Conclusion of NaNoWriMo and Starting a New Project

Novel Writing - NaNoWriMo
I took this picture in honor of my last NaNoWriMo post.

Sometime this afternoon I realized it’s the end of November.

Technically I finished NaNoWriMo on the 22nd.  I wanted to reach 50,000 before I was to be travelling around the country visiting family.

I tried to write more – and I did – but I got out of my routine.  I’ll start again tomorrow; I don’t care if it’s Saturday.  I will finish that first draft in December.

In any case, tomorrow is the first day of my Christmas photo project venture.

Oh boy.

I got a bunch of pictures when I was out in Colorado; I’ve purposely not shared them because I knew my self-imposed photo project was going to come up.

So, starting tomorrow, I will have a Christmas-themed picture of the day.

I’m going to need a lot more of these Christmas pictures.

I guess that means I’ll have to go to the Biltmore House (oh darn) and the Grove Park Inn to get some really good pictures.

I might drive around to people’s neighborhoods.

Then, I might have to get really creative.

Ooh, wait.  I just thought of my small town, parades, and my husband’s home town.

At least it’s an excuse to get out and stretch my photographic skills.

The things I know I’ll have to work on:

  • Using a tripod
  • Nighttime photography
  • Avoiding camera shake
  • Working with ISO, aperture and shutter speed

I hope Santa’s little Elves bring me a real tripod for Christmas…and a second computer, too.  My husband sells on eBay and sharing one computer makes life…interesting.

This afternoon, I was working on HubPages and “liked” an article.  My husband was signed in on Facebook and showed my “like.”  Oops.  It’s a good thing it wasn’t an article about women’s underwear.  That would have been really funny.

Kansas Windmills

Hundreds of Windmills
See the hundreds of windmills in the distance?

When I was driving from Colorado to North Carolina, out in the middle of Kansas, we saw a huge windmill farm.

It stretches for miles and miles.  Apparently, all these windmills can power 85,000 homes.

If you’ve ever driven across Kansas, you’ll know that the wind can be a formidable force to reckon with, sapping your will to drive and undermining your fuel economy.

So it’s good that the state is utilizing its windpower.

Looking at their website, they can save 750,000 tonnes of Co2 emissions.

If you know me at all, you know I love this idea.

As we drove along, I had to stop for a few minutes to take photos.

Old farmhouse and windmills
There was an old farmhouse in the distance off the dirt road we were on. The windmills in the background are surreal to me.

I’ll tell you what I did to manipulate the photos, but first, I must share a few thoughts on this:

  • Looking at hundreds and hundreds of windmills on an otherwise organic and ancient prairie makes me think of the book 1984.
  • I can’t believe Kansas was on board with this – it’s a state that outlawed the teaching of evolution.
  • The juxtaposition of the wind turbines with old farmhouses looks like the sequel to Wizard of Oz.
  • Farmers can farm around the wind turbines; they don’t affect agriculture production hardly at all.
Kansas Windmills - with gradient
I applied some special filters to create the effects on this image.

Now, about the photography:

  1. The first image was taken with a manual focus.  My camera had trouble focusing automatically.  This was one of my first experiments with the manual setting.  I was pleased.  I’m sometimes scared of that manual button.
  2. The second image, I used f7.1, ISO 100 and a 1/1000 shutter speed.  It was really bright outside, but it’s what I had to work with – I was worried about the backlighting conditions, but it’s those conditions that allowed me to create the third image.
  3. I used a photo-editing program to manipulate the final image.  I changed the levels, the colors, and applied a gradient filter and “burned” the image.
That last picture is my favorite.
It reminds me of a scene from iRobot or Independence Day.


NaNoWriMo – Thoughts on Writing


These mums remind me of my character who comes to blossom in my novel.

I must say, the past couple of days have been incredibly interesting on the writing front.

Though I’ve hit 57,000 words, I can tell you I’m not finished.

I had to “validate” my novel before the end of the month and I didn’t want to wait until the last minute, lest my novel get lost in the mix or something.

But I am far from done.

In fact, it’s like there’s a whole second part that just opened up in this book.

I figured out some wicked plot twists.  I didn’t even know they would happen, so the fact that I didn’t give any hints about them in the earlier parts of the novel I think will actually help the story.

Not only that, because of those plot twists, I’m thinking this thing could stretch to 100,000 words.

Wouldn’t that be something?

I will have so much to edit.

My goal is still to get this thing published in mid 2013, but we’ll see.  I’m going to use December to keep writing the first draft.  No edits allowed, except for little things that when I go back and read, there is an obvious error.  It’ll be like a NaDecWriMo.  Actually, that might be easier to say than NaNoWriMo.

