The “S” Word

Tara and I drove into Portland yesterday to pick up a few things (an $11.45 bag of Jacobsen sea salt, a bottle of Wild Roots Marionberry infused vodka, a package of smoked steelhead trout – god, we’re weird). While on Sandy Blvd. we drove past a huge vintage store we had never seen before and decided to stop in. This place was great! In addition to a million knickknacks, including more than a few lava lamps, they also apparently bought out an old clothing/costume store and there were all kinds of groovy outfits. I really, really wanted to buy a yellow ruffled tuxedo shirt and houndstooth jacket just because, or maybe to wear to the upcoming office holiday party ironically, but we didn’t have a lot of time to browse so we will have to go back sometime and invest a solid hour or two for looking around.

Along the way, we passed this car.

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Guess you’d call that a tree-cylinder, huh?

Oh, Portland. I love you so.

On the way home there was a woman on the side of the road selling homemade tamales out of a cooler for $5 each. “You just know those would be the best tamales you ever had,” Tara said, and I was tempted to stop but I had already passed her by and we really needed to get home so I could start cooking, as we were having my parents over for dinner. Come to think of it, I should have just picked up a bunch of tamales and served those – would’ve saved me a heck of a lot of trouble, huh? But I was already planning on making enchiladas and guacamole, so we just stuck with that.

I’m tempted to drive back over there sometime and pick up a few, though.

The dinner turned out very well. Doing it all from scratch, right down to the enchilada sauce, is a lot of work but definitely worth the effort. Our apartment is all decked out for the holidays and we had Christmas music playing, so it was very festive. Audrey and her girlfriend were there too, so that was nice. After dinner my parents went home and we watched my favorite holiday movie, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Tara made popcorn and it was a grand ol’ time.

I was itching to get out of the apartment today and Tara had some stuff to do, so I took an impromptu drive into the Gorge. The weather was very dramatic. Check out the storm clouds from the Cape Horn Lookout.

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I wanted to climb Beacon Rock, but the trail was closed for maintenance. What?! So I ended up hiking to Hardy Falls and Pool of the Winds instead. It’s been really wet lately, and the falls were quite spectacular.

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I also drove into Stevenson, our future home, to check out their community Christmas tree. It was, umm, cute. Pretty small actually. I also stopped in the grocery store for a few items, and the checker was addressing the lady behind me by name and asking about her kids. How quaint. I guess that’s something we’ll have to get used to when we live there.

On the way home I ran into a massive hail storm; that provided some excitement!

I am currently drinking wine while Tara is making a beef and butternut squash stew. We are watching football and will put on The Walking Dead later. Yesterday I hit page 200 in my novel, not a bad feat considering I started out on page 30 a little over a month ago. I am not that far away from the home stretch, which makes me want to keep banging away at it.

So people are getting excited around here because the National Weather Service mentioned the “S” word. As in, snow. They’re predicting that just in time for the morning commute tomorrow, but it’s doubtful that anything will stick unless you get up into the foothills. There’s a better chance of snow and/or freezing rain later in the week, and that offers a little more promise. We shall see. For all the times they predict snow around here, it rarely materializes. We just don’t live in the right climate for it, so everything has to come together perfectly. Regardless of whether it actually does end up snowing, it’s going to be cold this week. Highs in the 30s. We haven’t had temps that low in quite awhile, so it’ll feel especially frigid for those of us more used to a damp 48 degrees.

Have a great week!


NNWM/30: Final Words

Happy last day of November! If you participated in NaNoWriMo, I hope you hit your word goal.

I, for one, am glad it’s over. NaNoWriMo was harder than I imagined it would be. 50,000 words in a month is tough. I did the math before signing up and figured 1,667 words a day – the number needed in order to reach your goal – was do-able. Well, it is, but if you fall behind even one day, you are stuck playing catch-up. And let’s face it: there will be days where you are unable to write 1,667 words. Life gets in the way, especially when you have a full-time job and a hundred other daily responsibilities, like cooking and showering and sleeping. Suddenly, you find yourself needing to write 2,100 words a day to get back on track, and that creates a lot of pressure. Four of us signed on at work. I’m the only one who successfully finished. I don’t blame the others, though. Maybe they’re the sane ones?

