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.

More Reading than Writing

My plan to get back into a writing habit didn’t work out so well this week. No new pictures of the house either, though work has continued in Tennessee. The basement walls are now done and waterproofing has been applied. The crew also pumped concrete into the hollow cores of the blocks. The plumber was due to rough-in the drains in the basement either Friday or early this week, as our basement will eventually have two bathrooms and a kitchenette. Initially, it will be unfinished, and we’ll finish it out ourselves later. So for now, we just need drains before the floor is poured.

I also finished the electrical plan, aside from a few details I need from others.

It’s not as complicated as it looks… no wait, maybe it is

What I’ve Been Reading: I did a fair amount of reading this week (for me), and finished two books. In nonfiction, I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. This book was mainly about how introverts (ME) see and process the world differently than extroverts. The best thing about it? How many times while reading it I thought, wow, it’s not just me! And that it’s OK to be introverted, even if we’re not the ones usually getting the attention (nor do we usually want it). Interesting and worth a read if you want to understand yourself a little better, or if you’re an extrovert, to better understand how our minds work.

I also finished a science fiction novel, Watcher’s Web by Patty Jansen. I looooooove Patty Jansen’s fantasy books, and this was one in a pack of four books you can get for free for signing up for her newsletter. Like the first book of hers I read, it took me a little while to really get into, but once I did, I couldn’t stop reading. Jessica, the main character, gets pulled into another world (through a wormhole, so science fiction, not fantasy). There, she learns that not only is she not human, she’s part of an ancient race with some serious powers–and lots of people who would enslave her to get their hands on them. I will definitely be buying the next book, and eventually all, of this series of four.

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What I’ve Been Writing: As noted above, Not. Much. I started out well, and got my words in on Monday and Tuesday. But on Wednesday–I don’t remember what was going on–I think my husband went hunting, and we wound up eating a really late dinner, and that threw me off. I totally forgot about doing any writing until I was ready for bed, and then I was like, I’m tired, I’ll just jump back in tomorrow.

Well, you can guess how that went. One day off turned into two, then three, then… heck, I’ve already blown it, so much for that goal.

So for this week, I’m going to just set a total word count–something small and easy, and something I can break up into something even smaller and easier, or one I can catch up on if I do this nonsense again, let’s say 500 words this week. Such a small amount, surely I can hit this one? We’ll see!

What about you–ever have one of those weeks where you just can’t get much done, and there’s no reason for it? Have you read any good books lately, fiction or non? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have for yourself? 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 Start

Starting back to writing, that is. The house is moving right along, and we now have basement walls!

House viewed from the front

 

As viewed from the back

There’s no back wall because it’s a walkout basement. These are very common in the Knoxville area, because it’s very hilly. Traditional, full basements are not common in that area, probably for the same reason.

We went with a block wall basement because, according to our builder, it’s about half the cost of a poured concrete wall. And they’re just as good as long as they’re waterproofed correctly (our current house also has a block wall basement). Once the walls are done, they’ll pump concrete into the interiors–the cost savings come about mainly because block walls don’t require forms. Next step (I believe) is to put the plumbing in. There is a kitchenette and two bathrooms in the basement. The builder won’t be putting these in–we’ll finish it ourselves later–but they will put in drain pipes before pouring the floor.

My goal was to get the electrical plans done this week. I did maybe half of it, mostly because some other stuff I had to do earlier in the week took more time than I thought. I should be able to get the electrical plans finished this week. It’s not like they need them yet, but I don’t like to do this stuff at the last minute; would rather have it done early so I have plenty of time to research–and yes, change my mind before it gets expensive. 🙂

What I’ve Been Reading: I wanted to read some more of the great big paper TBR pile, so I pulled out Heart Dance, by Robin D. Owens. I used to really love this series–actually, I don’t know why I haven’t read any in many years, because I really enjoyed this one. What’s funny is a few chapters in, it started feeling really familiar. At first I put that down to there being a lot of similarities between the books in this series. They don’t need to be read in order, and are each about a different couple, but they’re in the same world and a lot of the same magical things happen to each couple as a result. But then some of the things from the main character’s backstory starting feeling familiar too, and I remembered a pivotal scene that most likely came from this book and sure enough, I’d read it before. Funny thing was, I didn’t remember much about it besides those familiar details and that one scene, though I knew the couple would end up together because duh, it’s a romance. 😀 I still enjoyed it, including the way the ending came about! It was probably 8-10 years ago that I read it, and given the number of books I read, I guess I can take a pass for not remembering. One thing it did was remind me how much I enjoy the series and its world, and make a point to check out the half dozen or so books in the series I know I haven’t read. The first book in the series, Heart Mate, was  RITA Award winner, way back in 2002. If you like fantasy romance with a bit of sci-fi tossed in, I highly recommend it!

