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Week 4 of the The Million Word Adventure

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Week 4: Celebrating a Birthday and a Milestone

So this is week 4 of the The Million Word Adventure. Wow. I have learned a lot about how much I have let interfere with the writing the last few years.

Lessons (re)learned:

  • When you show up to the office, work gets done (duh, but I always need reminders of this one)
  • Sometimes when I make myself write a scene I’m not sure of, something wonderful happens and it turns out to be the key to the whole book (turns out the identity theft crime in License to Shop is absolutely perfect for a university town, in multiple ways).
  • When one story starts to stall, there’s always another one waiting in the wings to work on.
  • A little research goes a long way. I learned the color of silkworm eggs, how the FBI handles identity theft, and the nutshell history of human warfare, and used what I learned to deepen/improve three different stories.
  • I drink too much coffee.
  • It takes time to create a new habit, especially a “write 10,000 words a day” habit.
picture of various objects, million word adventure

Can I do it? Can I? Will you help?


Monday was my birthday, and the first day of tutoring for the semester, so I did a little less writing than a typical Monday.

Got nice flowers and a card from my husband, cards from friends, greetings from family and then later we went out for dinner to celebrate after the hectic day (first day back at tutoring after the summer break always makes me feel like a newbie again).

If you want to say Happy Birthday, you can do so by showing me a little support with a Tweet, Share, or newsletter subscription (see how on The Million Word Adventure page).

Next newsletter goes out Friday, and will have a surprise in it (hint: will finish draft of Maiden Ash tonight — at last! — Which means reward time for my newsletter subscribers).

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Failure is Not an Option

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Writer’s Block Is More Like A Kinked Hose Than a Brick

kinked hose

I knew setting myself a big goal like The Million Word Adventure (write a million words in 4 months) was going to stir up the Doubt Dragons big time. The DDs this week are about the size of wasps, but there are thousands of them, with the same clouding, stinging effect of a disturbed hornet’s nest.

I have done many unnecessary things, while listening to a running narrative of “I have to write 10,000 words today. I have to.”

In the first two weeks, I have not hit my daily word goal even once, and I missed my first weekly goal. Some people might see failure looming and give up, but I’m not one of them.

I was blessed with a gigantic helping of optimism in the face of reality, but also the ability to recognize reality (yes, leads for a very interesting internal debate whenever I try something new like this).

 Reality Bites

Going in, I knew the reality was that I have been actively avoiding the actual writing for several years. I’m telling the stories over and over in my mind — in the grocery line, driving, fixing dinner. If I lived in the future, where you only needed to think the story to get it on the page…no, I’m sure at that point the DDs would find a whole new way to trip me up.

 Bad storytelling vs Good storytelling

So far, I’ve been telling myself a lot of stories to justify why I’m not meeting my goals every day.

I’m warming up (true-ish; runners don’t run 20 miles the first day they begin to train for a marathon).
I’m organizing (ha!).
My uncle died (true, and I did spend three days traveling back and forth for the memorial — and telling family stories)
I’m not good at recognizing the impact of listening to the DDs until the end of the day (soooo true)
Bottom line: I still have a lot to learn about how to make myself stop listening to the DDs and sit down and write.

The Truth Shall Set You Free From Doubt Dragons

One way to slay my DDs (or at least slip them a Mickey) is to tell the truth instead of using the half-truth response. I used a lot of those when dealing with questions about my writing in the past. If I was behind in my word count, I would cheerfully deflect questions with, “I’m having such a blast with this new plot twist I added.” Or “I’m wrestling with a plot element that just isn’t working.”

These would be true statements, but would prevent me from sharing the bald truth that I was 10,000 words into a 100,000 word novel and the deadline was so close only a miracle would allow me to make the deadline (miracle=very long days of writing non-stop and one day shipping to get the book to the editor on the day it was due; many other writers can relate, judging by the stories we swap at conferences).

The motivation that helped me deliver my books on time was a deadline backed with teeth. If I didn’t make that deadline, someone would be inconvenienced, if not downright disappointed. And I’d have to pay back the advance if I didn’t finish the book.

