Color Names: a helpful resource for writers

In doing the descriptive exercises on color from the wonderful Writer’s Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long. The word azure lapped around my head. Crimson is a favorite.

As I started to  reach for more, I realized it’d be useful to have a list of even more descriptive names. I started looking online for more suggestions.

Color Thesaurus

That’s when found this amazing web page from Ingrid Sundberg, The Color Thesaurus! She groups a diverse collection of related names together in tiles, with the example of the color as well as its name.

Here’s an example:

 

 

Revised Pink_Color Thesaurus

the “Pinks” tile from The Color Thesaurus by Ingrid Sundberg

Wow! That’s so many different words.

I am showing the pink one here because these are my favorite tones, and even within this I thought I had a solid variety of vocabulary to choose from. 

Nope! This resource has led me to discover more words – and hues – than I ever thought possible. “Ballet slipper” is one example of a name I never would’ve thought of on my own.

The neutral tiles such as white, black, gray and brown I find to be especially practical for expanding my writing practice. It turns out that there is a lot of variety beyond simply “ivory,” “black,” and “white.” The blues took me way beyond “navy.” 

Now I have a kaleidoscope of various tones I can pepper throughout my writing. 

These tiles offer up myriad uses: I also can use these as thought starters, a way to flesh out different objects in the scene, make my writing overall more precise and descriptive, or set the tone of my scene.

This is the whole point of the exercises as suggested by Long. Voila! I love when my understanding clicks into place and then expands all at once like this.

And I am definitely grateful when I stumble across resources like Long and Sundberg’s.

Other Resources?

What are other inspiring writing resources you use? Leave me a comment and let me know – any little bit helps!

Happy International Women’s Day!

International Women’s Day means to me: celebrating women. Doing and being me. Taking risks. Exploring. Standing up for myself. Listening to my inner voice and meeting my needs. Raising up other women. Disengaging from stuff I don’t believe in, stuff that tears women down. Being strong in and out of the workplace. Not listening to the “shoulds” anymore. Smirking when people tell me solo travel as a woman is “brave” (eyeroll much!?)

It’s stepping alone over snake tracks in the desert despite my fear, and marveling in the sunrise.

Making my own map, and my own destinations.

It’s celebrating the beauty in unexpected places. 

Much love to all my women and those who support us.

😘😘😘

 

solo women's travel

Catching sunrise in Death Valley

The Crocuses are out!

Spring has sprung! The crocuses (croci?) are out in a big way. It was sunny all day here, which made me very happy. Enjoy the purple, yellow, and white beauties!

I want to make this into a t-shirt

Someone I know who has published his own books agreed to read my book.

He had excellent notes throughout, and some of it was really helpful.

But.

At the end, he goes:

“You need to buy a book on plot and read it.”

ZING/OUCH.

Once I got over that BURN enough to digest what he was saying, I started laughing. Something about the writer-on-writer passive aggression makes me giggle.

FTR: hidden in this burn is a huge compliment – that my book is a very realistic portrayal of a journalist. Which, I realized after the smoke cleared, was exactly what I had set out to do.

https://cdn.meme.am/instances/400x/56631950/yes-.jpg

His biggest complaints were the last sentences in the last few chapters, and the bit between the climax and ending. I don’t exactly need to read a book to figure this out 😛 I do have some choices to make about the ending, which is fair. And it IS where I pushed to just GET IT DONE.

Writing a book is hard, and editing it is no fun. I’m grateful to everyone who reads it, and appreciate all the feedback.

And now I have a new t-shirt design.

The Book is Done.

OMFG I finished my book.

Book. is. done.

Me, finishing my book.

“Finish” is a strong word, of course. I  still need to have it edited, picked up by an agent, publisher, edited by them, etc. etc.

But! The biggest, hardest, baddest part is done. And:

I WROTE A NOVEL Y’ALL.

It clocks in at 296 pages, 113,496 words. WOO doggies! Now THAT is a BOOK!

I did a mad push the past two weeks. My life-coach-friend “Portland” kind of called me out on sniveling my way through my third year of writing this thing. I *was* working on editing the beta draft. The pieces to the dress were cut out, it just hadn’t been sewn together yet.

Of course, he wanted me to finish in a night. There IS a solid balance between creativity, burnout, and leaping over roadblocks (self-imposed or otherwise.)

Why bother with this book?

I heard something in this time that smashed through one of my “blocks.”

“I procrastinate because I think, ‘why bother? it’ll never be good enough. it will never reach my standards of perfection. who’s going to care, anyway?'”

Ooo ee. Was I there for that!

It was nice to learn that I’m not the only writer that feels this way.

I wasn’t finishing my book, and I knew it wasn’t because I was lazy, didn’t like my story, had ‘writer’s block,’ etc. etc. There was SOMETHING else going on. It felt like a squishy foam pad over a trap door, but I couldn’t identify it.

I have read so many books: Artist’s Way, Bird By Bird, On Writing.

Still didn’t really tip it off.

But then a friend, sharing on why he procrastinated at work, said the above.

Zing! Beautiful. Totally Tetris’d into place for me.

