Tuesday, October 31, 2017

IWSG: November

It's the first day of NaNoWriMo and I will fully admit I'm off writing somewhere, probably in my comfy chair under a blanket in my pajamas. But I did like this month's question and it's a topic near and dear to me so I'm going to chime in.

Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

I've only not won once, but I'd say it's about half and half on finishing. It took me years to get back to finishing my early NaNo novels, and some of those will never see the light of day. Was that a waste of time? Certainly not. Everything I write is a learning experience, sometimes it's to learn to never do that again.

More recently, I've been better about staying on the novel after November and finishing it without years of gathering dust. A good example is The Last God, which was last year's novel and is now published.

2006 - Sahmara  was published in 2016
2007 - Swan Queen is still waiting to be finished
2008 - Not Another Bards Tale is also waiting to be finished and is likely the next on my list.
2009 - A Broken Race was published in 2015
2010 - 50K worth of short stories, one of which did go on to be published
2011 - The Narvan Book 2: Chain of Grey - Is contracted for publication
2012 - Jackson - A horrible idea, but some of the content ended up in the epilogue of ABR.
2013 - Into the Blue - I'd like to finish this someday
2014 - Damaged - I was building a house so this isn't even close to done and may never be
2015 - The Narvan book 3: Bound in Blue - Is contracted for publication
2016 - The Last God, is published

I like to claim NaNoWriMo as my dedicated writing month. I get that rough draft out and can spend the rest of the year making it pretty and work and all that fun stuff. Sometimes my brain and life don't cooperate and I end up with one of those half finished lingering projects.

Good luck with NaNo this year for all those participating!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

All About NaNoWriMo

I'm at about neck deep into NaNoWriMo already and November hasn't even started. I'm anticipating spending my November at about 6 inches under my obligation load so figure on a total breakdown where I vanish for a few days somewhere in December.

This week's adventures in NaNoWriMo included a trip to Grand Rapids where my Co-ML and I went on the WGVU Morning Show to talk about...you guessed it, NaNoWrimo! I'd never been on the radio before so that was an interesting experience. I was on enough allergy meds that I was just awake enough to be coherent but not alert enough to be nervous. I guess there is a plus to allergies after all.

Today I officially secured my Day Of Knockout Noveling location, which is a theater, which is pretty damn cool, if I do say so myself. I'm still a bit bummed about not using the gallery space we've used for the past couple years, but I don't have to haul hardly anything to the new venue. My back, shoulder, and neck are extremely pleased with this news. The manager is super easy to work with and I'm excited to have the whole theater filled with the clickity-clacking of fifty-some keyboards while we novel away for a day.

I also made all the activities, stickers and progress chart for the 50 goody bags we'll be handing out at our Kick Off Party on the 29th and got those all assembled into neat little bags this week as well.

In preparation for a month of writing, I wrapped up my personal Netflix binge-watching yesterday. I've been on a historical fiction stint with Medici: Masters of Florence, which was very good. Can't wait for the next season! And the three seasons of The Borgias , which was a fun example of a whole show of antagonists and getting people to empathize with them...and yet still know they are not good people. I'm still working my way through the last season of Dark Matter and the current seasons of Mr. Robot and Outlander, but those are on husband/wife time so I can still work those in during November here and there.

Next on the list: Re-reading Book 3 of the Narvan so I can dive into Book 4 for NaNo.

And while I have you here and we're talking about NaNoWriMo, both Sahmara and The Last God (which were both NaNo Novels) are currently on sale for .99. Links are over there on the left. <------ p="">

Thursday, October 5, 2017

It's NaNo Prep Time

Sorry for the blog silence over the past month. Life has been insanely busy and allergy season is upon
me, meaning my morning writing/blogging/marketing/all things bookish time has been minimal to none.

Not that I've had to let everything go, but I've had to prioritize what I can do in the time I have. Most of that time has been devoted to participating in and mentoring the Coursea NaNo Prep courses. If you participate in NaNoWriMo, you will have received the email about these courses a while ago. They are ongoing and run through February. There's still time to join any of the five courses. Auditing (watching the lectures) is free. Participating in the assignments (both submitting and critiquing) does require a fee. Both options are helpful.

I did the assignments in the first course and came out with what I'm hoping is a sellable short general fiction story. Now I just need to find time to hunt down a couple markets and submit it. I also wrote a few pieces that I can work into my upcoming NaNo novel. So there has been productivity, just not as much as I would like. I've also critiqued a lot of assignments and answered lots of questions. Mostly the same questions by different people, which is a bit wearing on my patience level.