But I don’t have a traditional publisher now, so the deadlines are of my own making, and have no teeth. My critique partners are other writers who are more relieved than disappointed when I don’t slap another book on the virtual table for them to interrupt their own lives to read). My editors have plenty of other clients to fit into any slot I don’t take.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who knows that deadlines make goal setting easier, but it is the sharpness of the accountability teeth (the scale when you’re trying to lose twenty pounds for that wedding, the running group when you’re training for a marathon, etc.) that prevents you from giving up when the DDs attack.

Bite Me

So I’m issuing a call to action to anyone who wants to hold me accountable and help me beat back the cloud of stinging DDs: subscribe to my one of my newsletters (the general one, or the 1MWordAdv specific one). Let me know there are people who will be disappointed if I let the DDs win.

I will be celebrating benchmarks and milestones by giving away prizes, as I’ve already said. BUT, when I don’t make a weekly goal — I’ll be giving away a $5 gift card (winner’s choice of iTunes, Amazon, or B&N) to someone on either my newsletter lists, on my Facebook Page, or a Twitter follower.

This week, I’ll be doing a giveaway on Friday, and all my newsletter subscribers, as of that date, will be eligible for the $5 gift certificate drawing.

I still have until Sunday at midnight (EST) to make the second week’s deadline.

I’m going to do it.

But if I don’t, my Facebook fans are going to get a chance at a $5 gift card next Friday.

Take that, Doubt Dragons.

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Posted in Million Word Adventure

Home is Where the Adventure Begins

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doublerainbowHome At Last!

I am home, at last, after an entire summer away, having a big adventure. My husband and I drove across the country, from Maine to California, and back again.

We stopped to see sights both iconic (the Petrified Forest) and ironic (The Jolly Green Giant statue). I have pictures to prove it, and I will share them soon.

I even got to travel the Trans-Canada highway for the first time ever (highly recommended; there are many places where you can stop and just take a break by the water).

We managed to help one son transition from East Coast to West Coast into a long-coveted job, and spent quality time with our grandson.

We had a blast living in San Francisco in a furnished sublet, able to walk to the ocean/bay in any direction we wished.

Unfortunately, I did not get nearly enough work done, especially not writing work.

I have so many travel stories to share with you on the blog, in addition to continuing the Secret Shopper Mom Mystery series with License to Shop, the next Molly Harbison mystery shopper novel. Not to mention the new YA fantasy serialization I have been outlining and working on for a couple of years now. And the thousand fairytales I have planned to retell to go along with the world building in that fantasy series.

If I run out of steam on any of those projects, I have two non-fiction projects outlined, plus the first book in another YA series outlined. The only possible way to fail is to get stuck in a procrastination-doubt-indecision loop. The same loop that has been slowing my production for the last few years.

I’m determined not to let that happen.

So, with our summer adventure behind us, it is time for me to get serious about another adventure:

picture of various objects, million word adventure

Can I do it? Can I? Will you help?

The Million Word Adventure

On September 1, 2014, I embarked on plan to write a million (1,000,000) words by midnight, December 31st, 2014.

Yes, I did say a million words in 4 months.

No, I have not, in the past, written a million words in a year. Ever. My tops for a year was probably 600,000.

Yes, other writers have done this. A few (see Dean Wesley Smith)

No, it won’t be easy for me to break all my bad habits, slay all my doubt dragons, and get a million words (NEW words, not the ones already done on several of these projects) written.

I’m looking for support from anyone who wants to offer me an “Attagirl!” (read on to find out how)

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Posted in My, How This Business Has Changed, My, How This Business Has Not Changed, Uncategorized

My New Shop and Let Die Trailer

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SALDe-bookhighresMy cover designer, Hanna Sandvig designed another great trailer for me. If you thought secret shopping was a scam job, you should meet Molly and find out what secret shoppers really do.


