Overdue Update

Anyone who’s read this blog recently (this past year) can probably guess why I’ve been absent for the past several weeks. Yes! My brain has been stuck on house-house-house-apartments-house-house-apartments-house-house…

We’ve been to Tennessee twice since I last blogged, and there’s been a lot of progress on the house. All three people who read this are probably looking for pictures, so who am I to disappoint them?

The exterior painting is mostly done, with the exception of the porch posts and deck railings, and a few spots of trim. Also, the builder finally got rid of the big dumpster in front so I can finally get a decent photo:

    

They’ve mostly been working inside this past month. They have stained the beams, installed the tongue-and-groove ceiling in the great room, master bedroom, and my office, and have put up most of the window and door trim. Ahhh, the smell of Minwax in the evening…

When we were there in early May, our daughter and her partner joined us. It was the first time they’d been to the property, and they loved it! We went for a hike around the land. There is an old, fallen-down farmhouse on the other side of the ridge from where we’re building, and our daughter found the outhouse that went with it. She also found wild roses along our driveway, and there were wild strawberries growing on the other side of the ridge. Fun discoveries!

A lot more had been done when DH and I returned last week. Kitchen cabinets were in, and so were the built-ins for my office!

     

And in case you’re wondering, no, our entire house is not being painted mauve. That’s the primer (which was weird to me, as I’ve always seen white primer).

In addition to the house stuff, there’s also been some big changes in our real estate investments (aka my retirement). We sold the 16-unit building we owned here in Ohio, which leaves us owning only our house here. We then bought two small complexes in Tennessee, one with 10 units, the other with 13. There is a lot of paperwork involved in both selling and buying, and I’m the one who handles that, so… apartments have been very much on my mind. It helps that the new buildings came with property management in place, and they look like they really  have their act together, so once I get online banking and a few bill payments set up, our work with these should be minimal.

We’ve also started working on our current house, getting it ready to sell. My husband’s been patching walls and painting, and we’ve started to pack away personal items and get rid of clutter. We’ve already taken a load of outdoor stuff to Tennessee, and will take more once the house is under lock and key.

What I’ve Been Reading: Of course I’ve still been reading! I can’t go to sleep at night without reading first, kind of like how Beavis and Butthead can’t sleep without TV (thumbs up if you get that one!). I’m too lazy to link them all or find covers, so I’ll just list them. There were a couple of additional non fiction books I started but did not finish, that are not listed here. I highly recommend all of the books below!

  1. Soldier’s Duty by Patty Jansen. Third in her Return of the Arghyrians science fiction series, which I really enjoyed.
  2. Writing with Chronic Illness by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I found this one really helpful in seeing how someone else has dealt with this and still manages to produce a lot.
  3. Heir’s Revenge by Patty Jansen. Fourth and final book in the Return of the Arghyrians series.
  4. “Savannah’s Destiny” by Stacy McKitrick. A fun, entertaining short story that meshes her Bitten by Love vampire romances, and her Ghostly Encounters paranormal contemporary romances.
  5. Growing as a Professional Artist by Leah Cutter. Came as part of a writers bundle I bought. Some good tips on dealing with being a introvert and having needs that are different than most people (creating art).
  6. Atomic Habits by James Clear. Details why and how we form habits, and how we can control which new ones we form (and get rid of bad ones).

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What I’ve Been Writing: Uhhhhhh… not much. I started about a month ago with a greatly-reduced goal of 100 words/day, five days/week. I hit that for a couple of weeks, then hit a snag in the WIP. It was too easy to just set it aside, especially when the latest Tennessee trip came up and apartments took over my brain. I have still been thinking about my WIP though, and I think I see a way through the hangup, so I’m going to try getting back to the WIP. Since the new house, and all the stuff to do at the old one is still taking up a lot of my brainspace, I’m going to start back in with my easy goal of 100 words/day, for five days.

What’s been going on with you, or in your life? Do you sometimes feel that your brain is too full to be creative? How are you doing with 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.

Round 1 Wrap-up

Hard to believe we’re halfway through March already! Even harder to believe that it’s only three days until spring – it was snowing buckets here earlier today!

This weeks has been relatively uneventful, which is not a bad thing. No news from Tennessee on the house. As far as the unwanted neighbor business goes, they just closed on the purchase of a large, adjoining lot. The landowner claims he’s going to turn it into gardens, but no one believes him at this point. It doesn’t change anything as far as his zoning change request, except that if he still wants the change, they’ll have to re-apply at this point. So we’re still in a wait and see mode there.

