Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Tag: NaNoWriMo

Grab the popcorn

Novembers have always been interesting. There are the elections and all the related issues, some more “interesting” than others depending on the year. There is Thanksgiving. For writers, there’s NaNoWriMo. And that’s just to name a few. But now, on top of all that, there is the soap opera that is the NFL. More on that in a moment.

Let’s start with NaNo. I share my thoughts on it over at Mad Genius Club today. The short version is that NaNo can be a useful tool for writers. By setting a goal and having accountability, by telling the internal editor to stay silent for a month, a writer can get into the habit of writing. I know that sounds strange, but it is very easy to be pushed away form the writing habit by real life demands. NaNo can refocus the writing — if you let it.

This is where I grab the popcorn. Yesterday, I posted both here and at Victory Girls about the ongoing soap opera that is the NFL. Since then, things have only gotten worse — or better, depending on your point of view. Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner, wants $50 million as salary, more than $10 million above what he is currently making. He also wants a private jet for his personal use FOR LIFE. Add to that health insurance for his entire family FOR LIFE. I don’t know about you, but I’d love that sort of pay and benefits, especially if I ran a company that is in worse shape now than when I took it over.

Jerry Jones wants accountability. He says his demand is not personal toward Goodell but toward the office of the commissioner. He say the commissioner has too much power without enough checks and balances. From what I’ve seen over the last few years, I’d have to agree with him. And I don’t like Jones. For me to agree with him on anything takes a lot.

But Goodell and certain other owners don’t like it. Members of the committee responsible for negotiating the contract with Goodell have now served Jones with a cease and desist letter. Jones needs to shut up and play the good little owner or they might take action against him. They can fine him. They can suspend him. They can try to take his beloved Cowboys away from him.

Is there anyone who thinks this will end well for the league?

Yep, it is popcorn and beer time. If you need me, I’ll be over here, writing and waiting for the shoe to drop. If Goodell and company aren’t careful, they might find out that Jerry Jones isn’t just a nightmare but he is their worst nightmare. This is going to fun to watch, certainly more entertaining than the current season has been.

Accountability

This could easily become a political post but, since I am already late getting to work this morning, I’m going to limit it to writing. As I posted yesterday, NaNoWriMo is upon us. It is a great way to hold yourself to some level of accountability in your writing — not so much in quality but in quantity. If you participate in the “official” NaNo, you are pledging to do your best to write 50,000 words in 30 days. You can log into your NaNo account and update your word count daily or as you want. It will show you not only how many words you’ve written, but how many you have left to meet your goal, your average word count per day, etc. It is a tool and should be looked at as such and nothing more.

That’s important because there are a lot of folks out there who flinch and shy away when they see the 50k word requirement. But here’s the deal. It isn’t set it stone. Just like New Year’s resolutions, it is something to shoot for. No one is going to hit your knuckles with a ruler if you don’t make the goal. It is nothing more than a tool to be used to help each of us establish a writing habit, one we can continue after November ends.

But, not everyone thinks they can meet the goal. Some folks, as I said, shy away when they see the number of words. Others know they are slow writers — and there is nothing wrong with that. I’ve said before and will say it again, there is no one right way write. Everyone’s process is different.

That doesn’t mean you can’t do NaNo. You can still sign up. You can use their tools, both in tracking your word count and in finding inspiration. Or you can do your own version of NaNo and set your own goals. The key is to set a goal and try to meet it. It doesn’t matter if it is 5k words or more or less. The goal is to write.

I honestly had no intention of doing NaNo this year. Then, as I said yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend and we decided to hold one another accountable for the next six months or so. Our goal? To publish a new piece every month. It can be a short story or novella or novel. Me? I know I can’t do a new novel a month. But I can put out a short story or novella on those months I’m not publishing a novel. Better yet, those don’t take as much time to write and can be done while watching football or — gag — Survivor with my mother. So I give up some time gaming during the evenings. That’s all right.

All that led to me deciding to go ahead and do NaNo. It is another way to hold myself accountable. But, because I have that dreaded word counter staring me in the face, I have to fight my own tendency to shy away. I’ll still be here blogging. I’ll update my NaNo count if not daily at least several times a week.

I will, hopefully, not only hold myself accountable but will meet the 50k word goal.

