Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Just Checking In…

Not much of a post this evening due to an extremely busy schedule this week.  I am at the tail end of the NaNoWriMo challenge and am very close to making the goal of 50,000 words.  There are only two days left and after what I wrote tonight, I have less than 2,000 words until I beat the challenge.  I’m so close I can taste it but I won’t be finishing tonight because my eyes are burning and I think I need a good night’s rest.  I’ve decided I should be a good girl and get to bed early.
In the meantime, I thought I would share with you this handy little word chart the NaNoWriMo organization kept for me while I was writing.  It shows just how well I was able to hit my mark just about every day.  The chart also shows I have only 1,923 words remaining which I can easily finish tomorrow night after having added 2,007 words today. 

This challenge has been a number of things for me but overall it gave me a heightened need to get a lot of work done in a short amount of time.  It’s not a schedule I’d like to regularly keep but it sure helped to get the ball rolling so that a large part of the story plot and subplots are now mapped out.  This book is now a part of me and won’t let go until I get it all down on paper and I look forward to where this book continues to take the characters and myself.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

After the Turkey Coma

Sad to say this is the last day of a four-day holiday weekend.  All good things must come to an end, I suppose.  And it certainly was a good weekend.
Thanksgiving for us was a very good day.  We spent the holiday with both sides of the family and had a great visit with everyone.  The only negative to celebrating the holiday this way is that we split the day up between families and actually had turkey dinner not once, but twice.  I guess you could say we had a full meal at 2:30 pm and a light meal at 6:30 pm because that was all our pour tummies could take.

I did not even have dessert the second time around and for me, that’s saying a lot because I can usually make room for pumpkin pie.
So the holiday was a long day full of family, fun and feasting and we enjoyed every minute of it.  It ended with the need to get a good night’s sleep to shake off the turkey coma and a silent promise to myself to diet from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas dinner.

That was until I saw all the leftovers we’d be taking home.
I quickly realized the diet would have to be put off just a bit longer.  Enjoying a long weekend while also not having to worry about what’s for dinner is my idea of a terrific weekend.

Friday and Saturday were days I knew I would set aside for writing because I had taken a few days off up through Thanksgiving.  I was a bit behind on my word count due to this but I knew I could probably make up for it during those two full days and that I would also have today to write if I needed it.
I’m glad to say today was not a day when I had to feverishly write to catch up on my word count.  Instead, I was able to spend time catching up on other things around the house.  While I may have been behind on my word count as of Thursday, the amount of work I put in on Friday and Saturday not only helped me meet my word count up through today, it also helped surpass it. 

I wrote over 10,000 words on Friday and Saturday alone, bringing my total word count to just under 44,500 and only about 5,500 from my final goal.
I’m so happy with the amount of writing I was able to accomplish because my required word count every night after work this week won’t feel out of reach.  There are only five days left of the NaNoWriMo challenge and with only 5,500 words left to reach my goal, I know I’ve already won the challenge.  This from the person who had first doubted it could even be done –

Just goes to show what happens when doubt turns into determination.
Whether you enjoyed lazy days with the family or possibly tackled your own difficult task, I hope you too enjoyed a splendid holiday weekend. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks

It is the end of a short work week, the beginning of a long 4-day weekend and just a few hours shy of what will soon be Thanksgiving.  This will be my first Thanksgiving post on my Blog and I thought I would share with you what I am most thankful for.
I adore my husband and my boys and I give thanks every day for every minute I get to spend with them.  I give thanks for the fact that I was able to marry someone who is truly my best friend and will always be there for me.  And I give thanks for my sons, who are both not only great kids but awesome individuals in their own right, and I treasure the fact that I am a part of their lives.

I give thanks for the rest of my family…my parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, in-laws and beyond.  I also give thanks to my friends. 
I am thankful for my home, my job, my health and so many other things.  The list, really, could go on and on.  Overall, I have much to be thankful for and which I will continue to be thankful for way beyond this day when we are asked to give thanks.

As we should appreciate those who help shape our lives, we should also appreciate the individual we have become based on the influence of those who greatly affect us.  I am thankful for my abilities, for my craft as a writer, for my strength and for my independent personality. 
Thanksgiving is a nice way to get the family together, show our appreciation for each other and offer our thanks for that which could be taken from us on a whim.   I hope you too have much to be thankful for and that you get to spend this holiday with those who mean the most to you.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Kids are the Best Medicine

I’ve been journaling for a very long time.  Not that I’m especially old or anything but I received my first diary when I was about ten years old and from that moment on, it has never crossed my mind not to journal. 
Every few years, I find myself reading through some of my old journals.  It is enjoyable to read back through old memories, good times and about family who have passed on.  It helps to see how much I’ve grown and changed through the good times and the bad.  You think so much differently when you are in middle school, in high school and as you work your way through college and enter the work force.  You change even more after you marry, have children and build a career. 

