Getting Personal #168: Camp NaNoWriMo April 2019 Recap

Camp NaNoWriMo April 2019

Image Credit: Camp NaNoWriMo

I was thrilled to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo for the third time!


Because I’m finally finished with my first draft of my 2012 novel, I decided to focus on my 2013 WIP, tentatively titled “Specialton.” I knew I wanted to change the overall POV of the novel, so for this Camp session, I was trying to accomplish two goals at once.

Goal #1: Change the POV in the 28 pages already written.

Goal #2: Write 20,000 new words.


Here’s the synopsis I put together:

John, an aspiring architect, dreams of building a different kind of community in the 1950s. As he launches his business and starts making his dream a reality, a beautiful woman enters his life. Will Evelyn help John, or will other plans be made for them?


Original word count: 14,303 words

Day 1

Today: 211
Total: 211

Day 2

Today: 225 + 224 = 449
Total: 660

Day 3

Today: 838
Total: 1,498

Day 4

Today: 426 + 56 = 482
Total: 1,980

Day 5

Today: 447
Total: 2,427

Day 6

Today: 948
Total: 3,375

Day 7

Today: 595
Total: 3,970

Day 8

Today: 747
Total: 4,717

Day 9

Today: 173 + 669 = 842
Total: 5,559

Day 10

Today: 523
Total: 6,082

Day 11

Today: 344
Total: 6,426

Day 12

Today: 453
Total: 6,879

Day 13

Today: 841
Total: 7,720

Day 14

Today: 254
Total: 7,974

Day 15

Today: 0
Total: 7,974

Day 16

Today: 0
Total: 7,974

Day 17

Today: 515
Total: 8,489

Days 18-28

All zeroes
Total: 8,489

Day 29

Today: 841
Total: 9,330

Day 30

Today: 939
Total: 10,269


Final Thoughts

I was very pleased to add over 10,000 words to this WIP, after not touching it for several years. I’m excited to see where this one goes!

I’m looking forward to the next Camp NaNo session in July!!

Current word count: 24,572 words


Have you done NaNoWriMo in November before?

Have you done Camp NaNoWriMo before?

Let me know what you think!


Until thenext headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #150: NaNoWriMo 2018 Recap

NaNoWriMo 2018

Image Credit: The Reedsy Blog

NaNoWriMo 2018 is in the books!

Here’s the link to my kick-off post:


Day 1

Today: 418
Total: 418

Not a bad start!

Day 2

Today: 199 + 880 = 1,079
Total: 1,497

Two writing sessions, on a Friday? Yes, please!

Day 3

Today: 741 + 1,364 = 2,105
Total: 3,572

Two more writing sessions today, both more successful than yesterday? I’ll take it!

Day 4

Today: 630
Total: 4,232

Not bad for a busy Sunday.

Day 5

Today: 934 + 780 = 1,714
Total: 5,946

Two productive writing sessions, and crushed the daily word count again!

Day 6

Today: 930 + 278 = 1,208
Total: 7,154

Continued productivity!

Day 7

Today: 602
Total: 7,756

Decent writing today, which I made time for the morning. I’m so glad I did – I got home around midnight after an AMAZING concert!

Day 8

Today: 128 + 163 + 967 = 1,258
Total: 9,014

A little bit of a midnight writing session before my laptop battery died. A few more minutes in the morning after a few hours of sleep. A much longer writing session after work. It feels good!

Day 9

Today: 731
Total: 9,745

I wasn’t able to do a writing session this morning, but I took some time this evening to get some more on the page.

Day 10

Today: 493
Total: 10,238

I plugged away after breakfast.

Day 11

Today: 141 + 882 = 1,023
Total: 11,261

I wrote a bit in the afternoon before headed to church for an afternoon workshop. After finishing dinner and Pitch Perfect 3, I got on a roll! I felt a bit of a slump earlier, but I got my mojo back!

Day 12

Today: 0
Total: 11,261

No writing for me today. Between getting back to the gym for the first time in two months, a full day of work, and my monthly P.E.O. meeting, I barely had time to breathe today.

Day 13

Today: 523
Total: 11,784

I took the opportunity to write in between dinner with Al and a church training session, so I was pleased.

Day 14

Today: 0
Total: 11,784

Today was our third wedding anniversary, so no writing!

Day 15

Today: 0
Total: 11,784

Nothing today.

Day 16

Today: 0
Total: 11,784

Nothing today.

Day 17

Today: 0
Total: 11,784

Nothing today.

Day 18

Today: 0
Total: 11,784

Nothing today.

Day 19

Today: 0
Total: 11,784

Nothing today.

Day 20

Today: 0
Total: 11,784

Nothing today.

Day 21

Today: 1,245
Total: 13,029

My writing slump is finally broken! I was able to come home early from work due to the Thanksgiving holiday. After I finished preparing the traditional chocolate mousse, I was able to knock out a solid writing session this afternoon. Hooray!

Day 22

Today: 0
Total: 13,029

Nothing today.

Day 23

Today: 0
Total: 13,029

Nothing today.

Day 24

Today: 0
Total: 13,029

Nothing today.

Day 25

Today: 0
Total: 13,029

Nothing today.

Day 26

Today: 1,692
Total: 14,721

I felt really good today! I feel like this final push will be awesome!

Day 27

Today: 0
Total: 14,721

Nothing today.

Day 28

Today: 0
Total: 14,721

Nothing today.

Day 29

Today: 0
Total: 14,721

Nothing today.

Day 30

Today: 1,357 + 403 = 1,760
Total: 16,481

I’m really happy, overall. I made a really good effort! Plus, I have 16,000 more words than I started with.


Final Thoughts

It’s a decent effort for a crazy, busy month! I’m thrilled to have finally gotten this story idea out of my head, and the beginnings of a good first draft!

I can’t wait to participate in the next Camp NaNoWriMo in 2019!


