So far, so good.

Last week I beat my word count goal by 369 words despite not making the minimum goal any day except Saturday. When I woke up Saturday morning, I was certain I wouldn’t make it, but I hit the right combination of coffee and music, and pushed it through the goal.

This week is shaping up to be similar, although I’m getting my butt kicking days in earlier. In a perfect world, I’ll get this week’s words in early and get about half of next week done, too. My day job hours spike next week, but part of them will be spent training the opener I just hired. The downside of that is I will likely not have time to write at work, hence my plan to start early. I’ll have the words done at the end of the month even if, on paper, I don’t make the goal next week.

As of this writing, the WIP is over 22,000 words. I’m to the point where I thought I would cut and paste from a short story, but it’s in the POV of the wrong character, so it will take heavy editing. Still, that should go faster than creating from whole cloth.

So it looks like I really do want this. Just don’t tell the universe. I don’t know if I can take any more surprises.

Game On

It’s been an interesting few days. Interesting in the Chinese curse sense.

I came home from Deep Thinkers with a writing and marketing plan for the first three Balphrahn books. I sat down and looked at what I have written and decided it was feasible to have the series done this year, and that I needed to aim for 780 words a day. Every day. That’s 780 book words and doesn’t include blogs. I did build in a month of time off for illness and/or travel.

It’s doable, if everyone cooperates.

They haven’t.

Last week, one of my openers sent out a group text that she needed to take care of her grandmother in the mornings and couldn’t open any more starting the next day. She had four open shifts a week. Of my other openers, one has another job, one can only work weekends, and one is in school. That leaves me.

My boss set up some interviews for Saturday so we could get some help on day shift. As I was getting ready for bed Friday night, I told Eric even though I had to work on Saturday, at least I didn’t have to be in uniform.

Saturday morning, I got up, poured my first cup of coffee, and turned on my iPad. I had a text message from my weekend opener that she couldn’t go to work and no one else could cover, so would I mind?

Yes. Yes, I did mind. She pulls double shifts on the weekends, and I had evening plans. In the end, I put on my uniform, my boss came in early to help me, and I got someone else to cover the night shift. (I still missed my evening plans.)

By the time I got to work, I felt very put out. I told my boss I felt like the universe looked over my shoulder at my lofty plans and said, “OK, kid, let’s see how bad you want this.” And if that’s how it wants to play, game on.

As soon as I said it, my whole attitude changed. I shifted from victim to warrior.

Long story short, the other girls have stepped up and I only have to cover 2 of the extra shifts. If it works out, I’ll go back to only doing paperwork on Monday, and have two mid-week shifts. It’s not as bad as it could be, or as bad as it has been.

The series is going to get done. I’m going to move hell and high water to finish it this year. I might have to make adjustments, but even if I miss the mark, I’ll still have more done this year than I did last year.

How bad do I want it? Game on.

There’s No Place Like Rainy England


Life has been busier than I’d like lately. One of my coworkers at the day job has had family issues, which means more shifts for some of us. It wouldn’t be as big a deal except I’m at a place in the story where I have to figure out logistics. I’ve never ridden a dragon. It’s been a couple decades since I last rode a horse. But Charlie needs to learn to ride dragons, so I have to figure out how they do that. There really isn’t a lot of research available on the topic.

I’ve found, when I come to a prickly spot I need to think through, it’s best to go someplace away from the house (and my needy cats) and work it out on paper. There’s a new coffee shop in town, and they make better coffee that the national chains we have around here, so I put on clothes and make-up and ventured forth. I snagged the last parking spot on the block and paid for an hour of parking.

The coffee shop was packed. And I’d paid for a whole hour of parking. You might think my luck ran out, but it didn’t! I had ear buds and Rain In England on my white noise generator phone app. My phone battery was even charged.

I cranked it up because the guy sitting two seats from me was nattering on about his invalid mother-in-law. Goodness, so much talking!

In the end, it was productive. I got three pages of notes and, as I was thinking of going home, Eric invited me to come have lunch with him. I was half a mile from the train station with enough time to catch in inbound train, so of course I went to lunch. Now I’m finally settling in to get started on the scenes I brainstormed in the rain at the coffee shop that (sadly) was not in England.

February wrap-up

Were you waiting for this? I was traveling on the first, so while I could have compiled it on the plane, I decided to nap instead.

So. Raw numbers.

