Category Archives: Writing

An Exclusive Interview with Winter

Person standing in a 6+ foot tall tunnel built into thick walls of snow and ice. Last year I interviewed spring and autumn. Today I’m back with an exclusive interview with winter!

I’ll conclude this series with an interview with summer later on this year…that is, assuming winter eventually decides to concede their post.

Winter: Hey, I heard that!

Lydia: My apologies. I didn’t think you’d join us quite so soon.

Winter:  Well, I was a little tardy showing up this year. And spring did warn me about you. 😉

Lydia: Heh, I heard a few things about you from spring as well. How have you been?

Winter: Things are changing rapidly for me. I’m sure you’ve all noticed how winter is different than it was in generations past.

Lydia: Yes, we sure have. How has climate change affected your work? It sure seems like your season has changed the most as a result of it so far.

Winter: I’ve noticed the same thing. Of course there have been shifts in our patterns in the past, but never this severe or rapid. It’s one thing to switch off duties with spring or autumn during the transition periods, but now it’s happening in the middle of my shift!

Lydia: That must make managing the weather pretty tricky.

Frozen Rose covered in frostWinter: It sure does. Sometimes I wonder if I’m even finally going to meet Summer one of these days. Spring and summer say we have oddly similar personalities.

Lydia: Hopefully, that won’t happen. Summer has been dealing with extreme temperatures, too.

Winter: What, you don’t want a heatwave and a blizzard in the same day?

Lydia: As tempting as that would be in the heat of August, I think the plants wouldn’t like that.

Winter: Well, I don’t like the plants!

Lydia: Wait, what?

Winter: I’m totally joking there. I forget that not everyone gets my frosty sense of humour.

Lydia: Okay, good. I was quite surprised for a second.

Winter: I’m not actually supposed to know the plants. Most of them die or hibernate by the time I show up, and the few stragglers left aren’t the best conversationalists.

Lydia: Does this mean all of the seasons are able to talk to the plants?

Winter: Yes, but humans weren’t supposed to know that. Forget I said anything.

Lydia: No worries, I won’t press the issue, but I’m going to keep this in mind for my conversation with Summer.

Winter: Just don’t tell them I said anything. Proprietary secrets of the trade and all. So what else do you want to know?

A frosted windowpane. Lydia: What can you tell me about Jack Frost?

Winter: He moved to Alaska recently for the balmy weather, but he’s still keeping his main home in the North Pole.

Lydia: That’s fascinating. Do you speak to him often? How would you describe your relationship with him?

Winter: He’s a serious, hardworking guy, but I know almost nothing about his personal life. You should interview him after you’ve talked to summer.

Lydia: I’ll do that! Thanks for stopping by, winter. This conversation has been very illuminating.

Winter: The pleasure is all mine.

My 20 Most Popular Posts of 2019

Every December I catalogue my most popular posts of the year. This is something I first began doing in 2017 with a roundup of my 10 most popular posts. Last year, I decided to double that number in response to my blogging buddies Terry Tyler and Tom Williams doing the same thing.

I was surprised by how popular my reviews of various Youtube workout videos were this year. When they were first published, they didn’t get as many hits as I was expecting, but that changed quite a bit over the longterm. Look for some more reviews of free online workouts in 2020.

Interviews with readers and writers of science fiction were well-represented in this round-up, too. I’d love to do more of them in 2020 if anyone is interested. The informational link on how to sign up is included below.

On a silly note, I thought it was interesting to see how many posts that had stock photos with orange or yellow hues made it onto this year’s list. Maybe my readers really love those colours. Ha!

Woman using a cellphone

20. Put Down Your Phone and Pay Attention

Carved and lit Halloween pumpkin sitting next to a calendar that says October 31

19. My Best Halloween Memories

The personification of spring. She's sitting on a swing that's adorned with pink roses.

18. An Exclusive Interview with Spring 

two front doors in a duplex. One door is blue and the other one is yellow

17. 5 Tips to Beat Writer’s Block 

Couple cuddling a dog

16. 3 Fictional Families I’d Want to Spend Family Day With 

Books covered in a thick layer of cobwebs and dust

15. Why I Prefer E-Books Over Physical Books 

Woman stretching over to touch her toes before a run.

14. What to Do If You Missed a Week of Working Out 

Poster for the film The House with a Clock in Its Walls. The three main characters from that film are smiling and looking straight ahead in it. One is holding a book and the other holds a light.

13. My Review of The House with a Clock in Its Walls 

Woman doing an upper body workout.

12. My Review of Fitness Blender’s Toned, Lean Arms Workout 

Athletes laughing and jumping.

