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NaNoWriMo 2015 Update: Week 4

I can’t believe it’s already November 30th. While I might get some writing done later today, NaNoWriMo 2015 is effectively over. I can’t believe how quickly this month has gone. Now it’s almost December, and almost guaranteed that our baby boy will be a December birth. Here is The Good, The Bad, and The Excerpt for the last nine days of NaNo.

The Good

I decided a few weeks ago that just hitting 30k would make me very happy for the month, considering everything that was going on, and this morning I hit that mark! As of right now, I have 30,419 words. And like I said, I might write more later today, haven’t decided yet. I’m right about where I wanted 30k to hit in the story, too. Even though I don’t know how the whole thing will play out (I planned scenes for the first half of the book only), I’m still several scenes from the midpoint, which means for once I actually wrote fleshed-out scenes and subplots the first time, instead of saving them for revision.

The characters are coming together and getting more real in my mind, the antagonist is (by necessity) more likeable now, which was something I needed to deal with, and depending on the day/hour/minute/whatever, I don’t hate what I’ve written.

Considering the fact that I only started working on my ideas for this book in August, and my last NaNo novel I planned for a year before writing, I am so happy that I managed that 30k while extremely pregnant and watching my toddler.

The Bad

Consistently writing was just not my forte this year. After week 2, I could pretty much only write one or two days a week. Part of it was hitting a wall with the story and not being sure if I liked it, and part of it was Braxton Hicks, and part of it was having to watch my daughter, and part of it was needing to work, and part of it was the holidays and special events, but basically I did let “real life” cut into my writing time more than I wished I had. In those nine days, I didn’t even manage 5,000 words. But I got very nearly 5,000, and they are all slowly building the plot forward. I do kind of miss the days of writing spec fic, when it was easier to see the plot progressing, but contemporary has been fun.

The Excerpt

I obviously didn’t have a lot of passages to choose from this week, and didn’t want to choose something I had just written this morning, so here is a scene between Blanca and her love interest’s mother. This was a relationship I really wanted to develop and this scene was one of the first opportunities I took to do it. I’m relatively pleased with the direction the relationship is taking, as Mrs. de Vries means a lot to Blanca, and vice versa.


“So how was it in L.A.? It must have been completely different than here, where one secret can ruin somebody. Do you think it changed you?”

She ran a hand through her mousy hair, and wrinkles seemed to appear on her face as she did so. As much as I was comfortable immediately sharing things with her again, she didn’t seem to be the same person. My question was practically unnecessary. “Of course it changed me. You can’t spend time in a place so different than Piney Grove without changing. You can’t spend time, period, without changing. You should know that by now, Blanca. Even staying the same is sort of a change when everyone around you changes.”

“Did you like L.A.?”

“I loathed it. But it was also something I can’t imagine doing without. I needed out of Piney Grove. My family needed out of Piney Grove if we were going to make it—” She cut herself off and looked at me, then bit her lip like she was a teenager, too. “Never mind. There are some things you don’t need to know.”

I placed a hand on her arm and tried to reconcile the weird feelings between us. When she moved away, I was a child who looked to her for guidance. Was it possible that five years could make us closer to equals? “If I can tell you anything, you can tell me anything,” I said, meaning it.

She shook her head. “It doesn’t work that way. Not when you’re still a teenager. Not with the way you feel about Lucas. It’s impossible for me to burden you with our family problems. It would be wrong.”

“Regardless of what I feel about Lucas,” I said, “And I’m not sure what I feel about him right now, it doesn’t matter. He’s making it pretty clear how he feels about me.”

“He’ll come around,” she said, sounding more certain than I believed she should. “It may take him some time to get used to Piney Grove again, but he’ll realize soon enough how much he missed you. I think he’s still trying to cling to his life in L.A. more than he should and forgets that he has roots here.” She smiled at me, the distress that had shown up when she’d begun to speak of her own time in L.A. slowly disappearing. “He forgets that you are one of those roots, Blanca. He needs you to help anchor him down. Please don’t stop trying.”

“I won’t,” I said. I knew I never would, anyway. We had rounded the last corner before my house and I began to slow on instinct. I’d have to go inside to my family and she would go on to Lucas without me. “Thanks for the encouragement.”

“You’re welcome. I’m serious, you know. Text Lucas. Spend some time with him this week and remind him that small towns aren’t all bad.”

It contradicted with the beginning of our conversation and her advice about Emma, but I didn’t mind. It was what I wanted to do anyway. “I usually hang out with Emma, Calvin, Daniel, and Elena at the diner on the weekends. I can text him and see if he wants to come tonight.”