February word count: 16,802

YTD word count: 28,338

February hours worked: 35

YTD hours worked: 54

I worked every day in February except the first Monday. I didn’t get up in time to write before the day job, but I learned from that mistake. Also, note I’m counting the last week as work days but didn’t count the hours I was in classes or traveling. I just made a note in the spreadsheet that I was at the retreat. We were in classes 7-10 hours a day. I had enough going on without keeping track of actual work time.

I did have one minor set-back. The last day of the retreat I wrote a scene, which one of the instructors critiqued and made notes on. I forgot to save it. Yesterday I was going to fix it and move on, and the spot for it was in my Scrivener doc with no words. None. Luckily, it was only two days ago, and I’ve started rewriting. It’s not the same scene, but the important parts are there, and I’m writing with the teacher’s comments in mind.

It’s gonna be oooooo-kay.

Retreat Report

I’m home. I haven’t completely processed, so I’m a little scattered.

The biggest take-away came within two hours of arrival during a one-on-one session with Susan May Warren. I’d sent a synopsis of what I saw as the Balphrahn trilogy to her a few days before and had already gotten some feedback. She helped me figure out how to plot the series and had a suggested marketing plan. For those of you who know the short stories, hold onto your hats. The book series will be quite different.

I also learned a method to write stronger characters. It skips the mundane details–your character’s favorite color/drink/band, etc. Instead, you dig into their past to figure out what makes them tick. Then you exploit it mercilessly until, at the end of the story, they can do something they couldn’t at the beginning. In theory, that will solve the Pit Of Despair moments in the middle of the book.

I did do a little writing and got feedback on that, too. I also reconnected with old friends, met some new ones, walked on the beach a lot more than in years past, and ate scallops for the first time.

Today, I’m trying to wrap my head around what feels like a lot of stuff. It’s not just processing what I’ve learned, it’s future planning. Balphrahn could take this year to write. I haven’t done any research yet about the best times of year to release, but the plan is to write everything, and then release all the books within three to six months. It’s a big goal, but I have about 60,000 words already written, so it’s realistic. But what about after that?

I have some options, but they’re new baby ideas. I don’t have to decide anything, really, before this summer. I think I can get all the books written by November 1, assuming summer doesn’t derail me. Again. There’s quite a bit of time to figure out what’s next while Balphrahn is in process.

Looks like 2017 is the year the rubber hits the road.

Gearing up

For the last few years, I’ve been on hiatus from writing conferences. I love going to them and being with kindred spirits. Individually, writers can be awkward and a little odd, but at a conference, we all get to be rock stars! There does come a point, though, when conferences and retreats and even local writers’ group meetings become a distraction.

In my case, I needed to step away and apply what I learned, but also, life intervened. Eric got laid off and we moved to Chicago. Then we moved twice more. (I don’t recommend moving three times in two years to improve productivity.) About the time I had to step away, I got involved with some projects with other writing friends, and I’ve learned a lot from them, so I haven’t missed the conferences.

Now I’ve broken the hiatus. I’m on my way to sunny Florida for the My Book Therapy Deep Thinkers Retreat. I’ve done it twice before and came home both times overloaded with info that took a few extra days to process. We’re doing things a little differently this time. There was homework to do ahead of time to get everyone on the same page (pun intended).

It officially starts tomorrow, so I’ll tell you all about it next week!



I don’t know about your part of the world, but Chicago has been unseasonably warm this winter. Strangely warm, like we’ve had to shovel twice. It’s so warm plants are starting to wake up.

So are gardeners.

To be fair, we usually wake up around this time. Usually, for me at least, it’s with a pang of panic that I haven’t started seeds yet. Then I realize I’m further north than I used to be, and I don’t really have to start them until early March. It is time, though, to start gathering supplies and think about how I’m going to lay out the garden this year. I had a lot crammed into a small space last year. I think this year I’m going to expand into pots. It will give us some breathing room, and if I do some tomatoes in pots, I can bring them inside in the fall and maybe extend the growing season. I’ll be able to devote garden space to other things, too. Maybe some squash.

My time in the city has made me wish we could get out into the country to start a homestead. The reality is the job is here. It’s a really good job.

I’ve realized in the last week or two I don’t have to wait to start homesteading. I can’t raise animals here. I don’t know if I want to raise animals at all. I don’t see myself being able to raise them and not get attached to them. I can, however, grow and preserve more of our food. Rain barrels are encouraged in our neighborhood, and I have space to compost. I can cook from scratch more, and get creative enough in the kitchen to work around having run out of something. I don’t need acres of land to become more self-sufficient. It’s probably good it’s worked out like this. If I had acres of land right now, I’d try to do too much. Baby steps are good.