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Off Topic Thursday: It’s Time

25 Jul

I’ve been talking about it for a long time and now it’s here! Well, it’s coming. My Half Ironman, Half Ironman Ohio 70.3, is on Sunday, July 28th. I’m. Freaking. Out!

I feel ready. I’ve trained according to my plan, making small adjustments for personal obligations and larger adjustments for injuries that I’ve learned to manage and help heal. And now it’s time to see if it was enough. It’s time to see if my bike (I’ve named her Bike) will hold up and if Bike and I will ever want to look at each other again after 56 miles in rural Ohio. And we’ll see if my knees still work after a half marathon to end the day. My husband and my parents will be there to support me and I’ll probably cry when I see them coming through the shoot. I’m almost crying thinking about it.

This has been a pretty major life goal of mine for some time. I’m glad to finally be staring it down and ready to check it off the list. I don’t ever want to do one of these again! So many of my friends from my tri club told me I’d get addicted. I have back and knee pain and a terrible hankering to just run a darn 5K and stop. I’m nowhere near addicted and I have no intention of doing a full Ironman ever in my life. I plan to focus on Sprint and Olympic distance races (about a quarter and half the distance I’ll do on Sunday) and swim more. I love swimming. I miss doing it as much as I used to.

If you’re terribly bored on Sunday, you can look me up. I’m number 446 and you can Google the race (Ironman Ohio) after it starts Sunday morning and track me throughout the day. I hope to finish in under seven hours. I should be in the water by about 7:30 EST (it’s a rolling start so no guarantee on a start time). It will be a long day and you can bet that my August post will be a reflection of how it went.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Writers’ Group: Writing Longhand and Book Promotion

22 Jul

My writers’ group met last week and we covered some very different topics. The first was software that takes written words and translates them to digital words in a word processing software. This is good for those that prefer to write longhand or who (like me) do not have power or an internet connection. (We lost power during a heatwave. I’m writing this from the air-conditioned library.)  This technology is called Optical Character Recognition. For those of us with MS Office, OneNote has this capability (more on how to do it here) so no need to buy new software! Another option for those without MS Office is an app called Pen to Print. To use this software, the written words must be on lined paper.

I’ve mentioned before that one of our writers recently self-published his book. I asked how it’s been going and got some good details I’ll keep in mind if I ever self publish. We talked about a Goodreads Giveaway Jason ran. The writer gets to select the amount of time the giveaway will run for and how many copies he or she wants to give away. When the time runs out, Goodreads gives you the names and addresses that you will be sending the copies to. It falls on the writer to pay to ship the copies. There’s an option to give away Kindle copies if the book is in that format and this avoids shipping costs. We had another writer at the meeting whose book was available through Barnes & Noble though it wasn’t carried in any store. It could be ordered to a store or ordered on their website. He said that he’d gone into a store and talked to an employee about this though I’m sure there’s a way to do it online. Another writer pointed out that the book would qualify for the Michigan Notable Books program that our state library runs. For those who are Michiganders, you can read more here. It’s worth looking into other states and countries to see if these opportunities exist in other areas.

It was a quick meeting so that’s all I’ve got this month. I’m sure I’ll have something to contribute once I start writing again. And that should be next week! Should be.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Day Off (Again)

11 Jul

I feel I’ve done this a lot during my 70.3 training, but I’m giving myself another day off. It’s a mix between having a slow reading run and finally being back to full training load that’s slowed me down with posts. I’ve got a few things lined up for next week that I’m excited about, though. You’ll see. Until then, enjoy your weekend and your books as I know I will. Happy reading!

Happy Fourth!

4 Jul

It’s Independence Day here in the States. We celebrate by not working and I celebrate by doing super sprint triathlons for fun! I’ll try to remember to post a picture to Instagram if you want to check it out.

For those in the States, I hope you get to celebrate today. I’m hoping to get caught up on some posts and some reading over the weekend to leave me in a good spot for the week to come.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: Wizards Unite

27 Jun

My husband will be the first to tell you that I was not encouraging when Pokémon Go came out. He was teaching at the time and would spend six hours a day playing. H would go on hour-long walks and drive to places so he could play the game. It seemed like too much to me.

And then Wizards Unite came out. And I’m doing the exact same things he did. I drove through a parking lot today on my way to a friend’s house to get Spells. I’m using my external battery so I can play for a half hour at the stop closest to my apartment. And I’m having a lot of fun.