Have you done NaNoWriMo in November before?

Have you done Camp NaNoWriMo before?

Let me know what you think!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #144: NaNoWriMo 2018

NaNoWrIMo 2018

Image Credit: BookBub

After four years of not participating, I decided I wanted to commit to NaNoWriMo 2018!

After my success with both Camp NaNoWriMo sessions earlier this year, I wanted to try the November event again. I’ve also published excerpts of my most recent NaNoWriMo attempt from 2014.


I’ve dropped a few hints, here and there, about an idea I’ve had percolating for a fourth novel.

So, for NaNoWriMo 2018, I want to finally put my fingers to the keyboard and start fleshing this out!

Working Title: “Tunnel Vision”

Synopsis: On her way to her milestone birthday party, Nicole, a dedicated Newport News, Virginia police officer, gets stuck in traffic at the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel. As the tunnel stoppage unfolds into a true mystery, Nicole finds herself reflecting on her career, family, friends, acquaintances, and the criminal justice system. Can she help solve the mystery in one night?

I’m excited to dive into Nicole’s world, and help tell her story!


What about you? Have you ever done NaNoWriMo?

Come back around the beginning of December to see my results!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

 

Getting Personal #134: Camp NaNoWriMo July 2018 Recap

Camp 2018 - Participant - Profile Photo

I was very excited to do Camp NaNoWriMo again for the month of July!

Since I was very close to the 35,000 word mark at the end of June, I decided to set my Camp goal for an additional 15,000 words. I felt like I could finally reach 50,000 words! This has been a dream since 2012!!


Previous Stats

May 2nd

  • Current word count: 33,507 words

June 16th

  • Added 623 words
  • Current word count: 34,130 words

June 23rd

  • Added 339 words
  • Current word count: 34,469 words

June 30th

  • Added 250 words
  • Current word count: 34,719 words

And, now, here’s how I did!


Day 1

Today: 539
Total: 539

It wasn’t until that evening that I could sit down and write for the day, but I was happy with my first word count! Onward and upward!

Day 2

Today: 0
Total: 539

I didn’t write anything on this day, mainly due to hosting our friend Mike for the evening!

Day 3

Today: 624
Total: 1,163

Another evening writing session. I felt really good about this one!

Day 4

Today: 742
Total: 1,905

I’m really getting into the groove of writing in the evenings. More progress!

Day 5

Today: 208
Total: 2,113

I made progress, but not as much as I hoped. I felt distracted, a bit sidetracked. Plus, I wrote later this evening than I have during other nights. But, there’s always tomorrow!

Day 6

Today: 676
Total: 2,789

Today was much more productive! I felt really good about the scene I wrote today, too. Excited to see what happens this weekend.

Day 7

Today: 830
Total: 3,619

I wrote this afternoon, when Al was in the shower. Here’s to more words tomorrow!

Day 8

Today: 1,131
Total: 4,750

Al mowed the lawn today, so I took advantage of that. This was my highest word count so far!

Day 9

Today: 0
Total: 4,750

I felt like I hit a wall.

Day 10

Today: 0
Total: 4,750

Lacking inspiration.

Day 11

Today: 0
Total: 4,750

Not feeling this writing thing at all.

Day 12

Today: 0
Total: 4,750

This week at work has been exhausting, and it’s Thursday now. Maybe tomorrow?

Day 13

Today: 0
Total: 4,750

I feel a bit guilty, but I just haven’t had the energy, or desire, to write.

Day 14

Today: 0
Total: 4,750

I thought for sure the weekend would bring some inspiration, but not today.

Day 15

Today: 0
Total: 4,750

Today was so busy with church and other things, I wasn’t even thinking about writing.

Day 16

Today: 0
Total: 4,750

Now I’m super irritated with myself. I didn’t make any time to write this morning, and I didn’t have any time to write this evening. Hopefully, tomorrow, this wall can come down!

Day 17

Today: 595
Total: 5,345

HOORAY! The streak of zeroes is broken!!

AND – I passed 40,000 words overall! I’m a very happy lady!

Day 18

Today: 0
Total: 5,345

Stupid writer’s block.

Day 19

Today: 0
Total: 5,345

Still no inspiration.

Day 20

Today: 0
Total: 5,345

No time today!

Day 21

Today: 622
Total: 6,022

A later-evening writing session was a success!

Day 22

Today: 0
Total: 6,022

I felt uninspired again today.

Day 23

Today: 0
Total: 6,022

Pure exhaustion today. However, I felt a bit of inspiration rising throughout the day. Hopefully I can put my fingers to the keyboard tomorrow!

Day 24

Today: 451 + 825 = 1,276
Total: 7,298

Yay! I’m so proud of myself. TWO writing sessions in one day?! Woohoo!!

Day 25

Today: 0
Total: 7,298

I was hoping to write a little bit this morning, but with all the preparations needed for Thursday, it just didn’t happen.

Day 26

Today: 752
Total: 8,050

Having a rare Thursday off from work was helpful for a productive afternoon writing session!

Day 27

Today: 853
Total: 8,903

I’m finally feeling more consistent!

Day 28

Today: 845
Total: 9,748

Yeah, baby! Getting there. Excited to write some more tomorrow – Maybe hit 1,000 words?

Day 29

Today: 530
Total: 10,278

Woohoo! I passed the 10,000 word mark tonight. Pretty excited!

Day 30

Today: 345
Total: 10,623

I’m still here, still writing, word by word. I’ll take it! Also, my husband is the best cheerleader!

Day 31

Today: 1,293
Total: 11,916

I closed out Camp NaNoWriMo July 2018 with a bang! I’m so proud of myself!


Final Thoughts

I was so happy to add nearly 12,000 new words to my novel! I fell a little short of my overall goal, but I’ll take what I can get.

I can’t wait to participate in Camp again next year!