Now it’s time to make another cup of coffee and get to work. Oh, and the word count for yesterday was 4,007 words, not counting the blog post. If I count that, I did over 5,400 words. Hopefully, I can keep that up because I know there are going to be days this month when I won’t get to write. NaNo falling in November, with its Thanksgiving holiday, always messes me up. I just have to figure out how not to let my count diminish too much during the last half of the month. That is where I have to maintain my accountability.

Fingers crossed I manage to do so.

NaNoWri. . . why?

Ah, the first day of November is here. The little ghosts and goblins of Halloween are a memory and now is the time when many of us sit down at our computers with shiny faces — okay, mine’s a bit bleary right now but go with it for a moment — and eagerly poise our fingers over our keyboards, waiting for the words to pour out. NaNoWriMo is officially here. Just like New Year’s Day when we are sure we can live up to all the resolutions we’ve made, now we are convinced we can write 50,000 words in a month. We can do it, we tell ourselves. We can.

And, yes, we can.

Too many of us — and, yes, I’ve been one of them — start out with the best of intentions but we wind up focusing on the big number and not the more realistic daily word count number. So let’s break it down.

50,000 words in a month. That is a novel in some sub-genres. It is most definitely a good rough draft word count. But still, that looks like a lot of words. But is it?

Yes and no. Yes, because it is more than many of us write in a month. No, because, when you look at it in smaller increments, it does become more doable.

50,000 words in a month. That breaks down to 12,500 words per week (if my math is right. Never a sure thing since I haven’t finished my first mug of coffee). That still looks a bit scary so lets break it down a bit more. It breaks down to 1,667 words daily. Hmmm, that doesn’t look so bad, does it?

For those of you who blog, consider how many words your usual blog post runs. Mine rarely come in under 1,000 words. Now, add in the number of words you input into your various social media accounts PLUS the time you spend checking Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, whatever. That daily word count suddenly starts looking more doable, at least to me.

Okay, Amanda, you’ve proven that the word count is doable, but why should I do NaNo?

I’ll be honest, that’s been a question I ask myself each year. Each year, I come up with the same answer: accountability.

Writing is one of those professions/avocations/activities/whatever you think it is where it is easy to find a reason not to put butt in chair and just write. There is always something around the house that needs to be done. Most of us reach a point in any book we’re writing where we’d much rather be writing something else. NaNo holds us accountable, even if only to ourselves, to push through the distractions and finish.

And finishing is what’s important. No one expects what comes out of NaNo to be publishable without additional work, be it filling in the details or editing or all of the above. What is encouraged is meeting the 50,000 word goal. In other words, finishing.

Now, NaNo isn’t for everyone, at least not the “official” NaNo. However, for those of you who want to sign up and get the daily or weekly encouraging e-mails, who want to find local groups to meet up with, mosey over to the official site and sign up. It’s quick and painless. You choose a screen name, name your project, fill in as many details as you want and off you go. Each day (recommended), you input the number of words you wrote.

I’ve tried NaNo officially once and real life interfered. Most years, I set the goal for myself and run with it. I’ve succeeded more often than not. However, what I’ve found is that I tend to work on more than one project when I don’t do the official NaNo. There’s nothing wrong with that. The writing is what’s important. But still. . .

So, this year, I’m doing it officially. The main reason is I have a book due to come out the end of the month and I have to put the butt in gear to finish it. I’ve had the rough draft finished for some time but something about it kept bothering me. It was a good book but there was something wrong. It took me a bit to figure out what it was and then, when I finally, did, I wanted to pound my head against the wall.

You see, I’d made a fundamental mistake. I had forgotten a thread I’d woven into the first book, Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). Worse, it wasn’t a thread that I could do a quick nod to and everything would be all right. I’ve made notes about how to fix the problem but it comes down to this: I have to add a new section to the beginning of the book, one that looks like it will be approximately nine chapters. Then I have to go through what I already wrote and rewrite a lot of it to fit the new opening. So, this book is now my NaNo project.

Do I have a full 50,000 new words to write? Probably not on Dagger of Elanna. But it will be close to it, especially when you look at editing. Besides, there will probably be one short story being written this month as well. So, yeah, I’m aiming for a minimum of 50,000 words and will be tracking it on my blog. I’ll try to remember to update it here throughout the month.

