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.

In a Pickle

Actually, I’m not, but it seemed like a fitting title since that’s what I did yesterday–canned pickles.

I’ve never been much of one for a garden. We have our flowerbeds out front, that mostly my husband does the work for (granted, he has a lot more time than I do). While I do enjoy fresh vegetables in summer, it never occurred to me until last year that I could have a garden.

There’s plenty of room in the back yard, except the dogs have the run of it. Isis and Skeet, our current dogs, probably wouldn’t bother it, but our past dogs probably would have. Besides, the back yard is shaded most of the day, so I just figured no garden for us.

Why yes, those are tomatoes in our front flowerbed

Then I stumbled on a blog called Tenth Acre Farm, and realized there’s no reason why I couldn’t grow a few edibles in the front yard! I always just assumed there’d be a city ordinance prohibiting it. But that blog made me check to see, and what do you know, I couldn’t find anything to that effect (this might differ in your locale, especially if you’re in an HOA, so please don’t take my word for it!). So last year, we planted five tomato plants, and a cucumber, since my husband’s favorite thing to eat in summer is a salad made from those two, plus onions. What’s funny is most people don’t even notice the tomatoes and cucumber unless we point them out. Even though there are wire cages around the tomatoes!

It was wonderful! We loved having fresh tomatoes for our sandwiches and salads all summer, and for the first time since I could remember, my husband actually got tired of his cucumber/tomato salad by August! The plants actually did very well in the front flowerbeds, too. I am guessing the dirt is very good after years of mulching and growing flowers, and it also gets southwest sun all afternoon and evening, as well as plenty of water (we have sprinklers). One cucumber plant gave us more than we could eat. We gave away quite a bit, and still had a few cucumbers go bad at the end of summer.

Cucumbers go crazy in our flowerbed. There are a bunch of cukes hidden beneath the leaves.

So I decided why not make pickles? Last summer, I remembered both my grandma and my mom doing this, and didn’t recall it being very difficult. A look through the Ball Blue Book I’d inherited from Grandma confirmed that, so I ordered a canning rack for our stock pot, and jar tongs. We already had jars from my husband’s “moonshine” he makes to give as Christmas gifts. I also needed to buy whole dill.

But by the time I got my act together and got the supplies, the cucumbers went bad, and the plant was dying off. So this year, I planned ahead. We again grew five tomatoes and a cucumber, this time also got a dill plant, and parsley, both of which are also doing well. Conveniently, we started getting cucumbers at the same time as our dill flowered, and as of yesterday, we have seven jars of fresh-pack pickles sitting in the basement. They’ll need a couple months for the flavor to settle in, then hopefully they’ll be as good as Grandma’s (Mom only made sweet pickles). And yes, it wasn’t difficult at all.

Tennessee Update: We got our plans back from the designer on Friday. They had missed a few of our changes, so I emailed them back. They sent back the changes the next day, and everything looked good! So I approved the design, paid, and they sent the final plans later that afternoon. I forwarded them on to the builder, so now our next step is for him to apply for permits. I also sent them to our lender, who will need to get an appraisal to complete our loan. Things are moving right along!

What I’ve Been Reading: Not going to name the book or author of the fiction book I read this week, because it was kind of disappointing. It was good enough to finish, but barely. When I put a book down (or almost, as in this case), I like to analyze why, so I can learn from it. In this case, the beginning was way-too-drawn-out and repetitious. It seemed like the book took so long to get going. It also felt too short overall. I was expecting a more meaty read for the price I paid–at least a novel. This was novella-length, but nowhere on the Amazon page was that noted (I just double-checked). It also missed out on some things I typically expect of books in its genre, which is something we really need to get right as authors. It did pick up right as I was about to quit reading, and the ending was pretty good, albeit a little predictable.

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What I’ve Been Writing: My goal this week was to work through Week 3 lessons and worksheets in Holly Lisle’s How to Write Villains workshop. And–sigh–only three weeks into this round, I have a big fat fail. And for no good reason. I simply didn’t get to the writing until yesterday, and these exercises are pretty meaty, so… no. I got about halfway through it, and that counted work I did on it earlier today. (On a positive note, setting deadlines did help with my day job–I’m several days ahead of schedule there.) Writing only on weekends is not going to cut it; I need to do a little something most days, if not all. So this week, I want to finish Week 3’s lessons and start on Week 4, working on it for at least 15 minutes a day, five days this week.

What about you–have you tried or learned anything new lately? Ever had a preconceived notion that something wasn’t allowed (or possible), only to find out otherwise? How are your goals going, whether writing or something else? 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.

