Saturday, November 28, 2015

Weekly Reads, Vol. 53

My internet was down last weekend, so I couldn't post this round-up. So there are two weeks of great links in this post. Enjoy!

Erika at Newlyweds on a Budget recently welcomed a baby boy. He's adorable (especially in the photo on this post), but she admits life with a newborn isn't easy. Any other moms have some advice for her?

Winter is not even close to being my favorite season. In fact, it's last on the list. But Lexi at Lex Be Livin' spelled out some reasons winter is pretty great. Maybe I don't mind it so much after all. I also love how she recently honored a friend on her birthday. By the way, Lexi has an Instagram hashtag going. Check it out and join her.

Speaking of Instagram hashtags, Helene at Helene in Between and Taylor at The Daily Tay want you to share your seasonal photos and moments with #myholidayspark.

Need to take wine to an upcoming holiday party but don't want to spend a ton of money? Sarah at Venus Trapped in Mars has you covered.

Rena has a great reminder about the dangers of comparing yourself and your journey to others. She advises you to keep your "eyes on your own path."

Angie at My So-Called Chaos provides a list of ways to stay safe in the dating world. These are some great tips. I already did a few of them, but there were a few I had never considered.

Joey at Hodges Podges spoke straight to my heart with a post about battling inadequacy and self-esteem issues.  I related to her words so much.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Turkey Trot 5K recap

I've wanted to do a Thanksgiving Day 5K for as long as I've been a runner. Even before I picked up running, I would see people posting about and talking about running the morning of Turkey Day. They always looked so happy and proud. I wanted to join those legions.

This year, my Thanksgiving Day wish was granted with the Des Moines Turkey Trot. I signed up the moment I heard about it. I invited people to join me, but naturally, I didn't find many takers. My friends, Brandon and Shane signed up for the 5-mile race. And I ended up running into high school friend, Laura, before the race.  But I'm used to doing races alone. I don't have a lot of runner friends in my area, and I also know it's a big day for family and travel. My family only lives 40 miles away and we typically don't eat until mid-afternoon, so I knew I had plenty of time for a 9 a.m. race.

Yesterday morning was cold and drizzly.  40 degrees on its own would have been very comfortable.  But it had rained all night, so the air was damp. It rained more in the hour before the race start.  Fortunately, the rain took a break at 9 a.m. and didn't resume until I was in the last half-mile of my 5K.  The 5-mile folks were not so lucky.

All in all, though, I felt pretty good during this race.  The hill near the capitol was a killer, but I pushed through.  And I warmed up pretty quickly.  I felt really good at the end of the run.

Official time: 34:44

My finish time scale:
Good - 36:00 or above
Great - 34:01-35:59
Awesome - 34:00 or faster

That means this race was GREAT.  I'm still aiming for that AWESOME mark. I only have one more 5K this year to get there.  Or maybe two. I'm considering an additional race. We'll see.


Last week's workouts
Friday: Off 
Saturday:  Off 
Sunday: Off 
Monday: 30 minutes of yoga at home 
Tuesday: 2-mile outdoor run 
Wednesday: Off 
Thursday: Off

Thursday, November 26, 2015



Today, I'm thankful ...

... for family. Dysfunctional, functional, close, estranged. At the end of the day, I know who has my back and who I can lean on in tough times.

... to have three jobs I enjoy.  I can still remember my days of unemployment and other jobs where I wasn't satisfied or happy. It's refreshing to be on the other side.

... for friends -- new and old, near and far. Longtime friends are a treasure, but I've enjoyed the new additions to my life as well. I adore the people I get to spend a lot of time with, but I cannot dispute the value of my long distance pals.

... for my small, cluttered apartment. Downsizing from a three-bedroom house to a one-bedroom apartment wasn't easy, but it's taught me a lot about priorities and necessities. It's also helping me get creative about storage.

... for my furkids. Cleo is kind of a bitch, and Casey mostly doesn't want anything to do with me. But I can't imagine life without them. They are my heart.

... for sore muscles. This means I haven't stopped challenging myself and pushing my body to the limits.

... for all the guys who broke my heart. Disappointment and rejection aren't fun, but I have come out of each situation a little stronger. Because of the guys who told me "no," I've learned how to say "yes" to myself and hold out for the absolute right person for me.

