I ran out of episodes of Parenthood / March 2015 progress update

I really need to get better at juggling my workflow. Somehow I ended up with all three of my completed manuscripts out to beta readers and my editor at the same time.  This would have been perfect if I hadn't run out of Parenthood episodes to watch on Amazon prime, BUT somehow, the two coincided. While I wait for  my name to creep up the hold list at the local library, I'm taking some time to update a few things on my website and start on marketing materials for the new releases. I have preliminary designs for all the book covers and am working on the back cover blurbs.

I started off 2015 with too many completed (but not edited) projects on my computer and several new stories bouncing around in my head. I promised my husband that I'd get my finished books out before starting any others.  My plan is to release my  YA romance this summer followed by Totem and Summit in the Fall. Or perhaps I will do it in the other order. Either way, if things go according to plan, I'll have four novels out in the world by the end of the year and hopefully at least one new project in the works. I'm sure I'll finish watching the end of Parenthood too :)


A weekend unplugged in Wyalusing State Park / Inspiration gathering

A planned camping trip landed at the absolutely perfect time for me. Four days after my book came out on Amazon, I left my laptop behind and went with my husband, in-laws, and kids to Wyalusing State Park. We spent the weekend hiking around the park and canoeing on the Mississippi. It. Was. Awesome. 

Being 100% unplugged from internet/social media was such a blessing. It was so nice to not have anything book/blog related to do. I brought my kindle for reading at bedtime, but other than that it was a low tech weekend.  For anyone wondering, Wyalusing is a beautiful state park in the Southeastern corner of Wisconsin. It rests on the bluffs above where the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers converge. We really loved the 2.4 mile hiking trail that went down to Big Sand Cave and Little Sand Cave. Big Sand Cave is large enough that you can actually climb down into it, while Little Sand cave is more of an overlook to a little waterfall. I love all the gorgeous colors in the sandstone.

Photographs © Jeremy and Kristin Albright Top row: Little Sand Cave, Look out on the bluff trail, Hiking trail  to Big Sand Cave. Horizontal photos: canoeing on the Mississippi, climbing up to treasure cave. Bottom right: Big Sand Cave

Photographs © Jeremy and Kristin Albright
Top row: Little Sand Cave, Look out on the bluff trail, Hiking trail  to Big Sand Cave. Horizontal photos: canoeing on the Mississippi, climbing up to treasure cave. Bottom right: Big Sand Cave

Another worth while hike goes along the bluff down to the Keyhole rock formation. If you are not afraid of ladders or heights (and are not traveling with little ones) you can climb down one ladder and then climb up another into Treasure Cave. My mother-in-law stayed with our children while my husband and I climbed up to the cave. I remember making this hike in my childhood, and I think I must have been braver back then . (For what it's worth, the cave was every bit as high as I remember.)

I think the highlight of the weekend for the whole family was the six mile canoe trip on the Mississippi. I was nervous because I have a toddler, and I didn't know how well he would do being contained in the boat. Luckily, he and his big sister sat side-by-side behind me - mesmerized the entire time. We saw turtles, blue herons, and bald eagles. There were piles of empty shells along the shore that we guessed were left by river otters. We watched trains, river barges, and houseboats. They loved every single "big wave" that came from passing motor boats. Despite the dark sky we stayed warm and dry, and ended the trip with everyone in good spirits. 

The pair of books I am currently editing (Totem and Summit) take place in Wisconsin. This camping trip not only served as a much needed weekend "off," but also as a "world building"/inspiration trip. The caves, pools, valleys, and trails are all part of Ellery's world. If you ever get the chance to visit I'd recommend taking it; Wisconsin is a beautiful place :)


Organizing the Scenes for a First Draft / Summit

While I waited for my last round of readers  to give me their feedback on Totem, I figured it was time to dive back into Summit (the follow-up Novel to Totem). While I was writing the rough draft of Totem, I just jotted down everything that needed to happen before the ending. I had most of the main ideas sketched out, but very few of the details; It made the writing fun and loose and somewhat impulsive. 

Shortly after beginning Summit it became clear that my old approach was not working.   I found myself with about 60 pages of non-sequential scenes typed up and realized that I needed to utilize a different organizational approach with this project.  Tonight, I was reading through those 60 pages wondering how to organize it all. Then I remembered a trick I learned in high school about using index cards to organize a research paper. The idea was to put one fact on each card (along with it's bibliographical information), and then put the cards in order. It worked so well in high school that I returned to the method whenever I had a longer paper due in college.

Obviously there's no bibliographical information to account for here, but there are a lot more than 15 pages to organize.  I pulled my left-over note-cards out of my desk supplies drawer and sat down to work.

Follow up:  Less than 24 hours later and I have over 40 cards (in chronological order! ) to serve as my outline for Summit. (YAY!) I spent a couple of hours writing down as many turning points and scenes that I could think of. Afterward I lined up all the cards in chronological order. WAY easier than writing it a notebook and drawing arrows all over the place. I even color coded the cards. Blue for conflict, Pink for relationship developments, Yellow for important news/turning points, and white for connecting scenes.  Now I can really get going on that draft!