Life

Post-Crazy Time

I survived my crazy weekend and promptly came down with either bad allergies or a mild cold. If getting sick could ever be considered “good,” this was good timing, as I won’t miss any obligations and I suspect I need the rest. It’ll be perfect for tomorrow’s forecast cold weather and wintry mix, a good day for lying under a blanket and watching Christmas movies all day.

I’ve also got a good supply of library books, some work-related, some just for fun.

I was complaining about having everything happening in one weekend, but the nice thing about that is that it’s now over and I can mostly just relax and enjoy the season. I also, for once, don’t have a deadline around or soon after the holidays. I want to keep up my work habits, but I can also take time off without worrying about being late for something.

But for now, I think I need a nap to recover from my library and grocery run.

movies

Last Christmas

I took a day off yesterday for a Grand Day Out. I did some Christmas shopping, got groceries, ran some errands, then went to the mall, did some me shopping (some things I should have bought ages ago but didn’t want to deal with the mall), and saw Last Christmas. I was glad it was still in theaters because I wanted to see it, but they released it in early November, when I was so not in the mood for Christmas stuff.

I’d heard that the marketing was misleading and that it isn’t the romantic comedy it looks like, and I think it helped knowing that going in. I might have still figured it out at about the 3/4 mark. I actually didn’t mind that it wasn’t really a romance. It’s nice to see that a romantic relationship isn’t the only kind of happy ending. I enjoyed the movie a lot. It’s fun and fluffy but also has some depth to it. You can tell Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay because the dialogue is very sharp and witty. I laughed a bit and had a good cry, so it was just what I was looking for. I don’t know if this is the sort of thing that I want to get on DVD and make an annual tradition out of watching, but it makes for a good antidote to the bland, cookie-cutter Hallmark movie if you want something that feels seasonal and very Christmassy without being the same old thing.

The ads make it look like one of those TV Christmas movies, and it very much isn’t. I’d say it’s kind of like the Kate Winslet side of The Holiday (more focused on personal growth than on romance) crossed with something like It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol, but done as though it was one of the story threads from Love Actually (London at Christmas).

Now I have to buckle down for the crazy weekend. I need to bake cookies today for the church cookie sale. Tomorrow I have a big choir rehearsal, then a party tomorrow night, then my children’s choir is singing Sunday morning, and I’ve got two Christmas concerts on Sunday that I’m singing in. I also have a party Monday night, but I hope to get some rest on Monday. Tuesday is supposed to be cold and rainy, and I’m planning a day in my pajamas, watching Christmas movies.

Getting Christmassy

I started feeling a little Christmassy yesterday when I put up the garlands on my loft and stair rails. This year, I got clever and plugged them into a remote-control outlet (that I normally have a lamp on so I can turn it on from the front door, since my light switches are in the back of the living room). Now I can click the lights on and off without having to go upstairs and grope around behind the chaise and the antenna.

I also went to the neighborhood tree lighting last night, which counted as exercise, since I walked over there (though I think the cocoa I had there might have undone the effect of the exercise). It’s fun watching the kids run around and play together before they light the tree. My neighborhood is in one of the most diverse zip codes in the country, so there are kids from just about every race and multiple nationalities all playing together, and it does the heart good to see that. I enjoy seeing the people of the neighborhood come together, and then I like looking at all the lights along the way as I walk home.

Today is a shopping day, but it’s an excursion for supplies. It’s my last Wednesday of children’s choir until after the holidays, so it’s also the last Wednesday night dinner at church. I figure that makes it a good opportunity for an Ikea run, since the church is on the way home from the Ikea, and there are a number of other stores in the general area of Ikea that I need to visit. I think I may do my actual Christmas shopping tomorrow in a big mall day, maybe even with lunch out and a movie.

And then I need to dig back into writing, though I’m tentatively planning a Christmas movies on the couch day next week since there’s supposed to be a cold, rainy day.

My Books

Coming Attractions

Early next year is going to be busy with publishing activity.

My first Audible Original book will be released in January, and it’s available now for pre-order. Here’s the Audible page with all the details. This is a contemporary fantasy with a touch of romance, so along the lines of Enchanted, Inc., but in a different fictional universe (if the same real-world setting).

There may be a print version of this coming, but that will have to wait for a year later.

Early next year there will also be a Kickstarter campaign for an anthology I’m involved with, but I don’t have all the details yet. I will share when I do.

Meanwhile, in case you weren’t aware, I wrote a Christmas novella a couple of years ago. It’s basically a Lifetime or Freeform Christmas movie in book form, with a touch of magic and romance. It’s a short read, about the right length for sitting down to relax in the evening.

I hope to have a number of new things out in the world next year.

December Already?

I’m sort of treating today as a holiday, since I worked throughout the Thanksgiving holiday and I finished my draft. I let myself sleep in, and I’m still hanging around the house in my fleece pajamas with a cup of hot tea. When I get up and going, I’m going to devote most of the day to cleaning house and catching up on the stuff that didn’t get done while I was frantically writing a book.

