People Watching and the Holidays

Like many other places, Toronto’s malls, subway system, and other public places are bustling with activity at this time of the year. No matter when someone might use or visit them in the month of December, there will be far more folks there than will be the case in January when the new year has finally arrived and everyone has settled back into their usual routines.

One of the things I like about this point in the winter holiday season are the opportunities it gives for people watching. I will be returning to the usual subjects for this blog soon, but I can’t stop thinking about this topic and thought it would make a good one for today.

There are so many folks out and about now that all of the stories they tell with their body language, facial expressions, and the occasional, accidentally overheard conversations provide endless scope for the imagination. You can learn so much about them by paying attention to how they behave when they think no one has noticed them.

I love seeing how people and animals interact with strangers, loved ones, and everyone in-between. You can learn a lot about someone based on how they present themselves and how they behave in public.

Dogs wiggle in excitement when their favourite, or sometimes any, human walks around the corner and into view. The occasional pet snakes, parrots, rabbits, and cats that I’ve seen folks carry around don’t seem to have a strong opinion about our species either way. Small children stare wide-eyed at the holiday displays, decorations, and advertisements in stores. Friends reunite, families figure out what to eat for lunch, couples embrace, and a million other interesting things happen simultaneously wherever large crowds of people gather.

There’s nothing like watching strangers live out these fleeting moments in their lives. The writerly portion of my mind can’t help but to make up stories about who these individuals are and what might happen to them after they’ve finished their to-do list and gone back home.

Not knowing if my guesses are actually correct or not only makes me more interested in continuing to play this game. Everyone that I’ve ever met has portions of their personalities, identities, and interests that aren’t easily or immediately noticeable when you first meet them. I love it when I notice little hints about these parts of themselves however those hints might be shared.

To be perfectly clear, this isn’t about stereotyping anyone or assuming that because they’re X they must love/hate/be indifferent to Y. (Let X and Y stand for whatever your imagination desires. I did not have anything specific in mind when I typed that sentence).

Instead, it’s about seeing how real people behave on a perfectly ordinary day that stands a very good chance of being neither the worst nor the best one they’re ever going to experience. In fact, they might not remember anything about it at all six months from now. They’re simply a regular person (or, in some cases, animal) going through the routines of their lives.

It’s the patterns that interest me the most. There are certain behaviours that just about everyone seems to share, especially when they’re feeling happy, hungry, or tired. On the other hand, I love seeing glimpses of the things that make each person unique.

I’m still looking forward to the quieter days to come in January, but in the meantime I’ll keep a friendly eye out for all of the things you can learn about strangers by noticing how they behave in public.

Do you like people watching? If so, when was the last time you did it?

Suggestion Saturday: December 8, 2018

Here is this week’s list of blog posts, comic strips, and other links from my favourite corners of the web.

Festivities and Kindness via ‪gemmaorton‬. One of the things I love about the holiday season is how it encourages people to perform random acts of kindness and look out for one another. This is an excellent example of that.

Getting Into the Spirit. Okay, this was pretty funny.

Effigy. Today I’ve decided that the term effigy should apply to non-humans, too.

Sleep Training a Jerk Russell via KittyDeschanel. Normally, I don’t share links from the same site two weeks in a row on Suggestion Saturday posts. Part of the reason why I bent this rule today is that I’m a brand new reader at Kitty’s site and I wanted to give all of you another taste of the humorous content she publishes. She has quite a way with words.

How to Find Holiday Happiness via cynthiaharriso1. This blogger has an interesting approach to dealing with painful holiday memories. I thought some of my readers might like it.

From Suddenly Santa:

Suddenly, towards the end of the film I’m approached by a woman so sweet looking that she can only be described as a young Ms. Claus in street clothes. I’m told that they have a Santa costume, but no Santa. I’m also told that they have been planning this event since approximately 1952, but that somehow things are just coming together at the last minute.

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Blogging Changes I’m Making This Winter

Every time one of my favourite blogs shares a post with a title similar to this one, I get a little nervous about them shutting down or going on hiatius. If you’re the same way, don’t worry! lydiaschoch.com isn’t going anywhere.

I have and will be making some changes to this site that I wanted to let my readers know about, though.

