Thursday, July 31, 2014

I Write Because I Must

Quite shocking, yes. I'm putting up two posts within a week's time! What is wrong with me?

The short answer: I have loads of time on my hands.

The longer answer: I have loads of time on my hands because it's taking me forever to recover from surgery. If you detected a slight hint of frustration in that sentence, you'd be correct. I haven't returned to work yet, which means I've been watching a lot of movies (current one playing is "Thunderball" - a James Bond movie), doing a lot of tweeting, reading, napping, and eating (I am not proud of the last item, I assure you).

I've also been doing a lot of writing and/or thinking about writing. I can't get away from it. I don't want to get away from it.

In fact, if you're so interested, you can hop over to the Modern Belles of History blog and read about how I've started to explore deeper themes in my writing. There are times on the writing journey where it's fun to look back and see how our writing has changed - not just style-wise, but in what we choose to write about.

This weekend, I'm doing a plot retreat with two of my writing pals. We're meeting in our friend's home and that means I can take my pain pills (no driving will be involved!) and be able to relax on a couch in comfy clothes. I've got two story ideas I want to plot and I'm looking forward to working on both.

If I'm to be laid up in bed for the most part, I might as well make the most of my time doing what I love, correct?




Saturday, July 26, 2014

It Has Begun

Ever since I had my daughter 14 years ago, I've had female issues. One ovary was removed in 2011. I had a hysterectomy in 2012 (but left an ovary so I didn't go into menopause). Well, I just had surgery last week to take out the ovary as I had a cyst growing inside of it (I didn't even know that was possible!) and it's been causing all sorts of havoc.

I've lived with going to the gynecologist's office several times a year for the past 14 years. I've used tons of sick leave. I've spent far too much time in bed nursing the next problem to come around the bend. Thus, when this latest issue came up, I decided enough was enough.

Only problem? Once the ovary was removed, BAM: instant menopause.

Well, it's been four days since the surgery and I haven't had any hot flashes yet. In fact, if I'm having any menopause symptoms at all, it's my mood's insistence on being just fine one minute and down in the dumps the next. I'm already on a low dose of estrogen and I'm hoping that having the same dose every day instead of the erratic ups and downs I've experienced for years will actually be a good thing. Time will tell.

I've been sleeping a lot (and having the most bizarre, disturbing dreams ever) and trying to read when I feel like it. I take pain pills to help manage my pain and while they make me feel really good for awhile, I tend to 'crash' about two hours after I take them and feel apathetic and not in the mood to do much of anything.

Recovery is never an easy process, of course, as I've found out countless other times. I'm hopeful to return to work on Monday, but we'll see how it goes.

And the writing? I'm still at it. Funny that snatches of my main character's life are trickling through my brain now after I've already written the second draft, but they have really filled in all the missing sections of his makeup quite nicely. I understand him better now.

Blogging? Well, I don't do it very much anymore and that makes me rather sad. I'll stop by every once in awhile and post, but regular schedules are pretty much out. Though it might be worth toying with the idea of sticking to a schedule just for discipline's sake and for the sake of writing on deadline. Deadlines have a way of getting me to work, even if they are self-imposed.

In other news, I was late to the party once again and just recently became a Doctor Who fan. I remember watching the old ones when I was a kid - I believe Tom Baker was the Doctor at the time (he was the Fourth Doctor), but I do have to say that David Tennant is "my" doctor. I haven't watched any episodes with Matt Smith yet, and the brand new ones with Peter Capaldi as a much older doctor should be quite interesting.

And that's about it from this end of the universe.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Rainy Days

It's a glorious day outside.

Rain, thunder, lightning, and grey clouds.

Yep, that's a glorious day in my book. I only wish I could be at home, writing on the couch or in my office, and listening to the rain fall. These kind of days energize me in a way sunny days just can't.

Apparently there is a name for this: pluviophile.

So, I am a proud pluviophile.

Methinks I need to move to England...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Meandering Blog Post

Sometimes I wonder: is it okay if I escape the reality of the present and dive into the rose-colored nostalgia of the past and live there?

I know the answer, of course: ignoring reality and the time in which I live is dangerous. I need to be here physically, mentally, and emotionally. But sometimes - like today - I'm exhausted from trying to live in this time and this moment.

