Friday, February 20, 2015

When You Get Stuck, Get Out Your Colors

Over at my group blog, Modern Belles of History, I talk about what i do when I get stuck with the writing. In short, I get out my markers and color!

Read the post here.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Be Kind to You

Why are we so hard on ourselves? Whether it's not exercising three times a week or eating an extra slice of cake or running five minutes late for work, we tend to belittle and berate ourselves with all the vitriol of our worst enemy.

Why do we engage in such destructive behavior? A range of factors could contribute to such a mindset, ranging from an overly-critical parent, spouse, or teacher to a hard-wired belief that we must be perfect. Regardless of the cause, the effect can be quite harmful.

There's a difference in admitting our mistakes and resolving to do better next time and yelling at ourselves and calling ourselves names. I'm one of the worst offenders. If I don't write one day, don't go and exercise, gain weight, or don't eat right, my mind inevitably responds with negativity and the "Should Committee" starts their barrage.

An example: "You should have ate the chicken instead of the greasy hamburger...you shouldn't make excuses for not going to the gym...you should go even if you feel awful."

It's become like a bad habit.

I'm trying to change this by choosing to respond to myself as a friend might.

In other words, if one of my friends came to me and said, "I skipped my work-out again last night. I had such a headache. I couldn't do it. Now I hate myself!", I certainly wouldn't reply, "You're right. You're a loser. How dare you not exercise? Don't you know you're supposed to work through the pain? You're an idiot." Of course not! Yet that's how we talk to ourselves sometimes, isn't it?

Yes, there are times we need to be firm with ourselves. But you can be firm and kind.

So today, if you make a mistake and feel the need to give yourself a good tongue-lashing, don't. Instead, pretend that you're talking to a good friend, and respond to yourself with kindness.

I'll be trying to do the same.




Thursday, January 01, 2015

The Year in Review: 2014

Oh, am I glad to see the end of 2014. What a year! It had some very severe downs and some really great ups! I am going to focus on the ups instead of the downs, though, because it's a lot more fun, right?

So here's a few of the "ups!"

1) My brother got married in April and we had a wonderful time as a family. I'm so glad that he found someone to spend the rest of his life with.

2) My book, Nebraska POW Camps, came out! I did several book signings and sold lots of books (though not enough to make much on the royalties!). It was great to meet so many people interested in this topic.

3) This is perhaps the biggest "up" of all:

I GOT AN AGENT.

I think I've been waiting for 10 years to write that sentence! It was so surreal how the entire thing happened, and I plan to write up a "when I got the call" story that we writers always dream about. Suffice to say that I am thrilled. I look forward to working with her.

For this year, I decided to pick a word that will shape the course of the coming months. And that word is: determined.

I am determined to get back up when I fall down.

I am determined to work hard.

I am determined to lose this 15 pounds I gained over the last four months.

I am determined to pray more and to grow in my faith.

I am determined to quit whining and feeling sorry for myself.

I am determined not to let my health become my identity.

I am determined to listen to what God wants me to do instead of blithely doing my own thing.

Here's to a new year!

Happy 2015!

Monday, December 08, 2014

The 2014 Christmas Tree Wars

Every year, I battle my cat, Slick, over the Christmas tree. He somehow thinks that he needs to climb it. And knock off ornaments. And generally engage in massive mayhem.

Last year, he and our then-kitty, LuLu, destroyed one of our trees. When I say destroyed, I mean destroyed. We had to throw it away.

This year, LuLu is a year older and she listens much better. This doesn't mean that she hasn't been tempted by the tree, but she has responded much better to my discipline than Slick.

Slick doesn't care.

He knows he's not supposed to climb the tree or play with the ornaments. But he does it anyway.

Here's a picture I took last night that I posted on Twitter with the caption, "Should I be worried?"


