Sunday Round-up

100 words for 100 days: Began December 1 and have done four days straight.

Knitting: Am now on the fourth section of my Shetland Pi Shawl, and about to divide for the sleeves on my Diagonal Jacket. Did start a new project because I realized everything I was knitting is in dark colors and my eyes needed a break.

Books: Finished Scandal by Amanda Quick. Read it in about five days, so I’m definitely doing okay on the book a week idea. Started A Countess by Christmas by Annie Burrows

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Ree at Confessions of a Pioneer Woman has a hysterical post about how Charlie, her Basset Hound wraps her around his front paw. Seriously, I understand. I may have cats, but mine are just as manipulative. I mean, how can you resist something that looks like this?

Where's the Beer?

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It being the holiday season, various blogs are doing give-aways. Alison Kent is doing giveaways on even days, while the ladies at Smart Bitches are sponsoring a Hanukkah giveaway.

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Courtesy Enchanted Serenity of Period Films, I found a delicious vid in period film set to the tune of “It’s Raining Men.” The usual suspects are there (I’m looking at you, Colin Firth — not that I mind), but I will give them points for including Edward Petherbridge as Lord Peter Wimsey. Clever can absolutely be sexy.

And if you love period films, check out Enchanted Serenity; I’ve learned about some lovely stuff I might not have known about otherwise.

Worth a Few Minutes Every Day

Weekend! Time to catch up on all the things that I don’t get a chance to do during the week. Something I have been making time for during the week is the Storywonk Daily Podcast. Running between eight and thirteen minutes each, Alastair Stephens and Lani Diane Rich put up a new podcast every Monday through Friday about a different aspect of writing and a little bit of entomology fun. This week they’ve been talking about critique groups, beta readers and feedback.

I generally listen while I’m getting ready in the morning, a nice little way to do something writing related even as I’m heading off to the day job. Check it out; I think you’ll find it work your time.

That Was Surprisingly Nice

My internet was out last night, along with the internet of a good part of Southern California. After beating my head against the wall and finally managing to get an answer via my iPad, which is a 3G model, I settled down for a quiet evening without instant communication with the outside world.

Maybe I should do this more often. I watched some DVDs, knit on my Diagonal Jacket (I’m almost to the point where I’ll be dividing for the sleeves — woot!), and played a little on Scrivener with moving some plot elements around on one of my projects. Asked a “why” and the answer I got is going to have a major impact on where certain things are going. That impact changes a number of plot elements and told me exactly why this project derailed itself the first time I tried to write it. But I also think the answer makes things more interesting and removes the risk of my heroine wandering into “too stupid to live” territory. (Any time you re-read something you’ve written and start thinking “Why doesn’t she just say something?” you’ve got some trouble.)

But it was nice without the noise, without the notices of incoming mail or new posts on my Live Journal while I was writing. In fact, when the internet did come back, I stopped my Google notifications which came up every time I got new mail. One distraction gone. This weekend, I’m probably going to be looking at my other notifications, see if I really need them popping up all the time. Yes, I want to be able to handle things in a timely manner, but do I really need instant notification while I’m at home?

Now, off to set up the work laptop since I’m working from home today — and you’d better believe I’m happy the internet is back up because I did not feel like sitting in the office today.

Review: Money, Honey by Susan Sey

"Money, Honey" by Susan SeyI bought this book based on a review over Dear Author, right at the moment when I deciding that I wanted to try doing some reading on the Kindle App on my iPad. Didn’t actually get to it until recently, but I stopped counting my TBR pile some time ago.

The short version: enjoyed it and will definitely be buying “Money Shot” when it’s released next June.

The longer version: Very entertaining suspense. FBI Agent Liz Brynn reluctantly has to work with informant Patrick O’Connor on cracking a counterfeiting case that involves the restaurant and casino run by Patrick’s sister and brother-in-law. Complicating matters is not just Patrick’s old partner in crime who’s out for revenge, but Liz’s feelings for him.

The attraction is really what drives the story forward, but I didn’t mind at all because the characters were so engaging. Not just Liz and Patrick, but the supporting cast as well — yet at no time did I get the sense of “Look! I’m setting up characters who can spin off into their own book!” At the end of the book, there were folks I wanted to see in a sequel, but they were definitely here to serve the story. (The villain is not one of them; Villanueva is a genuinely nasty piece of work with no redeeming qualities to soften his edges.)

