Lockdown

Sunday, August 30, 2020

 

Thunderstorm

If you had asked me three months ago what I expected to be doing in the last days of August, I’d have told you I was looking forward to keeping the doors and windows open, planning a trip or two, and enjoying walks at the Tucson Botanical Gardens again. But I wouldn’t have taken into account that this is 2020, the year when nothing seems to be normal.


Our weather pattern has been unusual, to say the least. In a normal year, our monsoon season, when Tucson gets half its annual rainfall, starts around the 4th of July and continues through mid-September. Almost daily thunderstorms pop up and drench us, filling the washes and turning everything green. This year, we’ve had one thunderstorm and a couple of sprinkles.


The rains also bring cooler temperatures—not cool, mind you, but days in the 90s and nights in the low 80s or even 70s. This summer, we’ve had a ton of days that have been around 110 degrees. I don’t think our high has been under 100 since early June.


I cheered when I read the Botanical Gardens were opening on a limited basis again a couple of weeks ago. I still haven’t been there. It’s too hot to go walking, even if I managed to get myself there when they first open.


In May, I would have said I was planning on attending several writers group meetings in the fall. Because of the heat, everything usually slows down around here in the summer. People go to cooler places for a few weeks or months, and it’s hard to get guest speakers to visit from out of town. We ramp up in the fall, and by Thanksgiving have snowbirds joining us from Minnesota and Wisconsin and other wintry places.


Instead, we’re still on lockdown and no one is going anywhere. I have to say I’m getting a severe case of cabin fever.


A few months ago, I was looking forward to booking a vacation or two. My family was going to have a reunion in Dallas in October, the date set to coincide with the State Fair. I was trying to decide between a visit to a guest ranch in February or a trip back to Massachusetts in the summer. The State Fair was canceled, and with it, the reunion. I haven’t booked a trip because who knows whether I’d get to take it or not?


I’m also not comfortable traveling on airplanes just yet. Even those which promised social distancing and extra cleaning have taken to filling those middle seats and running fewer flights to economize. Airplanes haven’t been a healthy place to be ever since they stopped venting in outside air. I can’t imagine being on one for three hours or more during the pandemic.


Writers have reacted to being in lockdown in one of two ways. Some have found themselves unable to write anything. Fear, isolation, and depression have resulted in severe cases of writers block. Others are being more productive than they’ve ever been. After all, what else is there to do?


I’m somewhere in between. I’ve tried to stick to a normal writing schedule for the most part. But there are days when all I want to do is read a mystery or binge-watch BritBox. That makes it hard to figure out when my next book will be published. Three months ago, I’d been hoping that would be done by now, but I still have work to do on it. It’s getting close, though. And I have lots of ideas for my next books, so there’s something to look forward to in the future.


Photo: Photo by Mike Lewinski on Unsplash

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We're Almost There!

Monday, August 24, 2020

 


Or, as was going through my mind as I thought about writing this blog, “Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!”

Because that’s about how I’ve felt lately. I’m in the revision stage of The Case of the Comely Clairvoyant, which is where an author tries to turn the passionate explosion of words on the page, or screen as is the case now, into an entertaining novel.

Now, I generally have a good idea where I’m going to have to make some changes. For instance, as I was drafting this novel, I realized a scene I was writing had already been written a few scenes before. Rather than trying to make sense of it in draft mode (because stopping to try to make things perfect at that stage often leads to totally giving up in dismay), I kept writing, knowing I’d have to merge the two versions at a later time.

This is that later time. I struggled through that, thinking that the next time I’d have to face work of that magnitude would be in the climax of the book. I knew I didn’t have enough details there. I’d left out the clue that told Titus who was the real murderer. A minor oversight, really. I knew what it was in my head. I’d just never found a place to put it in the story.

But long before I got to that scene, I realized that I’d run out of days in my month. I’d assumed this book took place during the month of August, very shortly after The Case of the Angry Artist. But as I was working through the changes, I realized I had more than four weeks worth of story, and that the way incidents fell, I had the hearing starting on Labor Day. I crossed my fingers and hoped Labor Day wasn’t a holiday yet.

Sorry. Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a federal holiday in June of 1894, just in time to be celebrated in Shipwreck Point in this novel. You might think I could just have the hearing start on Tuesday, but there were other events that had to take place on certain days of the week. (You’ll understand once you read the story. Or maybe you won’t, but I’ll know that the Whitby Weekly has to publish on Tuesday morning and that other things have to happen before that.)

So, like dominoes falling, a whole bunch of scenes had to be changed and a couple of new ones added. I mean, I’d be bothered if an author told me that the trial had to start the day after Labor Day and then totally ignored anything that happened on that day.

So I stopped and spent a day with an 1894 calendar, penciling in when each chapter takes place and making sure I don’t run into any problems like putting a tea party on a weekday, when Elisabeth would be working, or a band concert on Thursday rather than Sunday evening.

I do hope to have all of this work done in a couple of days, followed by a quick run through a grammar/punctuation checker to snag all the silly mistakes, so I can send it off to my beta readers by next weekend.

Then I can chew my nails while they read it, and try to keep myself busy with other tasks so I don’t worry too much about what awfulness they’ll discover that I totally overlooked. Then a proofread and formatting, which are fairly lengthy but easy tasks, and the book will be ready to publish.

So while I haven’t reached the finish line yet, I can see it from here. With any luck, by next month at this time, so will you.
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