#ROW80 check-ins

Very Simple Round Three Goals

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It’s hard to believe that my last post was in early June. This summer has turned out to be a hectic one, and I’ve struggled to fit both writing and blogging into that. And I must admit that with everything I have planned for the next few weeks, my blogging will be sporadic at best until late August/early September.

Nonetheless, I wanted to post my goals for the rest of this round. According to the ROW80 website, there are 53 days to go in this round.

My goals are simple. First and foremost, I want to finish a first draft of my novella Oak-Bound. This story started as a tiny seedling of an idea probably five years or so ago. It’s been rattling around in my brain ever since. I feel strongly connected to the lead characters, Cassie and Nick. It’s new-adult paranormal romance, and finally, after all these years, I feel ready to get Cassie and Nick’s story out of my head and onto the page. My goal for Oak-Bound is to write 3,500 words/week. I wrote 3,867 words last week on this project.

My other goals are to continue with my goal to read 30 books this year and to start some sort of workout regimen.

That’s it. Like I said, simple. I also want to check in regularly with fellow ROWers, but I’ll have a lot on my plate, especially in the next few weeks, so if you don’t hear from me, I’m not ignoring you, just a little overwhelmed.

What about you? What project are you currently working on? What’s on your summer reading list?

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#ROW80 check-ins, the seasons

Simple Summer Pleasures

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Photo by Orientaly | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Summer is in full swing here in Virginia’s New River Valley. As I type, birds are singing in the twilight. The grass beneath my feet is soft and lush; the trees are bright green and filled with scampering squirrels and countless types of birds. Leo and I have been enjoying long walks in the park and on the nature trails we’re lucky enough to have right outside our back door. I’m growing herbs and squash in containers on our front porch, and the lemon balm, oregano, and basil are already taking off. Tonight I cooked stir-fry and added some of the sweet basil into the mix.

We live in a go-go-go society. Too often we miss the birdsong and squirrels because we’re focused on other things. Too often we forget to drink in the forest’s tranquility because we’re distracted by modern life. Too often we don’t savor the taste of fresh basil because something else is calling our attention away.

True contentment, I believe, is slowing down enough to enjoy these things. True contentment means embracing moments of stillness and the small moments of joy that are all around us—if only we’re paying attention.

So what did I do this week, aside from some container gardening and long walks? I wrote 3,612 words in Fates Entangled. I did a lot of refreshing of my social media presence. I’ve been more active on Facebook, tried a new Twitter chat, updated my cover images for Facebook and Twitter, and started planning some changes to this website for the launch of Spellfire’s Kiss, hopefully this autumn. I continued reading Courting Darkness by Yasmine Galenorn.

On the home front, hubby and I are talking more and more about saving up to buy or build a house in the country. He really wants to live in a yurt, so we’re researching that option. No definite plans yet—this is all just dreaming out loud. But it’s something that might be out there on the horizon. And long summer days and warm summer nights are the perfect time for such dreams.

What about you? What are your favorite summer pleasures?

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#ROW80 check-ins, spirituality

Embracing the Life of a Kitchen Witch

Recipe Book

This week has been all about going deeper into my spiritual life. I meditated, worked on my book of shadows, started a book of magical recipes, and spent time in nature, breathing in the scent of loamy soil, fresh-cut grass, and pine. For a long time I’ve walked an eclectic path as a Witch/Pagan, but this week I felt called to explore a more specific path—that of a Kitchen Witch. It works well with my belief that all aspects of our lives are magical—even the seemingly mundane tasks of chopping vegetables and scrubbing the counters are imbued with magic. I’m just beginning to tread the path of a Kitchen Witch. We will see what I find as I explore the magic of hearth and home.

As far as writing, this week I wrote 2,460 words in Bewitched by the Dragon. I’m still feeling this story out, so I might switch over to Fates Entangled for a few days. I think the former wants to be a trilogy, and I’m trying to listen and see what that story needs from me.

I’m currently reading two books, Courting Darkness, the tenth book in Yasmine Galenorn’s Otherworld series, and The Goddess is in the Details, a work of spiritual nonfiction by Deborah Blake.

Although my word count for the week wasn’t anything too grand, it was still a very creative week. I’ve embraced the path of a Kitchen Witch. I added three pages to my book of shadows and started another scrapbook, a collection of magical recipes. So, special recipes for the Sabbats and Esbats, etc., will go in that book. That way I don’t touch my regular book of shadows with greasy hands. This one (see photo above) is designed to be in the kitchen where the action is.

