One Step Closer to Tennessee

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

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

view from the top

Our land in Tennessee

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

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

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


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

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

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

Shelves and Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Why we’re tired, and what can we do about it?

In last week’s post, I discussed Adrenal Fatigue, which is a big contributor to my not getting as much writing done as I’d like. Hmm… that sounds an awful lot like an excuse, but that’s part of the parcel, too–when we’re tired, it’s hard to be motivated and make good choices. Physical and mental fatigue leads to decision fatigue–do I watch another episode of Fixer Upper, or do I write? Too often when I’m tired, it’s the former.

First, I should probably back up and expand a little on what Adrenal Fatigue is not. Oh, and just a reminder, I’m not a health professional, and this is not health advice, just me sharing my experience.

Adrenal Fatigue is not Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The main symptom of both is fatigue, but CFS is a different condition altogether. It’s much more severe, and has other symptoms. The cause is not understood, and it’s not curable. Adrenal fatigue is primarily caused by stress, illness or injury, exposure to toxins, other hormonal imbalance, or (probably in most cases) a combination of these. It can be treated, which I’ll discuss below.

Adrenal Fatigue is also not Addison’s Disease (what one commenter noted as adrenal insufficiency). They’re similar, because both are a condition of low cortisol. But Addison’s is much more severe, where the body makes almost no cortisol or other adrenal hormones. It can be a life-threatening condition requiring medication for the rest of one’s life. Addison’s typically is the result of damage to the adrenal glands due to injury, infection, or disease.

Adrenal Fatigue is diagnosed by testing the levels of free cortisol in the body over a period of 24 hours. Testing over time is important, because the amount of cortisol in our bodies fluctuates throughout the day, typically rising in the morning, spiking, then tapering off throughout the rest of the day.

I noted in last week’s post, most traditional doctors won’t diagnose adrenal fatigue. It’s no longer taught in medical school, and I imagine much of that is because there is so much other information that must be taught. Also, the treatments for it do not include any highly-profitable offerings from big pharma, so none of these companies push for it to be taught, as they do for other conditions. And finally, there’s no insurance code to classify it under. As a result, many doctors believe it doesn’t exist.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t. Until recent decades, many doctors considered PMS to be “all in our heads.” People with CFS or Fibromyalgia were often dismissed as hypochondriacs. But today these conditions are all widely recognized.

For me, the proof was in the numbers. I’d invite anyone who thinks adrenal fatigue isn’t real to take a look at my cortisol chart:

The black lines show the high and low of what’s considered normal range. The red line is my cortisol. The photo is hard to see, but my cortisol is hovering right around the low end of the range – below it on waking, in fact. A physiological reason why I’m soooooo not a morning person! Only at night does my cortisol go toward the high range–which could explain my insomnia, another symptom of adrenal fatigue. I don’t think it takes a medical degree to look at this graph and conclude that it’s not right.

So what to do about adrenal fatigue? The first thing is to reduce stress wherever possible. I’m fortunate in that my job isn’t stressful, nor is anything in my home life. That’s not to say I don’t have stress, but I now try to be conscious about when I’m bringing it on to myself, like pushing too hard with my writing late at night. Now I try to be kind to myself and not push when it’s just not happening. Unfortunately, this results in less output, but that’s a tradeoff I have to make.

Vitamins and supplements are important, too. For me, these include a good multivitamin, additional B, C, and D vitamins, a probiotic, fish oil, and a couple of different adrenal support supplements. I also take magnesium at night. If I miss a day on any of them, no big deal, but if I run out of something and miss more than a couple days, I notice my energy levels being even lower than they are now. Fish oil is a big help for the brain fog, and I definitely notice if I run out of it.

There are also a few things to avoid. Certain medications will certainly contribute to fatigue–that’s pretty much a no-brainer. Sometimes, substitutes can be found, sometimes it’s just something we have to deal with. In my case, the medication I take for migraines does have an effect. I’ve tried a number of alternatives, but they all either didn’t work, or had such bad side-effects I’d rather have the headaches. Alcohol also doesn’t play nicely with adrenal fatigue. While I haven’t given that up entirely, I never have more than one beer in an evening, because it’s just not worth how wiped out I feel later and the next day. I only partake once or twice a week at most.

