Things are Happening

In some ways, not in others. On the new house/moving front, we received the finalized house plans from our designer. And as I typed that, I realized I’d never shown what our house is going to look like, or even described it. So it’s time to do that: I would call it a Craftsman/Chalet, both styles I’ve always liked. Judging from DH’s comments while driving places over the years, I knew he liked the chalet look too (and wasn’t averse to the Craftsman style). So when I first found this house and showed him, I knew from his reactions that my instinct was right: this was the one.

It’s designed for a sloped lot, which is what we have. So just picture that with awesome mountain views behind it, rather than a lake. Our street is bordered with trees, but if it’s visible from the road at all, that lovely dramatic back view is what will be seen. Yet it will be far off the road enough that we will still have privacy.

It’s about 2000 sq. ft., not counting the lower level. That’s going to be in-law/guest suite, since where we’re moving is a place a lot of our friends and family like to go for vacation (a big reason we’re moving there too).

We bought the plans, then had the designer customize them for us. Basically, they’re a combination of the plan linked above, and this alternate version that has a breezeway and attached garage.

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Bedroom 3 is will be my writing office, as well as a secondary living space–I guess “den” would be a good word for that. That’s pretty much what my writing office is now, and for the most part that works. Bedroom 2 will be a guest room (mainly for our daughter), and will also be where I put my sewing machines. Heck, I may even get into more sewing if I don’t  have to do it in a dingy basement! I am pretty sure DH’s favorite place will be the screen room off the master bedroom, where we’ll put the hot tub and a TV over the fireplace.

In related news, we also got an offer on the apartment building we have up for sale to pay for all of this. We’ve considered taking out a construction loan, but were hoping this would sell so we didn’t have to, as we try to avoid debt. A couple of weeks ago, we got an offer very close to the asking price–almost too good to be true! The guy wanted to close in two weeks, so I scrambled to collect the paperwork he’d requested.

When a week went by and we had no news of him getting inspections or anything, we started to wonder. So our Realtor and our title agent checked into things. The buyer is a trust, which turns out to be located in Georgia. His title company is in Maryland, and while they’re legit, it turned out they aren’t even licensed to close in Ohio. And they never received the guy’s earnest money. His agent (located in Ohio) couldn’t get hold of him. His attorney (located in Florida) finally called our Realtor and said they guy was still interested. That was two days before we were supposed to close, and nothing since then. It’s like the guy just evaporated. So the building is still for sale, and we may still wind up going the loan route, at least until it sells.

What I’ve been reading: This book took me a really long time to read–partly because it’s really long, party because it’s a slower, quieter story than my usual fare, and partly because my mind’s been elsewhere. But I finally did finish it, and it was worthwhile. Pride’s Children: Purgatory by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt is a book I’ve been interested in for a while, as I’ve seen it mentioned by the author in blog comments. It intrigued me because the main character has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and I wanted to see how this was treated in fiction (answer: very realistically). Yet I was hesitant, as I knew it wasn’t my kind of book–two of the main characters are actors, and I normally don’t care for celebrity characters. It turned out my worries were mostly unfounded, as the male lead was very well-developed, sympathetic, and real. As was the female lead (the writer with CFS), though I expected that. The third main character, an actress, was thoroughly unlikable–more of a villain, really–but there weren’t that many scenes in her point of view. This book is marketed as literary fiction, but I would consider it more to be Upmarket Women’s Fiction. As such, it’s a little pricey, but it’s free in Kindle Unlimited, and goes on sale for $.99 every now and then (which is when I bought it). If you like this kind of book, I’d recommend it!

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Writing/Row80 Update: I haven’t been writing at all. My mind has just not been on it. I’m going to try to do a little today and get back in, but no promises. One thing I have been doing is taking a workshop from Dean Wesley Smith on endings, the hardest part of the book IMO. It’s been good so far, and has kept me not totally out of the writing, so that’s something. I have managed to keep up with it and the assignments, too. So that’s my goal for this week as well. Anything I get done on my WIP will be a bonus.

