How Many Projects Should Writers Focus on at a Time?

Photoxpress_2677927Lately I've been cursed blessed with an abundance of ideas.  I've got viable ideas for three mainstream novels and at least six ideas for novels to write in a new genre I'd like to experiment with a bit.

As a professional writer, I'm accustomed to juggling projects.  I'll often have an ongoing ghostwriting project (just finished up one), perhaps a shorter business project or two, coaching clients, students, and my blog, not to mention my own work on fiction.  This suits me well, as I'm a fickle type, who gets bored easily.  When I have a variety of projects to work on, I can go from one to other and keep my interest and engagement level up at all times.

However, most of what I've mentioned above is non-fiction. I can't recall ever working on more than one fiction project at a time.  Okay, wait a minute, when I was getting my MFA, I wrote a novel and also worked on several short stories.  So that technically counts.  But what about writing more than one novel at a time?  Is that even possible?  Seems to me the process of writing a novel is so absorbing, so all-encompassing that it might not be advisable.

I do know that in the past when I've had several ideas for novels at once, I've flitted back and forth until finally one idea became so consuming that I dove into it without looking back.  So my theory for the moment is to stay open, realize what a gift this is, and allow myself time to explore, with the idea that one idea will rise to the top and grab me without letting go.

So, do tell.  Do you work on more than one idea at a time?  How do you balance multiple projects?

PS.  In case you hadn't noticed, it's December.  And December means the holidays.  And the holidays mean I'm in a good mood.  So it might be worth your while to come back here next week.  Just saying.

Photo from Everystockphoto.

Character Prompts

I've been struggling a bit with my new novel.  I've gotten to know my main character quite well and I adore her, with all her foibles and faults.  But, amazingly enough, she is not the only character in the novel.  I know, shocking, but there it is.  Other characters are giving themselves up to me fairly easily (there's a guy from Denmark that I'm really starting to like, too). 


A very, very important character remains a mystery to me.   She's like second in importance to the main character, so I kinda need to know her.  And I've convinced myself that I kinda need to know her before I get much farther into the writing of this novel.  (Although, if I give the impression that I've made a lot of progress, that is, alas, simply not true.)

So this morning I took myself firmly in hand.  Every day this week it has been delightfully chilly in the early hours of the morning, when I rise, so I make coffee and feed the cats and then light the fire and sit by it and write.  This morning I set myself a plan for all the things I need to know before I can really let myself rip on the first draft of this story.

And chief among them is, of course, getting to know this character.  And so I wrote a list of what I'm calling character prompts, for lack of a better phrase.   I got this idea from novelist Darnell Arnoult, and I think the first two prompts on the list are hers.  The rest of them came off the top of my head, so who knows if I read them somewhere or thought them up myself.  The idea here is to set your character in motion.  You'll be amazed at how much you learn if you put your character in action using these simple prompts.

For instance, take, "reading."  Sedentary activity, right?  But also an activity that your character could do inside, outside, in bed, in a chair, on the couch, in a park, at the beach, and so on.  And then there's the kind of books the character might like, whether they are fiction or non-fiction, trashy romances or YA novels.  Or maybe she eschews books to read only on her Kindle or Ipad.  Or doesn't read books, but pores over the internet for hours.  And for each of these preferences, there's probably a back story that goes along with it, and all this adds up to a window into your character's psyche.

So here's the list of character prompts.  Feel free to add some more good ones  you think of in the comments.

Write about your character:

Under something

Fixing something

Hiding behind something

In the kitchen

In the bathroom

Watching TV

With a pet

Relaxing after work

Building something

Taking an art class

Going on a hike

Listening to a lecture

Driving a long distance

In the park

Doing laundry

Working on the computer

Doing a hobby

Building a fire

In the garden

On a boat


Friday Mini-Critique: J.D. Frost

For our second critique volunteer, today we have J.D. Frost, who bravely submitted to my eagle eye, even after reading the first Friday Mini-Critique.   J.D. is a loyal and long-time blog reader–thanks, J.D.!  He's also a mystery author, in case you hadn't guessed from the following excerpts.  Visit his website here.

