Back From A Break

Hey everyone—as you may have noticed from recent likes and comments on some posts, I’m back home and into the daily routine and grind after a great vacation. My husband and I took a trip back to Illinois and Wisconsin to see family and friends and had a wonderful time. We drove rather than flew, so we broke up the trip by first visiting this place.

They don’t let you take many photos indoors, so we’ll have to settle for an outdoor shot.

This is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. We spent a fun day wandering through the exhibits and enjoyed them. We did think we would have set up the exhibits differently, though. They seemed to be a hodgepodge of items thrown together without much logic behind the groupings.

Then it was off to Chicago for a couple of days of sightseeing and visiting some of my family. There are so many photo opportunities in this city, it was hard to choose a single shot for this post. But I decided on this one.

This is a skyline view from the Magnificent Mile

And since one photo isn’t enough to do the city justice, here’s one more.

The Sears Tower rises in the background. Okay, it’s not called that anymore. But to Midwesterners, it will always be the Sears Tower.

Then it was up to Wisconsin to see my husband’s family for a few days, including a stop in Milwaukee.

A view of downtown Milwaukee from the harbor

While I’m fond of my old Midwestern cities, nothing beats nearby Washington, DC, for me. There are no skyscrapers in DC (since no building can be taller than the Washington Monument), but that provides a distinctive feel I really enjoy.

After wrapping up the trip back in Illinois to see more of my family, we headed home to Maryland. Amazingly, there were few traffic delays from road construction. My US readers know that’s rare during the summer for most of us!

What’s more surprising to me is that my blog withdrawal symptoms weren’t too bad. We lost internet access for some of the trip when my husband’s computer decided to take its own internet vacation on the third day into the trip. Fixing that one is turning into an adventure that might result in a new computer for him. Still, seeing so few views on some days for this blog was a bit of a shock. But the breakdown also meant I just couldn’t keep up with many of your blogs. And while I admire those of you who can go back and catch up on every single post, I’m afraid I’m not that talented. So I’ll be picking up from here.

I took a complete break from the two WIPs while I was gone, and I should be able to attack them both with a fresh eye now. Draft 3 of Death Out of Time is again with a beta reader, so I’m working on Summer at the Crossroads while I await comments. Some significant revisions are in store for Crossroads, and I hope the characters are ready to tackle them. (Katarina O’Donnell, I’m talking to you.)

The break is also a good way to change my blogging habits. Except for posting days and Sunday, you’ll only see me commenting during my evening hours. I need to save my most creative times for writing and revising. Since later evening isn’t good for those tasks, that’s when I’ll be reading blogs and commenting. The WIPs must come first. I’ve told that to more than a few fellow bloggers, and I need to follow my own advice.

It’s great to be back, and I hope you all haven’t forgotten me during my absence!

52 thoughts on “Back From A Break

  1. I love a road trip. Very good idea about saving your creative moments. I really should do the same thing. I am really glad you had a great time, and welcome back. You were missed :)

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    • Thanks, Char, I had a great time. I got to visit with some folks I haven’t seen in more than 20 years. How did that much time go by?! I’ve already spent some time with one of the WIPs, and there’s so much more to do. But I definitely feel refreshed. :)

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  2. Wonderful photos! I didn’t realize they didn’t call it the Sears Tower anymore… that’s how out of touch I am. ; ) I’m glad you had fun. I missed you!

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    • Thanks, Anne, I missed you and my other buddies, too. :) It’s now officially the Willis Tower. But it’ll always be Sears to me. :) It was a great break, but it’s also good to be back home. I think that’s the sign of a good vacation.

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  3. Welcome back! It will always be the Sears Tower to me too, I don’t even remember what the new name is. You’re right about DC—it has a different look and feel to it from any other American city, government influence aside. And I admire your new blogging discipline. I should try to do something similar.

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    • Thanks, Madame W. :) Willis Tower. It just doesn’t have the same sound after all these years. Now let’s see if I can stick to my new disciplined blogging routine. This afternoon doesn’t count—I can reply to comments on my posts during the day. But I have to save the visits to others, including yours(!), until later this evening. :)

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  4. Hi J, so glad you’re back and it sounds as if you had a great time. I’ve not been to Chicago in years but I’d love to visit again. D.C. is beautiful but not in the summer (at least to me), it’s so hot. I totally understand the schedule thing. You have to do it or all the other things you have to do suffer sometimes! Welcome back!!

