I did it! I just won National Novel Writing Month – 50,000 words in…wait for it…only 29 days!

Excuse me while I go dance on air.

Numbers are in and validated at:

winner 2013


Thanks to everyone who helped me get there!!!


10 days ago, in a rather silly mood, I gave you a peek into the world of National Novel Month 2013 and roughly what’s in store for me. Much has changed since then, including the major points of my plot. My muse is much happier now, even if it’s taking a turn into fantasy, something I never thought I’d do.

But that is actually nothing compared to my excitement over this:

My dad is going to do NaNoWriMo with me this year!

Repeat: my dad is going to do NaNoWriMo with me this year!

I can’t even – I’m so excited! SO EXCITED, I tell you. This is awesome because, well, dad. But also, he is an incredible writer. He is king of his industry, and is editor and co-owner of a monthly magazine which is rocking the competition like whoa. I’ve done NaNo for two years; this will be my third attempt (and hopefully second win!). His plan is to do lots of flash fiction pieces to total 50,000 words throughout November. Dad who beat up cancer last year and threw a party.


Okay, also my plot. You remember that whole thing about ghost lessons? Yeah, that’s still there but majorly in the background. Here is my (evidently fantasy) plot as of now: In the 17th century, Richard was in love with Cassandra Hart, but despite everything he did for her, she never loved him back. She married Francis instead, and this made him angry. He appeared at their wedding, threatening they would rue the day etc., before taking a blade and stabbing himself through the heart. He stayed on earth as a ghost, and then underwent the requirements for becoming a Voleruh and took on the name Reshkhi. Voleruhs are evil creatures of the undead that steal ghost’s souls. Reshkhi has hunted the Hart family for centuries, with the desire to rip out the female Harts’ souls. Thanks to protection left by Cassandra, Jillian’s and Lea’s ancestor, he was unable to destroy them. Now, the youngest Hart, Jillian, has died at age 17, and her mother, Lea, has been trying to protect her from Reshkhi. Lea died one year ago, and when she did, the protection was broken. Now, Reshkhi is determined to take the soul of Lea’s daughter, Jillian.

* For the record, I’m aware of the “isn’t a ghost a soul?” issue and my comeback is: ghost = spirit; soul = soul. So hah.

It’s a work in progress. I had to create a creature – a Voleruh – which seemed to put me firmly in the fantastic. Which is SO weird. But whatever, let’s run with it, right? Don’t confuse my startled-ness with disliking fantasy; on the contrary it’s one of my favorite genres to read. But it’s also a lot of work and I admit I’m pretty nervous. Still, it’s an easier switch, as I’m not building worlds or races or languages a la Tolkien.

None of that is really important.

My dad is doing NaNoWriMo with me!

A week or two ago, I was given the opportunity to take a “How Do You Fascinate?” test, as part of an upcoming conference I’m attending. The idea, through apparent years of scientific analysis, is not to identify how you see the world, but how the world sees you. I answered a series of questions, primarily relevant to my professional life, and waited as my results were tallied, analyzed, and presented.

The Victor

My archetype: the Victor. Hey, wow. Okay. Awesome. I’m victorious (and, fine, maybe I had Hunger Games running through my head at that exact moment). I am results-oriented, respected, and competitive. If only I can live up to them all throughout my career! The competitive threw me, however briefly. I’m aware I’m pretty results-oriented, and it’s nice to see/know I’m generally respected. But competitive? Ask me three years ago and I would have said you’re nuts. But, being in the professional world, and in the kind of industry I am (very, very competitive), I guess I’ve become that. I always used to associate competitive with vicious. And I don’t think of myself as a vicious person: I get things done, I strive to be better, but I don’t think I’m mean about it. Maybe they aren’t, in fact, the same thing. We live in a competitive world. Though my workplace is, I believe, very equal, in general I’m going to have to try harder as a woman to prove myself. Stereotypes and sexism, however subtle or overt, still exist. And this will be throughout my entire professional life.

So, now that I’m a Victor, what are my “triggers?”

Primarily, I am driven by prestige. After that, power drives me. Can I just tell you how odd that feels? That this is supposed to sum up…me? I want to be the best and be recognized for it, and I want to leverage power to get things done. This is not how I would typically describe myself.

