Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve and...Snow?


Well, I didn't get a white Christmas here at home, but I am going to get a white New Year's Eve! I woke up this morning to a blanket of snow and it's still snowing! Our puppies look like abominable snowdogs - I have no idea why they're not staying in their doghouses where it's warm!

We don't have much on tap for New Year's Eve except for our yearly tradition. We grab a bunch of pillows and blankets, junk food (chips and dip is a MUST), soda, and watch a few good movies as a family. I always enjoy it every year.

I got quite a bit of editing done yesterday and I'm eager to work on it more today. Nothing else to do when you're snowbound, right? ;-)

Hope you all have a wonderful and safe New Year's Eve!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Introspection

Last night, I felt like watching Saving Private Ryan. As this is a rather gory (but very realistic) movie, I watched it by myself in my bedroom while the rest of the family was upstairs.

Those of you who have watched this movie will undoubtedly agree with me that it is very good. Spielberg does an excellent job capturing the horrific reality of war.

When it was finished (and I had dried my tears), I thought about how a person can go from seeing the horrors of war and being constantly in fear for your life to returning home and trying to be "normal" again. The 1940's movie The Best Years of Our Lives touches on this subject, but not to the depth that I would like to explore it.

Some veterans never fully recover from their experiences. They may turn to alcohol or drugs, or suffer severe depression or PTSD. Nightmares, cold sweats, and other things will invariably crop up during their lifetime. And I have to wonder, how do they do it? How can they keep going after what they've seen? How can they return to the world they left behind and resume working at that job they left, or keep dating the gal they were dating before, or even be a husband and father again? How does the mind cope with those images, those sounds, those thoughts, of being in war?

I would hope that these days, we are better equipped to help our soldiers returning from the front lines - i.e. psychologists to help talk through the experiences, etc. But I would be willing to bet that some soldiers do not avail themselves of these services since it might be thought of as "weak."

But in World War II, when we were not so well-versed in the way war affects the emotional part of a soldier and how to deal with it - how did these men handle it?

My two great-uncles never discussed the war. One was in the Phillipines, the other in the European Theater. Only recently has my one uncle wanted to discuss the war - and it's as if he needs to talk about it now. He's nearing ninety years old and not in the best of health. Does he now, sixty years after the war, feel the need to unburden himself? My other great-uncle passed away last year. I only heard of his war-time exploits through my grandfather's stories.

When my hometown wanted local World War II veterans to come and tell their stories to be videotaped and preserved for the local VFW, men openly cried. Years later, these emotions were still raw, still festering. Time had not softened the searing pain of these memories.

I sometimes wonder if we really understand what our armed forces have sacrificed - and continue to sacrifice for us. Not only are they putting their physical lives at risk for their country, but they are also putting their emotions at risk. Those memories will not go away. They will continue to be a part of that soldier's life forever, disturbing their sleep, appearing at odd hours of the day, throwing them off balance, and making them realize that the life they knew before their career in the armed forces will never be theirs again.

It's something to think about.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Workin' for a Livin'


The kids are home from school, my stepson has a friend staying from out of town, and my house still looks like Wal-Mart exploded. But it's all good.

Right now, I'm sitting in my basement, Diet Pepsi in hand, cold fingers typing, wrapped in a sweater, with my dog on my left and my cat on my right. I'm working at home today. The kids are still asleep upstairs, having stayed up late last night. I have a few precious hours of quiet before they wake up. Strangely enough, I think I get more done working at home than at the office! The only hard thing yesterday was telling my daughter that "Mommy was working" and couldn't play with her and her new toys.

Could I work at home everyday? Probably not. I think I'd still have to work at least two days a week to get me out into the land of the living. But those other three days of working at home would be sheer bliss - sort of. There's a certain amount of isolation when you work at home. You're not surrounded by co-workers, not included in the "gossip breaks" or the department lunches. Instead, it's just you, your computer, your music, and your pets. And sometimes the kids are around.

When I make it in the book publishing business (notice I said when, not if - think positive, I say!), I still will have to work outside of the home just to keep my sanity. I've been the stay-at-home mom and loved it - but I did notice how my motivation and drive sort of slipped. I had gobs of time on my hands and honestly, I didn't know how to manage it. Plus I also had a baby to take care of and two energetic stepsons. Things might be different now.

If you work at home, how do you like it? Anything you miss? And if you work in an office every day, do you long to make the switch to working at home?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Thrill...



There's something quite thrilling about seeing your name in print. When we got home from our six-hour trip, there was a big box sitting on our doorstep. And lo and behold, inside was this set of encylopedias. What is so special about them?

I'm a contributor. :-)

About a year or so ago, I answered a call to be a contributor for this encylopedia and I researched and wrote four articles. It is so neat to be included in this work alongside other scholars, both independent and those who are affiliated with a university. Seeing my name in print makes it worth all those moments of a writer's self-doubt and fear. :-)

Christmas!

Had a grand time at home. We received numerous nice gifts - and I really do not have a single favorite because I loved them all. Hubby got me a very nice lap desk that I can't wait to use and my brother and his family got me 100 Classic Songs - four volumes! I'm listening to it right now and enjoying it immensely.

My grandmother gave me some very nice handmade gifts - she gave me some table runners and doilies that she made when she was younger. Her mother crocheted the edges on them and they are just beautiful, priceless family treasures. My mother also came up with a very neat idea - she made calendars for us three kids and each month has a different picture of us growing up. It is so special. I also received Saving Private Ryan (yes, I haven't watched it yet and no, I don't know why I haven't before - now I have no excuse!) from my other brother.

Remember when I blogged about this game? Well, my Dad's girlfriend gave it to me for Christmas. I can't wait to play it! And maybe, just maybe, I'll beat my husband!

It was a great Christmas - and we had plenty of snow. In fact, it even snowed a bit on Christmas Eve. My grandfather came home from the resthome for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and that was very special, as well.

Can't wait to catch up with you all...and I really can't wait to start working on the novel again. And with my new CD collection, I'll definitely be in the World War II mood!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas!


We're headed west to visit family. My brother informed me they got a foot of snow, so I'll get my white Christmas! And maybe I can make a snow angel or two...

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Holiday Cheer


How do you spread holiday cheer? Do you make an effort to smile at that person in the grocery store that's about ready to ram into you with their cart? How about letting in that car stuck in the right lane with their left turn signal blinking?

I guess for me, I try to be more patient. And smile more. That's always a big one. People are in such a rush right now that sometimes, an extra smile will go a long way to making them feel a bit less stressed.

And here's how I'm spreading holiday cheer to you - this adorable homemade e-card. My mother sent it to me last night and my daughter absolutely loved it. I hope you will, too!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Stress Free Guide to Writing During the Holidays


How do you fit your writing in with everything else during the holidays? I'll let you in on a secret of mine...

I don't worry about it. Honestly. If I don't get to my manuscript today or tomorrow, that's fine. It's going to be waiting for me no matter what. Do I want to work on it every night? Sure. But I know that's not quite feasible right now. And I don't beat myself up about it.

You may be wondering if I'm dedicated enough to my writing. I'm sure there are many people who have a set writing schedule no matter if it's Christmas Eve or a mundane Monday. I am in awe of those people. Of course, I might have to do the same thing one day when I'm under deadline to my agent or editor.

