Struggling to (Re)Start

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Reading than Writing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slow Start

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

House viewed from the front

 

As viewed from the back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Building Begins

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

  

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

The bulldozer was still parked up there, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Week was a Bust

…at least where writing was concerned. As I mentioned in last week’s post was very likely, sure enough I did not get any writing done. Maybe I should have titled this blog, “Writing Excuses”…

Part of the reason is because I’m coming up on the climactic scene, which I find to be the hardest part of the book to write. In this case, I’m also fighting “fear of I-don’t-know-what-happens-next,” since I didn’t outline this book to that extent. Anymore it seems that when I do outline, I deviate so much from it, it’s not being worth the bother, so this time, I didn’t outline. I doubt it would have helped even if I had, because… deviating.

We also had a house guest for a couple days this week–a writer friend from New York state! We haven’t seen each other in seven years (too long!) so it was great to see her and spend some time together. It was also exciting to show her my hometown and its fascinating history, almost all of which was new to her. We spent an afternoon at the National Museum of the USAF, and another at Carillon Historical Park. She loves learning about the history and quirky details of the places she visits, so these were right up her alley (and of course, mine). We spent a lot of time in the evenings just catching up–well worth giving up some writing time.

Our tomatoes are also still producing like crazy, so yesterday, I froze some. It’s a simple process that my mom remembers my Great Aunt Marie doing many years ago. Just boil the tomatoes for ten seconds, then dunk them in cold water for at least ten seconds, and the skins peel right off! After that, they can be cut however you like, bagged, and frozen. I bagged five quart bags full, which should come in handy for a cooking day this winter!

And finally, the other reason I didn’t get much done on my WIP is that my brain is just not on writing–at least not fiction. Instead, it’s focused on things like researching water heaters, specifying French doors, learning about smart home devices like door locks. And writing down what I like for our new house. Once I finish, this will be like a requirements document in software, only for our new house. It will help our builder know what’s a change order (“That’s not in the book”) and will help us know if someone screws up (“The book said the pantry is supposed to be white” [that actually happened with our flip house]).

Tennessee Update: our builder was expecting to have the ridgetop leveled by tomorrow or Tuesday, so we’re heading down to check it out and stake out the exact location of the house later this week. Hope to have a better update and pictures next week!

What I’ve Been Reading: I am almost finished with the novel I started last week. It’s really good, so I’ll definitely be discussing it here. It’s also long, which is why I’m not yet finished.

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What I’ve Been Writing: As noted above, nothing! I really just need to start writing and see what the characters do. With the trip to Tennessee, I don’t know how much chance I’ll have to dig into the WIP, but who knows, stranger things have happened, and sometimes I do well writing away from home. So this week, I’ll just set a goal to write something–anything–in my WIP. However, this ROW80 round is coming to an end this week, and I just realized I already met my goals for the round! They were to finish the writing workshop I was taking, Holly Lisle’s How to Write Villains. I finished that about a month ago. The other goal was to finish a chapter in my WIP. I did that last week. Baby steps for the win! I will set goals for fourth quarter in a couple weeks, in time for October and ROW80 Round 4.

What about you–how has your week gone? Ever had one of those where it seemed you got nothing done, but when you thought about it, you actually got a lot done? How are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

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

A Surprise Visit

Here I am blogging late on Sunday again, but today, it’s for a good reason–my daughter and her partner came for a visit this weekend!

We were not expecting them. They hadn’t planned to come either, but had an unexpected change of plans, freeing up their weekend, so they chose to spend it with us! We enjoyed a couple of good meals out, and got a lot done.

Our tomatoes have been very prolific these past couple of weeks, and we had more tomatoes than we could use or give away, so my daughter showed me how to make sauce from roasted tomatoes. Easy, and yummy! She and her partner also got a bunch of their stuff cleared out, since we will be moving next summer.