I won’t get too deep into the game, but there are a few things I want to touch on. I think the tutorial for battle needed to be stronger. I ended up using a YouTube video to figure it out. I feel like I see the same items all the time and I’ve never seen others which is probably encouraging me to play in other locations. Oh well, I will eventually. I think the spells are very limiting. I think the baby niffler is adorable.

I’m not sure how long I’ll continue to play. I had a slow weekend because it was a recovery week for training and I’m nursing a sore knee and thus not running. It’s good for me to still be getting outside and walking around, stretching it and staying active. With some busy travel coming up, I’m not sure it will go on.

But for now, it’s fun. If you want to add me as a Friend, I posted my Friend ID on Facebook over the weekend so check that link in my closing block.  Maybe we can trade fragments soon? Maybe?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writers Group: Dummies and Publication

24 Jun

I’m always glad to share my writers’ group experiences and I’m even more excited because I shared this time. I had just finished reading Writing Fiction for Dummies and I’m excited to share it with you all (different from the review, I promise) as well as what I learned from some other books.

I knew Randy Ingermanson from the Snowflake Method, the guide he has for writing novels. I never liked that idea too much and I felt it was too rigid to help me create the first draft. But what he was able to convey in Writing Fiction for Dummies was how to use the Snowflake Method to turn the first draft into a second draft. The two biggest things for me were giving weak characters conflicting morals. I have a weak character that I’m struggling to add depth to and I’ve been brainstorming morals for her that could come into conflict through the story. The other piece of advice I loved was about creating a scene list. It’s a great exercise to take your existing work and make a list of the scenes. I’m looking at it now and trying to figure out where my ‘three disasters’ are and how I can pace them for the two leads to keep the tension going. I liked his wording of the ‘three disaster structure’ rather than a ‘three act structure.’ It helped me see how the novel was paced. Disaster 1 ends Act 1, Disaster 2 is the middle of Act 2, and Disaster 3 ends Act 2 and sets the stage for Act 3.

The other thing I shared was my adventures with the Writers’ Digest publications. I recently checked out Writer’s Market, Guide to Literary Agents, and Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. It was a bit of overkill and I wanted to help my fellow writers avoid the repetition in the future. Novel & Short Story (N&SS) had literary agents, publishers, and magazines and I think this would have been enough for me. Literary Agents had agents and conferences, which is the one thing N&SS lacked. Writer’s Market had everything. It had more than I needed if I’m being honest. I didn’t really look at it because it came in last at the library. Which one you want is going to depend on what kind of writing you have, but I think N&SS is the best resource for anyone with fiction writing.

We had a very exciting announcement at our meeting. One of our writers, Jason Alpert, has self-published his first book! He brought a copy for us all to see and we are so excited for him. It’s called Liam & Heidi and there’s a Goodreads giveaway going on right now so rush on over! He used the Amazon platform for publishing and is excited to engage with Goodreads for marketing purposes. He told us about using UpWork and Fiverr for his formatting and cover design.

It’s always a pleasure to meet with this group and we’re so excited to celebrate each other’s successes. Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: Tattoos

13 Jun

I’m hoping you all have different opinions on this one because I’m looking for some input. I think I’m ready (at age 29) to get my first tattoo.

I’ve contemplated for a long time what it would take for me to want to get something tattooed on my body forever. It would have to mean something to me, something deep and profound; something that would never change.

I’d contemplated a Deathly Hallows symbol for a while, and that’s still on the table, but I decided against it for now.

As a lot of you know, I’ve been training for an Ironman 70.3 since February. Finishing it has been a dream for a long time and I’ve been working my little tail off for five months to make this a reality. Recently, I’ve had co-workers and friends comment that I look like I’ve lost weight. I think of it has losing my social life and gaining a training regimen. I’ve also seen no change on the scale because I’ve gained it back in muscle. Anyway.

This major accomplishment is something that’s made me think about tattooing again. It’s a major accomplishment that I’ll be proud of for a long time. It’s something that at one point, I thought would be impossible for me. I used to be unable to run more than 3 miles before I was ground to a halt by knee pain. I fought through that and I’m so amazed at where I am now. 70.3 is within reach.

So that’s what I’m thinking of memorializing. I don’t want anything fancy and I don’t want color. I think I just want 70.3, or some combination of those numbers and a small word like ‘believe.’ I want it somewhere I can cover for work and I’m thinking on the side of my foot near the ankle (can’t decide on inside or outside).

Now I’m asking: Do any of you have tattoos? Any that you regret? What do they memorialize for you? Is this too trivial? Will I regret it in two years? Give me your thoughts as I have too many of my own.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Happy Memorial Day!

27 May

Here in the States, today is Memorial Day. It’s a day to celebrate those who sacrificed their lives for our country and our freedom and to thank them and their families for that sacrifice.

