My plan for this year has gone far off course. How about yours?

No, I’m not talking about New Year’s resolutions. I gave up on those decades ago. I’m talking about real business.

My goal had been to spend much of my time pushing the visibility of my new novel, What’s Left, first as an Advanced Reading Copy (available for free) and then as the First Edition.

Days after posting the ARC, though, I was sidelined by a cardiac event. That led to down time during recovery and rounds of testing and seeing doctors, plus getting adjusted to the new meds and undergoing nearly three months of cardio-rehab exercises three days a week at the local hospital.

Oh, yes, let’s not overlook the Healthy Heart diet, a kind of perpetual Lent. My favorite fallback foods – cheese, eggs, and butter – are now essentially off-limits, except as stealth ingredients. (I’ll admit looking at that egg yolk in the book cover photo with a degree of longing. The whites just don’t carry any rich flavor. I really miss my cheese omelets.) Let’s say still trying to find a way to eat sufficiently is proving elusive.

I was already intending to do a light reworking of the four novels that formed the back story for What’s Left, but a Christmas-present biography of Richard Avedon fed into a sense that I needed to have a clearer sense of Cassia’s father as a photographer in those volumes. Even though I’d worked with some of the best photojournalists in the business, newspaper work is only one corner of the larger photography field.

As I set about what I thought would be a simple retouching of those works, Cassia, the central figure in What’s Left, took over. Quite simply, she had me examining the earlier works through her critical eyes and sarcastic perspectives. She can be bossy, and she insisted on major revisions that required far more hours than I’d expected. She really wanted them updated, and I’ve tried to comply.

As I began recasting him in line with her dictates, I had that sensation of pulling a loose thread or opening Pandora’s box or that notorious can of worms. The changes at hand required major surgery to form a better fit with the newest book.

I promise to relate just what happened in future posts, but the labor did plunge me into something resembling seclusion.

On top of that, though, some early reactions to the ARC led to another reworking of the new novel to make it easier to read. Sentences got shortened, contrary to my own love of long lines, and as much as I liked not having any quotation marks in the story, I yielded and inserted some for greater clarity. Again, time-consuming but hopefully worthwhile in the end.

Then it was back to drastically slashing and reworking the remaining earlier tales. In the end, the pruning led to substantial new growth. Can I confess to being very proud of the results? They’re much different and more substantial now.

And then, at this point, I briefly thought I was finally back on my intended track. I was wrong.

Temptation led me to pick up the draft of one secretive unpublished novel, and it nagged at me. Based on one of Cassia’s future father’s troubled girlfriends who appears in one of those older novels, it dealt with issues I need to understand more fully. That, in turn, prompted two months of obsessive work that still demands extensive tweaking, even if I never show the manuscript to anyone else. Let’s just say it’s personal, even embarrassing. For now, I’m hoping to put it aside so I can get down to where I wanted to be in February. Maybe now I can get back on mission?

Anyone else feeling way behind schedule?

I’d still like to hear how others manage their time. Any tips?

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