On Moving and a New Writing Space

Wherever have I been for the last two months (or more)?  Why have I barely gotten any writing done, not to mention have let my email inbox go out of control yet again?

My husband and I just moved into our first house!  (And then turned around and went on a week-long cruise mere days later, but that’s a story for another post.)

While I’m super psyched that we did some hardcore adulting and bought a house (yay for 30 years of debt!), here’s the thing: I hate moving.  Moving is like pulling teeth with me.  I waited until the last possible minute to start packing, and unpacking has been just as infused with procrastination.  I can find any excuse to not deal with the stack of boxes in our back bedroom.  I’m sick, I’m tired, I’m sore from dance rehearsal or working out, it’s just too overwhelming.

(Meanwhile, may I add, Alan unpacked and organized basically the entire finished basement.  He has an unfair advantage in this, though, because he spends part of each day hopped up on steroids for a chronic illness.)

Now I feel I can talk about it and share pictures, though, because things are a little less chaotic in the house, not to mention in my shiny new writing space!

One of the big selling points for the house we chose was the fact that, not only does it have an already-finished basement, but there’s an extra room down there, which means we actually have five bedroom-type spaces.  This means that Alan and I get separate offices.  This is great for two reasons.  First, I no longer have to stare at all of Alan’s piles of computer stuff.  Second, I don’t feel guilty about buying enough bookcases to line almost every wall in my office.  I finally get my library (sort of)!

And while I hate on moving to probably an unfair level, I will give it one benefit: it’s the perfect excuse to reimagine how I want my writing oasis to look.  I can create the space that I want, that will make me most comfortable as I daydream the shenanigans that my characters can get into.

Now, let me forewarn you, the space isn’t done yet.  I need to buy another full-sized bookcase, along with another small one.  But here are the in-progress pictures of my new writing space.

 

My lovely little office!

My lovely little office!

How part of my library looks right now.

How part of my library looks right now.

My writing space.

My writing space.

A November Reflection: On National Novel Writing Month and Feeling Old

I won’t even bother starting this one saying that it’s been months since I posted, since we all know that.  So I’m just going to move on!

It’s now December.  This year has been a particularly weird one for me, likely because of the whole getting married thing, so everything’s been feeling rather, well, out of sync as far as the normal passage of time should go.  Since I got married at the tail end of the summer (August), three weeks after performing in Dublin Irish Festival, the earlier summer months were devoted 15% to Dublin Irish Festival rehearsals and 85% to frantically trying to get wedding stuff done.  After the wedding, we left for a week-long honeymoon, and got back literally a day before September started.

That’s a really long story just to say that it didn’t feel like I ever really had a summer, in the normal sense I usually do.  And when late August and September came around, and the commercials on TV were all talking about back to school sales, I was legitimately confused, because I felt like there should have been at least another six weeks before schools would start again.

So here we are in December, and it doesn’t really feel much like December to me.  Sure, our apartment is decked out in Christmas decorations, I’m listening to Christmas music, and I’m going Christmas shopping this weekend with some girlfriends.  But in my mind, it just…doesn’t feel like it should be Christmas time yet.

I think my body clock is about a month behind, all due to my crazy summer and my multitude of life changes.

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Anyway, last month was actually (no, seriously, Erin) November, which meant that it was yet another National Novel Writing Month.  This was my eleventh year doing NaNoWriMo, and ended up being my seventh year crossing the 50,000-word finish line!  Which, you know, is kind of an exciting accomplishment, not to mention because the first week of November found me in jury duty for four days (never got picked, though, so no fun stories from that).

If you have any interest at all in how the novel writing actually went — well, let’s just say it was nice to get back into a regular novel-writing groove.  The novel itself was fun for the first two-thirds of the story, and then got weird, and kind of drifted off.  The last chapter was mostly my main character rambling just so I could reach the 50,000 word goal.  Longest.  Resolution.  Ever.

Which is an important lesson — sometimes novels I write end up staying in their little drawers, for my amusement only.

