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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

seasons

Happy New Year!





Yes, I'm one of that weird bunch of people for whom September 1st means the start of a new year. We're mostly academics, i suppose, our lives tuned to the start of a school year. There are a few witches among us--those for whom harvest festivals and Halloween have special significance. And maybe some of us fall into both categories. (No one I know, of course!)

I have been known to argue that a September start is the only one that makes sense. Why would  we want to start a year in January? It's cold, nasty, and after the holidays there's nothing left except for those leftover pine needles that poke holes in  your socks. The Romans made a case for March. The weather is getting better, I admit, but their month of Martius had nothing to do with baby birds and daffodils and everything to do with time to worship Mars (God of War) by setting out on a march to conquer somebody.  Not my favorite pastime. So what's left? July and the start of summer? Nope, not in Memphis, where by July we're sweltering and sweating and swatting mosquitoes. Nothing attractive there, either. No. Give me September, when there's just a touch of crispness to the morning air, when trees start to put on their red and gold show, when gardens no longer need tending, and harvests load us up with delicious and healthy crops.

I can lollygag my way through summer. I certainly did this year. Looking back, now, I can't tell you much of anything i accomplished.  My lone tomato plant put out a grand total of one tomato, and a great green hornworm had part of that one. After May we did no real traveling. I didn't get a tan. I sold a bunch of books, but Amazon was much more responsible for that than I was. I created some Pinterest boards, but that involved nothing more than looking through some old travel pictures. I did serve my Jury Duty time -- and perhaps I helped keep a nice kid-- one who did something really stupid while trying to be helpful-- from paying for it by spending the rest of his life in prison. But if I wanted to make a case for calling myself a writer, this past summer offers no real evidence of any ability to put words on paper.

Then I turned the page on the calendar, and this first week of September has been a very different story. I've published a children's book, written four chapters (approximately 10% of my next novel,) put out feelers to find narrators for two more audio books, and come  up with ideas for a new publishing venture. Looking ahead, I have plans for at least four trips in the next six weeks. and those trips will involve a writer's conference, a couple of book award ceremonies in which I have a least a fighting chance to see something good come down for one of my books, and a visit to a new location that may one day be the setting for a new book.

I'll fill you on some of the details in the coming days as I get myself back into a blogging routine. Stay tuned!

Bits and Pieces of Scheduling


I hung one of those academic-year wall calendars on the door to my office because, whether I'm in a classroom or not, my whole life has been attuned to starting a new year with the start of school.  I can take big blocks of summer to laze around and do things on impulse, but when the first leaf turns, I start to chart my time. 

So I'm sitting here looking across the room at that calendar and trying to future out what all those blocked-out periods of travel are going to mean to my book production schedule. Here's what I see: 

1. I have three weeks coming up during which I should be able to work on the first draft of "Damed Yankee." The third week has the potential to be super-productive because my husband has jury duty, entailing him leaving the house by 7:00 AM every morning. Since I'm not going to want to tackle that rush-hour traffic twice a day, he'll be taking the car and leaving me effectively house-bound. That's OK, though.  That's how I get work done.  I also expect the first proof copy of "Left by the Side of the Road, 2nd ed." to arrive and demand a careful line-edit. 

2. Labor Interruptus: Between September 13 and October 7, I only count eight days when I will not be traveling, and of course they come as individual dates, not strung together in one work period. Those trips promise visits with many old friends, so I want to be free enough to enjoy them without work-guilt. My eight free days will be filled with all the pre-publication stuff that has to happen between the first proof and books hitting the shelf. So, new writing? Probably not. But thinking, planning, and making notes to myself? Absolutely.  That's how I fill  interstate miles. 

3. October is "Nose to the Grindstone" Month. From October 7 on, I see only three evenings booked--two meetings and a wedding. My days are free (so far) to accomplish the following:
  • Official publication of "Left by the Side of the Road" in trade paper and text conversions to adapt it to Kindle and Smashwords.
  • Creating pre-publication hype for "Damned Yankee," scheduled to make its debut sometime in the spring of  2014. That includes posters, a trailer, pre-pub postcards and other handouts to be used in  conjunction with book talks to audiences that may be interesting in what is coming next.
  • Estimating future book sales and ordering copies to take on a book tour coming up in November.
  • Planning the presentations for each of those book talks. For various reasons, they cannot all be the same.  Different venues have asked for different topics.
  • And, of course, writing. Right now I have good intentions of finishing the first draft of "Damned Yankee."

4. Hell month (otherwise known as November): From the very first day through Thanksgiving on the 28th, we have ten days at home, again scattered across the calendar and likely to be consumed by laundry for the next trip. We're on the road every weekend, and I have five book talks scheduled on the weekdays in between. 

5. After Thanksgiving comes one last chance to find some productive writing time, either finishing first draft of "Damed Yankee" or starting a full rewrite. Then on December 12th we hit the road again, managing just two days home  before Christmas. (I'm betting there will be no fruitcake and no Christmas cookies baked this year!) 

So, think retirement means boredom and sitting on your hands with nothing to do?  Think again. So you want to be a writer? Better think that one through again, too.  Want to make some real money? Try being my cat-sitter. As for me? Back to work!



Is It Spring Yet?


 
            March has only two real holidays, both of them commonly associated with the color green.  The first day of Spring comes in March, and we have every reason to expect the world to turn green.  In Memphis, though, you can't count on that.  Statistically, it is as likely to snow on March 20 as on any day of winter.

 If the neighborhood does not turn not white from snow in March, the Bradford pear trees will produce enough white blossoms to make it look like snowfall. At the same time, the wonderful old post oaks in the south grow long fuzzy catkins in the Spring, and they are capable of producing enough pollen paint your car yellow if you park under one. Green will simply have to wait.

            The most dependable signs of Spring are the migrations.  Our little juncos and red-winged blackbirds will be heading north, along with those other snow-birds, the folks from along the U. S./Canada border, who have been keeping warm in Florida all winter. You'll see them on the interstate, chugging along in their overloaded motor homes.  Another migration path leads south in March – northern college students on Spring Break.  You'll want to avoid them on the highways, too. 

There will be a vertical migration as well.  Do you want to know how close Spring really is?  Check to see how far down in the dirt you have to dig to find an earthworm.  Their migrations may only cover a distance of six inches or so, but when they start to stick their wormy little heads up in your garden, Spring is definitely here.

This yea r I’m not taking any chances.  We're in  in South Carolina, which seems like cheating a bit.  Yes, the first day of Spring will be sunny and warm.  But then every day this week has been sunny and warm.  I hope you’re warm and sunny, too, wherever you are.  But if you’re facing another blizzard, think about all those poor little worms huddled underground, just like you.  And remember, these are the days you’ll long for in August!