11. 4 Things I Love About Fitness Culture 

Science Fiction fan Tammy Schoch posing by the grand canyon

10. Interview with Tammy Schoch 

Stack of books sitting next to a vase of yellow flowers

9. Why Taking Reading Breaks Can Be a Good Idea 

Photo of Berthold Gambrel

8. Interview with Berthold Gambrel 

Woman dancing while using headphones and iPhone

7. 4 Games You Can Play While Listening to Audiobooks

Grapefruit Slice Lying with Lemon Slices

6. Blogging Advice: Finding and Using Visual Images for Your Site 

Photo of author M.H. Thaung

5. Interview with M.H. Thaung 

Group of people networking with their cellphones

4. Blogging Advice: Social Media and Networking 

Person blogging about coffee on a WordPress blog

3. Blogging Advice: Brainstorming and Idea Management 

Blue and Red Galaxy Painting

2. If You Love Speculative Fiction, I Want to Interview You

Woman Performing Deadlifts

1. My Review of Fitness Blender’s Brutal Butt and Thigh Workout 

An Exclusive Interview with Autumn

About six months ago, I sat down with spring to discuss what it feels like to be that season of the year. Today, I’ll be chatting with autumn, and I hope to eventually get ahold of winter and summer, too!

Lydia: Welcome, autumn. I’m glad you were able to make it.

Autumn: Thank you. Was I on time this year? What has spring been saying about me?

Lydia: You showed up exactly when I expected you would. Spring was curious about your work, but she mentioned that your opposite schedules make it impossible for you to meet.  When, exactly, did you wake up this year?

Autumn: It’s hard to say. Summer and I like to trade duties in September, so I had a few short naps while we were in that transitional phase.

Lydia: How is your relationship with Summer in general?

Autumn: Excellent. We both have serious personalities and strong work ethics, so I always enjoy taking over their last few projects of the year. Usually, I need sprinkle some rain and sunlight in that general direction and allow the plants to do the rest.

Lydia: That sounds easy.

Autumn: Well, not so much easy as it is predictable. As long as all of the other seasons have done their part, the process is fairly simple, but it does still require close attention to make sure everything ripens the way it should and everyone is set for the winter. That season can be a harsh one, so I try to make this transition as gentle as possible.

Lydia: I understand. How often do you run into problems with your line of work?

Autumn: Lately, it’s been growing more difficult. My department has noticed warmer temperatures and an increase in violent storms over the last century. We do have some tricks up our sleeves for dealing with unexpected weather, but problems in one season can bleed into the next if we’re not careful.

Lydia: What sort of problems? Also, I didn’t realize each season had their own department! How does that work?

Autumn: Well, too much or too little rain in one season can make it difficult for the plants to grow properly. An unseasonably warm autumn or winter might sound like a nice idea if you live in a cold climate, but those mild temperatures can lead to a higher percentage of insects surviving the winter. Those insects and their descendants may then eat more plants than be replaced that next summer or drain the life out of caribou. It’s a real mess.

As far as our departments go, I have several people on staff who keep track of things while we’re asleep. Summer has about the same number that I do. Winter and spring mostly work alone as far as I know.  My support staff have their own hibernation cycles, so sometimes I do see new faces when I wake up. But they all help us communicate with the seasons we spend little to no time with, and that’s always appreciated.

Lydia: Wow, that is so interesting. I didn’t realize that at least some of the seasons were run by multiple folks.

Autumn: Yes, I’m very lucky. I have no idea how winter does it alone!

Lydia: Not to change the subject, but I do have a few questions about the holidays that are celebrated while you’re in charge. What do you think of them? Do you have any favourites?

Autumn: I hadn’t really thought about that! Most of the time, that stuff is managed by the Department of Human Affairs. It varies so much from one culture to the next that my work only occasionally brushes up against that topic. I will say that I appreciate any human festivity that involves going out into nature and enjoying the change of seasons.

Lydia: That’s wonderful to hear. Would you like to leave my readers with any parting words?

Autumn: Yes, watch out for winter. He’ll be here before you know it, and he might have a few tricks up his sleeves!

 

 

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Harry Potter Characters and Socks

Happy Labour Day to everyone in Canada and the United States. Most schools here in Canada reopen after Labour Day weekend, so thoughts of making lists and cracking open books are bouncing around in my head.

This is the time of year when I’d try to squeeze the last bit of fun out of the summer before school started up again, so I thought it would be amusing to stick to lighthearted material.

