The End of a Challenge

Well, I did it. I completed my personal 30 Day Blogging Challenge; the pledge to myself and you fine folks to focus on my blog for a month and write an article every day in the month of June. If you’ve been paying attention this month, you may have noticed that there were two days that I failed to post. One was on the first weekend of June, as I am not accustomed to writing on the weekends, and the other took place a week or so ago, as I was burnt out from having family over for a week. Yet, I still consider it a win because here I am. Still writing on this blog. I’ve stuck with it for over two months now and had only two slip-ups in thirty days, which is so much better than I could ever imagine.

I’m so glad that I challenged myself to do this. I’ve learned a ridiculous number of things:

-I will get up early to write and have a better day for it.

-I can pull an article idea from anywhere if I just put forth the effort. (Despite being a boring hermit that never leaves home.)

-I love to connect with other bloggers and writers.

-Writing is something that fulfills me and that I want to pursue for a long time.

The biggest thing I’ve learned is that I really can do this thing. I can call myself a blogger now. I really care about this blog and all you lovely peeps and I want to keep myself growing and getting to know you all a little bit better. I never thought I could stick with something this long, but yeah! I did!

I thank you all for putting up with me this month and my articles of random and varying qualities. I’m sorry to have flooded your readers/emails with my crazy drivel, and I really appreciate every like and follow. It means so much.

Moving forward, my tentative thought is that I will be posting three times a week. I won’t be posting on the weekends because I’m just too busy with family, but now that I know how fast I can write articles, I think three times a week is a good balance. I need to be working on my book and other projects so that I can continue to grow, so next month will be all about finding the balance between blog-writing and story-writing.

Now I’m off to have some cinnamon rolls and iced coffee in celebration. Again, thanks for being there this month. You guys are the best encouragement I’ve ever had!

Have a great day and happy writing!

-Christine B.

Going to Camp

Now that June is wrapping up, my eyes have been looking forward into the future! And not in some divine seer kind of way, but just thinking about the rest of the summer. Actually, just thinking about July because despite being a grown adult, I can usually only plan things one month in advance…

I am especially excited for next month because of Camp Nano starting up on the 1st. If you don’t know what Camp Nano is, then too bad I don’t feel like explaining it then here’s a quick link of its FAQs page. It’s basically Nanowrimo, in the summer, with a virtual cabin of people, and you make your own word count. If you don’t know what Nanowrimo is, then get out here’s a link to that as well. Sorry, the snark-shark must have bit me in my dreams last night.

I’ve been putting together a list of things that I want/need for the next month of camp-writing. Mainly because it distracts me from the fact that I don’t have a complete outline of it yet, but also because it’s more fun to envision it as an actual day camp in my head. Here’s what I have so far:

1) Cabin and cabinmates

I checked this one off last week, go me! I actually made my own cabin, which required setting it up, posting about it on various sites, and then actually inviting total strangers to join me for a month. My hermit self couldn’t believe it. Be still my introverted heart!

2) A campfire

Although I do have a fire pit in my backyard, the chances of me actually taking my laptop out there during the buggy monsoony month of July to write during a thunderstorm are very slim (just another perk of living in the Southwest). So, I’ve settled on replacements instead. I’m thinking a couple of candles, maybe some decorative twigs to really set the mood… It’s a work in progress. I’ll take pictures when I’m done.

3) S’mores

This was a no-brainer, really. I usually have s’mores ingredients somewhere in the house anyway, because why not? I’m thinking of trying to find some s’mores alternatives too, like S’mores Oreos or something. I even pinned a recipe for a S’more wrapped in cookie dough if I get really ambitious. These are definitely going to be rewards for me meeting my word goal every day and totally not snacks for whenever I’m feeling voracious.

4) Notebook

Because every new project is a good excuse to buy more notebooks. And the regular ol’ spiral-bounds are really cheap right now thanks to school sales or whatever. I don’t care the reason; I just want to buy ten notebooks for a dollar and see  my husband roll his eyes when he sees them.

