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.

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.

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.

Saying Yes to Fun

My post is late today, because my husband and I just got back from a weekend trip to Cleveland a little while ago.

Sandy feet at a beach wedding!

We’d planned this trip several months ago, after being invited to my longtime friend T.S. Hottle’s wedding on the Lake Erie shore. We rode the Harley up–a bit hot at times, but overall a good ride. We stopped in Columbus on the way up to take our daughter out to lunch for her birthday, and got to Cleveland in plenty of time for the wedding.

Tom and his now-wife put together a lovely little beach ceremony, with a reception in the park just above it. We’ve known each other for 34 years (we both did the math while telling his relatives), so it was an honor to be included as part of his family for their special day.

This morning, we rode over to the other side of Cleveland to meet up with one of my husband’s friends from high school, who also has a Harley. And, I also got to meet his wife for the first time, which was fun. We all rode into the picturesque small town nearby and had a wonderful brunch (can you say waffles with Nashville-hot chicken? Yes!). Then we took a cruise with them before heading home. All in all, a great weekend!

I had plenty of time to think on back of the motorcycle on the way there and home, and it occurred to me that we used to get out and do fun things like that fairly regularly while we were dating. We’d been married about a year and a half when our daughter came along, which tends to slow things down a bit–understandably. Not that we didn’t ever go on vacations or even long weekend trips, but more planning was involved, and only once did we go on motorcycles. That was back when I had my Harley, and we rode to Tennessee. My Harley was a street bike, not a touring bike, so it was not a pleasant experience, and not repeated. We sold my Harley a few years ago, because I just don’t have time to ride often enough.

But by the time our daughter went to college, the habit of saying no had gotten ingrained in me. It seemed between my job, writing, taking care of a house, and being tired all the time, I just didn’t have much time to do things like motorcycle trips, especially spontaneous ones.

Saying No is important, especially saying no to more obligations when we already have too many. Sometimes, it’s necessary to say no to fun because of our health. But saying no out of habit, is a habit I’m working on breaking.

That started earlier this spring, one day when my husband asked if I’d like to go on a motorcycle ride to visit our daughter in Columbus. I had things to do that weekend–it was while we were still working on the flip house–but I knew I’d been saying no to too much, so I said yes. We had a great visit and lunch, and I was glad I went. That’s when I realized I needed to say yes to fun, and to the special people in my life, more often. The stuff to do was still there later, and it ended up getting done soon enough. That was how this weekend was, too, even though it was planned in advanced. It might be 9:30 PM, but the laundry is in the dryer, and I’m getting the blog written. I’m glad I said yes to Tom’s wedding, too. I have a couple more yesses coming up next weekend, so the blog might be late then, too. We’ll see!

What I’ve Been Reading: Starseers, by Lindsey Buroker. This is Book 3 in her Fallen Empire series. I tried Star Nomad, the first book in the series, because it was free (it still is) and it looked good. It was, and I’m now hooked. This is space opera with a kick-ass female starship captain who’s ferrying some interesting passengers around the galaxy after serving in the military during a war. One passenger is a super-sexy cyborg who happened to serve on the other side during the war, making for a nice little romantic subplot. These books are fast-paced, action-packed, and feature well-developed characters and humor. If you like space opera, I highly recommend them!

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What I’ve Been Writing: I completed all of the Week 5 exercises in my workshop! I’d only planned to complete half of them, since I knew I would be away over the weekend, but they turned out to be easier and much less time-consuming than I expected. Or maybe I didn’t quite get the concepts; that’s certainly possible. But at any rate, they’re done, and this week, I want to do the Week 6 lesson and exercises. These exercises look a bit more in-depth than last week’s, so given that I have another busy weekend coming up, it may not all happen. But that’s what I’ll shoot for!

How about you–do you have trouble saying yes to fun? Or perhaps you have trouble saying no–to too many obligations? What fun things have you said yes to lately? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, 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.

