Hi all, sorry to not update for a while. Life seems to naturally get much busier for me in the fall, and I've been trying to squeeze out one more draft of Move before the holidays. Thank God, I finally managed to finish draft #4 last night. I tell you, I struggled with this one. I found out that both of my publishers now require a minimum 60,000 word count for mystery novels now, and the last draft of Move came in at a little under 50,000 words. I had to add over 10,000 words. It resulted in six new chapters and adding a lot of detail. I beleive the changes are well worth it and make it a much better novel, but this wasn't easy. I have done three read throughs to make the additions and make sure that everything is "plugged in" and fits together correctly. I'm happy with this draft, though. The plot is much stronger now and I feel the story benefitted from the additions. I hope to have a final draft of this done and submitted to one of my publishers by May 2013.
Oh NaNo participants, this is what you have to look forward to. Yes, writing that rough draft is the hardest (and most time consuming) part, but the rewrites can be a pain too. But don't worry about that now. Just get that draft out there and you can worry about editing hell in 2013.
I also managed to squeeze in a revision of Feathered Frenzy this morning too. That's a very short work - I actually call it a guide because it's more the length of a novellette (at 15,500 words). I'm going to self publish that one, so it will get done when it gets done. Maybe I'll have it ready in late winter or early spring 2013.
But for now, my current writing projects are caught up and I'm putting them on hold for the holidays. Life is just too busy now. We're doing a major housecleaning to prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and that season is always a whirlwind of activity. There's just too much to do and trying to squeeze in time for ongoing writing projects with family activities, social activities, and work is more stress than it's worth. So I've decided to just do promotion for my published works and blogging for the remainder of 2012, and I'll pick up my ongoing writing projects again in 2013.
In other news, Rick's term on council is drawing to a close. He and the other three members had nominees put forth to replace them next year, and the congregation will vote on them December 2. Rick has one more thing to follow up with on his committee and he's helping with the congregational meetings for the elections, but it's winding down. Only one more meeting in December and he turns in his office key and goes back to being a regular member of the congregation. I say yay. He's done a lot the past 3 years. We all have (meaning the fellow council members and their spouses). I wish the nominees luck and blessing as they take over the reigns.
You know I left my committees? I'm helping Rick with his through the end of his term, but I had to come off the other committee. They're planning ongoing activities on weekdays and I just can't do that with my work schedule, so I had to quit. It's too bad because I did enjoy being more active in church, but my writing is building up and my workload is increasing since one of my colleagues resigned to go work for another section in the agency. The good news is that she has a window office and I'm moving in it when she moves out in a couple of weeks. So for the first time in my almost 15 years of working full time, I'll have a window office. The bad news is, I'm also getting her Board - so there are more meetings I have to put on and disciplinary actions to deal with until a replacement is hired. *Groan* And we all know that can be a slow process. But I'll survive. If the Lord brings you to it, He'll bring you through it. It just meant that I had to quit my church committees. Too bad really, but hopefully I'll be able to help out with activities here and there in the future. There are a couple of things I really enjoy helping with like greeting and our free thrift day, and I'd really like to continue helping with those things.
So that's where it's at for now. Things are coming along and I'm happy for that. Thankfully, I have today off for Veteran's Day, so hopefully I'll be able to get even more in order and on track. I've already made great progress today, but now I need to log off to deal with other matters, like holiday shopping and housecleaning.
Thanks to all the Veteran's that fought and gave their lives so we're free to live our crazy, hectic lives under the blessing of freedom. God bless all those who have served and continue to serve our country and to protect our freedom. We do appreciate you and pray for your safety and well being every day.
That's all today. Take care and have a great week.
Ok folks, the holidays are over and the University of South Carolina Gamecocks pulled off an outstanding win over Nebraska yesterday. Today was back to reality. Hmm. Can we skip the rest of winter now and go straight to spring?
Didn't think so. Crap.
This is when winter starts to hurt. The excitement of the holidays are over and it's time to get back in our routine that has us out at sunrise and coming back at sunset as we muddle through the cold days of winter. Everything seems bare, dead, and cold. Yes, it's depressing. The trees and decorations are down. No goodies lie around the office to munch on anymore. No more presents will be given or received. And there were no Christmas lights to welcome me home.
Truth is, though, it's not all dead - it's merely resting to put forth that burst of energy that brings vibrancy and life during the other three seasons of the year. The trees and grass are dormant, not dead. Just as I needed the past 11 days off work to keep from getting burned out, so too does nature need to rest in order to bring us life and bounty through the rest of the year.