Have you done NaNoWriMo in November before?

Have you done Camp NaNoWriMo before?

Let me know what you think!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #120: Camp NaNoWriMo April 2018 Recap

Camp 2018 Writer Profile Photo

Image Credit: Camp NaNoWriMo

I was inspired to write this post from my friend Madi Grace!

Here are the links to her Camp NaNoWriMo 2017 recaps:


Here are the links to my posts where I mentioned Camp NaNoWriMo, and announced my decision to participate for the very first time:


As a reminder / refresher, my goal for Camp NaNoWriMo was to write 20,000 additional words for my 2012 NaNoWriMo endeavor / attempt, tentatively titled, “Experiences from Camp.”

Synopsis:

Kristin, a teenager from Kansas, has heard of this experience called “Camp” in Maine. However, everyone who has gone there can’t accurately describe their experiences – Just a lot of mystery, suspense, some thrills, and a lot of chills. When she’s selected to go, she’s excited to meet Brennan, and see “camp” for herself. From the start, Kristin doesn’t get what she’s bargained for, and her excitement turns to absolute terror.


Previous Stats

March 27th

  • Current word count: 11,216 words

March 31st

  • Added 2,025 new words between March 29th and March 30th.
  • Current word count: 13,241 words.

And now, here’s how I did!


Day 1

Today: 785
Total: 785

Not a bad start!

Day 2

Today: 0
Total: 785

There were several days throughout the month where I wrote absolutely zero words!

It was frustrating to not have written anything on Day 2, but I persisted.

Day 3

Today: 602
Total: 1,387

More progress!

Day 4

Today: 892
Total: 2,279

This was my highest word count so far.

I felt like I was on a roll!

Day 5

Today: 0
Total: 2,279

This was the start of a days-long slump where I just did not make any time to write.

Day 6

Today: 0
Total: 2,279

Again, little to no time was carved out to write.

Day 7

Today: 0
Total: 2,279

Day 7 was the start of the first weekend of the month, and we were so slammed that I came home utterly exhausted.

Day 8

Today: 0
Total: 2,279

Day 8 was also part of the weekend.

But, I was bound and determined to break out of this slump!

Day 9

Today: 983
Total: 3,262

That’s more like it!

This was my highest word count since camp started.

I was rejoicing!

Day 10

Today: 329
Total: 3,591

I started to notice that if I wrote a high number of words one day, then the very next day, my word count was typically lower.

Oh well, at least I added words!

Day 11

Today: 1,198
Total: 4,789

Holy moly! I knocked the daily word count (667) out of the park!

This was my highest word count of camp at this point.

The only way to go is up!

Day 12

Today: 0
Total: 4,789

Day 12 was shortly after my family started experiencing a big crisis.

So, I’m not surprised that I didn’t write much on this day.

Day 13

Today: 667
Total: 5,456

Nailed the daily word count, down to an exact science!

Day 14

Today: 0
Total: 5,456

Another weekend day – No progress.

Day 15

Today: 1,530
Total: 6,986

After a rough day, this was the highest word count of camp at this point.

My high scores, so to speak, were increasing!

Day 16

Today: 0
Total: 6,986

Utter exhaustion again.

Day 17

Today: 435
Total: 7,421

Much better!

Day 18

Today: 1,006
Total: 8,427

Even better than the day before!

Inching closer to the halfway mark!

Day 19

Today: 0
Total: 8,427

Another rough day.

Day 20

Today: 820
Total: 9,247

I was thrilled that I exceeded the daily word count.

Just inches away from the halfway point.

Day 21

Today: 455
Total: 9,702

Word by word, I felt happy that I was getting closer to the 10,000 word mark.

Day 22

Today: 660
Total: 10,362

Hallelujah!

I crossed the 50 percent mark today.

Cue the happy dance!

Day 23

Today: 635
Total: 10,997

As the numbers increase, I’m hoping that I can actually succeed with my goal!

Day 24

Today: 795
Total: 11,792

The word count today was better than yesterday.

I’ll take it!

Day 25

Today: 0
Total: 11,792

Another weird day.

Feeling a bit stagnant, and unsure.

Day 26

Total: 1,080
Today: 12,872

In spite of the ongoing family crisis, I felt really good with today’s results!

Day 27

Total: 1,230
Today: 14,102

Amazingly, I exceeded yesterday’s word count.

I also took the day off from work, I needed a decompression day. The family crisis turned into mourning. My family lost three uncles within two weeks of each other.

But, I’m very pleased with my progress!

Day 28

Total: 3,051
Today: 17,153

It’s amazing what can happen when your husband takes a long nap in the afternoon.

This word count absolutely crushed all the other high scores.

I was on cloud nine!

Plus, the finish line was in sight.

Day 29

Today: 1,063
Total: 18,216

Inching closer and closer.

I really felt the pressure today!

Day 30

Today: 2,040
Total: 20,256

Oh, my goodness. I DID IT!!!!

I REALLY DID IT!

I exceeded my goal for my first-ever Camp NaNoWriMo!!!!

Current word count: 33,507 words.

Camp 2018 Winner Facebook Cover

Image Credit: Camp NaNoWriMo


Final Thoughts

Wow. I’m stunned. Astonished. And thrilled!

I was immensely apprehensive about signing up for Camp NaNoWriMo, especially since I didn’t participate in “regular” NaNoWriMo in 2015, 2016, or 2017.

But, through the encouragement of Madi, and several other friends, I decided to take the plunge.

I felt 20,000 new words for this novel was a very lofty goal, but I was very pleased that I not only met it, but I beat it by 256 words. It’s so inspirational!

I loved the camp environment and atmosphere. It was like a virtual writer’s retreat for a whole month! Also, you had the option of being placed in a “cabin,” so you could meet and interact with other writers! We had several lively discussions and cheering sessions in my cabin. So much fun!

