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.

ROW80Logo175

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.

Visible Progress

Kitchen RangeA lot of visible progress on the kitchen this week! Cabinets went in on Monday, and were finished by Wednesday. That night, DH and I hung the light fixtures–a pendant light over the sink, and a flexible track light in the middle. That was DH’s idea, and it looks really cool!

On Thursday, he and my dad installed the range, and put the dishwasher in place, though it will be another three weeks before we can use that. When I got home from work, he and I put the microwave up, then cooked our first meal in the new oven. I have never used a convection oven before, and wow–25 degrees cooler, and 1/3 less time to cook the food! Very nice. 🙂

Kitchen FridgeOn Friday, DH and my dad hung the under-cabinet lighting and finished some other electrical stuff. Saturday, I met with my writer friends for the first time in two months (we all were out of town at different times last month), which was fun as always. While I was there, a friend of ours who’s a carpenter came over and helped DH with the window and door trim. It looks great! I will paint it sometime this week. They also moved the fridge in, so now I need to clean it and put food in! Getting our old fridge out of the dining room will be soooo nice. DH will be happy to put that in the garage, as it will hold a lot more beer than the one he has out there now. 🙂

SM24What I’ve been reading: Not much time this week, but I always read a little before bed. This week, it was the short stories in Smith’s Monthly #24, by Dean Wesley Smith, plus I started the novel. A couple of the stories were really creepy-weird, one was really funny-weird, and then there was a Poker Boy superhero story, which are always entertaining. And the novel is shaping up to be good, too. I really love the Cold Poker Gang mysteries. More on that next week.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: As you might guess from above, not much writing got done this week. Monday was a bad fatigue day, so I mostly watched TV in the evening, and did a little revision. Tuesday, we had an out-of-town friend over and went out to dinner, so just a little revising after that. Wednesday was installing the lights, no revising. Thursday, the microwave, and no revising. Friday and Saturday, just a little. I think I got 1-1/2 scenes done, so better than nothing. I would like to get more done this week, but not counting on it. Even two scenes would be good!

What about you–what’s going on in your life right now? Are you ever too busy to read? How are you doing on whatever goals you might be 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.

A Crazy Few Weeks

The last few weeks have been crazy-busy around here! And all good stuff. Most of that is due to the kitchen remodel, which is on schedule, so that’s good. My daughter also turned 21 a couple weeks ago (I, know,  😯 ) so we had a little party for her–a bit of a challenge without a kitchen, but workable with our party room in the back garage. A good time was had by all, and though it wasn’t a barf-day for my daughter, it was for her friend who came home with her!

More craziness came from their house, which we own and rent to them and two other kids. We contacted our Realtor to put it up for sale, figuring it could take a while for the right buyer to come along. WRONG! We had an offer the very next day! It was a lowball amount, but they eventually came up to a price that will give us a tidy profit, and is still a fair price for them, considering the rent the place brings in. Our daughter and her friends met the buyers when they looked at the house, and said they seemed like they’d be very nice landlords. Best of all, we don’t have to worry about renting it for next year–that’s now the buyer’s responsibility.

Kitchen tileSo back to the kitchen. My evenings have been taken up with trips to Lowe’s, and also doing some of the work. Last week, I painted the few sections of the walls that wouldn’t be hidden by cabinets or backsplash. This past week has been tiling. DH did 90% of that, but the remaining 10% was a bear. We thought we’d save some time and get the all-in-one grout that doesn’t need any mix-ins or sealer. But this stuff hardens much faster, and doesn’t just wipe off with a wet sponge–it needed to be scraped. If we were to do this over, we’d definitely use traditional grout! In any case, it’s done now, and looks great! DH got the appliances today (which are currently sitting in my garage), and the cabinets go in tomorrow. Progress!