Some of the books I read also recommended cutting out, or drastically reducing caffeine. While I haven’t cut that out completely–not going to happen, with my headaches–I only use a little in the morning, and never past mid-afternoon.

The books generally recommend exercise, which I can certainly agree with to a point, the point being that I’m too tired to do any major exercise. But I try to at least get a walk in daily–preferably outside with my dogs, or on the treadmill with a good book if it’s too cold/crappy outside. And the exercise does help.

A quick Amazon search will result in several books claiming to have the cure for adrenal fatigue. Most of these focus on diet, and they’re all similar–an extremely restrictive elimination diet that removes all processed foods, sugars, and often gluten and dairy. The intent is to remove sources of inflammation, similar to the Whole 30 diet. I haven’t tried this yet, as the prep and cooking is extremely labor-intensive and time-consuming. Have these authors forgotten that hello? I’m tired! Also, I work a full-time job. It might be doable with Once A Month Meals, but even then, the cooking day would be exhausting.

And once again, this is getting really long (sigh). I wanted to share some of the books I’ve read and my thoughts on them, but that will have to wait until next week. At least I’m not running out of blog ideas. ūüėÄ

What I’ve Been Reading: Desiree, by Maria McKenzie. This historical romance set in the deep South prior to the Civil War was an unusual one in that the heroine is a slave, and the hero her owner. Desiree herself¬† is unusual too in that she takes after her white father, with fair hair, light skin, and blue eyes–enough that she can “pass” for white if in a place where no one knows her. The hero inherits her along with his uncle’s plantation, and is instantly smitten with her. But it takes her a while to trust in and fall for him, and reading of her slow progression from distrust to true caring is a wonderful journey. The characters and their romance are believable and well-drawn, as well as the characters’ flaws and their struggles against society. I’ve read and enjoyed most of McKenzie’s other books, and this one is highly recommended!


What I’ve Been Writing: In short, not much. I wrote two days this week, for a total of less than 1,000 words. Sigh. I guess it’s better than nothing. So this week, I want to finish that scene, and begin the next.

What about you–any thoughts on what I wrote above about adrenal fatigue? Have you read anything good lately? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing-related or not? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

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

Things are Happening

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

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

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

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

(click for larger image)

(click for larger image)

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

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

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

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


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

What about you–what have you been up to lately? When you step away from writing (or something else you normally do), is it hard for you to get re-started? If not, any tips for me? Have you read any good books lately? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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




Crazy, Freaky

By that, I mean the weather. As I write this on January 22, I have my windows open. It’s over 60 degrees here in southwest Ohio. I just got back from taking the dogs for a walk with DH, first time I’ve done so since we got Skeet. Yesterday, my husband went hunting and almost got struck by lightning when a popup thunderstorm came up while he was in a tree stand. Not fun for him.

As nice as the weather is now, it’s just not right. I’m used to cold and often, snow, this time of year! Not that I’m complaining.

What I’ve been reading: Dead Money by Dean Wesley Smith. This is the novel in Smith’s Monthly #22, which is an issue I missed. Studying how he did point-of-view in it was one of the exercises in a workshop I recently finished (“Plotting with Depth” – highly recommend for writers!). I went ahead and read the rest, and it was as entertaining as I know I can count on from him. Even though it’s set in an arena that doesn’t particularly interest me (professional poker), the book still kept my attention throughout. A fast-paced, exciting thriller where someone is systematically killing off the members of a group of old poker buddies, one of whom is the president of the U.S. One need not know anything about poker to enjoy reading!


Writing/ROW80 Update: I figured out a few more things about my stuck story, but still no idea of the end. That’s no big deal for some writers (and I envy them), but for a planner like me, it’s paralyzing. I have no idea what comes next if I don’t know where I’m ultimately headed. Yes, I’m one of those people who looooooooves maps, always have, even back when they were paper.