But if I don't stress about my writing over the holidays, that doesn't mean I'm less dedicated. In fact, in my particular situation (which may not be yours), I figure there is enough stress of this season without me throwing in another guilt trip. And you know what? Because I have taken the stress off my shoulders, it has made me want to write more. I'm eager to go home and work on my manuscript. Why? Because I want to, not because I am forcing myself. Other times during the year I may force myself to sit down and write because, let's face it - there are plenty of times when we need to do that. But during Christmas? Nope. I'm not going to do it. There are enough things going on without me becoming a drill sergeant. There's plenty of time for that during the rest of the year.

The Christmas season is truly my favorite time of year. Why do I want to spoil it with unnecessary guilt and stress? I want to enjoy it. I've made a few changes this year that have really helped. I did most of my shopping online, I didn't rush to decorate my house, and I only baked the handy premade cookie dough from the store. And most importantly, I make sure and listen to my Christmas music every chance I get. The result? My stress level has plummeted. I have time to enjoy my Christmas decorations. I can sit down for an hour or two at night and work on my novel and actually want to do it. My children aren't nearly as cranky from being dragged from store to store. In short, I'm much more content.

Your situation may be completely different from mine. In fact, I'm betting it probably is. But for me, these ideas work. And hey - I'm all about relieving the tension in my shoulders!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Word Games

Hubby and I are big fans of word games. When we get the Scrabble board out (we actually bought the deluxe edition with the rotating board), watch out. Teeth are bared, claws unsheathed, and fur flies.

Hubby has a special talent for making the most of the double or triple word or letter tiles and I usually throw up my hands in frustration when I see what he's come up with.

Scattergories is another of our favorites. Hubby can always come up with the best answers. I still remember one of his off-the-wall answers. If you're not familiar with this game, you roll the dice to get a letter, and then you must answer the topics using words that start with that letter. For example, if you roll a "N" and the topic is "Things you find in the kitchen", then you could use "nuts." Anyway, hubby had to answer the topic, "Things you find at the bottom of the ocean." The letter was "M." And what did he come up with? "Mobsters." Yeah, he's talented. :-)

This game looks like it might be next on our list. I have a feeling he's going to be pretty creative with it, too.

On Editing...

I fired up the laptop last night and tackled the editing. Had a blast and wish I could have had the rest of the night to work on it. But hubby got out the Scrabble board...

Monday, December 18, 2006

We Interrupt this Mundane Monday...


Just had to share. Found this cool "Gifts for Writers" site via today's post at Writer Unboxed. There's a plethora of wonderful gifts here - from journals and real quill pens to finger puppets. Enjoy!

Shakespeare's Den

A Little of This...A Little of That


I wish I could say I was an editing machine this weekend, but unfortunately, the prospect of a nap was altogether too tempting on Saturday afternoon. So I indulged. And it felt wonderful.

Actually, Saturday was quite a low-key day. And there's nothing wrong with that. The highlight, though, was picking up my other stepson from the airport. He flew in from Kentucky and will spend Christmas with us. My daughter asked me all day if it was "6:00 yet" since that was the time we told her he'd be arriving. She was bouncing off the walls with excitement.

Sunday the kids played all day while I worked on and off on editing my novel. I finished editing my short story on Friday and already submitted it to a contest. We'll see what happens.

Only a few gifts left to buy - then I'll have to turn on the Christmas carols and start wrapping!

While chatting with Rene on Friday, she had some great news to tell me. Needless to say, I was doing the equivalent of jumping up and down in my chair, only on MSN Messenger. :-)

How was your weekend?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Happiness Is...

There's nothing like a day full of editing. Thankfully, work was slow yesterday and I was able to squeeze in a bit of editing time on my short story. I couldn't wait to get home, fire up the computer, and keep working. And that's exactly what I did.

Ah...bliss.

I hope to wrap it up today ,and I plan to submit it this weekend. That's what I like about the short story - it's done within a few days.

Still no snow here - highs have been in the 50's and low 60's. Unusual for Nebraska during December.

No big weekend plans, either, except to maybe wrap up the Christmas shopping and indulge in a good movie or two.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Wonders of Barnes & Noble



Growing up, I didn't have the luxury of going to a bookstore whenever I wanted. The closest thing I had was a small, independent bookstore at the mall in a town 40 miles away. There wasn't a coffee shop included and let's just say the history section was pitifully small.

I had never been inside a Barnes & Noble until my husband and I took a trip to Cheyenne, WY (we used to live only an hour and a half away). When we went inside, I nearly fainted. I'd never seen so many books in my life or such a great selection. I felt simultaneously overwhelmed and overjoyed.

I immediately fell in love. And I've continued that love affair.

I'm sure there are plenty of pro's and con's to the big chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble, but I love them. Maybe it's because I didn't grow up with them in my backyard. That being said, there is a great little used bookstore here in town that I love to haunt, and I've found numerous treasures there, as well.

I went to Barnes & Noble yesterday and today to work on my edits. I love the atmosphere of that store. Even more, I love the fact that there are lots of people who love books milling around the aisles. And, of course, I found two more Christmas presents yesterday. :-)

On Christmas Shopping...

With the exception of the two presents I found at B&N yesterday, I have done all my shopping online. I love it. And now, I've only got a few more presents left to buy.

On Writer's Digest

Some great stuff in the latest issue of Writer's Digest. They've really improved their format, and I'm discovering that it's not just for beginning writers anymore. There's tons of info packed into the magazine and I'm thinking I probably need to get a subscription at some point.

On Beta Blogger...

To all of you who have upgraded to the Beta, I can't comment on your blogs - not even anonymously. I'm not ignoring you and it's frustrating me to no end! Please know that I'm still reading your entries every day and keeping up with your lives.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

On Editing and Reading

Last night, I sat down with the hardcopy version of my novel, trusty pen in hand, dog at my feet, and started editing. Pretty soon, I had lots of marks all over the page and I felt energized and motivated. Darn it, this was fun.

But right next to me sat a book that I'd just received in the mail. I'd already read two chapters and forced myself to put it aside so I could start editing. It kept beckoning. Whispering. Pick me up.

In my defense, I finished the scene I was editing before I set it aside and eagerly grabbed the book and started reading. And reading. And pretty soon, I had already finished 1/4 of it. Good books like this are hard to find - especially good nonfiction books, as this one is. But I've been completely drawn into the author's world and even though it's filled with harsh realities, I want to go back.

To make up for my lapse in editing last night, I'm headed to Barnes & Noble for my lunch hour for an editing session. I'm rather excited to get back to it. And yes, I left the book at home. :-)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Good Writing vs. A Good Story


Ian Fleming was a storyteller - but he wasn't a great writer.

I'm about 3/4 done with Casino Royale. From page one, I could see that Fleming was not a great writer. But - he can tell a story. And that particular story—and that particular character— have morphed into a multi-million dollar business.

How is this possible? Today we're taught to write the best book we can - and there's a lot that goes into that. Good grammar, plot structure, description, character development, action verbs...the list can go on and on. So how can Fleming get away with breaking some of those rules?

Because he can tell a good story.

Honestly, this frustrates me a bit. I've read my share of books where the writing wasn't that great, but the story was wonderful. And I've also read books where the writing is amazing and the story is only so-so.