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What I’ve Been Writing: My brain’s still stuck on house stuff, so I almost forgot about my goal until last night–11:52, to be exact. So I opened up my WIP and wrote a few paragraphs, helped by the looming deadline I’d set for myself. So, a slow start, but goal met! If it hadn’t been late and I hadn’t been about ready for bed, I would have written more, as it was fun. I wrote a little over 100 words, so this week, I want to continue that, and write at least 100 words, for at least five days.

What about you–how are things in your world? Have you ever picked up a book you thought was new to you, only to find out it wasn’t? My mother-in-law used to do this often enough that she started making a list of everything she read, and she’d check it before buying new books. I do this too, but didn’t start until after I read Heart Dance the first time. How are you doing on whatever goals you might have? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

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

 

A Hole in the Ground

That’s what we have in Tennessee right now! The builder has finished digging for the basement and foundation, and when we talked to him on Thursday, he was planning to pour the footers the next day.

While all that has been going on, I’ve been working on what I call “The House Book.” In software developer parlance, it’s basically a requirements document (along with the plans). It’s where I’ve noted everything we want as far as finishes go, as well as any minor changes to the plans. For example, we removed a couple of doors–there are TONS in this house. I also decided I would rather have a large, blank wall in my office instead of a closet–I’ll be getting plenty of built-ins for storage, and those are detailed in the book as well.

I haven’t been writing any fiction in the past month, because my head has been full of house stuff. It’s amazing how it totally takes over your brain! (Or is that just me?) I finished the house book last week and got that out to the builder, so time for fiction now, right?

Not exactly. I still need to do the electrical plan–that is, note on a digital copy of our house plans where each light fixture goes, any outlets outside of the ordinary, like one in the middle of the floor in my office,  to allow for a second desk that I’ll use for writing. And the electrical plan also includes where all the switches go, and which switch controls which light or outlet. This should go much more quickly than the book, and since it’s just one area, isn’t as mentally consuming.

I did manage to dig back into fiction a little, reading my latest scenes in an effort to get the WIP back into my brain. So there’s that.

I also kept reading, and have finished some good books over the past couple of weeks.

What I’ve Been Reading: In non-fiction, I read The Groovy Guide to Financial Independence: How to Escape the Tyranny of Mandatory Toil in Fourteen Years or Less by Mr. Groovy. The author is half of the couple of pseudonymous bloggers who write at Freedom is Groovy, one of my favorite personal finance blogs. I bought it because it was on sale for $0.99, and I knew it would be entertaining (while imparting good info). And it did not disappoint. I didn’t really expect to learn much, if anything, as I binge-read the entire blog, and as I expected, the book was pretty much the same material, reworked into a more organized form. It was still worth a read if for nothing but the entertainment value–Mr. Groovy has a fun-t0-read voice with plenty of humor, and makes otherwise dry financial topics into something fun. I mean, where else can you find a lesson on personal finance from Hannibal Lecter? Highly recommended, whether or not you’ve read the blog–doubly so if you haven’t.

In fiction, I finished Relic of Sorrows: Fallen Empire Book Four, by Lindsey Buroker. This is a space opera series I’ve been really enjoying, and this installment (book 4) was every bit as entertaining as those that have come before. Not only was there plenty of action and space battles, there was a logical progression of the characters and their relationships. This is one series that needs to be read in order, so if you’re looking for some good sci-fi, give the first book, Star Nomad, a read. Even better, it’s free.

What I’ve Been Writing: As noted above, the House Book. Now that that’s done, I still need to do the electrical plan, but my goal this week is to finish that, and dig back into the WIP. So my goal is to get anything written on it, even it’s just a paragraph. Baby steps!

