Just Do It

No, this is not an athletic shoes commercial. This is what I had to tell myself yesterday to get the job done, the “job” being the scene that’s hung over me for the past three¬†weeks.

Sometimes the hardest part of getting the writing done is just getting started, going to the computer, and overcoming inertia. But lately, my main problem has been staying focused once I’m there. I did some more experimenting with mynoise.net, having decided that Brain.fm was not working well enough to be worth spending $6.99 for a one-month subscription.

My conclusion? Sometimes/it depends. Which soundscape I chose definitely made a difference; some were too bland to aid in focus, as they were mostly intended to be noise-masking. Others sounded great, but made me sleepy (one use for these sounds is in hypnotherapy practice). I might try listening as I’m reading before bed to help me go to sleep. But that’s not what I want to do at the writing computer. I really like the Ice World sound, but this is one of those. However, My Noise lets you combine sounds, and combining it with Ethereal Choir is great, and did seem to help with focus.

I met with three of my writer friends yesterday, and one of them was having focus trouble, too. We talked about what we do when we come to a scene we don’t want to write yet, whether because of mood or something else. “Toss it out” wasn’t discussed, although that’s a perfectly viable option when the scene isn’t really needed for the book. We were talking about those that were definitely needed.

I just skip the scene and move on to the next, as I mentioned in last week’s ROW80 update. One of my friends writes out of order, so that’s a no-brainer for her. It’s easy enough for me to do, as my sketch/outline tells me what happens in the next scene. But one of my other friends does the same thing, and she uses absolutely no outline. She and I both write our scenes in order otherwise. But my third friend said he absolutely can’t write out of order. Lucky for him, he doesn’t come upon this situation very often.

Yesterday, I still had not finished either of the two scenes I’d wanted to for today’s ROW80 update. But meeting with my writing friends is always fun and energizing (at least creatively), and I came home ready to tackle those scenes. I hit the later one first, and finished it without a problem. Then I played computer games for about an hour, procrastinating on that scene I didn’t want to write, until I finally realized I was not going to hit that goal for the third week in a row if I didn’t Just Do It.

So I went back to the writing room, fed the critters, and fired up mynoise.net with a combo of Ice World, Ethereal Choir, and Coastline. I don’t know whether it was the music/sounds, or my determination to just get it written, but it worked. Took about three hours, and 2500 words, but it’s done! ūüôā

GodsSwindlersWhat I’ve been reading: I finished Gods and Swindlers by Laura Kirwan last Sunday or Monday. I love, love, love this series, about a fifty-something, non-magical lawyer who lives in a magical town and is the only thing standing between it and magical baddies. This one was a little slow at first, but still kept my interest, and only got better and better as it went (much like the previous two books in the series). I hope the next one is out soon, though I’m willing to wait.

One thing I’ve noticed as a reader is that I can’t tell if something was written fast or slow, in order or not, outlined or written into the dark. Nor can I tell whether the author revised and fixed as s/he went, or did a big revision (or multiple) afterward. A lot of people have strong opinions on these, particularly the speed and revisions, but IMO none of them matter. What’s important is that we do what works for us for that book, at that point in our knowledge of craft. And it can change. (FWIW, I am a nominal outliner, I mostly write in order, my speed varies greatly even within one book, and I am working toward fixing more as I write, and revising less because I don’t enjoy it.)

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: As noted above, I made my goal to finish both the scenes I was working on (barely)! So this week’s goal is to write the last scene (yes!), and then go back and fix the things I know are missing. As a bonus, I’d like to do the read-through and proofread, to get it ready for the beta readers.

What about you–when you read, can you tell anything about how the book was written? What do you do to get yourself to Just Do It when “it” is something you keep stalling on? If you’re a writer, do you ever write out of order, and how do you handle scenes you don’t feel like writing? How are you doing on whatever goals you may have, whether or not you’re a writer? 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.

 

New Year, New Row

I’ve been away from the blog for a while, between holidays and fighting off the crud. Seems like everyone around here has had it: something between a bad cold and a mild flu. My husband and daughter kicked it in three days; it’s taken me a couple of weeks (thanks to Adrenal Fatigue). But I’m feeling better now, just in time to go back to work. Not how I wanted to spend the five days off I’d planned plus holidays, but I am grateful I was able to take the time away from the office, plus three more days.

