Starting a New Story

writing spaceAt the end of last year, I was feeling frustrated by my novel, again. I promised myself that if I could push through to the end of the year, then starting January 1, I would start drafting this new idea I’ve been outlining.

I was excited to make the shift, I really was. But I slept in on the first, then it was the weekend, so I didn’t really get started until a week or so into the new year. And once I did actually get started, I struggled. If you follow the blog, you know I have a goal of 500 words a morning, six mornings a week. I get up at 5am and sometimes I’m done super quick. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth.

The first half of January was like pulling teeth.

My theory is that it’s just been a really long time since I started something new. I just couldn’t hit a stride with it. Then I started oversleeping, missing precious writing time. At one point, I even seriously considered giving up. I told my husband that I was just too tired. Getting up early every day is hard.

He gave me a little pep talk and reminded me that I love writing. That hour and half of fiction writing every morning is what keep me grounded in the fact that I’m not just some hack working in marketing. I am a writer. And so I must write.

Of course, that doesn’t make getting up so early any easier. So I’m bribing myself. Starting this morning, if I can hit my goal of six mornings a week for four straight weeks, I will reward myself with an afternoon at a spa and a massage. Over sleeping is allowed (because honestly it happens some times) as long as I hit my 500 word goal every morning.

I love a good massage. And a good challenge. Hopefully this will help me rebuild the habit and make it easier for me to keep my regular writing time intact. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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The Adventures of a Helicopter Pilot

Dad with book
Due to the timing of a number of factors, not the least of which was that damn broken wrist, I completely forgot to tell you all about my dad’s book!

The Adventures of a Helicopter Pilot is my dad’s memoir about flying H-34s for the Marines in Vietnam. His job was particularly scary, as he would fly into the middle of active zones to did emergency medical evacuations. He took a lot of fire, lost a lot of friends.

When it finally came time to publish, he asked me write a blurb for him. Here’s what I put together:

Thoughtful, funny, and full of death-defying escapades, “Adventures of a Helicopter Pilot” is a treasure trove of stories. Bill’s writing captures the feeling of sitting around a campfire with cold beer and old friends. The perspective and humility he brings to the narrative are those of a once brazen young man who has lived to tell the tales. A great read.

ADventures coverThis book is particularly moving to me as his daughter. In the time since the war, so many vets have committed suicide. My dad had his struggles too. For years. Should you ever meet him, you will be surprised what an easy-going, sweet and thoughtful guy he is, but I remember a man from my childhood who was deeply troubled. Thankfully, he finally got help. My step mom had a lot to do with that. She encouraged him to get therapy, which he did, and I truly believe it saved his life. And now, for him to finally finish this memoir and send it out into the world, it just feels like he was finally able to wrap up that part of his life.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon. It makes a great gift, too, if you have any military pilots on your list. He’s been doing book tours all over the west, and is a big supporter of vet associations (as you might imagine). You can always reach out to him for more info. You can find him on Facebook.

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Why I Love Instagram

notebookAs I mentioned in my last post, my one goal for 2015 is to start actively taking notes about the world around me. As writers, the one thing we must be is observant, and I think the practice of actively looking and (most importantly) taking notes is critical.

So I found myself a lovely little notebook that fits easily in my purse, and I’ve taken a note on SOMETHING almost everyday. Like everything else in life, I find that the more I do it, the easier it gets – the more I begin to notice things that I need to jot down. It reminds me of the reason I love Instagram.

I’m a social media dabbler. I have a Facebook page, and I sometimes tweet, but my favorite platform by far is Instagram. My love for it developed pretty quickly when I found myself looking for beauty, everywhere I went. I still take the obligatory head-on shots of the kiddos posing arm in arm, but I dig a little deeper when I start to think about how something might look with an interesting filter. I’ll try a different angle, wait patiently for an unusual shot, or set up something in the background to give it depth. And I’m a novice compared to a lot of Instagramers. Truth be told, the results are fun, but it’s the frame of mind that I love the most.

It’s like a much simpler form of my writer’s notebook, which works the same way, insofar as it pushes me to consider things, to look more closely, to try to find the story, but with Instagram, once I’m done, I tap a button and share the moment with my friends. Honestly, I wish all of my friends were on Instagram. It’s the best.