... for the "friends" who have proven to be anything but. I have a few enemies, but they're not nearly as bad as those people who pretended to be my friends only to use me, insult me, mistreat me, and manipulate me. But I've learned lessons from those people. I've learned to start listening to my gut when something seems off, to be more careful about who I trust, and put more stock in the people who have proven they're in my corner.

... I've never seen any of my sports teams win it all. My Texas Rangers have a few division championships and two league championships in my time as a fan. The Iowa State Cyclones have some men's basketball conference championships. The Kansas City Chiefs' last Super Bowl win was eleven years before I was born. I've stuck with my teams through the bad and good. Because I haven't seen a big win from these teams, I still have something to look forward to, and it will be that much more satisfying.

... for the two job layoffs I experienced in the span of seven months a few years ago. At the time, they really sucked. I'm pretty sure I thought I'd never find a job again. Without the first layoff, I probably wouldn't have moved to Des Moines, which means I would have missed out on a lot of awesome people. And without the second one, I wouldn't have found my way into a career where I'm constantly learning and have a ton of opportunities.

This probably isn't a conventional round-up of thanks, but I've really been thinking a lot lately about some of those at the bottom of my list. Sometimes the things we think of as obstacles or setbacks turn into blessings in time. That's sure happened for me.

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Christmas movie advent calendar

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, which means I'll start breaking out the Christmas music and movies on Friday. I already have my tree up because I always put it up on Nov. 24 (read here for more information on that), but I try very hard to hold out on the holiday tunes and flicks until after Thanksgiving.

I own a ton of Christmas movies. Here are the titles I have to work with:

There are 10 movies in that bottom DVD case, including: "The Christmas Kiss," "A Boyfriend For Christmas," "The Holiday Engagement," "Mrs. Santa Claus," "Old Fashioned Christmas," "A Carol Christmas," "Three Wise Women," "Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus," "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," & "Moonlight & Mistletoe)T

Not pictured because they are en route:
"Holiday in Handcuffs"

Somehow I do not own "Home Alone," but I will be changing that soon.

I'm also including the following Netflix selections:
"The Christmas Crush"
 "The Mistletones"

This year, I've decided to draw out the holiday goodness by watching one movie a day from now until Christmas.  And to keep some element of surprise, I wrote each title on a piece of paper, shuffled them well, and clipped them to my snowflake with numbers on the outside:

The fun will start next Tuesday. I may live tweet some of them, so be sure to follow me if that's your thing.

What Christmas movies are on your must-watch list?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Balancing life and NaNoWriMo

Whew. I'm back. I didn't mean to go away, but my modem crapped out last Thursday and they couldn't send a tech with a new one until Monday night. That's right, I spent all weekend (including a snowed in Friday night) without Internet service. This meant no Netflix, no Hulu, and -- more importantly -- no blogging. Sigh. It was a rough few days, but I made it.

Anyhow ... let's get on with it.

The first time I successfully completed National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I was living in a small town far away from my friends. I would work, workout, and write. That's all I had going on in my life.

These days, it's a little different. I still have three jobs, I've been keeping up with my workouts, and I also have a pretty active social life. Here are a few things I've been up to this month:

Attending a baby shower for my bestie, Ashley.  
Baby S is due at the end of December, and I can't wait to meet her.

Watching a lip sync contest at a local bar. 
It was a blast, though I disagreed with the judges' choice for the winner.

Completing my eighth race of the year.

Attending a blind beer tasting event where I won two growlers!

Going to hockey games ... and becoming a very big Iowa Wild fan.

Taking and passing an exam for work. 
It's the first of about a handful I'll need to complete to move up.

Seeing Trans-Siberian Orchestra live!
It was an unbelievable show of music and lights.

Spending time with my favorite people.

All of this ... and yet I'm still progressing with my NaNoWriMo project.

I wish I could tell you it's been easy. But it hasn't.

