Friday, September 30, 2016

Ridding the Land of Evil

I made it through copyedits yesterday. The next round is proofreading, which I'll probably start tomorrow. Today is for dealing with business stuff and research on the new book.

But also, since it's a pleasant day, I think it will be a picnic lunch kind of day. They finally re-opened the park that got damaged by floods, so I may walk over there and check it out. The places to sit by the river are still closed (since the river is currently filling up those spots), and it's still too warm to get off the trail safely (snakes!), but I should be able to manage a pleasant walk in the woods. I made a corned beef yesterday and I have pretzel rolls, so I've got good sandwich material, and the new Honeycrisp apples are in.

Meanwhile, the mosquito fogger outdoors did work. I sat out all afternoon without seeing a single mosquito or getting a single bite. However, it only lasts as a repellent for six hours. There are probably fewer mosquitoes because it kills them if you spray directly in spots where they lurk, but visiting mosquitoes may still show up after six hours. I may need to buy this stuff in bulk, now that I know that it works. Not only does the stuff you spray directly on you not seem to work on me, my skin doesn't like it. Repelling the nasty bloodsuckers from the whole area seems like a great idea. Keeping them away from the patio also seems to keep them away from the door, so they don't sneak into the house when I'm coming and going.

I need to come up with an evil fantasy creature based on mosquitoes so I can kill them in large numbers in a book and rid the land of the evil.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Patio Office Time

It's the time of year when I move to what I call the patio office, where I can sit under my patio umbrella in the afternoon and work outdoors in perfect weather. That's even easier now that I have wi-fi that extends out there. The one downside is the mosquitoes. They love me. Strangely, I seem to get more bites when I put on mosquito repellent than when I just use a Bug Band, but this year, even the Bug Band isn't scaring them away, nor does the giant citronella candle. But now I have escalated. I got an outdoor fogger and sprayed the patio this morning. It should be safe to work out there this afternoon. Supposedly, this stuff kills them when you spray grass and bushes where they live and repels them when you spray the hard surfaces. We'll see what happens.

I also got a purple mum to have some color out there. I thought about getting some pansies, but then I couldn't remember what pots I had to work with. I got a gizmo that supposedly does automatic watering, but it requires a rather big pot to work, and I'll have to check what I have in the garage.

At this time of year, I could happily live outdoors, except for the sleeping, and even then, I like to have windows open. Unfortunately, ragweed is a bit of an issue, but the Allegra is kicking in. I'm not suffering as badly as I usually do at very high ragweed levels.

This afternoon, I should finish going through the copyedits. Next week will be proofreading time. I hope to get to writing on the next book very soon because I have so many stories I want to tell.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Worldbuilding: Geography

In my writing posts, I'm doing a series on worldbuilding. Previously, I introduced the topic by talking about your story world being a place where things can happen. Now we need to look at the actual place and think about geography.

This isn't just about the maps at the front of a fantasy novel. It's about what those maps imply and what goes behind the maps. Although we call it "world" building, it may not be about a whole planet, but rather about the places that affect your story. This is where some knowledge of geography and historical geography can help. For one thing, there's usually a reason why people live in a particular place. You can look at a map and see groupings of towns and cities. This is especially obvious in older settlements. People tended to come to places where they had things they needed to survive. Water was especially key, for crop irrigation, as a source for food (fish), as a draw for wild game, and as a means for transportation. It's easier to get to and from a place near a river, and it's easier to bring in goods and send away materials for trade.

Settlements might also arise near some other natural resource, like a mine or quarry. In a fantasy world with magic, cities might be built along ley lines. While many settlements arise because of easier access, there might also be settlements built because a location is safe and easy to defend, like a mountain outpost.

There can be less natural reasons for a settlement. A city might arise around a religious shrine that's based on an event that happened in that location. Once transportation technology comes along, it can drive settlement. If you travel on a road that parallels railroad tracks (or former railroad tracks) that date to the age of steam trains, you'll probably find a town or some kind of settlement every seven miles, whether or not there's a natural reason for there to be a town there. That's because steam trains required service every fourteen miles, and they set up the stops so that every other one served trains going in opposite directions. That meant there was a railroad facility every seven miles, which meant that the people who worked there needed a place to live and access to services. Since the trains stopped there, it was a good place to put things like stores. Other people then settled there to serve the railroad people and travelers, as well as people like farmers who brought good there to ship elsewhere. Churches and other civic institutions were established. Some of these towns became self-sustaining and continue today, even though the trains no longer stop there. Some remain as just a cluster of houses or an old church because there was little to keep people there if there weren't trains stopping.

