7QT: The Accountability Edition

— 1 —

How’s that novel?


Cristina of Filling My Prayer Closet agreed to be my accountability partner.  We’re sworn to pester each other publicly on Fridays and remind each other of our goals.  I was thinking a tweet, a Facebook poke…

…and wouldn’t you know it?  She wrote an entire blog post about it.

Clearly my accountability partner means business.

— 2 —

My current goal is to have my second round of plot revisions/outlining done by this coming Monday, September 15th.  The kids and I leave for Oregon the following day, and it’d be great to have an outline done, finished, finito-Mussolini, before I go.

Revising my outline has become a form of Pressfield-esque Resistance for me.  I could revise from here until Kingdom Come and never actually start writing that second draft.  I need to cut myself off, and September 15th seems as good a deadline as any.

— 3 —

Here’s a section what I did while in Minnesota:

Screenshot 2014-09-12 at 3.06.26 PM

Pretty impressive, huh?

Impressively worthy of the PROCRASTINATION AWARD.

Now I’m morphing the above plot outline from a 1st person POV to a 3rd person, double POV/double protagonist.  Goals-Motivations-Conflict chart for character external goals (only the characters whose goals move the plot lines):

Screenshot 2014-09-12 at 5.10.38 PM

Outline of major plot points for each plot line:

Screenshot 2014-09-12 at 5.12.57 PM

Outline of individual scenes, in order:

Screenshot 2014-09-12 at 5.14.21 PM

This last one isn’t anywhere near finished, but it will be by Monday.

— 4 —

Commercial break!

This video is one my son’s current favorites.  So, so funny.  “Look at me busting out at the seams…”

— 5 —

“But I thought you had a draft…”

I do.  It’s the junk draft.  The exploratory draft.  The “let’s-get-through-this-story-and-see-what-happens” pantsing draft.

This is the real work.

— 6 —

“What does ‘T.H.A.D.’ stand for?”

Talking Head Avoidance Device, courtesy of Elizabeth George.  It’s the thing that’s being done while characters are having Important Conversations.

I tend to lean on dialogue too much; T.H.A.D. reminds me to think through actions, first.

— 7 —

There you go, Cristina.  Accountability!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

A Small and Unsettling Thought


If I were to die today or soon, I would have little to show for my life.

What works of love?  What works of God’s grace, incarnate in the world?

There’s nothing I can point to and nothing I can claim except my own selfishness and the hope of God’s mercy.  And I wouldn’t want to presume upon the latter.

When this thought came to mind as I drove the kids home from Ben’s therapy appointment, St. Thomas Aquinas and his work of “straw” also flitted across the mental radar screen.  All Thomas’s hard work and writing, and yet nothing next to the greatness of God.

There’s something here for me, for pondering.

ASUS Chromebook, CWG Conference, Minnesota, and More—All Part of Your Quarter-to-Two Rise-and-Shine Morning Edition of 7QT

Joining Jen and the gang with 7 Quick Takes.


— 1 —

It’s 2:12 a.m.  I’m up.  How about you?

Lazy bums.

— 2 —

This + me = love:


I love my ASUS Chromebook. Really.  Truly. Do.

I’ve been meaning to write an SEO-laden lovefest of a post devoted to my darling ASUS, but I doubt I’ll ever have time for that.  Here’s a list instead:

  1. 2.5 lbs.  Fits in my purse.
  2. Keyboard feels normal-sized to me.
  3. Trackpad is smooth as buttah.
  4. The battery?  It goes, and goes, and goes.  I can go a full day of hard work, and up to a couple of days with intermittent work, without charging.  It’s amazing.
  5. Chrome OS? Love it.  No issues.  I was already a ubuntu devotee, if only for the fact that I don’t have to buy virus protection.  (Or software.  Or the OS, for that matter.)  Chrome appeals to me for the same reasons—it’s not bloated and it updates itself.
  6. I’ve figured out the workaround for almost every single thing I need to do on a computer, with the exception of Adobe and Scrivener (and the latter isn’t necessary right now).  My life already ran out of Google; now Google owns me.
  7. Beats using a tablet, any day.
  8. Did ya see the price tag?

