A New Day

I’ve been ready to write this post for about a week now. It’s the first one in almost a year and a half, so I knew it had to be epic, witty, or at least insightful. But I don’t want to write that post. I do want to address it, but in simple words. Though knowing myself as I do, it still may not be short.

At the beginning of last year, I submitted my first novel to publishers, after spending several years creating it. Without knowing if that first novel would be worth publishing, I tried to move on to revising my second novel. Then, I got a job. It was a part-time weekend job at first, working as a game master at an escape room company, but quickly became more than that, with sporadic hours. These two things together pulled me away from my regular writing work, which I’d been fairly consistent with for a few years (minus short hiatuses now and then).

In August last year, I changed to full-time with my job and became a manager. That only solidified my lack of time and mental energy to do any writing. I remember hoping that November, which would bring NaNoWriMo, would help me jump-start back into my writing.

Some time during all of this, I got a couple of rejection letters for my novel, but I was so caught up in how life was going at the time, I barely registered them.

Then in September, my dad had a heart attack and subsequent 6-bypass surgery. He’s doing well now, but was very close to death for about a week (not to be too dramatic). As NaNo approached, I decided to rebel a bit and write about the time he was in the hospital, both because he had a strong desire to know what had happened, and because I thought it might be cathartic for me.

I had a difficult time with the writing, and didn’t even get all of the events written, but I did finish NaNoWriMo. Unfortunately, because of my full-time job and the nature of my writing, NaNo did not help me return to my writing.

Fast forward almost a year, and I am now working 20 hours a week (approximately) at the same job, now as Director of Operations. The anniversary of my dad’s heart attack was last month, and he and my mom brought up the writing I said I was doing for NaNoWriMo last year. My dad has been trying to remember everything that happened during his 3-week hospital stay, and hopes that what I had written down would help.

It was still in “NaNo-form,” though, which means typos, things marked for deletion, and generally just hard to read. So I started going back through it, trying to put it in some semblance of a readable form, reading it along the way myself. While doing that, I started going back to other things I’ve written.

Over the course of the 3 weeks, I’ve read through just about everything I’ve written in the last 10 years, from the 2 complete novels, to partially drafted novels, to writing practice, drabbles, ideas, and even some of the fanfiction I wrote early on. I’m starting to have the itch to get back into it, and in some ways, I feel like I’ve just popped my head out of the cave I’ve been hunkered in for the last 17 months.

Going forward, I am going to work on writing as often as I can. I’m not going to pretend that I will be able to do writing work every day like I used to strive for. But even for the last week or so, I’ve already been writing out an outline for a story I’m not sure I want to write, but can’t avoid thinking about, so needed to at least get it down. That passion for just getting the words out is something I really miss, and I want to embrace it.

I think one of the things that disappoints me most about my time in the cave is that I barely remember participating in NaNoWriMo last year. I didn’t blog about it at all; I barely even finished. I enjoy going back later and reading through certain blog posts, remembering my writing journey, but 2016 NaNoWriMo is just a blank spot in my mind. I will be more deliberate this year.

My job, even at 20 hours a week, is still sporadic in the time those hours are put in. As Director of Operations, I am “on” from 9am until 11pm, 6 days a week, meaning that any time someone needs something from me, I’m generally expected to be available and respond. If I want to spend uninterrupted time with my family, I often have to schedule it.

I do enjoy my job. I design, implement, and modify escape rooms and get to be part of many other creative endeavors that our company is always working on. But I know that one of the reasons I do so well at that job is because, in my heart, I am a writer! 

i am a writer

This is from NaNoToons 2015. I don’t even remember last year’s NaNoToons…

For the approaching NaNoWriMo, I want to get back to traditional roots and write a new work of fiction. To do that, I have to sort through ideas I already have, see if any of them are ready to be expanded to a full outline, or decide to start something from scratch. Today begins NaNo prep season (I’m not sure how official that is, but October 1st always feels like the beginning of NaNo prep time to me). I am all in.

Advertisements

Loading Witty Title…

Wow, this place is dusty. I mean, really dusty. Layers of dirt and cobwebs everywhere. It’s not the first time I’ve taken an unintended break from my writing, letting it fall to the side for more than a month, but I think this is the longest gap I’ve had in posts since starting this blog. Previous breaks from writing were at least peppered with good intentions of trying to return, a day here or there where I’d post, and then still fall back into the break.

But it has been almost 2 full months since I posted even an attempt at keeping up with my writing. Which is because I haven’t attempted to keep up with my writing since February 17th. Looking back through my blog, it was even before that that I really started into this slump. It’s interesting to me, at least, to see the progression. It went something like this:

I finished revising my first novel, “Pithea,” to the point of even being able to send it off to a few publishing companies.

