What am I going to do this summer?

I just walked home from meeting with my supervisor to go over my first annual evaluation in my new job. This should be the last time I have to go on campus until August–not that I don’t want to be there. It’s just that this is my first summer since starting college that I haven’t been working a job that has regular hours. I’ll be teaching online throughout the summer, which is real work, but it’s work that I can do anywhere (such as looking out at the Atlantic Ocean, which I may do while at Myrtle Beach next week) and anytime (including on BST, British Summer Time, which I’ll be observing while in the UK the following week). So I’m determined not to set foot in my office until my contractual obligations begin again in August.

My summer is almost comically full. For most of June and July, I will be making periodic stops at home just long enough to repack my suitcase, mow my lawn so that it doesn’t look like a jungle, and get the chiropractic adjustments I’ll need after all the flying and driving I’m going to do. Oh, and somewhere in there, I’m getting a haircut. Besides the trips mentioned in the previous paragraph, I will be visiting family in Pennsylvania and friends in Virginia. I also have tentative plans to visit the famed Upper Peninsula of Michigan during the short sliver of the year in which it’s not covered in snow, and I may combine this with a pilgrimage/research trip to northern Minnesota to see the town (Hibbing) in which I set my zombie apocalypse novel but which I’ve never visited. I’m a little nervous to see the real Hibbing, but if I find that my portrayal is wildly inaccurate, I can always change the name to Unspecified Northern Midwestern Town–or chalk the differences up to zombies.

I almost just typed the sentence, “But I don’t want to waste this summer,” and then the smarter and kinder part of my brain was like, “You know that resting, spending time with the people you love, and seeing more of this beautiful world is not ‘wasting’ the summer.” This is true. However, there are a few things I’d like to accomplish besides traveling and teaching online. One is to continue the dent I am making in my reading list. Last fall, I took inventory of the books I had been buying over the past few years and realized that my to-read list was out of control. So I divided the books into categories and have been making my way through a selection of them each month. In my suitcase for the beach trip, I have packed Roald Dahl’s The BFG, which, in the form of a small mass-market paperback, even looks like a light beach read. But I’m also probably going to bring along the massive hardcover biography of Thomas Hardy that might take me into July.

In addition to reading, I would like to start writing the sequel to my zombie novel. I’m still trying to decide what to do with the first one, Sam’s Town (yes, that’s an intentional reference to The Killers’ album), though I’m leaning toward self-publishing it as an e-book. (My reasoning, in short: I want some people to read it, but I don’t have any expectation, need, or desire to make an income from it, so I might as well send it out into the world in the quickest and most straightforward way possible so that the few people who are going to read it can get started on it.) And I plan to make some more revisions to it after my beta readers are finished with it. But in the meantime, I want to start working on the sequel, Sam’s Home. (It’s a pun! “The home of Sam” or “Sam is home.”) I wrote a 200-word scene last week, and I want to keep going while I have the momentum. I know it will involve another road trip, some romance, and probably the death of one of the main characters. But more on that later.

So that’s what I’m going to do this summer. I’m not sure how much blogging I’ll be doing, but I won’t go completely off the radar. Do you have any big plans for the summer?

Let’s talk about the zombie apocalypse.

Classes started at my university today, and even though I’m not even teaching on Mondays, right about now I’m really relating to that song in Fight Club, “Where Is My Mind?”  (See my post from the beginning of the spring semester, “This is my brain on the first day of classes.”)  So in honor of not having a functioning brain—but also because I’ve been working on this particular project lately—let’s talk a little bit about my zombie apocalypse story.  I’ve been going to a creative writing group and getting some awesome feedback, but I’d love to hear your thoughts as well on a key issue: the title.  My working title for the story, which I eventually want to turn into a screenplay, is “Sam and Adrian in the zombie apocalypse.”  That’s nice for helping me find my Word document, but that’s about the extent of its usefulness.  Here are some other titles I’ve considered:

  • “Jungleland,” as in the Bruce Springsteen song.  It evokes the proper sense of chaos, but that song is very much about a city, and my story takes place mostly on rural roads and in a small town, so the title may be misleading.
  • “The Pursuit of Happiness,” an ironic reference to the central plot device: a man is running out of his antidepressant medication and is searching for more in a world where there are no doctors and most pharmacies have been depleted by looters.  But this title could also be confusing; I can just see audience members grumbling, “I thought this was the movie where Will Smith solves the Rubix cube!”
  • “The Road to Hibbing” because roughly the last half of the story takes place in Hibbing, Minnesota, the hometown of Bob Dylan and also of one of my protagonists.  (The first half is about getting there.)  The title accurately describes what happens, but I think it sounds a bit too whimsical.  It also makes me feel like Irish ballads should be playing during the movie trailer.  That’s not really the musical tone I’m going for.
  • “Life Is Hard,” which is going to be a recurring line in the story.  (It also gives a very subtle nod to a line from a Bob Dylan song: “Life is sad, life is a bust.”)  Effective, but a bit heavy-handed, perhaps?
  • “Sam’s Town,” as in the Killers album.  The name of my character who grew up in Hibbing and returns to his hometown is Sam, so again, an accurate description.  However, this title might lead to more disgruntled viewers—this time, people who were expecting to see a Killers tribute (though I do like the idea of using one or two Killers songs on the soundtrack, along with Dylan and Springsteen).  A similar option would be “Sam’s Home”; I like this one because it can be interpreted two different ways.  I think of this story/screenplay as, among other things, a supernatural twist on the “30-ish guy moving back in with his parents” plot, and “Sam’s Home” riffs on that a bit.

Titles are important, so I’ll probably be thinking about this for a while.  I’d love your feedback on these suggestions, along with other title ideas you may have.