 

Things are Getting Real

So I finally got around to fixing my email notifications for when I post a new blog. Back in May when the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation went into effect, I realized my email notifications weren’t compliant–and I do have a few subscribers from the EU, so that’s a concern. I did not have time then to figure out how to make my email software compliant or find another solution, so I just disabled it temporarily.

Well, I finally buckled down and did the work, and I now have a new plugin (that’s add-on software, for non-techie folks). So if your email notification looked a little different today (and it should), that’s why.

As always, I would love it if you would let me know if you see anything that looks amiss!

The Front Elevation of our new house

Tennessee Update: this is where things are getting real! Once our builder received the final plans, he sent us a contract to sign. It didn’t lay out the money (but referenced his quote from December for that), but had an estimated start date of August 20! And an estimated finish date of June 20, 2019. My husband and I figure most custom builds go over budget (hopefully not by much) and over schedule, so don’t count on us moving then, but still… whoa, it’s finally happening!

We also got the loan contract from the bank, and that did list out the money… yikes! Not bad, and not a surprise, but still a little scary to see it all laid out. I need to go over those documents again, and email our loan originator with questions. She’s on vacation this week, so nothing much will happen until she gets back.

But while we’re waiting on that, I have plenty to do, starting with picking out windows. What’s fun about that is this is actually something I know a bit about–I spent almost eight years working as a graphic designer for a company that manufactures the vinyl for windows. So I know a lot of the terminology, and what features to look for. And of course, I’m especially familiar with all the benefits of vinyl! (I wrote some of the ad copy, too.) It’s been over 20 years since I left there, so I don’t know anyone who still works there other than a friend of my husband’s who works on the factory floor. I sent in a form on their website. They got back to me the next day with who their manufacturer is for Knoxville, and said they should be contacting me sometime next week. We may still end up going with whoever our builder typically uses, but I wanted to give my old company a chance, as I have had their windows in my current house for 15 (upstairs) and 25 (first floor) years, and they’ve been great.

The other thing I need to work on is to start looking at everything else, from siding to interior trim to electrical outlet locations, and make notes on what we want. I did this for our rental house fire restoration and renovation, and it was a big help to both us and the contractors. Sort of like a requirements document in software, that minimizes unknowns, and provides a reference if something isn’t done right, or to determine if something is a change request, or was part of the original specifications. It took me a whole weekend of doing nothing else to write up the spec book for the rental house; this one will take a good bit longer, spaced out over the next several weeks.

What I’ve Been Reading: A while back, I bought a one-year subscription to Dean Wesley Smith’s and Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Fiction River anthology magazine, as it came with three of their online writing workshops and was a heck of a deal. I’m not a big reader of short stories, though I do like them from time to time, so mostly they just sat on my Kindle. I ran across the Wishes issue on my Kindle a few weeks ago, and nothing else had grabbed my attention, so I started reading it.

There were a couple stories I skipped right away. One was written in an odd, screenplay format that had an experimental feel to it that I didn’t like, and a couple others were in present tense, which I can’t stand. But the rest were pretty enjoyable, especially one called “How I Became a Fairy Godmother.” Oh–and all these stories were YA, so this would be a teenage fairy godmother! And the intro to it said that it’s a prequel to a series. Cool!

After last week’s not-so-great book, I was happy to grab One Bad Wish, by Bonnie Elizabeth. What a fun story! The main character finds herself in an unpleasant, alternate reality when she mistakenly grants a friend’s wish that her (the friend’s) brother hadn’t been born. And then she has to figure out how to undo the wish. If you like YA with some fun magical elements, definitely grab this one!