All of these changes are being done in hopes of driving more traffic to this site. I’m confident about my writing abilities, but in 2019 I’d like to become better at marketing the things I create so that new audiences can discover my blog and my stories.

Marketing is something that I honestly struggle a bit with, so if you have any advice I’d sure like to hear it. Comment on this post or send me a DM on Twitter if you’re interested.

In the meantime, here are the things that have, will, or may be changing on this site in the near future. Not everything is set in stone yet, but this is the direction I’m thinking about taking in the new year.

Comments on Old Posts

As of earlier this week, I’ve opened up comments on all of my old posts. I’ve received some messages from people who were disappointed to find comments closed on posts that were shared more than 10 days ago. Originally, I’d set them to close after that amount of time to combat spam that was overwhelming my inbox.

The spam has been much more manageable this time, so let’s see if I can make this a permanent change. If your comment doesn’t show up right away, it probably got caught in my spam filter. I do my best to release those posts as soon as possible, but do feel free to nudge me if it’s been a few days and you don’t see anything yet.

Reader Questions

At the end of this month, I’ll be blogging about a question that a reader asked me in the comment section of a post recently. Her question was so big that it might take more than one post to fully respond to. Stay tuned for that post. It’s going to be a fun one.

I’d love to make this a recurring feature if or when other readers ask me questions, so fire away if you have any!

Book Blog Memes

From talking to other writers and bloggers, I get the impression that participating in weekly book blog memes like Top Ten Tuesday can be an excellent way to drive new traffic to your site.

I’m still looking into which ones would be best for me to participate in, and that list is one of several online that I’ll need to go through between now and January. Top Ten Tuesday is extremely popular, but I’m also curious to see if I can find something that’s specifically related to sci-fi/fantasy, mindfulness, or fitness. Whatever I pick, I will only be doing one or two of these a week at the most.

Suggestion Saturday

As much as I enjoy doing Suggestion Saturday posts, they are having less and less of an impact on drawing new visitors to this site with every passing month. They also require an investment of my time that I’m wondering might be better spent writing other types of posts.

I have not yet decided if I’ll keep doing this in 2019. I need more time to think about it.

Guest Posts from Others on This Site

Yes, I will continue to offer other bloggers the chance to write guest posts on this site if they contact me first. I’ve seen some bloggers become pushy on this topic, and that’s not something I’m comfortable doing at all. This is something I only want to do with people who are enthusiastic about it.

With that being said, I will be on the lookout for sites that list guest post opportunities to see if I can sign my site up for such a thing. It would be interesting to introduce you all to other bloggers who write about the same sorts of stuff I do.

Guest Posts from Me on Other Sites

If I find such a site, I may also be signing up as a guest blogger there. You all will receive links to any posts I write for other blogs, although I’ll have to come up with a creative way to do that if I put an end to Suggestion Saturday.

How Do You Attract New Traffic to Your Blog?

Please let me know in the comment section! I’d love to hear your tips.

I Love the Fuzzy Edges of Science Fiction

The other day I was having a conversation with someone about the types of science fiction we both like. After explaining to them the novels and TV shows from this genre that I’ve enjoyed the most over the years, they made a comment about how interested I seem to be in hard science fiction.

Well, yes. I do love hard science fiction.

There’s something inside of me that comes alive when an author or screenwriter takes a problem that scientists are currently attempting to solve and tries to guess where they’ll be on that issue twenty, a hundred, or five hundred years from how.

However, that isn’t where my love of this genre ends.

I love the fuzzy edges of science fiction, too.

The line between sci-fi and fantasy exists, but often it’s so wispy that I barely feel the difference at all when I move between them. Neither one of these genres would be the same if it hadn’t been so heavily influenced by the other over the years. While I do tend to stick closer to the sci-fi side of the fence in general, I’m often pleasantly surprised when fantasy tropes wander over to say hello or when I notice a common science fiction plot twist in something I thought was going to be pure fantasy.

I’m pleased with how this cross-pollination works in other genres, too.  While I still don’t believe that every sci-fi story should have a romantic subplot, I appreciate the fact that authors are introducing audiences to things they might have not otherwise thought they’d enjoy. Mysteries aren’t my favourite genre, but I have started reading them on occasion thanks to repeated exposures to these types of storylines in science fiction and fantasy books that I otherwise found to be a perfect fit.