Just sit down and write

For me, I’ve always known the very ‘easy’ answer: “Just sit down and write.” But crawling past my mental harpies to do it has, at times, been incredibly difficult. Especially when the task seems Sisyphean. Like … writing a book. You have no idea how many more pages ‘to go.’ So you just keep going.

Recent Reads: Carnegie, Dune, a do not, & a must

Four days ago, I finished two books.

Two weeks ago, I finished an 800 page book in two days.

Two days ago, I finished two books.

Uh, what, LP? You ask.

Blessed audiobooks, that’s what!

Andrew Carnegie: The Biography (audio book)

This was fascinating. It was a really well-done biography (not always easy.) The author did well against Carnegie’s own widely read autobiography, against the myth and legend of the Carnegie name, and Carnegie’s wife’s fiercely protective work on his legacy.

I really enjoy learning how household names get their start. Carnegie came from NOTHING and got dang lucky with money. It really was like he was meant to have it. (This was also at the time before insider trading was illegal. It was par for the course for anyone in business. He saw opportunities and took them, major. He also took some massive risks – like, literally risked ALL.)

The most interesting part for me, aside from how one chooses to live with all that wealth, were the paradoxes contained in Carnegie: he didn’t want to give his workers raises or better hours, but he gave them, their communities, and communities around the world libraries and other donations that would drastically improve their quality of life. He was the least ruthless of the major capitalists of that age (by comparison), yet he made the most profit. Carnegie was a huge advocate for world peace, but considered making bullets and did make armor for warships. This poor immigrant had no political or formal education, but ended up with incredible access to multiple Presidents – to the point he annoyed them by being a doddering old man who injected his “thoughts” into major world events.

He was the richest man in the world, and the first millionaire to pledge to give away his millions.

I think history has tilted for Carnegie because of the huge impact donating his riches has had on the world (especially to libraries! Yeah!) Nonetheless, it was fascinating to learn about his many facets.

Dune (audio book)

FINALLY. I’ve been intending to read this book for about 10 years. Why hadn’t I? I have no idea.

It was … weird. It was science fiction, so of course it was weird. (Do the sand worms make it fantasy?)

I can see why it might have been amazing back in the day. Before ecological annihilation were mainstream. Before Eastern philosophy was so pervasive in Western vernacular.

Its top quote on Goodreads:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

The book is essentially how one Jesus-type figure grows up, and then confronts the apocalypse and return. Some of it is confusing and too esoteric. And some of it, like the quote above, were definitely probably revolutionary back in the day. In the current generation, it’s mainstream. Everything comes from somewhere, eh?

The main female character (the Mary figure) gets a bit annoying. Her inner life is portrayed as a little repetitive and anxious. Especially once her son comes “into his power.” He is still like 15, and she is supposed to be a highly trained, revered master? Yeah …

There was also one chapter where the author mentioned “her unborn child” like 97 times. I almost threw my phone across the room.

The ending was also a bit amorphous. I understand there’s a huge series after the original, but I would like to feel like I got some sense of what was going on after (especially since diary entries from the future were dotted throughout this book …)

I’m glad I’ve read it.I intend to look into a bit more about why it’s such a BFD.

No More Mr. Nice Guy (eBook)

This was an interesting book that I read for an online group. It is a quick read, with really in-depth exercises. (While it ostensibly aims at men, it applies to women too!) The author suggests meeting with a group and/or accountability partner, which would of course take longer. I’ve also done a lot of the work outlined in the book, so that probably helped speed things along.

I liked his no-BS style and his ability to cut to the core of issues. Most of which are fear, fear of abandonment, and feelings of inadequacy. His final chapter is on career, so that hit me pretty hard and gave me some good things to think about. I’d recommend it for a friend going through a transformational phase, who is willing to look at this stuff.

Top quote, via Goodreads:

“In general, people are not drawn to perfection in others. People are drawn to shared interests, shared problems, and an individual’s life energy.

Humans connect with humans. Hiding one’s humanity and trying to project an image of perfection makes a person vague, slippery, lifeless, and uninteresting.”

The Senator’s Wife (audio book)

Did you know that women struggle with how they look? Their changing roles as wives, child-bearers, and in the workplace? Did you know that childbirth is really painful? That famous men cheat? That it’s one-sided, and women have no autonomy or power in a relationship?

Then … don’t read this book.

I was looking for something “light” and I got it, alright. Blech.

Desert Solitaire (paperback)

This was my favorite of the bunch. I bought it at Terry Tempest Williams’ home book store, in Moab, the town at the center of the book’s geographic world. He wrote it while a park rangers at my favorite park down here, Arches.

I held on to the book for about six weeks after buying it, waiting to read it until I could savor it, and I am so glad I did. I’ve been reading it in bed and in coffee shops and over tea.

It’s a beautiful meditation on the region I’m in right now. The author, Edward Abbey, is basically the Thoreau of the Southwest. He is writing in the 1950s, a fascinating period of social change, when America shifted from a focus on the natural, the outdoors, to the cubicle and the city. He’s writing about a region that is some of the most remote and challenging in the country. He does it in a very focused and poetic way.