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What I’ve Been Writing: Big improvement here! I was planning to spend a minimum of 15 minutes a day, for at least five days, working on my Villains workshop. Then I read some better ideas, one of which was Beth Camp’s suggestion of a 100-word challenge. I also read a great blog post by Natalie Bacon on motivation (well worth a read!), where one of her tips is to “measure what you produce.” By that, she means focus on what you want to accomplish, rather than just spending a certain amount of time. So for us fiction writers, that would be word count, scenes written, pages revised, etc. I decided to break the assignments in my workshop down into smaller tasks, and then planned to do one or two of those each night. And with that, I met my goal! Week 3 exercises are done, and Week 4’s started. So this week’s goal is to finish Week 4 exercises. There are six left, so that’s one per day, with a day off.

What about you–what big or small things are getting real in your life? Have you read anything good lately? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? Do task-based or time-based goals work better for you? I will admit time-based goals still work for me when it’s something like housework! 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.

The Value of Habits, and the Need for Deadlines

I’m late getting this blog post out today, and it’s wholly because I fell out of the habit of blogging, when I was spending most of my weekends working on our flip house with my husband. Back when I was blogging regularly before, getting the blog done was typically one of the first things I did once I got going on Sunday (although, that sometimes takes me a while). But now?

I had it on my To-Do list, which is the first step. But instead of getting the blog written, I goofed off, cleaned the fish tank (which badly needed doing), did laundry, washed the sheets and put them back on the bed, and puttered around in between. So now it’s after 9 PM, and just now getting to the blog.

Fiction writing is pretty much the same way. Yes, I have adrenal fatigue and chronic migraines, but the latter aren’t usually the debilitating kind, and I can’t help but feel those things are more excuses than reasons. So I have all good intentions of getting to the writing, even to the extent of putting it on my to-do list, but I somehow never seem to get to it.

Except this week, I finally did.

Over the past few months, I’ve been glomming on another financial independence blog called Our Next Life. (btw, highly recommended, as it’s more about the touchy-feeling side of planning for retirement, rather than about numbers, all wrapped up in some wonderful life-musings, and the writing is really good.) The author used to work a very fast-paced, high stress job, and in a post I read last week, wondered what life would be like without deadlines in early retirement. Seriously, that post is well worth a read, especially her thoughts on procrastination, but to sum up, she concluded that without deadlines, she and her husband might not get around to all the travel, service, and outdoorsy adventures they have planned.

I realized that was my problem too. As a writer whose publisher does not impose deadlines (or contract for unfinished work), I was having trouble staying motivated. Worse, I was having this same trouble in my day job.

My dog Isis has several deadlines a day, for taking her beauty naps.

Not that I wasn’t doing anything there, but I just wasn’t feeling the motivation, which led to me not getting as much done as I should have been for the past several months–because there’s no deadline attached. I’m the only programmer working on this project, and while I did give my supervisor a rough idea of when it would be done, there’s no one holding my hands to the keyboard to keep things moving week to week.

So I put together a schedule, breaking my work project down into smaller chunks, and setting a deadline for each one. I was debating on whether or not to send it to my supervisor–after all, it’s not like I expect her to babysit me–when she emailed me and asked for that very thing! So while she has tons of other stuff going on and I don’t expect much follow up, just knowing she has the schedule is giving me a feeling of enough urgency to focus better. And as a result, I’m feeling more engaged with my work.

What I’ve Been Reading: I have a lot to catch up on here–if I even try. I’ve been trying to read more nonfiction, in addition to blogs outside of the fiction writing realm. But of course, I’m still enjoying fiction. Recently, I read Stone Cold Heart, the final (so far) installment of what’s become one of my favorite series, the Mythos Legacy by Jami Gold. One reason I love this paranormal romance series is that these books and characters aren’t just the same-ol, same-ol. In Stone Cold, the hero is a gargoyle warrior in a Rip Van Winkle situation, and the heroine is an Army vet dealing with PTSD. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a different kind of paranormal romance. While the three prior books were also wonderful, it’s not necessary to read these in order. More gargoyle books are planned in a spinoff series, and I’m looking forward to the next one!

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What I’ve Been Writing: For the writing, I jumped back on the ROW80 train last week. While it isn’t the same as a deadline, having someone to be accountable to is a great motivator for me. I hate posting on my blog that I met none of my goals (even though everyone is always kind and supportive), so that helps me get things done.

