Archive for February, 2022


Fantasy Casting

One thing I didn’t mention in my character development process was fantasy casting, thinking of real people who resemble your characters. That can be a great tool for some writers, though there are some potential traps.

By fantasy casting, I don’t mean figuring out who would play these characters in the movie made from your book — a realistic cast of people around the right age now who might be available to do this kind of project. I would caution against trying to put together this kind of fantasy cast. For one thing, even if a movie or TV show does get made, the odds are slim that the author would have the kind of clout to dictate casting, and that means you’ll inevitably be disappointed if you’ve already got a firm cast in your head. For another thing, as long as publishing and Hollywood take to develop projects, by the time any movie or TV series got made, your planned cast would have aged out of their roles.

But finding people to serve as models can be helpful. The best comparison I can think of is the live reference actors they sometimes use for animated films to help the animators get a sense of the characters and how they would move. If you look at some of the footage that exists of the references for the Disney animated movies (these are sometimes on the DVDs as bonus features), they aren’t exactly like the characters, but were close enough to help the animators create more realistic characters. A fantasy cast can help a writer in a similar way by putting a physical form to the person. You can get a sense of voice, facial expressions, movement and mannerisms. This can be especially helpful for people who don’t have a strong visual imagination. These writers may know the inside of the characters but can’t quite picture them physically. Watching movies or shows with the fantasy cast can help these writers picture the characters.

The fun thing about this kind of fantasy cast is that you aren’t bound at all by reality. You can cast someone who’s been dead for decades based on how they looked seventy years ago, or you can cast someone who’s current. You could have Judy Garland playing opposite one of the Hemsworth brothers. You aren’t even limited to actors. You can mentally cast singers, athletes, newscasters, politicians or other public figures, even people you’ve seen in real life. I got the “reference model” for one character from someone I saw on an airplane once. I’d been developing this character but didn’t know how he was going to look, and then I saw this man on the plane and thought he’d make a perfect fit. You can also cast multiple people for the same role—one person for the voice, one person for movement, one person for facial expressions. You can cast based on appearance or for the essence you’re trying to convey. You can cast the actor or you can cast based on a particular role, essentially casting a character to play another character.

But you don’t want to adhere too closely to your casting once you start writing, especially if you’re using a real person you know or another character. Fantasy casting works best just as a tool to help you bring a character to life so you can write that character more vividly. I find that once I actually start writing, the casting goes away as the characters take on their own lives in my head. The more I write the characters, the less they resemble the casting. The mental casting mostly serves to prime the pump and give me the initial mental images I need to start writing. After that, I’m just writing my characters.

You can get into some trouble if you use a real person you know who’s recognizable enough that other people know exactly who the character is based on. If you’re using real character traits, put those traits in an entirely different body in different circumstances. Mimi in the Enchanted, Inc. books was inspired by a couple of people I once dealt with at work, but I gave her an entirely different appearance, a different personality, and a different situation. People who’d worked with one or the other of the real people recognized the inspiration because of what she was like to work with, but the one I had any contact with after I wrote any of those books didn’t recognize herself because she had a blind spot about what she was like to work with, and she was otherwise absolutely nothing like Mimi. That “everything in this book is fiction and any resemblance to any person is purely coincidental” disclaimer may or may not protect you if the resemblance is too obvious, and people who aren’t public figures have more legal protection against libel.

I don’t know if there’s any legal danger from casting a character as a character, since plagiarism involves the actual words, not the ideas. I’ve seen authors be quite open about the fact that they were inspired by other characters. There was a historical romance author who did an interview with an entertainment magazine about the fact that the characters in her book were based on House and Dr. Cuddy from the TV series House. A good chunk of urban fantasy and paranormal romance novels had heroes who were quite obviously Spike from Buffy. As a reader, I find it a bit annoying when I can tell the source of the character, but fans of that character might find that appealing. I just think, personally, that if I can tell exactly who or what the character is based on, then the writer is doing it wrong and not adding enough of their own creativity. Use other characters as inspiration, but don’t just plunk a character from something else into your own book and change their name.

