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The nice thing about not taking a holiday as a holiday is that today doesn’t feel like a Monday in spite of it being Friday. It’s just Friday. I didn’t necessarily keep to my regular work schedule, but I did hit my word count for the day.

I didn’t manage to see any fireworks. I like watching fireworks, but I really don’t like crowds or traffic, and the thought of dealing with the swarm of humanity leaving just about any fireworks display is a total turnoff. I was actually in bed, reading, last night when the display near me was happening. It was close enough to hear it, but in the wrong position for me to see anything. I was asleep soon after the explosions stopped, so the exhaustion would have hit me when I was on the way home if I’d gone. Writing may not be hard physical labor, but intense writing is really tiring. I seem to need a lot more sleep when I’m in heavy writing mode.

I’m so close to the end of this book that it’s tantalizing. I have fewer than 4,000 words to hit my target word count, but I suspect I have a bit more story than that. I’m about to get into the climactic action, and then I’ll also need to write the resolution. Last night, I started seeing the movie of it in my mind, so now I have a sense of how it will play out, and it’s oddly different from what I initially pictured. It’s funny how I may have one mental image when I start writing a book, but it shifts along the way as I write.

And now, back to the story.

Boot Camp July

I can’t believe it’s July already. That means I have about two more months of the worst of summer, and it hasn’t been that bad yet.

I’ve declared July to be my Life Boot Camp month. It’ll generally be too hot to do much of anything, most of my extracurricular activities aren’t happening this month, and there’s little on TV. So I’ll be devoting the month to intense writing and doing some reading and study relating to writing, life, and other things. Meanwhile, all the fruits and veggies are in season, so I’ll be eating well.

In August, I’ll let myself take a little break. Kids will be back in school in the middle of the month, so I can go do things during the school day with fewer crowds.

At least, that’s the plan at the moment. These things tend to be subject to change. That’s the beauty of working for myself. My boss is occasionally flexible.

Though I didn’t get off to a great start this morning. I knew I was going to the library, so I delayed my morning walk until then, but I didn’t do much else in that time. It was cool enough for breakfast on the patio, which was nice, and I did some planning, but wasn’t all that productive. Then again, I did end up getting exercise with the walk to the library, I took some books with me to donate, which helps clear out some of my book clutter, I picked up some books relating to my Boot Camp, and planning is essential for ultimately getting things done. Now that all this has been taken care of, I can settle down and do some writing. I hope to finish this draft this week before I get revision notes on the other project.

Thoughts Into Words

I’ve been having a weird writing week in which thoughts are flying furiously, but they’re not translating into words. I can see the scenes playing out or feel what’s going on with my characters, but then I sit at the computer and the words don’t come out through my fingers. Maybe this means I need to do brainstorming instead, just capture all those thoughts without trying to put them into narrative.

Unfortunately, this is happening for other writing I need to do, including e-mails. Just trying to translate ideas into words for a blog post has been a challenge. I’m normally a very verbal person. Words are how I express myself, so it’s weird to have all these ideas swirling around in my head and not have a way to get them out.

I think some of it may be a case of spring fever, since we had a weird front come through Sunday and now it feels like spring again. I’m enjoying having the windows open and a cool breeze coming through. It makes me want to read and nap and just listen to the birds singing. I know the summer weather will return eventually, alas.

Thinking really is an important part of writing, so maybe I just need to get all these thoughts processed, and then I can turn them into a story.

First Class

One fun thing about last week’s trip was that I got to sit in first class on the way to LA. I have a ton of frequent flier miles that I haven’t used and don’t have plans for (since I mostly fly on business, and that means it’s a tax deduction, so I want to be spending the money), so I thought I might as well use them to upgrade. But when I called about that, they said there weren’t any upgrades available. They put me on a waiting list, and that was the last I heard. Then when I got the “your flight is ready for check in” e-mail, I noticed that my seat assignment was different, and it was first class.

It was nice, but I’m not sure it’s really worth the cost difference if you’re actually paying for the ticket. You get to board early before there’s a huge crush of people, and they serve you drinks while everyone else is boarding. The seats are a bit wider and there’s more leg room — and I had the bulkhead seat in the front row, so there was even more room. There was actual food instead of a little bag of pretzels. Your bag gets tagged as priority and supposedly comes out first (which did happen in LA, but I noticed on the return flight that it didn’t seem to make any difference). And you don’t get charged extra for the bag.

I did enjoy the extra room. I’m small, so I fit fairly well into regular airplane seats, but on the return trip when I didn’t get the upgrade, I spent most of the flight with the elbow of the woman next to me in my ribs. I think the thing I enjoyed most was the food. It was a flight that spanned lunchtime, and because of the time difference, it would end up being much later to my body by dinnertime. Normally, I’d have snacked on things I brought (peanut butter crackers, a clementine, some nuts), but I got a hot meal, and then later they brought around fresh-baked cookies. There was enough food to work as lunch and hold me over to a fairly late dinner.