She smiled. “I think that would be a good idea. And text him before church next Sunday, too,” she added. “I have to say we got out of the habit of going in L.A. and returning sure would be good for him.

“Thanks, Mrs. De Vries,” I said, one hand on the gate leading toward my front door.

“Please,” she said, her tone all sorts of serious, “Call me Aya.”

“Thanks, Aya,” I corrected, her first name sounding strange in my mouth. “I appreciate it.”

NaNoWriMo 2015 Update: Week 3

Unsurprisingly, this week did not go particularly well. I hit so many notoriously difficult things to overcome: nearing 30,000 words, week 3 in general, and an extremely busy personal life. So at the moment I just have to be grateful that (a) I wrote at all, and (b) the baby has yet to make his appearance.

Here in all its horror is The Good, The Bad, and The Excerpt for this past week.

The Good

Despite my crazy week, I managed to write just over 5,000 words and crossed the 25,000-word mark! The bits and pieces of the story I want to tell are getting onto the page, even if I know they’re nowhere near ready yet. On a weird note, I’m also pleased that I’m barely to the first pinch point (just into the second act) of the story. I usually write such sparse first drafts that I’m clawing around for a midpoint, at least, by the time I hit 25,000 words. Last year I’d even written myself into what I thought would be the climax of the story! Being so early on means hopefully I’ll have less structural revision, since I know I’ll have more voice-y and sentence-y revision.

The Bad

I only wrote on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. By Wednesday, I was working like crazy trying to get through all my billable work before the baby comes and spend time with my daughter. I had a friend come to stay with me to help with my baby shower, so she was here Friday night through this morning. The baby shower and planning for it pretty much took up my weekend.

While I like where the plot is going, I’m more unhappy with the words themselves than I usually am with a first draft, and feel like I’m still finding my way into the voice of the story. I wish I knew Blanca better…

The Excerpt

This week the excerpt is something new I tried with the story. When I was first envisioning it, I wanted to dive into some magical realism and creepy settings and such, but this passage, 25,000 words in, was the first time I really tried to do it. Once again it’s repetitious and not exactly right, but I’m interested enough in the mood-setting to keep it… for now. 🙂


Five years had aged her more than it should an adult, especially one who wasn’t yet forty. Her hair, which had once always been impeccable, dyed a rich chocolate brown and kept conditioned daily, was limp and fried from over-processing. Her eyes were surrounded by wrinkles and her lips, too, but not the kind that were friendly, the kind people called laugh lines so they didn’t sound rude. Instead she just seemed old. Worn down, like life had taken a toll on her. I needed to say something better than just “L.A. didn’t treat you well, did it?” even though it was the first thing that came to my mind. Instead I just stood there, staring, until she began to look confused.

“Sorry,” I said, deciding on a half-truth. “I just haven’t seen you in so long I can’t believe you’re back.”

“Neither can I sometimes,” she said, and even her voice seemed to have aged. If I didn’t know better, I would guess she had taken up smoking in her absence. It was ragged and worn down, like her vocal cords were torn, angry with her. “And I imagine you’re here to see Lucas, not me. Come inside, Blanca. I’ve missed you.”

At least the hug she enveloped me in felt the same as it used to. I always liked her hugs better than Mami’s because they made me feel completely loved and like I wasn’t being judged about anything. I didn’t know if it was true—maybe she was just an excellent liar.

“Lucas is in the bonus room with some video game or another. Is he expecting you?”

I shook my head. “Do you think that will be a problem?”

“If it is, let me know and I’ll take it up with him personally. He’s always better behaved with you around.” I smiled. Maybe there were lots of reasons I liked Mrs. De Vries, and not just her hugs.

The house itself didn’t seem like something the family I knew would buy. I hadn’t been kidding when I told Lucas I pictured him in something sleek and modern, an apartment on the whatever-high floor with views of a city and a sleek, masculine exterior. Sure, I didn’t associate those things with his mother, but she had always been a tidy woman, capable of turning even the homiest of places into something livable and happy. This place was not happy.

Cracked floorboards made up the living space, with holes so big I could imagine tripping over one. They were hardly sanded and had turned white with age or too much dust. The kitchen, just to the left of the entryway, had modern appliances, but they all appeared to be sagging and out of commission, like this house was somehow living in a future far beyond us, projecting what would become of it when we were long-forgotten. The counter tops had an easy curve to them, like they had been through an earthquake or, more appropriately, a landslide. They weren’t cracked at all, just looked as though they had been turned to liquid and re-frozen in a new configuration that would make actually cooking impossible.

