A Roller Coaster Week

We wound up going to Tennessee last week, and wow, what a roller coaster! My husband and I are real estate investors, and the day before we left, an apartment building came on the market that was just what we’ve been looking for. It was located in a great neighborhood and made fantastic money. We drove straight there when we arrived in Knoxville, and met up with our commercial Realtor. The building met our expectations. Retirement, here I come!

Except that it wasn’t to be. We have a building here in Ohio under sale contract right now, and need to close on it before we can complete a purchase. The next day, we were outbid by someone who not only offered more money, but did not have a sale contingency. Disappointing, but we figure it was not the right property for us after all.

But even bigger news came to me in an email last week. There is an 18-acre parcel across the street from our house that was being cleared when we were looking to buy. Wondering what they planned to do, we looked up who owned it. They lived just a street over, so we went to talk to them.

The owner’s wife was one of the nicest people you could meet, and told us they planned to donate the land to the city for a park. So with that assurance, we bought our property.

But last week, the owner’s wife emailed us and told us he’s now planning to develop it for a commercial purpose, and offered to meet with us. We’re trying to keep an open mind, but let’s just say we’re not thrilled, to say the least.

Neither are any of the other neighbors. Our next-door neighbor who’s been taking pictures for us rounded up a bunch, and we met to discuss it. The property is currently zoned low-density residential, and he would need to get it changed to commercial. The neighbors hope they can prevent that.

We met with the owner and his wife the next day. A consummate businessman, he projected nothing but confidence, and did all he could to assure us it wouldn’t be bothersome. While he presented it as a done deal, it’s actually not. After our meeting, we felt a little better on some aspects of the project, but not on others, and the more we think and talk about it, the less we like it. The owner is very well-connected and influential, so I can see the zoning request going either way. Major wait and see!

The house, OTOH, is coming along nicely. Roofers were working when we arrived, and we also spoke to the plumbers and HVAC contractor.

We saw this when we came up the driveway, then swung around:

   

Inside, looking out the back of the house, and toward the front:

   

The front left corner with no windows is where the kitchen will go.

This will be my writing (and day job work) office:

That window on the side wall is wrong – it’s supposed to be shorter, like the one beside the patio door, because there will be built-ins along that whole wall. The builder assured us it would be fixed, along with a bathroom window that has the same issue.

This is the deck off our bedroom:

It really does not do the view justice AT ALL. Those mountains appear much closer, more like this:

Even that does not do it justice.

 

What I’ve Been Reading: Still working on the same novel. It’s good, but it’s long — and with all that’s been going on this last week, I’m doing well to get in a chapter before bed. In nonfiction, I’ve been focusing on a Dean Wesley Smith workshop: The Future – Refresh and Renew.

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What I’ve Been Writing: I’m considering this week one of those where I “fail to success.” Meaning, I did not meet my goal, but in trying, I got more written than I otherwise would. My goal was to write at least 750 words/day, for five days, for a total of 3750 words. I ended up getting four days in for a total of 2677. I had two things working against my goal: the trip to TN, during which there was only one day where I had any time to write whatsoever, we were in so many meetings and seeing so many people. All good, just not for the writing. The other issue is that I’m coming up to the climactic scene, which is always the hardest to write (and therefore, goes slower).

So for this week, I’m going to shoot for the same thing: 750 words/day, for five days a week. I don’t think there’s a lot going on this week, so it’s much more attainable than it would have been last week.

What about you–had any excitement lately? Hopefully no rude awakenings like mine! And how have you been doing with whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I 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.

The Pit of Doom in My House

No, not the new house! The one where I live now. Last week, my husband decided to get started on the myriad little fixes it would need in preparation to be sold.

As they say on those HGTV shows, we found some “unexpected issues.”

You’d think we know this house inside and out after living here for 25 years. But even then, there are surprises.

This house was a Cape Cod when we bought it (we added a second floor that turned it into a Colonial). It appeared to have a converted breezeway connecting the garage and house. Except the breezeway never was; it’s our dining room. And there’s a little room beneath it off to the side of our basement.

The Pit of Doom, after all the rotted floor was removed

I imagine this was originally intended to be a canned goods cellar or something like that, or maybe a safe room. When we moved here, we found an excessive number of outlets, plus some odd ventilation pipes, that led us to believe it also served as a pot grow room at one time, LOL. My husband figured it would be the perfect place to store his gun collection, as it had a sealed door and would be easy to dehumidify.

