This Week was a Bust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Surprise Visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about you–any surprises in your life lately? I hope they’re as good as mine was! How are you doing on whatever goals and plans you’re working toward, whether writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

Getting Stuff Done: What’s My Secret?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DH: You hungry?

Me: A little.

DH: What sounds good for dinner?

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

DH: I don’t know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harvesting

It’s been a week of catching up on things after several busy weekends, and of harvesting.

Last week, I had family over to celebrate three birthdays–my daughter’s, my brother’s, and my dad’s. All went well and we had a good celebration. The Black Forest cake I made with homemade cherry pie filling was a big hit, and was requested for all future parties for these three, as it’s when cherries are in season.

This tomato’s taste was comparable to its size

It was also time to break out the pickles I made a couple months ago. They were a little salty, but good! Too salty, because I used regular table salt, and should have used kosher salt–a coarser grain that would have equated to a bit less overall. But the pickles were tasty enough I’d consider them a success. Glad I got those pickles too, because a couple weeks later, the cucumber plant succumbed to powdery mildew. 🙁

The tomatoes have had no such issues, and have been producing like crazy, especially the Beefmaster. One tomato was bigger than my hand! Okay, my hands aren’t that big, but still! We ate part of it in a big, salmon salad tonight, and even then, the rest almost wouldn’t fit into the food keeper we had.

Tennessee Update: Nothing new here – still waiting for the bank. The loan originator tells us they’re waiting on the title company. It’s frustrating, because we just went through that exercise a  year and a half ago when we bought the land, and the title was clean then. But the banks always have to dot every “i” and cross every “t.” Hope to get a closing date this week!

What I’ve been Reading: Still not done with that novel, but not because I’m not enjoying it. The reason? Because it’s paper! I have tons of paperback books I’ve collected over the years, mostly conference freebies, but some gifts and some I’ve bought. I noticed one of the latter a couple weeks ago as I was thinking it’s waaaaaaay past time for a newsletter, and a giveaway. Then I realized I hadn’t read that book, and decided I really needed to go through the paperbacks and read some before I give them away or move them.

See, ever since I got a Kindle four or five years ago, I much prefer ebooks. The main reason is that I like to read fiction in bed, before I go to sleep, and with ebooks, I can read in the dark. Sometimes I go to bed first, sometimes my husband does–and if that’s the case, reading with a light is a total non-starter. But I do have a bunch of paperbacks I want to read, so I’ll just work through them slowly on the nights I go to bed first.

I did finish another ebook–or e-magazine, rather: Fiction River: Editor’s Choice, edited by Mark Leslie. These are anthologies of short stories, usually with a connecting theme. This issue was different–it was mostly stories that didn’t make it into one of the themed anthologies for one reason or another, but were too good not to publish. And indeed, there were none I skipped in this issue (no present tense, yay!). A wide variety, from superhero YA to a far-futuristic, to very modern-day, slice of life. If you enjoy short stories, I’d definitely recommend Fiction River.

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What I’ve Been Writing: My goal last week was to get back on my WIP, and write 100 words a day. Well, I missed a couple of days–really, I should have allowed for that–but I overshot the 100 words without a problem on most days, and wound up with a total of 900 for the week. Doesn’t sound like much, give that I can write that much in an hour if I get going on it, but with so much going on, and just getting back to the WIP, I’ll harvest those 900 words as a win. For this week, I’m going to shoot for an even 1000 words total, however it breaks down into number of days written.

How about you–have you harvested anything exciting lately? Have you read anything good recently?  Do you prefer to read print books, or ebooks, and why? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

Free of the Gray Cubicle

Tennessee Update: Last week, I mentioned that I needed to reveal my plans to move to Tennessee at work sooner than I’d planned. My ultimate goal was to get permission to take my job with me when we move, and get a letter to that effect for our lender.

I was to participate in a meeting on Monday with my manager, and I planned to talk to him about it afterward. I didn’t think the meeting itself would have any bearing on our discussion. But it turns out it might have. Because one of the client folks in attendance was the guy who controls the funding for my project–and who, in his typical fashion, went a bit off-tangent from the planned discussion topic.

But this was a particularly good off-tangent, because we got a bit of insight into his plans and vision for my project, and it was a lot more expansive than I (and probably my manger) realized.

So when I met with my manager after the meeting, I think partly he was relived I wasn’t giving notice of quitting. Thing is, I started putting this into motion a year ago, when another team member quit–the only other person who really knew anything about our web app from a development standpoint. I was given some of his responsibilities at that time. I knew more compensation wasn’t forthcoming, so I asked for part-time remote work, and our manager said “that shouldn’t be a problem.”

So I started off with asking how he thought my remote work arrangement had gone, and he said, “It hasn’t been a problem.” I then asked if I could go full-time remote, and his response was the same as last year’s. Then I revealed why I wanted remote work. I told him I think our employer is a good company to work for, and that I believe in this project and want to see its success. I assured him that I could return to Dayton regularly to check in in person–especially since my parents and daughter will still be in Ohio.