There’s a chapter he has on the National Parks System, automobiles, and Industrial Tourism that is amazing. You can read it here (not the same Lauren.) It really made me think, especially considering my own recent trip and what I’ve seen in the parks, from both the administrators and tourists. This chapter also made it ironic as hell that the Park Service is selling it in National Park gift shops. I’m sure that one has Abbey howling in his desert grave, either in indignation or appreciation for the double underline that does to his point.

I don’t often reread books, but because Abbey brings to life the atmosphere of this region that I love, it makes me want to dive back in again. I highly recommend it, and would venture to say it’s a must-read for college students.

Next?

What books are you reading? Which books should I read next? What are the best atmospheric nature books? The best biographies? What niche genre do you love?

Happy pages!

New Moon Intention Setting

My girl Yasmin at Moonology has some good questions for Monday’s New Moon. This is the perfect time for review (it’s also Mercury Retrograde!) as we wind down 2017 and head into 2018.

The New Moon

Yasmin says:

The New Moon in Sagittarius [tomorrow, December 18] Is always great for working out how much FUN you plan to have in the year ahead. Sagittarius is the sign of travel and adventure, after all. However the 2017 New Moon in Sagittarius is also taking place conjunct the planet of hard work, Saturn. So it’s also a very good time of the year for any of us to have a think about where we want our careers to go in 2018.

Careers!? Eep.

Her questions

The things to consider this New Moon are:

1. Did I work hard enough to achieve my ambitions in 2017?

2. Am I willing to work harder in 2018 or do I want more time off?

3. Where do I want to be in my career this time in 12 months?

4. What are the five top things I have to do, to achieve #3?

Name one place you really want to holiday in in 2018

 

My Answers

1. Did I work hard enough to achieve my ambitions in 2017?

YEP. I’m traveling. My book’s almost done. I quit DC and my job there. I’ve seen a ton of the parts of the US that I wanted to. I think I’m doing pretty well 🙂

2. Am I willing to work harder in 2018, or do I want more time off?

I suppose it depends on how you define this 🙂 Technically, I have “time off” right now, and I’ve had 7 months of it. That’s rare. I will need to make income. This year, I want to get money in a way that is fulfilling, and allows me time to write!

3. Where do I want to be in my career this time in 12 months?

My first book to be published, my second book to be drafted, and my third book proposal accepted.

4. What are the five top things I have to do to achieve #3?

a) Write (b: write. c: write. d: write. e: write.)

b) Reach out to literary agents

c) Persist.

d) Keep up my health

e) Keep up good habits

5. Name one place you really want to holiday in 2018.

Japan or Spain!

Affirmations

No better way to get to where you need to be than the power of positive thinking! Yasmin ends with some affirmations good for any time of year:

1. ‘I know that I am blessed.’

2. ‘Life is an adventure!’

3. ‘The world is my oyster!’

Your Answers

Now, tell me: how did you do in 2017? What do you intend to cultivate in 2018?

Being Social vs Being

I am about three months behind on my social media posts!

If you follow me on  Instagram or Facebook, I’m posting photos from Oregon. From the end of September. Eep!

Then again, who wouldn’t want to live in these images?

And you know from the blog, too, that it’s been hard to maintain anything like an up-to-date story here.

It is SUCH a double-edged sword.

Brain-cation

I am really proud of myself for taking the summer off, and not increasing my cell phone’s data package from 2G – on a family plan. With my parents! And using GPS semi-frequently.

Sure, I could’ve gotten more followers or engagement in the moment. But, part of this trip was that I was really burnt out on all the “glued-to-a-screen” connectivity of modern life and of my job. Especially my job.

And I really started to notice all the mindless scrolling I did when I did get back on wifi. Reddit. The latest SNL videos on Youtube. Facebook.

I’ve seen marked improvement in recent days. I think it’s because I started getting curious about the value add. And because I actually have things to do, like finish my novel and increase my Instagram followers – see below!

Moment vs. Memories

Plus, sometimes it takes a LONG time to craft posts. You have to drive to the place that has wifi, connect to wifi, download the images, sort them, edit them, log in to the social accounts, upload them, hope the wifi doesn’t crash in the middle of this (which has happened more than once!), caption them, hashtag them. THEN, you have to “engage” with people online by liking and commenting on their stuff. I mean, this is like a full-time job in some companies! ::shakes my head::

Meanwhile, I’d been sitting at a screen for the past 15 years. There’s an entire natural world out there to explore, and I want to make the most of the time that I have. This is a big country, and some of the destinations are far apart. The drives are long. The hikes are tiring. So sometimes it’s hard to have the brain power to want to buckle down and sit behind a screen.

Instagram Social Boost

I’m also proud of myself for figuring out a way to finally increase my Instagram following. In the last seven days, I’ve increased my followers by about 160 percent. Woo hoo! It’s taken some concentrated effort, and regular wifi access. But not very long per day to do. Which was awesome!

And, hey! If you’re not following me, go do it. Right now! www.instagram.com/laurenalism

Best Podcasts of the Year

Is it that time of year already? The “best of” podcast lists?