What I’ve Been Reading: Finally finished my novel last week, The Longview Chronicles: The Complete Saga by Holly Lisle. It took a long time because it was actually a boxed set of six books that started with a novella, and each one got longer. Book 5 was definitely a full-length novel, and not a short one either (at least it didn’t feel short). But, it was well worth it. This is set in her Settled Space universe, a series I love. While it’s an independent story, it links to the prior two books in the series, Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood and Warpaint. The main characters from those novels appeared in the fifth book, which I had not expected and was a great surprise since I love them. However, it was probably more enjoyable since I’d read those books. This series is space opera at its best–fantastic worldbuilding of a dystopian society, and characters fighting to make a difference. I will note that this series is very dark, and contains graphic violence, so be aware if that’s not your thing. It’s normally not mine, but it’s completely appropriate for these stories, and I doubt they’d pack the emotional punch they do without it. Highly recommended!

What I’ve Been Writing: I didn’t quite make my goal this week, which was to write five days, for a total of 2500 words. I had a couple days where I just didn’t feel like writing, so I only got four days in. I got 2015 words out of those however, so I’ll consider that a “failing to success” as it’s still not bad and moves me forward. I am getting a good feel for this new WIP, and completed the first scene.

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Which brings me to my quarterly goals, or ROW80 Round 1 Wrap-up. I know it’s not quite the end of the quarter, but ROW80 is only 80 days, so it ends on Thursday and this is my last post before then. My goals were to finish Time’s Guardian, my last WIP, and start on my new one. I did both of those. I have about 3600 words in on my new book, which is hmm…. far short of the 40,000 I’d hoped for! So what happened? Well, the first book ended up taking a little over 18,000 words to finish–a good bit more than the 5,000 I expected! I also went through a revision, which took waaaaay longer than I thought it would–pretty much the whole month of February. And ramping up to the 5k/week also took longer than I expected.

But still, that 22,000 words is more writing, done more quickly, than I’ve accomplished in years, so I’ll consider that “failing to success.” And I still have a chance to hit my BHAG (Bit Hairy Audacious Goal) of writing 150,000 words this year.

I also had a goal to complete two online workshops, although I didn’t mention it in my 2019 Goals Post back in December. That goal I met.

This week I have a few things going on, so I’m going to shoot for what I did this week: four days, at 500 words/day, for a total of 2,000 words. And, keep up with the online workshop I started yesterday.

What about you–what’s been going on in your life? Read any good books lately? And how have you been 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.

Finished the Book!

It was thisclose, and I got it done! Now I am doing a read-through before sending it to my editor. More later in this post…

In Tennessee, things continue to escalate with the proposed new business, and our neighbors are meeting as I write this to strategize about some public meetings coming up. One of our neighbors rented a high-quality drone and took aerial photos of the grading, clearing, modification of a stream, and other environmental damages the owner has already done, all without permits. Unfortunately, from what I hear the typical MO in that area is to grade/clear/build first and ask forgiveness later. But while getting photos of the property in question, our neighbor also took some very cool pictures of our house.

He also took some video, and we could see the guys installing siding on the side of the house where the breezeway is. Cool! All the windows are in except for the trapezoids on top, and all the doors are in except for the front. They have been finishing up the siding and building the breezeway this past week. And no, our driveway is not as crazy-steep as it looks in the photo on the right. It’s steep, but not that bad!

What I’ve Been Reading: I not only finished writing my current book, but I also finished reading two books. For fiction, I read an anthology of short stories: Fiction River: Hard Choices, edited by Dean Wesley Smith. There were three of the twenty stories I skipped that just weren’t to my liking, one of which was in present tense (which I hate). Interestingly enough, there were two other present tense stories in the anthology, but they were so well-written it didn’t bother me enough to skip them! And two of the stories I didn’t like were in past. Just goes to show these things are always a matter of taste.

In nonfiction, I finished a book I bought and started probably three months ago, Find Your Focus Zone, by Lucy J. Palladino. I’m not sure why this book took me so long to read, unless it was because I mostly read it on the treadmill, and I split that time up by also watching workshop videos. It gave a lot of interesting psychological background on why we have trouble staying on task, and offered some techniques to deal with it. It was published in 2007 so was outdated. Most noticeable was the absence of any discussion on social media, but the techniques and background in the book about email and web surfing apply to that just fine. I’m not sure how much use I’ll get out of it, but it was worth a read.