It’s also one of six paid holidays I get a year, so I’m going to spend time with my family instead of on my blog. I’ll be back tomorrow, not to worry, and we’ll catch up then.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Club Reflection: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

16 May

My book club met a few weeks ago to discuss Paulette Jiles’ book News of the World. It was a short book, a nice break after some very long titles over the past few months. For the most part, we enjoyed it.

None of us had read Jiles before but she’s published about fifteen books including poetry, memoir, and children’s. If we hadn’t known the author’s name, many of us would have been surprised it was written by a woman. Captain Kidd was well drawn and the world he lived in felt rather ‘masculine.’ Johanna wasn’t a particularly feminine character either. Though, I do love being pleasantly surprised when an author can write another gender.

I listened to the book but those who read it said there was no quotation marks or other punctuation for dialogue. It took a while for the readers to get used to it. We wondered if she wrote all of her books this way. Maybe it was the influence of writing poetry.

A reader mentioned that the style reminded her of Mark Twain. The main character sounded a bit like Twain as well. He was also a printer in the West at the same time period. It was a flashback to a book we read a few years ago, The Bohemians.

Johanna’s time with the Kiowa made her resilient; she was strong and could endure a lot of hardships. If she’d been the young German girl she was born to be, she may not have been able to survive the trip to her relatives. We laughed when recalling the scene where Johanna wanted to scalp the men who tried to kill them and Captain Kidd deemed that ‘impolite.’

The relationship between the two was cemented late in the novel when Captain Kidd saw how Johanna was being used as slave labor by her aunt and uncle. We felt he may have left her if her relatives had been less cruel to her. We felt she began to trust him early on when they ran into soldiers and he didn’t hand her over to them. She knew he was trying to keep her safe. Though, we thought that Johanna leaving may make the aunt and uncle want their $50 back since they ‘paid’ for her in the first place.

We talked about the title quite a bit and had several interpretations. One was that the book gave us the news of the world of Texas in the 1870s. It told us how the world worked with slavery gone and a post-war economy in fluctuation. It was also how Kidd got news, from the people he ran into and how he saw them interact. He also chose what the news was going to be by selecting different stories for different crowds, deciding what they would know of the world.

The book focused on how different cultures come together to learn and accept each other. Johanna and Kidd were as different as could be as far as age, gender, language, and culture. But they still cared for each other and could be a good team together.

Even though the Civil War is over, it’s not really. There’s only one black character in the book, and he’s restricted his travel because of his race. As free as he is legally, he knows that society doesn’t see it the same way.

This book was great for a discussion. I do enjoy meeting with others to talk about the books I voraciously consume. I’m really looking forward to our next title, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: Adult Friendships

25 Apr

Growing up, I never thought of ‘making friends’ as a skill I was taught in school. It just happened. You made friends with your classmates and maybe with people from outside activities. You were always surrounded by other people your age and there was always something fun and new to try where you could meet people.

College was the same and I left college with beautiful friendships I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. I’m still in contact with most of them and I care for them deeply.

But then I moved back home. I was living in a town different from (but near) where I grew up and I had lost contact with all but a few friends from high school. None of my college friends were in the same state. It was just me and my husband and his friends. And I realized how hard it could be to make friends as an adult.

I’ve always had an aversion to being friends with someone from work. I’ll do an occasional thing outside of the office like a run or a large group family get together, but I’ve never thought of making friends with my coworkers. Even though I shared an office with another woman about my age at my first job, I never considered befriending her. Work is work, and life happens outside of it.

It took me a few months to start finding friends. The first success I had was through the website Meetup.com. I joined a writers’ group and even though it was a bit of a drive, I made three really good friends from that group. It took a few months before I had the confidence to invite them over to dinner and start building friendships, but I’m so glad I did. That gave me the confidence to know I could make friends on my own.

Unfortunately, two of those girls moved away and the other one and I don’t talk anymore. More miraculously, I have another group of three women from that group I’m now friends with. And I’m the youngest by about five years. But the eldest is older than my mother. This was another good lesson for me, learning that my friends weren’t always going to be my age. Some people give me a weird look when I mention my friend’s grandchild but I’ve gotten over it. We’re not bound to our age-peers once we’re out of school.

I’ve since found friends through my church and athletic groups that I’m very close with as well, but that writing group was a great first step for me. And friendships build on friendships. I’m friends with people I met through acquaintances I don’t speak with anymore and those friendships are incredible. I wish someone had told me making friends was a skill when I was in school. Maybe I would have practiced a little more.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!