How to Conquer NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month is really just around the corner now. Are you ready and raring to go?

I’m not sure about the ready or the raring. I think I’m good to go but the doubties have begun to creep into my head. This year has been busier than ever and the choice to join NaNoWriMo seems crazier the closer Nov 1 gets. But I’m determined to make it happen…mostly because I have a full story plan and am way too impatient to weather another 6 months writing a draft. I need this to happen soon or else.

Or else what, I don’t know, but I’m trying to keep my motivation up here :).

With that in mind, I’m gathering my weapons and planning my assault on NaNoWriMo. Here are a few articles with excellent suggestions:

My other two weapons of mass NaNo destruction are Scrivener and Snowflake Pro. Snowflake is a story planning software (I use it with Larry Brooks’s story structure in mind) while Scrivener is an all-purpose writing software.

I’ve got my arsenal and story plan…so maybe I can make this happen after all.

***

How about you? Are you ready to conquer NaNoWriMo?

Categories: Killer Thursdays | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Something Stolen…

Red RoseToday, I thought I’d share an enjoyable read with you. If you like action, humor, thrills, a dash of romance, and some heavy, thought-provoking content all held together with a thread of hope, you’ll probably love Piper Bayard’s and Jay Holmes’s Spy Bride, part of the Risky Brides set. I had the chance to read an advanced copy (thank you, thank you, thank you, Piper and Jay) and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The story opens with bride-to-be, Sonia Perez (spectacular choice of protagonist names, by the way), shopping for her trousseau with her fabulous mother Kathleen, when a *ahem* fluffy Santa falls from a balcony and squashes a courier (thief?) carrying something very interesting. And everything goes downhill (in a very good way) from there.

I loved that the story was funny and light without diminishing the darker, scarier elements. I may be a bit of a weirdo, but I like my darkness shot through with rays of hope (that’s why I like to write horror). Spy Bride did the trick for me. My only complaint is that I would’ve liked to see the story play out novel-length because I just wanted, well, more.

*Psst* Kathleen is my favorite character. I must see more of her. Soon.

Piper and Jay are running a special Risky Brides event. If you’d like to get in on the action, head on over.

***

What’s your favorite recent read?

Photo Credit:
Red Rose, mine.

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

How to Survive NaNoWriMo Without Resorting to Cannibalism

NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and, if you’re anything like me, you’re waiting for it to arrive with a mixture of excitement and dread.

Cake

Cake is a meal. Right?

Most of us don’t really have time for NaNo. We make room by temporarily pushing aside non-essential activities, making a bargain with our families to offset some of our individual responsibilities and planning for the chaos as much as possible. Or we just dive in and hope for the best. Either way, we do it because, if we win, we’ll have most or all of a first draft done. That’s a pretty decent reward for a month of madness.

For my family, meals are the biggest concern during NaNo. While it’s tempting to get take-out or drive-through all month, it’s not so friendly on the budget or health.

Assuming, of course, you can make it to a fast food joint. Otherwise…

So, how do we keep ourselves and our families fed without re-enacting Super Size Me or that Stephen King short, Survivor Type (lady fingers, they taste just like lady fingers. *shudder*)

Here’s what works for my family (when we work it, anyway):

Chicken Stock

Roast up a chicken or two. Eat some for dinner and cut up the rest for sandwiches, tacos, pasta, soup, etc. Throw the bones in a stockpot or a crock pot (I prefer the crock pot because don’t have to worry about leaving the range on for so many hours) along with big chunks of carrot, onion, celery and whatever else you like (if you have the giblets, throw those in there too) and simmer for 6-12 hours.

I like to leave out the salt so I can add whatever’s needed when I use the stock in a recipe.

When it’s ready, pour the stock through a strainer to separate out the bones and veggies. You can separate out the fat with a gravy separator or cool the stock and scrape the solidified fat off the top. Then, freeze the stock in meal sized portions (I usually figure 1-2 cups per person as a recipe base).

Stock is great in homemade soup, curry, chili or in a variety of sauces.

You can also make beef or veggie stock. And, of course, canned stock works in a pinch.

