Friday, September 30, 2011

A Daily Blog Post for October

My friend Jeff has been posting every day now for 220 days. That is a lot of blogging my friend. He's on an awesome new adventure in his life right now so if feels like he probably has a lot more to blog about than I do. You know how it is here in suburbia: get up, get ready, go to work, come home, fix dinner, watch tv, get ready for bed, sleep, repeat. Some days seem like such a drag.

Other days seem so full it's just too tiresome to try to put into words.

I've been toying with the idea of moving my blog from Blogger to WordPress.I haven't made the switch yet and still don't know if I will but it seems like everyone is doing it. You know, like jumping off of bridges and stuff.

WordPress sends me lots of emails and today I actually read one of them. It was about a challenge to blog a post a day every day in October in preparation for National Novel Writing Month which is in November. NaNoWriMo is just what it sounds like. You start on November 1 and write until Nov. 30. You don't have to worry about quality so much as quantity and just writing, writing, writing until you get to 50,000 words. There are rules, you have to start from scratch. No works in progress or dusted off bottom drawer tomes that have been hidden away.

I have written 49,060 words so far on my current novel attempt since early August. So that has taken me a month and a half. It's still not publishing length (even if it were publish worthy) but for NaNoWriMo 50,000 words is good enough.

I haven't decided if I'll try to do NaNoWriMo or not yet. I have a spark of an idea so it's a possibility. What I really need is a cosmic stop watch so I can just stop time on a nice sunny Saturday and write and write and write and the laundry doesn't pile up, the dishes don't pile up and the daily stuff of life doesn't pile up while I'm doing it. Oh, and the minutes don't tick by so fast making me feel like I'm chasing a running train the entire time.

I'll be posting both places here on my regular Blogger blog and on my WordPress blog . They have all of the same posts, they just look different.

Wish me luck and if you have any posting prompt ideas, send them my way. I could use the help. Every day in the Big Cedars is just not all that blog worthy. I could use a little help from my friends.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

It's been a busy couple of weeks around the Big Cedars and beyond. I spent four days this month in Rolla recruiting college kids to the biggest drive of the year on campus at S&T and we collected 738 units of blood. I've also been using every possible extra minute to try to write. Obviously not blog posts, however. It's been crazy.

Lots of stuff has been going on around the old homestead lately. Here's the break down on the updates:


The broilers have a date with destiny tomorrow afternoon. I can't say that I'm sad to see them go. Raising them has been less than enjoyable to me this time. I think it's because I've been pulled in so many other directions. Still, I won't be complaining when I am feeding my face with their tasty bits.

Unfortunately this batch has been less than free range. They haven't even been outdoor range. They've been inside the barn range. At three weeks old, I moved them outside so I could drag them around the yard and they could eat bugs and grass and such. The next morning (a Saturday) I looked out the window and saw a pile of feathers on the outside of the chicken tractor. That is never a good sign.

I got my shoes on and shuffled outside. Yep, dead bird. Something (most likely a raccoon) had reached through the chicken wire, caught one and somehow managed to eat the thing all but one foot, a leg and a thigh that was still attached and totally naked. You could have stuck it on a styrofoam platter, covered it in plastic wrap and sold it at Walmart. Other than one little pile of maybe twenty feathers on the outside of the coop, there was nothing left of it. No gut pile. No leftover bits. Nothing.

I reached in the coop and pulled out what was left and then I noticed one of the other chickens was just sitting in the middle of the coop while the others all tried to rush me at the door. I picked it up and it was missing a leg.

Back into the house I went for a fillet knife. I caught the one legged chicken, pulled it from the coop and carried it to the edge of the woods and butchered it. I froze the edible parts so now I am down from ten broilers to eight and three quarters.

My Buff Orpingtons are doing okay still because I've had them in a cage inside the chicken coop but now they have outgrown it and I'm trying to decide whether to put them into the chicken tractor in the barn for a few more weeks or see how they fare with the Buckeyes. I'm worried the Buckeyes will pick on them too much, or not let them roost in the chicken house or something but it looks like it's time to give it a shot because Bryon's tired of leaving his truck outside in the weather.

Chickens are complicated sometimes.

We have been trying to trap the raccoons but they are too smart. We set the live trap several times but the dang things just turn it upside down and shake out the bait no matter what we do to secure it. Bryon borrowed two leg traps from our neighbor and he's trapped three possums and a cat so far but no raccoons. We even used the leftover chicken parts which I figured would be irresistible but they didn't fall for it.

I do realize we live in the middle of the woods but I would appreciate a Gentleman's Agreement: they don't kill my chickens and I don't kill them.