Truth be told, the season isn't without merit. I usually do my most (and best) writing in the winter. In fact, I wrote the rough drafts of Blurry and Anywhere But Here in January and February, and did major work on Splinter during that same time frame last year. My productivity with my writing seems to be at it's highest during the winter. I guess that makes sense. If everything is dull routine, then that means fewer distractions to pull me away from my computer. A resting world gives my muse time and energy to come alive. And I hope that pattern resumes this winter - considering that I haven't written anything new since November and am itching to create more new work in the new year! (All of the work on my writing has been in the area of publicity and promotion - good, but I miss creating new work too!)
Winter is a good time to catch up on indoor activities that seem to move to the back burner during the busy summer and holiday seasons. It's a great time to read, for example, or take up an art or craft. I've been doing a lot of reading lately, and I used to stitch a good bit in the winter when I wasn't working on novels. Cold days are also good fo DVD marathons of your favorite movie series or TV shows or playing games. I noticed yesterday when I went out that most stores are having some of their best sales of the season, so there are deals to be had on winter clothes. Treadmills and gyms make it possible to exercise indoors to keep you active. And, of course, the Internet is an endless source of information and entertainment to keep you occupied, from joining online groups that focus on an interest or hobby, finding new recipes to try cooking this weekend, or looking up entertainment in books, music, etc from independent artists.
Hmm. Suddenly winter doesn't seem so glum. In fact, it sounds like I could find plenty to do that will make the next two months pass painlessly.
Here's hoping your new year is off to a great start. Take care and I'll see you next time.
As we approach the holidays, I'm reminded of holidays past and the gifts I received. Some, obviously, were winners: Jewelry and electronics are always a hit for me, as I imagine they are for most women. But there were some other things I received that were also hits, and they weren't big or glamerous - just useful and beneficials. For example, Rick gave me a ruby ring two years ago and I loved it, but he also gave me a pair of bedroom booties that I wear every night during the winter. Yes, the ruby ring was the big hit of the holiday, but those booties - well, I'm wearing them now as I type this entry. Obviously a winner too, and they weren't that expensive.
There have been some other surprises under the tree that became staples in my life and my home, and I'd like to reflect on that now. I'm not talking about the big ticket items, but those little things that snuck into your everyday life. Maybe you'll get some ideas for last minute gift shopping, or perhaps remember some winners tucked away in your own home.
1. An electric razor. Oh wow, what a time saver this has turned out to be! Yes, you can spend some money on these, but there are also some inexpensive ones that work very well. I believe the one I have was under $20 at Walmart. It doesn't give as close a shave and you will still have to use a straight razor every few days, but if you're a woman that wears pants a lot (like I do), this is a great item to have.
2. A firesafe box. Actually, we've been given two of these. One is file size for important documents and the other is a smaller one that I store my valuable jewelry, external hard drive, and other small but important items in. A definite must have for everybody!
3. A crock pot. This is a working woman's best friend. There are so many recipes and it's great to have supper ready as soon as you come home from work. Clean up usually isn't hard, either.
4. Slipper socks. I must have given the former colleague that gave me these a look when she handed them to me because she laughed and said "try them out, I know you'll love them." She was right. They were warm and comfortable and I have several pair now. They were especially helpful when I sprained my ankle and it was so swollen that shoes (even my beloved bedroom booties) were a problem.
5. Christmas china. One of the schools Rick works at gave him a 4 piece place setting of china back in the days when the economy was better. At first I thought "what the heck are we gonna do with that?" until we hosted a few holidays and parties at our house. It was a hit, and nice to have too.
6. Picture frames. This is getting more rare as a gift with digital cameras, but they still make great gifts for people you know that do needlearts. That small collection of frames I collected in the early days of our marriage were used to frame many counted cross stitch projects.
7. Fleece blankets. This was another one of those gifts that raised eyebrows until I used them. Very good to have when the winter gets cold.
8. A flash drive. I know it doesn't sound like much of a gift, but it's so important to back up your data. Target has many brands with great storage capacity for reasonable prices. Great stocking stuffer!
9. A laptop case. I didn't understand why Rick made a big deal out of getting a good laptop case until he got me one for my first laptop. It didn't take long for me to realize how vitally important it is to have appropriate storage cases for not only your laptop, but all of your electronics that you plan to carry around. In fact, I used that old case so much that it's wearing out, and a new case that fits the laptop I got for my birthday is on my Christmas list this year. I know it doesn't sound great, but cases for laptops, tablets, e-readers, or cell phones make good and beneficial gifts for anybody.