I take it pretty much everywhere and do pretty much everything with it.  My only complaint is that the screen is a little shiny.  But for $230, that’s a flaw I’ll take.

— 3 —



…is the pile of brochures, notes, and business cards from the Catholic Writers Guild conference in July, still sitting on my desk.  I’ve meant to follow up with everyone I met, but with our vacation, followed by one sitter moving out and the other sitter moving in, followed by the start of school—it hasn’t happened.

Soon.  In the meantime, I can encourage any and all Catholic writers out there to GO to the live conference next year.  It’ll be in New Jersey, but don’t let that deter you.

— 4 —

(I just made a NJ joke.  Can you tell I’m married to a NYer?)

— 5 —

My review of Rachel Jonat‘s new book, Do Less, is live at Real Housekeeping today.  Take a moment and check it out.  I’m a big fan of Jonat’s blog and have found her brand of minimalism both practical and life-altering.

— 6 —

Minnesota vacation photo dump:













— 7 —

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, everyone.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Yarn Along: Not Really Yarning Along. But I’m Reading Some Good Stuff!


My bag is slow-going. The trick to knitting, I’ve learned, is to knit.


I made some progress on our recent road trip (pictures, yes, I know), but while at the cabin I took a break from the bag and knit a pair of fingerless mittens as a thank you gift for our last babysitter. Can’t seem to find the picture I took of them, however.

Reading: I’ve rejoined the God’s Embrace program, now that Mimi is a little older. This year Michael Fonseca, the founder, is leading all Year Two and Year Three participants through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. … 

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Four Years Old (and Mama’s Feeling It)



Ben turned four years old yesterday.

Today, he’s at school.  From 9:30 to 3:30.


Anyone else feeling old?  How did this happen?

We spent his birthday morning at the zoo.  John Ball Zoo of Grand Rapids is a great mid-sized zoo for a mid-sized metropolis.  It provided plenty to see while not too big for Ben to walk the length of it.

IMG_4827 (1)

Married at 24, five years of fighting infertility, Ben in 2010, Mimi in 2013, and time marches on.

(Non sequitur, sort of: I was a teenager when my parents were my age.  Imagine that!)



Don't forget about me!

Don’t forget about me!

Four candles.

Four candles.  Truly disgusting cake from Meijer.

Robin Hood bow and arrow.

Robin Hood bow and arrow from Grandma and Granddad.

Drunk on birthday fun.

Too much birthday fun.

Self-Care Conundrum

“Do you have a piece of paper?” I asked my therapist today.

She stood up and, folding back used pages, handed me a yellow legal pad.

“I need some help here,” I said.  “I’ve already given up so many hobbies because I know I don’t have time.  So I need some help figuring out how to do self-care—”

I wrote, “Food,” on my list and began ticking off my food items.  She listened.  I wrote, “Exercise,” and began ticking off items.  And what about writing?  And sleep?  And my necessary morning puttering?

She listened as I named off my self-care tasks items and asked her how to fit them into my schedule.  But then, like a bird of prey, she swooped in for the kill.

“You know, I was wondering where I could interject—” she said.  I paused, and she continued.  “When I said self-care, I was thinking of things that are not goal-oriented.  Perhaps doing nothing.”

I’m not good at doing nothing.



Dishes: Choosing Between Heaven and Hell (#GoodEnoughMom)

Linking up with Charity at The Wounded Dove.

I hate doing dishes.  I’d rather clean bathrooms than do dishes.  I’d rather fold laundry than do dishes.  I’d rather do anything yucky or tedious than face the Goliath that is dishes spilling out of my sink.