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Me after my high school graduation (June 2005)

November was also the month of my — and this still feels weird to say — 10 year high school class reunion.  Yes, the picture above was taken ten years ago (plus a few months).  I kind of believe that there are a handful of events that occur in most people’s lives that just naturally make a person feel “officially” old.  Celebrating your 30th birthday, perhaps.  Experiencing a “baby” sibling graduating college and getting their first “big kid” job.  A child growing up, moving out, and getting married.

And, of course, high school reunions.

My class didn’t have a five year reunion, for good reason.  It was only five years; we were probably still a little sick of each other, and the people I wasn’t sick of I was still in touch with.

Look how much things have changed in the last ten years!

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One of my high school senior pictures

 

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My husband and I on our wedding day

Ten years since high school graduation.  Wow.  In the last ten years, I’ve learned a lot and experienced new things.  I’ve written a lot.  I’ve done things I was scared to do, like traveling alone.  I’ve graduated from college, started learning Irish dance, met the love of my life, and got married.

I’d say the last ten years have been pretty awesome.  Who knows what the next ten years will hold?

 

 

A Love Story

About three and a half years ago, on St. Patrick’s Day weekend 2012, I was in Allentown, PA for my very first writers conference.  I didn’t know anyone there prior to going, and the crowd that attended wasn’t very big on hanging out after hours, so I spent my evenings that weekend sitting alone in my hotel room.  I’d read.  I’d write.  I’d watch TV.

And I’d get on eHarmony.

I’d created an eHarmony account several months prior, finally giving up on the idea of the concept of meeting someone on my own.  At that point, while I’d talked to several guys through the site, I’d only met one of them in person, and after a few dates never heard from him again.  So it was this particular weekend that I decided to try it again, and lucky I did.  Because that weekend, while I was alone in my hotel room in an unfamiliar place, most of the time I spent on eHarmony, I spent talking to one guy in particular.

His name was Alan.

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It wasn’t very long before we decided to try meeting in person, at a Starbucks in downtown Dublin, Ohio.  And it wasn’t long after meeting for the first time that we went out on our first date.  Before long, we’d been out on several dates and decided we were officially in a relationship.

Not too terribly long after that, I knew I was in love, which was a new thing for me.  I’d only had one other serious boyfriend, and that was back in high school — and while I’d been fond of him, I had always known that I’d never been in love with him.  It was different with Alan.  I knew I was happiest when I was spending time with him, even if we were just watching a movie on the couch.  When he sent me “good morning” texts, I smiled.  I missed him when we were apart.

Eventually we started talking casually about spending the rest of our lives together, marriage, the future…all that fun stuff.  We pretty much agreed that we were both interested in marriage.  About this time, we went on our first vacation together — a Caribbean cruise in June 2014.  I’d already been dropping subtle hints about proposing, and some friends and family didn’t help this much when they kept saying that surely Alan was going to propose on the cruise.

He didn’t propose, but we had a great time together anyway.  It was the first time for both of us on a cruise, and the first time Alan had ever been out of the country, so we had adventures and laughs and it was great.

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It wasn’t until a few months later, when I was starting to get very discouraged, that Alan finally popped the question and successfully surprised me with it.  One random Sunday in October 2014, while we were both wearing pajama bottoms and old t-shirts, and after I’d had a headache most of the day and he’d been in a sour mood after grocery shopping, Alan made us dinner (not unusual, as he’s the cook in our relationship).  After eating, while we were still sipping on our wine, the conversation veered back over to marriage and the future again, something that had been happening on a regular basis by this point.  And then he asked me to marry him, I asked if he was serious (I couldn’t tell), and he pulled an engagement ring out of his pocket.

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Fast forward almost eleven months later, and at the end of August 2015, we found ourselves at the front of my church.  He was wearing a tux.  I was in a white dress and veil and tiara (because tiara).  One best man, one groomsman, one maid of honor, and three bridesmaids were standing next to us.  And in front of our family and friends, we declared our love and made vows and at the end we were pronounced husband and wife.