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What I’ve Been Writing: My goal this week was to write 5,000 words or finish the book. I met that goal! It only took about 2,000 words to finish the book, and thank goodness, as that thing clocked in at 155,000 words! My next longest book, Time’s Fugitive, is 143,000 words. So yes, I have some cutting to do. I also had all kinds of other writing-related stuff I wanted to work on this week, and none of that got done, mostly because I’ve been too wrapped up in Tennessee drama, and I’m watching Facebook like it’s a train wreck. Social media is normally not a problem for me because I just don’t get on it, but I need to keep up with this and contribute in any way I can from 300 miles away.

Anyway, back to writing: my goals for this week are to finish the read-through, and to send out a newsletter. I keep putting off the latter, and I need to get on it. I have TONS of books that I don’t want to move, and who better to give them to than my readers?

How about you–any cool surprises in your life recently? Any surprises at all? Have you read any good books lately? How are you doing with whatever goals you might be working on, 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.

 

Where Did the Week Go?

This has been one of those weeks where it doesn’t look like I got much done, but I feel like I was busy all week.

Some of it was holiday stuff – a get-together with friends, a little shopping.

I also met my writing goal – barely. It helped a lot that I took the busyness of December into account and set a very modest goal. But otherwise, I can’t figure out where the week went.

Fortunately, the same cannot be said in Tennessee. We didn’t expect much to be happening, especially since the builder didn’t text or call with an update like he usually does. However, my husband got a text from our next-door neighbor: “Your house is going up really fast!

Our response was, “Huh?”

She went over there and took photos yesterday in the rain. Our builder’s crew has has had a busy week, and unlike mine, it shows.

The basement has been framed (outside and load-bearing walls inside – we will be doing the rest later). The main level floor is in, and they started on the back wall.

 

   

In the photo on the left above, the big, concrete pad in the foreground is the garage. The photo on the right is viewed from the front of the house.

What I’ve Been Reading: Finally finished some fiction, yay! In paper, I read The Mycologist: The Diary of Bartholomew Leach, Professor of Natural Philosophy by Nicholas P. Money. This historical fiction book is not something I normally would have picked up–I didn’t even know what a mycologist was, until my daughter bought this for me (it’s someone who studies mushrooms). The author is a professor she worked with her senior year at Miami University (in Oxford, Ohio), who she really liked and had a great rapport with. She bought two copies of his book to support him, which I loved! She normally prefers to read nonfiction, but really enjoyed this book, and says the main character basically is the author. But I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a Marty Stu, because the character was really well-developed and appropriately flawed. The book is told in a diary format, and follows the main character’s struggles with being an atheist in an era where this was not acceptable. The voice was perfect for historical fiction featuring a British professor living in Ohio in 1858. But what I especially loved about it was seeing my alma matter’s and the city of Oxford’s history, and “meeting” several of the men after whom the buildings there were named. I also enjoyed seeing the part Oxford played in the Underground Railroad. Highly recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction, especially if they’re interested in Ohio history.

In ebook, I finished The Demon Always Wins by Jeanne Oates Estridge. This was a fun paranormal romance featuring a demon who is forced to help Satan win a bet with God. While heavily steeped in Christian Biblical tradition, this was done in a humorous way so that it should be enjoyable to readers regardless of their religious faith or lack thereof (huh, interesting that both novels I finished last week had to do with religion?). Highly recommended for readers who like paranormal romance.

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What I’ve Been Writing: As noted above, I met my writing goal – barely! I wrote five days this week, for about 1200 words, and finished another scene, so I’m happy with that. I thought briefly about writing the short story that was the optional assignment in the Dean Wesley Smith workshop, but decided to just stick with the WIP instead, and I’m glad I did. I just did not have any more time to devote to writing this past week, and that won’t change this coming week.

I think ROW80 ends this week, but I’ll set a weekly goal anyway, since I need to keep up, and that is to finish watching the videos on the workshop, and to write at least five days, at least 200 words/day.

What about you–are you ready for the holidays? I’m not, though I am close. How are you keeping up with all the extra to-dos that December usually entails? 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.

Restart Accomplished!

Not much going on in Tennessee, so no new photos. They haven’t even done the waterproofing yet, because of too much rain–the house hasn’t had enough time to dry off between storms. But the weather’s looking good for this week, so here’s hoping they get to it before the holiday!

On the other hand, plenty has gone on around here, including writing! I had an unspoken, unwritten goal this year of reading more nonfiction. Given my “What I’ve Been Reading” posts, you might guess that I’ve done well on that goal so far, and I have. This week, I read Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, which is about starting new habits or stopping bad ones. (The full title is Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life.) This book gave me some good insights on my trouble getting to the writing, along with some things to try.

