Where Did the Week Go?

This has been one of those weeks where it doesn’t look like I got much done, but I feel like I was busy all week.

Some of it was holiday stuff – a get-together with friends, a little shopping.

I also met my writing goal – barely. It helped a lot that I took the busyness of December into account and set a very modest goal. But otherwise, I can’t figure out where the week went.

Fortunately, the same cannot be said in Tennessee. We didn’t expect much to be happening, especially since the builder didn’t text or call with an update like he usually does. However, my husband got a text from our next-door neighbor: “Your house is going up really fast!

Our response was, “Huh?”

She went over there and took photos yesterday in the rain. Our builder’s crew has has had a busy week, and unlike mine, it shows.

The basement has been framed (outside and load-bearing walls inside – we will be doing the rest later). The main level floor is in, and they started on the back wall.

 

   

In the photo on the left above, the big, concrete pad in the foreground is the garage. The photo on the right is viewed from the front of the house.

What I’ve Been Reading: Finally finished some fiction, yay! In paper, I read The Mycologist: The Diary of Bartholomew Leach, Professor of Natural Philosophy by Nicholas P. Money. This historical fiction book is not something I normally would have picked up–I didn’t even know what a mycologist was, until my daughter bought this for me (it’s someone who studies mushrooms). The author is a professor she worked with her senior year at Miami University (in Oxford, Ohio), who she really liked and had a great rapport with. She bought two copies of his book to support him, which I loved! She normally prefers to read nonfiction, but really enjoyed this book, and says the main character basically is the author. But I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a Marty Stu, because the character was really well-developed and appropriately flawed. The book is told in a diary format, and follows the main character’s struggles with being an atheist in an era where this was not acceptable. The voice was perfect for historical fiction featuring a British professor living in Ohio in 1858. But what I especially loved about it was seeing my alma matter’s and the city of Oxford’s history, and “meeting” several of the men after whom the buildings there were named. I also enjoyed seeing the part Oxford played in the Underground Railroad. Highly recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction, especially if they’re interested in Ohio history.

In ebook, I finished The Demon Always Wins by Jeanne Oates Estridge. This was a fun paranormal romance featuring a demon who is forced to help Satan win a bet with God. While heavily steeped in Christian Biblical tradition, this was done in a humorous way so that it should be enjoyable to readers regardless of their religious faith or lack thereof (huh, interesting that both novels I finished last week had to do with religion?). Highly recommended for readers who like paranormal romance.

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What I’ve Been Writing: As noted above, I met my writing goal – barely! I wrote five days this week, for about 1200 words, and finished another scene, so I’m happy with that. I thought briefly about writing the short story that was the optional assignment in the Dean Wesley Smith workshop, but decided to just stick with the WIP instead, and I’m glad I did. I just did not have any more time to devote to writing this past week, and that won’t change this coming week.

I think ROW80 ends this week, but I’ll set a weekly goal anyway, since I need to keep up, and that is to finish watching the videos on the workshop, and to write at least five days, at least 200 words/day.

What about you–are you ready for the holidays? I’m not, though I am close. How are you keeping up with all the extra to-dos that December usually entails? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Last Year for the Skinny Tree

This past week, I finished decorating for Christmas. I don’t do much, just the mantel and put up a Christmas tree. I used to decorate the console table beneath our TV until our dog Isis started watching TV. Now, she runs and jumps at it growling any time she sees a dog or other animal (and sometimes other things we have no idea why). One of these days, I need to get some video of this, because it’s hilarious! Sometimes she jumps up on the console table, so anything on it is subject to be knocked over and broken. That’s not so funny. So my nativity scene is now on the mantel.

Our Christmas tree is a skinny little artificial thing that’s 6 feet tall, but probably less than 3′ around at the bottom. It’s great for a small house or apartment, and has served us well for many years. It fits well in the corner of our small living room. But in the new house, we’ll have room for a much bigger tree. Even better, we have 28 acres, much of which is wooded–and a lot of that is pine trees. My husband and I can’t wait to go out on our own land, pick out a tree, cut it down, and decorate it in our new home.

Speaking of which, the rain finally let up in Knoxville, and we now have a floor in the garage and basement!