My biggest problem right now is reading those books where the writing isn't very good. I have a horrible time trying to plow through prose that is not very readable. And then it makes me wonder how the book got published in the first place. But then again, I'm a writer. I notice these things. I notice if the passive voice is used, or if too much backstory is dumped into the first chapter, or if the POV switches mid-scene. Do ordinary readers notice this?

What has been your experience? Have you read a lot of great books where the writing and story is great, or where the writing is good and the story isn't? Or vice versa? If you're a writer, how does it make you feel to read a great story with lackluster writing? Or vice versa?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Ready to Write


I think the prep work for the editing of my novel is complete. I knew I had to get a few things nailed down before I even thought of diving into the manuscript, but now, the time has come.

It's time to edit.

I'm trying to decide whether to edit on my laptop so that I can lounge on the couch or the recliner or just confine myself to the desk. The laptop is currently winning the race because let's face it - I sit at a desk all day for work. It would be nice to put my feet up and relax while I dive into the manuscript.

I'm looking forward to it because I have a game plan. Before, I felt as though I were flailing in a churning ocean. I know what to look for, what needs fixing, what needs tweaked, etc. I also feel I've had sufficient time away from the manuscript to approach it with a more critical eye.

Will the upcoming holiday affect my editing? It shouldn't, especially since the decorating is done and I have discovered the wonders of online shopping!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Chronicles of Narnia



It's rare that I sit to watch a movie and fail to realize how much time has passed by. But that's exactly what happened last night when my daughter and I watched The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

I've never read this book by C.S. Lewis - I'm not sure how I passed it by growing up, but suffice to say that I hope my daughter will read the series some day. We absolutely loved this movie. Both of us were completely enthralled. We laughed, and we cried our eyes out, but in the end, we gave it two thumbs up.

Since my daughter loves the big cats, the fact that the Lion was a major character in this movie overjoyed her. She loved to see a talking lion. If only I could find one of those for Christmas...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Saturday


The Christmas tree is up. I can't believe the hassle I went through with the lights, though. I plugged a strand in before I even put it on the tree and all of them worked. But after I had them on the tree, half of them didn't work. ARGH. That was last night. So I go to the store today and buy some new lights and it turns out that store had a pitiful selection, and I bought what they had, which turned out to be not enough.

Long story short, the tree is decorated. And if I can ever find my digital camera, I'll take some pics.

Had tea with my mom today. I like to take time out during the holiday season to just relax, chat, and try and forget about the hustle of the season. We had rasberry green tea and some yummy cookies, listened to old Christmas carols, and had great conversation.

Also got some Christmas shopping done - all from the comfort of my computer chair. I've done all my shopping that way this year so far - and I tell ya, it beats going out into the crowds. I went to one store today looking for a gift (which they didn't have - grrrrr) and that was enough to dissuade me from venturing any further.

No writing today - too busy with everything else. Maybe tomorrow...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Short Story vs. The Novel


I'm in the midst of editing a short story I wrote while in graduate school. I was never at a loss for great story ideas during those years, mainly because I read a ton of history books - World War 2, Revolutionary War, European Colonialism...etc., etc. But this particular story demanded to be told - now. So one day, I put aside my homework and sat down to write.

That story has sat on my harddrive for four years. And it's time for it to see the light.

But now I've got to downshift to the short story format. I've had a few short stories published and I like writing them, but it's different than the novel. You've got to leave out all that backstory and there's not much room for character development. Every single word counts.

I might read a few articles on editing short stories to refresh me for the task. But since this story is close to my heart, it's still hard for me to back away from it and use my "head" instead of my "heart" when I'm editing it. Wonder why that is? After all, it's been four years.

I'd also like to come up with a few other short stories, but I don't have any ideas knocking on my brain yet. However, I do have a surefire way to find them. I used to belong to an online writing forum and every Saturday night, we would write "flash fiction." If you've never heard of flash fiction, it's a very short story - usually less than 2,000 words. (Find Wikipedia's definition here).

All of us would log in at a certain time - say 7 p.m. - when the moderator would post the topic for the short story. Sometimes, just grabbing a random word out of the dictionary would do the trick. All of us would write a complete short story in an hour on that particular topic, then post them. We'd critique each other's work, then have a chat afterwards.

I found it to be a remarkably creative time and I came up with some pretty neat short stories whenever I did participate. I wouldn't mind hosting something like this once a month or once every two weeks for anyone that might be interested. Any takers?

And yes, it's Friday. Let the heavens rejoice! The weekend is nearly here!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

65th Anniversary: Remember Pearl Harbor

Sixty-five years ago, we were a nation secure within our own borders, preparing for the holiday celebrations from coast to coast. A war waged in Europe, but it seemed very far away.

Just before 8 a.m. on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed the naval base at Pearl Harbor - and America was changed forever. Suddenly plunged into a world war, Americans threw off their isolationist policy and charged into battle.

Today, we remember those who sacrificed their lives and those who fought valiantly at Pearl Harbor. Only a few veterans of this day remain - and they share their stories at the Pearl Harbor Survivors Project.

If you've ever talked to a Pearl Harbor veteran or visited the memorial in Hawaii, I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Where's the Snow?


It's December 6. We live in Nebraska. And yesterday, the temperature reached 61 degrees.

Where is the snow? Where are the blizzards of my youth where the snow piled so high that we could barely get out the door? The Midwest got slammed with a snow storm last week, but we didn't get a single flake.

While this is great for driving conditions, it doesn't do so well for the Christmas spirit. I find it hard to be Christmasy when the weather is so nice that you don't even need a jacket to go outside. My kids were playing basketball outside last night, a far cry from a few evenings ago when the weather was so bitter cold it stole your breath from you as soon as you walked out the door.

I can only hope we have some of the white stuff before Christmas - I'll even take a few inches.

I spent yesterday sleeping and reading. I think my body was trying very hard to get the flu. I hope I have dissuaded it and I'm back at work today. I'm thoroughly enjoying a Nebraska author's collection of Christmas short stories - Bess Streeter Aldrich. She was quite a prolific author in her day, and her stories manage to bring the warmth of Christmas to your heart.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Short 'n Sweet


Short post today since I'm sidelined with a headache.

After going to work out last night at Curves, I was overjoyed to see that I'd lost another 4 pounds. Wooo hooo!!! Looks like I wasn't too bad at Thanksgiving after all!

Now if I can just contain myself with all the Christmas goodies, I'll be good to go.

Just finished watching Christmas in Connecticut. It's a classic movie (naturally!) with Barbara Stanwyck. I just love it and try to watch it every year. Also, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a must!

Any special movies you try and watch every Christmas season?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Relaxed and Refreshed

Friday night, I had the sudden urge to decorate. I decided to act upon that urge because I had no idea how long it would last. I'm glad I did! Our living room is now decorated with lots of lights, greenery, and Victorian-looking Christmas decorations. I love how it turned out, especially with the new paint job and carpet in the living room. Everything matches quite nicely.

We haven't decorated the tree yet because we decided to buy a real one this year. But we've yet to find one, so the tree will be the last to go up. It's been too cold to put the lights on the house and I don't think it's probably going to be warming up too much.

Also bought Christmas cards today. Why do I get fewer and fewer cards every year? Sending out Christmas cards is on the decline. Lots of people do them via email. I can understand why - it's much easier and free. But I love to get a card in the mail, so I will be sending out cards again this year.