Tennessee Update: We closed on our construction loan! It was a very different experience. The bank emailed us the paperwork, and I printed it all out for us to sign. I ended up being really glad my daughter had not cleaned her stuff out of the computer room yet, because with only ten pages left to print, I ran out of paper. But there were two reams she’d left, so no need to make a late-night Meijer run–which is what I otherwise would have had to do.

The bank was very insistent that we not sign anything until the official closing date, so the next day, we signed the paperwork that didn’t need to be notarized, then went to our local bank and signed the rest with their notary. It took all of a half-hour, if that. My husband then took it to the Fed-Ex retail center, along with the bank’s shipper account information. The loan originator received everything the next day, and it’s done! Our builder is planning to start cutting in the driveway tomorrow.

I also got the window estimate back, from the customer of my former employer. It was 50% over our budget! That was not altogether unexpected by me, because we are going for more of a mountain lodge look, and want woodgrain interior windows. Those cost a lot more than white, which is what goes in most houses, and probably what the builder budgeted for. We’ll get a couple more bids in Tennessee, and go from there. If they’re a lot higher (certainly possible), we may still go with this first one I got.

What I’ve Been Reading: I started a new novel, but am only about halfway through it (it’s pretty long), so I’ll discuss when I finish it.

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What I’ve Been Writing: Not much–only got about 200 words total this week. But I finished the chapter! So that’s something. Now I have to figure out what happens next, enough to start writing the next one. This is always the hardest part of the book for me, as I’m coming up on the end, and it has to be exciting and dramatic, while pulling all the characters and loose ends together. I also have an out-of-town friend coming to visit later in the week, so if I get 500 words in, that will be good.

What about you–any surprises in your life lately? I hope they’re as good as mine was! How are you doing on whatever goals and plans you’re working toward, whether writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

Getting Stuff Done: What’s My Secret?

TL;DR: There isn’t one — and I’m actually a slacker.

Sometimes I get comments that say I get a lot done, and they want to know how. Makes sense, especially since I work a full-time job, and have issues with fatigue. For instance, a couple weeks ago, I had my family over for a birthday dinner, for which I made Black Forest cake with homemade cherry filling. Preparing for that sounded like a lot, but it actually wasn’t. For starters, my husband does the grocery shopping, which is a huge help. I also usually have help with cleaning–we have a neighbor/friend who can’t drive, so my husband takes him to do errands once a week. Our friend is literate, but struggles with any kind of forms or paperwork, so I file his taxes. In the past, we’ve helped him track his finances and bills. He helps my husband do yard work, and cleans our house.

Our house also doesn’t get cleaned much between his visits. And detail cleaning? LOL — not happening here. That is one thing I don’t have the energy for.

But back to that family gathering. I did have to clean that weekend, because my husband and our friend had some other stuff to do along with yard work at our apartments. Thing is, the birthday party was on Sunday, so that gave me all day on Saturday to do that cleaning and to make the cherry filling. And yes, it took all day. I also only cleaned the downstairs rooms where guests would be, and skipped the upstairs (bedroom and study). It also helps that my house is not big.

The cherry filling? I pitted the cherries while watching HGTV. Once that was done, cooking them probably only took 20 minutes. So not a big deal. The following day, I did a load of laundry, patted out burgers (my husband did the grilling), set the table, and cleaned up afterward. Again, this is over the course of a whole day. So not as much as it sounds. I did some writing too, but I’m getting back into that slowly, and only wrote about 100 words. That takes all of 10-15 minutes.

However, I did hint at one secret in a comment last week, and this does make a big difference, especially during the week when I have little energy left after work, and that’s doing freezer cooking with Once a Month Meals. I discovered Once a Month Meals back in the fall of 2015, and first blogged about it here. I found it through a post on another writing blog (Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, I think), where the post was about freezer cooking. That one wasn’t specifically about OAMM, but the freezer cooking blog it linked to was.

It sounded interesting, so I clicked over–and found the solution to my ongoing dinner dilemma. You know, the one where both me and my husband are starting to get hungry in the evening. The conversation goes something like this:

DH: You hungry?

Me: A little.

DH: What sounds good for dinner?

Me: I don’t know. What sounds good to you?