While I enjoy reading through journals as a way to remember what has happened in the past, I especially enjoy reading entries about my boys.  I’ve been writing about them since before they were born.  The struggles during pregnancy, the excitement after their birth and the worries we had as new parents only led to many more journal entries from the boys’ first toothless grins (most likely due to gas) to the achievements they have earned as young men.
The boys have brought me immense happiness as a mother and what I truly adore is that they have also brought humor to our lives.  Life is too serious.  We need to enjoy those around us and see the humor in all things.  Having kids around you pretty much forces you to do just that.  Kids look at life in wonder and with laughter but as adults, we tend to lose that attitude. 
Kids add a necessary element to life to help make you feel young. 

Wave Runners
You may be wondering what has caused me to write about this particular subject.  You would be correct if you guessed I had been reading through some past journal entries.  But not just past journal entries about their childhood; it is actually a compilation of entries I have made over the years whenever the boys said or did something I thought was very humorous.  For any new parents out there, if you do not journal, at least make a point of keeping track of highlights such as funny thoughts or comments or actions your child surprises you with.  On those days when you need a good laugh or reminder about a special memory, these little entries will be just the ticket to lighten your heavy heart and make you remember to take stock in the good times.
Here are some examples of entries I made when my boys were younger that still make me laugh to this day:

From my youngest, who asked with all sincerity:  “Mom, do you think I should clip my four pinky toenails?”
From my oldest to my youngest, “You’re like a broken record…except you do different stuff.”

My youngest is five years younger than his brother and did not quite understand the makings of high school when my oldest was voted to be in the Freshman Court.  Of course, my husband and I were thrilled to hear this news from our son.  When my youngest asked me if his brother was the king, I told him no and was about to say his brother was more like a prince when he asked, “Then what is he?  The joker?” 
And while kids do make you feel young, there are those times when they say something to make you feel just a tad bit older.  Especially when they have a conversation with you like this:

Son:  Mom, did you live in the 90’s?
Me:  Yes
Son:  Were you an adult or a kid?
Me:  An adult
Son:  Was it in black and white?

Oh boy.  You can see how sometimes kids might make you feel old.  He thought the 90’s was so long ago it would have been in black and white!  Even funnier is that kids actually believe people, not just television shows, were in black and white.  My son was only eight at the time so of course I forgave him.

Even if kids say something to make you feel old, it will most likely also make you smile or laugh.  Or maybe it will make another person laugh at your expense.  Regardless of who laughs, kids and their sense of humor are the best medicine.  I hope you get to see the humor in life as often as the children in your own life do.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Half-Way Point

I am just about half way through the NaNoWriMo challenge and while I worried and fretted some before the challenge even began, I should have known better.  I am much too competitive and when I set my sights on something, it’s really hard for me to turn away from the task.
If you did not read my post about NaNoWriMo earlier this month, it is a 30-day challenge in November of every year with the goal of writing at least 50,000 words of a new novel. 

Thousands of writers get involved in this challenge. 
I am just one of many, obviously, but this challenge has nothing to do with the rest of the contestants.  Instead, it has everything to do with what I can accomplish during this challenge, regardless of how well others may do.

So how am I doing so far?
Extremely well; in fact, better than I thought would be possible given my daily schedule.  I keep a fairly strict routine to accomplish my goals but so far it is working to my advantage.  As of yesterday, my word count should have been at least 21,671 but I managed 23,734 for my word count by the time I finished writing last night.  Tomorrow I’ll be half way through the challenge and should have a word count of at least 25,005. 

I already see myself hitting that goal.
Part of the reason a writer might do well in this challenge may be based on how much they enjoy what they are creating.  I have no doubt that’s the case for me.  For this challenge I am writing the second book in the Jorja Matthew’s Mystery series and I am having extreme fun writing again. 

Just writing. 
Not reviewing, editing, marketing or publishing…just writing.  I’m back in the bookstore with Jorja and Taylor, investigating a new case, meeting new characters and still trying to solve the mystery surrounding Jorja’s past.  I get lost in the story, the characters and the mysteries.  And I love every single minute of it.

On that note, I need to get back to writing so that when I submit my word count for the day, I’ll still be ahead of the game. 
I’ll be back on Sunday but until then, enjoy the rest of your week.   

Sunday, November 11, 2012

In the Eye of the Beholder

What is beautiful to you?  The people you love, the great outdoors, artwork, meals created from scratch, or a relaxing song?
We all see beauty but we may see it differently than the next person.  It’s what makes us the same but also very different.