Today’s topic is something I jokingly mentioned in I’ll Tell You About My Draft Folder If You’ll Tell Me About Yours:

I’ve gotten multiple hits on my blog about Harry Potter characters wearing socks, Harry Potter characters who won’t wear socks, socks that feature Harry Potter characters, fuzzy socks, hand-knit socks, and just about any other sock-related query you can think of that so much as glances in the direction of the Potterverse. I am so tempted to write a full-length post on this topic. Would you write it?

According to my readers, the answer to that question was a resounding yes! I have accepted the fact that writing this post may result in even more people finding this blog in their quest to find answers to all things related to the Potterverse and socks, so let’s give them plenty of things to think about.

If you haven’t read J.K. Rowling’s famous series yet or need a refresher about the identities of the characters I’m about to mention, click on their names to read about them. Be warned that those links will contain spoilers!

Most – but certainly not all – of the questions I’m about to answer have showed up in my search logs at various points. The ones I added were somehow related to the queries I’ve already received.

For example, I remember seeing a question about the sock-wearing habits of Potterverse characters. It was a little vague, but it did get me thinking about this topic. I flipped that original query around a bit to make sure that every angle was covered.

My hope is that this post covers so many of people’s questions about this slice of the Potterverse and the Harry Potter fandom in general that everyone who finds it walks away feeling satisfied.

Where Do I find Novelty Potterverse Socks?

Amazon has dozens of entries on this topic, and I’ve received just as many queries about where to purchase such items.  I can’t vouch for the durability or comfort of any of these styles, but they are most certainly out there. Someday when I run low on socks again, I may order a set or two and test them out for myself.

Am I Too Old to Wear Harry Potter Socks?

No one is ever too old for Potterverse socks or novelty socks in general. Why not do things that bring joy to your life, especially when it’s something as harmless and fun as this?

Which Harry Potter Characters Would Wear Socks?

Hermione Granger would wear them because she was a stickler for following rules. (Well, except when she wasn’t).

Dobby would wear them because being given a sock was how this house elf earned his freedom.

Which Harry Potter Characters Would Not Wear Socks?

Moaning Myrtle doesn’t strike me as the sort of person who worries about what’s on her feet. (Can ghosts be said to wear clothing in general, though? Or do they appear to wear clothing because that’s what they did in life?)

Luna Lovegood broke so many social conventions that I could also see her purposefully choosing not to wear socks.

Which Harry Potter Characters Would Lose Socks While Wearing Them?

Rubeus Hagrid. The poor guy had a knack for finding the hardest way to do just about anything.

Fred and George Weasley are the sort of characters who would come up with a spell to transport the dirty socks on their feet to the closest laundry basket, accidentally mis-pronounce one syllable in it, and end up blinking their socks out of existence entirely.

Potterverse Characters Who Should Have Been Socks

I’m tempted to say that all of the antagonists should have been socks instead of people, but that would have removed too much conflict from the plot. You need something or someone for the protagonists to struggle against, after all!

With that being said, someone as violent and cruel as Dolores Umbridge should have definitely been turned into a sock long before she became a professor at Hogwarts.

Socks That Should be Potterverse Characters

I think that any sock with a sassy message or a zany pattern would probably make for an interesting wizard. (My site doesn’t share affiliate links. That is simply a collection of socks that are attention-grabbing enough for me to imagine them as living, breathing people).

What Sorts of Socks do People Wear at Hogwarts?

Based on the references to Molly Weasley knitting sweaters and socks for the children in her life, my fan theory is that many wizards and witches wear hand-knitted socks. Perhaps some of them figure out a knitting spell to create “handmade” socks a little faster than usual if they have a long list of loved ones who need them.

This has no basis in anything I can remember from the Harry Potter books, but I’d also like to think that some socks may have been enchanted before they were gifted. It’s amusing to think there are wizards and witches in that universe whose feet never get wet or cold because of a thoughtful spell that was put onto their socks.

We Need More Response Posts

Woman sitting on edge of white concrete stairs and looking at her laptop.I started blogging back in the early 2000s when most of the bloggers I knew used Blogspot. One of the things I miss the most from that era are response posts.

If you don’t know what a response post is, here’s an example of how this sort of thing works.

Finley: Here are seven reasons why Picard is the best Star Trek captain of them all. 

Rory: The other day I read Finley’s post about why Picard is the best Star Trek captain of them all. Here’s a link to their post for anyone who hasn’t read it yet. While I agree with most of their points, today I wanted to talk about why Captain Sisqo was an even better example of top-notch Star Trek leadership. 

That is, Rory noticed something in Finley’s original post that made them decide to write a response to it in order to dig more deeply into the topic of which Star Trek captain is the best of them all or to explain where their opinion differed from what Finley thinks about that universe.

