16 October, 2018

Maintaining Balance: Writing and Writing

I don't want my blog-writing to slip by the wayside as I get more into book-writing. That's why #AccountaClub works for me. I mean, okay, Isa-Lee Wolf posted the prompt on Friday, and that was three days ago, but I'm getting to it!

Last week, I finished the first draft of my second book. It's basically a steaming pile of crap for now, but it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. There's a lot to do, but it's out of my head for the moment. I think a good, clean, messy, edit will help. Later.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo last month, and I've been slowly working on the plot for that one, but I don't want to actually start writing the story until November 1st. I'm a purist, what can I say?

Until November 1st, I am practicing writing 12,000 words a week. I'm meeting that word count by working on a project my sister and I talked about:

Our dad started writing down his memories. He's not calling it a memoir, and he might just be doing it because he's afraid he's losing his memory, but he seemed kind of stalled at about the time in his story that we moved overseas. So we thought it would be fun if all five of us kids wrote some of our memories of life overseas. Maybe to jog his memory, maybe as a continuation of his story.

So that's my writing project for the next couple weeks.

As far as maintaining balance, I realized last week that if I'm going spend so much time writing, I can either work on A) my fitness or B) keeping the house clean. One or the other. 

I live in a country where the house is open to all the weather all the time, and we go barefoot in the house. Guess which will win - A or B? So I do my yoga, and sometimes a supplemental workout, but I'm not worrying about getting in a number of steps each day.

Maybe that's it: I can count words or steps, not both.

What do you give up when you take on a new project? Or are you one of the amazing people who simply adds an extra hour to your day?

11 October, 2018

Random Wednesday

Wednesday Medley with Terri D.
Today seems to hold quite a random mix of questions! Let's see if I can weave it into anything...

I appreciate someone just telling me what to write today. Between writing projects and now having my Mandarin class this afternoon (Thursday), I just can't think of anything to blog! So this keeps me going. Thanks, Terri!

1. This week is County Fair Week in my old stomping grounds.  The Fairfield County (Ohio) Fair holds fond memories for me, especially of the marching band show on the race track, in front of the grandstand, and of 4-H sewing projects.  Do you have a memory to share of a county or state fair?
We moved overseas when I was 10, so I don't remember Iowa county fairs, if we ever went. I do remember parades for every holiday, though. Our house was on the main street in town, so we didn't have to go anywhere or reserve spots near the action. Just take our lawn chairs down to the sidewalk and rake in buckets of candy!

2. If animals could talk, which would be the rudest? 
Hyenas. They are laughing at everybody! 

3. What mythical creature would improve the world most if it existed?  
 I think Dragons would be most useful. Think about transportation, forest fire-fighting, and the non-flying kind could be useful in farming or industry. 

4. What is something that everyone looks stupid doing?
Reading a map while out in a new city. Even staring at your phone's GPS, everyone is so focused, but their eyes are so clearly lost. Because if you're looking at a map, you don't know where you are. You can look great and smart as soon as you figure it out, but the only good way to look at a map is sitting in a restaurant out of the public pathways!

5. Is intelligence or wisdom more useful?
From what I'm reading, a lot of people seem to be equating "street smarts" with wisdom, and I disagree. However, I do agree that that is more useful than traditional wisdom. KNOWING THINGS is useful in a day-to-day world. If you have wisdom but ZERO intelligence, how would you navigate the day to and from the market, cooking your meals? You NEED a certain amount of intelligence. Not discounting wisdom, of course it is needed for the complex decisions of life, but you'd be dead before you ever got to a complex decision if all you ever had was wisdom.

6. Tell us something random about the rest of your week!
Random. I'm writing this in the interim between doing my daily writing and preparing for my afternoon Mandarin class. I better wrap this up so I can review the lesson! 

Well, I didn't weave it into a narrative or anything. What do you think? Everyone seems to be praising Unicorns, but what can they actually DO besides look pretty?

07 October, 2018

How is it October?

Now that I'm virtually retired, time doesn't fly by as fast.
The days blur together, but I fully realize that I've lived in Vietnam now for over FOUR MONTHS.
We are finally reaching a point in the year where my summer clothes aren't too hot. They are exactly right for the temperatures.