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    • Thanks, Brigitte, it’s good to be back. :) Oh, yes, we limit our trips into DC during the summer months. It’s so hot and humid, and all the tourists just make it harder! Fall and spring (and even a nice winter day) are best. We’re lucky to be close by so we can make those easy day trips. We’ll see how much of my evenings are taken up by blog reading now…. But at least I’ll be writing during my most productive blocks of time.

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  5. Welcome back! Sounds like you had a great trip. I think next to Washington, DC and San Francisco, Chicago is one of my favorite cities to visit (in nice weather, that is). And you even made a stop in Cleveland (I knew I recognized that first photo!). Did you see Mick Jagger’s tiny little pants in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? It’s amazing how little all those rock stars are. I think my 12 year old son could wear those pants. :)

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    • Thanks, Carrie! I gave you a telepathic shout out in Cleveland, but it might’ve been drowned out by the music in the HOF…. ;) Yes, we saw those pants of Mick’s—and the jumpsuit. I might fit in them!

      One of the things that struck me about so many of the stage costumes is how cheap they looked up close. Not the designer dresses for the Supremes, but some of the others looked like they were just thrown together.

      The weather in Chicago was perfect—upper 70s and low 80s. But I’ve also been there on some bitter winter days with the wind howling down the streets. Ugh! If I could choose only one city to visit, it would have to be DC, though. :)

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  6. Glad you had a nice trip. My wife and I like that sort of trip also, rather than say, a beach holiday, so it sounds good to me.

    I understand about the WIP. Keeping up with your blog and reading others is time consuming, and eventually you have to decide what your priorities are.

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    • I love visits with friends and family. It helps if there are interesting places to see and visit at the same time, but it’s the interaction I enjoy best. Seeing some folks for the first time in more than 20 years was a real treat. Facebook is great for keeping in touch that way, but it can’t compete with face-to-face visits.

      I love blogging and keeping up with my buddies. But I’ve got to be better about giving the best blocks of time to the WIPs. Ultimately, they’re the driving force behind the blog. So while I can be on my own blog during the day on posting days, I have to devote the other days to the books when I’m not at the day job.

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  7. Welcome home! I love hearing that you’re saving your most creative hours for your work, and limiting your blogging time. I’m really struggling to find the right balance with this, and as such have pulled back quite a bit, commenting only when I can say something that continues the conversation in a meaningful way. I’ve been thinking about how technology allows us to limit true conversation, i.e. texting not talking. (Incidentally, I just ran a post about the MIT professor who got me thinking about this subject.) So I’m vowing to use technology for conversations, which means fewer comments, but more meaningful ones.

    The information stream we live within these days can be empowering, but also exhausting and stressful, because we’re constantly filtering new input into our brains. A break is nice–and often necessary!

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    • Thanks, Laura, it’s good to be back. :) I saw your post about social networking/electronic communication and the impact on face-to-face interactions. It’s all getting to be too much. While I love being able to keep up with distant family and friends on Facebook, nothing beats a real sit-down get-together with them. That was the best part of the vacation.

      I may end up spending the same amount of time blogging as I did before, but I hope that limiting it to my least creative time of day will help the WIPs. And I want to finish them and introduce them to the world!

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      • It’s so great when you can go visit friends and family! Most of my longtime friends are 3,000 miles away, so phone conversations are my go-to resource, followed by Skype or Facetime, followed by occasional visits, which of course are my favorite!

        I’ve had to learn to use my morning time for writing, too, instead of comment-replying or blog-reading. Right now my WIP is the author interview book I’m putting together by (gasp) October 1, so it’s a different kind of work than my dreamy novel drafting. And it absolutely needs to be done in the morning when my brain is fresh.

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  8. Welcome back! I grew up in Cleveland, pre R&R Hall of Fame days, and when I go back to visit family it’s definitely not the place I grew up. Also spent time in Chicago since we had family there, too. The blogging schedule/discipline sounds reasonable: WIPs come first! xoxoM

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    • Thank, Margarita, it’s good to be home, too. :) I was never in Cleveland before, but I heard all the stories about it while growing up. Who can forget the burning rivers? But the downtown looks great these days.

      Even if I’m not cutting down on blogging, I’m reserving my best creative times for writing. I’ve got to get those WIPs done, or I won’t really be a writer at the end of the day. And I don’t want to let down my characters!

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  9. Happy to see you back. Great pics. I have never been to any of those places–just more to add to my must-see list, I suppose.