I cannot wait for the next Camp NaNoWriMo in July. Bring it on!!


Have you done NaNoWriMo in November before?

Have you done Camp NaNoWriMo before?

Let me know what you think!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #111: Camp NaNoWriMo

I’m so excited to say that I will be a camper at Camp NaNoWriMo this year, for the very first time!


What is Camp NaNoWriMo, you ask?

Well, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is typically held in November of every year. However, there are camp sessions, too!

You can be placed in a “cabin” of certain preferences. When I signed up, there were different options for cabins. For me, I wanted to be placed in a cabin with writers that are around my age.

Here’s the landing page: Camp NaNoWriMo

It’s basically a writer’s retreat, in April!

It’s summer camp in the spring.

I’m loving it!


My main goal, like I commented on someone else’s blog recently, is to make significant progress with my 2012 NaNoWriMo endeavor / attempt. The last time I touched it was in September 2017, where I was on a great writing streak for a weekend.

Current word count: 11,216 words.

Goal: Write 20,000 more words by the end of camp.

Here’s the synopsis I recently put together for my work, tentatively titled “Experiences From Camp”:

Kristin, a teenager from Kansas, has heard of this experience called “Camp” in Maine. However, everyone who has gone there can’t accurately describe their experiences – Just a lot of mystery, suspense, some thrills, and a lot of chills. When she’s selected to go, she’s excited to meet Brennan, and see “camp” for herself. From the start, Kristin doesn’t get what she’s bargained for, and her excitement turns to absolute terror.


So, that’s all, for now! I’m excited to try something new!

I’ll be sure to make another post at the end of April or beginning of May, detailing my camp experiences and my successes!


What about you? Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNoWriMo? I’d love to hear about it!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

NaNoWriMo 2014: It’s The End … For Now

Happy 1st of December!

For this post, I wanted to share the end of my 2014 novel attempt.

I still have a long way to go … This isn’t finished.

I plan to let “Discussion of Differences” rest for a little while, and then I’ll come back with a red pen.

Photo Credit: betterwritinghabits.com

Photo Credit: betterwritinghabits.com

I’m not the biggest fan of the editing process, but I certainly realize that it’s necessary.

For now, I give you the final excerpt … for now.

“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft


Final word count for the month of November 2014: 16,237 words

By Friday, pure excitement took over. Everyone could hardly wait to drive up to LT. On the surface, it looked like a good change of pace. There were a lot of advantages – More places to hang out, the library was nearby if further research was needed, more options than pizza for food choices.

But, there were also disadvantages – Distraction was the main obstacle. Since classes were still in session, students were on campus, and the five alumni all had friends still attending the school. However, they hadn’t publicized their travels or meeting on social media for that exact reason.

Since the first meeting, they solely communicated via a group FlixelFlaxen message, rather than individual statuses and tagging all six people every single time. This way was also much more efficient than a group text. In terms of traveling, though, it was decided that Bethany and Hunter would be in charge of the main communications, and then Hunter would communicate with Bill accordingly. It seemed a lot easier that way, since they were three couples and all the communicating parties had to do was speak with their other halves to get the message across.

The excitement, along with a little bit of pressure, steadily rose as everyone converged on Farmerstown, Virginia, the home of the Lancer Institute. It was like a homecoming of sorts for Bill and Anabelle, and Will and Bethany. The campus was rapidly expanding, almost by the day, and Hunter and Lisanna assured everyone that they likely would not recognize most of Farmerstown and LT. They were right.

The other couples were in awe. So much had changed since Anabelle, Bill, and Bethany had graduated in 2011. A lot of the familiar stores had closed long ago, and new things were either in place or under construction. The biggest residence hall at LT was being prepared for demolition. They took a tour of the renovated art building and sorority dorm – It was astounding.

After the initial shock wore off, and stopping several times for brief chats with sorority sisters and old friends, they finally settled in the library. Since it was early on a Saturday, it was basically deserted, very quiet and peaceful – Perfect. They quickly laid claim to one of the biggest study rooms on the second floor, with a door, and made sure there were six chairs. It certainly was a tight fit, but they made it work.

Lisanna then announced that she had a surprise for everyone – On Friday, she had taken the initiative and reserved a bunch of books on Europe and traveling. Everyone was visibly thrilled. Up until this point, no one was really sure how truly on board Lizzy was with the whole idea. But this effort on her made everyone realize that she was just as excited about the adventure and motivated to plan it with the group.

Bethany was probably the most excited of them all – She definitely saw a positive shift in Lizzy because of this efforts. In addition, the daily texts had also become increasingly encouraging. With each passing day, it had appeared to Bethany that Lizzy was feeling better overall, far more diligent in her studies, and almost had a sense of peace and content come over her. The furthest proof, and icing on the cake, was Bethany finally seeing her in person – Lizzy had an ear-to-ear grin from the moment that everyone had arrived on campus.

Bethany sighed contentedly as everyone picked a book and started thumbing through them.

“Hey, everyone. I loved your surprise, Lizzy! Thank you. This is a huge help. But I actually have a surprise, too.”

Everyone’s eyes followed Bethany’s hands from the moment she finished speaking. You could cut the tension with a knife as she methodically unzipped her backpack. The suspense was killing everyone, but no one hardly breathed.

Finally, Bethany put the mystery item in the center of the desk. She sat back and watched everyone take it in.

Eyes as wide as saucers, again. But no one moved, nor spoke. The silence made Bethany wither inside, like a plan trying to survive without water.

Finally, someone had the courage to speak up – Bethany couldn’t put her finger on who it was. It may have been multiple voices for all she knew. But the words went like this:

“This. Is. So. Awesome!!!!”

Bethany heaved a huge sigh of relief. Her creative efforts paid off! As she snapped back to reality, she had to interject her hands to prevent the ensuing fight over the journal. The six descended into chaos, play-acting like little children.

