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Shanna's Journal
Shanna's Adventures in Publishing (and in life)
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30th-Sep-2016 11:36 am - 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.
29th-Sep-2016 01:24 pm - 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.
28th-Sep-2016 12:13 pm - 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.
27th-Sep-2016 11:56 am - 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.
26th-Sep-2016 11:54 am - 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.
22nd-Sep-2016 10:49 am - 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.
21st-Sep-2016 11:06 am - 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.
20th-Sep-2016 12:16 pm - 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.
19th-Sep-2016 12:01 pm - 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!
16th-Sep-2016 11:46 am - 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.
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