It's too loud, and it's too crowded, and it's too...not me. Despite the fact that I know that many things in the past were most certainly not better than they are today, I long to go there, or at least, take the parts of it I like and integrate it into my current life. I'd love to be able to stay off the Internet for days at a time, but that's not possible because of 1) my job and 2) my 'other' life as a published author.

But gosh darn it, I'm tired of this world. I'm tired of what I see as a huge shift away from the values of my grandparents' generation. I'm tired of seeing crookedness and corruption at the highest levels of society. I'm tired of seeing the mocking ridicule we have for each other as human beings (which is so evident when you read the comments of any online article). I'm tired of an 'us vs. them' mentality in areas of faith and politics and morality.

However, as a historian, I recognize that those things have pretty much always been there. Corruption has always existed in one form or another, and morality has changed radically during certain periods of time (the Victorian era certainly signified a decided shift to the very strait-laced while the 1960s birthed what I see as the absolute unraveling of my most cherished moral values). So in a sense, I'm watching history in action.

But if I could...if I could, I would freeze time and step into that world.

In some aspects, life really was simpler back in the 1940s. The values of the nation (i.e. America) were certainly much more cohesive. The majority believed in God, believed in marriage, believed in a morality based on the Ten Commandments. Society had its problems, of course. Segregation was horrible, women weren't exactly free to go after the career they wanted, and there was that little problem of a world war.

I get that. I get that it's very tempting to look at the past through those famous rose-colored glasses.

The problem is, I'm an old soul. My spirit longs for a simpler time, when people treated each other better, when a country came together for the good of the nation, when we weren't so polarized. And I truly believe that we are much more polarized now morally and politically than we have been in a long time. Why is that? Because of the Internet. Everyone has a voice, but there are those people who don't know how to use their voice properly. Instead, they sling mud and tell lies and incite hatred and hurl false accusations.

BUT...on the flip side of the coin, people can use their voices to make a difference, to help others, to build a community.

I suppose you can't have one without the other.

I'm just so very tired of the bickering. I'm tired of trying to stay abreast of current events and stay active as a citizen of America - which, as I see it, carries a large responsibility to hold my government accountable - and also try to live my life. You can become consumed with all the voices and opinions out there.

But the noise isn't just about politics. The noise is about everything else, too. For me, my two big interests are writing and history. So of course, there are writing websites and history websites and people tweeting about writing and history. And my brain gets full to the brim because I want to READ ALL THE ARTICLES AND TWEETS but it's not possible.

It's information overload. And my old soul can't handle it anymore. I'm starting to unravel inside.

That's why I have this longing to re-frame my reality.

I realize this is a meandering blog post and I don't know that I have any solid agenda in writing it. I just needed to write, period, and this is what spilled out. Maybe it's the depression creeping into my every cell again as it does each summer. Maybe it's dumb hormones levels. Who knows?

All I know is this: I want to get off this roller coaster. I want to simplify my life. How to do it, though, when the Internet has become so much a part of our world? I think of Benedict Cumberbatch and how he doesn't have Twitter or Facebook because it would, as he says, take over his life. Yes, he is a celebrity, and that carries with it a whole other aspect to it, but maybe I should take a cue from him. Maybe I should get off Facebook and Twitter because let's face it: I'm addicted to them, no doubt about it.

I've written about this topic before, but the fact that I keep circling to it means I need to make some changes. Obviously the changes I made before didn't work too well. So it may be time to do something drastic.

Or, maybe I just need a nice, long vacation.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Neglecting

When I looked the other day, I was astonished that I hadn't blogged since May 26, and even that was a quick post about Memorial Day.

I've been neglecting the blog and it's not necessarily by choice, but more that I'm finding the blog is less the platform I want to use for communicating. Instead, I've fallen in love with Twitter - and there are times that I HATE this. Why? Because it's a time sinkhole.

However, I have connected with people I never would have through my blog. I have had conversations with some of my favorite published authors, discussed politics with noted journalists, talked about history with well-known WW2 historians, and met some awesome writers and history lovers.

I still like to blog every now and again, though, when the 140 character limit isn't enough and I want to take time with my thoughts. But it feels like blogging is slowly losing its relevance. I've blogged about it before, but this could just be a blip in the social media timeline. People longing for life to slow down may well return to blogging.