What about you–what have you been up to? Read any good books lately? How are you doing on whatever goals you might have? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

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

Building Begins

We went to Tennessee this week, and our land looked quite different from the last time we were there! We went straight to the property when we arrived in town, rather than to our hotel, and the changes were obvious, starting with our new driveway! There was already a driveway onto the property, and we’ll use the same approach from the street and first few yards, but the builder suggested routing it a different way to go up the hill that would be a little shorter, easier, and most importantly, less expensive.

  

When we got to the top, we found that the builder had completed leveling the top as promised:

The bulldozer was still parked up there, too.

We came back the following morning to meet with the builder, and also met his foreman (and bulldozer operator). Then, we went to three different places to discuss windows, and try to figure out what would be the best material combination for our budget, while still being of good quality and energy efficiency.

That evening, we went back to the property. The building foreman had left us some wood in the middle of the leveled area, as my husband had mentioned that he wanted to come back for a campfire.

So that’s what we did. We watched the sun set and the sky darken. Being on the ridgetop with no buildings around, it looked almost like a planetarium, with the sky looking like an inverted bowl as the stars slowly came out. It was very clear, but not a good night for stargazing as there was a very bright half moon. It was that kind of clear night where sound travels a long distance–we could hear our next door neighbor calling her chickens in (1/8 mile away). We could hear the neighbors around the corner (3/8 mile away) jamming on some headbanger music (as in, they have a band). Not loud enough to be bothersome, and luckily we like that kind of music. 🙂 (We heard them playing when we looked at the property, so it was not a surprise.) We could hear traffic on the busy road almost a mile away–again, not bothersome, and even with those sounds it was very peaceful up on the ridge.

We returned the next morning to meet with the builder, staked out where the house would go, then the foreman got busy widening the leveled area.

All in all, a successful trip! Now it’s really starting to feel real. Exciting, but also scary.

What I’ve Been Reading: Right before we left on our trip, I finished My Soul to Keep, an alternate history novel by Lynette M. Burrows. And wow, what a fantastic book! As a time travel writer, this was the kind of story I love. It takes place in 1961 in a very different USA than the one we know. In the story world, the Axis powers won WWII, and the US became a religious state, where women had even fewer rights than they had decades ago in the real world. The story centers around Miranda, the daughter of a religious leader who runs away from an arranged marriage and realizes she’s been living a lie. Fascinating worldbuilding, with lots of historical details from the real world dropped in along with those of the changed world. Relatable, interesting characters and one exciting scene after another that’s action-filled yet makes one think, make this a book I highly recommend. Can’t wait for the next one in the series!

What I’ve Been Writing: Not fiction, that’s for sure. My brain has been consumed by house stuff this week, and since our return from Tennessee on Friday, I’ve been working on what I call “the House Book.” This is where I’m making notes of things I want incorporated into the construction, finishes, fixtures, trims, colors, and more. Not only are there seemingly a million decisions to make on this stuff, some items have an overwhelming number of choices. In addition, some things require research (at least, that’s how I roll), so writing up the spec book is not a quick task. I’m probably half done with it (maybe?) and hope to finish this week. If I don’t get it all done, I at least have completed the parts our builder will need first, namely roofing, exterior, windows, doors, and plumbing.

How about you–what’s been going on in your life? Have you read any good books lately? Any tips to share with me on picking finishes for our house? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

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

This Week was a Bust

…at least where writing was concerned. As I mentioned in last week’s post was very likely, sure enough I did not get any writing done. Maybe I should have titled this blog, “Writing Excuses”…

Part of the reason is because I’m coming up on the climactic scene, which I find to be the hardest part of the book to write. In this case, I’m also fighting “fear of I-don’t-know-what-happens-next,” since I didn’t outline this book to that extent. Anymore it seems that when I do outline, I deviate so much from it, it’s not being worth the bother, so this time, I didn’t outline. I doubt it would have helped even if I had, because… deviating.

We also had a house guest for a couple days this week–a writer friend from New York state! We haven’t seen each other in seven years (too long!) so it was great to see her and spend some time together. It was also exciting to show her my hometown and its fascinating history, almost all of which was new to her. We spent an afternoon at the National Museum of the USAF, and another at Carillon Historical Park. She loves learning about the history and quirky details of the places she visits, so these were right up her alley (and of course, mine). We spent a lot of time in the evenings just catching up–well worth giving up some writing time.