So that’s what he did. Over the past few years, we noticed the floor was getting… shall we say, squishy. My husband theorized that the floor had just been thrown down over a dirt floor. So to begin his fixes, he pulled that up.

And found he was right. All the floor was, was plywood tossed over some stacked bricks. What he didn’t expect was that it was full of water. That had allowed the bricks to sink and rotted out the plywood floor beneath the vinyl, hence the squishiness. And hence, the pit of doom. The only reason it’s not a massive ball of mold is because of his dehumidifier, which ran pretty much 24×7, and now we know why.

So DH’s first project will be much bigger than expected. He consulted with a couple of friends in the construction business, as well as the restoration contractors we used for our flip house (who assured us that thanks to the dehumidifier, there was no mold). He then tore all the floor out of the pit of doom (or “the swamp,” as he calls it), and is going to add a French drain to hook into what we already have, then add pea gravel and finally, a proper concrete floor.

Meanwhile, down in Tennessee, things are moving along with our new house. Our builder sent us pics last week, and it’s beginning to really take shape:

   

What I’ve Been Reading: I haven’t finished anything this week. I’m enjoying the novel I’m reading right now, but it’s a really long one, so it will be a week or two before I finish. And instead of reading nonfiction, I’m taking a WMG workshop. This one is called “The Future: Refresh and Renew.” and deals with planning for a long-term career in fiction writing. So far it’s really good!

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What I’ve Been Writing: My goal this past week was to write 500 words/day, for five days, double what I’d been doing. I met my goal, with 2,875 words! Next week is going to be tricky. I’m shooting for 750 words/day, working toward 1,000 that I’ll need to meet my overarching goals of finishing two novels this year.

How has your new year started out? Any surprises, pleasant or otherwise? What are your goals for 2019, if you set them? And how are you doing with whatever goals you might have, writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

2019 Goals

It’s late as I write this, because I had a usual Sunday of stuff to do around the house, then trying to get back into the habit of cooking healthy dinners, and then–who knew?–writing! So I’m blogging late, but got my writing in, so that’s a win. And I just checked out the ROW80 Blog and saw that the Round starts tomorrow (Monday), not next week like I thought. Luckily, I’ve been thinking about goals these past few days, so I was prepared.

But first, how about an update from Tennessee? I hope these aren’t boring folks too much, but really, I’m documenting the build for myself as much as to share. We got an unexpected, additional Christmas gift this year when our neighbor sent us some new pictures–apparently, there are a bunch of carpenters in Knoxville who wanted to earn some extra Christmas money, because they totally kicked some butt on Christmas Eve!

I like the top two pictures because they’re finally starting to look more like the size the house will be (about 2000 sq. ft.), rather than ridiculously huge(for us) . Then there’s the view out the back of the house, and oh, how about a cute dog pic, because it’s been too long since I’ve had one on here?

   

   

   

What I’ve Been Reading: Cleon Moon, by Lindsay Buroker, the fifth in her Fallen Empire series. I’m really enjoying these, and am glad there are three more to go, plus what looks like a second, spinoff series. No link today because I’m lazy and I need to get this post done.

What I’ve Been Writing: I figured out and fixed the logistical inconsistency I found last week, plus added another fifteen hundred words. Five hundred of those were last night, as I decided it’s time to up my game and get this book done.

Which brings me to my 2019 goals.

This is pretty ambitious, and I feel crazy for even attempting this, with the move and all. Maybe I’ve been watching too many videos from Dean Wesley Smith, but hey, writing’s getting to be fun again, and now that the craziness of the holidays is over, I think I can do this: I’m going to finish this WIP, which only has 5-10,000 words to go. And I’m going to finish the next book in the series this year. Which doesn’t sound like such a big deal, except I write looooooooonnnnnng books. As in, 140,000-words long. Also, packing, moving, getting settled in a new state and all that goes along with it.

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Click the emblem to visit the ROW80 blog, and find out what it’s all about – you’re welcome to join us!

So yeah, kind of crazy. But doable, maybe! Because here’s the thing. When I make it a point to do the writing regularly, I can write 1,000 words an hour without too much problem. That comes out to 5,000 words/week, allowing for two days off.