I dove right into revising my second novel, the first draft of which had already been written.

I got a new job on the weekends, which largely affected the rest of the week enough to make finding time and energy to write more difficult.

I hit an early roadblock in revising my second novel, and more time and thinking was required to push past it.

My new job started to ask more of me than I expected, including working during the week for a few weeks, thus exhausting me more and making things more strained at home.

I made a conscious decision to put off revising for a few weeks, dropped my daily writing habit, and let myself be lazy in the evenings (my normal writing time) instead of pushing myself to sit at my desk and get some writing work done.

It’s important to note that I am one who in the past has insisted that even people who lead busy lives should be able to find time to write. And I’m not saying now that it’s not true, but I definitely have more perspective on that now. It only took one change to my life and normal routine to throw me off enough to just give up on writing for a while. It took me two months to get to where I am right now, which is starting to feel a strong enough desire to get back to my writing that I’m willing to put aside the lazy evenings for more structured ones again.

It may take a few weeks to be back to where I was for 9 months before this break, writing almost every day. I don’t know when I’ll have time or ideas for another Write Every Day post. It may even take me a few wasted evenings of going back over what I was last doing in my work before I’m able to make any real progress. But the important thing is that I’m finally feeling up to it again.

Something else that bothers me about this break I took is that I fell away from all things writing and blogging. I haven’t read posts by others that I normally keep up with, and I know there’s no way I can find time to go back through 2 months worth of posts (not that I follow all that many blogs regularly).  I’m going to scan through my WP reader and try to hit the highlights, but I don’t want to take so much time reading that it hurts my attempt to start writing again.

I do want to say that I appreciate those of you who contacted me during the last few months to check in or ask if everything was okay. I’m sorry I didn’t respond at the time. I didn’t mean to be rude or anti-social, I just couldn’t get my head into the right space to think about any of this. Hopefully that makes at least some sense.

Thanks for reading my rambling. I hope things get back to normal around here soon. I miss my story world, and even the blogging world I’d created.

Daily Writing Check-in: February 21, 2016

Words/Time:  455 words of free writing about the main character of “Pursuit of Power.”

I’m trying really hard to pull myself back into writing, since I’ve been doing even less than I’d anticipated (which was already less than normal for me) for the last few weeks. It is mostly because of the new job, but also because I think I was more burnt out than I realized after finishing the revision on my first novel. Trying to dive right into the next one was unwise, and instead of taking a break from revision, while still writing every day, I just…didn’t want to write or anything like it, at all.

But I also work for the weekend, though in a backwards way than most people. My new job is on Friday and Saturdays. Sometimes I feel like all week, I’m just trying to keep everyday chores and things caught up, so when the weekend comes, it’s as easy on my family for me to be gone for 2 days as possible.

On the plus side, though, the job is so much fun! If it wasn’t, this would all be pushing me to a point of exhaustion that could lead to horrible things. In fact, my bosses are planning to create a shortened-length escape room (normal length is 60 minutes, this one will be 15) to set up for one evening during a fundraiser at a local independent theater. I’ve come up with a lot of ideas for them, in the theme they’re planning, and they’ve asked me to help them plan out the room sometime this week. More work, but it’s just this week, and I loveloveLOVE the idea of helping to create an escape room. I was hoping this might be a possibility someday when I started working there. If it goes well, maybe I’ll get to help with their next full room.

Daily Writing Check-in: February 8, 2016

Words/Time:  638 words of free writing to try to develop a secondary character, and 37 minutes of revision, working up a possible prologue for “Pursuit of Power.”

Despite my beliefs that my little vacation from writing would still result in some free writing being done now and then, that didn’t happen after the first day. The truth is, once I step away for a day or two in favor of just being lazy and relaxing in the evening, it’s just too easy to not go back. That’s why I normally try to do at least a little writing work every day that I have any time for it. Without the habit, I’m lost.

In the end, the break turned out to be a really helpful thing. Not because I got any clarity in my writing, but because it was relaxing to just not worry about it for 10 days. I thought often about what I’d be doing when I got back to it, but I didn’t have any grand epiphanies or anything.

But the main reason it was helpful is because it kept me from stressing over whether I could get to my writing work or not this last weekend, when I had a huge change in my life. I started a new job. This is a pretty big deal, because I’m a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom. I already work for my dad, but I work an average of a day a week, and I take my kids with me. This will be the first job outside of my home/family that I’ve had since before my almost 14-year-old son was born. The job wasn’t sought out, but was offered to me, and it will be part-time out of necessity (because I do still have 2 kids to take care of and homeschool during the week).

