NaNoWriMo-The Last Word

 

It was 10:15 last night when I put the last word on the last page, ending what I considered to be one of the most important months in my career as an author. It was important, because I learned more in November about creative writing than I could ever have imagined.

I put my life on hold for practically the entire month. I worked on my novel every day, but I didn’t always reach my goal of 1,700 words. It was tough; work, family, Thanksgiving, migraines, and lack of motivation kept me from completing the overall goal of 50,000 words in 30 days (I wrote 40,294 words, but I finished my story). However, I don’t see it as a failure.

I knew a week ago I wasn’t going to make my goal, and confided to my fiancé that I knew I would finish my story by then. But there was no way I would get to 50,000.

“But you worked so hard on it, and you’ll feel really bad it you don’t ….”

Honestly, I don’t feel bad at all about it. I didn’t do it to prove to anyone I could do it. I did it so I could learn from it. I did it for the experience. And now, I know the price I have to pay if I ever needed to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. I would basically have to put everything else on hold and put all my efforts into that novel. I would have to ignore my duties as a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, and a friend just so I could complete the task.

I truly enjoyed writing the novel, but it’s not done. The editing alone will take a few months, at the very least. Which is fine with me. I’m ready to take a few days off to work on all my other projects that have been waiting patiently for me.

My advice for people wanting to do the challenge next November:

  • This will take most of your spare time. Let your friends and family know you won’t be available for the month.
  • Stick to you goal of 1,700 words a day. Once you get behind, it’s extremely difficult to catch up.
  • Don’t give up. (If you started the challenge with a purpose, chances are you won’t have to worry too much about this one.)
  • Gather a support team. Whether it’s your boyfriend, girlfriend, mother, father, brother, sister, kids, whoever; you will need them to help you brainstorm and keep you on track. They will also become your cheerleaders.

Next year I will be better prepared. And I will also have an advantage; it will no longer be my first.

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NANoWriMo: Halfway There

I’m a little over the half-way mark with my novel. I seriously don’t know how other writers do it. I had to put most everything I could on hold while I write this novel. There are  important things that come up during the day, which I can’t ignore. Work and other obligations are a priority, which leaves little or no time to write.

I’m not making excuses. If anything, this experience has given me a front-row seat of someone who writes for a living, authors like Stephen King, Sandra Brown, and James Patterson probably crank out a book a month. Bravo to them for being able to sit in one spot for eight hours or more and write continuously without getting distracted.

I love to write, but like a lot of things, if I had to do it for a living, would I enjoy it as much?

Right now, I’m behind about 3,000 words. That doesn’t sound like much, but couple it with the 1,700 words I am supposed to write each day, I am struggling to make my goal.

I’m still confident I can make it. What it will probably come down to, is finishing it up the last few days. Because I may not be great at sitting still, but I am awesome at deadlines.

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An Excerpt from The Edge of Eternity

Robbie set his alarm for 1:45, which would give him time to get to Eddie’s by 2. He was disoriented when he woke up, and almost turned the alarm off without thinking. But then he sat upright in his bed, remembering the mission.

He threw on his coat and opened the window. He crawled out on the roof and shimmied down the drain spout, falling the last two feet. Snow was starting to fall as he walked down his quiet street. When he got to Eddie’s, he saw a light still on in the living room. As he got closer, he saw someone passed out in the chair in front of the TV.

“Pssst …. Over here,” he heard someone say from the side of the house. Robbie went around the corner and saw Simon standing with the side door opened. He put his finger to his lips and held the door open for Robbie until he stepped inside.

“My dad’s asleep in the front room, but he might wake up. Make it quick.”
Robbie tiptoed upstairs to Eddie and Simon’s room, and went to the edge of Eddie’s bed. He pulled out the piece of paper with the words of the incantation written on it, and whispered the words, as he held the mirror up.

Eddie was laying on his side, breathing heavily, dead to the world. Drool was dripping from his opened mouth. Robbie held the mirror up to Eddie’s face and waited. All he could see was Eddie’s reflection, but then another image slowly came to the mirror. It was a faint outline, but he could tell it was Brody. The mirror changed back and forth from Brody, to Eddie.

Eddie snort and rolled over, making Robbie lose his balance. He caught himself before he hit the floor, but he had everything he needed. He passed Simon on the way downstairs and murmured, “Thanks ….”

Simon followed Robbie outside. “Did you find anything out?” Simon asked him, as he pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his jacket pocket.
Robbie nodded and pulled his collar up and zipped his coat. The snow was starting to come down even harder than before. He rubbed his hands and blew on them to warm them up.

