February Wrap-Up

February always seems to go by too quickly.

But of course, you say, it’s the shortest month of the year.

Yeah, but I always forget that.

February 1st always kicks off with me going, “Oh, crap” and hurrying to make birthday plans for hubby. Early-in-the-month birthdays always sneak up on me. You don’t expect them because you’re off in a totally different month until BAM! You flip the calendar over, and there they are. (Flip? Does anyone besides me have an actual paper calendar anymore? I guess it’s more of a swipe on a phone. Or a tap. Anyway…) I dislike these early-in-the-month birthdays for exactly this reason. Not that anyone can help having one, but I always forget to plan for them (sorry, mom)!

This year was a biggie for hubby, too. The big 3-0. Three decades of life. And I had almost zero plans for it, right up to the day of. How could I not have something planned? Well, my husband doesn’t really like parties, or surprises, or gifts, or cake (basically, anything that’s normally associated with birthdays).

But I couldn’t do nothing. You only turn 30 once, ya know? Thanks to brainstorming with  writing bud, we managed to come up with a plan: a 30-clue treasure/scavenger hunt around the house that led to his birthday gift (a board game that I remembered the DAY OF  that he’d mentioned liking; yes, it’s that hard to come up with a present for this guy).

If you’ve never thrown together 30 sappy-rhyming treasure hunt clues in half a day, you haven’t truly lived, my friend. (And then hid all the clues, rushed off to Toys R Us to get previously mentioned gift, and finally sped home JUST before he got home from work so that the treasure hunt was waiting for him once he walked in the door.)

Of course, a smart person would have planned it out ahead of time, but what can I say? I like to live my life on the edge.

Next in the month came Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, and before I knew it, it’s suddenly the end of the month!

This month, my son decided it was time to start really learning how to read, my nutritionist friend challenged me to join in on a group diet/challenge she created (appropriately coined, “Love Your Guts”), I picked up cross-stitch for the first time in years, and I’ve made it back in the gym at least a handful of times.

Oh, and through all this, I’ve been working on the new writing project I mentioned in my last post. And other than worrying that it’s not YA enough, I’m really pleased with how it’s turning out. More of that to come in future posts!

I feel a little stretched, but overall, it’s been a good month.

How was your February?

P.S. Treasure hunt was a hit! Definitely something to do for the impossible-to-plan-for birthday person in your life. 😉

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Switching Genres

After a brief interruption trying to be a handy-woman (which I most certainly am NOT), and failing miserably, I’m finally back on track. Life tip: make friends with people who know how to repair what you can’t.

Anyway, the biggish news I teased last post is: I have a new project! It’s a brand new story idea that hit me just after heading to bed one late late night after a road trip. Life tip #2: long drives are very helpful for coming up with the best ideas.

After tossing and turning for a while, I got up and started writing it down. Life tip #3: write EVERYTHING down!

I’m very excited about this new story because it’s a completely different genre than what I usually write. But that’s a source of intimidation for me as well.

I love historical. I’m comfortable there. If I had to pick a mystery book to read and I didn’t know anything but the genre, I’d go with historical. So it’s natural that writing historical is where I’m most at ease with myself.

However, this new story is the antithesis of historical. It’s futuristic (eek! posing what a future earth might be like!) sci-fi.

Now I enjoy futuristic sci-fi from the comfort of reading a finished book, but just hopping into the driver’s seat of things is a bit of a challenge.

So how do you drastically switch genres as a writer? I have a few ideas I’ve have been implementing already:

1) Read what you want to write. Kind of a no brainer, but switching reading lists to what you’re aiming to write is a good start. Look up the highly acclaimed books (recent and past) in the genre you’re switching to; these are the books to put ON your reading list, or at least read synopsies and excerpts of.

2) Focus on the story elements you know, and go from there. By “know”, I mean the story building technique you prefer. You’re switching from fairies to aliens, but they still ought to have character arcs, a major conflict of some sort, antagonists, etc.

3) Research. Ah, my favorite thing. (sarcasm) With my sci-fi, I’ve been looking up how the brain functions, DNA and gene information, and other random tidbits for the storyline. While these are essential for the story, they also are helping me get into the sci-fi “mood”.

4) Change up your writing perspective. If you’re used to first person limited, try switching to third person omniscient. If you’re used to past-tense, try present tense. I’m switching from my usual favorite: third person omniscient, past-tense to first person limited present-tense.

5) Fake it ’til you write it. At least, that’s my plan so far.

Any other ideas or tips for drastically switching genres?  Help a girl out!

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Good-bye 2016

A lot of things have been going on since I last posted.

First, I MADE IT TO 50,000 words! So I “won” my first official NaNoWriMo! Woohoo!

