Archive for July, 2012

Storms, Trees, Fences, Bees

I spent four years growing up in San Antonio. And we got storms. These massive things that glowed red on the Weather Channel radar and would thunder and lightning like the world was ending. Even going back to childhood memories, where everything seems bigger and scarier, they were nothing compared to what barreled through the DC area on Friday night.

We heard about the storm while attending a show at Wolf Trap.  For those unfamiliar with the venue, it’s a theater run by the National Park Service here in Northern Virginia that includes both an outdoor pavilion and covered seating. It was a hot night to be there, DC registered one of its 11 hottest days since records were kept earlier on the Mall. We expected some rain, but at intermission overheard someone who worked for a weather bureau talk about a storm the size of West Virginia. This wasn’t an exaggeration. I checked the radar and it almost perfectly covered West Virginia with a sharp red line at its leading edge. We bailed on the show, Pirates of Penzance, and got home not just in time to miss the storm itself, but for my parents to get home before the storm as well. So to that anonymous person at Wolf Trap, thank you.

We were in the basement when it hit. The power flickered and went out a few minutes before the storm. Then the lightning started, so frequent you could almost read by it. Then the wall of wind, recorded at nearly 90mph, a blast as fast as the sustained winds of a level one hurricane or an F1 tornado. We listened to the world going to madness outside, and when the rain stopped surveyed the damage. Some limbs down in the front lawn, nothing major. We went to bed, and were awoken by a noise like a dumpster being knocked over. We couldn’t tell what it was until the morning, when we saw a tree in our back yard had sheered off several branches, which took out two sections of our neighbor’s fence and knocked the tops off both beehives.

Oh, the bees were pissed. As was, to a lesser extent, the neighbor.

Currently each of our hives is set up, from the bottom up, with a full super, a super of wax still being drawn out, the inner lid, an empty super for artificial pollen and some sugar water, the outer lid, and a rock to weight it all down. In both cases, everything but the bottom super was knocked away by the falling branch, and a cloud of bees was buzzing around. It’s hard to tell right now how much damage was done to the colonies themselves. We reassembled both of them, though one now has a massive dent in the outer lid as a scar of the storm. This weekend we hope to assess whether the colonies will survive or not. It all comes down to if the queens were in those bottom supers, and remained in those bottom supers. If they did, this will be a setback. If they didn’t, we’ll need to do some emergency requeening, and even then may lose the hive come winter. Toughest part is one of the queens is shy enough to begin with, we don’t see her every time we go looking.

It was a tough weekend, but we were luckier than most. Both of our parents live in town, so we were able to use my wife’s parents as a cooling station on Saturday (though in retrospect we should not have tried going home to sleep) and my parents Sunday into Monday. That’s not to say there weren’t down points. We did try to sleep at the house Saturday night. This was complicated by our smoke detectors occasionally chirping due to humidity and condensation, then the party that set off fireworks at around 2am.

Then there was Wendy’s.

We had my brothers-in-law helping us clear out what branches weren’t actually on our neighbor’s fence on Sunday, and as part of payment we offered them lunch. Which meant either Wendy’s or Popeye’s, as we couldn’t find anywhere else that had electricity. Which meant that everyone was in Wendy’s. Not all eating, there was the young lady taking up an entire four person table for herself and only consuming the occasional refill of her water bottle from the bathroom. I suspect the restaurant was trying, but orders were getting confused, food was forgotten, people were skipped, and things were turning ugly. Worst were the sorters, who would try to turn the food coming out into their order, like it was some sort of video game. This didn’t make it easier for anyone. Eventually we got our food, with someone else’s small Diet Coke (sorry other person) and a burger that wasn’t quite what my one brother-in-law ordered. There were no actual fisticuffs, but I’ve probably never been in a situation closer to punches being thrown. I think the presence of a pregnant lady was somewhat of a calming influence.

It’s amazing how social order breaks down. Especially over something like Wendy’s french fries.

Our power is back on at home, came on around 7pm last night. Still no cable, which also means no internet outside our smartphones, but I saw a truck working on the down cable lines as I left for work this morning. It’s amazing the psychological boon from sleeping in my own bed, air conditioned, with our clingy cat desperate for attention. Yesterday I went through the day in a fugue state, not quite making sense of anything. Today is a hell of a lot sharper.

It’s a kind of storm I’ve never seen, nor the power outage that followed. Not everything is back in pace yet, but things are increasingly normal.

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State of the Writer: July 2012

Right now the state of the writer is just glad to be in the air conditioning. More about that tomorrow. Ahem.

2012 Goal: Query Nickajack.  We’re now halfway through 2012. The current project involves revisiting the first few chapters and making them mesh with the tone and voices of the end of the book, which we like better. Then we need to go back and change one character from a nurse to an anti-technology reactionary and slip her into a few more scenes. Remove a MacGuffin we weren’t using. Little things like that. After those two fixes, we will consider the book a first draft and ready for beta readers.

Then we’ll take a month away from it. No getting around that step, it’s a vitally important one, even if it’s going to happen later than expected.

At this point, I’m not going to kick myself if I don’t have a query letter away by December 31. That’s not to say I’m giving up on the goal, I’m still pushing forward as hard as I can, but this is the first time I’ve really revised a novel. Top-down, end-to-end, major updates and changes, rewriting entire chapters sort of revising. So I didn’t know how long to give it. Plus, the whole having a baby thing is changing things. My wife/coauthor was pregnant when we set the goal, but neither of us knew it yet. I suspect if the goal does slip, it will by at most a quarter.

We’re also starting to talk about books two and three, and what things might happen in them. Working titles: Mogollon and Columbia. That’s all you’re getting for now.

In other writing, I’ve continued to work on my novella Ghosts of Venus, I’m most of the way through a short story that will be heading off to an anthology as soon as I have power back, and I wrote another of the background flash pieces for the Nickajack universe. Actually, there was a point this month that I was working on a flash piece while taking a break from the short story that I’m writing as a break from my novella that I’m writing as a break from my novel. While I find Russian nesting dolls charming, I’ve got to stop doing things like that. It’s nice to know I can multitask, especially as my wife has her changes to work on Nickajack, but multitasking only really counts if I finish things.

Morning writing has been a major boon. It’s a project I started after the Memorial Day holiday, and during the month of June I totaled 7642 words written between 7:15am and 7:30am.  That’s over 7500 words that I might not have otherwise written. If you want to know more about the project, I introduced it here, then talked about the power of doing a little bit of work everyday here.  With 21 weekdays in June, that meant an average of 364 words a day, which compounds out to nearly 95k words if I managed to do that every weekday for a year.

State of the Author’s Beer: Had intended to brew this month for the first time in a while, but then Austin Homebrew started a state-by-state sale on their website, so I’m waiting for Virginia’s sale date to buy…which is July 26th. So hopefully brewing first weekend in August. I did finally track down the boysenberries I needed. Only had to buy an 8-pack from Amazon.

State of the Author’s Bees: Got my first sting this weekend, learned that I’m not deathly allergic. Also learned that stings on the cartilage of the ear hurt like a bastard. More on that when I talk about the storm.

This week on the blog: The DC storm and my next Ace Double review.  See you then.

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