SandAndStormWhat I’ve been reading: I dug into a fantasy this past week, Sand and Storm, by Patty Jansen. While the characters drew me in with how well-developed they were, the worldbuilding in this book was the real star. Many, rich cultures and all the politics of their interactions and their histories… yet it wasn’t an info-dump bore, but deftly worked into the story. The book did end on a cliffhanger, with little resolved, which I know is common in fantasy but still not my fave. However, it was such a good book I went and preordered the sequel, which is due out in a month. This author is pretty prolific, so I’m confident she’ll deliver. Definitely recommended for those who enjoy fantasy!

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: Judging from all that’s gone on, you might guess that not much has been done on the writing front. And two weeks ago, you’d have been right. But last week, I finally powered through the last (I hope) sloppily-written, PITA to revise scene, plus two others. This week, three more scenes revised. Things are still busy this week, as I expect to be putting stuff away in the new kitchen cabinets, but I’m still going to shoot for 3-4 more scenes revised. A big bonus would be to finish all seven remaining.

What about you–any crazy busy-ness in your life? Here’s hoping it’s all good! Or maybe you’re lucky enough to be enjoying a more settled summer. Either way, what have you been up to? And how are you doing on whatever goals you 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.

 

Distractions are Back

Beartooth Highway

His favorite part of the trip was Beartooth Highway

My husband’s been on a long-haul motorcycle ride vacation out west. (And no, that’s not the distraction the title’s referring to, LOL.) He’d planned to be away for almost three weeks, but plans changed with one of his companions, and he returned a week early.

Which was fine with me. 🙂 I realized, while he was gone, that a few days of him away is a “vacation,” as my mom calls it, but more is just too quiet. It gives me even more respect and gratitude to military spouses–something I would not be good at being. The important thing (besides his safe return) was that he had a great time and saw some really awesome (literally) parts of the country.

What the kitchen looked like a week ago

What the kitchen looked like a week ago

His plan was to start the kitchen remodel as soon as he got back. THAT has been the distraction–and thank goodness, a good one!

I had the kitchen already packed up before he returned. He slept most of the day, but the day after that, he jumped right in, with the help of a few friends.

On the left, you can get an idea of what the kitchen looked like before. It’s very small–this photo was taken from the opposite corner, which as you can see, is not very far away.

Kitchen gutted

The kitchen when I arrived home from work on Tuesday

It would have been great to enlarge the kitchen, but the back wall backs up to the bathroom, and the other side backs up to a staircase. The other two walls are exterior. So opening up the kitchen would require an addition, which was definitely not in our budget. So we decided to keep it small, but maximize the space and make it very nice.

The other big problem with this kitchen is that everything is old and worn out, and its layout was very inefficient–see the dumb, wasted space between the stove and dishwasher? And no storage over the stove or refrigerator? That  will all change. And let’s not even start on the oh-so-seventies floor or cabinets–ugh.

This can’t happen too soon, and my DH agreed. He and two friends dug into it on Tuesday. My DH does not waste any time. 😀 After everything was removed, we found some good news, and some bad. The bad was that we had a lot of old, galvanized pipes that were rusting and needed to be replaced. Fortunately, the plumber is a friend, and charged us about half his normal rate. The good news was that my husband expected to need to replace the subfloor–but it turned out to be in great shape, with no damage at all!

We had the plumbing for the sink moved to beneath the window on Friday, along with the bad pipes replaced. Now, DH and an electrician friend are rewiring the whole kitchen, because like many things in our 1950s house, the electric was never completely updated, or done right. With the new kitchen, I’ll be able to use the microwave and an electric skillet at the same time without throwing a breaker. 🙂 Next up, flooring!

It sounds like DH is doing all the work, right? He is, but that work includes many trips to Lowe’s, where I go with him to pick out stuff or to simply help load/unload. And he has had questions while installing the electric, so those are the distractions. But they’re distractions I don’t mind.