It begins with the premise that when it comes to things like setting goals, forming habits, meeting deadlines and the like, people fall into one of four “tendency” types. Our tendency, along with whether the goal/habit/etc. is self-imposed, or comes from an external source, determines how likely we are to meet the goal, stick to the habit, and so on.

On one end of the tendencies is the Upholder, who is good at meeting any goal, deadline, or habit formation, regardless of whether it comes from within or from others. The author identifies as this type, which obviously, can form habits more easily. At the other end is the Rebel, who resists habits, deadlines, etc. regardless of their source. Upholders loooooove gold stars, while Rebels couldn’t care less.

Most people fit into one of the other two types. The Questioner does great at meeting self-imposed deadlines, goals, etc., but resists those imposed on him by others. I’m using “him” here, because my husband is a Questioner, as is Ms. Rubin’s, and my brother is definitely a Questioner. That’s not to say Questioners can’t meet guidelines imposed by others, but it needs to make logical sense to them.

The fourth, and most common tendency type is the Obliger. These folks hate to let others down and will meet deadlines set by others, but find it hard to meet self-imposed deadlines or goals, or to establish habits simply because they themselves want to. Obligers do much better when there is some kind of external accountability.

So which one of these am I? If you guessed “Obliger,” you are right! That’s why I love ROW80 so much. For those who might not know, “A Round of Words in 80 Days” is a challenge group in which each writer sets her own goals, then reports back to the group in the form of a blog post once or twice a week. There is also a Facebook Group, and anyone is welcome to join at any time. Many times, knowing I had to report in for ROW80 would give me the extra push I needed to get to the writing and meet my goals.

Coach.me, online version

But lately, it hasn’t been enough, and that’s where the book had some good suggestions. Four basic techniques can help just about anyone form a habit. These include monitoring (tracking something makes us pay more attention to it), foundation (adding a habit to another, existing one), scheduling, and accountability. Scheduling was something I’d certainly heard of before, but had never tried. So this past week, I did. I blocked off time on my calendar every night after dinner (foundation). Then I tried something else that the book suggested might work particularly well for obligers: I downloaded an app. The book didn’t name a specific one, but a quick Google search for “writing habit app” led me to coach.me, a well-reviewed app available for Android, iPhone, and on the website. (The app itself is free; additional optional coaching services can be purchased.)

The app lets you select from one or more existing goals (or create your own), then determine how many times a week you want to work on it, and when you want reminders. When you work on your goal, you “check” it off for the day, which I find so satisfying! Every few days, the phone will notify you if you have a streak going–fun! Also, I love seeing those checkmarks add up. I guess Obligers like goal stars, too. 🙂

So between scheduling my writing time and using the Coach me app, I’ve managed to write every day this week. Once again, I’m starting slowly, so it’s not a lot, but I am writing. Even better? I set another goal in Coach.me for decluttering, and I hit my five days/week goal there, too.

What (Else) I’ve Been Reading: On Common Ground by Jansen Schmidt. This contemporary romance features Trevor, a cop on administrative leave who also knows ranching. He works on a friend’s ranch while waiting for Internal Affairs to investigate his case and clear him of guilt. Having recently escaped a bad marriage, he wants nothing to do with women, not even the hot female horse trainer who’s also hiding out while working on the ranch. As a rape survivor, Ketra wants even less to do with men than Trevor wants with women, so watching these two resist their growing attraction to each other pushes all the right romance buttons, along with the cowboy/horses/ranch tropes. Following them as they learn and grow and slowly leave their distrust behind makes On Common Ground a satisfying romance read I definitely recommend.

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What I’ve Been Writing: My goal in Coach.me was to write at least five days a week, at least 100 words a day. I wrote for six days (I’m writing this on Saturday, and haven’t written yet today), and got a total of 1,077 words! Not a lot compared to NaNoWriMo standards, and not a lot by my standards, but I’ll take them!

This week’s going to be tricky. I have a lot going on, plus Thanksgiving on Thursday, which I’m hosting. So I’m going to stick to the same goal–write at least five days, at least 100 words. We’ll see how that goes in a non-typical week!

What about you–which tendency do you think you are, based on my quick descriptions? Do you find it easy to form new habits or lose bad ones, and how does that vary if the habit is self-imposed, or comes from an external force? How do you stay consistent in your habits–any more tricks I might try? And how have you been doing on any goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

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

A 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.