4) Pens

I desperately need new pens. When I moved here from Indiana, pens were not high on the priority on our packing list, so most of my pens are stuck somewhere in a storage shed 1600 miles away. The pens I do have are fading fast. So pens are a definite must for next month.

5) Inspiration

For inspiration, I turn to pinterest. God, do I love pinterest. The only problem is that it can be a bit of a time-suck if you get off track, but I already have a few boards to be my go-to’s. If you’re interested, here’s my board on general writing things and also a collection of picture prompts.

So how do you get ready for a big project? Do you have any go-to’s that you must have nearby to write? Or do you have any kickass Pinterest boards to share? I’d love to see them in the comments!

Happy Writing!

-Christine B

Picture Day – Doggy Style!

Who’s ready for some adorable pictures of the best dog in the world? Well, maybe not the best…maybe the most decent dog in the world? Yeah, that seems better. I’m not sure he wins any medals for being a spaz or for constantly digging holes in the backyard, but I don’t have any medals either, so we’re a perfect fit! So go, Picture Day! Onward!

(Here’s the links to Picture Day 1 and Picture Day 2: Vacay Edition if you really can’t get enough of my smartphone camerawork. Click on any image below to see my puppy-dog fill up your screen.)

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First pictures after we got him! He climbed right up into my daughter’s lap and I thought, ‘Yay, we made the right parental decision by getting a puppy for a 2-year-old!’ It’s funny how we trick ourselves, isn’t it?
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He liked to hide in the corner of the kitchen when we first brought him home. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now I know it’s because he’s a timid spaz. If only I had recognized the signs.
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My husband’s family bred labradors when he was a kid and he was always sad that he couldn’t keep a yellow one…20 years later, childhood wish granted!
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He almost looks like a sophisticated highbrow in this picture. We know better now.
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We got him from Tucson, so I think this was the first rainfall he ever saw. He sat on the patio and contemplated his existence for awhile, like we all do in the rain from time to time. I, of course, taunted him about being a water-hating water dog. That’s my boy!
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He was sad when he outgrew this hallowed spot under my daughter’s eatin’ table. His head still fits though, and that’s where he is for every human meal.
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Chewing a bone. Yep. Award-winning commentary, right here.
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My husband was not happy to see this picture of him on our pillows. I assured him he was only up there long enough to take a picture. I might have lied. Yep, definitely lied.
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I have so many pictures of this dog sleeping that I should be a classified creeper. He’s just so cute and easy to photograph when he’s unconscious…

So that’s the pup! These pictures are from February when we first got him, so he’s much bigger now. For those who care, his name is Chester (named after the Winchesters from Supernatural and the fact that my hubby sold one of his rifles to pay for him) and he is 75% lab and 25% shepherd. He was 9 weeks old when we got him, and now he’s a whopping 7 months and huge and annoying, but I love him just the same.

In the future, I just might make Sunday an official Picture Day or something like that. Any article I try and write on Sunday always falls flat because I’m either in clean-the-house mode or let’s-laze-around-all-day mode. I guess you’ll find out next week if I’m ready for commitment like that.

Have a great Sunday and thanks for humoring my dog addiction!

-Christine B.

Phoenix and the Lava People*

I went to Phoenix, AZ a few weekends ago and these were my exact thoughts:

I have been living in Arizona for over a year now, so let me clear some things up. I had never been to the Southwest before I moved here. Most of the people I knew had never been either. When I announced to my friends and family that I was moving, I was warned over and over about how hot it is and how I was going to melt. Which is true, if you live in certain parts of the state, like Phoenix or Yuma.

Thankfully I live three hours south of Phoenix and if you’re thinking that you can’t live three hours south of Phoenix and still be in the country, well, you’re almost correct. I can see Mexican mountains from my house. But although it looks like a desert postcard outside, it really isn’t all that hot. I have the lovely elevation to thank for that.

My home town sits at around 4,600 feet, while Phoenix is about 1,100. And boy do those 3,000 feet make a difference. While Phoenix temperatures regularly reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (the average is over 100 days a year!), my little slice of Arizona averages highs between 61 degrees in January to 93 degrees in the hottest month of June. And with the humidity being so much lower than my previous home, even those hot days don’t feel quite so bad.