Turns out that yes, I should have been worried. Shortly after I took this picture, he got that look in his eye and set about trying to climb the tree. What followed would be hilarious if I were starring in a Cary Grant caper. I yelled, then ran after Slick with the spray bottle full of water and chased him upstairs.

Do you think this deterred him?

Of course not. He was back moments later. He sat on the coffee table in front of me and just stared at me, that same look in his eyes.

What did I do?

I fed him. Yes, he already had food in his bowl, but I've learned that if you don't give this cat what he wants, he will irritate you on purpose and unremittingly until you give in.

After I fed him, he was knocked out on my bed for the rest of the night and left the tree in peace.

At this rate, he's going to gain 10 pounds.

Why can't he be like my other cat, Kathryn? Look at this sweet, innocent face.



See how nicely she sits under the tree, not bothering to play with the ornaments or climb it?

The only real solution to this is, of course, not to put up a Christmas tree. But I refuse. I love my Christmas tree and besides, it's MY house, not Slick's.

Right?

I'm beginning to wonder...


Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Season of Joy

I always wait until the day after Thanksgiving to start thinking about Christmas. But when that Friday hits, all bets are off!

I've already got my decorations out of storage and ready to be put up. I'm also trying to decide which yummy cookie and candy recipes to try this year. And the music! Oh, how I love Christmas carols. I veer from The Nutcracker Suite to Big Band music to Bing Crosby. Modern carols don't do it for me - with the exception of Mary Did You Know, a song I just adore.

I'm not going to get stressed out over this holiday because it accomplishes nothing. Instead, I tend to relax and take it slow, enjoying every minute.

It's the most wonderful time of the year...here's to a happy holiday season!


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thoughts on a Lovely Saturday

I love and adore Saturdays. I don't have to go to the day job, I can sleep in, and best of all, I can write.

Today I'm working on my war dogs article while sitting in my office, listening to Big Band music. I'm contemplating going to get a large slice of chocolate cake later, but then I remember I already had my "Dessert Day" this week (huge blueberry muffins that were SO GOOD) and I reluctantly put the temptation aside.

Yet it has already been a glorious Saturday without the chocolate cake. I've made a nice dent in the article. As we all know, sometimes getting started is the hardest part. I tend to freeze up when I write non-fiction, and I think it's because I have so much information to disseminate into a prescribed word count that I panic.

That's why I prefer to write fiction. Those words are mine and mine alone.

But while I prefer to write fiction, I have an overwhelming desire to write my non-fiction World War II articles. I love to dig into the research on the topics of my choosing. And writing an article that will educate hundreds (thousands?) of readers on a little-known part of WW2 history and get paid for it? That is sheer bliss.

Thus, I've come to terms with my desire to write WW2 articles (and to overcome my frozen state each and every time I start to write one) and my need to write fiction. If you told me tomorrow that I couldn't write any more WW2 articles, I'd be naturally upset; but if you told me tomorrow that I couldn't write fiction anymore, I honestly would fall apart. Fiction is what brings me to life, what makes me think and question and explore. Without writing fiction, I wouldn't be me.

I am truly blessed to be able to do both.

I hope you are pursuing your passion and doing what you love. Life is simply too short not to.



Monday, November 10, 2014

When A Book Title Said It All

I'm neck-deep in research for my next World War II article, and that means I've been having a fantastic time digging into newspapers of the 1940s. It truly was a different time in so many ways, but there was one thing that wasn't different: romance.

Take, for instance, this very sweet story from the Chicago Daily Tribune on October 7, 1942, in the Front Views and Profiles" section written by Marcia Winn.

A girl we know received a letter this week from a soldier she knows pretty well. As a postscript he wrote, "Consult the title of Ludwig Bemelman's latest book." On her way home from work, she stopped in a book store. A priest, two business men and an elderly women were waiting at the counter as she leaned toward the clerk and said, "I don't want to buy anything, but can you tell me the name of Ludwig Bemelman's new book?" The clerk, a nice, friendly man, leaned far over the counter and whispered, " 'I Love You, I Love You, I Love You.' " The girl, her face crimson, turned and ran.
P.S. - The boy is coming home on furlough this week-end.