The reason for the settlement and the ability to access it will affect the way that society develops. A place that's easy to reach by long-distance travelers is probably going to be more culturally diverse than the secure mountain fortress. A place with good resources is going to be wealthier, but also may have to be more fortified because others will covet that wealth and try to take it by force.

So, in planning the corner of your world where your story takes place, why are people living there? Can people from other places get there easily? What do they bring with them? What would happen to that society if something changed? If the mine is played out or the trains stop running, would the society continue? Do people feel safe living there? Is the place under attack often? How does this place compare to its surroundings or the rest of the world? Has the society spread from the initial settlement?

You don't have to actually draw a map, but knowing why people live there is a good start to figuring out how your place works. If you're using a real setting, it might help to look at some of the history of that place to understand why it's there and how it developed. That will affect who lives there and why, which could have an impact on your story.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Fun with History

Okay, it's back to what passes for normal around here. I actually hit my minimum "work time" quota yesterday in doing research reading, but today I need to work on copyedits, which feels more like work and less like reading. The research for this book is going to be interesting because I'm coming up against ripples from my alternate history premise that I'll have to deal with. There's a lot of stuff that happened in the 1800s because of the aftereffects of the American Revolution that wouldn't have happened in my world, but then there's some that may or may not have happened anyway, and in those cases I have to do my best to project how they might have progressed from that point in changed circumstances.

Fortunately, thanks to a Twitter post from the New York Times reviewing a new book on American history, I found an older book by the same author at my library that covers exactly the topic I was curious about. It's a potentially touchy subject that I hope to treat well -- something that didn't go well in real history but that I might be able to "fix" in my world, but on the other hand, is fixing it a way of erasing what did happen? I imagine that the people who are looking for things to find offensive will find something to be offended by no matter what I do, but I hope that most people will find it interesting and maybe even thought-provoking. I'm not famous enough to really get a lot of attention (and if I do get singled out for attention, it would likely raise my profile). I guess I just need to do what feels right for my story and the people in it and try to be honest about how things might go.

At any rate, this reading is already getting scene ideas brewing in my head as I find myself mentally inserting my characters into the historical events as they're depicted in this reference, and then I'm also mentally trying to move things forward by 100 or so years and imagining how it might have progressed. That's what's fun about playing with alternate history.

Really, reading history books and that counting as work makes my job so cool. Then to get another sense of revolutions, TCM is showing Reds on Friday night, and I've never seen it, though I've wanted to. Every time I was planning on it or thought I was going to see it, something came up or fell through -- including the time I showed up at the campus theater when it was supposed to be playing and they were showing something else. Now watch it get pre-empted this time. I'm so looking forward to a quiet, do-nothing weekend. Well, do-nothing other than research for a book, even if some of that involves watching a movie.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Fall! (for a day)

I made it through the convention weekend, and now it's time to get back to the real part of my author job, the part in which I actually write books. I may have to rethink my role in this convention because when I spend a lot of time setting up before the convention, I'm socially spent and physically exhausted before the convention even starts, so I'm less good at the author part. I barely remember any panels I was on, and there were friends I only saw in passing. The whole thing was a blur. It only just occurred to me that I hardly even had any conversations with people. It doesn't help that peak ragweed hit this week. So it may be possible that I can either be a writer guest or on setup crew, but possibly not both.

I do know that I've got some reading to do, as I picked up some good recommendations. I'm also eager to get back to writing. Having lots of people telling me they're waiting for the next book will do that for you. I want to keep all those people happy and get books to them before they forget about me.

For today, though, I'm taking it easy. It's the first day that's really felt like fall, my favorite kind of fall day. It still hasn't hit 70 degrees on my patio, it's gray and kind of drizzly. I don't have the brainpower for copyedits, so I'm going to focus on research reading. There's a chance that this is the only day like this we'll get this year (you never know around here), so I have this urge to Do All the Fall Things. I may even feel compelled to bake (but I'm pretty tired, so maybe not). So there will be reading with tea and the windows open, maybe an apple cinnamon candle going. If it's not raining later in the afternoon, there may be tea on the patio. If my knees weren't so sore, I'd take a walk, but I know better than that. My body needs rest today.

