Tag Archives: vacation

Personal Update

I thought that today I would share a few things about myself. But first, an update on my writing.

My Tesla story is finished. It kind of sucks, but it’s done. The basic plot is a man who is visited by aliens from Venus. They tell him that they destroyed their own world with pollution and the greed of a few, and had to leave the solar system. But they kept an eye on Earth and have returned to keep it from happening to us. Their first attempt was with Tesla, but since he failed they are trying again with our hero. That was Story #28 of my Dirty Little Freaks collection. I updated my count meter, but there seems to be something wrong with it and it isn’t displaying the correct count.

Also, I’m up to 48 days in my writing chain on the Magic Spreadsheet. Things are going well, and this week I have decided to write a story in the format of a daily diary of someone who is an essential prisoner. She gets daily assignments, but once her task has been completed she can do whatever she wants with her time. Except leave.

Okay, now for the personal stuff. I have been on vacation this past week, celebrating my anniversary with my beautiful wife. I always take the week off for my anniversary, and this year it was actually a little more than a week, as I decided to take the 5th of July off as well. So my vacation started on July 4 and is over today, July 14. A nice, long, ten-day vacation.

We didn’t go anywhere for my vacation. I would have liked to have gone up to Wisconsin Dells for a day, but unfortunately we couldn’t afford it. Our car was on its last legs, with brakes that were hanging on by a thread, so we spent all of our meager savings and then some on taking it to a mechanic. He’s a really nice guy and he gave us a deal, but it still cost $886 to do the work that had to be done. There’s still a lot of work left to do on the car, since the exhaust is essentially gone, but we simply don’t have the money for it, so it will have to wait while we rebuild our savings. The important thing, though, is that I can now drive down the street without worrying about whether or not I will be able to stop.

We also did some cleaning over the last few days. We have recently decided to eliminate some of the clutter in our lives, so I started digging into the piles of boxes in our storage room and made some hard choices about what to keep and what should get kicked to the curb. A lot of what I threw away was old papers and magazines, but I also have a large stash of computer books and games that I no longer use. My plan is to take them to Half-Price Books so they can dispose of them for me. Many of them are so old that I doubt anyone will want them, but you never know. The important thing is that they won’t be taking up space in my house any more.

That’s all that I have time for today. I’ll be back next Sunday to let you know how my latest story came out. Until then, have a great week and keep writing!

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A Little Personal Time

Today I thought I would share a few things about my life recently. You know, just to keep you guys up to speed.

I just got a new bike. I was hoping to fix up my old one, which would have cost about $300, but the mechanic found a crack in the frame, which meant that instead I had to get a new one. The bike shop gave me a deal, since the old frame was out of warranty, but still, the new bike cost me $650. I can’t really complain, though. I got about eight years of use out of the old bike, putting over 10,000 miles on it over the years. It had a good run.

I’m looking forward to riding again. I had to stop riding my old bike because it was completely worn out. The chain was so stretched out that I probably could have taken at least two links out of it. The gears were so worn out that I was essentially down to a single speed from the eighteen I started with. And I had to keep my back fender on with wire ties, because the screw fell out and I didn’t have a spare. I have been trying to scrape the money together for an overhaul for the last two years, and was finally able to do it when I got a bonus at work.

It’s too bad that I had to spend the whole bonus on a new bike, but at least I’ll be able to ride again. The new bike is pretty awesome, with disc brakes and twenty-four speeds. I’m looking forward to getting it out on the roads and trails and seeing what it can do. I also really need the exercise.

My next news is that I just finished reading Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion. Yeah, it’s the book that the movie was based on. And yes, the movie and the book are very much alike: OUTSTANDING!!! You should definitely go see the movie, and you should also read the book. I’ll leave the order up to you. If you are following me on Goodreads, you will see that I said the book is “worth adding to your go-bag for the next zombie apocalypse.”

And if you aren’t following me on Goodreads, WHY NOT?!

And lastly, my lovely wife of over fifteen years is having a birthday on Friday, so I am taking a few days off of work to spend time with her. Happy birthday sweetie!

That’s it for today. I need to get some writing done now. I hope to see you guys back here on Sunday!

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I Need a Vacation

And for the next two weeks, I’ve got one.

Don’t get excited. It’s not like I’m going anywhere. It’s just that I will be able to stay home with my lovely wife and take some me time to do whatever I want.

And clean.