 

Rental House Wrap-up/Getting With It

It’s been a while since I last posted, and I can only blame part of that on the rental (now flip) house. But that did keep me pretty busy through mid-May, and my husband much more so. That’s about when the work on the house finally finished up and we listed it for sale, even though I hadn’t finished the new master bedroom closet organizer. Close enough!

We put on an Open House on Mothers Day, and actually got some decent traffic (my family celebrated Mothers Day the next day). The following weekend, my husband turned 50 and we had a party. Party planning is not my forte, and being an introvert, stuff like this stresses me out a good bit, but everything came together in time, and everyone had a good time. For my part, I was especially grateful to have a lot of help from friends in putting it all together!

Amazingly, my husband held another Open House the next day, and again got some good traffic. But in the whole time the house was listed (on Zillow and Craigslist), he got a lot of phone calls from agents wanting him to list with them, but no buyers. I thought his price was a little high, so he dropped it. It was still pretty aggressive for the neighborhood, but we’re also talking a house that’s practically new, given all the fire restoration work plus the completely new upstairs.

We got a call from an agent with a buyer the next day. They toured the house the following day. My husband called me while they were in the house and said “I think they’re going to put in an offer.” After they finished looking through the house, my husband hadn’t driven more than two blocks when the Realtor called and said they wanted to make an offer. And they did–for pretty much the asking price! It was listed for less than three weeks before the offer–the market is hot right now! One agent told my husband there were ten buyers for every listing right now, so that sure didn’t hurt.

Inspections went well, and only turned up a couple of minor things which my husband and the contractors fixed. The appraiser was skeptical until he went inside. He told my husband the house was easily worth the asking price. Closing is this coming Tuesday!

But that’s not what you were hoping to see here, were you? Here’s what we all came for: pictures! I don’t have too many before pictures, as I just didn’t think to get many before the work began. So we’ll start with those, then go on to the bunch we took for the listing.

Exterior – Before

 

Dining Room Before (after carpet was pulled up)

 

Kitchen Before

Kitchen Before – yes, the fridge and stove were crammed in next to each other on this small wall.

 

Exterior – after. Really, it was fine before, but the fire damaged the roofing and siding, so we had to replace it all. We kept the roof and trim the same, but for siding figured, why not green?

 

Click any of these smaller pictures for a larger view

 
Living Room and Dining Room

   
Downstairs Bedrooms – the front bedroom (right) was originally this color scheme (go Bucks!).
We kept it to honor my husband’s late cousin, who was a big Ohio State fan.

    
Downstairs Bathroom, with fun decal on the laundry chute

   
Dining Room, with barn door I built

    
Kitchen – remember the pipe shelves I built? Very happy with how they turned out!
I’ll give my husband credit for the hard part–installation! Also, we moved the fridge.

    
Mudroom/Drop Zone I built

    
Pantry shelves I built (and cute decal purchased from Etsy)

    
Upstairs/Master Bedroom

    
Master Bedroom, with barn door I built

    
Master closet, with shelves I built, and Bathroom

    
Master Bathroom

    
Basement – not a dingy, creepy one

    
Screen porch, and even the garage got a new door and siding

Not bad for our first flip, huh? Of course, we owe a lot of the credit to our contractors–we’re even going to have them over for a cookout in a couple weeks to say thanks. We were really happy with how everything turned out in the end, especially since this fetched $25k more than the next highest-priced recent sale in this neighborhood! Finally, all those hours spent watching HGTV are paying off, LOL. I hope the buyers will love having this as their home!

What I’ve been Reading: Lots of blogs and books, both fiction and non-fiction. I’ll pick this up next time.

What I’ve been Writing: Uhhhh, not much. This is where I need to “get with it,” as my friend Stacy said in a recent blog. The flip house work was mostly wrapped up by the end of May (I still had to build the closet shelving). In June I didn’t really have an excuse, other than it’s been hard to get my mind back onto fiction. There is still house stuff on the brain, what with Tennessee and all.

Speaking of Tennessee, things are moving along there too. We went there in early June to meet with the builder and our lender. The builder is ready to go whenever everything else is. So right now, we’re just waiting on the final version of the plans–we had a few more minor changes–it’s by far the easiest and cheapest to make them now! I expect those back later this week or early next, then the builder can file for permits, and the bank can get an appraisal. Hopefully we’ll be able to break ground in late August!

