Clean Slate

We are getting ready to have some landscaping done in our back yard. We want a big patio to hang out on. The plan is to have fires in the fire pit, drink scotch, and play bagpipe music for our neighbors. We’d rather like for them to come join us.

We had a friend in the business come and take a look at our space. While he was here, I asked him about our giant blue spruce. It was looking a little worse for the wear with dead branches at the top. He thought it needed to come down. Apparently, there’s a parasite in the area now that likes blue spruce, and it looked like ours had fallen victim.

Coincidentally (or not), our neighbor across the alley was having their blue spruce taken down. After our friend left, I dashed off to work, and Eric went over to talk to the workers. Turns out, they’d taken several trees down that day in our area.

When I got to work, I got a text saying the guys taking down our neighbor’s tree were going to take ours, too. We got a discount because they were already here. By the time I got home that night, they were long gone. The next morning there were very confused squirrels on our street. (They seem to have gotten over it.)

At first, the yard looked naked. The tree had dominated a lot of real estate, and now all that’s left is sawdust. Now that it’s been a few weeks I can see the possibility. It still makes me a little sad that it took less than two hours to erase a 50-year-old tree from the face of the earth, but our landscape friend has promised we will replace it with something deciduous to keep my office cool in the summer. In theory, at least.

Here is the photographic evidence. The snowy one was taken March 14, and the dandelion one is brand new of the same spot. Stay tuned for pics when we get the patio done.

The Warrior Reawakens

A little over a month ago, I wrote a post about telling the universe game on when it threw a monkey wrench into my carefully laid plans. Things have changed quite a bit since then. In fact, it’s a little mind boggling.

I fell off the wagon for a few days. April hasn’t been a great writing month so far. Transitioning from one day job to the other has taken a fair amount of time, and my word count totals dwindled little by little until I broke my streak when my kids were here Easter weekend. It was 65 days, if you’re keeping score at home.

It’s not that I’m broken up about it. Family is the best reason to take a day off, but I didn’t go back immediately. I let old habits kick in and let circumstances get in my way. Luckily, I recognized it much faster this time.

There is a possibility that life isn’t going to get easier this year. It might get harder. I realize there might be circumstances under which I won’t be able to write for a season, but the warrior is awake. The story wants to be birthed. I’m focused like I haven’t been before.

Game on. Again.

Moving right along

It’s been a little stressful the last couple of weeks. I’m changing day jobs, which is exciting, but it hasn’t been without challenges. There is training to do at the old job, although the crew is finally stable again. The new job is still developing and needs flexibility more than anything at this point. Since my personal motto is Sempre Gumby, I’m fine with that. With a little luck, in a couple weeks this will all be a thing of the past, and it’s fun to build it from the ground up. Plus it’s admin, close to home, comes with paid vacation, and I get to work with grown-ups!

The biggest downside of all of this is the impact it’s had on my writing. I’m very behind for the month and there isn’t a chance of catching up this week. Next week might be better. I suspect it’s going to be baby steps as I walk away from the old job and into the new.

I’d like to think this will be a blip, that I’ll be able to catch up and power through the first draft of the first book. Right now, it’s little drips here and there, like Chinese Water Torture. I’ve kept up the writing every day streak. Most days it’s only a couple hundred words. It’s hard to focus and figure out what comes next when I have all the other details begging for attention. Don’t even get me started on the size of my laundry pile. I’m going to have to pay attention to that just so I have something to wear to work next week.

Stay tuned for updates!

Just When You Thought You’d Seen It All

He came in toward the end of my shift, mid-week. He was pretty non-descript, blond with scruffy facial hair, 40-ish. He went right for the cups, so I figured he’d been in before. First timers usually look around and stare at the monitors behind the registers like they’re menu boards.

A few minutes later he came to the topping bar with a cup of Italian ice. I wasn’t paying too much attention, but from the corner of my eye I saw his hand come out of the bin with the gummy butterflies. His hand. A grown man, close to my age, ignored the tongs and reached in with his hand.

Pro tip #1: If you touch it, I have to throw the rest away. I can forgive that with little kids sometimes if the parents are trying to keep them under control and the kid gets impatient. It stops being cute when it’s done by someone older than 4.

My shock must have shown on my face because he looked at me and said, “There were hardly any left.”

I laughed. I knew he was right, and they were heading toward stale anyway. I picked up the bin, offered him more, and put it behind the counter when he said he had enough.

I weighed it. Fourteen ounces. It was nine bucks and change.

He looked at me like he hadn’t heard right. “Almost $10?”

“Yes, sir, you have fourteen ounces at fifty-nine cents an ounce.”

He pulled out a ten and handed it to me, sputtering the whole time about how expensive it was. He called it obscene.

Usually, I say something non-comital when that happens, but this guy touched gummies with his hands. I was already irritated. “That’s pretty standard in this industry. I even saw that price in Las Vegas.”

He scoffed. “Well, yeah, but you’re just talking about frozen yogurt, right?”

“Well, yes, because why am I going to compare fro yo to anything else?” Apples? Oranges?

“You could compare it to something, I don’t know, a tenth the price.”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed and shook my head. Like a reasonable person would compare frozen yogurt to a frosty? (Yes, we get that a lot, actually.)

Pro tip #2: $0.59 an ounce is about what you should expect to pay at a fro yo shop. Italian ice is heavier than frozen yogurt. Toppings add even more weight. If you’re on a budget, don’t fill your cup, and ask if you can do a test weigh if you’re not sure. We do that all the time.

He was still muttering when he left. I don’t think he’ll be back. If I’d thought about it, I’d have implied I was going to charge him for the gummies I had to throw away. Lucky for both of us, he left before I did.

March Wrap Up

Wow, that month went fast. It’s been a ‘head down and gitter done’ kind of month. It wasn’t without disappointment, though. I realized yesterday if I pushed a little bit more, I could double my word count for the year. I tried. I stared at the screen, turned on some music, and pestered Walter The Muse, but there were no words. I finally saved everything I’d already done and walked away, planning to hit it again after dinner. It didn’t happen. I missed my goal by 895 words.

I’m actually not too broken up about it. It was a really good month despite the day job challenges. I continued my streak of writing every day, and put in nearly 57 hours. Total word count for the month was 27,443, bringing year to date to 55,781.

I also read quite a bit. Currently I’m reading “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield (I read it often and highly recommend it), and “The Story Equation” by Susan May Warren. I also read all of Susan May Warren’s Heiress Trilogy (“Heiress,” “Baroness,” and “Duchess”) again.

Based on my progress this month, I’m awfully glad I went to Deep Thinkers last month. It seems to be just what I needed to get things rolling. Here’s to April!

Balance

My day job hours are increasing a lot in the next two weeks. I have a coworker on vacation, and another who changed shifts suddenly, so the morning shifts were decimated. I’m training a new person this week, so it’s temporary, but it will eat a lot of my time short term.

As we walked into church on Sunday, I told Eric it seems like the two jobs never go well at the same time. If I have a lot of time to write, I freeze up and stare at the screen. When I’m on a roll, the day job explodes and eats my time.

As usual, that was me preaching to myself: It’s about balance. It’s about art and pay. If the art doesn’t pay, something else has to until it does. In the meantime, all you can to is the best you can do.

I wrote a few thousand extra words last week. It’s possible, although not probable, I could break 30k for the month. I’d be happy with 25k, which is entirely probable. The goal is to write every day. I’m not worried about word count right now. I have a streak going–I’ve worked every day since Feb. 7. I just need to keep the streak going, and the book will get done. The stubborn is still going strong.

Progress

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.