Overdue Update

Anyone who’s read this blog recently (this past year) can probably guess why I’ve been absent for the past several weeks. Yes! My brain has been stuck on house-house-house-apartments-house-house-apartments-house-house…

We’ve been to Tennessee twice since I last blogged, and there’s been a lot of progress on the house. All three people who read this are probably looking for pictures, so who am I to disappoint them?

The exterior painting is mostly done, with the exception of the porch posts and deck railings, and a few spots of trim. Also, the builder finally got rid of the big dumpster in front so I can finally get a decent photo:

    

They’ve mostly been working inside this past month. They have stained the beams, installed the tongue-and-groove ceiling in the great room, master bedroom, and my office, and have put up most of the window and door trim. Ahhh, the smell of Minwax in the evening…

When we were there in early May, our daughter and her partner joined us. It was the first time they’d been to the property, and they loved it! We went for a hike around the land. There is an old, fallen-down farmhouse on the other side of the ridge from where we’re building, and our daughter found the outhouse that went with it. She also found wild roses along our driveway, and there were wild strawberries growing on the other side of the ridge. Fun discoveries!

A lot more had been done when DH and I returned last week. Kitchen cabinets were in, and so were the built-ins for my office!

     

And in case you’re wondering, no, our entire house is not being painted mauve. That’s the primer (which was weird to me, as I’ve always seen white primer).

In addition to the house stuff, there’s also been some big changes in our real estate investments (aka my retirement). We sold the 16-unit building we owned here in Ohio, which leaves us owning only our house here. We then bought two small complexes in Tennessee, one with 10 units, the other with 13. There is a lot of paperwork involved in both selling and buying, and I’m the one who handles that, so… apartments have been very much on my mind. It helps that the new buildings came with property management in place, and they look like they really  have their act together, so once I get online banking and a few bill payments set up, our work with these should be minimal.

We’ve also started working on our current house, getting it ready to sell. My husband’s been patching walls and painting, and we’ve started to pack away personal items and get rid of clutter. We’ve already taken a load of outdoor stuff to Tennessee, and will take more once the house is under lock and key.

What I’ve Been Reading: Of course I’ve still been reading! I can’t go to sleep at night without reading first, kind of like how Beavis and Butthead can’t sleep without TV (thumbs up if you get that one!). I’m too lazy to link them all or find covers, so I’ll just list them. There were a couple of additional non fiction books I started but did not finish, that are not listed here. I highly recommend all of the books below!

  1. Soldier’s Duty by Patty Jansen. Third in her Return of the Arghyrians science fiction series, which I really enjoyed.
  2. Writing with Chronic Illness by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I found this one really helpful in seeing how someone else has dealt with this and still manages to produce a lot.
  3. Heir’s Revenge by Patty Jansen. Fourth and final book in the Return of the Arghyrians series.
  4. “Savannah’s Destiny” by Stacy McKitrick. A fun, entertaining short story that meshes her Bitten by Love vampire romances, and her Ghostly Encounters paranormal contemporary romances.
  5. Growing as a Professional Artist by Leah Cutter. Came as part of a writers bundle I bought. Some good tips on dealing with being a introvert and having needs that are different than most people (creating art).
  6. Atomic Habits by James Clear. Details why and how we form habits, and how we can control which new ones we form (and get rid of bad ones).

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What I’ve Been Writing: Uhhhhhh… not much. I started about a month ago with a greatly-reduced goal of 100 words/day, five days/week. I hit that for a couple of weeks, then hit a snag in the WIP. It was too easy to just set it aside, especially when the latest Tennessee trip came up and apartments took over my brain. I have still been thinking about my WIP though, and I think I see a way through the hangup, so I’m going to try getting back to the WIP. Since the new house, and all the stuff to do at the old one is still taking up a lot of my brainspace, I’m going to start back in with my easy goal of 100 words/day, for five days.

What’s been going on with you, or in your life? Do you sometimes feel that your brain is too full to be creative? How are you doing with whatever goals you might have? 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.

Getting to It, Again

Things have been crazy since I last posted, three weeks ago.

In that time, we’ve sold an apartment building, realized our house was waaaay over budget (and figured out some ways we can mitigate that), and contracted to buy another apartment building. Oh, and there was a holiday in there too, for which I had to do extra cooking and cleaning (fortunately, I had help).

So yeah, no time or more importantly, brain, for writing or blogging.

The apartments are kind of a big deal, because that’s most of our retirement. We manage them ourselves, and that has made them more profitable than they otherwise would have been. We can’t exactly do that once we move, so we decided to sell them, and buy something in Tennessee. This has all involved me collecting a lot of paperwork, executing contracts, researching potential purchases, and more–enough that I’ve had no brain for writing. Fortunately, the new apartments we’re under contract to buy make good money–enough that it will help with the house’s budget overages. So it’s all good.

