Friday, September 27, 2013

The Bull Next Door

Hubby's taken a shining to the bull next door, which he calls "Bully Bully." Whenever hubby goes down to the airplane hangar (that is on our property; not the one in town) to fly his Kit Fox, he likes to walk a bit farther, to the very edge of our property, and say "hey there" to the neighbor's bull.

He's taken to giving the bull apples, which the bull will eat right out of his hand. The picture is deceptive. This bull is a really, really big guy. But isn't he a sweetie? Don't you want to run your fingers over his soft nose?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Writing Check-in, Sept 20-26: Remiss!

I played hooky from writing all week, so please, come beat me with a wet noodle.

What started this sea of neglect? The picture at left. It's our new deck, which is only about half finished. Son-in-law has only three more days in which to work on it, and then he'll need to call it quits until next April, or whenever weather permits.

He has jobs (for his bathroom remodeling business) lined up throughout October, and by November, the really cold weather will have set in.

Picture below shows all of the planks that still need to be set. Plus, he needs to finish the stairs and put up the railings.
So, THIS caused me not to spend time on my writing because we decided that any decking materials that are currently lying on the cement patio below the deck will be moved into the basement for winter storage.

Guess who hadn't cleaned her basement in the past year.

I spent two full days cleaning the floor and de-cluttering it. Overall, it wasn't terribly cluttered, but a related project truly ate up the hours.

My scrapbooking room, which I have written about several times, was fairly well organized, but too full for me to get to (all of) it easily. Which meant that I wasn't using everything and had even forgotten precisely what I owned.

I removed ALL of the paints, rubber stamps, inks, embossing powders, glitter, colored pens and etc from the scrapbooking room and put it in the area of the basement (picture at left) which I had once designated to be "the art area" back when we finished the basement, probably 30 years ago. But life got super-duper busy, and the "art area" never materialized, until now.

Stamping and embossing materials, which had taken up lots of small containers in the scrapbooking room, now take up more economical space in four drawers, at left.

My rubber stamps are still located in the same plastic drawers that they ever were, but are now under the counter top at the far right of this 20' strip of cabinets, or located in a big base cabinet, see picture below.

The drawers (picture at right) to the left of the cabinet hold wrapping paper and supplies (bows, tags, bags, tissue paper)--another project I had been meaning to do for the past three years, or maybe forever, but never got around to it until now.

When it comes time to wrap Christmas, birthday, wedding or baby shower gifts, will I ever be ready. Each type of event has its own drawer. I do, however, still have a big barrel of Christmas wrapping paper that is stored in a big closet to the left of these cabinets.

Picture to left shows more rubber stamps, as well as a cabinet area devoted solely to things that the grandkids are free to use. They can use most of my other supplies, if they ask, but these are especially for them. There is also another set of drawers full of things they can use inside the cabinet (picture above), and to the left of the rubber stamp drawers.

In the scrapbooking room, my primary work area looks much like it did before, except with more space to move around. I eliminated a 4' table and moved the two sets of embellishment drawers that had been under the table shown at left and put them under the counter on the north wall.

 The west wall (picture at left) has changed significantly. In addition to the changes made, the table top is now a true, second work space instead of a catch-all space.
The north wall is what has changed the most. It may still look a bit full, but now everything is completely organized, which makes a big difference. I finally sorted a box filled with stuff (pictures, mementos) from as far back as 2009. Now all of those things are stored in containers that are labeled for their appropriate years.

My paints, glitter, embossing powders, colored pencils, distressing tools, inks, had all been located in this area previously. I could access them, if I squeezed around the 4' table that I have since removed, but there was no counter space on which to actually use them. Now I can get to them by simply leaving the room and walking around a corner. Plus, there is counter space on which to use them in the new "art area."

So that project took up two full days. Got your wet noodles out to start beating me?