      

Next up is either framing the fourth wall of the basement, or putting the main floor in, I’m not sure which. Of course, the timing is dependent on the weather, which is kind of iffy down there this week. And after that will be the holidays.

What I’ve Been Reading: I started another nonfiction book, but haven’t finished it yet. I also am still working on the same two novels, so nothing to report this week. The novels are taking a while since I’m reading two at once – the ebook if my husband comes to bed early; otherwise, I read the print book. Getting close to finishing that one, so I can tell you about it next week!

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What I’ve Been Writing: On track with my goals this week! I wrote six days, for a total of over 1600 words. Not a lot in and of itself, but enough to keep my WIP moving along. I also signed up for WMG Publishing’s Lifetime Workshop bundle. These are taught by Dean Wesley Smith (who puts them together along with his wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch). I’ve taken several of them over the years, and he offered a discount on the lifetime bundle to those of us in that situation. Then last week, he announced on his blog that they’d also throw in some of the separate “pop-up” workshops, AND a spot in his Business Master Class taught in Las Vegas every year. I’ve wanted to do the lifetime bundle since he announced it last spring, and I’ve also wanted to take the Business Master Class for years, so this was too good a deal to pass up. Right now I’m taking his popup workshop on Short Romance Fiction, which is a fun and interesting look at the history of the genre, as well as some tips for writing it in short form. At the end, there is an optional short story assignment, where, if I send it to him by the 16th, they’ll read it and offer feedback. For my writing this week, I might give that a shot. So my goal this week is to write at least five days, and either write a short story, or write at least 200 words on the novel in progress.

What about you–how are your plans and to-do lists going, as we get into this holiday season? What do you do to decorate? Do you read more than one book at a time? And how are you doing with whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

The Purge Begins

No, not like the TV show. I’m talking about stuff–my stuff. Way too much stuff that’s collected in my house in the 25 years we’ve lived here, and has got to go before we move next summer.

I went through a big purge of stuff a couple years ago, but never got around to my office or garage. Let’s not even talk about my husband’s garage–yes, he has his own, he is Mr. Goodwrench, after all. But even in the parts of the house I got to, clutter has re-accumulated since the last purge. In some cases, not enough was purged to begin with–there’s still stuff there that I don’t want enough to move. So out it must go.

I’m happy to save I’ve managed to decrapulate my office, working just fifteen minutes a day over the past two weeks, Flylady style. (And isn’t “decrapulate” a great word?  So perfect for what I’m doing.) Today I worked in the basement, where there were still wood scraps, tools, and mostly trash from back last summer, when I was building mudroom and closet shelves for our flip house that we sold in July.

Now the purging will get tougher. I’ve hit the areas I missed on the last purge, so now it will really be a matter of asking if I want something enough to be worth moving it–and asking that of almost everything. The other challenge is that a lot of what needs to go is my husband’s, but he’s the kind who will wait until right before he needs to begin packing.

One side of my future office, with less bookshelf space than the current one (door is to the right)

Much of what I need to get rid of is books–and you all know how tough that is! In some cases, these are books I loved–but not enough to re-read them (something I almost never do anyway). I gave away a few boxes of them in my Readers Group Newsletter, then stopped due to just not having enough time and energy. Now it’s time to start that back up, so if you want to win a box of books, now’s a great time to join! Just click the link above.

House Update: Not much has gone on since our visit, as it’s mostly rained since then. The waterproofers were able to get their work in on the day we left, before the next rain, and plumbing for the basement drains is in. But this week is finally supposed to be dry, and they should be able to get the basement floor poured, then framing begins!

What I’ve Been Reading: My new Kindle Paperwhite came in this week, yay! I can now read in the dark again. Still haven’t finished anything there, now that I’m reading two novels–the paper one I already started, and am continuing when I go to bed before my husband, and an ebook I’m reading when it needs to be in the dark. So nothing to report there yet. In nonfiction, I finished Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. (On a funny note, when we first got our daughter a cell phone, she used to get tons of calls for Dave Evans from bill collectors until I yelled at one and told them the phone number was an eleven-year-old girl’s, and we didn’t know any Dave Evans. Somehow, I don’t think it was this guy. 🙂 ) I will admit this book didn’t do a lot for me, mostly because it turns out I’m not its intended audience. It’s focused on careers, and is geared toward people who are unhappy with their life or just don’t know what they want to do, and is full of exercises to work through to get ideas and figure that out. It’s ideal for recent grads, retirees looking for an encore career, or for anyone who wants a big change in that area. Judging from my recent career win in getting approval to take my job with me when we move, you might correctly guess I’m not in that position. The book also had lots of examples about people who were going through that, which I enjoyed. I guess what I got out of this the most is assurance that I’m on the right path with the changes I’m working on right now, and that’s not a bad thing!

