Saturday, November 29, 2014

Knees Might Be Bleeding...

...but I don't care because I just crawled across the finish line in the NaNo challenge...!!!!!  I'm totally fried, wrote a gazillion words today to reach the end and can hardly string two sentences together now, so this post will be short and sweet.

I freaking did it, peeps. Against the odds and two trips with Max to the vet yesterday through Black Friday traffic...and I still somehow made it.

So, in celebration, I'm taking Sunday off.  No typing, no laptop, no sitting in this chair. I'm going to savor the moment, spread out all the books I've been dying to read for a month, stay in my flannel jammies, and drink whiskey way too early in the day.

Oh, and smile a lot, because thanks to my cheerleaders, I didn't quit, even when it seemed the only sane thing left to do.

Thanks, you guys:

Lynn -- You're the best, honestly.  Best-selling author and you still gave me encouragement and support every step of the way...

J  --  Missed four Sundays in a row, kid.  You can call me now, back to business as usual between us BFFs...

Sis  -- You can put the pom poms away...and let's talk next week...
Mom --  same goes...

Jenny, Bunny, Chanel and Kat -- Yeah, I did it ladies, just like you said I would...

Morag and Lorna --  Your cheers from Scotland were so welcome and appreciated.  Miss you guys so much...

And special thanks to the always supportive barista babes at Human Bean for spiking my mochas on the bad days...

It might take a village to raise a child, but believe me, it took half the planet for me to accomplish this feat.

And hey...I did it...

~~ Regularly scheduled programming will resume on Monday ~~

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Family, Friends and Food

Happy Thanksgiving !!

Wishing everyone a most excellent and wonderful day and for those of you who don't celebrate this holiday, still take a moment to be thankful.  It's good to remember that no matter how small or insignificant, there's almost always something to be grateful for.

I hope, dear readers, that you, your family and friends have all landed safely wherever you were headed.  Enjoy!


I know this post is a day early, but I'm trying hard to knuckle down and finish the NaNo challenge so won't be blogging for a few days...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Photos, A Donut, And Maybe A Tee Shirt

This morning when I opened the blinds at the front of the house, the view was wonderfully ethereal. It looked like nothing but forest and trees and wilderness.  I don't take many photographs in this direction--the town in down in that valley somewhere--but the early morning light as the sun was rising, and the soft blanket of mist wafting in lazy drifts, was irresistible.

Out untangling my prayer flags yesterday afternoon after a serious wind and rain squall, I had a perfect O. Henry moment.  One my favorites stories, The Last Leaf is about an old man who paints an ivy leaf on the side of a building outside a very sick woman's window; she is sure when the last leaf falls, she will die.  There's a great twist at the end, which all his stories have.

I have a lovely Oriental Cherry tree in the back garden.  After the storm, this one beautiful red leaf was the last one still clinging to a branch...


Did my Thanksgiving grocery shopping this morning after dog walking.  Already a madhouse at the store, but yippee, I'm done and don't have to go back until the dust settles, which will be sometime next week.

So, I'm wandering in the bakery department.  I've talked myself out of baking a pie, so I'm looking for one to buy, but change my mind because they just don't taste the same as homemade. I pass the donut display.  I hesitate.  Surely, just one jelly donut is okay, right?  I never eat donuts anymore. Too sugary, too bad for anyone over 40.  But crap, that jelly donut, yeah, that one at the back?  With the oozing jelly?  It can't hurt to just have one little donut, can it?  I bag it up and plan on having it for my late morning snack when I get home.

The checkout girl is new, very young and I think probably Christmas help.  She's sweet, flustered and doesn't have a clue how to bag things up.  Whatever, everyone's gotta start somewhere.

I get home and start putting the groceries away.  At the bottom of one of my burlap grocery bags is a smaller plastic one, a strange, flat, pancake shape inside. **Sigh**  She set a quart of milk, two containers of butter, a clump of six bananas and a large head of broccoli on top of my jelly donut. Seriously. Don't new grocery people learn tips, are taught how to bag, know that soft stuff never, ever goes on the bottom?

So much for having an illicit snack.  That'll teach me...


If I really knuckle down and don't get too sidetracked--like writing the blog instead of writing my NaNo story--I just might, maybe, could possibly, finish by this weekend.  It will be close, but there's some good action stuff right now in the plot, which is almost writing itself and yesterday I was so on a roll, I could have kept writing into the night.  Except, I was getting too tired of typing, and sitting at the laptop, so when my fingers began typig hte wodrs lik ths, I knew it was time to stop.