I've started to compare "today" with where we were at this point after moving to Beijing, rather than "this time last year". This time two years ago, we were full of excitement about our new home in Beijing. However, four months after we had moved there, we were desperately awaiting a legal return to work, and suffering cabin fever from being cramped in a tiny apartment with nowhere to go!

Four months after moving to Vietnam, we are in a larger space, with our own things to do, living almost as if we are retired! Mind you... 

...I've not furnished the house the way I envisioned it when we first moved in.
...We've STILL not yet begun cooking again.
...I know less about this city and language than I did with our move to Beijing.

Baby steps.

Life is good. I'm using a lot of my time for writing. I don't write about it much here, but I might start doing my #AccountaClub posts here, instead of in the comments on Bit2Read. Now that I'm boosting my daily word count, I just don't get into the blogosphere much, so I'll just blend this into a post to update my own blog.

If you're wondering, #AccountaClub is simply a place to set and check in on your goals. Every Friday, Isa-Lee Wolf at Bit2Read (linked above) writes a short post updating on how she's doing with her goals, and if you choose, you can do so as well, in the comments, or on your own blog. It is literally, a club for accountability. Most of us have writing goals amongst other goals, so if you have a goal and need to be held accountable, check it out!

In the spring, my writing goal was to meet a certain weekly word count. I've been increasing that number lately, and last week I wrote over 9,000 words. I don't know if that sounds high, but I'm inching up to at least 12,000 words per week.

So for me, my week was productive, even considering we're getting out more often to explore the area. For instance, on Friday we were on the road all day, riding the motorbike almost FOUR HOURS to a couple ancient historic sites. Here are a few pictures.
Hai Van Quan. A fortress between 2 arms of the sea.
North of Hai Van Quan... see that beach off to the left?
Outside a military museum in the "Forbidden City" in Hue, Vietnam.


Hue (pronounced like "way" with an H in front) is an ancient city. The old part of the city is sometimes called the "Forbidden City", or the "Imperial City", or "Purple City". North of Da Nang, it ended up taking us almost 4 hours on the motorbike. We stopped several times, including at Hai Van Quan, above - which literally means "The most impressive gate in the world" and when you see the setting, it kind of is...
I took this panorama shot to show the ocean on both sides of the gate. It protected both stretches of land north and south.
This will have to suffice for my summary of September. I'm trying to get around to read all of your updates, too. What were your goals, and did you meet them?

28 September, 2018

Wednesday Medley

So here's something new: Terri, over HERE, started the Wednesday Medley, not an actual linkup, but a good prompt to get the blogging juices flowing. Just what I need today, even though it's Saturday.

Feel free to share your own answers in the comments, or in your blog. If you've done it already, comment with your link!

1. If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time? 
Sick as it is, I'd probably clean. We moved from about 40 square meters up to 145. I have four bathrooms! And living in the tropics, housework is hot work, so it would be awesome to be able to clean during the cooler nights.
They're big bathrooms, too. Except the powder room.
2. What’s your favorite piece of clothing you own/owned? 
Right now, I've gotten into loose, flowy dresses. Never a fan of dresses before, I found that shorts are just awful to wear in the Vietnam summer. I currently have three dresses that - while perhaps not flattering to the figure - keep me cool in the heat. 

3. What hobby would you get into if time and money weren’t an issue?
If time and money weren't an issue, I'd buy a kayak and pay for storage near the beach. I've never been able to justify the expense of a kayak, but when I've done it, I enjoyed it and I'm pretty good at it! 

4. What would your perfect room look like? (You can post a picture.)

Image from Pinterest: Carlaaston.com
Something like this ^^. I miss my books, most of which I got rid of, and the few boxes I kept are being held by my sister against our future return to the US. 

5. When was the last time you climbed a tree? 
I have a feeling I did it at least once in college. I'm still tempted to, when I see a climb-able tree. 

6. Tell us something you will do/did today. 
Brett and I are going to try out a new restaurant tonight. We haven't decided which, but it's a choice of a Mexican restaurant he just heard about or a place he saw this morning that boasts a wide selection of craft beer. (If you click the link in his name, you can read about what we did yesterday.)

What about you - big weekend plans? 