What’s most impressive, I think, is that I managed to not completely break down sobbing in the middle of the vows.

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We went on our honeymoon the next day to Jamaica, and spent a whole, wonderful week at an all-inclusive resort.  It was heaven just to be together, without work dragging us apart or the normal distractions of the day to day.

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We’ve been home now for a little over a week.  And we’ve been married for a little over two weeks.  There are no words to fully describe how happy I am (or how much I teared up again writing all of this).  We’re on to new adventures together — Alan is starting to talk at tech conferences, and I’m in the process of starting my writing career for real.  Soon, we hope to be house hunting.

But I for sure will never forget the St. Patrick’s Day of 2012, when I started talking to this guy on eHarmony…our first cruise together in 2014 where everyone was convinced he was going to propose…the night he really did pop the question in October 2014…or the beautiful, sunny August 22, 2015, when we got married.

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(If you’d like to read Alan’s post about all this he did on his website, that can be found here.  It made me tear up, but that’s also largely because he doesn’t tend to get sappy about us online, so it was a lovely surprise.)

Dublin Irish Festival 2015

Yes, this is a couple of weeks late — but better late than never, right?

This year was my sixth year dancing at the Dublin Irish Festival in Dublin, Ohio.  I dance with Columbus Celtic Dancers, the adult branch of the Dublin Richens/Timm Academy of Irish Dance.

I kind of can’t believe this was my sixth year dancing at the festival, and competing in the adult dance competition of the Columbus Feis.  Oh, the adventures I’ve had over the last many years.  I didn’t take as many pictures this year as I usually do (probably because by this point all the pictures are starting to look mostly them same year-to-year), and somehow my camera screwed up and I didn’t get a copy of the full group picture of my dance group to share with you, but here’s a look at the wonderful people I get to dance with every year!

 

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Here’s the four of us who competed in the Columbus Feis, along with our wonderful dance teacher, Allanda (in the middle of the group).

 

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This picture has become something of a running tradition between my friend, Shana, and me. We always have to be ridiculous backstage…for no other reason than we can.

 

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And here’s a final picture of a few of us dancers backstage before we performed during Dublin Irish Festival weekend!

Having Courage, Taking Leaps

Yesterday was my last day at the job I’ve had for five years.

It was a scary thing, making the decision to turn in my notice two weeks ago.  But it was a decision that had to be made.  It was one that my fiance and I had discussed for months, one that I’d fretted about and fussed over.

An important thing I’ve learned over the last year or so is that when a job makes you feel like mine did — irritable, depressed, spending all weekend dreading coming into work on Monday — it’s not worth it.  I tortured myself with that job for months, years.  I never wanted to become a “subject matter expert” in the type of work I did, and as soon as I was considered that no one would ask anyone else questions or give them issues to solve.  While the workload grew at an insane rate, no new employees were hired on to handle it — until it had gotten so completely out of control that there was little hope of us getting ourselves back above water.  I grew stressed, got constant tension headaches, cried at work and at home multiple times a week, and felt depressed — literally depressed — every single day I had to be in that office.

And I’ve learned when it gets to that point, it’s time to walk away.

I loved the people I worked with.  My coworkers themselves were awesome and funny and good people.  I enjoyed the times I got to spend with those people outside of the office, and also the conversations we had during those rare moments.  I felt guilty turning in my notice, because I knew that my leaving was only going to put the rest of the team further under — but I had to do it.

And you know what?  About an hour after I turned my notice in, once the panic about taking that step had subsided, the weight lifted off my chest, I felt light and happy again for the first time in months.  And in that moment, I knew I had made the right choice.

I’m lucky to have a fiance who is so supportive, who encouraged me to look after my health rather than sticking with a job that made me feel so hopeless and stuck.

Now it’s on to new dreams and new paths.  I’m going to focus on my writing — something I’ve wanted to be able to make a career out of for most of my life.  And, at least in the situation I was in at my now-previous job, that wasn’t something I was able to really do.

