A Hole in the Ground

That’s what we have in Tennessee right now! The builder has finished digging for the basement and foundation, and when we talked to him on Thursday, he was planning to pour the footers the next day.

While all that has been going on, I’ve been working on what I call “The House Book.” In software developer parlance, it’s basically a requirements document (along with the plans). It’s where I’ve noted everything we want as far as finishes go, as well as any minor changes to the plans. For example, we removed a couple of doors–there are TONS in this house. I also decided I would rather have a large, blank wall in my office instead of a closet–I’ll be getting plenty of built-ins for storage, and those are detailed in the book as well.

I haven’t been writing any fiction in the past month, because my head has been full of house stuff. It’s amazing how it totally takes over your brain! (Or is that just me?) I finished the house book last week and got that out to the builder, so time for fiction now, right?

Not exactly. I still need to do the electrical plan–that is, note on a digital copy of our house plans where each light fixture goes, any outlets outside of the ordinary, like one in the middle of the floor in my office,  to allow for a second desk that I’ll use for writing. And the electrical plan also includes where all the switches go, and which switch controls which light or outlet. This should go much more quickly than the book, and since it’s just one area, isn’t as mentally consuming.

I did manage to dig back into fiction a little, reading my latest scenes in an effort to get the WIP back into my brain. So there’s that.

I also kept reading, and have finished some good books over the past couple of weeks.

What I’ve Been Reading: In non-fiction, I read The Groovy Guide to Financial Independence: How to Escape the Tyranny of Mandatory Toil in Fourteen Years or Less by Mr. Groovy. The author is half of the couple of pseudonymous bloggers who write at Freedom is Groovy, one of my favorite personal finance blogs. I bought it because it was on sale for $0.99, and I knew it would be entertaining (while imparting good info). And it did not disappoint. I didn’t really expect to learn much, if anything, as I binge-read the entire blog, and as I expected, the book was pretty much the same material, reworked into a more organized form. It was still worth a read if for nothing but the entertainment value–Mr. Groovy has a fun-t0-read voice with plenty of humor, and makes otherwise dry financial topics into something fun. I mean, where else can you find a lesson on personal finance from Hannibal Lecter? Highly recommended, whether or not you’ve read the blog–doubly so if you haven’t.

In fiction, I finished Relic of Sorrows: Fallen Empire Book Four, by Lindsey Buroker. This is a space opera series I’ve been really enjoying, and this installment (book 4) was every bit as entertaining as those that have come before. Not only was there plenty of action and space battles, there was a logical progression of the characters and their relationships. This is one series that needs to be read in order, so if you’re looking for some good sci-fi, give the first book, Star Nomad, a read. Even better, it’s free.

What I’ve Been Writing: As noted above, the House Book. Now that that’s done, I still need to do the electrical plan, but my goal this week is to finish that, and dig back into the WIP. So my goal is to get anything written on it, even it’s just a paragraph. Baby steps!

What about you–what have you been up to? Read any good books lately? How are you doing on whatever goals you might have? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

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

Building Begins

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

  

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

The bulldozer was still parked up there, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Stuff Done: What’s My Secret?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DH: You hungry?

Me: A little.

DH: What sounds good for dinner?

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

DH: I don’t know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about you–would you consider making a month’s worth of meals in a weekend, to free up time the rest of the month? Have you found any hidden treasures on your bookshelf, like my Dawn Thompson book? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, writing related or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

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.

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.

 

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.

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.