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It’s been HOW long?

So my last post was aptly titled, “I’ve Been Away.” I’ve been away again, but I definitely don’t want to make a habit of it.

This summer, I did some of the most awesomely fun things ever. My friends Lauri and Charlie and I visited our university town of Falmouth, Cornwall. I was busy with multiple trips to Paris and London and the U.S. to see family. My two sisters and I were in the same place at the same time, which is rare these days and always over way too fast. I met my new niece for the first time. Then more trips, my first Star Trek convention, in London (at which I met the entire cast of TNG except for Jonathan Frakes and Wil Wheaton, who didn’t attend, sadly… but it was AMAZING), some friends’ wedding in Lyon, France, and just lots of incredible busy-ness! (Did I mention I met Brent Spiner on both sides of the Atlantic? Data = <3).

But unfortunately, the health problems I was struggling with in my last post are still present. And I’m angry at myself for allowing it to put a damper on everything that happened over the past 8 months.

I just had my 2nd gastroscopy, this time to biopsy my esophagus. I’m awaiting those results, but the scope itself showed that my esophagus and stomach looked to be in perfect working condition. The endoscopist said, “You’ve got a stomach to be proud of!”

All of which is lovely, except it doesn’t explain my mystery swallowing problem. When I eat most foods, it feels like they’re sitting somewhere between the back of my throat and the entrance to my stomach. And no tests or x-rays have been able to show any problems. It might be easy to dismiss this as a mental problem except that I did have gastritis, which has been treated with PPIs that I’m still taking, and the acid reflux it’s caused has been known to also cause swallowing problems. It’s just that no doctor has been able to TELL me, “Yes, this is what’s going on. Do this, and you’ll get better.”

So for now, I’m still taking the PPIs, hoping they’re doing something, and await a specialist appointment in December (that was made in July and can’t be bumped any sooner).

I know this is not a serious issue, and the doctors have assured me of this as well. But to me, it’s serious, because it’s affected my quality of life. It’s made me miserable to be around, and made me miserable, period. I want to eat like I used to. I’d LOVE a glass of red wine. I’d love to just eat like normal and not think twice, “Is this going to feel stuck in my esophagus and make me panic?” Though I remind myself over and over, this isn’t major. Some people have REAL issues. This is not one of them.

And, I have faith. The only real comfort I’ve had has been God getting me through this. I might feel at the end of my rope some days, but I’m back to writing regularly, and exercise.

Which brings me to today’s point. (Yes, I have a point!) — (1) NaNoWriMo, and (2) the gym.

(1) I’m doing NaNo this year! Let’s be buddies! I’ve prepared nothing and have only the beginning of a draft I liked, that had no idea where it was headed, so I’ll work on that.

(2) GYM. Here’s where we throw down. I’ve been trying all sorts of things to overcome the anxiety that’s accompanied this mysterious dysphagia. A lot of it’s been helpful, to a point. I’ve been a runner for years (not a GOOD one, but a runner who does 10ks and is pleased with coming in under an hour. That kind of runner), but since our current neighbourhood isn’t conducive to refreshing jogs, I joined a gym. And it’s time I really use it.

I’ve never done this sort of thing before, but I’m posting it publicly so that, even if no one reads this, I’ll still feel compelled to stick it out. For ONE WEEK, I commit to getting up at 7 on weekdays, going to the gym, and starting my day with a workout behind me. Some people do this without thinking twice. I’d like to just do it, for once 🙂 Beginning next Monday, 3 November.

If you want growth, you gotta get out of your comfort zone, right?

No matter how rainy, no matter how tired, no matter how cold and lazy. I’m going to do it. And we’ll see what all the fuss is about after a week. If I feel better, I’ll try to keep it up. If not, then I’ll go back to once or twice a week whenever I can fit it in.

Until next time, here are some gratuitous photos of the past 4 months (the fun stuff, not the not-fun stuff):

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Brent Spiner at RocCon in Rochester, NY

 

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The lovely ladies of Star Trek: TNG – Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, and Denise Crosby

 

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John de Lancie. I love Q.

 

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ENGAGE!

 

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The handsome fellas: LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, and Brent Spiner (again!)

 

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Amazing weather in Paris.

 

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My favourite spot on earth (Allegany State Park, NY)

 

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Another Allegany shot

 

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Lyon, France — hot in October!