Because of my sudden forward momentum, I'm back to feeling optimistic, and hey, it's just a few more days and the madness is over. I can do it. Besides, I really want that blasted tee shirt...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bits and Pieces

I had an epiphany last night as I finished another chapter in the NaNo disaster challenge.  Just at the edge of 30K, I counted the remaining days, figured my word counts...and came to the realization that unless I lock myself into a bank vault and don't come out until Thanksgiving, I'm not going to make it to 50K by November 30th.

What threw me into a tailspin of no way and you gotta be kidding me, was losing Monday and most of Tuesday to errands and appointments and dog issues requiring going to the vet (twice) and grocery shopping and dog walking and champagne/dark chocolate hair stuff and wrapping/winterizing the outside spigots because temps were dropping below freezing and changing furnace filters and washing windows and cleaning gutters.  And, and, and.  You get the picture: life is getting in the way of accomplishing my goals.

I haven't given up, yet, though my level of enthusiasm has plummeted.  Kind of hard to stay motivated when it seems pointless.  Thing is, the writing is going really good and I love the characters, the plot.  It's just trying to force myself toward that nebulous 50K that's become the issue.


 Ozzy, my wee Papillon, has to take six different meds for his heart condition--and the side effects from the heart meds.  Monday I needed to get one refilled.  I call in the prescription, the office person tells me it's a special order because they don't carry this medication--which I dispute because they filled this very prescription in June.  Back and forth, two more phone calls and okay, it might be a case of they've just run out.  She's ordering, will call me when it's in.

Later in the day, I'm running on empty from all the errands and chores and weaving back and forth across town (always in the back of my mind: when am I going to find time to write today?), I get a call from the vet's office.  A different person is on the line and just wants to confirm that I really want these meds because it will cost $386.00 for 100 tablets.

Holy Crap and WTF?????

Course, this leads to several more phone calls, plus I have to dig out all my paperwork and receipts to verify--to myself and the vet--that I absolutely did not pay that amount six months ago.

Sigh.  Long story short.  The original meds were free, a fact I did not register amongst the other charges that long ago June day, charges that came close to $300 for check-ups, blood work, chest x-rays, blah blah.  Apparently, when my vet prescribed the pills, they had a donated bottle and just gave it to me.  Which is very cool and I appreciate it.  Except, now what?  It's been hard enough to buy the other five meds, let alone an additional one that costs more that a car payment on a Porsche.

My vet managed to scrounge up another donated bottle--slightly different ingredients, but whatever--so I'm good for the next six months, but then what?  Inquiring minds want to know, as will my bank manager when I have to go in for a loan.

And then Tuesday, I got up, fed the boys and whilst getting ready to take them for a walk, discovered Max--who rarely has health issues--had something wrong with his eye.  Another trip to the vet, more meds, more aggro.  It never stops, peeps, it just never stops.


Not much else happening up on my mountain at the moment.  My main focus is writing, though there's all the daily stuff that needs to be done too, so I'm sort of getting a bit worn out.  And I'm pretty sure this will be the last NaNo challenge for me.  I can appreciate the crazy-wild intensity of the experience, but frankly, I'd rather write at my own speed and whenever the mood strikes.  However, if this is my last hurrah, then I really want to finish this year's competition by...well, finishing.

I may have lost my motivation, but maybe I can just concentrate on crossing the finish line as my incentive and call it good.  Because I'd much rather go out with a win than a whimper...

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Yesterday I made it to the halfway point in the NaNo challenge.  By my reckoning, I'm 4K short of where I should be in mid-November, but nothing I can do about it now--lost those two days in the first week, no margin for error left at this juncture.  It was enough that I reached 25K right on the day I needed to.

Still, I expected to do more.  I had a long chapter fleshed out, just waiting to be out of my head and onto metaphoric paper.  Then, two paragraphs in, I realized I'd described a scene differently several chapters back, leaving out something crucial that I needed in this new scene.  Buggers.

And here's where I screw up, every time.  You would think it helps my writing, having been an editor, proofreader, worked for years in publishing, know the ropes, yada yada. But you would be so, so wrong peeps.  At least, that skill set doesn't work for me.  I over think, can't stop myself from editing, rewriting, staring into the hazy distance searching for that elusively perfect, just right, word.  I spent the better part of the afternoon doing all of the above, first searching for the original scene, then debating which part to change--old or new.  And it cost me, this editorial angst. I need to just write, let the words fall where they may, and sort out the deets later. Anytime after November later.  