Seriously, my house is still a wreck from Halloween, when they came in to spray for bedbugs. With NaNoWriMo I haven’t had a chance to go through all the boxes that we had to pack in order for them to spray, and they are still scattered around the house waiting for us to deal with them.

I didn’t get out to see the Hobbit yesterday as I had planned, but I am hoping to go tomorrow. And of course it will be in IMAX 3D, just because I’m a nerd.

That’s all for today. I promised I wouldn’t go all dark on this post, and despite what happened in Connecticut (my birthplace), I’m going to keep that promise.

Love ya! Happy Holidays!

See you on Wednesday.

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Getting Back Up to Speed

Sometimes things come up that might keep you from writing. Other times you might just need to take a break. In either case, getting back in the flow can be a scary proposition, and the longer you wait before you return to the chair, the harder it gets.

In my case, I took a long break from writing earlier this year, and just resumed writing on July 1. It was hard, but I knew that I needed to do it and I thought I was ready.

Then I sat down, and man, was it tough.

The last time I wrote anything, the words flowed easily, and it was no big deal getting over 1000 words in a day. Now, however, it can be difficult to manage 250. But I’m trying!

When I started writing again on the first of the month, I promised myself I would try to do at least some writing every day. I wasn’t concerned about how much it was going to be, but I did want to have the book finished by the end of September and Round 3. I managed to keep that promise for the first week, but I fell off the wagon when I took my vacation last week. Making the decision to rewrite the first chapter made things even worse, and the end result is that after almost three weeks I only have 8100 words down. Somehow, I need to write another 12,000 words by the end of the month in order to stay on track. That’s going to be tough, requiring that I write about 1000 words per day. And my latest efforts have come up short for that goal.

So that’s the bad news. The good news is that I still think I can do it. I’m pretty confident that the more I write, the easier it will be to get my butt in the chair and get the words on the page. It may be tough, but I’ve completed NaNoWriMo twice now, so I think it’s something that I can accomplish.

How about you? Have you ever struggled to get back in the habit of writing after taking a break? Do you have any tips for me on how to meet my goals? I would love to hear from you.

All right, that’s all for the day. Time to start working on my book instead of this blog. I’ll check in again on Sunday, so come back then and I’ll fill you in on how my rewrite went and what the next stages are for my book.

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Vacation/Research

I didn’t get a lot of writing done in the last few days (almost none, in fact). The reason for this lack of butt in chair is that I was on vacation with my wife. We traveled to Door County, Wisconsin. It is a well-known tourist spot for Wisconsinites, and although we have lived in Wisconsin for decades (me about 25 years, she her entire life), neither of us has ever been there. So we decided to rectify that omission this week in celebration of our 15th anniversary.

It was a long trip north from Madison. Almost a four-hour drive, so we left before 8:00 AM. It wasn’t easy for our little car, but we took it easy and our GPS kept us mostly heading in the right direction. I thought that we were going to have trouble finding WiFi access while we were up there, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it almost everywhere, including the little B&B we stayed in. It is called the Cornerstone Suites, and is a converted barn.

They have four suites available. We stayed in the Garden Suite. It was fabulous, and I would definitely recommend it. We would have loved to stay longer, but unfortunately we couldn’t afford it this year. But it will definitely be top on our list when we go back.

Our anniversary wasn’t the only reason we decided to go to Door County this year. The other reason we went is because I wanted to do some research for the Valkyrie book I wrote last fall. I set the story in Door County and I wanted to check out some of the places in person that I had written about earlier. I also wanted to take some pictures that I could potentially use for a book cover. I think I was successful in both endeavors.

We started by going to Cave Point County Park. This is the place that I wanted to use for my book cover. The shoreline is very rocky, and the waves from the lake have work caves into the shore. It’s really cool, and I took a lot of pictures like these:

     

     

          

Next on my list of things to do was visit Washington Island. It is a large island just off the north tip of the mainland. It is accessible by ferry, and we caught the last one of the day. The Island Clipper took us through the infamous Death’s Door channel and we landed on the island at about 4:45 PM. That only gave us fifteen minutes to explore, but that was okay with me. I was mainly interested in the boat ride and not the island. Once again, my camera was busy on the trip over, and I got shots like these:

                         

After the ferry, my wife and I were pretty worn out. We stopped at a farm market and picked up some of the cherry goods that Door County is famous for. Then we found a nice Italian restaurant to celebrate our anniversary. The waiter joked that the food was excellent but the service left something to be desired. I won’t mention the name of the place, because when we left we were agreeing with him. The food was great, but our waiter was a bit slow. He was very accommodating, and brought us everything we wanted, including some non-alcoholic cherry spumante, which was really good. But they charged fifteen dollars a bottle for something that we could have bought in the store for six. The total bill (including tip) was $120, which is a lot of money for dinner for two. I’m sorry to say we probably will never go back again.

