Things are Getting Real

So I finally got around to fixing my email notifications for when I post a new blog. Back in May when the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation went into effect, I realized my email notifications weren’t compliant–and I do have a few subscribers from the EU, so that’s a concern. I did not have time then to figure out how to make my email software compliant or find another solution, so I just disabled it temporarily.

Well, I finally buckled down and did the work, and I now have a new plugin (that’s add-on software, for non-techie folks). So if your email notification looked a little different today (and it should), that’s why.

As always, I would love it if you would let me know if you see anything that looks amiss!

The Front Elevation of our new house

Tennessee Update: this is where things are getting real! Once our builder received the final plans, he sent us a contract to sign. It didn’t lay out the money (but referenced his quote from December for that), but had an estimated start date of August 20! And an estimated finish date of June 20, 2019. My husband and I figure most custom builds go over budget (hopefully not by much) and over schedule, so don’t count on us moving then, but still… whoa, it’s finally happening!

We also got the loan contract from the bank, and that did list out the money… yikes! Not bad, and not a surprise, but still a little scary to see it all laid out. I need to go over those documents again, and email our loan originator with questions. She’s on vacation this week, so nothing much will happen until she gets back.

But while we’re waiting on that, I have plenty to do, starting with picking out windows. What’s fun about that is this is actually something I know a bit about–I spent almost eight years working as a graphic designer for a company that manufactures the vinyl for windows. So I know a lot of the terminology, and what features to look for. And of course, I’m especially familiar with all the benefits of vinyl! (I wrote some of the ad copy, too.) It’s been over 20 years since I left there, so I don’t know anyone who still works there other than a friend of my husband’s who works on the factory floor. I sent in a form on their website. They got back to me the next day with who their manufacturer is for Knoxville, and said they should be contacting me sometime next week. We may still end up going with whoever our builder typically uses, but I wanted to give my old company a chance, as I have had their windows in my current house for 15 (upstairs) and 25 (first floor) years, and they’ve been great.

The other thing I need to work on is to start looking at everything else, from siding to interior trim to electrical outlet locations, and make notes on what we want. I did this for our rental house fire restoration and renovation, and it was a big help to both us and the contractors. Sort of like a requirements document in software, that minimizes unknowns, and provides a reference if something isn’t done right, or to determine if something is a change request, or was part of the original specifications. It took me a whole weekend of doing nothing else to write up the spec book for the rental house; this one will take a good bit longer, spaced out over the next several weeks.

What I’ve Been Reading: A while back, I bought a one-year subscription to Dean Wesley Smith’s and Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Fiction River anthology magazine, as it came with three of their online writing workshops and was a heck of a deal. I’m not a big reader of short stories, though I do like them from time to time, so mostly they just sat on my Kindle. I ran across the Wishes issue on my Kindle a few weeks ago, and nothing else had grabbed my attention, so I started reading it.

There were a couple stories I skipped right away. One was written in an odd, screenplay format that had an experimental feel to it that I didn’t like, and a couple others were in present tense, which I can’t stand. But the rest were pretty enjoyable, especially one called “How I Became a Fairy Godmother.” Oh–and all these stories were YA, so this would be a teenage fairy godmother! And the intro to it said that it’s a prequel to a series. Cool!

After last week’s not-so-great book, I was happy to grab One Bad Wish, by Bonnie Elizabeth. What a fun story! The main character finds herself in an unpleasant, alternate reality when she mistakenly grants a friend’s wish that her (the friend’s) brother hadn’t been born. And then she has to figure out how to undo the wish. If you like YA with some fun magical elements, definitely grab this one!

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What I’ve Been Writing: Big improvement here! I was planning to spend a minimum of 15 minutes a day, for at least five days, working on my Villains workshop. Then I read some better ideas, one of which was Beth Camp’s suggestion of a 100-word challenge. I also read a great blog post by Natalie Bacon on motivation (well worth a read!), where one of her tips is to “measure what you produce.” By that, she means focus on what you want to accomplish, rather than just spending a certain amount of time. So for us fiction writers, that would be word count, scenes written, pages revised, etc. I decided to break the assignments in my workshop down into smaller tasks, and then planned to do one or two of those each night. And with that, I met my goal! Week 3 exercises are done, and Week 4’s started. So this week’s goal is to finish Week 4 exercises. There are six left, so that’s one per day, with a day off.