Spending as much time as I do hiking, setting up my campsite, and in the car, I consequently listened to a lot of podcasts this year. I love them because I can download them to play them anywhere, can play them over my car’s Bluetooth and listen in a variety of settings as mentioned above, and they are shorter than audiobooks.

10 of my perennial favorites are:

Vulture’s Best of 2017 include:
  • Missing Richard Simmons (devoured it before I left)
  • Binge Mode: Game of Thrones (not my jam)
  • First Day Back (a topic I’m interested in, so will add to my list)
  • Where Should We Begin (haven’t listened, it’s a maybe)
  • Ear Hustle (another topic I’m interested in, so will add to my list)
  • :74 Seconds (the gushing about the first four episodes intrigues me)
  • This American Life (I go in and out of this perennial favorite)
  • The Heart (haven’t heard of before now, so maybe)
  • The Daily (I can barely handle headlines, so news podcasts will never be my thing. I feel like I get enough headlines.)
  • S-Town (totally agree with its #1 position. Binged this amazing Southern Gothic profile when it came out. Serial was the first and best podcast I’ve listened to, so I will always immediately try anything under its umbrella.)
Entertainment Weekly’s Best of 2017 adds:
  • Mogul: The Chris Lighty Story (I agree. Binged this when it came out.)
  • Nancy (Haven’t heard of it. Will look into.)
  • 36 Questions (Jonathan Groff? A musical? I admonish my friends who didn’t let me know about this! Adding!)
  • Dirty John (Damn, this one was RIVETING. Listened to all 6 epis in a day.)
  • 30 for 30 (Yep, this one was great. As it should be, transfering from a successful tv series on a major network.)
  • Pod Save America (see my notes about The Daily.)
Time’s list adds:
  • Still Processing (Hadn’t heard of. I don’t usually like ‘conversational’ podcasts like this that are not interviews or storytelling.)
  • Reply All (I dip in now and then, if I’m caught by the topic du jour. They had a best-of epi last year I listened to that was pretty spectacular, but it was about incarceration, which is a topic that interests me.)
  • Dear Sugars (a good listen, I catch it when I can. For some reason I prefer to read rather than listen to advice columns, like Ask Polly.)
  • Larry Wilmore: Black on Air (Haven’t heard of or given it a listen.)
  • More Perfect (I’m intrigued, but haven’t heard of it before!)
  • 2 Dope Queens (I know everyone loves them. I don’t usually like these formats of people talking to each other.)

So! Which podcasts did you like this year? Which episodes should I listen to? Am I ‘eh’ on one you can convince me I must I try? Let me know!

I’m Feeling 22 …

Just did a tally and … it looks like I’ve been to an equal number of states and national parks in my six months on this trip: 22.

How is that possible?! Looks like I can’t go to any others on this trip – gotta keep up this equilibrium!

This lil car has seen a lot of places!

National Parks: 22

Cuyahoga, Badlands, Wind Cave, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Glacier, North Cascades, Olympic, Mount Rainier, Redwood, Lassen, King Canyon, Sequoia, Yosemite, Death Valley, Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, Arches, Carlsbad Caverns, Saguaro National Parks.

States: 22

Virginia, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona.

 

Writing 10,000 words per day: is it possible?!

As we came to the end of National Novel Writing Month, one of the writers in my region posted this article by Rachel Aaron about how to go from writing 2,000 words a day to 10,000.

At that rate, you could write a novel (50,000 words) in five freaking days!

Is it possible?!

After toiling away on my novel for three years, the idea of upping my game appeals to me. I want to finish!!!

I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time this year (YAHOO!) but that was hard! And that was just 1,667 words per day. How the heck can I keep this up, so I get this stinkin’ book done, finally? (And in your lovely hands?!)

I see this article as the way, as my “challenge accepted.” What’s involved?

 

My office in the Tetons.

My office in the Tetons.

The Game Plan

First of all: I love the name of her blog.

Secondly, Rachel Aaron/Bach has three main suggestions. These are also in a helpful graphic in her post. Go check it out!

1. Know what you’re writing before you sit down to write.

She suggests writing it out on a pad of paper before you write.

2. Keep track of your writing time in a spreadsheet.

Statistics help! We’ve seen this with FitBit and Nano, so it makes sense. She recommends two months of tracking.

3. Get excited about what you’re writing today.

She realized that the most word count came when she wrote the scenes she’d been thinking of since conception of the novel. That makes sense, and I like how she put it!

Writing Results So Far

Lo! I’ve done pretty well. So far in December, I’ve written 15,042 words – just on my novel, not on all the blogs/texts/emails/books about Kanye I also write each day. I’ve averaged 3,000 words a day this month. I’ve also averaged 1832 words per hour, in the seven writing sessions I’ve had so far.  Rachel said her wph was 500-1500, which I just reread, so wow, I guess that’s pretty amazing!

LP Tracker

All of that comes from my handy dandy tracker. I’ve been using it for about a week now, and I really like opening it at the beginning of each session as a bit of a ritual, without going right into the novel.

My columns are: Date | Time | Location | Words Written | Hourly Rate | Pages | Music | Food | Kind of Sit/Distractions | Notes.