But Phoenix is seriously hot and I don’t know how people live there. Hats off to you, lava people of Phoenix!

*Phoenix and the Lava People sounds like a half-decent story prompt to me. Flash fiction, anyone?

Guard Your Writing Space

For my 30 Day Challenge this month, I have started writing early. I started out getting up about a half hour before I had to kick my husband out the door for work, but now I naturally get up about an hour to an hour and a half before my actual alarm. I didn’t intentionally do this, nor did I want to get up before 6am; it just happened. I didn’t think much of it at the time, only that it was nice to have so much time to write while the rest of the household was asleep.

During my vacation last week, I was still getting up early and writing, but near the end of it I felt fatigued. I am quite a social hermit and unaccustomed to being around people for so much of my time, and because of this I began turning out old articles that I had written but never published. Basically, I stopped writing. My husband started a new diet this week, so my writing time evolved into a food prep time. I became grumpy and irritable. I started eating everything in sight. My attention span faltered and I found myself wasting hours in a day on simply not knowing what to do with myself. I was a mess.

Midweek, I had a good long talk with a friend and the next day, I got up and started writing again. I finished a blog post before anyone else woke up and hitting that publish button before 8am made me feel on top of the world. I instantly felt like myself again.

Mind you, I’ve only been writing in the morning for almost a month. It’s not like this is a lifetime habit or anything. But apparently it’s become so essential to my well-being that I can’t be myself without it. Crazy, right?

Somehow, in some strange brain space, my mind decided that I needed to write at daybreak. And if I didn’t, if I blew it off and browsed Facebook or watched Youtube Top Ten videos instead, my head wouldn’t function right. It would shut down and make me feel crappy all day long in rebellion.

So guard your writing space. If you don’t have a space or time, make one right now and commit to it. I only found it easier to commit after making a public announcement about it (the 30 Day writing challenge), so do what you need to. And stick with it. If you want to be a writer, if you consider yourself a writer, than write! I have to remind myself of this often. Just write and you will feel so much better, results guaranteed*!

*Results guaranteed by the little writer-ly voices in your head, not by me. I’m just a vessel for my own little writer-ly voices.

Happy Writing!

The Trouble with Networking

Networking. It’s a word that has always made me shudder in the past. My husband used to go to a networking group back when he sold insurance, and it looked like torture. Go to a meeting of total strangers, introduce yourself and what you are doing with your life and hope they’ll like it? No thanks. But he loved it. He loved meeting new people and talking about products and ideas from a different perspective. He loved making connections and learning about other people’s passions. I respected his opinion, but knew I could never do it. Until recently, that is.

Ever since I have decided to get serious about my writing, I have voluntarily spent large amounts of my free time on networking. And I don’t mean I’m trying to sell my work or anything, but just simply meeting new people who have a similar interest and finding out more about this crazy industry. During my vacation last week, I actually spent the better part of a day just looking around at blogs and twitter accounts, meeting other people. I never ever thought that little old hermit me would actually want to meet new people, but I did it without thinking about it. And it’s been nice.

What’s the problem with all this? Time. All my time spent making new online aquaintances has robbed me of my writing time, which is the whole reason I started networking. I now spend more time trying to keep up on what’s happening with everyone that I haven’t written anything for myself for a few weeks now. And since actually writing is kind of important to a writer, I have found myself in a conundrum.

The answer I have found for this is moderation. I dearly love this new venture I’ve started, but my first true love is calling me back. I’m making plans to be better organized next month and am truly excited to start balancing my life a little better. At the same time, I am glad that I spent these last two months meeting so many great people. It was worth it to see how others are living, how their passions work, and what this whole blogging thing is all about. I look forward to making this summer be something I’ll remember the rest of my life, and I hope to see you be a part of it. Happy Writing!

Apologies

I owe you an apology. I have really not been putting my normal amount of effort into my work this week. I have been in a daze, swept away by the mundane. I have spent time running from one thing to another without taking the time to appreciate life. Everything has turned into a chore this week, even the things I love. It’s an unfortunate side effect of being human.

