2016 has been a crazy year, hasn't it? I mean, CRAZY. And not in a fun, Girls Night Out harmless hijinks way. More like a Charles Manson crazy. Ugh. I don't think I know anyone who is not looking forward to a fresh start with 2017.

Of course there was the election. I guess the positive spin on that would be, 'thank goodness it's finally over'?? And so many beloved celebrities are no longer with us. Pretty sure Gene Wilder's first name was short for 'genius'.

On a more personal note, it was getting a little scary how many of my neighbors' loved ones passed away this year. There were a half-dozen family losses on my street alone, and my street is a very short street! No gang shootings or terrorist attacks were responsible; just the inevitable awakening from this dream we call life. My sweet mother-in-law passed away this summer after along battle with Parkinson's. And our beloved yellow lab died in January. No disrespect intended lumping the two together - we loved both of them very much and are still thinking of them often.

As life often does, we had some positives to help balance out the gloom. We had two different family occasions that provided the opportunity for our far-flung family to get together in person, which is always such a delight. No, seriously! But the big kahuna, the one thing that happened this year that absolutely keeps 2016 from being a total loss, was The Bucket List trip.

Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower

I've had travel on my bucket list for ages. We were able to do some travel within the U.S. while we were raising a family. But I had my sights set a little further afield. Now that we are empty-nesters and some of our financial obligations have been met, we are finally able to do it.

This first major international trip came about sort of out of the blue. It was a simple phone call that did it. My son-in-law is a musician and has traveled all over the world. One day my daughter called and as we were chatting, asked if we wanted to join them on his next trip. He was going to be performing in Germany for a couple of weeks and she thought she would tag along and wondered if we would like to join her. Um, YES!

So for the next couple of blog posts, I'd like to share my experiences as a first-time Baby Boomer-aged international traveler with you.  We had some ups and downs, but the ups definitely won!

cautionnanoFor many people, mention 'November' and their faces light up with thoughts of juicy turkey dinners, splurge desserts, warm toddies by the fireplace, football, family, falling leaves, and many other sensory delights.  But if you get a reaction more similar to PTSD, or having been tasered, that person is probably a writer.

November is known to many aspiring as well as established writers for its 50,000 word National Novel Writing Month challenge, or NaNoWriMo.  If 50,000 words sounds like a lot to you, but you're thinking it must be a snap for writers, think again. It's the writing equivalent of a marathon. It takes preparation and skill, and a lot of folks who start, don't finish.

I've done NaNo several times. I've completed, or 'won', as they say, more often than not. I have a hard time equating the dumpster fire manuscript I've created with 'winning'. I prefer the term 'survived'.

As with marathons, one wonders: if it's so unpleasant, why do it? For similar reasons, I suppose. I like a challenge. I do it to improve my skills. And even if my project is light years from being ready for publication, it's a great 50,000 word start.

Every year, I swear I will plan better before the start. I haven't done very well with that. Massive procrastinator, massive pantser. Funny how those things tend to go together! But I've taken a run at an outline this year. I will be drafting the third book in a trilogy, so I have a better idea of story, characters, and so forth, than I usually do. I'm actually looking forward to getting started.

Many participants claw their way to December 1, gasping for a break, and end up not writing anything else for months. Totally understandable. I guess since I've survived NaNo so many times, I've grown some writing scar tissue. I no longer feel the need to take a big break. Although it is outstanding to not compulsively check word counts every five minutes once December rolls around! I plan on spending December and January editing the three books. I want to have the first book self-published by my birthday, which is the end of February. That will be my gift to myself.  It's a little ambitious to get them edited that quickly. And I will also need some cover art. But that's the plan.

Anyone else out there crazy enough to try NaNo this year? My NaNo user name is DoFo. Look me up and add me as a Buddy, and I'll do the same. Misery loves company.

Little by little, I am evaluating the Smaug's hoard of self-publishing advice out there in the wide world and cherry-picking the tips that make sense (to me, at least).  I'm finally getting around to transitioning from Blogger to self-hosting. I had no beef with Blogger. It just seems the logical next step in my journey as a self-published author to graduate to self-hosting as well.

Here's the upshot: I watched Jane Friedman's video on how to transition to self-hosting and followed her instructions. Unfortunately, a few things have changed in the process since she posted the video, and I wish I had a take-back on one or two of the steps that caused me some angst before they sorted themselves out. The main thing you might want to consider is to just point your domain to Bluehost instead of transferring it. In hindsight, it seems a little easier. But I wanted to be free and clear of Go Daddy, where my domain had originated many years ago, because the whole elephant hunting thing really rankled and I was looking for an excuse to stop doing business with them. I won't bore you with the tech nerd details, but if you want those details, reach out to me in the comments.

I'm still in the honeymoon phase of learning a new interface. I've always been a DIY fiend and tinkering around with customizing this site is loads of fun for me. But I need to set some boundaries on the tinkering since November is fast approaching and I will be participating in NaNoWriMo again. I expect I will futz around with the theme options indefinitely. If you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. Also if you have any comments about your experience with Bluehost or WordPress, chime in. I look forward to hearing from you.