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Crunch Time

I’m coming up to a really busy phase. This weekend is Easter weekend, and I’ve got a lot of singing to do.

Meanwhile, I’m working on communications for the Nebula Awards weekend for SFWA, so I’m doing a lot of admin-type work, relaying info to people and coordinating things.

And I’m trying to get some writing done, making slow progress on the book as I try to figure things out. The book that comes into being once you start writing is often very different from the book that exists in your head before you start writing, and reconciling those two books is often a challenge. I’ve found that I have vivid scenes in my head that no longer fit into the book that develops once I’ve started writing. It takes some effort to find out how those scenes could fit. Sometimes, they have to go. They may be lovely, but they no longer have anything to do with the story.

I’m also still gradually working on clearing out and organizing my office. I’ve found actual floor area. It’s very exciting. I’ve also realized just how many books I have. I got my bookcases organized and even had some extra space — and then I found the boxes of books in my closet. Most of those books fall into the “to be read” category, so I need to start reading from the TBR pile more often. But at the same time, I’m trying to read more current books to stay on top of what’s being published. It’s a real dilemma. I think I’m going to ruthlessly cull the TBR books down to only those I have any interest in ever reading.

So, that’s my life until late May. The choir stuff will ease up after this weekend, and then I’ll finish children’s choir on May 1. I guess it’s just the next couple of weeks that are going to be super crazy. The office organization may have to move more slowly until things ease up. I just want to keep making progress.

Losing Beautiful Things

I had a really hard time concentrating yesterday after we got news of the Notre Dame fire. I kept checking the news to see what the status was. I’m so glad it wasn’t quite as bad as it seemed it might be. They’d already removed a lot of the sculptures on the roof and spire because of the renovations, the spire was from the Victorian era and not original, and they seem to have saved the main structure, the rose windows, and the bell towers, along with the organ and the art and relics. But still, the damage is heartbreaking and distressing.

I feel a little guilty that one of my first thoughts upon hearing the news was to be glad that I’d seen the cathedral for myself already, but I suspect I’d have felt worse if I’d never seen it and I knew I’d never get to see it.

When we lived in Germany, we took a day trip to Paris one Valentine’s Day. We caught a tour bus around midnight, drove through the night, arrived in Paris in time for an early breakfast, spent the day there, left after dinner, and got home around midnight. Our first stop after breakfast was the cathedral. It was daylight, but the disc of the sun hadn’t really come over the horizon yet, so it was that gray, flat kind of light. Then the sun came up fully while we were inside the cathedral, and it was like all those windows exploded with light and color. That was the memory that kept coming back to me yesterday while we were awaiting the news about how bad the loss might be.

The other thing I found myself thinking about, oddly enough, was the time travel books by Connie Willis. There’s a short story, “Firewatch,” about a time traveler trying to help save St. Paul’s during the Blitz, and then that comes up again in the novels Blackout and All Clear, which are also about the Blitz. The time travelers are from a future in which St. Paul’s was destroyed in a terrorist attack, so getting to see the cathedral still standing is meaningful to them when they travel in time. I was thinking about that yesterday, that there might be people in the future who wish they’d had a chance to see Notre Dame as it was.

Then there was all the stuff about the destruction of Coventry Cathedral in To Say Nothing of the Dog, with the time travelers realizing they could save the artworks and relics since they were lost to history. Now the future has them, and they’re rebuilding a replica of the cathedral, based on observations by time travelers. The book mentions the theory that it was actually the Victorian-era renovations that caused the cathedral to fall, that if it had been left alone it might not have been totally destroyed. I don’t know how accurate that is, but since a lot of the destruction at Notre Dame involved things rebuilt during the 19th century, I had to wonder.

But the cathedral has been rebuilt before, many times. It may have been started in the 12th century, but it’s been added to, damaged, and rebuilt over and over again over the years. I just hate to see beautiful things damaged and destroyed.

Past the Block

I finally got past the tricky scene and not only have moved forward but have gone back to seeing the movie of upcoming scenes in my head, so I seem to have broken my block. I’m not sure why that one scene was so hard. It was what I was working on when I had my little meltdown last month, so maybe I associated it with that. Or it was just that I’d done so much planning for the beginning and got past the part I’d planned. Plus, I’d planned something else, realized that was wrong, and I wasn’t sure how to get back on track once the plans changed.

