In a Pickle

Actually, I’m not, but it seemed like a fitting title since that’s what I did yesterday–canned pickles.

I’ve never been much of one for a garden. We have our flowerbeds out front, that mostly my husband does the work for (granted, he has a lot more time than I do). While I do enjoy fresh vegetables in summer, it never occurred to me until last year that I could have a garden.

There’s plenty of room in the back yard, except the dogs have the run of it. Isis and Skeet, our current dogs, probably wouldn’t bother it, but our past dogs probably would have. Besides, the back yard is shaded most of the day, so I just figured no garden for us.

Why yes, those are tomatoes in our front flowerbed

Then I stumbled on a blog called Tenth Acre Farm, and realized there’s no reason why I couldn’t grow a few edibles in the front yard! I always just assumed there’d be a city ordinance prohibiting it. But that blog made me check to see, and what do you know, I couldn’t find anything to that effect (this might differ in your locale, especially if you’re in an HOA, so please don’t take my word for it!). So last year, we planted five tomato plants, and a cucumber, since my husband’s favorite thing to eat in summer is a salad made from those two, plus onions. What’s funny is most people don’t even notice the tomatoes and cucumber unless we point them out. Even though there are wire cages around the tomatoes!

It was wonderful! We loved having fresh tomatoes for our sandwiches and salads all summer, and for the first time since I could remember, my husband actually got tired of his cucumber/tomato salad by August! The plants actually did very well in the front flowerbeds, too. I am guessing the dirt is very good after years of mulching and growing flowers, and it also gets southwest sun all afternoon and evening, as well as plenty of water (we have sprinklers). One cucumber plant gave us more than we could eat. We gave away quite a bit, and still had a few cucumbers go bad at the end of summer.

Cucumbers go crazy in our flowerbed. There are a bunch of cukes hidden beneath the leaves.

So I decided why not make pickles? Last summer, I remembered both my grandma and my mom doing this, and didn’t recall it being very difficult. A look through the Ball Blue Book I’d inherited from Grandma confirmed that, so I ordered a canning rack for our stock pot, and jar tongs. We already had jars from my husband’s “moonshine” he makes to give as Christmas gifts. I also needed to buy whole dill.

But by the time I got my act together and got the supplies, the cucumbers went bad, and the plant was dying off. So this year, I planned ahead. We again grew five tomatoes and a cucumber, this time also got a dill plant, and parsley, both of which are also doing well. Conveniently, we started getting cucumbers at the same time as our dill flowered, and as of yesterday, we have seven jars of fresh-pack pickles sitting in the basement. They’ll need a couple months for the flavor to settle in, then hopefully they’ll be as good as Grandma’s (Mom only made sweet pickles). And yes, it wasn’t difficult at all.

Tennessee Update: We got our plans back from the designer on Friday. They had missed a few of our changes, so I emailed them back. They sent back the changes the next day, and everything looked good! So I approved the design, paid, and they sent the final plans later that afternoon. I forwarded them on to the builder, so now our next step is for him to apply for permits. I also sent them to our lender, who will need to get an appraisal to complete our loan. Things are moving right along!

What I’ve Been Reading: Not going to name the book or author of the fiction book I read this week, because it was kind of disappointing. It was good enough to finish, but barely. When I put a book down (or almost, as in this case), I like to analyze why, so I can learn from it. In this case, the beginning was way-too-drawn-out and repetitious. It seemed like the book took so long to get going. It also felt too short overall. I was expecting a more meaty read for the price I paid–at least a novel. This was novella-length, but nowhere on the Amazon page was that noted (I just double-checked). It also missed out on some things I typically expect of books in its genre, which is something we really need to get right as authors. It did pick up right as I was about to quit reading, and the ending was pretty good, albeit a little predictable.

