Saturday, December 28, 2013

I Resolve to Meet My Goals (In the Category of Say What You Mean.) #52Weeks

It’s the last week of 2013. Against all expectations, I have managed to maintain my sanity status quo throughout the ordeal that was this year. But as I sit here contemplating a recitation of all the bullshit I endured these past 12 months, more comes to mind that makes me smile than frown. I guess my overriding optimism has survived – that’s good news. If I had begun the #52Weeks challenge at the beginning of the year, this would be my final post, but I started late, so I still have a few more to do. Even so, it seems like a good time to take stock of things – 2014 will begin shortly, and it’s best to know what I will take with me into it, and what I will leave behind, the detritus of a painful year.

Still reeling from my Aunt Nancy’s sudden death at the end of 2012, I kept my New Year’s resolutions simple last January. (I usually do in years when I feel overwhelmed – it minimizes the potential for failure.) I wanted to write more; I was tired of whining about not being the creative writer I had always envisioned becoming. I had only one fix for it: write. Writers write, damn it, so write.

At that point in my life, I had written many, many words, some of them published, a few of them were even creative. But mostly my writing was technical: installation instructions, manuals of operation, data sheets, press releases, white papers, and magazine articles for industry publications. (The industry varied with the job.) None of it was going to win a Pulitzer, but all of it paid, and after all, wasn't that really the goal?

Truthfully, no.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m very happy to spend my career writing for others. I see no shame in working as a scribe for hire – ultimately we all write for the audience who buys the book. Writing comes naturally and easily to me – I recall my surprise when I first learned that this was not true for everyone. I have a knack for proofreading and editing as well. I actually enjoy it as much as writing. Not all writers will say that. For me, the complete process is like working a puzzle in words instead of pictures. All the components to create the whole are present, but they are jumbled, upside down, or in the wrong place. My challenge is to bring order to the whole, arrange the pieces to fit just so and, when finally correctly arranged, create a well-crafted scene (lovely or otherwise).

This is true whether I write for myself or for my employer, but I won’t lie. It’s so much more fun when I can just make it all up. And in 2013, I did that, a lot.

I wrote a novel.

I had not set sights on that achievement when I resolved to write more. I had actually hoped to complete a one-act play by now. I haven’t; I know why, but I am not sure what to do about it yet. I will carry the unfinished play with me into 2014. I’m also bringing needed edits to the novel, which I will not attempt to elevate to greatness with rewrites. I intended Unspoken to be a fun, silly romp through space, a Douglas Adams meets Terry Pratchett meets Ian Fleming sort of B-grade pulp fiction. Astonishingly, it is that, almost  a few more nips and tucks. It will take me longer to figure out how to make an epub file so I can distribute it as an ebook. I'm not going commercial at first. I plan to give it to a select few individuals who were instrumental in shaping the novel’s early form. (As well as anyone who asks to read it, which is one other person so far.)  I plan to enter Unspoken in one of the #12Contests of 2014. As soon as it gets deservedly rejected I will disseminate it to the world gratis.

In January, I hadn’t even predicted completing a weekly blog post for #52Weeks, but damn if it doesn’t look like I might do that too. This blog hit 5,000 page views this week; I’m not sure when. I check stats like that, but I don’t measure success by them. I put aside my need for “readership” when I decided to just start writing. The egoistic yen for recognition, and its failure to materialize, had become an excuse to not write, to not bother. I was right to quit caring about that, and I will carry that strategy into the next year. Not fretting about being read has made me much more productive. I also abandoned my need to feel that my writing had relevance. I should make that a goal one day, but for now, it needs to be enough to just write.

I’m setting writing goals for 2014. I’m not making any writing resolutions. Resolutions I reserve for the ideals I haven’t achieved yet – lifestyle changes that I wish to bring to (or remove from) my day, my month, my year. This year’s resolutions include achieving my idea of “buff” arms (I admire the First Lady’s arms and shoulders, I confess) and developing the ability to do ten consecutive “real” pushups. If I can achieve the latter, it will go a long way to helping me attain the former. These may seem like shallow resolutions, but you should know, before you judge me, that for the first time in many years, I don’t have to resolve to lose weight. According to my Wii fit, I need to gain two pounds in order to achieve my fitness goal. I may get to eat macaroni and cheese this month. I will not be carrying that into 2014. So I might as well get toned arms just once in my life. I’ll take lots of photos and then go back to doing “girly” pushups. I’m okay with that.