I’m going into a really busy week, so I’m not going to push myself too hard. I’ve got a big choir rehearsal tomorrow to get ready for all our Good Friday music, my kids are singing Sunday morning, there’s more rehearsing Wednesday, then we’re doing the Faure Requiem Friday night, more rehearsing Saturday, then three services Sunday. And then I will collapse.

This will probably be the week when I get editorial revision notes on my book for Audible.

I’m also gearing up for the Nebula Awards Conference next month. I’m helping with some of the preparation, and it looks like this will be the time when all the proofreading begins.

Meanwhile, I started tackling the upstairs in my ongoing organization project. It has become the place where I stash things as I organize the downstairs. When I got wi-fi, I started moving around the house to work and quit using my office so much, so the office got out of control. I aim to take the office back. I’d like to go back to working up there because I think it will help me stay more focused. I also want to have things organized because that will save me a lot of time in looking for things.

Yesterday, I got through one of the closets, and guess what I found? More candles. Seriously, it’s an issue. I also found some Christmas stuff I forgot I had. I’m putting all the holiday decor together in one spot, all the sewing/knitting stuff together, etc., which should make life easier in the future. It may take me a couple of weeks of half-hour daily sessions, but if I do this thoroughly and deliberately instead of just stashing things elsewhere, it may actually stick.

The Bookstore of My Dreams

Thinking about those (mostly British) “my life fell apart, so I moved to a picturesque village and opened a bookstore/cafe/bakery” books, I was pondering what I’d do in that situation, assuming that hiding in a house somewhere and writing books wasn’t an option. I don’t think it would work in a village, but in a decent-sized city, I think I’d want to open a female-oriented science fiction/fantasy bookstore.

My experience with specialty bookstores, or even general bookstores leaning toward genre, in that area hasn’t been all that great. They tend to be very “guy” spaces. They smell kind of nasty and are fully of creepy customers, and sometimes creepy owners/employees. They can be hostile to girls and women, either playing the “you’re a fake geek girl if you can’t answer my obscure trivia questions” game or drooling all over themselves at the thought of a girl who reads fantasy, so you get treated like a unicorn.

So, do a sf/f bookshop along the lines of some of those romance bookshops, focusing on fantasy, science fiction, paranormal romance, and maybe mysteries. It would be decorated nicely and smell good. There would be a tea shop, so you could hang out and drink tea and read the books you just bought. There might be special themed tea events, as well. Host book discussion groups, maybe some “girls’ night out” game nights. Story times with children’s books (to hook new fans). Maybe throw in some other girl geek type activities, like knitting/crocheting groups, possibly sell yarn on commission from local fiber artists who spin/dye.

Men would be welcome, since you can’t discriminate, but the idea would be to create a comfort zone for women where they don’t have to worry about being hit on, creeped on, challenged for their geek credentials, patronized, or any of the other stuff we have to deal with in geeky spaces. Anyone behaving like that would be asked to leave.

This is highly unlikely to ever happen because it would involve dealing with people on a daily basis, and that’s just not me, plus it would require large amounts of money to start something like this, but if someone wants to run with the idea, feel free and invite me to do a signing.


Today was a glorious spring day, so I decided to throw my schedule out the window and take a long walk down by the river. I needed to walk through the woods. The flowers were blooming, there were butterflies, and it was lovely.

I keep saying I want to do that sort of thing more often, so I went and did it.

It also kind of counts as work because I got in some great brainstorming while I was walking. Now I need to go write what I came up with.

Sparking Joy

In all my existential angst about figuring out my life, I’ve been really thinking about what makes me happy. I guess you could say I’m doing the Marie Kondo process on my life in addition to my closet and bookcase: what sparks joy? I need to remove the things that don’t spark joy so that I have room for the things that do. And that made me realize that I haven’t been prioritizing things that are actually important to me.

I really hate the term “self care” because I think it says something about our society that we have to coin a clinical-sounding term in order to justify doing things that make us feel good, and then that process got warped into the things we need “self care” to escape from as it became stuff like Instagramming your bubble bath and fretting about whether you got enough likes on it. But I do think it’s good to take time to do the things that make you physically and emotionally healthy, and to spend less time on things that are less likely to do that.