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What I’ve been Writing: Another 1400 words–which equals goal met, whoo-hoo! The Coach.me app has really helped, especially on those days I just don’t feel like writing. Okay, I did take two of those this week, but my goal allowed for that, so no worries. I also met my goal of increased output on the days I did write, and got over 200 words each time. Still not tons in itself, especially considering how many people won NaNoWriMo this year (or even participated and “failed” to success by writing more than they otherwise would have), but hey, I’ll take it! Coach.me is also helping me with decluttering. Like writing, I have a goal to work on that at least five days/week.

Since this week is likely to be a busy one with all kinds of holiday to-do’s coming up, I’m going to stick with the same goal–200 words/day, for at least five days. Other goals include continuing with the purging, and getting the Christmas decorations up and most of my shopping done (thank you, Amazon!).

What about you–do you have stuff you need to purge? What about books–how do you purge them? If you celebrate the holidays, how are your preparations coming along? And how are you doing with whatever goals you may have, whether writing or otherwise? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Slow Progress

That’s the case both with our new house, and with my writing. But much better than no progress, right?

We went to Tennessee for a couple days last week. Not much had changed with the house since the last photos I posted, but it had been two months since we were last there, and we wanted to check it out anyway. Since my last update, mostly what had been done was gravel laid in the driveway and in the basement, and the safe room built. This wasn’t something on our plans or that we requested, but our builder says the walls need to be built under the front porch regardless, so why not make it something useful?

Safe Room under the front porch

 

View from the front of the house, with garage on the right

 

This will be the view from the front porch – much different, with the leaves off the trees

Pictures are one thing, but standing in our soon-to-be basement and garage were quite another! We also met with our commercial real estate agent, who’s ready to step in and help us find and buy rental property down there as soon as the apartment building here in Ohio sells. Turns out her husband owns a brewery, and even though it’s not yet open to the public, they invited us over to see the place and enjoy some samples! The beer was fantastic, and it was tons of fun hanging out with them and the guys who were helping them build out their tasting room. We also had fun getting to know our next door neighbor, and our favorite server at our favorite restaurant (yes, we already have one, LOL). I even managed to keep up with my writing goals while we were there!

Thanksgiving was our usual nice, simple event with no drama–my favorite, and something I’m always thankful for. It did seem a little weird when my husband asked to take photos of us at the table, since it will be our last Thanksgiving in this house. It got really quiet for a few minutes there, but overall it was a nice, happy family get-together.

What I’ve Been Reading: I’m reading both a nonfiction book and a novel right now, but haven’t finished either, so I’ll discuss here after I have. The fiction reading is going slowly because I finally caved in to the ads to trade in my Kindle, and sent it back to Amazon while I could still get $25 for it, as opposed to only $5. It holds a charge, but only for a few days, and it’s getting difficult to charge since the USB socket no longer makes a good connection. So I figured I’d trade it in while I could still get the higher amount. My new one hasn’t come in yet, so I’m reading a paper book. No problem, except that means I have to turn off the light when my husband comes to bed. I miss my Kindle, because I like reading in the dark.

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What I’ve Been Writing: I met my stretch goal of writing all seven days this week, including the two nights we were in Tennessee and on Thanksgiving! It wasn’t that much, as I’m still baby-stepping my way with a 100 words/day goal, but I’ll take those words, especially since I finished a difficult chapter. The Coach.me app has been a big help, because I really love checking off that goal every day. It’s helped with my decluttering goal too, though I only got five days of that in due to our trip. This week, I’d like to up the writing goal a bit, and go for 200 words/day, for at least five days this week.