A Relient K song sums it up best:

Cause if I’m restless
Then why do I
I want nothing but to rest my soul

And I don’t get this and I know why
You see sometimes things are just beyond control

But fear not! I am hopefully on the mental mend. I feel better tonight and more like myself. I have a plan for the next week, and maybe even the week after that. We’re coming up on the end of this month and the end of my 30 Day Challenge and I so desperately want to end the month with victory. And next month I have Camp Nano to attempt, in which I will either be working on my summoner story or ghost-writing a Halo fanfiction for a friend. I’m excited for both. (By the way, if anyone is looking for a cabin, I still have 5 available spaces in mine *nudge nudge*)

I’m sorry for the past few days. Thanks for sticking with me. Here’s to rough seas and the rainbows that follow.

My E3 Favorites

Now that the hype has died down, it’s time for my ultimate reveal of E3 faves! Here are the new E3 reveals that tickled my fancy. Surely you’re not sick of these lists by now, right? 🙂

The Last Guardian

A boy with a giant bird/dog/dragon companion. Is the boy guarding the animal? Or the other way around? Or both? I can’t wait to find out. And with a developer like Team Ico, the story is sure to be told in only a way a video game can.

Horizon Zero Dawn

This is one of those games that makes me long for a book version. The concept is a beautiful sci-fi and fantasy mix, and although I have high hopes that the game will be as good as the trailer, I would love to delve into some written story-telling in this setting. Also, that female protagonist though! Seems to be a common trait at E3, which definitely feels like a breath of fresh air.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake

Love it or hate it, FF7 really deserves a remake. Those original graphics are just oh-so-hard to watch and the movie Advent Children only left us fans wanting more. There are so many silly scenes in that game that I cannot wait to see in HD. Cloud crossdressing and riding a dolphin? Yes please. Hopefully this makes way for even more ambitious remakes (FF6, I’m looking at you).

World of Final Fantasy

This game got a little overshadowed by the FF7 remake announcement, but it looks pretty decent. Final Fantasy has a large cast of characters, scenery, and monsters and it’s nice to see those used in creative ways. These games can be a bit hit or miss, but I have my fingers crossed.

Sea of Thieves

I am so okay with being a pirate adventurer and sailing the seas with my online friends. So okay.

Adrift

This one is here mainly for its trailer. I don’t think I’d actually have the guts to play it, much like I can’t actually watch the movie Gravity without having a panic attack, but it’s a nice trailer, right?

Firewatch

I’m a sucker for good dialogue, so this one makes me happy. I can see a lot of good characterization happening during gameplay. And I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that featured forest rangers, so there’s that.

I know that there are many more wonderful games that were featured, but these were the few that seemed innovative and fresh. It really was a great showing from developers this year. I saw a lot of story-driven games, lots of female protagonists, lots of new and exciting ideas…there might be hope for the game industry after all. What were your favorites of this year? Let me know what I missed in the comments and have a great day!

If My Thoughts Were on Balloon Strings, Maybe They Would Stop Floating Away

Well, my undiagnosed ADD has really struck hard today, so this won’t be much of a blog post. I haven’t been able to hold a thought together all day and have spent most of my time writing to-do lists, browsing stupid click-bait links, and wandering around the house from one half-started task to another. I blame vacation for ruining my very delicate routine. But vacation was also very pleasant. I’m so conflicted…

I’ve got some blog posts in the works if I can get my head together this week. I saw Jurassic World on the weekend, started two new Final Fantasy games and revisited my Animal Crossing town, so expect to hear on those topics. Also, it has been declared plot week over on the facebook Nanowrimo page, so yeah, plotting! It actually fits in pretty nicely since my original goal this week was to make an outline for Camp Nano. I can use all the plotting help I can get. I’m more of a “characters first, plot second” kind of writer, much to my frustration.

Here’s hoping your Monday was a bit more productive than mine. And if not, at least we have the rest of the week to make it up!