 

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Finally – FRONT ROW for Phantom in London. I was SO FREAKING HAPPY.

 

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Our hotel room view. Amazing.

 

 

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Cakes and champagne in Falmouth. As one does. (Thanks, Lauri!)

 

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Stopped for the view on my favourite run, in Falmouth.

I’m grateful to God that I’ve had the opportunity to do all these amazing things and visit these beautiful, breathtaking places. I just need to learn to stop focusing on my feelings, and focus on what’s real, and the other people around me. And in that department, I need all the help I can get.

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WIP Marathon Intro

Autumn at Killerton
Autumn at Killerton

If you’re full of pie like I am, you probably also aren’t doing much exercise today. But at least my fingers have had a workout, with two looming contests (one that I’m in, Baker’s Dozen, and one that I’m entering on Monday, Pitch Wars). And then I stumbled across Ifeoma Denniss post about #WIPMarathon, and excitement over my lightly slumbering WIP grew again!

Read all about it on her blog! It runs from 1 December – 1 February. My details:

Marathon Goal: NaNo for me this year went from hastily throwing down words to setting it calmly aside and investing the month in agent-led tutorials, a Writer’s Digest bootcamp, and many other fantastic resources. See my previous post for all the goods 🙂 Now that I’m refreshed after a month focused on improving my craft, I want to get back to my shiny new WIP. By 1 February, I’d like to have paper-plotted every scene and drafted the first 50k.

Stage of writing: I have a list of plot points and the first chapter drafted. So, in the very early stages, though it’s been in my head for awhile now.

What inspired my current project: It’s a space opera, prompted by my husband’s and my recent Star Trek:TNG marathon of every episode in order, re-reading one of my old favourites, the DEATHSTALKER series by Simon R. Green, and this song on endless repeat.

What might slow down my marathon goal: Christmas and Hogmanay in Scotland. Cradling my finished fantasy novel, and trying to give it wings. But hopefully I’m ready to focus.

Best time of the day for writing: I’m on London time, so 5 hours later than EST. I write from 10 AM onwards, and am on and off until 6, sometimes much later.

That’s it for now! I think I may have a slow start, but come the second week of December, I should be settling into my stride. 🙂 Looking forward to it, and to meeting new writer friends!

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In With the New

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Hello and welcome to the last day of 2012! I hope you have exciting, peaceful, and/or relaxing plans for ringing in the New Year. Last year we spent it on the sofa watching TV at my mother-in-law’s and while this might not have been the most exciting, it was fitting for the year that was. This year we’re going out for a meal and some merry-making, and I’m hoping being a bit more active might be symbolic of the year to come 🙂

I’m not going to lie. From my list of 25 goals for this past year, I crossed off 6 of them. That sounds pathetic except one of them was plan a wedding and get married, which I did (and we did :)) so I’m not complaining! But I do hope to be much more active this year. It felt like a lot of waiting and planning happened in 2012; a lot more doing for 2013, I think.

I thought I’d take some others’ leads and share a few of my goals, since reading their goals inspired me to focus on some realistic (but still challenging) ones, and yet also remind myself that life isn’t about checking things off for the sake of drawing that line. Productivity and results are worthy goals, but I want to enjoy the journey more and more, rather than berating myself this time next year for not doing X, Y, and Z.

  • Decision-making: I recently read that successful people make quicker decisions rather than hemming and hawing, because they’re confident in their values. I am confident in mine, so why do I spend 10 minutes trying to choose from a menu, or a week on whether to apply for a certain job? I know what kinds of things I want and enjoy and believe in. I need to work on this.
  • The BIG one: focus on ONE step at a time. Finish what I start. Multi-tasking is great and the sort of prerequisite all employers want on your CV. But let’s be honest. If you can’t fully focus on what’s right in front of you, what good are you at the peripheral tasks, or the ones coming down the pipeline? It’s great to be able to keep track of several things at once, don’t get me wrong. But I think multi-tasking in our culture has become grossly overrated. It’s prompting a whole generation of people with ADD traits, and I’m not using that term loosely because I know people who really struggle with it. Yes, for the sake of doing the best I can at a job, I can keep tabs on 10 different things, but in my personal life, when it comes to writing, painting, cleaning house, organising, reading, etc., I want to be concerned with the one thing God’s put in front of me, and do my best with that before moving on. I can’t do anything with tomorrow’s bread, hence, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