DH: I don’t know.

Or he names a restaurant. Either way, we usually would wind up going out to eat. This was happening way too often–not good for our waistlines or our bank account.

The solution that dilemma is, of course, meal planning. Something I wasn’t very good at until I found OAMM.

How it works is like this: log on to onceamonthmeals.com, select a menu, or build your own menu by searching their database of over 8,000 recipes. And there are TONS of options, including a variety of diets and special needs. Doing Keto? They’ve got you covered. Gluten and/or dairy-sensitive? Plenty of recipes for you. Same with Low-FODMAP, low-calorie, GAPS, low allergen, nut-free, Trim Healthy Mama (what we do), vegetarian, and more. They have TONS of options for the slow cooker and Instant Pot to make things even easier.

Once you’ve picked out up to 15 recipes (each of which makes two meals) and select the number of servings you want, the system produces a downloadable shopping list, prep list, cooking day instructions, recipe sheet for each meal, thaw sheet to stick on the fridge/do meal planning from, and printable labels. In other words, Once a Month Meals takes out all the guesswork (which I need). Combine this with Meijer’s Curbside Pickup, Kroger’s Click List, or whatever grocery delivery or pickup is available in your area, and you’re really cooking!

Once a Month Meals recommends doing prep on one day, and the cooking the next. I usually have DH pick up the groceries on Friday while I’m working my paycheck job, then I do the prep that evening. (Prep consists of things like pre-cooking meat in the slow cooker or Instant Pot, and chopping ingredients.) I do the cooking on Saturday. And here’s what makes it really easy: a lot of the recipes don’t require actual cooking–they’re “dump and go.” Which is just what it sounds like–dump a bunch of ingredients into a freezer bag or round container for the Instant Pot, and stick it in the freezer. Easy-peasy!

But fifteen recipes sounds like a lot of work, even with dump-and-go. If you thought that, you’d be right, especially with my fatigue issues. But you don’t have to make fifteen recipes. I’ve only done that many once or twice, and yes, it was exhausting (although, I have to say it was incredibly satisfying to see my freezer full of meals afterward). Those meals lasted us for over two months, since we still eat out once or twice a week, and I make four-serving meals, so we have leftovers. Once a Month Meals has tons of what they call “Mini” menus–four or five recipes, each for two meals, giving you a total of ten meals. Sometimes I do one of those, and it can be done in an afternoon, including prep. But I’ve found what works best for me is eight recipes at once, and that lasts me and DH right around a month. An eight meal menu takes me a couple hours to prep on Friday, and an afternoon to cook and assemble on Saturday. Totally doable! Best of all, there’s no more dinner dilemma, and all I have to do after working on weekdays is stick something in the oven or Instant Pot, throw together a side, and there’s dinner. One that meets our diet plan, and doesn’t kill our budget.

Interested? Check it out at onceamonthmeals.com. You can get a free mini-menu to try it out by signing up for their newsletter. That’s what I did first. Just go to onceamonthmeals.com, scroll to the bottom, and enter your email. Of course, you can unsubscribe any time if it’s not for you.

Disclosure: Once a Month Meals links are affiliate links, and if you sign up, I’ll get a little referral fee at no extra cost to you. As an affiliate, I am also being compensated for writing this blog post, but all wording and opinions herein are my own, and honestly, I’d recommend Once a Month Meals even if I wasn’t an affiliate. It’s that helpful.

Tennessee Update: The bank finally got everything together and has us scheduled to close on our construction loan this coming Thursday! Our builder was on the property last Thursday, bush hogging and mowing in preparation to begin cutting the driveway in and level the ridgetop. There won’t be anything for us to do at the property until he’s done with that, so the bank is going to overnight the paperwork so we don’t need to go there just to sign papers. The builder expects to have the access and ridgetop ready within the next couple of weeks, so we’ll be heading down there soon to finalize and stake out the house placement. In the meantime, I have tons to do writing out specs for finishes and materials, some of which will need to be selected pretty soon (like windows and doors).