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Writing Goals for 2015

xmas walk
I am so excited for 2015, mostly because 2014 sucked – culminating in a broken wrist that had me out of commission for almost a month. Well, out of commission is relative. The truth is, I already had a week of vacation time planned for Christmas, so I was able to rest the hand and not type, but there were cookies to bake and ornaments to make. My whole family rented a house on the coast in Oregon so we could spend the week together – the photo above is from a walk we took on Christmas morning, during a break in the rain. It was so beautiful.

We didn’t do much for New Years Eve. I had to work, and it’s impossible to get a babysitter, so really, Christmas week was the big deal this year. I’m hoping it marks a turning point, away from the sucky suckness that was 2014 and into the wonderful world of 2015, gravid with potential.

I usually do resolutions, but this year I’m lowering expectations. I have only one goal for this year and it is to revive my writer’s notebook. I used to be so good about jotting down ideas and observations. Any line I stood in was an opportunity for a character study. I wrote about the way light hit different scenes and the nuances of unusual smells. Anything. It’s been years since I did this on a daily basis, and I truly believe it is critical for a writer. So that is my one resolution.

Of course, I also hope to finish “The Feathered Tale of Tallulah Jones” and finally start sending it off to agents. In my wildest dreams I also complete a rough draft of the new novel, the one I have all outlined. Then there’s the blog. All while working full time, raising two kids, and you know, spending the occasional bit of time with my guy.

As usual, I am overcommitting.

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My Broken Wrist

castThere are not a lot of injuries that can take a writer out of commission. Broken ribs, cracked femurs, severed toes – I’m not saying I want any of these troubles, but the truth is, a broken wrist/hand/finger is particularly frustrating to me as a writer because I need to write. It’s how I make my living.

So you can imagine I’m pretty upset to report (with the most un-fun one-handed typing I’ve ever struggled through) that I fell last week and broke my wrist. Honestly, I have a lot to say on the topic, but every freaking word is a labor of love at this point.

The doc predicts I should have the cast off by Christmas, which isn’t so bad. I’m going to take a pass on blogging for the time being, and focus on work, as I can only type so much before it really starts to ache.

Grumble, grumble…

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A New Look for My Blog

So long MojaveLovely readers, it’s been too long.

About a year ago, I posted that I was feeling overwhelmed and that something had to go, to make space for my top two loves (family and fiction) as well as work (boo).

Since that last post, I’ve found myself writing blog posts in my head. Very clever little things, believe me, you would have loved them, but the point is not all the wonderful blog posts I never wrote. The point is that I was missing my blog.

So I am very pleased to announce, here in this post, that it’s BACK!

Yeah!

I have redesigned it, as you can see. No more desert images. I still love the desert, but I am working on a new project, one more broadly based in California, and I wanted a design that wasn’t as locked into a theme.

And as for what I’ve been writing, it’s been an interesting year. I spent the first six months of 2014 outlining a new project. I’m very excited about it. It’s about parenthood, and love, and what it means to grow older. It took me six months to outline it because I did three rounds. At this point the outline is over 50 pages long, but then, in June, I had to set it aside and come back to Tallulah Jones.

I just couldn’t stand that I had abandoned my first novel, so close to the finish line. Taking six months away from it allowed some much needed breathing room, and I’m so I’m back to it again. It is getting close, but wasn’t quite as close as I thought. I am giving it my full attention (that is to say, this is what I’m working on from 5:00 to 6:30 every morning), but I’m getting sick of it again and I find I’m just itching to dive into writing the new project.

As a compromise, I am taking the next couple of weeks to continue working on it, but as of January 1, I am setting it aside again to start drafting the new novel.

I’m finding that I rather like having two larger projects in the works. It feels like I have options.

So that’s that haps. It’s good to be back.

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Ruthless Me

I had a nightmare the other night that I had shaved my head. It wasn’t the baldness that upset me so much, in fact, in the dream it felt like a great burden had been lifted.

The thing that bothered me was that I botched the job. I missed whole sections. Weird bits of hair were sticking out, some of it was really long and it kept falling in my face as the dream continued on.