Single light bulbs hung from chains in each room, giving it an eerie, haunted feeling despite the fact that the light bulbs were the energy-efficient swirly kind meant to last forever. There were no pictures on the wall. Despite being the end of June, a fire was roaring in the fireplace, but it didn’t make the house any hotter. Ancient single-pane windows on cranks to open them remained shut, but it was still chillier inside than out. Everything about the house was impossible.

Every step I took seemed to cause a reaction in the wallpaper as it peeled down in sad and dying strips, each yellowing as they moved. Before I reached the staircase at the back of the house, I felt like my very presence was tearing it apart and we’d be collapsed inside its rubble in minutes.

NaNoWriMo 2015 Update: Week 2

I can’t believe November is already halfway over! Tomorrow I hit 37 weeks pregnant, so I’m really feeling the time crunch now, both with NaNo and my regular editing work, which is always busier in November and December. But it’s a week I didn’t give up on writing, so here is the Good, the Bad, and the Excerpt.

The Good

I still haven’t given up! To me, writing anything during NaNo will be a win this year, between being extremely pregnant, working a lot, and only having the part-est of part-time daycare situations for my almost-17-month-old.

The secondary characters and their story arcs are coming to life for me as well, and I feel like I’m getting the hang of writing conflict in a contemporary story, which was something I had been worried about since I haven’t written contemporary since the awful stuff I wrote in high school and college. I also devised a subplot that I wasn’t sure about at first, but I realized it would create so much conflict for my main character, Blanca, as well as remaining true to one of my original goals with this book, which is incorporating the songs I wrote in high school into the plot. (Unlike my stories, my songs, IMHO, didn’t suck.)

The Bad

There were two days in week 2 that I didn’t write. The first day I had my daughter home all day and by the evening I was both exhausted from taking care of her and having some major pregnancy-induced pain, so I couldn’t bring myself to write. I also didn’t write on Saturday, but that was because we had a very busy day (maternity pictures and a one-year-old’s birthday party) and I needed to get paid work done with the little free time I had.

Thanks to not writing, I only wrote just over 9,000 words in week 2, bringing my total as of Saturday to 20,249 when I should have been at 23,333. Thankfully, that gap should be easy to close.

I’m also not really connecting with Blanca’s voice. I don’t know if it’s because it’s too similar to mine, or because I want her to have a flowery, descriptive voice and that stuff usually comes in revision for me, or if I need to change it, but I’m not too worried yet. It’s frustrating, because Treyton’s voice in Small Things came easily for me, but the story is coming together easier this time around, so I guess it’s all give and take when you’re writing.

The Excerpt

A very rough draft with a ton of word repetition that will bother me to no end when I revise, but here is Blanca meeting up with her long-lost soul-mate for the first time in five years.


Daniel wasn’t paying attention. I followed his gaze to the open barn door where the sunset was leaking in. Someone was in the doorway, silhouetted in the vibrant oranges and pinks of the sunset painted in harmless clouds. “Can I help you?” he called down.

“I was told Blanca was here.”

The railing at the top of the loft made me invisible, but I could still see down. And I knew that voice. It was different than I had expected, but phones had the habit of distorting a voice. Five years and puberty had the same effect.

I took a deep breath—as deep as I could, given the way my lungs were panicking—and stood up. I didn’t look down, but mentally reviewed the outfit I’d chosen. I didn’t want to wear something too revealing to Daniel’s house, because leading him on would be wrong. But I felt like I looked good enough. Ripped skinnies, ankle boots, form-fitting tank top. Just the right amount of makeup. It wasn’t what I would’ve wanted to be wearing, but it would do. “I’m here,” I said, then made my way to the loft staircase. I wasted no time on goodbyes to Elena and Daniel. I’d see them soon anyway.

He didn’t move from the doorway and moving closer didn’t do anything to reduce the shadow he was in the doorway. Instead he was painted in the negative, everything around him vibrant colors, painted, fluid, feminine lines. He stood angular and black and white against them.

Even once I was on steady ground, I resisted the temptation to run, and he didn’t move, either. Finally, a few feet away from him, I stopped. “You’re here. I can’t believe you’re here.”

His answer wasn’t verbal. Instead he pulled me into a hug. “You ready to get out of here? We have so much catching up to do.”

I held him as long as I thought I could get away with, my head against his shoulder, breathing in his familiar-yet-new smell. I pulled away until my hands gripped his elbows, then cocked my head and smiled. “That is the understatement of the century, Lucas de Vries.”