What about you–did you have a nice Thanksgiving? Have you done anything unusual and/or fun lately? How are you doing with whatever goals you may have, whether writing or something else? Please share in the comments–I love hearing from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Restart Accomplished!

Not much going on in Tennessee, so no new photos. They haven’t even done the waterproofing yet, because of too much rain–the house hasn’t had enough time to dry off between storms. But the weather’s looking good for this week, so here’s hoping they get to it before the holiday!

On the other hand, plenty has gone on around here, including writing! I had an unspoken, unwritten goal this year of reading more nonfiction. Given my “What I’ve Been Reading” posts, you might guess that I’ve done well on that goal so far, and I have. This week, I read Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, which is about starting new habits or stopping bad ones. (The full title is Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life.) This book gave me some good insights on my trouble getting to the writing, along with some things to try.

It begins with the premise that when it comes to things like setting goals, forming habits, meeting deadlines and the like, people fall into one of four “tendency” types. Our tendency, along with whether the goal/habit/etc. is self-imposed, or comes from an external source, determines how likely we are to meet the goal, stick to the habit, and so on.

On one end of the tendencies is the Upholder, who is good at meeting any goal, deadline, or habit formation, regardless of whether it comes from within or from others. The author identifies as this type, which obviously, can form habits more easily. At the other end is the Rebel, who resists habits, deadlines, etc. regardless of their source. Upholders loooooove gold stars, while Rebels couldn’t care less.

Most people fit into one of the other two types. The Questioner does great at meeting self-imposed deadlines, goals, etc., but resists those imposed on him by others. I’m using “him” here, because my husband is a Questioner, as is Ms. Rubin’s, and my brother is definitely a Questioner. That’s not to say Questioners can’t meet guidelines imposed by others, but it needs to make logical sense to them.

The fourth, and most common tendency type is the Obliger. These folks hate to let others down and will meet deadlines set by others, but find it hard to meet self-imposed deadlines or goals, or to establish habits simply because they themselves want to. Obligers do much better when there is some kind of external accountability.

So which one of these am I? If you guessed “Obliger,” you are right! That’s why I love ROW80 so much. For those who might not know, “A Round of Words in 80 Days” is a challenge group in which each writer sets her own goals, then reports back to the group in the form of a blog post once or twice a week. There is also a Facebook Group, and anyone is welcome to join at any time. Many times, knowing I had to report in for ROW80 would give me the extra push I needed to get to the writing and meet my goals.

Coach.me, online version

But lately, it hasn’t been enough, and that’s where the book had some good suggestions. Four basic techniques can help just about anyone form a habit. These include monitoring (tracking something makes us pay more attention to it), foundation (adding a habit to another, existing one), scheduling, and accountability. Scheduling was something I’d certainly heard of before, but had never tried. So this past week, I did. I blocked off time on my calendar every night after dinner (foundation). Then I tried something else that the book suggested might work particularly well for obligers: I downloaded an app. The book didn’t name a specific one, but a quick Google search for “writing habit app” led me to coach.me, a well-reviewed app available for Android, iPhone, and on the website. (The app itself is free; additional optional coaching services can be purchased.)

The app lets you select from one or more existing goals (or create your own), then determine how many times a week you want to work on it, and when you want reminders. When you work on your goal, you “check” it off for the day, which I find so satisfying! Every few days, the phone will notify you if you have a streak going–fun! Also, I love seeing those checkmarks add up. I guess Obligers like goal stars, too. 🙂

So between scheduling my writing time and using the Coach me app, I’ve managed to write every day this week. Once again, I’m starting slowly, so it’s not a lot, but I am writing. Even better? I set another goal in Coach.me for decluttering, and I hit my five days/week goal there, too.

What (Else) I’ve Been Reading: On Common Ground by Jansen Schmidt. This contemporary romance features Trevor, a cop on administrative leave who also knows ranching. He works on a friend’s ranch while waiting for Internal Affairs to investigate his case and clear him of guilt. Having recently escaped a bad marriage, he wants nothing to do with women, not even the hot female horse trainer who’s also hiding out while working on the ranch. As a rape survivor, Ketra wants even less to do with men than Trevor wants with women, so watching these two resist their growing attraction to each other pushes all the right romance buttons, along with the cowboy/horses/ranch tropes. Following them as they learn and grow and slowly leave their distrust behind makes On Common Ground a satisfying romance read I definitely recommend.

