m sketching THE NEXT BIG THING, which I think will be a novel in third-person, that addresses the bifurcation of American society into conservatives and progressives. It won’t be ostensibly a political novel, but will highlight conflict between “The Patriarchs” and “The Farmers.” The Farmers grow a plant with prozac-like effects, which the Patriarchs try to suppress. I don’t want to go sci-fi/fantasy, so I’ll try to stick close to realism.
I’m not sure about the idea. I want to write interesting characters, not a fictionally disguised essay about society. If I attempt both, I might get lost. Maybe I should put my characters in a real historical context instead of a made-up one.