I also realized that there were some basic things about my story I’d failed to determine as well, like what the main characters needed to learn in this one, and–duh–the basic premise of the story. As in, “the sentence” that tells what it’s all about. So I looked into a plotting aid I read about recently, The¬†Story Toolkit by Susan Bischoff. It’s a set of worksheets of questions to answer about the story, plus a book to explain the details. It’s not vastly different than some other workshops/books I’ve read, but arranged differently enough that it may jar some stuff loose, so I figure why not give it a try. This week, I want to work through as much of that as I can, although I have a lot going on this weekend, so probably won’t get through it all.

What about you–how’s the weather where you are? Is it as crazy as here? Are you someone who likes to know where you’re going, whether you’re writing or driving? Or do you like to discover as you go? How are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

New Year, Not-so-new Goals

I took some time off blogging last month, mainly because, holidays. With all of the extra stuff on the to-do list, something had to give, and I figured it might as well be the blog, since the writing had already given.

I did get some other things accomplished. For one, I decluttered the basement. After living here for 23 years, that’s no trivial thing. My family is amazed. And while I was decluttering, I found fabric my mom had given me years ago to sew her a couple of things. Which was great in that, if I completed them, I had something to give her for Christmas, not an easy thing to find. Which was not-so-good in that it was another project to add to my to-do list (hence no blog). That really wasn’t a problem as I like to sew; it’s just one of those things I haven’t had time or energy for much in the past few years.

Luckily, my energy held out until after Christmas, and I was able to complete the projects (the last one at 9PM on Christmas Eve). And she loved them, so it was totally worthwhile. The whole family had a good Christmas, so that was even better (and we were all well this year, too!).

DH and I had decided not to get each other anything since, after all, we had a new kitchen and were in the process of buying 28 acres in TN. Except I couldn’t do that, so I bought him a couple things to wear. LOL–he did the same.

Skeet at right while Isis gives DD a kiss

We got an addition to the family, too–a four-legged one. This is Skeet, the neighbors’ dog that we pet-sat for a couple years ago. She’d run away, and DH found her in the pound. The neighbors aren’t really in a good place to keep a dog right now with their jobs (he is out of town all the time, and she is rarely home) so we adopted her. As before, Skeet¬†and¬†Isis get along great, and we knew Skeet’s¬†really sweet and affectionate¬†(and totally destroys dog toys, but only dog toys, so that’s OK).

What I’ve been reading, abbreviated version (since it’s been a while):


ROW80/Writing Update: As mentioned above, not much writing has gone on in the past couple months. I had a great start to NaNoWriMo, but that stopped cold soon after that as I ran out of outline and had no idea where my story was going. Some people write well that way; me, not so much. I needed to step back and regroup, but just as that happened, the holidays came along. So my new goal for this ROW80 is the same as last time’s: finish the WIP. I did figure out a few things while not writing, so that’s a start. This week, I want to at least spend time planning or working things out each day, if not actually writing.

What about you–how were your holidays? How did you do on your goals, if you do that? And what are you up to now? 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.

Thanksgiving Decluttering

That’s mostly what occupied me this past week, though there were a few other details as well. First, we’ve started on our due diligence for our land purchase, starting with getting a perk test for the septic system. DH called the Knox County health department, expecting this to be a big pain, because in the suburban city where we live now, any dealing with the local government is exactly that. There’s one person there who knows what he’s doing, and he’s only in the office between 8 and 9 AM, when he might answer the phone–or more likely, lets it go to voice mail. Sometimes he returns calls–usually after several voice mails. Everyone DH deals with acts like he’s inconveniencing them by expecting them to do their job and answer questions.

Knox County was totally the opposite: Every single person he spoke with was super friendly and went out of their way to be helpful. We sent them a preliminary plot plan by email, and they even called to follow up. They did the test within a week, and said they found a good place for the system. So that’s one item down!

Thanksgiving went wonderfully, especially with the new kitchen! DD and I cooked the night before, and even though it’s the same small area, we had no trouble both being in there working on different food, because the layout was so much more efficient. Even cleanup is a pleasure in that kitchen! The meal of course was wonderful as always.