What I’ve Been Reading: The Ravening, by Dawn Thompson. Somehow this book got lost in the shuffle for ten years until I found it last month. It’s the paperback that took me close to a month to read. I will admit that was partly because it started out kind of slow, and was a little repetitious. But once it got going, it reminded me of why Ms. Thompson was one of my favorite authors, way back when (sadly, she’s no longer with us). It’s a historical vampire/werewolf romance set in mid-nineteenth century England, and the third in the Blood Moon Brotherhood series featuring vampires that can shapeshift into wolves. However, it’s not necessary to read the other two books (I did, but it was over 10 years ago, so I didn’t remember them well). Great worldbuilding with the vampire society, especially the difference between the good vampires, and the bad, “undead” vampir, and tons of sexual tension that romance readers love. If you enjoy historical, vampire, and werewolf romances, check out this series and get them all in one!

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What I’ve Been Writing: I made my 1,000 words this week, barely! That has been working out well, and with all I need to do for the new house, I’m going to keep it at that level, and shoot for another 1,000 words this week.

What about you–would you consider making a month’s worth of meals in a weekend, to free up time the rest of the month? Have you found any hidden treasures on your bookshelf, like my Dawn Thompson book? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, writing related 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.

Harvesting

It’s been a week of catching up on things after several busy weekends, and of harvesting.

Last week, I had family over to celebrate three birthdays–my daughter’s, my brother’s, and my dad’s. All went well and we had a good celebration. The Black Forest cake I made with homemade cherry pie filling was a big hit, and was requested for all future parties for these three, as it’s when cherries are in season.

This tomato’s taste was comparable to its size

It was also time to break out the pickles I made a couple months ago. They were a little salty, but good! Too salty, because I used regular table salt, and should have used kosher salt–a coarser grain that would have equated to a bit less overall. But the pickles were tasty enough I’d consider them a success. Glad I got those pickles too, because a couple weeks later, the cucumber plant succumbed to powdery mildew. 🙁

The tomatoes have had no such issues, and have been producing like crazy, especially the Beefmaster. One tomato was bigger than my hand! Okay, my hands aren’t that big, but still! We ate part of it in a big, salmon salad tonight, and even then, the rest almost wouldn’t fit into the food keeper we had.

Tennessee Update: Nothing new here – still waiting for the bank. The loan originator tells us they’re waiting on the title company. It’s frustrating, because we just went through that exercise a  year and a half ago when we bought the land, and the title was clean then. But the banks always have to dot every “i” and cross every “t.” Hope to get a closing date this week!

What I’ve been Reading: Still not done with that novel, but not because I’m not enjoying it. The reason? Because it’s paper! I have tons of paperback books I’ve collected over the years, mostly conference freebies, but some gifts and some I’ve bought. I noticed one of the latter a couple weeks ago as I was thinking it’s waaaaaaay past time for a newsletter, and a giveaway. Then I realized I hadn’t read that book, and decided I really needed to go through the paperbacks and read some before I give them away or move them.

See, ever since I got a Kindle four or five years ago, I much prefer ebooks. The main reason is that I like to read fiction in bed, before I go to sleep, and with ebooks, I can read in the dark. Sometimes I go to bed first, sometimes my husband does–and if that’s the case, reading with a light is a total non-starter. But I do have a bunch of paperbacks I want to read, so I’ll just work through them slowly on the nights I go to bed first.

I did finish another ebook–or e-magazine, rather: Fiction River: Editor’s Choice, edited by Mark Leslie. These are anthologies of short stories, usually with a connecting theme. This issue was different–it was mostly stories that didn’t make it into one of the themed anthologies for one reason or another, but were too good not to publish. And indeed, there were none I skipped in this issue (no present tense, yay!). A wide variety, from superhero YA to a far-futuristic, to very modern-day, slice of life. If you enjoy short stories, I’d definitely recommend Fiction River.