Just like WordPress today, some blogging platforms back then had notification systems that would let the original blogger(s) know someone had linked to their work. Other bloggers could read both of these posts and then write their own replies about which captain they thought was the best. Sometimes this sparked conversations that lasted for weeks or months and took place over many different sites as new people added in their opinions and the original participants replied again to clarify their point of view or ask a question.

I’ve seen echoes of this phenomenon on occasional Tumblr posts, but I’m not seeing it happen in the blogosphere much at all these days. If someone strongly agrees or disagrees with a post, they tend to create Twitter threads or leave a comment instead. 

Comment sections and Twitter threads are fun, but I prefer blog posts for discussions like these for a few different reasons.

Longevity

 It’s been my experience that responses last longer and are easier to find if they’re turned into a blog post. Few people scroll months or years back into someone else’s Twitter stream, and I’ve had experiences in the past where old comments on my various blogs disappeared with site updates. 

Blog posts have a way of sticking around on the Internet for years after their publication date. Occasionally, I still find references to posts that went “viral” in the blogosphere many years ago.

In addition, one of the first things I do when I discover a new blog is to poke around their archives and see what they were talking about months or years ago. There can be posts there that I’ll then share with the people I know who are interested in comparing Star Trek captains, for example.

More In-Depth Discussions

There are many things I appreciate about social media, but it’s hard to fit complex ideas or discussions into a few 280-character tweets. The beautiful thing about the blogosphere is how much more room there is in a blog post to add subtley to your point of view. 

A tweet might only have room to mention one or two things you loved about Jean Luc Picard. In a blog post, you could mention everything you admired about him, compare it to the strengths and weaknesses of other captains, and respond to someone who had complained earlier about how silly is it for him to specify every single time that he wants his Earl Grey tea to be hot when that’s something that the replicators on the Enterprise really should be able to assume based on that captain’s long history of drinking hot tea.

Any Trekkie who stumbled across this hypothetical response post could share it on social media and ignite an entirely new round of discussions on the strengths and weaknesses of all of the Star Trek captains.

Community Building

Image of legs of people standing in a circle and pointing their toes to each other. Yes, communities can and absolutely do exist on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media sites.

One of the biggest differences between building an online community on social media and in the blogosphere lies in how easy it is to keep up with everyone. I’ll take a step back from my Star Trek analogy for a moment to discuss something serious that actually happened in one of my social circles recently.

Without giving away too many identifying details, a friend of mine recently went through something difficult. They talked about it on social media, but because of the time of day they shared them as well as some of the silly marketing gimmicks on that site I – along with many other friends of theirs – never saw their updates. 

It wasn’t until they shared another status update talking about how lonely they felt that most of us realized something was wrong. Had this been a blog post on my RSS feed instead, I would have seen and responded to it within a day or so of it being published. 

I Want to Write More Response Posts

As the saying goes, “be the change you want to see in the world.” While that phrase was originally coined to describe far more pressing issues than this one, I think I’m going to start shuffling my editorial calendar around on this blog a bit to allow for occasional response posts.

Maybe they’ll come back into fashion again if more bloggers realize just how useful they can be. If you write something thought-provoking, your post just might be the one I pick! 

For those of you who have experience with them, what do you think of response posts? Are you also interested in bringing this style of blog post back? 

I’ll Tell You About My Drafts Folder If You’ll Tell Me About Yours

It’s been a long time since this blog published a lighthearted writing post, so let’s change that.  Lately, I’ve been gently poking my drafts folder and trying to decide which posts in there, if any, are ready to finish and share with the world. On a related note, finding an appropriate stock image photo for… Read More

Put Down Your Phone and Pay Attention

Today I’d like to talk to you about mindfulness, brainstorming, and what house wrens are really capable of. (If descriptions of the non-Disney side of the natural world are disturbing to you, consider this a content warning). No, I’m not anti-technology, and this isn’t a rant. Smart phones have brought many positive changes to modern… Read More

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We Need Movies About Blogging

Today’s post is going to be short and sweet. As I’ve said here before, I don’t believe in stretching out my words if a few hundred of them will suffice. Someone found this site recently by doing a search for movies about blogging. Normally, queries like this happen because of something I blogged about in… Read More

The Joy of Writing Six-Word Stories

How many of you have ever written a six-word story, twitterature, dribble, minisaga, drabble, or other piece of flash fiction? What all of these terms share in common is the idea of fitting a full-formed story in a much smaller amount of space than is generally used for even short forms of storytelling. It might be… Read More