So am I getting tons done now? Nope. But I did meet my writing goal for this week, which was to finish the Week Two lessons of Holly Lisle’s How to Write Villains workshop. Babysteps!

For next week, we’ll stick with babysteps for now, and plan on getting Week Three done of the workshop.

What about you? Do you need deadlines, or at least some sort of accountability, to get stuff done? Have you read anything good lately? And how are you doing on your goals, whatever they may be (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.

 

One Step Closer to Tennessee

Just a quick post, as it’s already late. Once again, I did not get any writing done. It’s frustrating, as I know how the next scene will unfold, once I have a chance to sit down and write it!

But other things are moving along. Progress continues at the rental house, with the bathrooms almost complete, as well as the painting and trim throughout the house. I finished the staining I set out to do last week, and have the pantry shelves cut, assembled and ready for paint.

view from the top

Our land in Tennessee

But the best news is on two other rental properties. We put our two four-unit apartment buildings up for sale, planning to (partially) fund our new house build with that. We got offers for both this week! And for close to asking price (they were priced reasonably to begin with). Two different people–one with an FHA loan, one with VA. Hopefully the inspections won’t be too onerous. One is set to close in mid-April, the other in mid-May, I guess because VA takes a little longer due to the extra paperwork. Both are new investors planning to “house hack” (live in the buildings), which is a great way to get started, so I wish them the best.

Once we close on those, we’ll be able to apply for our construction loan for the rest, and sign a contract with our builder. Because of course, it’s not a done deal until the closings happen, and checks are in our hands.

What I’ve Been Reading: The Adventures of Hawk, the novel in Smith’s Monthly #40, by Dean Wesley Smith. My main complaint about this book? It was too short! If it’s the start of a series, that works for me, but there were so many plot threads left unresolved, though the main one was tied up well… good enough. But this was such a fun read–sort of like a YA Indiana Jones adventure story that took a group of 19 year old guys all over Africa. What gave it a cool twist was that it took place in 1970–so no cell phones, no personal computers, and the politics and events of that time like the Vietnam war, and Apartheid. Very cool–I so want to read more. Might have to email him and ask if more are planned! I have a feeling it will happen if and when Smith feels like writing another one. That’s how he rolls.

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What I’ve Been Writing: As noted above, nothing. 🙁 Just too much going on to wrap my head around my story, I think. But this is a new week, and a new chance to try again, right?

So what about you–ever have one of those weeks where a lot happens, but none of what you planned? What do you do to get back into your own projects? Read any good books lately? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? Please share–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.

What’s Your “Why?”

As fiction writers, it’s important to know why we write.

So many books, so little time

Writing is fun for most of us when we’re first starting out, before we know all the “rules” and reader expectations (and publisher guidelines, if one’s going that way). But that initial passion eventually fades, and writing can become work, even if it’s still fun. Without that “why,” it’s easy to get stalled out, put projects aside and never finish anything, and finally lose interest when the writing stops being fun (which often happens when the writing gets to being just for the money).

Nonfiction writers write because they have information to share that will help others or teach, or perhaps they want to share their own story for future generations. Fiction writers have stories to tell, characters that show up and won’t stop talking to us, or feelings and ideas we need to express. For both, writing can be therapy, and just plain fun; a means of entertaining ourselves. There are probably as many reasons “why” as there are writers.

For me, it’s having stories to tell and characters who won’t go away. Except they’ve grown quieter lately, which may be why I haven’t been writing as much. But the stories are still there, so I continue to write, even if it’s at a glacially slow pace.

It’s equally as important to know your “why” when it comes to personal finance and savings. Whether you’re saving money for retirement, a child’s education (or your own), for a vacation, a new home, or a car, our “why” has to matter enough to sustain us through the times when it’s hard to save, like when we’d rather go shopping or out for dinner and drinks one more time.

