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Time to Focus

I made it through another busy weekend, with a book festival all day Saturday and singing in two services Sunday, so it’s taking me a while to gear up for today. While the brain was still only semi-functional, I did an errand run, hitting both Target and the grocery store. Now maybe I can settle down and focus on writing.

Next Saturday is unscheduled. There’s a party that night, but I don’t really plan on going because I also have a Friday-night party, and that’s enough socializing for one weekend. I already have grand plans to spend next Saturday morning catching up on housework, then Saturday afternoon catching up on writing, and then Saturday night on the sofa in my pajamas, having a movie night.

In the meantime, I’m way behind on the book I’m working on, so it’s head down and forging ahead for the rest of the week. I don’t have to cook because I have leftovers and stocked up on frozen entrees. I have a couple more errands this week, but they’re of the sort I can walk to, so they double up as exercise. Otherwise, I’ll be writing. I hope.

Crazy Kids

I had a rather challenging children’s choir session yesterday, as the preschool director was sick, so we combined the two groups — and then just about everyone showed up. I didn’t get a good head count, but based on the rosters, we had at least 14 kids. And they’ve been stuck indoors for ages because of all the rain, so they were really hyper. Combining the groups also meant we had some siblings together, and that can get even crazier because they act they way they act at home with each other — or the way they would act at home with each other if they could get away with it.

So, 14 kids in a relatively small room, with lots of pent-up energy. None of the things that usually work worked. We tried getting them to burn off some energy with activity, but that made them more hyper. We tried doing a more quiet activity, but they were so hyper it took forever to do it because they wouldn’t listen enough to hear what was going on.

Fortunately, the adult helping with preschool plays the piano for Sunday school, so we hauled the piano to the room (it’s on wheels) and did a singalong of our favorite Sunday school songs, and that seemed to engage them a bit, though there was still some running around and screaming.

I was still twitching when I got home last night, and the quiet at home was glorious.

It stopped raining today long enough for me to get a real walk outdoors, and I think that will help my energy levels today. I like rainy days, but we’d passed the point of what even I enjoy.

Today I also need to work on my presentation for the book festival where I’m speaking this weekend. So I guess I’d better get busy.

Distracted Organizing

I can already tell that this is going to be one of those days when focusing is a challenge. I got my kitchen cleaned and organized last week and earlier this week, which inspired me to tackle the dining room. That room mostly tends to hold the spillover from the kitchen and from the patio, as the dining table is by the door to the patio, and so a lot of the stuff I use on the patio that isn’t stored outside ends up sitting on the dining table. When I was out shopping yesterday I found a little cart that’s perfect for storing my patio stuff. It sits in the corner near the door, and now my table is clear. I also got a little plastic bin that fits in my cabinet shelf to hold all my tea, so I can just pull it out and see all the varieties, and it’s sad how thrilling I find that.

But then having those two rooms cleaned and organized has inspired me to tackle the living room, and now when I sit down to try to think about work, I find myself instead looking up things like racks to hold CDs or cute baskets for holding my knitting. I want to organize All The Things. Some people do spring cleaning, but I turn domestic in the fall.

All this is great, and it needs to be done, but I’m supposed to be writing a book. I’ll start thinking about the next scene that needs to be written, and next thing I know, I’m off on a mental rabbit trail, contemplating ways to organize things and what I need to buy to make that happen.

I think what I may need to do is establish a starting-to-write ritual for this book, something that’s guaranteed to get me into the right mindset to write and focus on that world. That usually involves a piece of music that serves as a theme for the book, maybe a few images to look at. I normally write in silence, but if I find a piece of music (usually a movie score) that works, I can play that to shut out all the other voices vying for attention. Scent can even work — a candle or essential oil that takes me to the right place.

Of course, the effort to pick all this stuff can serve as its own kind of procrastination/distraction. I’m probably better off just giving myself a stern mental lecture.

Harbingers of Fall

After taking yesterday as a rest/catch-up day and after running all the errands this morning, I’m about to dive into a final proofreading pass, and then next week I’ll be ready to start something new that I need to refresh myself on (news about the new thing to come soon).

Meanwhile, I totally forgot to mention that my publisher put the e-book version of Don’t Hex with Texas on sale for $1.99, probably through the rest of this week. I’m sure most people who might be reading this already have all the books, but in case you need the e-book version, here’s your chance to get it as a bargain.

I succumbed to two fall things at the grocery store this morning: the first Honeycrisp apples are out (my favorite harbinger of fall), and Pioneer has a pumpkin spice pancake mix (it’s the spices with no pumpkin). I don’t get excited about pumpkin spice lattes because I don’t like coffee, but I like spiced baked goods. I think I’m going to make a spiced peach compote to top the pancakes for this weekend, hopefully to celebrate being done with the book (other than dealing with copyedits, a final proofing pass, and then dealing with all the publishing stuff, getting cover art done, etc.).

And now lunch, then work!

