And Then She Spurted a Second Novel…

I’m glad to be back, though I’ve been back for a week and two days.

I haven’t stopped by at my own blog much.

Well, that would be for several (good!) reasons.

It’s Been a Life Changing Summer

The stress of my job in this last year had prompted me to really do something I hadn’t done before: delve into travel as much as possible this summer.

I did it to relax. I did it to get in touch with my more spiritual side. I also did it to explore: new places, new stories, new adventures.

Here I am now, writing before I set off on one last little journey before returning to work in August: the beach.

We’d planned these trips in April. Last summer, in 2015, we spent it moving, and the summer before that I was taking classes and working as an administrator for a school. The summer before that? More classes.

I figured it was time to get back into living down some adventures.


Traveling Gives You Great Perspective

I don’t know what great soul recommended “going someplace once a year where you’ve never been,” but I can’t recommend that highly enough.

While on the meditation retreat in June, I finished the second draft of my first novel.

And while on the road trip, I blazed through the fourth draft. Husby started editing. He’s still working on it, but he’s also working a lot and has maybe has an hour or two here and there to work on editing my novel, let alone do the things he has to do in his own life.

That’s fine. Because…while he’s doing that, I cranked out the entire first draft of my second ghost story novel.

That’s where I was this last week. I was putting in hours and hours each day to finish before heading to the beach over the weekend and back to work the week after that.

I wanted to establish a strong routine of getting up early and working for a couple hours before starting my day.

These travel journeys have completely reignited my love of writing. Not that it ever went away. But I had to just be happy with journaling whlist finishing classes and working full time. There just wasn’t enough time or energy to do much else.

On the meditation retreat, I’ll share that the Buddhist monk who led it encouraged me to give into writing. I told her how, now that I’m finished with my master’s and working back in education, that I don’t know if I’m really cut out for that world. All I want to do is write.

She encouraged me to cultivate that love, that often we don’t know exactly what we want until it beats us over the head. And well, very often the third time is the charm (Anthropology and Spanish being the first two attempts at finding my calling).

I intend to finish out this grant-funded position (assuming we have monies after August…I still don’t know, actually) and come next June, I will take steps to indulge my writing while being smart about my income. (That’s an echo from the first time I tried, which was an honest failure. But it was a “good” kind of failure: one in which I learned a lot about myself, and what to do and not to do when it comes to quitting my job, how to have more focus, etc., etc.)


Next Steps to Publishing

The next steps will be twofold:

Get a cover made for the first book and publish under a pseudonym. Then finish the subsequent drafts of the second novel.

I honestly don’t expect much with this first book. It is the first book.

I know for a fact that most authors don’t get their first works published the first time around. Sometimes they do, but many times they don’t.

It’s because the mastery of the craft just isn’t there, yet. That’s not to say that some amazing, fine writers ARE masters by the time they publish their first novels. In fact, I think I know of few of those kinds of folks personally.

But, even Shakespeare’s early plays aren’t well known. It wasn’t until he’d cranked out a number of plays that his really great ones became known for what they were. Shakespeare had finally achieved mastery of his craft and we all only associate him with intricate Elizabethan writing, coining scores of new words for the English lexicon.

And so it is with novel writing. I expect to sell um…7 copies. 🙂 And that’s fine. I probably don’t want to be known for this first novel.

Don’t get me wrong: I gave it my best shot. But my best the first time around is going to look very different than the second time, to say nothing of the twentieth.

This first novel is about a Latino college kid who stumbles back to his college campus, cuts through a graveyard and upsets the gravestone of Marina Oliver. It was an accident, but that doesn’t matter: it unleashes an angry ghost who attaches to Jorge and drags him and his friends into a years old mystery. Their only chance of getting Marina to “cross over” is a bit of luck and resolve before time runs out and Marina drives them to their deaths.

(I hadn’t yet written out the “blurb” for my novel, but that up there doesn’t sound half bad, me thinks!)

The Second Ghost Story Novel

This second novel, I’ll have two editors. And I might spend a little more on creating the cover.