Unlike resolutions, goals, to me, are habits I have formed that I want to keep, or progress I want to make on a project begun but not yet perfected. My 2014 writing goals include #12Contests (you’ll read more about that here), a finished one-act play, and another go at #NaNoWriMo, which I could see myself getting addicted to. It was exhilarating. There is something seriously liberating about writing solely for word count, putting quality aside until the quantity is achieved. The tactics required to meet 1,667 words per day went against everything I learned about writing well. On days when the word count eluded me, I used the excuse that it’s harder to write that much when one also works full time – next year I may take the month of November off to see if that is true.
My #NaNoWriMo Winner's tee shirt arrived this week.
I’m pleased to have kept my resolution to write more in 2013, more pleased even than I am to have successfully avoided the need to make another damn resolution to lose weight. Writing is just a daily goal now, something to maintain, like my BMI. I can temper my word-gluttony in the months to come. Instead of gorging on weekly posts and daily 1,700 word binges, I can spend a month on a single piece – the time I give myself will feel indulgent compared to this year’s grind. I don’t expect it to take more than a day or two during the cycle to identify the contest of the month. That leaves me 19 days to write, another eight to proof and revise, one more to post the submission. Even graduate school had a tighter writing cycle, but I have much to relearn about the submission process. It’s been a while since I bothered, you see. I hadn’t been writing much. Not until this year.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tarot on a Winter Solstice (A Poem in the Category of Be Where You Are.) #52Weeks

A half-hearted sunrise
And autumn’s last moon
Conga-dance the thin
Horizon line between
Less light and more.

In an ancient grove,
Under winter stars,
She steps into the
Bonfire glow, arms aloft,
Upholding heaven, her
Womb contracting with
The promise of daylight.

“As Winter approaches,
“You will need to look within.
“What part of you has died
“Or been cast off?”

“What part of you now understands
The Otherworld?”

To glean answers,
I turn the cards –
The lovely ones
This time –
Seeking ancient
Insight. Tarot
On a Winter Solstice;
The Celtic deck –
Stonehenge graces
“The Universe.”

The Present: the Adder – “Insight,
An ancient totem of
The Past: Britannia –
“A woman with an
“Otherworldly air.”

To know
You need only


The wind picked up and
Tattered clouds obscured
The aged moon. Cernunnos
Kicked the ashes of the
Conflagration grown cold --
Round and round the circle,
And the sparks flew
Upward as he traced
Her steps with his own.

Behold the Sun King!
And after painful labor
She rests; all is dark.

He will grow
Until the days of
Unending daylight
When the Hunt
Continues in
Beltane fields --
‘Neath summer
Stars. Sparks will fly
Upward when He steps
Into the bonfire glow,
Arms beckoning.

Blessed Be. #52Weeks

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Breaking Bad Habits (In the Category of Mean What You Say.) #52Weeks

I developed an impressive number of bad habits – vices if you will – before I turned age 25. I won’t enumerate them all for you. (How tedious for us both!) But as I’ve survived into adulthood, mental maturity (not the same as adulthood), and now middle age, I realize that I have successfully put aside many of them. Cigarettes for example, which I can still say I spent more of my life with than without – I have finally kicked that habit for the last time. Jim Beam and ginger ale, once my favorite dancing couple, is also now a thing of my past. As are most hard liquors in fact – it just hurts too much the next day. Coffee and donuts no longer begin my morning. Macaroni and cheese, pasta dressed simply with garlic butter and grated parmgiano reggiano, fresh-baked bread and any number of other carb-intense comfort foods on which I once subsisted – I haven’t kicked these entirely, but my usage is way down.

A few of my vices I plan to enjoy until I die.

It appears that my bad ramen habit will be one of them. As with many of my vices, I started using ramen noodles in high school. They were fast. They were yummy. They were my go-to after-school snack. Back then I didn’t make soup. Like a true junkie, I drained the water, added the full flavor packet, and reveled in the salty, savory, tender, curly noodles. I carried this addiction to college (along with some other vices), where I met peers who were equally afflicted. Purists, all, we didn’t share recipes, we merely swapped admissions of which “color” we thought tasted the best. After all ramen wasn’t an ingredient, it was the entire meal. (Two servings per pouch? I don’t think so.)
My gratitude to for posting this picture of the Ramen Flavor Rainbow on the Internet.

I like to eat healthy. I try to cook fresh, light,  (mostly) organic vegetables and lean, hormone-free meats these days, for as many meals as possible. Except for lunch -- every weekday, for lunch, I make soup -- wonderful, delicious, chock-full-of-fresh-veggies-and-tofu soup. And it starts with a packet of Top Ramen Chicken Noodle flavor in the orange pouch.