Another day, I got down on my hands and knees and cleaned the stubborn dirt out of the tiny divots in the vinyl flooring in 1/2 of the kitchen. Regular steam cleaning does nothing to remove that unsightly, ground-in dirt. It took all morning, pools of ammonia straight out of the bottle, and a whole lot of elbow-grease.

I'll do the other half, and the laundry room, and main floor bathroom sometime next week. I need to do it about every two or three years.

I also bought several more books on controlling diabetes and have read one of them, which was very long--over 500 pages!

In addition, I ordered the treadmill desk at the left. This one should work much better than the poorly designed (and cheap) one I purchased last year. With this one, I really should be able to work. Now that I have discovered I have a chronic health condition, I need to make sure to keep moving as much as possible. When I don't exercise for an hour each day, my blood sugar rises. In all, by about 25 points, which takes me out of the normal range (85) into the (low) diabetic range (110). The goal is to be at the 85 range as much as possible, every hour of every day.

I am going to give this new way of working, at the treadmill desk, some honest effort, beginning as soon as it arrives. It won't eliminate the need for my current, one-hour jog/walk, which I do at as brisk a pace as is possible for me, but it will get me off my #@* for several more hours each day, and that can only be good.

What else conveniently prevented me from writing? I was asked if I knew of anyone who would be interested in teaching an adult enrichment creative writing class, offered by the local community college during the winter quarter. Being me, my automatic response was "I could do it." (If you want me to; if you think I'm qualified.)

A few years ago, with the help of three of my writing friends, we put on a series of classes for young adults at the library where I was the children's librarian. It was a lot of fun.

This could also be a lot of fun. I still need to decide what I would like to do, and pass it by the person who is setting up the class schedule. We're scheduled to discuss it tomorrow morning.

It was a busy week, socially. It was book-ended with a visit from my daughter and her kids.

On Saturday afternoon, my daughter, a friend and I went to a class on aquaponics. That is a closed system where you raise fish in a fish tank and grow green leafy vegetables above the fish. The fish poop provides fertilizer for the plants. And when the fish themselves are ready to be harvested, you eat them too. My daughter, whose degree was in Landscape Architecture, and who has taken many botany and soils and horticulture classes, says it is our agricultural future.

Last but not least, hubby and I met over dinner with some friends last night who, on Friday, will be flying their airplane to their winter home in Arizona.

We're planning to fly our airplane there as well, to spend a week with them around November 1, after fall work is done.

We are excited. It also means that I need to get back to my writing. I feel thoroughly beaten with noodles now. I will get back to it and have a better writing report next week.

How was your writing week?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Writing Check-in, week of September 12-19

(Image was taken from 

Last week, I was bemoaning how hard it was to meet my writing goals. This week, it has been easier. Also, after being unable to reach the Blogger posting page from Firefox, that frustrated me enough to spend some time on Friday morning, fiddling with things. A hearty thank you goes to my friend Vince, who told me about MalwareBytes. I had used it before, but only to run a quick scan, which is recommended. 

Last Friday, I did a full system scan. It took a couple of hours. I also uninstalled every program that I recognized could be of a suspicious nature, and then re-installed Chrome. Voila, it now works again!

Regarding my writing, what I am still doing at this time, after having interrupted my the flow to enter some contests in August, is to work through my outline. I have written enough manuscripts to know that I cannot proceed without a detailed road map. Well, I certainly could do that, but I would end up writing a book three or four times over before finally arriving at a destination. And, probably, it would turn into a slightly different, or grandly different, book each time. I'm too old for that. I've always been a planner, but I am also experienced enough to know that my previous, simple plans aren't even enough, if I hope to write two, 75,000 books each year. 

So now my plans are far more detailed and, especially, focused. I suspect that each time I make it through the entire outline (which takes about two weeks), I am actually writing the whole book in my head. I am getting a bird's eye view of the whole thing, seeing how it falls out in large (40 page) increments, rather than spending months or years down in the trenches (writing each individual scene in full). And not knowing, really, if I'm even on the right path. 

