Wild Fertility

A writing blog today…..

camille pissarro

I’m in the midst of an enormously fertile period. I’m writing in several genres, including a non-fiction project. This morning I awakened to write the next scene in a book that will eventually become a Barbara O’Neal book. There is soup and a lost child and dogs, but the underpinnings of this work have been very dark and hard to digest.  It suddenly seems ready, however, so that was where I poured my energies this morning.

I’m also working on a non-fiction book for a British publisher (to be distributed through MacMillan in the US) on writing romantic fiction.  The offer came out of the blue, but as I’d been in teaching mode through the spring, it was exactly the right project for me to write on the side, coalescing some of my ideas into a form that can be digested more easily than my exuberant but scattered blogs here.

There is also the matter of Lark, who keeps coming up with new ideas and concepts for her ongoing work in two arenas, The Otherlands and Going the Distance.  Look for more on both of those series in the near future (the 1st installment of The Otherlands will be published sometime in January, an exact date to be determined when I clear the decks and finally finish the line edits.)

All this work! You would think I’d be going crazy, feeling overworked and overwhelmed, but quite the opposite is true.  I have not been so in love with work in many years, and as I was sitting in my chair yesterday, watching it snow and doing some research reading into foster children, I did pause for a moment to realize I feel like I moved to a new land.  I’d been chiseling work out of the hard granite, chipping away a nugget at a time, and it took a lot of hard work and time to do it.

Suddenly, and I do mean suddenly—at the very end of May—I have moved to a completely different place. This is delta bottom farmland, rich with silt and sunlight and the perfect conditions for growing hearty fields of crops.  My mind feels utterly engaged, my heart excited.  I get up and go to work every morning at 4:30 without complaint, even with eager intention. My daily production rates have tripled and show signs of quadrupling.  I’m back to the younger me who wanted the world to go away and leave her alone so she could write more, more, more.

It’s glorious.

And I don’t really know why it happened. Was it the switch to getting up early? I think that has helped.  I am enormously productive during that 90-120 minute block.  It’s as if I’m giving myself an extra work day, every work day.   My evenings were never, are never particularly productive.  I watch television. I might read, but am often too tired to do any serious reading. I putter around after dinner, and for ages I’ve been ready to go to bed around 8, but would hang on for whatever reason. For about a year, I’ve been practicing the early work, but it really took root when CR decided he wanted to try swimming in the early morning.  Now we both want to be asleep early and get up early together, and on days we decide not to get up so early, we get those extra zzz’s. Healthy.

The other thing that I’ve done is give myself permission to totally play in my work, take chances, see what happens. I’ve done some novellas, purely for me, playing with the form, seeing what I like.  I’ve made a big return to romance in the new adult and young adult series, but the books are very different from each other.  The young adult is soft science fiction, highly romantic and with epic adventure undertones.  The new adult is very sexy and lots of fun, but has a serious undertone, too: Jess has to find out who she is—and that means making mistakes, discovering her history and deciding what things matter most to her.  It’s also set in part in New Zealand, which you all know I’ve fallen in love with.   The Otherlands is deeply rooted in my love for the sff genre and I carried it around with me for ages before I realized that I could just….go ahead and write it.  I also have an entire 5 (6?) book series planned as a tie-in/continuation of the St. Ives historicals, all growing out of our travels to England and New Zealand.

And don’t forget the women’s fiction. I love it a lot.  My new book, The All You Can Dream Buffet, is one of my favorites so far. I  love the characters and the setting of a lavender farm, and these women who have all had life challenges.  It was engrossing and required a huge amount of research and recipe testing, and it went back and for the between my editor and I several times, but the end result is one I am very pleased with. I hope you will be, too.