What about you–what big or small things are getting real in your life? Have you read anything good lately? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? Do task-based or time-based goals work better for you? I will admit time-based goals still work for me when it’s something like housework! I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

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

The Value of Habits, and the Need for Deadlines

I’m late getting this blog post out today, and it’s wholly because I fell out of the habit of blogging, when I was spending most of my weekends working on our flip house with my husband. Back when I was blogging regularly before, getting the blog done was typically one of the first things I did once I got going on Sunday (although, that sometimes takes me a while). But now?

I had it on my To-Do list, which is the first step. But instead of getting the blog written, I goofed off, cleaned the fish tank (which badly needed doing), did laundry, washed the sheets and put them back on the bed, and puttered around in between. So now it’s after 9 PM, and just now getting to the blog.

Fiction writing is pretty much the same way. Yes, I have adrenal fatigue and chronic migraines, but the latter aren’t usually the debilitating kind, and I can’t help but feel those things are more excuses than reasons. So I have all good intentions of getting to the writing, even to the extent of putting it on my to-do list, but I somehow never seem to get to it.

Except this week, I finally did.

Over the past few months, I’ve been glomming on another financial independence blog called Our Next Life. (btw, highly recommended, as it’s more about the touchy-feeling side of planning for retirement, rather than about numbers, all wrapped up in some wonderful life-musings, and the writing is really good.) The author used to work a very fast-paced, high stress job, and in a post I read last week, wondered what life would be like without deadlines in early retirement.¬†Seriously, that post is well worth a read, especially her thoughts on procrastination, but to sum up, she concluded that without deadlines, she and her husband might not get around to all the travel, service, and outdoorsy adventures they have planned.

I realized that was my problem too. As a writer whose publisher does not impose deadlines (or contract for unfinished work), I was having trouble staying motivated. Worse, I was having this same trouble in my day job.

My dog Isis has several deadlines a day, for taking her beauty naps.

Not that I wasn’t doing anything there, but I just wasn’t feeling the motivation, which led to me not getting as much done as I should have been for the past several months–because there’s no deadline attached. I’m the only programmer working on this project, and while I did give my supervisor a rough idea of when it would be done, there’s no one holding my hands to the keyboard to keep things moving week to week.

So I put together a schedule, breaking my work project down into smaller chunks, and setting a deadline for each one. I was debating on whether or not to send it to my supervisor–after all, it’s not like I expect her to babysit me–when she emailed me and asked for that very thing! So while she has tons of other stuff going on and I don’t expect much follow up, just knowing she has the schedule is giving me a feeling of enough urgency to focus better. And as a result, I’m feeling more engaged with my work.

What I’ve Been Reading: I have a lot to catch up on here–if I even try. I’ve been trying to read more nonfiction, in addition to blogs outside of the fiction writing realm. But of course, I’m still enjoying fiction. Recently, I read Stone Cold Heart, the final (so far) installment of what’s become one of my favorite series, the Mythos Legacy by Jami Gold. One reason I love this paranormal romance series is that these books and characters aren’t just the same-ol, same-ol. In Stone Cold, the hero is a gargoyle warrior in a Rip Van Winkle situation, and the heroine is an Army vet dealing with PTSD. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a different kind of paranormal romance. While the three prior books were also wonderful, it’s not necessary to read these in order. More gargoyle books are planned in a spinoff series, and I’m looking forward to the next one!

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What I’ve Been Writing: For the writing, I jumped back on the ROW80 train last week. While it isn’t the same as a deadline, having someone to be accountable to is a great motivator for me. I hate posting on my blog that I met none of my goals (even though everyone is always kind and supportive), so that helps me get things done.

So am I getting tons done now? Nope. But I did meet my writing goal for this week, which was to finish the Week Two lessons of Holly Lisle’s How to Write Villains workshop. Babysteps!

For next week, we’ll stick with babysteps for now, and plan on getting Week Three done of the workshop.

What about you? Do you need deadlines, or at least some sort of accountability, to get stuff done? Have you read anything good lately? And how are you doing on your goals, whatever they may be (writing or otherwise)? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

 

One Step Closer to Tennessee

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

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

view from the top

Our land in Tennessee

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

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

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

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What I’ve Been Writing: As noted above, nothing. 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).

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What I’ve Been Writing: Unfortunately, again, not much. I think this scene just isn’t interesting me enough (which means it won’t interest readers, either). I need to just wrap it up quickly and move on, and trim it in the process. It’s not like my book isn’t already long. 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!

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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!

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

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

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

 

 

 

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!

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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):

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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).

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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!

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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.