“It’s mine!”

“No way, dude. I saw it first!”

“Let me see! Let. Me. See!”

But Bethany’s hands were quicker. She snatched the journal like a ninja and hugged it to her chest. She glared an icy stare and attempted to restrain her voice – They were in the library, of all places – as she mutedly yelled,

“QUIET!”

Everyone immediately ceased all movement, whether it was in mid-grab or mid-word. It was like Bethany had yelled “FREEZE” in a hot game of freeze tag. She had to stifle a laugh at everyone’s ridiculous expressions, as she attempted to lower her voice into a stern whisper, complete with a wagging finger.

“What are we, in elementary school? Nope. I wanted everyone to see it, but I guess we’re going to have to, you know, share, like we’re all in kindergarten again. Oh, and take turns – Nicely. Everyone will get their chance to see it, I promise. I’m not going to take it away – Unless you decide to fight over it again. And, for the love of everything holy, keep your voices down! We are in the library, after all, and we need to stay quiet! Do you really want to get kicked out?

Everyone sheepishly lowered their eyes and shook their heads. Bethany rolled her eyes – Reigning in these class clowns may be harder than she had originally imagined.

“Are we calmer now? Alright, then. Let’s all play nicely in this tiny sandbox we’re in. Now, I’m going to pass it over here to Anabelle first …”

Anabelle didn’t snatch it away from Bethany. She held the journal as if it were a china doll. Bethany had filled nearly all of the 150 pages, but she’d elected to save five pages for each section, to all each of the five to have their own place to create their notes, canvas, or Pinterest ideas. It was only fair. In addition, she’d given each person their own color – To help differentiate, and keep some order to the chaos. She’d used the same color Post-It notes as bookmarks at the top of the sections as well.

After the journal made its first loop around the group, Bethany reached into her backpack again, and produced six pens.

“These are the same colors that go with the journal. I want you to use them as much as you want – Don’t worry, I bought plenty of extras whenever those first ones run dry. Plus, you’ll see that I put them on lanyards with each of our names and ‘The Great European Adventure.’ I thought this would be a great reminder of what we’re striving for when times get tough or when we’re wading through our everyday lives.”

As the pens got passed around and the feverish chatter started again, the kind that was becoming commonplace during their meetings, Bethany and Will’s eyes met. Will grinned at Bethany as she leaned into him. She sighed with relief as Will kissed her forehead.

As they watched the group, Will murmured into Bethany’s forehead, “I think we’re going to be just fine. Why were we all worried?”

Aside from a bit of squabbling about whose turn it was to have the journal, the weekend, like all the other meetings so far, passed by far too quickly.

After the unveiling of the travel books and the journal/pens combination, the study room grew very hot and uncomfortable. Plus, everyone was getting hungry. Since Lisanna had already checked the large stack of books out of the library for the month-long reserve period, everyone took a stack and they gingerly made their way out of the library and into the bright sunshine and brisk breeze. The group carefully made their way over to the Student Union, where they had their pick of food options. The rest of the afternoon slipped away like the sun did behind the buildings, as everyone thumbed through the books and passed the journal back and forth. Before everyone knew it, the dinner rush was flowing through the café and the six decided it was far beyond time to haul their treasure trove all the way back to Lisanna’s apartment for the evening festivities.

All three of Lizzy’s apartment-mates were away for the weekend – Definitely a rare sight and treat – so the six proceeded to party like it was 1999. The books and journal went promptly into a corner of the living room, and out came the baking supplies, pizza, frozen appetizers, and a few adult beverages. Since no one was going anywhere until the next morning, it was safe to let loose a little, as long as they stayed relatively quiet.

Toward the end of the night, everyone was fat and happy, along with being drunk on a little bit of alcohol and a whole lot of love and excitement. The three couples quickly chose their corners and proceeded to make out and get frisky like no one was going to live past the dawning of the morning sun. It got dangerously close to being naughtier than that, but someone wisely noticed everyone teetering on the edge of all six of them being naked in the same space, and called a time-out. Everyone laughed, immediately straightened up, and headed to their respective private places for the night. Not saying that anyone went to sleep immediately, or anything, but no one wanted to see anyone else doing their private business if they could help it.

Sunday morning came far too quickly. It was exciting, because all of the meetings up until this point had been forced to end by Saturday night. No one had gotten a lot of sleep, for obvious reasons, but that was okay. The excitement was still buzzing.

She sighed. She wasn’t sure what to say.

“Lizzy, first of all – Thank you so much for hosting us this weekend. I think, judging by last night, anyway, that we all had a great time.”

Everyone gave slight nods and murmurs of agreement – It was clear some of the group were a little hung over as well.

“I’m so impressed with what all of y’all have put in this journal since yesterday. I mean, I gave this to y’all almost 24 hours ago – and it’s practically filled up now. Thanks, guys. I don’t quite know what to say.”

Bethany paused. She was getting emotional. She was part of the slightly hung over group, but why else did she feel hot tears threatening to burst at any moment?

Will noticed her chin quivering, and he gently kissed her temple while murmuring, “It’s okay, baby. It’s okay.”

Bethany let one tear go. Everyone immediately looked massively concerned.

She wiped the tear away and flashed her signature grin as a sign of good faith.

“I’m good, guys. Honest. I’m certainly not sad – I’m more like super happy and super proud. And thankful to have such great friends. I know y’all are fully committed to this adventure; this crazy adventure that started as just a mere venting session between Hunter and I. I just can’t wait to see what happens next.”

With that, Anabelle remarked that the food was probably getting cold, so everyone dug in – Hungry for food and hungry for the adventure that lay in wait.

Bethany nodded, so Will continued, “Sometimes, we just need to cast aside the trusting part and just go with the flow. I know it’s hard – I struggle with it too, believe it or not. We all worry too much, it has its place in life in general. We’re all stressed out about multiple things, even if we don’t show it outright. Guys have an easier time masking their feelings, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have them or show them.”