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Meet Illustrator Hanna Sandvig

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The Ex-Files book cover

 Illustrator Hanna Sandvig Talks Drawing and Cover Design

I’m so excited to feature the talented Hanna Sandvig, of Book Cover Bakery, on the blog today. A few months ago, when I wanted to re-do the cover of The Ex Files to match my new Secret Shopper series, I had to find an illustrator. Luckily, I came across a reference to Hanna, who has now designed two covers and two trailers for me, with two more covers yet to do. I debuted the trailer for The Ex Files yesterday, and if you want to be the first to see the trailer for Shop and Let Die, sign up for my newsletter and you’ll get a sneak peek on Friday.

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New The Ex-Files Has a Trailer

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Every new cover needs a trailer

I’ve already revealed the new The Ex Files cover, but now it is time to reveal the trailer that talented artist Hanna Sandvig did for me.

Isn’t it cute?

I’ve never been able to draw anything other than princesses (circle faces, bell-shaped skirts), so I’m always envious when I see someone else’s artistic talent. But this time, I got to help create it.

Later this week, I’ll share an interview with Hanna, and maybe give you a sneak peek into our working process.


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Posted in The Ex-Files

Mother Nature’s Storytelling Prompts

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Devil’s Rock and the Giant Bear

devilstower picture

One of the most frequent questions that writers get is “Where do you get your ideas.” Most writers I know scoff at that question. I don’t. I am as interested in that question as any reader.

My ideas have come from overhearing a conversation, mishearing a phrase (The Salem Witch Tryouts, for example), watching a movie and wondering would what have happened if the a plot choice had gone a different way….in short, there are story prompts for writers everywhere I look. I have notebooks full of them, and I’d need to write for a thousand years to write them all.

I visited one of Mother Nature’s story prompts in Wyoming on my most recent trip out to visit The Best Grandbaby In the World™ in the Bay Area. Devil’s Tower has been inspiring stories for ages. The Arapaho have one, the Cheyenne have one, the Crow, the Kiowa, and the Lakota. They all feature a big bear, making scratches on the rock. And, like most storytellers, every tribe’s story is just a little different.

Me, I wondered why this particular natural wonder inspired so many stories. My trips out west have taught me that there are so many wondrous formations ready to inspire story in travelers. So, here’s my contribution – Devil’s Tower is formed in the same way as many other western natural wonders – carved by rainwater washing away softer rock to leave only the igneous. Most times, the striations this causes are horizontal. At Devil’s Tower, they are vertical. The perfect prompt for a storyteller’s imagining of a giant bear with giant claws trying to reach something at the top of Devil’s Tower (which many of the Native Americans called Bear’s Tipi, or Bear’s Lodge).
Can’t you just imagine the generations of Native Americans camping out under the stars at Devil’s Tower, weaving their stories about why this formation is different from the others?


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Posted in Travel

Revisiting the Wedding Roadtrip

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Our road trip across the country on the way to our daughter’s wedding has begun! We’re taking the slow roads, avoiding the interstates, stopping to walk through the little towns we pass through if they catch our eye. For the next few weeks, we will be footloose and fancy free. And then we will be parents of the bride. So, please welcome my husband, Jim, to the blog. Jim is the photographer in the family, and he will be taking pictures and giving updates on the trip from his perspective.

Drawbridges are Cool!

Day 5: July 19, 2012

A free breakfast of coffee and eggs for both of us. Back on rt 20 and rt f along Lake Erie.  Decided we needed better and more coffee so we stopped in Ashtabulah, OH; yes we finally made OH.  Took a walk up a cobble stone street to Point Park to see the Lake and a coal plant with an amazing chute that looks like a roller coaster (I left camera in car, used cell phone). It was a nice steep hill and Kelly kept right behind me.  While at the top we heard sirens and the bridge we had crossed a few minutes ago began to open; for a small fishing boat. Only a dinghy could get under the bridge when it is down. The Bridge has this amazing cantilevered cement counter weight that swings down. I imagine it falling loose and crushing the waiting traffic as it rolls down hill.