And I only have to do it thirty weeks this year to hit that. Even if I don’t hit it, I’m likely to get a lot more done than I otherwise would (what Smith calls “failing to success” – I love that!). I’ve done a good job (if I say so myself) getting back into a habit of writing through the months of November and December, so now I just have to keep it up. The catch will be to devote an hour to it a day, rather than the 15 minutes or so I’ve been doing.

There will be weeks around the move where I’ll do well to get 1,000 words in for the whole week, but I’m going to try doing just that, keeping it a habit even during the busy times.

For this Round (through March 20th), I want to finish this book, and get another 40,000-45,000 words in on the next (depending on how much it takes to finish this one), for a total of 50,000 words.

For this week: Since I’ve been going slowly for the past month due to the holidays, I’m still ramping up. This week, I want to get a total of 2,500 words, or 500 words a day for five days. I already got today’s 500 in, and did 500 yesterday too, and it wasn’t difficult. So far, so good, but we’ll have to see how that goes when I go back to work.

What about you–how was your holiday? Got any exciting plans for New Year’s Eve? (I don’t, but that’s OK.) How did your 2018 wrap up, and what plans do you have for 2019? I love to hear from you! Please share in the comments–and whatever your plans are, have a fantastic, happy, fun, safe, and prosperous New Year!

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.

 

Construction Update

I somehow managed to get a once-a-week blogging streak going, so I’m posting today’s update mostly to keep that.

This week was a busy one, as it probably was for most people with the holidays. I finished my shopping on Tuesday, which is better than I usually do. Normally, I put off buying stocking stuffers until a day or so before Christmas, but this year I got it all early. It’s more important now than in the past, as starting this year, stocking stuff is all my husband and I are getting for each other. Now all that’s left to do is tidy up the house, and cook Christmas dinner. My mom brings a lot of that, so that’s easier than it sounds.

Tennessee Update: the house is going up fast. The builder sent us these pictures just two days after our neighbor sent us last week’s.

      

From left to right, the back of the house, the front, and the garage. There will be decks all across the back side. And wow, does the place look huge! It isn’t that big a house – about 2000 square feet, plus the lower level. That will be unfinished, which we will do later.

What I’ve Been Reading: I’m reading an entertaining fiction book in a series I love, but haven’t finished anything this week. I have not had much time to read other than a chapter or so before bed, so it’s going slowly. I didn’t read any nonfiction this week besides blog posts.

What I’ve Been Writing: The writing is still coming along slowly. I hit my not-very-ambitious goal of writing at least 200 words, for five days this week, so that’s a win. I also finished Dean Wesley Smith’s video series about writing a clean first draft. Most of it was reiterating stuff I’ve already read/heard from him before, but he finally described his “cycling” method of writing the way I’ve always thought of it: revising as you go. I’ve been working toward this myself, as I find it a lot more fun than writing sloppy first, then doing a massive revision (which is how I used to write). I”m not convinced that this is the way to go for everyone (even Smith says “every writer is different”), but it might be something worth trying if you haven’t.

I also discovered some plot holes in my WIP–pretty typical when writing time travel. So this week, my goal is to spend at least an hour total on my WIP, starting with fixing this, and maybe or maybe not including new words.

What about you–what’s going on in your world? Are you finished with your holiday preparations, if you celebrate? What are your plans for the week? I love hearing from you–please share in the comments! And finally, Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to all!

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

Where Did the Week Go?

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

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

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

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

Our response was, “Huh?”

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

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

 

   

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

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

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

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

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

What about you–are you ready for the holidays? I’m not, though I am close. How are you keeping up with all the extra to-dos that December usually entails? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

Last Year for the Skinny Tree

This past week, I finished decorating for Christmas. I don’t do much, just the mantel and put up a Christmas tree. I used to decorate the console table beneath our TV until our dog Isis started watching TV. Now, she runs and jumps at it growling any time she sees a dog or other animal (and sometimes other things we have no idea why). One of these days, I need to get some video of this, because it’s hilarious! Sometimes she jumps up on the console table, so anything on it is subject to be knocked over and broken. That’s not so funny. So my nativity scene is now on the mantel.

Our Christmas tree is a skinny little artificial thing that’s 6 feet tall, but probably less than 3′ around at the bottom. It’s great for a small house or apartment, and has served us well for many years. It fits well in the corner of our small living room. But in the new house, we’ll have room for a much bigger tree. Even better, we have 28 acres, much of which is wooded–and a lot of that is pine trees. My husband and I can’t wait to go out on our own land, pick out a tree, cut it down, and decorate it in our new home.