This past week, I also started decluttering what is, in my house, the final frontier: the basement (cue scary music). Actually, I haven’t done the garage yet either, but that’s technically not in the house. If that sounds scary, it’s because it is. We’ve lived here for 23 years, and that’s a long time to accumulate junk–and that’s mostly what’s down there. So far, I’ve collected five bags of giveaway stuff, and thrown out as much trash. It’s only now starting to look like I’ve made a dent in it. I expect to fill at least two more giveaway bags of old blankets for SICSA, a local animal shelter. The good part is finally, I don’t dread just walking down there any more.

sm28What I’ve been reading: Smith’s Monthly #28 by Dean Wesley Smith. The short stories were the usual, entertaining fare, but the novel was a bit of a surprise: An Easy Shot: A Golf Thriller. I know, right? IMO, “golf thriller” sounds like an oxymoron. Even my dad and husband, who both enjoy golf, fall asleep within ten minutes of turning it on the TV. But the novel turned out to be very entertaining. The thriller part centered around an assassination plot against a U.S. senator, who was playing in a golf tournament. The main characters were a husband and wife who were both cops and overheard something about the plot. There wasn’t a lot of actual golf in the story, but what was there I didn’t even need to skim (like I do in some of Smith’s stories that center around poker playing).


ROW80/Writing Update: This is what’s been pushed aside this past week, mostly because I’m still stuck. In desperation, I finally set my timer on a couple of occasions, and let myself just sit and think about the book for fifteen minutes. It’s helped–while I still don’t know enough of my way forward to get back into the writing, I’ve figured out some of the main details. A few more sessions will hopefully take care of it and I’ll be back at the computer–in between Christmas prep, of course. As a side note, it seems I get stuck at this 2/3 – 3/4 point with just about every book, so I guess that’s part of my process. I just wish it didn’t have to take so long. But anyway, that’s my goal for this week: one sit-and-think-only-about-the-book session per day until I get it figured out.

What about you–if you celebrated Thanksgiving this past week, what did you do? Have you started preparing for the December holidays yet? Have you ever read a book that didn’t sound interesting, but turned out to be great? And have you ever stalled out on a goal, and how did you get back into it? 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.

Kitchen Reveal, and We Bought the Farm

A lot has gone on this week. For starters, we have an accepted contract on our land! Now the real work begins as we get feasibility tests conducted for things like a septic system, and of course the overall house. Luckily, we have until the end of January to do them.

In other news, I finally completed the touch-ups in the kitchen, and have before and after photos! One thing that’s obvious in the “before” pics is how much clutter there is. But very little of it was “give away” or “throw away” clutter–most was stuff that had no home (well, except for my dinner sitting out in that one pic. That found a home, LOL!). In the “after” pics, no clutter! And not because I got rid of a bunch of stuff–I did that over a year ago. It’s because everything now¬†has a place! Which is no small feat considering that, as pretty as the new kitchen is, it’s still very small. Just much more efficient use of space.

This kitchen was, and is, about 7’9″ x 11’10”. I was watching House Hunters one time, and the couple was looking at a house with an 8′ x 13′ kitchen. The narrator noted that this is smaller than 2/3 of the kitchens in the U.S. “Not mine!” I thought. Bigger would have been wonderful, but two walls are exterior. The other two walls back up to the staircase, and a bathroom, so there was no option to just knock out a wall, like they do on the HGTV remodeling shows. An addition was way out of our budget, and we’re already maxed out for the neighborhood, home-value-wise. So we made the best of the space we had. I also added some cool new features, like a tall pantry with roll-out shelves, and a little pullout pantry for spices.

Click any photo for a larger view (and see how awful our kitchen really was before!)

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Thank heavens for that microwave cart my parents gave us as a gift, many years ago. It was so much appreciated–and still not enough room to contain our food! We couldn’t tilt the window in to clean with it there, but now we can!