Mostly this week was about embracing the changing nature of life. I’m adjusting (slowly) to life without my cat Roo. I still have Tigger and Zander and my very crazy puppy, Leo, to keep me company, but Roo was my writing companion, and I miss her—which probably explains why sitting down to write was so hard this week. And I’m embracing changes on my spiritual path, and hubby and I are talking about how our life might change next year when he’s out of graduate school. Where we’ll live, etc. Will we stay in this area but move to a house in the country, some place with a fenced-in yard for Leo? Will we uproot our lives and explore a new region of the country? That’s life, full of change and possibility. Forward we go.

What about you? What changes have you encountered recently, and how have you dealt with them?

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#ROW80 check-ins, the writer's journey

Burning the Midnight Oil

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Photo by Wayne Zhou | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Last night I worked until 3 a.m. to finish my revision of Spellfire’s Kiss. The fifth draft is now in the hands of critique partners and awaits their feedback. Next up is revising my short story, The Forest’s Own, so I can start submitting that story to magazines.

As far as reading, last week I read Blood Wyne by Yasmine Galenorn, part of her Otherworld series, which I love. No surprise that I enjoyed this story as much as the others in the series. I’m continuing to read Little Women, which I set aside for a while, and I have a read-through of a friend’s romance manuscript to read as well, so most of my reading time will be dedicated to that.

On the home front, hubby and I took a car load of stuff to Goodwill, and I have four boxes of books that I’m donating to a library near my hometown. It’s a low-income area, and I know the books will be put to good use there. I finally finished painting the living room a rich, royal blue, and I’ve decluttered every room except my husband’s office. It’s definitely our biggest problem area—there’s a reason we saved it for last. We have a serious paper clutter problem that I’m looking for a way to address. I think with a better filing system and a more organized closet, we can get that room under control. I also planted some flower bulbs—irises and gladiolus—so hopefully come summer we have some new blooms in our flowerbed.

What about you? What projects have you been tackling lately? On the writing front? At home?

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#ROW80 check-ins, decorating and organization, simple living

Simple Living: What to Keep?

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As many of you know, one of my missions for 2017 is to drastically simplify my life. I’ve packed up boxes of stuff—extra dishes, knickknacks and picture frames, even books, and am working toward having a more streamlined home.

I’ve been reading a lot about minimalism, and I’ve read enough to know that I am not a minimalist. I want my home to feel cozy, and for me that means a few meaningful items here and there. It’s a balancing act, finding that place that is “enough.” Enough stuff. Enough books. Enough dishes. Enough artwork. Just enough.

I’m not sure how we know when we’ve reached that point. I’m learning simple living is more of a process than a destination. I’ve boxed up a lot of stuff and tucked it away in the attic. If I don’t miss it within the next six months, I’ll go ahead and donate it to a local thrift store.

We’re moving toward a simpler life. The arrival of spring helps with that. More time spent outdoors, going hiking or simply sitting outside with a notebook in my lap. Opening the windows and letting the birdsong and fresh air in. It’s a process. We’re getting there.

As far as writing, I’m making progress with Spellfire’s Kiss. I have cover art and some promotional materials made up; more on that in a few months. I’m 70 percent of the way through a read-through of the latest draft. My goal is to finish the read-through tonight and start working through my notes tonight or tomorrow. I’d like to get this story to my critique partners by early next week.

On the reading front, I’ve read 10 books out of 30 for the year. I just finished reading a book on simple living, Simple Living: 30 Days to Less Stuff and More Life, by Lorilee Lippincott. It was good, although a lot of the tips were things I’d already done. I’d recommend it if you’re just starting to simplify your life, but if you’re further along in your journey, it might just be a reminder more than fresh information. I’m currently reading Blood Wyne by Yasmine Galenorn, which is fantastic.

What about you? Are you interested in simple living? What is the hardest part for you? What have you decided to keep or not to keep? How are your writing and reading goals coming along?

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#ROW80 check-ins, publishing

Excitement Abounds

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Photo by Daniaphoto, Dreamstime Stock Photos

It’s that time of year—the beginning of Round Two of A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Feel free to join us on Facebook or on the website and hop in whenever you’re ready. I’m a few days late in getting my goals posted, but here they are…

So, Round One was a bit of a wash for me in terms of writing goals, but it also provided some much-needed downtime. I put a lot of thought into my writing path and the creative journey that I’m on. For the past few months I’ve been having trouble writing, getting words on the page here and there but not really moving forward.

