Monthly Archives: April 2014

ROW80 Update- Receding Waters Edition

*Enters blog space, collapses into comfy chair*

Well, we’re home. Just two weeks after I first posted about our basement flooding, we’re pretty well back in business. The problems with the septic system were far more extensive than anyone suspected at first, including a bad installation 12 years ago and collapsed pipes under a neighbour’s yard. The guys fixing it had to dig a trench across the yard next door… and the house beyond that (and their driveway)… and across Main Street before the problem was totally fixed, but they did it.

We have working toilets. We have hot water. Our washer and dryer survived. The flood waters have left us, the guys cut out the bottom section of drywall everywhere to prevent mold, the floors are reasonably cleaned and disinfected.

And best of all, we don’t own this house. I think seeing the bill for all of this would be the end of me.

I think the only one who’s sad to see the end of the water is this guy:

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He made me laugh when I found him swimming around the basement like he owned the place. Gotta laugh when you can, right?

We spent a few nights with AJ’s parents, then a few with mine, then another with AJ’s parents before we got the all clear to move home. But it was good timing, really. Not only had I just finished my “no heavy lifting for a week” rule after surgery when it came time to hoist appliances, but the kids had last week off of school. At least all of this kept them busy.

So now I need to get back to work. I’ve edited a few chapters in recent nights after the kids have gone to bed, sitting at the dining room table and trying to concentrate. I’m finding that it’s hard to get started every time*, but once I get the document opened and start, things are going well.

No promises on release dates or anything right now, but right now it’s still looking like June or early July. Thank you to everyone who has offered to help with cover reveal/release/ARC stuff already. Youse all is the metaphorical bomb.

I can’t really set my office up the way it used to be, what with the guys coming back some time in the next month to finish the walls. Still, I worked hard yesterday to set up a place to work, and since the kids aren’t allowed to play in the basement right now, I kind of have privacy. I miss my bookshelves, but at least the desk survived.

 

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Check out the bottom– you can see exactly how deep the water got in my office (the high spot in the basement) after I took the drawers and fled.

So that’s my update.

Oh, and I didn’t set reading goals this round, but last week I read “Write, Publish, Repeat” by Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt. It was an excellent read with very non-gimmicky advice on indie publishing, and was entertaining and encouraging without promising the moon. Sometimes it’s incredibly comforting to hear, “yes, you have to work like a dog, but you can do this” instead of “FOLLOW THESE TIPS AND RAKE IN THE DOUGH” (which is always BS, in my experience). I like their ideas on product funnels and on balancing the art and business aspects of writing. Definitely worth the $5 price tag.

There we go. Updated. Now that I have my space back (sort of), I just need to find the time to work in it.

*This has nothing to do with the situation… this is just how I am. I sit down to work, and my brain starts searching for distractions. They make a pill for that, don’t they? :/


Q is for Quagmire (or Quarry)

…take your pick.

And with this, I step down from the A to Z blog challenge. 🙂

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Apologies to anyone whose blogs I haven’t managed to check in on recently. I’ll get there!


P is for Pleasure

…and reading for it.

It used to be that I could get completely lost in a book with no problems. Heaven help my family if it was a series– they might not have clean laundry for a while. There was very little that bothered me about anyone’s writing, at least not enough to distract me from the story.

That’s changed, and I’m sad about it.

These days, I feel like reading is a chore a lot of the time. There are too many books I need to read: things I’ve told friends I’ll read and critique for them, great books in the genres I write in that I’ve never got to, books in other genres that I think will broaden my horizons. And there are the ones I don’t need to read, but want to: the ones I’ve grabbed for free or cheap on the Kindle, ones I picked up because friends raved about them or because I loved the idea and the cover, books by blog buddies. I just feel guilty for not getting to those.

So a lot of my fiction reading feels like homework. I do end up enjoying many of the books on my “need to read” list, but at the back of my mind there’s always the knowledge that there’s something else I need to get to when this one is done.

The other problem is that when you spend a lot of time learning (and yes, often breaking) the “rules” of writing, you notice when other books have flaws.

To be clear: I think writing rules are made to be broken, if we do it intentionally and in full knowledge of why the “rule” exists. But when everything you read from writers, agents, editors, etc. says AVOID INFODUMPS, it’s hard to not be distracted when a bestseller has them in huge chunks at the beginning of chapters– especially when it illustrates why this is actually a pretty good rule.