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Tons of wasted space above the stove. And check out that dumb gap under the window–it was there before the dishwasher was put in. Now it’s all put to use, and even the aloe plants (in hanger) got pretty, new pots (sitting on counter at the right).

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More wasted space above the sink. This is why sinks often go under a window–like ours does now. And that soffit? Gone, with ceiling-height cabinets in its place.

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This big side counter was a nice prep area for as small as our kitchen is. But even without my dinner sitting out, it¬†was always a mess–even the under-cabinet spice racks were falling apart. Now we have a nice corner for DH’s Keurig (below, right) and room for everything else, plus a big prep area against the back wall where the sink used to be.

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Love the pullout spice rack, and the tall pantry! Below the coffee pot in the right pic is a slim cabinet for cookie trays. All that stuff that was sitting out now has a home. I put a lot of thought and research into this (and some work) and DH put a LOT of work into it. As many of you pointed out, it’s so worth it now! We can enjoy it for a good couple years until we move.

babblingbrook2What I’ve been reading: The Babbling Brook Naked Poker Club Book 2 by Ann Warner. This is the sequel to The Babbling Brook Naked Poker Club, and a continuation of the stories of characters I really came to love in that book. It did not have the mystery element that the first book had, but there was still plenty at stake in the characters’ personal relationships. With some series books, it doesn’t matter which order they’re read in, but this one really did take up where the last book left off,¬†and featured the same characters. As¬†the author note in the front points out, readers should read the first book prior to this one. Definitely recommended, even if you don’t normally read women’s fiction. I don’t, but I love these!


ROW80/Writing Update: Not much to tell here. Part of the reason was there’s simply too much else going on, and even when I had time to write, my mind wasn’t on it. But the real issue was that I ran out of outline. I would love to be able to just sit down and write and see where the characters take me, but it just doesn’t work that way for me. Even though my “outlines” are very sketchy–one sentence per scene, and I often deviate from them–I still need that bit of a framework. I tried just outlining a few scenes ahead, which was what I wrote the week before last, but when that ran out, so did my writer’s brain. I did write about 1000 words worth of possible things that could happen, so this week, I want to work that into an outline that will keep me writing.

What about you–what do you think of our kitchen remodel? Have you ever embarked on a project like this? 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.

Winning NaNo Eight Minutes at a Time

But first, an update. DH and I went to Tennessee again last weekend, this time to do a more detailed walk over the property we like, and then to decide if we wanted to put an offer in. DH mainly wanted to make sure there wasn’t a meth lab, toxic waste dump, or anything like that hidden back in the woods.

We didn’t find any of those things, but we did find a couple areas where people had dumped old tires, toys, and things like that. Nothing DH can’t clean up. We found more to like, too, like an even more fantastic view from the highest point on the property.

view from the top

There were also a couple of surprises, though luckily not bad ones. One was this lovely little clearing in the middle of the woods. It used to be used for farmland, as there’s a fallen down barn nearby.

Fairy Circle

It has sort of a magical-looking quality to it, doesn’t it? It sort of reminds me of a fairy circle. And yes, it really looks like that (though the position of the sun helped in the photo :)).

We knew from the aerial photos that there were two fallen-down farmhouses on the property, plus the aforementioned barn. One of the houses is right next to where we’d build our house, if we end up buying. The other one is close to the meadow above, and the fallen-down barn. Except that the house turned out to be still standing! Zillow thinks so too, and its listing¬†on that part of the property (which is actually a separate plot from the one we’d build on), says there is a 1152 sq. ft, three bedroom, “- -” bathroom house there, built in 1905. We didn’t get any closer to it than this, as the woods were really thick. I’d be very leery of going inside, as I expect the floor (if there is any) is not structurally sound. But I will want to check it out more closely if we do get the property! I’d also like to talk to the seller and learn¬†more details of its history, as this land has been in her family for over 100 years.

old farmhouse

After walking all over the property, we¬†met one of the neighbors, who was amazingly nice and even invited us in. Talking to her made us feel better about the scuttled highway project (which would also have gone right through her property), and we decided to make an offer. Our Realtor is drawing up the paperwork, so we’ll wait and see!

grapevinespringsWhat I’ve been Reading: Smith’s Monthly #27 by Dean Wesley Smith. This issue contained a really good Poker Boy story (humorous superhero series) and a novel from his time travel series. This one was enjoyable enough to read, but didn’t draw me in the way these usually do. Thinking back, I realize it’s the same problem I face as a series writer: where to draw the line between giving enough background info on how the time travel works so a new reader isn’t confused, but not too much to bore the readers who’ve read all the other books. For me, this book crossed over onto the latter side. Still enjoyable, just not as good as the other books in this series.