Now, all of this is a long-winded way of saying I blame Sarah for this. Don’t listen to her when she says it is my own fault. You see, we were talking the other day and I told her I was setting a new goal for myself, something I was going to try for the next six months to see how it impacted my sales. My goal is to try to bring out at least one new title a month. Don’t look at me like that. I’m not crazy enough to try to bring out a new novel a month. However, I do think it doable to bring out a short story or novella one month and a novel the next.

Why? Or maybe, more importantly, how?

It’s simple really. I can pound out a short story in a day if the plot is already firmly in mind. If not, it may take a couple of days. So that doesn’t take any real time away from the novel, especially not if I’m disciplined and use the time I’d normally be browsing the web to write it. The purpose is simple. I want to see if bringing out something new every month helps stop the sales dip that happens approximately 6 weeks to 2 months after a new book comes out.

Oh, getting back to blaming Sarah. I expected her to tell me I was insane. Instead, she said she needed to do the same. So it has become a mutual butt-kicking deal. She is supposed to kick my butt when I slack off and I get to return the favor. Since it also corresponds with NaNo, it just seemed reasonable to add that to the “encouragement” chain.

So, NaNo, here I come.

Oh, btw, to show you that it isn’t impossible to meet the daily word count, this blog post is going to come in at approximately 1400 words. It has taken me half an hour or so to write it.

Here’s my challenge to you. Even if you don’t officially take part in NaNo, set yourself a goal for the month. Post it in the comments below and, when the month is over, let us know how you did. For those of you who have done NaNo before, post your impressions and any suggestions you might have for those who are newbies to to. Finally, tell me why you are — or are not — doing NaNo.

One last thing, here’s a post from Pat Patterson that I love. He hits the nail on the head when it comes to what being a writer means. You don’t have to write novels. You don’t have to write in a certain genre. What you have to do is write. So, my friends, go out and write. If you don’t think you can, then read and do the author a favor. Leave a review. (Do that often enough and you will realize that you are a writer. You might not be a novelist but you write reviews and authors will thank you for it.)

(Reposted from Mad Genius Club.)

NaNo is over. What now? (repost from Mad Genius Club)

Sorry, guys, I know I’ve been MIA. As I explain in my MGC post, I’ve been on a writing/editing jag with a healthy does of real life thrown in. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. So, those of you I owe edits to, they will hit your inboxes in the next week or so, if not sooner. Believe me, you didn’t want them before now, not with the curve balls Real Life (TM) has thrown and not when I’ve been deep in a writing binge to deal with Real Life. Any way, here’s the MGC post. Enjoy, and I will return to regular blogging in a day or two.

That collective sigh of relief and groan of frustration you heard yesterday came from the hoards of authors who met — or didn’t — their NaNoWriMo goals. Now they are looking at those 50,000 words and wondering what to do with them. Should they put them aside for a bit and then come back to see if they are anywhere close to a book or if they more resemble a cabbage. Others are wondering why they couldn’t meet the deadline and wondering how they can ever be an author if they can’t successfully complete NaNo. Then there are those who know they finished their 50,000 words, that they have a book (of sorts) as a result but aren’t sure it is worth the work they will have to put in to bring it to publishable standards.

All of those reactions — and more — are why I don’t particularly like NaNo. I’ve done it. I’ve failed more often than I’ve successfully concluded it. I’ve seen the faces of those in my writer’s group go pale, their features slack, when I ask if they are going to take part. I can’t blame them. For most folks, writing 50,000 words in 30 days sounds next to impossible. For a lot, it is. Real life always seems to find ways to keep them from the keyboard and adding the pressure of an artificial goal only compounds the pressure to write to the point that the muse not only goes quiet but she goes somewhere far, far away.

Still, I recommend NaNo to almost everyone, especially those who have had a dry stretch. However — don’t laugh. You knew there had to be a but to all this — I tell folks not to let the 50,000 word goal put them off. If they don’t think they can do that much, then they should set a more reasonable sounding goal. Then, during the course of NaNo, they need to do their best to stick to their goal (and be ready to tell the crit group how they did and what they think helped them meet their goal or what caused them to miss it). What I have learned over the last few years is that NaNo can and does serve as a good kick in the writerly butt for some of them and it also lets them see what sort of distractions they have started allowing into their writing time, many of which they can learn how to ignore or at least postpone until they get their writing in for the day/week/month.

