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Shanna's Journal
Shanna's Adventures in Publishing (and in life)
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20th-Oct-2016 12:00 pm - Catching-Up Time
I made it through children's choir last night. The kids were actually surprisingly good. I don't know if the more challenging ones were tired and behaving better or if I had that good a lesson so they were engaged rather than acting up, but the usual challenge didn't have to be taken outside and only one other kid had to have a time out in the hall when he got a little overexcited. Now I just have three more sessions this semester. Next week is the Halloween carnival, then the week after that is the children's worship service, then I have two weeks, then Thanksgiving, and then one week before we take a break for the holidays. I can do three lesson plans.

I also found out that instead of getting one of the grad students to fill in on my solo, the choir just did something else, a piece that's familiar enough they were able to just run through it Sunday morning. Which means I still have to sing it, if I ever get my voice back entirely. It turns out that doing this helped the choir director better align some of the pieces he had planned because he was having second thoughts about the piece he had planned for that Sunday. I've got about a month now to get well and get back in shape.

I feel like I let a lot of stuff pile up this week that I should have been doing but couldn't concentrate on. Maybe today I can start getting to it all. I need to write some cover copy and do some work toward all my branding stuff. And brainstorm a book so I can plot it and start writing.

So I guess I'd better get on that, huh?
19th-Oct-2016 12:13 pm - Revolutions are Hard
Yesterday, I took a look at the synopsis I wrote for what I had then planned as a trilogy of Rebel books, and wow, I went pretty far astray on my plans. I did stick to the planned plot for the first half of book two, but then went on a totally different tangent and ended up in a different place. Meanwhile, I didn't even get to the stuff that I'd planned to get to that needs to happen. Book three may end up being the second half of my planned book 2, which means I might have a four-book trilogy. But then I've heard that it's better to have series with odd numbers of books, so I may need to go to five. I guess I'll have to see how this book shapes up.

Basically, what it comes down to is that it's very hard to have a revolution -- something more than just an uprising. Creating a new country takes more than just the armed revolt. You have to have something in place to run the new country and make it work. And you have to get a lot of people on board, at all levels of society. That's one of the things that was fairly unique about the real American revolution. It involved participation from the landed elites down to ordinary people, all working together. The ordinary people might have had an uprising but probably wouldn't have been able to put together a national government. The elites had the government and the Declaration of Independence but wouldn't have been able to win the revolution without the ordinary people. That kind of cooperation among classes was unlikely in British society at that time.

Now I need to move that kind of thing into the Gilded Age, which had its own kind of class consciousness, even in the real history. There were massive divides between rich and poor then, with the rich people being really, really rich and the poor people being extremely poor. There was social movement possible, though, with some of those very rich people having come from next to nothing. They had a little trouble breaking into the upper crust, in spite of their wealth. So, how bad would it have been if the British class structure were still in place and the upper class had a physical difference -- magic -- that separated them from the rank and file? And that's where the idea for these books came from.

So, to complete this series, I need to progress things to the point that they're able to have a successful revolution and put together a government that might actually work. The fun thing about alternate history is that I can fix some of the things that went "wrong" with our history.

I have more brainstorming and plotting to do today before I attempt to go deal with children's choir. I may go to adult choir rehearsal to listen, but singing is still out of the question.
18th-Oct-2016 12:01 pm - Woefully Underprepared
I got well enough yesterday to actually manage some sitting and thinking. I made a list of things that could or should happen in this next book, and a few scenes started to come to mind. I'm feeling a bit better today, though I had a rather rough night, so I'm hoping to do more brainstorming work this afternoon. My pattern seems to go that I need to go lie down and rest a bit after breakfast, then feel well enough to get up and do something, then need to rest again, then have a few hours of feeling pretty good, and then later at night I feel really tired and that's when the coughing kicks in.

