August 27 2016

My Muse Woke Me Up Today…

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​I woke up early this morning after having gotten only a few hours of sleep. I was too tired to get up, but for a few minutes ideas were flying around in my brain about writing. This doesn’t really happen to me, so I was tempted to get up and write it down lest I forget by the time I had slept enough that my body decided to get up for the day. I asked God to help me remember what I had come up with later and to let me get back to sleep now. I knew if I got up I would not be productive. I would wander through the day in a sleep-deprived zombie-like state. I was able to go back to sleep and once I had gotten more than the eight hours of sleep I wanted to get, I woke up ready to face the day. I was calm because I remembered what I had been thinking during the wee hours of the morning and was rested enough to think clearly about it. Thank God!

I know, now you are waiting to hear what ideas were flying around in my brain. A while back, I had been stressing out about the upcoming November challenge called NaNoWriMo (http://nanowrimo.org/). I even wrote a blog post about it. I wanted to participate fully again this November because I really love the energy and support I get writing with the NaNo Indy Group every November. It is unlike any other time of the year for me as a writer. The challenge, the deadline, the meetups and write-ins all help to keep me going even when I think I can’t do it, that my ideas stink worse than garbage and that I really have no idea what I am doing with this whole writing thing. I mean ideally, I would love to be able to support myself by writing. Even more ideally as an inspirational fiction novelist. I know several authors who have written and published numerous books, both traditionally and the self-published route, but they are all quick to let you know they are not doing it for the money and you should hang on to your day job. 

Anyway, I wanted to write another 50,000 words this November on a fiction novel, but didn’t see how I could do it because I have started no less than five novels since November 2013 and none of them is what I would consider finished or ready for anyone to read even as a rough first draft. How could I start yet another novel? Last Saturday I took a class at the Indiana Writers Center (http://www.indianawriters.org/)  called “It’s A Mystery — A four hour intensive mystery writing workshop” taught by local author Larry D. Sweazy (http://www.larrydsweazy.com/). I took another class a couple of years ago about writing Mystery from another local author, Tony Perona (http://tonyperona.com/). I chose mystery as my sub-genre on my first fiction novel attempt written during the November 2014 NaNoWriMo. I wanted to get it right but really had no idea how to plan and write fiction back then. So I pants’d it. Thinking back to what I remember of the novel I wrote, I know there is some good stuff there, but I did so many things wrong too. So my big moment of inspiration had to do with using the premise for that original novel and the knowledge I have gained from the classes I have taken over the last three years to start from scratch on that novel. I am considering a second draft, but this time, I am planning things out ahead of time. I’m not editing the original manuscript or adding to it, I am starting over. I now have a plan. I signed up for the class “Planning for National Novel Writing Month, You Can Do It: 30 days, 50,000 words, 1 novel” taught by a wonderful teacher/author/friend, Cameron Steiman, in early October. Cam is part of our Thursday Nights Writing Group. She usually helps inspire us to actually get lots of words written and stay on task. I know I can do this. I have more knowledge this time and more support. I CAN do this. I have a plan. I already know the characters. God is there to lean on and to get me through it. I have time to get myself together and make a decent outline for the novel this second draft. Yep, I got this! I am excited for November now, no more panic and confusion. Thank You, God! (773 words)


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August 25 2016

​Building a Book

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They say there is only one good way to eat an elephant, one bite at a time. This is a great way to do most everything in life. Do a little bit toward the goal, then do a little more. If you keep doing this, eventually, all that forward momentum will pay off and the dreaded task will be done. 

Building a book works the same way. You write a scene, then another scene, and eventually you have a whole book full of scenes. Hopefully they are in order and you can connect them together without much trouble. I started a challenge in March 2015 to write 500 words-a-day (http://goinswriter.com/my500words). When I actually did it, it was awesome. I had so much enthusiasm going into the month, I even wrote a blog post about it the last day before the month started and posted it as a way of committing to the challenge for the whole world to see. Then a few days in, I found some reason to skip a day. I then felt like I needed to write 2 days worth the next day. One day, I was inspired and wrote over 2,000 words on one piece. I was so happy, but then the next day I used my over-achievement to justify coasting without writing. Once I messed up my streak, it got harder and harder to talk myself into meeting my 500 words-a-day goal. I convinced myself it was still ok, because I was still way above goal for the month so far.