Maybe not.

I usually read at least some of what I’ve read the day before so that I can continue with whatever thought-process I had going on.

Some of these ideas I got were when I was driving the long miles between Colorado and North Carolina.

It’s funny how much your mind works on “other things” when you’re supposed to be driving.

This book, I’ve concluded might be “chick lit” but it’s far from a romance.  In fact, I would have to describe it as a sort of coming of age story, since my main character is in college.

But beyond that, I’ve figured how to get back to my original idea of the story – a chunk of it is going to take place in Mexico.

I hope I remember enough of my adventures there to describe it accurately.  Otherwise, a trip to Mexico might be in order.  Damn.

Hash Brown’s Latest Adventure

Cyndi and Her Yellow Lab

First he’s HOME!  HE’S HOME!

When we arrived in Waynesville after about 13 hours of driving, we were dog-tired (pun intended).

We came in through the neighborhood where people said they had seen our dog.  We rolled down the windows and while John drove, we started calling and whistling.

All the dogs in the neighborhood started howling and barking and yelping.  People flipped on their lights and others who were out taking a nighttime stroll stopped to watch us.

I’m sure they thought we were halfway to the nut house.

I didn’t care.  I didn’t care that it was pitch black outside, that people might have been sleeping or that perhaps we might end up violating some noise ordinance – we even passed by a policeman’s house.  Hello Mr. Policeman, my dog is at large.

I kept thinking we should get on up to the house – I just had a feeling, you know?

Finally, forty-five minutes later, we pulled into the driveway at my mother-in-law’s house.

I kept telling my husband all day long as we drove through Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and finally North Carolina that we were going to find our dog – that he’d be on the front porch and come wandering from the woods after he heard our car.

In fact, I didn’t even post that he was missing for the first 24 hours because I felt – I felt – that he wasn’t really lost.

I swear it wasn’t denial.  It was more like a dull knowing.

We walked into the kitchen and the mood was subdued.  No sign of Hash Brown.

My sister-in-law told us everything that had happened since we last spoke.  “Such and such neighbor saw him and played with him.  Such and such business saw him pass by, two days ago.  I posted flyers, went to the police station, and I’ll call the newspaper tomorrow.”

I couldn’t believe how much she’d done in the two days he’d gone missing.  I’m forever in her debt.

We concluded that Hash Brown was on his way to Marshall – 35 miles to the north, near to where our house is.

We sipped more wine and figured out our next plan of action: hang fliers on every post in town, place an ad on Craigslist, go search the mountains near where people said they had seen him, call into the local radio show that talks about missing animals.

Then we heard something.  It was a dull thunk, thunk.  We didn’t know where it was coming from.  I looked at John.  “I’ll check the front door,” I said.

“I’ll check the basement,” John called back.

I opened the door and only saw blackness.  Not a sound.

I walked back into the kitchen and started talking to my sister-in-law again. Moments later, we heard the pitter-patter of paws climbing the stairs from the basement.

We looked at each other; both of our jaws dropped.

In came John with a very happy Hash Brown.

“OH MY GOD!” we yelled.  “WHERE WAS HE!?!”

John told us that he was holed up in a storage room in the basement.  At first, we thought that he was coming and going as he pleased through an open window – but upon investigating, a whole other scenario became apparent.

The storage room

The storage room is separated by old particle board.  The door was shut tightly.

Apparently, Mr. Brown (as we affectionately call him) found a way to get in through the particle board.  It acted like a one-way door:

One way door to the storage roomIndeed, Hash Brown pushed through the particle board and it slammed shut behind him.

This happened sometime Monday afternoon.

The thing is, the dog didn’t make a sound for two whole days!  In fact, my sister-in-law stood only a few feet from the door as she fed her dog more than a few times!

Her dog didn’t give any indication that Hash Brown was behind the storage door, either.

Immediately, John grabbed a hammer and nails and started hammering the particle board back onto the framing.

Closing off the storage room

This would not be happening again.

We went back upstairs and my mother and sister-in-law were both shaking their heads.

“That dog did not make ONE SOUND the whole time he was down there,” they cried.

We could only guess as to why. My husband and I have a few boxes down there from previous relocations of residence.  We are storing a few things down there to avoid the risk of mold taking over our stuff at our own house (that is a whole other story).  We think HB (our shorthand name for him) smelled our scent on the boxes.  He’d been in that room a few times before with us, too.

He loves comfort.  If you read the previous post, you’ll know that he loves couches and fluffy things to lay on – not the cold, hard floor.