It was an oddly upsetting dream.

The more I thought about it, the more I came to understand it as a metaphor for my botched attempts to simplify my life. I keep saying I need to do it, and then I keep taking on new projects.

So I’ve decided to get a little ruthless. I’m cutting, delegating, and even (gasp) asking for help. However, there are a few things that cannot go. I will not give up my fiction (5am to 6:30am is ME time). I can’t quit my job. And my family is just effing awesome, so they get to stay. With all those things accounted for, I have an hour or two left each week.

Historically, that time has gone to social media and my blog, but as it turns out, there are other things that also need to get done. Grocery shopping, folding laundry, packing lunches. My guy and I have a pretty fair split of the chores, but there’s a lot to be done, and I’m just feeling completely worn out.

So the blog is getting the boot, at least temporarily. The dream is to some day have time to do it all, but until that time comes I have to prioritize. So please head on over to my Facebook page and “Like” it. I post a weekly nerd word and the occasional, writer related snippet, and when the time comes to get the blog up and running again, my Facebook friends will be the first to know.

I really appreciate all the support I get from my blog readers. Thank you so much.

Until we meet again…

Love, April

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Writing Through the Holidays

Every year the holidays seem to come faster. That is, the days zip past a little quicker, and it’s harder to find time for all the important things like building gingerbread houses, visiting Santa, and yes, continuing to work on the novel. The whole getting-up-at-5am thing is also a little harder, as I tend to drink more. For instance, we had our company holiday party last night. It was fun, and I overslept this morning.

I’m still managing to get up about 4 mornings a week, so I’m still drafting about 2,000 words a week. It’s progress, but it’s slow. I’m really looking forward to January when things calm down a bit. I’ve also set aside the first weekend on January to do another of my own little personal writing retreats. I’m booking a cheap hotel room for Friday and Saturday nights out in the desert. The last time I did this I was able to finish a draft, and since I’m pretty close to finishing the draft I’m working on now, I’m hoping I can use the time to do it again.

I am also saving up my days off just on the off chance that I am accepted to the Hedgebrook Residency program for 2014. We’re supposed to find out before the end of this month. If I’m going I will need two weeks vacation time. I only get the 25th off, and Christmas falls on a damn Wednesday, so it doesn’t feel like much of a holiday, but I don’t want to take any days off, because I might need them. I’m a little conflicted about it. I hope we find out soon – if I’m not going, I likely will take the 24th off, as I would really like to spend it with my kiddos.

Anyhow – that’s the haps. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear from Hedgebrook.

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We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

It took me most of last week to recover from the fabulous ordeal of the Tough Mudder. I thought I was fine on Monday, but the tired just clung to me like a toddler that doesn’t want to take a bath. On Saturday night I bailed on Daniel (we had plans to go hear some music) and fell asleep at 8:30.

Of course, as soon as I started feeling well rested our girl got the stomach flu, so we were up all night holding her hair back, then Daniel got it too. Then we got a flat tire. Then the battery died on the other car. And all that seemed suddenly like small potatoes against the fact that my mother-in-law went in for emergency surgery tonight when her appendix threatened to burst and kill her. Sweet Jesus what will tomorrow bring?

I’m happy, no thrilled, to report that we just got the word that my mother-in-law is now out of surgery and is doing fine.

And as there is currently nobody vomiting in our house, I say things are looking up.

As for the writing, I am back at it, every morning, sticking to my 500 words per day. I’m still optimistic that I can finish the draft by the end of the year, and I’m very excited to say that a recent discovery has changed the entire up-at-5-am thing: my coffee machine has an automatic timer. Hazaaa! These mornings, when I stumble up the stairs, the coffee is already brewed. It is hot, and fresh, and so perfect that the thought of it actually helps motivate me out of bed.

Hey, in times like these you take pleasure in the little things.

Here’s hoping tomorrow is a better day. I know, at the very least, there will be coffee in the morning.

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Who’s A Tough Mudder?

I am – Oorah!

