Monday, August 25, 2014

That Moment...

It's time for me to start working on my novel's query letter. I'm not done editing it yet, but I'm getting close. And no, I won't send out the query until I'm completely done editing.

Queries are always difficult. You would think that after writing back cover copy for fiction and non-fiction for the 7 years that it would be easy. Unfortunately, when it comes to my own book, it's not. At all.

So imagine my delight when the first few lines for a query popped into my head this morning. Unfortunately, I was driving in traffic after taking my daughter to school. Let me rephrase that. I was driving in morning rush hour traffic. Translated, this means: you better watch what you're doing.

As I didn't want to pull over and write down those two sentences, I kept repeating them to myself over and over again on the way home. Thankfully, by the time I pulled into the driveway, I hadn't forgotten them.

It's moments like these that I love - when inspiration strikes, no matter where you are or what you might be doing. It's one of the joys of writing.

Ever had inspiration strike in an odd place?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Blog: A Diary of My Life

I started my blog in 2005. I faithfully posted nearly every day for a good year before I began to ease off and post only 2-3 times a week. But it became the "story of my life" to borrow the title of a popular pop song. Whenever I need to look up a date for one of my many surgeries, I turn to my blog. When I want to remember what I was doing for Christmas in 2008, I turn to my blog.

Unfortunately, since I haven't been as faithful in posting to my blog the past few years, I can no longer rely on it for certain dates. However, I do journal a lot, so there's that. But I have to admit that I really miss recording my life online.

Which is kind of odd. Some people would say I am too personal on here, sharing things that should only be talked about behind closed doors. I happen to disagree. In addition to my writing life, I've blogged about my health issues (several times!), my struggles with depression, my challenges as a mother, and so on. All important.

That's one thing the Internet has been wonderful for: opening up the door to issues that have long remained locked away. I can reach out to others who are struggling with the same things I am; likewise, they can find me and see that they are not alone.

So I'll keep blogging. I'll keep sharing. Sure, the posts may be few and far in between, and sure, I may look back someday and lament that I didn't post as much during certain years, but that's life. We go in cycles with certain things. Blogging is one of those things for me.

And now, it's time to get back to that novel...

Oh - before I go, here is a pic of me in my 1940s-esque finery. I had a book signing over the weekend, and I wanted to look the part as much as possible.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

It's Past 1 A.M.

My sleep schedule has been really off lately thanks to my mystery pain. Painkillers will do that to you, as well as unscheduled naps throughout the day.

But tonight, I'm glad for the interrupted sleep. The house is quiet, one of my kitties is sitting on the chair, and rain is falling softly outside.

And I'm writing.

It's so incredibly peaceful that I'll gladly sacrifice sleep to be here now, at this moment, doing what I love.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Still Here (Though Not Necessarily Kicking...)

Read through my blog for the past what, seven years?, and you will see the many, many problems I've had with my health. I am often a medical mystery, and as one of my doctor's told me today, I am always full of surprises.

Two weeks ago, I had surgery to remove my remaining ovary. I was having pain on that side (left) and an ultrasound showed an ovarian cyst. I've had numerous (and I do mean numerous) cysts before, but this one seemed to be causing more problems than it was worth. So, I decided to go ahead and get it taken out.

Well, the surgery went fine. Instant menopause wasn't too big of a deal (I was weepy for one day and that's about it, plus had a few very minor hot flashes). But the pain I'd been experiencing before the surgery hasn't gone away.

Back to the doctor I went. She ordered a pelvic/abdominal CT scan. I had to drink that awful barium contrast stuff. Ick, ick, ick. HATE that stuff. She also did a bunch of bloodwork to see if I had an infection or if my kidneys were okay.

Well, I got the results back and here's the verdict:

Everything is normal.

This is good news and bad news. Good news, of course, that they didn't find anything abnormal. Bad news because it doesn't offer me an explanation for the pain.

I've been down this route before and it's agonizingly frustrating when you don't have answers to what the problem is. So now I'm off to see a GI specialist.

And yes, I've played Google Doctor for the past week trying to figure out what is wrong. Google tells me I'm either dead or going to die soon or that I have a condition so rare that it hasn't been seen since 1654.

I'm kidding, but you get the point.

At any rate, my job has been absolutely wonderful in letting me work from home, so there's that. There's also this:

My kitty has rarely left my side these past two weeks. She's helping me get through whatever this is, as is my incredibly helpful daughter (who starts school next week!), my husband, and the rest of my family.

But oh, how I tire of being a medical mystery. Still, there are advantages to being mostly in bed all the time. In addition to keeping up with my job, I've been able to work on my novel quite a bit, read, and watch t.v. (my daughter is slowly catching me up on Supernatural, but I doubt I'll ever get it all as it's endlessly complicated).

So I'm still here. I'm not kicking as that may hurt too much, but I'm determined to figure out what's wrong with me and get back to a semi-normal, healthy life.

And that's the news from the trenches.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Plotting Retreat

Yesterday I spent the entire day plotting novels with two of my good writing buddies. It was glorious.

If you have a couple of friends and a spare day, I highly suggest setting up a plotting retreat. It's fairly simple, and works best with about three people. You'll need to clear off your schedule for one whole day - we started at 9 a.m. and went until 7:30 p.m. Here's what we did.

1) Before the retreat, each of us had the concepts for two novels in mind. Homework included working on character sketches, GMCs, backstories, etc.

2) On the day of the retreat, we met at our friend's house. It was cozy and comfortable, and most importantly, there was no dress code! Since I'm still struggling to heal from my recent surgery, I was able to recline the entire time and was quite content (yes, we had chocolate!).

3) Each session is comprised of one hour and fifteen minutes. We set a timer so we wouldn't get off track. We took turns plotting out each person's book. I was first. So, for one hour and fifteen minutes, we plotted out my next novel from beginning to end. Then, after taking a fifteen minute break, the next person went. We did this all day long, stopping for breaks and to eat lunch and supper.

In the end, each of us plotted two books a piece. Suffice to say that we were all brain dead by the time we were done, but what a productive day! There's something about brainstorming with other writers that makes it so much easier to come up with ideas. It also helps you to stay on track and not let your plot wander off into no man's land.

This kind of plotting basically constructs the spine and the bare bones of your novel. It leaves lots and lots of room open for change and development. I'm quite excited because I only had the threads of my next story in mind, but now I know exactly which direction to take it.

Have a great week!

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


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