In any case, the only time he made any noise from that room was when he heard our voices.  But he still didn’t bark.

We let him outside and the poor guy peed for a full five minutes – and that is only a slight exaggeration.

I have to chuckle – he’s such a good-natured dog and tries to be good.  He really does.  He didn’t make one single mess down in that basement room.

I can’t imagine “holding it” for two days.

Nervous Hash Brown
Hash Brown got a little nervous when John was nailing the particle board shut. He would NOT go back into that room.

In any case, I think HB was not only glad to see us, but I think he was even more glad to get back to a more normal life of peeing and pooping as needed.  Food would be good, too.

We usually take Hash Brown with us wherever we go.  But since our trip to Colorado was going to be a whirlwind, busy trip, we decided that he’d be happier staying with Murphy, the other dog of the house.

Now that we know he was at my mother-in-law’s house the entire time, we just can’t believe he didn’t give any indication he was behind the brown door.

The only sign that there a canine presence was when HB shook and John heard the familiar jingle of his collar as he checked the basement.  We also figured out why no one called us.

You see, our dog has Obsessive Compulsive Fetch Syndrome.  He never really wanders far and when he does wander away from the house, people always call us within five minutes.  He bugs our neighbors who are all, unfortunately, trained to throw stick (I’m sure they’re all very tired of it, too).  When you see Hash-Mess (another name we have for him), he always has some twig – small or large – and will bark to make you throw it.  We try to warn people that it’s not a good idea because he will.go.on.for.hours!

This was why we were worried, too.  People always call us.  There are so many good people out there who try to help us out.  I’m also sure they want to get him off their hands once they realize he’s like the Energizer Bunny and will play and play and play and play and then flop – but only for a few minutes until he regains his energy.

We love him, though, even if he has a one-track fetch-that-stick mind.

Of course, now we can resume the more affectionate-but-annoyed nicknames we have for him.  One of them is Ass-Brown.  I called him that once or twice since we found him already.

Thank you to all the wonderful people who shared his photo and for looking out for him.  Apparently he has a twin out there somewhere because a few people called to let us know they’d seen him.  But, we are so thankful for the outpouring of love.  Our four-legged kid is home.

Hash Brown and Cyndi

Ode to Hash Brown Calhoun

Yellow Lab
Hash Brown was hiking with us to Shining Rock.

I wanted to do two posts, but with the events of today, I’m only going to be able to manage just one.

We got a phone call yesterday that our dog, Hash Brown, jumped out of the pen at my mother-in-law’s house.  Probably the most frustrating thing is that we were 1500 miles away and a two-day drive away from being home.

We’re about halfway home as I write this, but my heart feels like my dog took it with him.

He’s a yellow lab.  He’s often reminded me of that yellow lab in the movie Marley.

They made a movie out of the dog Marley because he was a certain kind of crazy.  My own dog, Hash Brown, must have come from the same bloodline.

Yellow Lab and the water
Mr. Brown – as we affectionately call him – LOVES the water. Only the leash keeps him from becoming a wet, muddy mess.

From the day we got him, I’ve experienced joy and anger, glee and contempt, affection and annoyance every single day that I’ve had this dog.

He ate my leather boots, the satellite TV remote, and my prized sunglasses that my husband got me as one of the first-ever gifts he gave me when we were dating.

He ate the telephone box going into our house on the day we were supposed to have a home inspection when we were trying to sell our house in Colorado.  Luckily, Hash Brown did such a shoddy job, the phone-repair guy was able to pass it off as a lightning strike to help save us a buck.

There’s a little boy about a mile and a half from where we live now, where Hash Brown likes to wander to.  One day, we picked him up and the little boy said, “why does your dog always come here and make me throw stick for him? I’m tired.  Can you take him home now?”

We had to laugh.  He’s become quite the country dog.

Hash Brown in the Woods
Hash Brown usually roams freely in the woods and roams the country-side, but always comes home after a time. I hope he will this time.

He’s been run over by a car – the guy didn’t like him much – and survived with barely a scratch.  He’s chased off bobcats and saved our two smaller cats from a bad feline encounter.

He’s been bitten by a copperhead and lived to avoid all snakes, even if they’re beyond dead and flat in the road.

He’s claimed our leather couch as his own, leaving his scent all over it – leaving me with the almost daily task of trying to clean and de-smell the damned thing – which still invariably ends up stinking-up the living room.

We try to explain when we have guests over, but judging by their wrinkled noses, I’m sure they wonder what in the hell is wrong with us.