I've always been someone who needed a block of 4-5 hours to sit down and write. But if I waited for that, I'd never have time to write. Instead, I'm having to take advantage of some smaller blocks of time. I've taken my laptop to work and written during my lunch hour. One day, I went to a coffee shop after work and wrote for 90 minutes before my favorite fitness class. I'm learning that an hour here and an hour there really adds up. And, honestly, I tend to be more productive in those short bursts because I realize my time is at a premium.

But I didn't want to give up all the fun things around me just to work on my novel. I mean, I get some of my inspiration from the world around me, so I need to be out in it.


Current word count: 40,031
I didn't write at all last night, and I probably won't get any writing done tonight because it's Christmas decorating night. (Click here to read more about why I decorate on Nov. 24 each year.) I still feel confident about my ability to finish though.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Harvest Hustle 5K recap

On Saturday, I headed to Gray's Lake for another 5K. I had only signed up a few weeks ago, but I liked the cause and also the fact that it was organized by college students.  Also, I've run at Gray's Lake a few times but not as often as I would like, so this was a good excuse for some new scenery.

When I arrived 40 minutes before race time, I was confused as to why there weren't many people there. I wondered if I had gotten the time wrong, but the location was definitely correct as there were tents and tables set up along with a deejay.  Slowly, more people showed up, but there were still less than 70 runners by the time the race started.  And nearly all of them were college students. This made me nervous. I'm slow, and I started to worry I might come in last. Silly worry, I know. Because it's not about first and last, but I was still anxious about it.  Fortunately some other non-college students showed up, and I relaxed a little about where I would finish.

It was a beautiful day, and I felt good for most of the run. The first mile was tough (it always is), but I found my stride and finished.  I haven't kept up with my running or workouts for the past few months, so I was pleased with my overall time.

Good - 36:00 or above
Great - 34:01-35:59
Awesome - 34:00 or faster

That means this race was GREAT.  I'm still aiming for that AWESOME mark. I have two more 5Ks this year, so I'll see if I can get there.

This was my eighth race of 2015, and my goal for the year was to do 10. I should reach that if my plans hold up. 


Last week's workouts
Friday: 2-mile walk
Saturday:  Harvest Hustle 5K!!!
Sunday: Off
Monday: 45 minutes of intervals on the treadmill
Tuesday: Zumba at home
Wednesday: 2-mile jog + 1-mile of intervals on indoor track
Thursday: Off

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Stuff & Things 11/19

:: I don't have cable, and most of the time I really don't mind. Except for sports, The Food Network, HGTV, and ... Christmas movies.  I miss turning on Hallmark, Lifetime, or ABC Family for their holiday movies, so I bought a collection of them for myself on Amazon last week.
Who wants to come over for a movie marathon?

:: On that note, I've been watching a few of the Christmas movies on Netflix this week. And feeling a pang of jealousy and loneliness.  And I had this thought about it:

:: I might be single, but at least I still have eye candy. One Iowa Wild player has been making hockey more enjoyable for me lately. Seriously, I'm in a little bit of lust.
Dear Santa ...

:: While I might be in the mood for seasonal movies, I am not ready for the snow that's supposedly headed my way this weekend. I know, I know -- it's pretty, and I should expect it given my geographic location. And I honestly don't mind the snow. I just hate the people who can't drive in it.  Or forget how to drive in it.

What's on your mind this week?


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Comfort TV shows and movies

Last week, Kristin shared a list of shows she puts on when she wants familiarity so she can do other things without having to play close attention. I tend to use music for most of those situations, but occasionally I want a favorite show on so I can look up every now and then but I don't have to give it my full focus.

But if we're talking comfort entertainment (kind of like comfort food but with fewer calories),  I want to take my list a little further. Here are some things I watch when I've had a bad day/week:

I'm so glad this is on Netflix now, so I can just choose the episode I'm in the mood for. 
This time of year, I'm seeking out the Thanksgiving ones.

"Pitch Perfect"
Great musical numbers, and I adore the cast. This flick never fails to cheer me up. 
I like the sequel enough, but nothing beats the first one for me.

"Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist"
I'm not entirely sure why, but this movie has been one of my go-to selections for a long time.

"Friends With Kids"
This one is probably on the list mainly because of Adam Scott. 
It's also one of the most unconventional love stories I've ever seen, and that's why I like it.