Soup

Our family loves soup. I rarely use a recipe because it’s so much easier to throw in whatever I have. I usually sweat some onions first, pour in my stock, and add celery, carrots, bell pepper and whatever other veggies I have on hand. Then I’ll add meat and maybe pasta. I also add salt, pepper and any other seasonings ( Italian blend, sometimes curry powder, crushed red pepper, etc.) to taste and let it simmer until the veggies are tender.

One of our favorites is sausage and potato soup. I use spicy Italian sausage, lightly browned on the stove top and sliced or diced, baby gold potatoes, onions and any other veggies I have on hand. This recipe usually requires only a little salt and pepper and no other seasoning as the spice from the sausage really infuses the soup.

Miscellaneous Meal Tips

Stock up on your favorite pasta and jars of sauce or make your own sauce and freeze it.

Make a big batch of chili (I like to add lots of veggies such as celery, onion, red bell pepper and cherry or grape tomatoes) and freeze in meal size portions.

Stock up on burrito fixings such as beans, cheese, tortillas and salsa. Burritos are super quick and easy when you have all the fixings on hand. You can even pre-chop and pre-cook any meat, then freeze them both ahead (just be sure to allow for thawing before meal time).

Make a few freezer meals.

Every week, do all y our chopping of veggies ahead of time and stash in the fridge (or you can prep two weeks to a month ahead and freeze). That way, when meal time rolls around, you can just throw the ingredients together and go.

Starting now, make a double or triple batch of whatever you’re making for lunch/dinner and freeze the extra.

Plan a couple of pizza or take-out nights to ease the stress or enlist family and friends to do the cooking.

Shoot for 2000 words every day for 6 days and take the 7th off so you can have time to relax and/or prep for the next week.

***

So this is how I plan to surive NaNo. What’s in your plan?

You might also be interested in:

How Not to Starve During NaNoWriMo

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , | 12 Comments

Shows You Hate to Love

Now that The Walking Dead is back, we can all stop chewing our fingernails worrying about the gang surviving the boxcar. Now we can go on worrying about Beth and whether all our beloved characters are going to survive the rest of the season with their lives or their humanity intact.

Boxcar door by David Brossard on Flickr

This is why I hate to love TWD.

It’s not that I don’t expect characters to die, even main characters, especially in a world crawling with flesh-eating monsters (oh, and zombies too) it’s just that I want them to have a satisfying death that fits the storyline without cutting their story arc too short. Is that too much to ask? *grumble mutter grumble*

Of course, I’ll (probably) keep watching even if they bump off what I consider the non-negotiable characters.

And, if I do get tired of hating to love TWD, there’s always the other show I hate to love, Game of Thrones (the hate-to-love goes quadruple for the books by the way). Darn that George R. R. Martin for making characters we try so hard not to love because just know he’s going to bump them off sooner or later. There’s a reason why he’s known as the most infamous serial killer in fiction after all.

***

What about you? What shows or books do you hate to love and why?

Photo Credit: Boxcar door by David Brossard on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

If You Could Live in Any Cartoon Universe….

Which One Would You Pick?

FridgeImagine for a moment you’re standing in front of your fridge. It’s late at night. Your eyes are bleary. Your stomach’s rumbling. Last night’s taco is in there. Somewhere. So is that slice of cake from a week-or-so ago.

Cake sounds pretty good right now. Can you put the taco on the cake and call it a meal?

You open the door and, instead of leftover tacos, week old cake, some mostly unidentifiable vegetable matter in the crisper drawer and an entire tribe of salad dressings, you find a portal to another universe (no, nothing to do with that growly guy over behind the dark chocolate almond milk – that stuff’s pretty good, by the way. He’s from another other universe. Just ingore him. He’ll go away. Or fry the eggs on your counter. Whatever). It’s a cartoon universe, beckoning you come on over.

And you think, why not? It looks like fun over there. You climb over the Siracha and past the cranberry cocktail to…

Where do you go?

If you could visit/live in any cartoon universe, which one would you pick? And why?