24 September, 2018

"I Am a Writer. I Guess."

"You guess, don't you know?"
"Okay. Positive statement. Ringing affirmative! I am a writer."

Have you seen Breakfast at Tiffany's? That conversation is running in my head on a loop.

Paul has a book of short stories published, albeit with the help of a wealthy benefactor. It's not really the point of the movie. 

The main thing I do during any given day is write. I signed up for NanoWriMo. I joined a writers' group yesterday. Sort of. ...I didn't get much out of it, and there's a fee, and I can't really do Mondays usually. So maybe not.

But I wanted to check it out. I know that I don't know everything, so this might be a way to learn something. ...I mean, not so much yesterday. Literally all the information given was stuff I've seen on pinterest.

The other thing is, I do not like being social. I can do it. I was raised to do it. I dress appropriately, have good manners - although I say weird things at times - respond appropriately to others, offer encouragement. I can do it, but I come home exhausted. It costs me a lot of energy to be social. This group met in the morning, lasting through lunch, and I came home and wanted to take a nap. 

I'm a writer, not a socialite.

I'm a writer, although I'm not yet published.

I'm a writer because I spend my time writing, and because I'm good at it. 

I am a writer. Ringing affirmative.

18 September, 2018

How Hard is it to Have a Hobby?

I seem to have misplaced my hobbies. 
Or rather, they have gradually left me, as neglected friends will do. Maybe they're off partying with my missing goals.

I used to have easily defined hobbies, starting with reading. That was my number one hobby for decades. I've been diligently courting that hobby and it has been returning to me during this year. (Thank you GoodReads for helping me track my reading diligently.)

Music, another persistent hobby. 

When I moved to the Delaware shore in October of 19-ahem, by December I had purchased a second-hand piano to help me while away the hours, living at a beach-y, resort-y area during the dead winter season. I'm not a great piano player, but I started learning when I was 5, so I can play complicated classical pieces full of mistakes... for my own fun. Anyway, it was a great purchase and stayed with me all of my 12 years in Delaware. For the last 6 years, in apartments in Indianapolis, Beijing, and now in a house in Vietnam, I continue to tell myself I will get an electronic piano (easier for transportation), but that has yet to happen.

I would sing along in the car on every drive to and from work, to and from the store, anytime I was alone in the car. Now I walk everywhere, and I only occasionally sing in the shower. 

The Theatre. Hobby and avocation.

For 20 years, I was in about 2 plays a year, plus helping out with other plays in other ways backstage. TWENTY YEARS. Then I moved to Indianapolis, and got a job that meant working late some days, and it would have been mean to commit to a play when I couldn't guarantee to make the rehearsals. 

In China, my theatre bug was somewhat mollified by doing children's drama camps. I really enjoyed working on scripts for those, but the camps themselves were... well, the Chinese idea of live theatre is different from the western idea.

With no music and no theatre, I suddenly realized yesterday that my hobbies are now...

Brace yourselves ...

Planning and Tracking.

I've always enjoyed planning things - trips, meetings, packing, cleaning, everything there is to ever do can be planned. I'm a great planner. (It's genetic. When we asked my mom to use their house for our wedding, she immediately grabbed a pen and started making a list of things to buy and things to do in the house. Any time any guest ever comes, she does this.)

For decades I kept track of my activities in a Franklin Planner. Until I moved overseas and had less to track. Now I still use a planner, but also my smart phone - so many apps! So many things to track! I have my fitness tracker, a habit tracker, GoodReads for books, and a private notepad that I use to track my own lists of things, PLUS my paper planner.

So now I get to quietly slide into some kind of Type A Psycho who plans the heck out of every day and every activity, and then tracks it to death online. Old age is gonna be FUN!

How have your habits changed over time? Have they? Does "planning" even count as a hobby?

15 September, 2018

Catching Up

It's been a rough week. I did that flash fiction in the hopes it would reignite the fire under my creative juices. (ew. That sounds grosser than I intended.) It didn't.

I feel I need to put a disclaimer on all those flash fiction entries I do, but that's not the way it's done. I think my first one was good, but they went downhill from there. That's what I get for writing when I'm uninspired. You can't force creativity!