This is also a technique I’ve been using on friends and relatives in a straightforward sort of way. I’d never trick or push anyone into reading something that they’d find objectionable, but I have recommended stories to people that included elements of genres they don’t normally read if I thought they’d enjoy the plot in general.

For example, earlier this year I was discussing Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre with someone who has no interest at all in the romance genre. There were so many other things going on in that tale that I thought they’d really love it. In the end, they read it and thought it was well-worth their time.

The beautiful thing about science fiction is how difficult it can be to draw the line between where this genre ends and another one begins. There is sc-fi that politically motivated, apolitical, humorous, serious, hopeful, dystopian, barely there, the sole reason any of the characters bother to stumble out of their sleeping pods in whatever counts for morning on a planet with three suns, and so much more. It has crossed over with everything from romance to horror to mysteries to stories that are loosely based on real historical events.

It is this wide range of possibilities that keeps me coming back for more. Sometimes I wander into one corner of the genre and set up camp for a few months or years. Right now I have almost no interest at all in the dark, violent, or dystopian sections, for example, but there are so many other places to explore that I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of seeking out new stories that somehow have sci-fi elements in them no matter how far they roam from home.

What’s your favourite kind of science fiction to read? How do you feel about stories that mix two or more genres together in general?

 

Suggestion Saturday: December 1, 2018

Here is this week’s list of short stories, photos, and other links from my favourite corners of the web.

Happy Hanukkah! This is the last piece of Rockets art I’ll be sharing with my readers unless the owners of that blog decide to update it again. I hope you’ve enjoyed the links to it I shared several times over the last year.

Sweets on a Plane – Will TSA Confiscate Your Candy? It’s time to start thinking about this if you have any travel plans over the holidays and are hoping to bring sweets along with you.

December 1st. Brace yourselves. The holiday season is about to go into high gear for the next month.

5 Ways to Make Your Flu Recovery Faster and Easier via KittyDeschanel. Hopefully all of my followers will stay healthy this winter. If you do get sick, this post has some funny and possibly quite helpful tips to make you feel better.

How I Stopped Emotional Eating and Started Feeling Better About Life. I’m the sort of person who loses their appetite when I’m going through very rough times. (In order to avoid misrepresenting myself, this has only been a problem for me on rare, limited occasions. One bad day, week, or even month won’t do it).  Still, it was fascinating to see how someone who takes the exact opposite approach to food has learned to have a healthier relationship with food and with herself.

Handling Holiday Guilt via DrJanaScrivani. Ooh, this was a good read.

11 Little Mental Health Tips that Therapists Actually Give Their Patients. Does anyone know how accurate this article might be?

From The Lady Hero’s Journey:

Why would she even want to go on The Hero’s Journey in the first place? She already has a lot to deal with at home. Slaying the Great Dragon of the North does not really seem like her thing.

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Why Writers Should Pay Close Attention to the Insight’s Exploration of Mars

For anyone who hasn’t heard this news yet, NASA’s Insight spacecraft is scheduled to land on Mars today. If all goes well, it will dig sixteen feet down and soon begin transmitting data about this planet that no telescope can possible tell. Scientists hope to learn three things from this exploration: What material the core… Read More

Suggestion Saturday: November 24, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving, American readers! Here is this week’s list of blog posts, short stories, recipes, poetry, and other links from my favourite corners of the web. Pumpkin Pie With a Nut Crust via maria_mckenzie. Wow, this looks delicious. A New Gratitude via seanpaulmahoney. Thanksgiving honestly isn’t at the top of the list of my favourite holidays, but I… Read More

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Science Fiction and Fantasy Shows I’m Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers! I hope you all have a table full of delicious things to eat and plenty of kindred spirits to share this meal with. Today’s post will be something short and sweet. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how happy I am to see the science fiction and fantasy… Read More

Why Do Library Holds Arrive Simultaneously (and Other Questions I Wish I Had Answers To)

Lately, I’ve been taking a break from my normal interests like reading science fiction and exercising outdoors in order to try other stuff. One of the consequences of this has been that I haven’t come up with as many blog post ideas related to those topics as I’d normally be playing around with. I suspect… Read More