I certainly won't be taking down my blog or say I'm never going to post again. I will post, though it will be more when I feel the need.

But if you are on Twitter, feel free to follow me. I'm at @WW2HistoryGal


Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

As I sit here on my couch and gaze outside at the beautiful spring morning, a mourning dove coos, my Snoopy flag wafts gently in the breeze, and my two cats drowse under my chair.

There is no gunfire erupting, no house-to-house combat, no tanks rolling down the street, no riots.

It is calm. Peaceful. Serene.

This is what freedom looks and sounds like.

And men and women fought and died so that I may enjoy it and live my life in such a way as I see fit.

To those who fell in service to their country, sacrificing their lives, I say, Thank you. I will never forget.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Broken Record

I don't envy my husband.

I must sound like a broken record to him every few weeks. Because, dear readers, every few weeks I get a flare-up of my rheumatoid arthritis and I feel so horrible that I can barely move. My husband never complains. He holds me, brings me chocolate, and keeps the house running while I usually lay in bed and sleep and try to keep the tears at bay when the pain gets to be too much.

It's amazing how this disease can make you completely forget that there is such a thing as feeling good. I don't really remember what that's like. A few days a month I'll feel pretty good, but there's always a headache lingering at the back of my skull and there's always a crunching sound in my knees when I go up or down the stairs. Still, those are my great days. My mood is up, I can take a walk with my daughter, I can get tons of housework done, spend time with hubby, and feel great about life.

But then the bad days come, like today. My dreams last night were strange and bizarre, and I kept waking up with pain in my knees and my legs and my hands. I got up and took my daughter to school, trying not to cry at the pain in my knees, and by the time I got back home, all I wanted to do was sleep. So I did, for about five hours. When I woke up, I was still in pain, but I ate a lot of chocolate (probably too much) as a way to "self-medicate) and to cope. Maybe not the best idea considering my weight loss has stalled considerably in the past few months, but when I'm in bed all day because it hurts to move, I don't care about calories. I just care about getting through the day.

My daughter, bless her heart, asked me this morning if she was at risk for getting rheumatoid arthritis. Since my mom has it and I have it, plus the fact that auto-immune diseases run in our family, I told her that there was a good chance, at least from my side of the family. She wasn't keen to hear this. Who would be? She's watched me struggle. She's seen me grimace in pain. She knows how this disease affects me and the last thing she wants is to have it affect her, too. "How will I be able to go to band concerts?" she asked (she's really into going to watch live music). I told her she'll still be able to go to those even if she did have RA. But still, she's worried.

I'll be 39 next month. But some days, I feel like I'm 99. How, I think, will this body make it if I feel this badly now? The good news is that apparently auto-immune disease slow down as you get older. That's what my doctor said anyway, and I'm glad for that. But in the meantime, I've got to deal with it.

What's most galling about this disease is that it robs of me of time. I need time to work at the day job, time to exercise, time to spend with my family, time to travel, time to work on my novel, time to go to book signings for my history book, time to research for more books, time to go on dates with my husband, time to clean the house, time to spend with the Lord, time to sleep!

But when I'm out for the count, the pain makes it impossible to do a lot of those things. Focusing on a book is hard. Focusing on a movie is hard. The pain makes it hard to do much of anything but just somehow stay occupied.

This post doesn't say anything new and it's certainly not inspiring. I don't know that I'm complaining. Instead, I think I'm just venting. And we all need to do that every once in awhile, right? I've been pretty open about my health and certain parts of my life on this blog because I want people to know that even though life has some pretty intense struggles - and let's face it, we ALL have struggles - you're not alone. You're never alone.

And here's another thing I want to make clear: it's okay to vent. It's okay not to be positive and sunny all the time. It's okay to say, "This disease stinks and I feel awful and my feet hurt and I want to EAT ALL THE CHOCOLATE."

As a writer, you need to experience the good and the bad. But more importantly, as a human being, you need to experience the good and the bad. How else will you know how to relate to those who are struggling? How else will you know how to embrace joy when it comes into your life after a particularly rocky path? Life is about experiencing it all. That's why I usually dismiss all those "25 ways to be happier!" things floating around the Internet. Life isn't about being happier all the time. It's about experiencing everything - highs and lows and in-betweens. Just as you shouldn't want to be sad all the time, neither should you want to be happy all the time. Does that sound bizarre? Maybe. But for me, personally, that's how I feel. I can't know the full extent of the human experience if I'm constantly smiling and flitting through life thinking everything is wonderful and good and joyous. Because it isn't.