TriggersIn fact I’d go so far as to say it’s never how I’d imagine describing myself. When I look at it more critically, though, I can see it. I’m 24 and I know I can go places. I’ve known that for a long time, and I believe I’m proving it, or at least trying. I’m always climbing, always learning more. I’m pretty young to be able to do all that I can – and I truly don’t mean this to brag, I’m just saying: I work my butt off and it shows. I’m now a Senior Writing Associate at my company, I’ve been working towards additional certifications and trainings, I am recognized for doing good work. Professionally speaking, I am like this (or will be. Hopefully). It just seems to counter what I feel I am “in real life.”

Dormant Trigger: Passion

Click the picture to see full size

What actually stunned me was that passion was my dormant trigger. I am (at least, I like to think so) a passionate person. However much that intersects with emotions, I’m very aware of my emotions. But…I guess I’ve learned to keep them in check when they aren’t functional. That sounds weird, but especially at work, I try to leave my emotions at the door. And I’ve been pretty successful at it. To be honest, I wouldn’t last long in my company, or in my industry, if I let emotions rule. But I’m still in both, over two years later. I wouldn’t have survived the internship that got me this job, not in the least. It was tough. We’d get in at 8am (count yourself gone if you dared come in 2 minutes late more than once), bend our minds together, work like crazy, and maybe leave by 9pm, more commonly 10pm. One night we were there until 11:30, because the Metro would stop running at midnight and we needed to get home. Admittedly, there are still days like this. But there wasn’t any time to get worked up about it. The standard was incredibly high, and we got slammed on reviews. If you think the red ink on your college paper was bad, imagine getting rainbow-colored documents back with comments so long Word couldn’t show all the contents of each. But I digress. Suffice to say, however shocking getting the dormant trigger of passion was at first, professionally, I get it. And I suppose that “dormant” means it’s lying in wait for when I need it. So I guess I’m capable of passion? According to their website, “People with primary PASSION trigger can rapidly make emotional connections with customers, co-workers, and managers.” They are expressive, intuitive, impulsive, social, and transparent. The thing is, I’m pretty transparent. I’m not sure if I ever was any good at it (read: high school) and got continuously worse, or if I was never very good at it to begin with. I’ve certainly learned to present myself better, and speak better. But man if my boss(es) can’t read me like an open book.

Next up, how these triggers make me great or not so great.



Not so great:Weaknesses

Again with the lacking emotion and connection thing. I’m not sure, other than the above, what this is a product of. But I’ve got to keep it in check. What the heck happened? Am I like this outside of work, too? And how can I go back? It’s unnerving.

On the plus side, I’m not terribly extreme. This compares me to “total intensity possible” from the test.

Intensity and Percentages

But passion is still the lowest. I have/am more trust, mystique, rebellion, and alarm than I do passion. Actually, I have a good chunk of rebellion and alarm.

Rebellion: innovative, independent, entrepreneurial, edgy, unpredictable.

Alarm: perfectionistic, reliable, routine-oriented, careful, rational

Mystique: understated, complex, rational, reserved, deliberate

So, interesting. Me, professionally, in a nutshell is results-oriented, respected, and competitive, with an eye towards power and prestige. This is how I fascinate. Am I fascinating? 😉

Today, I went to a testing location to take my Security+ exam. I’ve been studying out of a textbook for two months to prepare for it. So what the heck is it?

Security+ is a certification by CompTIA – the Computing Technology Industry Association. They’re a non-profit that basically advocates for IT around the world, helping people to get vendor-neutral certifications and advance the workforce. Cool. They support a number of certifications, one of which is Security+. Security+ is aimed at understanding and implementing network security controls. There are a lot of aspects to this – many of which I would not have thought of at all before preparing for the exam.

Direct from the website:

CompTIA Security+ is an international, vendor-neutral certification that demonstrates competency in:

  • Network security
  • Compliance and operational security
  • Threats and vulnerabilities
  • Application, data and host security
  • Access control and identity management
  • Cryptography

CompTIA Security+ not only ensures that candidates will apply knowledge of security concepts, tools, and procedures to react to security incidents, it ensures that security personnel are anticipating security risks and guarding against them.