And the more tangible ones:

  • Finish fantasy, polish, CPs
  • Keep working on WF.
  • Blog regularly through the month, when I have books to review, things to say. I don’t want to force myself to a blogging schedule when actually writing stories is what’s most important to me, which brings me to . . .
  • Read 1 writing craft book per month, and review it on this blog.
  • Have at least an outline for next book by the year’s end.
  • Start kickboxing.
  • Run/kickboxing/volleyball/hike 3x per week, no matter where I am and what I’m doing!
  • no Bible, no breakfast (we’ll see… I might have to breakfast while reading).
  • Write with a timer (in 30-minute chunks). This proved super effective during NaNo this year!
  • Unless writing, get off the computer by 9 pm.
  • Write a handwritten card/note to friends & family 3x a month.
  • Complete 12 paintings by the year’s end.

That’s a lot. I could add obvious others like “FINALLY get a job” and “eat more fruit and vegetables”, but I already know I need to do those. Making them a goal for the year seems a bit of a cop-out.

Do you find making lists like this is helpful? Have you ever crossed off EVERY item on your resolutions/goals list? Whether you write down goals or just plan to make the best of each day, I wish you the absolute best for a peaceful, productive, safe, healthy, and amazing year!!

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NaNoWriMo and November #WriteMotivation Wrap-up

I just realised my first #Writemotivation and NaNo post for November was saved as a draft . . . and never published. This is the ultimate example of how scattered my brain has been. My great ability to start things and not finish them has reared its head this year. Well, that’s quite enough of that. If nothing else, I hereby dedicate 2013 to be the year of finishing projects/tasks/goals I start, and being able to happily point at finished products before moving on to the next thing.

To everyone who wrote *any* words during November for NaNo, WELL DONE! A lot of friends and Twitterers have said they focused more on the quality of the words they wrote this year, as opposed to just throwing whatever up there in order to “win”, and I’m wholeheartedly in this camp. I think NaNo is an awesome motivator for people to get pen to paper and fingers to keyboard. It’s rewarding to be writing alongside others, even if they’re fellow storytellers we’ll never meet, and this is never more obvious to me than during NaNo, so thank you to everyone who shared encouraging words on Twitter 🙂

Writing Ahead of the Blank Wall

My goals for November #Writemotivation and NaNo were the same: add 50k to my WIP, A BREATH OF SILVER, and I succeeded. This time I tried something different though – I have the synopsis for the story down, all the pivotal story points and the ending, but it was the little details and connecting scenes that I began to struggle with halfway through the month. Some days I wrote nothing. Two weekends my husband and I were away so I got nothing down, but I secretly revelled in these excuses to take a break. Then I decided to do what someone suggested: write what I know right now. I wrote some pivotal scenes I’ve had simmering for awhile, and in doing so, on the spot I came up with details, characters, and side plots that I’ll have to explain later.

For instance, my MC–Bryn–travels from North London to Scotland in 1691. The last scene in chronological order I wrote was her arrival north of the border. Then when I blanked on what happens between her arrival in Scotland to her life at her ancestral clan’s Highland castle, I jumped several months ahead to her trying to fit in, what job she’s doing there, and what friends and rivals she’s made. That meant I immediately had to make up the peripheral characters and situations that would propel her to the next plot point: meeting a romantic interest and major character. It also means that the bits that will come in between her arrival in Scotland and her life at the castle are now sketched out, and backtracking to write these scenes will be much easier.

The point is, I think sometimes you need to move forward to fill the gap. It can be a massive chasm of unknown obstacles, characters, creatures, threats. There could be anything in there, particularly as this is first and foremost a fantasy. But when I jumped to the other side of that ravine, since I know what happens there, I can look back easier than I could look forward. I know some are totally against writing out of order, but I’m finding it really does get my creative juices flowing when I’ve reached a wall. So, you never know until you try. If you’re stuck, I recommend it! But probably only if you’ve got a solid overall synopsis constructed first.

It felt great to reach my goals this month for the first time in awhile, and special thanks to Leigh Caroline, Megan Peterson, and Andrew Patterson for encouragement, and Susan Dennard and Sarah J. Maas for their fabulous #NaNoWriMoBattle word sprints that seriously pushed me! Hope everyone enjoyed pressing forward in their goals this month, and are enjoying the holiday season!