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

What Inspires You?

inspire – in-spire (verb):
1) to breathe life into
2) to motivate, influence or encourage

My wonderful hubby and I will shortly be celebrating 14 years of wedded bliss (just a few days shy of 15 years since the day we met). Through the years, he’s been such an inspiration to me. He doesn’t get my love for horror, but he always supports my writing. More than that, he inspires me with his generosity and faith. One of the greatest things he’s taught me is that everything pretty much comes out alright in the end as long as you keep on keeping on. This sense of trust and optimism buoys me in those times when my natural tendency to brood threatens.

And thinking of how he inspires me makes me think of all the people, places and things that inspire me everyday. My kiddos, who challenge me to grow and remind me of the simple joys in life. Coffee, especially on those mornings that come waaaaay to early. A good book. Sometimes even a bad movie.

The more inspiring things that come to mind, the more I realize that we should strive to be inspired by who and what’s around us everyday. Every single day, we must find something, however awesome or mundane,  that moves us to change the world for the better, to do something great, pass on little kindnesses or even just smile.

Big or little, extraordinary or everyday, which people, places and things inspire you?

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Legible Feasts

Delicious food and good books. My two favorite recreational drugs (Oh, and Netflix. That too). Sometimes those things come together to make for a delicious reading experience or a novel meal.

Now, while I may have run to the pantry and frantically rooted around for something – anything – after drooling on pages describing a feast at Hogwarts or King’s Landing or an impromptu meal at Kay Scarpetta’s, I’ve never actually tried to cook anything from a novel.

Until recently *blush*, I didn’t even know there were cookbooks inspired by some of my favorite stories. Much to my delight, I discovered there are quite a few tasty cookbooks, official and unofficial, born of a hungry imagination.

Here are five, for your reading and dining pleasure:

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dina Bucholz, boasting such recipes as Knickerbocker Glory, Pumpkin Pasties and Peppermint Humbugs.

The Unofficial Narnia Cookbook, also by Dina Bucholz, including recipes for Turkish Delight and Pigeon Stew with Wood Sorrel.

Food to Die For: Secrets from Kay Scarpetta’s Kitchen by Patricia Cornwell and Marlene Brown, with Kay’s Grilled Pizza and Lasagna  *drool*.

The Unofficial Recipes of the Hunger Games by Rockridge University Press, featuring Greasy Sae’s Badger Stew (yum?), Arena Beef Strips Gamemakers’ Suckling Pig.

And last, but absolutely not least, A Feast of Ice & Fire by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer, with Honey-Spiced Locusts (you may want to have a poison taster take the first bite), Lemon Cakes and Bowl of Brown (probably best not to ask).

The LiteraryTraveler also explores delicious reads: 7 Cookbooks Inspired by Literature.

Writing this post has left me hungry enough to eat an aurochs.

Of course, they’re extinct.

I guess I’ll have to make do with a taco.

***

What novels leave you hankering for a bite? Have you ever prepared food inspired by your favorite books?

 

 

 

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Why You’ll Never Have to Worry About a Zombie Apocalypse

…or Will You?

Have you been super duper stressed about the possibility of  a zombie apocalypse? Or maybe you don’t really believe but you watched one too many episodes of The Walking Dead and now you can’t sleep until you can shoot a squirrel off the shoulder of an undead pizza delivery guy. Well, rest assured that a zombie apocalypse is totally nothing to worry about.  Cracked.com offers 7 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Outbreak Would Fail (Quickly).

Zombie Birdie

Braaaaaaaaaaainzzzzzzzzz aaaaaannnnnndddd wooooooooormmmmmms…

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find the article terribly comforting and hilarious but…

You’ll also start to wonder if maybe they’re wrong after all. Maybe the undead won’t just rot away. Maybe they’ll have no natural predators. Maybe it’s not the bite that spreads the disease. Maybe it’s airborne. Maybe it’s already in us all. Aaaaaaagh!

Okay. Maybe not.

But take note, the super scientific folk at Cracked also once pointed out 5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen. It’s up to you which is more convincing.

***

So what do you think? How real is the possibility of a zombie apocalypse? And, scientifically speaking (or not, it’s up to you), how do you think it would happen?