Then tomorrow, I'll tackle the serious work.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Off to FenCon

It's day before the convention craziness. I've got about an hour before I need to head over to help with setup, and I've got about two hours worth of stuff I need to do.

Today is FenCon setup, then tomorrow I have two panels and probably more setting up. And then Saturday is busy day, with panels, a reading, and a presentation. Sunday I have an autographing and a panel, and then we take down everything we set up. Then I come home and collapse. And then Monday I start work on copyedits.

Now to go get the rest of my work for the week done in the next hour.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Making Movies

It's my last more or less full (though I have to leave early for choir) workday at home this week, and I think the to-do list is more or less manageable. I've been playing with video editing, doing another welcome video for FenCon. This time, I've figured out how to work with greenscreen on my editing software. This opens up all kinds of new possibilities for mischief. Who knew that this would be how I'd end up using my broadcasting degree? I trained to do TV news, and I ended up doing silly videos.

As in everything, it's more fun making stuff up.

Now I think I need to get my own greenscreen backdrop and a tripod for my iPhone, and a faster Internet connection, and just think of the fun I could have. Eat your heart out, George Lucas!

This is a wonderful age we live in, when you can carry around the technology you need to make a movie in your pocket.

Otherwise, I'm trying to decide how essential a handout is for my presentation. What I really need to do involves graphics, and I don't quite have a way of creating them. The graphic elements in Word don't include a way to show rising and falling action. I'm trying to put together multiple elements to show that, but it ends up either being too big to fit on the page or too small to read. I may resort to a Sharpie and a scanner.

All of this is helping distract me from the fact that I have to go back and face those children again tonight -- and there may be even more this week. I have some lesson plans, but this is definitely a group for which the battle plans don't survive contact with the enemy. I wonder how long I can get them to play the quiet game.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ragweed Time!

The ragweed hit yesterday, with a vengeance. I thought I might get out of it this year because usually it hits earlier in September, but I was totally out of sorts all day and even ended up taking a nearly 2-hour nap. Then I saw on the evening news that ragweed levels were high, which explains it all. So this will be a week of Allegra as I soldier on with my growing to-do list.

I got my copyedits back on the new book, but I'm barely going to be able to dive into that until after the convention. I will, however, deal with at least the first chapter because that will be my FenCon reading.

I really do enjoy the convention, but I'm looking forward to it being over with because there's so much writing work I want to do. I need to get some of these stories out of my head and out into the world. There are only so many fictional universes and imaginary people one person can keep going at any one time.

Also, I want to take my usual fall vacation. I'm still thinking about an early October writing retreat, but I want to go farther up into the mountains in early November and not do any work, though there may be some experience and location research going on. The state park where I went last year has a riding stable and does trail rides, and some experience with horses would be good for a few of the ideas playing out in the back of my mind.

I'm just ready for fall, in general. We hit 100 degrees yesterday. Our "cold front" this weekend will knock it down to 90.

Now to go finish my presentation on the hero's journey and then do some video editing.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sooo Many Sprinkles

I had one of those "I need a weekend to recover from my weekend" weekends, but I won't get my weekend until next week because it's a very busy week, with FenCon this weekend.

Saturday was a day of service at my church, with a lot of different projects going on, and I'd signed up to help bake cookies for the Soupmobile homeless feeding program. I got to the church kitchen and learned that it was more a case of supervising a horde of junior high girls from some scouting program. That ended up being fun, but rather exhausting. They had troop leaders helping, and we had the person who runs the kitchen, but most of these girls had zero clue what they were doing, so a lot of handholding was required, and even then they kind of went nuts, doing stuff like mixing the colored sugar and sprinkles into the batter, which turned the batter weird colors and affected baking time. I came home utterly exhausted, though I did get a few character ideas for YA books.

But then I had to work on a script for this year's FenCon briefing video and do an e-mail interview and do a bunch of other stuff. And then Sunday was spent at a FenCon prep meeting and then shooting the video. I got home just before 10 p.m.

This week, I get to edit the video, work on my presentation that I'll be doing at the convention, and prepare for my reading. Whew!

Then next Monday, after my morning yoga class I will give myself a day off.