I’ll admit, as I already have, that I usually don’t meet my NaNo goals. That’s because I know I can do 50k in a month and don’t adjust the word count. That is when Real Life tends to kick me in the teeth. Whether it is illness, either of me or a family member, or death or something around the house deciding to go MIA, something always seems to happen. It did this year. The difference was that I still managed to not only meet my 50k goal but I exceeded it.

So what was different?

A couple of things. First, I didn’t start with a brand new project. I had one project I was close to finishing and another I had been messing around with for a year or so that I wanted to finally put to bed. The first project, Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4) , had been one of those books that fought me every step of the way. Using NaNo, I finally got it finished and it is currently available for pre-order. Publication date is December 15th for the e-book and shortly after that for the print version.  I honestly feel that if I hadn’t had the double deadlines of NaNo and of the pre-order drop dead date of December 5th to get the final version uploaded to Amazon, I might still be fighting the book. Not because I didn’t know what to write but because I started the book thinking it would be the end of the current story arc for the series, only to find there is one more book left. I don’t like change and this was a big change for my writer’s brain to take in. Any way, I did 20k words on Challenge and it will go live in a little more than two weeks.

The second book, Slay Bells Ring, is a departure. Before I get into the heart of Honor from Ashes, the next book in the Honor and Duty (2 Book Series), I needed to do something that wasn’t as intense as Challenge had been or Honor will be. So, I went back to Slay Bells Ring, a romantic suspense novel. It will be finished in another day or two, coming in at approximately 90,000 words or so. Of those, I have written 60,000 this past month. Even for me, that (added with the 20k from Challenge) is a lot to do in a month. But this past month has been one of those where the stress had to be countered with something else and that meant writing. The only downside has been that my blogging has gone by the wayside. I’ve discovered that when I go on a writing jag like I have been on this month, I don’t blog. Not even about my writing. There is something about having to switch to the blogging mindset more than once a week (MGC) takes me out of the creative mind. So . . . . the result is that I will be releasing the e-book of Slay Bells Ring Christmas week. Two books in one month is a record for me and not particularly one I want to repeat any time soon.

So, what’s the purpose of this post other than to blow my own NaNo horn? Part of it is to encourage those who didn’t manage to make the 50k goal of the “official” NaNo rules not to give up. Adapt and adjust the word count next year to what you think you can do and then add a little to it. It is also to say not to get discouraged if you didn’t meet it this year. Real life happens and, as those of us who post here can tell you, it happens more often than any of us would like. NaNo is a great kick in the pants, if you let it and if you don’t take it too seriously. Just remember that there will be times when you meet the goal and times when you don’t, times when you blow past the goal and times when you don’t come close. It doesn’t really matter as long as you keep writing.

So, to answer my question at the top of the post. What comes next? Write some more.

The Other NaNo Project

Before I get to the other NaNo project, I filled in for Sarah over at Mad Genius Club this morning. You can check it out here.

Now, I’ve been snippeting from the story that wouldn’t leave me alone. I’m still working on it, but have told it that it will NOT be finished by the end of the month. Editing one book and writing another during NaNo is quite enough, thank you very much. It, on the other hand, has been trying to tell me that popcorn kittens are fun and need to be loved and played with. Sigh.

Anyway, the “real” NaNo project is a novel I started and discarded a couple of years ago. Part of the problem was that I really didn’t want to get into the romantic suspense genre. I already had one book out in it and that book had driven me crazy. The main character was chatty and more than a bit of a ditz, although not (imo) too dumb to live. But the real reason was I was still operating under the old rules, as I perceived them, of publishing. You just didn’t genre hop until you had an audience established. Since I didn’t want to focus just then on the rom-sus genre, I focused on what I enjoyed writing — urban fantasy.

Fast-forward a couple of years and I’ve realized that I can and should write whatever I want to. Or whatever speaks the loudest to me. Yes, I use open pen names for the rom-sus, PNR and science fiction. That’s mainly so those who read the urban fantasy aren’t surprised if they pick up one of the other series.

Anyway, this is all a roundabout way of saying that I am back to working on the original NaNo project. It has morphed from what it started out as. There may be some cross-over with the characters from Wedding Bell Blues, but that’s not a given yet. What I do know is that this is going to be the first in a series of novellas and novels built around the holidays. The first realization I had of this change in plans was when the novel presented its new title to me: Slay Bells Ring.

Yep, “Slay” Bells Ring.

Help me. Please. I’ve been taken over by my pen name and I may not survive.  😉

And, here is the beginning Slay Bells Ring.