What about you–what have you been up to lately? When you step away from writing (or something else you normally do), is it hard for you to get re-started? If not, any tips for me? Have you read any good books lately? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

 

 

 

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.

New Year, Not-so-new Goals

I took some time off blogging last month, mainly because, holidays. With all of the extra stuff on the to-do list, something had to give, and I figured it might as well be the blog, since the writing had already given.

I did get some other things accomplished. For one, I decluttered the basement. After living here for 23 years, that’s no trivial thing. My family is amazed. And while I was decluttering, I found fabric my mom had given me years ago to sew her a couple of things. Which was great in that, if I completed them, I had something to give her for Christmas, not an easy thing to find. Which was not-so-good in that it was another project to add to my to-do list (hence no blog). That really wasn’t a problem as I like to sew; it’s just one of those things I haven’t had time or energy for much in the past few years.

Luckily, my energy held out until after Christmas, and I was able to complete the projects (the last one at 9PM on Christmas Eve). And she loved them, so it was totally worthwhile. The whole family had a good Christmas, so that was even better (and we were all well this year, too!).

DH and I had decided not to get each other anything since, after all, we had a new kitchen and were in the process of buying 28 acres in TN. Except I couldn’t do that, so I bought him a couple things to wear. LOL–he did the same.

Skeet at right while Isis gives DD a kiss

We got an addition to the family, too–a four-legged one. This is Skeet, the neighbors’ dog that we pet-sat for a couple years ago. She’d run away, and DH found her in the pound. The neighbors aren’t really in a good place to keep a dog right now with their jobs (he is out of town all the time, and she is rarely home) so we adopted her. As before, Skeet and Isis get along great, and we knew Skeet’s really sweet and affectionate (and totally destroys dog toys, but only dog toys, so that’s OK).

What I’ve been reading, abbreviated version (since it’s been a while):

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ROW80/Writing Update: As mentioned above, not much writing has gone on in the past couple months. I had a great start to NaNoWriMo, but that stopped cold soon after that as I ran out of outline and had no idea where my story was going. Some people write well that way; me, not so much. I needed to step back and regroup, but just as that happened, the holidays came along. So my new goal for this ROW80 is the same as last time’s: finish the WIP. I did figure out a few things while not writing, so that’s a start. This week, I want to at least spend time planning or working things out each day, if not actually writing.

What about you–how were your holidays? How did you do on your goals, if you do that? And what are you up to now? 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.

Thanksgiving Decluttering

That’s mostly what occupied me this past week, though there were a few other details as well. First, we’ve started on our due diligence for our land purchase, starting with getting a perk test for the septic system. DH called the Knox County health department, expecting this to be a big pain, because in the suburban city where we live now, any dealing with the local government is exactly that. There’s one person there who knows what he’s doing, and he’s only in the office between 8 and 9 AM, when he might answer the phone–or more likely, lets it go to voice mail. Sometimes he returns calls–usually after several voice mails. Everyone DH deals with acts like he’s inconveniencing them by expecting them to do their job and answer questions.

Knox County was totally the opposite: Every single person he spoke with was super friendly and went out of their way to be helpful. We sent them a preliminary plot plan by email, and they even called to follow up. They did the test within a week, and said they found a good place for the system. So that’s one item down!

Thanksgiving went wonderfully, especially with the new kitchen! DD and I cooked the night before, and even though it’s the same small area, we had no trouble both being in there working on different food, because the layout was so much more efficient. Even cleanup is a pleasure in that kitchen! The meal of course was wonderful as always.

This past week, I also started decluttering what is, in my house, the final frontier: the basement (cue scary music). Actually, I haven’t done the garage yet either, but that’s technically not in the house. If that sounds scary, it’s because it is. We’ve lived here for 23 years, and that’s a long time to accumulate junk–and that’s mostly what’s down there. So far, I’ve collected five bags of giveaway stuff, and thrown out as much trash. It’s only now starting to look like I’ve made a dent in it. I expect to fill at least two more giveaway bags of old blankets for SICSA, a local animal shelter. The good part is finally, I don’t dread just walking down there any more.