Saturday and Sunday were wonderfully relaxing. I did lots of laundry and cleaned the house on Saturday, but Sunday afternoon was spent talking to hubby, making pictures with the kids, and just having a nice evening. Loved it.

I finished compiling the "faith element" of my novel this weekend and I must admit to being pleasantly surprised with the results. It's always a great feeling to read something you've written and think, "Wow, I did that?"

Phase one of the editing process is done and to tell the truth, there won't be too much involved in fixing this particular part of the novel. In fact, I don't think there will be a lot of major edits to deal with. Character and plot development is in pretty good shape. I am looking forward to tightening up the prose, though, and cutting all the unnecessary stuff out. Will probably be the hardest thing to do since I really like this story and love my characters. I hope and pray I'll be able to sell this book - I so want to share their story!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Progress!


We haven't started decorating for Christmas yet. This is highly unusual at my house where I'm normally chomping at the bit to get the place looking festive. But not this year. For some reason, I'm reluctant to go dig everything out. Maybe it's because it took me so long to finally get settled in after moving and I really don't want to make a mess again. Part of me has toyed with the idea of not decorating at all, but I know that won't happen. I think I'd really miss it.

But hey, it's early yet - only the first of December. Maybe I'll get inspired this weekend.

Another reason I didn't start decorating last night was my novel. I really wanted to get started on the editing process, especially when I had a goal in mind. So last night I sat on the couch with my manuscript in one hand and my spiral notebook in the other. My dog lay sprawled at my feet and the kids were with their dad.

Since this novel is an inspirational, I wanted to chart my "faith element" through the story and make sure that it developed the way I wanted it to. So that's where I began. Chapter by chapter, I went through and wrote down my characters' faith journey. As I worked, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I'd managed to do a halfway decent job the first time around and didn't need to change much.

It's not too time-consuming, either, since I'm just skimming the pages and looking in particular for the faith element. I have a feeling I will do this with the other key elements of the story and other things I want to focus on.

It's the beginning of my editing process and it's all pretty experimental. I'm sure I'll find certain elements that work better than others and I'll shape the process to fit my writing style. I think I've rediscovered the fun of editing again. Breaking it down into manageable portions has helped tremendously.

No big plans for the weekend other than to maybe get a bit of Christmas shopping done and perhaps get the Christmas tree up. On yes - and watch the Huskers.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

It's Thursday

Two more days of work. Two more days. It's a mantra I have to keep chanting to keep me sane through these long, eight-hour work days. Don't get me wrong - I love my day job. But I'd really, really like to start working part-time. Three days a week would be great. Heck, I'd even go four days a week and leave that one day open to work exclusively on my novel or other writing projects.

But alas, that's not in the cards right now. It's a goal I'm working toward, though.

I figured out what was wrong in regards to editing my novel. I want to work on it - but I felt overwhelmed by it. Why? Because instead of breaking it into small chunks, I felt like I had this huge, mammoth project that I had to fix all at once. Not true, of course. I can work on it chapter by chapter - and that's exactly what I'm going to do.

Why this took me so long to realize, I'll never know. My last novel was such a mess - and I'd looked at it so much - that I didn't have any type of editing process in place. I just dived in, held my breath, and hoped I wouldn't drown. Unfortunately, that novel is languishing on my hard drive and I doubt it will see the light of day. It's got a lot of potential and I love my characters, but it's not there yet. Maybe someday I'll drag it out again.

Devon said something in the comments yesterday that stayed with me the rest of the day. "If you push the edits too soon "just to send it out", it won't be in good enough shape to make a hit with agents or editors." That's exactly what I've been doing - wanting to get the novel done ASAP so I can send it out. I suppose that's normal, but the novel won't be nearly as good if I focus solely on that goal.

Instead, I should be focusing on making my story the best it can be so that readers will enjoy it, will have a book that they can't put down, will have a story that will stay in their brains long after they've read it. That should be my goal - and I lost track of it.

Sometimes, I need a swift kick. And I think I just got it.

I constantly have to remind myself why I'm writing. It's not for the money (but that would be nice) or the glory or fame (which I really don't want) - but to tell a story, simple as that. We can get so caught up in the whole publishing game that we forget. I know that I need a gentle reminder every so often to get me back on track again.

What about you? Do you feel like you lose track of why you started writing in the first place?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Christmas Favorites!

Still no editing done on the novel yet - why am I so hesitant? Maybe I'm making this into a bigger beast than it's supposed to be. We'll see if I can't crack the shell of resistance tonight.

Now for a fun tag...

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
I love hot chocolate! In fact, I had a cup for my morning breakfast and had some Monday night while curled under a blanket with a good book.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
With our kids, Santa wraps the presents. Hubby even goes so far as to get different wrapping paper so it looks like it came from Santa. Our daughter still believes in Santa, but the stepson's been "wise" for a few years now.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
We usually do the white icicle lights on the house but we did have blue lights one year. Haven't put them on yet for this season. On the tree, it depends.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Nope.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
I always make myself wait until after Thanksgiving. Strangely enough, I haven't been inspired yet to decorate, so the tree isn't up yet and neither is anything else.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?
Homemade raviolis and butterball soup (the first dish is Italian, the second is German-from Russia). If anyone doesn't know what a butterball is, don't feel bad. It's a rather obscure food. But it's absolutely YUMMY.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
Way too many! But here's one: Going to church as a child and listening to a lady sing "Oh Holy Night." It was a gorgeous rendition of the carol and I still think of it after all these years. I also love when we sing "Silent Night", the church is dark, and we're all holding candles.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
Hmm...y'know, I don't think I ever truly believed in him. How sad is that?

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Yes - at Grandma Lucy's house. Every. Single. Year. Part of our holidays tradition!

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
The last few years, I've tried to color-coordinate it. One year I had blue and silver, and last year I had burgundy and gold. I'll probably stick with that theme again this year. I also include all of my ornaments from my childhood and those my children have made.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Love to look at it- hate to drive in it.

12. Can you ice skate?
Barely. I tried it once when I was in junior high. I remember falling a lot.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
I've had lots of favorite gifts over the years. I think a big one was the Cabbage Patch kid.

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
I love celebrating Jesus' birth, spending time with my family, the decorations, the spirit of giving - basically, and the whole atmosphere!

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Ooh, tough one. I'd have to say frosted sugar cookies and a mug of cocoa.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
I watch classic Christmas movies - a favorite one is Christmas in Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyck. But another favorite tradition is reading a book, cuddled under a blanket with a sugar cookie and a cup of cocoa, surrounded by all the Christmas lights and decorations, and listening to my traditional Christmas carols.

17. What tops your tree?
A star

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
The whole receiving part has sort of waned through the years. I love to see the joy and anticipation when people open my presents to them.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
This one is tough. I have lots of favorite Christmas songs. So I'll narrow it down to a few:
O Holy Night
God Rest Thee Merry Gentleman
I'll Be Home for Christmas

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?
Yuck! Never did like them, but we'll usually put them on the tree.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Battle Between the Head and the Heart

Last night I sat on the couch and read Ian Fleming's Casino Royale and had to look up at the t.v. every so often when my daughter wanted me to watch a certain scene from Ice Age 2: The Meltdown.