I also had the opportunity to beta read a wonderful sci-fi¬†novella that I would consider quintessential space opera. It ticked all the SO boxes: new tech, exploration, and yes, space battles. Plus some fun characters and references to the other books in the same world, but with not so much that it would feel like an inside joke to a reader new to this author. I especially liked the scientific explanations given for the tech, just enough to feel real to this reader, but not so much detail the eyes glaze over. My biggest challenge will be writing up a crit for the author, because I just couldn’t find much to criticize about it. I guess knowing you’ve done something well is also helpful!

8-minute writing habitROW80/Writing Update: The writing went ever so slowly the week before last. My goal was to write 500 words a day, five days. That only happened once. Not only did I have too much going on, I wasn’t focused. Something had to give.

I wasn’t planning to do NaNoWriMo this year, but I figured I’d see if I could hit a high (for me) word count the first day, and if so, join in the fun. I managed to write 1336 words Tuesday night–not the on-target 1667 to hit 50k, but a lot for me. So I’m in. This year, I’m not worried about hitting the 50,000 words required to “win,” but am instead focused on just increased production–for me. One thing the NaNo folks suggest is getting other responsibilities out of the way so you can focus on writing. I just can’t do that this time around–there’s too much going on, especially with the property purchase, and extra paperwork I need to do in preparation to sell another of our rental properties.¬†Even so, I wrote five days this week and got over 7000 words. As far as I’m concerned, that’s already a win. Even if I don’t hit 50k, I’ll be “failing to success.” And I got that 7k eight minutes at a time.¬†If you’re participating, I’d be glad to ¬†have more Writing Buddies! My profile is here.


You see, focus is still an issue. With all the stuff whirling around in my brain, getting to the computer and staying there is where I’ve been struggling. So I took a page from a book I read last year (that I highly recommend) and set my timer for eight minutes. I can manage to stay focused for that time, and usually get between 125-230 words in that eight minutes, unless I have to do a quick research on something. The Pomodoro Method (timing for 25 minutes) or Flylady’s “You can do anything for fifteen minutes” used to work really well for me, but lately, no. But eight minutes, I can do. When the timer goes off, I take a very short break to talk to the turtle or pet my dog or gerbil, then set the timer for eight minutes more. If you’ve struggled for focus as I have, I highly recommend this–as well as the book! This week, I’m hoping to best my wordcount, and hit at least 7500 words.

What about you–do you ever have trouble staying focused? What are some of your tricks to deal with that? If you’re a writer, are you doing NaNoWriMo? Why or why not? Whether or not you’re a writer, how are you doing on whatever goals you may 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.

Five Things to Consider when Buying Land, plus a bonus

Not much has happened this week on the land front, but I’ve still continued to give it a lot of thought and continue researching–and I’m glad I did, because I ran across something that could be a dealbreaker on the parcel we’re looking at. So I figured I’d share some of what I’ve learned since we started this crazy land shopping thing.