I’ll be working as a game master at an escape room company, which means I’ll be behind the scenes running the room when groups come in to play. For as much fun as playing a room is, watching others play it is the next best thing. I honestly can’t believe I’m going to be paid to do something so much fun.

My first day was last Friday, which was right when I was ready to start back to writing. I was set to work until around 11:30-12 at night, though, which is pretty much the end of my normal writing time. So I just extended my writing break until the end of the weekend. From this point forward, I’ll be working most Friday and Saturday evenings, so my writing time on the weekend might be severely limited in the future. But I’ll still have time the rest of the week, and it’s worth it for a job that promises to be a blast.

Daily Writing Check-in: January 22, 2016

Words/Time:  523 words of writing practice writing out something that was swimming through my mind all day today. I would have done more, but my husband wanted to play a game we started earlier in the week. It’s called Her Story, and we’re very nearly at the end.

Tomorrow, we’re doing another escape room. The owners of one of only 3 escape room companies in our immediate area, and our current favorite, have asked us to beta test their newest room. So we’re going to do that tomorrow. (The room is already open, but they want us to give them detailed feedback after we’ve finished.) Hopefully I’ll be home early enough to get some work in tomorrow.

Daily Writing Check-in: January 1, 2016

Words/Time: 40 minutes working on the next (and hopefully last) draft of “Pithea.” The work consisted mostly of reading, making sure everything flows, and making a few small edits along the way. I’ve just finished chapter 23 (out of 29), which leaves 6 chapters. I’m going to try to get through the rest over the weekend, because we have very little planned. An escape room tomorrow afternoon (so excited) is the only solid plan we have for either day. In fact, I’m going to go ahead and say that I’d like to get through the rest of the chapters, and have a good start on the 2-3 page synopsis that I need for the publishing company by the end of the weekend.

NaNoWriMo Day 28

The Words: 2252 words written today. This was written a few hours after midnight, when my daughter finally went to sleep. I tried to salvage the night’s writing, especially since I knew I’d be busy today. We spent the afternoon decorating the tree, and then went to an escape room this evening. It was one my husband and I had done alone last weekend, but we got others from my family (Mom, Dad, 2 sisters, one sister’s boyfriend, and our own 13-year-old son) to go do the same room. Then the owner let us back into the control room to watch them solve the room! Then afterward, we went out to eat and sat and talked about the room for a while. It was so much fun! Not so good for the last few days of NaNo, but fun! And fun is nice right now.

I have two days left to try to reach my goal of 100,000 words. I will be frustrated if I come this close and fail, but of course it’s not a necessary goal. 4200 each of the next two days will get me there, but we’ll see how they go. My daughter’s still been holding a  low fever today, so she’s a little needy.

The Story: Missy and her husband have been discussing the situation with Jonathan further. Missy gave him a history lesson of how Jonathan and Lark met and fell in love, since he didn’t know all of them at that time. Still more fishing by me, and soon I’m going to have to move on. I may go ahead and dive into the climax tomorrow. I’m just not sure where the players will be at the start of the climax. But I might be able to make it vague enough. Maybe doing that will give me a better idea of where to go next further back in the story.

Total word count: 91,530

day 28

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2015 – November 28th    This comic… this one is brilliant. However, if you haven’t been keeping up with them, you should maybe read this one first. This is the very spirit of what makes NaNo so amazing.

NaNoWriMo Day 21

The Words: 65 words written today. I’ll be honest–I just wanted to be able to say I’d written more than 0. My husband and I, who are away from the kids this weekend and staying in a hotel, went to an escape room with a group of friends this morning.

When we got back to the hotel, I was too tired to much besides nap. Then we decided on a whim to do a different escape room (the first one had been planned for a week). That room started at 8:30 pm, so I figured I’d still have time to come back and at least get a half hour of writing in. But we ended up talking to the room’s owners for a long time afterward. Probably close to two hours. It was really great; we talked about what we liked about their rooms, about clues we’d missed (though we still escaped with 2 1/2 minutes to spare!) and about lots of other things.

When we got back to the hotel again, it was 11:30, and the hotel wifi wasn’t working on my laptop. Took my husband and I some messing with it before I could get online, and during that time I managed to get 65 words in before midnight.

The Story: Ummm…Jonathan has reason to believe his apprentice is involved in things and is still on his way to go find him. Not a lot happens in 65 words.