10. Shower gel and moisturizer gift sets. I especially like rose and lavendar. Scented hand lotions are also a great idea.
There have been more, of course, but these are the top 10 winners for me. I know you can probably think of more, and hopefully you'll be giving some great surprises to friends and family this holiday season.
As we enter the frenzy of holiday shopping, I feel it’s necessary to address the ultimate gift giving debate that we face in trying to finish up that shopping list:
Gift cards – great gift idea or the ultimate cop out?
Opinions are widely divided on this issue. Personally, I love gift cards. I’m at the point in life where I have what I need, and my list of “wants” isn’t very long. Most of my needs are in the areas of replacing things that wear out or break (like clothes), and gift cards make this much easier. In fact, one of our favorite post-holiday traditions is taking a day after the family get togethers are over is taking advantage of great post-holiday sales with those gift cards.
My family agrees, and buying gift cards does make holiday shopping much easier. Ah, but herein lies the debate. The opposite end of this argument is that buying gift cards is too easy – that it’s not personal and shows no consideration for the recipient. I had a friend once that thought gift cards were not only a cop out, but insulting and rude as well, because “if you know someone well enough to buy them a gift, then you should know what they like and take time to select an appropriate present for them.”
I can see both ends of this debate. On the one hand, gift buying is tough when you buy gifts for the same people, year after year. After some time, you’ve given them everything you know to give, and finding unique gift ideas becomes impossible. I know that the last thing I need are more trinkets or nick-nacks to clutter up my home or work space and collect dust. Gift cards are a great way of acknowledging that you know what kinds of places they like, and giving them the gift of choosing a present that they want or need. Plus, it’s great if you have to ship gifts to people, because there are greeting cards with gift card slots, so you can send it to them with little (or no) additional postage.
On the other hand, there are some situations where giving gift cards is inappropriate. I’d never suggest giving it to a child that’s under about 10 years old, because they want to open presents and the concept of waiting even longer to get their gift is torture. Likewise, it’s also inappropriate for a person you’ve been in a romantic relationship with for less than two years. There are plenty of special, personal gifts you can give for these occasions. It’s also not practical for elderly people that have health issues that limit their mental function or mobility, as they simply can’t use them unless a caregiver takes them out or uses it on their behalf. The point of a gift is to give the recipient something they can use personally, and this point is moot if the person isn’t able to go out or use the Internet to cash in the card.
Then there are the people that just don’t like them. I guess they do have a point – gift giving is about considering the recipient. Perhaps they just don’t like going out much, or buying online. If that’s the case and you’re completely stumped on what to get them, well, these are the people they make the nick knacks for. Every store I’ve been so far has had gift racks of miscellaneous items and kits for use around the home. Charging stations and desk organizers seem to be very popular this year, as do flashlights, handkerchiefs, mini game sets, whistle key rings, make up sets, nail polish sets, lotions, holiday jewelry, and small cleaning kits. Some people appreciate these fun, whimsical items. I don’t. But somebody must because they’re on sale every year and seem to keep moving every holiday season.
In the end, I believe the safest course of action is to ask. It’s not insulting or rude, and I think it’s much easier to be honest than to guess and risk giving them a dud gift (which is something I’ll address in a future entry). After all, our time and energy are limited, and we are at a point where we simply don’t have time to play games or guess anymore.
And if all else fails and they really hate gift cards, suggest skipping the gift and going out for a meal or a movie together after the holidays are over. Because it really is the thought that counts – and in the end people care more about the thought behind the gift than the gift itself.
Welcome to my latest "mini blog series" on surviving the holidays! In these weeks leading up to the holidays I'm going to offer my experiences, insights, and observations on getting through the holidays without losing your sanity. I'd like to open this series with a list of do's and don'ts - basically, simple tips that will help you get through this season with less stress and more time and resources to enjoy what the holidays are all about.
DO keep a schedule with you at all times, as this is a season filled with cordial invitations to events of all sorts - and those invitations can come at any place, at any time. It's never safe to be without a calendar this time of year. If you don't have a mobile device, get a small calendar that you can carry in a purse, briefcase, or pocket.
DON'T be afraid to decline an invitation. It simply isn't possible to do everything - there's too much going on. There is a polite way to decline an invitation. Simply say "I appreciate you thinking of me and offering this invitation, but I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to attend." You don't owe anybody a doctoral dissertation on your calendar. It's perfectly ok to say "no" just because you need time to do other things, or for yourself.