Excerpt #1


    Stuart Blake had done his duty.  He had visited his mother.  His Thursday afternoon was off to a good start, and he expected more of the same–until he steered into his driveway.  Stuart's neighbor, Ferguson, was in his "garden,” a tilled bit of soil in a recess at the midpoint of the old man's house.  The narrow structure was tight against Stuart's drive, no more than six inches off the concrete.  Ferguson and his dog, Spider, were always there.  Stuart's foot had barely touched the drive when the old man and his dog set in.

    "What did she feed you up in Mountain Brook: caviar?  It took long enough to get your fill of it.  I wasn't sure you were coming back."

    Stuart didn't respond.  He was more concerned with Spider.  The dog's sharp, shrill barks threatened his ear drums.  Worse, he wasn't sure if Spider was on a leash or ready to come racing under the car with his spiky little teeth bared.  Stuart valued his ankles as much as his ears.  He moved cautiously along the fender. He peeked over the hood, hoping to spot the little terror–wrong angle.

    "Why doesn't your mother come here?" Ferguson asked.

    "How should I know?" Stuart said, still craning for a better view.  "She doesn't explain her every move to me."

    The area in front of the bumper was clear.

    "You should know.  Aren't you her only son?  It just seems strange that anytime you have lunch or visit her for a holiday, you must go over the mountain."  "Over the mountain" referred to Mountain Brook, home to Birmingham's oldest and wealthiest families.  "Don't the Blakes come to this part of the city?"

My Comments

I like the way this opening immediately sets up Stuart's situation for us.  Plus, in setting up enough information for a good starting point, it also creates more questions. We know that Stuart is from a wealthy family–and yet his mother won't come visit him where he lives.  Is she ashamed of his circumstances? Has he done something wrong?  Why is he living here on the poor side of town, anyway?  Is he the black sheep of the family?   Yet he said his Thursday had already been good, so what happened to make it so? A lot of questions, and that is good because it creates the impetus for me to read farther.

A couple of quibbles: it seems to me that the barking of the dog should be presented in tandem with Ferguson's first line of dialogue.  They are described as "sharp, shrill barks" that "threaten his ear drums," loud enough that it would be difficult to hear Ferguson talking.  There's a bit of a disconnect, with the line of dialogue, then a couple lines of description, then the line about the dog barking.  It feels a little awkward and that could easily be solved by pairing the two.

Second, I think the first two sentences could be stronger.  Each of them contains the word "had" which is an inherently weak word.  What I object to is the repetition of the word.  Maybe something like this would read a bit smoother: "Stuart Blake had done his duty with a visit to his mother." 

But overall, I like the way J.D. mounts this scene and moves people around.  It is clear and easy to read, and it compels me to keep going.

Excerpt #2

Midway in the story:

A waiter, as anglo-saxon as the young lady who had seated them, took their drink order.  Ferguson ordered water.  Stuart ordered an ice tea–large.

    “Would you like me to take your food order now?”

    They each ordered.  The waiter had barely turned away when Ferguson leaned toward Stuart.  “Why can’t you drink water?”  His eyes flashed.  “It’s free.”

    “You’re complaining about a glass of tea after you blow the budget on raw fish!”

    “Quiet.  You’ll attract attention.”

    “Why, is he here?”

    “No, he’s not.  Do you see a black person in here other than me, Detective?  If you must know, I will not have to rely on super powers like you, not after speaking with Deke this morning.  He knew nothing about a Mario but he painted a picture of Reginald Sharpe.”

    “Deke, the guy you gave twenty bucks?  You don’t think he was just telling you anything, what you wanted to hear?”

    “He wouldn’t do that to me.  He owes me too much. ”

    “A picture?  You mean he described Sharpe to you?”

    “Yes,” Ferguson said.  “Ut-oh.” He quickly looked away from the door.  He whispered, “Speaking of Satan himself.”

My Comments

Well, that's certainly a good last line of dialogue–makes me want to keep reading to find out who Satan might be, in the world of Stuart Blake.  Is it Deke?  Is it Sharpe? Overall, though, I have a harder time with this excerpt, through no fault of J.D.'s.  Because it comes in the middle of the story, we have little context for the conversation the two are having. 

A couple observations:  I'm pleased to see Ferguson have a big role in the story, as I liked him as a thorn in Blake's side from the opening.  And thorns are good in fiction, the more of them, the better.  These two apparently have a classic detective/sidekick relationship that intrigues me.

