Monday, December 29, 2014

Writing Goals for 2015

By this time next week we will be in a new year, with many goals, including writing goals for 2015.
First off, Happy New Year!
I’m approaching goals a little differently this year. I’m using the SMART system. That means, each goal is SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ACHIEVABLE, RESULTS-ORIENTED AND TIME-BOUND.
There are countless web pages that define SMART goals. If you’re interested, here’s an excellent SMART goal description. I’ve always set goals for myself; it’s an annual tradition for most people, eh? And I’ve always been good at the SMAR.
But I tend to fall down on the TIME-BOUND aspect of it. So this year, I am building deadlines into my goals. It should make a difference. 
Here are my WRITING goals for 2015
Write one book
Draft another book
Read one novel each week
Enter all relevant contests with my completed manuscript and, as the new book gets written, begin entering it in relevant contests
Write one blog post each week
Find an agent by June. Barring that, send my manuscript directly to the publisher and line I am targeting 
That’s all. I think because the list is modest, it should also be achievable, and especially since I built time-bound aspect into it, although it’s not shown on this page. 
What goals, writing or otherwise, have you set for 2015?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Harvest at 110 degrees

If you’ve ever heard about the cushy life of farmers who harvest their fields from the air-conditioned cabs of their combines, and truck drivers doing the same, well, it might be true for BIG farmers, but for average Joes like us, the American Small Farmer, it’s hardly true at all.
Yes cabs of our very old combines are air-conditioned. But … these cabs are designed like mini-glass greenhouses to begin with. If they weren’t air-conditioned, the combine driver would literally fry to death.
Frequently, it’s necessary to open the door a crack, because the outside air IS actually cooler. But then the dust blows in. (Before cabs, farmers used to get emphysema from all the dust.)
If the air-conditioning is working well, it can only keep the inside of the cabs about ten degrees cooler than the outside air. So yesterday, it was 90 degrees in those tiny little glass boxes.
But the truck drivers have it worse. Yesterday, we had a skeleton crew. Our older truck driver, Ken, is out for the rest of the season, due to the fact that he thinks he may be suffering from lyme disease. (He hunts bears in Michigan every fall, which is where he may’ve contracted it. We have no lyme-bearing tics in this area.) Our daughter with the three children also took the day off (and me! not babysitting her kids and puppy).
The truck-driving crew was down to Rosanna and our 21-year-old nephew, Jens. Fortunately, we were harvesting at the River Ranch, where we have home storage (grain bins) and it wasn’t necessary to truck the wheat more than a mile or so. Home storage means that fewer truck drivers are needed to keep up with the output of the combines. Assuming both combines are running. Very often, one or both of them is broke down.
Back to harvesting at 110 degrees: Rosanna drives the Kenworth, which is does not have air-conditioning at all. But the air-conditioning in the other trucks is faulty at best. 
Poor Rosanna, with the heat coming off the truck’s enormous, (Cummins) Diesel engine all day long, the inside of her cab was about 110 degrees
She complained about it, but not as much as you might think. She is a real trooper out in the harvest field, and an excellent semi-driver.
What do you do when you’re working in that kind of heat? 
  • You drink, literally, a gallon of water throughout the day. 
  • And you hop inside your dad’s “air-conditioned cab” whenever possible, to enjoy the mere 90-degree heat. 
  • You also confiscate every lunchbox ice pack that you can find–your own, your dad’s, your brother’s–and press it against your overheated body until the ice in the ice packs melts. 
  • Then you get out the towels you had soaked in water and press them against your skin. The towels are wet, but unfortunately, they’re not cool. 
  • You look forward to when it’s time to unload your truck, so you can get out and stand by the auger at the grain bins and watch while the wheat unloads. (You also need to be proficient at getting your truck in exactly the right spot, running and manipulating a 60′ auger. Rosanna can do it!)
So that’s what harvesting at 110 degrees was like yesterday. Rosanna’s biggest beef was that a half-dozen photographers from Seattle (or somewhere) had discovered the River Ranch Road and were there, taking pictures of the incredible views. But also of the trucks as they passed by them on the dusty, single-lane, sometimes winding road. I guess they were taking pictures of the “wildlife” (combine/truck drivers) in their natural habitat. 
Oh, and Rosanna had never seen the GeoCache that someone had planted behind a tree ten years ago. She opened it up and studied its contents. Unfortunately, there was tree sap all over the openers, and so her hands got pretty sticky.
The dust, the heat, the sap … her energy was still quite sapped (pun intended) this morning as she headed off for work.
But we called in reinforcements … her sister will be out by 11:00 am, and I will be babysitting again … 