Christmas itself was fine, other than me and my parents all being sick. We ate Christmas dinner at my house off of paper plates, so no one had to do dishes. That helped a lot. And everyone got gifts they wanted. New Year’s was a laid back evening with friends at my house.

One thing I did a lot of during my sick time was read. I read two unpublished nonfiction books by friends, one of which was pretty rough-draft, but both of which held my attention. I read several published books, too.

spirits of the seasonsmithsmonthly14What I’ve been reading: I finished the other four stories in the Spirits of the Season box set. One wasn’t really my thing, but good enough to finish, and the others were really enjoyable, especially Bandit’s Hollow, by Diane J. Reed. (It was time travel; of course I enjoyed it!). I also read Dean Wesley Smith’s Smith’s Monthly #14. For those who aren’t familiar with Smith, he puts out a monthly magazine that is 100% his original fiction. Each issue includes four or five short stories, a couple of poems, one or two segments of serialized novels, and one complete novel. So each one is a lot of reading, and they are always entertaining. He’s due to release Issue #25–I’m only a year behind. ūüėÄ

And now it’s time for goals. In some ways, New Year’s Day seems like a silly holiday–we’re just celebrating turning over the calendar–but that’s also a perfect time to assess, reassess, and set new goals with a clean slate (which is worth celebrating). Like most writers I know, I did not get as much done as I wanted, but I still got a respectable amount of stuff done. I finished and released a new novel in my Saturn Society world, set up a Readers Group newsletter, and actually did a little promotion, something I’ve avoided thus far (and my sales have shown it). I also began a new novella related to that latest release, which brings me to this quarter’s goals–or ROW80, Round 1.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Goals for Round 1: I am going to keep these simple, though I have several other goals not directly related to my writing–things I’m doing for Mythical Press, some website development and related learning, and so on. A lot of writers whose blogs I’ve read want to focus more on writing this year, and I count myself with them. I do want to keep doing promotion, but hope to spend less time on it now that some aspects of it are now setup and running (my newsletter and sign-up process, for example). I also want to keep learning, both craft and business. So here are my writing goals:

  1. Finish 1 craft workshop (I’m currently about halfway through it), and practice what I’m learning there.
  2. Finish the current novella in progress, and get it to beta readers, and if they turn it around in time, turn it in to my publisher.
  3. Review what I’ve already done on Saturn Society Book 3, and sketch out (outline) the second half of the book.

And here are this week’s goals:

  1. Finish two more scenes on the novella
  2. Complete last week’s assignment for the workshop (due tonight)
  3. Watch the workshop lesson videos for next week
  4. BONUS: Start the following scene in the novella.

What about you–how were your holidays? I hope you and your family stayed well, or if you had the crud, that you’re getting better! How did your 2015 goals turn out? And whether or not you’re participating in ROW80, what kind of goals are you working on now? 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.

Holiday Ramblings

I thought about titling this post “Hacking the Holidays,” but that sounds really bad and doesn’t give the impression I want. Some people may not be familiar with the term “hacking” as meaning finding ways to be more efficient, rather than a synonym for chopping, or some other form of destruction.

And yes, I’m always looking for ways to reduce stress and make more time for doing the things I want to do. That’s especially important around the holidays, when we have a bunch of stuff added to our to-do list and may have stress resulting from too many obligations, some of which we may not want to do. I’m lucky not to have that any more, but my time, and especially my energy, are stretched to begin with, so anything to help get through the extra to-dos is good. Because what’s important during the holidays isn’t getting all the things done, it’s spending time with loved ones and doing the FUN things.

I wrote a post about how to simplify some of those to-dos¬†last year, for those looking for some help, though this may be a little late. This year, I’ve added to it.

Probably the first thing to do is pin down what, exactly, causes you the most stress for the holidays. Is it a gathering with people whose company you don’t enjoy? See if you can get out of it! Or at least, come up with an excuse to put in an appearance, then leave when you can.