So far that hasn't really worked out all that well.


Last weekend we found homes for all but the handicapped bunnies. A lady Bryon works with wanted one for her three year old daughter to play with. I was a little dubious because my hands and belly were full of bunny scratches from handling them but she said she'd had bunnies as a little girl and she knew there would be scratches. Okay then, here's your bunny.

I put an ad on Craigslist and we had one call and Bryon met two college girls at the house who wanted a bunny for their dorm floor pet at MU. That bunny should get a lot of love.

A Facebook friend and sorta neighbor took another one for her kids. Very happy about that placement.

The last bunny and Cocoa (mama) and Bean (daddy) all three got taken to the swap meet in Marshfield last Saturday morning. I had no idea if we would get rid of them and/or how long it might take. Bryon was skeptical but went along. We loaded up bunnies, the bunny ring, camp chairs and headed in.

It cost $5 to sell things at the swap meet. We were actually going to give the bunnies away for free. As we pulled into the saddle club where the swap meet was it seemed as though every vendor had bunnies for sale. I figured it was a doomed venture.

We got the bunnies out and put Cocoa and the baby in the ring and left Bean in the dog crate because you only have to tell me three times what happens when boy bunnies and girl bunnies get together. Cocoa found a home pretty quickly and another lady stopped by and asked what sex the baby was. Uhhh, no idea lady. She picked it up, flipped it over and pulled it's little legs apart. She declared it a boy and showed me it's little boy parts. Okay then, boy. She didn't want a boy.

Then a very nice human boy happened along and said he would take Bean and the baby boy both. He seemed very nice and I didn't want to ask a lot of questions because we did not have room for more than two bunnies so he came back with a carrier and the bunnies were his. He fished in his wallet for money. I reminded him they were free. He gave me $5 anyway which meant we broke basically even on the whole adventure minus a bag of rabbit feed or so and the $20 visit to the vet.

So now we have the two little handicap bunnies which sure better end up being boys like the vet declared them. I wanted to name them Limpy and Gimpy but when Grace asked me what that meant and I explained it she didn't see the humor in it. So she named them Dave and Finny. I have no idea why and she had no explanation either. So Dave and Finny seem happy enough out in the rabbit hutch. I suppose the black one we could have named Tripod.


The humming birds have been insane the past week or so. There have been probably 30-40 birds at my feeders. They are stocking up for their long trip south. I'll leave the feeders out as long as there are birds or at least until the first hard freeze and then clean them up and put them away until next spring.


We've been working on cleaning out the jungle that was our garden. I cleaned out several of the beds over the past few weeks and Bryon and Grace worked on it some more this afternoon. There is still plenty more work to be done. I'm pretty sure we'll never be able to plan another squash in that garden again because we had a veritable plague of squash bugs this year. Seriously, they were very, very, very bad. The chickens won't even eat them. We've begged them to.

Grace's Room:

Grace has been wanting her room repainted pink and purple. She also mentioned that she thought her wall decorations were sort of babyish. Bryon told her he would paint her room for her birthday and she could get some new stuff for her room decor. So a couple of weekends ago while she was at her Nana's he spent his whole day off in Springfield going from store to store (including the mall) and picking out paint and decor. I'm pretty sure he could have his own home remodeling show now.

He spent all weekend working on it and just finished painting her book shelf and getting it into her room last weekend.  She was pretty impressed with it all.


I thought I would get a lot of writing done while I was in Rolla since I was going to be alone in a hotel room for three nights in a row. By the end of each day though I was so tired I just crawled in bed at 9 pm each night and that was that. It's been hard to catch up and get back into the groove but I have managed to crank out a few more pages and as of two nights ago I've finally passed page 150 and 43,000 words.

I'm writing it from a first person point of view (think the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris or the Stephanie Plumb books by Janet Evanovich). Here's the problem with the first person point of view. Your character only knows what she knows and sees and hears and feels herself, sort of like your real life. So I have to write her from that point of view. You don't know what people are thinking unless they tell you and sometimes they lie my friend. It's been very limiting. From reading so much Harris and Evanovich and Laurell K. Hamilton I thought that writing from that point of view would be easier but 150 pages into it I'm sort of starting to rethink that.

There may be a major revision coming up because the action of my story is about to come to an end and I don't think I can embellish another 150 pages unless they just have lots and lots of sex. Hmmm, that might put me into a different genre. We'll see. Live and learn I suppose.