I’d give examples, but they’d all make me sound like a hypocritical know-it-all nobody, and that’s not how I mean it at all. I make exactly the same mistakes, which is probably why my brain wants me to be alert to them. I am in no position to criticize, which is why I don’t write negative reviews. I respect everyone’s work, and I certainly don’t judge anyone for things I don’t like– personal taste is personal, yo. I like a good rule-breaker, and I never want to be legalistic about anything in writing.** I don’t want to be the snot-nosed know-it-all who criticizes the pros, because I hate that dude.

But I’m being honest about something that I understand is my issue and really has nothing to do with other writers. When these things pop into my head like they would when I’m editing my own work, it’s distracting. It keeps me from becoming immersed in the story.

I HATE THIS. It’s is one of few things I actually dislike about being a writer.

I want to go back to just reading for pleasure, without analyzing why someone’s writing blows me away or leaves me flat. Sure, that’s incredibly valuable for my own work, but for me it sucks the fun out of everything. I wish I could shut that part of my brain off and forget about technique sometimes.

Have any of you struggled with this? Can you fix me? Does reading feel like homework, or do you find yourself unable to turn off your inner editor, even when reading a best-seller?*** Or are you able to lose yourself in any book at any time?

Just tell me this is a phase, ok?

For more A-Z Challenge, mosey this-a-way, pardner.

 

 

*Not that this was the only reason I didn’t love it, but it was one distraction.

**Well… nothing style-related. I will judge the heck out of straight-up unreadable writing if it’s published. I can’t help that.

***SERIOUSLY, inner editor. Get your head out of your butt and shut up.


It’s Not Paranoia If They Really Are Out To Get You

Remember when I posted pictures of my office that I built out of plastic storage bins and blankets?

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*sigh*

Well, this is my office as of yesterday around lunch time:

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Let’s back up a bit, shall we?

On Sunday, I posted what we’ll call my best-laid plans for getting a certain book ready for publication. I was getting back to my office (which had been too cold to work in since January), I was organized, I had a GAME PLAN.

On Tuesday evening, I went downstairs to work. I was moving the laundry over when I noticed a small pond near the dehumidifier. There was a wee “dangit!” moment when I thought the unit was leaking, but I got to cleaning it up before it could spread.

…and then I noticed a separate pool in the play room.

Half an hour later I was standing in freezing water that covered the toes of my rainboots in low spots, and that was slowly creeping toward MY AREA. It was also encroaching on the space occupied by our brand new, purchased-because-emergency washer and dryer.

What happened in the hours that followed was a frenzy of me following The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy‘s advice: “DON’T PANIC.” Really. If there was any doubt that my depression is improving, this was proof that I really am feeling better. Sure, I freaked out a little, but I delegated everything involving phone calls to AJ* and took over whatever else I could. When we moved beyond Shop-Vac territory, I got to work moving stuff upstairs and above the ever-rising water line. By midnight we had a neighbour’s sump pump going, and the water level seemed to have at least stopped rising.

By morning we were at six inches of water in spots. I FORMULATED A PLAN (come on, I deserve a few caps here), got AJ to help me implement the parts that involved getting the washer, dryer, and freezer up on to plastic bins, delegated more phone calls (to insurance and the landlord-type-people**), and took more stuff out of my office and hauled it upstairs.

Yadda yadda, contractors came late yesterday afternoon, we found out we’re on a septic system (would’ve been good to know) which is having issues with the insane amount of snow that’s melted in the past few days, there are other problems, and it might be three weeks before we can move back into our house. Oh, and insurance won’t cover contents of the basement that we lost.

Um.

So about those best laid plans.

If I were the type who thought in a certain way, I’d say this was a sign I wasn’t meant to get this book out. SOMEONE or SOMETHING in the universe is throwing up roadblocks! It’s not meant to be! I don’t think that way, and I know the timing is coincidental, but it sure feels like that.

If I had another way of thinking, I might decide that if I can just THINK POSITIVELY, all of the problems will go away and the house will be toasty warm and smelling like roses in no time.

I’m taking a slightly different course of thought and action.

I’ve decided that this is the story I’m going to be telling in ten years when people ask about publishing my first book. I’ll be able to laugh about it by then, and I’ll talk about how this was important enough to me that I took my work wherever we went. Right now that’s my in-laws’ house, but in a few days it’ll be on vacation at my parents’ house at the other end of the province, and after that it might be in a hotel 45 minutes away from home. I’ll say that I had to drive the kids back for school every day, but I worked in the school library, the still-kinda-stinky house, wherever (my kingdom for a local coffee shop!).