I should have been downstairs in my office editing my novel.

For some reason, I'm having a terrible time diving into those edits. I didn't start out that way, though. Remember the phrase "I'm having a blast editing my novel"? Wonder where that enthusiasm went.

Part of me is just plain tired from working all day (and writing and editing all day, since that is my dayjob) and then coming home and forcing myself to go work at the computer. It's hard, but I'm usually pretty successful at making the time. Last night, though, I just wanted to veg on the couch.

But it wasn't just the need to relax for an evening with a good book and a cup of hot chocolate - it was a deep reluctance to open the Word file and start slicing and dicing. I think I'm still close to the book to want to ruthlessly cut and chop the words that don't belong. But I've got to get out of that mode because I really want to get the novel edited, polished, and finished so I can start on the next one.

So, oh wise bloggers, do you have any words of wisdom?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Back from the Homestead

Had a wonderful Thanksgiving with my family and wish I didn't have to come back so soon. But that darn paycheck must be made and the kids have to get their education, I suppose. :-)

Ate some great food - the raviolis were superb!- had great conversation and even went to see Casino Royale again with my two brothers, my niece, and my dad. They didn't like it as well as me, but ah well, can't win 'em all.

I even managed to sit down with my manuscript and edit a bit while the kids were playing. My niece and nephew and my daughter had a great time playing together, and I really wish we lived closer than we do.

Right now, I'm trying to recover from that really really long drive. Thank goodness my brother came back with me - he drove the entire way. It's a 450 mile trip and it's pretty much a straight line down the interstate.

How was your Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Homemade Raviolis, Here We Come!



On the left is my Grandma Lucy before she was married. She looks like quite the spitfire, doesn't she? :-)

We're headed to her house for Thanksgiving today. I'm taking off a little early (using a bit of vacation time) so that I can make the most of our time together. Most of my family still lives in western Nebraska and I anticipate we'll have lots of great visiting time ahead.

In our family, we have lots of great traditions and they usually involve food. My grandfather is 100% Italian and my grandmother is 100% German (from Russia). So we've had some interesting dishes over the years. But by far the most scrumptious and enduring tradition is the homemade raviolis. Since we also make our own Italian salami, we use that in our raviolis. Even after all these years, Grandma rolls out the dough, stuffs them with the yummy salami, and then takes the time to cook them. I actually cannot imagine Christmas Dinner or Thanksgiving without raviolis. I've had them since I was old enough to eat solid food!

Have a wonderful, safe Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Highlights and a Bit of Writing


A few highlights from this weekend...

--Went to see Casino Royale and loved it. See the post below for just how much I loved it. (Daniel Craig is amazing. Had to say that again.)

--Got a clean bill of health from the eye doctor. Since diabetes really affects the eyes, I want to make sure I stay on top of it. No problems so far and my eyes have even improved - got me two new pair of glasses, though I wish they were contacts. Can't afford that right now, especially since I have to get a special kind since I'm allergic to the daily wear ones.

--My best friend came for a visit for the afternoon and we had a great time catching up. I only get to see her maybe once or twice a year, but it's just like we saw each other yesterday.

Now, on to the writing.

In the December issue of Writer's Digest, I found a kernel of golden wisdom from Elizabeth Sims who writes the Lillian Byrd Crime Stories. If you're having trouble starting a story or maybe even a chapter, go to your bookshelf, close your eyes and pick a book at random. Doesn't matter if it's fiction or non-fiction. Open the book to a random page, then open your eyes. Read the first sentence you see and make that sentence the basis of what you write next.

Intriguing, isn't it?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Best Bond Ever?


In one word, Daniel Craig is brilliant. Casino Royale is perhaps the most perfect James Bond movie I have yet to see. Not for its action or its story, but for its in-depth portrayal of the character of James Bond. I found myself continually amazed last night in the theater as I watched Craig reveal more of Bond's character, digging deep into the man that has always come across the screen in various ways by the other Bond actors as comedic, cold-blooded, cool, at times silly, and polished, and has added an entirely different dimension to him.

Ian Fleming would be proud.

The theater was packed last night - no seats left. And as the ending credits rolled, people applauded. Yes, my friends, it was that good.

Daniel Craig has now firmly moved to my top two position as the Second Best Bond Ever. Sean Connery will always hold the top role, but I gotta tell you - I was wrestling with that particular designation all night. Craig just does an absolutely amazing job in portraying this character. He takes it to a level no other Bond-actor has ever done - including Connery.

Bold words? Perhaps. But if you're a Bond fan, go see the movie and judge for yourself.

Craig has my respect and my thanks for taking the Bond movies into an entirely different realm. I'm anxious to see the next installment.

Friday, November 17, 2006

On Writing and Bond



On Bond

Casino Royale opens today.











To say I'm excited would be an understatement.
I've been a Bond fan since I started watching the movies with my Dad in elementary school. Of course, I think Sean Connery will always be the Bond, but I've been pretty pleased with the other actors who've played Bond. I'd have to say that my list is as follows:

1) Sean Connery
2) Pierce Brosnan
3) Timothy Dalton
4) George Lazenby
5) Roger Moore
6) David Niven (I haven't seen the original Casino Royale, so that's why I'm putting David Niven at the bottom).

Why is Daniel Craig not on the list yet? Because I have yet to judge how he does in Casino Royale. Do I think he's in the running for the number two spot? You bet.

In the movie trailer, Craig looks like he's got the angst that Bond needs. Of course, Casino Royale is the "first" in the Bond adventures - Bond is just starting out in this 007 business. I'm anxious to see how Craig plays him.

The James Bond movies probably got me interested in the whole spy business. I love the gadgets and the undercover work. Of course it's glamorized, but hey, it IS Hollywood.

On Writing

I think I'm overwhelming myself with the editing process. There are so many things that the "experts" tell me I need to look for that I'm about ready to throw my hands up in disgust. No passive voice...theme...no excess -ly words...character development...ending the chapter with a hook...beginning the chapter with a hook...making sure I have conflict on every page...and on and on and on.

While some of these things I can catch pretty well, others are a bit more complicated. Hubby finished reading one of Vince Flynn's books last night and told me it was "amazing." I wondered, will my books ever be amazing? Will someone pick it up and not be able to put it down? I sure hope so. But self-doubt started to creep in last night. Then I had to smack myself (figuratively, not literally!). Vince Flynn is a NYTimes Bestseller and has several books under his belt. If I try to compare my writing to his, I'll worry so much that my creativity will cower under the bed.

So here's my question to you. Do you have any great self-editing techniques? And more importantly, do you like James Bond? ;-)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tears of Joy

Last night, my daughter wanted to do her reading homework. I was ecstatic. But I was even more ecstatic when we practiced her spelling words and she got every one right. I had tears in my eyes and hugged her over and over. She was so proud of herself! And I was proud of her!!!

If you'll remember a few months ago, I blogged about my fears over my daughter's reading skills. She really struggled for awhile. But thanks to wonderful teachers and the Reading Recovery program, she is doing much, much better. In fact, tonight she picked a book off her shelf and said that she wanted to read it to me. How awesome is that?