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What I’ve Been Writing: My goal last week was to get back on my WIP, and write 100 words a day. Well, I missed a couple of days–really, I should have allowed for that–but I overshot the 100 words without a problem on most days, and wound up with a total of 900 for the week. Doesn’t sound like much, give that I can write that much in an hour if I get going on it, but with so much going on, and just getting back to the WIP, I’ll harvest those 900 words as a win. For this week, I’m going to shoot for an even 1000 words total, however it breaks down into number of days written.

How about you–have you harvested anything exciting lately? Have you read anything good recently?  Do you prefer to read print books, or ebooks, and why? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

Free of the Gray Cubicle

Tennessee Update: Last week, I mentioned that I needed to reveal my plans to move to Tennessee at work sooner than I’d planned. My ultimate goal was to get permission to take my job with me when we move, and get a letter to that effect for our lender.

I was to participate in a meeting on Monday with my manager, and I planned to talk to him about it afterward. I didn’t think the meeting itself would have any bearing on our discussion. But it turns out it might have. Because one of the client folks in attendance was the guy who controls the funding for my project–and who, in his typical fashion, went a bit off-tangent from the planned discussion topic.

But this was a particularly good off-tangent, because we got a bit of insight into his plans and vision for my project, and it was a lot more expansive than I (and probably my manger) realized.

So when I met with my manager after the meeting, I think partly he was relived I wasn’t giving notice of quitting. Thing is, I started putting this into motion a year ago, when another team member quit–the only other person who really knew anything about our web app from a development standpoint. I was given some of his responsibilities at that time. I knew more compensation wasn’t forthcoming, so I asked for part-time remote work, and our manager said “that shouldn’t be a problem.”

So I started off with asking how he thought my remote work arrangement had gone, and he said, “It hasn’t been a problem.” I then asked if I could go full-time remote, and his response was the same as last year’s. Then I revealed why I wanted remote work. I told him I think our employer is a good company to work for, and that I believe in this project and want to see its success. I assured him that I could return to Dayton regularly to check in in person–especially since my parents and daughter will still be in Ohio.

And he said, “That shouldn’t be a problem.”

So, huge relief!

I needed to get the letter for the bank from HR, so I went to see our HR Director the next day. As soon as I told her my plans, she was immediately intrigued. How were we going about having a house built from 300 miles away? Who’s our builder, and how did we find him? How did we find our land?

Turns out she wants to build a vacation home in the area. And was super supportive of our move!

So it’s official, I’m free of the gray cubicle… and still employed! Everything worked out as well as it possibly could have.

My husband called the builder to follow up on our schedule. The builder is ready to go as soon as our loan closes, so now we’re just waiting on the bank. Obviously, we’re not going to hit his original projected start date of August 20 (I didn’t really expect that anyway), but hoping we’ll be able to soon.

What I’ve Been Reading: the novel I started before last week, very slowly. So I’ll discuss a nonfiction book I read a few weeks ago, Set For Life by Scott Trench. The author is in his late twenties or early thirties, and this book is geared toward young people who are just getting started in their adult lives. I actually bought it for my daughter, who turned 23 a couple weeks ago, but read it before I gave it to her. It’s a good overview of some financial habits to develop, and ways to save money, and invest in real estate by starting with “house-hacking,” or buying a duplex and living in one side while renting the other, thereby keeping your housing costs very low (if not zero). All of his suggestions may not be for everyone, but it’s a great starting point for coming up with a plan that does work for the individual. It’s well-written and very accessible, and I would recommend it for any young person who wants to get a grip on their financial life fast.

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What I’ve Been Writing: Finally finished the How to Write Villains workshop! The Week 7 lesson was interesting in that it went over villains that readers love, villains that people love to hate, and villains that people fear–and broke down what goes into creating these types of villains, and what makes them work (or not work). Was the workshop worth the $97 price tag? Personally, I have taken plenty of online workshops that were three times that cost, and the material in this one was just as good as those workshops. But YMMV. More info on the course can be found on Holly’s shop site, for those interested. (And no, that’s not an affiliate link.)