Second, let's look at the description that opens the scene: "A waiter, as anglo-saxon as the young lady who had seated them…"  I'm not sure that is a description that brings an immediate image to mind.  What I think of as anglo-saxon may not be how you of it.  And neither of us may have the same image as the author.  So it is an example of a place where J.D. could go another layer deeper.

That's it!  I'm ready to go read your mystery novels, J.D.! Great job, and thanks for submitting your work.  And for anybody else brave enough….here's the original post which tells you all you need to know.  And you can read the first Mini-Critique here.

Make Work

"Make work" is my all-purpose notation to myself that I use for both notes and on manuscripts.   It is Office_business_desk_237992_l shorthand for "Make it work," and a very handy two words.

If I'm writing notes, and they are a bit sketchy, I add, "make work," because I know in my brain what I mean, I just might not want to take the time to write it all out–these are notes, not the full manuscript, after all.

If I'm editing a manuscript and something needs fleshing out, I'll write the notation, "Make work."

"Make work" can apply to fleshing out a character, dealing with a plot issue, adding in more description, anything.  It is a sign to myself that something isn't working.  Something needs to be dealt with or looked at more deeply.

This week what I needed to make work was a whole lot deeper than most.  It involved re-thinking an entire project, about which I will write more tomorrow or next week.  The experience has also got me re-thinking various aspects of my life.  To wit:

  • What do I need to make work better?
  • What things am I holding onto, trying to make work, that I should instead let go of?
  • What else needs a make work notation in my life–where are things too sketchy?
  • What ideas in my brain need a make work note to bring them to life in the real world?

How about you?  What do you need to make work in your life or writing?

Finding Faults

I'm perfect.Sharon's Flowers

I am.  I am poised, intelligent, attractive, talented, funny, loyal, passionate.  Like I said, perfect. 

And, already you are bored with me and ready to go elsewhere to read because who can relate to perfect?  Already you are thinking, well, if she's perfect than I have nothing in common with her at all and what exactly do all those general terms mean anyway?

So try this instead:

I'm not perfect.  I'm way too judgmental, not good with details, have a terrible habit of rebelling against authority just because it is authority, I veer from crazy deep emotion to extreme containment of it, sometimes I lack focus, I eat too fast, I am currently not exercising enough, I get so excited when I'm talking to friends I interrupt…

Now don't you like me a lot better?  And aren't you way more interested in me as a person?  And, not that you are not perfect, but can't you relate to my faults a bit better than my perfection?

In a post I wrote last week, I discussed the Top Takeaways from the Writer's Loft, specifically, the workshop that Richard Goodman hosted.   One exercise focused on making yourself likable as a narrator by sharing a fault.  This, Goodman said, "provides the reader some freedom."  It allows the reader to feel that the writer is like him, and creates an emotional bond.

And, it is a lot more interesting.  Conflict and imperfection is far more compelling than calm and perfection.

Alas, this is why we have wars.

But I'm a writer, not a warrior, so back to our topic.  Goodman talked specifically about finding fault in terms of narrating memoir, but it also applies to fiction.  Think Holden Caulfield or Jean Rhys (his examples).  And think, too, of the memoirs you've read in which you fell in love with the narrator.  Chances are, they had a fault or two. 

During the Writer's Loft workshop, the readings that came out of this exercise were some of the most entertaining all day.  One participant wrote of his fear at facing a roomful of college students he had come to teach, another wrote a humorous paragraph about always getting lost.  We laughed at these pieces, but we also felt a kinship with their authors.  Who hasn't obsessed over having to speak to a group of people, or gotten themselves good and lost?

In my own novel, the narrator Emma Jean is loudly judgmental, thinks very highly of herself, and gets herself into trouble by flinging herself headlong into new things.  People like her because of her faults.  (And, um, she's not based on me at all.)

So if you are writing memoir, share a fault or two with us.  We'll like you lots better.  And if you are writing fiction, give your characters some faults so that we know they are just like us.

Anybody have any suggestions of famous flawed narrators?  Feel free to leave your ideas in the comments.

***Thanks to Jessica, who left the comment asking for more information on this topic, and thus inspired this post.

And, by the way, the photo of flowers is supposed to epitomize perfection.  Not sure if you would get that or not, so I felt compelled to explain it, which means it is probably not working as an illustration.