As for how much you share of your fantasy casting, that’s up to you. I like to keep it to myself because I want my readers to be able to come up with their own mental images. Most people seem to want to read books before they see movies because they want their own mental imagery instead of the movie, and telling the fantasy casting is kind of like forcing people to see the movie first. On the other hand, there are authors who’ve dedicated their books to the actors who were their fantasy casting for characters.

You don’t have to “cast” your characters. It’s just one possible tool out of many. I only do it some of the time. There have been times when the casting was so obvious to me that I leaned in to it and watched some of that person’s movies just to make it clearer in my head. There have been a few times when I actually created a role for that person because there was something about them that intrigued me and I wanted to play with it. There have been times when I was struggling to get a grip on a character and casting the role made it all come together. I’d guess I did no casting at all for most of my characters, or I went so far from my original casting that I no longer associate that casting with my character. And I think half of my mental casting may actually be a procrastination method to allow me to watch things I like and call it work.


Fleshing Out a Character

I had a fun moment in my character development work this week that provides a good illustration of what happens during my process, so I thought I’d share. This will be more specific about how I go about creating characters, though I’ll avoid specific details since I don’t want to spoil my book, and I don’t even know exactly how it will go in the book because I haven’t started actually writing.

When I began my intense research phase for this series a couple of years ago, I initially was planning to model the main character for this book on a particular historical figure, so I started reading about this person. Along the way, I changed my mind about the character, so although she faces some similar situations as this historical figure, she isn’t actually anything like that person. But there were people in this person’s life I thought were interesting, and there was one in particular whose actions I thought might make for an interesting plot element, so I kept that in mind, jotting down a note in my “things that could happen” list.

Once I started thinking about the plot, after I thought I was done developing the main characters, I decided I needed to use this plot element, and that meant I needed a character to do these things. There was also a trope I wanted to play with, and I figured this character would be the perfect place to use this trope. At this point, the character was just a plot figure. I knew nothing about who he was as a person, just what he would do in the story, so I had to reverse engineer a character who was the sort of person who would do the kinds of things this character does.

The first bit of coming to life came when I figured out what he wanted and why. I knew what he was doing, but what did he hope to gain by doing it, and why did he want or need to gain that? Once I figured that out, I realized that fit well with another idea I’d come up with for this series.

The plan is that this will be a “world” series, with a bunch of interconnected books taking place in the same world, each with a different main character (though as I develop it, I’m thinking there might be miniseries within the series, with perhaps multiple books following some characters). I had a dream that gave me an idea for a later book in this series, and I realized that this character could be one of the characters for that idea, which is great because it allows me to set up that future book here and develop this character as a secondary character before he gets his own book. Pieces were starting to click into place, which is always satisfying.

Then I turned to some of my characterization shortcuts. There are a lot of personality profile things out there, things that give you a fairly coherent list of traits for a given personality type. Some common ones are zodiac astrology signs, the Myers-Briggs types, archetypes, and enneagrams. These are a good way to find a general personality type for a character and then find some common traits and issues that might come with that kind of person. I don’t end up slavishly adhering to any of these types, but they’re a great starting point for figuring out what kind of person a character might be while making the combination of traits feel believable instead of random.

And then once I have the rough basis for the personality, I can start going through a few lists of questions I ask myself about the characters, build a backstory, and generally flesh out characters so they start feeling like a person in my head. I know I’m getting close when I actually picture the person doing things while I answer the questions.

So now a guy who started as a possible plot idea has become a fleshed-out character who may get his own book down the line. I was prepared to dislike him, based on what he does in the plot, but now that I understand him better, he’s growing on me. The real test will be whether I can do him justice in the book and have him be in the story the way he is in my head.

writing life, My Books

No More Murder

I’ve been working on the next Lucky Lexie mystery, hoping to have something to release by spring or summer, but I’m putting that on hold for now because murder is hitting a little too close to home right now, and it just upsets me to write about it.