Second, (or maybe something like twenty-second down the list, I’ve been in a bit of a post-NaNoWriMo-midst-of-the-holidays-haze and don’t remember everything that’s gone on since November 30th) we now have a dog. A BIG dog. That has taken over our house. In case you were wondering.

So between the holidays, the dog, and friends and family visiting throughout December, it’s been a crazy whirlwind of an end to the year of 2016.

But now:

Hello, 2017!

There are some awesome things already in the works this year–I can’t wait to tell you about them–so stay tuned!

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Imperfectly Perfect

IMG_20141111_223646781.jpgMy brain is on the fritz and my hands are killing me.

But let’s move on past the usuals.

It’s week 1 1/2 of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and I’ve got just over 22k words down. Tonight, I might make it to the halfway point at 25k. Maybe.

It’s been a bit of a rough ride.

The first few days, nothing “felt” right. The scenes, the descriptions, everything tasted about as delicious as dried-out cornbread. It was equivalent to the feeling of having a child comb your very tangled hair or waiting in a line all day at the DMV.

Some of it was necessary, some of it I just had to get through, but I’m sure that I’ll be chopping some of the scenes when I read back through it.

And that’s okay.

NaNoWriMo isn’t about perfection. It isn’t about having a literal novel to publish at the end of things. (Although, I’m sure there are some fantastic writers out there who *could* do that)

It’s about challenging yourself and pushing through the dry spells and empty brains.

It’s managing to get in those extra words around regular life stuff that you can’t avoid.

It’s stopping every five minutes because your 4-year-old needs someone to come wipe  for him. (just being real, here)

It’s going to a write-in and meeting people like you who love to write. People who you can talk about your story with and their eyes don’t glaze over after the first couple sentences. People who are more experienced and write faster than you, but that’s okay.

It’s this great big enormous challenge to just get out (or stay in) and DO this thing that we all love! Together, through the magic of the internet, through long-distance writer buddies, through our local writer groups, through ourselves.

We are NaNoWriMo and we are imperfectly perfect.

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NaNoWriMo With a 4 year-old

So, NaNoWriMo starts in a couple of days. What is that insanely long acronym, you ask? National Novel Writing Month—a fun challenge for writers to motivate themselves to stop procrastinating and just write. And not just write whatever write. Write 50,000 words, write. That’s a lot of write(ing).

I’ve successfully done it in the past, but this year is going to be different.

This year, I have a writing buddy—yay! I’m so excited to have someone else I’m actively writing alongside. Someone who’s already been so supportive in getting me to write again. We are going to rock NaNoWriMo, I know it!

But there’s someone else in my life who is going to make things a lot more complicated this year, because he now doesn’t want to regularly nap. My 4 year-old.

Which means I’ve had to do extra preparations as I’m getting ready for the challenge. And as I got to it, it started sounding like I was doing something else.

So I decided to document the hilarious parallels. Enjoy and laugh and facepalm with me!

Preparing Yourself for NaNoWriMo with a 4 Year-Old…or…

Negotiating with a Drunk Friend

You decide.

“Will you be okay if I leave you here for five minutes?” Will he? Or will you come back to a destroyed couch…and missing culprit? 99 times out of 100, it’ll be the latter.

On the off chance he does decide to take a nap, make sure to have snacks and water handy when he wakes up in a super grumpy mood. Also, make sure to send him to the toilet first thing. Or you will regret it.

“Please don’t take off your clothes right now.” You’re trying to write. He is trying to strip. And you’re in the middle of a Panera.

It’s time to go to a write-in, but, “Where are your shoes? WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES?!” It’s a redundant question. You know where the shoes are. They are in the toilet.

“No, no. Let’s keep the drink away from the computer.” Because, let’s face it, it’s going to be spilled at least once before it’s empty. And you don’t want your 49,999 words to end up as a casualty.

Pointless arguments are the norm, but get ready for those too. “Nope, you can’t use the TV remote to unlock the door…It just isn’t going to work…Okay, you can go ahead and keep trying, I’m going to be over here writing…” (Cue the tears.)

Which brings us to: Random meltdowns. The cap won’t go back on the water bottle, the wrong song starts playing on Pandora, and the world has suddenly ended. Just like your writing momentum.

But not to be underestimated: the SILENCE. You’ve been typing for ten minutes without an interruption when suddenly you realize it’s TOO QUIET. Either fortune has smiled down on you and your companion is passed out somewhere, or you have something very VERY bad in store. There is no in-between.

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This is what happens when “The Silence” comes. It’s not just a Dr. Who reference, y’all. It’s a real epidemic for parents everywhere. And no, those stickers will NOT fit back in the box.

