First Draft Done!

Last Tuesday, 2/21/2012, I finished the first draft of Amara, the sequel to The Amulet.  Now I wait a few weeks before reading it through to see if it holds together at all well.  And then start the first revision.

I spent so many hours writing and researching almost every day, that at first I didn’t know how to handle the extra time I gained by finishing.

Fortunately, I got work calls, then the weather warmed and the garden called.  Weeks before, I had planted seeds – carrots and spinach.  Maybe it was Wednesday morning – no, I was subbing that day and Thursday, so it must have been Friday morning that I went out to check if the seedlings had come up and saw a little fat lizard in the middle of where I expected seedlings to sprout.

Hurrying inside, I googled about lizards in the desert and discovered that they’ll eat most anything, including seeds.  Aaarrrgh!  The netting over the garden bed probably deters the little critters and such who wander in, but nothing can keep a lizard out!

Saturday Thrim and I drove in to Barstow and went to Home Depot where he got cement to keep the new fence posts in place, at least the corner ones, and I bought spinach plants and a rosemary.  Giving up is a form of winning.  At least the result will be edible.

I’m including a picture of my violets which are blooming idiotically.  I first tried violets in Champaign IL where we lived for six years.  Our house had a south-facing windowed sunporch, perfect for violets.  This is the first time since then that I’ve had such good conditions, including an air-conditioned house.  Good results, right?

Researching Amara was so much fun!  Like hair coloring.  I needed the mixed-background Tadpole (mom northern Europe, dad northern Africa) to get his tightly curled light-brown hair darker.  Romans used boiled walnut shells!  One recipe said to add leek, probably as a fixative.  In calligraphy, we use walnut ink for a delicious dark-brown color, so it was a kick to find another use for it.  I need to address the running of the dye onto the boy’s face and Amara’s hands.  How easily is it removed?  How long does the hair retain the color, especially if the kids are boating on the river and getting wet?

Note for today:  Mix up some walnut ink with an onion and test it on my hands – and a tiny bit of hair.

A huge discovery for me was finding that the Loire river has its beginning about 80 miles south of Roanne, which is 54 miles west of Lyon.  The kids needed to escape somewhere, so I sent them west.  There’s also a Roman road going north from Roanne because the kids need to get to the port of Juliobone.  Web photos of Roanne show the Loire to be calm and wide, so I decided to put Optimus on the road and let the kids go by boat like people do now, when they rent barges to float down the river.

It’s odd to write “floating down” when you’re going north, because I always consider north to be “up” and south to be “down.”  The Nile always confused me – Upper Nile and Lower Nile flowing south to north.

I guess it’s like mountain ranges.  If you grow up with mountains going east-west, that’s how you know your directions.  Then if you move to where mountains go north-south, it takes years to unwind your instincts, so you are constantly getting lost.  It’s true.  I grew up with east-west and moved to north-south (Colorado).  It’s a wonder I ever got the kids to school (north) those first years.

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Author: Victoria Paulsen

I'm writing the second of two YA novels about the Roman empire just before Septimius Severus became emperor, and just after. My background is in theater. At UCLA and Univ. of Colorado, I studied Greek and Roman drama as well as Latin. That was awhile ago. My new research is even more fascinating, thanks to the Internet. I want to share the fun stuff!

2 thoughts on “First Draft Done!”

  1. You are going to make some walnut ink with an onion? Like from walnut shells? Or calligraphy ink from a bottle? I want to know how long it lasts on your skin and hair! Research was never so interesting before! I’M CURIOUS! Thanks!

  2. The walnut ink + onion works!! My fingers are still, two days later, tinted a golden brown, but my lock of hair turned a beautiful deep brown, though the grey ones were lighter grey-brown. Reading the ingredients on the walnut ink dry stuff, I found out it’s actually made from peat. How do I handle this? Guess I’ll search for black walnut shells, which may be like searching for truffles.

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