I am currently working on scenes in the middle 40 pages, or what Dramatica calls Journey 2. These are the scenes that straddle the exact middle. Hopefully by next week at this time, I will have journeyed through the entire idea for the fourth time, and will feel confident enough to begin writing again

With this pass, I'm looking especially at the following: time of day; perhaps a sensory detail or two; what happened, plot (external plot) or story-wise (emotional journey) just prior to the scene; where each character is physically and emotionally at the start of the scene; how they need to change through the scene; and where they need to be, emotionally, at the end of the scene. 

I'm also deciding on who's eyes the scene should be seen through--hero's or heroine's. Frequently it's a no-brainer, but sometimes, I need to examine what needs to be learned (felt/thought), and by whom, to decide whose senses, brain and heart I am experiencing the scene through.

I've decided to include a sample of what my scene outline looks like. The projected length of the sample scene is 750 words. It's currently sketched at less than 250 words, so it obviously needs a LOT of filling. But I do have some dialogue (currently the characters' words are only placeholders) and I know the general mood that needs to be developed, and the direction the scene needs to take. 

The hero is the main character. 
The heroine is the impact character, who causes the hero to change and grow. (This is true throughout the entire story.)

The first part, below, is not the scene but something I use as a guideline for me to have an overview of what needs to happen spanning the next 40 pages, and how this scene fits into it. My sample scene outline begins the M/I (subjective story--love story) journey. Other journeys within the next 40 pages will include the hero's external goal; the heroine's external goal, and the OS (external plot).   

Journey 2 interactions (40 pages total)
First half, while John is Conceiving an Idea (whether or not he could love Rose Fenster), he does it thematically via circumstances and then a sense of self
She is obtaining (his love) thematically thru hope and then denial
When they’re together, prior to the exact middle, the M/I story of whether or not they will fall in love is explored via Memories, and first thematically through experience and then through enlightenment.
 In the external story, Journey 2 spans THE PRESENT, and whether each character will help to bring John and Rose together, or to pull them apart, is explored via interdiction and then destiny.
Second 20 pages, while John is still Conceiving an Idea (that he could love Rose Fenster), he’s doing it via thought and then knowledge
She is obtaining (his love) thru truth and then evidence
When they’re together, whether or not they will fall in love is still being explored via Memories, this time, thematically through approach and then self interest.
And THE PRESENT (OS) and whether each character will help to bring John and Rose together or to pull them apart is explored via fantasy and then fact.
First scene in Journey 2 is a M/I (love story) scene. John and Rose are together in his library:

He finds The Secret Garden and gives it to her. (She is planning to read some of it to Blythe.) Thanks her again for taking such good care of Blythe (his 12-year-old daughter, who fell off a horse and has sprained her ankle). He invites Rose to return to the library after reading to Blythe, to pick out some books to read for herself. 
Or to find one and read it before the Gala on Friday night, to which he has asked her. (It’s Tuesday evening.) (John is a wealthy lawyer; she is his cook/housekeeper--who had come west to marry him due to a misunderstanding. Blythe had sent for her via a Mail-Order Bride hook.)  

                (embarrassed) I forgot about that,” Rose admitted. “That I should read a book and be ready to discuss it at the Gala.”
                “From what Blythe said, you will probably regale people with your stories alone.” (Standing at his desk) He patted the cover of a book. “But in the event that you run out of things to say, a book talk can always come in handy.”
                “I’m not sure I could read a whole book before Friday evening,” Rose. (emotional beat) “If I had stayed in school longer, I would be a better reader.”
                (doesn't want to embarrass her about her poor reading skills, so he doesn't talk about it.) “Why did you leave school?” he asked.
                “My parents needed help (in the restaurant/on the farm). They didn’t believe a girl needed an education.”
                “’Tis a pity,” he said. “But true for many young women.” (He moves across the room toward her, or maybe away from her.) “I have probably spent too much time reading.” He pointed at his leg. “It hardly holds me back anymore, but when I was a boy, it was weak. I wore a brace, walked with crutches.”
                (her emotional response to that.)
                           Fill in with more sharing and anchor them in place and time.
               (near the end) Then she looks at his massive number of books. “Do you have any suggestions for me?”
                He shows her a few of the following.  

