I Wrote a Novel in 30 DAYS

Hey so it just occurred to me that I haven’t even told you about the project I started for NaNoWriMo.

(If you haven’t heard me blabber on about NaNoWriMo yet and you don’t know what it is. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. All of these authors around the world commit to writing 50k words in the month of November. It’s a fun challenge. And I do it every year that I can.)

So let me introduce you to the new book I’ve been working on. Ready?

Drumroll…

Dun Dun dun DUN!

It’s an adult paranormal thriller called, “The Glass Box Town”. (working title but we’ll see). Here’s the cover I made for it once upon a time:

Having just stolen her father’s car, Hallie finds herself lost on a desert road. Then the unthinkable happens, a strange woman from nowhere hurls herself in front of the moving vehicle. When Hallie goes to an eerie small town for help, they accuse her of the woman’s murder and force her to stay. The longer she stays the more the town’s diabolical motives begin to unravel.

If you follow my work, you know I’ve been writing Rom Coms for the past… forever. So switching to this one was definitely intimidating. A bit out of the comfort zone, but in a good way.

I won NaNoWriMo even though I felt like I was losing my mind almost every day. I also made a short video on my NaNo journey if you haven’t gotten a chance to see it yet!

Stay tuned for more updates on this novel. And thanks for checkin’ in!

This is Me.

I’m very nervous about this post…

I don’t know about you, but quarantine became an introspection boot camp for me. For the past year, I have been going through an existential, incredibly spiritual, life changing process. And I guess I want to talk about that… I guess I want to talk about me. The real actual me.

Because what I’ve discovered during my introspection boot camp is that I hold back the real me a lot. I mean, it’s a human desire to please others and be likeable, but… I do that to SUCH an extent that… I think many people don’t know me very well. Even people who are very close to me.

So this is a very vulnerable post for me… because it’s real and raw… and it’s me.

Hello, I’m Val.

I’ve always loved being called “Val”. I feel endeared to anyone who shortens my name to “Val”, I’m not sure why. I think it’s because it feels warm and close. Like the person using the nickname wants to be my good friend. The name “Valerie” is always something that I’ve exceptionally liked about myself.

I’m an outgoing person who suffers from an overwhelming social anxiety.

I think this confuses a lot of people and makes me come off as a brat and a flake. (Or maybe that’s the social anxiety telling me how I come off). I don’t know if I’m actually an extrovert or an introvert. I get energy from being around others and desire to be around others. But I also hate leaving my house and often want to be alone. It’s strange. I will go minutes from performing on stage in front of hundreds of people to not being able to go to a cast party of a handful of people. Oh, parties… I’ve been called ‘The Life of the Party’ before… wut?… I am TERRIFIED of parties! Really, really terrified of big groups. I’ll be at a party and have to leave to the bathroom or to my car to cry… spend a few minutes in literal tears… fix my eye-makeup and return to the party. I’ve done this many, many, many times in my life. I don’t want to be an anti-social person, but I get easily overwhelmed and anxious. Really the only way I cope at a big party is if I tuck myself into a corner somewhere with one other person. One-on-one time and quality time are everything to me. And that’s when I really light up.

I am a Mormon.

Yeah, I’m pretty Mormon. Once I got lost in a Walmart and ended up in the alcohol aisle and I actually said out loud, “Where am I?”. HAHAHA!

I don’t post about my religion often, but it is truly me. And I truly am a believer of Christ.

Spirituality is more important to me than my religion.

I have found a personal spirituality and it is the foundation and forefront of my religious beliefs. I really have developed a strong love for exploring my spirituality. Meditation and introspection. I don’t know why I shy away from talking about it so much. I think I’m nervous that people will think I’m “kooky”. But so what? I totally am! That’s who I am! Hahaha!

I just really love communicating with The Divine. With The Spirit. With myself and the energies around me. I have a strong belief in communication. In intuition. It guides me in my daily life and choices. I don’t have to shy away from this part of myself. It’s A HUGE PART of myself. I love my church but my personal spirituality and relationship with God has become the priority for me. I can ask Him anything and receive wisdom and knowledge. It’s a constant battle to put aside my pride and be open-minded to this communication. Open-minded to the fact that I know so little. To the fact that others on Earth and their diversity have so much to teach me as well.

I’m artsy fartsy

Same with spirituality… I don’t know why I hold back this part of me so much, because it’s actually a big part of me! … I find meaning in everything. And everything is lovely and purposeful to me. The shape of the trees and the size of the moon. All these metaphors and lessons all around us. Art is everything. Art is civilization. The hippie culture resonates with me. I enjoy symbolic performance art unironically. (There, I finally said it!) All I want to do is create. If I’m not creating everything feels heavy and sad. I live to create and enjoy creation.