I basically devoted every spare moment I had over the past month to writing. Even when I didn’t feel like it, I did it. And yet, I still fell behind, and found myself scrambling the last two weeks. The long holiday weekend saved me. There were slow periods at work where I was able to knock out a few hundred words. As soon as I got home, I fired up my laptop. Weekends, in between errands, I focused on my novel. With that deadline looming constantly over my head, I had very little time to relax and have fun. I feel fortunate, at least, that I never suffered from writer’s block or ended up getting hung up on the plot. When I wrote, the words flowed. Research slowed me down more than anything else. So, yeah: great accomplishment and it was very inspiring and motivational, but I am mentally exhausted. Do I really want to put myself through this again? I’m sure in 11 months I’ll be all fired up again, but I reserve the right not to be.

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I kind of wish NaNoWriMo took place in a different month. One with 31 days, for starters. That alone would reduce your burden by 54 words a day. And preferably a month without a big holiday that required your attention. I think March would be perfect. Maybe we can circulate a petition?

As for the book, 50K words doesn’t even bring me close to the end. According to Dr. Google, most novels clock in at 80,000 – 89,000 words on average, and that feels about right. Here’s an interesting link showing the word counts of popular works of fiction. I probably have another 1/3 of my novel to go yet. But NaNoWriMo was instrumental in providing me with the motivation needed to pick it up again, wipe off the dust, and plunge back into the story. Honestly, if I had never signed up, I probably wouldn’t have ever gotten back around to working on Dream Sailors again. It’s too hard to find excuses not to write; NaNoWriMo provided me with the exact lift I needed and got me back into the habit of writing. It helped me rediscover the joy of creating fiction, and for that I will be forever grateful. I love how the story has unfolded and can’t wait to finish. I’m estimating that will happen in January(ish). Then comes the editing, which will take several more months, if the past is any indication. I figure I might be a year away from publication yet, but I will get there. Mark my words.

I have also really enjoyed the daily blog updates. They have been very helpful in keeping me motivated, as well, and have done wonders to hold me accountable. Life is busy and my blog has sort of fallen by the wayside this past year; I’ll make an effort to update more often moving forward.

So…that’s it! I’ll continue to keep you posted on my novel progress as I go along.

Just not every day!

Word Count Today: 622.
Total FINAL Word Count: 51,023.

NNWM/29: Turning 24 Into 10

When I got to work this morning, I told my coworkers how happy I was to be back in the office. They assumed I was joking, but I was deadly serious. I feel like I’ve been cooped up for days. Probably because I’ve been cooped up for days. Vacation felt like work, so in this backwards reality, work felt like a vacation. I did not have to spend hours toiling away on my novel and could instead participate in meetings! and edit documents! Once I convinced them I was not kidding, they assumed I was insane instead.

Actually, much of this morning was spent figuring out holiday schedules. I realized that with a little planning, I could turn 24 hours of PTO into ten days off. All I had to do was request Dec. 27-29 off. It took me all of five seconds to decide that was too tempting an offer to pass up. With so much time off, I should do something productive.

Maybe I’ll write another book.

Ha. I kid.

I did manage a couple hundred words today. I’m holding true to my promise to write every day. It’s so much easier now that the pressure is gone.

Here’s a photo I uploaded to Instagram this morning. This is Dewey Lake in Mount Rainier National Park, taken during a hike the end of July. With winter-like weather forecast next week, I thought it would be nice to share a little slice of last summer.

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Word Count Today: 220.
Total Word Count: 50,401.

NNWM/28: 50,000

I have a new favorite word in my vocabulary. That word is several. It’s a simple word, really. Merriam-Webster defines it as “an indefinite number; more than two and fewer than many.” I like it for another reason: it is the 50,000th word in my novel, Dream Sailors. Which means I have successfully completed my first-ever NaNoWriMo! With two days to spare, no less. Although, in all fairness, I got a jump start on my book two days early when I embarked upon my writer’s retreat in a vintage trailer on the Washington coast over Halloween weekend. Still, I completed it in 30 days either way, so there is no asterisk beside that accomplishment as far as I’m concerned!*

*Except one. But I’ll talk about that in my final post this month. I’m too busy celebrating now.