I believe this fertile, wild productivity is the result of me giving myself permission to do that play.  I can do it because of indie publishing, and I don’t have to worry that I’ll starve or that I’ll flop at a new publishing house.  I can take big chances, play in a lot of different arenas. Because I’m the one taking the risks, and I don’t need to sell 50,000 books to break even. Because I am more in charge of everything, I don’t feel that creeping anxiety that plagues all working writers over how many books are selling here and there and everywhere.  I am much freer to write the books arriving today.  I am very deeply enjoying the balance between my work for traditional publishing and my own publishing, a luxury that I couldn’t have imagined even five years ago.

This is not everyone’s ideal scene, I get that.  I have friends who need and like to focus on one book for a couple of years at a time. I also have others who like writing lots of books, but mostly in the same arena. That’s fine.  My brain has always loved variety and mix-ups and new challenges.  Sometimes I’ll fall on my face, but that’s fine, too.  So far, the fields are growing very well, producing a good many crops. I hope I will be wise enough to recognize when/if winter arrives and asks me to rest.

Do you like to write in many arenas or focus on one?  Do you find there are wildly productive periods in your life, and less productive ones?  

PS I’m pulling away from blogging so much elsewhere and will be spending more time here.  Hope you’ll join in the conversation.

Ta da! A surprise and a revelation….

If you follow me on Facebook, you already know about this, but here’s a little background.

You may have noticed that I’ve been scarce this summer. So much has been happening behind the scenes!  It all started when I went to Breckenridge with Christopher Robin in late May to have a long weekend for my birthday. It snowed. A lot. Which meant we didn’t do any hiking or kayaking as we’d planned, but read and napped and ate and rested. Also good.

On the second morning, the Girls woke me up at 4 am with a book idea. I told them to go away and turned over. They insisted I need to get up and write this down. Like, now. So I got up and made a cup of tea, and by the time CR woke up, I had an entire book outline. Characters, plot, story, romance.  All of it.

Every now and then, I get a gift book. I don’t remember one coming to me so fully fleshed. Bemused, I set it aside and hung out with CR for breakfast. By afternoon, the book was bothering me again. I decided to take my notebook to the local Starbucks (which is so adorable and has amazing views).  I realized halfway down the hill that I’d forgotten a pen. It’s not that easy to find something like that in Breckenridge and I really didn’t want to walk all the way back to the hotel.  I was about to give up when the Girls said, “Oh, no you don’t. Go ask that boarder in the t-shirt shop if he has one you can borrow.” So I did. And he was like, “Sure, dude.”  I said, “I’ll bring it back.” He waved me away. “No worries.”

I went to Starbucks. I ordered a coffee. An hour later, I had 67 scenes, in order. Basically, uh, the whole book.

I’m no idiot. A book shows up like that, I’m going to show up, too, and write.  So write I did. The entire book over the summer. My fingers couldn’t keep up.  I had no interest in doing anything but showing up for the book. It was like living in a movie for the summer. It is the most fun I’ve had writing in about 100 years, and you know me, I love writing!

The thing is, this is not my usual realm. It’s not even Young Adult, which I’ve been writing on the side for awhile.  (More on that in a few weeks…yes, the OtherLands are finally going to be published.)  This attack book is New Adult, a genre I’ve been reading but really had had no plans to write until this 19-year-old girl showed up. To keep the branding straight for those of you who want my women’s fiction–that’s still Barbara O’Neal.  If you like the romances, that’s Barbara Samuel.  If you want New Adult and Young Adult, come see me as Lark O’Neal.

Here is her first book.  It will be out November 12, with book #2 to follow in the spring, 2014 and #3 in the summer, 2014.  You can pre-order now at Amazon and Apple.  Subscribe to Lark’s newsletter. Follow her on Facebook  and Twitter. Check out the website.

Ta-da! Here is the cover and back cover blurb:


Life is random…


19-year-old Jess Donovan knows better than most that life is random. Her mom is dead, and she’s on her own, patching together a living as a waitress when a car crashes through the restaurant where she works. In two seconds, she loses her job, watches her best friend hauled away in an ambulance…and meets Tyler Smith, one of the hottest, most fascinating—and mysterious guys she’s ever met.