When I log in for the day, no matter how I’m feeling, and I see the previous day’s word count, I’m like, “oh yeah …” And get a little bit more energizy. After I insert my stats for the day, I see my progress. I also parse out the statistics (most productive time of day, best playlist, etc.) If I really want to nerd out, there’s the potential for GRAPHS and such in the future! Woot woot! (Nerd Alert!)

Hand Writing Ideas Helps

Part of the insane word count I get is that I type crazy fast. Like, fast enough that people comment on it when they see me typing on my phone. Still, I very much like her suggestion to start the beginning of each session with a quick, handwritten list of what that day’s scene(s) will be about. There’s something about the magic of handwriting, especially for writers, that is undeniable. This has really helped me focus and then dive in for the day. Thumbs up to this suggestion, too!

Get Pumped!

So, not going to lie … this one has been the hardest of the three. I think that comes from these ideas fermenting, and me writing or thinking some version of them, for like, 3 years. Overdone, much?

That’s not entirely true. I like that I’ve been able to get to about 3,000 words and stop, no matter where I am in the scene. I can see what’s coming next, which makes writing about it first in a notepad at the top of tomorrow’s writing sesh super easy. So it becomes this sweet self-perpetuating cycle!

I can get pumped about finishing this freaking book. And upping my word count as freaking awesomely as I have – and committing to a daily practice – is giving me the energy I need to get ‘er done.

Final Thoughts

One of the hardest things about writing a novel is that it seems Sisyphean. There’s so MUCH to write, and even 3,000 words is just 3% of a novel. Just sitting down that day will not mean I’ve “finished my novel” by the end of the work session. In journalism and PR, we have short, tight projects with measurable and attainable goals.  It can be overwhelming and hard to start. It’s probably why most people don’t write that book they’ve “been meaning to” or “always wanted to.”

Then, many of the things I have read about professional authors, and even Rachel in her blog, say that they sit down “at least four hours a day and write.” My eyes bug out at that. For multiple reasons.

One: I’m traveling around the country, so that’s a huge chunk of daylight that I could devote to sightseeing.

Two: that’s a huge chunk of time to get over my overwhelm, and be poring out my heart and soul.

It seems silly, having come from 8+ hours professionally at a computer, not to mention glued to my cell phone.

But fiction writing is different. It’s a totally different habit and set of issues to face. Frankly, I’m proud of building up to about an hour and a half solid writing (which, to hit 3,000 words can sometimes end up being 2 or 2.5 if I’m particularly ungrounded.) And I know the trials of trying to write on top of a full-time job, or trying to wake up early to write before that full-time job, etc.

So I’ll take this success and keep it up. Who knows? Maybe one day I can build up to four hours. Ole!

Tim Ferriss’s 11 Questions

Tim Ferriss asks the same 11 questions of 135 “famous/successful/household name” people in his new book, Tribe of Mentors. What a great freaking idea!

These questions are below. How would you answer them? I’ll post my answers in a few days, so look out for those!

The Questions:
  1.       What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or:what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
  2.       What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? My readers love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.
  3.      How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
  4.      If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)
  5.      What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)
  6.       What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
  7.       In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
  8.      What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
  9.      What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
  10.      In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realizations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?
  11.     When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)
Your Answers

Submit your answers in the comments below, or email them to me! I look forward to reading what my own “Tribe of Mentors” says.

The Universe No Longer Has Time for Your Bullshit

Ain't no one has time for that -Universe

“I ain’t got time for your shit.” -The Universe

Last year’s election results “shocked” many (in the US and Britain.)

Followers of quantum physics, spirituality, and other non-cable-news modalities knew this was just the beginning of a trend. A continuation, even. That trend first of all involves a massive shift, an awakening, endings for the old way, and dragging the darkness out into the light – no matter how deep the claw marks are in it.

There is to be no more anything “as usual.”

The Truth Is Out

I would say that trend has continued in 2017, in the light of the huge wave of sexual harassment allegations being brought to light. Staid icons are falling in its wake.

And this weekend’s simultaneous Supermoon in Gemini and start of Mercury Retrograde are just highlighting this even more for everyone.

Does it feel like anything that is not on solid ground is falling apart? Is the universe calling you to task for something? Is it make or break time?

Learn From It

As my girl Chani says:

Remain more interested in what the disruptions are teaching you about yourself, than the fact that they are such a pain in your ass. What throws a curve ball at you is annoying, yes, but there’s something deeper that this life circumstance is trying to get to. Something just below the surface of your anger, upset or agitation is trying to get your attention.

Listen.

These sentiments are important. They want to teach you something that normally can’t get through. Something that you miss when things go smoothly. Whatever demands that we stretch ourselves offers us the opportunity to discover the potential in us that otherwise lies dormant.

Discover what you are capable of in the chaos and the comforts of life.

This week Mercury retrograde and the full moon feel out ways in which to draw your attention to the short term action plans and long-term goals you’ve got on your radar. Some of these plans will stand the storms of this cosmic weather and some will blow away with the winds of change. None of this will become entirely clear until the beginning of next year. These days will unravel what isn’t meant to make it to 2018.