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What I’ve Been Writing: My goal in Coach.me was to write at least five days a week, at least 100 words a day. I wrote for six days (I’m writing this on Saturday, and haven’t written yet today), and got a total of 1,077 words! Not a lot compared to NaNoWriMo standards, and not a lot by my standards, but I’ll take them!

This week’s going to be tricky. I have a lot going on, plus Thanksgiving on Thursday, which I’m hosting. So I’m going to stick to the same goal–write at least five days, at least 100 words. We’ll see how that goes in a non-typical week!

What about you–which tendency do you think you are, based on my quick descriptions? Do you find it easy to form new habits or lose bad ones, and how does that vary if the habit is self-imposed, or comes from an external force? How do you stay consistent in your habits–any more tricks I might try? And how have you been doing on any goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Struggling to (Re)Start

Another week, and another goal not met. Ugh. Once again, I wrote one night this week, then… nothing.

I’m not sure what the deal is with my writing (or rather, lack thereof). Maybe it’s because this was a bad week for migraines due to the change in weather. Maybe there is lingering house stuff crowding my brain (okay, there definitely is). Or maybe it’s a stupid fear I identified last year when I took Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing into the Dark workshop last year–the Fear of Not Knowing What Happens Next. It isn’t the story. I really want to finish this one. I think about it when I’m not writing, but not enough to figure it out.

I am a recovering outliner. I’m not saying that outlining is bad if it works for you, but it had gotten so that it wasn’t working for me any longer. Outlining, or planning ahead, was pretty drilled into me, having worked as a software developer for 20 years. In that endeavor, failing to plan is definitely a plan to fail. And outlining served me well for the first few books I wrote.

But with the last couple, I noticed that I’d spend a lot of time planning, and no matter how much effort I put into it or how good a plan I thought I had, the book would always veer off into a different direction. And the new direction was always better than the outlined one, by far. ALWAYS. So why spend the time outlining (which is also boring) when it doesn’t help me anyway? That’s why I’m trying to get out of it. But I’ve been stuck lately. Maybe it’s because I’m just not putting the time in? I don’t know.

That’s what I’m trying to find out–if I just open the file, sit at the computer regularly, will this work itself out? The trouble is getting myself to that point. The nonfiction book I’m reading this week has given me a couple of good ideas to try, but I’m not done with it yet so I’ll discuss it after I finish.

What I’ve Been Reading: I did finish a couple more books last week, so I’m still reading. In fiction, I finished Watcher’s Web by Patty Jansen. Jansen has done it again and totally pulled me into this character’s life and world. Like her other series, it took a little while before I really clicked with the character, but the world and actions were interesting enough to get me through that initial bit, then once I was through that, I knew I’d read this whole series. Watcher’s Web is Book One of the Return of the Arghyrians series, a science fiction tale centering on Jessica, a 17-year old Australian with an odd power she calls “the web” with which she can telepathically influence animals, and sometimes people. When she’s in a plane wreck and finds herself in an otherworldly forest, she discovers a whole new world–and learns she’s not even human, but an alien race thought to be extinct. Now everyone wants her–and her powers. Though science fiction, this has a strong fantasy feel to it which is a combination I love, so I will definitely be reading the rest of the series. Highly recommended if this is your thing, too!

In non-fiction, I read The Four-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. This is somewhat of a classic now, but I will admit I went into it with skepticism, and after finishing the book, I remain skeptical. I’m not saying that his process can’t be replicated–plenty of people have done it–but it’s not for me, and I suspect, for a lot of people. It involves either quitting one’s job to start a business, or else getting a remote work arrangement in your job, so that you can spend your time doing things you want like traveling the world. Ironically, I’ve done the remote work part, but I’m more of a roots person, and am not into the extensive outsourcing that Ferris advocates to reduce the need for actively participating in one’s business. I also don’t see how that works when one is an employee, though he claims it can (not even touching on all the fields that don’t lend themselves to remote work). Once he got to the outsourcing part, I started to find it distasteful–possibly because I wouldn’t appreciate having my job outsourced, and definitely because I see this system as something done by the Kindle scammers–put out a product solely for the money, with little regard for its quality. Another big negative of the book was that the book has been updated since its original publication, but a lot of it was links to services and content that is no longer available.  Though his system is not for me, it was still an interesting read.