As noted in the above post, Christmas cards are my bane. I know people who don’t send them at all, even though they do celebrate. As tempting as that may be, it’s not an option for me, because I send cards to people I like, some of whom I don’t otherwise keep in touch with very much. The cards at least push me to do that once a year. Also, I do like getting a few!

So I started buying photo cards from Shutterfly. It may be more money, but my husband likes us to send something unique, and this is so much easier than designing them myself. It was also a relatively uneventful year (in a very good way), so there wasn’t a lot to write about in the annual letter that goes with the cards. So I made it a top ten list instead. Easy! Then this year, I took it a step further: I paid for pre-addressed envelopes with my Shutterfly order. I know at least one of my readers is cringing right now!¬† ūüė° ¬†But, she had another good idea: a pre-lighted Christmas tree.

I have not put my tree up yet. That will happen this week, when¬†my daughter gets home from college (finals were actually over on Friday, but she’s staying a couple extra days to decompress and see friends). When I do put the tree up, untangling and hanging the lights is definitely a pain. I would get one of those pre-lighted trees in a flash if I could find a slim one with colored lights. But there aren’t any to be found at all around here, so… untangle lights it is. Maybe next year!

mattersmost_300x250-300x250Once-a-month cooking is also a big time-saver, and no more so than this time of year. We’re just about to finish off the meals we froze on Halloween, so we’re due for another cook day, probably this weekend. It takes a lot of time on that day, but wow is it great to have real, home-cooked food for pretty much no effort for the next 4-6 weeks!

Of course, my favorite holiday stress-buster involves shopping. I do not love to shop. I hate crowds, and the time it takes to find just the right thing. But online? Yes! Bigger selection, no crowds, no traffic, and I can do it at 1 AM if I want, from the safety of my own home. I have done ALL of my shopping online this year!

smithsmonthly13What I’ve been reading: Since I’ve been less stressed over holiday stuff, I’m all into holiday cheer with my reading. That started with¬†Heaven Painted as a Christmas Gift, the novel from¬†Dean Wesley Smith’s Smith’s Monthly #13. This is the second Ghost of a Chance book, where ghost agents help save the world. I love this series, and this one was a very different sort of Christmas story, where it was up to the ghosts to find out why people weren’t believing in Christmas spirit any more, and what to do about it before it destroyed the world. Yet despite the stakes, it was a fun, light read. Highly recommended!

spirits of the seasonI then started reading Spirits of the Season, a box set that includes novellas from a couple of my writer friends, Athena Grayson and Diane J. Reed. Athena’s story is fantastic–it takes place in the late 60’s, in Japan, and talk about being transported to a different (and fascinating) place and time! I haven’t read Diane’s yet, but the other three, while more conventional, have been very enjoyable. You can’t beat the price: eight books for $0.99, or FREE if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 update: Writing has gone slowly this week, as I’ve been spending more time shopping and other holiday stuff. But I still managed to get a couple thousand words out, and did the same last week. So my goal this week is to finish the scene I’m working on, which is a long, pivotal one. Ideally, I’d get another done too, but between decorating and cooking, that’s unlikely. I can try, though!

What about you–if you celebrate, how are your holiday preparations coming along? Do you find the holidays stressful, or do you have any tips to share to make them less so? Read any holiday stories lately, or if not, what are your favorites? 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.

A Very Productive Vacation

Isis waits patiently for playtime

Isis waits patiently for playtime

We’re not supposed to work on vacation, right? Except I did–because in this case, “work” was something fun–writing!–and I didn’t go anywhere.

On Thursday, DH and I saw our daughter off to Germany, where she’s doing a study abroad for two months (Heidelberg and Berlin, if anyone’s curious). Then DH took off on his motorcycle for his annual pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., ¬†where he participates in Rolling Thunder, one of the largest rides in the U.S., to honor POWs, MIAs, and other vets.

I took Friday off of work, hence “vacation” for me, too. I took Isis for her daily walk and went out to dinner with my parents, but otherwise, I stayed home and spent time writing. I also played a lot of ball with Isis. Let me say, it’s a challenge to get editing done when a dog is dropping a ball into one’s lap every thirty seconds!