"27 Dresses"
The "Bennie and the Jets" scene makes me smile. Every. Time.

"Friday Night Lights"
A little Matt Saracen/Zach Gilford is always good for this girl.

What are your comfort movies and TV shows?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My writing habits and quirks

I'm friends with several writers, and I love talking to them. We relate on a level of being driven to write and joke about our characters taking on lives of our own. It's always interesting to hear about their writing process, as each writer has their own method for the process and finding productivity.

Here are two variations on my work station setup:
When I work at home, I usually have tea or coffee handy and music or a movie on in the background.
When I work in public, I have a beverage and make sure my visual inspiration is ... visible.

And here are a few of my writing habits/quirks:

:: I am a sequential writer.
One of my friends writes the big pivotal scene first and then builds around it. I start at the beginning and go from there. Sometimes I'll go back and add things, but that can take a lot of time as I want to make sure it blends in with everything I've written to that point and after that point.

:: I often try and edit even when I'm doing the first draft.
The point of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is just to get the words out. They discourage editing of any kind, but I can't help it. I constantly find myself re-reading what I've written so far and changing things.  I know this slows me down, but it's just instinctual.

:: I need background noise -- and musical shows/movies work best.
I can't tell you how many times I watched "Pitch Perfect" or listened to the soundtrack when I worked on my last successful NaNo project. This time around, I'm re-watching "Glee" and I'm on my third go-round with "Sing It On."  I don't know why these shows/movies work for me. They just do.

::  I agonize over characters' names.
I want them to fit the person I've created.  Sometimes I also want the names to have deeper significance.  There's a female character in my current work, and I wanted her name to mean something along the lines of "new beginnings" or "new." I found the name Zelenka (Czech) and decided to shorten it to Zella.  When I looked up the meaning of Zella, I discovered it meant "lacking nothing." I ended up liking that better, so her name will just be Zella.

:: Sometimes I name characters for people I know.
Occasionally, I'll put my friends and family in my books. I'll also put in people I don't like at all, so there's that.  If you end up in my book, I either really like you or you've pissed me off.

:: There's a little bit of me in every character.
Sometimes it's an obvious trait -- hair color, eye color, sense of humor, etc.  Other times, it's far less noticeable -- a secret fear, thought, or hope.

:: I never know how my story is going to end until I get there.
Truly.  I'll just keep writing and writing along until suddenly I just think, "This is it. It's over." And there's definitely a mourning period in that moment because ...

:: I get attached to my characters.
They become very real to me. When I'm not writing, I'm still thinking about my characters, wondering what they're doing without me. Wondering how they'd behave in certain situations I'm in.  I know it sounds crazy. And I own that.

:: I crave feedback and fear it at the same time.
I have a group of people who have been beta readers for every single one of my writing projects.  I've added a few here and there, but some have been there since the beginning -- Jamie, Bruna, Nikki, Jill, Rachel, and Angie.  Not a single thing I've written wasn't first read by them for their feedback. Their support and suggestions have been invaluable to me over the years, and yet I'm always afraid they're going to tell me they hate something I've done in my books.  (I think Jill still wishes I would have killed off Tara in Riffs of Regret.)

:: I'm terrible at dialogue but seem to do OK turning on the emotions in the scenes.
This might be reflective of my real life. I rarely say the things I want to say in the right way, but I have no problems with feelings. Ha.

:: I also don't do well at writing sex scenes.
My first three books didn't have any. At all. Sex was hinted at but never described. That changes a bit in Dropped Third Strike, and it may happen again in Behind in the Count. I'm definitely not overly graphic in my depictions though.  For many reasons, I'm simply not comfortable writing those scenes.

Can you relate to any of this? Or have you decided I'm neurotic?


Current word count: 30,282
I didn't touch my project on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, so I knew I needed to hit it hard on Sunday, and I did. I ended up generating more than 7K words that day.  I'm very happy with the way this story is flowing. And I hope I didn't just jinx myself.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Music Monday: Demi Lovato - "Confident"

Over the weekend, The Militant Baker posted this on Facebook, and I had to share it.

I cannot agree more. Go ahead and hate on selfies and girls who strut their stuff. But you have no idea what journey they took to find that level of confidence. None.