Our tomatoes are also still producing like crazy, so yesterday, I froze some. It’s a simple process that my mom remembers my Great Aunt Marie doing many years ago. Just boil the tomatoes for ten seconds, then dunk them in cold water for at least ten seconds, and the skins peel right off! After that, they can be cut however you like, bagged, and frozen. I bagged five quart bags full, which should come in handy for a cooking day this winter!

And finally, the other reason I didn’t get much done on my WIP is that my brain is just not on writing–at least not fiction. Instead, it’s focused on things like researching water heaters, specifying French doors, learning about smart home devices like door locks. And writing down what I like for our new house. Once I finish, this will be like a requirements document in software, only for our new house. It will help our builder know what’s a change order (“That’s not in the book”) and will help us know if someone screws up (“The book said the pantry is supposed to be white” [that actually happened with our flip house]).

Tennessee Update: our builder was expecting to have the ridgetop leveled by tomorrow or Tuesday, so we’re heading down to check it out and stake out the exact location of the house later this week. Hope to have a better update and pictures next week!

What I’ve Been Reading: I am almost finished with the novel I started last week. It’s really good, so I’ll definitely be discussing it here. It’s also long, which is why I’m not yet finished.

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What I’ve Been Writing: As noted above, nothing! I really just need to start writing and see what the characters do. With the trip to Tennessee, I don’t know how much chance I’ll have to dig into the WIP, but who knows, stranger things have happened, and sometimes I do well writing away from home. So this week, I’ll just set a goal to write something–anything–in my WIP. However, this ROW80 round is coming to an end this week, and I just realized I already met my goals for the round! They were to finish the writing workshop I was taking, Holly Lisle’s How to Write Villains. I finished that about a month ago. The other goal was to finish a chapter in my WIP. I did that last week. Baby steps for the win! I will set goals for fourth quarter in a couple weeks, in time for October and ROW80 Round 4.

What about you–how has your week gone? Ever had one of those where it seemed you got nothing done, but when you thought about it, you actually got a lot done? How are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

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

A Surprise Visit

Here I am blogging late on Sunday again, but today, it’s for a good reason–my daughter and her partner came for a visit this weekend!

We were not expecting them. They hadn’t planned to come either, but had an unexpected change of plans, freeing up their weekend, so they chose to spend it with us! We enjoyed a couple of good meals out, and got a lot done.

Our tomatoes have been very prolific these past couple of weeks, and we had more tomatoes than we could use or give away, so my daughter showed me how to make sauce from roasted tomatoes. Easy, and yummy! She and her partner also got a bunch of their stuff cleared out, since we will be moving next summer.

Tennessee Update: We closed on our construction loan! It was a very different experience. The bank emailed us the paperwork, and I printed it all out for us to sign. I ended up being really glad my daughter had not cleaned her stuff out of the computer room yet, because with only ten pages left to print, I ran out of paper. But there were two reams she’d left, so no need to make a late-night Meijer run–which is what I otherwise would have had to do.

The bank was very insistent that we not sign anything until the official closing date, so the next day, we signed the paperwork that didn’t need to be notarized, then went to our local bank and signed the rest with their notary. It took all of a half-hour, if that. My husband then took it to the Fed-Ex retail center, along with the bank’s shipper account information. The loan originator received everything the next day, and it’s done! Our builder is planning to start cutting in the driveway tomorrow.

I also got the window estimate back, from the customer of my former employer. It was 50% over our budget! That was not altogether unexpected by me, because we are going for more of a mountain lodge look, and want woodgrain interior windows. Those cost a lot more than white, which is what goes in most houses, and probably what the builder budgeted for. We’ll get a couple more bids in Tennessee, and go from there. If they’re a lot higher (certainly possible), we may still go with this first one I got.

What I’ve Been Reading: I started a new novel, but am only about halfway through it (it’s pretty long), so I’ll discuss when I finish it.

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What I’ve Been Writing: Not much–only got about 200 words total this week. But I finished the chapter! So that’s something. Now I have to figure out what happens next, enough to start writing the next one. This is always the hardest part of the book for me, as I’m coming up on the end, and it has to be exciting and dramatic, while pulling all the characters and loose ends together. I also have an out-of-town friend coming to visit later in the week, so if I get 500 words in, that will be good.