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What I’ve Been Writing: My goal this week was to work through Week 3 lessons and worksheets in Holly Lisle’s How to Write Villains workshop. And–sigh–only three weeks into this round, I have a big fat fail. And for no good reason. I simply didn’t get to the writing until yesterday, and these exercises are pretty meaty, so… no. I got about halfway through it, and that counted work I did on it earlier today. (On a positive note, setting deadlines did help with my day job–I’m several days ahead of schedule there.) Writing only on weekends is not going to cut it; I need to do a little something most days, if not all. So this week, I want to finish Week 3’s lessons and start on Week 4, working on it for at least 15 minutes a day, five days this week.

What about you–have you tried or learned anything new lately? Ever had a preconceived notion that something wasn’t allowed (or possible), only to find out otherwise? How are your goals going, whether writing or something else? 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.

Rental House Redux

This past week, my husband, brother, and I stopped over to check on the rental house–the first time the three of us had been there together since the place caught on fire.

The contractor’s work seems to be moving along well–they have drywall up everywhere, and of course, rough-in plumbing and electric. It was encouraging to see. And better yet? Not one whiff of smoke.

One thing I can tell my writer friends is that there is nothing like the smell of burnt house. I went over there the day after the fire and, holy cow, the smoke smell was overpowering! As a writer, I’m supposed to be able to describe sensory details, but the pervasiveness of the smoke smell in that house almost defies description. It was so thick I could almost see the carbon molecules in the air I was breathing. And all I could think of was how fast I wanted to get out of there.

A couple months ago, I read a novel in which a character entered a recently-burned building. I could tell this author had not had that experience, as she barely even mentioned the smoke, much less how cloying and sickening it is (especially when there are emotions attached to it, as there should have been in the story). (Otherwise, the book was very good.) It wouldn’t have taken much, aside from how strong a smell it is. It mostly smells like a bonfire, but has an underlying, sickening chemical smell. It’s close enough that for the next few months, whenever one of my neighbors had a fire in their backyard, I was taken back to the rental house. I can’t imagine how much worse it would be for someone who’d lost their home to a fire.

One of our friends had, in an apartment fire around twenty years ago. We took her inside the house a couple days after the fire, and she said it smelled exactly like the burnt apartment building. And yes, she had to get out quickly.

Now, I don’t mind being there once again. There is a new furnace in the rental house, so when we went inside it was comfortable (though we kept our coats on, because the contractors had the heat turned down–thank you!). They are getting ready to finish the drywall next.

Some of the fixtures going into the upstairs bathroom

We had a progress meeting with them this Friday. While progress is good, that’s where the good news ended: we are going to be over-budget, unless we take on some of the work. As in, the estimates for all the work done so far plus what’s still to come exceeded the insurance estimate by about $15,000. Apparently, the savings found in drywall and OSB roofing were not enough to offset the new bathroom, and siding the detached garage so it would match the house (insurance wouldn’t cover the garage, as it was not affected by the fire). So  I spent all day yesterday poring over their 42-page detailed estimate, and pulling out line items we could cover. Most of this was purchasing materials, as they put an “overhead and profit” markup on everything. Others were things like installing towel bars and TP holders – they charge over $13 to do one. I don’t have a problem with that as it’s simply paying for their time, but they’re willing to let us do that and save some $$, so we definitely will. My husband may wind up refinishing the hardwood floors again, too, as that would save over $6,000.

What I’ve been Reading: This week, it’s been mostly my own WIP. But I’ve also continued to binge on a blog I found a couple weeks ago. Over this past year, I’ve discovered blogs outside of the writing community, mostly focused on 1) DIY, 2) Homesteading (I’m not interested in doing so, but I find it fascinating), 3) home building (surprise) and 4) Financial Independence. This week’s blog binges have fallen into category 4. One is www.1500days.com, in which the author describes his march to financial independence, with a goal of reaching it within 1500 days of when he started the blog in 2013 (spoiler: he succeeded). He has a really funny, engaging writing voice, plus there are sometimes plastic dinosaurs and fart jokes (check out the dinos drinking beer  at the top of the screenshot). I’ve become fascinated with FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early), and will probably blog about it more in the future.

