Monday, April 29, 2019

State of the Schafer, Vol 3

Writing Progress:

Between my son's school holidays, a skating camp I attended for my birthday, and a family trip to Invercargill, I didn't get a whole lot of new words onto the page--but I got some. The White Serpent (Cara novella) is sitting at just over 20,000 words, and better yet, I've got outlines for most of the remaining scenes all laid out, ready to write.

I don't like to outline a story completely ahead of time, but I do like to outline scenes ahead of writing them, especially the parts with dialogue between the characters. I find dialogue the hardest to write, so working out the conversations without worrying about internals and descriptions and body-language tags and all the rest of a finished scene can be a big help to me. That way I don' t waste time agonizing over words that would get deleted and rewritten anyway as I adjust the conversational flow. Once I have the conversation feeling "right", the rest is relatively easy to add.

The kiddo heads back to school today, so it's my hope I can buckle down and use those outlines to make some serious progress this week. We shall see...

Skating update:

As mentioned, I went to an adult skating camp that happened to take place on my birthday--talk about perfect timing. The camp was held at one of the few year-round rinks on the South Island, about 3 hours away in a town called Gore. (The town thankfully does not live up to its name. It's a perfectly pleasant country town with an excellent athletic center, including multiple indoor pools, basketball/netball courts, ice rink, and more. Someone on the town council must have really liked playing sports.)

The camp was short, only a few hours, but a lot of fun. About 20 adult skaters from Dunedin, Invercargill, Queenstown, and Wanaka came to participate. Everyone I met was so friendly and welcoming, it was lovely. As an introvert, I find it so much easier to meet new people when you all share a common interest/passion! We did a bunch of stroking drills together, then split up into groups based on ability levels to work on jumps and spins, and finished off by doing freeform interpretation to different styles of music. I've always been better at the athletic side of skating than the graceful artistry, so I'm terrible at making up interpretive moves on the spot, but hey, it's fun to try.

The adult camp gang
But speaking of athletics, I confess I totally chickened out when the coach handling the advanced group asked us to do axel jumps. I have not tried an axel yet since returning to the ice, and I wasn't wearing the gel pads I use to protect hips, tailbone, and knees when working on more difficult jumps.  The axel is notorious for having the most terrifying of take-offs--if you blow the jump, you'll take a nasty fall. Every time I started the push into the take-off, my brain was all, NOPE NOPE NOPE, and my body stopped dead before I could even get into the air. It's okay, though. Next time I skate, I'll put on all my padding and see about reclaiming my axel. For now, I was just delighted that my back didn't have any trouble with everything else I did.

New Zealand Life:

After the skating camp, my husband and kiddo and I headed down to Invercargill, the southernmost city in New Zealand. Invercargill has great cafes, tasty oysters, and all the big homewares, furniture, hardware, and electronics stores not available in our tiny little rural town. We needed to buy a bunch of stuff relating to staining our house, but since none of us enjoy shopping, we livened up the day with a trip to a boat factory.

Stabicraft manufactures aluminium-hulled power boats in a small factory just outside of Invercargill, doing everything from initial design through to final touches. In classic friendly Kiwi fashion, they're happy to take you through the factory and explain the whole process. They still build boats the relatively old-school way, with human workers using ordinary tools and standard machines, no fancy automated assembly lines or robots. As an engineer, I always love seeing how stuff gets made, and this was no exception. Apparently it takes about two weeks to manufacture a single boat, and about 40 are in various stages of progress at any given time.

Hulls being shaped

Bending the aluminium in a press

Ready for welding

Waiting for paint and other final touches
We then took a trip out along the southern coast of NZ to Gemstone Beach, which friends had told us is a neat place to visit. The beach is aptly named; the black sand is dotted with shoals of colorful rocks. You can apparently find real gems there, like jasper and even sapphires. I doubt we bought back any actual gems, but our son lugged home an entire bag of ocean-smoothed pebbles in all shades of the rainbow. The largest ones are streaked and striped and look like they could be dragon eggs. The rocks weren't the only attraction; the wild waves were amazing to watch as well.

Windswept bluffs and wild waves

Pebbles on Gemstone Beach

Black sand and blue sky
On our way back to Invercargill from Gemstone Beach, we stopped past Colac Bay, a famous surf spot (although you need a thick wetsuit! The southern ocean is frigid). The contrast of the gentle waves in the sandy, sheltered bay with the wild breakers at Gemstone Beach, only a few minutes' drive away, was fascinating.

Colac Bay

Standing at the southern edge of New Zealand, looking toward Antarctica (it's still 3,000 miles away...there's a lot of ocean in between)

Reading Corner:

I'm partway through The Bone People, which is...interesting, so far. Very artsy and literary in style, not just the prose itself but the physical spacing on the page, and intriguing in its character work. I'm not sure how I feel about the protagonist being a semi-idealized self-insert for the author, though. (The author makes no bones about this; the similarities between herself and her character are evident, right down to the names.) Guess I'll see how the story plays out. I hear it's quite dark, focusing on child abuse, so I'm braced for that.

I didn't take my physical library copy of The Bone People with me to Invercargill, so instead I read on Kindle a recent SFF release, K. Chess's Famous Men Who Never Lived. It's a quiet, melancholy, thoughtful SF novel about refugees from a parallel-universe New York struggling to adjust to life in our world and accept the tremendous loss of what they've left behind. If you like literary SFF like Emily Mandel's Station Eleven, E.J. Swift's Osiris, or Helene Wecker's The Golem and the Jinni, definitely pick this up. Heh, and it made me want to rewatch Fringe, although that will have to wait until I finish catching up on Arrow. (I'm slowly working my way through season 5. Why did nobody tell me S5 is nearly as absorbing as the excellent S2? It's getting awfully hard to stop after one episode.)

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