Monday, December 31, 2007

Time for a New Year

Looks like it's time for a New Year! Christmas went by so fast this year. Seems like it was just yesterday that we got out of school with the whole two weeks looming before us. How short they were!
We started back last Friday and are working ourselves back into the routine.

Most of my time in the week between Christmas and New Year's went to polishing work on my current book, The Cattle Rustling Catastrophe. I found to my absolute HORROR that I'd gone over 40,000 words from my goal. Knew that because of my "unique" filing system (sounds better than total chaotic jumble), I would be able to cut some wordage when I cleaned up my double chapters. I did. But, I still ended up with over 17,000 words OVER. This is not good. Even 10K is doable. I cleaned up over 20,000 out of the mystery. (Hey, I did! So, okay, maybe 17K isn't so awful.) I need to keep reminding myself when I'm in the middle of the mess.

So, with every spare second I had this week, I cleaned up as much as I could of weasel words--that's, buts, aw, well. Anytime a character used another character's name when there were only two people speaking, I slashed. Still isn't enough. So, I'm faced with a gigantic hurdle. Tonight I realized that I'm going to have to cut one of the subplots and hope it makes the word count nearer my goal. Now that I've faced the inevitable, it doesn't hurt so bad. As a backup plan, I've printed out the first three chapters. Tomorrow I plan to slash and rearrange them into one or two smaller chapters.

Even though it feels like a huge amount of work, I know quitting isn't an option. I truly love this book. At the beginning, I got sidetracked for awhile, but I knew inside that I could stick with this until the end. This is a fun book and it's good. It has a great moral built in and teaches a lesson in an exciting way. I plan to rework it as much as necessary which presents two more problems.

One is that when I slash the subplot, I have to find another way to provide motivation for Jenny to keep going. Kind of like her author, she needs a reason to get to that last chapter. Had an idea tonight which might turn into a possibility.

My other problem is the fact that I'm planning to cut and paste chapters that have gotten good "reviews." The first three chapters did well in the SANDY contest and got good scores. The first 20 pages won an Honorable Mention in The Smartwriter's WIN contest. So, should I go with my instincts and change them? Or leave them alone because well respected judges and authors liked them? I feel the fact that the book hasn't sold yet might be an answer. (And I can always change the chapters back if I decide I'd rather. :))

So--until this book is finished, I feel like I'm in suspended animation. Everything hinges on the time I can spend working out this muddle. Kind of like having a jigsaw spread on the dining room table---every time I pass by I have to stop and work a few pieces into place.

I'm hoping to finish before leaving for the Midwinter Unschooler's gathering on the 21st. By then, I'll need a vacation!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Checking my list

Seems like I spend more time checking my list of "to do" projects than checking them off. I still have some things to finish up and mail, all the decorating to do and some shopping. I try to congradulate myself that I'm way ahead of where I usually am during this busy season. Last year, I ended up sending out several gifts after Christmas. While my friends didn't seem to mind, I did. It's like I didn't care enough to mail things in time which was not the case at all. More a case of too much to do in too little time. Happily, I already have some things mailed off and hope to get everything else out by this weekend. Sometimes, I amaze myself!

With all the Christmas prep, something has to go and it seems to be my writing. Most of it anyway. I've done very little in December and I'm starting to feel it. I managed to get my article done for the January, "Cookies and Milk" and also a short article for a Christmas Tradition type book. Don't know if it will be accepted, but it was a goal I was determined to meet. I'd love to write a short piece for Cup of Comfort and have until the 31st for that one.

Got some super good news on Monday. Five unit studies that I wrote this summer were accepted by a publisher! They were preschool lesson plans to be included in a giant encyclopedia of lesson plans. It's a great credit, will be a super big check AND they will use me again in other projects now that I have a foot in the door.

This month I have an article in the last issue of Fandangle online magazine, also a short story, "The Cling Thing," in Stories for Children. (This story has been moved to the November archives. Click on Stories for Children Magazine, Archives and then the download for November. They did a great illustration this time.)
The picture on top is a pointsetta someone gave my sister last Christmas. She gave it to me and I kept it alive all summer. It spent the warm months outside in my garden. When it got cold, I brought the ungrateful wretch inside and gave it a place of honor. I knew that to have red blooms for Christmas, I needed to put it in a dark place so many hours a day. Sadly, I didn't check how many days in time. Should have begun it's routine in September. Now I think there must be two plants in the pot, one part has died but the other is still going strong.
I've been going a little plant "mad" lately. Our local supermarket has been having $1.00 sales and I have a huge golden mum and a waxy leaved plant with pinkish flowers from Canada. Also still have the gigantic Boston ferns and a large pot of rosemary still blooming. I'll see if I can keep them through the winter. Like I need another challenge in my life----