“He’s in there. They both are. I saw something else, too but I couldn’t quite make it out.”
“What were they doing? I mean, what exactly did you see?”

Simon took a long drag off his cigarette. Robbie was mesmerized by the glowing ember. He became focused again and answered, “Well, at first it was Brody’s reflection, and then Eddies, and then there was a kind of fog… and I thought that as it, but I saw a figure in the background. It was really creepy, man.”

Simon nodded and exhaled the smoke. He bent over and put the cigarette out and put the butt in his pocket to hide the evidence.

“So, what now?”

Robbie sighed. “I gotta go tell Nancy. She’ll know what to do.”

 

NaNoWriMo: First Blunder

There’s always gotta be a first, right? I mean, if I were perfect, there would be no need for this challenge. It would be easy-peasy. I would be rich and famous and have everything I ever wanted.

But life doesn’t work that way. Not for me, anyway. I don’t think for most people, either.

The NaNoWriMo website tracks the amount of words you write each day. It gives you a goal, a mark to reach to make sure you are on the right track. I convinced myself I need to write 1667 words a day if I was going to finish Nov. 30.

And I have done great, staying with 100 words or so of reaching my goal each day. I figured if I stayed within those boundaries, I would be fine. The first couple days of the challenge, I timed how long it takes me to write that many words in one sitting. (It came out to be an average of 2 hours.)

But then something happened yesterday I didn’t expect. My editor called and asked me if I had any stories for this month’s Hiawatha Today. She had forgotten to remind me that they are publishing a week early this month and next because of the holidays.

So, instead of panicking, I went home after work and thought about what articles I could reasonably finish by 10:00 this morning. It took me until bedtime, but I got them done and sent. Unfortunately, I forgot all about posting my word count. This morning I realized I had dropped the ball.

I’m sure it didn’t make any difference, and it was really just a personal goal, but it stung a little. My perfect record was tarnished. And it put me behind. But it’s still better than missing my deadline for the Hiawatha Today. After all, I’m getting paid for that.

I’m doing my best to make up the word count today so I won’t have to stress too much at the end of the month. I have a feeling that would be overwhelming, and anything can happen in the next 21 days. Steady as she goes…

Here is an except from my novel, The Edge of Eternity:

Eddie picked up the notebook and brushed it off. He opened it to the first age and saw Nancy’s name scribbled at the top. Something really bad must have happened for her to drop her book, Eddie thought to himself. He looked around, and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.

He got on his bike and rode back to Nancy’s house, hoping he could shed some light on her disappearance. But no one answered the door. He thought about leaving the notebook, but without an explanation, they might wonder.

He took it home with him, intending on dropping it by later.  Eddie ate an early dinner because he was going to have to collect for the paper after he delivered them all. He went to the corner and waited for truck, which was late.

The street was empty, except for Mrs. Nielsen, who was walking her dog.  “Hi, Mrs. Nielsen,” he said as she walked by.

“Hello, Eddie. How’s your mother. I haven’t see her at the PTA lately. Is she doing all right?”

Eddie nodded. “Her sewing business is picking up, with the holiday coming and all. I’ll tell her you asked about her.”

“Yes …. you do that,” she replied coyly. “Please tell her I said we miss her at the meetings.”

Eddie snickered and shook his head as she walked away. He didn’t tell her the real reason his mom was staying away. His mom thought all those snobs were hypocrites.

Dave drove up in the truck and threw the papers off the truck. “Here ya go, Eddie! See you tomorrow morning, bright and early!”

Eddie waved, as Dave got back in the truck and sped off.  Eddie folded his newspapers and stuffed them in his bag. He slung the bag over his shoulder and hopped on his bike, situating his full bag so it sat on the handlebars.

He went up and down the blocks, throwing the papers onto his customers’ porches. After doing it a few hundred times, he was getting pretty good at it.  As he was nearing the bottom of the bag, Eddie thought about skipping his fee-collecting and waiting for another day. But then his dad’s voice popped into his head: “Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

He stopped at his house to drop the newspaper bag off, and picked up his fee book and money pouch.  “Take your flashlight!” his mother reminded him and he grabbed it off the kitchen counter.

Eddie decided not to take his bike. It would only be in the way.  He went to the first house, ready with his canned greeting. “Hello, I’m collecting for the paper.”

Most everyone had their money ready, and Eddie usually didn’t have to make change, but when he did, he made sure he counted it out right. He had to turn in the money at the end of the month and if it was off, he had to cover it; an incentive for making correct change.