If you're wondering what all this talk of NaNoWriMo is about, do take a moment to check it out. This will be my 12th year participating. Amazing to think I've been doing this for that long. Twelve years of writing 50,000 words in a 30 days. Just one month out of the year. Thankfully. I couldn't keep up that frantic pace year round, not with everything else I do. But for one month, I allow myself to let other things go. For one month my existence is distilled to eat, sleep, write, work and the activities involved with NaNo writing, such as moderating my regional forum, hosting weekly write-ins, and three large events. I'm taking November off from author events, though there are a few I wish I could get to, but there just isn't enough of me to go around. Blogging will likely be fairly quiet too.

What will I be writing this year? Book 4 of The Narvan. The first three books are under contract. This one is begging to be written. It's a good thing I'm busy, because the writing urge is getting downright demanding and that will only get worse throughout October as I continue to ponder scenes and plot so my fingers can get down to business on November 1.

So that's where I'm at. Not abducted by aliens, but considering what to write about them. Along with gearing up for three author events in the next couple weeks, wrapping up taking the NaNo prep courses, playing mom taxi to two busy high school girls, and generally doing the business owner and family thing. Not busy at all. Ha!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

IWSG: September Surprises

It's been a busy month. So busy, that I haven't posted here in a while. What's been going on?

Our exchange student from Denmark arrived mid-way through the month. We've been having a great time showing her around town and getting her ready for school. The school here is MUCH bigger than what she's used to, but she did well on her first day. It's only going to get busier from here now that we have two high school students to play taxi and supportive parent for.

I volunteered to serve as a mentor for a Wesleyan University online course on NaNoWriMo preparation. Which means I've been busy answering questions and reviewing assignments for participants in the class. Oh, and taking the class myself. Because I have a ton of free time... (or I'm just a bit crazy).

As an ML for NaNo, these next two months are planning for regional activities time. The fact that this is year nine as ML makes this not near so daunting. We generally have this down. Except the venue I use for my giant mid-month write-in may not be an option this year because they're moving. Add that to my list of things to do along with waiting to meet the ML's I'll be mentoring in the next couple weeks. Here's hoping they don't need a lot of my time and attention or that I don't need sleep.

So anywho, nothing going on here, just lounging around. So hey, why don't we take a few moments for this month's Insecure Writer's Support Group post. 

Question: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? (For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in?)

Yes, definitely. If you've ever done NaNo and read your efforts months or year later, you'll find some portions of the chaos that amaze you. Did I write that? I don't distinctly remember writing that, but holy crap, it's pretty damn good! Even better is when you edit and revise a project and set it aside for a while then go back and read it. I'm often surprised how much I enjoy reading those stories even though I know what happens.  

I've pushed myself to write in third, to write multiple points of view, to do dueling points of view, to write dystopian, fantasy, and more romance scenes than I would have been comfortable with years ago. Beyond my usual novels, I've written short stories and short novels. 

Keep trying new things. They may not work out. I have a whole folder of things that didn't work out. But, I also have multiple folders of projects that did work. You never know what your capable of until you give it a shot. Who knows, you might just surprise yourself.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Summer Project: Building The Pond

No, I'm not writing a book about The Pond. In between attending author events and book signings, I've been busy digging and lugging and getting downright muddy with a real pond.

I thought this was a lot of rocks...ha! 
You may remember this photo from a previous post.

See all those rocks flowing down the hill? I collected those from a house across town van load by van load three years ago. Then I unloaded them in a big pile. A year later, I moved them all to this hill. Who needs a weight set?

The digging has begun.
Well, I decided it was finally time to do what I intended with those rocks rather than let them be the haven for snakes and weeds they had become. So this summer, it was time to build a pond. Two of them actually. But it started with moving all those rocks again, but only a few feet to either side this time.

I'm not good at stopping to take pictures when I'm in the middle of a project, but here's where I was after several days of moving and digging. The top pond was difficult as the first foot was hard clay, rather like cement. Thankfully, nature took mercy on me and provided sand for the rest of the depth. The top pond is 3 foot by 5 foot and 2.5 feet deep.
I tried to give the waterfall some
angles to make it more interesting.

It appears it was spring when I first began this project because the tulips are just done blooming. Summer really rushed by this year!

There are 23 feet between the top and bottom ponds. All of which needed to be made into a series of waterfalls. I spent a lot of time standing and staring at the hillside. It was much like contemplating a scene when writing. A lot of chin scratching, some scrunchy faces, tipping of head from side to side, walking up and down the hill and standing in various places along the way. Days passed, summer moved along.

My collection of rocks included two nice slabs of marble, which I planned to use for my upper and lower fall. The smaller falls used various flat rocks that I had around. With the fall as long as it is and as wide as I ended up making it, I ended up having to borrow from the newer pile of rocks I'd bought and moved here this spring. There was much moving of rocks, a bit of swearing, and two blackened fingertips that were caught between rocks as they shifted into place (and quite a lot of swearing at those moments).

I hit up my local Lowes for their clearance broken bags of stones and pebbles to fill in the gaps.