 

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Winter is the time to go inside.  Mercury Retrograde is the time to re- anything: “review, re-examine,” etc. What is coming up for you right now? And how can you take action toward your solution, your goals, your purpose?

Divine Harmony weighs in:

with this full moon in gemini- there’s much coming up from underneath the surface particularly around information, communication and Truth.

Level Up

This directly hits me. I’m increasing my daily word sprints in December to 3,000, from November’s 1,667. This seems like a huge leap, but I like the challenge, and I have the time. Plus, like the gym, the more I do it, the easier it gets.

That 3,000, though, is just one small chunk of my novel – 2-4% per day.

Right now, it’s all about building, and about taking small baby steps toward the goal. Those add up. 3,000 words a day becomes 21,000 a week, which results in 84,000 words a month. *That* is a whole book.

Plus, it sure seems like the Universe is pushing me there. No more excuses. Cosmically, we have no choice. The Universe is calling. Will we accept the challenge?

What small steps will you consequently take this month toward your goal?

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Divine Harmony has advanced vocabulary, but as a consequence there is much more to directly apply.

How to Write A Novel, in 98 Words

I am going through a big binder of novel writing printouts I’ve been “meaning” to read for ages. This includes “The Snowflake Method,” by Randy Ingermanson.

Exponential Expansion

It’s actually an interesting approach! The idea is you take one sentence, and then expand that, incrementally. In theory, that’s what you do even if you open Word and start at the beginning.

I like the clear direction and structure of this approach, and intend to try it on my next novel. (Yes, I’ve started my next before finishing my first!)

If you’re really interested in the details, I recommend you click over there for Randy’s full instructions.  Here’s my 98-word summary of how to write a novel.

How to Write a Novel: The Snowflake Method

1. Write one sentence summarizing your novel.
2. Expand that to a full paragraph.
3. Write one summary paragraph for each major character.
4. Expand each sentence of your book’s summary paragraph into a full paragraph.
5. Write a one page description of each major character, and a half page each for other important characters.
6. Expand the one-page plot synopsis from step 4 to four pages.
7. Expand your character descriptions into a full page, detailing everything about them. Most important: how will they change by the end of the story?
8. Using the four-page synopsis, list of all the scenes you’ll need to turn the story into a novel.
9. Write a multi-paragraph description for each scene.
10. Fill in the holes, and finish your book!

I DID IT! 50,000 Words in NaNoWriMo 2017

I won!

Nanowrimo: I won!

GUYS I FINALLY WON A NANOWRIMO!

 

NaNoWhaaa

NaNoWhaaa, you ask?

Dudes. Nanowrimo is an online community that helps encourage you to write 50,000 words in November. There’s a great word tracker with lots of details such as “days left,” “words left,” “words written today,” etc.

There are message boards and “regional” boards where you can talk to fellow writers. The organization also sends you pep talks by accomplished novelists as well.

It’s also a nonprofit that helps promote writing causes, especially in schools. Pretty neat!

Why 50,000?

That “counts” as a novel. Though I am finding that my novel’s beta draft is going to be about two times that!

How was it?

It was … well, actually. I think a week ago I would have said that it was “painful.” But I also realize that, looking back, it was really a habit-building process. Like going to the gym (I’m sure. I don’t go to the gym.)

I feel really great today, like it’s a special day. Which it is! Nearly 2,000 words per day is hella awesome.

Lasting Benefits

I think the most important thing is that this has given me momentum. Because of this, I have something I can look at and say, “well, I did this once. I can do it again!” Meaning: I’m going to keep up the writing habit.

It also helped break down into manageable steps what seemed like a Herculean, Sisyphean, amorphous task: “write a book!”

And it was nice to have an understanding community of people to talk to and support, as well as get support from.

I am not working currently. But I did have two friend visits. I visited four states and slept in at least seven different places this month. (Holy shit, on that last statistic.) So, I think, that I should be able to manage prioritizing this for the next month (just four places and three states …) And then definitely while I LIVE IN THE SAME PLACE in 2018. 🙂

 

 

 

Saguaro National Park

I am in cactus land.

Did you know that the version of a “cactus” we know from cartoons is actually called a saguaro? I did not! Also, for those not from Tucson, it’s pronounced “suh-wah-roh,” not “suh-gar-oh.”

Here’s how I can best describe it.

Imagine driving up a hill, knowing you are entering into a forest.

Except the view is not trees like you’d expect. In this forest, all the trees – instead of having leaves and brown trunks and limbs – look like they were designed by Dr Seuss.

They are brilliant green, an odd shade even for nature.

They go as far as you can see, including up the side of big,
rocky hills.

They look like a tree was taken, umbrella style, and collapsed.

But instead of sticks, they look like they were inflated with air.

Then they have these arms that look like tree limbs done in comic sans. Kind of rounded, no pattern or rhyme or reason. Some limbs are tall, some squat sometimes there’s one, sometimes there’s like families coming off of multiple limbs.

They look downright *silly.*

Also, it’s like …Disneyland. Seeing something in person I’ve only seen on cartoons.

And there’s just these silly green sticks with their various limbs akimbo, all over the land.