Will sighed and took a breath. There were a few moments of silence, but it wasn’t awkward or uncomfortable. Both of them were processing what had been said, and they were internally strategizing about what to say or do next.

As Will came to a red light, they turned their heads to meet each other. They had this tradition of kissing at every red light that they could, and it usually helped transition into the next topic or point.

When the light turned green, they both opened their mouths to say something, but just as quickly closed them. Almost communicating via ESP, they just sat in silence for a long while, letting everything wash over them like the ocean waves. It was calming.

However, it was anything but calm with the other two pairs. The weekend had been better than expected, but once everyone had parted ways earlier in the afternoon, the positivity broke down quickly.

Anabelle and Bill were trying desperately to stay calm. This whole adventure thing, along with planning their wedding was immensely stressful. They took comfort in that the wedding was happening first and then the European adventure would follow later on down the road, but it didn’t help much. They were trying to be objective and realistic.

On top of everything else, they were super-tired of the long-distance relationship. They wanted nothing more than to move in together as soon as possible, but it just wasn’t practical at that moment. Bill knew he needed to save as much money as he could while still under his mom’s roof. And Anabelle knew she needed to find some sort of employment now, in order to earn a living. She hadn’t had any luck thus far in her search. She was a little jealous that Bill had gotten a cushy position in his field. She was happy for him, no doubt, but it wasn’t any less frustrating.

Luckily, Hunter and Lisanna were calmer than Bill and Anabelle at the present moment. Things had settled down to minor anxiety attacks and slight waves of stress for Lizzy – For now, anyway. She was focusing on Hunter’s visits right now. She knew finals were bearing down on her, but she couldn’t think about that, or wanted to. She wanted to spend as much with Hunter as she could, which was a complete 180 from that Friday that she desperately wanted to be alone. Now, she couldn’t get enough of him, and they suited the both of them just fine.

As Thanksgiving approached like a barreling freight train, the stress only increased. The tension between the couples was taught, threatening to snap into chaos at any given moment. Holidays were, by nature, stressful. So everyone tried their best to relax and be with their families. Unfortunately, no holiday gathering ever goes as smoothly as everyone hopes it will.

The first snap happened with Bill and Anabelle. For the first time in the history of their relationship, they were able to celebrate Thanksgiving together. It sounded great on paper, but both of them were secretly dreading it. The three workdays leading up to Thanksgiving were immensely slow at Bill’s work, so he was sent home early Monday through Wednesday. He wasn’t salaried yet, and wouldn’t be until after the New Year, so he lost a good chunk of wages. He was grumpy and not excited about being stuck with family, when he could be working to make up for the lost pay. He was thrilled to see Anabelle and actually spend a holiday with her for once, but she did not share the same sentiment.

Like Lisanna, Anabelle had basically hit a brick wall with her classes. She enjoyed the fact that the program was exclusively online, and all the materials she needed were the textbooks and her laptop. It was portable for her, which had allowed her to travel quite extensively to see her dad’s family and other relatives. However, she was losing faith that she would graduate on time, and the last thing she wanted was for school to hinder her job search, finding employment, and planning the wedding.

Anabelle and Drew rarely fought, but when an argument did simmer to the surface, it got ugly, and quickly. The Thanksgiving gathering at Bill’s house felt like a pressure cooker. Finally, just before the meal began, it all exploded.

“Look, I’m just super stressed out right now! And that’s all!”

Anabelle was struggling to keep her voice and emotions in check, and she was losing the battle.

Anabelle nodded, lifting her head and finally looking him in the eyes. “You’re right, sweetie. I think I’ve been closing myself inward, ever since you proposed. I just thought I could do all of this by myself. But, now I know that I can’t do it all alone. I don’t want to do this alone. I want you by my side, every step of the way …”

Anabelle didn’t say anymore because Bill’s lips were on hers. She sank to the couch and they feverishly made out for a few minutes.

Once the last kiss ended, they couldn’t stop looking at each other. Bill secretly hoped that she would stay the night before heading back to Dolphin Resort – He just wanted to hold her all night long and tell her that everything would be okay.

By the beginning of December, though, everyone was restless. Thanksgiving had not gone very smoothly across the board, mainly due to stress. Everyone was stressed about money, primarily, but there were other factors as well. Anabelle and Bill had their wedding, Bethany was worried about her future engagement ring and wedding, Will was agonizing over how to propose to Bethany, and Lizzy and Hunter were figuring out how to deal with Lizzy’s impending final exams.

But, just days earlier, a relief mission had begun to take shape.

Over the Thanksgiving meal, Will and Bethany had been passing a scrawled note on a napkin back and forth. They felt like kids, but no one else at the table knew anything about Europe, and it needed to stay that way.

Will started it off. “I think we need to consider a joint bank account.”

Bethany was confused, but excited. “Are you proposing to me?”

Will shook his head and feverishly wrote, “Not yet! Haha. What I meant was to set one up for the six of us, to save for Europe. It doesn’t do us any good to have six separate buckets for the same adventure, right?”

Bethany nodded. “Of course. Sorry that I jumped to conclusions! I think it’s a great idea. But, what will the group think?”

Will considered that before writing his response. “Not sure, honestly. I think the best way is to ask them. Let’s call another face-to-face meeting, after Lizzy’s exams. Deal?”

Bethany nodded, but this time with a smile. “I think that’s the perfect way to handle it. We’re all mondo stressed out right now, and I think that will help. You got it, dude!”

Happy Thanksgiving! Bill and I had a slight disagreement earlier today, but we’re okay now. We definitely want to meet up again. As of right know, we’re good to meet on Saturday the 13th. Hoping everyone else can make it! Can’t wait to see y’all again soon.