Kim’s Lunch Soup
Crunch one package of Top Ramen Chicken Flavor noodles into a microwave safe bowl. Add 1-1/2 cups of water, the seasoning packet that came with the noodles (some days I only add half and pitch the rest – the sodium levels are obscene), two teaspoons of fresh minced ginger root, 4-5 white button mushrooms sliced thin, a generous dash of ground white pepper, a few dashes of soy sauce, and a few dashes of hot sauce. (Or add 2-3 tablespoons of finadene sauce, which is my preferred.) Cover and microwave for about 3 minutes. Add two handfuls (about one cup) of fresh baby spinach leaves torn into pieces. Cover and microwave for another 2 minutes until spinach is just cooked and noodles are al dente. Add 1/8 cup of tofu cut into bite size cubes and 1 tablespoon of fresh sliced scallions. Serve immediately.

Sometimes I add an egg that I’ve scrambled and cooked omelet-style in sesame oil to the finished bowl. It absorbs the broth without getting mushy – my twist on egg drop soup. Sometimes I get really ambitious and buy wonton wrappers, which I slice into strips and fry in canola oil. It only takes a few seconds until the dough crisps into brown crunchy fried noodles. Lightly salted, they are delicious on top of my lunch soup or straight out of the zipper bag I store them in.

I recently tried to break it, my bad ramen habit. I really did. I’ve read the articles detailing just how difficult processed ramen noodles are for the human digestive track to break down. I’ve watched the YouTube video that shows just how hard it is to digest.  After I watched the YouTube video, I tried to modify the recipe to use healthier ingredients. I boiled whole wheat thin spaghetti the Sunday evening before the work week to a perfect al dente, tossed the noodles in sesame oil, and stored it in a zipper bag to be added to the soup bowl as needed. I concocted my own, lower sodium, seasoning mix and used homemade chicken stock instead of water for extra flavor. This variation of my lunch soup is also delicious, but it takes too long to prep on Sunday, and even with all the prep, it takes more minutes of my lunch hour to prepare, time I cannot spare.

At some point toward the end of graduate school, I walked away from ramen. I don’t recall why. For many years thereafter, I dined out for lunch: Charlie’s Chinese Restaurant (the hot and sour soup, the chicken with garlic sauce…), Burger King Whoppers with cheese, heavy pickle, no onions, KFC 3-piece crispy strip meals with cole slaw and macaroni & cheese, crispy Taco Supremes from “The Bell,” Arby’s Roast Beef & Cheddar with a side of potato cakes and extra Horsey sauce – I ate it all, all the time. Truly, fast food at lunch became one of my all time worst habits. Ever. As bad as smoking for my health – I have no doubt of that.

Over the years, my lunch food indulgences began to turn on me. Charlie moved away, and the food quality at his eponymous Chinese restaurant tanked. I’m not sure which of us changed, but suddenly, one day, Burger King Whoppers with cheese became moments of pleasurable taste followed by hours of heartburn. The same happened with my other fast food lunch favorites, one at a time, so I switched to salads – usually spinach salads. I really love spinach; I always have. (As a kid, I loved Popeye the Sailor Man. I would eat large mouthfuls of spinach and then wait for my biceps to bulge the way his did in the cartoon. It was one of many life lessons in disappointment. Cheerios never gave me the strength of the Cheerios kid either. Advertising is such bullshit.)

When my husband and I bought the house in Christiansburg, I just came home and ate leftovers for lunch, but then the company I worked for started to fail. I was laid off in job cut round number 3, and I found work about 30 miles away. Lunch at home became an impossibility. With fast food and my GI tract still in an abusive relationship, I started “brown bagging.” (My insulated lunch bag was actually teal and purple.) Eventually, I got bored with eating variations on the theme of cottage cheese and fruit, carrots and water, or spinach salads with decadent blue cheese (the components of what would turn out to be a failed diet). Then, in 2006, I rediscovered ramen. I don’t recall what inspired me to add spinach greens and mushrooms, ginger root and scallions. Tofu came late to the party, as did the optional egg, an effort to get more protein while eating less meat. My husband’s version of finadene sauce, as he learned it when he lived on Guam, adds the heat I love. On a good day, my lower eyelids sweat as I slurp my soup. And every day is a good day.

As a bonus, my lunch soup has never given me trouble digestively; I’m certain it’s the fresh ginger root.  Even so, I cannot lose the image of undigested ramen noodles squirming and writhing in a stomach like maggots. Honestly, it detracts from my enjoyment of the pleasant balance of flavors and textures. I want to make a healthier version of this soup work, because I am addicted to it; I think the hot sauce induced endorphin hit hooked me. But, as it was with my nicotine habit, quitting Top Ramen in the orange pouch has proven much easier to say than do.  The addiction grows stronger with each relapse; and the reasons to try again to quit become more elusive. Especially when you compare my ramen soup to a Burger King Whopper with cheese, because on paper, the soup looks pretty healthy.