sm28What I’ve been reading: Smith’s Monthly #28 by Dean Wesley Smith. The short stories were the usual, entertaining fare, but the novel was a bit of a surprise: An Easy Shot: A Golf Thriller. I know, right? IMO, “golf thriller” sounds like an oxymoron. Even my dad and husband, who both enjoy golf, fall asleep within ten minutes of turning it on the TV. But the novel turned out to be very entertaining. The thriller part centered around an assassination plot against a U.S. senator, who was playing in a golf tournament. The main characters were a husband and wife who were both cops and overheard something about the plot. There wasn’t a lot of actual golf in the story, but what was there I didn’t even need to skim (like I do in some of Smith’s stories that center around poker playing).

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ROW80/Writing Update: This is what’s been pushed aside this past week, mostly because I’m still stuck. In desperation, I finally set my timer on a couple of occasions, and let myself just sit and think about the book for fifteen minutes. It’s helped–while I still don’t know enough of my way forward to get back into the writing, I’ve figured out some of the main details. A few more sessions will hopefully take care of it and I’ll be back at the computer–in between Christmas prep, of course. As a side note, it seems I get stuck at this 2/3 – 3/4 point with just about every book, so I guess that’s part of my process. I just wish it didn’t have to take so long. But anyway, that’s my goal for this week: one sit-and-think-only-about-the-book session per day until I get it figured out.

What about you–if you celebrated Thanksgiving this past week, what did you do? Have you started preparing for the December holidays yet? Have you ever read a book that didn’t sound interesting, but turned out to be great? And have you ever stalled out on a goal, and how did you get back into it? 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 Reveal, and We Bought the Farm

A lot has gone on this week. For starters, we have an accepted contract on our land! Now the real work begins as we get feasibility tests conducted for things like a septic system, and of course the overall house. Luckily, we have until the end of January to do them.

In other news, I finally completed the touch-ups in the kitchen, and have before and after photos! One thing that’s obvious in the “before” pics is how much clutter there is. But very little of it was “give away” or “throw away” clutter–most was stuff that had no home (well, except for my dinner sitting out in that one pic. That found a home, LOL!). In the “after” pics, no clutter! And not because I got rid of a bunch of stuff–I did that over a year ago. It’s because everything now has a place! Which is no small feat considering that, as pretty as the new kitchen is, it’s still very small. Just much more efficient use of space.

This kitchen was, and is, about 7’9″ x 11’10”. I was watching House Hunters one time, and the couple was looking at a house with an 8′ x 13′ kitchen. The narrator noted that this is smaller than 2/3 of the kitchens in the U.S. “Not mine!” I thought. Bigger would have been wonderful, but two walls are exterior. The other two walls back up to the staircase, and a bathroom, so there was no option to just knock out a wall, like they do on the HGTV remodeling shows. An addition was way out of our budget, and we’re already maxed out for the neighborhood, home-value-wise. So we made the best of the space we had. I also added some cool new features, like a tall pantry with roll-out shelves, and a little pullout pantry for spices.

Click any photo for a larger view (and see how awful our kitchen really was before!)

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Thank heavens for that microwave cart my parents gave us as a gift, many years ago. It was so much appreciated–and still not enough room to contain our food! We couldn’t tilt the window in to clean with it there, but now we can!

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Tons of wasted space above the stove. And check out that dumb gap under the window–it was there before the dishwasher was put in. Now it’s all put to use, and even the aloe plants (in hanger) got pretty, new pots (sitting on counter at the right).

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More wasted space above the sink. This is why sinks often go under a window–like ours does now. And that soffit? Gone, with ceiling-height cabinets in its place.

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This big side counter was a nice prep area for as small as our kitchen is. But even without my dinner sitting out, it was always a mess–even the under-cabinet spice racks were falling apart. Now we have a nice corner for DH’s Keurig (below, right) and room for everything else, plus a big prep area against the back wall where the sink used to be.

