Friday, August 9, 2013

Summer (Almost) Past


I had such major plans for writing this summer. I had hoped to produce 30,000 words in July via Camp NaNoWriMo and to post weekly chapters of Only by Moonlight.

But then a fire scare right after July 4 put us in an uproar. Our small town (pop.1200) is surrounded on all sides by national forest and is located in a valley at 4,000 feet elevation at the base of Mount Laguna--about an hour's drive east of San Diego, California. A raging fire started in the desert, climbed the backside of the mountain range, and then threatened Mount Laguna which is a tiny town of fewer than 100 full-time residents but boasts many campgrounds and hundreds of part-time residences (i.e., cabins that can't be lived in as a primary residence as they're on forestry lands).

My parents bought such a cabin in 1997, and we cram as many as 25 people into the 600-square-foot cabin for Christmas Dinner every year. Major holidays are usually celebrated at the cabin--in fact, there have been several "White Easters" in which we were tempted to NOT dye the eggs and make it really fun to find them in the snow.

The Chariot Fire endangered all of Mount Laguna which was evacuated, including my parents' cabin. When the fire jumped Sunrise Highway, we knew we were in for trouble.

Eventually the evacuation zone came within a mile of our home and the fire burned up to the mouth of a canyon that ends at the north side of our town. Fortunately, the winds shifted suddenly, and the fire started burning back on itself rather than barreling down the canyon. Still, with the fire burning six miles away, it was scary.

We were warned to prepare to evacuate, so the kids and I gathered photo albums, important papers, and packed suitcases with clothing for a few days.

And did I mention that my husband wasn't home during this time? I was left at home with four kids and a '91 Toyota Corolla which wouldn't hold much should we be evacuated. He did make it home briefly to switch cars with me and leave me the minivan. Whew--that was one blessing.

Another blessing (besides the winds shifting--yay!!!) was Facebook. I stumbled across a Facebook group for fires in our area, and they posted links to the CalFire audio feeds, constantly updating maps of the burn area, eyewitness reports via Facebook and blogs of what was happening on the mountain, etc.

Over 7,000 acres burned and 150 structures were destroyed, most of them cabins on forestry lands which then cannot be replaced. Five firefighters were injured, none seriously. And at the end of the week, rains came and soaked the ground, helping firefighters to gain the upper hand and douse the monster that had just seemed invincible before.

So with packing, days of tense watching and waiting, and then unpacking again, my autoimmune issues reacted to my stress and flared up painfully. Plus three of our four kids are not healthy. Our daughter has a gene mutation that causes chronic fatigue and depression. Our eldest son has been having pain and swelling in his joints and muscles, culminating in a seizure last week (we're waiting for a call from the hospital to schedule an EEG), and our youngest son may have a congenital hernia which is messing with his digestive system and needs imaging done.

Did I mention that my husband is self-employed and we have no health insurance?

Plus I taught an online fan fiction class for four weeks which took a good deal of my writing time away. I had eight students ages 11-14, with one from Australia and one from Canada; the rest were from the US. It was intriguing that several of the students were not homeschooled; they were taking the class for fun because they were devotees of writing fan fiction stories. It was a great class.

Here is the class description from the transcript forms I send out at the end of class:

Course description: The Fan Fiction course focuses on the writing of three fan fiction stories over four weeks: one flash fiction story of fewer than 1,000 words, a second fan fiction story or chapter of 1,500 words minimum, and a third story or continuing chapter of a multi-chapter work of fan fiction with a 2,000 word minimum. After receiving written feedback in detail from classmates as well as from the instructor, students revise and resubmit their final two stories at the end of the course. In addition, two character-preparation freewrites are assigned early in the course to aid fan fiction writers in developing believable characters. In addition to exploring and defining the genre of fan fiction writing, students also read and offer an informal written analysis of several fan fiction stories from different genres (books, films, television, video games, anime, etc.) in addition to offering written feedback on a minimum of six stories written by classmates. Problem areas of fiction writing are also addressed and discussed, including: learning terms and techniques of literary analysis, analyzing story elements, writing convincing and compelling characters, plotting and mapping strategies for stories, writing believable (and correctly punctuated) dialog, following the steps of the writing process, revising and editing stories, overcoming writer’s block, completing a multi-chapter story/novel, and preparing to publish fan fiction online or in print form.   

I still have to grade the final stories this week, but they should go fairly quickly since the students have revised the two main stories (1,500 and 2,000 word minimum) that they wrote earlier for the class.
So Camp NaNoWriMo fell by the wayside pretty darn quickly, but I have posted a few chapters of Only by Moonlight  and am currently working on Chapter 8 which I hope to send to my brilliant and invaluable pre-readers ladylibre and EmmyDana tonight. :)
Year # 17 of home schooling begins in just over two weeks with our younger two starting eighth and eleventh grades. I'll also be teaching my new online class Literary Analysis: American Poetry (which I still need to write and plan) starting September 3, and my co-op high school Expository Essay course starting September 12. My Essay Grading Service for homeschoolers is also picking up speed as I just added a family with tenth grade triplets to  my client list, so they'll keep me busy.  
I hope to keep up with regular chapter updates for Only by Moonlight, but with these chapters being quite a bit longer than my chapters for my other multi-chapter fics, I may have to post a chapter every other week. My chapters for Evening Star and Pinned but Fluttering were around 2500 words while chapters for Only by Moonlight have been 4000-5000 words. 
So with summer ending soon, I just wanted to let you know what I've been up to and what's ahead. And I'm both ecstatic and sad that pattyrose's brilliant The Cullen Legacy completed today with the epilogue. I'd have to rate this story in my Top Fan Fiction stories along with (in no particular order):
So, I wish you a wonderful final weeks of summer!! Now I'm going to grade final fan fiction stories for my class and work on Chapter 8 of Only by Moonlight for all of you!!

Writing for you,

Cassandra :)

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