 If you want to read some of what I wrote, and see the variety of subjects I chose, click on the archives of this blog for February and March 2015 I gained a total of 8 days of writing out of that challenge, so technically I failed miserably. I gave up even pretending to do the challenge after the eleventh of March, but you know what? I wrote and posted on my blog 8,135 words in 8 days of writing, 12 calendar days total (February 28th to March 11th). In my writing history, that is a win, especially if you consider that back then, I was really a November-only writer, trying desperately to turn myself into a year-round writer. Am I a year-round writer yet? Well, not exactly, but more so that I ever have been before. In case you find yourself wondering why November, go visit http://nanowrimo.org/. I had felt like I was suppose to write a book for a year or more before I found this website in the wee hours of November 1, 2013 and I felt like this was God’s way of telling me to stop thinking, dreaming, planning and talking about writing a book, and get busy doing something about that feeling that just wasn’t going away. 
I’m still not perfect, but I continue to try to improve both my writing skills, my consistency and my word count totals. This year has been my best effort yet to write consistently, even if it is only once a week, I try to keep writing.

This post was spurred by the photo below of the Eiffel Tower in various stages of construction. It sparked the idea that all great things take time and consistent effort to finish. This includes writing a book. Do you have a goal on your bucket list that you could work on a little at a time? What are you waiting for? Don’t tell me you don’t have time, I don’t believe you! I’m calling your bluff. You found the time to read this, so you can find 15 minutes a day to work on some goal and stop using the lack of time as justification for not getting around to that goal. If you need more help with putting 15 minutes to work for you, go see The Fly Lady at http://flylady.net/. Use a reward system and make big stars on your calendar with a bright colored marker when you do your 15 minutes each day. It may sound like elementary school, but it really works. You see the pattern and you don’t want to mess it up by being a slacker for a day. I’m thinking that as a warm up to writing everyday in November again, perhaps I should try the 500 words-a-day challenge again. Leave a comment or email me if you think I should do it and you are willing to join me. For me, writing is really a group sport and I do better if I have someone else to hold me accountable. (781 words)


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August 18 2016

A Different Kind of Vacation

Back in April, hubby and I went on a different kind of vacation. Why was it so different? Well, we didn’t have either of the kids along. Now don’t get me wrong, we love traveling with our kids and took them with us all the time when they were children. Now that the kids are grown and graduated from college, we don’t feel the need to take them along on trips as much anymore. It would be fun to do a group trip again sometime though. We should find a time when all four of us can get away from work at the same time and just go.

Another reason it was different is because we didn’t get to leave when we had planned because of an emergency at hubby’s work. Instead of Friday early morning, we finally got to leave town at 7:30pm on Sunday night. Our trip was supposed to be extended on the other end because he couldn’t get away on time, but we still only had the condo from Saturday to Saturday, so we were planning where we would go once we checked out of the condo. Just before noon on Friday of our trip, my boss called, not sure how I missed the call, but it went to voice mail without showing a missed call. She left a voice mail telling me I was needed back to work by Monday morning at 8am because she had an emergency. We were planning on going back to work on Wednesday, not Monday. Not a happy time for either of us, but really didn’t see as we had a choice. It was the first time both of our works interfered with our vacation time. I REALLY don’t like having my vacation time taken from me that way.

This is the first long trip we have taken where I did all the driving and hubby sat in the passenger seat. He refuses to drive with me in the car because, when he terrifies me with his driving, I can’t help reacting with a gasp or a squeal, maybe even a shriek. I mean, the man thinks the speeds posted on curves are merely suggestions and that they can always be at least doubled safely. I was taught in driver’s education, a million years ago, that for every ten miles and hour you are driving there should be a car length between you and the car in front of you. So on the interstate, I try to keep a minimum of five or six can lengths between my car and the one in front of me. I also try to make sure there are about three car lengths for me to slide into when switching lanes. Hubby does not observe these rules. I don’t think it is just a matter of the car length he is using being Smart Car verses Cadillac either. So anyway, his driving terrifies me. I would rather not have driven the 800 miles each way, but really what choice did I have. When we got home he was lamenting the fact that he missed doing the highway driving. I told him I missed being the passenger too, but since he didn’t go for the deal I offered where I react half as often if he drives half as scary, it may not be the last time I do the driving on a long trip. Hubby did all the driving on the island while we were there, so that was something.

The most unusual thing about the trip was that we only ate out two nights while we were at the condo from Monday afternoon to Saturday morning. One of those dinners was to celebrate my birthday. We went to the grocery and bought food to get us through the rest of our meals and snacks. We almost didn’t never the condo except for a walk to the beach a time or two. The rest of the time I was either, reading, writing, crocheting, surfing the net or we were working together to make a meal. That is NOT normal for us on a vacation. We usually would plan to eat out at least one or two meals a day and visit several museums or tourist attractions. Hubby did some reading, worked some Sudoku puzzles on his Nook, or played one of his computer games. The condo had a wall mounted TV, but we never even turned it on. I made the comment that I felt guilty that we spent the money for the gas and condo and the time to drive there to basically do what we could have done at home. He reminded me that the most important part of getting away was that we were a twelve hour drive from work. Point taken, well worth the cost.