We do not have a dishwasher.  Old house, old house problems.  But even if we did have a dishwasher, I’d still hate doing the dishes.

In high school I worked as a dishwasher/buser/food prepper at a great local seafood dive.  (Don’t ask me what my oyster-laden clothes smelled like.)  We washed all the dishes by hand except the glasses and silverware.  While I enjoyed and appreciated the job, I had my fill of dishwashing—enough for two lifetimes.

But doing the dishes makes for good writing.


“The ordinary activities I find most compatible with contemplation are walking, baking bread, and doing laundry,” says poet Kathleen Norris… 

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I Was Tagged! My Writing Process

¡Hola!  We survived the mosquitoes!  Pictures of our jolly good time coming soon.

Cristina alerted me to the fact that Anabelle tagged me in a writer’s questionnaire.  Does that mean it’s time to shake off the vacation brain and get back to work?

Oh, okay. Fine.

Just kidding.  I need a kick in the rear end, anyway.

What are you working on?

The Muse paid me a visit early one morning the other day while I was communing with nature, Minnesota-style.  I have the plot of my novel reworked and refined up through the midpoint.

Reworking the first “junk” draft is tough stuff.  Having a draft at all is a huge success—if you also write fiction, you know what I mean—but revision?  Whew.

Non-fiction:  Real Housekeeping is gearing up for a big week next week—we are having a week of posts centered on the theme of home routines.   That’s keeping me busy at the moment.  I also have a few articles in various stages of work for other outlets.

What makes your work different from others’ work in the same genre?

What makes it different?  I suppose it’s different because I’m the one writing it.  Is that too flip an answer?

My novel (contemporary setting) wants to go in two directions: character-driven literary fiction and fun chick lit. For me, it’s a good and necessary tension;  I’d hate to be too serious.  I also have two protagonists with opposite personalities and voices, making the book float back and forth a bit between the two genres.

But for the most part, the novel will be literary fiction.  It has heavy Catholic themes, but not without internal criticism: the character hardest to understand/love/empathize with is the uber-Catholic.  It also has some specifically adult themes, such as sexual addiction.  You didn’t know I had it in me, did ya?

Why do you write what you do?

If I didn’t write—and when I don’t—I’m a miserable frog-on-a-bump-on-a-log.

Story development is a strange beast.  It grows organically over time until the story itself is ripe.  At mine stands now, the protagonists were not the initial protagonists when this idea first came to mind.  The first protagonist is now a minor character.  Funny, huh?

I do know this:  I have a better plan of the story up to my midpoint because that’s the part I see and understand now.  I’ve intuited that part.  The second half?  I have some work to do on my own soul before I can redo that part. My writing comes out of my own encounter with the world.

How does your writing process work?

When I’m on my A-game, I use the early mornings to work on the novel.  Prayers first, then novel.  No email, no Hootsuite, nada.   I usually take a moment to collect my thoughts and figure out my goal for the day.  (If I’m on my A+ game, I will have done this the day before.)

I try to imagine the scene—the characters involved, their desires and conflicts, and what actions are happening in the scene.  Because I do have a character-driven story, it’s even more important to determine what everyone’s external actions are in the scene.  The scene should be able to play out on a movie screen.

I start with either the dialogue (for me, easy) or external action (on the contrary, difficult).  Once I have that in place, I start adding other elements, including setting, character description, etc.  I never start with straight narration; that comes last, as I’m editing the scene.

So far, my scenes average about 5-8 detailed revisions before I put them aside for later.

My turn to tag!  Erin, have you done this?  And what about you, Laura?  Or Barb?  I’m happy to keep tagging if you all want…

Off the Grid

I spent last week in Chicago at the Catholic Writers Guild annual conference.

This week we’re off to…


Mosquitoes love me.


…Minnesota.  Cabin, lake, pontoon, kayak, Granny-Nana, aunties and uncles, and NO WI-FI.

See ya later, peeps.