What I read this week: Still working on the novel I started the week before, but also read–wait for it!–MY upcoming release! I will post a cover reveal and tell all about it here once it gets back from my¬†editor.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: I finished my revision, and did a read-through. And it was a good thing I did, because this book was written more out-of-order than any I’ve ever written, and there were quite a few piddly little continuity errors. The more I catch before handing off to the beta readers, the better. I actually enjoyed reading my own book, which is good, since I write the books I want to read! It’s now off to the beta readers, so that’s something to celebrate. So the remainder of this ROW80 Round, I plan to focus on marketing tasks. Up this week: rewrite the product descriptions (i.e., blurbs, or back cover copy) for my existing books, as well as the upcoming book. I hope to get more done than that, but I also have a cover design to do for one of my beta readers, so any other marketing tasks will be a bonus.

What about you–did you do anything fun this holiday weekend? Do you consider it a vacation for you, too, when your partner goes out of town? Do you work when you’re on vacation? And if you’re a writer, do you read (and enjoy) your own books? 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.

In Closing…

No, not quitting the blog. I mean that more as a summary. Also another kind of closing, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

ROW80 is officially on hiatus this week, and will start up again tomorrow, Monday the 6th. I didn’t get near what I wanted on my goals, mostly due to “life happenings.” One of those was my husband breaking his arm, but my continued working on fatigue and my own productivity was in there as well. When life happens, you can’t beat yourself up over it, just dust yourself off, get up, and move on. Easy to say, not always so easy to do. One thing I learned was that even opening the file and saying, “just write 100 words” always adds up to much more than I expect, so that’s a tool I plan to use again when life happens.

The other happening was that DH and I bought another apartment building, and had our closing last week. That brings us up to three buildings. Managing them is DH’s job. Fortunately, much of that is talking on the phone, something that doesn’t require the use to two arms.¬†This building is right next door to the first one we bought and have owned for over ten years, and we bought it from the real estate agents who handled the sale of the other two, and the price was right so it was a no-brainer. Where it became a life-happens event was that we somehow got saddled with a loan officer who was totally incompetent and dragged the process out much longer than it should have been, and caused me to keep having to dig up additional paperwork (sometimes the same thing more than once), when it should have been once and done. But it’s over now, so all is good. We went over there one evening and met the two tenants who’d lived there a while, both really nice people who seemed like the good kind you want–i.e., take care of the place and pay on time.

Smiths-Monthly-Cover-6-web-coverWhat I read this week: Kill Game, the novel in Smith’s Monthly #6. This is a cozy mystery, and I’m not quite done with it, but enjoying it very much! There is a nice bit of romance in it, common for cozy mysteries, and I like how this one is very genuine, not forced, and works perfectly with the characters and the story. I also like that the main characters are in their 50s and 60s–retired cops who play poker and solve very old, cold cases. This one has lots of fun twists and surprising things that weren’t discovered when the case was initially investigated, much due to advances in technology. While poker playing is what brings the characters together, there’s none of it in the book, which also suits me, since I don’t find it interesting and the actual play wouldn’t affect or impact the story. The novel should be out standalone in a couple months–a good, fun mystery read!

ROW80Logo175I didn’t get much writing done at all until last night, when I managed to get almost 1,000 words. It’s amazing how fast and easy the writing goes when you can kick the internal editor out of the way and keep them out. That is what I want to work on this coming ROW80–to kick the internal editor, critical voice out of my head and keep it out so I can get a lot more written this time.

Which leads me to this round’s goals, which I am again keeping simple: Finish the current WIP and get it to the beta readers. That’s it. I also like ROW80 founder Kait Nolan’s goal of writing 20 days out of 30, so I’m adopting something similar: I want to write–something, even if only 100 words–5 days out of every week. So we’ll see how that goes!

What about you–how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing or not? If you’re participating in ROW80, what are your goals for this round? And have you had any “closings” or openings recently? 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.

Recovery

Last week was not a good one to say the least. This one, at least, is getting better.