I don’t want to share what the plot is just yet because it’s only the first draft. With a few more iterations, things could change.

But something interesting happened on this second round of writing. The words came a little easier. The sentences were a little prettier, and my oral language has taken on a different layer of expression than how I spoke prior to cranking out over 120,000 words in a month and a half.

My sister in law and I were having dinner the other night and I was telling her about our recent road trip. I included descriptions of the environment: the parched trees, the pigmented sandstone rocks, the effervescent spring waters, etc., etc.

Beautiful places to describe
This image is one of many I snapped while on our road trip. It’s a photo of Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis, WY. And one that would be awesome if I had to write up a graphic description of some place beautiful but parched, despite the hot springs.

She blinked at me several times before saying anything. I asked her what was wrong.

She laughed and said that she’d never heard such a vivid description of a simple little story before. Most of her friends will say something, hope it’s witty enough to crack up a bit, and then be done with it.

Of course, I knew exactly why that happened, and relayed it to her.

In any case, I have much work to do before this second novel is complete.

Watching the iterations will be fun, too.

When I finished the first novel, it was right about 50,000 words. But after four more drafts, it expanded to 73,000.

For this second novel, it stands about 43,000 words. I know that will swell. There are side things I thought of while I was writing and descriptions I know I’ll need to flesh out.

This second novel is different in that I used a technique called “Deep Point of View.” I wrote it all in first person, from the perspective of one character. I decided to try that to “up” the scary factor.

I do love a good, solid scary book.

As a side note, I’m reading the non-fiction book, “The Haunted” by Ed and Lorraine Warren. It’s scary, but honestly, after watching lots of scary movies, seeing lots of ghost shows, visiting so-called haunted places, it takes a lot to ruffle me.

I’ll have to compile a list sometime of some really awesome scary reads that I’ve read in the past year (in addition to everything else I’ve read; I do have a voracious literary appetite).

Achieving Goals

But I cannot fathom how, at the end of May, all I wanted to do was finish a novel.

I’ve completed one, save for the edits that I’ll need to do once husby has finished the first one.

I’ve completed the first draft of the second one.

I already have ideas for a third and fourth one.

I’m cranking them out fast. It’s taken years to figure out, but if I don’t blaze through that first draft quickly, I won’t get through it at all. It wasn’t until I got the idea from that book, 5,000 Words an Hour, which just emphasizes getting through that first draft.

Now that I figured myself out – at least as it relates to writing – I feel like I’m in “crank ’em out” mode.

And yes…I’m going for the mass market paperback segment. This is why pseudonyms are good. If I want to channel the esoteric Barbara Kingsolver, another pseudonym will suffice.

It’s been an incredible summer, full of personal growth, and many, many realizations. These include wanting to write at HubPages more, wanting to include photography here again, wanting to spend quality time on my writing.


A Little Side Project

Book first draft personal development

I’d started off strong with blogging in April and through a chunk of May, but I “slacked off.”

Well, there are several reasons for this.

The Work Situation

First, is the day job. Last March (2015) when I started this job, I had “two years” to start an after school program, grow it to 50 students (at least) and fulfill all the goals set in the grant process.

I didn’t write the original grant for this job. But I did become the coordinator.

I found out in October that the state considered 2015-16 our second year of funding, even though I’d only been there about six months. When I officially launched our after school in May of 2015, the state called that our “first year.” One year of funding smashed into four weeks? Only the bureaucratic state is good enough to invent something as logical as that. When we got our “second year of funds,” the state let us know that all the accounts for the program would have to be closed out in June 2016.

So, for ten months, I’ve been ordering supplies, hiring (and even firing) tutors, finding volunteers, recruiting students who fit the criteria to be serviced by the grant, helped create the curriculum, planned field trips, managed daily operations, conducted staff meetings and trainings, conducted parent meetings, planned employee schedules, did inventories, met with county officials, met with state officials, worked with the church where our after school site is located, met with school officials, worked with parents and met with them each day as the need arose for their child, and more.