And it reminded me of the latest Demi Lovato single. I've been hearing this track on the radio for a few weeks, and I love it. Demi's voice is so stunning, and the lyrics are amazing. I was very excited when my Fit Fusion instructor introduced it into our workouts last week. I can't get enough.

By the way, I'm definitely going to see her tour with Nick Jonas next summer. Anyone want to meet me in Kansas City?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Weekly Reads, Vol. 52

This stuff going on in Paris. I feel like I should say something about it. But I don't know what to say.  The events are scary and unsettling, even from an ocean and half a continent away.  None of it makes sense, and I'm so sad for the people who have lost loved ones. Thoughts and prayers are definitely headed their way, but it doesn't feel like enough.

Christina shared a list of songs that turned 20 years old in 2015. Her list was quite a memory trip for me ... back to my sophomore year of high school. So many of those songs strike a chord -- some good and some bad.  I love nostalgia.

I used to love the game "Guess Who?" I remember playing it with my brother often. I love what Sarah and Nick have done to make a more updated and fun version with templates for Harry Potter, "The Office," "Parks & Rec," and "Gilmore Girls." I may need to do this myself!! I think I'd make a "Friday Night Lights" version. Or maybe just something music-themed. I'd make a Texas Rangers one, but I'd have no one to play it with. They also shared a recipe for an apple pie drink that sounds like a perfect holiday cocktail.

Kelly overheard a conversation among some teenage girls at the gym recently and has a message for all girls. I'm really worried about the messages being sent to our young women to the point where they seem to believe their value exists only in their appearance.

Lisette wonders aloud how you know if you're ready for kids. She voices things I have often thought. A lot of my friends have kids or are on their way to having kids. And while I love their kiddos, I can't decide for sure if I ever want them for myself. I have moments in both camps -- yay kids and nay kids -- so I kind of feel like I'm not ready for them. And since I'm 35, maybe I never will be.

Friday, November 13, 2015

You might be a runner if ...

I've long struggled with the idea of calling myself a runner. Yes, I regularly do races (tomorrow will be my eighth of the year), and I've completed a half-marathon. But does that qualify me as a runner? I mean, I'm not fast. I've never done a full marathon (and currently have no desire to do so).  Recently though, I've had friends refer to me as a runner and I started thinking about it, wondering if it's true.

This week, I logged a few miles, and I tend to think a lot while I'm running (and also dance and talk to myself, but ... anyway).  I decided I'd come up with a list of sign you might be a runner:

:: You get more excited over Brooks running shoes than Jimmy Choos.
I own two pairs of Brooks and zero pairs of Jimmy Choos (or any other fancy designer shoe). Honestly, my running shoes are the only time I spend more than $100 for something I put on my feet. Also, I don't wear heels if I can avoid it. My feet hate them.

:: You finish a race and immediately wonder when you can do another one.
I've had my share of bad races. Cold weather, poor preparation, and bad routes. There have been times I'd wonder if I could finish, but as soon as I cross the finish line, I feel great, and I start looking for the next race. Every time. Runner's high is a real thing.

:: You have a long list of things to do (laundry, blog posts to write, meal prep, etc.), but you go for a run instead.
I call this runcrastinating. I'm a pro at it.

:: Race shirts take up a great deal of real estate in your closet/dresser.
I have so many race shirts. I don't even wear most of them. It's to the point where I often decline a race shirt (if it's an option) unless the design is something really cool.

:: You have a few standby routes for which you know the distance without wearing a watch.
My last few runs have occurred without my Garmin, and yet I know exactly how long they were. There were a few times I was curious about my pace, but it was kind of nice to run without any technology (besides my iPod, of course).

:: You run.
Any distance. Any speed. Any frequency. As long as you're out there pounding the pavement, you're a runner.


Last week's workouts
Friday: Off
Saturday:  Off
Sunday: Off
Monday: 3-mile run

Tuesday: 2.5-mile run
Wednesday: Core + Fit Fusion
Thursday: 2.5-mile run

Not a bad week of workouts! Running felt really good this week. Really really good.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Crossing the line?