Friends_FortuneWhat I’ve been reading: Friends and Fortune Cookies, by Elizabeth Bemis. This is the book I mentioned a while back, when I read another by her, Love and Oreos. Liz was one of my very first critique partners many years ago, and while I’d never read Love at all, I did read and critique a very early incarnation of Friends. It was fun to read the published book and spot little things I remembered from way back then. These included the main characters, their names, and their professions, as well as the main premise of the story: the couple had been friends for most of their lives, but whenever their relationship started to progress to something more, they always screwed it up. There were, of course, a lot of differences in the published book. The main one was that there was a lot more conflict between the hero and heroine, and more baggage preventing them from easily getting their HEA (happily ever after), which made it an enjoyable read. So if you enjoy contemporary romance, grab this one for sure! If you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, it’s free.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: As you can guess from the rest of this post, I did not accomplish much at all with my writing. The distractions are part of the problem, but the other is that I’m revising a book I wrote half of during NaNoWriMo 2013, and it was written very sloppily. Some of the scenes just need a bit of touch up here and there, but the one I’m working on now needs a lot of fill-in, so it’s a bunch of not-much-fun fixup work, and going very slowly. If I get this scene finished this week, I’ll be happy with that. Anything else is a bonus.

What about you–have you had any distractions lately? What have you been reading, and what do you normally like? 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.

Land Ho

I missed blogging last week for a (in my opinion) very good reason: I was in Tennessee, looking at land. Our first scouting trip for our anticipated move sometime in the next few years. My husband was out of town on another trip, so I went with a friend who lived in the area for many years.

We looked at ten properties, and most were quite beautiful. I also learned a lot.

Too steep

Our car is at the bottom of that hill – and I’m only halfway up!

My husband has this fantasy of being able to go hunting on his own land, for which he needs (preferably) at least 40 acres. That means living out in the country, which I’m fine with to an extent, so that’s where I focused my efforts in looking at land. Closer in to Knoxville means out of our budget on something that size (and very few options to begin with).

But the main thing I learned is you can’t get a feel for distance, as in drive time, from maps. Not even Google Earth and Street View. You can see that the roads are curvy, but you can’t really see how curvy–or how narrow. Some of them were downright scary, going up into the mountains.

Too Steep

Pretty, isn’t it? But what’s not in the picture is the litter from neighbors who made this their 4-wheelin’ playground.

The other thing maps don’t do justice is the grade. Some of these places were up in the mountains, and although I could see that on Google, I couldn’t get a sense of how steep some of them were. Definitely not something to drive a Camaro up! So those properties are out.

But the biggest thing I learned is that I just don’t want to live out that far. A half-hour drive or more to restaurants, shopping, and health care is a big no–I’m talking it was a twenty-minute drive to the nearest carryout from most of these properties. So we’re going to have to re-evaluate what we want–perhaps a much smaller, closer-in lot that still has a country-like setting, and a separate property for him to hunt on. I have already found some very promising lots online, so I see another trip in the near future. The best part about this one? I had a great time with my friend, and some fun times with her friends in the area. So it was also a much-needed vacation!

I returned home to more excitement: we’re getting ready to begin work on our kitchen remodel! So I have tons of packing to do. Luckily, we have a good friend who works at a restaurant, and has supplied us with a plethora of boxes. I have about half packed up now, and DH is going to start demolition in a few days, so I need to hurry and get it done.

What I’ve been reading: I’m only halfway through the novel I’m currently reading, so I’ll discuss it next week, along with how our kitchen remodel is coming along!

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: Last week, I knew I would be traveling and wouldn’t have much chance to write, so I set my goals low: 2 scenes edited. I made that goal, and set a higher goal for editing this week. But between packing and headaches (literal), not as much got accomplished. Part of the problem is this editing stuff just isn’t much fun–I want to get back to new writing. But I need to get through it first. So this week’s goal is one scene per day, for a total of seven.

What about you–ever find something to be much different than you expected? Do you have any big distractions going on in your life? (Hoping they’re good ones!) How are you doing on whatever goals you may have, whether writing or not? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

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

Frustrating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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