A Successful Writing Life

Last week at the Fall Writer's Loft orientation, we held a panel on The Writing Life.  I moderated, and mentors Bill Brown, David Pierce, and Linda Busby Parker participated.  It was a freewheeling and wide-ranging discussion, as I'd hoped.  Since I was moderating, I scribbled notes, just in case the conversation lagged and I needed to get it going again.  That didn't happen, but looking back over my notes gives some idea of what all we covered:

  • Finding a balance between making a living and writing
  • Tips on just doing it
  • The value of getting into the flow of writing 1,000 words a day, no matter what
  • "Stay with it" momentum (see above)
  • Handling rejection
  • Pointing yourself in a specific direction
  • Switch it up–try non-fiction if you mostly write fiction, etc.
  • The pressure to write a blog and keep up with twitter and social media
  • The best writer's conferences and events
  • How to use prompts
  • And we covered all this in 45 minutes…

After I got back home to the lovely (and hot) PDX, I started pondering the writing life anew.  I didn't talk much at the panel, as it was not intended to be about me.  But many people have expressed interest in the writing life that I have created for myself.  While I don't yet make buckets of money and I'm not a household name, I do have a satisfying life that I love.  It gives me tons of freedom and independence, which are two of my most important personal values.  I can pretty much do what I want when I want, though let us not forget I earn this right by being slavishly devoted to my clients and their deadlines. (Just so you don't think I'm a slacker all the time.)

Anyway, I started thinking about some of the things I've done to create myself a writing life and came up with the following:

1.  Decide what kind of writing life you want.  Do you want to pick a job that doesn't require you give it your heart and soul, and thus frees your emotional energy for writing?  Or do you want a job that is in writing or a related field?  Obviously, I chose the latter and I like it because the more I write, the better I get.  All of the various kinds of writing that I do–ghostwriting, copywriting, blogging, fiction, critiquing–enhance each other.

2.  If you do choose the full-time writing life, be willing to do anything (well, within reason).  Like most free-lancers, I wear many hats, and I like some of these hats lots better than others.  But that doesn't mean I turn down the things that aren't as much fun.  For me, its all writing, and I still get a thrill from even the dullest of jobs.  I had no idea that ghostwriting could be such a fun and lucrative gig, until I did my first assignment, which I got nearly by accident.  So keep your mind and your options open.

3.  Be willing to take low-paying jobs at first.  You need experience.  You need clips.  Work for free or a pittance if you have to at first.  I got paid a miserable wage in my first years as a writer, but I was able to up my fees quickly once I mastered the various genres and had the clips to prove it.

4.  Broaden your physical horizons.  We're a global community now.  Many of my ghostwriting clients are in LA, and my students in Nashville.  Doesn't matter–we've got this thing called the internet that allows us to communicate instantly.  Don't reject jobs because they are in other locations.  Besides, one of the best parts of my job is the fact that I get to travel to places I love.

I'm sure I've got more advice in me, but the workers who are doing God only knows what at the house around the corner are so noisy they've got my brain scrambled.  So, since I don't have to report to anybody but myself (did I mention that as a huge benefit?)  I'm taking my freedom and heading to New Seasons.

PS.  Read more about the Loft orientation at Linda's blog, right here.

Creating Characters: Mai, Oui, Marcel Proust, I Could Use Some Help

Having some difficulty creating full, true-to-life fictional characters?  Why not let Marcel help you?

Yes, that Marcel, the most famous one of all–Marcel Proust, author of Remembrance of Things Past, the only part of which I remember is when he waxed poetic about Madeleines, the shell-shaped, mini-cakes that melt in your mouth.

Thanks to the wonderful Kate Lord Brown, fellow denizen of Alltop, I found this fabulous questionnaire that purports to be the Proust Questionnaire.  You can answer the same questions that our Marcel did at age 13, and at age 20.  Supposedly. 

In truth, I don't really care if Proust did answer these questions or not.  What struck me in looking them over is how useful they could be for character development.  The questions go way beyond Barbara Walter's famous, "If you were a tree, what tree would you be?" query to delve deeply into such things as:

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

To what faults do you feel most indulgent?

Your favorite virtue?

What in your mind would be the greatest of misfortunes?

And more, so much more, all written in that language from another time.  So put yourself in your character's state of mind and take the questionnaire.

Also, head on over to Kate's blog and read the post about the questionnaire.  Its quite clever.

And, one more thing–stay tuned to learn details of the awesome contest that is coming up.  I'll give you a hint.  It has something to do with this site.