(These were all published a year or two before 1912, when my book takes place.)
1911: The Broad Highway by Jeffrey Farnol;
Winning of Barbara Worth by Harold Bell Wright;
The Harvester by Gene Stratton Porter;
The Long Roll by Mary Johnston;
Molly Make-Believe by Eleanor Abbott.

And the more literary offerings:
Joseph Conrad, Under Western Skies;
Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome;
Sigrid Undset, Jenny;
D.H. Lawrence, The White Peacock;
Charlotte Perkins Gillman, Moving the Mountain;
E. M. Forster, The Celestial Omnibus; 
Theodore Dreiser, Jennie Gerhardt;
Edna Ferber, Dawn O’Hara.

          Rose selects Molly Make-Believe, which was sent to John automatically as a book club selection. John is not surprised by Miss Fenster's selection, although he is somewhat dismayed. He hasn’t read it, thus won’t be able to discuss it with her. Even so, he tells her to enjoy it.

          When she leaves the library, he realizes that, contrary to thinking that he had made a mistake in asking her to the Gala (which he had been doing, since impulsively asking her), he is actually looking forward to being with her. [He doesn't reach this emotional recognition as a result of this scene alone. The ladder to the several emotional steps it took to get here had been climbed in each scene in the preceding chapter]  

So that is my process. What does your process look like? Which works better for you? Plotting? Or panstering?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What do you sacrifice each day for your writing job? How do you reward yourself for staying accountable?

You would think I had an out-of-the-home, paying job, the way I need to manage my time in order to find time for my writing job. And sometimes, like right now, that makes me just plain grumpy.   

So far this week, I have made each day’s goal of writing for five hours. That’s not five hours of doing writing-related tasks, but to making honest progress on my WIP. It also means not frittering my working-on-the-WIP-time away with distractions. I’m sure you’re well acquainted with those.  

I’ve made my goals, and yet it discourages me to see how hard it’s been to do that—writing for a mere five hours each day. Me, the lady who no longer has to be away from home for 45 hours each week to fulfill on commitments to a salaried job.  

In order to be accountable to my writing job this week, up until today, I have had to sacrifice my “reward,” which is to spend an hour scrapbooking when the writing is done. And I have needed to scratch my head and ask myself, “Why should it take from 7:30 am until 5:30 pm—10 hours—in order to squeeze out five hours’ writing time?"
·         On Monday, I made my writing goal by 4:30 pm, but then instead of scrapbooking, I had to get groceries and run other errands that took until 7:00 pm. After that it was dinner time and so on. (I never sacrifice sleep for my writing. Health trumps just about everything.)

·         On Tuesday, I made my writing goal, but I had to forfeit scrapbooking AND jogging. With writing and jogging each day, my housework wasn’t getting done. So I decided to spend two hours on housework in lieu of jogging. Unfortunately, housework (vacuuming) is not strenuous enough to bring my blood sugar down in the same way that jogging does. I need to start jogging again tomorrow. I was also still in the mode to learn everything I can about being a person with Type 2 Diabetes. So I began reading one of two additional books that I had purchased when I went shopping on Monday. (I had read several short books on the subject the previous week; these are more substantial, with specific guidelines to reverse the progress of the disease.) Again, I forfeited my scrapbooking reward.      