In other news, if you're an Audible member and haven't tried my Fairy Tale series yet, the first book is part of their Win-Win sale, in which select titles are on sale for $4.95 until Sept. 26. If you're a member, you probably already got the notice about the sale, and this book is part of it!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Finding Fall

I don't know if I can blame the flu shot, but I was tired and out of sorts most of the day yesterday and went to bed early, and I could easily go back to sleep now. But I must soldier onward! I have work to do. I was thinking this would be an easy week, since I'm not actively working on a book, but I let a lot of other stuff pile up. I really need to get over that all-or-nothing tendency of mine. I seem to be incapable of dealing with anything else when I'm writing. I guess I need to become a big bestseller who can hire staff to handle the housekeeping, promo, and general life stuff while I hide in my cave and make up stories.

Meanwhile, we're so close to fall, and yet not really anywhere near there in this part of the country. There are some tantalizing teases, like waking up this morning to a cool rain. I got excited and baked scones for breakfast because there's nothing like tea and scones while it rains outside. But then the rain was gone and the sun was out before I was through baking. People keep posting fall pictures to Facebook, and I long for cool days, sweater weather, and all the stuff that comes with fall.

One day when I have the time and money for it, I'm going to try to extend fall as long as possible by traveling to follow it. Starting in late August in Alaska, then maybe somewhere in Canada or northern Europe for September, late September to early October in New England, and work my way south. Then we finally get fall-like weather in November and December here. And then I could go to Australia or New Zealand in our spring for their fall.

There are places in the world where it's basically winter year-round, and places that are always summer-like. There are even places where the temperature is mostly spring-like all the time. But because fall is a transitional time, there's no climate that's like a permanent fall. It would be impossible to keep trees that color, for one thing. And I think fall would lose some of its charm if it were year-round, if it didn't come after summer. But I wouldn't mind having three full months of it rather than a day or two.

I've got at least a month before we start really feeling like fall, except for maybe the occasional teasing moment of a cold front coming through. The sweaters will have to wait.

And no, I'm not really into pumpkin spice. I'm more of an apple-cinnamon kind of gal.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Back to Kindergarten

I had my first session of children's choir last night, and boy, is this going to be an interesting year. I moved up with last year's preschoolers to kindergarten, and all my regular attendees came back, plus I had four new kids, two of them twins (though fortunately not identical). One of the new kids is a real handful. I lost count of the number of times we had to take him out into the hall for a timeout, and they were all for aggressions against other people, not just general high spirits. He was hitting, tackling and even licking people. His parents said, "Oh, he has so much energy!" but there's more than that going on. Fortunately, we have three adults and two youth helpers. One of my youth helpers was in my first kindergarten choir, so I'm feeling rather old.

It looks like I'm going to have to plan lots of active games because I still have mostly boys. I did feel good in that one of the new kids was really reluctant to come in and very shy, but he was participating with everyone else by the end.

And now that I've paid my quarterly taxes and got my flu shot, I don't have to go anywhere until Saturday morning. That's good because I have to fine-tune and rehearse a video script, work on a presentation, work on some positioning/branding stuff, and do some research. I have a lot to get done between now and next Thursday.

I'll be giving a workshop on using the Hero's Journey in plotting without getting cookie-cutter results at FenCon, and I've proposed it for another writers conference. The idea for it actually came to me in a dream in which I was giving this presentation, probably after reading yet another agent talking about how they can tell when someone used the Hero's Journey in a submission, and they wished writers would stop. My thought was that if you can tell, the writers had missed the point, and then I started dreaming the real points, woke up, wrote it down, and then suggested it for programming -- and they took it. So now I have to finalize it and practice it to make sure it fits the time slot. I really had no idea how to plot a book until I started reading about this stuff, and it was like a light bulb went off for me. I was good at coming up with characters and situations, but not stories. You can't take a fill-in-the-blanks, cookie-cutter approach to it, though. You have to understand why each of the stages matters, and once you understand that, you can hit the core of that universal story without being obvious about it.

So that's what I'll be doing while waiting for copyedits.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Worldbuilding: A Place Where Things Can Happen

We're back in the "school year," so I figure it's time to get the Wednesday writing posts back up and running. I post something on the craft, life, or business of writing every other Wednesday. For the next month or so (however long it runs), I'm going to be talking about world building. This came up at a few of the conventions I attended during the summer, and it's a subject near and dear to my heart, ever since I interviewed the professor who taught a course on "parageography" at the university for a radio show, and then ended up registering for his course.