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What I’ve been Writing: Still not much–actually, nothing besides this blog post. I probably spent too much time reading 1500days.com and not enough reading my WIP, as I did not complete reading it yet. I’m close, though, so this week’s goal is to finish what I have, and begin writing the next scene.

What about you–have you ever been inside a burnt building? What have you been reading lately? What are some of your favorite blogs? 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.

It’s Official

Last week, we closed on our property in Tennessee. It’s now ours! Part of me still can’t believe it, especially when we went there the following day and it’s even more beautiful than I remembered (that photo does not even come close to doing it justice). We met with our builder the afternoon we closed. He’s a friend of a friend, and we really liked him. He gave us a tour through his current WIP, a 12,000-foot monstrosity being built for a fraction-of-a-1%er who’s moving there from California. Amazing! And a major testament to our builder’s (and his trades peoples’) work. He wants to start on our house when he’s done with the current project, probably in April or May. Things are moving along!

What I’ve been reading: Not going to name the book today, because I don’t have much good to say about it. I picked it up because it’s based on a computer game I recently got sucked into, and it was free. The only reason I finished it was because it was short (a novella), and there were just enough references from the game to keep it mildly interesting. Otherwise, the poorly-developed characters and lack of depth would have had me putting the book down a couple chapters in. There was also an amateurish feel to the writing. I don’t expect a literary masterpiece–I read mostly genre fiction, and simple, workmanship writing is normally fine with me, but this was lacking something more that I can’t quite put my finger on. Most of the reviews mentioned things like this, so it wasn’t just me. On to better things!

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Writing/ROW80 update: As you might guess from my first paragraph, my mind has not been on the writing. Also, we’ve been a bit under the weather here–between our closing, meeting with the builder, and a little walking over the land in Tennessee, we spent most of our weekend there taking it easy at the hotel. Nothing major, just a bad cold/mild flu that took a while to let up. We’re better now, but it’s been slow going. So no, not much has happened on the writing front, other than me working through a couple more sections of The Story Toolkit. I’m not expecting much more this week, as I have to collect all our tax stuff for the accountant, whom I have an appointment with next weekend. But I’ll do my best to spend a little time on The Story Toolkit each day, and see how that works.

What about you–read any stinkers lately? Or how about good books? Have you and your family managed to keep healthy? Seems like everyone I know has had that cold going around here! What else has been going on with you, and how are you doing on whatever goals you might have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

Winning NaNo Eight Minutes at a Time

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

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

view from the top

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

Fairy Circle

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

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

old farmhouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about you–do you ever have trouble staying focused? What are some of your tricks to deal with that? If you’re a writer, are you doing NaNoWriMo? Why or why not? Whether or not you’re a writer, how are you doing on whatever goals you may have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

More Land Shopping

It feels like a long time since I’ve blogged, but it’s only been three weeks. I guess that’s because it feels like a lot has happened in the past two.

Mainly, DH and I went to Tennessee last weekend to do some more land shopping. After going with our friend a couple months ago, I knew I didn’t want to be as far from civilization as most of the properties we looked at then, so this allowed DH and I to look at a lot more, and we had a better idea of what we wanted.

In true HGTV House Hunters fashion, here are our lists:

Who wouldn't want to wake up to a view like this?

Who wouldn’t want to wake up to a view like this?

HIM–Must Haves:

  • 20+ acres
  • Mountain views
  • Mostly wooded
  • Evidence of Deer
  • Outside city limits so he can hunt
  • No building restrictions (so he can build his dream garage/shop)
  • Building site away from neighbors (we’re sure the people near us now don’t appreciate him revving up his car, sometimes late at night :D)
  • Wish-list: Pond or stream on property

HER–Must Haves:

  • Mountain views
  • Some trees
  • Sloped home site to accommodate a house with a walkout basement
  • Good Internet service available
  • Close to shopping, restaurants, and health care
  • Maximum 5 hour drive from my parents
  • Wish list: Large enough to get a building site away from neighbors (I’m tired of living 20 feet away from people who smoke on their patio)

Unlike some of the couples on House Hunters, we have a lot of wish-list items in common. The items that are only on one person’s list, the other is OK with, so that helps. 🙂 We both want each other to be happy, too.

