Pneumonia and other disasters

My youngest has pneumonia — they diagnosed it on Monday. My family of five had four dentist appointments and one doctor’s visit scheduled this week even before that happened. We’ve been to the doctor every afternoon this week besides that. I still made it to a critique group on Tuesday and led a lesson on the Snowflake Method at the public library group on Wednesday. My eldest son sat with the smallest so I could go. Other than that it’s been pills and breathing treatments and trips to the pharmacy over and over. In one five-minute window, while sitting in the doctor’s office and overseeing a breathing treatment, I spoke to one other doctor’s office about how the scan from last week showed that my thyroid was “super enlarged”, the dentist about my husband’s recovery from minor dental surgery, and the endodontist to schedule an appointment for my abscessed gums, all while texting with the flute teacher about her own bout of pneumonia and the French horn teacher to say that we really couldn’t make it this week. Today I had to reschedule two other appointments because of bad schedules at the places I was going (how do they manage to schedule people onto days the doctor won’t be there?). All this to say that there has been no writing this week, other than the four-page document I wrote about the Snowflake Method. *sigh*

Critiques

Here’s what I love about my critique groups:

  1. We have so many kinds of writers, so everyone has a different way of looking at stories.
  2. Everyone has a different thing they’re serious about, too. One hates adverbs, one obsesses with having enough romance, another is super descriptive about what she likes and what doesn’t work, one loves my sticky words, another one tells me every time I have a good hook…
  3. I can go through all four critiques and still have things to work on by the time I’m on the fourth one. It’s amazing how that works.
  4. No one can tell me why transferring from Scrivener to Word destroys half my apostrophes and half my italics. No one knows. It’s a mystery. I look at it in Scrivener, and they’re fine. Move stuff into Word, they’re not. WHAT EVEN IS GOING ON?!?!?!
  5. They would all get onto me about my excessive use of exclamation points and all caps in the last point. I can’t help it –I’m excitable.
  6. People in my groups know the difference between all three dashes and can talk about it. I have to have it in a file on my desktop and remind myself every day. I still don’t remember. Also, the shortcuts for them vary across apps and that drives me insane.
  7. Sometimes people draw pictures on my critiques. I love that.

Little disasters

Last week our clothes washer overflowed. Just a little bit. Once, twice, three times. We thought it was just because of the rain. Our neighborhood waste water system always backs up and we’re the last house on the line, so we always get hit with the weird smells and backed up line.

Thursday, the kids told me their showers had been slow to drain. Saturday I noticed the whole bathroom floor was wet after my husband’s shower, but I attributed it to a lack of bath mat.

Then Sunday, after my longer-than-usual shower, the flood hit. Water was everywhere and I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Nick eventually figured out what the problem was. We had to cancel our board game day. Everyone was sad. Well, one kid wasn’t, but he never enjoys game day anyway.

This stormy morning, I called the plumber this morning and a couple hours later two noncommunicative men came out and worked on the drain line. Thankfully it was not raining at that point. They said maybe four sentences to me. I missed my dentist appointment, but the clog has left now, life can go on.

Trying to Keep Up

I’m sure you’ve been wondering where I’ve been lately. Here’s the scoop:

Toward the end of 2018, just before my mother passed away, I joined a local professional writing group. I’ve spent the last year waiting for a spot in one of their critique groups to open up, and meantime I (and my friend E from NANOWRIMO2018) started attending a weekly writing group at the public library as well. The library group has writers from many genres, but doesn’t critique the work we bring in. Mostly we do several writing prompts for 10 minutes each. It’s been fun stretching my writing skills with them.

In December, a spot finally opened up. Two, actually. I brought my friend E with me to this group. We got started and then a week later, our library group started an off-shoot group for critiquing as well. E and I both have multiple novels in our back pocket needing critique work, so we joined this group as well. Both groups meet every other week. One group has five ladies and one has just three for now. One group has no other speculative fiction writers, the other is all about that.