And then, all of a sudden, things kicked back into gear. I realized if I want to make this path work I really need to start charging forward. During one of my tarot readings I drew the card the Ace of Swords, which is all about taking action, cutting through the briar, and moving forward. And that’s exactly what I’m doing.

I dug into revisions of Spellfire’s Kiss, a novel that I plan on releasing this fall, hopefully in October. I love this story; it’s the first one I wrote when I made the leap to writing full time, and I’m excited to be able to share it with readers.

So, what are my goals for Round Two? Here they are:

  • Finish Spellfire’s Kiss and send to editor by June 1.
  • Finish a second draft of Fates Entangled, a novella.
  • Finish The Forest’s Own, a short story, and start submitting to magazines.
  • Do a read-through and start revisions on Goblins and Grimoires, a novella.
  • Continue on my quest to read 30 books in 2017.
  • Read some books by writer-friends and get reviews posted.

What about you? What are your goals for the second quarter of 2017?

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#ROW80 check-ins

The Magic Whispers…

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publicdomainstockphotos | Dreamstime Stock Photos

My plan was to write another Faerie Forest novelette—a short work, about 15,000 words, while I worked out a few plot points in my revision of Spellfire’s Kiss. Instead, what I discovered was a much longer story, a tale of family secrets and magical misdeeds that demands to be told. I know I need a few months to draft such a story, so the plan for the next couple months is to slowly allow this new story to unfold while I revise Spellfire’s Kiss so I can get it off to beta readers. I’d like to publish that one this fall, which means I need to get it to my editor by the summer so I have time for revisions.

Sometimes our stories surprise us, taking us down misty paths full of surprises. That’s the creative process, and the best thing to do is simply to allow our stories to whisper in our ear while we type madly away, letting the magic speak.

This week’s check-in:

Wrote 2,703 words in The Rogue Wore Red (working title). I spent a good deal of time trying to come up with a better title (that one is too Regency-sounding, I think), but nothing yet.

Finished reading The Crimson Spell by F. Goldsborough and started reading Caraval by Stephanie Garber. I’ve only read the first few chapters, but the writing is amazing so far!

When is the last time one of your works in progress surprised you? What happened? I’d love to hear from you!

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#ROW80 check-ins, the seasons

Winter’s Last Stand

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publicdomainstockphotos | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Today the daffodils are resting their weary heads against the frozen earth. After a fairly mild winter, and an exceptionally mild February, winter appears to be making its last stand, complete with snow flurries and wind chill advisories. In Southwest Virginia we’ve been spared the mountains of snow that are currently blanketing the Northeast, though, so for that I am grateful—especially since many trees already have blooms and we could’ve been facing a lot of power outages.

But even as I walked Leo today, I could hear, over the wind’s roar, the hopeful songs of birds in the tree branches, and yesterday we saw a gathering of robins, pecking at and hopping along the snow-speckled earth. The promise of spring exists even on these frozen days.

I’m trying to remember the lessons of hygge that I read about in The Cozy Life. That means candles burning, a hot cup of spicy tea (I’ve recently discovered Bigelow’s Constant Comment, a blend of orange rind, black tea, and spices), and curling up under a blanket with a good book. I’ve been skipping around between books as of late. This week I’m reading The Crimson Spell, a book by F. Goldsborough based on the Charmed series. After I finish that, I’d like to get back to Little Women.

As far as writing, since my last check-in I’ve written a rough synopsis for a novelette, The Rogue Wore Red, formerly The Redcap in the Library. I’m worried the new title suggests Regency romance, and it’s really a fantasy romance story, so I might have to play with it. This week I’ve written 1,200 words in that story. I’m also getting close to finishing Michael’s character arc in Spellfire’s Kiss.

What about you? Are you digging out from under mountains of snow, shivering at the blast of icy wind, or enjoying springtime sunshine where you live? Do you think The Rogue Wore Red is more of a Regency title than a fantasy one? What are you currently writing—or reading? I’d love to hear from you!

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#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, decorating and organization, the writer's journey

Sweeping away the cobwebs

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Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

Sometimes in life it is necessary to sweep the cobwebs away. We get stuck in a rut, and it’s hard to break out. Lately I’ve been in just such a rut. I’ve been hobbling along with my writing. I’ll do well for a few days, and then I won’t write for a few days. It’s disheartening, and it’s a pattern I’m determined to break. So I’m going back to my goal of doing something writing related every day. It might mean actively writing or revising. It might be reading a book on craft or exploring an aspect of the creative process in some fashion. I am determined to get Spellfire’s Kiss finished and off to CPs and beta readers. That story is so close, and it means so much to me, and I’d like to share it with others.