As you all may know by now, I work one shift a week at a local brewery. My official title is beertender, and my duties include pouring beers, helping customers choose a beer, washing glasses, taking payment for beers, and occasionally selling our other merchandise. One of my favorite things about the job (besides the shift beer) is the opportunity to talk to people. Especially when I get to talk about beer. It's definitely one of my passions. I love sharing what I know and learning from others.

One Saturday afternoon last month, I was washing glasses while we had a somewhat full taproom. Because of where our washing station is positioned, I'm usually right in front of customers sitting at the bar. I try not to eavesdrop or impede on conversations, but sometimes I'm invited in, so I join. On this particular day, there were two men sitting in those seats. I'd guess they were in their early to mid 40s, but it's hard to tell sometimes. One of the men was kind of picky from the start, annoyed that we didn't have any dark beers on tap, and the other was just very loud and boisterous. But they were paying customers, and I figured they really weren't hurting anyone.

Since the one man expressed an interest in darker beers, I advised him that our stout would probably be back in the next month or so. I also told him we'd be releasing a special peanut butter porter in a few weeks. I gave him the date and told him what I knew about the new beer. This launched into a discussion about the differences between stouts and porters. Naturally, I shared my opinion

Me: "I always think of porters as having a thinner mouthfeel, while I expect stouts to be thicker."  

Man #2: "So you're saying you like thick things in your mouth?"

I honestly didn't know how to respond to that. I'm not really even sure what I did at that moment, but my expression must have conveyed that I was uncomfortable. They joked that they'd crossed the line but did not apologize at all.

Those men remained for another hour or so, polishing off a few beers while I continued washing dishes. I stopped talking with them except to refill their beers and take their money.  I was so relieved when they finally left.

After they were gone, my taproom manager thanked me for taking care of the dishes and the noisy customers (their volume was hard to ignore). I told him it wasn't a problem except that they probably wouldn't have said to him what they said to me.  When I told him about the comment the one man had made, my manager became furious. He told me I should have come and gotten him to handle the situation.  I responded that it wasn't a big deal, that I didn't want to make a scene, and that I should expect some of that working in a brewery.  He said, "No. You never have to deal with that. No one here does."

The following week, he sent out a staff email and included a tidbit about the sexual harassment I'd encountered along with instructions on how to handle it in the future. Even though I'd been uncomfortable in the moment of the comment, I hadn't really thought about what it really meant. But his label is correct.

As I shared my story with friends, I received a myriad of responses:
-- [Laughter] You walked into that one.
-- You probably hear stuff like that a lot.
-- Men can be that way.
I don't think any of them meant to imply that the comment was normal and innocuous, but that was certainly the prevailing theme in responses. Then again, it'd been my initial reaction as well. I was shocked and uncomfortable, but until my taproom manager got upset, I didn't think it was a huge deal.

Ultimately, I think I did the best I could in just ignoring the men.  Their comment wasn't appropriate in the least, but I didn't want to make a scene. However, I'm very grateful to know my taproom manager has my back and aims to promote a safe and comfortable environment for the staff. 

What do you think? 
Was my reaction normal?  
What should I have done differently?
Have you ever encountered something like this?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Currently ...

Keeping up with my blog and my NaNoWriMo project is exhausting, but I honestly feel like I'm in a really good creative groove right now. I'm looking forward to Helene's webinar tonight, which is all about finding balance.

Here's a glimpse of my life at the moment ...

Getting hairs done = selfie time!
Sipping ... tea, Spark, and water.
Since I'm in the midst of the Advocare 24-Day Challenge, that's about all I'm allowed to drink. I really miss beer. And coffee. Even the crappy office coffee smells good to me these days. I'm also really missing beer, especially since the brewery where I work is tapping a peanut butter porter tonight. Sigh.  Just two more weeks.

Netflixing ... singing shows.
They are my fuel when I'm writing. I've been re-watching "Glee," which has been good company. And I recently finished my second run-through of "Sing It On," a documentary-type series about college acapella groups. It's like "Pitch Perfect" in television form. The voices are amazing, and it's interesting to see all the behind-the-scenes preparation. Also, there's a girl named Micah, so I'm partial to her group. Michael drives me nuts though. He's such a control freak. I became completely emotional during episode seven, when one of the groups lost a member to depression and suicide. It's a subject that hits close to home for me, so there were a lot of tears. I hope there's another season of the show because I loved it.

