The Octopus Knows- Round Robin, Week #6


Most people love a good mystery.  The mystery I am currently a part of includes an ill-fitting white suit, double agents, and a kidnapped octopus. A group of bloggers are writing the story together as a round robin. Each of us will do a small section of the story. The only rule is that each writer has to pick up where the last one left off.  It was started by the creative Laird Sapir, and you can find the first entry here. Laird is also keeping a list of the writers and the links to each person’s blog entry here. And now it’s my turn. So here goes!

When we last saw them, Braden had stuffed poor Ninja in a body bag and Simon had gone off to use the restroom.

Ninja squirmed in the body bag, trying to find a more comfortable position. After a few minutes, he gave up and settled for trying to jab Braden in the leg with his tentacles. Ninja wished again that Simon would let him get an iPad, or at least an iPhone. It would come in really handy in situations such as this. He couldn’t speak, but he could type and send text messages. He communicated with Simon using a laptop at home. Ninja also enjoyed playing Angry Birds, but had left that out of his discussions with Simon.

He also hoped that Simon wasn’t dumb enough to follow Braden’s instructions and had set off after them immediately instead of crying in the bathroom. He probably could have escaped on his own, but with no GPS device he was afraid to try in case he was not near water. Ninja wasn’t very fast on land. The humans who had altered him to his present state of being had forgotten to improve that area.

Out of frustration, he jabbed Braden hard in the leg. This time he got a response.

“Hang in there, Ninj,” Braden said. “We are almost to our destination.”

Ninja jabbed Braden again. He hated to be called Ninj.

“I apologize, Ninja,” Braden said. “I forgot. Anyway. We are almost there and I have a whirlpool tub all set up for you to use while we wait for Simon.”

After what seemed like a long time, Ninja heard a door open, then a second door. His bag got set on a hard surface, and he heard water start running. Braden opened the canvas bag, and after a minute Ninja cautiously ventured out. He was in a large bathroom, complete with two sinks and a massaging shower. He turned to look behind him and saw a large tub with the faucet turned on.

He glanced at Braden, who smiled at him.

“Go ahead,” Braden said. “You can get in. I put the jets on gentle, but I’ll show you how to adjust them. Then you can be comfortable while we wait for Simon. I hope he doesn’t wait more than an hour before coming after you. The timing will be close if we are to convince Mr. Jones that you both escaped.”

While Braden was talking, Ninja had climbed in the whirlpool tub. He decided he liked the jets. Braden showed him the controls for the tub,  but he chose to leave them on the gentle setting. Ninja still didn’t trust Braden, but he had to admit that this was a nice place to be held hostage.  He would play complacent captive and see how events played out. If nothing else, he might be able to find out if he and Simon could trust Braden. He figured he could always escape later if necessary.

Meanwhile, back in his own bathroom, Simon got up off the toilet, took a deep breath, and went to change clothes and gather his wand and other equipment. He wasn’t sure that Braden was truly on his side, and wanted to be ready for anything.

Thus ends my contribution to the round robin. For the next installment, check out Ellen Gregory’s blog right here. This has been a lot of fun so far, and I know I’m excited to see what the rest of the writers do with the story.



“I’m going home, back to the place where I belong…” And I’m sure many of you know the song.

That about sums it up, which annoys me. Not because I’m going home, but because once again a rather cheesy song from an American Idol participant nicely sums up where I’m at in life. I don’t even watch American Idol.

I’m originally from northwest Indiana, but a little over a year ago I decided to move to Arizona. I felt like I was stuck in a rut in every area of my life, and I wanted a change. Well, I got one! It’s been a hard year in so many ways, but I don’t regret my decision to move here. I’m remembering the good times, learning from the bad, and taking it all home with me. There are a lot of factors in my decision to go home, but the biggest one is that I’ve discovered I don’t like being quite so far from my family.

Home isn’t going to be the same though. My parents moved since I came to Arizona, and to be honest I’m not sure how to get to their house. Some of my best friends have moved away.  I’m pretty sure the Jen who is heading back to Indiana isn’t the same one who moved here last July too.

The question I’ve been asked the most is “Won’t you miss the weather here?” And the answer is no. I’m looking forward to a winter where everything freezes properly and I get a break from my allergies.

The trip will take about three days. I love road trips, so I’m looking forward to that. I am taking my adopted kitties, and they hate to ride in the car so I’m not looking forward to that. I did buy them aromatherapy collars and they’re all passed out right now, so hopefully they’ll sleep through the trip.

My mom and my sister are coming out here to help me drive home. Wish us luck. It will either be the best road trip of our lives, or the worst road trip of our lives. When the trip is over and I’m back home I’ll let you know which it was.


I can do this. Right? =) ROW80 Check in for July 27

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Over the past few days, I’ve had a hard time getting to my writing. Once I sit down it comes easily but getting to that place has been difficult. Perhaps I’m tired because the desert heat is sucking my energy away. I don’t know. I’m still managing to write some each day and make my goals. I’m also still way ahead on my word count, which is encouraging this week. I don’t feel like I’m stuck in the story or anything. It’s just one of those weeks I guess.