There are many things I find beautiful, some of which I found during a recent day trip to Portland I’d like to share with you…
The changes in the season as the trees turn color:

Overlook at Washington Park
The careful planning it takes to lay stone work with the expectation that it will survive years of wear and tear:
Entrance to Japanese Gardens at Washington Park

The details on a statue made by a meticulous artist:

Washington Park statue

Meals made with care by would-be chefs at Oregon Culinary Institute who only wish to impress (and did a damn fine job of it too):

Smokey Lentil Soup

Chocolate Dream Torte (truly heavenly!)

The unexpected surprise of a delightful idea on what to do with odds and ends such as salt and pepper shakers:

Salt & Pepper chess board
Another stop I made during this day trip was to a book store.  Not just any book store but Powell’s Books, or Powell’s City of Books, a store which claims to be the biggest in the world.  (If anyone knows of a bookstore larger than this, please, please let me know.)  While I might not actually make the claim that the store is beautiful, I will say it is amazing, incredible, stunning, unbelievable and just plain astonishing to a book-lover like me.

Even non-book lovers would have to agree, this store is amazing.  It covers a whole city block, plus some, with three main levels.  It contains over 68,000 square feet or, for property owners who might understand this description, it is about 1.6 acres of retail floor space.  The store and on-line inventory for new, used and out-of-print books is apparently over four million. 
Imagine that!

It is, without a doubt, the largest bookstore I believe I will ever see in my lifetime.  I’ve been there twice so far and I have every intention of going back.
After my trip to Portland, I came across another very cool fact regarding Powell’s Books.  There is a sandstone carving outside one of Powell’s entrances called the Pillar of Books.  This sandstone carving depicts a stack of eight of the world’s greatest books and the sandstone actually came from the quarry from my hometown.  That is a cool fact on a personal level and one reason I would view the pillar differently than someone else.  However, I did not get to see the Pillar of Books for myself because I entered the store from the other side of the block. 

I guess that will be just one more reason to go back.
And I can't wait.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

From the Bottom of my Heart

My first published book, No Mother of Mine, has been available as an eBook and in paperback for a few months now.  While I enjoyed writing the book and I’ve enjoyed reading it myself throughout the process of preparation for publication, there have always been questions in the back of my mind…will others also enjoy my story?  Will they fall in the love with the characters?  Will the plot and the storyline be enough to draw them in, keep them hooked and make them wanting for more?
If you haven’t read the reviews on Amazon yet, check them out if you are curious.  I enjoyed reading each review and while there are just under a handful yet, I hope to see the number of reviews increase as time goes on.  Except for the lucky few, this process takes baby steps; I just have to remember that fact.

When you publish a book your biggest fans are, of course, your family and friends.  I have been contacted by many of them either by text, e-mail, on Facebook, by phone and even in the middle of a store or parking lot.  The feedback I receive is either that they really enjoyed my book or that they are very excited for me and are happy to see me go after my dream.  Today I was stopped in the Target parking lot by an acquaintance who shared how happy she was for me and how she feels I motivate others.  She doesn’t know it but she made my day with just a few simple kind words.
My anxiety has been put to rest; while I know not everyone may give me a four or five star rating, the comments I’ve received have shown me I’m really on to something here.  Others have enjoyed my story and the characters.  The story has drawn them in and they are hooked and many have asked when the second book in the series will be available.  I’m working on it now but I can only guess on when it might be available…sometime next year is all I will commit to at this point.

Because I have thoroughly enjoyed the comments I have received from my friends and family, I thought I would share a few of them with you:
Just finished it over lunch and loved it.  Sally
FYI I am overly tired this morning…why you ask?  Oh there’s this book I couldn’t put down.  It’s one of those that you just need to keep reading because you need to know ‘what the heck?’  But heck I thought I had several things figured out at times and bam it twisted somewhere completely different!    Kim

I finished your book last night…Absolutely loved it!!  Awesome, can’t wait for the next one…  Peggy
I read the book and I'm hooked. I can't say enough about it…One of the best books that I have EVER read.  Barbara

Hi Paula, just finished your book. Great read! Are you done with the next one yet? :o)  Darrin
Hi Paula, I purchased the eBook yesterday on Amazon, started reading, and finished it just now. It was really a great book, you have done yourself well! :) I will look forward to your sequel to it and have already told friends about it and they are going to get one also.  Sherrill

Hey PJ, I just finished your book this morning! I really enjoyed it! Can't wait until the next one comes out!  Shelley
I enjoyed your book very much. Especially the little twists in there with the…(sorry, no spoilers allowed).  Patti

These types of comments motivate me to continue doing what I love and I appreciate each and every person who reaches out to me.  The feedback helps to eliminate any second-guessing, anxiety and even self-doubt, which come with the territory when what you have created with your heart and soul is being assessed and critiqued by anyone and everyone once you become brave enough to finally share your creation.  These feelings would not come into play if a writer’s chance at success did not completely depend on the likes and dislikes of others.  But the real truth is that your success after publishing is completely dependent on the likes of others.