The next morning we had to check out by 11:00 AM, so we didn’t do much, just laid in bed and read a little before breakfast. We went to a little cafe which had excellent, but simple fare. My wife had cherry pancakes, which had whole cherries baked into them, while I had a nice ham and cheese omelet. Then we went back to the B&B, packed our suitcase, and left for home. We stopped at the Door County Maritime Museum on the way back. I was hoping to find something about the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, but was told that they had that exhibit last year. This year the star attraction was about pirates.

I did manage to learn some cool things though, and it was worth the stop. We probably should have spent more time tooling around town, but my wife wanted to get home to her animals, so we didn’t stick around. The only stop we made on the way back was at a Subway for lunch, and we made it back before 4:00 PM.

The rest of the day on Friday and all day Saturday we mostly spent in recovery mode. We read our books and watched a couple of movies. In short, we just enjoyed being home together. That’s got to be the best way to end a vacation, in my humble opinion.

So I managed to get lots of pictures, and the places and things I saw up north were definitely worth the trip. It gave me a few ideas for some revisions in the book that I will be pondering over for a while.

Speaking of edits, I am still working on the revisions for the first chapter of my current YA project. Even though I did almost zero writing for the last few days, I think the time off helped me to gel some of the ideas in my subconscious, and the next draft should end up to be that much better for it.

I’ll be checking in again on Wednesday. I hope to have the revisions done by then and maybe be finished with Chapter Two. See you then!

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Premature Editing

I seem to have a problem. As I have been writing the first draft, I have been feeling less than satisfied with the work that I have done so far. I showed the first couple thousand words to my writer’s group, and they agreed that it isn’t working. So the dilemma is, should I start rewriting it now, before it gets worse, or push on until I finish my first draft?

Most writers will tell you that doing major edits before you finish the first draft is a good way to make sure you NEVER finish the first draft. Most of the time, I would agree. But my writing group has pointed out a couple of big problems with the start of my book, and I am wondering if the edits needed for my story would be a good exception to that rule. So I’m thinking about holding off on further work until I redo the opening.

Here’s the scoop for the first problem: I wrote a short prologue, which described how a comet smashed into an alien planet, knocking a piece loose, which then traveled through space until it came to Earth, where it started irradiating the food in a remote cabin. My group felt that the perspective was confusing, as I first described the comet, then told how it smashed into the planet, then described the rock breaking loose and drifting through space, and finally how the rock landed next to the cabin.

While I was writing it, I thought it was a nice little cycle, showing first one cosmic collision, and then another. I wanted to be clear how a piece of another world was the cause of the super powers that I was going to give the kids. My writing group understood that part, but they thought that the backstory of the rock was probably a bit too much. They suggested I focus solely on the rock and forget about how it was set in motion by a comet hitting its home planet. I think they might be right, and I don’t really need the prologue at all, so I’ll have to think about what I’m going to do about this.

This is something that doesn’t NEED to be rewritten right now.

The second problem is this: I’m writing the book in third person, but I thought that it would be nice to go deep into the characters as I wrote the opening, telling the story from each of their perspectives in turn. I thought that would be a good way to get into their heads, and while technically it was still third person, it was practically the same as being in first person, with the exception of the pronouns.

That was a mistake. I opened from the point of view of one of the boys, and the whole scene was about him. None of the other characters were introduced at all. In short, the entire scene could probably be cut.

Another problem with that scene is that the boy in question is supposed to be aggressive, with serious anger management issues, and while I alluded to that somewhat in his scene, the next scene where he interacted with the second boy made him seem more of a nice, friendly boy, with none of the aggression that I wanted him to have. The story would be more interesting if there was some kind of conflict, like perhaps between the two boys. The problem with making them enemies is that eventually they need to work past their differences and work together as a team. And that might be a bit too much conflict for the kind of book I want to write.