Stephen King wrote Carrie when he lived in a trailer with two kids and had no money. JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter as a single mother and lost her job somewhere in there. How can I offer my future fans anything less than all of my determination and the hardest work I’ve ever done on anything? Damned if I’m going to say, “Well, things went to shit and I took a few weeks off.”

That’s not to say that I’ll be sticking to my ROW80 goals exactly, because the kids are going to need a lot more hands-on time in the next few weeks, there will be a lot of driving time, and other things are sure to come up (God help us).

The point is, I’m staying thankful (more on that in a later post), and I’m not going to let this stop me.

After all…

plot-twist

 

Oh, but if I’m slow at responding to comments or e-mails, and if I drop out of the A-Z challenge after my scheduled posts dry up, you’ll know why. 😉

 

 

*If I’ve learned anything else from this, it’s the extent of my phobia. RIDICULOUS.

**Our house is owned by the government, who is Andre’s boss. It’s… interesting.

 


O is for Oil Pulling

(NOTE: I drafted this post a while ago. Update at the bottom.)

So, oil pulling. This was a new thing to me when my friend Shannon (hi!) posted this article on Facebook. It sounded ridiculous and disgusting, so obviously I had to try it.

The theory is that swishing natural oils around in your mouth for EXACTLY 20 minutes helps detox the mouth, improve oral health, and supposedly provides a host of other benefits, including improving TMJ symptoms.

Hey, I have that!

Coconut oil has antibacterial/antifungal properties (so they say), and plaque is supposed to stick to the oil. In the interest of giving things a shot if they’re not going to hurt anyone… yeah, we’ll try it.

So let’s see… one tablespoon.

Screw that. I gag on my toothbrush. There’s no WAY this is going to end well. We’ll start with a teaspoon of pure virgin CO.

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Note to self: melt the oil in the microwave next time, even if commenters on the article are like, “I GUESS you can melt it first if you’re a WUSS.”
Ugh.

Okay, so that melted pretty quickly. Now, swish around for twenty minutes.

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Oh, sweet floundering Neptune.

If this isn’t the least pleasant texture I’ve ever experienced, it’s close. SLIMY COCONUT-FLAVORED BLEEEEEH.

Oh. Saliva. How nice of you to show up.

[Five minutes later]

Well, that was interesting.

Yes, I lasted five minutes before I started gagging and had to spit it out into the trash can. How was that? Here’s a quote from another article for you:

“The oil will get thicker and milky as it mixed with saliva during this time and it should be creamy-white when spit out.”

So… yeah. I’m going to be mature about this and just walk away from that one.

As for the results: Hmm. Well, it got gunk out from between my teeth as well as flossing does. My teeth feel slippery… I guess that’s a good thing? No immediate whitening benefit, but at this point I doubt anything can help me with that.

Annnnd my tongue was so slippery that it just fell out of my mouth and crawled away. It’s hiding under the stove, quivering.

That’s kind of awkward.

Could I do this first thing in the morning? I don’t know. I guess I’ll give it a shot if it might help with the TMJ. Maybe it’s one of those things you get used to, like using a neti pot (also eew, but it does clear the sinuses).

Still, I’m looking forward to moving on to making a body scrub out of CO and sugar. That sounds like a LOT more fun!

UPDATE: After a few days of trying this, my time-to-violent-gagging went from five minutes to an impressive ONE MINUTE. This might not be for me.

For more A-Z Challenge fun, click here!

 


N is for Notebooks (and Not)

Confession: I’m a sucker for a new notebook, especially if it’s a good price. Our dollar store gets a lot of the spiral-bound kind I like and sells them for $2, so I have way too many.

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(the baby dragon one is not from the dollar store)

I mean, I adore $40 leather-bound notebooks, too, but can’t afford them and would never be able to actually write in them, so they’re kind of out.

The point is, I have a LOT of notebooks.

They’re great. Portable, pleasant to write in if you can find one that lies flat, great for journaling or brainstorming. The thing is… I’m starting to realize how limited their usefulness is.