Speaking of which, the rain finally let up in Knoxville, and we now have a floor in the garage and basement!

      

Next up is either framing the fourth wall of the basement, or putting the main floor in, I’m not sure which. Of course, the timing is dependent on the weather, which is kind of iffy down there this week. And after that will be the holidays.

What I’ve Been Reading: I started another nonfiction book, but haven’t finished it yet. I also am still working on the same two novels, so nothing to report this week. The novels are taking a while since I’m reading two at once – the ebook if my husband comes to bed early; otherwise, I read the print book. Getting close to finishing that one, so I can tell you about it next week!

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What I’ve Been Writing: On track with my goals this week! I wrote six days, for a total of over 1600 words. Not a lot in and of itself, but enough to keep my WIP moving along. I also signed up for WMG Publishing’s Lifetime Workshop bundle. These are taught by Dean Wesley Smith (who puts them together along with his wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch). I’ve taken several of them over the years, and he offered a discount on the lifetime bundle to those of us in that situation. Then last week, he announced on his blog that they’d also throw in some of the separate “pop-up” workshops, AND a spot in his Business Master Class taught in Las Vegas every year. I’ve wanted to do the lifetime bundle since he announced it last spring, and I’ve also wanted to take the Business Master Class for years, so this was too good a deal to pass up. Right now I’m taking his popup workshop on Short Romance Fiction, which is a fun and interesting look at the history of the genre, as well as some tips for writing it in short form. At the end, there is an optional short story assignment, where, if I send it to him by the 16th, they’ll read it and offer feedback. For my writing this week, I might give that a shot. So my goal this week is to write at least five days, and either write a short story, or write at least 200 words on the novel in progress.

What about you–how are your plans and to-do lists going, as we get into this holiday season? What do you do to decorate? Do you read more than one book at a time? And how are you doing with 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.

The Purge Begins

No, not like the TV show. I’m talking about stuff–my stuff. Way too much stuff that’s collected in my house in the 25 years we’ve lived here, and has got to go before we move next summer.

I went through a big purge of stuff a couple years ago, but never got around to my office or garage. Let’s not even talk about my husband’s garage–yes, he has his own, he is Mr. Goodwrench, after all. But even in the parts of the house I got to, clutter has re-accumulated since the last purge. In some cases, not enough was purged to begin with–there’s still stuff there that I don’t want enough to move. So out it must go.

I’m happy to save I’ve managed to decrapulate my office, working just fifteen minutes a day over the past two weeks, Flylady style. (And isn’t “decrapulate” a great word?  So perfect for what I’m doing.) Today I worked in the basement, where there were still wood scraps, tools, and mostly trash from back last summer, when I was building mudroom and closet shelves for our flip house that we sold in July.

Now the purging will get tougher. I’ve hit the areas I missed on the last purge, so now it will really be a matter of asking if I want something enough to be worth moving it–and asking that of almost everything. The other challenge is that a lot of what needs to go is my husband’s, but he’s the kind who will wait until right before he needs to begin packing.

One side of my future office, with less bookshelf space than the current one (door is to the right)

Much of what I need to get rid of is books–and you all know how tough that is! In some cases, these are books I loved–but not enough to re-read them (something I almost never do anyway). I gave away a few boxes of them in my Readers Group Newsletter, then stopped due to just not having enough time and energy. Now it’s time to start that back up, so if you want to win a box of books, now’s a great time to join! Just click the link above.

House Update: Not much has gone on since our visit, as it’s mostly rained since then. The waterproofers were able to get their work in on the day we left, before the next rain, and plumbing for the basement drains is in. But this week is finally supposed to be dry, and they should be able to get the basement floor poured, then framing begins!