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But the writing… yeah. I realized I need some kind of accountability. Even if it’s to folks who are always nice and understanding when I don’t meet my goals, just knowing I need to report in to someone is motivating. That’s what ROW80 (“A Round of Words in 80 Days“) is for. So ROW80 friends (and anyone else), please keep me accountable!

I’m going to start out with baby steps. My main goals for this Round are to complete the “How to Write Villains” self-directed workshop I purchased from Holly Lisle, and to write at least one more chapter in my WIP. I’m currently one week into the workshop, out of eight. So this week, I want to complete the Week 2 reading and exercises. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s been a struggle getting to it–or getting with it, as Stacy says. Let’s hope this Round gets me back on track!

What about you–what’s been going on in your life? If you’re a writer, do you sometimes struggle to get to the writing, even though it’s something you really want to do? Or if you’re not a writer, is there something else you really want to do but just can’t seem to get around to? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you! And please click the ROW 80 seal above to go to the ROW80 Facebook page, and cheer everyone else on!

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.

D-I-Yes You Can!

Things continue to move along at the rental house. My husband spent the day re-sanding the hardwood floors, to re-refinish them. I did running around to get supplies, and was also working on staining the rest of the shelves we’re going to put in the kitchen. They are going to be some really cool pipe shelves, made all the cooler because ours will be over the stove, and have the microwave installed beneath & between them, as shown to the right.

I have some of the pipes, and have the rest on order, so this project should be done and ready to install by next week. Next up is painting the U-shaped pantry shelves and the bench support for the mudroom, which will all be white.

The fact that I am doing this stuff amazes some people. And until about a year ago, it would have amazed me too, because it never would have occurred to me that I could. Painting and staining is no big deal; I actually stained every piece of trim in our second story when it was added on about fifteen years ago. There’s also a built-in bookcase; I stained the wood for that, too. Minwax and I have been good friends now for over fifteen years.

But it never would have occurred to me that I could design a project, or especially that I could cut and assemble it. Not until I discovered non-writing blogs last year (while not doing much writing), one of which was DIY Diva.

I found this on Pinterest, while I was looking for new house ideas–a blog post about how the author and her boyfriend built their own house from the ground up. The article was great. But what really drew me in was the writing.

I wound up reading her blog starting from her first post in 2004 (yep, she was an early adopter!) through the current one. Hers is some of the most witty, engaging, clever yet self-deprecating and just plain real writing that I’ve ever come across. For a good example, see her About page–for which the web address is diydiva.net/loose-screws/. LOL! I couldn’t stop reading that blog until I’d read every last post. Somewhere along the way, she convinced me that I could create and build things too. And I’m not the only one–plenty of times, I read in the comments how someone had been inspired to try building something because of reading her blog. And how this was one of the reasons she loves to blog–to empower others to create, and see that Yes, You Can.

Oh, and her blog was the first place I saw pipe shelves. Check out this master bedroom closet–so cool! Mine are much simpler, but I still think they will be a definite wow-factor in our house’s kitchen when it goes on the market.

She doesn’t blog often any more, but when she does, it’s still entertaining and engaging, and I smile every time I see a new post in my feed reader. So if you want some good, humorous reading with a bit of swearing and a good dose of Yes, You Can, check out DIYdiva.net.

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What I’ve Been Reading: I started a novel this week and am really enjoying it. I’ll blog about it next week after I’ve finished.

What I’ve been Writing: Finally! I managed to fit writing in two evenings, for a total of over 1,000 words. That doesn’t sound like much, but I’ll take it! So this week’s goal? Finish that scene!

How about you–have you ever read something that totally inspired you to do something you wouldn’t have before? Do you read blogs by people other than book-writers (because bloggers are writers too)? Either way, 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.

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.

Jalape… No. Just No.

I like spicy foods. I like jalapenos. But this weekend, they put a bit of drag on an already-tight schedule.

Upstairs shower in the rental house (before the floor was done)

Things are moving along at the rental house. The restoration crew has the whole place painted, tile is done, and now they’re working on trim and accessory pieces, such as the #shiplap in the first floor bathroom, and the handrail along the stairwell upstairs.

The latter needed to be stained. That’s one of the tasks I’d agreed to take on to rein in costs when we found out we were going over budget. I found out about this on Thursday night, and they wanted it done and back by Monday. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t have been a problem, but this weekend, I needed to do a Cooking Day. We were out of frozen meals, and I didn’t want to put off Cooking Day, as that’s my best shot of keeping healthy dinners on the table, especially on weekdays. I was already having a busy week due to it being the beginning of the month (meaning an evening of paperwork for rent deposits from our apartments, and another for bank statement reconciliation). I hadn’t even put the grocery order in yet for my husband to pick up the following day.