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Of Harvest, Gardens, Grandkids and Puppies

For our crew, which includes two combine drivers (husband and son) and three or four truck drivers, harvest so far’s been about keeping the combines and trucks running so that the grain can be cut and taken to storage. That’s what it’s always about.
This year, there’s been so many combine breakdowns that if the crop yields are good enough, and our cash flow warrants it, it’s time to upgrade to a newer combine sometime before harvest next year. We’re driving combines that are 20 and 35 years old, and metal fatigue is setting in big time. At least one of the combines breaks down just about every day. What a headache, and hours’ worth of lost production time.
For me this year, harvest has been about babysitting three of our grandchildren while their mother (our daughter) drives one of the semis. Our other daughter is also a truck driver, as well as our nephew and Ken, a retired truck driver who is no relation to us. It is a house full, with MaryAnn and her kids camping out at night on the sofas in the living room and a queen-sized air mattress that sits between the sofa and the TV. Our other daughter has her own bedroom in the basement, as she is living with us for a few months. 

Besides babysitting the kids, I’ve been taking care of the kids’ 6-week old puppy, Ruby, who is a Boston Terrier/Boxer mix. (Well, that was how old she was when harvest started. Now she’s 8 weeks old, and by the time harvest is over, she’ll be 9 weeks old.) The puppy loves and wants to make friends with our cat, but the cat is afraid of the puppy, so the cat hides out most of the time, outside, or on the third floor, or in the basement. 
The puppy is adorable, simply adorable, but I also discovered that she is SUCH A DOG!
Whenever I take her outside to pee, her nose zeros in on all the booby traps in our yard, namely dead mice that the cat caught and left under the shrubs; cat poo; dried up bird carcasses–all of which the puppy has chowed down on. Disgusting!
So when the puppy comes inside, she gets her mouth cleansed with pieces of cooked chicken, pork chops, whatever–and, nonetheless, I warned the kids not to let puppy lick their faces. Oops, looks like puppy’s about ready to lick Felicia’s face. 

Besides the wheat, garbanzos and barley being ripe, so are our gardens. We have two–a traditional field garden and a raised-bed garden, which was something new this year. The raised beds are so overflowing with produce (onions, beets, bush beans, lettuce and carrots), they look like Chia Pets. 

My flowers are also pretty. The rose on the deck is done blooming, but you can’t beat annuals to keep flowering throughout summer until frost. 
I’ll be babysitting most of next week too. It’s been fun (and exhausting) to be “mommy” again. The grandkids have taken to calling me “Mom–I mean, Grandma …” 
With luck, my daughter will get a day off next week and so will I. When that happens, I plan to drive out to the River Ranch and ride with my husband in his combine for a couple of hours … assuming it’s he’s not standing outside of it, welding up a huge crack in the metal or some other annoyance. 

Monday, March 03, 2014

Writing Moods and a Weekly Update

I’ve been more aware of my moods lately than usual. Maybe it’s because winter is dragging on. It’s nice that writing takes my mind off the snow, grayness and fog, but the moods still manage to attach themselves to the writing.

Unless the moods have nothing to do with the weather, and everything to do with writing. Might that be?