First, I heard a murder happen near my house last week. In my neighborhood, the houses don’t face the main street. That street is just lined with trees and brick walls, and the houses face side streets or cul de sacs. My house is on a corner, so my office window on the second floor of my house overlooks a lawn, a wall, and then that main street. Last Thursday, I was sitting at my desk, writing, when I heard five loud pops in quick succession. I was still trying to figure out if that was gunfire and if I should call the police when I heard sirens, and soon an ambulance and a bunch of police converged. They closed the street, and it looked like there was a crime scene team taking pictures and measurements. In a later news release, the police department said that a young man had been found shot in his car, and he’d died on the way to the hospital. According to security footage they got from a business across the street, someone in another car leaned out the window while he was stopped at the intersection behind my house and shot him. The license tags of the shooter’s car were covered, which makes it sound like it was a planned hit. Last I heard, they haven’t made any arrests.

I wouldn’t have seen anything even if I’d been looking up at the right moment, but it’s still a bit shocking to know that I heard the shots that killed someone, and someone was killed right by me, in what’s normally a very quiet neighborhood.

Then Wednesday night this week, I was watching the evening news when they did a story about a young woman being shot outside a coffee shop in the adjacent town. Then they said the victim’s name, and my heart dropped because I knew her. She’s the daughter of some old friends. I’ve known her since she was born. I was at her baptism. I had her baby picture on my refrigerator until a couple of years ago when I got a new one and cleared off all the clutter. I used to tease her about still having her baby picture on my fridge. I’ve watched her grow up and go off to college. The age they gave seemed a bit too old, so I was hoping against hope that maybe it was someone else with the same name who lived in the same town and was close to the same age. I was trying to think back to how long ago she was born, trying to reassure myself that she couldn’t be the victim because the age was wrong. But then I got an e-mail yesterday morning from the church giving the sad news and offering condolences for the family.

I’m utterly shattered. This beautiful, talented, sweet girl was shot by someone she knew, who then killed himself. And now I can’t make myself look at murder as something to make entertainment out of. I can’t write a funny, quirky story about the thing my friends are going through as they face the loss of their daughter. Not too long ago, I was laughing at myself because when I wrote the murder in the book I’m working on, I cried for the loss of this fictional person who hadn’t actually appeared in the book and I cried for his family’s loss.

Which is making me wonder if maybe this is the wrong genre for me. I think it’s important to humanize the victims and not dismiss the pain of their loved ones, but at the same time that really gets to me. When I was feeling burnt out last year, I wonder if maybe this had something to do with it, if it wasn’t so much because I was tired from working a lot or if writing about murder and what it does to the people left behind was getting to me.

I’m going to focus for now on this fantasy book I’m developing. I don’t think anyone will die in it. There’s no murder investigation, just some courtly intrigue. It’s possible that I may be able to return to the mysteries, but definitely not soon, and I’ll have to think about whether or not this is something I want to do. Until the mysteries, I hadn’t killed a character in a novel. I’d planned for a dragon to eat Mimi in No Quest for the Wicked, but I couldn’t bring myself to kill even her.


Creating Story People

I’m in the character development phase of my pre-writing process, and it’s a lot of fun “meeting” my new story people.

Writers often talk about whether they’re “character-driven” writers or “plot-driven” writers. I seem to be known for my characters. When I get fan mail, it’s almost entirely about the characters in my books, not about things that happen in the stories. I feel like characterization is my strength. But my plots almost always come first, or, at least, the situations do. I think of the story I want to tell, then figure out what kind of people I need to tell that story, or perhaps what kind of people will be most interesting in that situation. I almost never come up with the character first. Usually there’s some back and forth, where I have a vague idea for a story, think of a character who might fit that story, which gives me more details for what the plot might be, which then gives me more information about who the character is, etc.