Unfortunately, when I don't need a boost of creativity, that means I'm actually writing, doing things, posting more on my blog, making progress in my WIP (work in progress) so I don't even think to do a flash fiction. Hm. 

Anyway, I'm still here, and I'm reading many of your blogs, but I often can't even think of words to comment, so I don't. Sorry about that. It'll get better. I hope.

11 September, 2018

The Greatest American Parade Every Year

Sunday Photo Fiction time! (Check it out HERE)
It's Tuesday for me, which means it's probably Monday for most of you, so I'm not as late to the game as my last one. You know the drill. Fiction under 200 words, inspired by the selected photo.

Photo credit: C.E. Ayr

“Here come the bagpipes!” This was Kitty’s favorite part of any parade. But to be here, on New Years Day!

Her friends were talking amongst themselves. They didn’t get it.

Her eyes lit up as the “American Sons of Scotland” neared, playing a highland tune she vaguely recognized. So many bagpipes! The sheer quantity of pipers was impressive, in addition to the power of the music she was smiling and humming to. Heaven.

She knew there would be more later, too. The annual Tournament of Roses parade always had several groups playing bagpipes. State Trooper units from around the country, a military group, smaller bagpipe bands from communities around the US that just wanted the honor to play in this event.

As the “Sons of Scotland” passed, she turned back to her friends. “That was amazing,” Kitty gushed.

“Dude. You look like you just fell in love.” Despite his name, Scotty would never understand.

“Not just,” she explained. “Years ago.” Why did she always get defensive about her heritage? She sat sullenly watching her friends. She should have come alone. She shed a silent tear for Uncle Mike, who first introduced her to the beauty of her highland home.

word count: 199

07 September, 2018

How Do We Get Stuff? It Begins

We went up to Da Nang yesterday, to return my friend's bike. The one who had an accident near us the other day? Her bike stayed here when she returned home. So we rode this limping "hog" 18 miles to her place.

She is getting ready to move again, so this trip had 2 purposes:
  1. return her bike
  2. pick up some of the things she's getting rid of

She had told me about some of the things she was getting rid of - coffee maker, floor lamp - and added that we could go through her kitchen stuff too because she didn't think she'd take much of that with her. 

We got there and she started pointing out different things she didn't have any use for. A rice cooker/ pressure cooker/ slow cooker that Brett pounced on. It had apparently belonged to her ex-fiance, who is no longer in the country. A small teapot left behind by a friend who'd stayed with her for over a month. That got my attention. I miss my tea.

It got me thinking about how many things we accidentally (or not) inherit from others who've been in our lives: family, roommates, neighbors. Unless you got married immediately upon leaving your parents' home, in which case you started adulthood with a full shiny set of all new stuff you had registered for at Target, you probably started adulthood with a bunch of secondhand stuff from your parents' basement, thrift stores, and curb-side rejects. 

We got rid of everything but essential items before moving overseas. As of yesterday, we now have an appliance I got from a friend who got it from an ex-fiance who bought it new. I now have a tea-infusing teapot that came from a friend who got it from a friend who... brought it with her? bought it here? I don't know. When we move again, these are probably things we will pass on to another individual.

In the meantime, we have apparently reached the point in our overseas life when we are again accumulating STUFF. Hopefully, I will continue to be choosy and not just get STUFF that has no lasting value or use for me. I've appreciated the simple life we've had without so much STUFF.

I once saw a movie where the inanimate object was the protagonist. I think it was called "The Red Violin". I want to say the movie starts in the middle of the story, but during the course of 2 hours we find out how it was created, who it goes to in which culture and which century. An intriguing premise. 

And now I'm left wondering about the lives of my inanimate objects. Do you have any inanimate objects with colorful histories? How would we even know? Thrift stores don't exactly provide letters of possession.

05 September, 2018

A Final HodgePodge

It's HODGEPODGE time! Joyce over at "From This Side of the Pond" has elected to make this her last Hodgepodge link-up. I'm sorry to see it go, but life happens. More power to her! If you want to join in, it's a nice, quick little bloghop, just 6 questions. Click the link under the image.
Join HERE.

 Let's see what thoughts are provoked today...