Bethany and Will pulled out their phones and scrolled through the calendar. They both sighed with relief – Will’s company Christmas party was the first weekend in December.

Good news! Bethany and I can make it on the 13th. Woohoo! We’re excited to meet up again, and so soon. Enjoy the rest of the weekend – I’m sure we’ll talk again shortly.

Even though everyone was separated at that moment, the six of them all had smiles on their faces. Nothing could bring them down.

The next day, the FlixenFlaxen was buzzing again.

Uh, sorry guys. Bad news. This is Bill, by the way. Since I’ve requested off work so many Saturdays in the last few months, I’m required to work the 13th and 20th of December. I’m so bummed about this! Is there anything we can do?

Bethany frowned, tapping the corner of her phone against her teeth. Will looked at her quizzically, until Bethany showed him the message.

Will extended his hand, and Bethany gave him her iPhone. After a few moments of contemplation, he started to tap on the screen.

B&W here! Bummer, Bill. Sorry about that! No worries though. We can do a Sunday if need be. In fact, why don’t we turn it into another sleepover? Only this time it’s pushed back a little bit – Start it on Saturday night after you get off work and then go into most of Sunday. We have some vacation built up as well, so we can go into Monday if we want. Just let us know – We’re flexible.

Bill smiled. But Hunter frowned.

Hey, it’s Hunter. Saturday into Sunday works, but I have to work on Mondays. Sorry!

Will and Bethany sighed. This clearly wasn’t working. They could feel the anxiety rising. Could a compromise be reached?

Suddenly, Lizzy finally felt like she had the answer.

Lizzy here. I know everyone must be really frustrated by now. So – What if we do, like, a Skype session? I know it’s definitely not the same as everyone being together in one room, but at least we’re all communicating and seeing each other’s faces while doing so …

The planned Skype session also allowed a bit of flexibility for the group – It didn’t have to happen on a Saturday exclusively. This made it slightly easier to schedule.

As they started discussing potential dates and times, Bethany’s mind continued to wander.

“I didn’t want to do this, since we’re meeting over Skype this time. But, I can’t wait much longer, either. If I wait until our next face-to-face meeting, it may be too late.”

“I guess I should talk to Will about this – Get his thoughts on it. This is a predicament. It won’t be easy. I don’t like telling people what to do.”

Unbeknownst to Will and Bethany, the other two couples started practicing with Skype. Over time, it grew on them. Within a few days, Anabelle and Bill were using it almost daily. Hunter and Lisanna were Skyping a couple of days per week, and it instantaneously improved Lizzy’s mood and helped bridge the two-hour distance.

Within a week of the Skype suggestion, everyone had blocked out Sunday, December 14th. That was the test day, to see if this idea would work with six people.

Skype was also improving more than the distance. Hunter and Lisanna started getting creative with it, and quickly. It wasn’t nearly the same as Hunter being in the room with her, but she was in the privacy of her apartment bedroom. The first couple of days, she kept her shirt on. She did like to pull surprises on him, so one night, she sat at her desk in just a bra. Hunter salivated at the sight when he first saw her on the screen.

“I could definitely get used to this,” Hunter thought as his eyes focused on her chest.

“Maybe this long-distance thing won’t be so bad for a little while longer.”

Anabelle and Bill weren’t getting that creative, but it didn’t stop Bill from having similar thoughts and desires. However, he knew he shouldn’t push anything. Their argument that happened on Thanksgiving Day still smarted a bit. He didn’t want to push her away any further. Besides, he wanted her to take control of that ship, at first. They were trying to wait to have sex until their marriage, but since they had gotten engaged, it was becoming increasingly difficult. Bill desperately wanted to take it to the next level.

Bill whispered to himself, “Oh, Anabelle, if only you knew. I’ve held you and caressed you, but I want you. I want to make love to you. So badly!”

The Sunday Skype session finally arrived. The multiple two-way tests of the system had been wildly successful, and that was putting it mildly. Even Bethany and Will had tested it a couple of times, even though they were only six miles apart from each other.

There wasn’t a set start time, just whenever all six of them could join in. Everyone was on edge; it was going to be interesting to see how a six-way conversation would turn out.

Bethany and Will realized that they could join the session together, so really it would be a five-way conversation rather than six.

Maybe that would help, they thought.

The green phone started ringing and vibrating. Will clicked a couple of times, and Hunter’s face appeared in one corner of his monitor. Hellos were exchanged and then the phone rang again – It was Bill. The ladies brought up the rear – Anabelle joined in and then Lisanna was last, with an apology about unpacking and the mess behind her. Everyone laughed.

Everyone swallowed simultaneously.

“This was really hard for me. I don’t like assigning things to my closest friends. So I wanted to make it as fun as possible, so I thought I would give everyone a topic or topics that suited their interests.

Hunter – Since you mentioned castles, I want you to research and plan our living arrangements.”

Hunter gave a fist pump. “Alright! I’ve already started looking. This is going to be awesome!”

Bethany smiled and felt a little bit of relief.

“Bill – You’re our resident expert on food. You worked at the grocery store for many years, and I think you’d be great for this task. I want you to find out as much as you can about restaurants, markets, grocery stores, and so on.

Anabelle – Since you’ve traveled so much here in the U.S., I want to you to be the main planner of the itinerary, including transportation.”

Bethany paused to catch her breath. She glanced at the monitors – The smiles were all she needed.

She turned to Will next. “Baby, I want you to help design this trip. I think it’d be awesome if you’d be willing to photograph and take video of our adventure.”

Everyone nodded. Bethany took a deep breath – Only one person remained.

“Lizzy. I saved you for last for a reason. I wanted to get to know you first. I think you’d be great in helping us with languages. You’re one of the smartest people in this group. I want you to help us with our Spanish, English, French, German, and any other languages we may need to learn along the way. Are you okay with that?”