(For NaNo accounting purposes, the word count on this now stands at 22,253 words.)

***

Welcome to beautiful Mossy Creek!

I stared at the green and white sign, my stomach a knot of tension. Once I drove past, I’d be caught. There would be no turning back. But it wasn’t too late, not yet. I could still turn around and drive as far and as fast as possible from the small town where I’d grown up. I’d done it before. I could do it again.

Unfortunately, circumstances changed and I had grown up. That meant running didn’t come as easily as it once had.

My fingers drummed against the Mustang’s steering wheel and shook my head. Twelve years ago, I’d left Mossy Creek to attend college. I’d sworn then that I’d never return, at least not for more than a day or two at a time. There had been more to it than a high school graduate’s desire to strike out on her own. God, there had been so much more. Even then, I knew I needed to get away from the watchful eye of my parent – note the singular.

The truth was I needed to get away or I’d be forever lost in my mother’s shadow, and believe me, my mother casts a very wide shadow, at least metaphorically speaking.

So I’d worked hard all through high school, making sure my grades were the best they could be. I knew I’d have to get a scholarship out of state because Catherine Eugenia Metzger Grissom Anderson Carlisle had her mind set on me attending the University of Texas at Austin, THE university, and joining the Pi Beta Phi sorority is her legacy. After all, I had a duty to keep up the family tradition, didn’t I?

The only problem with that was the tradition began and ended with Mama. Not that it stopped her from trying to force the issue.

Fortunately for everyone concerned, she hadn’t been able to get my scholarship to the University of Maryland revoked. Believe me, she tried. World War III, should it ever happen, will look mild in comparison to the arguments we had those last few months before I left town. It got so bad toward the end that I’d been tempted to accept a scholarship to Texas A&M just to see the look on her face when I told her that her only daughter was going to attend UT’s most hated rival other than the University of Oklahoma. The only reason I hadn’t done just that was the simple fact that College Station was much too close to home for comfort.

Well, that and the fact that Sam Caldwell would be there, but that’s another story, one I’d closed the book on long ago.

So I packed my bags and bade a not so fond farewell to Mossy Creek, bound for College Park, Maryland instead of College Station, Texas, ready for my life to begin.

Only to find myself just shy of my thirtieth birthday staring at the city limit sign marking the edge of Mossy Creek and wondering if I could just turn around and drive off, never looking back. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t ignore this latest summons home, not if I wanted to be able to live with myself.

The sooner I slid the transmission into drive, the sooner I find out what was going on. Life would have been so much simpler if I hadn’t answered the phone that morning.


Chapter One

“Juliana, you have to come home.”

My heart stopped. No one called me Juliana anymore. Heck, no one had called me that since I was little girl. Growing up, I’d been Anne or Annie – usually Annie, at least at school. I’m still surprised that alone hadn’t landed me in therapy for the rest of my life. Try growing up in a small town as a girl with curly red hair who also happens to have a twin brother named Andrew and who, back then, was called Andy. Is it any wonder the two of us have more than a few mother issues?

Now that I’m grown, when someone calls me by my full name, I know there’s trouble. When it’s my grandmother, I know it’s bad trouble. That’s doubly true when the call comes in before six AM on a Monday just a few weeks before Christmas. The last time I’d received such a call, my grandfather had suffered a stroke. He died before I could get home.

God, what had happened now?

“What’s wrong?”

I sat at the kitchen table and looked longingly at the coffeemaker. I had just pressed the brew button when the phone rang. Instinct had me reaching for the receiver almost before my brain registered what I was doing. It didn’t matter that I’d just come off a three week capital murder trial.  If one of Austin’s movers and shakers – or, more likely, one of their kids – had managed to run afoul of the capital’s finest, there was a good chance I’d be called out to get the little darling out of jail. I’d have preferred it to this.

“Gran?” I prompted when she didn’t immediately respond.

“It’s your mother.”

What started as a general sense of dread flared and I fought down the panic that replaced it. “Is she all right?”

“Oh God, Annie, I don’t know.”

I relaxed a little. If she was back to calling me Annie, things couldn’t be too bad. Could they?

“Just tell me what’s happened, Gran.”

“Annie, she’s been arrested.”