Burger King Whopper With Cheese
Kim’s Lunch Soup with Top Ramen Chicken Flavor
Fat (g)
Sodium (mg)
3,172 (full ramen seasoning packet)
Carbs (g)
53 (3 dietary fiber)
64 (4 dietary fiber)
Protein (g)
Vitamin A (%)
Vitamin C (%)
Calcium (%)
Iron (%)
Potassium (mg)

Hmm. I’m glad I made that table. I suddenly feel much better about my Top Ramen lunch soup. I’ll revisit the gruesome video another day to remind myself that I need to rein this habit in – perhaps cut down to only three days a week rather than five. I have since discovered Marco & Luca’s hot and sour soup, so I now have a second supplier for my spicy soup habit. It’s good to have a steady source for one’s addictions to keep the withdrawals at bay. Why break a habit if it feels good? I'd rather kick back with a bowl and slurp soup -- sweat the tension away.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Reflections on a 30-Day Writing Habit (In the Category of Want What You Have…or in this case…Had.) #52Weeks

It’s Wednesday, December 4. This is the first chance I have given myself to write since (unbelievably) completing the #NaNoWriMo challenge. I did it: 50,000 words in 30 days, word count verified, and tee shirt order placed. It took me until 10:30 pm on November 30, but I did it. I wrote an entire novel in 30 days. (My first novel took three years.) While some were growing mustaches for Movember, I bullied myself into a serious daily writing habit.

So, naturally, as soon as I achieved success, I decided I deserved a break. Plus I had a major backlog of things that I had put aside during the time I frantically wrote 11,145 words in four days while simultaneously helping my husband navigate through the painful process of hip replacement surgery, hospitalization, the return home, and all the things we both had to learn about life with a walker. Laundry, for example, had reached a crisis point. So I have spent the last three days washing clothes, helping my husband get back on his feet, literally, and getting myself back into my morning workout routine. (In November, I still got up early, but I wrote instead of exercised – in case you wondered, this is not great for one’s ass.)

In these past three days, I have missed the novel – not badly enough to go back and begin proofing yet. My editor is currently hopped up on painkillers (the result of that recent successful hip replacement). We agreed that it would be best to wait for him to return to lucidity before attempting to proofread the novel, so I have some time. But I have missed writing a novel.

I have another project, a one-act play, which I have been working on for most of this calendar year. I had planned to finish by mid-January, and I hoped that by ignoring it for a month I could break through the stuck part. It hasn’t worked...yet…or maybe it has. I haven’t really turned back to the one-act since traipsing through the far corners of the galaxy in the Anna-Rae on an intergalactic quest for the Words of Power (thanks @LynnHuber…your suggestion became a great weapon for me to work with).

Without the novel, I feel bereft. I admit that this has caught me off guard.

At least I still have a few more weeks of the #52Weeks blog posts to write. (Only eight or nine – can you believe it?) It’s funny to me how much less challenging this is now, after November’s word orgy. Before November, I fretted, weekly, about whether or not I could kick the #52Week challenge’s ass. Today, I am not overly concerned. (It will be fun to see if I end up eating those words, but I won’t delete them – it’s good to stare one’s own hubris in the eye.) After #52Weeks, I plan to do #12Contests for 2014, and yes, the novel, Unspoken, will be one of the year’s submissions. It needs to be edited first. Seriously edited. For example, the ending is all wrong and not how I intended it to go exactly.

You see, I hit 50,000 words before I properly reached the end of the story. I could have stopped at the required word count, verified 50,000 words at 9:00pm, and walked away. But I know me, and I knew that if I didn’t at least give the novel a crappy ending, Unspoken would go unfinished. So I spent another 90 minutes, logged another 1,115 words, and finished the novel, poorly. It’s wordy anyway. And I suspect when I go back for a re-read, I’ll discover entire scenes that need to be added in order to connect the scenes already there. This should counter-balance all the unnecessary words I need to cut.

One does not re-read the novel that one is writing during #NaNoWriMo. Re-reading leads to editing which, done correctly, leads to a reduced word count. Reducing the word count is counter-productive. In hindsight, re-reading is the reason my first novel took three years to finish instead of thirty days.

When I do re-read the latest novel, I will need to rework all the passive voice too…for the same reason. I walked sounds so much better than I was walking. But from the vantage point of a #NaNoWriMo challenge, proper writing has merely cost the author a word. Attempting to write a novel in 30 days encourages verbosity. So much for the five-figure tuition I spent for an M.A. in English that taught me the frugality of language -- you can’t meet a 1,667/day word count by writing well or carefully. I’ve spent a lifetime believing that quality mattered more than quantity, a notion thoroughly unsupported by the 30-day novel writing challenge. I’m rethinking everything now. What else did I get wrong?

(Fun fact: in the course of writing this post, while allowing myself to proofread, I corrected multiple pronouns to the actual name of the thing, and my excessive use of contractions is now a thing of the past. Why? Because #NaNoWriMo. Pronouns and contractions shorten one’s word count.)