I'm still just as excited about it and if I only had more time to work on it I would be much happier. I did get to go to St. Louis this past Wednesday evening with two girlfriends to hear Charlaine Harris and Laurell K. Hamilton speak about their books and writing at Christ Church Cathedral. The whole event was awesome and very inspiring.

I'm also looking forward to the Oct. 1 meeting of the Ozarks Romance Authors (ORA). It's fun to be immersed in a new creative hobby or in this case a recycled one.


You may have noticed (or not) that my book shelf on this page hasn't been changing much. That's because there just isn't time to read and write. I've made a few exceptions but I've been trying to read books, magazines and blogs about writing or other related articles to help keep me inspired. Also, I worry I'll start sounding like whomever I'm reading in my own writing if I get too deep into it. I had to read JR Ward's Envy and Janet Evanovich's Smokin' Seventeen.

I hate it when I catch up with a series and have to wait with the masses for the next hardback to be released but that's where I am with several of the series I read. There could be far worse problems to have.

Life is pretty good on the farm. If we could just make the squash bugs poison and figure out a way to make the raccoons eat them, it would be perfect.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Novel Effort

Last summer I got hit with a hankering to write a novel. I have read more than a hundred paranormal romance novels in the past two years and each time I have thought, “I can do this!” So I finally decided to put my money where my mouth was and give it a try.

As a former English teacher and a graduate of a very respectable state university with a BS in English Education, I figured, why not? This does not, however, mean that I have perfect grammar or always use the correct word. It means I have some good ideas and I need an editor … and spell check.

I first tried to write a novel several years ago when I had what I thought was a great premise after my Bryon and I helped clean out his grandmother’s incredibly disgusting and packed apartment and moved her into a care facility. We found a lot of crazy and interesting items and papers during our efforts which led to all sorts of questions and potentially mind blowing secrets.

When I got home, I started the novel. I made it about 24 pages and lost steam. I was approximately 276 pages short of a novel. I binder clipped the pages together along with my internet “research” and stuck it all into a folder, likely never to be seen or worked on again. It was dead to me.

Writing a novel is something I think lots of people secretly aspire to achieve. Being a published author would be even better. I think people assume every published author has basically hit the J.K. Rowlings lottery jackpot or can at least quit their day job.

I have been researching this assumption and it turns out it’s not exactly the case. Sure some authors hit the trifecta of published book, best seller, movie deal but most don’t. Some self-publish their literary children and others quietly stuff them into a drawer or the back of their closet under some mothballed sweaters.
It’s not easy but it is exciting to consider the possibilities.

It all starts with page one and ends 300 some pages later. Even if it’s a stinker, at least it’s an accomplishment that has a tangible result; a huge pile of paper with words you typed from your very own brain. No one else can do THAT for you.

Then if you actually finish the damn thing and want to try to publish it, there are a whole new host of obstacles to overcome. Of course, if you never finish, you’ll never have to worry about any of that.

As of today I’m on page 135 and 37,667 words of my third novel attempt. That's fifteen pages from half way. I think this one might actually go the distance. It’s exhausting and exciting all at the same time. It’s also pretty all consuming. I’ve been working on it since August 5th of this month and writing in long hand at lunch time while I snarf down my Subway Buffalo Chicken sandwich in one of the five counties I cover for work and then slinking off to my upstairs office until midnight most nights typing up and amending my copy from the day.

When I finally make it to bed, I can’t fall asleep because things keep happening to my story in my head and those characters just won’t shut up. My brain keeps writing the next scene and finally I have to turn the light back on and write down some notes or it will be lost forever. That’s a good problem to have. I’m not complaining about that.

Today I spent at the Library Station in Springfield for six hours at the Ozarks Romance Author's monthly club meeting. I didn't know what to expect. I went alone with a notebook and a pen and good intentions. It was very inspiring. There were about a dozen ladies and one gentleman there and we all go to critique two pieces of member's works in progress. By the time the speaker arrived around lunch time, the group had swelled to nearly forty authors. Not a one of them was writing paranormal romance. I was encouraged by that.

I thought the two who offered up their work for critique early in the day were very brave. Sometimes I think it's probably mostly forest for the trees stuff. We spend so much time looking at our own work on the screen and printed out copies that we don't see the obvious stuff anymore. Other times I think maybe it's just that we have the whole story (or most of it) in our heads and it doesn't always make it to the written word in it's full context.

I didn't bring any of my story for critique yet. It's still at that embarrassing "work in progress" stage where you don't really know if you want to rip off the swimsuit cover in public yet and reveal your full middle aged, bikini clad glory.

I did get a lot of good information, met some cool people and learned tons today. I can't wait for next month.

 Page 135, here I come.