  1. 5 Things to Consider when Buying LandYou might think that¬†location is the first consideration when shopping for land.¬†After all, much of¬†real estate can be summed up by one word: “location, location, location.” But wait! It’s not so obvious when it’s not a house you’re buying. The first thing? What do you want to do with your land? Not everyone is looking to build right away–or at all. Vacant land can, in and of itself, be a good investment. Some people buy land purely for recreation–hunting, camping, and other outdoor pursuits. And even if you’re building, what are you building? Just a house? How big? Do you want to farm? Keep livestock? Hunt? Build a big barn (or in our case, a big workshop/garage)?
  2. Location. All of the above plays into the location question. One thing we learned once we met and talked to our Realtor was that we need to buy land that’s outside of city limits, since DH wants to hunt on it. There are also fewer restrictions on outbuildings. But we still want something that’s not too far from the city, as it’s also where we want to live.
  3. How much land do we need? The answer to this question is also determined by our answers to the first. If we only wanted to build a house, we wouldn’t need much. Add DH’s garage/workshop, and we need a little more. Keep us out of the neighbors’ faces (and cigarette smoke)? Add a couple more acres. But DH also wants to go deer hunting, so that ups it quite a bit. These past few years, he’s hunted on 40 acres my brother owns nearby, and he travels all over the land. He’d love for us to be able to get that much. But as little as 20 would work, and if we want something that’s not too far from civilization, is much more realistic for our budget. Speaking of which…
  4. Budget is a major consideration in its own right–perhaps it should even be #1, but that’s pretty obvious so I’ll consider this enough said on that topic. Here is a good article on how to determine budget–again, taking into consideration everything you want to do on the land, in addition to the land purchase itself. Don’t forget to factor in costs like connections to electricity, natural gas if applicable, water/sewer, and Internet, as they can be quite costly in some areas. Or if not available, how much will it cost to dig a well or have water trucked in, and how much to install a septic system?
  5. Which brings us to the next question: Who owns other rights to the land? As in mineral, water, timber rights, etc.? This is a biggie, and one a lot of people don’t think of. Many people don’t realize that when we buy property, we may be buying only the surface. If someone else owns the mineral rights, they may be able to dig for gold, oil, or anything else of value anywhere on your property that they want–even to the extent of destroying buildings! That’s not always the case, but if someone else owns these rights, be sure to understand what they can and can’t do. Is it something you can live with? And don’t think it’s something to worry about if your area’s not known for being gold- or oil-rich. In my area of the country (Ohio, and eventually, Tennessee) natural gas is the big thing. Water rights are another big concern, if you plan to drill a well. They may not matter so much if you have city water and don’t plan to farm, but still something to watch out for. And timber rights–do you want someone barging onto your land without your permission and chopping down your trees? If they own the logging rights, they can.

Plus a Bonus: Check into potential public works projects! This is something I hadn’t thought of until I ran across something on the Internet last week, and is the possible dealbreaker I found with the land we’re looking at. Turns out that until about three years ago, it was right in the path of a proposed highway spur! The local community fought it, and got the project defunded and ultimately removed from Tennessee’s¬†list of potential projects. My research turned up a very good case presented by the opposition, enough that it’s a reasonable assumption that the highway will never happen. But it’s not 100%, so we’ve asked our Realtor to look into it further.

These aren’t by any means everything to consider when shopping for land, but they’re the biggest, IMO. Want some more info? Check out my Land Shopping board on Pinterest!

fireandiceWhat I’ve Been Reading: Fire and Ice, by Patty Jansen. This is actually the first book in a trilogy that’s a prequel to the two books¬†I’ve recently read. I figured I’d grab it to read while I’m waiting for Book 3 in the Moonfire Trilogy. While it didn’t draw me in as quickly as the Moonfire books have, it still had all the qualities of those later stories: lush and deep worldbuilding, intriguing characters, and a complex plot where sometimes it’s hard to tell who are the good guys, and who aren’t. It’s free, so if you enjoy dark, epic fantasy, go grab it!

ROW80Logo175ROW80/Writing Update: Not much to tell here. I upped my daily target to 250 words/day, five days last week, and made that. This week I’d planned to go to 500 words/day, but got stuck on a plot point. I hashed it out with a couple writing friends yesterday, and that helped, at least in my mind. So this week’s goal is back to 500 words/day. We’ll see how that goes. The ROW80 Challenge group has moved to Facebook. Visit the Group page here, and see what everyone else is doing!

What about you–did you know there was so much involved in shopping for vacant land? What have you been reading lately? And whether or not you’re a writer, how are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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