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Up until a few days ago, I wasn’t even sure that I’d reach my NaNoWriMo goal. You have to write 1,667 words a day, every single day, for 30 days, in order to hit that magic number. That’s a lot, especially when you haven’t so much as looked at your novel in almost a year. Doubly so when you’re working without any sort of outline or draft. But I’m a sucker for personal challenges and was able to plow through and pick up my pace over the holiday weekend. When I realized I was getting close, I decided to take today off and focus 100% on writing. And that’s exactly what I did. I forced myself to get out of bed at the usual time – 5:45 – and other than a walk, coffee, lunch, and a shower, I did nothing but write. And at 4:45 p.m. I reached my goal with the word “several.” Honestly, I am relieved as hell. I feel like I can finally take a breather for the first time in a month. No, my novel isn’t finished. I probably still have another 30,000 words or so to go. But I will get there, and I can do so on my own schedule now.

I’ll still update my blog the next two days. I promised one entry a day all month long, and that commitment is an easy one to keep.

Word Count Today: 4,580.
Total Word Count: 50,181.

NNWM/27: A Lot Like Christmas

I woke up this morning dismayed that the long holiday weekend was already coming to an end. It’s amazing how quickly the days fly by, huh? But I’m not ready to go back to work just yet, so I texted my boss and asked if I could take a last-minute PTO day on Monday. He gave me the okay, so – woot! My weekend isn’t over just yet!

It’s been incredibly productive but busy. We ended up decorating the apartment for Christmas, which turned into an afternoon-long project. But it looks great, and I love that we have a real tree again this year. It’s been a while.

I also hit 2,000+ words for a third consecutive day, so I’ve made up quite a bit of ground and am now rapidly closing in on reaching my goal. This is the main reason I decided to take tomorrow off. With an empty apartment and nowhere to go, I should be able to make a big push toward finishing. By “finishing” I mean hitting 50K words, not completing the novel. I figure that’ll take at least another month. But I want the trophy, dammit. Or whatever it is you win for a successful NaNoWriMo.

Please don’t tell me it’s only bragging rights. Those are so overrated.

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Word Count Today: 2,442.
Total Word Count: 45,601.

NNWM/26: Inception-ish

When I’ve talked about the plot of my new novel, a lot of people say, “Oh – like Inception!” And while both stories center around dreaming, that’s the only real common ground they share. But enough folks made the comparison that I began to worry. I saw Inception when it came out a few years ago, but only that one time. The truth is, I didn’t remember many of the details other than the fact that it was a visually stunning film and starred Leonardo DiCaprio. I began to worry that I might have inadvertently “borrowed” from the script and incorporated those elements into my book. The subconscious is a powerful tool, after all. Which is sort of the whole point of Inception, come to think about it.

So last night we watched it again. I’d picked up a BluRay copy at Value Village a few weeks ago for $4. God, I miss that store already. Tara had never seen the movie and I wanted a refresher course to ensure that what I was writing was, indeed, original. You’d think I’d have done this prior to committing to NaNoWriMo, huh?

But it’s all good. My book is, at most, Inception-ish. But barely. Overlapping themes aside, it’s totally original.

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Today we picked up my parents from the airport. They have been in New Zealand and on a cruise for the past month. I’m glad they’re back.

We bought a Christmas tree this afternoon from the Boy Scouts lot across the street. I was surprised when Tara suggested a real tree, given that we’ve relied upon her artificial tree the past few years. I love the smell of fresh pine. Tomorrow we will finish decorating the apartment for Christmas.

Tonight we went to Shanahan’s for cocktails and dinner. I don’t think we’ve ever gone there on a Saturday night – usually it’s Friday after work. We had a great time even if our usual server, Alicia, was not there. Tomorrow we will finish decorating. It is taking so much concentration for me to type this post without errors, so I think I’ll wrap it up now.