It’s been a good year. We fulfilled those goals. But I’m dog-tired. Tired in a way that I’m sure anyone who’s ever worked in education would understand. My brain needed another task to do to not only release the stress of this year, but for other reasons, which I will touch upon in a moment.

I do not yet know about continued funding for our program. That could mean that as soon as July we’ll know something, but it’s also very contingent upon our state legislature, who, last year, did not release budgets for educational programs until October 2015. So, it could be as late as that before I find out anything.

I have a salary through August. But, that’s it – for now. And October is a long time to wait if you don’t have a salary.

The Explanation for the Side Project

You may know I’m a highly sensitive person. While I have enjoyed the day job, the stress and energy drain have created the need to meditate a lot, to exercise more by walking or mountain biking, and to write. A lot.

You would have thought with working 50, sometimes even 60 hours a week (that was early on), that I would have no energy left for creative endeavors.

Honestly, that’s why I didn’t blog a lot in the past year. I really was that drained. But, I always continued to write in some form: whether it was journaling or writing daily bulletins for staff, I always had several thousand words under my belt every day.

It’s not the same as writing articles or books, but at least the typing-thinking-writing muscle was still going strong.

You may remember in my last post that I mentioned how I wanted to do something with my writing. Not just a blog post. Not just an article. A book. With my name as the author.

The Side Project

Right after my last blog post, I started investigating writing a book and exercising my fiction muscle. I discovered a Kindle book called, 5,000 Words per Hour by Chris Fox (not an affiliate link).

And in two weeks, it has changed my life. It’s not the personal development type of book I’ve talked about in previous posts, but another kind of personal development that will help me fulfill a dream.

Well, on May 31 I took the book’s advice and began writing, using the steps the author suggested. I now wish I had this tool when I started my first NaNoWriMo adventure back in 2012.

I’ve written, as of this morning, 45, 147 words towards a new ghost story (7 days). I’m nearly finished with the first draft. I have gotten farther than any other first draft I’ve done, and we’re talking five of them – all in various stages of compilations of words – 22K here, 57K there…all rotting in virtual trash. I don’t want to even look at them.

I’ve finished the climax and denouement in this new story. I want to add a couple scenes that became necessary as I was writing, and I will finish those today.

I now know what it was with those first drafts of the other books that prevented me from finishing: they went too slowly. I don’t have the patience to take a year to write a book. The whole process gets too overwhelming to me.

I have been teaching myself not to edit. I’m a recovering perfectionist and not ever hitting the “backspace” key is still somewhat of a challenge as I barrel through a draft, but I’m getting better at it. Not as fast as I would like, but better.

Still…45,147 words in a week. It usually happened for 30 minutes in the morning and maybe in two other 30-minute sprints over the course of an hour and a half in the afternoons. It’s not a crazy-miracle sort of thing: anyone can do this. (I can’t stand it when I sound like a car salesperson on something I get really excited about – just so you know.) You hammer out words and intentionally create a bad first draft.

The first draft, I will tell you, is atrocious. But if you go into it knowing you’re going to edit 4 or 5 drafts down the line, it takes the pressure off to think of a perfect word that first time around. Besides, when you think about it, it’s a waste of time: you’ll probably change that word or phrase out in the editing phase, anyways.

I’m learning to accept the shitty first draft.

Before, the presure was too great. I used to think the first draft had to be as near perfect as possible, with subsequent drafts improving upon that. And the process taking a year or more.

You chart and graph your progress and have accountability buddies (thanks, Melanie! and thanks to the husby, my Juanito.). I learned that while writing first thing in the morning is one of my favorite times to write – because of the silence, not letting the day interfere with my thought processes, etc. – I am not at my most productive. I produce nearly 1,000 LESS words per hour in the morning, than I do in the afternoons. Which is crazy to me after a long day of work, but still.

I’m the first to tell you that my mind is like a fleeting dragonfly. I never know where it will be from one moment to the next. I just don’t have the attention span (I’m not ADHD – I’m just a quixotic creative who changes her mind a lot) to wait that long. And that was killing me.

I know I’m a writer. I know I can write great things. I’m not being arrogant. I’m making a statement that, if it’s not true this moment, I am using a visualization technique to make it my reality. But I now know that if I take too long on a project, my energy for it will fizzle out before it’s finished.