If I Were a Villain …

I’m treating this as a semi-weekend day to recover from essentially working all weekend. I got mostly better from last week’s cold, but then the weather got in the way. We got record amounts of rain, more than 7 inches in one night, and it was more than the hotel conference center roof could handle. A few leaks let water pool in the ceiling tiles until the ceiling tiles couldn’t handle it, and you can imagine the fun stuff that exploded into the air along with bits of ceiling tile and all that water that had been pooling in there. I wasn’t there when it happened, but I’m fairly sure the entire place was contaminated the rest of the weekend. I’d be okay at home, then couldn’t stop coughing while I was at the convention. I managed to get through my panels then beat a hasty retreat for home.

I’d thought that the panel on evil overlords would be about writing villains, but instead it was more of an improv exercise in which we were essentially creating evil overlords on the spot, answering questions about our lairs, wardrobe, minions, etc. It was a ton of fun. I’ve never been a villain-centric writer, so it was an interesting exercise in putting myself in that viewpoint, but since the idea was to be funny with this, I got to create a villain who was a spoof of the Maleficent type. My chosen lair was a castle with a moat. I went with formal wear in basic black for public appearances (unless I was pretending to be a captive princess to lure heroes to my lair), but for casual wear just hanging around the castle, I preferred yoga pants and sweatshirts. I may get a couple of fun stories out of that exercise because I kind of liked the character I created. To some extent, I suspect she just put on the evil overlord front to keep the villagers away from the castle so she could get some peace and quiet.

I’m also tempted to create the costume for this character and wear it next year.

Meanwhile, I went to a couple of Marian Call’s concerts and bought some more CDs. She’s an Alaska-based singer/songwriter who does geeky stuff along with more mainstream topics. I saw her in concert a few years ago and she was the music guest of honor this weekend. And from a conversation after her Saturday concert we both came away with writing prompts for something that needs to be addressed.

Now I need to catch up on life and all the stuff that didn’t get done while I was sick or busy with the convention. My kitchen is a disaster, I have to do laundry, and there’s a lot of admin work I need to tackle. Then tomorrow I start the proofreading pass on my book.

FenCon Fun

I sort of have a voice this morning. I haven’t tried saying more than a few words, but they don’t come out too raspy. I have a feeling this is going to be a very low-key FenCon for me. I only have one panel late this afternoon, so I should be able to get through it, and then I can rest until the next morning before I have to talk again.

Today’s panel at 5 is on “So You Want to Be an Evil Overlord.” We’ll be offering suggestions for writing (or being) an effective villain. I will probably rant against poor use of subterfuge, overly complicated plots, and how unattractive a victim complex is for a villain.

I have an autograph session at 10:30 Saturday morning — and don’t worry, I’ll use hand sanitizer before I touch your book.

Then two panels:
One at noon on what’s next in the Harry Potter universe, talking about the upcoming Fantastic Beasts movie and what other periods in history they could explore.
And one at 2 on creating costumes based on books when there are no movies/TV shows or other illustrations to draw upon.

And then I’ll get to rest. What I do for the rest of the day will depend on how much voice I have and how I feel.

Sunday afternoon at 3 I’m on a panel about whether or not to self publish.

Fortunately, I gave up my reading slot to help with a scheduling issue because I don’t think I could read out loud for that long without a coughing fit.

I should probably add that on the unlikely chance you’re coming to this convention just to see me, check Twitter first because if I’m really not feeling well or if I realize that doing this is beyond me this weekend, I’ll announce if I’m having to cancel. I don’t feel that bad, but I’m also tiring very easily.

In other news, I finished my round of revisions. The book will rest this weekend, and then I’ll reread it next week in a proofreading pass, and then off to the copyeditor.

My Vow of Silence

I discovered yesterday evening when I started teaching my kindergarten choir that I only thought my voice was back. I hadn’t talked much since I live alone and work at home, but I had tried a few words to see how I was doing. It turns out that after more than a few words, the voice fizzles out. The bad news is, I have a convention this weekend, when I’m supposed to be speaking on panels. I have about a day and a half to get my voice back. So, it’s vocal rest today (not that different from most days for me, I suppose) and lots of fluids, and maybe by my first panel tomorrow afternoon I’ll be able to say more than a few words at a time.

My next hurdle will be Sunday morning. It’s my church’s anniversary celebration, so we’ve got lots of music, and that means lots of singing. I went to choir rehearsal last night so I could at least listen and learn details of what we’re doing, but making sounds didn’t work. Will my singing voice come back before Sunday morning? We shall see!

But I’m going back to a more or less “normal” work schedule today. I can do my work without talking, so I hope to finish revisions. I’ve got a little more than a week to get this book to the copyeditor, and the long-range forecast is showing next weekend to be potentially glorious, so I would like to have the rewriting done today, maybe tomorrow morning, and then do a round of proofreading next week, then have a free weekend. And then it will probably be time to dive into the next project.

Meanwhile, I’m still in the early developmental phases of something else. Last night as I drifted off to sleep, I found myself pondering how magic will work in this world. That led to imagining maps. And history. Sometimes, I wish I could just make up imaginary places without worrying about details like plots and characters.