And most of his customers were all right. Except for Brody. He hated going to Brody’s house. It smelled like stale smoke. Brody had yellow teeth and smelled like B.O. He also paid in pennies. He always insisted that Eddie stand inside the door to wait until he counted out all one-hundred and fifty pennies. His cat would rub up against his leg, and when Eddie bent down to pet it, Brody got mad and told him, “Don’t touch my cat,” and he’d go back to counting his pennies.

Eddie avoided his house until the very last, even though it meant that he had to zig-zag across the streets.  He walked up the rickety porch and rang the doorbell. When Brody didn’t answer, he pounded on the door. The porch light was on, which meant in most circles, that someone was home.  He pounded the door one more time, and when no one answered, he left. He would have to come back another day.

As he was walking away from the house, he turned and saw that there was a light on in Brody’s basement. It was a tiny window, but maybe Brody was working in his basement.  Eddie didn’t want to have to come back.

He stuck his collection schedule in his back pocket and walked over to the window and got on his knees to peek in the tiny window.

“What the heck?” he whispered to himself.

What he saw made his skin crawl. Brody was standing inside a red circle, wearing a black robe with a hood, holding a candle, reading something out of an old book. Nancy was tied to a chair in front of him; her mouth covered with tape.

To be continued…

 

In My Father’s Footsteps

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NaNoWriMo: Day 4

I’m up to 5,068 words in my latest endeavor of writing a novel in 30 days.   Three things I’ve discovered so far:

  • Classical music is the best music to listen to when I’m writing
  • I have to rid myself of distractions if I expect myself to write creatively
  • It’s not about the numbers; it’s all about the content

I never thought of myself as one who likes to listen to classical music, but I happened upon a Classical Music for Focus station on Amazon Prime Music and instantly fell in love with it.  Most of it anyway. Some of those old guys can get pretty crazy on the piano.

Facebook is the worst distraction for me.  I am reminded of the scene in Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead,” where the kids are watching TV and the grouchy old babysitter comes in and turns it off. “TV rots your brains.”

That’s the same feeling I get when I look up and realize I’ve spent on hour surfing my friends statuses, instead of working on something productive.

Fifty-thousand words sounds like a lot. And it is! But when you break it down, 1,667 words is not that much to write in a day. Besides, focusing on the story, rather than if I meet my goal that day, is the most important aspect to reaching my goal.

With that being said, what I like most about tracking my words, is that it motivates me to keep moving forward. It also forces me to rid myself of distractions (even though I do need a little down time now and then. Writer’s Block is a bitch.)

Here is another excerpt of my novel, so far.

Edge of Eternity

Nancy

Nancy woke up to the sound of her little sisters arguing.

“MOM!” one of the twins screamed at the top of her lungs. Frustrated, Nancy moaned and pulled the covers over her head. She heard the girls run down the hall, slamming the door behind them.

“Oh my God! Shut up!” Nancy screamed as she threw the covers off . “Why?” she shouted to no one in particular.

“Why do I have to share a room with such brats?” It was a rhetorical question, but a serious one.

She begged her mother for her own room, citing several legitimate reasons. “I’m five years older than they are …. They’re slobs …. They keep me up all night ….”

And that was just the beginning.

Her mother was sympathetic, but told her it was out of the question. “I need the extra room for my office. Now that I’m doing more work from home, I need the space.”

Nancy stumbled to her dresser and pulled her clothes out for the day. Her notebook was not in the same place she left it, under her clothes. her sisters had a bad habit of getting into her things.

“You brats!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. She grabbed her notebook and ran down the hall to her mother’s room. She pushed the door open and held up her notebook.

“They’ve been snooping again!”

The twins came up behind her and ran to their mom for protection. “No, we weren’t,” they chimed in unison.

Her mother looked at them sternly. “I should hope not, especially after the talk we just had.”

Nancy growled under her breath and stomped out of the room. She knew it was pointless; the twins always got what they wanted.

She got dressed and skipped breakfast, still frustrated with her mother’s inability to solve the growing problem with her sisters.

Her best friend, Kathy, was waiting for her at the corner; the same corner where they had met every morning before school since they were in 2nd grade. It was exactly half-way to school for both of them. Kathy lived four blocks over on Carson Avenue. 

“What took you so long?” Kathy asked, a look of concern shadowing her face.

Nancy frowned and shook her head. “Sorry, the twins were in my stuff again. I have to find a better hiding place.”

Kathy nodded sympathetically and changed the subject.

