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Cool, Rainy Saturdays

I should be more or less back to a normal schedule this week — just in time to go on vacation next week, which means I need to work really hard and get a lot done so I can thoroughly appreciate vacation.

Last week was my birthday, and then I got to spend two days waiting on an air conditioning technician for my annual checkup (I was scheduled for Thursday morning, but they were running so behind that after I’d waited all morning, they had to reschedule me for the next day). The week before was music and art camp. All that added up to disrupting my usual schedule.

But I had a really nice weekend, which included a cool, rainy Saturday. In fact, it was a record low high temperature for that date. I was forced to implement the Emergency Cool, Rainy Saturday Protocols, which meant I canceled all plans so I could sit at home with the windows open, listening to it rain as I read and drank tea. You don’t waste a Saturday like that, especially in August.

It’s still cooler than normal and raining off and on, but it’s not quite at the fall-like state of Saturday, a day I will treasure in my heart until maybe October.

Rain is also good for writing, so I’m hoping for some showers this afternoon.

Happy Birthday to Me

I’m celebrating my birthday today, and it’s one of those big round number birthdays. I had a grand day out planned, but I seem to keep pulling back what I want to do because I really didn’t want to drive across town. So I think I’ll end up seeing a movie at my neighborhood theater (where I’ll get free popcorn), and I may do a little shopping afterward to buy myself some gift to serve as a token to mark the occasion.

I’ve already had a weekend with my parents, a party with friends, and dinner with friends, so this is turning into an ongoing celebration. But then, this is a pretty big milestone day.

I’m going to see Christopher Robin because I figure that’s an apt movie to see when I’ve reached an age at which I can no longer deny that I really do count as a grown-up, even if I don’t feel like it. I’m a very responsible person, so I’m adult in that sense, but my job is making up stories, and it’s hard to really be a “grown up” doing that.

Back to Semi-Normal

I’m back to having a semi-normal week. I say “semi” because it’s my birthday this week, and it’s a big one, which means celebration. I already had a couple of celebrations this weekend, and I’m giving myself the day off, but then I’m also kind of tired today from being unusually social this weekend (and still recovering from last week), so maybe it should be a four-day weekend. And you can see where this is going.

This is why it’s important to keep momentum going. Once I lose momentum, it’s difficult to get started again. I think today will be a brainstorming day, then on my grand day off/out tomorrow I’ll stew over what I brainstormed, and then when I get back to work, I may have it all planned out. It will also be cooler, so maybe I’ll be able to think better.

My incentive for getting some work done today: It looks like Thursday might count as a rainy day, and it’s been so long that I need to invoke my rainy day policy for a reading/movie day.

Responsible Adult

I’ve been out all week volunteering at a music and art camp for children, so my mornings have been spent herding kindergarteners around from activity to activity. It was fun, but very tiring. Now I need to get back to work, but I’m not sure my brain will cooperate. I’m being a bit of a slug this morning, and I’m tempted to give myself at least part of the day off today. Really, my birthday is early next week, so this could count as an extended holiday, but I do have stuff that needs to be done.

I haven’t quite finished the book I’m working on. I just have one more chapter to go, but it’s a big one with events I’ve been building to for a very long time, and I want to get it right. I need to think about what will happen, and that will require taking some time when I’m not distracted or falling asleep. This week, if I sat still for very long, I’d soon be drifting off.

Small children really are exhausting. As is being the Responsible Adult. It is nice to go back to not being responsible for anything but myself and some fictional people.

So Close …

I reached my target word count on the book, but I still have story left, so it may be a bit longer than my original plans. But that’s okay because it means I can cut anything I don’t love in the next draft.

The tricky thing is balancing all the characters. I realized that a secondary character I’d set up had vanished toward the end, so I found a way to include her in the big, climactic scene. My cast has grown to rather epic proportions and making sure everyone has a role to play can be difficult.

I may need a chart to keep track of everything and everyone.

And I’m finishing this book just in time, because my agent will soon be getting back to me on the book she’s been looking at, so I may soon have revisions to do on that one.

And there’s been a call for submissions for a science fiction/fantasy Christmas novella anthology, so maybe that’s what I could do for this year’s holiday story. But I need to write it, first.

So, off to work …

My Writing Wisdom

The heat wave has temporarily somewhat broken, in that it was cool enough for me to walk outdoors this morning and it’s not yet 100 degrees now. I was even able to go out on the patio and tend to my plants without suffering. I finally managed to repot my basil plant because I could stay outdoors long enough.

Over the weekend, I started going back through some of my old writing posts to see if I might have the material for a book on writing. It turns out that the last time I compiled the posts into a document was in 2009. It’s amazing how much the world of publishing has changed since then. I hadn’t delved into independent publishing then. It was just something sort of on the horizon. Now I have nearly 10 years of additional posts. I’ll probably cull to only use the best, and some may be combined, where I have multiple posts on the same topic. And I’ll probably write some new, exclusive material.