For most of the personal finance bloggers I read, their “why” is a desire to not have to spend so much time at a job, and instead have that time to spend with their families or working on a project they have a passion for–maybe even fiction writing! That’s certainly a big part of my “why”–with my fatigue, by the time I put in my eight hours’ work, then come home, fix dinner, and clean up, there typically just isn’t anything left. It’s hard to be creative when you’re tired, both physically and mentally. (Those people who say it’s good to write when you’re tired? Good for them–I can’t.) There are other things I’d like to spend my time doing rather than work, too. And also, there’s the worry that by the time we’re able to quit working for a traditional retirement in our mid-sixties, we won’t have the health and energy to enjoy it. For me, even five years early will help.

What I’ve been Reading: Ghostly Interlude by Stacy McKitrick. I loved this book! (And not just because Stacy’s a friend of mine. :)) It’s a paranormal romance, where a ghost is what brings the couple together, but is also part of what keeps them apart. The ghost is a fun character and obviously key to the story, but it reads like a contemporary romance with a bit of mystery, so readers who don’t normally go for paranormal would probably enjoy this. Highly recommended!

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What I’ve been Writing: Doing a little better this week. My bar was very low, so I did meet my goal! I finished the scene I’d been stuck on for weeks, and then wrote the next. That’s not as exciting as it sounds though, as that next scene was a very short one. All in all, I wrote about two pages. But still, that’s something! So my goal this week is to complete the current scene, which I expect to be longer and not so easy.

What about you–if you’re a writer or someone who’s saving money, what’s your why? Or maybe another goal–what’s your why there? Read anything good lately? How are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? Please share–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.

Shelves and Books

The blog was a little late today, because my husband and I had some shopping to do:

Shelves, barn doors, and more shelves (and my dog Skeet)

That’s the lumber for all the stuff I’ll be building (or rebuilding) for the rental house. Custom U-shaped shelves for the pantry, re-cutting and staining the shelves and bench for the mudroom, and the open shelves to go in the kitchen. When the fire happened, the pantry was finished, and the rest of those were stained and waiting to be installed.

After the fire, when our plan turned to selling the place, we decided to deck out the upstairs with a sweet new bathroom, and a 14′ walk-through closet. The latter will need custom closet organizers, since one of the walls is a 5′ high knee wall. It’s also getting a barn door, since the opening on one end is an odd size. There will be a second barn door in the dining room at the bottom of the steps. We could buy them for $300-400 each… or build them for less than $100, and get them custom sized to boot. I found this great online tutorial, and they don’t look that difficult. So my work is cut out for me for the next couple months! Oh wait, it’s not cut. I have to do that too. It will be fun. 😀

On another note, I promised last week I’d share some books that helped me learn about adrenal fatigue (I slept well last night for once, thank goodness, or that shopping trip and carry-in would have been rough).

I started out thinking maybe it was just the onset of menopause, so I found Female Brain Gone Insane by Mia Lundin. While I wasn’t having the dramatic mood issues many of her patients were in the anecdotes, a lot of the other things these ladies were dealing with sounded familiar. I had never heard of adrenal fatigue until I reached the last section in this book, and it was a major light bulb moment–these were the symptoms I was dealing with! I also got started on vitamins and supplements due to what I read here.

The next book I picked up was Is it Me or My Adrenals by Marcelle Pick. This went into a lot more depth, since it was focused solely on that subject. This was also the one that promoted diet as the main fix for adrenal fatigue–a time-consuming, labor-intensive meal plan that eliminated all processed foods and sugars. I tried one week of the recipes, and didn’t even make them all–who has the time and energy for that, on top of a full-time job? Not me.

I’m Too Young for This! by Suzanne Sommers focused more on menopause and perimenopause, but had some good info in it. I reviewed it here.

Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by Dr. James Wilson is probably one of the first books to come out on this subject, and goes into it in even more detail than Is it Me or My Adrenals. Wilson is one of the pioneers in research for it, and I loved that this book went over the history of the condition. Adrenal fatigue has been recognized since the late 19th/early 20th centuries, and was commonly treated then. This came in handy when I was writing Time’s Best Friend, when I needed a reason Florie’s mother couldn’t step in and help her all the time. I figured, why not get some use out of my own experience? 🙂

Author Fawne Hanson offered me a copy of her book, The Adrenal Fatigue Solution, in exchange for an honest review, after seeing me mention the above on my blog a while back. The book was good and contained a lot of good information, and I reviewed it here. The book isn’t available anywhere I could find except her website. Her website also has a lot of good information.

What I’ve Been Reading: Smith’s Monthly #39 by Dean Wesley Smith, featuring the novel Ace High. This is the novel he wrote in five days while on a trip to Las Vegas. It’s amazing what we can do if we prepare properly, have the right mindset, and are used to just sitting down and writing, which is his process. And Ace High was really good, one of his Cold Poker Game mysteries about retired detectives solving really twisted crimes–proof that as a reader, I can’t tell how fast a book was written, whether or not it was revised (he doesn’t), and whether or not it was outlined (he doesn’t).

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What I’ve Been Writing: Unfortunately, again, not much. I think this scene just isn’t interesting me enough (which means it won’t interest readers, either). I need to just wrap it up quickly and move on, and trim it in the process. It’s not like my book isn’t already long. 😀 So that’s my ROW80 plans for this week: Trim and finish that scene, and begin the next, which should be fun.

What about you–as a reader, can you tell if a book was written fast or slow, or with or without an outline? Have you ever built shelves, and if so, do you have any suggestions for me? 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.

Why we’re tired, and what can we do about it?

In last week’s post, I discussed Adrenal Fatigue, which is a big contributor to my not getting as much writing done as I’d like. Hmm… that sounds an awful lot like an excuse, but that’s part of the parcel, too–when we’re tired, it’s hard to be motivated and make good choices. Physical and mental fatigue leads to decision fatigue–do I watch another episode of Fixer Upper, or do I write? Too often when I’m tired, it’s the former.

First, I should probably back up and expand a little on what Adrenal Fatigue is not. Oh, and just a reminder, I’m not a health professional, and this is not health advice, just me sharing my experience.

Adrenal Fatigue is not Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The main symptom of both is fatigue, but CFS is a different condition altogether. It’s much more severe, and has other symptoms. The cause is not understood, and it’s not curable. Adrenal fatigue is primarily caused by stress, illness or injury, exposure to toxins, other hormonal imbalance, or (probably in most cases) a combination of these. It can be treated, which I’ll discuss below.

Adrenal Fatigue is also not Addison’s Disease (what one commenter noted as adrenal insufficiency). They’re similar, because both are a condition of low cortisol. But Addison’s is much more severe, where the body makes almost no cortisol or other adrenal hormones. It can be a life-threatening condition requiring medication for the rest of one’s life. Addison’s typically is the result of damage to the adrenal glands due to injury, infection, or disease.

Adrenal Fatigue is diagnosed by testing the levels of free cortisol in the body over a period of 24 hours. Testing over time is important, because the amount of cortisol in our bodies fluctuates throughout the day, typically rising in the morning, spiking, then tapering off throughout the rest of the day.

I noted in last week’s post, most traditional doctors won’t diagnose adrenal fatigue. It’s no longer taught in medical school, and I imagine much of that is because there is so much other information that must be taught. Also, the treatments for it do not include any highly-profitable offerings from big pharma, so none of these companies push for it to be taught, as they do for other conditions. And finally, there’s no insurance code to classify it under. As a result, many doctors believe it doesn’t exist.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t. Until recent decades, many doctors considered PMS to be “all in our heads.” People with CFS or Fibromyalgia were often dismissed as hypochondriacs. But today these conditions are all widely recognized.