Until now, I did not write an Acknowledgment for my novel, which, on reflection would have helped to fatten up the word count. If I had, though,  I would have written this:

On October 30, when I decided to do #NaNoWriMo, I needed a plot and an outline fast, so I tweeted, “Let’s play a game." You stepped up, so I want to acknowledge:

.@dbw780: Thank you for saying “science fiction” and not “westerns” when I asked you to name your favorite genre. I could have made it work, but I’m glad I didn’t have to.

@thinkinunicorns When I asked you, “please tell me your favorite color,” you were getting to choose a defining characteristic of the “sidekick.” Green was good.

.@PhilthePill You got to choose the hero’s name. You chose your own. But this is not your story. You were right though. Santiago makes a good character name.

.@LynnHuber: I asked you to please tell me your preferred weapon. I liked your answer.

.@Vidocq_CC: I asked you to please tell me your favorite place to vacation. We went there...sort of.

.@Lauren88 I agree, that is disgusting. So it’s the villain’s bad habit.

.@Hokie_Lisa You got to pick the secret weapon. It was easier to make silver earrings work than I thought initially.

.@hokielove That’s my favorite flavor, too. So it’s the source of the villain’s power.

I’ll send you all a copy of the e-book as soon as it’s available. Thanks for playing.

KHN Dec. 2013

The NNoWriMo winner's Screen.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Reasons to Be Thankful (In the Category of Say What You Mean) #52Weeks

Tuesday, November 26: I'm sitting in a hospital waiting room right now. It seems like a strange place to begin a post about thankfulness. Or maybe not? I'm here by choice and not by mandate. I'm thankful for that. There were more of us here earlier, each of us hauling identical plastic bags filled with the belongings of the person for whom we are here. As the afternoon has gotten on, though, the ranks have thinned. Lucky bastards having outpatient surgery have wheeled by me, looks of supreme relief on their faces. I envy them, but I'm sure I've got nothing on how my husband will feel later, when he comes to with a shiny new hip that he'll need to learn how to use.


Thursday, November 28: It's not how we expected to spend Thanksgiving Day this year, here at home, the two of us. There's no turkey in the oven. We weren't sure we would be home, you see. Who knew that these days, they can saw out your yucky old hip and put a shiny new one in, get you walking on it within hours and then send you home the next day? I'm thankful for that fact. Otherwise, I'd be sitting in the hospital again today, not in a waiting room, but in an actual room, with a view of a roof and some vents. A "private" room where everyone knocks first, but they come in anyway.

For one month of this year, February to March, we actually expected to be in Chattanooga, Tennessee today, having a traditional turkey dinner with complete strangers and my father, who had become like family to these people. The idea that his daughters should meet his Chattanooga family (as he called them) made him very happy. Sis and I planned to bring the husbands along for this visit to Tennessee. We wanted them to see the aquarium in Chattanooga. In addition to the usual coral reef tank, the Tennessee Aquarium has one of the largest fresh water aquariums in North America (follow a drop of rain from the top of the Smokey Mountains to the Tennessee River). A second building houses a shark tank, columns of jellyfish, and penguins. There's a butterfly atrium on the roof.

And I wanted my husband to see the The Passage, a Cherokee memorial there at the river's edge. It's powerful, a tribute to Ross' Landing, the launching point for the Trail of Tears. Both of his Cherokee grandmothers managed to stay in Tennessee. His father's mother married a white man. He is not sure how his mother's mother managed to avoid the march to Oklahoma. I knew The Passage would speak to him. The Aniyunwiya, as they call themselves, believe they came from the Pleiades; they whisper to their own.


In March, a hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee called me. Dad had fallen and couldn't get up. That shit really happens. I don't chuckle at those commercials anymore. I got there in time, if you call five minutes "in time." Sis was still in the air. But I think she knew before she landed that Dad was gone. Just like that.

We didn't have time or the heart either in that trip or the next one a week later for Dad's memorial service. But we made it down to the banks of the Tennessee River, to Ross' landing.


After the shock wore off and we realized our Thanksgiving was again open, we considered several options for the holiday of food, football and family, but then Smitty kitty was diagnosed with cardio myopathy. The genetic heart defect requires him to take diuretics every 12 hours or die. We promised him in June if he survived being boarded during our trip to the Rolling Stones concert in Philly, we would never leave him again. He survived then and survives today, amazing all of us, including his cardiologists at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Vet Medicine. It's a reason to be thankful. We decided to stay home.

I planned to cook a turkey today, and green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, crescent rolls, and pumpkin whoopie pies.  By all rights, I should be on my feet right now, in the kitchen, making an enormous mess that smells delicious nonetheless. Few things make me happier. Back in September I invited friends, and the dinner party was on. I began to look forward to November. Around that same time, we learned that my husband's worsening hip and back pain would require hip replacement surgery. 