“Where do you want to go?” he asked once we were outside the barn. He had his car, but I had walked over. The situation worked out perfectly and I climbed into the passenger seat.

“The tree house, of course. You can park on the side. The fence is as easy to climb as it’s always been.”

He grinned at me before starting the car, and his brown eyes filled with memories. I could watch them play out as easily as if they were yesterday… all the times we’d met up in our trailer park and hopped that fence together, pretending we were actually trespassing and the farmer had no idea. The fence was the same now as it was then, and I couldn’t wait to be there again with Luke instead of alone. It was the epitome of rustic, unsanded, unstained wood posts with just two horizontal bars in each of the sections. It was not a fence made for keeping people out.

The drive from Daniel and Elena’s house only took a matter of minutes. I kept waiting for things to be awkward between us, for me to look at Luke and suddenly realize who he was, or turn into a completely different version of myself the way Daniel sometimes did around me. But all I felt was giddiness and the sparks that filled the cab of his car.

“You’re back early. I wasn’t expecting you for a week!”

“We ended up closing the sale on our house in L.A. sooner than we were supposed to. The buyers were eager to get in, so we got out as soon as possible.”

He sounded so grown-up, so formal without being stifling, and it reminded me in all the best ways that we weren’t in seventh grade anymore.

NaNoWriMo 2015 Update: Week 1

Last year I reviewed NaNoWriMo in weekly updates, and besides having blogging as an excellent procrastination tool, it helped me break down how the month was going for me and assess how to do better in the following weeks. So, only a day late, here is The Good, The Bad, and The Excerpt.

The Good

I actually started! I was so worried about NaNo this year, because I hadn’t given my WIP the same amount of time to percolate as I had to Expiration Date/Small Things before writing it. However, I came into November with a list of scenes I could write for the entire first half, and despite not knowing my characters as well as I did Treyton and Hayleigh when I started Small Things, I have a much better understanding of plot. Which has made writing a lot easier, to be honest. I know what happens next and not just at the major milestones.

Plus, by the end of November 7th, I was ahead on word count! I had 12,459 words when the par was only 11,666 words.

I’m beginning to understand the characters better and have a more fleshed out first act than I had with Expiration Date. I’m looking at 15k per quarter of the book in my rough draft, which is a lot more than I usually get written in a rough draft!

The Bad

I didn’t write at all on Thursday, between not having daycare for Alexis and having worse pregnancy aches and pains than usual. I’m a little farther behind on my editing work than I’d like to be as well. Though I don’t have a day job like I did last year, writing with a 16-month-old while eight months pregnant is much harder than writing with a 4-month-old.

Not entirely bad, but I think I’ll have more editing work cut out for me than I did with Expiration Date/Small Things. It’s ironic, considering that much of Expiration Date was pantsed while I’ve done more outlining for Blackberry Jam, but I’m weaving a more complicated plot this time. I have three, four, or five story lines I’m trying to weave together, unified by theme. But the theme I wrote down when planning isn’t working out exactly the way I want it to.

Here’s to hoping when I re-read in December/January that it’s better than I currently think it is. That’s what happened last year. 🙂

The Excerpt

Like last year, my first excerpt will be from the first scene. Enjoy! (And remember that it’s a first draft.)


The last day it rained, Emma Gladstone, my second-best friend in the world, asked me to take her to the corner mart on Main Street in Hainsville. We didn’t live in Hainsville.

“Not because I need one,” she said. “But just in case. For emergencies.”

I believed her and we drove through two towns while torrents of rain blurred them into pretty watercolors, hundreds of still lifes bleeding down my windshield. I never liked driving in the rain, but she had asked and I was willing enough, if only to get away from my mother for a few rain-soaked hours.

Baseline changed from a two-lane freeway back into a main street with little warning. Open road and farmland stretched out on either side of us until a stoplight, the colors blurred from sheets of rainfall, seemed to appear out of nowhere. But despite being more than ten miles away from home, Hainsville was familiar. It had four times the population of Piney Grove, and all of the convenience. I didn’t need the blurry neon signs to tell me when we’d reached the corner mart. I pulled over and turned off the car, digging through my pockets for loose change for the meter.

“I’ve got it, Blanca,” Emma said, still refusing to look at me. Our drive had been silent except the pattering on my windshield. “Thanks for taking me.”

I reached across the seat to squeeze her hand. “I just hope you don’t really need this.” She didn’t answer.

No one else wandered the store, and Emma pulled me to the far right corner, by the beers. “Will you buy it for me?” she whispered, still looking around as if we were being stocked.