My husband’s surgery on Tuesday went well. Many thanks for all the good wishes and prayers–it never hurts! It did take longer than the doctor estimated, which was making me anxious. Then we found out why: his arm and elbow were broken not in five places like we were originally told, but in eight! So glad he’s on the mend, and the very next¬†day was taking much less of the painkillers than prescribed.

The pain’s still with him, but his biggest problem now is that he’s bored to death. He’s watched every movie on Netflix that interests him, and has gotten to the point of spending money to play Clash of Clans (he’s played for months without spending a penny). DH is not much of a reader–he’s dyslexic, and it takes him like, forever, to get through a novel. But now, he has plenty of time, so I offered to recommend a book to him, but he said he wouldn’t be able to read on the painkillers. But maybe now… hehe! I bet he’d like Holly Lisle’s Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood, or maybe something by Bob Mayer

On Friday, we went to visit his friend who had the stroke, and wow, I could not believe how much he¬†had improved, given how bad it was to begin with.¬†His speech was slurred, but mostly understandable, and he could move all limbs. He said he could walk with assistance, and his parents told us he’s being moved to a rehab facility this week. So very encouraging!

DH also had his very, very, brief follow-up visit with the plastic surgeon who stitched up the cut near his eye the morning after the accident, and the doctor was impressed with how well it had healed. So more good news. It helped that DH is well-acquainted with cuts and bruises from his years playing high school football, and knew how to take care of it (and was something he could do one-handed).

Our daughter was here to visit from the university last weekend, and the only downside all week was that she brought me home the “Miami Plague.” So I’ve had a nasty cold¬†all week, but thankfully, it’s not like the awful flu I had back in March/April that took three weeks to recover from.

IndenturedHeartsWhat I read this week: a historical romance, Indentured Hearts, by Hannah Meredith. Usually, I find the books I read on blogs, and therefore, most are by authors I “know,” at least online. This one, I found on a mailing list, where they were discussing book covers. With my graphic design experience, I like to check them out sometimes, especially when someone who says they have no design experience created a great cover after taking one class. Sometimes that can happen; usually it doesn’t. In this case, This¬†cover is decent¬†for amateur work, but what really drew me was the product description: it was a colonial romance about an English noblewoman who winds up an indentured servant, to a man who once was the same. I was especially interested because my own WIP is set in the same time period (mid-1700s), although on the frontier. I downloaded the sample, and was immediately hooked. Writers, if you want to see an example of a fantastic opening, go get this now! The rest didn’t disappoint, either, and I had no trouble clicking the Buy Now link at the end of the sample. Historically accurate, with real chemistry between the characters, I’m 85% through the book–and still hooked! I hope the author writes more in this series soon.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: I didn’t expect to get much done this week, writing-wise, with DH’s surgery and all–and that was before I got sick. But I surprised myself! While it’s not as much as I’d have liked, I was surprised to see that I wrote over 1300 words this week. I started out just shooting for 100 words a day, and didn’t even do anything for a couple of days when I felt really crappy. But those words added up! Still going to take it easy this week, and shoot for finishing this scene plus getting a start on the next.

How has your week gone? If you’re working toward goals–of any kind–how are you doing? Anything you need to recover from? And how do you find the books you read? 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.

Do Cheap and Free Books Kill Sales?

This has been one of those weeks where not much has happened–and I’m fine with that, although I wish more writing had happened. The weather has been hot, humid yuck–typical for Ohio in August, and something we’ve had much less of this summer than most. I think that’s contributed to this past week being a tired, headachey one.

I did have a follow-up appointment at¬†the hormone therapy clinic, where the nurse practitioner upped my dosage on some of my supplements when I told her I’d seen some improvement in my adrenal¬†fatigue, but not as much as I’d hoped. So we’ll see how that goes.

My husband and I also went to a friend’s for a cookout last night. Our friend asked us to bring Isis, since her kids had a blast playing with her the last time we were there. So we did, and we learned not¬†hold¬†our glasses near the floor, even after our hostess brought out a doggie water bowl.