What about you–any surprises in your life lately? I hope they’re as good as mine was! How are you doing on whatever goals and plans you’re working toward, 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.

Getting Stuff Done: What’s My Secret?

TL;DR: There isn’t one — and I’m actually a slacker.

Sometimes I get comments that say I get a lot done, and they want to know how. Makes sense, especially since I work a full-time job, and have issues with fatigue. For instance, a couple weeks ago, I had my family over for a birthday dinner, for which I made Black Forest cake with homemade cherry filling. Preparing for that sounded like a lot, but it actually wasn’t. For starters, my husband does the grocery shopping, which is a huge help. I also usually have help with cleaning–we have a neighbor/friend who can’t drive, so my husband takes him to do errands once a week. Our friend is literate, but struggles with any kind of forms or paperwork, so I file his taxes. In the past, we’ve helped him track his finances and bills. He helps my husband do yard work, and cleans our house.

Our house also doesn’t get cleaned much between his visits. And detail cleaning? LOL — not happening here. That is one thing I don’t have the energy for.

But back to that family gathering. I did have to clean that weekend, because my husband and our friend had some other stuff to do along with yard work at our apartments. Thing is, the birthday party was on Sunday, so that gave me all day on Saturday to do that cleaning and to make the cherry filling. And yes, it took all day. I also only cleaned the downstairs rooms where guests would be, and skipped the upstairs (bedroom and study). It also helps that my house is not big.

The cherry filling? I pitted the cherries while watching HGTV. Once that was done, cooking them probably only took 20 minutes. So not a big deal. The following day, I did a load of laundry, patted out burgers (my husband did the grilling), set the table, and cleaned up afterward. Again, this is over the course of a whole day. So not as much as it sounds. I did some writing too, but I’m getting back into that slowly, and only wrote about 100 words. That takes all of 10-15 minutes.

However, I did hint at one secret in a comment last week, and this does make a big difference, especially during the week when I have little energy left after work, and that’s doing freezer cooking with Once a Month Meals. I discovered Once a Month Meals back in the fall of 2015, and first blogged about it here. I found it through a post on another writing blog (Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, I think), where the post was about freezer cooking. That one wasn’t specifically about OAMM, but the freezer cooking blog it linked to was.

It sounded interesting, so I clicked over–and found the solution to my ongoing dinner dilemma. You know, the one where both me and my husband are starting to get hungry in the evening. The conversation goes something like this:

DH: You hungry?

Me: A little.

DH: What sounds good for dinner?

Me: I don’t know. What sounds good to you?

DH: I don’t know.

Or he names a restaurant. Either way, we usually would wind up going out to eat. This was happening way too often–not good for our waistlines or our bank account.

The solution that dilemma is, of course, meal planning. Something I wasn’t very good at until I found OAMM.

How it works is like this: log on to onceamonthmeals.com, select a menu, or build your own menu by searching their database of over 8,000 recipes. And there are TONS of options, including a variety of diets and special needs. Doing Keto? They’ve got you covered. Gluten and/or dairy-sensitive? Plenty of recipes for you. Same with Low-FODMAP, low-calorie, GAPS, low allergen, nut-free, Trim Healthy Mama (what we do), vegetarian, and more. They have TONS of options for the slow cooker and Instant Pot to make things even easier.

Once you’ve picked out up to 15 recipes (each of which makes two meals) and select the number of servings you want, the system produces a downloadable shopping list, prep list, cooking day instructions, recipe sheet for each meal, thaw sheet to stick on the fridge/do meal planning from, and printable labels. In other words, Once a Month Meals takes out all the guesswork (which I need). Combine this with Meijer’s Curbside Pickup, Kroger’s Click List, or whatever grocery delivery or pickup is available in your area, and you’re really cooking!

Once a Month Meals recommends doing prep on one day, and the cooking the next. I usually have DH pick up the groceries on Friday while I’m working my paycheck job, then I do the prep that evening. (Prep consists of things like pre-cooking meat in the slow cooker or Instant Pot, and chopping ingredients.) I do the cooking on Saturday. And here’s what makes it really easy: a lot of the recipes don’t require actual cooking–they’re “dump and go.” Which is just what it sounds like–dump a bunch of ingredients into a freezer bag or round container for the Instant Pot, and stick it in the freezer. Easy-peasy!