“Are you still going to Donna’s party tomorrow night?”

Before Nancy had a chance to answer, she felt a swish beside her and instinctively moved over just as Eddie Salaman whizzed by on his Schwinn.

“Sorry!” he yelled, glancing back to see who it was he nearly sideswiped. He nearly collided with a stop sign, swerving just in time, but careened over the curb, hitting the pavement extra hard, instead.

Kathy broke out in laughter. “Serves him right,” she said, adjusting her glasses. “He should watch where he’s going.” When Nancy didn’t say anything, she added, “You know he likes you, right?”

To be continued —

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National Novel Writing Month

When I first heard about NaNoWriMo a few years ago, I was intrigued. but not ready to commit to 50,000 words in a month.

Well, after thoughtful contemplation, I am ready to take on the challenge. I have create an outline in my head, and though I know from experience, it doesn’t always look the same where you get to the end, I have a general idea of where it will go.

I chose the title, “The Edge of Eternity” from one of my dad’s stories on my blog, In My Father’s Footsteps.  He wrote about his maternal grandmother (my great-grandmother) nearly getting struck by lightning when she was a little girl. (It killed her pet pig.) He called it her “Edge of Eternity” story.  He didn’t elaborate, but I imagine sitting in a tree and seeing your cherished pet getting struck by lightning is a frightening experience.  Being that close to death certainly makes you think of the “what ifs.”

My “Edge of Eternity” is nothing like that; I just loved the phrase. My story will be filled with mystery and magic, and twists and turns, and you’ll leave it wanting more. That’s the plan, anyway.

A short synopsis:  A boy who saves a girl, only to wind up in limbo-somewhere, but nowhere-on the edge of eternity. The trouble is, he doesn’t even know it.

Totally Stephen King-style.

I will share  few excerpts here and there, but you’ll have to wait until Nov. 30 to read it in its entirety.

The Edge of Eternity, by Cynthia Petersen

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Edge of Eternity

Eddie

Eddie made it to his desk right as the bell rang. Mr. Piper looked up from his papers and glanced at the clock, and then shot Eddie a scowl. “That’s twice this week, Eddie”

Eddie nodded and took out his notebook.

Mr. Piper cleared his throat and pushed the chair back from the desk and walked around to the front. He sat on the edge of the desk. “Class, I just finished correcting the papers from your last assignment and I’m a little disappoint.”

He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, then put them back on. “I think we should start thinking about study buddies.”

There was a groan from much of his 6th grade class.

“Now, now … it’s not that bad. I think pairing those who are struggling with students who understand the material will be beneficial for everyone. I’ll start making the list and let you know who you’ll be partnering with after lunch.”

He stood up and put his glasses on, grabbing a social studies book off his desk.
“Please turn to page 33….”

“Psst….” he heard behind him. Eddie looked up at Mr. Piper, who was droning on about South American countries.

He turned half-way around. “What?” he whispered.

“I hope I don’t get Smelly Shelly,” his friend Robbie whispered back. “That would be my luck.”

Robbie had created nicknames for all his classmates, except his own.  Eddie had been known as “Eddie Spaghetti” since 2nd grade. It was Robbie’s “thing.”

Eddie felt a little sorry for Shelly. It wasn’t her fault her mom used a lot of garlic.

When it was time for lunch, Eddie grabbed his sack lunch and headed down to the cafeteria. He saw Nancy McAllister, the prettiest girl in his class, talking to her friend Kathy. He caught her eye and smiled, but she quickly turned away.

Feeling a little defeated, he sulked all the way to the cafeteria. Robbie and Charlie already had a table and he sat down across from them on the bench.

“What’s up, Buttercup?” Robbie asked him, chomping down in the middle of his PB & J.

“”Nothin’. What’s up with you?” he said, knowing what was coming next.

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Scrolling

I opened my WordPress tab this morning, like I do most days.  Colorful photos caught my eye, along with headings for blogs written by friends I have come to know through their artistic creations.

Most days I go straight to my writing tasks, but today I paused to admire the handiwork … and I started scrolling.

I found poetry blogs, and how-to blogs, and inspirational blogs. I found blogs about the Theology of Carrots ( “We hide our best underground”), Carl Jung’s view of the human psyche (“Very often do we see our own faults in others”), and Peaceful Shit (“Just when I thought things were getting good; Good shit never lasts long.”).

This last one made me chuckle, mostly because the author speaks the truth; “good shit never lasts long.”

But if we didn’t have bad shit, we wouldn’t appreciate the good shit. And, as everyone knows, shit happens. And the world goes round and round …..