Isis Drinking Wine

 

There has been a lot of discussion on one of my email lists about a small publisher that’s in financial difficulty right now due to depressed sales, and what the causes of that might be. Everyone agrees that this publisher’s ebooks are priced too high, but what’s the right price? Some say that the proliferation of free and $ .99 books have taught readers not to pay more, that there are enough free books on Amazon, why ever buy? Others disagree. Of course there are some readers who indeed only download freebies or buy $.99 books and bundles, but there are also those who want specific books and authors and are willing to pay for them–within reason. I definitely fall into the latter group. But it does underscore¬†the importance of finding readers who really enjoy my work, and want to buy it.

This whole free book thing is even more of a consideration with the launch of Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited program, where readers can pay $9.99 a month and read as many books as they want, of those enrolled in the program. My science fiction romance Hangar 18: Legacy is in KU, so if you’re a subscriber, you can give it a try for free!

What I read this week: I finished Forbidden by Zoe Winters, and thoroughly enjoyed it! I started a new one the other night¬†that was really good–one that pulled me in so much that, even after I couldn’t keep my eyes open and turned out the light (and the Kindle), I couldn’t sleep. And not in a good way–stuff in the book kept tumbling through my mind. So I started another one last night, but am not far enough in to discuss yet.¬†Both are by authors I love, so I have no doubts I’ll finish them, but the first I’ll have to read earlier in¬†the day, which I have difficulty finding time for. I also read a research book, The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Colonial America by Dale Taylor. Good stuff for my WIP.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: I did not get as much done this week as I wanted. I got most of one scene written (might¬†be able to finish tonight), but I’d hoped for two. Since tomorrow is a holiday, I’ll try for that again this week.

What about you–do you think the massive amounts of free and cheap ebooks available makes people less likely to buy? What’s the weather been like lately where you live–and does it affect your health? Whether or not you’re participating in ROW80, how are you doing with whatever goals you might be working toward this week? 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.

Characters We Love to Hate

Rainbow Layer CakeThe week started out last Sunday with a family birthday gathering. My daughter’s 19th birthday was the week before, and my brother’s was this past week, so we always celebrate them together. When I asked my daughter what kind of birthday cake she’d like, she said “something fruity–maybe one of those Jello cakes.” When I found this¬†Rainbow Layer Cake online, I couldn’t resist, and since my brother also likes fruit-flavored cakes, I knew it would be perfect. Sure enough, it was easy to make, and a big hit after our cookout.

A couple days later, our daughter left for GenCon (a gaming convention, for those not in the know), so it’s been quiet around here. She leaves to go back to school next weekend, so time to get used to it. DH and I ate out several times, and he got a lot of work done in the garage, while I did a lot of reading–and a lot of writing.

MASQUERADEWhat I read this week: We’ve all seen them on TV, and maybe read them in books: the character who’s totally self-centered, manipulative, and who goes through life without a care for anyone but him/herself. There is nothing about this character we relate to or sympathize with. We love to watch to see this character get her come-uppance, or if a criminal, be brought to justice, and be triumphed over by the characters we do like and root for.

In my case, this is seldom a main character–I don’t want to spend that much time with someone I’d so despise in real life. That’s especially true for a novel, where we’re talking several hours, rather than 40 minutes or so (not counting commercials), or maybe two hours for a movie. But this week, it was exactly that kind of character that pulled me in, in Masquerade, by Maria McKenzie.

I don’t know why this book sat on my virtual to-be-read shelf for so longMasquerade is historical fiction and a family saga, set in my favorite time period, the turn of the twentieth century. I loved both of McKenzie’s prior books, one of which was Escape, the prequel to Masquerade. Maybe it was because Lavinia, the main character in Masquerade, was introduced in Escape, and we already saw how manipulative she was when she convinced a wealthy theater owner to marry her. He was smitten by her beauty, but she was only interested in his money and connections, to start the career she craved in acting.

