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I’m Putting My Pants Back On!

A while back, I listened to a podcast episode for authors in which the guest highly recommended a book entitled Take Off Your Pants! It would help me to write novels in record time, the guest practically guaranteed.

The book, written by historical fiction author Libbie Hawker, starts off by describing two types of fiction authors: those who write by the seat of their pants, i.e., without much forethought or planning; and those who only write after outlining the story. Libbie argues that thoroughly outlining your book before you sit down to write it is the most effective and efficient (she came just a little shy of saying “best”) way to approach a novel. When I first read through the book, I got excited. Yes, figure out the main character’s flaw! Yes, figure out the theme of the book. The inciting incident! She basically lays out a plan to outline the book according to what I read in the book The Writer’s Journey years ago.

I got excited, because I was tired of taking more than a month to write a 75,000-word novel. I was tired of getting stuck in the middle, and having to agonize for days over how to move the story forward. And tired of getting stuck several times after getting unstuck at the midway point!

So, yes! I was going to start planning my novels ahead of time before I sat down to write them.

But there was one tiny flaw…

It didn’t work. I tried it for my latest publication, Call Me Isabel. When I got frustrated on that outline, I tried outlining another story idea I had.

BLAH!!! Both of them ended up shredded and at the bottom of our compost toilet.

Here’s what I figured out: some of us just have to write by the seat of our pants. Outlining kills the muse. Even doing the basics, which Libbie says you can do and still have a lot of blank spaces to fill in.

It’s funny that I am such an author, because I could be a professional organizer. I was reading books on homeschooling when B was still inside me, and learning about homesteading several years before we moved. At one point, I alphabetized all my husband’s paperbacks by author. The books on our living room shelves are organized by topic. There is a place for everything, and everything must be in place.

In other words, I am a planner and an organizer.

Except when it comes to my writing.

The proof is in the publication

I’ll admit: I got stuck on Call Me Isabel well after I had decided to ditch the outline. But, guess what? The outline ultimately frustrated me much more than my trouble with how I initially ended the story. And after I got over that hump, I did the rewrite in record time…without an outline.

Read any of my other novels. Redeeming Laura. Any of the books in either the “Texas Hearts” or “Choices and Chances” series. The only outline I had was in my head, and here’s what it looked like:

*I. Beginning

*II.Dramatic event somewhere in the middle

*III. Climax

*IV. Resolution

That’s it. Those four (usually vague) points/events were all I had to go on.

Why novel-writing has frustrated me

Now, remember how I recently told you that I was probably not going to write any more novels until I was older than George Burns? (Don’t make me feel old and tell me you don’t know who George Burns is!) And that was despite having previously told you that I could do anything. (Good thing I’m not wishy-washy.)

It had nothing to do with not having an outline. It had nothing to do with writing an outline and feeling restricted by it.

It had everything to do with my characters.

Yep. Let me tell you the three easiest books I’ve ever written. The first two are in the “Texas Hearts” series, the last in the “Choices and Chances” series: Guns and Rosa, Antonia’s Dance, and His First Choice.

Why? I fell in love with the characters. Now, I have to say that I love Sheila and Hank in The Envelope. But I also have to be honest – it was the first novel I’d ever written, and was written in fits and starts over a period of two to three years in the evenings after I got home from my teaching job, and during the summer. So because I was feeling my way through the skill of creating and growing characters, as well as inventing interesting plot turns, it was by no means easy to write.

Don’t misunderstand me; I’m saying that those three books listed above have been the easiest to write. I’m not saying they were plain-old easy. But I loved the main characters. Rosa and George are both larger-than-life types. The romance between Max and Antonia is just sweet – because both of the characters are. Erin and Rodney in His First Choice are an awful lot like a certain couple I know (a-HEM!), so what’s not to love? 😉

Surprise, surprise!

Recently, I wrote a short story. Because I was only going to write short stories from now on, right?

But as soon as I finished the story, it wanted to be a novel.

Well, not exactly, It wanted me to go back in time and tell the story of the couple that stars in that story.

Anyway.

I slept on it. Waited. Did my best to talk my mind out of the idea.

But…

The short story kept growing in my mind. I felt a stronger and stronger desire to do what it was asking, and turn it into a novel.

And so, yes, I, the non-wishy-washy blogger, am working on another novel. I’m writing it by the seat of my pants, and I’m having a blast. I think it’s been the easiest novel by far for me to write. Why?

I love the characters.

Yep. It’s that simple. I can write a novel and not get totally frustrated with either the time or mental gymnastics it takes as long as I love the characters. They have to become a part of me, and I a part of them.

Does that sound totally whack, or what?

If it does, too bad. I’m having fun.

With my pants back on. Sorry, Libbie. My stories just refuse to live in a box.

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Celebrating The Little Victories…

It was a beautiful day, and hot. I had just swum for a few minutes at our local state park to cool off, and my eyes were beginning to cry out for my sunglasses. So I thought, I’ll go kayaking for a few minutes.

See, three summers ago we bought our son a plastic kayak from Wal-Mart. The first year, he was in the thing constantly. Last year, he still was enthusiastic about paddling around in it, but not as much.

This year, he’s barely touched it. Did we waste our money? No, no, a thousand times no! You see, the maximum weight for the bitty boat is 130 pounds. I weigh…well, less than that. And so I’ve mostly had it to myself so far this summer.

Which brings us back to me deciding to take a little paddle. “Should I try to cross the lake?” I asked my boys.

“If you want,” was J’s predictable answer.

Why, you ask, would it be a big deal for me to cross the lake, especially it not being a large lake in any sense? Two reasons. First, at some point last summer I made it a goal to one day kayak all the way across the lake.