In Writing News

I'm in the midst of the Great Agent Quest and have sent out several queries over the past week. We'll see if anything comes of them. I'm editing and trying to remember to have fun with the language. With that kind of perspective, it really makes a difference in my attitude. I'm hopeful that I can dive into the manuscript this weekend and really get to the nitty gritty of things. I'd love to take a day off, but unfortunately, we're short-staffed at work at the moment and I would feel too guilty about leaving. But I am taking an extra day's vacation for Thanksgiving, so maybe I'll get some writing done then.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Can You Ever Have Too Many Books?

Hubby is building a long row of bookshelves along our basement walls. They're going to replace one of our larger shelves that is stacked full of books and is not very stable. It was a freebie at a garage sale and the wood is warped. It's just a matter of time before the thing teeters over.

Now I'm faced with moving the books from that shelf over to the new one. Not a very daunting task, of course, but I'm wondering if I really need all those paperbacks. I can justify my history books by saying, "I'll need one of those for research someday" and that has happened on more than one occasion. But for all those paperbacks, I just have to wonder - will I ever read them all? Or would it be better to release them to the world?

I'm thinking I'm going to do some serious weeding over the next few days. Let's face it - there are books on that shelf that I am never going to read. Why keep them around? I think a used bookstore in town is going to be very happy with me in a few weeks.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Deep in Edit Mode

I'm having a blast editing my novel. I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but this is where I really dig deep into the story and capture what I want to do. Chapter One has been completely cut. Chapter Two is now Chapter One and the backstory eliminated (with Rene's kind help.) I'm pretty darn happy with how it's turning out and I really really wish I could take a few days off work to edit. There's something about delving into your story and becoming so immersed with it that you forget everything else.

I love to edit. I love to play with the language and come up with new, compelling phrases and imagery. I also am excited to try out some of the techniques in Between the Lines: Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing that I bought while in Chicago.

In Other News...

I bought a pair of jeans in yet another smaller size yesterday - woo hooo!!! There's nothing like buying a pair of jeans a size smaller than you normally wear. I can't wait to go to Curves tonight and step on the scale. I haven't been there in over a week, so I'm hopeful I've lost at least another pound or two.

Also picked up a copy of Jeff Shaara's latest novel, The Rising Tide: A Novel of World War II - this is the first in a three-book series. I caved and bought it in hardback since I didn't have the patience to wait for it to come out in paperback.

All in all, a good weekend. And you?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veteran's Day: Please Thank a Veteran

This year Veteran's Day falls on a Saturday. You probably won't get your mail today, you might be inundated with ads for sales, and the fact that it's a weekend might make you forget what today means. But for just a moment, remember the veterans who served this country - the men and women who fought for your freedom.

Today, I thank the veterans in my life:

- My father, who served in the U.S. Air Force
during the Vietnam War
- My husband, who served in the U.S. Army
during the First Gulf War
-My cousins who served in the Armed Forces
during the Vietnam War
-My cousins and great-uncles who served in the U.S. Army
in the Pacific and European Theaters during WW2


If you know a veteran or see a veteran while you're out and about today, take a moment to say "thank you." They'll appreciate it more than you know.
Please take a moment to view this slide show - sometimes pictures say it all.

Friday, November 10, 2006

How to Quit Smoking Tip #1: Guilt


This is my daughter's contribution to her How to Make Dad Stop Smoking campaign. Apparently she made this poster at school one day and brought it home for her dad. And y'know what? It's worked. Hubby has felt so guilty about smoking that he's been smoke-free for three days now. :-) My daughter has been quite happy and eagerly told me the news yesterday when I went to pick her up at daycare. Hubby has tried to stop smoking several times now, but the nicotine habit is a hard one to break. I also happen to think my daughter is pretty darn talented at drawing - she's only six. And although she doesn't have all the words spelled right (the saying on the shirt is supposed to read "I like my family"), she got her point across.

I hope to tackle the manuscript this weekend. When I looked over my first chapter, I had a "d'oh!" moment. How could I not realize how none of it moved the story forward? Ah well, I think Tess is right - it's part of the process.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

That Darn Backstory


Why is it that you can spot errors in another person's work a mile away, but can't see the errors in your own work?

That's why we have proofreaders, editors, copyeditors, and critique partners in this world. And God bless 'em all. But God bless Rene today for pointing out that my first chapter was almost entirely backstory. I had an inkling that it didn't start exactly where I wanted it to, but wasn't sure.

The thing is, it's not like I had paragraph after paragraph of solid narrative. I had action, I had dialogue, I had the character's thoughts and feelings. But backstory isn't necessarily paragraphs of narrative that reveal the character's life story. It can be told through lots of other devices. And that's exactly what I did.

But starting my story with chapter two will work perfectly. Now I have to come up with a great first line...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Chicago is My Kind of Town


I went to Chicago for my business trip. We left on Sunday and got back late Tuesday night. The picture to the left is the view from my hotel room - and yes, it was a foggy morning Tuesday morning, one that delayed flights at the airport which is probably why we were a little delayed getting home.

My two co-workers and I hit the Windy City for a copywriting workshop. While I learned a ton at the workshop, I'd have to say I enjoyed the sightseeing more.

We walked down the famous Michigan Avenue with all the prestigious shops (and we mostly just looked, believe me!) and of course, I had to hit the four-story Borders and fell in love with their WW2 section. (But I only bought two books!)

But by far, I think the best highlight was going to the top of the Hancock Building, sitting in the bar with a glass of sparkling water, and looking at the amazing view from the 96th floor. It was rather creepy to watch the planes go by, but we tried to put that out of our minds as we looked at the absolutely breathtaking view. Wow. We got there just as the sun was starting to set, so we were able to look at the city in the daylight and at night. Amazing. And of course, I didn't bring my camera! But my coworkers did and I hope they got a few good pics.

One thing is for sure - I couldn't drive in the city. I'd be a mass-transit kind of girl or walk everywhere. And we did plenty of walking. I hope that somehow counteracted all the food we ate 'cuz I tell ya what - I didn't care what I ate while I was there! I visited the Hershey store and the Ghiradeli chocolate store (and I probably spelled that wrong), but the best food by far was the deep dish Chicago pizza at Giordano's off Michigan Ave. Yum.

The thing I noticed the most about Chicago was the diverse ethnicity. But it still has the Midwest mentality because almost everyone -except angry drivers - were pretty darn nice.

I definitely want to go back. There was a lot we didn't get to do and I really wish we would have had time to go see the King Tut exhibit at the museum. But guess I'll save that for another time.

Now I'm ready to settle back into life and start working on my novel. And I'm also ready to apply my newly-learned techniques to my job. :-)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Weekend Update


Nothing deep or meaningful for this post today. I've been packing for my business trip and chatting with hubby tonight, so profound thoughts have not made their way into my brain yet.

I'm not a cat lover and I cater more to the canine species, but our feline, Katie, has somehow stolen my heart. Here's a pic of her I couldn't resist sharing (Stop snickering, Rene!). I also took my dog for a ride today in the car - he hasn't done that in awhile. He was thrilled to stick his head out the window and feel the wind in his face. :-) You can see pics of all our pets on this page of my terribly generic website.

Had a nice weekend. Friday night I went over to my mom's and we had supper with my brother and his family(who came from Western Nebraska for the Husker game), plus my other brother. My mom graciously agreed to let my two kids stay the night so they could play with their cousins since they don't get to see them very often, so hubby and I had the night to ourselves.