I swear I moved to receiver away from my ear and stared at it, halfway expecting to find it had changed into a banana or something. It certainly couldn’t be a telephone and I most definitely couldn’t have heard correctly. There was no way, absolutely no way in the world that my oh-so-proper mother could have been arrested.

“Say again.”

“Your mother’s been arrested.”

“Why?”

I couldn’t fathom it. My mother’s no saint, but she certainly isn’t the sort who goes around getting into legal trouble. Man trouble? You bet. Butt heads with the family? Absolutely. She’d make that into an Olympic event if she could. But she had never done anything more serious than get a speeding ticket. The only possible explanation I could think of that would explain why she might have been arrested was that she’d had too much to drink and had been picked up for DWI. That wouldn’t surprise me, not with not with Mama’s love for a good cabernet and the current push across the state to get drunk drivers off the road. But even that didn’t feel right.

“Annie, it’s bad.” Gran choked back a sob and I waited, doing my best not to yell at her to get to the point. “Drew just called to tell me.”

Drew? Why hadn’t my twin called me?

I got to my feet and, taking the receiver with me, hurried back to my bedroom. I had to do something. I’m never my best in the morning, but dropping something like this on me before coffee and then not getting to the point. . . .

“Annie, they’re saying your mama killed Spud Buchanan.”

“What?”

I must have heard wrong. For one thing, if my mother ever decided she wanted anyone dead, she’d find someone to do the deed for her. She’d never risk getting her hands, or her designer clothes, dirty. For another, she was smart enough not to get caught, at least not by the local cops. Okay, my brother might be a member of the Mossy Creek Police Department, but they were still small town cops. Unless they caught someone standing over the body with the smoking gun or dripping knife in her hands, they’d be hard-pressed to make a case without help from an outside agency.

“They’ve charged your Mama would Spud Buchanan’s murder,” Gran repeated. “From what Drew told me, they found her dressed in her nightie, standing over his body.”

The world came to a screeching halt. There was only one explanation for what was happening. I had fallen down the rabbit hole and into some warped alternate reality. It wouldn’t be long before the Cheshire Cat showed up, followed shortly by the Queen of Hearts demanding my head.

“Back up, Gran, and tell me everything. They found Mama in her nightgown, standing over the body? Where?”

“At Spud’s house.”

I hadn’t fallen down the rabbit hole. This wasn’t even an alternate reality. There couldn’t be one warped enough that my mother would be sleeping with her worst enemy. No, some sort of bizarre cosmic ray had bombarded the Earth as I slept and transformed Mama into a black widow in human form. Mate and then kill. At least that would make some sort of sick sense given the history between her and Spud.

“Gran, I’m not trying to be dense here –” Or maybe I was. I hadn’t had my coffee yet, after all – “But are you telling me Mama has been sleeping with Spud Buchanan?”

“I don’t know, Annie. All I know is what Drew told me. The police received a disturbance call from one of Spud’s neighbors. When they got there, they found him dead and your mama standing over him. They arrested her and took her to jail.”

God, it just kept getting worse and worse. If this was a nightmare, I was ready to wake up.

“Please tell me she called an attorney.”

“Honey, this is your mama. She doesn’t think she needs an attorney.”

Crap.

That was just like my mother. She would firmly believe that her social standing and connections would see her through this.

“All right. Get one of the local attorneys over to the jail. I don’t care what you have to do to do it or how much it costs. I’ll foot the bill. Just make sure Mama doesn’t say anything to the cops. That includes Drew.” I opened my closet door and tossed a pair of jeans and a T-shirt onto the bed. Then I stopped, thinking hard. I might not be expected at work today but I was tomorrow. No way would this mess be cleared up by then. So I’d need to talk with the office, make arrangements for my docket to be covered for the next few days. Hopefully that would be enough time to take care of this latest mess Mama had gotten herself into. “I’ll get home as soon as I can, Gran, but it won’t be before noon at the earliest. Call my cell if anything else happens.”

“Thank you, Annie. I know I’m asking a lot.”

“Gran, you didn’t ask. Besides, she’s my mom. Of course I’m going to come home.”

“Come by the house when you get here.”

“All right.” I ran a hand over my face. Maybe I’d wake up and find this at all been a bad dream. After all, I had had that three day old Chinese take-out just before going to bed. That could be the reason for all this, right? “What else did Drew have to say?”

“Nothing. No, that’s not quite right. He said he had to get off the line before the DA realized he’d called me.”