What I’ve Been Reading: My new Kindle Paperwhite came in this week, yay! I can now read in the dark again. Still haven’t finished anything there, now that I’m reading two novels–the paper one I already started, and am continuing when I go to bed before my husband, and an ebook I’m reading when it needs to be in the dark. So nothing to report there yet. In nonfiction, I finished Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. (On a funny note, when we first got our daughter a cell phone, she used to get tons of calls for Dave Evans from bill collectors until I yelled at one and told them the phone number was an eleven-year-old girl’s, and we didn’t know any Dave Evans. Somehow, I don’t think it was this guy. 🙂 ) I will admit this book didn’t do a lot for me, mostly because it turns out I’m not its intended audience. It’s focused on careers, and is geared toward people who are unhappy with their life or just don’t know what they want to do, and is full of exercises to work through to get ideas and figure that out. It’s ideal for recent grads, retirees looking for an encore career, or for anyone who wants a big change in that area. Judging from my recent career win in getting approval to take my job with me when we move, you might correctly guess I’m not in that position. The book also had lots of examples about people who were going through that, which I enjoyed. I guess what I got out of this the most is assurance that I’m on the right path with the changes I’m working on right now, and that’s not a bad thing!

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What I’ve been Writing: Another 1400 words–which equals goal met, whoo-hoo! The Coach.me app has really helped, especially on those days I just don’t feel like writing. Okay, I did take two of those this week, but my goal allowed for that, so no worries. I also met my goal of increased output on the days I did write, and got over 200 words each time. Still not tons in itself, especially considering how many people won NaNoWriMo this year (or even participated and “failed” to success by writing more than they otherwise would have), but hey, I’ll take it! Coach.me is also helping me with decluttering. Like writing, I have a goal to work on that at least five days/week.

Since this week is likely to be a busy one with all kinds of holiday to-do’s coming up, I’m going to stick with the same goal–200 words/day, for at least five days. Other goals include continuing with the purging, and getting the Christmas decorations up and most of my shopping done (thank you, Amazon!).

What about you–do you have stuff you need to purge? What about books–how do you purge them? If you celebrate the holidays, how are your preparations coming along? And how are you doing with whatever goals you may have, whether writing or otherwise? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

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

Slow Progress

That’s the case both with our new house, and with my writing. But much better than no progress, right?

We went to Tennessee for a couple days last week. Not much had changed with the house since the last photos I posted, but it had been two months since we were last there, and we wanted to check it out anyway. Since my last update, mostly what had been done was gravel laid in the driveway and in the basement, and the safe room built. This wasn’t something on our plans or that we requested, but our builder says the walls need to be built under the front porch regardless, so why not make it something useful?

Safe Room under the front porch

 

View from the front of the house, with garage on the right

 

This will be the view from the front porch – much different, with the leaves off the trees

Pictures are one thing, but standing in our soon-to-be basement and garage were quite another! We also met with our commercial real estate agent, who’s ready to step in and help us find and buy rental property down there as soon as the apartment building here in Ohio sells. Turns out her husband owns a brewery, and even though it’s not yet open to the public, they invited us over to see the place and enjoy some samples! The beer was fantastic, and it was tons of fun hanging out with them and the guys who were helping them build out their tasting room. We also had fun getting to know our next door neighbor, and our favorite server at our favorite restaurant (yes, we already have one, LOL). I even managed to keep up with my writing goals while we were there!

Thanksgiving was our usual nice, simple event with no drama–my favorite, and something I’m always thankful for. It did seem a little weird when my husband asked to take photos of us at the table, since it will be our last Thanksgiving in this house. It got really quiet for a few minutes there, but overall it was a nice, happy family get-together.

What I’ve Been Reading: I’m reading both a nonfiction book and a novel right now, but haven’t finished either, so I’ll discuss here after I have. The fiction reading is going slowly because I finally caved in to the ads to trade in my Kindle, and sent it back to Amazon while I could still get $25 for it, as opposed to only $5. It holds a charge, but only for a few days, and it’s getting difficult to charge since the USB socket no longer makes a good connection. So I figured I’d trade it in while I could still get the higher amount. My new one hasn’t come in yet, so I’m reading a paper book. No problem, except that means I have to turn off the light when my husband comes to bed. I miss my Kindle, because I like reading in the dark.

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What I’ve Been Writing: I met my stretch goal of writing all seven days this week, including the two nights we were in Tennessee and on Thanksgiving! It wasn’t that much, as I’m still baby-stepping my way with a 100 words/day goal, but I’ll take those words, especially since I finished a difficult chapter. The Coach.me app has been a big help, because I really love checking off that goal every day. It’s helped with my decluttering goal too, though I only got five days of that in due to our trip. This week, I’d like to up the writing goal a bit, and go for 200 words/day, for at least five days this week.

