Returning from That Summer Place

It’s almost back to school time here in southeastern Pennsylvania, which means the kids will be terminating their summer brain dumps, rushing to catch up on assigned reading and trying to remember how to convert improper fractions to mixed numbers. That usually means time for the grownups to start getting their acts together, too.

I admit that I’ve slacked off this summer in a few areas – writing every day being one of the biggest. But where spring has always been the traditional time of renewal for nature, back to school time is, for kids and adults, typically the start of something fresh. It’s an opportunity to establish new routines and actually stick to them because so many other scheduled events depend on things running smoothly.

Yeah, this summer my word count for Novel #2 has fallen off, but I’ve also gotten the chance to do some things that will help make that book better even though I’ve spent a few weeks not actively banging away at it. One of those weeks was spent at our family’s own summer place, this one deviating from past years by switching the Outer Banks of North Carolina for Folly Beach, S.C.

New places equal new inspiration, so in lots of respects it was a worthwhile trip. I’m hoping it ends up as a salable travel story for the freelance writing side of my work, and there are always little details I can pick up from somewhere new to add into a story. Plus, as someone who sets his books in South Carolina but is based full time in Pennsylvania, it’s good to get back once in a while and get in touch with the people you’re writing about.

It’s also been good to go down some roads in my own reading that I don’t often travel. I tilted more toward the fantasy side of things with Fran Wilde’s Updraft and delved into the world of the Mafia – particularly as it relates to Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del. – in Charles Brandt’s I Heard You Paint Houses (look for an upcoming story on Charles and the forthcoming film version of his book in September’s Out & About magazine).

Novel #2 includes more of a criminal enterprise subplot, so it was great to read Brandt’s book and get a window into mob life beyond that provided in the Mafia film pantheon of The Godfather, Goodfellas, etc. And it’s always interesting to see what styles other writers adapt. Wilde’s is lean and tight, which keeps her sprawling, world-building tale to a reasonable and accessible length. While I’m not creating new universes out of whole cloth this time around, I’m trying to keep things leaner myself, so reading other writers who can do so is a bit like taking a master class in how it’s done.

So, here’s to parlaying my non-writing experiences and unassigned summer reading into some good, solid work on Novel #2 once everyone in the house gets back to their school year schedules. It might not be lounging on the beach or by the pool, but there will be plenty of that again next year.

Entirely Biased and Totally Subjective Movie Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

Guardians-Of-The-Galaxy

What is it about the beach that makes everyone’s attitude improve?

Think about it. Everything good in life seems a little bit easier when you’re breathing sea air and basking in sunshine all day. Conversations between strangers strike up more easily. People are more attracted to each other. They’ll let you pull into traffic in front of them. And movies … movies at the beach just seem to go down a little easier, make us a little happier and add a special highlight to what’s usually a week away from “real” life. And it doesn’t even matter that the only reason you were at the movies was probably because it was raining that day.

So it was the first day of my family’s annual beach vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina a few weeks ago. We arrived on Sunday, and Monday turned out to be a wash as far as sunning and swimming went. And really, it provided the perfect excuse for me to round up my son and assorted other cousins and siblings (along with my 70-something aunt) to see a movie I’d been a little bit more excited about than a 45-year-old dad probably should be. Continue reading → Entirely Biased and Totally Subjective Movie Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’