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What I’ve Been Writing: As noted above, not much. My goal for this week is to try a couple things in the nonfiction book I’m currently reading about habits, and also to check out Dean Wesley Smith’s video lecture series on Starting or Restarting Your Writing.

Tennessee Update: No new pictures, but they are planning to pour the basement floor this week. Hope to have some updates next week! One thing I really need to do–and am having as hard a time getting into as writing–is to declutter my house. I went through a big purge a couple years ago, but there are still a TON of things I don’t want to move. So decluttering a little bit each day is a habit I really need to get back into.

What about you–any suggestions for me to try to get back into writing? Have you read any good books lately? What’s been going on in your life? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Better than me, I hope! I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

More Reading than Writing

My plan to get back into a writing habit didn’t work out so well this week. No new pictures of the house either, though work has continued in Tennessee. The basement walls are now done and waterproofing has been applied. The crew also pumped concrete into the hollow cores of the blocks. The plumber was due to rough-in the drains in the basement either Friday or early this week, as our basement will eventually have two bathrooms and a kitchenette. Initially, it will be unfinished, and we’ll finish it out ourselves later. So for now, we just need drains before the floor is poured.

I also finished the electrical plan, aside from a few details I need from others.

It’s not as complicated as it looks… no wait, maybe it is

What I’ve Been Reading: I did a fair amount of reading this week (for me), and finished two books. In nonfiction, I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. This book was mainly about how introverts (ME) see and process the world differently than extroverts. The best thing about it? How many times while reading it I thought, wow, it’s not just me! And that it’s OK to be introverted, even if we’re not the ones usually getting the attention (nor do we usually want it). Interesting and worth a read if you want to understand yourself a little better, or if you’re an extrovert, to better understand how our minds work.

I also finished a science fiction novel, Watcher’s Web by Patty Jansen. I looooooove Patty Jansen’s fantasy books, and this was one in a pack of four books you can get for free for signing up for her newsletter. Like the first book of hers I read, it took me a little while to really get into, but once I did, I couldn’t stop reading. Jessica, the main character, gets pulled into another world (through a wormhole, so science fiction, not fantasy). There, she learns that not only is she not human, she’s part of an ancient race with some serious powers–and lots of people who would enslave her to get their hands on them. I will definitely be buying the next book, and eventually all, of this series of four.

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What I’ve Been Writing: As noted above, Not. Much. I started out well, and got my words in on Monday and Tuesday. But on Wednesday–I don’t remember what was going on–I think my husband went hunting, and we wound up eating a really late dinner, and that threw me off. I totally forgot about doing any writing until I was ready for bed, and then I was like, I’m tired, I’ll just jump back in tomorrow.

Well, you can guess how that went. One day off turned into two, then three, then… heck, I’ve already blown it, so much for that goal.

So for this week, I’m going to just set a total word count–something small and easy, and something I can break up into something even smaller and easier, or one I can catch up on if I do this nonsense again, let’s say 500 words this week. Such a small amount, surely I can hit this one? We’ll see!

What about you–ever have one of those weeks where you just can’t get much done, and there’s no reason for it? Have you read any good books lately, fiction or non? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have for yourself? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Slow Start

Starting back to writing, that is. The house is moving right along, and we now have basement walls!

House viewed from the front

 

As viewed from the back

There’s no back wall because it’s a walkout basement. These are very common in the Knoxville area, because it’s very hilly. Traditional, full basements are not common in that area, probably for the same reason.

We went with a block wall basement because, according to our builder, it’s about half the cost of a poured concrete wall. And they’re just as good as long as they’re waterproofed correctly (our current house also has a block wall basement). Once the walls are done, they’ll pump concrete into the interiors–the cost savings come about mainly because block walls don’t require forms. Next step (I believe) is to put the plumbing in. There is a kitchenette and two bathrooms in the basement. The builder won’t be putting these in–we’ll finish it ourselves later–but they will put in drain pipes before pouring the floor.

