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Camped Out in the Fallow Fields

I'm not writing a word of fiction these days, and it feels just fine. From ancient times, farmers have rotated crops, planted one but let another lie fallow for a season so the depleted soil can rest and replenish. For years I worked on WHERE THE LAKE BECOMES THE RIVER, my first novel, and when it was still taking its full shape, I started on the second, PIPER (final title, THE ROMANTIC'S GUIDE TO WILDERNESS SURVIVAL.) I was working full-time in a nearby city, commuting back and forth, and knocked out most of PIPER's chapters on my lunch breaks, which is why they average just 1-3 pages. I love the finished book, I'm happy with the characters and satisfied with their adventures, and I'm letting the manuscript sit untouched for a while so I can come back cold for yet another pruning. Meanwhile some excellent agents are reading a full copy, and we'll see what they have to say.

There's a third novel just beneath the surface, and bits of it run through my head, but I have no inclination yet to put pen to paper. I've been writing for years. It feels great to take a break. During this fallow time, I work at my current (mercifully nearby) full-time job, watch the birds return and the trees and flowers bloom, buy rose fertilizer and putter in the yard, plan a trip to India, shred old files (great for the Feng Shui), get back in touch with family and friends, clean house and plan canoe jaunts and read: M.M. Kaye's THE FAR PAVILIONS, Paul Theroux's THE TAO OF TRAVEL, Sara Gruen's APE HOUSE. I've checked out a number of area Indian restaurants--five stars to Sai Krishna Bavahn, and Sitar--and taught myself to make Kheer (Indian rice pudding) the quick way: start with already-cooked basmati, cook it more in coconut milk, add honey and cardomom and chopped pistachios.

It's kind of refreshing to be a civilian, not overtly possessed by the Muse for the first time in years, not having to scribble at lightning speed to finish a new chapter before the end of a lunch hour, not kept up late or dragged back prematurely from the dream plane to jot down some little plot twist or character quirk, not getting blindingly bleary-eyed from editing through the tenth or seventeenth revision. But Uh-oh, as soon as I said that, I saw the Muse raise one lovely classic eyebrow as if to say, "Better enjoy your little break while you can, because you'll be up to your elbows in a messy pile of pages of Novel Three before you know it. Maybe tonight! Maybe we'll start at three a.m. --that good for you, dear?" And truth be told, Volume Three of this little trio of Romantic Metaphysical Parables has already been busy assembling itself in my subconscious, and in dreams and visions, gathering energy over many months to birth itself into being. But just for today, before the deluge, there's a new Calder exhibit at the Nasher Museum, and a Netflix CD just arrived in the mail, and that battered wicker loveseat on the screen porch is ever so sweetly calling my name.... Happy spring, dear reader; may you labor hard to co-create your dreams, but relish as well your fallow states, in the sun and wind and refreshing rain.

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