I couldn’t find any sympathy for this woman. And I couldn’t put the book down. After thinking about it, I realized I found her so intriguing because she had a secret vulnerability: Lavinia was “passing”–meaning she appeared¬†white, but had African ancestry (her mother was black, an escaped slave).¬†This secret¬†would destroy her career if found out. I’ve found it intriguing to learn that “passing” was not all that unusual in the early 20th century–a surprising number of yesteryear’s stars we always thought of as white actually had African or Asian ancestry, as noted on McKenzie’s blog–and fascinating fodder for her book. Revelation, the third installment of the trilogy, just came out a couple weeks ago, and I know this one won’t wait on my TBR pile for long!

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: My goal this week was to finish the ending scene for my work-in-progress, and I did! It ended up being much longer than I thought–actually, it was two scenes, to the tune of 4,300 words, more than I’ve written in one week in a long time.¬†But most importantly, they both got written, so I’m very happy about that. One thing to note, I’m saying “finish the ending scene” rather than “finish the first draft” because I know there are several scenes to add in. Normally I write in order, but the romance plot just wasn’t gelling for me early on in the book, so I wrote around it. On the plane on the way to Puerto Rico in April, I realized what the romantic conflict was (the change I mentioned that would require massive work to implement, but would make the book so, so much better). So now it’s time to work that in. My goal: List the scenes, and write the first one, where the couple meet.

Fun fact about Isis: sometimes DH fluffs her pillow. No, our dog is not spoiled at all. :D

Fun fact about Isis: sometimes DH fluffs her pillow. No, our dog is not spoiled at all. ūüėÄ

What about you–made any cool new recipes lately? Who are some characters you loved to hate, either in books or TV/movies? Were you familiar with the idea of “passing?” If you’re participating in ROW80–or even if you’re not, how are you doing on whatever goals you might have? 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.

Does School Kill the Love of Reading?

I had an interesting conversation with a couple coworkers the other day. One woman is about my age, and has a daughter in college, and one in high school. The younger daughter is supposed to read Catcher in the Rye over the summer, and is struggling to get into it, to the point she’s just about decided to just read the Spark notes. My coworker says this is unusual; her daughter is an honors student and usually doesn’t have trouble with assignments, but just doesn’t enjoy reading any more. She wonders if the material they read in school is part of the reason.

Our other coworker is 26, so remembers her own experiences pretty clearly. “So much of it just isn’t relevant,” she concluded. “We had to read a Jane Austen book–I can’t remember which one, not Sense and Sensibility, the one with Mr. Darcy…”

Pride and Prejudice?” I asked.

“That’s it!” She went on. “I mean, it’s all stuff no one can relate to today. Arranged marriages… and the language.”

Now, I need to point out that this coworker is a highly intelligent woman, with a master’s degree, and one who isn’t afraid of doing hard work. My other coworker and I agreed that the archaic-sounding English also put up a barrier to relating to the story and characters.

So we went on discussing books we had to read in school and didn’t like–Moby Dick, Old Man and the Sea, anything else by Hemingway. One of them didn’t care for Shakespeare, either. (Interestingly enough, my college-student daughter loooooooves Shakespeare, but somehow does not enjoy reading a lot of fiction). Yet both of my coworkers like to read. The one just couldn’t figure out where her daughter, who used to like it when younger, lost that joy. My daughter also used to enjoy more fiction when she was in elementary and middle school, but has moved on more toward nonfiction.

However, one thing that somehow never gets old in my family is bodily functions jokes. Yesterday, my dad emailed me a link to this video. Only the Brits could’ve come up with the fart noise heard across the English channel!

Smiths-Monthly-5-testWhat I read this week: I started Smith’s Monthly #5. I’ve ¬†followed Dean Wesley Smith‘s blog for a long time, and especially enjoyed his “Writing in Public” blog series that he started almost a year ago. It was fun reading about a long-time pro’s writing process in putting together his own magazine, and the stories sounded good, so I subscribed. It’s been especially neat to see the end product after reading about his creation of the works. Dean writes in the tradition of the old pulps from the mid-20th century, so this isn’t deep, thought-provoking literature, but they are fun, entertaining stories. I’m about 1/4 of the way through the novel in this one–a science-fiction romance. The hero in it is totally yummy, not creepy-looking like the guy on the cover! (And has only two arms. :))

Sorry, no puppy picture today. I didn’t take any new ones this week. Puppy pics will be back, though!