Not the couple from the story, but representative of wartime romance
I'll take that kind of letter any day.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Hodgepodge

Is it really November? It feels more like it should be, oh, I don't know, August? I feel like I lost two months of my life when I was going through my health issues, but I'm glad to report I'm on the other side of it and feeling better.

Which means I'm writing and planning and researching again.

What I've been doing: researching an article on the K-9 "Dogs for Defense" of World War II, researching/plotting my sixth novel, and watching The Blacklist.

Ok, so the last one doesn't quite fit with the other two, but I'm in love with this show. It's well-written (sure, a bit far-fetched, but it's TV!), James Spader is amazing, and, the best part of all? The creator and writer of this show is a Nebraskan!

And it counts as research, right? Because when you're writing a thriller, dissecting how thrillers work - even if they are t.v. shows - helps you figure out how to make it work on the page.

On the homefront, I've begun my purging project. We plan to buy a house next spring and I intend to go through every single box in my house and get rid of stuff we no longer need/want. My daughter has taken to this project wholeheartedly and has gone through her room, tossing things she's outgrown. I'm realizing, through, that I'm much more sentimental than she is - she can easily get rid of stuffed animals or drawings or stories she's written without a care. I, on the other hand, have a hard time putting those beloved stuffed animals in the garage sale pile or throwing away any of her creative work.

Still, it's a good feeling, to get rid of excess in your life. Now if I could just get rid of the excess weight that crept up on me the past three months, why, life would be better.

No, this post doesn't have much point to it- just a hodgepodge of thoughts going through my head that needed to be "purged" - and also, I needed to update my blog. How do I get so far behind on it?

I confess, I turn to Twitter much more these days - maybe it's because my brain can only handle 140 characters at a time.

If you're still reading at this point, let me know what you've been up to. =D


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Life Is Beautiful

Despite the setbacks we all have, despite the sorry state of the world, life is beautiful.

I see, hear, and feel it every day.

In my husband's morning kiss goodbye.

In my daughter's smile as she heads off to school.

In the gorgeous autumn colors painting every tree.

In the words that stream from my mind onto the page.

I have to remind myself that life is beautiful. And today, I'm reminding you.

Life is beautiful.

Enjoy it and embrace the beauty.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Finding Me


Finally.

I'm back to work.

The physical therapy is helping.

And no more prescription pain meds are necessary.

I won't go into the sordid details of how I quit those pain meds cold turkey and suffered horrendous withdrawals because honestly, I lived through it and I'm still trying to process it. I learned a lot about myself during the whole thing, and I realized that sometimes when you think you're in control, you're really not.

Anyway.

I'm slowly, slowly getting back to my old routine. I'm not at 100% yet, but I'd say I'm at about 80% and that is far and above where I was two weeks ago.

It's been rather odd, like the last two months were a nightmare, like who I was then wasn't really me.

Now it's time to find that person again.

Time to find my joy of writing, my love of studying World War II, my delight in autumn's cooler temps and gorgeous colors, my zest for reading and finding new authors, my devotion to living a full life and enjoying and embracing all that it has to offer.

All of it got lost in the shuffle. My brain is still recovering and trying to put the pieces of the last 2 1/2 months back together.

When you've lost yourself for awhile, the process of rediscovery can be a bit painful. Mistakes made must be confronted. Lessons must be learned, no matter how hard. All of it is necessary to emerge a better, healthier person on the other side.

But it is also a slow process. I don't have any grand plans to finish my novel within the next week, or to start exercising again beyond taking my walks, or the determination to lose the weight I gained while being sick. There's no energy or motivation for that yet. What I am doing is taking it one day at a time.

After all, that's how we became who we are, right? One day at a time. And thus, I will rediscover who I am, one day at a time.