For me, the proof was in the numbers. I’d invite anyone who thinks adrenal fatigue isn’t real to take a look at my cortisol chart:

The black lines show the high and low of what’s considered normal range. The red line is my cortisol. The photo is hard to see, but my cortisol is hovering right around the low end of the range – below it on waking, in fact. A physiological reason why I’m soooooo not a morning person! Only at night does my cortisol go toward the high range–which could explain my insomnia, another symptom of adrenal fatigue. I don’t think it takes a medical degree to look at this graph and conclude that it’s not right.

So what to do about adrenal fatigue? The first thing is to reduce stress wherever possible. I’m fortunate in that my job isn’t stressful, nor is anything in my home life. That’s not to say I don’t have stress, but I now try to be conscious about when I’m bringing it on to myself, like pushing too hard with my writing late at night. Now I try to be kind to myself and not push when it’s just not happening. Unfortunately, this results in less output, but that’s a tradeoff I have to make.

Vitamins and supplements are important, too. For me, these include a good multivitamin, additional B, C, and D vitamins, a probiotic, fish oil, and a couple of different adrenal support supplements. I also take magnesium at night. If I miss a day on any of them, no big deal, but if I run out of something and miss more than a couple days, I notice my energy levels being even lower than they are now. Fish oil is a big help for the brain fog, and I definitely notice if I run out of it.

There are also a few things to avoid. Certain medications will certainly contribute to fatigue–that’s pretty much a no-brainer. Sometimes, substitutes can be found, sometimes it’s just something we have to deal with. In my case, the medication I take for migraines does have an effect. I’ve tried a number of alternatives, but they all either didn’t work, or had such bad side-effects I’d rather have the headaches. Alcohol also doesn’t play nicely with adrenal fatigue. While I haven’t given that up entirely, I never have more than one beer in an evening, because it’s just not worth how wiped out I feel later and the next day. I only partake once or twice a week at most.

Some of the books I read also recommended cutting out, or drastically reducing caffeine. While I haven’t cut that out completely–not going to happen, with my headaches–I only use a little in the morning, and never past mid-afternoon.

The books generally recommend exercise, which I can certainly agree with to a point, the point being that I’m too tired to do any major exercise. But I try to at least get a walk in daily–preferably outside with my dogs, or on the treadmill with a good book if it’s too cold/crappy outside. And the exercise does help.

A quick Amazon search will result in several books claiming to have the cure for adrenal fatigue. Most of these focus on diet, and they’re all similar–an extremely restrictive elimination diet that removes all processed foods, sugars, and often gluten and dairy. The intent is to remove sources of inflammation, similar to the Whole 30 diet. I haven’t tried this yet, as the prep and cooking is extremely labor-intensive and time-consuming. Have these authors forgotten that hello? I’m tired! Also, I work a full-time job. It might be doable with Once A Month Meals, but even then, the cooking day would be exhausting.

And once again, this is getting really long (sigh). I wanted to share some of the books I’ve read and my thoughts on them, but that will have to wait until next week. At least I’m not running out of blog ideas. 😀

What I’ve Been Reading: Desiree, by Maria McKenzie. This historical romance set in the deep South prior to the Civil War was an unusual one in that the heroine is a slave, and the hero her owner. Desiree herself  is unusual too in that she takes after her white father, with fair hair, light skin, and blue eyes–enough that she can “pass” for white if in a place where no one knows her. The hero inherits her along with his uncle’s plantation, and is instantly smitten with her. But it takes her a while to trust in and fall for him, and reading of her slow progression from distrust to true caring is a wonderful journey. The characters and their romance are believable and well-drawn, as well as the characters’ flaws and their struggles against society. I’ve read and enjoyed most of McKenzie’s other books, and this one is highly recommended!

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What I’ve Been Writing: In short, not much. I wrote two days this week, for a total of less than 1,000 words. Sigh. I guess it’s better than nothing. So this week, I want to finish that scene, and begin the next.

What about you–any thoughts on what I wrote above about adrenal fatigue? Have you read anything good lately? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing-related or not? Please share–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.