Friday, September 23, 2016

Mercury Direct ... FINALLY!!

Not that I'm a die-hard astrology believer, but I can definitely sense when Mercury goes retrograde.

For those that don't know what that means, let me sum it up by saying - Nothing bloody works!

There are usually issues with your computers (like the wonderful message of Disk error I kept getting when I'd start/restart my computer); conversations take weird and awkward directions; mechanical/electrical gadgets go on the fritz. Admittedly all those things can and will happen at any time, not just when Mercury is in Retrograde, yet the situations simply seem to happen much more often when the Messenger is moving backwards.

The interesting thing for me was the mention of dealing with past situations before Mercury goes direct because those issues seem to keep coming up.

Hmm...what could those issues possibly be?
Image result for head scratching emoticon
found on pinterest
Maybe it could be my recurring habit to stop writing and put everything and everyone else ahead of that writing goal?

Maybe it could be my tendency to stop believing that what I've put down is perfect for that moment in time?

Maybe it could be my inability to believe that I know what I'm doing when it comes to storytelling?

Or it could be all three.

If I break it all down, those three things seem very simple and easily overcome, right?


As my friend, Claire J. Monroe, so aptly named me - one of many nicknames besides "bitch", "fucking bitch", and "rotten bitch" when she's having a particularly difficult time avoiding my pointed questions - I am "Concrete Girl".

I tend to put information into concrete and it'll take a jackhammer or two to break that block of belief up enough to see the grain of truth that was morphed into a dam to hold back my trust in myself. Funnily enough, I have no problem seeing the truth and potential in others, I simply seem blind or in denial of my own skills, talents, and abilities.

This came home to me today when I was talking with a co-worker at my day job. In the last few weeks, I've been baking treats and sharing them with the people at my work. For one lady, I baked a marble cake (made with chocolate and butter cake batters swirled together in the pans) with a chocolate/dark chocolate pudding/mousse filling and dark chocolate whipped cream icing. She loved it and raved about how good it was. Today, I brought in the Jewish Apple Cake I baked last night. Again everyone who tried it, loved it. Some even asked for the recipe, which I was actually able to recall from memory, despite not having made it in months prior to last night.

You would think I would be accepting the accolades easily. I didn't. In fact, it was as if I was disinclined to see myself as having talent when it comes to making yummy desserts and treats.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciated every compliment I received, and I said "Thank you" to each person, yet at the same time, I kept hearing in my head "You didn't do anything special. What you did was easy; simple. Anyone could do it." Which might be true...or it might not.  As I rattled off the steps necessary to make the apple cake, I started with the comment, "it was easy..." then began my explanation, one of my co-workers said, "That's not easy. That's hard."

She was also the one who told me I had yet to bring in anything that she'd tried that didn't taste delicious. Again that quiet voice, which can get so damned loud, started in with, "That's not true. You've made plenty of things that didn't taste good, she's just being nice."

It's there that I had to call "Bullshit!" Because, this lady doesn't pull her punches, and isn't afraid to speak her mind, much like my friend, Claire Jane.

She wasn't lying. She wasn't simply being nice. She was being honest.

It was in that moment that I realized, I've regressed a bit in the last two weeks. I've noticed that that nasty, negative voice is becoming my more common place internal response since I've stopped making progress on Rogue Master. I've started feeling frustrated, and angry over the littlest things.

I don't like it. I recognize it was bound to happen when I hit a bump in the road, yet, after the last few weeks of feeling positive, and upbeat, and happy, these last two weeks have been miserable. I am angry at myself for falling back into an old, bad habit, but I'm not going to wallow in that anger.

delete cute man sweet button
gif courtesy of
I'm going to take some time this weekend to reevaluate my goals, not only for my writing, but on other things. Then, I'm going to sit down and make a damned plan that makes the most sense for me and my goals. And I'm going to take a long hard look at what my characters are telling me - not just Rick and Becka, but the others that have been hanging in limbo for a while.

Wish me luck! If you have any advice about how to get the best results, please feel free to comment below.

Thanks for listening. Will talk to you later.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Week 10 Analysis of Writing Challenge

baby falling mud
gif courtesy of
Hmm, ever have one of those days? You have a good plan, then

Yeah, that's about how Week 10  ended up. And the more time that goes by, the less time I seem to be allotting to my writing the way I had before the day job resumed.

Admittedly I added more words than in Week 9 (1,842) in 75 fewer minutes, but my biggest issue has been dealing with my own mistrust of my writing.