I started developing this particular series a few years ago when I came up with a very big-picture structural concept for a series. In my list of stories I might tell within this series, the book I’m doing detailed development on now wasn’t even in the picture. It came up when I figured out what I was going to use to tie the books in the series together, and that made me realize there was a story I needed to tell to set up that element.

And then it started evolving. There was a historical figure I had in mind as a model for the main character, and that gave me ideas for supporting characters and things that might happen, but then I changed my mind about what the main character would actually be like, and now there’s a totally different kind of person in that role, but still with most of the supporting characters I came up with, and that makes for a really fun mix. Looking at my brainstorming notes over the past few years as my ideas shifted is interesting.

Until recently, the characters have all been very vague. I knew the most about one of the supporting characters, who seemed to spring to life fully formed. The rest I could picture physically, and I had a sense of their role with the plot, but I didn’t know who they were as people. I’ve come up with so many fun little details about them, and I’ve had a few little “tingle” moments, when I realize how a detail I came up with for one character might fit with a detail I just created for another character in a way that will either make them clash or work together really well. I generally try to avoid deliberately creating characters who will interact in a certain way. I just build people and then figure out how they’ll interact, and it’s exciting when I’ve done that and then see some interesting possibilities for what I can do with them. Sometimes there really is an actual tingle.

When I start with the character, it’s almost like the equivalent of a stick figure, except instead of sticks it may just be their story role. Then I add details until they’re more like a 2D drawing, and I keep going until I can see a flesh-and-blood person in my head. I like doing some writing exercises (sometimes actually writing, sometimes just in my head) in which I throw them into situations that may or may not actually make it into the book and try to picture what they would do or say. Seeing them in action like that gives me even more ideas to make them more real to me. I may come up with more information or insight about them while I’m plotting or writing.

I may be almost at the stage where I start plotting, but once I have more details about that, I’ll probably have to create some more characters.


Digital Minimalism

The Internet has been a real mixed blessing for me. It opened up the possibility for access to so much information and connection. I first started really using it to connect with other people who were interested in the same things I was, and that was life-changing. I’d always felt like such an outsider, and finding other people who were into the same things I liked was exciting. I’ve made so many good friends online, and I’ve been able to find and get back in touch with old friends. The access to information has also been wonderful, being able to look things up right away instead of having to go to the library. I can’t imagine writing the kinds of books I write now without being able to look things up without leaving my desk. I’ve promoted books in the days before the Internet was widely used, and it’s so much easier now (not that I do a lot of it or do it at all well, but there was almost nothing you could do in the old days).

On the other hand, it’s a huge time sink and attention hog. It’s so easy to fall down the research rabbit hole and find that the one quick fact you looked up has turned into an hours-long research project. It’s even easier to get sucked into social media. But I can’t step away entirely, since I do use the Internet for work, and for the past couple of years, most of my social life has taken place online.

I recently read an interesting book on how to find some kind of balance, Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. I’d previously read his Deep Work, about how multitasking doesn’t really work and how you need time and focus to do your best work. This book gets into how a lot of social media works on your brain and what you can do about it. It’s addictive (and designed to be that way) because it works on the same principle as a slot machine, with inconsistent and unpredictable rewards so you keep coming back.

I thought I was pretty bad, but after reading this, I think I may have it under better control than I thought. I don’t use any social media on my phone unless I’m traveling (or need to post a photo). I don’t have any notifications turned on, and my phone usually lives in my purse. I can go days before I notice a text. I may get sucked in while I’m at my desk, but you won’t find me sitting at a restaurant with other people, checking my Twitter notifications. I’ve been trying to take steps to minimize my online time, so I’m already somewhat on track with the recommendations in the book. I started working upstairs in my office and keeping my computer in my office instead of on the laptop desk I kept by my sofa. I’d fallen into the bad habit of checking online while I watched TV or movies, and it was killing my attention span. I’d get curious about who that actor was, look it up on IMDB, then end up reading about the rest of the cast, reading the trivia connected to the movie, etc., then while I’m there, might as well check e-mail, Twitter, etc., and next thing I knew, I’d missed half the movie. Having the computer upstairs has made a huge difference.