I’m brushing away the cobwebs in many areas of my life. In my writing, I’m trying to establish a healthy routine that allows me to make steady progress. In my home, I’m undertaking a massive decluttering. This weekend I packed up five boxes of dishes and miscellaneous items from our kitchen and dining room. I’ve already decluttered the living room, with the exception of our DVD collection, which we plan on digitizing. Next I’ll move on to the upstairs, particularly our bedroom closet and our office, which are brimming with clutter.

What I’ve realized is this: I want to live a creative life, a life of creativity, love, and compassion. And to do that, I can’t make excuses. I have to create, daily, even as my energy waxes and wanes.

As I pare away the excess in my physical life, I hope to make mental and emotional space for creativity.

On the home front, I’ve done a ton of decluttering and painted a wall in the living room. Three walls down, one to go. I’ve hung some art in the living room and entryway and am working on decluttering room by room.

On the writing front, I’ve written a mere 121 words so far this week, in a novelette in the Faerie Forest series. The working title is Redcap in the Library, which kind of gives it away, I know. No progress yet this week on Spellfire’s Kiss, though I only have one more scene to write in Michael’s character arc and then I can start weaving that into the rest of the manuscript, after which I’ll dig into revisions.

As far as reading, I’m still reading Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance by Julia Cameron. I’ve thrown another book into the mix, Christine Danse’s Island of Icarus, a steampunk M/M romance. It’s turning out to be a sweet story that I’m enjoying so far. I also read Street Team Smarts by Sara Humphreys, which was more of a guide than a book, at 18 or so pages, but we’ll count that, too. And I finished reading The Joy of Less by Francine Jay this weekend, which I highly recommend. In keeping with my desire to move more slowly and thoughtfully this year, I’ve scaled back my reading goal to 30 books. I’m one book ahead of schedule, according to Goodreads.

And that’s where I’m at. Brushing away the cobwebs and paring away the excess to focus on what I love.

What about you? Have you ever taken on a massive decluttering? Did it free up mental space? How is your creative journey going?

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#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, personal journeys

Slowwww…

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Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

In our culture, “slow” doesn’t usually equate “good.” We’re all about a fast-paced lifestyle—fast food, fast lanes, and, in my case, fast writing. Last year I tried to turn myself into a speed-writing machine, churning out stories as quickly as I could. And I burnt out, forgot to fill the well and ended up with no ink in the inkwell.

Reading about the Danish concept of hygge in Pia Edberg’s The Cozy Life has helped me in this regard. I’m being more intentional, doing little things like really enjoying the taste of a cup of tea with honey or listening to good music while I do chores. Hygge is all about coziness or homey-ness, relaxing with friends and family or even by ourselves, especially during the cold winter months.

This year I’ve resolved to do differently, to pace myself and allow my stories to unfold at a natural pace. And it’s working. The characters in Spellfire’s Kiss are whispering in my ear once more, and I’m leaning into the story and working on revisions. I’m starting to see my writing as less of a machine and more of a garden. Seeds sprout in their own time, and it takes lots of tending, weeding, watering, and nurturing for things to come to fruition.

We tend to do a lot of comparing in our society, and I’m trying to step away from that. What matters is that I want to spend my life creating cool stuff. In my case, that’s primarily the stories I write. I want to put my stories out into the world, to share them because creating and sharing my creations brings me a great deal of joy—and I hope that my creations give others a lot of joy.

This week, in the spirit of allowing my story to unfold naturally, I wrote 3,361 words in Spellfire’s Kiss. Michael now has a character arc that feels organic to the story, and the new ending I’ve written has so much more resonance than the original one. I hope to finish Michael’s character arc next week and start revising existing copy, with the goal of sending this story to my critique partners by the end of March.

On the reading front, I’m currently reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance by Julia Cameron.

As far as home-keeping, I’m about to start painting the living room a rich blue called “Highland Loch.”

In the winter, my energy tends to wane, but as the days grow longer I want to get back into a regular schedule of blogging and visiting others’ blogs as well as expanding my activity on other social media.

For me, 2017 is all about slowing down and allowing things to unfold, not rushing through life—including the stories I tell.

What about you? How are your goals coming along? Have you experienced the pressure to do things more rapidly—your art or your lifestyle? And have you ever felt the need to slow down in your writing—or life in general?

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