DO go ahead and make travel plans and arrangements now. Waiting until the last minute is stressful to you and rude to the hosts. It takes a lot of "doing" to hosts guests in your home, so be considerate and let them know arrival and departure dates and relative times now so they can plan for your visit accordingly.
DO make shopping lists. In this season of buy, buy, buy, it's easy to lose track of how much you've bought. Do like Santa - make a list and check it twice.
DO check your resources to avoid needless spending or duplicating resources. I was fixing to buy more wrapping paper this past weekend - until I checked my supplies and discovered 10 rolls of paper from last year. People won't remember what wrapping paper, gift tags, bows, boxes or gift bags you used last year and truth be told, you probably didn't remember until you pulled it out of storage.
DON'T be afraid to ask someone on your gift list what they want if you're completely stumped on what to give them. We usually buy gifts for the same people year after year, so after a while it's hard to be original. Don't try. Just ask.
DO ask the people on your gift list if they're ok with receiving gift cards for presents. People seem to have strong opinions on this. I love them, as do most of my family members, but I've had some friends that believe giving gift cards is wildly offensive and insensitive. I actually plan to do an entry just on this topic soon.
DO regift if you got something in the past that hasn't been opened or used, but be careful and DON'T regift it to the person that gave it to you. In fact, if you get something that winds out in the "strorage" drawer or closet, it would be wise to put a note on it indicating who gave it to you to prevent such an embarassing error.
DO observe important traditions, but DON'T feel obligated to hand on to ones that don't mean much to you - or others. Things tend to pass in time. People get married, people have babies, people die. Some things stay and some things go, and that's ok. Keep what means the most and let go of what doesn't.
DO take care of yourself and mind your health - mentally and physically. Be sure to take time out for yourself, excercise, eat right, and get enough sleep. It's easy to skimp on self care during this busy season.
DON'T go off your medications now. I'm not being a smart alec. Money is typically tight this time of year, and often people decide to skip the medication refills to save a few bucks. Don't do it. Your doctor put you on your medication for a reason, and you feel better because of it. If you go off now, you will suffer. This is no area to skimp on ever. It's for your better health. You have enough on you without having to battle your body as well - and you will if you go off your medication. So don't do it. And if, by chance, you do feel it's ok to do so, I urge you to do two things: Do it under doctor's supervision, and strongly consider waiting until January and making this a New Year's Resolution instead.
DO realize that there's no such thing as a perfect holiday. As much as we'd all like our holiday to look like a Norman Rockwell painting, realize that's art, not reality. We live in an imperfect world and it shows that every day, in every way. It's extremely rare for things to go as we planned, and they never go perfectly, People get sick, cars break down, things get sold out, casseroles burn, wrapping paper tears, turkeys don't cook right, gift bags bust, the milk goes sour, people fight, shipments get delayed, bad weather hits, somebody moves and the Christmas card is returned on December 26 leading to misunderstanding and hurt feelings - the list can go on and on.
So there you have it - a few simple, common sense list of suggestions to get through the holidays. I believe that's a good place to end this entry, as well as a perfect lead in for the next entry in this series.
Next Time: Can't We All Just Get Along - It's The Holidays! (or, Reality 101)
Hi all, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend. We did, but don't be fooled - it can still be exhausting even if you don't hit the road! We're lucky our family is centered here where we live, but that means seeing 2 families, which makes for a full day. Then some friends were in town that wanted to see us and between that and squeezing in some Christmas shopping and errands it's been a very full weekend!
Hopefully, we'll be able to take it easy today. We need it. And belive it or not, today is the first time I got my laptop out since Wednesday. I took a break from writing and such. My time this weekend has been filled with family and friends and frankly, I needed the break. It's been a hell of a month with the dental problems, freezer problems, getting sick, and then it was Thanksgiving. I've been going, going, going and today I need to crash - or at least slow down the frentic pace. It can't continue like this through Christmas. I've got to find a way to throw a lasso around life and reign it in.
So, the "From Sidekicks to Superheros" blog series wrapped up Wednesday, and I hope you enjoyed it. I'm pondering other blog series right now, but I don't have anything firm in mind yet. I thought about doing a mini-series on managing the holidays, or maybe New Year's Resolutions. I even kicked around the idea of bouncing around some short story or flash fiction tidbits here. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do yet, so stay tuned!
That's all for this time. I hope that everybody had a great Thanksgiving and safe travels this weekend. See you later.