Yup, I'm back to that old problem, which makes me think...
maybe I need to put some time in figuring out what's making me go sideways every time I make it 50% to 75% of the way through my book.

But, I'm not going to get myself side tracked with my need for therapy or alone time with my ego and self-confidence in this post, this is all about information about my progress from Week 9 to Week 10.

The good thing about Week 10 was the increase in words in less time. I did get 20 pages of edits done, 9 less than the previous week. but considering I wasn't doing much of anything, shows that I at least gave a shot to doing work that my heart really wasn't in.

And that seems to be the theme for Week 10...loss of heart in the project that should be a project of my heart. Again, this will require internal digging and dealing with issues I'm not yet ready to look at, yet, I will get to it by Saturday.

I do intend to get more editing done. I did arrange the pages to allow me to work from the end to where I left off, which should allow me to make more progress on the story. I am still determined to get Rogue Master published by New Year's Eve of 2016.

If that happens, then I'll simply have a great kick off to 2017.

Thank you for sticking with me on this journey. I do intend to get another post up on Friday - Saturday at the least.

Hope you have a great Autumnal Equinox tomorrow!

See ya soon,

Friday, September 16, 2016

Full Moon Freak Outs

Okay, I'm just dropping in to leave a note...

I'm done with humans and the world until Mercury goes direct on September 23rd, and the full moon is gone!

Really! I mean come on people, there are only so many acts of insanity a person can take before they completely lose all patience. Don't get me wrong, I freely admit I am capable of moronic maneuvers, but at least I acknowledge them. I don't act as if "oh, no, that wasn't me being an idiot" (points at an innocent bystander still trying to figure out what the hell is going on) "It was him. I swear!" *fingers crossed behind the back*

Done. Done! DONE!! I tell more communication with the outside world until I absolutely, 100%, can't be avoided, must return to the day job Monday morning around 5 a.m.

Take care, and feel free to share any perspectives on why some people can be sooo ... brain dead but still breathing.

'Til later,

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Week 9 Analysis - Is Anyone Else Hearing the Hoover?

So, I'm not even going to try to sugar coat this...Week 9 sucked worse than Week 8.

I really need to get a handle on my motivation and make sure I'm working on my book. If anyone has suggestions, I'm willing to listen. I mean, really, I'm angry at myself, yet not angry at myself, because work has been crazy stupid. You try testing 600+ Kindergarten through 8th grade students while working around their lunch, recess, and specials times. Then toss in non-communication regarding other testing that needs to be done and you have a mild view of what my days are like until late next week.

I mean, seriously...I get to work anywhere from 5:00 - 6:00 a.m., work on my sub plans, follow up with trouble shooting any tech issues that may have cropped up for others, then organize a Writer's Club, a Sewing Club, and a Tech Crew Training Club, while trying to explain to 2nd through 8th graders that "no, I don't live at the school, and no, I don't think it's fun to spend until 6 o'clock at night every night letting them hang out and write or sew in my classroom with me."

I really do like the kids I work with, there are some really great ones, but, Lordy, there are days when I'd rather crawl under the covers and hibernate until Summer Vacation rolls around again.

Okay, whiny, self-absorbed rant over...on to the real reason I'm writing this blog.

I'm not even going to spout out the numbers or the lack thereof, because I know where I fell down on the job - sitting down and working through the story. I think it was the three days of arguing with myself about whether or not I needed two scenes I'd put in the outline. My gut was telling me, no, the scenes were nothing necessary to move the story forward, while my inner editor was chewing her nails to the quick and hyperventilating over deviating from the "plan". Like I've never done that before...Hello! Did we pay any attention to how many times Mattie's and Bryce's story was rewritten?

Suffice to say, I'm giving myself just enough rope to either a) hang myself with or b) climb out of the freaked out editor hole I've created for myself.

We'll see how it goes. Considering we're 6/7ths of the way through Week 10, not sure how I'll fare.

Will get back to you this weekend to let you know how the last day went.

Thanks for sticking with me,

Friday, September 9, 2016

Week 8 Analysis

Week 8, originally the last week of the Make Writing A Habit I Can't Break Challenge, has definitely turned out to be the most difficult one yet. Stalled progress seems to have been a theme last week - Claire's work slowed to a crawl and so did mine.

In week 8, I did 1,200 fewer words and 142 fewer minutes than week 7. As you can see by the lateness of this post, I also missed a few of my - assignments - this week as well.

The good thing is I have missed writing every night and, much like Claire, I have learned a new dislike for editing. I know, I know - editing is an important and necessary part of writing, yet it is a pain in the pa-tookis to deal with the angsty crap of looking at what I've written with a critical eye and I don't do critical very well - or didn't before this challenge.