Both for the good and the bad…


Within days, Jess is swept up into the mesmerizing force that is Tyler. Their every touch sizzles, every kiss dissolves them both, and the sex is…fierce. But there’s more to Tyler than his hypnotic eyes. He’s adrift, too, and his body—and his soul—are covered with scars. How can she find herself with a guy who is lost himself?


Until you take charge….


Jess is determined to find her way, and make a life that is better than the one she was given. But how?







Pretty excited, I think you can tell. 🙂

Also, for those who are pursuing NaNoWriMo this year, come make me your buddy.  I’m awriterafoot.

The process

Since November, I’ve been writing a serial novel for a blog, The OtherLand Chronicles, which I’ve written about here several times.  After two months, I have some observations.

I began on November 1, for NaNoWriMo, a lark.  Or so I thought.  The truth is, this story has been rattling around in my head for more than three years, gathering bits and pieces to itself.  Every so often, it came to me with a new shiny something, like a child who wants to play, and I would say, “Oh, that really is clever, but I don’t really have time right now to do anything with it.  Hang on to it, okay?”  The book-child wold nod and amble away, admiring her little treasure.

Over and over and over this happened, until I realized that I had a LOT of material.  Like an entire world and backstory and a story arc long enough for a trilogy.  It was all born from my walks in the parkways around Briargate, and that’s a lot of walking.  Every day, year in, year out, me and my dog and the story brewing.

Any writer knows that sooner or later, that work has to be done.  It will force its way into your schedule no matter what else you’ve got going on, and it will make itself so very attractive that you will have no choice. You’ll be seduced.

I was seduced. Now I find myself writing an entire book in public, which is not the most comfortable thing in the world. It forces me to find more time to write than I usually would, and for the first time in years, I’m really a hermit.  I don’t want to go anywhere.  I have work to do. So much work, all of it so different, and so much fun in its own ways.

I also discovered that as much as I’d like to do a “serial draft” where I don’t change anything, that was just not possible.  I had to go back and do some revisions for the sake of the story. I had to rewrite a couple of scenes pretty substantially and move a couple of them around, and until I did it, the book stubbornly wasn’t going to let me move forward.

But here’s the thing: this is my play project, so I get to make the rules.  My promise to the readers of the material is that I will finish.  I will not quit until I have a complete story.  Turns out my promise to the story is that I have to serve it first.  Which is always the way.

For the record, I am having a blast. This is as entertaining as anything I’ve done.

If you haven’t been reading along and wish to begin, start at the beginning.

If you have been reading, I finally got new material up after the long Christmas break.  Start at Chapter Eleven, Scene 4

Writing in Buena Vista

This morning, I’m sitting at Bongo Billy’s coffee shop in Buena Vista, looking straight at Mt Princeton, which is one of the most gorgeous 14ers in a state packed with them. I’ve just posted the pages I wrote early this morning in my cabin overlooking Cottonwood Creek. Had to come to town to get a wifi signal. Doing it made me feel a bit of a city-slicker, but when you fall in love with a story, it goes with you. It’s one of the great things about being a writer.

I am madly in love with Bartholomew and Alia and the world they are revealing to me. I love having the the little deadline every few days so I can write some pages, and stick with it, but I also love that I’m writing it for me. I always write for myself, of course, but the artistic freedom in doing whatever I want for pure, total fun is rejuvenating in a way I hadn’t expected.

Now I’m off to soak in the hot springs and put together a vision board for the new year.

If you want to follow along, go to http://theotherlandchronicles.com/2011/12/chapter-9-scene-2/

In the meantime, hope you are all having a day as fine as mine.

The Otherlands Chronicles

I am quite pleased to be keeping up, posting almost every day (have had to take two days off, and I suspect there will be another this week).  More, I am having a blast discovering this world and story.  Who knew there was a magic cello?