The Sinner’s Guide to Confession: Blog Stop

The Sinner's Guide to ConfessionSinners Guide to Confession

By Phyllis Schieber

Today I have the pleasure of hosting a blog stop on Phyllis Schieber's virtual book tour.

Wouldn't it be refreshing for an author to pay attention to women of a certain age (especially if you are a woman of a certain age)?  Well, Phyllis Schieber has!Her novel has been called chick-lit for boomers. The characters–Barbara, Kaye, and Ellen–are best friends in their 50s, all smart, gutsy women who face challenges that are universal to all females, no matter the age. 

In an interview at the blog, Bookshipper, Shieber said, "The women in Sinner's certainly have some of the same problems that women have in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, but these women have far more serious issues to contend with in their late forties and early fifties than the problems that drive 'chick lit'."

What follows is a bit more information about the book.  Be sure to scroll down to find out how to win a free copy.  Nothing better than a free book!

About Sinner’s Guide to Confession:
Kaye and Barbara are longtime friends, now in their fifties. Ellen, who is several years younger, develops a friendship with the other two women years later, solidifying this close-knit group. The three women are inseparable, yet each nurtures a secret that she keeps from the others.

Phyllis Scheiber
About Author Phyllis Schieber (in her own words):

The first great irony of my life was that I was born in a Catholic hospital. My parents, survivors of the Holocaust, had settled in the South Bronx among other new immigrants. In the mid-fifties, my family moved to Washington Heights. The area offered scenic views of the Hudson River and the Palisades, as well as access to Fort Tryon Park and the mysteries of the Cloisters. I graduated from George Washington High School. I graduated from high school at sixteen, went on to Bronx Community College, transferred to and graduated from Herbert H. Lehman College with a B.A. in English and a New York State license to teach English. I earned my M.A. in Literature from New York University and later my M.S. as a developmental specialist from Yeshiva University. I have worked as a high school English teacher and as a learning disabilities specialist.

My first novel , Strictly Personal, for young adults, was published by Fawcett-Juniper. Willing Spirits was published by William Morrow. My most recent novel, The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, was released by Berkley Putnam. In March 2009, Berkley Putnam will issue the first paperback publication of Willing Spirits.

Win A Free Book from Phyllis Schieber – It's very easy to be entered in a drawing for a FREE book by Phyllis Schieber. Post comments on any blogs during the virtual tour and you will have a chance to win a book from Phyllis. One random person will win – but we are also asking visitors to share a secret and one secret will also win a free book. As a bonus the blog owner that hosted the winning comments will also win a book. Share some interesting stories and questions with Phyllis Schieber during her tour – and have a chance to win a book.

For full details about Phyllis Schieber’s virtual tour, visit her tour home page -

Order Your Copy here –

You can visit Phyllis Schieber at or

Twitter: The Art of Writing Tweets

Twitter is, of course, the social networking rage.  Seems like everyone from corporations to small businesses to solopreneurs to politicians are tweeting.  And with good reason, I some people find it addictive.

There are posts galore on how to best use Twitter to promote yourself or your business, how to not waste time on Twitter, (yeah, right), how to save the world using Twitter (I'm making that one up, but Barack Obama did use it to help get himself elected).

But what about the tweet as a creative art form?  A mini-essay?  Yes, I know that it is hard to consider writing something creative in 140 characters or less.   However, once you start using Twitter a lot you begin to mold yourself to its limitations–and find creative ways to work within them.  Ah, of such restraints are genres formed.

I've been thinking about this over the past couple days as I've found myself tweeting a lot.  I'm really a moderate tweeter.  As of this writing, I have only 800 tweets (there are people who have thousands) and about that many followers.  But the more I tweet, the more I get addicted to it into it, and the more I get into it the more I learn about the art of being succinct.

Not only that, but while being succinct, one can also express deep thoughts and tell mini-stories.  Here are my how-tos for the art of writing tweets:

1.  Cut all extraneous words
.  So this:  "I went to see my mother tonight and she had what looked like a really bad meal" becomes this: "Saw mother tonight, she had bad meal."  Now I have room to describe the bad meal, or say something of related interest.

2.  Create tweets that stand alone but are part of a larger whole
.  I've been experimenting with this one.  Sometimes when I get back from doing something away from the computer (gasp! It does happen upon occasion)I'll write a series of posts about my activities.  Each post links to the other, but each post stands alone and makes sense if that is all you read.