Now it’s time to get back to my novel. I’m once again going to start with baby steps. One commenter a few posts back suggested 100 words a day, and that sounds like a good, easy start, so that’s what I’ll go for. Normally, I give myself a day or two off per week, but that’s such an easy target I don’t think that’s necessary, so… we’ll see how it goes! A whopping 700 words? Once I get going, I can write that in one night. But getting (re) started is the hard part, so you never know!

What about you–have you done anything lately where you weren’t sure how it would go? How did it go? Have you read anything good lately? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might be working on, whether writing or something else? 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.

 

Change of Plans

I’d expected to be blogging late tonight again. I’d planned to attend a cousin’s birthday party with my dad today, which is in southern Kentucky, a three-hour drive each way. But Dad woke up not feeling well, so I had to call another cousin with our regrets. I was looking forward to seeing some relatives I really like, whom I hadn’t seen in years, and meeting some new to me, plus spending time with my dad. While that’s disappointing, it opens up a whole lot of possibilities when I’m gaining a day I didn’t expect to have free.

The last cucumber, and some of our first tomatoes, for my parents

I’ve already done several things today that would have otherwise been put off, or not done at all, like laundry (which otherwise would have waited until tomorrow) and making cucumber chips, something I’ve wanted to try for several weeks but haven’t had time (the cucumber chips are in the dehydrator as I write this). And I’m planning to stop over at my parents’ for a visit later this afternoon (my dad isn’t contagious, he’s just not up to spending six hours in the car), and take them a few goodies from our garden. Later, I’m hoping to start in on some decluttering, which I desperately need to do, given that I’m planning to move in about a year. I may even have some time to work on my writing. None of these things would have gotten done if today had gone as planned, so I’m making the best of this unexpected day.

Tennessee update: We haven’t heard from the builder yet on a confirmed groundbreaking day. My husband left a message with him yesterday. We did hear from the lender though, and they need just a couple more things from us. One is verification of our vacant land insurance, easily obtained from our agent.

The other is a letter from my employer. What I’m hoping to do is to take my job with me, and work remote. From a technical standpoint, there’s no reason I can’t do this–in fact, I already do work remote 2-3 days a week. I’ve done this for a year and it hasn’t been a problem. But now I need to get official permission to do so full-time, and from 300 miles away, which means a conversation with my manager that I hadn’t planned on having until we were a couple months out from moving. My manager is a pretty laid-back guy, and we already have other people on our team in other locations (doing other things, not my project), so there’s a good chance he’ll be fine with that. My company has allowed it before too–they even have a guy who did so on the employee testimonial page on the website. But it’s not 100%, which is what’s giving me anxiety over having this conversation. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll have to go to the lender and ask them to do the loan as if for a second home, which carries its own risks. So wish me luck!

What I’ve Been Reading: I’m in the middle of another Fiction River anthology, and also started a novel, but nothing to report on just yet, so I’ll give a mention to a nonfiction book I read a few months ago: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson. This was a big bestseller last year, and who wouldn’t find that title intriguing? The basic premise is that we cause ourselves a lot of unnecessary stress by placing priority on too many things–in other words, by caring too much. This book encourages readers to pick and choose a few things to focus our energies on, and stop giving a f*ck about the rest. One theory I found particularly interesting was about the human need for problems to solve (or challenges), and this is why some people turn into the crotchety, “get off my lawn” folks–because all of their needs are met, they don’t have any real problems, and don’t have anything better to concern themselves with. While it didn’t contain any great revelations for me, this book was a good reminder to not sweat the small stuff, and worth a read.

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What I’ve Been Writing: Either I’m getting better at not sweating the small stuff with my writing, or (more likely), the exercises in Holly Lisle’s How to Write Villains workshop aren’t as difficult and time-consuming as I expected. Got the exercises from Week 6 done, and shooting for Week 7’s lesson and exercises for this week.

What about you–have you had an unexpected block of free time pop up any time recently? What did you do with it? Or what would you do, if you haven’t had one lately? How are you doing on whatever goals you might be working on, whether writing-related 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.