I have weird taste in movies…

Open apology but if you’ve ever asked me if I’ve liked a movie and all I said was yes… I probably lied. I never NOT have a really strong opinion about a movie! I think I lie because I would never want to rain on someone who has connected with a piece of art. I’m not trying to be pretentious or a critic… because the stuff that I actually DO like is weird as hell! I never noticed until Dan pointed this out but I “only watch old movies”. But he’s right! I really do prefer old movies to anything else. Just the same as music.

So I don’t know. It’s not anything shocking or unique. But it’s me. And I realized that I don’t have the easiest time sharing myself. I’ve been spending too much of my life trying to mold myself into whatever will make the other person the most comfortable… but why do that? Why can’t I be my artsy, new-age Mormon bundle of anxieties? There’s nothing wrong with who I am. Even these little things. And if it takes a year of pandemic isolation for me to love who I really am, then that’s okay. And I’m here. Writing these miniscule things about myself but feeling free to do it.

Love is accepting another person for who they are, especially the things that make them different. So this is how I love myself, by accepting these “weird” things about me.

The 20 Worst Things About Playing ‘Among Us’

My family and I are in love with this little game… but there are definitely some downsides… here are the top 20 worst parts about playing ‘Among Us’ online:

1 .02 seconds after everyone pops into your room and start bombarding the chat with this

RED: Start

PURPLE: Start

YELLOW: strt

RED: Start

RED: Start

YELLOW: strt pls

2 But then half of the players bail the same second they find out they’re not The Imposter

SelfAbsorbed has just left the game.

3 When someone slams the emergency button just to tell you this

WHITE: Guys, I have scan. Watch me?

4 Or when someone comes on the chat with this bullcrap

LIME: Who wants to date? How old are you?

CYAN: 12

LIME: Cool! Uh yeah, me too.

ME:

5 And all the preteens make fun of you when you lecture them not to give out their personal info

CYAN: lol it’s my phone number not my social security number

6 When you witness and report the murder and everyone votes you off instead

BLACK: self report

7 When none of the other ghosts want to have a spooky side chat

PURPLE: Pink did me, who killed u?

8 When The Imposter executes a perfect “stack kill” and you can’t tell who it was.

RED: skip i guess

BROWN: skip

9 When you’re fixing wires and you see someone run up behind you

10 When The Imposter keeps turning the lights off but AIN’T NO WAY YOU GOIN INTO THE DARK ELECTRIC ROOM TO FIX IT

11 When you sus the wrong person and then you look sus for getting them thrown off

12 When someone dies and their pet mourns them in the cafeteria

13 When the settings are on 3,800 tasks rather than 4-5

14 Or when the voting time is a full ten minutes…

15 And there’s always that one guy who takes the full ten minutes to vote

RED: BLUE!!! VOTE!!

PINK: Kick him!!

16. When the speed isn’t what you’re used to and you’re either crawling through mud or slamming around like a pinball

ORANGE: Purple sus he was running into walls instead of fixing reactor

PURPLE: Bruh! This 3X player speed is out of control!

17. When you’re waiting for the game to start and someone asks

BROWN: Hey can I have pink?

18. Even worse when someone responds with

PINK: No.

19. When someone shows up with the same cheese hat as you and you have to change into a pair of candy canes

20. When it’s two in the morning and you finally have to stop playing

ME: Okay one more game.

ME: Okay one more.

ME: One more game.

My 2020 Calendar Predictions (Woof)

For the past couple of years I have been making personalized calendars with predictions of what each month would bring…

HOW COULD ANYONE HAVE PREDICTED 2020????

Well, not us! Here is what we thought our 2020 was going to be like, compared to, of course, the actual surreal year it turned out to be.

January

“Find a House”

True

Not only did we find, get our offer accepted and go through the process of A DUD HOUSE. But we found our perfect home the very last weekend of January.

February

“Close on a House”

True!

We closed end of February

March

“Move into our house”

True again!

I don’t know how Daniel predicted this timeline so perfectly, but we moved on his birthday weekend… the weekend the stay-at-home mandate was announced

April

“Be offered a full time position”

False

Due to elective surgeries shutting down, my husband hours were cut working at the hospital. Things normalized and we were offered a full time position six months later.

May

“Find out someone is pregnant”

False

We did find out about our new cousin in August though 🙂

June

“See success with Mom’s Beatle book”

Mixed?