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Love the pullout spice rack, and the tall pantry! Below the coffee pot in the right pic is a slim cabinet for cookie trays. All that stuff that was sitting out now has a home. I put a lot of thought and research into this (and some work) and DH put a LOT of work into it. As many of you pointed out, it’s so worth it now! We can enjoy it for a good couple years until we move.

babblingbrook2What I’ve been reading: The Babbling Brook Naked Poker Club Book 2 by Ann Warner. This is the sequel to The Babbling Brook Naked Poker Club, and a continuation of the stories of characters I really came to love in that book. It did not have the mystery element that the first book had, but there was still plenty at stake in the characters’ personal relationships. With some series books, it doesn’t matter which order they’re read in, but this one really did take up where the last book left off, and featured the same characters. As the author note in the front points out, readers should read the first book prior to this one. Definitely recommended, even if you don’t normally read women’s fiction. I don’t, but I love these!

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ROW80/Writing Update: Not much to tell here. Part of the reason was there’s simply too much else going on, and even when I had time to write, my mind wasn’t on it. But the real issue was that I ran out of outline. I would love to be able to just sit down and write and see where the characters take me, but it just doesn’t work that way for me. Even though my “outlines” are very sketchy–one sentence per scene, and I often deviate from them–I still need that bit of a framework. I tried just outlining a few scenes ahead, which was what I wrote the week before last, but when that ran out, so did my writer’s brain. I did write about 1000 words worth of possible things that could happen, so this week, I want to work that into an outline that will keep me writing.

What about you–what do you think of our kitchen remodel? Have you ever embarked on a project like this? How are you doing on whatever goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

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.

Five Things to Consider when Buying Land, plus a bonus

Not much has happened this week on the land front, but I’ve still continued to give it a lot of thought and continue researching–and I’m glad I did, because I ran across something that could be a dealbreaker on the parcel we’re looking at. So I figured I’d share some of what I’ve learned since we started this crazy land shopping thing.

  1. 5 Things to Consider when Buying LandYou might think that location is the first consideration when shopping for land. After all, much of real estate can be summed up by one word: “location, location, location.” But wait! It’s not so obvious when it’s not a house you’re buying. The first thing? What do you want to do with your land? Not everyone is looking to build right away–or at all. Vacant land can, in and of itself, be a good investment. Some people buy land purely for recreation–hunting, camping, and other outdoor pursuits. And even if you’re building, what are you building? Just a house? How big? Do you want to farm? Keep livestock? Hunt? Build a big barn (or in our case, a big workshop/garage)?
  2. Location. All of the above plays into the location question. One thing we learned once we met and talked to our Realtor was that we need to buy land that’s outside of city limits, since DH wants to hunt on it. There are also fewer restrictions on outbuildings. But we still want something that’s not too far from the city, as it’s also where we want to live.
  3. How much land do we need? The answer to this question is also determined by our answers to the first. If we only wanted to build a house, we wouldn’t need much. Add DH’s garage/workshop, and we need a little more. Keep us out of the neighbors’ faces (and cigarette smoke)? Add a couple more acres. But DH also wants to go deer hunting, so that ups it quite a bit. These past few years, he’s hunted on 40 acres my brother owns nearby, and he travels all over the land. He’d love for us to be able to get that much. But as little as 20 would work, and if we want something that’s not too far from civilization, is much more realistic for our budget. Speaking of which…
  4. Budget is a major consideration in its own right–perhaps it should even be #1, but that’s pretty obvious so I’ll consider this enough said on that topic. Here is a good article on how to determine budget–again, taking into consideration everything you want to do on the land, in addition to the land purchase itself. Don’t forget to factor in costs like connections to electricity, natural gas if applicable, water/sewer, and Internet, as they can be quite costly in some areas. Or if not available, how much will it cost to dig a well or have water trucked in, and how much to install a septic system?
  5. Which brings us to the next question: Who owns other rights to the land? As in mineral, water, timber rights, etc.? This is a biggie, and one a lot of people don’t think of. Many people don’t realize that when we buy property, we may be buying only the surface. If someone else owns the mineral rights, they may be able to dig for gold, oil, or anything else of value anywhere on your property that they want–even to the extent of destroying buildings! That’s not always the case, but if someone else owns these rights, be sure to understand what they can and can’t do. Is it something you can live with? And don’t think it’s something to worry about if your area’s not known for being gold- or oil-rich. In my area of the country (Ohio, and eventually, Tennessee) natural gas is the big thing. Water rights are another big concern, if you plan to drill a well. They may not matter so much if you have city water and don’t plan to farm, but still something to watch out for. And timber rights–do you want someone barging onto your land without your permission and chopping down your trees? If they own the logging rights, they can.

