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.

Depth in Fiction: Why I (almost) Put the Book Down

This was one of those weeks where I didn’t do a whole lot besides the usual go to work, write, and of course, read. I finished last week’s book early in the week, so picked up another. This book was a type of story I love, so I expected to really enjoy it.

Despite its interesting story and premise, I kept finding myself distracted by all kind of other thoughts, and frequently putting the book down to think about something I’m working on instead. I couldn’t figure out why–it didn’t have any of the typical things that make me put books down, like excessive background information, repetition, or just nothing happening. Then I remembered the online writing workshop I recently completed.

Depth-Workshop-Cover2-e1402637242834Like Stacy commented on last week’s postsometimes we learn the most from the books we don’t enjoy. When I put a book down–or am tempted to, I always try to figure out why. The workshop I took last month was Dean Wesley Smith’s Depth in Writing (highly recommended if you’re a writer, btw). In it, he discussed how the bestsellers–and all good fiction–pull readers down deep into the story, quickly. This is something vital to keep readers reading, and to make them want the next book.

One part of accomplishing this is to draw the reader into the setting through vivid details, using all five senses–yep, even taste. (I’m not giving away any of the workshop either–he’s mentioned this on his blog before.) I skimmed the openings of the book’s prior chapters, and sure enough, this was what was missing. I couldn’t find any descriptions of smells or tastes, which are strongly connected to emotion, and only in a couple places could I find sounds or touch/temperature.

Now, I have never been overly fond of a lot of description in my reading, and it’s something I have had to work on in my own writing. But done right, it’s not a big chunk of bore, and won’t even be noticeable to the reader. This book was a perfect example of how important that is.

Sometimes, lack of depth can be compensated for with good storytelling, and that’s why I haven’t put the book down yet. It’s an engaging and interesting plot, and I want to find out what happens next just enough to keep on.

smithsmonthly15What I’ve been reading: I definitely enjoyed the book I finished early last week. That was Smith’s Monthly #15, by Dean Wesley Smith. The full novel therein was Cold Call, a really twisted murder mystery featuring retired cops who get together to play poker and solve cold cases.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: last week, my goal was to complete my first draft revision, and get the novella off to the beta readers. That is DONE. I contacted my publisher, and they already have my final editor lined up, and expect to have the book out by mid-March, barring anything unforeseen. Since I do cover design for Mythical Press, I also design my own covers, so that’s what’s up for this week–the cover design, and a short blurb suitable for back cover copy, something else the publisher needs. As a bonus goal, I need to collect all the front- and back-matter for the book, which I’ll need to supply to them as well.

What about you—have you put down a book lately, or considered doing so? Do you know why? How do you feel about description in fiction, whether you’re a writer or from a reader’s perspective? 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.

Just Do It

No, this is not an athletic shoes commercial. This is what I had to tell myself yesterday to get the job done, the “job” being the scene that’s hung over me for the past three weeks.

Sometimes the hardest part of getting the writing done is just getting started, going to the computer, and overcoming inertia. But lately, my main problem has been staying focused once I’m there. I did some more experimenting with mynoise.net, having decided that Brain.fm was not working well enough to be worth spending $6.99 for a one-month subscription.

My conclusion? Sometimes/it depends. Which soundscape I chose definitely made a difference; some were too bland to aid in focus, as they were mostly intended to be noise-masking. Others sounded great, but made me sleepy (one use for these sounds is in hypnotherapy practice). I might try listening as I’m reading before bed to help me go to sleep. But that’s not what I want to do at the writing computer. I really like the Ice World sound, but this is one of those. However, My Noise lets you combine sounds, and combining it with Ethereal Choir is great, and did seem to help with focus.

I met with three of my writer friends yesterday, and one of them was having focus trouble, too. We talked about what we do when we come to a scene we don’t want to write yet, whether because of mood or something else. “Toss it out” wasn’t discussed, although that’s a perfectly viable option when the scene isn’t really needed for the book. We were talking about those that were definitely needed.

I just skip the scene and move on to the next, as I mentioned in last week’s ROW80 update. One of my friends writes out of order, so that’s a no-brainer for her. It’s easy enough for me to do, as my sketch/outline tells me what happens in the next scene. But one of my other friends does the same thing, and she uses absolutely no outline. She and I both write our scenes in order otherwise. But my third friend said he absolutely can’t write out of order. Lucky for him, he doesn’t come upon this situation very often.

Yesterday, I still had not finished either of the two scenes I’d wanted to for today’s ROW80 update. But meeting with my writing friends is always fun and energizing (at least creatively), and I came home ready to tackle those scenes. I hit the later one first, and finished it without a problem. Then I played computer games for about an hour, procrastinating on that scene I didn’t want to write, until I finally realized I was not going to hit that goal for the third week in a row if I didn’t Just Do It.

So I went back to the writing room, fed the critters, and fired up mynoise.net with a combo of Ice World, Ethereal Choir, and Coastline. I don’t know whether it was the music/sounds, or my determination to just get it written, but it worked. Took about three hours, and 2500 words, but it’s done! 🙂

GodsSwindlersWhat I’ve been reading: I finished Gods and Swindlers by Laura Kirwan last Sunday or Monday. I love, love, love this series, about a fifty-something, non-magical lawyer who lives in a magical town and is the only thing standing between it and magical baddies. This one was a little slow at first, but still kept my interest, and only got better and better as it went (much like the previous two books in the series). I hope the next one is out soon, though I’m willing to wait.

One thing I’ve noticed as a reader is that I can’t tell if something was written fast or slow, in order or not, outlined or written into the dark. Nor can I tell whether the author revised and fixed as s/he went, or did a big revision (or multiple) afterward. A lot of people have strong opinions on these, particularly the speed and revisions, but IMO none of them matter. What’s important is that we do what works for us for that book, at that point in our knowledge of craft. And it can change. (FWIW, I am a nominal outliner, I mostly write in order, my speed varies greatly even within one book, and I am working toward fixing more as I write, and revising less because I don’t enjoy it.)

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: As noted above, I made my goal to finish both the scenes I was working on (barely)! So this week’s goal is to write the last scene (yes!), and then go back and fix the things I know are missing. As a bonus, I’d like to do the read-through and proofread, to get it ready for the beta readers.

What about you–when you read, can you tell anything about how the book was written? What do you do to get yourself to Just Do It when “it” is something you keep stalling on? If you’re a writer, do you ever write out of order, and how do you handle scenes you don’t feel like writing? How are you doing on whatever goals you may have, whether or not you’re a writer? 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.