Much as I love being able to write things out in pen or pencil, I have a hard time keeping notebooks organized. Even if I use one per project, it’s impossible to rearrange notes to put scenes in order, or to put more pages in where I need them later. Binders are better for this, but aren’t as portable as a notebook. And the other problem is that space is limited– I either spill over into another notebook (rare) or have a whole lot of wasted pages (frequent).

So though I love buying notebooks, I find myself shifting to other options. TECHNOLOGICAL options. I struggle with technology, but I can’t deny that some programs/apps have distinct advantages over paper.

EVERNOTE is a great program. There are a few like it out there, and everyone has their favourite, but I have no complaints with this one so far. I like that I can organize my notes into “notebooks” (hey!) to keep them organized, and can always add more as I need to, without worrying about space or leaving enough pages for future notes. I can access it from anywhere if I have my phone on me, so it’s perfect for those random moments when inspiration strikes while I’m out walking, or at the grocery store… or at church (sorry, pastor!).

Oh, and it’s free, unless you spring for the premium version. I don’t even know what that entails– I’ve been happy with the basic service.

They have other products, too. Skritch lets you write/draw/make notes on photos, there’s one that does digital handwriting, something with food, yadda yadda. I’m not so fancy with my computery things, but they’d be worth looking into if you like this program.

Moving on.

You’ve all heard me rave about Scrivener before, but let me tell you something: I had NO idea how much I was missing out on until I took Gwen Hernandez’s course. She’s the author of Scrivener for Dummies, and what I learned has me thinking that I might only be using notebooks for brainstorming in the future, because this program does everything else that I need.

Those index cards I’ve been using to organize scenes during revisions? It’s got ’em. I can colour code them, mark what stage of writing they’re at (notes, draft, revised, whatever), add keywords to track characters, show locations for each scene… whatever floats your boat, really. And it’s easy to move them around on-screen if I need to shake things up, stick a new scene in, or take one out.

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Sayonara, paper.

The info panel lets me make notes for the scene or the whole project without interfering with the manuscript, play with those keywords, keep research and resources handy, add inspiration photos, and a lot more that I can’t do in a paper binder.

As for the writing itself, we’ve covered this before. Each scene is its own file in the binder, so I can move them around, jump to a different scene in one click if I need to fix something or find a reference, group them by chapter, find scenes by keyword (for, say, working on a single POV character’s chapters).

I can’t even begin to tell you all how much I miss just this one feature now that I’m editing in Word.

Scrolling sucks, is what I’m saying.

Scrivener’s not for everyone. Some people find it confusing, or just don’t like using it. Some are perfectly happy in Word, and that’s fantastic. I don’t understand it, but I fully support everyone in their software choices. But for someone who’s looking for an alternative to the frustrations of notebooks and binders (and scrolling, oy), it’s been the best tool I’ve found.

And… that’s it. That’s the only two tools I need to work toward replacing notebooks. I didn’t think I’d ever see the day when it would happen, but then, I thought I’d hate e-books, too.

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?!

I’ll keep using binders for things like worldbuilding and series bibles, and I’ll keep a little sketch pad on-hand for doodling and drawing. But it sure looks like I’m going all computery for everything else.

For more A-Z challenge, click here

 

 


M is for Marianas Trench

…because why wouldn’t it be?

(I guess I’m supposed to put a content warning, since there’s AN F WORD in one of these songs… *clutches pearls* So there. I warnded you.)

These guys rate a thank-you in the back pages of any book I ever publish– at least, the stories I’ve been writing or revising in the past year and a half. I don’t know what it is, their music just works for me. I relate to it, even though I probably have nothing in common with their lead singer/songwriter. It wakes me up. It relaxes me, in spite of all of the screaming. It gets my imagination all bouncy and hyper.

I keep finding songs that relate to my characters. It’s fun. I’ve shared some here before, but I keep finding more. Like this GORGEOUS a capella Billy Joel cover:

Or this one, that reminds me of the new love story in book two. *sigh*

Or this one… which has nothing to do with writing in any way, but is making me happy these days. I just started listening to their first album, and love it WAY more than I expected.

I now own everything by them I could get off of iTunes. Time for a new album…

*waits*

Yeah, I’m a sixteen year old girl. I’m okay with that.

Oh, and my older son is a fan, too*. He built them a lego stage.

 

 

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Apologies to whoever that’s supposed to be on the left… he ran out of heads.

*Yes, I turn down the cussin’ when we’re listening in the car… even though it’s just the best cussin’ ever.


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