Bethany focused on the screen that showed Lizzy’s face. It was hard to read her at first; her eyes were downcast.

Suddenly, her head popped up. Bethany caught a glimpse of a smile at the corners of Lizzy’s mouth.

“Well, B., I thought you’d never ask. I guess I should probably share this with everyone – Did you know that I’m tri-lingual?”

The conversation died down a little, and Hunter noticed Bethany wasn’t speaking.

“Bethany? Hello? Anybody home over there?”

Hunter knocked on the computer screen to get her attention.

Everyone fell into silence, except for the faint clearing of throats.

Bethany flushed a rosy pink.

“Um, hey.”

She waved her hand.

Hunter looked puzzled and a tad worried. “Everything okay over there? You’ve barely said three words in the last hour.”

Everyone’s eyes focused on hers.

Bethany swallowed, struggling to get the right words. She felt tears coming to her eyes.

Will released her hand and put his arm around her shoulders.

“Everything okay, baby?”

Bethany nodded. She sniffled a couple of times, and then looked directly into the camera and smiled.

“I’m good. I’m just – I’m just …”

No one spoke.

Bethany swiped at her eyes.

“I’m just proud. And excited. And overwhelmed.”

She sniffled again and asked Will for a tissue.

“I’ve been so worried over the last several weeks. I wanted to make this fun. I don’t have a lot of experience with management, but I didn’t want to make this feel like a job, either …”

She sighed, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath before continuing.

“Basically what I’m trying to say is that I’m so happy that y’all are happy. I tried so hard to make each of your tasks fun, something that you would enjoy, and make sure everyone was contributing equally.”

She took another deep breath. She couldn’t contain the grin on her face.

“So, now let’s plan the biggest adventure of our lives – Together!”

Everyone let out another cheer.

If that weren’t any indication of the excitement, the Skype session went on for four more hours …

In between wedding planning, Anabelle’s graduate school work, and looking for a house, Bill and Anabelle set to work on their adventure assignments – Food and groceries, and the general itinerary. Unknowingly, Bethany had essentially married their loves together – Food and travel. Almost every night after that first Skype session, Bill and Anabelle themselves were on Skype, pointing to a huge map of Europe and using all of the Internet resources to put pins and stars on the map – Multi-colored pushpins for traveling, and stars indicating the best food regions, wineries, and more.

Lizzy made it through her finals by the skin of her teeth. She aced all but one of her exams, and her final grades were decent.

Hunter saw the relief in Lizzy as he helped her move out of her LT apartment for the last time. She was finally finished with school – Possibly for forever. She hadn’t breathed a word of graduate school or any further kind of study. Her field was tricky – Double major in microbiology and chemistry – but she was determined to find some sort of job. She knew that it was likely going to be minimum wage and retail, in the beginning anyway. Lizzy did know one thing – She wanted to get that job and save up enough money so that she was out of her mom’s house in the least amount of time.

She was seriously considering moving closer to Hunter – There were more opportunities there, both for entry-level jobs and possible work in her field. There were three major universities within 100 miles of Hunter’s town. She started to entertain the possibility of starting graduate school at one of them and being either a grad assistant or a research assistant while studying – It looked like a win-win. But, for this moment, she wanted to be making money. She wanted to save every penny she could and be back on her own as soon as humanly possible.

In the midst of everything going on with Bill and Anabelle and Lizzy and Hunter, Will was planning his proposal to Bethany. He’d had this tradition of giving her jewelry every Christmas since they’d started dating, and he wanted to give her the ring around that time as well.

He’d already sat down with Bethany’s parents and asked for permission – They said yes.

Mission number one, accomplished.

Now he needed to plan what he considered to be the perfect proposal. They had started talking about engagement and marriage several years prior – Will had basically promised Bethany that his proposal to her would be as romantic and sweet as possible – and he wanted to deliver on that. The problem was, how romantic and sweet could it be around Christmastime? Christmas was such a common time for marriage proposals – Will wanted to do it right, for Bethany.

It got to the point one night where Will was truly stuck. He had tried to think of everything creative, witty, funny, heart-melting, and all of that had basically gotten him nowhere.

He essentially put his head on his computer desk and sighed. (Don’t worry – Bethany was actually with Anabelle, working on her wedding).

The little voice in Will’s head started cheerleading, “Come on, think! You can do this. You love Bethany so much. What would she be blown away by?”

Will started pacing the wood floor of his bedroom, but his own steps were driving him crazy.

Finally, he flopped on his bed on his stomach. Groaning, he rubbed his temples and closed his eyes. He lay there for a few minutes.

He then remembered that his phone had buzzed with a text from someone an hour ago.

Hey, buddy. How’s life treating you in Virginia?

Will smiled. It was his best buddy, C.J. They’d been friends since second grade. C.J. had gone into the military several years earlier and had been shipped off to a base in Arizona. Will had seen C.J. twice in the last four years, so hearing from him was always a treat.

Will typed slowly, Hey, bud. Life’s good. I’m stuck though. I’m trying to figure out how to propose to Bethany.

C.J. laughed. He had married his wife, Carrie, almost two years earlier.

Excited for you, man! That’s great. Bethany’s a great girl, and I’ve seen how happy she makes you. All I can say is – Make this moment something you’ll both remember forever.

Will smiled. All the worry started to clear away. He began to think about their very first date, nearly four and a half years earlier, how Bethany brought that up in conversation a lot, and how so many people thought it was literally perfect.

Thanks, buddy. I feel better already. Miss you. Hope to see you soon!

C.J. chuckled and shook his head.

No problem. Hey, I’m getting out of the force soon. Moving to Wyoming in January or February – You know how stupid the force can be about letting people leave. Once we’re settled, you two should come out and visit! Can’t wait to hear when the engagement’s official.

Will smiled and cleared his messages screen. He saw Bethany’s face smiling back at him. He knew now what to do.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