Now, despite it taking so long to get through the first ugly rough draft, I know I'll complete it and begin editing the clean rough draft. While I won't make my original hoped for deadline, I will be publishing Rogue Master and begin moving on to other stories, because, no matter how many major or minor setbacks. I've suffered over the last eight weeks, the most important thing that's come out of it is - I have made writing a habit, I can't break - and I'm happier for it.

I may have days when I don't write, or I write very little, but my feelings about my writing have changed - it's an important part of who I am and I respect myself and what I consider important too much to let it go again. I recognize there will be moments when I'll hesitate or doubt what I've written, yet I know I can make changes to anything I write. What I can't make changes to is a blank page.  I'm not afraid to walk away from one story idea if it doesn't suit  the characters or story line - because, while it might not fit one place, there's no telling that it could work better elsewhere.

These last eight weeks have been an interesting journey of self-discovery. I've learned strengths and weaknesses in myself as well as the thought processes I use when developing and writing a story. I've learned patience and objectivity (this last I'm still working on...but I'm getting better at it.) I've learned the importance of taking a step back and looking at the big picture - even if I make a move before I process through all the information - I can see where an issue is and work toward fixing it.

Main goal for week nine is completing the ugly rough draft - that's it. Nothing else. Moving forward in baby steps until I can get organized and really get to my full stride. 

If you have any questions or want to comment about my progress or lack thereof...

Feel free to leave one.

Take care,

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Week 7 Writing Challenge Analysis

It has been a long, hard week. I didn't get as much done as I'd hoped on the edits, but that's primarily because I was trying to play catch-up and get organized for the new school year. Yes, the day job does interfere on occasion.

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gif from
Which means, I have to reevaluate my time commitment during the week and make up for it on the weekends. Looking at everything I have to do, and the after school club I manage, the three hours a day is not feasible at this time. Nor is adding another hour a day for plotting/outlining new stories.

And this isn't a permanent thing, it will change as the year progresses and I get more things under control and can free up my evenings for what I love doing...writing.

I'm still very proud of myself and all I've figured out about my new writing method. I also like that I've done a phenomenal job remaining positive and objective when it comes to how I look at how I've handled this writing challenge.

I wish I could make the really cool charts that Claire Jane used for her updates (and I'll be contacting her about them soon), I'm just going to toss the information out there for you...

Time spent on edits and writing in Week 7 was 785 minutes (13 hours and 5 minutes) which was 700 minutes (11 hours and 40 minutes) less than time spent in Week 6.

All new words were exclusively written for my blog (a total of 3,274 words in 3 hours 45 minutes), and only 41 pages of the manuscript were edited in the week.

If this had been the beginning of the Making Writing A Habit I Can't Kick challenge, then I probably would be slamming myself for not getting what needed to be done done. Which makes me glad this is Week 7 and not Week 1.

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Goals definitely need to be revised, so here goes...
Writing Challenge Week 8 To Do List:

  1. Finish clean rough draft of Rogue Master:
    • edit at least 5 pages of manuscript each night - except Wednesday or
    • edit at least 2 scenes each night - except Wednesday or
    • Spend at least 1.5 hours working on editing the manuscript each night - except Wednesday
    • Spend at least 3 hours working on editing/transcribing the manuscript on Saturday and Sunday
  2. Post 2 blogs during the week:
    • 1 post will be Weekly Challenge Analysis
    • 1 post on any other writing or reading related information
  3. Spend 3 hours in the week to build projects to be worked on by:
    • Reading through old scenes to find usable ones or
    • Creating rough outlines for stories or
    • Creating a rough series outline for series stories in development or needing completion
That doesn't seem like to heavy a burden. Considering I did get both blog posts up last week, and I spent every night editing, even if I didn't reach the 20 page or 3 hours a night goals, I still spent a good amount of time writing.

Even better, I didn't put writing off. The goal of the challenge was to make writing a habit and I believe it is slowly becoming a daily habit for me.

Until later,
Have a great week!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Visual Results Register

I know, I'm a day late. No matter, this week has been a long one. First day of school and trying to get adjusted to getting up at the - how does Claire Jane refer to it? Oh, yes - butt-crack o' dawn in order to make sure I got not only what I needed done for my classroom (which I didn't, but that is what it is), but what the other teachers needed.
Big reveal of the dragon I needed to paint this week
Details below!
That's beside the point though. My big talk today is on results and how they register with me. This may also touch on how they register with others, yet my focus is on me so I can prepare myself for the analysis I have to do in the morning for Week 7 of the Make Writing a Habit I Can't Kick Challenge. And what I need to talk about is how my learning style impacts my sense of success.