It’s partly because of the energy demands of my day job. I have to be very careful where I expend the precious reserves of energy I have left to indulge my creative beckonings.

The other motivation I have is retirement. I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried the frugal route and it sapped much of the joy out of life. I’m sure I was doing it wrong. But always scrimping and saving for a point in the distant future that may never come seemed increasingly pointless to me. Yes, I still save. Yes, I try to avoid debt. I just do it differently now.

These days, I let myself get a green tea frappuccino, we go out to eat once or twice a month and I work on my giving. I could stand to give more than I already do, but that’s a process.

And I can’t see another route to passive income than writing. It’s what I’m good at. Forget stocks (what the hell is the Dow Jones Industrials report anyways?). Forget trying to buy rental houses (Did you listen to David Sedaris’ tale of his father and the quadplex?). Forget creating a site to make internet millions (The chances of that happening are probably like the lottery AND creating some sort of product to sell is outside the scope of my introverted personality).

So there you have it. My side project. The goal is just to publish ONE freaking book. THEN I will look at the process and my options.

Stay tuned. At this rate I may need alpha readers in a week.

Why Do You Blog?

This is one of those questions I ask myself and others ask me, too.

And it’s the theme for Finish the Sentence Friday, hosted by Janine, Kate, Dawn, Stephanie and Kristi.

If someone said, here, work for 8-14 hours a day, write, research, and do what you love, would you do it?  You won’t make millions; you probably will make enough to buy a cup of coffee now and then – would you still do it?


I would.

It’s all for the fringe benefits.  Yes, I have selfish, ulterior motives.

What?  Blogging is selfish?

You see…I originally started this blog as a place to park my photos.  I was thinking it would be exclusively for my photography.  And yes, I still like to display my photos here.

But then I thought it would be cool to write about those places I photographed, so I said this blog was about writing, too.  It fit in nicely with when I did NaNoWriMo.

Well, I missed incorporating my artistic skills into my work, so I incorporated all that.

Slowly, something else started happening.  It was like all the above was a seed.

A little seed that with regular cultivation, watering and fertilizer, it started to grow and change.

I wasn’t entirely sure of the direction, but whatever it was, I liked it.

It dawned on me:

I was attempting to inspire.

I was attempting to use my creativity to spread positive, feel-good messages.

photos of purple flowers
Purple flower

So that little seed I planted became a flower that, in retrospect, was a metaphor.  It was something that only looking back did I realize what I was doing.

  • More and more people began responding to my writings.
  • My heart swelled with this need to write about what I personally wanted to read – by things that inspired me.
  • Thus, I wanted to be a mirror that would reflect that which fills my soul.

And, of course, I fall short of my own advice or sentiments; I have bad days like everyone else.  I have days where I’m just not feeling it, or where I only feel like taking a walk in the woods to allow Mother Nature to fill me with her wisdom.

Still, even on those bad days, I fill my vase with enough petals of wisdom and inspiration, that it’s not long before my heart is pumping strong again.

Along the way, I’ve met so many beautiful souls.  I’ve met people who, by just being who they are, give me those same tidbits of wisdom and awe and we’ve become kindred spirits.

The support and love I’ve received have changed me.

Now I’m that seed that turned into a flower.

Other blogs are like the sun’s rays that allow me to grow.  The words that encompass someone else’s inspirational journey are the water droplets that make my leaves grow.  Beautiful photos and artwork are the inspiration that give me the will to grow tall and strong.

I’ll use this opportunity to thank my readers for all the love and inspiration.  I hope to give back at least a little of all the blessings I’ve received.




The Pictimilitude Manifesto

I have been thinking about this post for awhile.

In recent months, I have been adopting more and more positivity into my life – for so many reasons: necessity, gaining perspective, my sanity, my health.

I mean, I’ve always been happy-go-lucky.

I guess.

I’m a people-pleaser, so sometimes I think that happy-go-luckiness is due, in part, to the fact that I don’t like people seeing my more negative side – you know, so I can be more “pleasing.”