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Time for Snowmen.
We got some of the white stuff this week. Enough to give us two hours delays for school. We hadn't planned to go to school on Wednesday anyway. It was time for the HolidayFest at The Beach. In the summer this is filled with waterparks, water slides and lots of tanning bodies. In the winter, they freeze over the large pool and make toboggan slides out of the water slides. They have horse drawn (or tractor) carriage rides, lots of Christmas lights, carols and hot chocolate. Every year, we go with the homeschoolers at CATCH to get the discount price.
This year, since some schools were closed, my brother, sister in law and two of their granddaughters got to come along. Not many people were brave (or dumb) enough to venture out in the snow and cold. We did. (No comments please on our mental capabilities. We did it for the kids--works as an excuse for me.)
After a day of ice skating and drinking hot chocolate, we arrived at school just in time to clean. We had a great crew and with all the help were done in record time.
On Friday, we didn't make it to school at all, even with the two hour delay. The car froze up and I ended up with a free day since the boys stayed home with their dad and grandpa. Managed to do some shopping, some crafting and even an hour of writing.
Today's rain has melted all the snow. The weathermen are predicting rain for the next five days. Yippee. Sounds like a good time to stay inside and finish getting all my Christmas gifts ready to be mailed out. I'm not feeling as stressed as usual for this time of year. I've dropped off a lot of what I "can't do" and am concentrating on doing things one by one. The season is meant to be enjoyed, not endured. I'm trying to keep that in mind.
Tomorrow is the last Knight's meeting until January. The boy's club is having a party. I'm going to start mentoring some of the girls in the girl's club. They want to know what it takes to be a writer. I'm excited and a little worried at the same time. Do I even know what it takes to be a writer?
Can only give it my best try -

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Thanksgiving Part 3

No Thanksgiving is complete around here without the Holiday Parade on Saturday. We have a "standing" place to sit so that anyone in the family who comes know where to meet us. This year, the parade committee decided to have the parade at 5pm. instead of it's usual time of 2 in the afternoon. The reasoning was so they could use Christmas lights and give the parade a new "dimension."

We usually sit at the beginning of the parade route. They start in the High School Parking lot, come up a small hill by the Great Scot grocery store and make a turn in front of Webster School. We always sit in front of the elementary school by the Stop Sign. At 5, it wasn't too dark so the lights didn't make much of an impression on any of us. I had to wonder about the people viewing the parade at the end of the route. If it was dark enough to see the lights on the floats, could they see anything else? Our small town has some street lights, but I'm not sure it was enough to light up the elegant costumes or cute, smiling children on the floats. I suppose one must give up something for "progress" even in a parade. You could see the lights or the floats.

This year one of my nieces came along with her three boys. Austin, Cody and Brayden had never been to a parade. They were thrilled with the band (singular---it's a small town, what can I say?) They also loved the fact that everyone tossed out candy to the children along the curbs. Free candy and all you had to do was look small and smile.
About halfway through the parade, my great-nephew, Austin, turned to me and asked, "Is this all you do at a parade?" I'm not sure what he expected.
Austin is in the middle of the picture between his brother, Cody in the red and Miah in black. As you can tell, it was a cold day!
On the same day as the parade, I got another part time job. My cousin called to tell me that one of the cleaners at the boy's school had quit. Did I want Wed. and Fridays? I'd often thought it might be the perfect job. We were already there. It didn't take up any of my writing time. Plus, I'd have helpers.
I get paid and the boys get money taken off their tuition. It works out well--almost like "multi-tasking" character building. I told them they get to help their parents, work for the privledge of going to school there, make the school a clean place for all their friends and teachers and they are doing a community service too.
This was our first week as school cleaners. It went surprisingly well. The first day was rough. We had to wait for a knitting class to finish before I could mop or vacumn and we didn't get out until dark. When you are working in an old barn next to a 500 acre nature preserve in the middle of nowhere--well, every horror story you've ever seen comes back to haunt you as you struggle to lock the door on the way out. Our goal for this week is to get out before dark. Now that we are getting into the routine, it will go better.
So, that's the end of the Thanksgiving posts. I had to add the new job because I'm giving thanks for having it. Especially since I lost my church cleaning job a few months ago.