Most of the properties we looked at, we could eliminate right away. They were either not wooded enough (mostly pasture), too far from town (or pushing it), or the lot was sloped up from the road, rather than down, or not sloped at all. Some were sloped correctly, but the area at the top of the rise where a house could be built was too small to accommodate both the house and the garage/shop he wants. One property had a big water tower in the middle of it. One had a nice pond, but its only frontage was the driveway, and that was too looooong. Another was pretty much the side of a mountain. And several were just “meh,” with no views other than of trees. We decided if we’re going to move out of state, let’s make it really worthwhile.

This is where we would put the house, should we end up getting this land

This is where we would put the house, should we end up getting this land

We did find one property that ticked off all the boxes. We met our Realtor there, a friend of a friend, and instantly clicked with her. She walked all over the property with us, even climbing a fence to see a cleared sloped area that would be a perfect spot for the house. And there were deer tracks everywhere–not only that, but someone had a deer stand and a trail cam set up (which DH made faces at). And WOW, did it have a fantastic view (see above). The only issue was that it was six parcels being sold together, for a price that was about twice what we wanted to spend.

Our Realtor checked into a few things, and found out the property has both a well and city water available–and broadband Internet. She also found that the sellers were willing to sell us four of the six parcels! So now it’s a matter of getting our money lined up and figuring out how much to offer, though we’ll probably want to do a more detailed walk of the property first.

On another note, we’re still finishing up with the little details in the kitchen. I have not yet gotten around to painting the doors and trim, but DH installed the tile transition and threshold, and put the storm door back up, and I put up the paper towel holder and wrap rack, plus cleaned everything again. DH had to grind down the tile edge a bit for the threshold, which generated more dust. Yay. The cabinet installers finally came back with the sink tip-out trays (those little trays behind the false-front drawers where you can put sponges, etc.) and replaced the broken glass in one of the cabinets. And yes, I will post lots of pics when it’s all done!

sm25sm26What I’ve Been Reading: with three weeks since my last post, quite a bit. First, I read Smith’s Monthly #25, including the novel Star Mist, by Dean Wesley Smith. This is part of his Seeder’s Universe space opera series, and one thing that strikes me about this series is that it takes place on a massive scale. I’m talking crossing galaxies, in moon-sized ships that carry millions of people, who are virtually immortal, so with lifespans that aren’t just millennia, but eras. With that large of a scale, he still manages to get the reader personally involved with the characters, especially ones who are new to space travel and the long lifespans, etc. The Seeders Universe novels all can be read independently, except that Star Mist did one thing that none of the others I’ve read so far have: it ended on a cliffhanger. Luckily, I already had Smith’s Monthly #26 (I’m about a year behind in reading them), so I could pick up with Star Rain, the next novel in the series, where the epic action wrapped up.

Sea and SkyI did take a break between the two, and read Sea and Sky by Patty Jansen, which I’d preordered, and came in that week. It was every bit as awesome and epic as the first installment in the series, though like that book, it also left off on a cliffhanger. This I expected, as it’s common in fantasy, and it was clear with book one that this is a “one really big book” type of series. #3 is already on preorder, and when I found the prequel trilogy on sale for $.99, I bought it to tide me over. 🙂

Writing Update: ROW80 has moved to Facebook, so I’m not sure I’ll stick with that as I’m not a fan of Facebook. The check-in post also isn’t there yet, and I may not remember to check it later, but I’ll still post my writing updates here. And if I do remember and you came here from Facebook, thanks!!

As you can guess, my focus has totally been elsewhere these past few weeks, so not much has been done on the writing front. It’s comforting to know this happens even to long-time pros like Dean Wesley Smith, who wrote a great post about it here, and detailed how he was working to ease back into it here (both worth a look if you are a writer). The week before last, I finished one scene that had been coming along all too slowly, but that’s it. Then we went to TN, and that was that for writing. After we returned a week ago today, I set out a plan to regaining focus, and this week’s goal was very, very small: to write 100 words five days this week, or 500 total. I made that, so on to this week’s goal: 250 words five days this week, for a total of 1250.