Total word count: 74,700

Don’t forget to check out today’s NaNoToons if you haven’t already: 2015 – November 21st

Toronto Trip Days 3 & 4, Escaping the Room and the Country

This is day 3 of my family’s trip to Canada to attend the farewell concert of Debs and Errol, a geek band from Toronto. For day 1, click here.

https://i0.wp.com/debsanderrol.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/headway-imported-image41.png

Errol had informed us weeks in advance that while we were in town, we were welcome to attend their church. So Sunday morning, we planned to do exactly that. We woke up with enough time to get ready and go out for breakfast. We made sure to know what time to be back, so we could follow the others to the church. We got back from breakfast with what we thought was enough time, but there was a note on the door saying they had left and containing a simple map to the church. We headed there and found a place to park.

I was expecting a huge, fancy church. I can’t explain exactly why, but it might just be my automatic impression of any church I don’t know. It was a much smaller and more modest church than I’d expected. There were even fewer people in the congregation than our church has, and it’s a small church. When we got there, though, we didn’t see Errol’s family or the Laymans, who we knew were also going to the Elumirs’ house to follow Keren to church. Errol was there, having arrived early, because he was supposed to sing with the worship team that morning. There was some question about how that would work, though, as he had lost his voice by the end of the concert the night before.

Our family found an empty pew and sat down. Not too long later, Keren appeared next to us, saying she was glad we’d found the place. Apparently, when we stopped by the house and found the note, they had still been inside, but were about to leave. Which made us feel a little better, knowing we hadn’t been as late coming back from breakfast as we’d thought.

The service was a nice one. Logan and I both enjoyed the full band they had, and that one of the priests (we assumed it was a priest, but we’re not very knowledgeable about the Anglican church), in his full robes, was playing guitar in that band. When the kids in the congregation left for their own places, both of our kids were awkward and unsure about going. Keren took them both to their respective areas, so they could be with kids their own age.

After church was over, we gathered the kids and made plans to go for pho. I had mentioned that I’d like to do that while we were in town, because it’s something of a D&E universe running theme. Errol rode with us to direct us to the restaurant, while the Laymans drove behind us. Both ‘Manda and Debs joined us at the restaurant. Lena insisted on sitting by both of them, though that’s not how it worked out at first. Partway through the meal, though, as people finished eating, there was some moving of seats. Debs came to sit with Lena for a bit then. Similar to how Lena had been attached to ‘Manda already, she just loved Debs too. And Debs thought Lena was super cute too (more than once there was talk of eating Lena up).

old phone 064

Hat courtesy of Brian Layman.

After lunch, those of us who had no prior commitments or need for a nap decided to stay in the area and walk around some–see more of the city. The Laymans, Debs, and our family started out toward a park Debs said had a nice view.

old phone 066

old phone 065

There was a really nice sledding hill at the park, prompting Brian to lay down and have his kids push him down the hill. I don’t think it worked as well as he’d hoped.

After getting back to our vehicles, my family went back to Errol’s house. We relaxed there for a short time before it was time to head out again. We had plans to do an escape room. If you do not know what that is, it’s understandable. It’s basically a real-life adventure game with clues and puzzles to solve, in order to escape a room, within a time limit. I’m not sure how long ago he started doing them, but from the first time Errol talked about doing escape rooms, my husband Logan and I have been really intrigued by the idea. There aren’t many around here; the closest is maybe 3 hours away. So as soon as we started talking about visiting Toronto, where there are apparently dozens of escape rooms, we hoped we’d have a chance to go to one. Our biggest concern was that we have a 4-year-old who couldn’t come, and visiting another country wasn’t the best scenario for finding a babysitter. Fortunately, Keren was willing to watch her, and our 12-year-old who we could have brought, but thought it would be easier on our daughter if her brother was staying with her. In the end, it wouldn’t have mattered, as she was comfortable enough there to stay without any convincing.

Errol and ‘Manda (who has also done her fair share of escape rooms) planned for us to all go to LockQuest. So Keren drove us to the nearest subway station, and we made our way to our destination. LockQuest was above another business (I think a butcher shop), so we went up some narrow stairs and through a door. Inside was another group of room-escapers. We were at least fifteen minutes early. Fortunately, they were done and left as we came in. We were offered seats after hanging our coats on hooks throughout the entry room. We were to be joined by 4 of the 6 Laymans (they planned to drop their younger kids at the Elumirs’ house too) and by Debs, so we were waiting on them. While we waited, the two guys who run LockQuest gave us each small puzzles to solve, the type where you have to move metal pieces around to get a certain piece off, or others like it. We played with those for a while, some of us doing better with them than others. Also, Errol and ‘Manda introduced themselves and told them how many escape rooms they’ve each done. The guys in charge were very impressed.