Over a decade ago, I learned about a concept called Learning Styles as it was described by Dawna Markova. I'm not going into her information, just suffice to say, based on her descriptors and "testing" tool, I am a VKA (Visual-Kinesthetic-Auditory) Learner. Meaning I am a Visual - Conscious Learner. I can see the clutter around me and it is a total distraction from my clear thinking task completion ability. It also means I often measure my success based on the visual data I "see".

My "thinking" mind is my Kinesthetic - Subconscious and my Auditory - Unconscious, which both can be shut down if my Conscious mind is overwhelmed with Visual stimuli/input. When it comes to writing, I see the scenes in my head, yet I don't connect with the emotions of "feelings" in the scenes until I print the pages I write out and hand edit the documents. Which is why I tend to recycle - a lot!!

How does that relate to my need for results? It means, for the most part, my barometer of task success is directly based on the visual input I have regarding that project. My dragon became one of my "success" measuring tools.

When I posted my Week 5 & 6 Analysis on Saturday, I mentioned going to paint a dragon. That was directly connected to my teaching day job. Five years of writer's block affected me in more ways than I'd thought, as I mentioned on Saturday. Yet, I recognized that my desire for creativity had also been stifled in those five years. Perhaps that's why my dragon was such an important project, that even usurped my regular preparation plans for my classroom. And I can't be angry about it, because - I love my dragon!

It's interesting how when I began the project I knew going in it would take time, yet I didn't begrudge myself that time. Yes, It meant staying up later than I should to write and edit, and it meant actual physical pain, because my body really can't tolerate standing on a step ladder with my arms extended over my head for nearly an hour at a time. Or kneeling on a hard oak bookcase to reach areas for 20 or 30 minutes at a time. When you consider I was also running around working on lesson plans, fixing computers, distributing equipment, etc, my project should have been shelved or set aside to do in steady increments. I was very fortunate to have a wonderful teacher helping me do a lot of the work since we'll be sharing the computer lab I teach in this year.

Just like my writing I couldn't set my dragon aside for later. Not now.

I've told people this story at least a dozen times, so bear with me. When I wrote Mike's and Lyssa's story (Originally titled Midnight Masquerade after the Club party that starts the story) I sat down and wrote it over the course of perhaps two weeks. I came home from my teaching job, opened my laptop and simply poured out the scenes as they came to me. Then I put them together and set the book aside. It sat for a few months, if I remember correctly, before I pulled it out and read it. And hated it. Of the 68,000 words, I kept about 10,000, then proceeded to completely rewrite the story. When I turned it into my publisher, it was 74,000 words and stronger for the gutting.

In my first round of edits I added another 20,000 words to the manuscript even after I removed the first three chapters. By the time it went to print (ebook really) it was 96,000+ words.

How does this connect back to my need for Visual Results? That first manuscript was a success to me because it was complete - in my mind at 68,000 words. Then, when I kinesthetically connected to it by reading the hard copy, I realized I'd written the story incorrectly. While I panicked a bit after taking out so many pages, I felt a huge sense of relief when I realized I added even more to the story after my first rewrite.

Admittedly this was nearly 6 years ago, and I've learned a lot since then, yet that visual measuring tool still helps me feel positive about myself and my progress on any project. And painting my dragon, gave me the sense of accomplishment and success I wanted and needed going into the beginning of the school year. I not only painted the dragon, but the teacher helping me finished off the borders around the two 3 feet by 6 feet dry erase walls we created.

This is the wall directly behind my desk.
Like my writing, I now do my planning ahead of time. For writing, I use the Down 'N' Dirty Plotting System Claire Jane developed and I teach (have a class this September online with HCRW if your interested.)

For my dragon project I started with the blank wall behind my desk and the idea of the picture I wanted to paint. After taping off the lowest section of the wall I wanted to paint to, I lightly sanded the surface and wiped it clean with a lint-free cloth so the latex interior paint would stick better.

After gaining permission from my supervisors on Thursday, I did this with the intention of returning to the school after a Friday meeting 90 miles away. I didn't make it in on Friday night.

Friday night, I looked for the perfect image of a dragon with a computer to replace the original dragon in the picture I'd shown my supervisors (the original was much scarier). I arrived at the school about 20 minutes after I posted my Saturday blog (around 7:30 a.m. EST, I believe). I increased the dimensions of the dragon, the castle in the background, but not the tree, and pieced the three items together.