The pacing is swift, and the moment when Liz and Patrick — finally! — come together combustible. They fall into bed at the right place in the story, too, where the stakes are high and an emotional attachment only adds to the problems, not solve them. The aftermath is believable and fits with the characters. It also sets up very nicely for the book’s last scene in how they finally start moving past their personal baggage to move forward together. There were call backs there which had me smiling, something I’d done frequently while reading.

If I have one quibble, it’s about the back story for Liz. The revelation was teased too long for me and by the time it arrived, I was actually a bit annoyed. As such, I ended up with a bit of an eye roll at the secret in Liz’s past, which didn’t tie into the rest of the story as well as I would have like. Despite that quibble, I had a great time reading this.

Another Goal For December

Try to write and finish my posts the previous evening so I’m nit running about like a mad woman trying to finish before I have to get ready for work.

Just sayin’ it might be a nice idea and contribute to a certain level of sanity around the place

NaNo Hangover

Welcome to the morning after. I know some folk probably wrote like mad last night, trying to get the last bits of words in. I cleared some things off my plate, put in my final count (I totaled 36,473, which I’m quite happy with under the circumstances), and relaxed by watching the latest edition of The Fashion Show. Seriously, the show is pure cheeseburger for the mind. Just follow Tom and Lorenzo’s advice and mentally add something to the end of each of Iman’s pronouncements, such as “Or I will kill you” and the whole thing takes on this strange, almost James Bondian-villain aspect.

But it’s now the morning after the madness and the question remains “What now?” The reason I stopped pushing last week was because if I didn’t, I would have found myself going into non-writing mode to clear my mind. I’ve done that before and it’s the last thing I wanted to do at the moment. Doing NaNo is great, hitting 50,000 words is great — but if you stop writing coming December 1 because you’re exhausted, what’s gain? The holidays are around the corner (Hanukkah starts tonight), and it’s all to easy to lose the moment November has brought.

If you were pushing yourself at the end to get 50,000, do yourself a favor: write 100 words today. You can write more if you want or are capable of it, but don’t write less. If you’re between projects, write a 100-word character sketch or scene idea. Just keep the creative juices flowing. Let’s not make the momentum and energy NaNo generates a once-a year thing.

So, accomplishments for month of November:


NaNo Inspiration: November 30

“Victory belongs to the most persevering.” — Napoleon Bonaparte

Word counts are due to the NaNo site tonight by 11:59 PM. Do yourself a favor and get them posted early because the site will start seeing some heavy traffic.

We’re here. 30 days and however many words you’ve written, if you’re still here and pounding the keyboards, you’re still doing good. Make no mistake; 50,000 words in 30 days is a long road, and while this year marks my third failure to hit that mark in the nine years I’ve been doing NaNo, I still think it’s terribly worthwhile because the point is doing the thing, to take time during the middle of the madness of November to make time for your writing.

In some ways, I still count myself a winner. I didn’t take the easy road this year, which would have been to simply ignore the whole thing, curl up on the couch and just let another month of not writing slip by. I tried my best to make the time for the writing and discovered that there are things I need to change, patterns that have been slipped into that actively work against my having that time. Some of them are outside expectations that have cropped up, some of them are habits I’ve slipped into and need to change. It is only due to the stress and heat of the moment that comes with NaNo that exposed these things. As I wrote on Saturday, I may have decided not to pursue the 50,000 word goal, but the writing continues and the work continues. Part of that work is putting into motion the lessons I’ve learned these past 30 days.

So, a question for anyone who’s reading this: what have you learned from doing NaNo this year?

NaNo Inspiration: November 29

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

We’re almost to the home stretch — at least for those folks still doing NaNo. I’m moving into a different mode, working on characters, figuring out what’s going on in their heads. Where did my hero get a musket ball in the leg and what was he doing when it happened? I know he’s determined to return to active duty, but what’s the actual prognosis and is he just fooling himself. All things I didn’t answer before I dove into writing and I’m going to stop and answer now so I understand why he’s letting himself be drawn into this insane scheme of the heroine’s. Not that I want to reader to know at first, but I certainly should know.