What about you–did you have a nice Thanksgiving? Have you done anything unusual and/or fun lately? How are you doing with whatever goals you may have, whether writing or something else? Please share in the comments–I love hearing from you!

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

Restart Accomplished!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coach.me, online version

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Struggling to (Re)Start

Another week, and another goal not met. Ugh. Once again, I wrote one night this week, then… nothing.

I’m not sure what the deal is with my writing (or rather, lack thereof). Maybe it’s because this was a bad week for migraines due to the change in weather. Maybe there is lingering house stuff crowding my brain (okay, there definitely is). Or maybe it’s a stupid fear I identified last year when I took Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing into the Dark workshop last year–the Fear of Not Knowing What Happens Next. It isn’t the story. I really want to finish this one. I think about it when I’m not writing, but not enough to figure it out.

I am a recovering outliner. I’m not saying that outlining is bad if it works for you, but it had gotten so that it wasn’t working for me any longer. Outlining, or planning ahead, was pretty drilled into me, having worked as a software developer for 20 years. In that endeavor, failing to plan is definitely a plan to fail. And outlining served me well for the first few books I wrote.

But with the last couple, I noticed that I’d spend a lot of time planning, and no matter how much effort I put into it or how good a plan I thought I had, the book would always veer off into a different direction. And the new direction was always better than the outlined one, by far. ALWAYS. So why spend the time outlining (which is also boring) when it doesn’t help me anyway? That’s why I’m trying to get out of it. But I’ve been stuck lately. Maybe it’s because I’m just not putting the time in? I don’t know.

That’s what I’m trying to find out–if I just open the file, sit at the computer regularly, will this work itself out? The trouble is getting myself to that point. The nonfiction book I’m reading this week has given me a couple of good ideas to try, but I’m not done with it yet so I’ll discuss it after I finish.

What I’ve Been Reading: I did finish a couple more books last week, so I’m still reading. In fiction, I finished Watcher’s Web by Patty Jansen. Jansen has done it again and totally pulled me into this character’s life and world. Like her other series, it took a little while before I really clicked with the character, but the world and actions were interesting enough to get me through that initial bit, then once I was through that, I knew I’d read this whole series. Watcher’s Web is Book One of the Return of the Arghyrians series, a science fiction tale centering on Jessica, a 17-year old Australian with an odd power she calls “the web” with which she can telepathically influence animals, and sometimes people. When she’s in a plane wreck and finds herself in an otherworldly forest, she discovers a whole new world–and learns she’s not even human, but an alien race thought to be extinct. Now everyone wants her–and her powers. Though science fiction, this has a strong fantasy feel to it which is a combination I love, so I will definitely be reading the rest of the series. Highly recommended if this is your thing, too!

In non-fiction, I read The Four-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. This is somewhat of a classic now, but I will admit I went into it with skepticism, and after finishing the book, I remain skeptical. I’m not saying that his process can’t be replicated–plenty of people have done it–but it’s not for me, and I suspect, for a lot of people. It involves either quitting one’s job to start a business, or else getting a remote work arrangement in your job, so that you can spend your time doing things you want like traveling the world. Ironically, I’ve done the remote work part, but I’m more of a roots person, and am not into the extensive outsourcing that Ferris advocates to reduce the need for actively participating in one’s business. I also don’t see how that works when one is an employee, though he claims it can (not even touching on all the fields that don’t lend themselves to remote work). Once he got to the outsourcing part, I started to find it distasteful–possibly because I wouldn’t appreciate having my job outsourced, and definitely because I see this system as something done by the Kindle scammers–put out a product solely for the money, with little regard for its quality. Another big negative of the book was that the book has been updated since its original publication, but a lot of it was links to services and content that is no longer available.  Though his system is not for me, it was still an interesting read.

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What I’ve Been Writing: As noted above, not much. My goal for this week is to try a couple things in the nonfiction book I’m currently reading about habits, and also to check out Dean Wesley Smith’s video lecture series on Starting or Restarting Your Writing.

Tennessee Update: No new pictures, but they are planning to pour the basement floor this week. Hope to have some updates next week! One thing I really need to do–and am having as hard a time getting into as writing–is to declutter my house. I went through a big purge a couple years ago, but there are still a TON of things I don’t want to move. So decluttering a little bit each day is a habit I really need to get back into.

What about you–any suggestions for me to try to get back into writing? Have you read any good books lately? What’s been going on in your life? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Better than me, I hope! 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.