What about you–have you had trouble regaining focus on anything lately? What did you do (or are you doing) to get back in the groove? If you were shopping for a house or land, what would be on your must-have’s and wish list? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

Kitchen Progress

Kitchen Almost DoneI didn’t blog last week, because just as I was about to get started, my husband came in and said, “Let’s do this backsplash.” So we worked on that, and by the time we were done, I realized I didn’t really have anything to report here–I didn’t even finish a book to report on–so decided to just skip it. But hey, I learned something–how to use a tile cutter! I cut while he installed. It came out pretty well, IMO (the pics do not do it justice). Still needs to be sealed and caulked, but mostly done.

Kitchen Almost Done sinkThe new window frames also need to be caulked. Since the windows need to be clean for that, I cleaned them yesterday. Wow, what a job! With all the construction dust on top of years of grime, it probably took me two hours to scrub two not-very-big windows. With my fatigue, I had to take a lot of breaks (the two hours is not counting that). But they’re clean now, and look great! I also got the last of the dishes unpacked and put away.

After caulking, all that’s left to do is paint the trim, the basement and back doors, and touch-up. Then the dining room needs to be detail-cleaned, because everything in there is coated in dust… and the living room too, with slightly less dust. One of these days, I will have time and energy to write again.

babblingbrookWhat I’ve been reading: The Babbling Brook Naked Poker Club by Ann Warner. This is a cozy mystery, with a women’s fiction feel–not usually my thing. But Ann is a friend, and one of my earliest critique partners, and I’ve read several of her books that transcended being “not-my-thing.” This one was no exception. It’s the story of a group of ladies in a retirement home who get together to play poker, the “naked” part being figurative–the loser has to share a personal story. It follows two of the ladies, plus the activities director, as they try to figure out who’s been stealing valuables in the community, with a sweet romance developing between the latter and the cop the group befriends. It was mostly a lighthearted and fun read, though the stakes became pretty high near the end. So good I already bought book 2–definitely recommended!

ROW80Logo175ROW80 update: while there’s been progress here over the past two weeks, it’s mostly been confined to the kitchen (which I am happy to say, I’m already enjoying). I’m trying to get to the computer a little each night, but by the time I do, I’m too tired to do much (my fatigue is mental as well as physical). Now that the big parts of the job are done, I’m hoping that can change. After all, cleaning can be done fifteen minutes at a time. So my goal this week is relatively small: finish the scene I started, that I have about 500 words written.

We’re also in the final stretch of ROW80 Round Three. Since I blog on Sundays, this is the wrap-up for me. So how did I do on my quarterly goals? Well, I got the revising done, so that’s a big one accomplished. Now I just have to finish the book. I’d have liked to have done that, but there has just been too much going on. So that’s getting moved to Round 4, along with several other goals that didn’t get done this quarter. I guess I just had no sense on how time- and energy-consuming this work would be, even though my husband did most of the major work.

What about you–what’s been taking up your time lately? Read any good books recently? How are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing-related or not? How do you manage a big task? 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.

Frustrating

This has been one of those weeks with very little progress, as far as the writing goes. No life rolls or anything like that either, just no time and/or energy for it. And that’s with my adrenal fatigue being better lately.

For example, DH and I went out for dinner for our date night, as we do every week. We did our usual: go to a bar and grab something to eat, play trivia, and hang with friends. It was a good time. But I don’t get home from work until around 6, and barely had time to change clothes and do my after work routine before we left. We didn’t get home until after 10, and by then, I was too wiped out to write. I know, writing is just sitting at a computer and making stuff up, but that takes mental energy, and my fatigue is mental as well as physical.