We did it. Alex and I ran (and walked) the whole damn thing and finished every obstacle. In terms of painful but gratifying things I’ve done in my life it ranks third after giving birth to my two kick-ass kiddos. Here’s our before and after shots. When Daniel saw that bottom one on the right he said: “I’ve never seen you look that out of it… while sober.”

Tough Mudder

It took us about 4 hours, which I’m pretty happy about, as I’ve never run 10 miles in my life. Of course, we didn’t run the whole thing because the course went up and down hills (and I do mean straight up and straight down), but we ran a lot of it.

There were some things that were as I thought they would be: the Arctic Enema was awful – full stop, running on the trails was tricky – people were dropping like flies from twisted ankles and horrific cramps, walking the plank was really fun, and trudging through a quarter mile of knee-deep mud at mile 9 was murder on already exhausted muscles.

Then there were the things I did not expect.

1. The first thing that surprised me was how well run the whole Tough Mudder event was. They had water stations every two miles (with snacks like bananas or cliff bars, which totally kept me going), and life guards at any obstacle with water. The lines at the obstacles were generally pretty short and moved quickly, and at the end, after you run through the live wires, they force water on you – over and over, as you stumble toward your free beer.

2. That leads me to that last obstacle – the Electroshock Therapy. This is their signature obstacle, and I wasn’t fool enough to think it would be easy, but it was fucking terrible. It might not have been so bad, except my shoe got caught in the mud and I fell hard, catching a live wire in my left ear as I went down. I don’t know how much voltage I took to the side of my head, but it hurt enough that for a few seconds there all I could do was press myself into the muck and think “just stay down.” I laid there, hoping nobody would fall on top of me, caught my breath, then very carefully stood up between the wires. I found my footing and charged through to the end – only another 30 feet really, and I think I took another hit of electricity, or two, to my legs, but I made it. They put that orange head band on me but I couldn’t stop walking. I think maybe I was in shock. They forced a few cups of water into my hands. I drank them, and asked Alex to make sure my head wasn’t bleeding. My ear was numb, but my whole head hurt so much I couldn’t tell if I was injured or not. It was the only time in the whole race that I fought tears. If it hadn’t been the last obstacle I might have been able to run it off and not think about it, but then again, if it hadn’t been the last obstacle, I might have quit and not finished. I pushed forward to find my beer.

3. Given the advertising of the event, I had been a little intimidated by all the testosterone, but I am very happy to report that there are actually lots of women who ran with us. I would guess 40%. And there was a wide age range too, I would peg the average around 35. And I only saw one or two folks go around an obstacle over the course of the entire race. People were in it for the challenge, which was cool.

4. The electric eel wasn’t so bad, but the monkey bars kicked my ass (I fell off after the third rung- it was greased I swear – and had to swim the rest of the way). Also, I thought the cage crawl would be easy, since I am totally comfortable in the water, but once I dunked and came up under the chain link I had to seriously fight back a panic response that came out of nowhere. All I could do was focus on moving my breath in and out while I climbed ahead. Way freakier than I expected.

5. It was a ton of fun. I mean, I wouldn’t have signed up for it if I didn’t think it would be at least kind of fun, but I think it was the challenge that attracted me. Now that I know how much fun it is, I will totally go back (though until my head stops hurting I reserve the right to go around the final obstacle – yes, my head still hurts 30 hours later).

So that’s that. If you’re thinking of doing one yourself, here’s what I learned:

1. Train on hills. Seriously. I was running five miles easy leading up to the event, but the hills killed me.

2. Start hydrating two days before.

3. Cotton socks are death around mile 8, they bunch up and just hold mud in clumps. Also, I wish I had worn some trail running shoes.

4. You will need help. Don’t be afraid to ask, it’s part of the fun. Be sure to return the favor when you can.

5. Don’t worry about carrying water. The hydration stands are well stocked.

Alex is already pushing to do another in February. I’m waiting for my head to stop hurting before I commit to a date. I’m thinking maybe a half marathon is next… I mean really, it’s only three more miles, and there’s no electricity involved. How hard could it be?

I’m giving myself one more day to sleep in and recoup, then it’s back to my regular schedule of getting up early to write. It’s been quite an adventure.

Ohhrah!

 

 

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