1. What has been the highlight of your summer so far?
I'd say moving to Vietnam, but that's just ALL of my summer. To choose a single highlight? Maybe seeing the spectacle that is the Dragon Bridge. Maybe watching the International Fireworks Festival. Maybe finding a house. 

... Probably the fireworks. That was several fun, casual gatherings on the rooftop terrace of our building in Da Nang. We weren't close to the action, but enjoyed good company. And I LOVE fireworks.

2. What do you wish you'd done more of this summer? Less of?
More? Cooking, exercise, healthy stuff. But those are easy casualties of relocating. It's been a pretty good summer. I have no regrets.
Less? The only thing that comes to mind is "playing games on my phone" but even that is on the downturn. Again, no real regrets.

3. Something you're looking forward to on your September calendar?
There is nothing on the calendar except Brett's birthday. Mandarin class twice a week, and Brett's birthday. Each week, I had marked a room I wanted to focus on, but since we are waiting to buy more furniture until his next paycheck, that schedule will be stretched beyond September. 

I am definitely looking forward to celebrating Brett's birthday, although it falls during the week, so we will probably wait to do something until the weekend. And we might not do much. He's not a fan of a big to-do.

4. Best/favorite book you've read this summer?
A crazy little read by Morgana Best called "Miss Spelled". It's a bit girly, a bit mystery, a bit witchy (that's not really a secret) and such a quick, easy, light read, I would happily download her entire repertoire. However, right now I'm on a reading frenzy delving into a variety of genres as I begin my own writing journey. I will definitely come back to her.

Want to know my WORST book read this summer? Ugh. I'm still in it. "Midnight" by Dean Koontz. He's a bestseller, so I can learn something from him surely, and what I'm learning is to CUT THE DESCRIPTIONS! Holy crap, what a mess. I was at the 50% mark before I had any interest at all. But, you know, I'm learning about writing, so I read. 

(I'm ALWAYS interested in book recommendations, fyi. Please comment.)

5. Share something positive, encouraging, or uplifting here.
I'm terrible at linking videos, so...
If you love music, please look up "Postmodern Jukebox" on YouTube. I think I'm a late joiner to their trend, but these guys are awesome. (uplifting)

A story from life, then. (positive/encouraging)
Today, a friend was in an accident while passing my town (that's a blog for later), so she came to our place to assess damage and go to a pharmacy. As we were walking back from the pharmacy - where, first of all, the pharmacist sat her down and personally wrapped her ankle in the Ace bandage she had bought - as we walked/limped home, a woman on a motor-scooter pulled up alongside us and pointed to the back of her seat, saying something in Vietnamese. 
She had seen my friend limping, with a bandaged ankle, hanging on my arm, and gave her a ride down the street to my house (which was within sight, but maybe 80 yards away). People are good at heart. People in Vietnam are AMAZING. Such a simple thing to do for a stranger!

6. Insert your own random thought here.
I make little comments here and there about starting writing. In my Vietnamese class last month, we were learning about basic small talk, including the question "What do you do?" (what is your job?)

I'm not teaching. My personal business is not up and running yet. I sort of do audio recording sometimes, but the guy couldn't teach me how to say "audio recording", so I told him I'm a writer. That is my profession now. I'm not published yet, but that is my daily task that I intend to bring some sort of income at some point. I am a writer. There it is. Bold, declarative statement. I own it.

Question to you: If you are participating in this link-up, let me know in a comment, so I can visit. If you are not, how would you sum up your summer? And as always, got a book or author to recommend?

01 September, 2018

Catching up with August in September

I think I forgot to pack my goals when we moved. 
That's my joke these days.

The thing about moving is it breaks up your routine. You can move across town, across a state, across the country, or to a different country. Each move is different but they all have one thing in common.

Whether you move yourself in 18 trips with your Ford Escort, move yourself in 3 trips with a rental van or truck, hire a local moving company to pack and move all your stuff, donate everything to charity and start afresh in the new location, one thing is universal: 

All of your routines are disrupted.

Vacation disrupts routines as well, but you can return to the same routines when you return. Your coffee-maker sits in the same spot on the counter when you get home. Your gym is still the same number of minutes away. All your toiletries hang out on the same ledge in the shower.

No matter where you move to, everything you own needs a new home. You need to find new things to do at different times of the day. You no longer purchase your groceries at the same place, maybe. You have to adjust your commute time.