But fifteen recipes sounds like a lot of work, even with dump-and-go. If you thought that, you’d be right, especially with my fatigue issues. But you don’t have to make fifteen recipes. I’ve only done that many once or twice, and yes, it was exhausting (although, I have to say it was incredibly satisfying to see my freezer full of meals afterward). Those meals lasted us for over two months, since we still eat out once or twice a week, and I make four-serving meals, so we have leftovers. Once a Month Meals has tons of what they call “Mini” menus–four or five recipes, each for two meals, giving you a total of ten meals. Sometimes I do one of those, and it can be done in an afternoon, including prep. But I’ve found what works best for me is eight recipes at once, and that lasts me and DH right around a month. An eight meal menu takes me a couple hours to prep on Friday, and an afternoon to cook and assemble on Saturday. Totally doable! Best of all, there’s no more dinner dilemma, and all I have to do after working on weekdays is stick something in the oven or Instant Pot, throw together a side, and there’s dinner. One that meets our diet plan, and doesn’t kill our budget.

Interested? Check it out at onceamonthmeals.com. You can get a free mini-menu to try it out by signing up for their newsletter. That’s what I did first. Just go to onceamonthmeals.com, scroll to the bottom, and enter your email. Of course, you can unsubscribe any time if it’s not for you.

Disclosure: Once a Month Meals links are affiliate links, and if you sign up, I’ll get a little referral fee at no extra cost to you. As an affiliate, I am also being compensated for writing this blog post, but all wording and opinions herein are my own, and honestly, I’d recommend Once a Month Meals even if I wasn’t an affiliate. It’s that helpful.

Tennessee Update: The bank finally got everything together and has us scheduled to close on our construction loan this coming Thursday! Our builder was on the property last Thursday, bush hogging and mowing in preparation to begin cutting the driveway in and level the ridgetop. There won’t be anything for us to do at the property until he’s done with that, so the bank is going to overnight the paperwork so we don’t need to go there just to sign papers. The builder expects to have the access and ridgetop ready within the next couple of weeks, so we’ll be heading down there soon to finalize and stake out the house placement. In the meantime, I have tons to do writing out specs for finishes and materials, some of which will need to be selected pretty soon (like windows and doors).

What I’ve Been Reading: The Ravening, by Dawn Thompson. Somehow this book got lost in the shuffle for ten years until I found it last month. It’s the paperback that took me close to a month to read. I will admit that was partly because it started out kind of slow, and was a little repetitious. But once it got going, it reminded me of why Ms. Thompson was one of my favorite authors, way back when (sadly, she’s no longer with us). It’s a historical vampire/werewolf romance set in mid-nineteenth century England, and the third in the Blood Moon Brotherhood series featuring vampires that can shapeshift into wolves. However, it’s not necessary to read the other two books (I did, but it was over 10 years ago, so I didn’t remember them well). Great worldbuilding with the vampire society, especially the difference between the good vampires, and the bad, “undead” vampir, and tons of sexual tension that romance readers love. If you enjoy historical, vampire, and werewolf romances, check out this series and get them all in one!

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What I’ve Been Writing: I made my 1,000 words this week, barely! That has been working out well, and with all I need to do for the new house, I’m going to keep it at that level, and shoot for another 1,000 words this week.

What about you–would you consider making a month’s worth of meals in a weekend, to free up time the rest of the month? Have you found any hidden treasures on your bookshelf, like my Dawn Thompson book? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, writing related or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

A Tale of Two Houses, Part 1

2017 has been a long and busy year. A lot has happened, but not much writing. Probably the biggest event was my daughter’s graduation from college, and subsequent moving out on her own. She has a job she loves in higher education administration, and though we miss having her around (she lives about an hour’s drive away), we couldn’t be happier for her.

I got out of the habit of blogging, and one thing that kept me from getting back to it was feeling like I had to write a long, comprehensive post, and make it good. I realized that yesterday, and it’s kind of silly. Just like housework done incorrectly or incompletely is still better than not done at all, a short blog is better than none. So here goes…

A New House

Our house will be similar to this, only with an attached garage

Some of you might remember that my husband and I are planning a move from Ohio to Tennessee, with building a new house. You might have guessed that I’ve been away because of that. But (sigh), that’s not the case. I’m still in Ohio, and still haven’t started building. And that’s OK.