Frankly, I'll be leaping up and down with joy on December 1st, hopefully having survived another grueling year of why do I do this to myself agony.  I had a great plan yesterday, a chapter all worked out, speed writing here I come.  Instead, I was proofreader, editor and idiot.  Exhausting.

It also doesn't help that I have a pile of books to read, the chorus of "pick me, pick me" growing louder by the day.  Unfortunately, I can't immerse myself in my own story and read someone else's at the same time.  A defect for sure, but for whatever reason, I can't do it. So, I've been reading magazines and Christmas catalogs to give my brain a break from writing...but the books, whingeing and wailing, calling out to me?  If anything makes me throw in the towel this year, it will be that stack of books.

Though really, only two weeks to go and the madness ends.  Seems doable, doesn't it??

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


After taking Friday off from NaNo, recharging the brain, making cake, and reading, I figured I would be raring to go on Saturday.

Totally not.

After walking the boys in the morning, I had an hour or so before lunch and couldn't resist reading the first chapter in a book I'd set aside for next month, after NaNo.  Just a quick read, make lunch, get back to writing.  And this is exactly where things went off the rails: I couldn't stop reading.  The story was too good, the writing was compelling. Lunch over, I looked at the clock: 1:30. Okay, okay, still time to write...just let me finish this last paragraph...

Then time folded in on itself and next I looked up, it was 4:20, the dogs wanted a walk and I was hosed.  Resigned, I knew there was no way I could stop reading, I was so close to the end, I might as well just finish the book and be done with it.  I would work harder tomorrow to catch up.  Yeah, that's what I would do.  So I walked the dogs, then poured myself a glass of wine and settled in to read.

Needless to say, major tactical error. Two days, zero word count.  I never should have taken Friday off, never opened that book, because not only did I lose my momentum, but the evil twin managed to sneak up the back stairs and subvert my intentions with her insidious voice, whispering, whispering.

And she almost got me. I tossed and turned Saturday night, feeling like a failure, and in the first week of the challenge no less.  Two days wasted.  WTF?

On Sunday, I kicked the evil twin back to the sub-basement and sat down to write, but it was too hard to focus, I wasn't feeling the story, I reworked every sentence.  Frustration set in and by the end of the day, my word count was such crap, I didn't even record the meager number.  I went to bed disappointed, discouraged, but I wasn't going to give up. Not yet anyway.  I just had to get myself sorted, forget the whispers still wafting like toxic smoke in my head.

Monday was good.  I caught up with the plot, wrote enough to boost my word count and now I'm back in the game.  I might have lost my advantage of having a good start on the challenge in the first week, but at this point, I'm just glad to be here at all.

Seriously.  I need better locks for that basement.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Ah, Those Rewards...

I reached the 12K mark yesterday on my writing challenge.  A great feat for the first week, though I'm blowing it today by not writing at all.  Ah well.  All work and no play, yada yada.  So today, instead of typing with wild abandon, I've baked a cake, read a book, done some chores...and will just have to hope I haven't screwed myself out of the momentum I had going.

Deal is, I had to take a break.  It's not that I can't write day after day, but I don't want to lose sight of the fun in, this should be fun not some kind of torturous or agonizing experience.  So, time out today, back to work tomorrow.  It's all good.

Besides, my perk for getting such a good word count was to make a cake.  And man, was that a great idea.

Earlier this week, over breakfast, I was reading an article on the web about this 18-year old girl in England who has this incredible food blog, Top With Cinnamon, that is winning awards for the desserts and photos.  The recipe they focused on in the story was her Swedish Chocolate Cake.  It looked beyond delicious so I printed out the recipe--a very simple one with ingredients I had on hand--and made it for my 12K reward.

Can I just say, wiping the drool off my chin, that this is one of the most unique and totally scrumptious cakes ever invented?  Bar none?  It was gooey in the middle like pudding fudge, but chewy on the edges like a brownie.  Seriously, amazingly, wonderfully good.

As with many of the cakes I used to make whilst living in the UK, it was one layer, only a few inches high; not overly sweet even with the dusting of icing sugar on top.

Here, let me show you...

And OMG, the gooey, pudding-like center.  Swoon-worthy.  It was so yummy, I could hardly stop myself from just picking the whole slice up and shoving it in my mouth.  I'm not even kidding.  It's soft, like melted fudge, but not too over-the-top sugary...