Listening to ... Tyler Lyle and Stephen Kellogg.
Tyler Lyle opened for David Ryan Harris last week and gifted me with one of his CDs. It's filled with beautiful words and melodies. Stephen Kellogg's South West North East isn't due out until February, but I was a backer, so I got a copy early, and I'm in love. Both artists have a way with songwriting that makes me want to be a better writer.

Looking forward to ... this weekend.
I'm running a 5K on Saturday morning, and I'm going to a hockey game in the evening. I also have a blind beer tasting even to attend in the afternoon, which will be a bit lame for me since I can't drink beer right now. But oh well. Those are the only obligations I have. I'll spend the rest of the time writing, and it will be glorious.

Shopping for ... Christmas gifts for my family and friends.
Over the weekend, we agreed on our gifting rules for this Christmas (I'll write more about it in the near future), so it's time for me to get to work. I've also found a few things for my favorite non-relatives. I'm so excited to give them presents!

Obsessing over ... the characters in my NaNoWriMo project.
The main guy has a lot of demons he needs to fight, and the secondary character is proving to be interesting too. I'm four chapters in and I've barely scratched the surface of their personalities and their story.

Remembering ... veterans.
My grandfather served, and I have many friends and acquaintances who have put on a uniform. Today, I thank all of them for their willingness to give their time (and sometimes more) for the country. 

What's up with you lately?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Write the story you'd want to read

Last year, for NaNoWriMo, I stepped out of my comfort zone. After years of writing books about relationships, I decided to tackle suspense/mystery. I didn't even sniff 50K words, and I struggled to get interested in the story.

I wanted to try something different. I have enjoyed reading some suspense/thriller novels, and I wanted to see if I could write one. It's fair to say I can't. Or at least I can't right now. Someday maybe I'll try again.

For now, I'm focusing on what I know and enjoy.  If you've paid attention to my reading recaps, you'll easily see my addiction to books by Melanie Shawn, Shannon Stacey, and Kate Angell. Those are the books I buy immediately and devour. Those are the books that keep me up late at night because I need to read one more chapter. And what do they have in common? They're all about relationships, communities, and -- yes -- romance.

Ultimately, what I've learned from writing is that I should always write the story I'd want to read. Because if I'm not enjoying it, why would anyone else? 

I have to confess, I tried another avenue because I am was tired of the looks I get when I tell people I write romance. It's clear they're imagining sex-filled fairy tale-type books. I don't have any problem with those books (I read and enjoy plenty of them), but my books don't fit that mold. Yes, there are romantic relationships in my stories, but there's also a lot about friendship and family. That's why I prefer to say I write about relationships. It feels more accurate. Plus, romance novels get a bad reputation. People like to call them fluffy, trashy, and worthless. And I admit it kind of hurts my feelings.

I've also taken plenty of grief over my lack of experience in the realm of romance. People wonder how I can write about love when I've never felt it.  How can I possibly weave stories about couples when I've never been part of one? This hurts my feelings more. Trust me, I'm well-aware of my lack of dating history.

Well, let me tell you how I do it.  It's the same tool J.K. Rowling used to write about wizards and Stephenie Meyer used to write about vampires. It's the same thing Stephen King has used in his fantastically scary novels. It's called imagination. I don't have to experience something first hand to have an idea about how I think it works or should work. My current WIP (work-in-progress) is about a major league pitcher with a rocky past.  There is a lot of baseball in the story, but I've never played the sport. Does that mean I can't write about it? 

When people ask what kind of books I write, I want to stop being ashamed to say "romance." Even though I don't think it's a completely accurate label, I think it's the closest genre they fit.  I suppose I'll never change the minds of people who view romance novels as garbage, but they also aren't going to change how I write or feel about my writing.

If you're a writer, in what genre do your stories fit?
If you're not a writer, what genre do you think you would write?

Bonus --- In the interest of self-indulgence, if you've read any of my books, which genre label would you use? 

P.S. Current NaNoWriMo word count = 17,078. I'm definitely going to hit that 20K mark tonight. 

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