I also joined two book clubs. One with the Unitarian Universalist church my mid-kid and I have been attending. It meets in person once a month and they have a full 12 month schedule plotted out—most of the books are some historical fiction or something similar. Last month it was The Secrets We Kept. This month it is Rules of Civility.The other book club is a feminist book club with an old college friend and some of her other friends. It meets online twice a month, and is covering an Audible book Warriors, Queens, and Intellectuals: 36 Great Women Before 1400.

In between all that, there’s been the usual PTA/BPA stuff, family events (Board Game Extravaganza! SuperBowl!), and the kids had band All Region events. We visited an event at NASA that my dad’s cousin spoke at (he was one of the Gallaudet Eleven) and got to spend time with him, then went back to BCS and visited with my sister, her new girlfriend, and my best friend.

I lost my planner sometime in the middle there. Finally gave in and bought a new one, so now I’m back on schedule. Literally. I wrote out a new schedule. Expect more blog posts, FB, IG, and Twitter from my author accounts. I even set up Hootsuite to help me keep track of it all.

Hope everyone’s doing well out there. Drop me a comment if you’re interested in seeing any photos from the NASA event. 🙂

Site updates

I’m working on bringing a more professional look to my website as I transition from a more family style blog site to an author website. Most of the blog content will remain the same: meanderings on life, family news, burbling about books I’ve read or places I’ve been, writing or crafting thoughts. But the main screens and some of the other pages are getting updates to look nicer. I’m getting organized for life as an author. DON’T LET THAT SCARE YOU OFF! 🙂

One Year Blues

It has been one full year since my mother died. One full year of holidays, birthdays, special events, a graduation…and no mom. I’ve picked up the phone dozens of times to tell her things and dozens of times to ask her things. Mostly I’ve just been sad. I took all the pills, talked to a therapist for weeks and weeks, and still the sadness kept being there. Which I knew. You knew. Everyone knew.

So I’d like to just put a giant Thank You to everyone that has walked through this year with us, holding us in their hearts. Thank you for loving us and putting up with us and listening to us babble incoherently at times. We couldn’t have made it through the year without you.

NANOWRIMO WINNER

I spent the last week of November feverishly writing. I got up at 5am every day and wrote straight through until 7am, when I took a short break to go out and kiss my kids and help them find breakfast. Then I went back most mornings and wrote for another hour or two until it was time to visit my dad and sister, who were here for the week of Thanksgiving. Some evenings, I would come back and write even more. I had so much to catch up on. The last three days I wrote nearly 20,000 words, which is a huge stretch for me. I know I’m probably going to throw out the whole first chapter in edits, but right now I’m going to sit here and glow about having finished the first 50,000 words of this novel.

Book Making Weekend

One of my best friends and I made books this weekend. She took a four-day workshop on it and graciously offered to have me down for the weekend and teach me her new skills. I forgot to take a picture of the book press, which is large, red, and dusty from having sat in someone’s workshop area for years.

Things I learned:

1. Glue is the foundation of all books. That and more glue. With some glue here and glue there. Also some paper.

Photo of a workspace that includes a teal cutting mat which has cut paper and a rectangle of cardstock on top, a wooden 12-inch ruler, a black Sharpie marker, an awl, a white plastic storage container, a box containing a brayer, a bottle of fancy white glue, a yogurt cup containing glue and a a foam paintbrush covered in glue at the tip, a blue bowl with a wet, blue paper towel wadded up inside of it, a pair of green-handled scissors, a red stool, another work area across the table from the main work area (but without the teal mat), and front-and-center a hand which is coated in glue holding a cardstock spine that is also coated in glue. So much glue.

2. I cannot cut the cardstock. Not at all. My friend ended up cutting it all. BUT she has a Cricut and we’re going to cut down some of her huge cardstock sheets to run them through the machine later. I folded all the paper in half, though.

3. Stabbing little holes in paper is fun! So much fun!

4. Sometimes you forget how many holes to make, so you have to improvise. We accidentally put in 5, but you need an even number in this style of book binding, so we put in another one at the bottom. We used variegated thread for our inner binding, which made it super festive.

5. Beeswax smells just like when you smush your face really deep into your cat and then try to breathe, but without all the fur up your nose.