We especially liked sitting out on our little patio/balcony to watch the goings-on around us. We had a few meals out there, did some reading too. My favorite thing to do out on the balcony, which was only about four to six feet off the parking lot level was to crochet. I would go out after eating breakfast and do a row or two on the shawl I was making. It was a very relaxing time while we were at the condo. While I was driving, not so much, but then I don’t particularly enjoy driving the way hubby does. 

The best part is that we decided before we left the condo that we were booking another trip next April and that this would be our relaxing escape from work vacation. We will have a fall trip that is more the typical tourist type vacation, but the spring trip is planned specifically as a get away to relax. I can really embrace that plan. (976 words)

August 12 2016

​NaNoWriMo Is Coming!

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This is August already. Oh My! November will be here before we know it and I have no idea what I should do for my NaNo project. I feel like I should tackle the whole writing 50,000 words on a new fiction novel thing as is the intended thing for NaNo. But, I have currently got no less than five previously started novels that are as yet unfinished. Quite honestly, I can’t say I am particularly jazzed about finishing any of them right now. I plan to finish all of them eventually, but probably not until I figure out whether I have written workable plots and where they need help. I just don’t feel like I am ready to tackle the editing of any of these projects yet.I know I shouldn’t start yet an other novel until I finish some of the ones I have started but I know I don’t have time between now and November to do any of them justice. Three of them have between fifty and sixty thousand words written on them and the fourth has just over thirty thousand words written. The fifth book is a different animal altogether. It is a non-fiction book that may be mostly finished it is about sixty pages and have right at ten thousand words. I kind of want to spend August and September working on polishing this book and getting it self-published either on Amazon or on a website of my own in PDF format. Doing that would require a lot of research of the pros and cons of self-publishing with Amazon. I should probably admit here and now that while I really, really want to be published and have confidence in the need for a book like mine, I am also terrified that I will do the publishing thing wrong somehow and mess up my chances of actually successfully launching my first book. I wish I had someone I could trust and then get to lead me by the hand through the entire process and have confidence because of their previous success and experience that it would all go smoothly and turn out exceedingly well. Unfortunately, I don’t know anyone like that who I would feel comfortable asking to help me publish the book.
So, that is where I am as an author. I DO consider myself an author even though I have yet to finish a book or be published. I would love to figure out a way to make a living on my writing. That is my goal, my dream, my torment. I may present myself as a confident person, but inside I am a small child cringing in fear that I will do something wrong and disappoint someone important in my life. I know this is not realistic or founded and I don’t even know who it is I think I would disappoint. Maybe I am afraid of disappointing myself. Maybe I am scare that if I fail everyone will know and laugh at me and then I won’t want to try writing anything again because if I fail, no one will take me seriously as a writer. If I never try to publish anything I have written, I need never experience rejection, there will always be hope of being published…someday.

Another part of me says I should just go for it. What do I really have to lose by trying? Should I use my real name, or assume a pen name? If I succeed, of course, I would want to have used my real name so everyone would know it was me. If I fail, I would rather it be a pen name so I could have a do-over without ruining my real name as a writer. There are so many decisions to be made when you are a writer.

So I am listening to music while I write this and the song Day One by Matthew West just came on and I am wondering if that is Divine intervention telling me I should just do it already. I feel like I am supposed to be writing a book, but have no idea what sort of book I am to write. I feel like I pray for guidance a lot but have yet to hear that “Still Small Voice” I have heard and read so much about. This causes me to question whether I am doing God Will with my life. Am I following God’s path or wandering down my own path selfishly? How is a writer to know?

So sorry, I seem to have gotten off track. I was talking about what to write for NaNoWriMo in November which is only about ten weeks away. I want to write another of the Crafty Ladies Series books, but have no idea which of the Crafty Ladies to feature in the next book. There are seven ladies in the group and so far I have attempted to write a mystery (Marni’s Story) and a romance (Lu Ann’s Story) so the question is not only whose story to tell next, but what genre it should be. Can you have two or more different genres in a series? Should I try to write in yet another genre in hopes of finding the one that clicks for me? The five books I have begun were, in order: memoir, mystery, romance, historical romance and non-fiction. Obviously, I am still trying to find myself as an author. I have no idea what genre to write or whether I should focus on one or just write what feels right? While I am at it, I question what sort of things I should be blogging about as an author, especially as an unpublished author.

I am getting better about writing throughout the year instead of only in November, so I am happy about that. I still don’t feel driving to write with any kind of regularity and often question what I should write when I do sit down to write. Most of my writing outside of November happens on Thursday nights when I join the ladies in the Thursday Nights Writing at Panera group at various Panera Bread Cafes around our fair city. Sometimes if it weren’t for meeting every week with this fabulous group of ladies I don’t think I would be half as far along the path as I am now. I actually participated in Camp NaNoWriMo in both April and July this year and have successfully met those goals as well as completing the November challenge of 50,000 words in 30 days three years in a row. This makes me feel successful even if I haven’t finished any of these books. I know I must keep writing, because I can see a lot of confidence and understanding that has come about as a result of these five “wins”. I KNOW I can do it again this November, I just have to figure out what book to write.