One reason I want to do this is to practice formatting an e-book, using the resources I have. I want to see what I can do. Then I hope maybe putting this out there would get my name out, and I might make a little money along the way. So, win-win-win.

I don’t really have a target date, since this is something I’m doing in my spare time, but if you ever wanted to have my collective wisdom about writing and publishing, stay tuned for more news.

Heat Wave

We’re in the middle of an intense heat wave (high temperatures in the 109 range, still 100 degrees at 9 p.m., low temperatures in the mid to upper 80s), which has required some adaptation of my daily routine. It’s already in the upper 80s before 7 a.m., so I’ve been skipping my morning walk in favor of jogging indoors on my mini trampoline.

Because running in place is boring, I’ve been amusing myself by watching a documentary series on Tolkien’s influences. The episodes are just under half an hour long, which makes them the perfect length. The series was made for French television, but it’s narrated in English and they’ve added an English translation to the soundtrack when people are speaking French (but if people who speak English are talking, we hear them in English). The illustrator who did a lot of the production design for the Lord of the Rings movies goes looking for Tolkien’s influences in myths and legends, guided by a professor, which has him visiting a forest in Brittany, Tintagel, some castles on the Rhine, Iceland, and Oxford. The scenery is lovely, and it’s interesting hearing all the various legends. I finished that series this morning, but the worst of the heat may break tomorrow, so I may be able to walk outdoors in the morning.

Meanwhile, I’ve been avoiding cooking so I don’t heat up the house. I’ve made tea and toast, and last night I microwaved some corn on the cob, but otherwise I’ve been eating cold food. I’ve tried a few salad recipes that fit within the Mediterranean Diet guidelines, and I scored yesterday when I found a roasted chicken on clearance (one of the ones that didn’t sell when it was hot, so they sell it as cold food the next day). So I’ve got plenty of chicken to throw into salads. Otherwise, I’ve been eating a lot of watermelon, berries, and cherries. Although this started as a way to not heat up the house, I’ve been enjoying the food, and it’s good for me, so although I might start cooking again some when it cools down, I’ll definitely keep these recipes in rotation.

This has also been a good time to hole up inside and read and write. During the really hot part of the day, I don’t want to be doing anything more active. It’s nice to just sit under the fan.

We may stay under 100 tomorrow, then it’s back to around 100 but not as high as it has been, and next week the highs are supposed to be in the lower to middle 90s, which sounds kind of like a cold snap in comparison to what we’ve had. Still, I’m looking forward to October, and I’m hoping this is the worst of it and August won’t be so brutal.

Moving More

I took the day off from the blog yesterday because I had a doctor’s appointment, and it was one of those that required fasting, so when I got home, I had to make an early lunch, and the day got away from me from there.

It seems I’m basically healthy, other than needing more vitamin D and needing to lower my LDL cholesterol a bit. It’s not high enough to be a problem or to warrant medication, but lifestyle adjustments are a good idea to keep it from becoming a problem. Which means more exercise and sticking a bit closer to the Mediterranean diet. I’m already pretty close to it. I just don’t eat a lot of fish and probably have more cheese than I should. Mmmm, cheese. And wouldn’t you know, I bought meat and cheese on my way home yesterday, before I got the test results.

More exercise is probably my biggest opportunity for change. I’ve been walking a couple of miles every morning, but the rest of my day is quite sedentary. I need some slightly more intense activity, which is a challenge with bad knees. I guess I need to swim more often in the summer, maybe use my jogging trampoline, possibly invest in an exercise bike. Or just make a point of planning dance breaks throughout the day. I don’t think I’m quite at the point of wanting a treadmill desk, though it could be amusing to see me trying not to fall off the treadmill when I’m really caught up in what I’m writing. I barely manage to sit up without falling over when I’m really getting into it. Being coordinated enough to think, type, and walk just isn’t happening.

It looks like there are foldable exercise bikes, which might work with my space issues. I could set it up in the living room and bike while watching TV, then fold it up and put it away when I have company or just want to have space in the living room.

The real trick would be using it as something other than a clothes rack after the first week or two. I do have a little pedal thing that you put in front of a chair and can pedal like a bike, but it’s a bit flimsy and tends to wander around the floor when I get going, so it’s like pedal a minute, stop to move it back in place, pedal another minute, stop to move it back.

So now I guess I should schedule movement into my day along with writing.

Summer Joys

Now that I’ve had some transition time and a weekend, I’m ready to dive back in to book 9. Over the weekend, I read a book with some motivation techniques, so I feel all armed and ready to stay focused and get my work done. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Summer isn’t my favorite time of year, which makes it the ideal time of year for me to get a lot of writing done. I can hide in my cave and write while it’s too hot outside to do anything else. My bedroom becomes my office at this time of year because it’s the coolest room in the house. It’s the first vent off the air conditioner, so it’s cooler in that room. There’s only one relatively small window that’s under the shade of the front porch. The ceiling is high, and there’s a ceiling fan. Some adjustment of the bed base, a backrest pillow, and my lap desk, and I’ve got an office. I’ve even considered getting one of those hospital bed table things.

