My Brain is Full

My supervisor at work says this after a long training session, and I think it’s particularly appropriate this week for a lot of people. So many extra things to do and things to think about with the holidays approaching is enough in itself, but add to that the other various things in life people are dealing with, it’s sometimes hard to be creative.

In some cases, it’s a lack of time, but for me, it’s mental bandwidth. We got some major news on the business that owns the property across the street, which necessitated a neighborhood meeting, a lot of back-and-forth, and took up some mental space. Ultimately, it’s good news, probably among the best we could have hoped for: the business managers have finally come to the realization that this location isn’t suitable for something on the scale they’re planning, which has changed and grown throughout the year. We’re still skeptical, and suspect it’s as much because they haven’t been able to attain the investment they need, but we don’t really care how they spin it as it’s a positive outcome. They tell us the land will still be developed, but in accordance with the existing zoning, so we’re fine with that. It will be interesting to see what form that takes.

What I’ve Been Reading

I finally started back into some fiction this week, after finishing another non-fiction book: The Chaos Cure, by Marla Cilley, aka FlyLady. I Flylady’s plan for getting rid of clutter and keeping my house clean back in the early 2000s when I was laid off, and it helped. While a few of the habits stuck (mostly, making my bed and cleaning out the sink every day), most didn’t, though I did go through a big declutter in 2016 after we decided we were really going to move. I do still think her plan is helpful, and have slowly gotten back into it, in a modified fashion–after all, she encourages us to make her system our own. So I was interested to see what her latest book was all about.

It’s not about her plan–that’s covered in her first book, Sink Reflections. The Chaos Cure is more of a series of tips and “hacks,” many of which I was already doing. It was a quick, easy read, and written in her casual, fun style so it was worth a look. I don’t have the brain to think of them right now, but I picked up a few new things to try as well.

What I’ve Been Writing

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This has been another week where I keep telling myself “any progress is good.” While I didn’t quite make my goal of writing five days and a total of 1,250 words, I did manage to get in three days for almost 1,000 words. The story is getting more and more convoluted, so that’s not helping either. But that’s part of the deal when you write time travel.

This week, I’m going to keep trying for that 250 words, five days. Luckily, I’m mostly ready for the holidays, with only stocking stuffers left to shop for and everything else due to come in this week (I do as much as possible online). It also helps that we kept the holidays simple this year, but who knows what else will come up!

How about you–do you know that “brain is full” feeling? Are you ready for the holidays, if you celebrate? 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.

Figuring it Out

This was another week where it felt like I didn’t accomplish much, though I actually did. Not any significant work on the house on my part, though DH did some work on the grounds, mostly bush hogging to clear out the meadows where the deer hang out. I did do a cooking day yesterday though, so we should be good for meals pretty much through Christmas. Win!

Last week I mentioned that I needed to do the “write everything you know about your story” exercise. I did that, three times. As in, it took me three sessions to write everything I knew (and there’s still more). It helped, but didn’t, in and of itself, reveal what to write for the next scene.

So I pulled out another old trick I’d almost forgotten: Twenty Answers. In this one, you ask a question (usually, “what happens next?” or “what will this character do?”) then write twenty possibly answers, no matter how obvious, stupid, implausible, or mundane. Yep, including things like “everyone decides to just go home” or “aliens arrive and kidnap everyone.” The first few answers will usually be the obvious/mundane ones. You may be forced to write something ridiculous just to come up with those last few answers, but in between are usually a few gems. I didn’t even get to twenty yet and already see a few possibilities for the next scene. While I don’t know what will happen beyond that, I can get going again.

What I’ve Been Reading

The Fates Trilogy by Kristine Grayson. I read this earlier this summer, and what a fun read! I would consider these contemporary fantasy with some romance. In these books, the three Fates are real, and they’ve been fired from their jobs, and replaced by Zeus’ teenage daughters who have no clue what they’re doing. They must figure out how to make things right and help humans who also have special power also find love, while helping them. Highly recommended!

What I’ve Been Writing

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See above. This week’s going to be busy with the holiday and houseguests, and I’m also not 100% unstuck, so I’m going to drop back to 100 words a day, for five days. I also want to finish the online workshop I started back before we moved.

What have you been up to lately? Read any good books recently? How are you doing with whatever goals you’re working on, whether writing related or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you! And if you’re in the US, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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.

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.