Debs arrived first, and she was joined by a friend of hers named Dana. Then the Laymans came–all 6 of them. They’d run out of time to drop off the younger kids, so they brought them along. The kids were, I believe, in the 10-13-year-old range, so they weren’t so young that they couldn’t join in. Once everyone was there, it was time to get ready. The guys in charge went through the rules and a general idea of what we were to do and what we could expect. I’ll share the info about the room from the site itself, so I don’t give too much away:

You have one hour. He has all night.

From the moment you entered that apartment, something seemed off.  Now, you and the other book club members are locked inside, left with a sinister promise from your unhinged host that he’ll “be back in an hour.”

Can you sift through the pulp fiction novels, cryptic clues, and articles left behind by last week’s murdered members, to find the front door key and escape?

In Escape the Book Club Killer, you will be locked in a real apartment with up to eleven other players. You and your team must work together to communicate, exchange clues, and discover the secret to opening the front door.

Your challenge is to escape in one hour or less, before the Book Club Killer strikes again.  Pulsing with pulp and packed with puzzling props, Escape the Book Club Killer is a group experience you won’t soon forget!

escape room comic

Yay, escape room comic!

 

They asked us to go around the room and share a skill we had that would be helpful if we were ever trapped in the apartment of a real serial killer. There were some normal answers and at least one absurd (“I can eat copious amounts of rice!” -Errol). My answer was that I’m so bad in high-stress situations, I’d probably just pass out, and he’d think I was already dead and leave me alone. After several reminders to go to the bathroom before we went in, it was time to start!

I’ll have to avoid details for the escape room, of course, but I will just say that it was insane, intense, a little chaotic, and tons of fun! There were definitely times that I felt I wasn’t really contributing much, and a few areas where I feel like I was a part of solving something. Given the opportunity, I would definitely do another one. As I understand it, not all of the escape rooms are done as well as LockQuest’s, but that makes it all the more awesome that our first experience was with them.

lockquestphoto

And yes, we did escape, with maybe 5-6 minutes to spare!

Once we had escaped, we sat down in the entry room again, and talked for a while with the owners. They shared some past stories with us, and some of the characters they use to give hints. They talked about their “Overkeyer” system, which allows someone who has already done the room to bring people who haven’t back. Then the one who’s done the room can sit in the entry room and watch their friends try to solve the room via cameras, for free. If I lived in the area, I would be all over that. We talked for quite a while, which I assume was only possible because we were the last booking of the day. Then we left and got ready to head back to Errol’s house. Aware that it would probably be the last time we’d see the Laymans and Deb, I started to say goodbye to Debs. She said she (along with her friend Dana) was going back to Errol’s with us. So I instead said goodbye to the Laymans. I was then informed that they were all going back to Errol’s house for a birthday party for the Laymans’ eldest. Apparently it had been discussed, possibly even around me, and I had been oblivious.

Back at the house, the smell of chili greeted us the moment we walked into the door. Keren had made supper and kept it warm for us, as she knew we wouldn’t have supper before then. So we all crowded into the kitchen and ate. Then the brownies and ice cream came out, and more than a dozen people were around the table, whether standing or sitting, talking and laughing and just having a great time.

MNE_20150310_055

Yes, it was a lot like this.

Brian had picked up on calling Lena “Leeloo.” They even went back and forth for a while (and more than once) where Lena would say she was a girl, and Brian would ask what he was, and she’d say he was a dad, maybe, or something like that. I suppose I shouldn’t include it, since I can’t remember it very well, but it was so much fun hearing her try to explain why she was Lena and he wasn’t. Lena and Debs sat on the floor in a corner of the kitchen for a while talking. I didn’t hear much of what they talked about, but I know I heard some singing (including Debs singing Errol’s part in the “Happy Emo Fun Sad Song”).

Debs was the first to leave, and Lena didn’t take it very well. They talked a bit more in the foyer before Debs actually left. Logan and I went down to the basement to check out ‘Manda’s apartment. Then we went back to the living room and talked with the Laymans for a bit longer before it was time for them to leave.

We went to bed sad that we had to leave, and yet looking forward to being home (but really, way more of the former, especially since the Laymans were staying another day). We woke up early enough the next morning to catch Errol and ‘Manda before they had to leave for work, and then we packed up our things and headed out. We took a detour over to Niagra Falls on our way home, and pulled in around 11 pm.

It was an exhausting weekend (especially for me, as I spent so much of it being anxious and awkward), but so very much fun. Logan is already planning our next trip to Toronto.