So to catch up on that, we got a few quotes from builders last spring, around the time I last posted here. Three builders gave us ballpark estimates that were pretty close to our budget, so all looked so far so good. Then they got back to us with detailed estimates. All were 50 -60% higher! We figured out that 1) the economy is good, so there’s plenty of work and 2) many of them are doing insurance rebuilds in Gatlinburg, so they’re extra busy. However, they’re happy to take on another project for the right money. That kind of money is not in our budget. So back to the drawing board there.

We considered downsizing the house by making the garage in the lower level–not really what we wanted. We considered being our own general contractors–we’ve done so on some pretty large remodeling projects, and my parents built two new houses years ago being their own contractors. But they built locally–we’re 300 miles away, so being our own GC would mean having to stay down there during construction. Also not what we wanted.

Our new rental house – isn’t it cute?

An Old House

The new house kind of got put on the back burner when we had an opportunity to buy another house–a rental, here in Ohio. It needed a lot of work, but that was all cosmetic, and the deal was too good to pass up, so we snagged it. (As a side note, we’ve owned rental property for many years, so this is not new to us.) That turned out to be an interesting ride…

Reading

I fell off the wagon keeping track, but I continue to read every day. I’ve been trying to read more nonfiction, too. Most of it is either personal finance or business-related, or is about home building. I finished a novel and a non-fiction book on New Year’s Eve.

For fiction, I read Pure Sacrifice by Jami Gold. I enjoyed her free short story in this paranormal romance series, so I bought book 1 earlier this year. I liked it, and a couple weeks ago I needed something to read and nothing on my Kindle jumped out at me, so I bought book 2. This series (the Mythos Legacy) has all the ingredients to a satisfying paranormal romance, but isn’t the same ol’ same ol’. In book 1, it was the heroine who was the paranormal character (usually, it’s the guy). In this book, it was the guy, but he was a shapeshifting unicorn–pretty different! The worldbuilding was nicely in-depth but not intrusive or info-dumpy, and the characters were engaging. I’ll definitely be picking up the next in the series.

In non-fiction, I read The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines. For those not in the know, they are the hosts of HGTV’s Fixer+Upper, which is probably the most popular reality home show right now. I love their show, and really enjoyed reading about how they got their start in their various businesses to how they wound up with a their own TV show. This book pulled me in right away and kept me interested throughout, and I was sorry to see it end. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys Fixer+Upper!

Writing

While I did make progress on my next Saturn Society time travel novel, writing just wasn’t on my brain for most of the year. I did not complete any projects, and did not have any new releases. I want that to change this year. I figured out what happens next in the novel, and I’m excited to get back to it. Hence, I’m participating in ROW80 to keep accountable.

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ROW80, or A Round of Words in 80 Days, is “the writing challenge that knows you have a life.” We can set whatever goals we want for the challenge. Mine will be a stretch for the first quarter, which will end in late March: I want to finish the novel. It probably needs 20,000 more words. When I take the time and know where I’m going, I can write 1000 words in about an hour or so. The catch here is that I don’t completely know where I’m going with this book, so that’s going to be a stretch. I used to outline, but that grew to be less helpful as I progressed as a writer, as I believe one should always feel free to deviate from the outline when a better idea comes along for a story–and for me, it always does. Also, I need to get a newsletter out this quarter, as it’s been way too long since I’ve done that, too.

This week’s goal: I haven’t written since early November, so I’m going to do a full cycle-back and read the book from the beginning. It’s around 100,000 words at the moment (yes, I write long books). If I do that, hopefully other good ideas to wrap it up will come in the process.

This post is already getting long (so much for keeping it short) and I have a lot to do today, so I’ll continue with the house sagas next week, and post an update on my goals.

How was 2017 for you? It was mostly good for me! If you watch TV, do you like Fixer + Upper? (One thing I found interesting is Chip and Jo have not had a TV since they got married–no wonder they have time to do so much!). If you’re a writer, what kind of goals do you have for this year? How are you doing so far, one week in? 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.