I Can Now Call Myself a Spelunker, Right?

As I stood at the mouth of the cave, it seemed like an excellent time to contemplate my life choices. There’s something about a gaping abyss that makes you question where you’ve been in life, where you’re going, and most importantly, why? I had always had a childhood fear of caves, thanks to a few vacationing trips through Indiana caverns…so why did I volunteer for this?

I only wanted to go for a hike in the mountains. It’s a shame to ignore the beautiful peaks that surround our home town, and as it had been a couple weeks since our last visit, the guilt was beginning to creep in. As much as it seemed contrary to my nature, I love being outdoors. (No people = Happy introvert). I have many times walked the forests of the Midwest, but the Sonoran desert is so far from that in every sense. I didn’t realize how many things I knew about my home town biome until I found myself in a place where deadly creatures live in every nook and cranny. I have spent a good amount of time just looking up facts on everything that lives here, and I still haven’t scratched the surface of this place. It’s a wonder to look at it and not know what that tree is, or what kind of lizard is that, or how many snakes can kill me…

When it came time to pick a trail, we had a few options. One was to go see the waterfall, which at this time was probably dry since the monsoons have ended. The other two both involved caves, and since I had been busy planning a rather adventurous fantasy novel, I felt in the mood. If I could send my imaginary heroes into the depths of the earth, shouldn’t I be able to go too? And it would be great research for my setting. That kind of thinking is apparently all my scaredy-cat brain needed to decide to go spelunking.

Although the Coronado Cave is on the map, it’s not like the tourist caves I have been to in the past. There are no lighted pathways, no floodlights in the crevices. Instead of walking down a carved flight of stairs, we literally climbed over boulders to get inside. And boy, was it impressive. The towering 20 foot ceilings captured every sound in a chamber of echoes, accentuating the oppressive silence. Each footstep seemed amplified to the effect that you could hear the grains of sand and talc moving under the squeak of your shoe. The place had a mildewy smell, strong but not unpleasant, and the flies hung onto the ceiling’s moisture, a rare parcel of water in the desert.

As we descended, the entrance looked smaller and smaller. The light from the mouth began to look more distant, a disappearing treasure. We trekked past the first room, and then the light was gone, and we had only our flashlights, tied to us like lifelines in the dark. The cave’s formation was clearly visible as we passed our beams of light over giants crevices, formed from fallen limestone boulders that must have sounded like thunder when they fell in the past.

There were a number of tiny passages that could only be accessed by crawling, but having the 2-year-old made for a fine excuse not to traverse those perfectly safe holes (or deathtraps, in my mind). As we entered the last great room, I was taken aback by it’s size. Here was a room, underneath a mountainside, that was big enough to hold a whole conference of people. The back wall sloped upward to two great columns that were slick with water, showing the newest creation of the cave. We climbed up to take a look, and after watching Husband duck under a low hanging outcropping, I of course ran right into it. However, I felt a little honored to have bumped my head on such an old and regal peice of geographical history, so I couldn’t stay mad at it. It would do no good to send curses at a thing that had existed long before me, and would continue to be there after I was gone. And the bump on my head makes for a cheap souvenir.

We exited that cave awkwardly, blinking in the strong sunlight, and groping around the smooth rocks like unknown creatures coming out of the dark. The story of Plato’s cave hit me, and I realized what I had been missing in my fear of the unknown.

We took a moment outside of the cave entrance to eat a snack and get reaquainted with the outside world. Just hearing the sound of birds, and feeling the mountain breeze rush around us was spectacular. I was sad that I had not seen any bats in the cave like I expected, but as if on command, one flew out from behind us and disappeared into the sky. As the sun begun it’s balancing act on the mountain peaks, we made our way down the rough trail and back to our car. The trip home took us back past beautiful mountain side homes and wild grassland fields filled with free ranging cows, horses, and mules. On our right, the border wall stretched unopposed across the flatlands, and the distant Mexican mountains looked like a beautiful landscape painting.

The next time I feel afraid, I hope to remember that cave and the wonders that fear can keep us from.