The day after that, we finally got in all the rent checks from our apartments, so I had a good couple hours’ worth of paperwork to do in preparing the deposits. And after that was done, I had food prep to do, as I’m doing a cooking day today. This was also a work day, so by the time that was finished, it was again 10PM, and I was beat.

Yesterday was Saturday, and you’d think I’d be able to come up with some time to write. But noooooo, I had errands to run, some of which DH couldn’t do or he would have. Then I had to finish a few food prep things I didn’t do the night before. After that, I had two loads of laundry to do–normally, I do that on Sunday, but I’m cooking today so that won’t work. Then I spent about an hour doing my weekly Home Blessing, and just general tidy up because we had friends over for dinner. We had a great time (and some great food, which DH fixed), but by the time I’d cleaned up and our guests left, it was–you guessed it–10PM and tired.

I forced myself to spend 15 minutes or so writing, but it wasn’t fun or easy, because I was so tired. So this week, instead of the ten scenes I’d hoped to edit and fix? I got one and a half done. So frustrating!

StarNomadWhat I’ve been reading: I did have time to read, as that’s something I can do when I’m tired–it doesn’t take much mental energy to enjoy someone else’s creative work. This week I read Star Nomad, by Lindsay Buroker. I’ve been meaning to try her books for some time now, and this one’s the first by her I’ve read. It was a really good, fun, science fiction adventure. If you like Firefly, this is a must-read, because it really reminded me of that (though not in a rip-off sort of way).

I also finished a very long, nonfiction history book by my friend from high school, the one who gave me a copy of “my” yearbook for my birthday. He has not been able to find a publisher for it, and I’ll grant that it’s a niche topic (military aviation history), but it was very well-written and mostly kept my interest. I say “mostly” because it went into exhaustive detail–but I am not the primary audience for this book, and I believe those who are, will love this level of detail. I’ve been reading this book on my treadmill for the past six months, and I only use the treadmill when the weather’s too cold, hot, or rainy to walk the dog, so it’s taken a while. I am trying to get him to self-publish it, though he has a bit more work to do for that (finding pictures and getting permission for them, getting a Foreword written by someone known in the field, etc.).

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: As noted above, I didn’t even come close to meeting my goals last week. And this week doesn’t look to be much better, as I have a lot going on. So I’m going to shoot for getting one scene fixed/revised. Anything more than that will be a big win.

What about you–do you get frustrated when you don’t have the time (or energy) to do the things you want? What’s the one thing you don’t sacrifice? Have you read any good books lately? And whether or not you’re participating in ROW80, how are you doing on whatever goals you may have? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

A Binge that’s Good for You

I’m talking about reading–but of course!

It doesn’t make you gain weight. It isn’t mindless. It can even encourage physical activity–for example, I stay on the treadmill longer if my book is really good.

For the most part, this week’s been uneventful, and that’s fine with me. I had a chance to read a lot while waiting for a doctor’s appointment (a doctor I’m not planning to go back to, because of that). I didn’t get as much writing done as I wanted, though I can’t really blame the reading for that. My fatigue’s been acting up a bit, so I did more lying around watching TV than I’d have liked.

Critter Update: On the good news front, I have not had to go back to the vet’s office–so far, my gerbil Spaz has not resumed chewing his foot, and it’s finally starting to heal.

memoryoffireWhat I’ve Been Reading: Memory of Fire, by Holly Lisle. This is the book I happily devoured last week. It’s the first in her World Gates series, a blend of contemporary and epic fantasy. And it’s so awesome, I decided to do something I can’t remember ever doing before: I immediately bought the next book in the series. Usually, I read a few other books before going back to a series, but I know a lot of people binge-read, so I figured this was the series to try it out on. These books feature likeable, relateable main characters, and they’re massive in scope and stakes: not only one world’s fate hangs in the balance, but many. These are richly-developed worlds where everyone, including the bad guys, is fascinating and even they draw sympathy. I fully expect to pick up with the third as soon as I finish with the second, The Wreck of Heaven, which I’m reading now.