And I’m scrolling ….

“Validation is for Parking.” This is an interesting insight.

“Frankly, the validity others provide for us has nothing to do with us. It has all to do with how THEY see themselves and their world.”

I agree with the author. We all have our realities, our own perceptions, about life and the world, which we created based on who we are, what we believe, and our experiences up to this point. No one seems the world in exactly the same way.

The author goes on to say that we need to validate ourselves instead of looking for others to do it for us.

“… we need to learn how to embrace ourselves, learn how to live our lives without asking for another’s permission or acceptance. It is our life. Our journey. ”

And I’m scrolling ….

I see my Blog #2, In My Father’s Footsteps, Chapters 31 and 32, with the familiar family photos I use to decorate my father’s stories. I impulsively click on Chapter 32, though the words are firmly planted in my mind. My motives are purely honorable; research, I tell myself. And Validation.

“My dad was my hero. I’m sure most little girls see their fathers that way. And though my relationship with my dad hasn’t always been the best, he was there when I needed him most, and for that, I am very grateful.”

A few years ago, I found a box filled with typed pages, memories about his life, which he transformed into fun and entertaining stories about his childhood, his time in the Navy, being the oldest boy in a Catholic family, and what he thought about life in general.

I changed it up a bit in Chapter 31, letting my mother take the reins to tell the story of how she and my dad met.  (Despite everything that was against them, they managed to hang on to each other for nearly 50  years.)

They were married Oct. 24, 1959. They caused quite a scandal back then. They had both been married before and divorce wasn’t as accepted as it is today. (And besides, my father was Catholic; definitely a no-no for that denomination). Mom had three kids from her previous marriage. Dad had two, but only Tim came to live with them. And after they were married, they had five more.

If that wasn’t enough, they survived a horrific experience when Dad nearly died in a car accident in 1967. And once the older kids became teenagers, they had to deal with drugs, unplanned pregnancies, and the draft (It was the ’60s, after all).

A few years later, they had to go through it all again with the second batch of kids. By this time, they were either too tired to care, or figured that life was too short to get too stressed about it and learned to relax a little.

“’Story of our lives…’ she tells me.  And she is not wrong.”

And I’m scrolling ….

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300

Earlier this year, I celebrated the milestone of being a blogger for 6 years. But that is small compared to reaching 300 posts. It is for me, anyway.

Yes, this is my 300 post, but that doesn’t count the 20 or so drafts I should have deleted, but decided not to, for whatever reason. Many are the result of rants I went on, after which, coming to my senses, decided against posting. I don’t need to spread all that negativity. I’m a lover, not a fighter.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t stand up for what I believe in. I’m just not as naive as I once was.

I have learned a lot since publishing my first post, “Note to Self,” in 2010.  For example, I can’t control how people feel about me. I used to bend over backwards for people who didn’t respect me, trying to gain their favor. When it didn’t work, I thought there was something wrong with me.

It took me a while to figure out that that’s just who they are. It’s nothing personal; they treat everyone that way. And with all the different personalities in the world trying to work and live together, people are not going to agree on everything, no matter what you do.

Oh yes … you can do everything to accommodate them, but that only reinforces what you already think about yourself; that you are less than they are, and that’s just not true.

We all start out the same way. Our personalities, our environments, our family, friends, and experiences shape us into who we become. And if our personalities are such that we look outside ourselves for approval, well, we’re kind of screwed. Because no one tells us this. We may go years trying to please others to gain acceptance, when in reality,  there’s just no pleasing them.

Ricky Nelson knew this when he sang it in his 1972 hit, ‘Garden Party.’ “You see, you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.”

You can’t make everyone happy. You just can’t. You will be disappointed if you try. All you can do is be true to yourself and live your life the way that makes you feel good about yourself.

We have to accept who we are, all the good parts and bad parts, and either change the things we don’t like about ourselves, or learn to manage them.

And if you make a mistake, learn from it, even if it takes you a few times. It’s ok. It’s called being human.

Another thing I have learned, is that we are capable of so much more than we know. Once we wake up to this fact, once we open our minds and challenge our beliefs and look at what is possible, nothing is impossible! As Audrey Hepburn once said, “Nothing is impossible; even the word itself says, ‘I’m Possible!'”

In the book, “Conversation with Gods,” by Neale Donald Walsch, the Almighty Him/Herself states that life is energy in motion. I take this to mean that life is all about creating. And we can create our lives to be whatever we want it to be.

It really is that simple.