Not sure how to define “success” but I was able to begin editing the second draft this year

July

“Share a vacation with Grandma”

False

Pretty depressing

August

“Start preschool”

False

After everything that was going on I was not planning to enroll Jack in preschool… but he could NOT stop talking about it every single day! In October we made the decision and enrolled him. He loves it and it has not been an issue with COVID (so far)

September

“Talk Daddy into Disneyland again”

False

Disneyland wasn’t even open!

October

“Have an epic family costume”

True??

I don’t know about “epic” haha, but we did have a family costume. Jurassic Park theme.

November

“Get a new president”

True!

Wasn’t sure whether or not that would happen!

December

“Have decided to grow our family”

Mixed

With the risks and complications of COVID, we decided to wait.

Last year, I got it about half right. 50/50 chance… I would say this year it was still pretty close! Most of the predictions DID come true, but not on the actual month we though (i.e. preschool, Dan’s job).

After everything that happened this year, I think 50% is pretty impressive!

5 Reason’s Why you Loved The Queen’s Gambit

A TV show about chess. Why were we so obsessed?

I binged this show in a handful of days. MESMERIZED TO TEARS. This was one of the few series that reminds me how desperately passionate I am about storytelling. Here are my authorly reasons why this series was so captivating. (lite spoilers)

1. They take their time in a meaningful way

Personally, as a writer I’m terrible at this, so I was just in AWE of how flawlessly they pulled this off. It was really a genius move to make a limited series rather than a full movie. They slowed everything down to fully develop the story and the characters throughout the episodes, but it didn’t FEEL slow. And that’s because each shot and scene were purposeful toward the narrative.

You don’t have any of that heavy misplaced exposition. You don’t hear some character droning on about how “Margret from high school became a sad alcoholic.” The MC runs into Margret at the store and hears the liquor bottles clink under the baby carriage. And that’s it. It’s never explicitly said. But we know exactly what it means.  Proving that YES, you can pull off show vs tell in a cinematic sense. 

The Queen’s Gambit is FULL of this brilliant storytelling. Taking time to really show what the other characters are thinking and feeling without saying it. I think the most capital example is the way the Borgov raises his eyebrows when Beth resigns her Paris game in tears. That expression alone. That .04 seconds of screen time and YOU KNOW. You know that character is not the ruthless Soviet antagonist. You know Borgov is a sympathetic man who completely understands Beth. That shot perfectly sets up his warm reaction toward her in the end. (Which made me bawl by the way thank you very much) Such dynamic characters! LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT!

2. The characters are real

Be honest… did you or did you not Google whether Beth Harmon was a real person? BECAUSE IT FELT LIKE A TRUE STORY. If you told me it was a true story, I wouldn’t have flinched! And not just Beth but each character is so carefully developed and detailed with their own voices and experiences. They’re not just pegs of a stool holding up the protagonist, any ONE of them could have had a compelling series themselves.

I never stop complaining about “the generic good-looking cast” that so many movies dish out. It makes the whole movie seem like a catalog ad and not a believable set of people. So I really appreciated that they let the people LOOK real. Even Beth, who in the show is called “pretty” many times, and yeah she is, but in a REAL kind of way. Like someone you would sit across from at the airport. Not a matte photo of a model at a beach shoot.

Another thing I noticed, is they would introduce a seemingly small character and then bring them back a few episodes later. This happened over and over again! Which said one thing to me… this writer loved their characters. This writer loved their characters so much that they had to bring them back and add more and more details. Their crooked teeth. The knife they carry. The full detailed life they had since they last saw Beth. I fell in love with these characters because the creators loved them. And they were actual meaningful driving forces in the protagonists life.


3. The simplicity

I just imagine the original author pitching the novel like:

Tevis: Okay, so there’s this orphan…

Publisher: Yeah?

Tevis: And she’s really good at chess.

Publisher: Okay.

Tevis: Like… super good.

Publisher: … … Can she at least have an addiction of some sort?

Tevis: Yeah, probably. But it’s mostly that she’s really good at chess.

(On my TBD list)

I have never been SO invested in chess in all my life. I never thought I would be on the edge of my seat watching so many chess matches. Caring SO MUCH whether or not this character was going to win. And that’s it! I do think the addiction aspect gave Beth a nice arc and made a clear self-antagonist… but really I cared way more about the chess than anything else. Because BETH cares about the chess more than anything else! We get it! Through the story-telling we understand that for this character, chess is the goal, the motivation and the stakes. And we believe the simplicity. She’s passionate about chess and that’s it.

4. Let’s talk about that actress!

Anya Taylor-Joy. Girl. Wow.