My goal was to get the electrical plans done this week. I did maybe half of it, mostly because some other stuff I had to do earlier in the week took more time than I thought. I should be able to get the electrical plans finished this week. It’s not like they need them yet, but I don’t like to do this stuff at the last minute; would rather have it done early so I have plenty of time to research–and yes, change my mind before it gets expensive. 🙂

What I’ve Been Reading: I wanted to read some more of the great big paper TBR pile, so I pulled out Heart Dance, by Robin D. Owens. I used to really love this series–actually, I don’t know why I haven’t read any in many years, because I really enjoyed this one. What’s funny is a few chapters in, it started feeling really familiar. At first I put that down to there being a lot of similarities between the books in this series. They don’t need to be read in order, and are each about a different couple, but they’re in the same world and a lot of the same magical things happen to each couple as a result. But then some of the things from the main character’s backstory starting feeling familiar too, and I remembered a pivotal scene that most likely came from this book and sure enough, I’d read it before. Funny thing was, I didn’t remember much about it besides those familiar details and that one scene, though I knew the couple would end up together because duh, it’s a romance. 😀 I still enjoyed it, including the way the ending came about! It was probably 8-10 years ago that I read it, and given the number of books I read, I guess I can take a pass for not remembering. One thing it did was remind me how much I enjoy the series and its world, and make a point to check out the half dozen or so books in the series I know I haven’t read. The first book in the series, Heart Mate, was  RITA Award winner, way back in 2002. If you like fantasy romance with a bit of sci-fi tossed in, I highly recommend it!

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What I’ve Been Writing: My brain’s still stuck on house stuff, so I almost forgot about my goal until last night–11:52, to be exact. So I opened up my WIP and wrote a few paragraphs, helped by the looming deadline I’d set for myself. So, a slow start, but goal met! If it hadn’t been late and I hadn’t been about ready for bed, I would have written more, as it was fun. I wrote a little over 100 words, so this week, I want to continue that, and write at least 100 words, for at least five days.

What about you–how are things in your world? Have you ever picked up a book you thought was new to you, only to find out it wasn’t? My mother-in-law used to do this often enough that she started making a list of everything she read, and she’d check it before buying new books. I do this too, but didn’t start until after I read Heart Dance the first time. How are you doing on whatever goals you might have? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right… and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

 

A Hole in the Ground

That’s what we have in Tennessee right now! The builder has finished digging for the basement and foundation, and when we talked to him on Thursday, he was planning to pour the footers the next day.

While all that has been going on, I’ve been working on what I call “The House Book.” In software developer parlance, it’s basically a requirements document (along with the plans). It’s where I’ve noted everything we want as far as finishes go, as well as any minor changes to the plans. For example, we removed a couple of doors–there are TONS in this house. I also decided I would rather have a large, blank wall in my office instead of a closet–I’ll be getting plenty of built-ins for storage, and those are detailed in the book as well.

I haven’t been writing any fiction in the past month, because my head has been full of house stuff. It’s amazing how it totally takes over your brain! (Or is that just me?) I finished the house book last week and got that out to the builder, so time for fiction now, right?

Not exactly. I still need to do the electrical plan–that is, note on a digital copy of our house plans where each light fixture goes, any outlets outside of the ordinary, like one in the middle of the floor in my office,  to allow for a second desk that I’ll use for writing. And the electrical plan also includes where all the switches go, and which switch controls which light or outlet. This should go much more quickly than the book, and since it’s just one area, isn’t as mentally consuming.

I did manage to dig back into fiction a little, reading my latest scenes in an effort to get the WIP back into my brain. So there’s that.

I also kept reading, and have finished some good books over the past couple of weeks.

What I’ve Been Reading: In non-fiction, I read The Groovy Guide to Financial Independence: How to Escape the Tyranny of Mandatory Toil in Fourteen Years or Less by Mr. Groovy. The author is half of the couple of pseudonymous bloggers who write at Freedom is Groovy, one of my favorite personal finance blogs. I bought it because it was on sale for $0.99, and I knew it would be entertaining (while imparting good info). And it did not disappoint. I didn’t really expect to learn much, if anything, as I binge-read the entire blog, and as I expected, the book was pretty much the same material, reworked into a more organized form. It was still worth a read if for nothing but the entertainment value–Mr. Groovy has a fun-t0-read voice with plenty of humor, and makes otherwise dry financial topics into something fun. I mean, where else can you find a lesson on personal finance from Hannibal Lecter? Highly recommended, whether or not you’ve read the blog–doubly so if you haven’t.

