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.

Late to the FIRE

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about you–have you heard the term FIRE, or the people who retire early? Ever received a surprise gift like a tractor? Have you read anything good lately, whether fiction or otherwise? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

 

Blame it on the Olympics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shelves and Books

The blog was a little late today, because my husband and I had some shopping to do:

Shelves, barn doors, and more shelves (and my dog Skeet)

That’s the lumber for all the stuff I’ll be building (or rebuilding) for the rental house. Custom U-shaped shelves for the pantry, re-cutting and staining the shelves and bench for the mudroom, and the open shelves to go in the kitchen. When the fire happened, the pantry was finished, and the rest of those were stained and waiting to be installed.

After the fire, when our plan turned to selling the place, we decided to deck out the upstairs with a sweet new bathroom, and a 14′ walk-through closet. The latter will need custom closet organizers, since one of the walls is a 5′ high knee wall. It’s also getting a barn door, since the opening on one end is an odd size. There will be a second barn door in the dining room at the bottom of the steps. We could buy them for $300-400 each… or build them for less than $100, and get them custom sized to boot. I found this great online tutorial, and they don’t look that difficult. So my work is cut out for me for the next couple months! Oh wait, it’s not cut. I have to do that too. It will be fun. 😀

On another note, I promised last week I’d share some books that helped me learn about adrenal fatigue (I slept well last night for once, thank goodness, or that shopping trip and carry-in would have been rough).

I started out thinking maybe it was just the onset of menopause, so I found Female Brain Gone Insane by Mia Lundin. While I wasn’t having the dramatic mood issues many of her patients were in the anecdotes, a lot of the other things these ladies were dealing with sounded familiar. I had never heard of adrenal fatigue until I reached the last section in this book, and it was a major light bulb moment–these were the symptoms I was dealing with! I also got started on vitamins and supplements due to what I read here.

The next book I picked up was Is it Me or My Adrenals by Marcelle Pick. This went into a lot more depth, since it was focused solely on that subject. This was also the one that promoted diet as the main fix for adrenal fatigue–a time-consuming, labor-intensive meal plan that eliminated all processed foods and sugars. I tried one week of the recipes, and didn’t even make them all–who has the time and energy for that, on top of a full-time job? Not me.

I’m Too Young for This! by Suzanne Sommers focused more on menopause and perimenopause, but had some good info in it. I reviewed it here.

Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by Dr. James Wilson is probably one of the first books to come out on this subject, and goes into it in even more detail than Is it Me or My Adrenals. Wilson is one of the pioneers in research for it, and I loved that this book went over the history of the condition. Adrenal fatigue has been recognized since the late 19th/early 20th centuries, and was commonly treated then. This came in handy when I was writing Time’s Best Friend, when I needed a reason Florie’s mother couldn’t step in and help her all the time. I figured, why not get some use out of my own experience? 🙂

Author Fawne Hanson offered me a copy of her book, The Adrenal Fatigue Solution, in exchange for an honest review, after seeing me mention the above on my blog a while back. The book was good and contained a lot of good information, and I reviewed it here. The book isn’t available anywhere I could find except her website. Her website also has a lot of good information.

What I’ve Been Reading: Smith’s Monthly #39 by Dean Wesley Smith, featuring the novel Ace High. This is the novel he wrote in five days while on a trip to Las Vegas. It’s amazing what we can do if we prepare properly, have the right mindset, and are used to just sitting down and writing, which is his process. And Ace High was really good, one of his Cold Poker Game mysteries about retired detectives solving really twisted crimes–proof that as a reader, I can’t tell how fast a book was written, whether or not it was revised (he doesn’t), and whether or not it was outlined (he doesn’t).

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What I’ve Been Writing: Unfortunately, again, not much. I think this scene just isn’t interesting me enough (which means it won’t interest readers, either). I need to just wrap it up quickly and move on, and trim it in the process. It’s not like my book isn’t already long. 😀 So that’s my ROW80 plans for this week: Trim and finish that scene, and begin the next, which should be fun.

What about you–as a reader, can you tell if a book was written fast or slow, or with or without an outline? Have you ever built shelves, and if so, do you have any suggestions for me? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

Are You Tired of Being Tired?

If so, you’re not alone. And it’s a pretty common state for me too, since I have Adrenal Fatigue. Also one reason why I’m just now getting around to posting this.

The rental house with new siding, done in December

The other reason is that my husband and I stopped over at the rental house. After learning last week that our renovation and enhancements are going over budget, we looked over the contractor’s list of tasks to see what we could take on ourselves. For my husband, that includes refinishing the hardwood floors… again. For me, that includes rebuilding the custom U-shaped shelves for the pantry, and building the mudroom and kitchen shelves, part of which were done before the fire. I’ll also be building some simple closet organizers for the new second floor master suite closet. I needed measurements for these, because the pantry had to be completely re-walled (that was in the part of the house where the fire was), and the master closet is new.