Sometimes, it just plains stinks. Like today. Sure, I look for the joy in the midst of trials. But I also deeply feel the trials I'm enduring. It forces me to think about life, about my faith. It forces me to turn to God when I'm at my lowest. And it forces me to realize that I'm not perfect, that my body isn't healthy, that I can't do it all.

There is something humbling about that.

So go. Embrace the good and the bad and everything in between. Be human. Be you.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour: How I Write

I was so excited when my friend Ilene Goldman asked me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour. I love to read how other writers work, and I love to discuss my own writing process.

For this tour, we were asked four questions. They, and my answers, follow.

1. What am I working on at the moment?

I'm finishing up my fifth novel, a historical set in Nebraska during World War II.

2.  How does my work differ from others of its genre?

A lot of World War II fiction is set in Europe and deals with the Holocaust, the French Resistance, Occupied Europe, England, etc. There's not a lot of work set on the American Homefront (though Kristina McMorris is a notable exception as her American homefront novels are superb!). My work also deals with a rather unorthodox view of the war from the perspective of a German exile who comes to Nebraska and actually encounters prejudice against him for being German - even though he fled Hitler's regime. It's been a lot of fun to write (and also very challenging) because I have to look at World War II with a totally different perspective than I'm used to.

3.  Why do I write what I do?

I actually just answered this question pretty thoroughly on a new blog that I am a part of - Modern Belles of History. We are a group of historical fiction writers who focus on the time period from about 1890-1950. It's a time period that usually isn't thought of as being "historical", but we are aiming to change that! So check out why I write what I do.

4.  How does my writing process work?

Actually, I'm amazed my writing process works at all! It's incredibly messy. I usually have a scenario that comes to mind first instead of characters which may be somewhat backwards. But it works. I'll usually do a general outline, character sketches, plot points, etc., though I am by no means a writer who meticulously records each scene. That would destroy the creative process for me. Many times I find out important plot points just by the sheer act of writing and then I have to go back and rework the rest of my novel.

I've tried to fine-tune this process by trying out different methods, but it hasn't worked yet. So I've just come to the conclusion that I'm a "discovery" writer in that the plot, characters, theme, symbolism, etc. really comes together through the writing process itself. And when that happens...oh, it's heavenly.
________

Make sure and stop by the blogs of Elizabeth Foley and Rachel D. Muller next Monday, May 5, for their stop on the Writing Process Blog Tour!


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Getting Back on Track

Every once in awhile, we need to press the "RESET" button in our lives. Well, I'm having one of those moments. I've been far too lax in the eating department when it comes to chocolate. I used to limit myself to three pieces of Dove Dark Chocolate Promises a day. Now it's more like 9 or 10. Not good. The weight isn't dropping off anymore and I'd still like to lose another 10-15 pounds.

So. That means I've got to employ the will power again. I've got to quit saying, 'Oh, having lots of chocolate won't hurt a bit. As long as I eat right for my other meals, I'll be fine.' The thing is, it does make a difference, as does the little nibbles I have of hubby's treats (peanut M&Ms, cookies, etc.).

M&Ms - destroying diets since World War II. =)
I figure now is as good a time as any to get back on track, though perhaps it may be wiser to wait until after this week. My little brother is getting married and Thursday through Saturday are going to be very busy days with relatives coming to town (my 87-year-old grandma is staying with me! Yay!), wedding rehearsal, hair appointments, the wedding, the reception, etc. But I think I can still stick to my eating plan without veering too far out of control.

After this week, I don't have anything else scheduled on the horizon (save for a book signing in late May), so I plan to focus on the novel and finish it up. I don't have much left to write - maybe the last quarter of the book or so - and I've set myself a deadline of June 7 to be finished with it. I think it's quite doable.

Tonight, as I sit here in my living room and listen to the birds singing outside (we just had a wonderful thunderstorm with lots of rain earlier), I feel a sense of peace. I'm ready to hit the 'RESET' button and get back to better eating habits and exercise.

How about you? Have you ever felt the need to hit the 'RESET' button in your life?