Right now, I can't wrap my head around any day in advance. Clean something, eat something, write something, read something. That's about as precise as my goals get these days. So let me use this as a monthly wrap up. 

The House: 
I'm still trying to unpack more things, but until we purchase another piece of furniture, that's hard to do. A shelving unit will allow me to move all the books and decor items out of the wardrobes where they take up space, letting me put more clothes in there. A dresser will let us get clothes into their permanent homes. A vanity will let me move my makeup from the downstairs coffee table to a more discreet home in the bedroom.

Any one of those three items will give me a leg up on getting the suitcases out of the bedroom and into the 3rd-floor storage area. Good news is, we plan to be here a long time so we can take our time. This goal is plodding along slowly.

I had fitness goals once. Even in Da Nang, most days I'd try to ensure I met a step goal. I now have the joy of doing yoga on the south balcony as the sun rises. Today I pushed myself to a longer workout and was dripping by the end. From basic yoga. So exercise is slipping, but not dead yet. Isa-Lee Wolf at Bit2Read talked about starting Daily Burn, so I checked them out on YouTube. That is a possible evening workout for me, while Brett teaches. This goal is aired out daily, if only for me to poke at it and check for breathing. I have high hopes of rejuvenating it during September.

We looked for a house with a decent kitchen so we could start cooking again. We have the kitchen, why not cook? I figured that one out: I do not like haggling, and buying food to cook means haggling. Plus I don't know what I'm buying. So... that goal is rather crumpled in a corner, probably crying for having been neglected for so long.

My goal of starting a business? Well, I got the logo, etc., but after looking into the legal fees to license and actually start a business here, that goal has been neatly tucked into a drawer. I get it out and look at it every now and then and brush off its snappy, tailored suit, but it can chill until we have the kind of disposable income for me to lay out $5,000 in legal fees. Ouch.

I am still doing audio recording for a friend in Beijing. So that counts as work.

Writing is the only goal that I still work on. I'm doing pretty well with that. Hopefully, I'll start actually getting published sometime in the next year. Or something. Actually, my former boss in Beijing worked for a Chinese publisher. She has agreed to read it - or part of it - and see if it would translate for a Chinese audience. This goal is alive and well and shows great possibility. That's the great thing about creativity, isn't it? There is always "great possibility"!

How are you doing? I know in the US it's Labor Day weekend, so enjoy your cookouts. Here in Vietnam, September 2 is National Day - the day they declared independence from France, I believe - so I might end up partying, too! 

For me, I hope to catch up in September. What about you?

22 August, 2018

Sunday Photo Fiction on Thursday

I tried this once, but I keep forgetting to check back. It's time for another  Sunday Photo Fiction! Yes, I'm aware it's Thursday, but I've been unpacking since Saturday.

Sunday Photo Fiction is a weekly challenge to write a story of less than 200 words, based on a photo prompt. To join the fun...
Click on this link 

This week's photo inspiration comes from Anurag Bakhshi.

“Am I pretty? I think I need to be pretty? What’s pretty?”

“Hello! We say, ‘hello’.” Lily was going to have to teach the friend she made.

“Hello? Hello!”

“I made you and just gave you life. Do you want a name?”

“Yes, please. A pretty one, please. Am I pretty?”

“Pretty enough for me. I will call you ‘Meili’. That means ‘beautiful’.”

“Oh, thank you! Can we play together?”

“Well, sort of, but you can’t go anywhere. You have to stay here and keep birds out of the flowers.”

The fabric head tilted forward ever-so-slightly. “Oh. Flowers are pretty. I like pretty.” Meili’s head returned upright. “I wish I could see them better.”

“Maybe my daddy can fix your neck, so you can bend more.”

Just then, Lily’s mama called from inside. “Lily! Come inside! It’s time for lunch and you have to do your daily reading!”

“Oops! Bye!” as she started to run to the door, her new friend shouted, “Wait! My neck!”

“Yes, yes. Later. Bye!”

Meili was still calling after her, “My neck! Flowers! Pretty! Pretty flowers! Help!” Lily didn’t see the tear that escaped her painted eye, until it had already left a stain. 

Words: 199