We didn’t have a destination today, just head west and get across the metropolises of Cleveland and Chicago. I spent two summers in Cleveland, and Kelly one, when I was at NASA and really liked the city and area but did not see the need to “do it” again. Similarly we spent 3 days or so in Chicago a year ago.  Without a fun destination I made one up, Geneva-on-the Lake, OH. Turns out Geneva is a candidate for this years Rand McNally/USA Best of the Road “funnest town”.  Since we (Kelly) were desperate for coffee we stopped, as I mentioned before (I am completing this blog two days later so continuity may be a bit rough) we stopped at the first nice place we saw, even though it was only about 15minutes to GotL (Geneva-on-the-Lake).  Turns out it was a long 15 minutes as we got our first downpour of the trip while we were snug in the coffee shop. Kelly caught up on some web stuff and I decided that Eddies would be our lunch stop, a 50’s ish food place in GotL.  It was still drizzling when we arrived but found parking as some one pulled out of the lot as we pulled in. Place was crowded but a few tables open.  A burger for me and a foot long hot dog for Kelly was good, and pretty cheap.

Last we were in Cleveland the new stadium was just going up, very impressive as we drove by.  Ended up in Toledo area. While we intended to stop and eat we didn’t until 8ish. Came to a very busy area and ate at a Chiles (salad for me, steak for Kelly and Sangria for both). While we ate we looked for hotels but were suspicious of very low priced places (I was pretty tired). Food was fine and we decided to drive some more. In a mile came to Petersburgh (I think). A lovely little town that had a farmers market we had just missed. If we had known we would have eaten someplace here.

Few miles later found a Comfort Inn and got one of the last rooms for 99. Took a quick swim then bed.

Tomorrow is another day without a destination.


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Revisiting the Wedding Roadtrip: Maid of the Mist

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Our road trip across the country on the way to our daughter’s wedding has begun! We’re taking the slow roads, avoiding the interstates, stopping to walk through the little towns we pass through if they catch our eye. For the next few weeks, we will be footloose and fancy free. And then we will be parents of the bride. So, please welcome my husband, Jim, to the blog. Jim is the photographer in the family, and he will be taking pictures and giving updates on the trip from his perspective.

Maid of the Mist is Misnomer – More Like Maid of the Sluice

Day 4 – July 18, 2012

I woke up at the Holiday Inn in Waterloo, NY and Kelly was gone! She left a note saying she was getting caffeinated. I took this opportunity, after a few sips of hotel coffee to revisit the fitness room (Kelly used it after our swim last night. I chose instead to sit in the Jacuzzi and a few minutes in the sauna), the usual cardio but also a Universal machine.  Got a few sets in. Moving weight does feel different than my usual BowFlex workout.

Kelly and Yelp identified a good breakfast place called Connie’s. The only downside was it was cash only.  The place is a diner and fairly busy, We had timed it to be a big rush that came in a bit after we did. We both had big and fantastic omelets.  I had Rye toast and Kelly had wheat.  Bill was only 13.02 then back on the road.

Took Rte. 20 most of the day. Driving not as much fun as the day before.  Together we picked todays destination, Niagara Falls and Maid of the Mist.

We arrived in Niagara later than we planned, about 2.  I have been to the Falls 3 previous times. The second time we were returning from my stint with NASA in Ohio near Christmas.  I inadvertently drove over the bridge and entered Canada. While this was pre 9/11 we didn’t have anything but drivers license for the adults so we turned right around and were readmitted to the USA. Second time was three years ago when I was on my way to Kent State to work on some experiments. We got totally confused and drove around and around, unable to find the Falls and intent on not going to Canada.   We mistakenly wound up on Goat Island, with a $10 parking fee. It was a great mistake as we got a great view of the Canadian Falls as well as the US ones.  Reminiscing complete.