Categories: Killer Thursdays, Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why You Should Punch a Time Clock…

… Even if You Don’t Have To

Some folks are naturally organized. Their junk drawers resemble a photo from Martha Stewart’s website, they’re never late and they always remember Great-Aunt Louise’s birthday.

I am not one of those folks.

My regular drawers look like junk drawers. If I shoot for being early, I stand a good chance of being somewhere on time…usually. And I can barely remember my birthday. So, for folks like me, some kind of time-management protocol is a must. And, if you can’t afford or don’t want to hire a personal assistant, something like Toggl might do the trick for you.

Toggl

I started using Toggl for web design projects because I wanted to see how my project estimates matched with the actual time spent so I could give better estimates. Very quickly, I figured out that I could track my whole day (yep, as disorganized as I am naturally, I love, love, love lists and spreadsheets). How much time was I spending writing (or, often, not writing)? How much time did I devote to social media? How long did it take me to write a blog post? At a glance, I could see how my days broke down over the course of a week, month or even a year. I could see where I spending too much time or not enough. And I started to get a little more organized.

Now, I find myself wanting to make my daily charts look pretty and balanced. If any one element grows too far out of proportion, I can rein it in (that includes work).

And I can see, before I try to tell myself I don’t have the time, whether I really have the time or not. Like, for exercise.

You can find the time-tracker online and they have desktop and app versions. The app is one of my best friends.

All in all, very nifty.

Also, I have to give a shout-out to Jeffrey McChesney, a fellow writer, whose post Time reminded me to share the goodness that is Toggl.

***

What are your time-organizing tricks? 

 

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

What Happens When You Can’t Leave Well Enough Alone?

I’m a fiddler.

No, not the kind that inspires the Devil to bet a shiny fiddle made of gold against my soul.

I just can’t seem to follow directions, recipes or plans without giving them a little tweak. This is almost compulsive in the kitchen. I’ve only ever met a few recipes (all of them involving baking…which apparently has some “delicate” chemistry requiring one to pretty much stick to the recipe…but I often manage to still throw in a little something different) I couldn’t fiddle with a wee bit.

It used to drive my husband nuts that I couldn’t seem to follow a recipe. He’d tell me that recipes were there for a reason and that somebody else had already worked out the kinks. Fair enough but I’ve always considered recipes more as a general guide to the territory and not a strict itinerary. He’s since come to accept that I’ll probably never be able to leave well enough alone, especially in the kitchen.

And some of our best meals have come from those experiments.

Also, some of our worst. Just ask my husband about the Thai red curry incident.

But, you know, that’s how the cookie crumbles.

So, why is it that I can’t just follow recipes as is? I’m sure part of it is that I’m stubborn (I always want to have things my way…my mom always said so). But I think the biggest part is that I love to play, I love the joy of trying something new, not knowing how it’ll turn out and having it turn out beautifully. I love getting an answer to “what if” even if that answer is a ginormous “yuck.” It makes cooking and everything else fun.

Most everything, anyway.

Of course, sometimes it’s better to stick to the recipe, at least the first time around. You have to know how something’s supposed to work before you start making variations on it. This is actually something I’ve only discovered in recent years (I did say I was stubborn, didn’t I?).

All of this compulsive fiddling is probably why, as a writer, I’ve always enjoyed going at it by the seat of my pants. And, once I discovered there is a recipe of sorts to good writing, I wanted to play with it before I ever tried actually following it to the letter. However, I’ve discovered that writing is a little more like baking than making curry; there’s some delicate chemistry at work. Oh sure, there’s room for endless variations but only if you know the how the recipe’s really supposed to work.

……

Mrmph…sorry. I was thinking about curry. And brownies. I completely forgot whatever else I was going to say.

***

What about you? Do you like to follow a plan or blaze your own trail? Are there some areas in life where we simply must stick to the recipe or is everything an opportunity for variation? If you like to do things your way, what’s the funniest mishap you’ve had with that?

 

 

Categories: Tuesday Toss-Up | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 434 other followers