So have courage and take the leap.  It’s scary, but you’ll know when it’s right.

Planning a Wedding

First of all, welcome to my new website!  And by “new” I mean it was created a couple of months ago, and I’m only just now adding a new post to it.  The rest of the posts you see on the site before this one were imported from the blog I kept up for a few years.

But why was a website set up a couple of months ago and I haven’t added a new post until now, you ask?  Well, I’ve been a little busy, and getting busier by the day.

And that’s because I’m getting married in 69 days!

The months since Alan and I got engaged back in October have been filled with making arrangements with venues and vendors, shopping for dresses and tuxes, organizing the wedding party and the music.  The weeks since my wonderful fiancé and resident tech nerd surprised me with this domain and website have been filled with alterations fittings, getting the invitations together, making final to-do lists that take up an entire closet door, and starting the process of picking out all the décor for the ceremony and reception.

I’m a stubborn, stubborn girl.  I find there to be no reason to hire a wedding planner when I can just do it all myself.  And it would probably stress me out more having a wedding planner anyway, because I wouldn’t have complete control over everything.  But, yes, it’s true.  Doing the wedding planning yourself is a lot to do if you’re not a professional event planner in the first place.  (The way I look at it, though, during these months I’m gaining a lot of life experience I can use down the road.)

So that’s where I’ve been for the last months.  And that’s where I’ll be for the next two.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a couple more wedding-related posts here before the wedding day comes.

Why Don’t You Ever Write Nice Things?

I don’t remember what exactly triggered that question a few years ago.  I was probably researching something weird or disturbing…maybe it was during the medical dictionary incident…but in any case whatever “not nice” information I was on the hunt for caused one of my parents to ask, “Why don’t you ever write nice things?”

(The medical dictionary incident, for reference, was because I couldn’t find what I needed on Google, so I asked my mom where the medical dictionary was…she asked why I needed it…I explained I needed to look up head injuries for a novel…and she just kind of blinked at me and pointed at the closet.)

Why don’t you ever write nice things?

I can’t remember what exactly my answer was.  Likely I just shrugged.  There’s also a large chance I answered with something like “because nice things are boring.”  And that’s the truth for me.  Nice things are perfectly nice, but they’re also perfectly boring for me to write about.  I’ve tried to write humor before…I’ve tried to write happy little tales…and they never work for me.  I have a lovely, nice life…but that doesn’t mean anyone would want to read a novel about it.

So what made me think of this?  I’m currently doing research and starting to write the first draft of a novel about Jonestown and Peoples Temple — the cult that committed mass suicide by drinking Kool Aid laced with cyanide (and other poisons) on November 18, 1978.

Now…see…while I find this fascinating to research…while I get all nerdy about the psychology behind Peoples Temple, and how Jim Jones managed to convince over 900 people to drink poison, and just cults in general…the whole concept of me reading these things creeps out a lot of other people.

My roommates?  Not so much.  They’re used to me researching weird things.

My boyfriend?  He’s a trooper.  He seems to find it vaguely amusing when I do things like this.

My parents?  I think I’ve desensitized them to the whole Erin’s-Googling-things-that-should-never-be-in-her-search-history-ever by now.  If nothing else, they know it’s just best to smile and nod.

But people who aren’t writers, or who don’t deal with my research oddities on a regular basis are a little more open in their reactions when they see me reading a book written by, say, a Peoples Temple defector.

This is what first happened a few weeks ago.  At dance class, while a performance I wasn’t going to be in was being ran through, I decided to entertain myself for a few moments by reading Six Years with God, a book written by Peoples Temple defector Jeannie Mills.  One of my fellow dancers asked what I was reading, so I showed her the cover, where it said rather prominently that it was about Jim Jones and the Temple.

My fellow dancer’s eyes kind of widened and she just said, “…..Oh,” in a semi-disturbed voice.

Why can’t I write nice things?