“What’s wrong? Do you need money or something?” I started unzipping my purse, but she grabbed my arm to stop me.

“No, I’ll give you the money. I just think it will be more… plausible. Or, I don’t know. Acceptable. You could just speak in Spanish.”

I took a deep breath before answering her. I no longer believed this was a pregnancy test she was buying just in case. Without even meaning to, my eyes flicked to her belly, normally flat and tight. Was it looking looser? Was she gaining weight? I hated myself for asking the questions, even silently. I decided to play dumb. “Your Spanish is better than mine is. If you want to speak Spanish, feel free.”

She smiled, a painful smile, like it was costing her. “Like someone with blonde hair and blue eyes is gonna look like an immigrant. Just use the accent you use with your Mama when y’all get talking about jam recipes.”

I crossed my arms, any pity I’d felt for her disappearing. “So you want me to do it because I’ll pass for an immigrant? Because it’s all right if I get mistaken for a no-good teenage mother dropout, but not the blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl who’s actually—I assume—had sex?”

She placed her hands on my shoulders and met her forehead against mine. “Please don’t be so loud. Fine. I’ll do it myself. It’s not like I meant any offense. But… will you still come with me?”

I lifted up my hands to copy her, squeezing her shoulders. “I’ll still come with you.”

We held hands as we wandered through the aisles, trying to pretend we were browsing for nothing in particular. Our conversations were usually lighthearted, with constant chatter, but we wandered the corner mart solemnly, like something sacred. Or maybe we were just scared.

Neither of us could meet the eyes of the older woman working the cash register. Emma just placed the test on the counter with a pile of cash. “Keep the change,” she muttered, taking the test and shoving it into the wide pocket at the front of her hoodie.

“There’s a bathroom ‘round the side,” the woman said, but Emma ignored her. She ran toward my car like she was trying to avoid the raindrops, but her hood was down, her blonde hair soaking. The water that dripped on her face seemed intentional, like it was trying to hide her tears.


How’s NaNo going for everyone else?

My services and pricing have been updated. The upper-limit cost for line editing has been dropped, and I’ve added a comprehensive edit/developmental edit service at the former upper limit for line editing ($0.03 per word). My proofreading price has been changed to $0.005 per word.

I also lowered and clarified my academic editing pricing and services. Editing dissertation content will now be at a standard per-word rate. Formatting will be provided as well, but charged by the hour. It’s now possible to opt out of either type of editing, but both are included by default.

NaNoWriMo 2014 Update — Week 3

Week three was a hard week for me. As you can tell by my NaNo calendar widget, it didn’t exactly go as well as it should have. I mentioned last week that I thought it would be difficult because of having to pick up my daughter from daycare again, but that ended up being not as big of a deal as something else I should have been prepared for: the 30,000-word wall. With that short introduction, here is the good, the bad, and the excerpt.

The Good

I managed to write something every single day. Even when I didn’t feel like it. Even when I felt completely out of ideas. I still put my butt in a chair and my fingers on a keyboard every day without fail. With the help of one of my wonderful CPs, some side reading, and re-reading the beginning of the story, I got past my 30,000-word wall and kept writing. After about 33,000 words, it got easier again.

The Bad

I’m sure you know where this is going. I ended last week with 27,092 words. By Sunday, I was at 29,000 words and I. Was. Stuck. I’d written my way into the climax (unsurprisingly, because I always write sparse first drafts) and I hated what I’d written. I thought it was terrible and I knew it wasn’t the direction the story needed to take. Unfortunately, because endings are one of my biggest weaknesses, I had no idea what the right direction was. My total word count for the week was only 6,300.

The Excerpt

In this excerpt, Hayleigh and Treyton have just gotten a ride with a family of six, the parents and four adopted children, all of whom have or will have cancer and will die before their fifteenth birthdays. They’re obviously in a fairly rickety van...

There is a loud dinging noise coming from the front seat.

“Oh, heavens,” says Mr. Miller.

“Check engine again?” Margot says. “But we just did that!”

“I’m afraid this might be the end of the road for us.”

We haven’t even been in the car for twenty minutes. I mean, it’s twenty minutes of driving that probably saved us three hours of walking, but still.

Mr. Miller pulls over and everyone gets out of the car. Away from all the gear that cramped them, I see how skinny Elizabeth and Henry are. Both of them have their hair buzzed short, and I can see Elizabeth’s eyebrows are just starting to grow back in. I sit down beside her while Mr. Miller pulls out his cell phone, looking for service. “How long do you have?” I ask her.