I’m also trying to remind myself of things I like about summer. One is fresh fruit. I may turn into a cherry at some point. I love fresh cherries, and at this time of year, they’re cheap. Any other time of year, and they’re ridiculously expensive. I eat cherries with yogurt at breakfast, use cherries as my word count reward while I write, and I’ve made a sort of mock cheesecake with cream cheese, Greek yogurt, some vanilla and a little honey that I use as a topping for cherries for dessert. I also have blueberries and peaches, and I snack on watermelon in the afternoon.

And there’s the swimming pool. I keep forgetting about that. We have a community pool that doesn’t get a lot of use during the week, so it’s like having a private pool. On hot afternoons, the water is just the right temperature because it gets morning sun. It’s still cool enough to feel good, but not so cool that it’s shocking. There are trees to the west that block the afternoon sun, so I can swim comfortably without getting a sunburn.

I kind of like that it’s in between TV seasons, so there’s nothing much on. That frees up time to catch up on all the stuff that’s streaming, or my DVD collection, or DVDs from the library, or read.

There are fireworks at the lake every Friday night during the summer. That’s nice to hit every so often, and it means getting a firework fix without all the crowds of July 4.

So, there are a few things to like about summer. Still, if I ever get wealthy, I may become one of those people who “summers” elsewhere, like the mountains, or Alaska, or Maine, or above the Arctic Circle in Norway. I like my community here, so I don’t see myself permanently relocating without some specific reason, but I could imagine spending extended amounts of time in other places.

The Good and Bad of Fandom

There’s been a lot of talk online lately about toxic fandom, spurred mostly by the reaction of some fans to the recent Star Wars movies. They’ve driven some of the actors off social media with their horrible abuse, and now there’s even a group trying to raise money to remake The Last Jedi “the right way,” so that it’s not so much about social justice (I guess they missed the fact that in the original trilogy, the villains were literally Stormtroopers, and the heroes were freedom fighters battling oppression). I think I got the most response to anything I’ve ever tweeted when I responded to someone else’s post about how male fandom, when disappointed by something, tends to react with “You’ve ruined my childhood! Now I will destroy you!” while female fans just go and write fan fiction. I added that female fandom also will tend to get into in-depth analysis of the characterization and plot elements, and out of that discussion will develop lifelong friendships. That got a lot of “likes.”

That’s certainly been my experience. I have a number of good friends I initially met through online or convention fandom and discussions. We don’t always like everything that’s done in the show or movies, but when we don’t like it, there’s fun in the community that forms around figuring out where the problems are. I haven’t done a lot of fan fiction, and when I have, it hasn’t been so much about “fixing” things. When I “fix” things, it tends to spur something entirely new that never really exists as fan fiction. But I really get into analysis.

Not that all female fandom is non-toxic. The “‘shipping,” or advocating for certain romantic relationships, can get really nasty. I’ve seen actors driven off social media by fans who harass and abuse them because the fans perceive the actors as being obstacles to their chosen relationship, either because the actors play characters who get in the way by being involved with one of the parties in their chosen relationship or because the fans perceive the actors as being opposed to or not supportive of their chosen relationship (which can include the actor speaking positively about the relationship the character is actually in on the show). It can go as far as fans trying to spread nasty rumors about actors in an attempt to get them fired.

But for the most part, the fan community can be a positive thing, and that’s a central theme in the book I’ve been working on for ages. It’s largely about what it is to be a fan of something, to love it so much that you wish it was real and you could actually live it, and how that love can form connections between people who otherwise are very different from each other. I haven’t delved into the toxic side of things in the story because I wanted to write something about joy. I think that’s why it took me so long to really find the right story for this book because it’s hard to have both high stakes and that joy. I’m doing my final pass before I send it to my agent, and I think I’ve finally captured what I wanted.

It’s wonderful when you find that shared connection with someone over something both of you love. Star Wars was a great icebreaker when I was a kid. I was a military brat, so we moved around a lot, about every year to year and a half in the years after Star Wars came out. I found that bringing up Star Wars was a good way to find new friends when we moved. It meant we had at least one thing in common, and soon we’d learn other things we had in common. As an adult, I’ve made long-term friends in discussions of The X-Files, Buffy, Firefly, and Doctor Who. These are friendships that have transcended the original topic and continued in other forums, or even in person. Sometimes, I even forget how I originally got to know these people. They’re just friends, not specifically fandom friends.

I really hope this book finds a home, because I think it’s a story people will relate to and I think it’s a good reminder of what it is to share in the joy of loving something.