I’m actually looking forward to building these, because some of the rebuild will actually simplify them from what was there before. They’ll also be good practice for our new house–we are planning to finish out the lower level ourselves. Also I like building stuff. Once I do them, I’ll detail them out here. I know for me personally, it was surprising what I can build once I believed I could. I’ll write more about that sometime, too.

One of the things that gets between me and building stuff, writing, or heck… anything, is fatigue. And before I go further, I have to give the standard disclaimer: I’m not a healthcare professional, nor do I write about one, and this is not medical advice. I’m just sharing my own experience, and encourage you to consult your own healthcare provider, do your own research, etc.

Some days the fatigue is worse than others. Those days tend to be ones where I slept even less well than I normally do (yeah, insomnia is a symptom of adrenal fatigue, go figure). My migraines also figure into this, as does the weather: dropping barometric pressure and rain=bad, sun=good. And it’s much worse in winter, with cold, short days. I’m always happy for daylight savings time to begin.

So what the heck is adrenal fatigue? Well, you might have adrenal fatigue if:

  • You are tired all the time and all other reasonable explanations have been ruled out.
  • You are or have been under a lot of stress.
  • Caffeine and other stimulants are of minimal help, but are still necessary to get through the day (or at least get it started, in my case).
  • Alcohol makes you really, really tired.
  • You’re totally wiped out at the end of the day, yet you can’t sleep.
  • You have an illness that you just can’t kick. You get sick easily, and when you do, it takes forever to get over (because adrenal hormones are instrumental in immune system function and recovery).
  • You are often cranky, depressed, and/or easily frustrated.
  • You have frequent digestive issues.
  • You are a lady of a “certain age”
  • You have brain fog…

Of course, most of those are symptomatic of many other things too, especially menopause. So yeah, ladies of a certain age (like me) are particularly susceptible to adrenal fatigue. But anyone can get it, including men. However, the biggest indicator of adrenal fatigue is our cortisol levels.

Cortisol gets a bad rap for being the stress hormone, and indeed, that’s how earlier-stage adrenal fatigue often starts out. When we’re constantly stressed out or in a state of high alert, cortisol levels go up–basically, the body’s fight-or-flight response. Normally, it’s not a matter of life-and-death in modern society, but our bodies don’t know the difference between running from a tiger, and trying to meet a deadline when the boss throws more changes at you every few minutes. The problem happens when cortisol levels go up… and stay up. This takes your body’s energy away from functions like higher-level brain function and digestion, causing problems in those areas. This ultimately results in a tired-but-wired state.

Eventually, the adrenals can’t keep up with the constant demand, and cortisol production slows. This results in one being tired all the time. Because you see, it’s cortisol that gives us energy. When the adrenals are injured to the point that no cortisol is produced, this is a very different condition than adrenal fatigue called Addison’s Disease, and it’s life-threatening. Adrenal fatigue isn’t life-threatening, it’s just being low-energy.

The job I’ve had for the past ten years isn’t particularly stressful, nor do I have problems around the home adding to stress. But in the past, I have tended to push myself with the writing, and that can add up when combined with all the other responsibilities we all have around the home, the need to do-all-the-things. Illness and injury can trigger it too, as well as working or living in an environment where one is exposed to a lot of toxins in the air/water/etc. And finally, being menopausal or perimenopausal adds to the stresses on the adrenal glands, as when the production of sex hormones slows, the adrenals try to pick up the slack. I had a bad bout of flu in 2014, which is when the fatigue really kicked in, and I’m also at that “certain age.” So in my case, a number of factors contributed.

Before I go on, let me say that I hope this doesn’t sound complainy, because it’s not. Every time I catch myself thinking like that, I remember that I’m not fighting cancer, as some of my friends are. Adrenal fatigue is really not a big deal; I’m just tired. It does affect my life, but only minimally compared to what an injury or illness would. I’m sharing this because adrenal fatigue afflicts many, many people who may have never heard of it, because it hasn’t received much (if any) emphasis in medical education for decades. Because of that, and the fact that so many other conditions share its symptoms, and there’s no formal insurance code for it, most traditional doctors don’t diagnose it. It’s much more likely to be identified by a practitioner of functional medicine or bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.

This is getting long, so I’ll pick up next week with more info on how adrenal fatigue is identified, how it can be treated, and some references you can check out to learn more–because again, I’m not a healthcare professional.

What I’ve been Reading: This week, I finished Smith’s Monthly #38 by Dean Wesley Smith, including the novel The Deep Sunset. This novel was in the Ghost of a Chance series, about ghost agents who use their powers to help people and sometimes, save the world. I don’t know if it’s because my reading of it was kind of broken up, but this one seemed more convoluted than any in this series so far, and I found it a little hard to follow. It also included a larger cast of characters, some of whom I “knew” from another series, but many of whom were new, so a lot of people to follow too. But it was still entertaining enough to finish. This is a fun series and I do recommend it, but not to start with this book, even though they don’t need to be read in any order.