Pouncer tried to help tonight. However, she was driving me crazy so she’s been forced to shout encouragement from the bathroom. On second thought, she might just be saying “Let me OUT!” I’m pretty sure that’s it.

ROW80 check in for July 24, 2011


So, I slacked off a little bit on Friday and Saturday night. Friday night I didn’t feel well and went to bed early. I think I was just over tired. Saturday I was lured out with the promise of free dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and a trip to the closing sales at Borders. I knew I’d written a lot last week, so I was hoping I was still on track to make my end goal even after missing two days.

Tonight before I started writing I checked my goals to see how much my slacking off for two days hurt, and I was still way ahead. That made me feel slightly less guilty about ditching my characters for two days. Then I more than doubled my daily word goal for today.  Right now I’m way ahead so I’m thinking it might be time to increase the daily word count again.

ROW80 check in for 07/20/11

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Since I started this challenge on Sunday, I’ve doubled my daily goal from 200 to 400 words. I decided to increase it to 400 words today because even when I’m tired I find that I still write way more than I expect to. I have beat my daily goal every day since I started this challenge and as long as it’s coming easily I don’t see any harm in trying to increase the goal a little at a time. I see my story slowly taking shape and it’s exciting.



ROW80 check in 7/17


I overshot my first goal by almost 200 words. Yay me. =)

It was almost too easy to reach the goal, but I don’t want to increase it until I see how I do during the week. I think I could sit here and write all day on the weekend, but during the week I expect it to be harder. If I find that I’m making my goal easily every day even during the week I’m going to increase it.

It was FUN to get back to the story! I missed these people. That sounds funny even to me but it’s true. I successfully resisted the urge to re-read everything I’ve done and was able to just focus on new scenes. I could have kept going all day but I want to go to church. I really need to put down this laptop and go get presentable.

See you all on Wednesday!



I recently discovered the myWANA hashtag group on Twitter. Actually, I’d seen it for a while and wondered what it was. I recently got over myself and posted a note on Twitter, using the hashtag and asking what it is. What I found is an awesome group of writers who hang out and encourage each other over Twitter, using the myWANA hashtag. I’m not going to go into tons of detail about it here but if you’re curious about #myWANA check out Kristin Lamb’s blog at

As I spent time reading the myWANA posts, I saw another hashtag group, ROW80. ROW80 is a writing challenge where each participant sets personal daily writing goals and sends a progress report to the larger group twice a week. They do the challenge four times a year, with a break between sessions. They’re currently on session three, but it just started and I’m told it’s not too late to jump on board, so I’m going to go for it.

I’m a little nervous, because I’ve never been a big goals oriented kind of person. I did the four-year plan in high school and college because they made me. Once the plans were approved I never saw them again. I’ve occasionally set goals for myself, but I tend to forget about them. I’m going to try again.

I’ve set myself a goal of writing 200 words a day. It doesn’t seem like much to me, but commuting to work makes for long days and I’m usually pretty wiped out when I do finally get home. I’d rather start off small. It’s flexible enough that if I find this goal is too easy I can always increase it later. I’m working on a novel that takes place in Gettysburg, so I’m excited to spend the next 70 or so days there, because I haven’t been there in person for two years.

Wish me well, and please feel free to ask me how it’s going.

Coincidence? I don’t think so…

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As one out of the two of you who regularly read this know, I am a writer. Not just a blogger, but a fiction writer. I’m not a published writer, but I was working on it. Yes, was. I let life get in the way of what I know I should be doing. Okay, life and the occasional round of Angry Birds.  Anyway. I think about writing all the time. I wonder about the characters in my stories and what they’re up to. I wonder where I should take them next. I wonder how to work General Sickles into my Gettysburg story so I can pick on him. =)  I am constantly thinking about writing, but not writing. And it’s been driving me crazy.

Last Wednesday, one of my very favorite authors was in Scottsdale. I’ve been reading this guy’s books for years and I couldn’t pass up the chance to meet him in person. During his discussion time, he talked about writing, and how writers have a little voice in their head that nags at them to write until they do it. He said the only way to get the voice to shut up is to start writing and keep writing. As he was talking about the little writing voice, my own little writing voice was jumping up and down going “SEE? Stop ignoring me!” He offered other advice as well, including the thought that many writers don’t get published because they give up too soon. He said don’t give up.

So then when it came my time to get my new book signed, I thanked him for the encouragement he had given people who want to write. He looked at me and said “You’ve got that little voice.” It wasn’t a question. I said yes. He looked me right in the eye and said “Keep writing. Don’t give up.”  I’ve been encouraged by a lot of great people in my writing, but having one of my favorite authors speak into this area of my life, even for just a moment, was amazing.