If I’m ever rich, first-class travel may be one way I indulge myself because it does seem to make me feel less stressed and tired upon arrival. It’s nice having my personal space bubble intact on an airplane. In the meantime, I have to hope the upgrades come through. I wonder how many people traveling in first class actually bought first-class tickets and how many are upgraded.

Home Again

I am home from my wanderings, but I can’t take too much of a break because I have a deadline rapidly approaching. Eep! I have let myself goof off this morning because I had a very long day of travel yesterday, with my flight taking off at around the time it was supposed to be landing. But after a grocery store run because I desperately need vegetables, it’s going to be back to work.

It was a really good conference, and I’m still processing all the information I gathered. I have story ideas and business ideas. I made a lot of new friends and caught up with old ones. I didn’t see much of California beyond what I could see from my hotel window and the trip to and from the airport, but it rained more than is apparently common, and the flowers were glorious.

There was also an epic viewing party of the Game of Thrones finale — a big screen, big speakers, and a room full of science fiction and fantasy writers. There might also have been alcohol involved (though I had to mostly abstain if I wanted to be awake for the episode).

I must have done okay with my communications stuff because they were talking as though they assumed I’d be doing the same job next year. It seems that a job skill I didn’t know I had was being a good middle manager — getting the information needed from above and getting the work done from below.

It’s good to be home, with my own bed, my usual schedule, and access to nutritious food. Seriously, I need vegetables. When you’re eating in restaurants, it’s hard to find non-salad vegetables. There are salads, and then the “vegetarian plate” tends to involve plant-based proteins, but there aren’t a lot of other vegetables. I reached the point when I was desperately craving carrots.

Once I mentally process all the information I took in, I may have some blog post ideas. But first, I have to finish book revisions.

Off for the Week

I had a busy weekend getting all our publication documents ready to go (well, making sure other people got them ready to go), and now I can get back to my own preparations for the Nebula conference this week.

This will be my second trip to Los Angeles, but I didn’t see that much the first time since I was there for less than 24 hours. I went to the Hollywood premiere of Serenity (the Firefly movie), and I wasn’t even there long enough to get a hotel room. I flew in that morning, hung around with friends at their hotel during the day, went to the red carpet, movie, and party, went back to the hotel, changed clothes, and caught the shuttle to the airport, then caught the 6:30 a.m. flight home. I did see a few things along the way, but mostly it was a blur.

I doubt I’ll see much this time other than the trip from airport to hotel and maybe whatever’s around the hotel. But that’s okay because I’m there for the conference.

I will probably be scarce the rest of the week because I’ll be busy either getting ready or traveling. I’m more likely to be tweeting this week than writing blog posts, so you can follow me on Twitter, @ShannaSwendson, for updates.

The To-Be-Read Stash

I’ve been trying to get my massive book collection under some kind of control because I’ve run out of places to put books. For the books I’ve read, I’ve purged down to the ones I know I’ll want to reread. I pulled the books I haven’t read out of the keeper shelf because them being there meant I forgot I had them, which is why I never got around to reading them.

Now I’ve got to deal with the epic to be read stash, which currently takes up part of the small bookcase in my bedroom, plus several boxes. I’ve already done a pretty massive purge, letting go of a lot of the romance novels I got when I was attending romance writing conferences. I had to admit that with all the books there are to read, I was probably never going to read those.

I’m left with a few romance novels by friends that I got when I went to their booksignings, but I may slice the autograph pages out and pass the books on because I’m not actually in touch with most of those friends anymore and they aren’t books I’d have chosen if I hadn’t known the authors. Then I have a small stash of the older traditional Regency romances that aren’t being published anymore. These are the ones that are essentially Georgette Heyer imitations. These work as comfort reads and can be a lot of fun, though I’ve already put one on the donation bag because it was just too sexist for me to tolerate. Most of the stash right now is science fiction and fantasy books from conference goody bags. I really try to sort through those at the conference so I’m only taking books I know I’ll want to read, and that means I’ve got a lot of books I want to read and don’t want to get rid of. I’m hoping that by organizing these books and putting them in the bedroom bookcase where they’re really obvious, I’ll be more likely to pick them up and actually read them.

My main problem with the to-be-read pile is that they keep publishing other things I want to read. My efforts to keep up with what’s currently being published make it harder to dig into the backlog. I’m going to try to get to the books that are handed out this year so they don’t get added to the backlog and so that I’m reading current things. Win-win!

I usually end up reading a book or two during the conference so I don’t have to take those home with me. That may be what I do in the mornings when I wake up well before the conference starts.

Getting Ready to Go

I’ve been so busy with rewriting my book and managing communications for the upcoming Nebula conference that I’ve kind of forgotten about getting ready to actually go to the conference. Like, what I should wear. I’ve got room in my closet after a big wardrobe purge, but I don’t really have anything that’s suitable for the occasion and conditions that I haven’t already worn a lot to previous events where I’ll run into the same people. So I think I’m going to take a little time today to see if I can find at least a few new tops.

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, part of this conference will be a huge booksigning that’s open to the public. It’ll be the afternoon of Saturday, May 18. All the details are at this site. Come meet all your favorite authors and say hi.