I did the grocery order Thursday night, after DH & I got home from our regular date night (we picked up the stairwell railing on the way home). I figured if I was going to stain and poly the railing, I might as well do our mudroom shelves and bench, and kitchen shelves too. On Friday, he picked up the groceries. As soon as I got off work, I cut the mudroom & kitchen shelves, and put on the first coat of stain on one side. After that, I did the food prep–mostly cutting vegetables.

Shelves and a handrail – so far, so good!

One of those was Jalapenos. I’ve chopped jalapenos many times before, and have never had a problem. But these must’ve been extra spicy, because wow, did my left hand burn afterward! It didn’t really become noticeable until an hour or so later, when I was watching TV. I had to keep running into the kitchen to dip my hand in milk. By the time Gold Rush was over, my hand felt fine, and I stained the other side of the shelves and rail before bed.

I slept great (for once). The next morning, I was all ready to get going with the second coat of stain and then cooking, but once I got out of the shower, my hand decided otherwise. HOLY COW MY HAND WAS ON FIRE!

I got the stain on, but it was a challenge. I kept having to dunk my hand in the bowl of milk I’d brought to the basement with me. I’m talking like every couple of minutes. It must’ve taken me twice as long to stain those five shelves and handrail.

I tried everything I could find online to soothe the burn–milk, heavy cream (more fat content), rubbing alcohol, vinegar… none was helping much. I slowly got a couple of recipes put together in the same way I’d stained the shelves, taking breaks every now and then to soak my hand for several minutes. I’d found an article that suggested lime juice–and what do you know, I had some extra limes from my cooking day plans. It took several times of rubbing my hand on the lime for a good several minutes, but gradually, it worked! I only had four of my recipes done by the time I should have had all eight. But at least my hand had stopped burning. I eventually finished my cooking day and got the second coat of stain on both sides of the shelves by the time I called it a day (and night).

The biggest irony here? I had a whole box of disposable gloves in the basement that I’d been using for staining! You can bet those will be used next time I have to cut jalapenos. I sure hope those recipes are worth the pain they put me through. Going by the little taste I took of one, I think they’ll be good!

What I’ve Been Reading: three short stories from Smith’s Monthly #40 by Dean Wesley Smith. Three of the stories were from series of his I’m familiar with and enjoy; the other I couldn’t quite get into. That story was intended to be humorous, and as a writer, I know how tricky that can be as humor is so subjective. So I skipped it and moved on to the novel. More on that when I finish it.

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What I’ve Been Writing: As you might guess from how my week has gone, nada. Which is a bummer because I have the next scene in my head, it’s just a matter of sitting down to write it. So that is my goal for this week.

What about you–ever had a bad experience with food prep? What have you been reading lately? And how are you doing with whatever goals you might have, whether writing-related 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.

Late to the FIRE

I’d planned to get this blog out earlier today, but then this happened:

Yep, we got a tractor for our 30 acres in Tennessee. No house or barn yet, but we got a tractor!

My husband’s been doing a lot of work, reassembling a ’54 Ford Truck for our real estate lawyer, who is also a friend. He collects old tractors (in addition to cars and trucks) and gave us this one. It’s a 1955 Case Wide axle. Once they got the battery charged, it fired right up! And boy is that thing a beast. My husband’s not sure what he got himself into, but he’s looking forward to it.


Back to the title of this post, I’m talking about a different kind of FIRE than what happened to the rental house: Financially Independent, Retire Early.

You may have noticed that’s a common theme in the non-writing blogs I’ve been reading lately. But retirement? I’m fifty-one. That’s still a ways away, isn’t it?

Barring a surprise bestseller, I always thought I’d be stuck at my day job until my mid-sixties. But these blogs convinced me it doesn’t have to be that way. It turns out there’s a whole movement out there of people saving up enough money, making good investments, and quitting the daily grind as soon as their early forties–or even their thirties!

I first happened upon this by browsing Pinterest for land buying and home building pins. A pin about rental property caught my eye, and I clicked over because my husband and I own apartments. It was a blog called Afford Anything, and it blew my mind.

I don’t remember the particular article about rental property, but I quickly glommed onto the author’s story, then binge-read her whole blog (which she has a convenient link for). She graduated from college in the mid-2000’s with a journalism degree. She got a job for a local newspaper–which was quite a feat in itself, given that industry’s decline these days–paying a whopping $21,000 a year. But her dream was to travel the world, preferably without having to work while doing so.