So here’s the scoop. I really think I need to rewrite the first chapter. I can change to a true third person perspective and drop the individual character viewpoints. I can add more conflict, either between the boys, or another option is to have the angry boy defend the other boy for some reason. That would insert some conflict while also giving them a reason to be friends. And I want the first day at camp to end with the four main characters starting to build a friendship that will solidify into a team later on.

This is something that I think really HAS to be done. If I don’t, the personalities of the kids and their relationships won’t be adequately defined for the later scenes. And that would just mean more problems that would have to be edited later.

What do you think? Is this something that I should allow myself to do? Or should I push on and try to keep the future editing choices in the back of my head as I finish my first draft? Please leave me a comment with your thoughts.

I’ll heading north for a short vacation in Door County for the next couple of days, which means I probably won’t get much writing done for the rest of the week. However, I will be checking out some of the sites I used in my last novel, taking lots of pictures and getting a personal look at the places I wrote about. I’m hoping that will help me when I start rewriting that book later on.

See you on Sunday!

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It’s Starting to Look Like an Outline

Even though I gave up on my outline plan early on, I haven’t given up on outlining. The work I did on the brainstorming and working out some of the details really helped me get a handle on the story I want to tell. I also now have an idea about the kids, the camp, and the source of their powers. I still need to work on the killer, and some details about where the main action is taking place, but at least I have a complete story, with a beginning, middle, and end.

I decided that the powers are going to come from cosmic radiation infecting the MREs. The radiation will come from a meteorite found by one of the camp counselors. I’m thinking of introducing this using a prologue showing the counselor finding the rock and putting it in the cupboard. I’m toying with the idea of having something happen to the counselor, but I haven’t decided yet how that will go.

I have also been thinking about the camp and its counselors in another way. My original plan was to drop the kids in the middle of the woods after a tornado and having them have to deal with being alone, injured, and far from home. Then I started thinking about the possibility of using one of the camp counselors as the killer, to bring the murders a little bit closer to home. The problem with that idea is that I don’t want to disparage the good work that camps like this actually do. I have the utmost respect for the people who work with troubled teens in an effort to get them back on track, and if I make one of the counselors the killer that could get a bad reaction from the people involved in those efforts. On the other hand, maybe there are people out there involved in these types of programs when they shouldn’t be. It’s kind of like the problem with the Catholic priests abusing the altar boys. 99% of the priests may have been fine people who wouldn’t even think of doing something like that. But the problem continued for years because nobody wanted to say anything against the church so that they could do something about that 1% who were ruining the lives of those young boys. I think it might make the story more powerful, and certainly make it harder for the kids to bring the killer to justice if it was one of the counselors. It would also open up the story to allow me to bring in some of the other counselors to show the good work they do.

It’s a conundrum. If I go with that plan, the storm would still happen, but the kids won’t be swept away in a tornado. Instead, they could be isolated on a backpacking or canoeing trip, along with the killer counselor and maybe one other adult. The killer might bring them to the cabin where he has been killing his victims simply to provide shelter from the storm, and then have to cover his tracks later when the kids start finding the bodies. I’m still trying to decide which way to go. Does anyone out there have any advice?

Another concern that I have is in regards to the camp. It has been over 25 years since I attended any kind of summer camp, and I simply don’t have any experience with the kinds of programs that they might use for troubled teens. I’m thinking of putting in things like one-on-one sessions with counselors, as well as group therapy where the kids share how they got into trouble in the first place and why they want to turn things around for themselves. What I really need to do is contact some of the camps in my area and ask some questions. The problem is that the two closest ones that I found are a six to eight-hour drive from my house. I was planning on going on a research trip for my vacation in a couple of weeks, but my plans were to head in the other direction and do some research for my last Valkyrie story. I’m willing to change my plans, but my wife isn’t so adaptable. She wants to stick to the original plan and maybe deal with the summer camp issue some other time.

I wonder if some of the urban programs might serve as a model for what they might do in the wilderness? Either way, I have research to do. I’m not sure if I will do that research before I start writing, or after my first draft, but it will have to be done eventually to make sure I don’t screw something up. This is actually a reason for me to use the tornado idea. It would let me pull the kids out of there before I have to start worrying about how the camp operates.

I’m going to go back to my modeling website to find a good villain or two. If I’m going to have a good counselor to offset the bad one I will need to pick out one of those as well. Or maybe I could go back to one of the websites for the real camps and pull out a picture from their photo gallery. That might be even better.