A trait of the Beth Harmon character is that she is solemn and mostly expressionless. That would be SUCH a challenge to portray well. I don’t know HOW they pulled this off, but they really did! I was completely sucked into her emotions. At every moment you knew how she was feeling without obvious expression on her face. Brilliantly done! If she were losing a chess match, fists up to the sides of her temples. If she were winning, fingers clasped under the chin. The consistency was flawless. Not just the adult actress but her childhood counterpart as well. They seamlessly made the character one.

5. THE PRODUCTION WAS SO BEAUTIFUL AND DETAILED

I love the sixties. I mean, obviously I do. And I love time period dramas. Of course. SO HELLO! No wonder I was a little biased towards this show. The music was SO good! So fitting too! And THE OUTFITS!! THE PRETTY PRETTY OUTFITS! ALL THE OUTFITS! GIVE ME ALL THE OUTFITS MORE MORE MORE

Excuse me while I swoon over this show for another three months.

New Year’s Resolutions

I have this friend who posts her New Year’s resolutions on her blog and then UPDATES HER PROGRESS THROUGHOUT the year. Like, who is actually responsible and accountable like that? (And if that friend is reading this, you know who you are, you goal goddess).

So FINE. I guess I’ll JUST HAVE TO DO THE SAME. Maybe I’ll actually have some follow through motivation here.

I have a lot of ambitious ideas… And usually what happens when I have a lot of ambitious resolutions is that they don’t get resolutioned… SO, what I decided to do is to take all these dreams I have for 2021 and break them into a much smaller, more reasonable goal. Something so simple it just HAS to done. For me, this is a better recipe for success, especially considering how emotionally draining 2020 was.

Here are my 2021 ambitious dreams vs. the realistic goal:

THE DREAM: Spend the year putting my entire house together

Okay. I have lived in my new house for more than 10 months now… and yet it looks like I’ve lived here for ten days. There’s no artwork or decorations. We patched all the nail holes in the house… and then didn’t touch up the paint, so there’s literal white splotches all over my house. Random doodads have broken off the walls. Furniture still in its box that I haven’t assembled haha. Not to mention the big projects that Dan and I keep talking about. I don’t know why I just gave up putting my house together, I think maybe because of the pandemic?? And hardly anyone was visiting anymore? I don’t know!

THE GOAL: Make a list, do some of the things.

I’m going to walk around and make a COMPREHENSIVE INVENTORY on everything that needs to be done around the house, and then I’ll do one room at a time and pick the top two or three things to do in that room. And I’ll probably be doing that for the next few years or maybe as long as I’m living there. Going room to room and improving as best I can. That’s the only way I can keep my motivation, my sanity and my budget on track.

THE DREAM: find a sexy cardio exercise routine and get into shape

Classic New Years amiright?

THE GOAL: Make a habit of stretching every day, slowly build up a yoga routine

Okay… I really need to be honest with myself here. I want to be in shape, I want to take care of my body, but I know me. And I know that if I don’t start THIS slow, it’s not going to stick. I’ve tried to start an exercise routine many, many times. And I know yoga or tai chi is something that I would have the most interest in. It’s something I can do at home with the kids (even though at that point it will essentially be goat yoga). It just fits me the best. If I tell myself hey get up at five AM and run in the hundred-degree Arizona heat, it’s not going to happen. But if I tell myself, okay five minutes of stretching, I have a much better shot at establishing a habit, which is mostly what I need right now.

THE DREAM: find a cleaning routine and keep my house sparkling

Ahahahaha

THE GOAL: Clean for the 20 minutes the boys are in the bath

Last night, Dan bathed the kids and I ran downstairs and sped-cleaned the playroom. I was SHOCKED at how much I was able to get done while the boys were distracted! I told Daniel we ought to start doing this regularly and he said he would rather be the one cleaning HAHAHAHA Hey man! Either way! We could even switch off! We already routinely wash the boys… so if we made it a routine to speed-clean at the same time, I think we’d be surprised at how impactful those 20 minutes would become! Really!

THE DREAM: Query my Beatles Book in the spring. Have the first draft of my Paranormal Thriller finished by fall. Blog once a week. Publish a short story.

THE GOAL: … I just think I can do it…

I know I get a little carried away with writing … but I seriously think this is doable for me. I only have eight more chapters to clean on Love Me Do. It’s been through three or four beta readers and done well. (It’s always a SUPER GOOD sign when your betas pester YOU for more chapters vs. the other way around!) My NaNo project already has 50,000 words done, so I would say… maybe… 30-40k more? Maybe even for Camp NaNoWriMo in April?? I have a couple of short stories that I’m sitting on and working up the nerve to submit… I usually spend a week or two and knock out all my blog posts for the next few months (if you were wondering how I do it so “regularly”).