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What I’ve been Writing: I finished the read-through of my WIP on Sunday, and got back into writing on Monday. Even better, I wrote for four days out of the week, and finished a scene for a total of about 2100 words. So, win! This week, I want to write another scene, or better yet, two.

What about you–had you heard of adrenal fatigue? Are you interested in learning more? Feel free to ask questions! Have you read anything good 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.

A Tale of Two Houses, Part 1

2017 has been a long and busy year. A lot has happened, but not much writing. Probably the biggest event was my daughter’s graduation from college, and subsequent moving out on her own. She has a job she loves in higher education administration, and though we miss having her around (she lives about an hour’s drive away), we couldn’t be happier for her.

I got out of the habit of blogging, and one thing that kept me from getting back to it was feeling like I had to write a long, comprehensive post, and make it good. I realized that yesterday, and it’s kind of silly. Just like housework done incorrectly or incompletely is still better than not done at all, a short blog is better than none. So here goes…

A New House

Our house will be similar to this, only with an attached garage

Some of you might remember that my husband and I are planning a move from Ohio to Tennessee, with building a new house. You might have guessed that I’ve been away because of that. But (sigh), that’s not the case. I’m still in Ohio, and still haven’t started building. And that’s OK.

So to catch up on that, we got a few quotes from builders last spring, around the time I last posted here. Three builders gave us ballpark estimates that were pretty close to our budget, so all looked so far so good. Then they got back to us with detailed estimates. All were 50 -60% higher! We figured out that 1) the economy is good, so there’s plenty of work and 2) many of them are doing insurance rebuilds in Gatlinburg, so they’re extra busy. However, they’re happy to take on another project for the right money. That kind of money is not in our budget. So back to the drawing board there.

We considered downsizing the house by making the garage in the lower level–not really what we wanted. We considered being our own general contractors–we’ve done so on some pretty large remodeling projects, and my parents built two new houses years ago being their own contractors. But they built locally–we’re 300 miles away, so being our own GC would mean having to stay down there during construction. Also not what we wanted.

Our new rental house – isn’t it cute?

An Old House

The new house kind of got put on the back burner when we had an opportunity to buy another house–a rental, here in Ohio. It needed a lot of work, but that was all cosmetic, and the deal was too good to pass up, so we snagged it. (As a side note, we’ve owned rental property for many years, so this is not new to us.) That turned out to be an interesting ride…

Reading

I fell off the wagon keeping track, but I continue to read every day. I’ve been trying to read more nonfiction, too. Most of it is either personal finance or business-related, or is about home building. I finished a novel and a non-fiction book on New Year’s Eve.

For fiction, I read Pure Sacrifice by Jami Gold. I enjoyed her free short story in this paranormal romance series, so I bought book 1 earlier this year. I liked it, and a couple weeks ago I needed something to read and nothing on my Kindle jumped out at me, so I bought book 2. This series (the Mythos Legacy) has all the ingredients to a satisfying paranormal romance, but isn’t the same ol’ same ol’. In book 1, it was the heroine who was the paranormal character (usually, it’s the guy). In this book, it was the guy, but he was a shapeshifting unicorn–pretty different! The worldbuilding was nicely in-depth but not intrusive or info-dumpy, and the characters were engaging. I’ll definitely be picking up the next in the series.

In non-fiction, I read The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines. For those not in the know, they are the hosts of HGTV’s Fixer+Upper, which is probably the most popular reality home show right now. I love their show, and really enjoyed reading about how they got their start in their various businesses to how they wound up with a their own TV show. This book pulled me in right away and kept me interested throughout, and I was sorry to see it end. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys Fixer+Upper!

Writing

While I did make progress on my next Saturn Society time travel novel, writing just wasn’t on my brain for most of the year. I did not complete any projects, and did not have any new releases. I want that to change this year. I figured out what happens next in the novel, and I’m excited to get back to it. Hence, I’m participating in ROW80 to keep accountable.

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ROW80, or A Round of Words in 80 Days, is “the writing challenge that knows you have a life.” We can set whatever goals we want for the challenge. Mine will be a stretch for the first quarter, which will end in late March: I want to finish the novel. It probably needs 20,000 more words. When I take the time and know where I’m going, I can write 1000 words in about an hour or so. The catch here is that I don’t completely know where I’m going with this book, so that’s going to be a stretch. I used to outline, but that grew to be less helpful as I progressed as a writer, as I believe one should always feel free to deviate from the outline when a better idea comes along for a story–and for me, it always does. Also, I need to get a newsletter out this quarter, as it’s been way too long since I’ve done that, too.