As you can see from the photos there are a lot of tall plants next to the waterfall. They weren't tall when I planted them there, but we have super soil. That meant I spent some time digging out a lot of overgrown plants. Though I was able to give some of them away, several of my prospective plant takers failed to get back to my and my patience ran out. I did expand some of my flower garden area on the hillside to accommodate some of the offending plants, but the rest got pitched out into the field. Hard as they are, they may grow there and naturalize the otherwise boring field of weeds. If not, oh well. I have plenty more of those particular flowers.

Work began on the lower pond. I wanted this one to be deep enough that the bottom (hopefully) wouldn't freeze. I also wanted it big enough to support fish and plants and help fill the space on the hill.

The first foot and half was again hard work, though not because of clay this time, but because when the house was built, the excavators had shoved all the yucky piles of debris onto the hill because the soil was good. Unfortunately, it also included a lot of what had been tree roots and stinky black dirt. It smelled so bad! Once I got through the two feet of random wood bits from the excavators, I got live wood bits thanks to tree roots, both from trees still here and those we had removed before building. There was much clipping of roots and swearing and hacking of roots with shovels.
The shovel and I grew very close over the weeks that passed.
The lower pond is 5 feet by 9 feet and has steps at 2, 3 and 4 feet, with the lowest section at 5 feet deep. Even more fun than digging all that dirt out was deciding where to go with it. I don't mind digging. Lugging carts full of dirt is not my favorite thing. It's not even something I sort of like. In fact, I dislike it very much. After awhile I enlisted my husband to take the dirt carts away with the lawnmower to patch up the lawn wherever he wanted.

Then came the issue of doing a pond on a hillside. Where does one determine the level of the pond when one side is significantly higher than the other? I decided to make a step on the tall side and raise up the short side with some of the dirt from the pond to even out the difference.

There was much anticipation while
I waited for the top pond to fill and
water to start down the fall.
Just when I thought the digging was over, I remembered I would need to dig a trench along side the whole thing for the pipe to bring water from the bottom to the top and for the electric that would need to come down from the house to the pump and filter in the bottom pond. Oh good! More digging!

I ended up going with 1.5 inch irrigation hose for my waterline because of the distance from the pump. This allowed for a good flow of water down the fall. It makes for a lovely rush of water sound that draws birds, butterflies, and frogs. Yesterday, a heron came. It was pretty, but it better not eat my fish. Hopefully, the dogs in the yard will chase it off again like they did today.

Yes, there are fish. The top pond is home to a lively guppy population. (There's a post about the originator of my guppies out here somewhere. Yes, the progeny of the great guppy mother have prospered). I put them out there when the top pond was half full and beginning to teem with mosquito larvae. Euw! The guppies feasted. Sad to say the waterfall and lower pond took much longer to finish than I had originally anticipated due to weather, limited time, and my energy level. By the time the lower pond was ready for the pump, the top pond was so green and dark that I was sure there was nothing left alive in it.

The first fall is the longest.
Once I had the pump and filter installed and all the lines run between them and the ponds, it was time to switch the whole thing on. Slowly, and with the help of some barley tablets, the water began to clear. Surprise! The guppies had multiplied like the guppies they are. Baby guppies everywhere!

It took a few days of tweaking stone placement, one day of letting it all dry so I could use pond foam to fill gaps and further direct the water flow, and a week of wondering where my water keep going (dirt settled on the rim of the top pond, creating a slow overflow area that was well hidden), before I was finally happy with the project.

Not all the way happy though. Those two nice slabs of marble I mentioned? They survived the move over from their previous home, they were moved here several times. They were walked on and shuffled here and there. But when I finally placed the lower one near where I wanted it? It broke in half. Yes, you guessed it, more swearing ensued. I did install it for now, but I will replace it next year. Right now, I just want to finish the landscaping and buy a bench so I can enjoy watching the fish and frogs.

It only took a week before the frogs
started arriving.
The bottom pond is home to 14 goldfish. The ten cent kind. I learned my lesson with that with my other pond. If it's not the heron, it will raccoons feasting on expensive pond fish. It's also home to about half of the guppy population. How? Well, when the water started flowing, it pushed all those babies right off the surface of the top pond and propelled them all the way down to the lower pond via the waterfall. An amazing amount of them survived. There are also several full grown males down there. Sad for them, because all the full grown females were smart enough to hang out at the bottom of the top pond. Baby guppy explosions will be on hold for a while.

There's still some work left to do. The electric needs to be finished, but it's running off an outdoor extension cord for now. The landscaping needs some of my time, but I'll get to that when the mood strikes. Mulch will come when it's on sale at the end of the season. One of these days I'll finish digging the hole for the filter system, but it's okay in its half hole for now.  One day I might hang a nice flower basket from the top of my electric post or decide to chop it off further down. The pond needs plants. All tasks for another day.

 I'll leave you with the view from upstairs. Don't mind the hose and shovel. We've all grown quite attached this summer.