“Until I’m twelve. Two more years.”

“Are you scared?”

“No. Last time I almost died and I remember how everyone around me in the hospital room was sad, but I was just kind of…floating. Like, I was ready to move on. But it wasn’t my time yet. I’m still here. How long do you have?”

“I don’t know,” I tell her. It feels nice. Better than saying a couple of hours.

“Why don’t you know?”

“The doctor screwed up. I outlived my expiration date already.”

She looks up at me, large brown eyes pensive. “What’s it like? Not knowing when you’re going to die? Is it like you’ll live forever?”

I shake my head. “It’s more like you’re worried every moment that you’ll die next. The scariest thing I had to do was reach the end of my expiration date and keep living.” She’s so young. Hardly older than Leilani. She doesn’t need to know that I’m still in the middle of the scariest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“I hope that doesn’t happen to me,” she says.

I smile and squeeze her shoulders. “I do. And I bet your siblings do, too. Where do you fall?”

“Second. Henry only has six months.”

“Can you imagine how awesome it would be for Margot and Elias if you got to keep living?”

She smiles. “Yeah, that would be pretty awesome. Maybe I’ll ask them that. If I’m in the hospital. Not to just give up on me.”

“Please do. I promise you it will be worth it.”

“Not get here until tomorrow?” Mr. Miller shouts into his phone. “But I need someone today! Do you know of anyone—”

Next to him, Mrs. Miller has her own phone out, frantically pressing buttons. At first I think she’s playing some kind of game, but she says, “Have you tried Kenai’s Best Auto yet, dear? They have a good rating on Yelp.”

“Yes, Rebecca. I have. They’re the ones who can’t get here until tomorrow. Think of someone else!”

“Big Joe’s?” she says, more meek.

“What’s the number?” Mr. Miller calms down and types the number into his own phone. Margot and Henry play hopscotch through the path on the side.

Hayleigh and Elias are deep in conversation nearby. I wonder why we don’t leave. Neither of us seems to feel inclined to. Despite the parents arguing, the dynamic is nice. Strong. It’s wonderful to see kids slated to die so young who still have lives to live. Whose parents don’t just leave them alone to do their own thing.

I leave Elizabeth and join Hayleigh and Elias. “Don’t worry,” Hayleigh is saying. “I lost a brother earlier this year. It’s hard, but you’ll do great. You have your two sisters, and I bet they’ll take great care of you.” I’m glad to see Hayleigh lying just like I did.

“Yes,” he says. He must be about six. “But they’re girls.”

Hayleigh looks at him, smirking. “So am I, you know. And you did a good job talking to me. I bet you Elizabeth and Margot would love to listen to you.”

“Sometimes they’re good listeners,” he admits. “But sometimes they think I’m annoying. Because I’m the littlest.”

I squat down in front of him. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I have the best kid sister probably in the whole universe. And sometimes I think she’s annoying. But sometimes she thinks I’m annoying, too. Do you ever think your sisters are annoying?”

“Yes! But when I think it I’m right!”

Hayleigh and I laugh and our eyes meet over the top of his head. When they lock, it’s like magnets. I can’t look away even if I want to. “Why are we staying?” I ask her.

“We don’t have to.”

“I know. I don’t know what we should do. We could keep heading home, but…”

She nods, understanding my unfinished thought. “It’s the most fun I’ve had all day, too.”

“I’m taking that as an insult,” I say.

NaNoWriMo 2014 Update — Week 2

This week was an important week for me. It was the last week that my mom’s out of town, which means it’s the last week I don’t have to drive to pick my daughter up from daycare. Starting Monday, I lose at least 2 hours of free time per weekday. So we’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, the good, the bad, and the excerpt.

The Good

We had a Winter Storm Watch advisory on Thursday, and we were supposed to get between 4 and 6 inches of snow according to national weather services. Local meteorologists were less optimistic (or more, depending on how you feel about snow) and were thinking maybe an inch or two. Both forecasts called for a majority of the snow to come in the afternoon.

So despite waking up to absolutely nothing wintery, I decided to stay home that day. After all, my job involves a lot of working for other people and four people out of thirty had “braved the weather.” It was the worst snow day ever. I saw a few snowflakes once. What that meant was I got mostly an extra day of writing in! I also passed 25,000 words two days early, and got more retweets and favorites on Twitter than I ever have before. So that was cool.

I also met some people via Twitter involved in Susan Dennard’s forum who are actually up as late as I am (and on PST, like me!), and we’ve had nightly sprints all week, which is when I’ve been doing the majority of my writing.