This week’s goal: I haven’t written since early November, so I’m going to do a full cycle-back and read the book from the beginning. It’s around 100,000 words at the moment (yes, I write long books). If I do that, hopefully other good ideas to wrap it up will come in the process.

This post is already getting long (so much for keeping it short) and I have a lot to do today, so I’ll continue with the house sagas next week, and post an update on my goals.

How was 2017 for you? It was mostly good for me! If you watch TV, do you like Fixer + Upper? (One thing I found interesting is Chip and Jo have not had a TV since they got married–no wonder they have time to do so much!). If you’re a writer, what kind of goals do you have for this year? How are you doing so far, one week in? 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.

Things are Happening

In some ways, not in others. On the new house/moving front, we received the finalized house plans from our designer. And as I typed that, I realized I’d never shown what our house is going to look like, or even described it. So it’s time to do that: I would call it a Craftsman/Chalet, both styles I’ve always liked. Judging from DH’s comments while driving places over the years, I knew he liked the chalet look too (and wasn’t averse to the Craftsman style). So when I first found this house and showed him, I knew from his reactions that my instinct was right: this was the one.

It’s designed for a sloped lot, which is what we have. So just picture that with awesome mountain views behind it, rather than a lake. Our street is bordered with trees, but if it’s visible from the road at all, that lovely dramatic back view is what will be seen. Yet it will be far off the road enough that we will still have privacy.

It’s about 2000 sq. ft., not counting the lower level. That’s going to be in-law/guest suite, since where we’re moving is a place a lot of our friends and family like to go for vacation (a big reason we’re moving there too).

We bought the plans, then had the designer customize them for us. Basically, they’re a combination of the plan linked above, and this alternate version that has a breezeway and attached garage.

(click for larger image)

(click for larger image)

Bedroom 3 is will be my writing office, as well as a secondary living space–I guess “den” would be a good word for that. That’s pretty much what my writing office is now, and for the most part that works. Bedroom 2 will be a guest room (mainly for our daughter), and will also be where I put my sewing machines. Heck, I may even get into more sewing if I don’t  have to do it in a dingy basement! I am pretty sure DH’s favorite place will be the screen room off the master bedroom, where we’ll put the hot tub and a TV over the fireplace.

In related news, we also got an offer on the apartment building we have up for sale to pay for all of this. We’ve considered taking out a construction loan, but were hoping this would sell so we didn’t have to, as we try to avoid debt. A couple of weeks ago, we got an offer very close to the asking price–almost too good to be true! The guy wanted to close in two weeks, so I scrambled to collect the paperwork he’d requested.

When a week went by and we had no news of him getting inspections or anything, we started to wonder. So our Realtor and our title agent checked into things. The buyer is a trust, which turns out to be located in Georgia. His title company is in Maryland, and while they’re legit, it turned out they aren’t even licensed to close in Ohio. And they never received the guy’s earnest money. His agent (located in Ohio) couldn’t get hold of him. His attorney (located in Florida) finally called our Realtor and said they guy was still interested. That was two days before we were supposed to close, and nothing since then. It’s like the guy just evaporated. So the building is still for sale, and we may still wind up going the loan route, at least until it sells.

What I’ve been reading: This book took me a really long time to read–partly because it’s really long, party because it’s a slower, quieter story than my usual fare, and partly because my mind’s been elsewhere. But I finally did finish it, and it was worthwhile. Pride’s Children: Purgatory by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt is a book I’ve been interested in for a while, as I’ve seen it mentioned by the author in blog comments. It intrigued me because the main character has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and I wanted to see how this was treated in fiction (answer: very realistically). Yet I was hesitant, as I knew it wasn’t my kind of book–two of the main characters are actors, and I normally don’t care for celebrity characters. It turned out my worries were mostly unfounded, as the male lead was very well-developed, sympathetic, and real. As was the female lead (the writer with CFS), though I expected that. The third main character, an actress, was thoroughly unlikable–more of a villain, really–but there weren’t that many scenes in her point of view. This book is marketed as literary fiction, but I would consider it more to be Upmarket Women’s Fiction. As such, it’s a little pricey, but it’s free in Kindle Unlimited, and goes on sale for $.99 every now and then (which is when I bought it). If you like this kind of book, I’d recommend it!

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Writing/Row80 Update: I haven’t been writing at all. My mind has just not been on it. I’m going to try to do a little today and get back in, but no promises. One thing I have been doing is taking a workshop from Dean Wesley Smith on endings, the hardest part of the book IMO. It’s been good so far, and has kept me not totally out of the writing, so that’s something. I have managed to keep up with it and the assignments, too. So that’s my goal for this week as well. Anything I get done on my WIP will be a bonus.

What about you–what have you been up to lately? When you step away from writing (or something else you normally do), is it hard for you to get re-started? If not, any tips for me? Have you read any good books lately? 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.