Here’s a typical range of moods:
  • When it’s time to start writing in the morning: I read at the day’s planned revising/editing and feel at sea (i.e. sick) about how rough the draft is, and how many hours it will take today to sculpt the scenes into something better.  
  • Then as I’m in the flow, being the characters, I want to cry for my heroine. I’m just past the halfway mark, approaching the black moment where all will appear lost for her. It’s a rough patch for her and for me to get through, and it will get worse before it gets better. It will probably be another two weeks before I can give her a happy ending. And before my own sadness for her ends, darn.  
  • Later in the afternoon, as my brain tires, my mood takes another dip. At 2:00 pm, I look at the clock and wonder how many more hours it will be before I’ve completed the day’s scenes to my satisfaction. If I’m not done by 4:00 pm, I throw in the towel, regardless. Writing is supposed to bring us joy, right? We shouldn’t work until we are abusing ourselves instead. I understand it when people say they don't like to write, but they like having written.   
  • Fortunately, whether I declare I’m finished at 4:00 pm, or whether I finish before that—like today, when I finished at 1:30 pm—the forces tamping down on my mood lift immediately. My brain is tired, but I reward myself with of a cup of tea and a snack. And then I to go to my scrapbooking room for some further mood lifting. The moment I walk into the room, I feel a tangible lift, thank goodness. 

So that’s my writing day via moods. Does writing make you moody? What do your moods look like?

  • Scrapbooking: Only three more double-page layouts, and I am done with all four scrapbooks for 2013. Woohoo!  If I can keep up with 2014 as it happens, I should be able to do at least one other year of the many, many years left to scrapbook.
  • Social
  • On Friday, with me desperately needing to get out of the house, hubby and I went to a home and garden show in Spokane with some friends and then ate dinner at a wonderful German restaurant. My chicken cordon bleu was tender and delicious. Hubby’s black forest cake, of which I stole three bites, was out of this world. Even the decaf coffee was wonderful, imagine that.   
  • On Saturday, my daughter brought her kids over for dinner and a movie while her hubby was busy being an exhibitor at the home show. 
  • On Sunday, hubby and I enjoyed our tradition of watching the Academy Awards . We watched them together for the first time the year our oldest daughter was born. That was in 1975, and we watched it while sitting together on my hospital bed, after having given birth to her. That’s how long this tradition’s been going on! Really enjoyed how funny Ellen DeGeneres is. 
  • WRITING: I entered ACFW’s Genesis contest this morning. As each contest asks for different things, the notable differences about this one was in asking for a media contact as well as a high-resolution picture of me. I had hoped a selfie I took a few weeks ago would work, but no.

    So I had hubby take another one, and here is the goofy farmer’s wife (er, writer)  at the required 300 ppi resolution. I was rather frustrated about having to have my picture taken, but hubby's usually able to lift my mood. At least a little. For a while. Too bad I chopped off my bangs a couple of days ago.
  • After spending all morning preparing my submission and getting my picture taken (well, that part took only a click of a camera), part of me is saying that I should clean my messy office.
  • Another part of me is saying, “Pfft. You deserve a reward. For goodness sake, take one.”
  • So I’m going now to scrapbook.

How was your week, reading, writing or otherwise?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Use last year's writing Failures to Build this year's Successes

Recently, I ran across Keli Gwyn's blog, Romance Writers on the Journey, where she interviewed some 200 (give or take--I round numbers) aspiring romance writers between the years of 2008 and 2012. She ended the blog when she signed her own first book contract. Kudos to Keli for creating such a fine resource, and also for her recent good news--a second book contract, with Love Inspired Historical. I don't know Keli, but I felt a literal rush of happiness for her when I read this.

Romance Writers on the Journey is filled with author and wanna-be-author interviews, as well as a wealth of information about writing itself. But what I want to talk about are the numbers. Of the 200 people she interviewed, most were "on the contest circuit," meaning that their writing had reached a level of competence that the writers felt they wouldn't be embarrassing themselves and wasting their time/money by competing in RWA contests. Many had been finalists in, or won, various RWA contests.

I have read every single interview, and of those 200 people, only about 20 have gone on to become traditionally published. That's only 10%. Of the remaining 180, I discovered that only 10% are even still blogging. Now, I don't know if they've given up on their dream, but they have given up on blogging.

The point I want to make is this one by Winston Churchill:
 Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
Given that, I decided to think about my writing successes and failures last year with regard to the facet of entering RWA contests. There are so many facets to the writing life, if I noted my successes and failures in all of them, this post would end up being very long. If you're interested in reading specifically what I learned, and can't read the small print, click on the image and it will become a readable size.

    So, have you taken a look at your writing failures last year, and figured out a way to leverage them to build your eventual success?

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