I’ve decided that one priority for me is getting my house in order. I’ve been gradually working on that for ages, but when I get busy with a project, it falls by the wayside. I seem to not be counting that as “work” so I feel like I’m wasting time or procrastinating if I do housework during a workday. But I think that this is important to me, so I’m going to dedicate time to it. It will be even more important if I go back to full-time work to have things in order before my schedule changes. I don’t really spend all my workday on actual work, so when I catch myself doing stuff like reading social media because I consider that to be part of my publicity, except I’m not saying anything so it’s not doing me any good, I’m going to stop and go organize something instead. I need to ask myself if doing something sparks joy, and then go do something else if it doesn’t. I think having my environment in order will really help my emotional health. Then I can have those spa nights or relaxing reading days in peace (and probably won’t be Instagramming them).

Not that my place is a total disaster (well, other than my office). I just really wish I could live in a space that feels like a hotel room with a bit more personalization.

Meanwhile, I’m spending the rest of my time writing and enjoying it more.

Out of the Comfort Zone

Sunday was a big “step out of the comfort zone” day for me. Our church was doing a Sunday focusing on women and their role in the church, so they had women doing all the major parts of the service. But we have two simultaneous services and one female pastor, so our pastor asked me to do the “sermon” part for the traditional service (since I had to sing in the choir). It wasn’t a regular sermon. What they were doing was a dramatic monologue done from the perspective of a woman in a Bible story, and they looked to me, as a writer, to write and present something.

I used to do a lot of drama stuff. In high school, I was in drama club. I was in plays and competed in things like prose interpretation and dramatic monologues. I took drama classes as most of my electives in college, and they were my favorite classes. I took some acting classes and was in a show when I was right out of college, so this was within my skill set. But doing a play is different from essentially presenting the sermon in church on a Sunday morning, especially when it was an unusual kind of sermon. There’s some resistance to “drama” in church. That made this a little scarier than reading scripture (which I’ve done) or even singing a solo.

I spent most of Saturday rehearsing it, trying to memorize it. Then it turned out on Sunday morning that there was a handy spot to hide my notes for reference, which relaxed me, though I ended up not even looking at them. I think it went pretty well, but I went into out-of-body experience mode and don’t really remember it. I just started talking and it all came out, and next thing I knew it was over and I had to run back to the choir to sing.

It’ll be nice to let the pastor talk next Sunday, I think.

And now back to writing my usual stuff.

Storms and Sirens

The new book is zipping along, and I think I even like it. I might be somewhat less productive today, since a storm came through around 3 a.m. There was thunder and lightning and heavy rain, which sounds really loud on my tile roof. Then the high winds kicked in, howling fiercely. The tornado sirens went off around 5 a.m., really waking me up (I’d been dozing but not really sleeping). The odd thing was, the weather radio never went off.

I keep my tablet near my bed, since I use it as an e-reader, so I picked it up and checked Twitter, where I follow several local TV meteorologists, the National Weather Service, my city, and my city’s police department. It turned out they’d sounded the sirens for high straight-line winds. They’d recorded winds as high as 78 miles per hour at the airport nearby. But by the time they sounded the sirens, the worst of the winds seemed to have passed. Still, the sirens went on for a good 45 minutes.

I probably should have just got up, since there was no sleeping during all that, but I wasn’t entirely awake, either, and ended up falling back asleep and having weird dreams and then sleeping late. Now I’m groggy and behind on the day. Fortunately, I don’t have to deal with the kindergarten choir tonight. At least all that lying semi-awake gave me an opportunity to brainstorm the next scene I need to write.

I don’t seem to have any real damage in my immediate area. The patio fence that tends to fall down is still standing. My patio table is still upright. There were a lot of leaves and twigs on my front porch, but I don’t see any roof tiles on the lawn.

I see a lot of tea in my future today, and possibly a nap.

The Movie in My Head

I was talking yesterday with someone about what goes through my head when I’m working on a book, and I guess it can seem kind of odd to someone who doesn’t live that way.

Strangely, I have both a movie playing in my head and narrative, at the same time, so it’s like a movie that contains voiceover narration that covers everything. I both see the action and hear the words describing the action, though sometimes it varies. Earlier in the process, there may be bits that I see, and then I find the words to describe them. Or I may have just the narration, like in cases where the narrator is talking about thoughts and feelings, and later figure out where these things fit in the action, and then the movie scenes will build.

