Camp Tales: April 1-7

Overall, I found this first week of Camp NaNoWriMo pretty smooth sailing as I'd already written or revised the first twelve chapters several times. Whenever I'd feel stumped, I'd walk around the house and do some chore, like vaccuming or emptying the dishwasher, then I'd return to my desk with a new perspective.

I have the luxury of working from home (haven't been a "nine-to-fiver" in over 25 years), so I wrote from 7AM until noon, Monday thru Friday and early mornings and evenings on the weekend. After writing a chapter, I'd read my words aloud, just to make sure they flowed.

This year I added a diabolical new twist, although it has nothing to do with writing. I started a vegetarian version of the Whole30 program, which means no gooey s'mores for me! No sugar, grains, soy or dairy products for thirty days. Will I be able to survive this dietary reset while traipsing through the Camp NaNo woods? And what will I do on April 21 without my hot cross buns, chocolate bunny, and pineapple upside down cake with cherries?

My Writing Project

I began Seaglass Christmas: A Little Blessing Mystery at Camp NaNoWriMo in April 2018 and continued working on it in July. Life got hectic and I didn’t pick it up again until December 2018.

In this prequel to my visionary fiction novel, Inn Lak'ech: A Journey to the Realm of Oneness, eight-year-old Mercy-Faith "Elm" Sunday becomes entwined in the mystery of a local legend after she receives a hard-to-find shard of amethyst seaglass from a company that doesn't exist.

Seaglass Christmas: A Little Blessing Mystery is a visionary fiction novel with a cozy mystery element. My protagonist lives with her parents at Sunday's Marina in beautiful Little Blessing. This is long before Big Dave became mayor and Glorie owned her "Sea Angels" mermaid store. I’m really enjoying the writing process because I get to think and play like an eight-year-old, solve problems, and enjoy the sights and sounds of Christmas months in advance. I also get to expand upon Elm’s synesthesia and create more flavors of Holy Cow ice cream—a huge bonus in my book!

So why a mystery? I was a voracious Nancy Drew reader when I was about Elm’s age and Seaglass Christmas is my homage to the teenage detective, but in a visionary fiction sort of way. I also wanted to challenge myself and have fun because who said writing should be all blood, sweat, and tears?

Using Pinterest

What a godsend Pinterest is! For inspiration, I created a secret Seaglass Christmas board where I've collected assorted images of characters (Elm, Big Dave, Glorie, Snow, Noah, Jason, Nurse Debra, Miss Peanut, the mysterious man), Little Blessing locations (Blessed Coffee and Bakery, Charity Street, Faith Camp Meeting Grounds, Gluttony Road, Gluttony Tavern, Grace Church of the Ascension, Hallelujah House, Holy Cow Sundaes, Miss Peanut’s Christmas Tree Farm, Moontree’s Animal Hospital, Moonwater Beach, Purity Park, Sunday Free Library, Sunday's Marina, The Violet Lady's cave, Ye Very Olde Antiques), even the Christmas gifts Elm makes for her family.

Interviewing Myself

To help gain clarity, I wrote a list of interview questions about the book. This helped enormously and will come in handy when I do real press interviews. Questions included: "What made you want to write a prequel?" and "How did you prepare to write from the perspective of an eight-year-old girl?"

Monday, April 1

Unlike past camp sessions when I'd begin writing at the stroke of midnight, I decided a good night's sleep was in order. I woke up to bright sunshine but instead of birds sweetly chirping from the budding trees, my ears were assaulted by a bucket truck outside the neighbor's front yard. A very loud truck removing tree limbs. Some kind of noisy April fool's joke to mess with the writer?

After a hearty breakfast of fried eggs in ghee and sweet potato hash, I joined my Ascension Cabin mates 'round the campfire for the Opening Ceremony. It ended with a rockin' rendition of Ode to Joy and I was off to my virtual bunk to burn the sage, turn on my Christmas lights, and get busy meeting my 50,000 word goal.

Chapter One: Elm receives mystery seaglass

I need to "strengthen" this chapter to establish the tight bond between Elm and her father from the onset. It's also important to get the mystery brewing in this first chapter. I had my Christmas music playing in the background, but found it too distracting for writing, so I changed it to Ocean Sounds of Newport. Now it's just breezy ocean waves and an occasional seagull or foghorn. Ah, I'm in Little Blessing...

Chapter Two: Elm writes a letter to Miss Vi

One of my favorite parts about writing Seaglass Christmas is getting to express Elm's thoughts. She rambles and rants and it's fun to pretend I'm a kid again! (Okay, some people say I never stopped.) For someone so young, I think Elm communicates pretty well, considering she's corresponding with a tree.