A close-up--and I realize with these shots that I will never be a food photographer.  Still, that forkful of deliciousness looks pretty good, don't you think, peeps?  Imagine what it tastes like and you'll still not come close to the reality...

Luckily for my waistline, and to spare me from a chocolate overdose, my neighbor popped in for a minute to ask me how the writing was going.  She took one look at the cake, sitting all gorgeous and to die for on the kitchen counter, and gave me the I'm begging you for a piece of whatever that is look.  I sent her home with half.

So, if you need a reward, dear readers, want to make someone deliriously happy, or just want to indulge in a pudding-fudge-brownie dessert that comes in one luscious cake, than this is it.  No question.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

On A Roll...

I'll been pounding away on the NaNo novel.  It's been wild and crazy and exactly why I love writing. The characters have taken over and I'm just the conduit with fingers flying to tell the story.  This is the best part to me.  It's like I'm reading the story as it's being written.  How cool is that?

Now, before I get all carried away with my exuberance...there's a catch to this.  For some reason, in Week Two of the challenge, the brain freezes up, the story falters and all bets are off.  Every word has to be ripped out like pulling teeth--with dirty pliers in the grimy back room of a drug-addled quack.  Dramatic?  Yeah, and so is the agony of hitting the wall.  My evil twin will rise from the sub-basement to torment me with novels unfinished; wake me in the deep dark hours after midnight to blast me with self-doubt and a whole bucket load of flagellation about my lack of writing skills.  One year she won and I quit, bowing to the truth: I can't write worth a damn.

Another year she beat on me until I cried uncle, but Alan talked me into just writing whatever came into my head and by some miracle I got through the Dreaded Week Two and finished the book days before the challenge ended at the end of November.

It's a crap shoot, really.  How strong am I in resisting that devilish whisper that I'm going to fail?  Can I withstand the evil twin's negative input? Do I believe I can write?  Today I do. Ask me again next week.

Here's a slapped together cover for the book.  I wanted something to put on my NaNo web page though this isn't in the least impressive or professional.  Still, we know not to judge a book by its cover...don't we?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sleep and Slums

Whirlwind writing weekend...and hey, say that three times really fast.

I wanted to establish a routine for November, though the time change pretty much screwed that up from the get-go.  I had a great beginning on Saturday with my first installment of the NaNo challenge and a good word count, then that fall back hour threw everything out the window.

It also didn't help that Max has developed this weird fear of the house creaking. Seriously. I have no idea why--after three+ years--the sound has suddenly become his new scary monster.  The house creaks quite a bit in the fall and winter months as things cool outside and heat up inside.  This is nothing new, though apparently for Max, it is.  He woke me up several times in the night all fraught and wild, then both dogs got me up at 6:30 on Sunday.  What?  Can't they tell time?  Is it too much to ask that they sleep until it's really time to get up?

So I started Sunday with a handicap: restless, disturbed sleep and up too early.  It was also BFF Sunday; we kept the talk under an hour for a change and by 1:00, I was back at the keyboard, madly trying to write through the fog of sleep deprivation.  Then, at the end of the day, I tried to post my numbers and NaNo was out of commission.  This has happened in the past, mostly in the first week as everyone who signed up is participating and posting and feeling all fresh and excited.  My count wasn't as good as Saturday's but still, I wanted to see those damn numbers!

This morning everything at NaNo worked just fine.  Numbers posted.  I'm good.

My schedule--assuming I recover from the time change and the dogs quit waking me up at 6:30 in the bloody morning--is to write in the afternoons.  That gives me all morning to walk the dogs, run errands and have lunch, freeing up the rest of the day to write until it's time for the mailbox walk and dinner.  Good plan, in theory.  Time will tell.


Remember my birdhouse?  This shot was accepted for a photo contest a few years back...

I loved that little house, but time and weather finally took its toll and this summer the roof collapsed and the top floor crumbled into the bottom.  It was screwed onto a tall pole that stands in the lower portion of the back slope and last month Jack, my ever helpful gardener/handy guy, climbed a ladder and took the old decrepit house down.

Then he totally surprised me on Friday with this...

Turns out, he builds bird houses along with his other handy guy skills.  It was very cool of him to do this, and it's wonderful to look out the back and see a brand new house waiting for new occupants next spring.

It's nice to no longer be a slum lord...