I never really see a complete “movie” straight through. I see scenes, and not always entirely in order. They may repeat in different ways until I feel like I’m getting them right. I’ve seen some of the opening scenes for the story I’m developing now in multiple ways, sometimes adding stuff and sometimes subtracting stuff as I figure out how they should really go. At times, the “movie” remains the same but the narration changes. That’s when I’m figuring out the exact words.

Not all the scenes in the “movie” make it into the book. Some are backstory that doesn’t need to go in the book but that I need to know. Some are figuring out the characters — again, stuff I need to know but that may not belong in the book. Some are just figuring out the world. Right now, there’s a scene I really like because it says so much about the world and the characters, and it’s just really lovely imagery, but I suspect it won’t go in the book because it’s really just “ordinary world” stuff and doesn’t push the plot forward. It only delays getting to the main action, so it may have to remain a memory for the character that doesn’t play out “on stage,” so to speak.

The other thing that tends to happen to me is that I find myself seeing the world through my main character’s eyes. One of the traits of this heroine is that she’s really good with animals, at a supernatural level. They instinctively like and trust her, and she’s good about sensing what’s going on with them, but she’s not conscious of this as a special gift. It’s just the way she is. Well, yesterday I went to lunch with someone, and while I was waiting for her, I was admiring the aquarium in the restaurant lobby. It was a floor-to-ceiling pillar, and the fish were huge, most of them about the size of my hand. They all rushed over to where I was standing, reminding me of the way dogs act when you visit their home, clustering around you and seeking attention. Some even turned so that their eyes were facing me directly, making eye contact with me. I found myself thinking about how all animals seem to be drawn to me — and then I remembered that was the character, not me. I suspect the fish thought they were about to get fed, so there was no mystical bond happening.

Right now, I have at least bits of “movie” for the first third of the book, and a few random scenes from later in the story. I need to start developing the secondary characters, but otherwise, I think I’m about ready to start writing. It’s a good sign that I find myself thinking so much about these people and their world, but it does make “adulting” hard when I just want to play in my story world. Yesterday was busy, with a business lunch, some errands, and then a meeting in the evening. Today I don’t have to go anywhere, so I can wallow in my imaginary world.

Awkward Convention Moments

My weekend was something of a mixed bag. It was good to catch up with some friends at the convention, and I actually learned something and got a lot out of some of the panels I went to. But I also had some rather negative panel experiences.

One wasn’t too bad, just a That Guy panelist who thinks that because he’s self published a book, he’s an authority on everything, but I was the moderator, and he wasn’t too difficult to hold back. I’ve seen far worse, and I think he was more on the enthusiasm end of things than the arrogance end of things.

But then there was the Panel From Hell. I was generally planning to hold back on that one because while I have thoughts on the topic, I’m less of an authority than most of the other people on the panel, and I was going to defer to them. But then there was a panelist who wasn’t going to defer to anyone. If she had a thought, she expressed it, even if someone was already talking about something. If she figured out where someone was going with a thought, she’d jump in to complete their thought, and then talk some more. I tend to just shut down in those circumstances. You can’t win when you can’t get a word in edgewise, and you only end up looking like a jerk if you try to shout over them. The other panelists could barely get their say, and I didn’t want to take time away from them, so I just sat there and let it wash over me. Then the moderator specifically asked me for input, I started to say something, and the rest of the panel picked it up and ran with it, so I sat there some more. Near the end, the moderator came to me again, mentioned that I hadn’t had the chance to say much, and asked me for any thoughts. I started to say something, and that panelist jumped in on me again, talking over me and picking up my thought to go on and say her piece on it. That was when I lost it. I raised my voice over hers and said, “May I please be allowed to complete my thought?” It got quiet, and I was finally allowed a complete sentence. It was very awkward and uncomfortable.

I don’t think there was malice involved. It was just a degree of self-absorption that spiraled out of control. She did later apologize, which was even more awkward because I think she expected me to say it was okay, but it wasn’t, and I didn’t entirely buy her excuses (if you know you have that tendency, then you either come up with coping mechanisms to curb yourself, or you decide that paneling isn’t for you because it’s probably doing her more harm than good).

Needless to say, I came home utterly exhausted. But now my next convention is the Nebula Awards weekend conference, and that’s more of a professional conference than a convention. And then I don’t have another fan convention until September.

But I did get a good idea for something new I want to try, so stay tuned for news.

Now to get myself back in gear and back to work. Mondays after conventions are always tough because I feel like I didn’t get a weekend, but I really need to treat today like a work day.