I may also get around to putting up some Christmas decorations. I don’t know if I’ll do a tree this year, since the place I would put a tree is right where they’ll have to do work on my baseboard and wall, and the contractor has already come out to take pictures and give the HOA an estimate on repairs. I figure if I don’t put up a tree because I don’t want to have to take it down if they schedule the work, the work won’t happen until January. If I put up a tree, they’ll contact me the next day about doing the work. I have some wheeled dollies of the sort you put under large potted plants, so I wonder if putting the tree up on one of them might be cheating. I could roll it out of the way if they need to work (probably removing the most fragile/valuable ornaments first) but still have a tree — but would that summon the carpenters or count as not putting up the tree, so it delays work until January?

I think I really like the book I just wrote. The heroine’s voice is a lot of fun because she’s really snarky, and one of her character traits is a tendency to blurt out something inappropriate when she’s stressed — she says the thing she’s thinking, and only realizes too late that she said it out loud. I like the town I created, and I’m intrigued by the supporting cast and the relationships that might develop along the way. I’m already figuring out ideas for the next book in the series. The plan is to have the second book just about ready to go before I launch book 1, so as soon as you finish reading book one, you can already pre-order book 2, with a teaser for book 2 at the end of book 1.

It seems my writing holiday may not last too long because the ideas are already spinning, but I do want to make it to the movies because there are several out right now that I want to see in theaters. And I’m rewatching the Star Wars movies to build up to the new one.

Meanwhile, I’m leading into the crazy time of the holiday season. Neighborhood tree lighting festival tomorrow night, choir rehearsal and children’s choir Wednesday, choir rehearsal Saturday mid-day, party Saturday night, cookie jamboree at church Sunday morning (for which I’ll have to bake cookies, probably Friday), two concerts I’m singing in on Sunday afternoon and evening, then a party Monday night. After that, things slow down a little. And then I’ll start revising the book, though I might start before then if I get ideas. And I’m kind of thinking of taking a mini vacation sometime during all this.

Thanksgiving Week

I’ll be taking the rest of the week off from posting, since it’s a holiday week and I’m trying to wrap up a book. Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers.

I’m close to the end, but I realized that I put something in a scene that makes it too obvious who the villain has to be. I need to move that scene later in the story because I think it’s going to be the heroine’s aha! moment. On the other hand, I figured out something about another character that makes her make more sense, so I need to add that.

I suppose I don’t have to meet my self-imposed deadline of a first draft by the end of the month, and I never officially signed up for National Novel Writing Month. But it is good discipline to force myself to keep up steady production. Oddly enough, it’s almost a break for me to do the 50,000 words in a month thing, since the daily quota to do that is about half what I usually write when I’m really into a book. I spend less time writing each day than I normally do during this push. The difference is that it forces me to make writing a priority and do it every day even when I don’t have a deadline. It serves as a reset of sorts to get me back into good working habits.

And I have about 1,700 words to get written today.

writing life

Needing Variety

I’ve made it to the point where my daily target word count has dropped below 2,000 words a day. I’m going to keep going over my target, so that count should drop a little bit every day. The real question now is whether I’ll get to the end of the story by the end of the month. I suspect it’s going to be a bit longer than I originally planned. And then I will end up cutting a lot of rambling in the middle.

I’m hoping to get a few books in this series written before I start releasing them, so I can get them out with some momentum and make more of a splash. But I’m not sure I can deal with writing the same characters and place back-to-back, and I don’t yet have a planned plot for the next book. So I guess we’ll see what strikes me as the next thing to work on. My problem is that I need variety. Writing the same thing all the time would drive me crazy. I have so many stories I want to tell. But the way to get momentum and build a following is to have a series.

That’s why I’m contemplating a series that’s more of a world series, with overlapping standalone stories. Then I could write book after book without getting too bored. But I need to get the current one launched and on its way before I get distracted by a different series.

I’ll be writing another scene set in my fictional Mexican restaurant today, but this time I’m prepared. I have ingredients for making enchiladas for dinner tonight.

writing

Hiding and Revealing Clues

I’ve been chugging along on this book, but now I’ve reached the point where I have to start moving toward solving this thing. I’ve spent so long trying to hide clues, and now I have to reveal them. This is where it gets tricky, trying to make things hard for my sleuth (and for readers) while still needing my sleuth to uncover things. One challenge I have is that the situation makes it hard for her to find and interview suspects, so I have to come up with ways for her to meet up with them.

Mysteries are a lot harder than they seem to write. It’s strange, the Enchanted, Inc. books were essentially mysteries, just without the dead bodies, but I don’t seem able to move what I was doing there over to this structure. I think there was less pressure to make things tricky there because the story wasn’t really about the “case.” It was about the magic and all the other stuff that was going on with the characters. I think, to some extent, that in a mystery series, readers follow it more because they like the characters and situation than for the actual mysteries, but to get readers to that point, the case in the first book has to be good. I just read the first book in a mystery series in which I liked the sleuth and the concept, but the case was handled so badly that I don’t think I’ll be reading any other books in the series.