He passed the cello over to me, and I almost felt a ripple through the body, as if it was as excited to be in my hands as I was to touch it again.  I pressed a palm against the front, and took in a breath.  Bartholomew gave me the bow.  “What would you like to play?”

“I would happily play Mary Had a Little Lamb on this beautiful instrument,” I said, nestling it closer to me. It reclined against my shoulder, the scroll close to my ear. As if it—no, she—could speak, I almost heard a whisper, a suggestion.  “Bach’s Air?”  I said.

He was very still for a long moment, then he riffled through a pile of music on the stand, and pulled out the selection.  “I have been working on it.”

We shifted, each of us bending into our instruments, finding our balance.  I mentally hummed through the first bars, sliding into the notes as if they were a suit.  He tuned the G string more finely.  Against me, the old cello vibrated very faintly.

I looked at Bartholomew, and he nodded, tapping his foot. I swayed into his lead and we began together, the long sweet notes pouring out, winding around each other. I found him in the music, and he fit himself into my playing, and we fell inside the piece, both of us.  It was melancholoy and romantic, and the profound beauty loaned by the cello took the notes to some wilder, deeper place.   It seemed to dance against me, the wood warming, glowing.  My cheeks grew hot and a trickle of sweat ran down my neck, and I closed my eyes, feeling an electric sense of tingling through my hands, up my arms, swirling through my neck, and somehow into me, into my chest and throat.


A frank moment on posting in public

The OtherLand Chronicles experiment continues, posting a new scene (almost) every day as a sort of NaNoWriMo exercise.  I say sort of because you are technically supposed to just blast through and not edit and there are likely other rules I don’t know about, but this is my gig and I’m playing it my way.  My goal was to post new work every day and to be as true as possible to the NaNo idea of moving forward even when things aren’t quite right.

Not that easy!  By the time you see one of my books, I’ve been over it a dozen times (at least!).  My agent and editor have read it, commented, made suggestions.  A line edit and copy edit have been done, weeding out the obnoxious repetitive phrases and clumsy sentences I have missed.  None of that has happened with this book, and it’s both thrilling and dismaying.

There isn’t time to edit much, frankly.  If I’m going to get the new scene written, I can’t spend a lot of time polishing the work from the day before–I just have to GO.  I have been writing the scene one day ahead, and giving myself and a beta reader a chance to catch anything that’s going to mess up the story, a dropped thread or anything like that, but not much more.

And you know what, this is FUN!  I’m more worried about getting the story down, keeping the tension up, balancing what the reader needs to know with what needs to remain hidden.   Planting clues, pacing, staying true to the character’s voice.

I thought I know all about the story, too, but stories have a way of birthing themselves into whatever they like.  I am being surprised and entertained.  I tell my voice students to play, to let themselves go, to take a chance every now and then to give the girls in the basement a chance to play.  That’s what I’m doing.  We are writers.  We are in wild mind, beginner’s mind.  A very good place to be.

Just posted the first scene of Chapter Four.  http://theotherlandchronicles.com/2011/11/chapter-4-scene-1-2/


Chapter 3, the otherlands

NaNo continues, in public, at The OtherLand Chronicles blog.  In today’s episode, our fair heroine is a bit bratty and sneaks out against her mother’s orders:

Then I was free, running down the sidewalk to get out of  the park as fast as I could.  One of the streetlights were out and a chill flowed down my back as I moved through the inky darkness, staying focused on the next light, only a little further on.  A fox dashed across the grass, fluffy tail an arrow behind him, and my heart raced. Was Bartholomew around?

A figure stepped out of the shadows.

Day 2

The Otherland Chronicles continue….

When I got home, my grandmother was slumped in her chair, fast asleep in front of the television.  Her nurse, Trina, sat knitting on the couch beside her.  She lifted her chin at me, big round glasses reflecting the sitcom.