My story’s hardly turning out like I expected to, but I’m loving the changes and thrilled about where it will go as I polish and revise next year!

My total word count as of the end of November 14th was 27,062, for a total of 12,949 words written this week.

The Bad

I am so. freaking. behind. on my freelance work. It’s insane. I feel terrible about it, too, every time I decide to write instead of edit. And in good-news-that’s-also-bad, dissertation season has started and I’ve been getting a lot of requests. Thankfully, all but one can wait until at least December first. But my December will be crazy busy, too.

Quite possibly from stress, I got so sick this week. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. I just had a really bad cold and couldn’t breathe. Not that that’s any fun or anything, but so sick is passed-out-on-the-couch-can’t-eat sick, and I wasn’t that sick. (It was part of why I stayed home for our sNow-pocalypse.)

I’m still a little behind my personal goals, but I caught up a lot, and I tend to write about 1,500 words a day, which means I might even make it to 50k after all! (Wait that’s good news. oh well.)

The Excerpt

Choosing an excerpt this week was a lot harder. I hope the voice is consistent with what I showed you last week…

In this scene, they’ve just left an Alaskan Native shaman, who could’ve told Trey what his real death date was, but chose not to. Yes, the spelling of Hayleigh’s name changed. Anyone have a preference? Y or no y?


“Talk about pointless,” I say to Hayleigh as we make our way down the hill. “Was he really what you were looking for? Was that conversation what you decided I should spend my last day doing? I should’ve stuck to my original plan.”

“Which was?”

“Self-portraits until I found one good enough. You know how they have the huge pictures enlarged at the funeral?”

“You were planning on spending your last day taking selfies?” she asks, incredulous.

“Not selfies. Self-portraits.”

“Remind me the difference.”

“Self-portraits are… wait. I guess people would say selfies can be artistic. Well, self-portraits capture… never mind. Um… the quality of the camera.”

She laughs. “That’s really what you wanted to do with your time? Nothing else?”

“I’ve already done everything else.”

“You hadn’t taken a walk through the sleet to find a shaman, or pet a moose, or hitchhiked with a crazy trucker.”

I hate it when she makes sense. I’m dying. I have every right to be right. Shouldn’t she just defer to me for the next ten hours or so? It shouldn’t be that hard. “Well? What now? Go home?”

“I don’t see why not. There might actually be cars on the road by now.”

“Which way to the road?” I ask, looking around. All I see is trees and more trees and dirt and one lonely squirrel. He scampers up a tree before I can point my camera at him.

She shrugs. “Down.”

“Will you ever tell me why you really decided I needed to live?”

She kicks loose rocks out of her way as we head downhill. She winds her way through the trees so comfortably, swinging an arm from one place to another as she goes. I envy her ease. “I don’t know. Probably not. It’s stupid.”

“You’re right,” I say darkly. “Me living is completely stupid.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I know. But you’re not wrong.”

“I thought you were ready to live.” She makes it sound like dying would be a personal assault against her.

“It’s not that simple,” I say. I don’t know what I’m ready to do. I haven’t slept at all in nearly thirty-six hours. I haven’t slept well in weeks. Maybe months. Mostly I’m ready to lie down and take a nap. I don’t know if I could get away with that, though. Could I still die in my sleep? I haven’t ruled out a heart attack, either. “Your brother told me something before he died.”

“Something he never told me?”

“I think so. He talked about ghosts. Did you two ever talk about ghosts?”

“We talked about what happened to your soul when you die. Did you know that in Russian Orthodoxy they don’t believe that a soul goes straight to heaven? It wanders earth for forty days. You’re supposed to make it a home to live in while it waits to ascend to heaven. I keep looking for Hunter. Wondering if I can feel him.”

“You can’t,” I guess. She shakes her head. “I’m not surprised. Why would the soul hang around? To make sure everything is going well? To see how their loved ones handle coping? To re-visit their favorite places before they go on? Hunter didn’t need to do any of that.”

“What are you talking about?”

“That’s what he told me. That he thought ghosts disappeared when expiration dates appeared. That they used to be real things but they aren’t anymore. Because when you know when you’re going to die, you don’t have any unfinished business left to tie you to earth. You’re just… ready.”

Hayleigh pauses, squats down, picks up a rock. She throws it down the hill. Hard. “You’re ready to die?”

“I thought I was,” I say. I don’t elaborate. It sure would be easy, though. To be done. I am ready for oblivion. Or heaven. Or hell. I’m ready for forty days of wandering earth as a bodyless soul, although I’m not sure I believe in that either. But for the first time in my life, I don’t know if easy is what I want after all. “It turns out living isn’t so bad.”