What I’m having fun with is building a new “world” and creating new characters. That’s always been my favorite part of writing. The actual story and the plot have always been my challenge. It took me a long time to figure out what to do after I came up with a situation, a setting, and the characters.

I’m afraid Thanksgiving is going to kill my momentum, just as I’m getting close to the end. I guess I’ll just hole up in the guest room while everyone else is watching football.

Living in Magazine World

I’ve recently rediscovered the joy of magazines. I was a weird kid who, even as a very small child, loved reading my mother’s homemaking-type magazines, things like Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Ladies’ Home Journal, etc. I could sit for hours, looking at the spreads of food, gardens, and interior decor. I imagined my dream home, planned imaginary parties, thought of how I’d decorate for Christmas when I had my own home.

When I became an adult, I used to have several magazine subscriptions, mostly from those deals where you can use your frequent flier miles to get magazines. I had miles from an airline I seldom used, so I used them for magazines. I ended up letting all the subscriptions lapse because I realized I wasn’t reading them and they just turned into clutter.

But a month or so ago, I got in the mood to read a magazine. I wanted something semi-mindless that wouldn’t get me sucked into a narrative. I discovered that I can get to a bunch of online editions of magazines through my library. Now I can flip through them to my heart’s content without having any clutter in my home. If there’s something I want to save, I can take a screenshot. I find that it’s soothing to look at pretty meals, nice houses, and lovely gardens, like it’s a window into an orderly, peaceful world. I’m trying to figure out what I want to do if I ever get a new house or decide to remodel this house, so I try the magazine spreads on for size to see what I like and don’t like. It’s also fun to imagine how my various characters might live.

For bedtime reading, I’m finding that a magazine is just what I need for those last minutes before I turn out the light. There’s no worry of getting caught up in a book and reading just one more chapter, and then another, and then another, and then having a restless night while my brain tries to finish it. I can drift off to sleep with visions of gardens and curtains. But since I don’t like to read from a screen just before I go to sleep, I’ve been buying old issues from the Friends of the Library rack at the library, where they sell them for 25 cents an issue, or 5 for a dollar. That’s my bedtime reading. I figure it amounts to a contribution to the library. Then if I find something I really like, I can clip it to add to my idea file, or I can cut out the recipes.

I will admit to a certain amount of mockery because there are some things that get a bit silly, like the article on how to do a tailgate picnic at the pumpkin patch, which requires a vintage station wagon and vintage plaid Thermoses to do it properly. Still, when the world seems to be descending into chaos, reading about how to host the perfect backyard tea party is rather reassuring.

writing

Imaginary Places

I’m getting close to the halfway point on the book I’m working on, but I realized after yesterday’s very productive writing session that I did something wrong with that scene. Today I’ll have to backtrack and rework it to move things in the right direction. I’m trying to figure out when to introduce a particular element that will move the plot forward dramatically but also complicate things for the main character. I think I moved part of it up way too quickly and need to add the other part first.

Meanwhile, I think I’ve fallen in love with my setting, which is a problem because it doesn’t actually exist. I believe there’s a particular word in one language (that I don’t recall) that translates to homesickness for a place you’ve never been. This is like that, except it’s a place I can never go. I created a fictional small town that’s very loosely based on a couple of actual towns. I stole some geography from two places and put them together to get what I wanted. Then I started adding the elements I needed for the story, along with giving the town a background that explained some of the things. The result is a town I would like to visit, maybe even live in.

There’s a “downtown” area with a main street and a couple of side streets built in those turn-of-the-century downtown-style buildings you see in a lot of Texas towns. Sadly, in a lot of these towns, those buildings are now empty or torn down. People try to start businesses there, but they don’t last long. If a business is doing well there, the building no longer meets its needs, so they end up building a newer building on the edge of town. But in my town, they’ve found businesses to go in these buildings and have even built apartments on the upper floors. The town’s in the process of turning around and finding a new identity after it almost withered away.

One of the businesses in my old downtown is a Mexican restaurant. Either it used to actually be a saloon or it looks like it because that’s the vibe it has. It has wooden floors and a pressed tin ceiling, a big bar at the back that’s now counter seating, and the traditional mirror behind the bar. The food is excellent, and it’s the town hang-out. Late last week and over the weekend I was writing a scene set in this restaurant. My main character’s been stuck in this town after a lot of things happen, including one of those sudden cold fronts that takes it from a pleasant morning to sleet by evening, and she walks to this restaurant, where she meets a lot of the other characters, since it’s one of the few places still open and a lot of the people who were in the vicinity of the murder have come there for dinner. That meant I spent days craving Mexican food, but the problem was that I wanted to go to this restaurant, which doesn’t actually exist.

Fortunately, there were tacquitos at a party I went to over the weekend, which eased the craving somewhat. And I found a recipe for cheese enchiladas that sounds like what I like, so I’m going to try making that this weekend.

There’s also a diner in town that’s in a remodeled old train car. That one is based on a restaurant I went to in Oklahoma, which is in an old train car. I somewhat modified it, but I liked the idea, and it fits with the town’s story.

Today I need to decide what kind of library they have and what its building looks like.