It’s quite extensive. And ever-changing. My textbook, though written in 2012, was already outdated (in very few things, but the point still stands). For example, there are new algorithms for encrypting communications and sending them over the Internet. These adapt and update frequently, since attackers discover vulnerabilities they can exploit to gain confidential information, take down servers, and in general create havoc. I learned how to determine if an attack is occurring and the steps to mitigate it and then preserve computer forensic evidence. It was fascinating, if very difficult. More importantly, how to do my best to make sure such an attack has a low chance of occurring. Because no risk can ever be eliminated.

I was relieved, mostly, when I learned I passed today. Focusing on studying and memorizing was really hard when my mind kept wandering to why my boyfriend broke up with me last week. What I wanted to say to him, to ask, to ponder. Healing, dealing with the fact that it was over. This morning, I meant to meditate (my new year’s resolutions have gone out the window since the breakup, but I hope to recover in February). I slept in instead, running out the door to get a little more cramming in at the office before catching a bus to the testing center. I caught the right bus, but missed my stop, so when I got out, I had to run back several blocks, knowing I had just a few minutes before the starting time. It was incredibly cold out; my lungs did not thank me for running outside like that. Once I got there and signed in, they gave me a smile and let me thaw/catch my breath before taking me upstairs to the test room.

The test was hard. I think the hardest I’ve ever done, to this point. That includes my test to become an EMT – though, I guess, to be fair I had an intense semester with lots of coaching for that. I reviewed several of my questions, and finally took the plunge to click “submit.” Then! Then they wouldn’t give me my score until after I took a demographic survey. Finally, I read the small print on the screen – I got a 784, and you need a 750 to pass. Whew!! That means I got the equivalent of 87%. I think I sat there staring at it for a minute until it processed. Then I bundled up and headed back to the office, a giant grin on my face. I did it. Without applied experience, I still managed to pass.

Things will be okay. It may take awhile for me to truly be okay, but hey – I can still accomplish things, broken heart and all!

Well, here it is. The end of one glorious year and the start of another. Since lists seem to be the “in” thing these days, I’ve compiled a fun list of events (focused on perks) of 2012 and what I’m planning resolutions-wise and event-wise in 2013.


  • Steampunk-themed contra dance party with fantastic costumes, goggles c/o la boyfriend (now of nearly 2 years)
  • Vacation to Seattle to visit cousins and play tourist
  • Finding out Dad had prostate cancer, supporting him from far away, and then having an “Adios, Cancer!” party when we found out he was cancer-free (44 radiation treatments later)
  • Incredible women’s climbing weekend in West Virginia
  • Interesting, if amusing, debates followed by re-election of President Obama (phew!)
  • Friends-filled college “reunion” going-away party
  • Vacation and travel through Peru, catching 15K heights and Machu Picchu
  • Maryland Renaissance Festival and dress-up
  • Started second novel
  • Joined/helped form an independent author’s collective/publishing imprint
  • Sent over 30 letters to Sandy Hook Elementary School
  • Spent first holiday with boyfriend’s family



  • Eat breakfast every morning
  • Spend 1 hour before work writing and/or editing
  • Meditate twice a day
  • Still arrive at work at sane hour
  • Make more home-cooked meals (cheaper and healthier!)

Events to Look Forward To:

  • Time-travel-themed contra dance party with boyfriend (yay more dress-up)
  • Parents visiting DC
  • Seeing more old college friends
  • First time going to Las Vegas (conference)
  • Seattle visit with cousins
  • Saturday classes for project management
  • possible Hunger Games food/watching event
  • I turn 25 (woo rental cars!)
  • Attending brother’s wedding in Hawai’i as bridesmaid
  • <Possibilities!>

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope it’s a nice day filled with warm times and your crazy family all coming together.

I write this with a confused and sinking heart, but it’s something I need to do. I have decided not to continue to push to 50,000 words by November 30. I’m barely at 18,000 words now, and life has conspired such that making up the word count I need to “win” is near impossible. One of my friends, Anna, who I met last year through NaNoWriMo, said to me in early November, or possibly late October, that I could win without getting to 50,000. That sometimes, the effort is the winning, whether you get a purple bar and certificate or not.

Let me be clear that I am not giving up on my novel. I’m much more excited about this idea, and where the characters are taking themselves, than I was about my first novel attempt last year. I have two more write-ins I’m hosting, and I will stick to those. And I will write. But I will not make it to 50,000 words by November 30 midnight. Aside from the fact that I took a (fantastic) vacation, then took two more days to “get back” from vacation to spend with my boyfriend and watch Lincoln and relax, I am also going after another certification for work, which I need to hardcore study for. And of course, there is Thanksgiving. I am home, and will be home for the next several days, and I need that, too.