My husband took a few more house pictures when he went there last week to look at the apartments. The exterior is finally getting paint. The fireplace on the back porch is done, and drywall is also done. I picked out interior paint colors and emailed the builder, so that comes next.

          

What I’ve Been Reading: In the past three weeks, I’ve completed two nonfiction books, plus a short story anthology.

The Fiction River was enjoyable as they always are, and yes, there were two or three stories I skipped because they were in first person present tense. Despite the title, only a couple of the stories were romance; the others dealt with love for one’s children, family, friends, or even a place.

The Due Diligence Handbook was all about things to look for and check into when under contract to buy commercial property, which includes apartment buildings larger than four units. We are under contract to buy 23 units, so this seemed worthwhile. It really didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, though, and a lot of it was not applicable to apartments, but more focused on retail, office, or other types of commercial property.

Work Optional was a good book about preparing for retirement, and was written by the author of the Our Next Life blog. Like the blog, the book goes over the financial aspects of preparing for retirement, but focuses mostly on the emotional side of it and planning what you’ll do with your time–material that isn’t well-covered in many other retirement resources. Recommended, whether you think you’ll be able to retire early or are just hoping for a traditional retirement starting in your mid-60s.

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What I’ve Been Writing: Uhhhh….. (see above). The apartment and house stuff pretty much took over my brainspace for the past few weeks. There just wasn’t anything left for writing. It was compounded by the fact that I’m in a stuck spot right now. So this week, I’m going to try to ease back into it with a very modest goal–100 words a day, for five days. We’ll see how that goes.

What about you–do you sometimes feel  like there just isn’t any brain left for writing (or something else)? Have you read any good books lately? What’s been going on in your life? And how are you doing with your goals, whatever they might be (I hope better than me!)? 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.

Mostly Writing

This has been a relatively uneventful week, at least for me. Things are still happening in Tennessee: no new pictures, but the builder tells us that the windows are now in the house, except for the custom shapes. Siding has gone up (though I don’t know if it’s finished), and work continues on HVAC and electrical. I also got a call from the kitchen cabinet vendor, and saw the specific brand and style of cabinets he recommended, which were just what we wanted (at least until we see the price, then we’ll know for sure!). Work continues regarding the commercial development across the street, too, mostly in the form of emails to government officials, in brainstorming other ways to stop or at least downsize it, and in efforts to meet with the landowner for more discussion. The neighbors are meeting later this afternoon, and I will call in.

On the current home front, the Pit of Doom is no more. I mean, it’s still there, it’s just not a Pit of Doom anymore. It’s just a regular little room–it could even be a safe room. It now has a proper floor thanks to a helpful neighbor, some mini-mix concrete, and my husband’s ingenuity in rigging up a drainage pipe chute, held in place with an engine hoist. Mr. Goodwrench is a good guy to have around!

It’s been nasty cold here in southwest Ohio, and I’ve hunkered down and focused on my writing. More on that below.

What I’ve Been Reading: Since it’s too cold to walk outside, I’ve been using the treadmill and reading nonfiction, though I have not yet finished that book. I did finally finish the novel. It took so long partly because it’s a long book, but mostly because I had so much else going on that I could only read a chapter–sometimes only a scene–each night. That book is My Name is A’yen, by Rachel Leigh Smith, and I enjoyed it a lot. I will admit it took me a little time to really get into this book, but that’s been true of some of my favorites, like Patty Jansen’s Icefire series. Ms. Smith markets her work as being mostly focused on the hero, and it definitely was, but it did not give the heroine short-shift as I feared it might. Despite getting less focus, she was still a well-developed, sympathetic character who experienced growth. But the best thing about this science-fiction romance was probably the world-building. The setting was 3,000-some years in the future, and while some of the minor characters were from Earth, it was set in space and on other worlds. The cultures were very well-developed, but it was done in a manner where everything wasn’t handed to the reader early on. Instead, the writing stayed in close point-of-view where if a character wouldn’t naturally think about what a particular phrase means, the reader doesn’t get that information until it fits into context. It threw me a bit at first, but was fine once I decided to roll with it. I enjoyed this book, and plan to pick up the next in the series. Recommended for those who enjoy sci-fi romance!

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What I’ve Been Writing: My goal this week was to write at least 1,000 words a day, five days–a pace I haven’t hit in several years. I made it, with 5,371 words! Even better, my WIP is thisclose to being finished–definitely within 5,000 words. So for this week, I plan to write 1,000 words a day, five days, or until the WIP is finished. If I finish early, I will plan to spend that time skimming back over the book, because I know there’s some sloppy writing near the beginning. I also need to start working on a revamp of this website, get a newsletter out, and do numerous other publishing tasks I’ve been putting off. So my plan is also to spend at least five hours on my writing or related tasks–finish the WIP, and use the remaining time on something noted above.

How has your week been? How’s the weather like where you are? Have you read any good books 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.

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.

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.