It’s surreal, for sure.

“On Festivals and Fasting”: Living Stoically

Tim Ferriss is a big fan of the philosopher Seneca, who promotes ways to live stoically.

Seneca wrote an essay, “On Festivals and Fasting.” It talks about how to live meagerly, so that you are never afraid of what would happen if the worst case happened.

Basic Needs

This trip has really brought into focus how amazingly little we need to survive.

I live off what’s in my 100 cubic feet car, and even then, I barely use half of that.

When I’m sleeping outside, all the gear I need is my tent, a camp stove, food, sleeping bag, air mattress, pillow, headlamp, water bottle.

I wear the same duffel bag of clothes. For seven months. (I have a duffle bag of reserve clothes for different climates, but even then – I have way too many clothes.)

Minimal Shopping

The only “new” things I’ve bought are souvenirs and postcards and food. Camp gas sometimes. Gas for my car. I haven’t even gone through two bottles of sunscreen, or bug spray (and I hate bugs.)

Don’t Forget the Phone

Most of my stuff is done on my phone, though I have an atlas and a National Park guidebook and a journal and a nice DSLR camera.

I’ve barely touched any of the 50+ physical books I brought with me (and the however man that I bought on this trip … used book stores are my kryptonite.) Why? Because of audiobooks, podcasts, Spotify, and Taylor Swift’s new album, and too much time in the car.

So I know what it’s like to live in my own version of “On Festivals and Fasting,” and I’m grateful for that.

 

Mountains are not Stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion.

-Anatoli Boukreev

Souvenir Shopping in Taos, NM

Despite my conflicted feelings on Taos, I bought my most significant souvenirs there.

Proud Lady

The first was this R.C. Gorman print: 

R.C. Gorman's

R.C. Gorman’s “Proud Lady” source: SouthwestArt.com

 

I first saw this in the lobby of the Hotel LaFonda, and wow. To see this towering over you, in a 6’x4′ frame (at least.) “Powerful” doesn’t do it justice.

I wanted the largest one, but I am glad I got one at a solid size, which I could afford.

Finding the Perfect Souvenir

The other was the one souvenir from the outset of my trip I knew I wanted to get .

When I was growing up, my dad’s father wore this turquoise ring that was silver and had two rectangles of turquoise next to a larger square of turquoise. It was pretty big – took up most of his knuckle. He and my grandma traveled a lot, and that ring always stood out to me. It was lost at some point, so since I was going to be in the Southwest, I was looking for something similar.

Unfortunately, the bigger the (real, quality) ring, the more expensive. And, of course, we are still doing “women’s = FLOWERS” and “men’s = huge and clunky.”

After combing through entire jewelry stores, I finally found a large, oval ring made for women. It is as tall as my knuckle and actually fits snugly around my finger. It’s got these kind of “rock and roll” details, too: the band splits into three different ones that end in these silver knobs. They perfectly accent the black marble design on the turquoise. Many people who have seen it have complimented the turquoise, so I know I did good, and I am really happy about that!

The Majesty of Yosemite

DSC_0072

Picture 1 of 17

Visiting Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier is awesome! It floats in the distance beyond Seattle, an eerie apparition that glows in the pink sunsets. Being able to explore it up close was so cool.

Everywhere you look, you see the peak.

Mount Rainier Geology

It’s the highest mountain in Washington, and the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest.

It’s a volcano, and there’s a chance it could blow in our lifetimes.

You’d be forgiven for not realizing it’s a volcano, though. Its fiery potential is covered by 26 major icy glaciers, 36 square miles of them.

Needless to say, it was interesting to sleep on. Not as scary as Yellowstone’s Supervolcano, but it somehow felt more conspicuous, being a conical mountain. It was easier to imagine the lava blowing out the top.

Mount Rainier National Park

I really liked this National Park, because it was a manageable size. There’s one main artery through it. The hikes are straightforward, and there aren’t things like grizzlies or rattlesnakes to contend with. There weren’t many people there when I was there, either. Another highlight.

I did meet another woman who was traveling around the country by herself. She was a bit older and had a small RV and two dogs. I haven’t met too many other solo women travelers on this trip, so I enjoyed talking to her.

West Side, First Night

On my drive and for the rest of the night, it was a bit misty and the sky was overcast. When I arrived to the park, I checked out the short Kautz Creek Trail. It was an interpretive trail that talked about lava flow, mud and debris from the volcano. I walked around the Longmire Museum, but it was closed. The trail that circles the entire peak (26 miles!) is always open, so I walked down a bit of that, the Nisqually River for a while. I love glacial melt, the eerie greenish-gray color and the rushing water.

Log bridge over the rushing Nisqually

There’s a Mount Rainier back there, I swear

 

Then I set up camp.

The night I arrived was cool and misty, but I got sooo lucky the next day, as you can see by the photos. I also got lucky to wake up early, before any clouds came in to interrupt the sunshine.

Stevens Canyon Road

It was pretty shocking to wake up and realize that the overcast sky had covered a GIANT peak. The same peak I had seen miles away, from Seattle and Bellingham and on Whidbey Island. Meanwhile, driving right into the park, I didn’t see it at all.