My plan is to finish what I can of the outline this week. I would like to start writing on July 1, but that depends on whether or not I do my research before or after the first draft. I’ll probably go with after, even though it could mean a drastic rewrite after the research is done. The good thing is that I would be writing again, and considering the length of time since I have done any actual writing, I think it would be better to jump back in even if I’m not quite ready.

Thanks for sticking around with me. I’ll post again on Wednesday to let you know how close I am to being ready to write, and I’ll probably be joining the ROW80 group again for the next round starting July 1. See you later!

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July 18 – Vacation is Over, Back to Work!

Today marks the return to my Day Job. I didn’t get a chance to do much writing during my vacation, but I did get a lot accomplished at home. I can actually have visitors over now without feeling too embarrassed about the piles of junk scattered around my living room. I also got a chance to watch the latest Harry Potter movie (it was brilliant!), finish the Terminator – Sarah Connor Chronicles TV episodes (I’m still upset about them cancelling that show), and take my wife out to dinner at her favorite restaurant (Red Robin).

So now that my vacation is over, I need to get back to writing. I’m still looking for a good short story idea. Ideally I would like to get a first draft written tonight so I can share it with my critique group tomorrow. I haven’t brought anything to the group in some time, and I’m feeling a bit guilty about it. I’ll have to do some brainstorming this afternoon to see if I can come up with anything. There are a few interesting things about my workplace that may be suitable for a quick tale. Hmmm….

I’ll check in again on Thursday and let you know if I came up with anything. See you then!

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July 11 – Working Vacation

Today marks the start of a long-anticipated vacation from the day job. I take a week off every July to celebrate my wedding anniversary. So of course I am spending my time with my wife, doing all the little things that have been piling up for the last few months. It’s amazing how much there is to do when you don’t have to go to work.

Yesterday my wife and I started cleaning. Our house was starting to look like an episode of “Hoarders”, with piles of junk getting higher and higher on all available surfaces. We haven’t been able to use our kitchen table for months, and the love seat in our living room had all but vanished under piles of clothes and boxes. I have been using my laptop at a card table set up in the corner because my desk was overflowing with books and papers. Even our coffee table was a lost cause. Every time we cleaned it off more stuff appeared to fill it up practically overnight. I’m too ashamed to tell you what our bedrooms look like.

We managed to clean off the love seat and coffee table yesterday, and today I managed to clean off my desk while my wife started tackling a small pile in our bedroom. I expect that we will need to pile stuff temporarily on the love seat and coffee table in order to organize our bedrooms. I cleaned off the desk because I really want to be able to do my writing there instead of in the corner.

I plan on continuing to write during this vacation as well. I started rewriting the first chapter of Finding Valhalla over the weekend, and I think it is a bit better. My Valkyrie has gotten younger, and there are some new characters to work in, but I think the story will be better in the long run. I still have more research and planning to do, but I was inspired by the story of Brynhild and Sigurd in the book Nordic Gods and Heroes by Padraic Colum. I think it will serve very well as an example of a doomed romance, with sacrifice and betrayal, ending in death. I’ll have to play around a bit with the mythology in order to make my Valkyries descendants of Brynhild when the original myth doesn’t mention any children, but that’s called poetic license, right?

So that’s my update for today. I’ve got to get back to work now. There’s still a lot of piles left to sort through. Wish me luck!

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ROW80 Status – Day 55 (Feb 26)

Goals:

  1. 500 words of new fiction every day
  2. Finish first draft of Finding Valhalla (DONE!)
  3. Start editing Dragons At Dawn
  4. Post to my blog on Monday and Thursday
  5. Post ROW80 updates on Sunday and Wednesday

Word counts:

  • 2/23 – 630
  • 2/24 – 648
  • 2/25 – 511
  • 2/26– 550

Six Days To Sabbath is at 14,498 words. Finding Valhalla is finished. Editing progresses slowly on Dragons At Dawn. Blog posts are all on schedule.

I’m taking a week’s vacation from work this week. I’m hoping to make some serious progress disecting Dragons At Dawn so I can get started on the rewrite soon. I just ordered some more books on writing so that will also be part of my reading schedule for the next few weeks. I also need to catch up on some book reviews and do some spring cleaning in my apartment. You know, after putting all this stuff down it doesn’t seem like much of a vacation, does it?

I wish you all the best on your ROW80 goals!

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