Here is what I’m thankful for. I am thankful for having both of my brothers in the same house. I am thankful for my sisters-in-law, my niece playing with princess dresses one day and lizards and insect toys the next, for my expected niece in March. For my parents, both back in good health and together. For a job as I watch others lose them. For listening to Girlyman and Hawaiian music on Pandora. For most of the rest of my family arriving shortly for a plentiful Thanksgiving feast. For my boyfriend, who continues to put up with my ups and downs and calls me just because. For my friends, all around the world, who provide more love and support than they know. For my experiences and new friends made in Peru. For the view outside my parents’ house. For Brie cheese and Moscato. For two dogs and a frog. For the glowing woodstove, for drinking around it catching up on random pieces of life. I am thankful for being able to tell people “I’m a writer” and not feeling awkward about it. I am a writer. And this novel I’m working on? Someday I’m going to publish it.

This November, I am going to write a novel. This means I am in high gear trying to figure out a plot, outline, characters, motives, and doing lots of research. Because I have to get to 50,000 words in just 30 days. Why, you ask? Oh, I hoped you would!NaNoWriMo 2012 Particpant


This is my second year participating in the National Novel Writing Month – or, NaNoWriMo, for short. The premise? Write a novel in 30 days. That’s really it. You win if you make it. You don’t if you don’t. You can plan, but not begin writing until 12:01am November 1. Last year, by some convoluted twist of luck (and amazing support), I swung about 51,000 words by November 29.

The community is absolutely incredible. There are dozens of forums, social events for people living near each other, online events, a place to connect with other people writing the same genre, or who are the same age. A place to ask all the experts out there about everything from adoption to having a big family to what kinds of weapons are made of silver. Anything and everything. I answered a few this week; one about large Renaissance Festivals.


Last year, I wrote a story about families working at a lighthouse in Canada (research: lighthouses in the Pacific NW, homeschooling, helicopters). I wrote a ton of short stories in high school and college. I had planned out my initial ideas of the story, some character quips, and just about finished my initial storyline…25 pages in. So it turned into a whole lot of craziness, more shipwrecks, weird family relationships, another emergency and a finale that came together like a giant movie ending, all the pieces very suddenly getting tied up with ribbons.


So. 2012. The year of attempting-to-actually-plan-this-time. So far my plot idea has serious potential to be novel-like in length. I am writing a crime mystery thing inspired by the fast-paced Dan Brown books I devour, thoughts from Bones and NCIS, and apparently am throwing a little old Terra Nova in there. Just a little. I have the NaNoWriMo trial version of a new writing/planning software called Storyist and bought the iPad version – using Dropbox I can sync my work between my computer and iPad. Which, for a writer, can be key. I will live with my iPad when I’m not home so I can add ideas when my supposed Muse strikes me over the head. Then, with Internet, I will sync this new writing or research to my computer. Psyched? Psyched.

What Am I Juggling?

A demanding job (40 hours – minimum, usually closer to 50/55); boyfriend who just moved a little closer but is just starting his new job; 8 days of November in remote mountains hiking sunup to sundown; researching grad schools and setting up applications/GREs; Thanksgiving festivities (my brother is finally coming home for a week from Hawaii – which is awesome – and also demands I spend lots of time with him).

How Will I Do It?

  • Love and support from you, my followers, friends, and family
  • Twitter Word Sprints: Last year, I used Twitter for a useful purpose (rather difficult for me to do) and did word sprints with other people. Basically word sprints are designated times (like, 6-9pm, or others, as many as will do it, and people sometimes pick up on their own if others are on) where someone says, “Write for the next 10 minutes, and tell us your word count when you’re done!” and you just write like crazy trying to get as many words as you can in the allotted time.
  • The fact that I’m publicly letting the whole world know what I’m doing, putting the pressure on to actually do it
  • Caffeine
  • Snacks

I have just a couple weeks (and a mad dash for a huge project at work) to outline my novel, title it, and run with it.

I know, you’re dying to know what I’m writing about. Save that for the next post. In the meantime…I’m writing a novel!