One of the whiteboard walls measured and taped for the border
Knowing I'd need to take time from painting the dragon to allow the paint to dry a bit, I prepped the whiteboards for their borders. I measured 4 inches from the edge of the white board painted area, taped it off then sanded and wiped it clean just like I'd done my dragon wall. Since the borders wouldn't take as long as the dragon, I painted the first coat so it would have time to dry a bit while I was working on my dragon.

Then, using a document camera and LCD Projector, I carefully copied the outline from the picture. And started to paint. First the grass.
I forgot to get a picture just of the outline.
Then the leaves of the tree, followed by the tree trunk, then the computer and the castle. The dragon body, followed by his wings, his underbelly, tongue and nostril. I polished him off with his blue eye and the gray pupil.
Final version when I went home Saturday night

The fun part of the painting was the fact that I had to mix all the paints to make the different colors. The only colors I had going in were red, dark blue, black, purple, yellow, and white.

So I mixed the blue and yellow for the large part of the grass, then I added more yellow for the leaves of the tree (which I regretted not having saved the original you can seen in the way I filled the edges of the painting) then even more to give a little more texture to the tree. I got the brown of the tree trunk by adding some red to the leaves-green (in a separate container, thank goodness). The orange of the underbelly was made with the red and yellow. The gray of the castle and computer was from the mixing of black and white. The sky was from dark blue and white. The rosy color of the horns and claws came from mixing some of the orange with purple and black.

white around the whiteboard
Between the layers of the dragon, I added a second layer of white to the whiteboard borders (although the white wasn't exactly white). Once both boards were done and I had my dragon done, I finally went home a little before 5 in the evening. I'd even forgotten to eat lunch, so food was a top priority.

dry brushed border
On Sunday, I slept late and didn't get to the school until after 9 in the morning. I worked on the whiteboards while I tried to figure out what was bothering me about the dragon wall (here was my Visual Conscious "pinging" that something wasn't quite right.)
Using the left over brown, I did a dry brush technique (use a little bit of paint then drag a dry paint brush through it to create texture) over the white border around the whiteboard.

much better :)
By that time, I finally realized I didn't like the white space around my dragon. I tried adding more blue to the leaves-green, but didn't get quite the color I wanted. I used that color to fill in the grassy area, then daubed a bit in the tree to add layers.

Each layer had to dry for 24 hours before I could put anything on top of it. So, again I had to wait for it to dry. While I waited, I cleaned up the brushes and washed out the paint containers I'd used that I wouldn't need any more. Then, I went home and worked on my editing, like a good little writer should.

Almost there!
Monday morning I was in the building by 5 a.m. to get the words written and painted on the wall. Using the projector and document camera, I outlined the words then realized I didn't really have a brush narrow enough to fill in the letters and the detail lines. While waiting to talk to someone about the best brush to use to do the detail outlines to give the painting depth, I texted the teacher sharing my room to ask if she wanted her whiteboard to have a brown border. She said yes, so I used up the brown and cleaned up my brushes and the paint container of brown. By 8 in the morning I was bored and decided to go out to the paint warehouse store and pick up some brushes myself. Of course they didn't work the way I wanted, but I was able to get the majority of the details done without ruining my dragon, and the letters filled in.

paw prints added
Next to be done were the paw prints for the borders. Since my border was done, after the other teacher and I agreed on a style, I made a template and had to adjust the size what seemed like a dozen times before they finally fit. She did the painting of the paw prints, then we worked on what we needed to for the day (by this time it was nearly 4 p.m. and time to go).

Another early morning for me on Tuesday, but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and the other people who'd come into my classroom were amazed at how neat my dragon was and the whiteboard walls. Before anyone else arrived, I traced the paw prints around the other teacher's board then started in on the fine outlining of the letters on my dragon wall. By the time I had to leave for an appointment at 11 a.m. I only had about five words left to outline...and my knees were killing me. After a quick lunch, I finished the words and my wall was done! The other teacher had painted the paw prints around her board, outlined the paw prints on my board, and went back to outline the prints on her board being careful of the paint even though it had been drying for several hours.
All done - whew!!
Every step of the way through this dragon wall, I used visual cues to determine if I was finished or needed to do more - add more.

It's the same with my writing. The word count gives me a feeling of success and that I'm doing the right thing. If I don't have word count to go by, then pages edited helps give me that positive pick-me-up. 

It's what keeps me going through the pain, and the exhaustion, and the anxiety that inevitably crops up. And - while I might not meet my deadlines every time - I will meet my goals.

Until tomorrow or Sunday,
Have a great day!!