… I really think I can do it…

I’ll keep you updated. Every quarter, I’ll use the blog to check in with these goals (April, July, October…)

Best Worst Christmas Presents 2020

My brother and I have this tradition where we try to give each other the worst Christmas presents possible. And if you haven’t been following along, we’ve basically turned White Elephant into a serious art.

I told my brother that I needed more decorations for my new house… This is the present that arrived on my doorstep:

A giant wall decal of two seniors I don’t know riding a golf cart…

Meanwhile in Utah, my brother opened a personalized calendar, meticulously made with love and care by his dear, dear sister. Merry Cringemas Bro.

Here’s a video I made of our Christmas Morning. Enjoy.

Guess Who’s Back? Back Again.

Hi, did you miss me?

I KNOW! You thought I was gone for good! You thought you would never have to dust off this old blog ever again. Oh ho ho how WRONG YOU WERE!

It’s actually been so long that I have to re-learn how to format this blog. What is this new layout, WordPress? This is so weird wtf.

2020 was a year huh.

Understatement.

I had a lot of soul searching to do. A LOT. (Tell you about it another post) Right now I’ll just give you a little rundown on what I’ve been doing since I ghosted this blog…

Match: Stayed home.

April: Stayed home.

May: Stayed home.

June: Wow, we still doing this? Okay, stayed home.

July: Stayed home.

August: Stayed home and turned thirty.

September: So this is a forever thing, right? Stay home for the rest of my life.

October: Stayed home with spooky ghosts.

November: Stayed home with turkey.

December: Stayed home for Holly Jolly time.

Yep, just survival mode. But, despite the sad emptiness of this website I HAVE BEEN WRITING. A lot. I mean really A LOT.

March: Journaling through my crippling anxiety

April: Journaling…

May: Journaling… (wow I now have an actual 400 pages of journaling how did that happen???)

June: Editing my Beatles Book

July: Beatles Book

August: Beatles Book

September: Beatles Book (Oops, said Beatles Book too many times and summoned a poltergeist)

October: Outlining a Paranormal Thriller for NaNoWriMo

November: Winning NaNoWriMo

December: … Should I start blogging again??

So now that you’re all caught back up, you can enjoy your weekly awkward story time or whatever it’s gonna be. (I’m not doing a schedule this year because that’s going to ruin my element of surprise.)

Our New House!

Hi, wow. It’s April now. What a month last month amiright?? But hey! At least one cool thing happened! Here is the video of us moving into our new home. Thank you SO much to everyone who made this possible. So glad we were able to get you in and out safely before this madness happened!

 

Super Quick Life Update: WE ARE BUYING A HOUSE!!!

NEW HOUSE:

Sorry, I’ve been MIA this month. Things have been super crazy since we’re BUYING OUR FIRST HOME!!

excited 2

I seriously am in love so hard. Sometimes when I think about it, I feel all blubbery and teary-eyed haha. It’s everything I wanted and then some! We are signing all the closing paperwork TODAY and I honestly couldn’t be more STUNNED/ECSTATIC.

excited 1

 

THE KIDS:

Has everyone else been like non-stop sick? Because holy moly. This month has been the WORST. We’re just barely getting over the flu and thanks, it only took us A COUPLE OF WEEKS.

 

THE WRITING:

Things have been slow as hell. This is the slowest I’ve written in years. I remember when I proudly wrote a breezy 2k a day. Now when I write two sentences, I have to stop to wipe my brow and binge watch a horrible reality show because my fingers are so tired. It’s been some rough stuff man. In November alone, I wrote 50k words. Then it took December, January, February to wheeze out 20k.

crawling

And it’s not without a reason… House hunting and house buying has become like a full-time job almost. It’s so much work and time! One other hilarious thing that has slowed me down, is I can’t get myself to stop reading my own book. Usually, when I draft I have a strict no-reading-back policy, but with this one, I’ve been pretty naughty. I’ll try to refer back to a scene ‘real quick’ and ‘hey this is kind of funny’. Suddenly 100 pages later, I’ve been sucked in and I just wasted my designated writing time. That’s a good sign though, right? I mean, I don’t know if anyone else will be turning pages, but I LOVE THIS RIDICULOUS BOOK OF MINE. AND GOSH DARNIT I AM DETERMINED TO FINISH THIS FREAKING DRAFT BEFORE I MOVE! AND I WILL! JUST YOU WAIT NAYSAYER!

(I can’t tell you too much about the book yet, but what I can tell you is that it’s a dark-comedy time-travel story about The Beatles.)

Stay tuned for more updates, book announcements, videos of the new house, so on and so forth.