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: I finished the scene I wanted to finish last week, and started sketching out this week’s scene. That went okay, until a character tossed a plot bunny (aka, new scene) at me. So I will be working on that this week, with the goal, once again, to complete a scene, whichever one it may be. My accountability buddy returned home from vacation, but did not lash me with a wet noddle because she didn’t get her scene done, either (vacation + kids = I could’ve predicted that). So back to work for both of us this week.

What do¬†you think–does reading too many books we don’t enjoy in school kill the joy of reading? Which books did you have to read in school that you didn’t like–or what are some you did? Is the video something your family would laugh at? If you’re a writer, do you follow Dean Wesley Smith’s blog? (If not, you should! Great info there, both on the writing and publishing business). 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.

Read an E-book Week, and What to do with a Dead Kindle?

girlreadingToday marks the start of Read an Ebook Week, an annual promotion from Smashwords wherein thousands of independent authors and publishers offer ebooks at fantastic discounts. Mythical Press is participating too, and has all my books on sale. Haven’t tried the Saturn Society series yet? It’s a great time to change that–Time’s Enemy, Book 1, is on sale for 75% off. The anthology Love’s a Beach, which includes my newest installment, a short story called “Time’s Tempest” featuring new characters, is also on sale for 50% off, and has some great reads from Stacy McKitrick and four of my other writing friends. Just click the image above to go to Smashwords.

Ironically, just in time for Read an Ebook Week, my Kindle decided to die on me. It had been getting slower and occasionally would display an error message when I opened a book. If I tapped OK, the error message would disappear and it worked fine. Then searches for words I knew were in the book would turn up nothing, and a couple days ago, it started saying books were “no longer available” when I’d just purchased them from Amazon. A quick search revealed that my Kindle probably just needed a reboot, so I tried that. But my Kindle did not reboot–or rather, it tried for several minutes, than eventually just crapped out:

IMG_20140302_153710250

I was not optimistic about contacting Amazon, because you see, I got this Kindle for Christmas–last year.

Which means it’s about two months out of warranty.

But all I found in the searches was either “Duh, contact Amazon, they’ll replace it” (usually in response to someone with a relatively new Kindle) or “It’s bricked” (often in response to someone who tried to root, or hack, their Kindle). Nothing about anything else that could be done if it was out of warranty, even in a case like mine where I’d not so much as dropped it.

So I got on an online chat with them. I didn’t really expect them to offer to repair or replace it except for a fee, but mainly contacted them in the small chance there was something else I might try to resuscitate the Kindle. Sure enough, the customer service rep said it was out of warranty, and would I like him to go over some options for a “deeply discounted replacement or upgrade?”

Not acceptable. Why would I want to pay for another Kindle when this one failed two months after the warranty expired? I told him that and added, “I am very unhappy with this. I haven’t even dropped it, it just quit working,” expecting to get a “sorry, company policy” response. But the rep said, “please wait while I talk to my manager.”

He came back and said they’d make an exception, and replace it for free! I guess it never hurts to let them know what you think (politely, of course) and be persistent. The new one is supposed to arrive tomorrow.

ROW80Logo175Luckily, that didn’t cut into my writing time too much yesterday, and I got my 3,500 words in for the week. Wow, is this novella turning out to be longer than I expected! I thought it was going to be a longish short story at first, maybe 10,000 words, but then it kept going. I’m now over 20,000 words and only a little more than halfway through my outline. That’s okay, it needs to be as long as it needs to be. I suspect I’ll do some cutting on revision, too.

I didn’t do so well with the fitness, though I got a couple of very short workouts in. I am almost done with the website–hope to finish that today–so I still consider it a good week.

Next week, the same: 3500 words, finish the website (this time, for sure!), and get 3 or 4 activity sessions in. I have a print book to format too, so I’ll toss get started on that in as a bonus.

What about you–planning to read any ebooks this week, whether from Smashwords or elsewhere? Have any surprising customer service experiences to share, good or bad? And whether or not you’re participating in ROW80, how did you do on whatever goals you might have? 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.