I’m also trying to break the “better check Twitter” reflex and stop using it as procrastination. I have a list of other things I can do if I don’t want to work, like my Norwegian lessons. I’m also trying to limit my social media time to a couple of times a day in designated slots, though I do sometimes slip, like yesterday when there was an incident on the street outside my house and I kept checking Twitter to see if the police department was saying anything about what was going on.

The thing suggested in the book that I haven’t been doing but that I want to implement is coming up with more active leisure pursuits. This came up last year when I was feeling a bit burned out and realized that my brain never got a break from story. My work is writing stories, and my leisure is either reading or watching stories. Newport suggests actually making things. Go online to learn how to do something, and then do it. This includes stuff like repairs, woodworking, art, cooking, music, etc. I think that’s a good idea, and I’ve been trying to have mostly offline weekends, in which I take care of the things I need to do online, then shut the computer off and do something else. To start with, I’ve been making a point of cooking on weekends, the kind of dishes I can’t really do on a busy weeknight, with chopping, measuring, stirring, and long cooking times. I need to get back into playing music. I’ve got an embroidery project I want to do (and I picked up a book on embroidery at the library today).

I need to get back to something he suggests that I used to do, which is scheduling and planning my leisure time. It sounds boring and lacking in spontaneity, but I’ve found that if I don’t have a plan, I tend to just sit and surf the net, but if I have a plan and a schedule, I’m more likely to do actual fun things.

If you feel the need to get your online life under control and rediscover your offline life, I recommend this book. It’s a quick read and quite thought-provoking.


Do You Take this Advice?

A few weeks ago, when I was doing the worldbuilding work for the project I’m developing, I looked up the video of Brandon Sanderson’s lecture on magical systems, which I’d seen mentioned in something else I read. It’s part of the course on writing science fiction and fantasy he teaches at BYU, and it was quite good. I ended up watching most of the other lectures in the course. From there, YouTube seemed to decide that I was interested in videos about writing, and that plunged me into the weird world of “AuthorTube.” There are a bunch of videos of authors giving writing advice, with how-to lectures, lists of the worst things you could do in a book, lists of things that are good or bad, etc. I backed quickly out of one because she was very strident and I disagreed strongly with her advice. Another had decent advice, but I recognized exactly where she got it because I’d read that book, and she was using the precise terminology without doing anything to make it her own or perhaps incorporate it into other things to create her own process. The weird thing was that I’d never heard of most of these people, and I’m pretty connected in the romance and SF/F worlds as well as in the independent publishing worlds. But it is entirely possible that there are very successful people I haven’t heard of, especially if their main interaction is on YouTube, where I mostly watch Saturday Night Live skits and history videos.

But then a video came up in my recommended list in which someone talked about reading the books written by some popular AuthorTubers and discovering that they’re actually terrible writers. Just watching part of that video seems to have made YT decide that I want to see more of that, so I was being flooded with videos about how bad this author’s books were. Some were really trying to be nice, talking about how she still produces good content and there are people who know a lot about books who aren’t necessarily good writers themselves, like editors and agents, but they couldn’t recommend these books. I looked up the other writer whose videos I’d seen, and this person who’s talking like a real authority on writing (while basically quoting but not crediting another author) has self-published two books. The reviews there were also about how she’s good at teaching writing, but she’s not a good writer, and people were really disappointed in her books after seeing her videos.

I’m not sure I agree that you can still take writing advice from someone who writes bad books. Those editors and agents who aren’t writers but who can still give good writing advice aren’t publishing bad books. They know where their skillset is and know writing is not it. If you’ve got good judgment about what makes a book good or bad, you’re not going to put your own bad book out. You’ll either fix it or realize that maybe writing isn’t your thing.