6. There is no 6. 7. Waxing thread is also addictive. I don’t know why.

8. Sometimes you have the wrong sized paper for your interior. So then you need to cut it, but it is hard to do without the guillotine. You may try many things, like sanding the paper, cutting it with box cutters, or even using the dremel wood cutters. They will not work. They will also make the house smell weirdly burnt. Then you will go out to Wal-Mart really late at night and buy a guillotine. They are CHEAP. Start with that last step.

10. Bookbinding has a lot of waiting time while the press does its work. We watched irreverent feminist comedy specials on Netflix while we waited. You can watch whatever you want. 🙂

11. When putting the endpapers in, use the tiniest line of glue. We thought we had. We were wrong. Also, don’t use thin paper for the endpaper. Mine was a little too translucent. Steph’s was fine (a nice sage green, not pictured.)

12. Make a feature of a little error. My error was cutting the paper too close to a little signature spot on the paper. I ended up putting it on the front, where it looks like a cute little frill. We also learned that if you don’t like one side of your book, flip it the other way and make the back the front (my blue was crooked on one side. This side is much better.)

We had such a fun time making these little darlings! 🙂 12/10 would do it again.

So what does it mean to sit at home and write, anyway?

A newish sort of friend <insert long, complicated story here> wanted to know what I do with my time at home writing. I felt like snarkily showing her one of those writing memes like this:

Clock with the phrase "Writer's Clock on it" with "Write" at 12, "Coffee" at 1, "Review" at 2, "Edit" at 3, "Start over" at 4, "Drink Heavily" at 5, "Cry" at 6, "Consider a new career" at 7, "More coffee" at 8, "Write" at 9, "Submit" at 10, and "Wait" at 11.
Text that reads:
Writing-is-a-bitch wrote: "writing is the worst. u wanna write a single, passing line of dialogue so u fact check it to make sure it's historically accurate, then suddenly you've lost track of time, space,, urself. for intstance: I wanted to know how frequently fighter planes were used in WWI and now I'm several pages deep into the history of witchcraft in Ireland."

brieflywritingwolf replied: "this is it. this is what writing is like." 

source: writing-is-a-bitch

Instead I’ll just say it here. Some days “writing” is character sketching on an iPad version of a worksheet I like with an Apple pencil, some days “writing” is world building like literally making maps on a really cool website someone from writers group suggested, some days “writing” the world building looks more like answering a questionnaire about your imaginary country, some days “writing” is actually literally just writing on the novel, some days “writing” is doing a tarot spread for a character or Meyers-Briggs tests for recalcitrant characters that refuse to do anything useful, some days “writing” is writing poetry to use as hymns to be sung in the background of a scene that you wrote last year and put <insert words from hymn here>, sometimes “writing” is gathering up all my notes from my desk & purse notebook & van notebook & husband’s car & the table by my favorite green chair & the back of the kids band calendar & a bulletin from church and typing it all in or doing voice transcriptions because my hands hurt that day, some times “writing” is reading up on things I know I don’t do well enough or things that I see other people doing awesomely that I want to emulate or just re-reading my own stuff because I don’t remember where I was going with that bit of something in Chapter 3, sometimes “writing” is making the perfect playlist on Spotify for upcoming scenes that you know you won’t be able to write without intense music, sometimes “writing” is searching for stock photos of interesting people so you’ll know what a character looks like later on, some times writing is going to writer’s group or writing class and doing silly prompts and listening to other writers talk about their novels and writing and sharing tips and resources and lending each other books, and sometimes it’s just starting out the window for an hour daydreaming about leaves falling from trees because my mind refuses to tell me what the next thing I need to write looks like.

There ya go… that’s why I’m spending so much time “writing” and that’s why I need a planner for just “writing stuff.” 🙂

Onwards

After I wrote all that yesterday about not being able to write, I ended up adding a couple thousand words to my count. This morning I got up and did some more character building for a character that is going on a quest with my main character, as well as the main antagonist. I was hoping to get more done, but it is time to move on with the day. We’re having a birthday party for my 16-year-old this afternoon and there’s still cleaning and decorating to do.

My 16-year-old and his giant pile of 800+ paged birthday books standing in a sunbeam at Barnes and Noble.
My 16-year-old and his giant pile of birthday books.