Please leave your comments and suggestions below. I would love to hear from you. If you have a favorite go-to book for story structure, outlining a novel, plotting, story arcs, character development, etc. Please let me know what they are in the comments. I need all the help I can get! (1,224 words)

(Note: comment was originally left 8/19/2016)

May 2 2016

The Rewards of Parenting

Who knew having kids and raising them to adulthood would feel so rewarding? It seemed like it was hard during each stage we went through, but once it was over then we moved on to a new and different stage.

Before you know it the kids are growing up too fast and instead of celebrating all those “firsts”, you find yourself celebrating the “lasts”. You know, last day of kindergarten, last elementary school awards program, high school graduation, last time you will have to help one of your kids move into a dorm room, that sort of thing.

In five days, we will celebrate another last. Our youngest is graduating from college and moving home. Last time we will have to help pack and move a kid out of a dorm room, last graduation open house, last week of empty nesting for a while. Yes, I will miss the empty nesting. You feel a sense of pride as they reach monumental birthdays. You dread when you no longer have babies, toddlers, preschoolers, but instead you have teens, oh boy! I remember feeling like we had really done something worth while when both kids were officially adults, able to vote, drive cars, get tattoos! Yikes, not all of the rights of passage that come with being an adult seemed like good things. Then the oldest graduated from college and I was so proud. I realized he had done something nobody in either mine or his dad’s family had done since maybe his grandfather, and that was graduate with a four year degree in just four years. We had our share of college graduates in our family, but none had managed to get through in just four short years. Way to go! Then he got his first big-boy job as he called it and he wasn’t moving home. Not even to the city we lived in. But that was alright, he was only an hour up the road and he was doing well. Then when the baby turned twenty, I wanted to celebrate the fact that we had survived the teen years relatively intact. Once the baby turned twenty one, I suddenly had two grown children who not only could legally drink, but chose to do so. Wow! So not sure I am ready for this! The baby turned twenty two, was in her last year of college and it looked like she too would get the four year degree in the four year time frame. Excellent!

So I am bursting with pride yet again. Soon we will have not only two grown adult children, but two college graduates! Who knew when my husband and I struggled through getting our degrees while dating, getting married, having kids and working that we would set such good examples for our kids. They grew up knowing that they were expected to go to college, that we didn’t expect to be able to pay for it so they would need to get top notch grades so they could get scholarships. We were right, we are part of that middle class poor who earn too much for our kids to qualify for financial aid, but not enough to really be able to help them much. We did the College Choice 529 plan thing, but didn’t get started saving until the oldest was starting high school. We faithfully put away $170 a month for just over 10 years to be able to help each kids with ten thousand dollars toward their senior year of college. Do I wish it could have been more? Of course I do. I told the kids that we couldn’t help them until their senior year because first of all we needed more time to save up the money to be able to help them and second because we wanted to make sure they were serious about college and getting a degree. We all know kids who go away to college on their parents’ dime and party all the time until they flunk out. We didn’t want that to happen. They needed to keep their grades up and show up for classes. Their student loans are in their names, because they give out loans for kids to get an education, but not for parents to retire on. It scares me that even going to reasonable priced in-state schools, they are still graduating with over fifty thousand dollars of student loan debt hanging over their heads. That is more than we paid for our first house and almost as much as we sold it for fourteen years later. My husband never had student loans, and I had only five thousand dollars or so amassed during a couple of my last semesters in college. Of course we both took well over ten years to earn our four year degrees going the part-time, slow way and paying for it as we went. Those were the lean years of our marriage. Never much extra time or money, but maybe that wasn’t all bad. We raised our kids to respect money and to be thrifty. They grew up wearing second hand clothing of their choosing from the local Goodwill and thrift stores. They were fine with it and I didn’t stress out if they ruined a pair of jeans or a shirt now and then. They didn’t cost that much and we knew where we could find replacements fairly cheap. Perhaps because they had held jobs and grown up thrifty, they knew the value of the education and student loans they were getting. They didn’t squander them. Yet another reason to be proud of both of them.

One of the things that really pleased and surprised me as a parent was how smart our kids are and how good looking. Still not quite sure how that happened! I mean, you hope, pray and dream it will be that way, but you just figure you could never get that lucky. Well, we won the parenting lottery jackpot. We have two great kids who never caused us many sleepless nights, stayed out of trouble, got good grades, were pleasant to be around, are well liked by their peers and adults in general and who actually seem to like being around us. Well, most of the time anyway. Who could ask for more? I thank God and the fact that both my husband and I were raised by good parents who cared about us. Here’s to hoping you had as good a luck and experience raising your kids as we did raising ours. (1,094 words)