She took on freelance writing and other side jobs, lived very frugally, and in two years had saved $25,000–and spent the next two years living the dream. But afterward, the last thing she wanted to do was return to being chained to a desk for 40 hours a week. Between a successful online business and income from rental property, she avoided that fate–and quite successfully. She still works, but it’s doing things she wants, because she wants–not because she needs the paycheck. She’s not yet forty.

I followed some rabbit trails and found a whole community of people working toward this goal, including some who’ve already achieved it. Some did so through a high savings rate while working a well-paying job; others by just living extremely frugally.

And again, I was kind of mind boggled, thinking, “People do this?” I know some people can retire early–say, in their fifties–but I thought this was only for highly-compensated executive types. Not regular people of regular means like these bloggers… and me? It never occurred to me. But it’s possible, with effort and a bit of work!

Except wait, I’m already in my fifties. That tractor has already left the farm…or has it?

It depends what you consider early. Most people consider 55 or younger to be early. If we weren’t building a dream house in Tennessee, I could hit that, thanks to our rental property and having had a 401k since I was 25 (albeit, not in high amounts, having begun my professional career as a lowly-paid graphic designer). As is, I still should be able to call it quits by the time I’m 60, with a bit more planning and attention. For now, it’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make.

What I’ve Been Reading: Trim Healthy Mama Plan by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison. I’ve known for a long time that losing some weight would help me feel better and have more energy. I read about this a few weeks ago on another writer’s blog (I can’t remember whose), and it looks like a diet that might actually be workable for me. The basic concept is to center each meal with protein, then add either fats, or carbs–but not both at the same time (unless you’re in maintenance mode). Of course, it involves cutting out refined sugar and flour, and processed foods, just like the labor-intensive adrenal fatigue diets I’ve seen. And yes, this one is also good for adrenal fatigue, as mentioned several times throughout the book. My Once A Month Meals freezer cooking menus includes menus of both low-fat and low-carb recipes, so I could adapt it to this! It’s also not an all-or-nothing diet–even starting out with baby steps can help. We’ll see how it goes!

I’m reading a novel too–a really good one. I’ll discuss that next week, after I’m finished with it.

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What I’ve been Writing: Uhhhh….. Not much. I did open the file a couple of times, and wrote a couple paragraphs, but that’s it. I really have to get out of this stuck spot. I think what I’m going to try is to just quick-cut end the scene, and jump to the next, which will be a fun one, I think. So my goal for this week is to do just that.

What about you–have you heard the term FIRE, or the people who retire early? Ever received a surprise gift like a tractor? Have you read anything good lately, whether fiction or otherwise? And how are you doing on 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.

 

Blame it on the Olympics

This has been one of those weeks where I’ve gotten pretty much nothing done.  Just a little bit on my shelves for the rental house, and no writing at all. Part of it has been whenever I walk through the living room and there are Olympics on, I have to stop and watch. Which ends up being all evening. Yeah, I know, I could just keep walking and go to the writing, but it’s only for a couple weeks every other year. And doing it afterward? I stop watching when it’s time for bed, so no go there. At least that’s my rationalization, and I’m sticking to it! I’m not writing off tonight (excuse the pun LOL) but I’m not optimistic either.

I did get done what I wanted to on the shelves–I cut all the mounting bracket pieces, and drilled pilot holes in them. I would have liked to go over there this afternoon and get those installed, but my fatigue kicked in pretty good today so that just wasn’t happening.

What I’ve been Reading: I started a new novel, but haven’t read far enough into it to discuss. I also finished binging on the 1500 Days blog a couple weeks ago, and moved on to another personal finance/financial independence blog, Slowly Sipping Coffee. It’s named that because that’s what the authors want to be able to do when they’ve managed to save up enough to ditch their hectic workweek and crazy commute, and live life on their own terms. Another one I highly recommend, especially since they’re not so super-frugal as many of these folks, yet still save tons of moolah. The husband was not always so good at managing money (to put it kindly, LOL), and shares his past struggles with it. Entertaining and relatable!

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What I’ve been Writing: As noted above, nada. I even opened up the file last night, and just wasn’t into it. So I’m going to try opening the file up at different times of the evening–hey, maybe before the Olympics comes on after the news!–and we’ll see how that works. So this week, getting anything at all will be a win.

What about you–have you been caught up in the Olympics? Read any good blogs lately? (Or books?) How are you doing on whatever goals you might be working on, writing or otherwise–here’s hoping better than me? 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.