During this afternoon's up-and-at-'em phase, I'm hoping to make a run to Target and Kroger because I was woefully underprepared for illness. I was out of most of the cold/flu medication I usually keep on hand, and I didn't have much good "sick" food handy. Fortunately, I'd made a vat of vegetable soup a few weeks ago and had some in the freezer, but I didn't have any chicken soup or ingredients for chicken soup. I have this weird thing of not being able to eat canned chicken noodle soup, mostly because that's what they usually give you in recovery after day surgery as the test for whether you'll be able to keep anything down. Supposedly, it's gentle on the stomach enough to be given on an empty stomach. But I tend to have a delayed reaction to anesthesia, so let's just say that after they've decided I'm fine and send me home, things get unpleasant in the car, and that's now what I associate with canned chicken noodle soup. Now I can only manage to eat the kind that's dry that you mix with water, or else I do a mix of chicken broth and chicken stock (I find that soup made with just broth is too weak, but with just stock it's too strong) and throw some fine noodles and frozen peas and carrots in, maybe some bits of chicken breast if I have any handy. I also ran out of multivitamins, which I probably need to make up for not having much appetite right now.

My aim for this week is to get well enough to sing in this weekend's choir concert. We're doing a Schubert mass, and I've put a lot of work into learning it. I'd hate to miss yet another singing thing because of this illness. At the moment, I can talk for a little while without coughing, but singing is out of the question.

But brainstorming is going to happen today. I have a book to plot.
17th-Oct-2016 12:29 pm - Sick Day
Wouldn't you know, after all the work I put into learning that solo, I came down with a killer virus so that I woke up Saturday morning with no voice at all, and it only got worse from there. I spent Saturday drinking fluids and trying everything I could to get better, but it was a lost cause. I spent yesterday in bed watching history documentaries on cable because I just didn't feel up to sitting up. Today my throat doesn't hurt as much, and I can talk without pain, but I'm utterly weak. I took my laptop to bed and am making use of my bedroom TV.

I've decided to give myself a sick day, since the main thing on my to-do list was sitting and thinking, and I don't really feel like doing either. If I get ideas or get some brainstorming done, that'll be a bonus.

Now I'm watching the Harry Potter movies on cable. It's that kind of day.
I got the book finished and off for formatting, so today's to-do list involves working on some cover copy and then brainstorming the next book. Yes, my to-do list for today is pretty much "sit and think." I love this part of working on a book.

In the meantime, I'm trying to fight off a very inconveniently timed cold and/or allergy attack. I have to sing a lot of high notes on Sunday, so I don't dare lose my voice. Lots of liquids and vitamin C and allergy drugs will be involved the next couple of days. It's a good thing all I have to do is sit and think.

And it's the perfect day for it, as it's nice and rainy. They said last night that the rain would be gone by noon, but it's still really gray, which is okay by me.

The other thing I need to think about today is taking a fall vacation. I kind of want to repeat last year's trip, but then there's something to be said for trying something new. The place I went last year was just what I want, but I've often found that trying to repeat something that was wonderful can end up being disappointing. Maybe the trick is to not try to repeat it but rather try to turn it into something new and different. You can go to the same place but go about it in a different way. This is a relatively low-stress kind of trip with a nice immersion in nature.
13th-Oct-2016 11:53 am - Proofreading and Singing
I have four more chapters to proofread by reading out loud. I only did a couple yesterday because I could feel my voice straining, and I had choir in the evening. I've got the solo in this Sunday's piece, and it's really challenging, with a lot of very high wailing, so I didn't want to wear out my voice before rehearsal. I'm taking it slow in the reading because of this, with frequent breaks. That's why it's taken me so long. Maybe in the future I should avoid the conjunction of a choir solo and the read-aloud proofread phase.

At least I learned I won't have to do that solo as a solo for the early service, so I won't be singing As at 8:30 in the morning while wrangling kindergarteners, who are also singing in the early service.

I really need to make a habit of practicing my upper range. Singing second soprano in choir means I usually don't sing those notes, and then I get rusty. When I first started working on this piece, I was straining a bit, and now those notes come easily.