Second – and more importantly – I wanted to celebrate the healing of my arm. In case you don’t know, in October of 2014 I broke my left humerus bone, to the extent that I now have several thousand dollars worth of hardware inside it. (No, it was not funny.)

If you’ve ever broken a bone that badly in your forties (I hope you haven’t/never do), you know that it takes quite some time for full rehabilitation to occur. Like, two years.

The first summer after the break – seven months later – I couldn’t swim, and could barely paddle the kayak because my arm was still so sore. Sometimes, I would feel like those pins in my arms were actually jabbing at nerves. Other times, I felt like I was going to break my arm all over again if I made it do a whole rotation to do a stroke. Last summer was better, but I still experienced soreness after a while of either swimming or kayaking.

This year – hallelujah! – the pain is all gone.

And I’d kayaked at least once a week for the past month, so I thought I’d be strong enough to go all the way across the lake.

And, I did! I’m sorry there’s no photo or video. Just picture me in pink, paddling across a lake in a blue plastic kayak. I think the round trip took about fifteen minutes, including a longish stop in the middle. So, yeah, not a big lake. Not a huge deal to most people.

But it is to me. It’s a symbol of the healing that time brings. When I got back to shore, both my arms were equally sore!

Celebrate the little victories in life. 🙂

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This is it. My official launch of my latest novel, Call Me Isabel. You can get it free today, tomorrow, and Thursday, July 18-20, 2017, here:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071HWGJNR

It’s different than all my past and probably all my future works. Not a romance, and on the serious side. Sort of a faith-based urban fantasy? Maybe sort of? With a bit of suspense and mystery.

If you’re not sure about it, well, you have nothing to lose for the next three days, because it’s FREE.

After you finish reading it, please oh please oh please leave a nice review. TIA! 🙂

 

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How Is My Kratky Experiment Going?

A few weeks ago, I made a major gardening decision. Two, actually. The first was to grow lettuce and spinach indoors using the Kratky method of hydroponics (click on the link above if you don’t know what that is). The second was that from now on, my outdoor vegetable and fruit annuals would be grown using the Kratky method. So, how’s it going?

The big disappointment

My HUGE disappointment is that I have no cucumber in the garden this summer. So easy to grow! And it’s not because of the trip to Minnesota. It’s because the few seeds of the two varieties I wanted to grow seem to have all become inviable. I might have tried the lemon cucumber, but I really don’t like that variety as much.

Right now, just to experiment, I’ve got the very last Yamato Extra Long cucumber seed and a melon seed in between moist paper towels in plastic bags just to see if they’ll even germinate. I soaked them overnight in a hydrogen peroxide solution, which is supposed to facilitate the germination process. If the melon seed germinates, we’ll get some fruit some time in October. Yes, very late for melons – at least in these here parts. But something is better than nothing.

The Kratky lettuce

Here’s a photo I took of the lettuce growing in net pots two or three weeks ago:

Supposedly, if you grow lettuce using the Kratky method, you have a full, mature head of lettuce after a month. Well, it’s been a month. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

I think the reason is twofold. First, there are too many plants per pot – there’s only supposed to be one, hello! Here’s the deal. I overplanted the seeds because they are ones that I had saved from a lettuce plant when we still lived in Plano, so I had no idea whether they would still be viable. Then I got the genius idea not to thin them out until they were big enough so that the trimmings could help make a salad.

Well, by that time the roots were already growing into the water…and I couldn’t tell which roots come from which plant! So I didn’t dare thin any of them.

Second, either the red and blue LED grow lights aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, or they are not close enough to the plants. They are growing, but it remains to be seen how long it will be before I dare begin to harvest the leaves.

The next two photos show you how the Kratky method works. First, a view of the lettuce growing from the net pot. Then, a photo of the roots. Notice how only the ends of the roots are actually in the water. They have followed the water and nutrients down. The rest of the roots are exposed to air, which is how the roots keep from drowning. Clever, eh? One of those things I wish I’d thought of first!

Spinach surprise!

Out of the first thirty-six spinach seeds I planted, none of them germinated. I dumped the whole lot and started over, this time with only twenty-four (two seeds in each of twelve pots). A little better result: four germinated.

*Sigh.* I did some digging, and found out that if you want to germinate spinach seeds indoors, you need to put them in a refrigerator (or in our case, cooler) for a few days because they don’t like germinating in warm soil.

Now you tell me! 😉

So I’m going to try one more time. In the meantime, the four that germinated are doing well and have their true leaves. Here are photos of one of the plants, and then the roots in the water.

Notice how dry the coir, or coconut fiber, is in the first photo. No matter – the roots are getting their moisture from the jar below, remember? I love this non-messy way of growing food!

Okay, one more plant.

Later ‘Mater

Talk about a late tomato! It’ll be interesting to see when this starts producing fruit. It’s still a baby plant in the middle of July.

Of the several tomato seeds I planted, this was the only one that germinated (and none of the peppers did – another seed type I need to test for viability). It was very leggy (long stem) when it first came up, so I carefully removed it from it’s net pot, then replaced it deep down inside and surrounded it with more moist coir. The first true leaves were just barely poking above the coconut fiber. Now look at it!

It’s even grown a new leaf since being transplanted, and it was probably only a week ago! Since it has its true leaves, I am now feeding it the hydroponic nutrient solution, and that seems to really be helping it grow. Probably in the next week I will get it outside in the five-gallon bucket of nutrient solution that I had prepared for the tomato cutting that failed (because I cut it from the wrong part of the plant, duh!).

There you go – the beginning of my Kratky gardening journey! Click the envelope icon in the right sidebar above to get instant updates in your inbox. 🙂

 

 

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