Okay, all you writer parents (or drunk friend caretakers) out there, what are you doing to prep for NaNoWriMo? I’m going to need all the help I can get…

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Little Things

Much as I dislike the topic, I wanted to share one more piece of my anxiety/depression story before I move on to more current things. This isn’t meant as a ploy to dwell on the negative, but as an offered hand  of assistance on the off chance someone else out there needs it.

Not that I think I’m the fountain of knowledge just because it happened to me. Not even close.

But there were some things that really helped when I was in the midst of an anxiety attack or a depressing week, and I wanted to share them with you. They definitely aren’t magic or cure-alls; they didn’t always help. But they did most of the time.

Basically, take this with a grain of salt.

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Little Things That Helped My Depression & Anxiety:

Getting out of the house. Specifically, taking walks or doing something outdoors. Although I personally enjoyed going to bookstores or museums too.

Watching a happy TV show/movie. NOT sad stories or thrillers. I had to acknowledge that as much as I am attracted to edge-of-my-seat stories, it would set my mood into an edgy, anxious state.

Prayer/meditation. I almost didn’t list this because it’s one of those trite things you hear over and over. But it works. It might seem impossible when your brain is in a frenzied state, but if you can manage to reign in your thoughts enough to “be still and know”, it can be SUCH a help.

Breathing. Sit, eyes closed, and just focus on breathing for a minute. I like to use numbers to focus on my inhales and exhales, so I’d mentally think, “1…2…1…2…” as I was breathing in and out. This especially helped during bouts of insomnia.

Music. For me, some days it’s classical, some days it’s Pharrell, some days it’s Hamilton, but music has turned into such a healing tool. Thank you composers, songwriters, and artists everywhere!

Making tea or cocoa or coffee. There’s something magical about hot beverages that just gives me a mental hug and says everything is going to be okay. Note: I only made coffee if I haven’t had a cup earlier that day–drinking too much of that would trigger my anxiety.

At-home spa stuff. Going girly here: stuff like a mask or a scrub or painting my nails or bubble baths are an instant mood-boost. The world could seem to be falling apart, but a delicious-smelling hand scrub would reassure me that it wouldn’t. It really seems silly, writing it out like that, but it’s the way it was.

Candles. Not just the smells, but the soft glow and flickering light they give off. As a teen, one of my favorite things to do was shut myself in my room at night and light it solely with candles. Again, it’s soft and warm and welcoming in a way lightbulbs aren’t.

Giving myself a break. Mentally. I’m not perfect. I never will be perfect. So why do I give myself this perfectionist standard that I MUST DO OR ELSE. No. Sometimes the clothes take a week to be folded. At least they are clean. Sometimes dishes don’t get washed for a day or two. At least we have plenty of others to use. Sometimes I don’t get out of pajamas the whole day. At least I didn’t try to go to Wal-Mart in such attire (like some of the college students around here do). I’m not perfect and that’s okay.

It’s interesting how the things I’m most passionate about (writing, reading) were the hardest to face when I was in the midst of this. It was almost as if they were forbidden places where I couldn’t even think to enter in such a state. Perhaps it is a good thing that I didn’t mix the two. I don’t have bad memories associated with my novel. But it also made things extremely hard, to have fewer handholds to grab onto as I mentally crawled from the pit.

These “Little Things” were there to provide those for me. Little handholds to cling to. Little shelters to crawl under. Little anchors in the storm.

And as much as I’d never hope anyone would need to hear this, I know there are far too many people who do. Take these. Be kind to yourself. Get help. Talk to friends. This isn’t the way it has to be.

You can do this. Deep breaths. 1…2…1…2…
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The Black Hole

November 27, 2015

There’s a grip someone has on my lungs that makes it hard to breathe. I take a few breaths just to try filling them up completely, but it staggers its way in and out, building up my fears. I stand still. Still as stone, but it comes. A shaking somewhere deep down inside where no one can feel it but me.

I grab at my hair, my face, my shoulders. It chills. Oh, if only I could get my brain to think, it could come up with a way to make it stop. Make it stop. Make it stop.

I find myself walking aimlessly around a room I have no memory of entering. Pacing. Like a caged animal. But there aren’t any bars to keep me safe in here, no bit of comfort to be had.

So I hide in deepest shadow of shuttered windows and mindless tasks. If I keep busy, maybe I won’t remember. Maybe there won’t be time for me to think about the shaking. Maybe it will leave.

Oh, how it hurts to breathe.

The past year, last Fall through to this Spring, seemed to fall away from existence for me. The unwelcome intruders, anxiety and depression, took up residence for far too long. They have been evicted, though they try to return at times when I’m tired or overwhelmed and my guard is down.

So if you, reader, might have wondered at the vast gap–the black hole–in this little endeavor of a website, you now know the cause.

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