Meanwhile, I think I'm at the point where I'm going to force myself to call a halt to the developmental research reading for the next Rebel book. I may do specific research that may be needed once I have a better sense of where I'm going with it, but this is research to get ideas. I did have a synopsis for this book, from back when I was working on the proposal for the first one, but the second one went way off-plan, which had such a ripple effect that what I had planned for book 3 is now no longer viable. There are some things I may be able to salvage, but the structure is going to have to change significantly.

This weekend, when I'm not singing, I plan to do some major brainstorming sessions, and I'd like to start drafting next week. And then I can start the research reading for the next book. Ideas for that are already popping into my head.
12th-Oct-2016 11:29 am - Worldbuilding: Society
I'm continuing a series of writing posts on worldbuilding. Last time, I talked about geography. Now it's time to talk about the people who inhabit the world, since they'll probably have a lot to do with the way your story shapes up. People can be very influenced by the place in which they live. That can have something to do with climate -- you get very different cultures at the equator than you do in harsh northern areas -- or location -- more remote areas are likely to be more homogeneous, while places that are easy to get to will probably end up being more diverse. That diversity doesn't always come without struggle and opposition. If you look at patterns in immigration in port cities in our world, you see initial opposition to newcomers, who at first keep to themselves in enclaves. Gradually, their children assimilate, and the greater culture begins to adopt some of their culture (food, arts, etc.). They become part of the greater culture, which is then resistant to the next wave of newcomers.

What kind of people live in your story setting? Think about their daily lives -- what are their homes like, what foods do they eat, what do they do for fun, what are some of the key industries that might employ them, what kind of arts do they pursue? One tricky area that tends to get left out in fiction is the matter of faith. Most human cultures have had some kind of belief system that explains their origins and the world around them. These belief systems may grow and strengthen, get replaced by something else, morph into something else, or fade away. Even a society that has become more secular has generally made a choice to turn away from old beliefs, and there are people who still hold onto them. Most legal systems have developed from religious laws, and a lot of cultural rules and attitudes have their roots in religious beliefs. Many of the arts were first used as expressions of faith. You get a richer world if you at least consider the question instead of creating a world where this doesn't even come up. You could get a very different society by imagining an old religion with a very different set of beliefs and tracing how those beliefs affect laws and culture. That could change traditional gender roles and views of morality.

Are the people in this area conquerors or the conquered? There are nations that tend to be the aggressors and those that tend to get overrun, either because of their geographic location with no natural barriers or defenses or because of their tendency not to put up a fight. Is the conquered nation currently under occupation or control, or are they autonomous again after being liberated by someone else? History of conquering or being conquered will affect the psyche of a nation and possibly the attitudes of the people living there, as well as their view of outsiders, violence, and the need for a military.

How does the economy work? What is traded? What is produced? Is there currency, or is it a barter economy? Is there any kind of economic control by the government, or is it a free-for-all? What's the distribution of wealth? How do people feel about the distribution of wealth? Is there a class system, and how flexible is it? Can someone move up just by amassing wealth and status, or is birth a major factor? If there is a rigid class system based on birth, how did the upper-class families attain their status, and when?

And is any of this changing, on the verge of changing, or subject to change if outside forces (like events in your story) act on this part of your world? Is someone -- either your hero or your villain -- trying to change it? How stable or precarious is your society? Is it strong enough to survive a disaster, or will it all fall apart if one thing happens? Is there some similar or contrasting society nearby that may affect this society -- enemies that might invade, enemies this society might invade, allies, potential allies? Where does this culture fit into the overall world? Is it better or worse than other cultures?

History is a great place to look for ideas of how a society might develop and what can tear it apart.