A month later, we learned the surgery date: November 26, a Tuesday.  Not just any Tuesday, though, the one before Thanksgiving. Facing the real possibility that the surgery would require two days in the hospital, I uninvited my Thanksgiving day guests. I ended up cooking a turkey the Saturday before the surgery so I would have leftovers to eat. It was nice, although not the same. But it's a reason to be thankful.

We're home today. That is a very big reason to be thankful. But we are both exhausted after two long and stressful days. Today is about learning to navigate the house with a walker and pull up socks with a reacher. Tomorrow we'll sort out bathing and shaving. Hopefully, we will get to see a friend or two before the holiday weekend ends; I'll be thankful for that.

But today, I write. Few things make me happier, and it's nice to be home and to have the time, because I have just under 10,000 words to go to finish the #NaNoWriMo challenge. I may yet pull it off. It's a reason to be thankful.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Slippery Slope (In the Category of Be Where You Are.) #52Weeks

Things get away from us. We lose track of time, friends, old photos — it happens to everyone. But nothing slips away more quickly than a #NaNoWriMo word count goal. Not even brave Odysseus, when confronted with Charybdis, felt such a swift sucking sensation. It's not just a feeling of drowning, though; it's more physical than that. I have become Sisyphus; my deceitfulness is my belief that I had time to write 50,000 words in 30 days, and the slippery slope of my daily failure is no less a burden than the boulder he pushes up the mountain only to have it roll back down, only in my case, the rock gets bigger every day.

Just how bad is it, you ask? I’ve put it into pictures for you. I’m saving my words for the novel. For as insurmountable as my goal now seems, I’m still not giving up, because that is the only sure way to fail. Most days, the routine starts the same. I put at the bottom of the novel the number of words I need to achieve that day in order to stay on track. I use this as a motivator. So far, though, it’s more goading than helpful. Especially when compared to the actual word count.
The Beginning of Day 11: the Goal is 18,337 words; I have 13,910.
By the end of Day 13 I had 17,013 of the 21,671 words needed.
At the beginning of Day 15 I had 18,116 words, but I needed 25,005 to reach the halfway point.
Today, at the start of Day 18, I have 23,697 words written of the 30,006 I will need before the day ends if I have any hope for the tee shirt, but I haven't even made the halfway point, so it's probably not happening.

As of this blog post, here’s where I am in relationship to where I should be.
It's a straight slope to reach the goal. Alas, for me, the gap is widening.
I started out strong. Those first two days looked promising, but by Day 4 I was flagging. The word count doesn’t sit still, you see. It’s a moving target that leaps by 1,667 words every day. This chart shows just how far off pace I truly am.
A more accurate visualization of just how far off track I am. The green line shows the number of words I am short in relationship to where I should be.
I have not yet written the first word today, and I am more than 4,600 words away from where I need to be before bed tonight if I want the tee shirt. I want the tee shirt.

I’ll give #NaNoWriMo this: Despite the feeling I am sliding down a long steep hill with a boulder rolling after me, I’m writing every single day these days. Every. Single. Day. With the #52Weeks challenge I haven’t necessarily needed to go to that level. So if all I ever hoped to accomplish was a writer’s habit, I have already won.


Monday, November 11, 2013

I Have Been Nominated! (In the Category of Want What You Have) #52Weeks

My husband very sweetly tweeted a link to my blog to one of his Tweeps who also happens to blog, and she nominated me for a Liebster Award. I had never heard of the Liebster Award before, so I Googled it. The Liebster Award is by bloggers for bloggers to recognize bloggers who have not yet crossed the threshold of readership that allows our blogs to be turned into major Hollywood motion pictures starring Meryl Streep. (Admit it, we all secretly want that to happen.) It’s a self-perpetuating award. Before this post is over, I will have nominated a few bloggers myself (I think they’ll meet the less-than-1000-readers criteria), but even if they see this as more of a chain letter than a fun game to play, at the very least, Ms. Waters handed me a perfect topic for this week’s #52Weeks blog post, which is a true gift.

There are rules to the Liebster Awards, you see. And the first rule is:

1. Write a blog post about the Liebster Award.

So that’s this week’s what-should-I-blog-about drama sorted out without much effort on my part. It morphs nicely into the second and third rules:

2. Thank the person that nominated you.

3. Post a link to their blog on your blog.

So thanks KJ Waters! I’m adding your blog, Blondie In The Water, to my list of blogs to follow. The rules continue:

4. Display the award on your blog and include it in your post and/or display it using a widget.

Okay, that’s not a problem. The Liebster Award looks like this:

At this point, were I the person writing the rules, I would move rule number 9 here, because otherwise this ongoing list of rules makes no sense. You see, rule 9 is:

9. List the rules in your post.

It makes more sense to get that rule in early. It allows one to then work on the next two rules, which give this award a chain-lettery feel. (I’m not original in this observation – other bloggers have mentioned this in their requisite Liebster Award blog posts.)