This afternoon I watched our Huskers win their Homecoming game over Missouri (woo hooo!) and put away all the dishes in my china cabinet. That was an accomplishment in itself since I wrapped everything in newspaper when I moved. Then my daughter and I went shopping with my mom and niece and we found some great bargains. And, of course, I didn't do any relaxing at all like I wanted to and I'm starting to wonder if I remember how to relax.

I'm leaving Sunday for a business trip and will be gone until Wednesday. To tell you the truth, I'd rather stay home. Yeah, it'll be fun to get out of town and go somewhere I've never been, but with all the running around I've been doing the last month, I'd like to just take a day off instead!

Didn't do too much more with my novel's timeline, but it's been stewing in the back of my mind all weekend. I hope to work on it after my trip. Hope the rest of your weekend is great and the beginning of your week is wonderful!

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Importance of Time

Last night, in between loads of laundry, I dug out my hardcopy of my novel and tried to figure out my timeline. Not quite ten minutes into it, I realized I had a major problem. I started my story too late. I needed to go about a month back in time.

Since my novel is a historical and takes place during World War II, I need to make sure my dates correspond with what's going on in the world. In fact, lots of my story revolves around those important dates. So even though I would write, "Two weeks later..." in my story, I discovered last night that I really need to know exactly what date two weeks later would bring me to.

Thankfully, the wonders of the Internet supplied me with a calendar from 1945. Now I can plot each and every date I need and know that it is historically accurate.

Do you use a timeline to plot your characters' lives?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Little Bit of This


To say I've been busy would be an extreme understatement. If I stop and think a minute about everything I had to do in October, I think it would send me screaming for extra large doses of chocolate. And even though finishing the novel was the highlight of the month, I'm hopeful that November will be slightly less crazy. A little bit of "busy" can go an extremely long way.

So for this blog post, I'm going to clear my head of the junk that's been crowding into every single corner in hopes that I will be able to relax a bit more and start focusing on my novel edits.

The Top Ten (Or So) Things on Melissa's Mind

1) The internet is fixed. Turns out it had nothing to do with my computer, my modem, or user error. Instead, it was the cable lines outside on the pole - they were corroded and basically, needed to be replaced.

2) Hubby's snoring has got to stop. I say this with the greatest affection possible, but after numerous nights of subtle kicks and pushes on any part of his body my feet will reach, I'm ready for an undisturbed night of rest.

3) My daughter's room looks like a giant Toys R Us reject room. If that makes little sense, you know exactly what the room looks like.

4) Pepsi One is not nearly as good as Diet Pepsi, a.k.a. the Hard Stuff, but it doesn't have the aspartame in it. I've heard mixed reviews of this partiular ingredient and I've decided to try and steer from it as much as possible.

5) I went and worked out last night and lost another pound. Yay! Yeah, yeah, it's only ONE pound, but I didn't lose 40 pounds by not taking it one pound at a time.

6) I love, love, LOVE the fall colors. Our street is lined with golds, reds, and dark yellows. The squirrels scamper among the leaves and our dogs like to lay in them. My two kids made a big leaf pile the other day and jumped into it. As my thirteen-year-old stepson told me, "It was like I was a kindergartener again." That's always a good thing to hear.

7) Dove Dark Chocolate might possibly be in the running against Godiva Dark Chocolate as Best Dark Chocolate Ever. The jury is still out.

8) I am starting to miss the world of eighteenth and nineteenth century England. My foray into WW2 hasn't left a lot of room for me to indulge in that particular passion. I get frustrated with not being able to equally dwell in both worlds.

9) I really, really, REALLY want to edit my novel. I feel, however, that my life must be a semblance of some sort of order before I dive into trying to get something else in order. My living room is done, but my kitchen, basement, and daughter's room is in serious need of arrangement. I can only ignore the mess for so long.

10) I am a big fan of Jared Hess's work. He's the director of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre. I couldn't resist buying Nacho yesterday (it was on sale, of course) and we all watched it last night. Two words for this movie: stretchy pants. And if that doesn't intrigue you enough to go watch the movie, well, watch it anyway. ;-)

11) I am dreadfully homesick. Thanksgiving is a few weeks away, but I can't wait. I miss my grandma and grandpa, my brother and his wife and kids, my dad, the family farm...sigh. I wish I had a personal jet to take me the 450 miles. Strange that I wanted to get out of that area (Western Nebraska) so badly, but every 3-4 months I have to go back, otherwise I get terribly homesick. It's mostly my family that I miss, but on the other hand, that area has a way of making me regroup and reevaluate.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Whew!

Apartment is clean. Keys turned in. Mail forwarded.

And now, Melissa breathes a big, giant, HUGE sigh of relief.

Of course, now my house is a disaster again since hubby finished moving everything else out of the apartment yesterday. My daughter's room was the last to be moved and now her new room is stuffed to the gizzards.

Halloween wasn't too spectacular since I was cleaning, but my daughter did get some good candy and my stepson won Best Costume at the party he went to.

The weekend promises to be a good one, though. My brother and his family are coming down for a Husker game and then I fly out of town for a writing convention for work on Sunday. Nothing like an all-expenses paid trip to learn more about writing!!!

Internet still isn't working at home, but I plan to hopefully have that fixed tonight by calling my tech support guy. Might just open my manuscript and get to work!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Itching to Edit

Last night, I ignored the boxes stacked in the kitchen and the hallway and set up my office. I've claimed a small corner of the basement and despite the view of the unfinished ceiling above my desk and the rather boring gray cement walls, it works just fine (except for my cable internet was NOT working fine last night! GRRRRR). Besides, I have posters to cover the walls. ;-)

I think my manuscript has "simmered" enough and now I need to go in and stir things up. The conference this past weekend with Judith Arnold gave me lots of great self-editing tips. There are two categories of stuff to look for in editing - The Big Stuff and the Little Stuff. :-)

Big Stuff items include:

Making sure all your scenes serve one of the four dramatic elements (or functions)
1) Exposition
2) Characterization
3) Plot
4) Content

When you look at a scene, always ask yourself this question: What dramatic function does this scene serve? And of course, some scenes can serve more than one dramatic function.

Other big stuff items include:
1) Transitions
2) Theme - in editing your book, you can really start to create parallels to your theme by coming up with imagery or metaphors to better illustrate it, enhance your manuscript, and unify your whole story

The Small Stuff includes, well, the small stuff. Spelling, grammar, POV, misplaced modifiers, adverbs, cliches, adjectives, etc.

I really like the idea of using imagery and metaphor to focus on my theme. This is where editing is fun (for me, anyway!). I love to play with the language, to whittle away at the stuff I don't need, to carve an intricate phrase that will say volumes. And now that the office is all set up (well, minus the &%$#&* internet that's not working!) I'm ready!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Some Progress!


Yesterday, I slept in. Oh, how nice it felt - especially when I woke up and realized that it actually wasn't as late as I thought it was due to the time change. After popping to the store for some groceries, I came home and tackled the house. Hubby had to work, so it was just the kids and I, but man, did I get a lot done. The living room is now, well, liveable. And it looks great.