A writer should write for themselves but the goal is also to get others to enjoy the book just as much as you do.  Even if it takes awhile for the fire to light after publishing, if you have a good solid story that others can enjoy and tell their friends about, eventually the domino effect will take hold.  That is a day I hold my breath for so in the meantime, I will write for myself and I will also write with the knowledge that it is those who enjoy my books who will continue to encourage and motivate me with their kind and thoughtful words.

Thanks again, from the bottom of my heart.



Sunday, November 4, 2012

My Latest Challenge

I mentioned in my last post that I was taking part in a new challenge.
What could be more challenging than writing a book?

Try writing half a book in one month.
That’s the challenge for November.  It is National Novel Writing Month or, as writers know it: NaNoWriMo.

What is NaNoWriMo all about?  It happens every year in November.  New writers get involved.  Seasoned writers get involved.  The challenge is to write at least 50,000 words of a new novel during the month of November.  It breaks down to an average of 1,667 words every day.
I had already made up my mind earlier in the year to join the group in order to see whether or not I could win the challenge.  What’s the prize, you ask?  Pride in your achievement and a great feeling of accomplishment.  There’s that and the fact that you’ve been able to write at least half your book in 30 days.

Not to mention a little badge of honor as a NaNoWriMo winner.
That’s it.  Winners gain pride and a badge.  The organization does not hand out money or publishing contracts.  This is a challenge based on the honor system.  You don’t start writing until November  first and you submit your word count every day you write.  Do some people cheat by starting early?  Maybe.  But why?  If money or fame were involved, I guess there might be those who would cheat but this is an individual challenge.  You do it just to see whether or not you can reach your goal.

I have been itching to start writing again but the marketing involved with No Mother of Mine has taken a lot of my time and I did not want to cheat by starting the second book in the series before November first.  I worked on it in other ways though; writing notes about different scenes and new character ideas, making notes about other ideas I have for the storyline, researching help tips for taking part in NaNoWriMo and just doing whatever I could to be prepared for November first when I could finally put the words on paper.  I am now very, very happy to be writing the second book in the Jorja Matthew’s Mysteries and I cannot wait to see how far I get in the story by the end of this month.
I honestly was wary at first that this challenge was even going to be possible.  Ten hours of my day are spent away from home due to work.  I have other obligations as well.  I’ve been dealing with time management issues ever since I began writing No Mother of Mine in August of 2011, which took me four months to write in addition to another eight months to prepare it before publishing.  I began to doubt myself before I even began, which is a terrible way to begin anything. 

But then the first came around and I began to write.  It was a Thursday so I had to work and then I spent some time with my family before I headed to my office to type.  I actually amazed myself.  I began to type and the words flowed easily.  Before I knew it, I had 2,005 words.  Friday was a bit more difficult.  I had a stressful day at work and unwound by playing board games with my family before writing but I still managed a word count of 1,091.  Yesterday was a great day where I was able to reach 3,064 for my daily word count and today was a bit less at only 1,433, but only because I had another project I needed to complete as well. 
Overall though, I’m right on track.  In fact, I’m above the average word count for four days.  To be on track my total word count by today should be 6,668 but my total is 7,593.

I’m thrilled.  I’ve been able to alleviate my fears and I know there is a very good chance I will reach my word count goal at the end of the month.  I’ll be updating my blog now and then throughout the month to let you know how I am doing with this challenge.
I had read various blogs by other authors who have taken part in NaNoWriMo in past years and there was a mix of positive versus negative.  Some authors have not been able to make it to 50,000 words.  Many authors became NaNoWriMo and later published the books they started during the challenge.  Others found it to be a great way to encourage themselves to put in a lot of work in a short amount of time.  However, some seasoned authors don’t appreciate the idea of newbie or would-be authors believing in the concept that they can write a book in a month if they aren’t able to accomplish that goal any other time during the rest of the year. 

It is not my belief that anyone could write a novel in a month. 
You can write a shitty first draft, yes. 

But not a novel ready for publication. 
NaNoWriMo just gives you the motivation to get moving.  To see what you can do.  If you cannot motivate yourself to accomplish what appears to be an unattainable goal, then it is unlikely anyone else would be able to motivate you to reach those same goals.  Either way, to be a success, it is much sweeter if you do it for yourself rather than for others.  I like to keep in mind this quote:

“Keep steadily before you the fact that all true success depends at last upon yourself.”
~Theodore T. Hunger~

While doubt may rear its ugly head now and then, it is in pushing through the fears and doubts that will make you believe in yourself even more and will make you that much stronger to take on the next seemingly unattainable goal.
I’m through with doubt.  Instead I'm on a better route towards my goal.  Wish me luck!