This last winter was kind of tough: various life events left me scared and flustered.  Losing my dog, money issues, family health issues and whatnot all gave me reason to sit down and shed a few tears…until…something changed.

Something told me to look inside myself.  And there it was.  A little light.  

It was an energy that I just knew I needed to nurture and will it to grow.

So, instead of focusing on what wasn’t right, I willed myself to focus on what was going well.

I sat in silence (and still do) every morning and thought about all the things that were going well. I actively thought about how grateful I was for all these good things – for big things, stupid things and small things.  I became more grateful than I ever have for my funky old house, my two crazy cats, for a clean kitchen, wholesome food from the garden, for the new leaves on a plant I thought I’d killed.  I was even more grateful for the love of my life: my hubby who is a true friend.  I feel like we have twin souls.

And since finding that little light, it has enveloped my spirit.

Suddenly, life is one infinite moment of bliss.  It’s like all the positive energy brought in more positive energy.

And you’ve probably seen the change in this blog.  Like how I consider myself to be a Creative – i.e. as an artist and photographer – but I never really envisioned just selling art or giclee prints.  I always felt like they were tools for something bigger.

As part of that “something bigger,” I went out this morning and snapped a few photos.  I know I must have been a sight to see with my raincoat and pajama pants and boots.

But, it was so fun to be in the rain for a few minutes.  It’s so cleansing, even if I was doubled over in a nearly futile attempt to keep my camera from getting wet.

I snapped a photo of my red, vibrant azaleas and played around with the image.  And then, I wrote my manifesto – something I’ve been working on and tweaking for a couple weeks.

I hope you enjoy.  🙂my way of thinking


Wordless Wednesday and a Vlog on Success

I don’t usually do vlogs, but I want to incorporate them.  This is one of the first-ever videos I’ve done of myself.

When and if I do this again, I hope to include more of my photography and art – used as tools in an “inspiration” series.  Enjoy!

As for Wordless or Wordy Wednesday, there are no rules.  Feel free to link up, I would love it if you shared this post, but really, just have fun!

wordless wednesday pictimilitude button

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Something About the Weekend

Took this photo yesterday – I just love the look of the wood against all the colors.

I am not sure if it’s the fact that the skies were very grey (due to Hurricane Sandy off the coast of North Carolina) or if it’s Saturday, but nearly half the things on my to-do list today have gone un-checked.

Of course, you’ll have days like that.  For the past month, however, every Saturday and Sunday, I seem to get less done than other days, even if I sit working at the computer all day.

I’m sure it’s all in my mind, of course.

We all know I’m slightly askew.

Maybe it’s just the autumn air.  How can you not take time to enjoy all the beauty in the colors and the bark on this tree that I photographed above?

Yeah, the plan was to work on Zazzle.  Check.

Write a hub.  Half a check.  It’s somewhere around halfway done.

Do some photography.  Nope.

Write a blog post.  I’m doing that…

I think I’ll just go watch a movie.

We’ve had this movie from Netflix sitting on the coffee table for about two weeks.

It needs to be watched.

And, apparently, the more I’m on here, the less productive I get.

So, I’ll just go enjoy the soup I made in the crockpot (pictures to come tomorrow…) and wait to finish that hub tomorrow.

Sometimes you just have to throw your hands up in the air and just say, “life is calling.”

You really gotta answer.

But before I go…

I wanted to share a few thoughts about that photo above.

My breath caught when I happened upon this tree.  Anytime you see the bark peeling off like that, you know it’s dying.

But, it’s dying alongside the leaves and with the season, to make room new growth, come spring.

It’s funny how that all works.  We all know it’s a cycle, but this image sort of slapped me upside the head with that notion.

I was walking along when all of a sudden, I looked up and stared.  Suddenly I thought, “whoa, that’s pretty cool.”

It was hovering over a small cliff at the edge of the road near where I live.  I definitely was being careful about where I was hovering.  You have no idea how accident-prone I am.

It was silently telling me that while it simultaneously reached for the heavens, it was pulling back toward the earth.