Once you've developed all these things about your world, it's time to think about how you'll show them in your story, and that will be the next topic.
11th-Oct-2016 11:51 am - Getting Serious
It's time to get serious, so I moved back into my office instead of sitting on the sofa, like I have all summer. Well, it's not entirely about being serious. I've got a crick in my neck from the way I was sitting on the sofa to read from the computer while proofreading, so I've moved to a location that allows me to sit with better posture. I cleaned out the office a little to get the new phone/Internet stuff installed, but I need to get it a little more set up for proper work.

Because boy, am I going to have some proper work to do. I think I know what the next project after the next Rebel Mechanics book will be because one of the candidates popped up last night to develop itself. I now know more about the heroine and I really want to write her. I'll do a brief brain dump today to get that information down, then get back to my proofreading and research reading. I think having three projects in various phases of development might make my brain explode.

Speaking of projects, it looks like the new Enchanted, Inc. book will be released December 13. The audio version may come a couple of weeks later. It's not absolutely set in stone, but considering that I'll have a final draft this week ready for formatting and I saw the first pass at the cover art yesterday, that should be on target. There may also be something else around that time, so stay tuned …

Then I'll be able to switch gears (get it?) and get down to some serious Rebel work, and then I can also start brainstorming more about that other project.

And somewhere along the way, I need to clean and organize my house and do a purge because I really hope to sell this place, find another, and move early next year (though I also need to write a lot of books for that so I can afford the kind of place I want and be able to fix it up properly).
10th-Oct-2016 11:54 am - Fantasy Adventures
I was going to say I was lazy this morning and skipped yoga, but really, I skipped yoga because I wanted to get more work done. I need to finish proofing that book, and then I have a lot of other things to take care of, like finding an illustrator to do some cover work for something new I have in mind. I have a vivid mental image of the style I want, but haven't been able to find someone who does that, and when I've found a book that has something similar, I can't find info on the artist. I want something kind of cute and semi-cartoony, similar to what's on the Enchanted, Inc. books in tone but a different style of art. Everyone who's been recommended is closer to manga than I want, or else more newspaper comic-style. I think I could probably best describe what I have in mind is the kind of illustrations on the slightly arty humorous greeting cards -- the Hallmark Shoebox Greetings style.

In other news, I watched the first two episodes of Westworld, and it was certainly thought-provoking. It's based on the 1970s Michael Crichton movie about an immersive Old West theme park/live-action game in which there are robot "hosts" that interact with the guests. The hosts can't harm the guests, but the guests can do anything they want to the hosts. It's unfortunately probably rather realistic that a lot of the guests use this as an opportunity to rape and murder, though there do seem to be some guests who just go to play out an adventure, like finding gold with a prospector or joining the sheriff's posse to track down bandits. Things get tricky when the hosts start becoming a little too realistic and become more self-aware, so they're affected by the trauma they keep getting put through. I do hope that the series gets into how a human is affected by committing violence against something that seems very human, even if it isn't human. The series is done by the people who were behind Person of Interest, so I can imagine there will be all kinds of delving into what it is to be human and how humans can go too far.

Anyway, I found myself thinking about what kind of theme park like that I'd want to visit. Since I have no desire to rape or murder anything, I wouldn't really need robots to create the environment, unless it's strictly a case of ensuring that the storylines play out or for purposes of hygiene -- less historical stench and less risk of disease if all the animals and most of the people are robots. Really, I suspect I'd be kind of a wimp about adventures. I don't even like regular theme parks all that much because I don't like being scared, even if it's a "safe" scared. I wouldn't want even the illusion of being in danger, regardless of whether I knew I couldn't actually be hurt. I also like my creature comforts. I'm not into sleeping on the ground, and I don't even like Renaissance festivals that use Port-a-Potties instead of having real bathrooms.

