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 :)


Life Inspires Fiction - Sand Mining in Central Wisconsin

The idea for Totem began percolating in my mind back in January of 2011.  I had a lot of the details worked out with  the legend and fantasy end of the story, but I was missing the major conflict. Obviously no major conflict = no book. Over time, the characters kept coming back into my imagination and prodding me to fight through my writers block.  

Fast forward a year in a half, In the summer of 2012, a large scale sand mine put in a request for a conditional use permit just 6 miles from our house. The town I lived in was in a bit of an up-roar over the proposal. As I researched the mine, the potential health hazards,  the environmental impact and the likely changes that would come to town I became saddened and frustrated. The proposed mine was near a large State Natural Area that had been created on donated land.  If the mine were to be approved, the donor's backyard would be against the sand mine.  

I couldn't imagine how I would feel if the property I purchased was adjacent to the proposed site - an area that was currently zoned solely for agriculture. How I would feel about a mine that ran 24 hours a day? An operation that would require a parade of dump trucks to transport the sand, and floodlights that would illuminate the work-site all night long. It didn't fit with the values of many local residents - people who had chosen to live further from the convenience of the cities for the benefit of a quiet area where nature was just out their back door.


During the uproar, I read whatever I could get my hands on; but from what I researched, it seemed unlikely that the mine would be turned away. Even though there was no official outcome, I took the advice of a teacher who once told us to "Write about a time where things didn't go your way. Change your biggest disappointment." And so it began; in Totem, the five main characters, Ellery, Josh, Nodin, Sasha, and Cole work together to fight a mine that has been proposed in their town of Oshedina. 

At this point in time the particular mine that inspired the conflict in Totem has has been "approved," BUT there is a legal battle waging between the county and a large group of land owners. I have since moved away from that town but I often think of the landowners who are fighting that battle everyday. And for their sake I hope someone like Cole or Nodin, or Ellery joins their fight.

Anyone that is interested in following the latest news on sand mining in Central Wisconsin can "like" the Preserve Waupaca County Group found on their Facebook page. I thank them for their permission to use the above photo in this post.

What about you? Have you ever found inspiration from conflict in your life?