But how can you know whose advice to listen to, whether in a blog or a video?

  • First, I’d suggest looking at their credentials.
    Have they worked in publishing in some capacity, either as an agent or an editor? This might be someone who knows what they’re talking about, even if they haven’t written a book of their own.
  • Have they been traditionally published? Not that this means they’re automatically better than people who self-publish, but it does mean they’ve already been somewhat vetted. An agent likely took them on, and then a publishing company thought their book would sell well enough to make money. They’ve probably worked with an editor and copyeditor to improve their book, which is a very educational process. When checking whether someone has been traditionally published, make sure that the company that publishes them publishes more than one author. A lot of independent authors name their publishing company, so it doesn’t sound so much like they’re self-publishing.
    If they’re self-published (and maybe even if they’ve been traditionally published), take a look at the sample chapter available at the online bookstore and look at the reviews. Is there a trend in praise or criticism? Do you like this person’s writing? Do an Internet search on them and see what people are saying about them and how their advice works.
  • Have they published more than one book? I found that the process of writing later books is very different from writing the first book. I’m not sure I’d take advice from someone who has written only one book, unless they’re talking about the process of discovery they’re going through rather than “this is how you should write.” It’s after you’ve written several books that you start to get a better idea of how the process works for you.
  • Are they really dogmatic, talking as though there is only one right way to do things? If that’s the case, then I don’t think they know much about writing and may not know what they’re doing. The more I write, the more I realize how little I know. A process that works for one book doesn’t work for another. A writing method or trick I’ve used at one point in my career no longer works the same way as I move on. I suspect that some of the more strident ones are aiming to get controversy stirred up so that they get more views (hate views count the same way as earnest views in the algorithm) and interaction, and that means they’re more interested in being successful YouTubers than they are in being actual authors.

Incidentally, you should do this kind of vetting before you take advice from anyone. There was a story on the news here the other day about an Instagram “influencer” who was offering fitness and diet advice but it turned out that she had no credentials and her advice was even harmful, and her “influencing” was a come on to a scam in which she sold supposedly personalized diet and exercise plans that she didn’t actually deliver. Slick production and the sound of authority doesn’t actually mean someone is an authority.

I’d pondered maybe doing some videos on writing but feared I didn’t have the credentials. It seems I’m more than qualified compared to a lot of people doing this, given that I’ve been dealing with the publishing world since 1993 and actually make a living as an author. I’m thinking of maybe doing some “real world” advice, taking some of the writing theory and showing how it really applies when actually writing a book. I’d rather just write it as blog posts, but video would possibly get a different audience I haven’t already reached. Right now, though, I’m pretty busy with writing — which may be why most of the “how to write” videos aren’t by big-name authors. The authors I’ve heard of may have a few “how to write” videos, but otherwise most of their content is reader-oriented, giving news updates and progress updates or answering questions.


Swashbuckling Sea Fantasy

Over the past few weeks, I’ve focused my weekend movie nights on rewatching/watching the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. I saw the first three in the theater when they came out. I have the DVD of the first one and have watched it multiple times all the way through. The second and third were the sort of thing I’d stop on if I was channel surfing and they were on TV (back when I had cable). I don’t think I’d ever rewatched them straight through from beginning to end. I would drop in on them, watch my favorite parts, and then move on. I’d seen most of the fourth one on TV, but I don’t think I’d ever watched it through from beginning to end. There were scenes that were familiar, but there was a lot I didn’t recall. I hadn’t seen the fifth one at all.

It occurred to me while I was watching that these really are more “fantasy” movies than “pirate” movies. The only actual piracy — as in raiding, looting, and pillaging — happens near the beginning of the first film in the attack that kicks off the story. For the rest of the series, “piracy” is treated as a culture that’s being oppressed by the British government/East India Trading Company. It works like a secondary-world fantasy in which there’s something similar to something in our world, but is actually quite different in the way it works. The plots are all about breaking curses and finding magical objects or substances, and the resolutions to most of the stories involve magic in some way. I think the geography even works differently, since they seem to be making quick side trips to Singapore from the Caribbean, long before the Panama Canal. So, fantasy.