Somehow, I was very thankful I saw that tree.

Not that standing near a poor, dead tree is good.  But for that second, it reminded me to savor every moment.

I have to interject that I’m looking forward to moments of savory, buttered popcorn in just a bit.

Speaking of enjoying nature, though, I’m going to sign off and get unplugged for awhile.

Let me know in the comments what this photo makes you think of when you look at it.  I obviously thought quite a few quirky things – am I the only one?

The Way of St. James – El Camino de Santiago

This isn’t from the Camino. It’s a bridge on a trail near where I live. I’m told that as you get into the more western parts of the trail, the scenery starts to look like the Smoky Mountains. I wish I still had pictures of the one day hike I did on the Camino back in 2005…I had them saved on my computer’s hard drive and of course it crashed. Oops.

When I was 19, I was taking an intermediate Spanish class.  Interestingly, my professor was from Germany, teaching in the United States, AND teaching a Spanish class.

I could understand my mom’s spoken Spanish just fine.  But my professor?  Man…every utterance was with a heavy German accent.  I ended up not understanding very much of the first couple weeks of class.

One day, though, she awakened me from my linguistic oblivion.  She was talking about “El Camino” – and not the car.

She told tales of weeks along this trail, meeting people from all over the world, seeing ancient architecture, and staying in interesting little towns.

I was hooked.  I knew that I would have to walk that trail someday.

I actually had an opportunity to “day hike” one teeny tiny section of the trail when I was studying in Spain back in 2005.

We were in this magical place called Ponferrada and the place featured one vineyard after the other.  Yeah, I won’t tell you how many bottles of wine I brought back with me on the plane.  At least they didn’t charge me for all that extra liquid weight.  Shuurrrreee ossssiffffer.  I’lllll walkkk a strrrate lyyyyin.

Let’s just say that I have not tasted better wine.  It could be that I usually dine with cheap wine in favor of organic food, but hey, the trade-offs have to come from somewhere, right?

We hiked part of the trail right from the cobblestone streets out of the town.  Summer flowers were blooming and soft breezes carried scents of the grasses and plants our way.  It was heavenly.  A few hours and I felt like I could go on forever….

I hear that the wildflowers are also similar to what we see here in the Great Smoky Mountains down here in NC.

Last night, I went to this class about an older woman who walked about 2oo miles of the trail (it’s around 500 something miles…786 kilometers…I’m NOT doing the math…I’ll just walk it, dammit).

She showed us slide after slide of the incredible hills, mountains and scenery of northern Spain.  The fact that she was older and retired really motivated me to want to do this.

I actually really want to walk the Way of St. James – the whole length of it from western France to western Spain, above Portugal.

It’s a pilgrimage of sorts.  A lot of people do it and along the way, you get stamps in a little Camino passport to prove you walked it.  Then, you arrive in Santiago de Compostela (in Western Spain) and you get all these blessings.

Though I’m no longer Catholic, I still need all the blessings I can get.  Apparently, your sins are absolved, too.  Awesome.  I’m sorry…I am only human.

What a dream!!

See…I studied Spanish and Anthropology – BAM!  Two of my loves right there.  Then, I studied art. BAM!  Those Spaniards are artsy by nature and the architecture and paintings that I saw in some of those slides was…taunting me.

Then the whole photography and writing thing.

Oh. My. God.

Can you imagine?  A trip where ALL of my loves converge into one happy blissful 5-week hiking trip?  I’d blog and photograph until my click-happy finger was like lead.

I so have to do this.  I owe it to myself.  And to my husband who’s stood by my side all this time.

Did I mention that I like to hike…AND hug trees?

Now…where the hell to come up with money to do this.  Yeah, there’s Kickstarter.  Yeah, there’s savings.  Something always happens to the savings, though…like quitting my job to do photography and writing full-time.

But, um…I’m going to have to work on this idea.  I ache to do this.  I think it would be an epic life-changing journey.

Can you imagine?  I’d have to photograph every sheep, cow and cool German dude that came my way!

This needs to become a goal.  Where to start…where to start….