Then this weekend I was at a ranch in Dragoon, AZ, for a booksigining.  A friend of a friend has recently published her first book, and a small group of us went down there to hang out and help her with the book signing. We got to talking to this author and she asked if any of us were writers. I confessed that I had done some writing, even entering a short story contest. She shared her own journey to getting published with me, and it was really interesting and informative. The words don’t, give and up were mentioned again. In that order. Then later, she was talking to a few others who stopped by the book table and she introduced me as a fellow writer!

After all this writing talk and encouragement over the past few days, the little voice in my head is just as insistent as ever, and a little bit smug. It’s saying “SEE? I told you so. Now get to it.”

I’m taking a deep breath, and I’m going to get to it.

A bunch of random thoughts

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I’ve had a lot happen since I last posted. My bruises from the accident are mostly gone. I have one or two stubborn little spots that insist on lingering, but they’re on their way out. I haven’t had nightmares or anything like that. No fear for me!

 I got an apartment. I understand now why Jeff Foxworthy once said that his first singles apartment was the closest he had ever been to being homeless. I’m not there, but I won’t have real furniture for another week or so, so it feels kind of weird in here. I do appreciate the patio chairs my aunt gave me though. =)

I’ve started taking public transportation to work. Beats being stuck in traffic on the Black Canyon Highway every day.  I’m kind of bad in that I sit on the bus as it cruises down the HOV lane and giggle at the cars that are stuck in traffic. The bus is more like an airline coach bus so it’s nice too.

I’ve gotten totally pathetic when it comes to the weather. It’s been chilly and rainy here for the last day or so and I wore a winter sweater to work. The kind of sweater I used to wear at home in the dead of winter. When it was 25 or 30 degrees outside. It’s been around 70 degrees here and I’m freezing. Feel free to leave snide comments below. =)

I’ve heard it said for years that obedience brings a blessing. I smiled and nodded when people said this to me because I believed it but I never took it real seriously until I moved here. It wasn’t totally my idea to come out here, see. I wanted to go to Gettysburg, but they weren’t hiring. I feel like God sent me here, and every step has been amazing. I got a job after a month, in a “bad” economy. I got my apartment for a decent amount less than they’re charging people now. My cable company totally screwed up my order so I get free HD DVR for three months. (Is it bad that I’m almost happy they screwed up?) Okay, that last one wasn’t a blessing until they told me about the three months free thing… I’ve found a good church, right down the street from my apartment. I’ve made a new group of friends. It seems like every step I take works out great and I’m in a constant state of amazement. Was it risky? Yep. But I’d take the leap again because it’s been a great adventure. If you feel like you’re being called to take a risk in some area, GO FOR IT.

Stonewall and Fear

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One of my very favorite people from history is General Stonewall Jackson. He was a brilliant strategist and a man of God. Stonewall believed that God had fixed the hour of his death, and consequently he didn’t fear it. My favorite example of this fearlessness is that one time he was sitting under a tree writing a letter and a bullet or a cannonball hit the tree several feet above his head, sending tree parts raining down on him. Stonewall looked up to see what happened, then brushed off his letter and calmly continued to write. Maybe I’m a chicken, but I would have gone to sit somewhere else.

I’ve been thinking about Stonewall’s fearlessness a lot this week. Last Sunday, my cousin and I were in a really bad car accident. Five cars were involved, and one woman was killed. A man came off the highway driving too fast and ran a red light. My cousin and I were not seriously hurt. She banged her knee and has some impressive scrapes. I am sore and have bruises in colors I didn’t know human skin could be.

The trauma counselor on the scene told me that I would probably have insomnia, nightmares, trouble eating and other various side effects from the accident.  I’m still not sure how you can have insomnia and nightmares. Maybe that’s a topic for a later time. Anyway.

I realized pretty quickly that Jesus had been watching over us Sunday. It was kind of a no brainer.  I don’t know why  things happened the way they did, but I know He was my protector that day. And with that realization came total freedom from the fear that would have been normal after an experience like this. I got right back in the car the next day, both as a passenger and a driver. I have been sleeping better since the accident that I did before it happened. Rolling over or shifting in bed requires strategic planning to avoid pain, but this too shall pass.

Tonight I made the choice to go home from the grocery store taking the same road and passing through the intersection where the accident happened. I really thought about going a different way, and I easily could have. I’m sure nobody would have blamed me. But I don’t want to give in to fear or paranoia in any form, so I went down Highland to the stop light at the intersection of the 51. I had a red light, so I looked around for a moment.  I could still see lots of glass on the cement median where my cousin’s SUV came to a screeching halt Sunday. I don’t know that I’ll ever pass through that intersection without remembering that day, but I think that making the choice to go home that way was the right thing to do. Fear can be paralyzing, and I don’t want to go there, even when I have a “good reason” to.

Stonewall probably had lots of opportunities to be afraid in battle. But he never showed fear. He absolutely trusted in God to protect him. I don’t know that I’d stand in front of a loaded cannon like Stonewall did, but I do hope to follow his example in my own life and continue to trust God to protect me in all situations.

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