But despite NaNo being a bust for me for the first time in a number of years, I still have a sense of accomplishment this morning because I finished casting off for my Aeolian Shawl. Took me close to four hours to do almost a thousand stitches. It’s not at its most graceful because it still needs to be blocked, but I’m going to share a first peek here.

Aeolian Shawl -- unblocked

Aeolian Shawl Edge unblocked

That’s about four months worth of work there, on and off. In it’s unblocked shape, it takes of most of my husband’s side of our queen bed. Blocked, it’s going to take up the entire bed. Yes, this is a big project.

Blocking is like revision, in many ways. You get your original as neat as you possible can, and then you use blocking to smooth everything out and get the object to the shape you want. Unlike revisions, where you can cut and paste and do some major surgery, if you discover you need to do that with knitting, it’s back to the beginning. Considering how many beads are on this thing, I’m glad it’s in a good shape and I can move forward. Scheduled debut for this piece? Christmas Eve services, where I think it will be appropriately festive.

NaNo Inspiration: November 28

“You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once.” — Oprah Winfrey

How’s NaNo going for the rest of you? I slept well after making my decision, and spent a good afternoon with my knitting and wallowing in the glorious schmaltz of the Judy Garland version of A Star is Born. The high point, naturally, is Garland’s rendition of “The Man Who Got Away.” Beautiful, iconic ballad about the one-man woman lookin’ for the man who got away. Letting the sound of Judy at her best wash over me, I couldn’t help thinking about one of my characters. As the story opens, that’s the position she’s in, thinking her one man has got away. But it turns out he’s the wrong man, that the man who walks into her life during the course of the story is that one man.

The thing is, that got me thinking about what her mindset is as the story opened. She’s putting on a brave face and she’s getting tired of people asking if she’s okay — but she’s also hurting inside. It’s the combination of those to factors that cause her to set in motion the events of the book. I knew it, but I didn’t know it. Now, I have to go think about that relationship a little more, why she was convinced he was the man for and why she’s wrong, and that may well change some things.

But that’s why they call it “discovery”, isn’t it?

NaNo Decision: November 27

“Decisions are made by those who show up.” — Aaron Sorkin

The upshot of of Wednesday was that we managed to come up with a solution that didn’t take a large amount of time away from my writing that evening. However, over the past could of days, we’ve had some talks about the incident. My writing has been put on the back burner a lot over the last year as we dealt with family problems and my mother-in-law’s declining health. When you’re in a situation where you’re living one crisis to another, it’s a little difficult to get yourself into any sort of routine. Part of the purpose of this year’s NaNo was trying to re-establish a routine. That hasn’t happened, due in part to my own health and also finding things picking at my schedule. Not surprisingly, this has caused some stress.

So late Thursday, after turkey and pie had been consumed, the husband asked an important question: Was I having fan this NaNo? I thought about that for a while and realized the answer was no.

Since I wasn’t having fun and it was clear I wasn’t going to reach 50,000 words by the end of the month, the next question was whether or not to continue with NaNo, or to sit down and make a plan for moving forward that didn’t include killing myself just to make a word count. I gave the matter some serious thought and decided it was best to abandon NaNo and start planning.

I don’t suggest abandoning something lightly; it’s too easy to find yourself surrounded by never-finished projects (let’s not look in my knitting basket). But this was an instance where pushing forward was going to do more harm than good. I’m still going ahead with my plan to post inspirational quotes for these last days (giving up the blog is not an option), but I need to think about my characters, my story and what I’m actually doing with them. The creative well is emptier than I’d anticipated, and I need to spend some time and energy filling it up again. Today, I’m going to indulge myself with A Star is Born on Turner Classic Movies while working toward finishing my Aeolian Shawl. I’m going to let my mind just wander over my characters, think about why they’re doing what they’re doing, not just what they’re doing. I’m going to rest, which I haven’t been doing enough of recently, and try to get some of my strength back. Most of all, though, I’m going to try to be good to myself because I haven’t been doing enough of that lately either.

The thing about learning to walk away is making the choice and knowing when it’s time. Decisions are made by those who show up and sometimes they’re not easy decisions to make.