Dickens, Drama, and Ideas

I’ve now reached the point in the recovery from my cold in which I want to get back to normal activity but am not quite there yet and am getting frustrated by what I don’t feel up to doing. It seems like it’s been forever but, really, this is just the fifth day from the very beginning of symptoms, and I didn’t start feeling really bad until late in that first day. I’m perfectly on target — maybe even ahead of schedule — for this sort of thing.

I’ve watched enough movies and miniseries based on Dickens novels that I think I could write a decent paper analyzing themes and parallels among the major works. I’ve also developed a turning point theory about the production values in British costume dramas. There’s a definite change in the mid-1990s from a more “stagey” approach, in which most scenes are interiors with sets that look like they could have been used on a stage, to a more natural, cinematic style, like we see today, where the sets make you wonder if they are sets or if they used locations, and there are a lot more exterior location scenes. I have a feeling the big 1995 Pride and Prejudice adaptation had something to do with that. Now I wonder if anything’s been written about the topic.

But I finally maxed out on watching costume dramas yesterday, and when I couldn’t seem to stay awake enough to do anything but couldn’t fall asleep when I tried to nap, I watched Tangled for a complete change of pace. Watching a movie I just about have memorized while lying in bed in the dark almost seemed to count as a nap. And it also sort of counted as “work” because it was when I saw this movie in the theater that I had the first spark of an idea for the book I’m researching now. The actual story has very little to do with Tangled, but there was something in it that clicked with an idea fragment that had been floating around in my head, and that made me realize what I could do with that idea fragment. Now, years later, I’m finally ready to dig into that idea and start writing it.

I didn’t write it back when I came up with the idea because I was in the process of drafting Rebel Mechanics. I did have a moment or two of Shiny New Idea Syndrome, when I was tempted to drop the current project and start playing with this new idea, but I wrote down what I knew at the time (which wasn’t much, it turned out) and went back to work on what I was doing. In the years since then, I’ve had time to do research and develop this idea further, so it’s going to be a much better book now than it might have been then. Getting sick just seems to have accelerated the development process, since I haven’t been able to think clearly enough to do revisions or work on anything else. Not thinking clearly is great for brainstorming and free-associating, when you’re not yet to the point of having to come up with structure or plot logic.

But I think today I might dive back into revisions. I’m feeling better, just tiring easily, and I actually want to work, which is a positive sign. Or possibly means I’m dying.

Sick Day

I came down with a cold-like illness this weekend, so it was pretty much a couple of days of lying on the sofa or on the bed, watching British costume dramas. The worst of the cold symptoms are over. My voice is sort of back and my throat doesn’t hurt anymore, but I’m a little feverish and tired, so I’m taking a sick day. I’ve got a convention this weekend, so I really need to be back to 100 percent by Saturday.

All those costume dramas were actually somewhat work-related because they feed into my worldbuilding. I’ve been getting imagery. But I might be getting a little burned out on Dickens. I need something a little lighter for a change.

I’m wishing I had the adapter that would let the Roku work on my bedroom TV (the HDMI port is in a bad spot where the stick won’t fit). I finally connected the old DVD player to that TV, so I can watch anything I have on DVD (but not Blu-Ray). As cheap as Blu-Ray players are, I may get a “smart” one that connects to Wi-Fi, and that way I can stream stuff in the bedroom. Then again, I very seldom watch TV from bed. Only when I’m sick. So I’m not sure that this is a major necessity. It’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t even use most of the time, but when I want it, I really wish I had it.

I’m hoping this is my one big cold for the year and I’m getting it out of the way early. I’ve already had my flu shot, and we’ll hope that will prevent anything else nasty. I just hate being sick when it’s warm and sunny. That feels all wrong. It’s far better to be sick when it’s cold and rainy. Then it feels good to drink tea and snuggle under a blanket while watching British costume dramas.

The Last Few Chapters

It’s Friday, and I’ve almost finished this round of revisions, though the part that’s left is the hard part, the last few chapters when I was just tearing through, so I know it’ll need a lot of work. I may or may not get that done today. Maybe today will be a read-through and a planning of what I need to do. What I really want to do is go to the library and get more reference books for that other project, but I must make good choices.

I’d already done a lot of restructuring and rewriting on the rest of the book, so revising hasn’t been that bad. I’ve just had to add detail and emotions. I think I’m on the right track for the last few chapters, but I need to amp them up a bit, putting some meat on the story bones, so to speak. The trick is to force myself to do it slowly without getting impatient. My last chapters always need a lot of work because I get so impatient and excited that I rush through them, and then on revision rounds I’m usually eager to just get this book over with.

I’m actually a little curious (and worried) about what I’ll find when I reread these chapters. Me writing the last few chapters of a book is something like those hypothetical million monkeys at typewriters who might accidentally churn out Shakespeare. I’m just frantically typing, and there’s no telling what might come out. About all that I remember is that there was a dragon. I think. I seem to have been working in an out-of-body experience.

So, off to see what the last chapters hold for me.