And he said, “That shouldn’t be a problem.”

So, huge relief!

I needed to get the letter for the bank from HR, so I went to see our HR Director the next day. As soon as I told her my plans, she was immediately intrigued. How were we going about having a house built from 300 miles away? Who’s our builder, and how did we find him? How did we find our land?

Turns out she wants to build a vacation home in the area. And was super supportive of our move!

So it’s official, I’m free of the gray cubicle… and still employed! Everything worked out as well as it possibly could have.

My husband called the builder to follow up on our schedule. The builder is ready to go as soon as our loan closes, so now we’re just waiting on the bank. Obviously, we’re not going to hit his original projected start date of August 20 (I didn’t really expect that anyway), but hoping we’ll be able to soon.

What I’ve Been Reading: the novel I started before last week, very slowly. So I’ll discuss a nonfiction book I read a few weeks ago, Set For Life by Scott Trench. The author is in his late twenties or early thirties, and this book is geared toward young people who are just getting started in their adult lives. I actually bought it for my daughter, who turned 23 a couple weeks ago, but read it before I gave it to her. It’s a good overview of some financial habits to develop, and ways to save money, and invest in real estate by starting with “house-hacking,” or buying a duplex and living in one side while renting the other, thereby keeping your housing costs very low (if not zero). All of his suggestions may not be for everyone, but it’s a great starting point for coming up with a plan that does work for the individual. It’s well-written and very accessible, and I would recommend it for any young person who wants to get a grip on their financial life fast.

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What I’ve Been Writing: Finally finished the How to Write Villains workshop! The Week 7 lesson was interesting in that it went over villains that readers love, villains that people love to hate, and villains that people fear–and broke down what goes into creating these types of villains, and what makes them work (or not work). Was the workshop worth the $97 price tag? Personally, I have taken plenty of online workshops that were three times that cost, and the material in this one was just as good as those workshops. But YMMV. More info on the course can be found on Holly’s shop site, for those interested. (And no, that’s not an affiliate link.)

Now it’s time to get back to my novel. I’m once again going to start with baby steps. One commenter a few posts back suggested 100 words a day, and that sounds like a good, easy start, so that’s what I’ll go for. Normally, I give myself a day or two off per week, but that’s such an easy target I don’t think that’s necessary, so… we’ll see how it goes! A whopping 700 words? Once I get going, I can write that in one night. But getting (re) started is the hard part, so you never know!

What about you–have you done anything lately where you weren’t sure how it would go? How did it go? Have you read anything good lately? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might be working on, whether writing or something else? 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.

 

Saying Yes to Fun

My post is late today, because my husband and I just got back from a weekend trip to Cleveland a little while ago.

Sandy feet at a beach wedding!

We’d planned this trip several months ago, after being invited to my longtime friend T.S. Hottle’s wedding on the Lake Erie shore. We rode the Harley up–a bit hot at times, but overall a good ride. We stopped in Columbus on the way up to take our daughter out to lunch for her birthday, and got to Cleveland in plenty of time for the wedding.

Tom and his now-wife put together a lovely little beach ceremony, with a reception in the park just above it. We’ve known each other for 34 years (we both did the math while telling his relatives), so it was an honor to be included as part of his family for their special day.

This morning, we rode over to the other side of Cleveland to meet up with one of my husband’s friends from high school, who also has a Harley. And, I also got to meet his wife for the first time, which was fun. We all rode into the picturesque small town nearby and had a wonderful brunch (can you say waffles with Nashville-hot chicken? Yes!). Then we took a cruise with them before heading home. All in all, a great weekend!

I had plenty of time to think on back of the motorcycle on the way there and home, and it occurred to me that we used to get out and do fun things like that fairly regularly while we were dating. We’d been married about a year and a half when our daughter came along, which tends to slow things down a bit–understandably. Not that we didn’t ever go on vacations or even long weekend trips, but more planning was involved, and only once did we go on motorcycles. That was back when I had my Harley, and we rode to Tennessee. My Harley was a street bike, not a touring bike, so it was not a pleasant experience, and not repeated. We sold my Harley a few years ago, because I just don’t have time to ride often enough.

But by the time our daughter went to college, the habit of saying no had gotten ingrained in me. It seemed between my job, writing, taking care of a house, and being tired all the time, I just didn’t have much time to do things like motorcycle trips, especially spontaneous ones.

Saying No is important, especially saying no to more obligations when we already have too many. Sometimes, it’s necessary to say no to fun because of our health. But saying no out of habit, is a habit I’m working on breaking.