5. Answer the 11 questions about yourself provided by the person who nominated you,

and rule 6,

6. Give 11 random facts about yourself,

My nominator’s questions were pretty good ones. Truthfully, I am stumped by number 3. It’s not that I don’t regularly make a fool of myself, it’s just that some time ago I quit giving a crap what other people thought of me. Since then, I don’t get embarrassed anywhere near as easily. It’s a good head space to be in.


1. Give us a snapshot of your favorite beach or pool memory.
Magens Bay State Park, St. Thomas, USVI – This beach should have been jam packed with people.
We honeymooned on St. Thomas a week after the September 11, 2001 attacks. While we remained steadfast that our trip would not be cancelled due to a cowardly act of terrorism, apparently not everyone felt the same way. St. Thomas was nearly devoid of tourists. In our 600+ room resort, only 67 people were registered. The service was spectacular. So was Magens Bay StatePark, voted one of the world’s most beautiful beaches by the knowledgeable folks at National Geographic. We went on a Friday, which locals assured us was usually the busiest day. For us, the beach was empty of all but two or three families and the nice bikini-clad girl who brought us beers from the snack bar and had plenty of time to chat with us (we were her only customers). My photo album from that trip is filled with pictures of empty beaches, empty pools, an empty shopping district. It was amazing. We’re afraid to go back, because we will never have the island to ourselves quite like we did that year.

2. What is your favorite genre to read for pleasure? A quick review of my book collection confirms that I read more science fiction and fantasy than any other type of genre (unless you count cookbooks – I have a fair few of those as well). I was ever an escapist as a child. Narnia, Middle Earth, Xanth, Robert Heinlein’s recognizable parallel universe – I lived in these places. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series enthralled me as an adult. Now my biggest regret is never having gotten my Hogwarts acceptance letter. I can literally make myself sad about it every September 1.
Me, engrossed in the last few pages of the last Harry Potter novel -- an intense and emotional day.

3. I would love to know about one of your most embarrassing moments. I'll share mine if you're brave enough to share yours. I'll even give you two …Oh gosh, there have been so many.

4. Who is your favorite celebrity and why? Here’s another question with too many answers. I respect a number of celebrities for a wide variety of reasons. If I had to pick a single favorite right now, it would be Tom Hanks, because I think he is gifted and he is known for his kindness.

5. What is your favorite place on the planet? Why? My favorite place on the planet, to date, is the New River Valley here in Virginia. I live in Christiansburg, work in Blacksburg, and as I commute my whopping seven miles to work each day, views of the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains surround me. I live in one of the prettiest places on earth; you cannot tell me otherwise.
6. Tell us about your next book idea. If you don't have one or aren't ready to share it, make something up and give us a wink so we know it’s a fake. I’ve taken the #NaNoWriMo challenge this year (and am so far losing it spectacularly). The novel is a space-fantasy-adventure-quest-spy-thriller called “Unspoken.” Santiago Fillup is on an intergalactic spy mission to track down the Words of Power before they are found by the sworn enemies of his home planet. Will the emerald Jewell help or hinder him? Only time will tell...

7. What is your favorite social media site and why? (twitter, facebook, pinterest, instagram ...) I could answer Twitter or Facebook with equal sincerity. I started on Facebook first, honoring a New Year’s Resolution to reconnect with people I had lost touch with, and it worked in spades. I started using Twitter about a year later for work, but I’m hooked, and I have actually met a few really wonderful people...some of whom are local. We do lunch and brunch and happy hours, and it’s been great to take a virtual tool and use it to make friends in real life.

8. Name one thing on your bucket list and tell us about it. I was born at the Rota Naval Air Station in Rota, Spain, but my family only stayed there until I was about 18 months old, so I have very little memory of the place of my birth. I want to go back to Rota one day, hopefully with my mom and my sister (my father has passed away) and see the town with adult eyes, and make memories I can keep this time.
I was born in this hospital.

9. In your opinion, what is your most redeeming quality? Something that makes up for the hot mess we all hide from everyone. If it isn’t the cookies I bake and give away, then it must be the fact that you will always know where you stand with me. I am a big believer in Say What You Mean, and Mean What You Say. I won’t lie to you or about you. If you are mean or intolerant, I will not waste my time with you. If there is anything I can say or do to help you, I will do my best to give it to you.
Last year's gingerbread cookies.