·         On Wednesday, I made my goal, but I had to manage my time around picking a grandchild up after school at 2:20 pm and then helping him with his spelling and his multiplication tables until his dad came to get him at 8:30 pm, when the men came in from the field for dinner. While said grandson was doing his reading homework, I managed to get some more exercise; I wet-cleaned the wooden shades on six windows. It took an hour. I forfeited my jogging time, but got some housework done. I also forfeited my scrapbooking reward, but I finished one of the two new books on reversing diabetes. (All last weekend, I babysat three other grandkids while their mother manned a commercial booth for their business at the county fair ... but I still managed to write for a couple of hours on Saturday and Sunday before she brought them to my house.)

·         Today, Thursday, I made my writing goal, but I had to manage my time around a planned, one-hour Yoga class and an unplanned, two-hour stint at helping to move farm machinery. I had hoped to finish my writing by 3:15 pm, and have time to reward myself, especially after having forfeited my scrapbooking rewards all week long. By the time I had made good on my commitments, it was 5:15 pm.

Then my brain said, “You need to write a blog post. You check in weekly to keep yourself honest and accountable.”

So that’s what I am doing. I have eaten dinner. It was 6:30 pm, and I was planning to go do some scrapbooking. BUT THEN ... I discovered that I could not get to the New Post screen using Firefox. I HATE FIREFOX WITH A PASSION, but have been using it for the past two months because I cannot get on Google Chrome, and I don't want to give up my computer for three days while I take it into the shop. (You see, I want to fulfill on my daily writing commitments.) So finally after running a RegClean, and after Uninstalling Google Chrome, and after completing a Windows Update . . . (really, would doing that make Firefox work for me?) . . . I discovered it did not work. So I had to resort to getting on Windows Explorer.

It's now 7:30 pm. Hubby's just driven in and will want his dinner. So here it is, another day of forfeited rewards, alas. (Time with hubby trumps  scrapbooking rewards.)

What do you sacrifice each day to fulfill on the goals of your writing job?
Do you reward yourself for staying accountable?
How often are you able to do that? Or do other important priorities suck up that reward time?

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

An Unexpected Wife by Cheryl Reavis: Book Review

An Unexpected Wife by Cheryl Reavis was published in July 2013, in the Harlequin Love Inspired Historical series. If you're not familiar with Love Inspired, it is romance with a Christian worldview and with an inspirational message that is always subtle, never heavy-handed.

These are my favorite kind of stories.

In this book that takes place right after the end of the Civil War, there is a lot going on! We have the heroine, Kate Woodward, who had a child out-of-wedlock, and the hero, Robert Markham, who feels terrible guilt about being unable to keep his brother from being killed in battle. Indeed, Robert felt so terrible about it that his family, and his intended (not Kate), believed him to be dead for over two years.

Making matters more complex, Robert's sister is married to Kate's brother, and each family fought on opposite sides of the war. So we have a house full of people with opposing loyalties, festering resentments, dark secrets and heavy, guilt-laden hearts. There are numerous secondary characters as well. None of their stories is gone into in any depth, but some of them do make life difficult for Kate and Robert.

Truth be told, I had a hard time settling into this book. The characters felt believable, realistic and likeable. The situation seemed plausible, but the pacing was, for whatever reasons, terribly slow. But because I felt the characters to be so real,  and I because could tell that Cheryl Reavis (the author) is a person of great wisdom and insight, I didn't give up on it. And when I say "give up on it" that is a measure of my own shortcomings as a reader with an unfortunately short attention span, and not because of any serious faults with the story.

 So I finished it, and was rewarded by reading it. As  writer myself, I felt the plotting could've been improved. I was also disappointed that there was absolutely no sexual chemistry shown between the hero and heroine, and not even a kiss on the final page, when they are married.

By definition, inspirational stories leave most of that behind the scenes. But there was so little longing shown between them, that it was hard to imagine that they really did love each other in the the way most of us feel toward our spouses. Both felt unworthy of love, and so maybe it will take being married for a while for each of them to feel loved and to be able to freely give love.

If you're not an impatient reader, and if you're okay with a romance that almost falls outside of the definition of romance (but is a good story nonetheless), give this one a try.

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