Ray Bradbury and Me

I have two chapters in this book about Ray Bradbury. The book is part of Salem Press’s Critical Insights series.

Toward the end of last year I was invited to write a biography and a critical context entry about Ray Bradbury for inclusion in Salem Press’s Critical Insights: Ray Bradbury. The book has been published and I received my author’s copy last week, just in time for the holidays. It’s a lot of work to research and write these kind of articles, but it’s always a pleasure to see them in print and to see what kind of other articles there are in the book.

Last summer my husband and I attended the Maine Astronomy Retreat for the first time. One day we left camp and drove to Belfast, Maine, and spent the afternoon strolling around. I saw a paperback copy of The Martian Chronicles in the window of an independent bookstore, and I was drawn to it, but in the end I didn’t buy it. About a month after vacation I received an email about this book project and all I could think was “Why didn’t I buy that book when I was on vacation?”

Odd things like that seem to happen to me fairly often. I suppose I could claim to have had an intuition about the book, but I think I was drawn to it because I’ve been thinking about rereading some of the books I read as a teenager, and The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 were both on that reread list. I read both while working on the articles, and in fact I devoured them each in a day or two, staying up way too late because I just could not put the books down. I don’t remember that fascination the first time I read the books, and in fact I found The Martian Chronicles a bit hard because I’m more of a novel reader and less of a short-story reader. I always wanted to stay with Bradbury’s characters longer than he did!

My essays are a short biography, “Ray Douglas Bradbury,” and a longer piece, “Big Brother, Little Sister: Ray Bradbury, Social Pressure, and the Challenges to Free Speech.” You can work out from the title what it’s about, so I won’t go into details here. But, I would recommend reading Bradbury’s work, especially if you’ve only seen the movies. His word choices, the characters, the pacing of the stories — those are part and parcel of the atmosphere he brought to the worlds he created. You won’t go wrong spending an evening, or a few days, immersed in his work.




A Busy Spring

I’m behind in my ambitious writing goal for the year, which is no huge surprise given that I set the bar very high at 240,000 words. I’m counting editing and revision at 750 words an hour, which is three-quarters of what the NaNoWriMo site recommends, but it jives with the amount of work I usually get done in an hour when I edit/revise my work.

It’s a busy spring for me so far. I have nine writing-related projects on my desk this quarter, including encyclopedia articles on the Scott Antarctic Expedition and the Indian Howdah for ABC-Clio’s The British Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia; a biography and a cultural and historical context article on Ray Bradbury for Salem Press’s Critical Insights: Ray Bradbury encyclopedia; my first draft for Corrugated Sky’s second anthology.

I’m also going to present a paper at the Mid-Atlantic Conference on British Studies annual meeting, which is coming up the beginning of April, so I need to delve back into my research for that. Which brings me to another project, which is turning my master’s thesis (about 100 pages) into a full-length book. But for that, I need a lot more research, so it’s a time-intensive project.

And the last two items on my list (so far this year) are my novel, Seacombe Island, and a book on writer’s prompts. I’ve spent quite a bit of time organizing my calendar and to-do list so I’m not having all the deadlines at once, but it means working ahead and I find that soft deadlines (ones I impose on myself) are easier to let slide by than hard deadlines (drop-dead dates, or dates imposed by the publisher). I pride myself on not missing hard deadlines, although I’ve had to ask for two- or three-day extensions in the past when an article has proven to be troublesome, or when holidays muck up my scheduling.

And so I’m avoiding working on articles right now by, well, writing about my writing. I guess that counts as words toward my yearly goal, so I’ll gloat on that for a moment and then clear my desk and get cracking on today’s list of things to work on.

Bad Weather Photography

I wanted to take a photo of these dark clouds because they looked very dramatic. It wasn't until after I made the shot that I realized there is a small funnel cloud just to the right of center.

I wanted to take a photo of these dark clouds because they looked very dramatic. It wasn’t until after I made the shot that I realized there is a small funnel cloud just to the right of center.

It’s been a tremendously busy spring for me, both at work and for my freelance writing, among other things. In May I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in West Friendship, Maryland. I crochet, do a bit of weaving, and am learning to knit. Buying yarn becomes an obsession, as anyone will tell you! In any case, while at the festival I picked up a postcard for the Maine Astronomy Retreat and we’re going. I have a new Sony alpha 7 mirrorless DSLR and I can’t wait to try it out on astrophotography.

So, right after I signed up for the astronomy retreat, guess what? I was contacted to write an article about Carl Sagan for the forthcoming Salem Press Critical Survey of American Literature. Talk about synchronicity! And I also have a batch of technology articles to write for ABC-Clio’s Technical Innovation in American History: An Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, including ones on electricity/electronics topics and Yerkes Observatory. Yay! And yes, I’m nerding out. Time to put my high-school vocational electronics knowledge to work.

I have other writing projects in the queue as well, including a short story that will appear in an upcoming anthology of tales about black dog stories, three other short stories in progress, my novel, and a nonfiction book project. Whew. No wonder I have insomnia.

Water running down the car windshield made some interesting patterns.

Water running down the car windshield made some interesting patterns.

If my life has been a whirlwind, it’s no wonder that I managed to capture a photo of what appears to be a funnel cloud. Last week I was on my way to my music lesson (ukulele and recorder) when I stopped for coffee and a snack. It was hot and sunny when I went into the store, but as soon as I was back outside it clouded over and I could feel the temperature dropping. I turned around and saw these fantastic clouds, so I tried to capture them with my phone camera (yes, I should have taken the new Sony with me!). Looks like a small funnel cloud tried to form, but fortunately it wisped away into nothing.

I drove over to the music academy before the rain started and sat with my coffee. The pelting rain made some interesting patterns on the car windshield, so I tried to capture that, too. It’s not a terrific photo, but I like the moodiness and it’s good for inspiration. Bad weather can be a photographic gem; it just means that I need to be out and about more often. And yes, there was a rainbow:

Rainbow over Columbia, Maryland.

Rainbow over Columbia, Maryland.