Something else interesting to note: I picked up Fire for $.99, on sale. It’s not an indie book, but was published by a Big 5 company: HarperCollins. The big publishers get a lot of criticism for overpricing ebooks, and while they do run sales like this, they tend to price other ebooks at $9.99 or more–higher than the paperback version. I fully expected to find that with Wreck, and figured I’d get it from the library, as I don’t like to pay that much to greedy publishers. I was pleasantly surprised: books 2 and 3 are $4.99 and $5.99, right in line with indie fantasy novel prices. So it’s good to see that someone at a Big 5 publisher has their head out of their posterior region, and I have no problem supporting that. 😀

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: I did finish the scene started last week, but instead of revising the next two, wrote another (short) new one. So… a semi-win, I suppose. For this week, a third (very short) one is next up, then finally I plan to get back to revising the existing material. I have my writers group meeting coming up next weekend, and some other stuff going on, so I’m going to shoot for just one edited scene.

What about you–do you binge-read? Or binge-watch TV series? (I’ve never done that, either). Have you read any good books lately? And how are you doing on whatever goals you may 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.

Pet-pourri

One thing that’s taken some of my time lately has been our pets. Now, I love animals, especially mine, so this isn’t really a problem. I got a new tank for my goldfish a couple weeks ago, and while that took some time to set up, it’s so much easier to clean than the old one–and the goldfish loves it.

Birthday girl is worn out!

Birthday girl is worn out!

Isis had a birthday, too–she’s now officially a terrible two. Well, not really too terrible, as long as we’re throwing the ball to her. For her birthday, a trip to Pet Supplies Plus was in order, where she picked out not one, but three new toys. Now I’m waiting for her to chew the squeaker out of them. After that, we went to the ice cream shop, even though it wasn’t Dogs Nite Out, and got her a doggie cup (and treats for DH and me, too).

But what’s taken more time is one of my gerbils.

It all started back in November, when my dad stopped by after visiting a rental property that was infested with fleas. He didn’t come into the house, but Isis was in the yard, and she brought them in. A trip to Wash Your Dog took care of her, and we thought, the fleas too.

Then I saw fleas in my gerbils’ tanks. I immediately cleaned the tanks, then brought them (and the turtle) to the dining room, and bombed their room. One of the gerbils was fine. But the other one, Spaz continued to scratch like crazy, because hey, freak out and get stressed is what he does, hence his name. A few days later, he’d scratched himself bloody.

So I took him to the vet, who found Spaz had mites (carried by fleas) and mange (carried by mites). He also had an ear infection, and had chewed the toenails off of one foot. Some gerbils do that when they’re stressed, but the problem with Spaz is, even after the mites and mange were cured, he kept going.

This is one ticked-off gerbil

This is one ticked-off gerbil

Now Spaz has no toes on one foot, though a month ago, it looked like he’d finally stopped.

Until I took him to the vet for a follow-up. Right after that, he started back into chewing, and this time, the vet went to what he said was the last resort, short of amputation: an Elizabethan collar.

As pitiful as Spaz was, the vet assistants and I couldn’t help laughing at his antics trying to dislodge the thing. It did its job in that he has not chewed his foot since then, even after he finally got the collar off about ten hours later (by doing somersaults!). Now to see if he continues to leave his foot alone.

What I’ve been reading: This vet is very good–he treats my turtle, too–but the wait times are way too long. Usually it’s an hour. Yesterday was two hours. I actually didn’t mind for once, because I had nowhere else I needed to be, and it was an excuse to read the really good book I’m working on right now. I’m not going to share about it just yet because I’m not finished, but I will next week. I know I’ll finish soon, because this is one of those I can’t wait to get back to–as in, it’s done a great job getting me to the treadmill, but it’s also one I have to fight the temptation to read, rather than do my own writing.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: It took until yesterday, but I finally did get started on my revisions. Still not sure about the new scene I’m writing, but at least I’m having fun again. What I finally figured out: even though revision uses the critical part of the mind, I couldn’t get myself to focus on it at my Internet computer. Only when I went into the critter room and sat at my writing computer did the resistance fade. So I guess that computer is not just for new writing. I didn’t get as much done as I’d have liked, but I did get through one revised scene, plus part of a new one done. For this week, I’m going to shoot for finishing this new scene, and revising the next two.