And then this past Sunday, in between church services that I was ringing handbells in, I was reading a different book — Seductive Poison, written by Temple defector (and Jonestown survivor) Deborah Layton Blakely.  One of my fellow bell choir members asked what I was reading, and I explained what it was…and she too just kind of took the smile-and-nod approach.

The fact of the matter is, nice things are boring for me to write about.  And in order to write about the not-nice things I prefer to write about, particularly if those not-nice things are based on history or rather complicated psychological manipulations, research must be done.

It’s not my fault that I just get overly excited about the research!  (That’s just my inner Ravenclaw.)

Regardless of what people say, I’m going to write what I want to write, nice or not.  It’s my belief if there’s a story that is begging you to tell it, then you have to give that story a chance.  This story about Jonestown has been brewing in me for several years now, and its only recently that a few characters came along to give the story a voice.

And so their story will be told.

**If you’re interested in reading about the story of Peoples Temple or about life inside Jonestown from the perspective of people who experience it first hand, I highly recommend both of the books I’ve mentioned above: Six Years with God (by Jeannie Mills) and Seductive Poison (by Deborah Layton Blakely).**

Greetings from Write Stuff! (Plus Music…)

I know, I know.  It’s been another while.  But my life has been one chaos after another for the last several weeks to the point where I just blinked and it’s almost April.  Between my grandfather passing away in mid-February (not really unexpectedly), constant business at the day job, my car having a rather large and dramatic temper tantrum (yay for breaking down on the highway while going to writers group), and St. Patrick’s Day (Irish dancer, ya know…), I kind of can’t believe we’re almost done with March already.  Where did time go?!

Now, while I could colorfully elaborate on some of the stuff mentioned above (most namely the car drama, which was the most frustrating thing of late), I’m not going to.  Why?  First of all, some of that stuff was weeks ago and that seems very belated to rant about it.  Second of all, it’s very late and I kind of just want to go to sleep.  But I also wanted to give you an update.

And some music.

Most important update, really–I’m writing this from a hotel room in Allentown, PA rather than from the floor of my bedroom in Dublin, OH.  I’m at the Write Stuff conference, for my second year, and I’ve been having a BLAST!  Today I actually went to a few of the pre-conference workshops, which was something I didn’t participate in last year.  (Remember last year?  That was the trip in which all the things went wrong with my flights.  Yeah.  Gooooood times, guys.  Good times.)  This year, my only flight drama was a bout of airsickness.  And while that’s not fun either, it’s incredibly less anxiety-inducing than finding out your flight was never supposed to exist in the first place.

I’m sure I’ll give you a full and beautiful run-down of the conference either tomorrow night, after it’s over, or Sunday, but for now just know I’m having a great time!

And now, before I go pass out in preparation for another full day of conferencing, have a song.  That’s the other update, really–I’ve started research (and written the opening) for a new project that tells the story of the Jonestown tragedy in 1978.  Yup, you know me and writing all the cheery things.  Anywho, this song below really struck me when I heard it, and it makes me think of that project.  I have no doubt that it’s already become my “theme song” for this currently-untitled WIP.  I hope you like it too (it’s very pretty)!

Good night!

Someone Who Believes

I got cut from the ABNA contest yesterday.  While I was disappointed, obviously, I was relatively okay.  Getting to Round 2 is always something of a long shot, and I was very lucky to make it to that (and beyond) last year.  Getting cut at this juncture hurt a lot worse than getting cut as far into the contest as I did last year, to be honest.  By this morning, I was more or less fine.

However, I happened to stumble upon this quote by Stephen King from his book On Writing today.  And after yesterday, when a lot of people were telling me they were sorry I didn’t make the cut, it spoke something more to me than I originally read it in the book a few years ago.

“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to makes speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”
 

The thing is, I’m really lucky to have several people who believe in me.  And after yesterday, and all the other rejections they’ve seen me get, I feel like they need to be thanked.  Because I am grateful.  I truly am.  So here are just a few of the people I’m blessed enough to have in my life and who have made it very clear how much they believe in me.

That’s me when I was 2 years old playing with my parents’ typewriter (and that’s my dad with me).