That started earlier this spring, one day when my husband asked if I’d like to go on a motorcycle ride to visit our daughter in Columbus. I had things to do that weekend–it was while we were still working on the flip house–but I knew I’d been saying no to too much, so I said yes. We had a great visit and lunch, and I was glad I went. That’s when I realized I needed to say yes to fun, and to the special people in my life, more often. The stuff to do was still there later, and it ended up getting done soon enough. That was how this weekend was, too, even though it was planned in advanced. It might be 9:30 PM, but the laundry is in the dryer, and I’m getting the blog written. I’m glad I said yes to Tom’s wedding, too. I have a couple more yesses coming up next weekend, so the blog might be late then, too. We’ll see!

What I’ve Been Reading: Starseers, by Lindsey Buroker. This is Book 3 in her Fallen Empire series. I tried Star Nomad, the first book in the series, because it was free (it still is) and it looked good. It was, and I’m now hooked. This is space opera with a kick-ass female starship captain who’s ferrying some interesting passengers around the galaxy after serving in the military during a war. One passenger is a super-sexy cyborg who happened to serve on the other side during the war, making for a nice little romantic subplot. These books are fast-paced, action-packed, and feature well-developed characters and humor. If you like space opera, I highly recommend them!

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What I’ve Been Writing: I completed all of the Week 5 exercises in my workshop! I’d only planned to complete half of them, since I knew I would be away over the weekend, but they turned out to be easier and much less time-consuming than I expected. Or maybe I didn’t quite get the concepts; that’s certainly possible. But at any rate, they’re done, and this week, I want to do the Week 6 lesson and exercises. These exercises look a bit more in-depth than last week’s, so given that I have another busy weekend coming up, it may not all happen. But that’s what I’ll shoot for!

How about you–do you have trouble saying yes to fun? Or perhaps you have trouble saying no–to too many obligations? What fun things have you said yes to lately? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

 

Things are Getting Real

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

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

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

The Front Elevation of our new house

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Value of Habits, and the Need for Deadlines

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

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

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

Except this week, I finally did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

D-I-Yes You Can!

Things continue to move along at the rental house. My husband spent the day re-sanding the hardwood floors, to re-refinish them. I did running around to get supplies, and was also working on staining the rest of the shelves we’re going to put in the kitchen. They are going to be some really cool pipe shelves, made all the cooler because ours will be over the stove, and have the microwave installed beneath & between them, as shown to the right.

I have some of the pipes, and have the rest on order, so this project should be done and ready to install by next week. Next up is painting the U-shaped pantry shelves and the bench support for the mudroom, which will all be white.

The fact that I am doing this stuff amazes some people. And until about a year ago, it would have amazed me too, because it never would have occurred to me that I could. Painting and staining is no big deal; I actually stained every piece of trim in our second story when it was added on about fifteen years ago. There’s also a built-in bookcase; I stained the wood for that, too. Minwax and I have been good friends now for over fifteen years.

But it never would have occurred to me that I could design a project, or especially that I could cut and assemble it. Not until I discovered non-writing blogs last year (while not doing much writing), one of which was DIY Diva.

I found this on Pinterest, while I was looking for new house ideas–a blog post about how the author and her boyfriend built their own house from the ground up. The article was great. But what really drew me in was the writing.

I wound up reading her blog starting from her first post in 2004 (yep, she was an early adopter!) through the current one. Hers is some of the most witty, engaging, clever yet self-deprecating and just plain real writing that I’ve ever come across. For a good example, see her About page–for which the web address is diydiva.net/loose-screws/. LOL! I couldn’t stop reading that blog until I’d read every last post. Somewhere along the way, she convinced me that I could create and build things too. And I’m not the only one–plenty of times, I read in the comments how someone had been inspired to try building something because of reading her blog. And how this was one of the reasons she loves to blog–to empower others to create, and see that Yes, You Can.

Oh, and her blog was the first place I saw pipe shelves. Check out this master bedroom closet–so cool! Mine are much simpler, but I still think they will be a definite wow-factor in our house’s kitchen when it goes on the market.

She doesn’t blog often any more, but when she does, it’s still entertaining and engaging, and I smile every time I see a new post in my feed reader. So if you want some good, humorous reading with a bit of swearing and a good dose of Yes, You Can, check out DIYdiva.net.

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What I’ve Been Reading: I started a novel this week and am really enjoying it. I’ll blog about it next week after I’ve finished.

What I’ve been Writing: Finally! I managed to fit writing in two evenings, for a total of over 1,000 words. That doesn’t sound like much, but I’ll take it! So this week’s goal? Finish that scene!

How about you–have you ever read something that totally inspired you to do something you wouldn’t have before? Do you read blogs by people other than book-writers (because bloggers are writers too)? Either way, how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

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

One Step Closer to Tennessee

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

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

view from the top

Our land in Tennessee

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

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

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

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What I’ve Been Writing: As noted above, nothing. 🙁 Just too much going on to wrap my head around my story, I think. But this is a new week, and a new chance to try again, right?

So what about you–ever have one of those weeks where a lot happens, but none of what you planned? What do you do to get back into your own projects? Read any good books lately? And how are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? Please share–I’d love to hear from you!

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