What about you–what has kept you from reaching your goals lately (or what has tempted you)? Do you ever have to fight the urge to read, rather than write? Do you have pets? 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.

How I Saved 2 Hours Grocery Shopping

Anything that saves time in chores gives us more time to do the things we want to do, so when I saw that my local Meijer store was offering online ordering and curbside pickup, my husband and I said we definitely wanted to try it some time.

mattersmost_300x300-300x300I’m getting ready to do a big cooking day, so this week was that time.

I made an account on Meijer.com, and started ordering. It was so much easier to just type what I wanted into the search bar, and then choose from all the choices, than to hunt for the item in the store! I also tried drilling down through the categories, as in Grocery –> Produce –> Vegetables, and that was also easy. Everything was pictured, so I knew what I was getting. It took me about an hour and a half to put together the massive shopping list that my cooking day required, over 80 different items. It takes me about half that long just to put together the shopping list for my husband, because it needs to be Very Specific. Then when he goes to the store, that takes 3-4 hours, plus a stop at Starbucks. That alone was a trade-off for the $4.95 pickup fee, plus my husband had one less super-sugary drink he didn’t need. 🙂

At the end of placing my order, I was able to select the exact pickup time my husband wanted, and it was ready when he drove up to the pickup area. We ordered two days ahead, but orders can be placed as little as three hours in advance, or one hour for 12 items or less. Store staff does all the loading–my husband didn’t even need to get out of his truck.

Overall, it was fantastic, and we will definitely do this again. My only complaint was regarding pre-packaged meats. Oh–as for quality, Meijer says they pick out the best meats and produce for curbside customers. I have no complaints there, but rather about the quantity. My cooking day required 11-1/8 lbs. of chicken breast, so I ordered two family packs that were supposed to be approx. 5 lbs. each, plus a single pack of approx. 1-1/8 lbs. I realize meat weights vary, so I noted in the comments box that I would rather have more than that, than less. But I got two 4-lb. family packs, plus a .8 lb. single. This is a new service, so I expect there to be some bugs to be worked out. They emailed me a survey link, so I put there that I’d like to be able to order meat by the pound, as I was able to do with produce, rather than by package. Luckily, I had some frozen at home, so I had enough for my cooking day without having to go back to the store.

snowdayWhat I’ve Been Reading: “Once Upon a Snow Day” by Kait Nolan. This short story is part of her “Meet-Cute” series, which aptly describes it. Not my usual fare, but I like something light and fun like this every now and then, and it fit the bill. Recommended!

gimmeshelterI also read Gimme Shelter by TS Hottle. This science fiction novella is set in the same universe as his prior release, The First One’s Free, which I read a few months ago. These books are the opposite of the one I almost put down in that he does a great job pulling the reader down into the characters, and making us interested in what happens to them, even those with less than charitable intentions. Like Free, this book is laced with evidence of his prior crime fiction work, full of characters with shifting and questionable loyalties and alliances in a complex, diverse, and well-developed universe. Definitely recommended!

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: I got a little done on my blurbs and cover, but they’re far from finished. Still, with all else I have going on, that’s a win. I did get the print book and cover for Mythical Press done, except for a few minor text tweaks from the author. I met with my writing group yesterday, which was fun as always. They are both among my first readers for my current WIP, and the one who got it back to me already had lots of changes to suggest. I agreed with most of them, but wasn’t sure how to implement them–actually, I was a bit overwhelmed–so she met with me to go over them. That helped tons, and now I have a plan for my revision. So this week’s plan is to write the two new scenes we identified.

How about you–what other strategies do you have to save time at the grocery store? Have you read any good books lately? And how are you doing on your goals, whatever they may be, writing or not? 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.