In fiction, I finished Relic of Sorrows: Fallen Empire Book Four, by Lindsey Buroker. This is a space opera series I’ve been really enjoying, and this installment (book 4) was every bit as entertaining as those that have come before. Not only was there plenty of action and space battles, there was a logical progression of the characters and their relationships. This is one series that needs to be read in order, so if you’re looking for some good sci-fi, give the first book, Star Nomad, a read. Even better, it’s free.

What I’ve Been Writing: As noted above, the House Book. Now that that’s done, I still need to do the electrical plan, but my goal this week is to finish that, and dig back into the WIP. So my goal is to get anything written on it, even it’s just a paragraph. Baby steps!

What about you–what have you been up to? Read any good books lately? How are you doing on whatever goals you might have? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Building Begins

We went to Tennessee this week, and our land looked quite different from the last time we were there! We went straight to the property when we arrived in town, rather than to our hotel, and the changes were obvious, starting with our new driveway! There was already a driveway onto the property, and we’ll use the same approach from the street and first few yards, but the builder suggested routing it a different way to go up the hill that would be a little shorter, easier, and most importantly, less expensive.

  

When we got to the top, we found that the builder had completed leveling the top as promised:

The bulldozer was still parked up there, too.

We came back the following morning to meet with the builder, and also met his foreman (and bulldozer operator). Then, we went to three different places to discuss windows, and try to figure out what would be the best material combination for our budget, while still being of good quality and energy efficiency.

That evening, we went back to the property. The building foreman had left us some wood in the middle of the leveled area, as my husband had mentioned that he wanted to come back for a campfire.

So that’s what we did. We watched the sun set and the sky darken. Being on the ridgetop with no buildings around, it looked almost like a planetarium, with the sky looking like an inverted bowl as the stars slowly came out. It was very clear, but not a good night for stargazing as there was a very bright half moon. It was that kind of clear night where sound travels a long distance–we could hear our next door neighbor calling her chickens in (1/8 mile away). We could hear the neighbors around the corner (3/8 mile away) jamming on some headbanger music (as in, they have a band). Not loud enough to be bothersome, and luckily we like that kind of music. 🙂 (We heard them playing when we looked at the property, so it was not a surprise.) We could hear traffic on the busy road almost a mile away–again, not bothersome, and even with those sounds it was very peaceful up on the ridge.

We returned the next morning to meet with the builder, staked out where the house would go, then the foreman got busy widening the leveled area.

All in all, a successful trip! Now it’s really starting to feel real. Exciting, but also scary.

What I’ve Been Reading: Right before we left on our trip, I finished My Soul to Keep, an alternate history novel by Lynette M. Burrows. And wow, what a fantastic book! As a time travel writer, this was the kind of story I love. It takes place in 1961 in a very different USA than the one we know. In the story world, the Axis powers won WWII, and the US became a religious state, where women had even fewer rights than they had decades ago in the real world. The story centers around Miranda, the daughter of a religious leader who runs away from an arranged marriage and realizes she’s been living a lie. Fascinating worldbuilding, with lots of historical details from the real world dropped in along with those of the changed world. Relatable, interesting characters and one exciting scene after another that’s action-filled yet makes one think, make this a book I highly recommend. Can’t wait for the next one in the series!

What I’ve Been Writing: Not fiction, that’s for sure. My brain has been consumed by house stuff this week, and since our return from Tennessee on Friday, I’ve been working on what I call “the House Book.” This is where I’m making notes of things I want incorporated into the construction, finishes, fixtures, trims, colors, and more. Not only are there seemingly a million decisions to make on this stuff, some items have an overwhelming number of choices. In addition, some things require research (at least, that’s how I roll), so writing up the spec book is not a quick task. I’m probably half done with it (maybe?) and hope to finish this week. If I don’t get it all done, I at least have completed the parts our builder will need first, namely roofing, exterior, windows, doors, and plumbing.

How about you–what’s been going on in your life? Have you read any good books lately? Any tips to share with me on picking finishes for our house? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.