He has two beds – one in the living room and one in the bedroom – and wherever we are, he goes to that bed and lays there.  He hates the bare floor.

He has what I call “obsessive compulsive fetch syndrome.”  He has to play fetch.  In fact, his molars are almost worn down to his gums because he insists on finding the heaviest, biggest stick he can find, hoping he can convince some poor soul to throw stick for him.

Hash Brown, Sophie and Stanley
Hanging out on our old couch with friends. Hash Brown, Sophie and Stanley. We think Hash Brown is in love with Sophie.

He’s a very well-traveled dog.  He’s been to over 11 states, the mountains, ski areas, the beach, and everywhere between.

So, I had to write a post in his honor.  I’m hoping he’s still alive and well and that he comes home soon, because when I get my hands on him, he won’t be alive and well.

Okay, I’m just kidding on that last statement, but I need that boy home. He’s my four-legged kid, you know?  I don’t have kids – I have animals.  They mean so much to me – they are my furry children.

If you’re reading this, could you, would you put out positive thoughts and prayers for him, pretty please?  That damned dog is the bain of my existence, yet I feel like I cannot exist without him.

He even has his own Facebook page and “friends” anyone who wants to be friends – just like in real life.

Skiing, Family and NaNo

The Broadmoor Christmas Lights

This is a combo post – it’s the last day I’m visiting family in Colorado before making the two-day trek back to North Carolina.

Nanowrimo writing came early this morning before embarking on a ski trip to Loveland Basin.  Everything was great except the altitude.  I might have grown up in Colorado, but every time I come back and go to 11,000 feet, I always feel discombobulated and uncoordinated.

I still managed to get a bunch of ski runs in – that was fun!  I will share pictures in a later post.

After about four hours round-trip in the car, we arrived to dinner at my parents’ house.  It’s a family affair and it’s cutting into my blogging time a bit.  But, I won’t see many of these people for another six months to a year, so I’m relishing in all the love and chaos that comes with a family visit.

However, we’ll return to our normal routine on Thursday.  I’m looking forward to sharing the stories and experiences I’ve gained.

As for people who regularly read my posts, I promise to comment and catch up – hopefully within the next 24 hours.

NaNoWriMo – Days 24-25

Lighting at the Broadmoor

I’ll be the first to admit that even though a person works at home – and has some freedom to travel – it’s not always easy to maintain all your usual routines and habits when you’re celebrating the holidays.

But that’s a good thing.

I have to say, I really wanted to get a chunk of writing finished while on my travelling journeys, but alas, I haven’t been able to do that as much.

If you look at the picture above, I was having fun with some night photography.  We went to a lighting ceremony in the town of Colorado Springs.

White Lighting at the Broadmoor
I love going to Christmas lightings – you can see the ducks on the Broadmoor Lake.

The colors came out great and I was thrilled.

But this isn’t a photography post.  It’s a writing one, right?

Well, I’ll say that even though these last couple of days have been a challenge as far as getting much writing or even photography done, I can say that I’m brimming with ideas – both photographically and novelistically speaking.

One idea came about when I met Ms. America International.  Now I’m trying to figure out what sort of fundraiser/photo project I could do that would also make it worth Ms. Gonzalez’s time to come out to Asheville, NC to help with the fundraising efforts.

I came up with this idea to make a “dead” character come to life in my novel.

It’s probably not what you think, but on the second and subsequent edits, I’m going to have to weave this character into the plot.  It’s going to add a fun twist to the story, one that could be truth…or fiction.

People have been asking me if I’d find an agent to try and publish.

When I started this story, I kept thinking, that, hands down, I would – marketing is not one of my talents, I admit.

But then, my cousin who works in IT thought it would be ludicrous if I didn’t go the Amazon route.  We started thinking about how publishing agents are going the way of music CDs – still useful in some instances, but not that good for today’s needs.

Well, first of all, I can imagine that it will take me well into next year to actually get this thing published.

I don’t know, though; I’ve never done this before.

My cousin’s thinking was that if I published on Amazon, the book would be accessible to many – just a quick Kindle download and BAM! a novel at your fingertips.

I should get one of those.

I intend on doing my own version of NaNoWriMo now.  My goal is to write 1,667 words each day (or the equivalent in edits) – from here on out (and after I get back home to a normal routine).

But then, when will I be finished editing?

I need to find a very good friend to help with final edits, because hiring a professional editor is, well….Let’s just say I’m used to doing things myself.

Thinking about all this, I’m going to set a new goal: to publish this book by June of 2012.

I have no idea if that’s reasonable or not, but that’s my goal.

We’ll see how it goes!