“What would happen to you if you live?”

“I imagine I would keep breathing and eventually die anyway.”


How’s NaNo going for all of you?

NaNoWriMo 2014 Update — Week 1

It’s been seven days since NaNoWriMo started, and an interesting seven days they have been. As far as the official tracker for word count is concerned, I’m ahead of schedule (the par for day 7 is 11,666, and I hit that word count on day 5), but I am behind on my own schedule.

Karyne introduced me to this wonderful program called Susanna’s Pacemaker, and I used that program to input my personal goal of 40,000 words. I put in parameters that I wanted to write more toward the beginning of the month and more on weekends. By that schedule, I should have 16,002 words. I actually have 14,113. So not bad, but not perfectly on track, either.

The Good

Being able to keep my word count nearly on track. I’m surprised at how many words I keep managing to eke out. When I’m focused, I am very focused. I’ve also had a few awesome things happen as far as plot is concerned (i.e., I very nearly have one!). I’m pretty much pantsing this time around (I have my theme and my premise, and I’m letting the rest of it fall into shape around those), so it’s nice to see a bit of progress as far as that is concerned.

The Bad

So far, I’ve done most of my writing in half-hour sprints. I can’t seem to stay focused for much longer than that, even though my daughter has been hugely cooperative and has been taking super long naps and going to bed on time. Instead, I have watched all 67 Behind the Team videos that USA Gymnastics has posted to YouTube (time wasted: at least 6 hours); gone through my photo albums and minimalized the bookshelf in my bedroom, including browsing old yearbooks (time wasted: about 2 hours); completed plenty of Facebook browsing (time wasted: at least 2 hours over the week); and made sure to check blogs that only post once a week multiple times (time wasted: unknown, likely at least 1 hour).

I worked from home three days this week, and didn’t do much writing during that time. And my daughter got her first taste of rice cereal, and lots of playing time. (Time wasted: absolutely none).

The Excerpt

Each week, I’ll post a little preview of what I’ve been writing. This week’s preview is from what’s currently the opening scene. Since it’s the beginning, you don’t get any context.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2     a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3     a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance.

We say “Amen” in unison. Hunter’s funeral is so predictable I shouldn’t have bothered coming. Everyone wears black. No one cries. No one except Haleigh, who’s sitting in the front row and trying to hide it. In front of the cross, the pastor takes another deep breath. I bet he’s about to start on Jesus. How he embraced his expiration date, and everyone else should, too. How Hunter was a Good Christian for pressing that gun into his chin.

Not that anyone but his family and me knows how he died. The obituaries come out a week in advance.

“In John 17:1, it says…” Here it comes. I grab my phone from my pocket and open the file called “My Funeral Notes.” For the love of God, don’t mention Jesus, I write. I’m aware of the irony. The pastor continues. “No one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.” It’s not like that verse even applies. People get run over by buses. They get in car accidents. Those funerals are sad. I get why people go to those funerals. You don’t have closure yet.

I’d been distancing myself from Hunter for weeks before his expiration date. He understood it; he’d been distancing himself from everyone, too. Haleigh hated it, but what could you do? Someone has to die earlier, right? Even if you’re twins.

“Treyton,” my mother hisses. “Put your phone away. Show Jesus some respect.” I wish she’d said to show Hunter some respect. I came to church for Jesus on Sundays. It’s Tuesday. Before I put my phone back into my pocket, I check the counter on the home screen. Four months exactly. Ugh. I might as well stop breathing now.

But Hunter and I are the weird ones. Most kids with expiration dates before eighteen are withering away. Cancer fights them. Muscular dystrophy. With four months to go, it should be obvious I’m expiring. It’s not. No signs of anything degenerative. Even my heart, which is enlarged, has been working fine. According to my life certificate, it was supposed to be my heart that killed me. But heart attacks happen in an instant. Maybe that will be it.

“Hunter Hoffman was a brave soul. He lived his sixteen years in obedience to the Lord, and I know we will see him again in heaven,” the pastor says. “Let us pray.”

We don’t stay long. The funeral started at 7 and my sister will need to be in bed soon. We shared all our memories of Hunter two weeks before he died, anyway. “Trey, wait!” Haleigh says as we near the doors.

I send my mom a questioning glance. She nods curtly. “We’ll get Leilani in the car. Hurry.”

“What is it?”

“Please don’t have a funeral like that.”


Well? What do you think? How are your NaNos going so far? Any passages you would like to share?