  • My parents.  When I was still too young to read on my own, they read to me nightly and took me on trips to the library to get books.  I firmly believe they’re the reason I have such an active imagination (because of all those stories in my life at such a young age).  And when I told them I wanted to study Creative Writing in college, they didn’t scoff or tell me no or tell me to major in something more likely to get a job quickly–they told me they wanted me to be happy, they wanted me to study something that makes me happy.  And ever since graduating and beginning querying, they’ve cheered me on.
  • My sister, Laura, because she’s a good enough sport to beta read for me when she has the free time.  And then she gets just as excited about some of my stories as I do (the ones she’s read, anyway).
  • Obviously my writers group, the Marysville Writers Group, who welcomed me with open arms a couple of years ago and have been my writerly support system ever since.
  • My friends and my two roommates, all of who are just awesome and who support me in their own special, sometimes sarcastic ways.
  • My boyfriend, Alan, who hung out with me last night after I got cut and seemed to make it his personal mission to get me to smile.  And then when he asked what I do now that ABNA’s over for me, and I told him I’m going back to querying, he seems to have made it his personal mission to make sure I get my querying done.

So I’m pretty lucky when it comes to having a support system for my writing life.  And I’m so glad I have all these people in my life.

LIFE UPDATE: Write Stuff, ABNA 2013, and Revisions

I know.  It’s been forever and a day since I posted here.  On the bright side…I’ve been journaling more since the New Year (and by “more” I mean…more or less once a week…but coming from someone who hasn’t kept a journal in probably a good decade, that’s pretty impressive), so I haven’t been completely idle.

It’s been a rather busy start to the New Year, which is why I haven’t gotten around to writing an update post on this blog until now.  In my non-writing life, it’s been a blur of my day job, family stuff, friend stuff, HPA stuff, hanging out with the boyfriend, Irish dancing, stupid weather, and meetings meetings meetings.  Or that’s what it feels like.  I’ve been on the move practically the entire start of this year, so I’m having a lot of trouble processing the fact that it’s already mid-February.  Time flies.

In my writing life, however, I kind of highlighted the big three things going on in the title, so how about I highlight them down in the actual post as well?  Sound good?  Yes?  Awesome.

Write Stuff

I’m going back to the Write Stuff conference again in March.  This will be my second year attending and I’ll be doing some of the pre-conference stuff this year, so I’m pretty excited about that.  Granted, I haven’t actually gone yet, seeing as how it’s not for another month, so really all the time it’s taken up thus far has to do with me picking out what I wanted to do and then registering…and then booking flights and hotel.  Always an adventure.  If I can just avoid last year’s travel nightmare, I’ll be a happy camper!

ABNA 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m entered in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest for the second year.  In the weekend before entries opened, I was scrambling to clean up my novel more (meaning I reread and did minor tweaks on it for literally six hours the Sunday before entries opened).  However, now we’re in that wonderful stage of waiting.  We’re in limbo.  And all of us are just commiserating with each other over on the ABNA forums and counting down.  The cuts for Round 2 are announced on Wednesday of this week, so the panic has set in pretty effectively by now.  I should probably make sure I have some antacids at home.

Revisions

I’ve been a crazy person and trying to revise multiple projects at a time.  Which might account for the fact that little has gotten done on any of them.  I think of these revisions I should be doing and my brain seizes up and I quickly get distracted by shiny objects.  It’s an entertaining, if highly unproductive, process.  I should probably just focus on one project to revise right now, but they’re all so wonderful.  I can’t choose between my babies.  In any case, the procrastination monkey is mostly what’s been going on on the revisions side of things (and pretty much every other side of things writing-wise too…I’m surrounded by procrastination monkeys).  However, I have novel documents open on my computer at home…so…step in the right direction, yes?

There’s your update for now.  I’ll hopefully update again in the next few days.  But tonight?  Tonight I’m going to a Harry and the Potters concert and will be nerding it out hardcore with my fellow Potterheads.  All is right in the world for tonight.

Stay awesome!