The first thing to be aware of is that whenever you write fiction, you're worldbuilding, even if what you're writing is the "real" world and you're not creating a Narnia or Middle Earth. No matter how real the world of your story is, it exists in an alternate reality in which none of the people in the world are aware that they're in a story (unless you're doing something really crazy and experimental). With a real-world setting, you may not be making up the city, streets, and businesses, but you're still creating a fictional version of that real world when you choose what aspects of that world will make a difference in your story and when you choose how to depict them.

One thing that really stuck with me from that course was something the professor repeated often: you're creating a place where things can happen. He usually meant it in the sense that in the class we were building worlds, not writing stories (he didn't want us turning in our epic fantasy novel for our class project), but I think it's also true for writers creating worlds because what we want is a place where things -- interesting things, with enough conflict for a plot -- can happen. That's true no matter how mundane or fantastic your story world is. You need a world where things can change -- they may need to change because it's been static for too long, the world may be on the brink of change, or the world may have changed in the wrong way and needs a correction. The world may seem stable and peaceful, but you're going to need some cracks in it that can be exposed if you want your story to be interesting. The happy hobbits may have been living peacefully in the Shire, but there were dark things brewing around the edges that would eventually affect them. That cozy, peaceful small town will be revealed to be hiding a lot of secrets when someone is murdered.

That would probably be the first step in worldbuilding, to think about what could change or what needs to change in the world. Is this thing obvious, or are people not aware of the problem? Is the problem being deliberately hidden, or is everyone oblivious? No one in the small town may be aware that there was a potential killer in their midst -- even the killer might not have realized he had that capacity. Or the wizard may have been managing to hold the lurking evil at bay without informing the kingdom. Or the world could be an obvious dystopia. If there's nothing that could change or that needs to change, this isn't a very good place to set a story. You've probably already got that in mind if you've got a plot idea, so it's a good place to begin building a world for your story.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Getting Down to Business

I may not have been writing yesterday, but I put in a full day's work, and then some. What kind of work does a writer do when she's not writing?

I probably spend at least an hour a day on promotional stuff -- social media activity, reading social media to be able to respond and share stuff (a way to stay present and visible without spamming the world), blogging.

Yesterday, there was a lot of e-mail back and forth to set up a school visit for next month (my first! I'm a real YA author now!).

I put together some proposals for workshops I could give at writing conferences. This is something I'm going to be pursuing for next year because most of these conferences pay for the speakers to attend -- travel and hotel. Writers are also readers and are good for sharing word of mouth. So it's like getting paid to promote, plus you get to attend the conference, which is good for networking and learning.

I read a book on how to create a personal brand. I looked up some of the books this author recommended and found that one I want to read is at my neighborhood library.

I proofread a short story and sent it to my agent, then had some e-mail back and forth about how best to use this story, other possible similar stories I might do, and how we might want to approach cover art for these stories. That led to some research into artists and illustrators.

I brainstormed ideas for possible stories.

Today, I already went to the library to pick up that book and a reference book for the next Rebel Mechanics book that I had on hold. I found some other material on marketing.

I need to do more work toward finding an artist who does the kind of thing I have in mind.

I need to develop a series description for the Fairy Tale series to update the Amazon listing.

I want to do a status report of what I've done this year and what I have planned for the next year to share with my agent so we can do some strategizing.

I hope to read the books I got at the library and do some of the exercises on developing a brand identity, messaging, etc.

I really need to catch up on my bookkeeping after all my summer travel.

I hope to start reading the reference stuff for the next Rebel book, and there are some documentaries I have saved on the DVR that relate to that, but that falls into the category of being related to the actual writing part of work.

So, time to get down to business so I can get to the fun part of my job.

Monday, September 12, 2016

On to the Next Task

The book went off to the copyeditor on Friday, so now I just have to wait to get edits back, work through the edits and make necessary changes, and then do a round of proofreading. I started researching this book in late May, and I had a final draft ready for the copyeditor in early September, which may be a new record for me. Now let's see if I can do it again with another book!

But that will wait until I'm totally done with this one. I don't like to switch gears too much when I'm writing. In the meantime, I will do some research, development, and planning for the next one.