The parking lot was filled but there was a garage with $5 parking all day (it was late in the day and all the open pay lots were $10. A short walk got us to the Falls and a sprint to Maid of the Mist. We  were sure we would have to wait hours to get onboard.  4 entrances with a line of about 3 people so we quickly got the observation deck and opted tp go straight to the Maid. ($15.50 each for observation deck and Maid). No line whatsoever. We picked up our fashionable blue ponchos and walked right onto the boat.  We climbed to the observation deck and made our way to the stern and within 3 minutes we were off.  First “stop” was the American Falls with Horseshoe Falls in the distance on the right.  Soon we were face on the Falls and I understood why we needed the ponchos!  I made the good decision to not bring the new camera so was relegated to snapping with the cell phone.  The wetness or fast clicking caused the app to fail and the phone to lock up (I couldn’t read the display in the light and mist). Removed battery, rebooted and took some more.  Google Goggles later showed I did get some good shots but I haven’t looked to see if they were from land or see.  We then moved to a closer look at the much more magnificent Canadian Falls.

After disembarking we found some steps winding halfway or so up the American Falls so we climbed and did a mini version of Cave of the Winds. Any of you do Cave of the Winds and Maid before? Should we have done Cave as well?

After many more pictures we descended then reascended via elevator and walked out on the observation deck.

Hungry (no lunch again) we walked a bit and decided to get out of Dodge so we retrieved the car and asked GPS to plot a route to Cleveland.  We are doing a mostly “blue road” trip so we told gps to avoid freeways.  I didn’t like the route it picked so looked at its map and picked my own.  Kelly was helpful with her IPad as were looking for 62 and I was having a hard time making sure I was on it. Turns out there are 3 62’s all parallel to each other one block away, the merge when we leave town.

Kelly and Yelp, with my navigation ignoring the annoying gps telling me to take a U turn  found the French Pub. It’s name must derive from a family name as it is as American as French Fries (which we new via Yelp).  Very nice and very reasonable. I had a steak sandwich while Kelly had a huge vegitable lasagna (plus soup and salad bar). Unlike the steak sandwiches invented by the gods in Philadelphia this was a real steak on a roll.  I ended up using a fork and knife. The French Fries were too good to pass up so Kelly and I shared them.

Car continuing to deliver about 45 mpg indicated, gas gauge fixed itself.  We did have a stretch on day 3, with the gauge problems where I was down to 38 mpg or so.  Gas is 3.55 to 3.60’s. I miss the 3.20’s in Bangor a few weeks before out trip.

We finally got close enough to see Lake Erie. Pulled off at some town beach, open only to town residents. The water was closed due to pollution however. Wind turbines lined the shore with Buffalo in the distance.

Finally arrived in PA near Erie. Kelly and Yelp identified a Quality in near Erie for only 69 so that became our destination, arriving about 9:30 pm.  I was re-hungry so Kelly offered to stand me to an appetizer and a drink.  The hotel had a restaurant that closed right after we ordered. Appetizers didn’t delight me so I went for an Angus burger and a rum and diet coke. Kelly went for beer battered mushrooms and a Corona. She did not like the mushroom and picked some steak fires off my plate.

Too tired to write up the days adventures, will wait for morning of Day 5.





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Posted in About a Wedding

Revisiting the Wedding Roadtrip: Howe Cavern

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Our road trip across the country on the way to our daughter’s wedding has begun! We’re taking the slow roads, avoiding the interstates, stopping to walk through the little towns we pass through if they catch our eye. For the next few weeks, we will be footloose and fancy free. And then we will be parents of the bride. So, please welcome my husband, Jim, to the blog. Jim is the photographer in the family, and he will be taking pictures and giving updates on the trip from his perspective.

Secret Cave narrowIf the surface is hot, go underground

Day 3 – July 17, 2012

I slept very well, had not slept much the night before. Kelly got up first and asked if I wanted coffee or anything as she headed off to the free breakfast.  As expected it was all carbs but, much worse, a $40 charge if you took ANY food out of the room or ANY drink. She couldn’t even get her coffee.

She decided we would hit the road.  We were not having any luck and hunger won out, we stopped at McDonalds. Blueberry oatmeal for me and big breakfast for Kelly (thanks for the piece of bacon). I had a large coffee and Kelly a small. When oh when will I learn that I DO NOT LIKE MCDONALDS COFFEE. It does not sit well, it does not taste good.  I drank very little. A good thing about the McDonalds was that it had a hotel coupon book we had been looking for.

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