3.  Use good, active verbs.  Amazing how the rules of good writing cut across all genres.  I'm guilty of not paying enough attention to this one.

4.  Express it differently.
  We don't want to hear that you just walked in the door to the coffee shop.  We want to learn what is going on in that specific coffee shop at the moment you walk in the door.  I'm probably more interested in your reaction to the painting on the wall then how much you need caffeine.  I've heard the latter a million times, the former can come only from you.

5.  Find the telling detail.  This is, of course, intimately related to #4.  What is the one detail of the coffee shop that brings the whole scene alive?  If you can do it in your creative writing, and I feel certain you can, you can do it on Twitter.  As a matter of fact, writing tweets is probably damn good practice for any kind of writing.

Which gives me an excuse to keep using it as much as I want.

Lessons From The Snow

Its been snowing in Portland since Saturday and now we have about a foot on the ground.  I know that Snow 070
most of you consider Oregon a northern state and you thus assume that we always get a lot of snow, but such is not the case.  Its been five years since we've gotten an appreciable snowfall, and 40 since we've had this big of a storm.

Because we don't get snow very often, it is not cost-effective to maintain a lot of equipment to clear it.  So despite the fact that the city employees work very hard to plow roads, they simply can't do enough in a situation like this.  And most motorists don't bother with buying chains. After all, if you only need them once every five years or so, there are more compelling things to put in the budget.

So I've been mostly stuck at home with a houseful of people, a sort of early Christmas house party.  Yesterday, going a bit stir-crazy, we all walked down to the Daily, which, thank you God, was open.  All pedestrians walked down the tire tracks in the street as the sidewalks are just too drifted with snow to allow easy passage.  Later, we found chains in the basement and spent an hour digging the car out and putting them on.  Um, when I say "we" I mean the royal we because I wasn't about to get anywhere near a snow shovel. 

And did I mention that I only started my Christmas shopping on Friday?  In a panic, I started ordering things online.  Since then, I've gotten notice that the packages have been shipped but none have arrived on my doorstep.  You think its because planes haven't been flying in and out of PDX? Or because even trucks with chains on them are getting stuck on the snowy streets?  Hmmm, I wonder.

You'd think I'd be getting tons of writing done, what with being snowbound and all.  Think again–all this is incredibly distracting.  And, I will admit, lots of fun.  But while I may not have been writing much, I have, of course been thinking.  What follows are my profound Thoughts having to do with snow.  And writing, of course.

1.  It will all be okay.  So the presents don't arrive in time, at least the kids are old enough to understand why.  I'll wrap up cards that tell what they were supposed to get.  Or we'll have another dinner later and unwrap the real presents.  There's not a lot I can do about it, so why spend energy worrying about it?

2.  Details are what make the story.  We know this. Of course we know this.  But it is one thing to hear on the radio that buses are having a hard time navigating the streets and yet another to talk to my son and have him tell me that he saw 10 buses stuck in the snow on his way home yesterday.  Or to talk to my sister who was riding a bus this morning and just as she answered my call it got stuck and everyone had to get off.  The whole lot of them walked off looking for a new bus and when it came, it was so full it zoomed on past.  Aren't those details more interesting than the bland radio report?

3.  Stepping away from the computer is good for the soul.  Shocking, I know, but since we've been having our non-stop house party every night we drink wine, eat dinner, and watch a Christmas movie.  News flash: this is fun.  Even more fun than hanging out on my computer, writing.  Amazing the things you learn in a pinch.

4.  Showing up is what counts.  You might not finish the whole damn novel, but you can write a scene of it.  Or a paragraph.  Or even a sentence.  I know, I beat this drum constantly and loudly but over the last couple of days I've seen again how effective it is to spend even a minute or two with whatever project you are lovingly shepherding.  What with the tumult in the house, I've been hard-pressed to find time for my client's projects, let alone my passion projects.  But spending a half hour with Emma Jean yesterday reminded me why I strive to make time to work on my novel–and it made me feel like I'd accomplished something so I could go watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation without guilt.

That is it, the sum total of my Thoughts after being cooped up for four days.  But, hark, the sun is out and could it be I just saw a drip coming off the roof?  Never mind that the forecast calls for more snow tonight…

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