My yoga class started again this morning, and we have a new teacher. I think I'm going to like her, but my body definitely had slacked off over the summer, so there are already some twinges of protest. Monday-morning yoga also means I can switch my grocery trip to the store where I usually get my meat and produce to Monday instead of Sunday after church. Then the store is less crowded, so it's quicker and less stressful, and I'm feeling virtuous after yoga and inclined to continue that by buying stuff that's good for me. The one downside is that they don't really restock the produce from the weekend until around that time. I lucked out and caught them just as they were getting the produce off the truck and on display, and the produce guy even opened a crate of okra for me to pick from while he was stocking the shelves.

Now I have two weeks until FenCon, so I have a lot of work to do on that, and I have a lot of other business stuff to take care of, including getting some proposals out for writing conferences. I've added one more convention to my slate for the year, but it doesn't involve travel. They're doing a writing track at the Nerd Year's Eve event in Dallas and invited me to be one of the instructors. This is one of those "comic con" type shows that has celebrities, and it looks like it will be a lot of fun. Plus, it's just a train ride away.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Epic To-Dos

I'm very close to the end of this round of editing so I can send the book to the copyeditor today. And then I will tackle the epic to-do list of both business and home tasks. I'll also start work on the next Rebel Mechanics book. I've already got one reference on hold at the library.

One of the to-do tasks is to dig into all that branding work so I can hire a web designer and get a new web site made that will incorporate my blog. The hope then is that when I use social media to drive traffic to my blog, it will be driving traffic to my web site. There are some other things going on that may allow me to get blog pointers spread by others, and I want to have the new thing set up before I set that up so I don't have to re-do links.

As part of the research that goes into that, I have more questions for my readers. First, are there any author web sites you really like, either for looks or content? And second, which authors would you consider to be in the same category as me? Not necessarily by genre, but books that you read to get a similar feeling or experience to mine. Or, if you're recommending my books to others, what other authors might you mention -- "try this, if you like this author, you may like Shanna Swendson"?

Now, off to edit, and then respond to e-mails, develop writing conference speaking proposals, revise a video script, practice choir music, go through the exercises in a branding book, practice the harp, trim the vines on the patio, clean the living room, clean the kitchen, etc., etc. ...

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Boldly Going

Apparently, today is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. I knew it was this year, given that I was on the 50 Years of Star Trek panel at WorldCon, but this was the day the first episode aired. I wasn't around for that, but according to my mother, I was at least exposed to some episodes of what was probably the last season during its original run, since she said she watched it while she fed me when I was a newborn. So I guess I was a geek from birth.

I have vague memories of seeing occasional episodes of both the original and the animated series when I was a child. When the movies came out, my dad took me to the first two, and I went with my high school friends to the third. That outing was a pretty big deal for me, since it was one of the first times when I really felt like a "teenager." My best friends were older, and when one of them got a car and a license, it meant we could do stuff on our own, without relying on parents. We lived in a small town -- actually, all of us lived in the country outside that small town -- so seeing a movie meant going to the nearby city. When Star Trek III came out, we went out for pizza and then to the movie, and I felt very grown-up and independent.

But I really became a big Trek fan in my senior year of high school. We got a new TV station in our local area, and they started showing Star Trek reruns at 4 p.m. on weekdays. Both of my parents worked at the school, so that meant all of us were home from school to watch in the afternoons. It became a family bonding thing, our way of unwinding after school/work, and we got a lot of family inside jokes out of it. This was when I really got a sense for who those characters I'd seen in the movies were, and I started reading the novels, as well.

Star Trek was a big factor in developing my college social life. Early in my freshman year, I'd made some close friends I hung out with a lot, but I barely knew the rest of the people on my floor in the dorm. On the Friday afternoon before Halloween, I was supposed to go shopping with my friends to get Halloween costumes and party supplies, but then I discovered that my purse had been stolen from my dorm room. It turned out that the same thief had hit a lot of rooms (and was caught later that day), so the police were already set up in the lobby, taking reports. I was there, talking tearfully to the police, when my friends went by on their way to go shopping. I was stunned when their reaction was along the lines of "oh, that's why you didn't meet up with us, well, bye," so it was a case of adding insult to injury that they'd just abandoned me without showing any concern. On my way back to my room, one of the guys on the floor passed me in the hall (co-ed dorm) and noticed that I looked really down. He said the gang was about to watch Star Trek in his room and invited me to join them. It turned out that one of the local stations did that same 4 p.m. run my local station had done, and the whole gang from the floor gathered in the room of the guy with a TV to watch every afternoon. After Star Trek, they all trooped down to the cafeteria together for dinner. That got me involved with a whole new set of friends, some of whom I'm still in touch with.

Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered during my sophomore year, and I think we got 32 people crammed into a Jester Center dorm room (If you went to the University of Texas, you'll know what an achievement that was) to watch the premiere. We had to leave the door open and set up a fan in the hallway. The regular time slot for that series was 6 p.m. on Saturdays, so we added to our Trek viewing ritual. We'd go to dinner at 5 on Saturdays, then troop back upstairs to watch ST:TNG, and then we'd usually end up watching movies. I can honestly say that my college experience would have been radically different if it hadn't been for Star Trek and the way it helped form bonds with people who had common interests.

The other series came during my adulthood. I loved Deep Space Nine, and it was by far my favorite series of the bunch. I liked the more serialized storytelling and how "real" and three-dimensional the characters were. They were allowed to have flaws and conflict, something that hadn't been allowed as much in TNG. I was less enthralled with Voyager and bailed midway through the run, though I came back for the finale. I just lost interest in Enterprise somewhere along the way.

The movies have been a mixed bag. I loved First Contact, but most of the rest of the Next Generation movies were pretty weak. The last one of those, I didn't even see at the theater, and when I finally saw it on TV, I was glad I hadn't spent the money. I have very mixed feelings about the reboot movies. I kind of enjoy them while I'm watching them, though there was a great deal of in-theater snark about Into Darkness. The latest was the first of that bunch that really felt like Trek.

At any rate, it may just have been a TV show, but I think my life would have been different without it. Because of that show, I've met people and had experiences. I've been inspired. And, of course, I've been entertained. Not bad for a three-season show that began before I was born.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Coming Attractions

I made a good start on my edits yesterday, so I'm on target to finish on time. I may not get quite as much done today because children's choir kicks off tonight. Tonight's just "meet the teacher," so I don't have to worry about lesson plans, and there's pizza, so I don't have to cook dinner.

I can safely say that there will probably be an Enchanted, Inc. book 9 because there were things I wanted to get to in book 8 that I ended up not getting to. I don't know when I'll be writing it. I don't have a main plot in mind yet, just some of the personal subplots. But rest assured that I'm not forgetting about some of the major things.

Meanwhile, I'm starting to get some stirrings of ideas and moments for the next Rebel Mechanics book. There's a new history book being released that sounds quite relevant, and I've already got a hold on it at the library (it's listed as being "on order"). The rest of this month is going to be focused on researching and planning this book. Along with doing a lot of business-type stuff. And probably sneezing a lot, since it's ragweed season.

And now off to work!

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Happy New School Year!

It's been a very long time since I was in school, and even when I was in school, we seldom waited until after Labor Day to start. We were usually back sometime in August. Even so, the day after Labor Day always feels like a second New Year's Day to me, a fresh start on the year, a time to start new things or reboot things that fell by the wayside during the summer.

I was actually pretty productive this summer (released a book, wrote a book, went to a bunch of conventions), but I still went through the Labor Day exercise of planning the rest of the year and coming up with schedules and goals. One thing I'm trying to do is optimize my days. As much as I've railed against the perception that early risers are more virtuous and productive, while night owls are considered lazy if they sleep late, even if they're working late into the night, I've come to the realization that I'm a lot more productive when I get up reasonably early. It's still not early for someone who has to be at work at eight and has a commute, but if I get up between 7 and 7:30, my day tends to go better and I get more done. I manage to get some exercise and housework done in the morning in addition to my usual morning routine, and I may even get additional promo work and a start on writing-related work done before lunch. When I stay up later at night, I don't usually get more work done. There's just more goofing-off time. That may change if I get another one of those books that only wants to be written at night, but for now, I'm giving this a shot. I can always adjust as things change.

This week's priority is getting Book 8 ready to go to the copyeditor. Then I'm going to spend some time going through branding exercises so I can hire a web designer and get a graphic identity developed. Meanwhile, I'm starting to think about the next Rebel Mechanics book, and I'll be doing some development on that so I can start writing it as soon as Book 8 is in production and out of my hands. I've decided that next year is when I really want to sell this house and get a new one, so I want to boost my income, and that means getting more books out there. I proved to myself that I can write a good book quickly if I just make it a priority and dedicate the time to it. I track the amount of time I actually spend writing, and I'm on track to pass the number of hours I spent all of last year this week. I'm sure my fans will be happy to have more books.