10. What is the last book you read for pleasure. Thumbs up or down? The last book I read for pleasure that I have actually finished was Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling), and I loved it. Rowling is (in my opinion) a master of characterization...even wizards are really believable coming from her imagination. Her first foray into murder mysteries is just as wonderful. In case you are curious, I am currently reading both Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris and The Mistress of Art and Death by Ariana Franklin, and I am enjoying both very much.

11. What is the furthest you've been away from home. Was it for work, on vacation or other? Distance-wise, Portland, OR is the furthest place from home to which I have traveled. The happy occasion was my cousin Jay’s wedding. The entire family got together for this, including cousins from California who I had not seen for decades. Sadly, it was the last time I saw my Aunt Nancy alive (though not the last time we spoke). If I had known it was my last chance to get a Nancy hug, I would never have let go of her.
My family at Jay & Jamie's wedding. Aunt Nancy is the first woman on the left.


1. My favorite color is teal.

2. I have never read the novel, Moby Dick, and I intend to die being able to say that. (Don’t hate on me. I may have been Melville in a past life.)

3. I do Tarot Card readings for my friends. Some friends no longer let me read for them (but damn it, it is NOT my fault that her mom was diagnosed after she pulled the Lightning Struck Tower). But I don’t identify as a witch or a psychic, and I would never take money for it.

4. I love baking cookies just about more than anything.

5. My cats get away with ANYTHING at my house. One is old, one is young, both are dying, and if they want to “take tea” on the kitchen counter, so be it. I promise I always clean thoroughly before I bake cookies (or cook anything, for that matter).
You tell Smitty he can't sit there. I don't want to bother him.

6. I believe in love at first sight. My husband taught me that it is real.

7. I think ALL fast food should be taxed as heavily as cigarettes or alcohol. The stuff is just as deadly. I die a little inside whenever I hear of parents rewarding their kids with a trip to McDonald’s. It’s punishment, that “food.”

8. I used to know how to knit, crochet, and tat lace. I can no longer do any of these things. I’d love to meet someone who can re-teach me how to use my grandmother’s tatting shuttles.

9. I have a collection of magic wands, none of which actually function.

10. I talk to the moon whenever I see her. Of all the bodies in the heavens, she enthralls me the most.

11. I regularly cook with hot sauce made from ghost chilies. Be careful if I tell you something “might be a little spicy.”

This brings us to rule 7,

7. Nominate 5-11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have less than 1000 followers.

This rule is not as straight forward as it seems. I had trouble finding out the number of followers on the blogs I read most often, so I am not completely sure they all meet the 1,000-followers-or-less requirement. Hopefully they do, but in any case, here’s who I nominate for a Liebster Award:

  1. Phil S. Phorward: This person motivated me to start blogging regularly. I will always appreciate him for that. Phil is a fellow #52Weeks challenge taker and a very talented writer.
  2. Dan Wiedlich: Dan is also a fellow #52Weeks challenge taker. Dan has the soul of a poet. I wish he posted more; I love his writing, but he works full time, he’s in graduate school, and he probably insists on things like eating and sleeping.
  3. Andrea Badgley: I love this blog. Andrea is an amazing writer, and her feedback on my writings has been really helpful.
  4. Kristian Yelverton: Here’s another blogger who I wish had time to post more frequently. Funny stuff. She, too, is a fellow #52Weeks challenge taker.
  5. Jessy Irwin: Yet another fellow #52Weeks challenge taker, Jessy is a technical genius, best I can tell. She gets to check out cool things like Google Glass and hacking classes at DefCon, which she then blogs about.

I’m not sure any of them will have the time to play along with the Liebster Awards, and I will respect that, but just in case they want to play along, I must now follow rule 8, which is:

8. Create a new list of questions for the nominated bloggers to answer.


  1. What is your favorite food/beverage pairing?
  2. Tell me about the first story/blog/poem etc. that you ever wrote.
  3. Do you think your birth order has impacted your personality? If so, in what ways?
  4. Do you believe in astrology? Why or why not?
  5. Star Trek or Star Trek Next Generation? Discuss. (If your answer is Voyager or Deep Snooze Nine, skip this question.)
  6. Who is funnier in your opinion, Bill Murray or Tom Hanks? Why?
  7. If you could change one thing about your physical appearance, what would it be and why?
  8. Name a work of literature or art that inspired you.
  9. Finish this sentence: My favorite thing about Halloween is...
  10. What do you think we can do better to end hunger around the world?
  11. Name the celebrity that you dislike the most. Why?

Now I only need to take care of rule 10:

10. Inform the bloggers you’ve nominated them for the Liebster Award. Remember to give them a link to your post so that they can learn about it,

and I can get back to the #NaNoWriMo novel writing challenge. By the end of today I will need to have written 18,337 words to stay on pace to win the tee-shirt. At last count, I only had 13,427 written; as I said earlier – I’m losing spectacularly. But hey! At least I won the Liebster Award!