Looking at it that way, these movies actually work to scratch my itch for a particular kind of fantasy movie. There’s lots of swashbuckling adventure, a good dose of humor, and a dash of romance, all woven around magic and some decent worldbuilding (not so great if you’re looking at these as historical fantasy, set in a particular place and time, but it works pretty well if you consider it secondary-world fantasy where some of the places happen to have the same names as in our world).

I think the pacing on the second two movies gets weird. They’re very episodic, going sometimes rather abruptly from one sequence to the next. There’s a lot of “and then” instead of “so then.” It helped when I started thinking of those two movies as a season of a streaming series. They divide pretty neatly into episodes, so that you resolve something, that’s the end of the episode, and then you pick up in the next episode with a new problem.

The fourth movie doesn’t really work for me. I’ve mentioned the fact that it doesn’t have a protagonist. There’s a story line that just ends without any resolution. It gets better with the fourth film, where we have a protagonist again and a fun love interest. It’s lacking the magic (the storytelling kind, not the literal supernatural kind) of the original films, but it’s still a lot of fun.

Photo of the rigging at the prow of a tall shipI have a weird fascination with sailing ships, so I love the idea of a fantasy with a tall ship. There’s something so romantic about the image. The centerpiece of my last real vacation, a trip to Chicago, was an excursion on a tall ship on Lake Michigan. I got to help hoist the sails (hard work!) and then experience traveling only under sail power. I’d been on smaller sailboats before, but not one that big on that big a body of water. I seem to live in entirely the wrong part of the world for the things that fascinate me. A person who feels most alive in a forest and who loves tall ships probably shouldn’t be living on the prairie.

I need to find some sailing-focused fantasy novels to read. I loved the Liveships books by Robin Hobb. I’ll need to dig around for more.

Winter is Coming

We have the start of a winter event (now apparently even a named winter storm) kicking in. Supposedly, it won’t be like the one last year that had the whole state frozen and without electricity for days. At the very least, it will be below freezing for a much shorter amount of time, so even if the state’s power grid fails, it shouldn’t be too miserable and there should be less worry about frozen pipes and that sort of thing.

The rain is supposedly going to start this afternoon as the temperatures drop (it’s already getting colder, but no rain yet), and by tonight it’s supposed to be below freezing, so we’ll get ice. We so seldom get pretty snow, the kind of thing where you watch the flakes dance in the air as they fall. We get freezing rain and sleet, which aren’t pretty either to watch or when they’re on the ground, where they make travel hazardous. You can learn to drive on snow, but driving on ice, especially sleet on top of ice, is pretty much impossible.

I did the emergency grocery run yesterday. I wouldn’t have had to go out at all, but I’d have run out of milk on Saturday, and the weekend after a storm is usually even worse than a couple of days before the storm, even if the roads are clear by then. So, I’ve stocked up on milk, bread (something else I was running low on), plus picked up some cheese (for a meal that doesn’t require cooking) and a package of cookies (I had a coupon for a free package, and I learned last year not to count on being able to spend the time baking).

Since last year, I’ve picked up a camping lantern and a tea warmer that uses candles. I’ve got batteries for my flashlights and radio. I’ll need to be sure to charge my phone and tablet. I’ve done laundry, so I’ve got my warm clothes clean. The dishwasher is running now, and I’ve got a loaf of fruit and nut bread (something I can eat for breakfast without needing to toast it) rising to bake this afternoon. I’ll make a pot of tea tonight and put it in a thermos, since doing that last year really helped. It was nice to have something warm to drink on a cold morning when I had no power.

But I’m going to hope we just have a cold, icy day when I can make soup, maybe bake something, and spend the day under the electric blanket as I dream up a new story world and make some characters come to life.