That sounded ominous, but I didn’t give it much thought, not then at any rate. I knew from personal experience that most DAs wouldn’t appreciate a cop calling the suspect’s family and it wouldn’t help that the cop was part of the family as well. Hell, I’d lay into any cop working one of my cases who did that. “Try not to worry, Gran. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“Be careful, Annie.” She paused and I waited. “Thank you.”

“No need, Gran. Now go find Mom an attorney. I’ll call you once I’m on the road.”

 *     *     *

That had been six hours ago. I’d spent in the next several hours rearranging my court schedule and getting other members of the office to cover for me. Then there’d been the call to my boss, the elected District Attorney for Travis County. I knew before I called what the ultimate result would be. David Carlton-Hughes had one cardinal rule: nothing took precedence over the job. As far as he was concerned, because I was leaving town without advance notice, he could no longer count on me. Funny thing is, hard as I’d worked to move up in the professional ladder, the news about Mama put things into perspective. Family would always take precedence over work. It had to. I’d miss the friends I’d made there but I wouldn’t miss the politics or the grind.

With a sense of something very near freedom, I had finally climbed into my car and started the drive from Austin to Mossy Creek, a hole-in-the-wall halfway between Dallas and the Oklahoma border.

And, for once, luck had been with me. Despite speeding – nothing new for me – no flashing red lights had appeared in my rearview mirror. Hopefully that was a good sign. So why did it feel like this was just the calm before the storm?

So here I sat, staring at the sign welcoming everyone to beautiful Mossy Creek as the traffic reporter on the radio talked about how bad the traffic was, especially for a Monday.

Have I said how badly I hate Mondays?

And so it begins

No, not the end of election season — although that will be here soon enough. What I’m talking about is the impetus — and bane — of some many authors’ lives: NaNoWriMo.

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is that time of year when authors strive to finish a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. Now, I’ll admit, thinking about writing 50,000 words in a month seems daunting. But, when you break it down, it really isn’t that terrifying. It breaks down to approximately 1,666 words a day. To give you an idea of how long that is, so far I’ve written right at 100 words for this blog entry. So, multiply by 16.6 and you have the daily output for NaNo.

I’ve tried NaNo before and have managed to do it exactly once. It always seems like every time I sign up, something terrible happens during the month to keep me from meeting my goal. Talking to some of my friends, they seem to have the same luck. Some call it the NaNo curse. Others talk about the evils of November. Whatever it is, I’ve decided not to “formally” do NaNo this year. It’s not that I’m superstition, or at least no more superstitious than the next writer. It’s that the “curse” started last night and I don’t want to see it multiply. One death in the extended family is enough.

That said, I’m still going to push through with certain “pledges” regarding my writing. I’m going to finish the “super sekrit project” within the next ten days. One reason is that I am late in delivering it. For another, the characters are making me crazy. I’m ready to move on to the next project which just happens to be the sf novel I’ve been snippeting here for the last few weeks.

Then there’s the next book in the Nocturnal Lives series. I’m looking forward to doing that one. I have the general outline in my head already. The only reason I haven’t written it down is because I know the moment I do, I’ll have to write the book. Most authors I know have a character or characters who are pushy sorts and will require that they be written the moment they are even thought about. Mac and company from Nocturnal Lives are like that for me. So, no writing of the outline — and no real thinking about them — until I have time to sit down and actually write the book.

But back to NaNo. I’ve had folks ask me if they have to actually write something new and if it has to be 50,000 words. If you do NaNo, the basic answer is “yes”. However, the way I look at it is this: what’s important is that you set a goal and you stick to it. If your goal is to blog every day, then use this month to get into the habit. If your goal is to finish editing something and send it off to your beta readers, do that. As far as I’m concerned, the goal of NaNo and the like is to get writers into the habit of writing on a daily basis.

So, if you’re doing NaNo, good luck. If you are setting personal goals and not doing NaNo, good luck. The one thing NaNo offers is a community to cheer you on. If you think you need that, form your own group with like-minded writers. The key is to write.

No, let me correct that. The key is to have fun while you write. If you aren’t enjoying what you do, you’ll rarely finish the project and, if you do, it will show in the finished product.

Now go forth and set your goals and see if you can meet them. I’m doing the same.

Oh, btw, I just wrote over 620 words on this post. So doing 1,666 words in a day is more than doable if you just set aside the time to do it. Good luckQ

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