Oh yeah, and yesterday was a year since my husband proposed to me 🙂 Nice to see my ring has survived everything I’ve put it through, including climbing Helvellyn in the Lake District covered in snow, climbing the highest peak in England & Wales (Snowdon), as well as other hills, scurrying down rocks to reach a hidden cove in Cornwall, jumping off a boat into the freezing-cold Mediterranean, and many other adventures. Here’s to many more 🙂 <3

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A month of NaNo followed by a Long-Expected (reason to) Party.

The Eden Project at night; the site of my engagement 🙂

So I didn’t blog at all in November, but I did a lot of writing. I completed NaNo (woohoo!!) but only just. Two weeks in the middle of the month were incredibly busy despite still not having a job. Three friends from university and I had been planning for months to meet up in London in a flat we rented for three nights. Three of us hadn’t seen in each other since graduation in June 2010, and I’d seen one of them a few times, so it was fantastic to catch up, see the sights, walk the too-early Christmas German markets and the Christmas fair in Hyde Park. We had a blast! Unfortunately, I knew I’d get no writing done in those three days, but I managed to catch up in the last three days of the month.

And the most awesome part of NaNo this year? I think it could easily be a GREAT novel. I actually feel really good about the ideas that are starting to flow, and I’m finding the more I write, the more I flow. Duh! Sounds simple, but sometimes it’s so much harder to START than it is to keep going. Starting truly is the hardest part, because your brain has time to find excuses. But I truly believe what I recently (re)-read: “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”

I find plenty of excuses because I think that looking for full-time employment and not finding it for so long can lead to procrastination like you’d never believe. When you’re in a job, you try to cram so much more into your spare time. Or, I imagine, when you know you’re free to write full-time from home, then you just get down to it. But when, like me, you’re currently stuck in the position of needing an income and struggling to even get an interview, you’re then feeling guilty about writing, replying to emails, following writing blogs and social media, or doing ANYTHING apart from job hunting. It’s an awful cycle, but I am confident I’ll escape it soon, one way or another.

And the long-expected (reason to) party? The first weekend in December, my partner and I had planned to drive down to Cornwall for two nights just for a pre-Christmas weekend away from the madness. We visited Falmouth, where I lived for three years and went to uni, and we were blessed with an awesome sunny day.

Yes, this used to be my running route. Gorgeous Falmouth.

We spent the day walking up and down the high street with me snapping photos of everything that brought back good memories, ran into some friends, and got excited to plan a springtime visit back to Cornwall to do some proper coastal walks.

But the most EXCITING news came the night before; we went to the Eden Project which I’d been to once, years ago, but this time it was after dark (2-for-1!) and at Christmas time, so there was an ice skating rink (again, 2-for-1!) and Christmas lights, and it was much emptier than I expected so it felt like a nice, quiet evening to ourselves. Inside the Rainforest biome, my partner got down on one knee and proposed to me with the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen. 🙂 It was the happiest moment of my life for sure, and I am so thankful my life brought me through all the twisty paths it has to get me to that moment, with that person. He’s made me happier than I ever imagined. Things do work out, and things happen for a reason.

So it’s already been the best Christmas ever 🙂 Lots of planning ahead for 2012, but most important is a job for me. I keep fantasising an agent will come along and see my brilliance (haha) and I’ll be able to write full-time from home (or really, HAVE to write full-time from home) to fulfill my giant book deal 😉 But I’m looking every day, in the hopes I find something that will use my degree and skills and be interesting to boot. Persistence, eh?

So I learned, or was reminded, this November, that if you really, REALLY want something, you’ll find a way. It’s been a slow lesson, but over the last 18 months since graduation, the thing I keep coming back to is writing. It’s what I want more than *anything* for my path in life, and I am willing to work hard at it, though sometimes it can be really difficult. I got fantastic feedback from being part of Authoress‘s Baker’s Dozen contest, and I’m going to keep on truckin’. I found excuses as to why I didn’t want to do A, B, or C like other people I graduated with are doing, but writing has been in my heart since I was old enough to listen to stories that were read to me. So my 2012 New Year’s Resolution (starting now, because it’s never too early) is to have confidence in myself, not take “no” for an answer, and just work, work, work so I can be proud and see results. No more excuses!! That’s my 2012 mantra.

<3

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