Tuesday, April 2

Yikes, the noisy tree people are back! It's only 7AM—why are they here so early? Do I need to erect a "Quiet! Writer At Work!" sign for them to get the message? Must drown them out with my ocean music. Must remember to flow like water...

Chapter Three: Elm sees a stranger in library

I love spending time in libraries, especially the ones here in New England. When I realized I didn't know the proper name for the style of chairs I wanted in my fictional library (I try to be as historically accurate as possible), I searched the internet to add chair images to my Pinterest board. I have a feeling I'm going to be doing a lot of "stopping and searching" this week.

Chapter Four: Homeschooling advantages

Since I went to public schools, I had to do a lot of research on homeschooling and seaglass, too, because Detective Elm Sunday officially begins her Mystery Seaglass investigation as a homeschooling assignment.

Wednesday, April 3

Got off to a late start today, but the good news is I awoke to complete silence—no tree-removing machinery! The not-so-good news is that I spent over an hour deleting cluttering files from my iCloud storage before I began writing.

Chapter Five: A community Thanksgiving dinner at Purity Park

Can we talk? Writing about food today was absolutely tortuous! I could have cared less about the maple roast turkey (because I'm vegetarian) or the garlicky mashed potatoes, candied yams with pecans, and green bean casserole (since I'm practically drowning in vegetables on the Whole30 program.) But that cornbread stuffing! Those Parker House rolls with honey butter! The luscious platters of deep-dish apple, pumpkin, and pecan pies, oh my! God, I need carbs. Seriously, would somebody please remind me why I chose to detox during writing camp?! Grrrr...

Chapter Six: Tempers flare at Brownie meeting

This is where Elm and Snow first get into it. I enjoyed writing this bratty scene, mostly because it gave me an outlet for my dieting frustrations. At one point, I stopped writing to research "At what age do children stop calling their mothers 'Mommy'?" Fortunately, it seems to vary, so I guess I'm in the clear.

Thursday, April 4

Incidentally, I was a Brownie once, too, but we never met in a place as cool as the gingerbread cottage at Faith Camp Meeting Grounds! In fact, I did the entire program, from Brownies to Seniors, and even traveled to "Our Chalet" in Switzerland. So I had the history, yet I still needed to spend several hours researching the Girl Scouts organization and how to earn Brownie badges. Elm is trying to earn her Philanthropist badge and my challenge for today is to weave the five steps with the mystery storyline. Whenever I find a helpful resource, I save the URL on Scrivener or Pinterest.

Chapter 7: Jingle Bell Nonsense

Elm's grandmother is doing her darndest to spoil the Christmas magic, but I won't let her because I've got the power! I'm the writer!

Chapter 8: Candy Cane Writing Workshop

I organized numerous writing workshops and conferences over the years, but never one during the holidays. I thought it would be fun to create a magical one for Elm and it was tough leaving this chapter.

Friday, April 5

Awoke this morning to one nagging thought: I've got to make a map of Little Blessing! Nothing too complicated, mind you, but something to help the reader get a bird's eye view of the town. I managed to locate a few map-creation websites and will do more research on the weekend because I'd rather be writing today.

By the afternoon, I had another nagging thought: I'll die if I don't get some bread! To be compliant with the Whole30 rules, I baked a batch of Almond Flour Crackers, which were surprisingly satisfying.

Chapter 9: Banned from Holy Cow

I suppose there are worse things than getting banned from an ice cream shop, but Elm sure can't think of any because Holy Cow Sundaes is the only kid hangout Little Blessing has to offer. Well, at least the ban is only for a few weeks.

Chapter 10: Philanthropist Badge

Did you know Little Blessing has a seedy underbelly? Elm's heard the whispers but now she gets to witness it firsthand. It's a heck of a way to earn her Philanthropist badge but she does learn a secret from one of the Gluttony Road residents. As for me, I got to research treasure ships and tattoos!

Saturday, April 6

Chapter 11: Elm Meets Miss Peanut

Who wouldn't want to live on a Christmas tree farm, surrounded by holiday lights and snowglobes?! Who wouldn't want to write about it? I'm having way too much fun with this chapter!

Sunday, April 7

Today's research included: "Little Free Libraries," "Detective Investigation Methods," and "How long does it take a child to walk a mile and a half?"

Chapter 12: Here Through the Holidays

Elm does some secret investigating at the local hotel, although her mother thinks she's shopping for a Christmas gift. Lying to my mother—can I remember how to do that?

Camp Tales is a 4-week series about my writing experiences at Camp NaNoWriMo. Read Part Two here.

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