So, if I were going to have a theme park like a Westworld, I decided that I'd want a Narnia experience. You go to an old house, and you open a door to find a magical world where there are fantasy creatures and talking animals, and you can go on quests and adventures, with technology simulating magic. There would also be accommodations built in, so that you'd stop for the night at a place where there's a nice mossy spot on the ground (a concealed mattress) and a secluded pond with a waterfall feeding into it (a camouflaged tub and shower). Toilet facilities would be hidden in a cave. A "magic spell" would result in meals appearing. There might be hints of a potential threat to give your quest a ticking clock, but it would mostly be about puzzles to solve and characters to interact with. Mostly, though, I think I prefer reading about adventures to living them. There are all kinds of things I like reading about that I wouldn't want to experience myself.

Though if I were going to write that story, it would involve someone who thinks that's what they're getting, but there's a glitch, and they get transported to a real fantasy world.

Not that I need more story ideas.
7th-Oct-2016 12:21 pm - New Fall TV
I ended up with two days off from posting because the new Internet/phone service installation took all morning, during which time I was offline, and then I had to run errands, and then I was catching up on what I should have done in the morning, and then I realized the day was over. The new service requires a few changes, in that my wiring doesn't support both phone and Internet with the kind of service they're offering now, so my phone jacks no longer work. My phone has to be plugged into the Internet router, which meant I had to get a cordless phone with multiple handsets, which was one of my errands. I'd have wanted new phones anyway because the new service comes with Caller ID, and my old phones didn't support that. I ended up getting a system that will pair with my cell phone, so I can use the home phone handset to make/receive cell calls. That should mean less running around the house when my cell rings. The other cool thing is that because I now have voice over IP phone service, I can use the NoMoRobo feature and block robocallers. That should block most of the scams, as well as many of the political calls. Just in time for the election!

The school visit on Wednesday went really well. The kids seemed to be at least moderately interested. The 8th graders may have been a little too cool for it, but the 6th graders were enthusiastic. I got good feedback from the teachers and principal, and I've seen some nice things posted by parents who are friends of my friend who helped set it up about what their kids said. It turned out that one of the teachers in this school was a high school classmate, so we had a mini reunion there. Meanwhile, my friend who helped set this up has roused the power of the PTA moms and is determined to get me speaking all over the area.

Now I guess I need to write more YA books if kids are starting to catch on.

In other news, the fall TV season has begun. I've started with three new shows so far. I wasn't planning to watch the TV version of Lethal Weapon, but I read surprisingly good reviews for it, so I gave it a shot, and it's better than I expected. It's still essentially a brainless 80s action movie that's more about the characters than the action, but it does that pretty well. Though I must say I was less impressed by the third episode, so I don't know how long they'll be able to sustain it. How much havoc can they really create in the city before something gets done?

I also liked the pilot for Timeless, the one about time travel. A terrorist (maybe?) has stolen a time machine and seems to be going back in time to change things, for a reason that remains unknown. They still have the prototype time machine that's paired with that one, so they send a team of a historian, a soldier, and a scientist from the project back to try to stop him. The thing that possibly elevates or differentiates this series from others with a similar premise is the suggestion that there's something more going on. Also, there are ramifications in the present from things that they do while time traveling. So, there's a lot of potential there, and they're using the time travel premise for more than just a way to get to a different time and place to have adventures in history.

There's also a new animated show on Disney XD from the same people who did Phineas & Ferb called Milo Murphy's Law, about a kid who pretty much embodies Murphy's Law. He's a big-time jinx. If something can go wrong for him, it will. But instead of him being a Charlie Brown kind of guy and moping about his bad luck, he's developed impressive coping and survival skills, and he goes around prepared for just about anything. As he says, he's found that screaming doesn't help and all it does is damage the larynx. If you're with him, disaster is likely to occur, but he'll also know exactly how to get out of it. The kids who avoid him because he's a jinx end up having much less interesting lives than the kids who are friends with him. It looks like it could be pretty cute.

I haven't yet had a chance to watch Westworld on HBO. That may be for tonight. Otherwise, there isn't much new this season that interests me, and I like not spending so much time watching TV. Not that I've been spending that time on writing this week, but now that all the life upheavals are over for the week, I'm going to get back to proofreading today.
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