Boy, did I see it the morning I woke up in the park. It rose up in front of me the entire day, no matter where I was.

I started by driving Stevens Canyon Road. The road rose as it went along. I pulled off most of the pull offs. After a while, I started to be higher than the clouds! I saw Narada Falls, Christine Falls, and Reflection Lakes. Then the elevation changed again: I came around a corner and was in Stevens Canyon, which brought me back downhill. There was some gorgeous red foliage, as it was full sun here. It was a great fall scene.

Fall foliage in Stevens Canyon, Mount Rainier

 

Reflection Lake, Mount Rainier

Sunrise

Then I drove out to Sunrise, which was pretty remote. It’s one of the least visited areas of the park. When I got there, the parking lot was nearly empty. The Visitor’s Center and the Day Lodge were closed. I took my oatmeal, coffee, and Jetboil to a picnic table for breakfast. Frozen Lake was too far for what I wanted to do that day, but I hiked a bit down the trail. I did hike over to Emmons Glacier Overlook. That was cool. Rainier rose up like one of the Alps, and the Center and Lodge added to the Swiss feel.

View on the drive to Sunrise. What a commute!

A deer friend, enjoying the view of the peak.

Paradise

I coasted back down the mountain, and hit Stevens Canyon Road again. This time I did the Grove of the Patriarchs, where I saw some giant trees and a very pretty river. Then I drove up to the Paradise Region.

There’s a reason its name is “Paradise.” Mount Rainier rises up dramatically behind it. From the visitor’s center/parking lot, many trails take you all the way up to it.

“Up” indeed. Thankfully, it was the perfect fall weather, and I had my hiking stick. I made it about 1.5 miles in, with some serious elevation gain. It was awesome. The views stayed … about the same. It was surprisingly crowded, considering the campground and most of my morning drive were barely populated.

On the way back down, at the entrance to the trail just past the visitor’s center, these two girls were doing “glamour shots” on the mountain. One was taking photos, and one was modeling, I guess? Maybe it was senior pictures, or one of their clothing line. There was a lot of giggling, frolicking and hair tossing. Not the usual vibe on a mountain trail, but it was entertaining. And the backdrop was amazing, so I can see why they chose it.

 

View from Paradise Region. Mount Rainier dominates the skyline up here.

Camping

I camped in Cougar Rock Campground. It was my first night back to camping after nearly a month in Bellingham and Sarah’s AirBnB. I really enjoy camping, so the transition wasn’t too hard, and it’s not too cold yet. The night was quiet and cool. I enjoy all the outdoor time, and getting in my tent just after sundown. I usually get a lot of sleep this way, and sleep very solidly.

The only problem was … this is ANOTHER National Park that did NOT have soap in the bathrooms. Not, like, they ran out. They just didn’t have any. Shake my head … It can’t be good for public health and safety.

I’m also listening to a fascinating audiobook, The Mysterious Benedict Society. It’s a bit Lemony Snicket meets Spy Kids. I enjoy breaking up my usual with lighter fare like this, and I can usually devour kids’ books in a day or two on the road.

Recommendation: Do It.

I really enjoyed my time on Mount Rainier, and I would definitely recommend a stay in this park. I’m sure it’s crazy busy during peak season, and it has one of the more limited seasons because of snowfall blocking much of the park. Plus there’s clouds to contend with. But if you time it right, it’s a majestic experience.

 

Photo of the Day: Oregon Coast

First glimpse of the Oregon Coast!

 

It is a lifelong dream of mine to drive the entire Pacific Coast. Now, after doing the San Diego to San Fran portion of the Pacific Coast Highway in October 2015, I’ll be within reach of that!

The Oregon portion is 363 miles, and I will do the whole thing. Starting in Astoria, zooming on down to Brookings. I’ll take about a week to do it, camping at the awesome state parks along the way. (No reservations, wish me luck!)

The route itself was founded in 1926. Could you imagine tooling along it back then? It’s pretty remote now, with just a few population centers. Vacation and second homes dot the route, but they cost a serious penny.

Oregon’s Mile-by-Mile Guide

I’m also soooo excited I found this amazing guide, Oregon Coast Magazine’s Mile By Mile Guide.

As an info geek, it’s been really helpful to have in the passenger seat. It’s easy to read and follow along with. It’s incredibly thorough – if anything, I was missing stuff. But not this guide!

 

 

A Bold Choice: Coconut LaCroix

Jonny and I drink LaCroix the way college students drink beer. We were leaving the grocery store. I carried the customary box of Coconut-flavored sparkling water. A man walking in pointed at the box and yelled: 

“Bold choice!”

Jonny and I looked at each other and busted out laughing.

Purchasing sparkling water isn’t a very daring act – some would say it’s lame.

But why “bold”? Is it because it’s an exotic flavor? An acquired taste? Or because it tastes like a pina colada? Or suntan lotion?

The world may never know. But I go on, boldly sipping my fizzy water.

Grand Tetons: Hiking String Lake and Rockchuck Peak

Grand Tetons: A wedding in shorts & sunset over Jackson Lake

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