    You’re smart to adjust your blogging schedule. I’m about to revamp mine as well now that the kids are headed back to school (tomorrow is their first day) and my routine will be more stable. Of course you can guess that I find my creativity to be at its height in the morning, too, although you probably won’t be getting up quite so early as I do. ;)

    I am on my second read-through of Death Out of Time, and I hope to have notes to you by the end of the week. I’m really liking the changes you made! :)

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    • Ah, yes, 4 am is “just a little” early for me. ;) Six is usually when I get up. School started in some counties last week, and ours got going yesterday. Lots more traffic around here in the morning now.

      Chicago’s a great city and home to some great writers. And I guarantee there’s something for everyone’s tastes. :)

      It makes sense for me to reserve what time I can in the morning and afternoon for the books. I should’ve done that all along instead of trying to write in the evenings. My brain just isn’t as creative after dinner. I might have gotten those initial revisions done sooner if I had. ;) I’m glad to know they’re a step in the right direction. But now I’m seasoned enough to know there’s still plenty of work to be done. The break, though, has been good for recharging the brain—and my characters’ energy levels for working. :)

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  10. You do sound energized. Road trips are fun! And you managed to find some lovely subject matter for photos
    It seems to be easier to reorganize blog participation after a break (easier to be realistic about where time is spent).
    I think better/write in the morning, too (been staying up much too late at night recently reading – so way off schedule)…I like to read blogs in the evening, but feel my comments tend to be dull and tired at the end of the day – but there’s just so much time available. (and now I’m glazing over – so will check back later!)

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    • I think that break from the routine helps us start a new one when we get back home. Yes, I’m commenting in the morning, here, but it’s on my own post—I’m not reading another blog. I’m just multitasking at breakfast today :)

      I’ve kept an eye on the clock the last two evenings while I read other posts from the day and commented on some of them (not all). It was over 2 hours each night. That’s a lot of time that used to be devoted to other activities. I need to make sure that number doesn’t creep up, so I’ve got to be more disciplined.

      It is harder to leave insightful comments in the evening hours for me, too. But we should save our most productive/creative times for the efforts that most need them, whatever those efforts may be. So difficult to do sometimes!

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    • Thanks, Kat, it’s good to be home, too. :) I’ll be over to your blog shortly and will check out the award’s post! And once I’m a bit more caught up on everything, I’ll drop you a line about the guest post. :)

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  11. Lovely pics JM! Thanks for sharing your trip with us. I think it’s important to disconnect when on vacation or during deadlines. I think it’s great to comment going forward and not try to catch up on all the posts. We all need breaks. :)

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    • Thanks, Kourtney. :) Hard to take bad photos of a place like Chicago! The break did me good, and we learned the computer internet problems were McAfee caused—all better now, which is good. We’re hoping to get another year out of that computer. ;) It does feel good to get back to writing and visiting blogs, too.

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  12. So nice to have you back. I am reeling in unread blog posts from our vacation. The break away from being tied to my laptop was liberating. Now, it is debilitating.

    Great photos and good luck snuggling with your WIPs!

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    • Thanks, Robin! I had to make the decision not to go back to older posts (with a very few exceptions). Some people slog their way through it, but I honestly don’t believe I could have left meaningful comments or even enjoyed what I read. So I didn’t try. And I think I’m better off for it. :)

      And it’s good to spend time with the WIPs again, too. :)

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      • I am slogging, but am now at the point of no return. Tick and delete, and start fresh tomorrow. It makes me sad, but it has to be done or my life will be a shadow of its former self.

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  13. I am commenting in the middle of the day, during my most productive time. Unfortunately, this is my most productive time for EVERYTHING, not just commenting on things :D I have an inability to do anything good for me in the evening.

    Those cities look lovely! America seems like an awesome place to live :) (I’m a Londoner :D)

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    • I’m just having my morning coffee, and this is my blog, so I can be here right now. ;) But after this, I step back until evening. So far, the schedule’s working for me.

      Some US cities are beautiful, but I’d love to see London some day! We don’t have anywhere near the history that Europe does, so even our oldest cities feel young. At least, that’s how I felt when I saw cities like Paris, Bern, and Basel.

      Like every country, the US has its great points—and its bad ones. Travel is the best way to learn how much more alike we are than we often like to think. Do it whenever you can!

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    • Thanks, Christy! :) Chicago’s beautiful, isn’t it? But on this trip we regularly noticed some interesting scents emanating from sewers and alleys. I think the city’s trying to live up to the original meaning of its name! :P

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