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.

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.

Saying Yes to Fun

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

Sandy feet at a beach wedding!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about you–do you have trouble saying yes to fun? Or perhaps you have trouble saying no–to too many obligations? What fun things have you said yes to lately? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

 

Short Blog Today

Also, not one with a good title. We are getting ready to host a cookout for all the contractors, tradesmen, and friends who helped us with our recently-sold flip house, so I just don’t have the brain at the moment to come up with a better title. Also, my daughter is in town, so going to spend some time with her.

Not a lot else has gone on this week. In Tennessee, our loan originator is on vacation, so no news on that front. But we should have a closing date this week, we hope.

What I’ve Been Reading: I enjoyed One Bad Wish so much that I immediately bought the next (and sadly, last) book in her Teenage Fairy Godmother series, Sunspot Magic by Bonnie Elizabeth. I hope she writes more of these – they’re so funny and so much fun!

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What I’ve Been Writing: More villains! I finished the Week 4 exercises of Holly Lisle’s How to Write Villains workshop, although I will admit I skipped the last exercise. This one had us writing a villain from his/her/its own point of view, in first person present tense.

I HATE first person present tense. I don’t read it, so I can’t see writing it. The point of that portion of the lesson is this is how to put a reader into a villain’s head, so closely that they are the villain, as things are happening. Thing is, first person present tense doesn’t work that way for all readers. For me, the whole time I’m reading, I’m hyper-aware that I’m not, in fact, there with the character as the story unfolds, so I find it distancing. Which is probably the main reason I don’t like it. If you’re a writer and you write it, I’m not telling that it’s wrong (because it’s not, and you need to write your stories the way they need to be written), I’m just saying that I’m not your reader for that book.

So anyway, back to my workshop – this week, I’m going to shoot for doing four of the eight exercises. I’d normally try for all, but I have a lot going on this weekend so I don’t expect to have time. If I get to anything beyond the first four, that will be a bonus!

What about you–what’s going on in your life right now? Do you have reading preferences when it comes to first person, OR present tense (or both)? How are you doing on whatever goals you’ve been working on, 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.

Things are Getting Real

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

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

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

The Front Elevation of our new house

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a Pickle

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

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

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

Why yes, those are tomatoes in our front flowerbed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about you–have you tried or learned anything new lately? Ever had a preconceived notion that something wasn’t allowed (or possible), only to find out otherwise? How are your goals going, whether writing or something else? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

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

The Value of Habits, and the Need for Deadlines

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

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

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

Except this week, I finally did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about you? Do you need deadlines, or at least some sort of accountability, to get stuff done? Have you read anything good lately? And how are you doing on your goals, whatever they may be (writing or otherwise)? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

 

Rental House Wrap-up/Getting With It

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exterior – Before

 

Dining Room Before (after carpet was pulled up)

 

Kitchen Before

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

 

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

 

Click any of these smaller pictures for a larger view

 
Living Room and Dining Room

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

    
Downstairs Bathroom, with fun decal on the laundry chute

   
Dining Room, with barn door I built

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

    
Mudroom/Drop Zone I built

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

    
Upstairs/Master Bedroom

    
Master Bedroom, with barn door I built

    
Master closet, with shelves I built, and Bathroom

    
Master Bathroom

    
Basement – not a dingy, creepy one

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Step Closer to Tennessee

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

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

view from the top

Our land in Tennessee

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Your “Why?”

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

So many books, so little time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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