Plus a Bonus: Check into potential public works projects! This is something I hadn’t thought of until I ran across something on the Internet last week, and is the possible dealbreaker I found with the land we’re looking at. Turns out that until about three years ago, it was right in the path of a proposed highway spur! The local community fought it, and got the project defunded and ultimately removed from Tennessee’s list of potential projects. My research turned up a very good case presented by the opposition, enough that it’s a reasonable assumption that the highway will never happen. But it’s not 100%, so we’ve asked our Realtor to look into it further.

These aren’t by any means everything to consider when shopping for land, but they’re the biggest, IMO. Want some more info? Check out my Land Shopping board on Pinterest!

fireandiceWhat I’ve Been Reading: Fire and Ice, by Patty Jansen. This is actually the first book in a trilogy that’s a prequel to the two books I’ve recently read. I figured I’d grab it to read while I’m waiting for Book 3 in the Moonfire Trilogy. While it didn’t draw me in as quickly as the Moonfire books have, it still had all the qualities of those later stories: lush and deep worldbuilding, intriguing characters, and a complex plot where sometimes it’s hard to tell who are the good guys, and who aren’t. It’s free, so if you enjoy dark, epic fantasy, go grab it!

ROW80Logo175ROW80/Writing Update: Not much to tell here. I upped my daily target to 250 words/day, five days last week, and made that. This week I’d planned to go to 500 words/day, but got stuck on a plot point. I hashed it out with a couple writing friends yesterday, and that helped, at least in my mind. So this week’s goal is back to 500 words/day. We’ll see how that goes. The ROW80 Challenge group has moved to Facebook. Visit the Group page here, and see what everyone else is doing!

What about you–did you know there was so much involved in shopping for vacant land? What have you been reading lately? And whether or not you’re a writer, 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.

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.

One Goal Down

…and time for another! More on that below. This week was kind of a lull for the kitchen work, as we’re waiting for our granite countertop. That is due to be installed Wednesday, and our friend who works at the granite supplier sent us photos of ours being cut. The plumber is then due on Friday to finish up the sink, garbage disposal, and dishwasher. Can’t wait!

This is a short entry, because I have some family stuff going on today–a cookout at my brother’s, in celebration of not only Labor Day, but also our dad’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Dad!

SM24What I’ve been reading: I finished Bad Beat, the novel in Smith’s Monthly #24 by Dean Wesley Smith. This is a Cold Poker Gang novel, about a group of retired cops in Vegas who get together to play poker and solve cold cases. I love these because the characters are so likeable and real. This series has somewhat of a cozy mystery feel, with an older protagonist, a hobby aspect (poker), and a sweet romance brewing between the two main characters. Also, there is no profanity. But it has a few notable aspects that make it definitely not a cozy: the characters are not amateurs, but experienced detectives; and while the murders occur off-page, our heroes discover some really grisly scenes and wind up tracking down some super creepy serial killers. What makes them especially exciting is that it’s always a decades-old case brings them in, but there’s always a connection to a current case that has the cops stumped (or that they haven’t found yet), where lives are in peril. If you like mysteries, I highly recommend these!

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: As you can see from the title, my main goal has been accomplished, and the 25 scenes I needed to revise in my WIP are now done. It took longer than I anticipated, but it’s done! Now it’s time for the fun part: writing the rest of it! But that’s going to get off to a slow start, as I expect to be doing work in the kitchen this week. Also, it’s been months since I wrote new material, so that will get off to a slow start anyway. So I’m shooting for 2000 words this week–that’s 500 words/day for four days, leaving me time to do a little review and planning first.

What about you–accomplished any goals lately? How are you doing on those you’re still working on? If you’re in the U.S., what are you doing for Labor Day? Read any good books lately? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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