Here’s what I’m doing this week

Our friends are in town for the week, and we had our daughter with us for a few days. It’s been busy, but it always is. Not pictured: Fresh pasta and a couple of movies.

We went to opening weekend at the Bristol Renaissance Faire,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

had a group pic at the Museum of Science and Industry,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and worked on getting spruce roots out of the yard in preparation for our new patio.

 

Hope y’all are well and staying out of trouble!

In between

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This was my view last week. We were with the in-laws in San Diego, catching up and doing touristy stuff. It looks like it was hot, doesn’t it? Not so much. If it was 70 when I took this, I’d be surprised. It was like this the whole time we were there.

Then we came home, and it was in the high 40’s and raining. Yeah. You don’t really want to see that. In fact, there’s a good chance if you know me personally, you were in a place where it was also raining and cold.

I’m home for a few days, and then I’m off again to Mom’s and this view. We should have great deck-sitting weather. If we don’t, we’ll probably sit out there anyway.happyplace.JPG

 

 

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.

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!

 

January wrap up

January isn’t a productive month for me, but this one was better than most. When I packed for the rendezvous, I was intentional about setting things up to be able to work at least part of the time. I made sure to take a table and chairs for inside my tent, packed the wireless keyboard for my iPad and took extra batteries. I downloaded Scrivener, and made sure my WIP and my Excel tracking sheet were available before I left. I even asked Eric to send me back to the tent after breakfast, even if I insisted on washing breakfast dishes. (You saw the view from our kitchen in last week’s post. Can you blame me?)

In short, I used up all my efficiency for the month before January 10.

It did work, sort of. I wrote 5 days out of 14. Not much on the face of it, but usually I spend an hour or two the whole time with a journal and my lap desk, so I’m calling it a win.

The external batteries turned out to be a partial fail. We had a small one and a big one. If I’d been the only one using them, it might have been all right, but Eric was charging with them, too. I think we got one charge for each of our phones and iPads before we used up all the juice. The next morning I took the big one up to the charging station at the front gate and left it for a couple of hours. I went back to check on it, and it was 8%. The lesson learned there is to take multiple small batteries because they charge faster.

Scrivener was a mixed bag. It was great to have all my info with me and not have to copy/paste stuff when I got home. The transition between home and away was seamless, thanks to Dropbox. There were a couple downsides. Because I didn’t take a mouse, I couldn’t highlight text to count words. I got around it by noting total word count in Excel before I started writing, and subtracting it from the new total when I was done. Also, because I saved to Dropbox and not to a hard drive, I had to be online for at least the start (to retrieve everything) and the end (to save new work). That meant using battery time for the iPad and my phone since I used my personal hotspot to access the internet.

Maybe next year, if I do the batteries right, I’ll write more. I might not. We do a lot of visiting since we camp with family, and we have friends we only see there. This year I did a lot of sewing, and there was the one day out with Dad to go to the flea market.

Even apart from the rendezvous, though, it was a fairly productive month. I think word count was about 20% higher than the last 4 Januarys. I didn’t start tracking the amount of time I spend at the desk until the middle of last year, so I have no figures for that.

January 2017 numbers:

Words: 11,536
Days in office: 16
Hours in office: 19.25*
CPE: “Take Off Your Pants” by Libbie Hawker
Finished projects: The draft titled “Looking For Help” until I find the real title
Blog posts: 4
Newsletters: 0

Not great on paper, but it’s probably the best starting point than I’ve had. How’d January go for you guys?

Happy February!

*This is only writing time and doesn’t reflect time spent reading craft books or listening to podcasts. I should probably record that time, too, but honestly some days I’m doing well just to remember to clock in when I sit down.

Home From The Pilgrimage

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, or if you follow me on social media, you’ve probably heard stories about the Alafia River Rendezvous. It’s a living history event held every year in central Florida. Thousands of people converge in what amounts to a huge field to camp, shop, and visit 18th century-style. My dad got me into it, and I’ve gotten Eric into it, now that he gets actual vacation time.

This year was a little different. I took my iPad and keyboard, and downloaded Scrivener for iOs so I could write while I was there. Mostly I wanted to have the option because it’s far easier for me to write daily than take time off and have to restart. It keeps my momentum up. The other reason was I wasn’t thinking when I signed up for an informal JanNoWriMo (similar to National Novel Writing Month, which is in November) organized by a Facebook group. I figured I could do 20,000 words instead of the 50,000 they require with NaNoWriMo. If I’d been home all month it would have been easy.

I did write about 5 times. My word count was about 3,800, so I didn’t get a ton done, but I did get the short story I was working on finished. Needless to say, I’m way behind on that 20,000 word goal. At this point I might make it, but since I finished what was the current story, I’m not positive. Regardless, I’ve written more this month than I usually do in January, so that’s something.

Here’s a few pictures of our vacation.