Word Count Today: 2,081.
Total Word Count: 41,130.

NNWM/25: Rabbit Hole

Originally we’d hoped to take advantage of the long holiday weekend and embark upon a mini getaway today, possibly to check out the Painted Hills of Oregon before holing up in Pendleton or The Dalles overnight, but poor weather and a lack of daylight made us reconsider those plans. The rain we could probably deal with, hardy Northwesterners that we are, but the sun sets early this time of year, and there aren’t very many hours of available light. So we decided to scrap the idea until sometime next Spring, when we won’t be in such a hurry to see all the sights before they disappear beneath a blanket of darkness. Tara actually ended up going to work, while I spent a relaxing day working on my novel. I was able to bang out 2,000 words, and would have done a lot more but I fell into a rabbit hole of research and ended up perusing online transcripts from a number of arraignment hearings in order to get a feel for how to write a convincing courtroom scene. I was able to locate a copy of the inmate handbook from the detention center in which the action in my book is currently taking place, which is proving extremely helpful. I actually reached out to an attorney friend of Tara’s in Nevada for help, but now I do not need it. Thanks, prisonhandbook.com! (For real. It was that easy.)

So instead of a big overnight trip, we are hanging out at home eating leftover turkey and watching movies. It’ll be a lot cheaper, at least, and we can sleep in our own bed tonight.

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Word Count Today: 2,081.
Total Word Count: 41,130.

NNWM/24: Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pretty laid back day for us today. For the first time in years, we did not host. We did not go anywhere, either. It ended up just being me, Tara, and Audrey – but that was alright. I found a small turkey at Chuck’s Produce (9.something lbs.) and we just downscaled everything else. We brined it with a seasoning we found from New Seasons, and it turned out perfectly moist and delicious. For the sides, we made mashed potatoes, creamed corn, balsamic and bacon Brussels sprouts, and potato rolls. Oh, and deviled eggs. Currently I am turning the leftovers into soup – another longstanding tradition. I’m looking forward to digging into that around 8:00.

It was a great day to stay inside, as it rained nonstop all day long and never made it above 50 degrees. My kind of weather!

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I didn’t get a lot of words written today, but I’m not beating myself up. It was a holiday, after all. And I’ve got tomorrow off, so I’m hoping to make up for that then.

Word Count Today: 794.
Total Word Count: 39,049.

NNWM/23: Wednesday, Bloody Wednesday

Thanksgiving Eve! Can you believe it?

Work productivity always takes a hit the day before a long holiday weekend, and today was no exception. I may have contributed to that just a little by kicking off the day with Bloody Marys in the office. I had promised them to my team, and decided today would be the perfect day to make it happen. Now, Tara just happens to make the best Bloody Marys on the planet, and I might have raved over them a time or two. She was gracious enough to mix up a batch last night for me to share with my coworkers. The funny thing is, she only ever makes them a glass at a time, so that’s exactly what she ended up doing, eventually filling an empty plastic milk jug 2/3 to the top. I told her I’d be happy to make them if she directed me, but she insisted on doing it all herself. Turns out she just wanted all the credit herself.

I sure am crazy about that wife o’ mine.

We wasted no time, getting the party started at 8:00 sharp. After gathering in the kitchen, HR stopped by, but rather than put the kibosh on our celebration, they eagerly joined in. Ha! There was plenty to go around. I ended up serving drinks to my boss, my boss’s boss, and the Big Boss, one of the company owners, as well. Everybody loved them. Tara and I joke about opening a bar and grill someday, but maybe we should.

So now I’ve got four whole days off and the weather is going to be very wet and stormy. This means I should hopefully get a lot of writing done. There’s just one week of NaNoWriMo left and I am not sure I’ll hit the goal of 50,000 words – I am currently on track to reach that lofty number December 1, just past the deadline – but with the extra time off, I just.might.do.it. Even if I don’t, I’ll still have accomplished more than I ever could have hoped for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Word Count Today: 1,610.
Total Word Count: 38,255.