I’m also on a few panels for the conference, in addition to being on the conference staff.

I’m probably not going to manage to be much of a night owl at this event because the time zone is two hours behind me and I’m not good for late nights even at home. I’ll be falling asleep around 9 in the evening. I’m not sure I’ll even make it to the awards ceremony (since I’m not presenting this year). It doesn’t start until 8, which is 10 to my body, and I’m usually sound asleep by 10:30 or 11. I’ve been trying to shift myself a little later this week, but I don’t know how well that’s working.

So, off to pick up my travel necessities and see if I can find a shirt or two that will go with skirts and slacks I already have.

Screen Time

For the past couple of nights, my exercise time viewing was a program I recorded last week about screen time. I was feeling a bit smug because I’m not one of those people who’s addicted to their phones. They were saying that people unlock their phones an average of 80 times a day, and I can go days without looking at my phone. I think I use it as a music player more than anything else. I don’t have notifications set for anything but texts or phone calls, and even then I mostly keep my phone on silent since I get so many fake calls every day that having a ringer on would be disruptive.

But if I’m being honest with myself, my screen of choice is my laptop. I don’t look at my phone very much, and the only time I do any kind of social media on my phone is when I’m traveling, but when I’m at home, I probably spend more time on screens than I should. It’s difficult to quantify, since my work involves being on my computer, and social media is to some extent part of my work. But I also recognize that it’s become something of a boredom crutch. The moment I’m not engaged in doing something else, my impulse is to check social media or otherwise goof around online.

On the program, they were talking about how sites like Facebook and Twitter are built around not giving you a logical stopping point. No matter how much you scroll, you’re going to run across something you haven’t seen before since they throw in posts that people you follow have liked or re-posted. That keeps you scrolling and scrolling for fear of missing out on something. I think that explains a lot. Back in the heyday of blogs, people posted once a day, so even though the posts were long, I spent a lot less time online reading them. The feed, whether using a feed reader or something like the LiveJournal friends list, was in chronological order and stayed that way, so you could easily find the first thing you hadn’t read, catch up on what was new, and then stop knowing you’d seen it all. If there was a discussion going on in comments, you could opt to get notifications about new comments without having to go back constantly. Going back a bit further into the days of Usenet, you could set your news reader to only show you new posts. Again, you could get through the new stuff you cared to see in a short amount of time and then move on.

But Twitter and Facebook seem totally opposed to just giving a chronological feed of the things you’ve said you want to see. They throw in things the people you follow like or comment on, and I think they withhold some posts to show up later if you check often. It’s all a jumble. And it does seem like this is why. They don’t want you to ever realize you’ve come to a stopping point.

I’m trying to be a lot more mindful about this and limit my impulse to just check online when I have a down moment. Yesterday, when I was taking a revision break between chapters, I started to automatically check Twitter and instead practiced my choir music, stepping away from the computer. That’s another reason I need to get my office in order. I want to go back to keeping my computer upstairs so that it takes more effort to go check it. I’ve tried trimming my lists to see only things I really enjoy seeing, which has helped some. I still think I’d be shocked if someone timed the amount of time I spend, the way they did in that program. The teenagers in one family were spending 12 or more hours a day on their phones. They were finding that schools that made students lock up their phones during the school day saw an increase in test scores and a decrease in behavior issues like bullying. And people who take a lot of selfies tend to feel worse about their appearance and more critical of themselves.

I’m guessing this is going to be a whole new area of psychological research in the coming years.

Dreams and New Ideas

We’re supposed to get nasty storms this afternoon, so this morning was my rush around doing errands before it starts storming time. Now I have groceries, medication and other supplies, and have filled up my car, so let it rain! (But preferably not hail.)

I think I’m making progress on my revisions. I got four chapters done yesterday and figured out a big shift I could make to make things flow better. Today may be slower since I’ve hit a part that needs more substantial rewriting. I’m actually kind of enjoying this because it’s making the book closer to the vision I had when I came up with the idea. I seem to have been in a slump when I was writing it because it mostly seems a bit flat. I’m adding a lot of emotion and oomph to it.

Meanwhile, I’ve come up with yet another idea. I was afraid I was going to have nightmares after the very intense thing that was on TV Sunday night, but instead I dreamed a new book that had nothing to do with that intense thing and maybe owed more to the PBS Les Miserables, which I didn’t watch until Monday night. It’s in a category people have asked me about writing but that I haven’t had an idea for, and now I have an idea. As usual, when I wrote down what I know, I had about two paragraphs (though if I dramatized it, I might have been able to write about five pages), but I’ve got a title, a main character, a rough sense of the situation and world, the inciting incident and opening scene, and a general sense of the core of the plot, plus a scene later in the book. And it all still made a lot of sense when I wrote it down. It wasn’t just a wacky dream of an idea that made no sense in the light of day.

I know it’s nowhere near ready to write because it’s not distracting me from my revisions, like a lot of shiny new ideas do. There will be research required, and I think maybe even a trip.

But first, I have to deal with the things currently on my plate.