I have a feeling, though, that my office will be the last thing to be set up. I can live with that because if I need to, I can just whip out my laptop and go write on the couch. :-)

The workshop was wonderful. Lots of happy people, which is always a bonus! And the headache was much better Saturday. Of course, hubby was snoring Saturday night, which meant I had to move to the couch and I got another crimp in my neck, leading to another headache. ACK! But I think working all day loosened it up and I feel pretty good this morning. Plus, I found these great icy hot patches that stick to your skin and you can wear them under your clothes and no one is the wiser. It does wonders for my tight muscles. Better than taking lots of drugs, that's for sure. (BTW - thanks for all the sympathy comments - they're appreciated!)

I'm eager to dive back into my manuscript, but it's going to be awhile before I can do that. Need to get the house in shape first!

I'll leave you with some words of wisdom from Judith Arnold on self-editing:

Write from your heart and edit with your brain.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Oh, the Agony! (And the Ecstasy!)

If I didn't visit your blog yesterday, don't feel bad. I didn't visit anyone's blog. The reason? Here's the agony part: .another tension headache - and this one was a doozie. I felt it coming on Thursday at our office Halloween party. My department went as the cast of Napoleon Dynamite and I was Deb. I have a feeling my neck and head did not appreciate the whole side ponytail look. For whatever reason, I woke up and immediately wanted to scream. We're in between insurance right now so I don't have the money to go to the chiropractor and so I just took a hot bath to try and relax my muscles, went back to bed, and then sat on the couch all day. I watched a few movies, including Anchorman which had me momentarily forgetting the pain since I was laughing so hard. (BTW - if you haven't watched Nacho Libre, I highly recommend it.)

What sucks is that I had to go to my chapter's writing workshop Friday night. Since I'm the president and thus, the MC of the event, it was a must. Don't get me wrong - I wanted to go - desperately! Judith Arnold is our guest speaker this year and her workshop Friday night was on self-editing, something I will be doing in the next month on my own novel. But really, all I wanted to do was climb under the covers and cry. Yes, my head hurt that bad.

But there's at least a nice ending, if not a happily ever after. And that brings us to the ecstasy part of the equation. Four migraine pills, some yummy desserts, a nice icy hot patch on my neck, and a terrific workshop made the day's misery fade. Being around a bunch of other like-minded individuals - writers - is an awesome feeling.

(Anyone else tired of reading about my headaches? I sure am. I think I'm going to go check into that herb Devon and Tess told me about...)

Today, the workshop continues - all day long. I'll post details about it in the next few days.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Holidays are Looming

I've lost nearly 40 pounds since January. And I love it. I feel better, I look better, and my self-esteem has improved considerably. Of course, I want to lose another 30 pounds or so, but I feel the walls of doom closing in on me with the holiday season approaching.

I love sweets. And according to my dietician, I can have those sweets - but just have to cut out some other carbs from my meals and watch how many sweets I eat. Contrary to what many people thing, some diabetics can have sugar - it's just not a great thing to eat because it results in lots of bad calories, fat, and stuff your body really could do without. Plus it makes your insulin levels go up and that is the thing you want to avoid. But if you want to have a cookie, you have to cut out the bread or another carb at dinner.

There's a tendency for me to just want to say the heck with it and indulge. But I'm scared to death to gain back any weight. Maybe if I just keep up with my exercise program I'll be fine.

One thing is for sure - I haven't bought any Halloween candy nor am I likely to. It's too much of a temptation to have around.

Do you have any surefire methods to avoid the holiday weight gain?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Two Things Outta the Way

Meeting went well last night and so did the job interview. Two things done this week - about ten billion more to go.

It's a cold and cloudy day today, perfect for hunkering down with my laptop on the couch with my pajama pants, a cold can of Diet Pepsi, and a handful of dark chocolate. Instead, I am at work, wearing pantyhose, and mourning the fact that I already drank my Diet Pepsi for the day. Now it's strictly water for the rest of the afternoon.

And besides, I have a hard time finding the couch these days. But the good news is that my office should be set up tonight since the Internet will be hooked up tomorrow. And then I can proceed to make sense out of my life again.

I'm itching to dive into the novel and polish it until it gleams like a newly minted quarter. And hopefully, the coming winter months will let me do just that!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Still Moving...(And Five Cool Things About Me!)

Packed the china set last night, plus drug a few more clothes over to the house. I think hubby is going to finish up the rest today. We're painting my daughter's room, so her stuff will be the last to be brought over.

Can I just say that I need a vacation? And I can't take one for quite awhile. I've got my chapter writing conference this weekend and then next Sunday I'm headed out of town for a work writing conference. I'm looking forward to that, but wish things were a little more spread out. Oh yeah - and throw in Halloween somewhere around there. Fortunately, hubby likes to take the kids trick o' treating. I'll hole up in my house and refuse to answer the doorbell - I've got boxes to go through! ;-)

Sue tagged me for this fun little "People Collection." List five little-known facts about yourself. You never know what might be valuable to a writer. And when you've amassed a big "people collection," you'll have all sorts of resources!

So here are mine:

1) I'm a stepmom of two boys - one lives with his mom, the other with hubby and I. Let me tell you - being a stepmom is an experience all on its own.

2) I know how to scoop ditches and cut weeds out of bean fields with a machete. Neither of these talents is one I wanted to learn.

3) I went back to graduate school after being married and having a baby. I fit the profile of a nontraditional student.

4) I've worked at a bank, a law firm, a newspaper, made pizzas at my cousin's pizza place, shelved books at the library, worked at three different bookstores, and ran a concession stand at the baseball fields during the summer.

5) I got stuck in a processional at Canterbury Cathedral in England and ended up behind a bunch of bishops.

And one more, just for fun:

6) I was smashed against a U.S. Secret Service agent at a Bill Clinton rally before he became president.

PLEASE LEAVE THE FOLLOWING IN ALL ‘PEOPLE COLLECTION’ POSTS:Remember that it isn’t always the sensational stuff that writers are looking for, it can just as easily be something that you take for granted like having raised twins or knowing how to grow beetroot. Mind you, if you know how to fly a helicopter or have worked as a film extra, do feel free to let the rest of us know about it :-)"

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Angst of Moving

Yesterday after church and a lunch that was probably way too fattening for me, we started the "big move." Did I tell you how much I hate moving? Well, yeah, I hate it. Loathe it, in fact. But this time, it really wasn't too bad.

My husband used to be a professional mover in Europe and let me tell you, he works fast. He and my stepson combined were a powerhouse of energy. I didn't have to carry anything out, but just pack boxes. I'd much rather do that, let me tell you! We still have a bit to do - I have a very nice China closet my Dad made that is full of dishes that I still need to pack up, plus my daughter's room. We'll get that taken care of this week.

I can now officially say that hubby and I are back together. A lot has changed over the past eight months and it's all for the good. We're really starting to recognize that marriage takes a lot of work - and no one has a perfect, normal marriage. That doesn't exist. There is no perfect husband and no perfect wife. Our counselor has really helped us see this.

Needless to say, I'm tired on this Monday morning and could have cheerfully slept until noon. But there's that pesky day job to deal with and a house full of boxes to unpack.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Odds and Ends


I've decided to splurge on one thing for myself with the prize money I won for my history article. And I think I've finally narrowed it down to the complete series of As Times Goes By. Yes, Rene, I hear you laughing at me! But I simply adore this show. I've wanted the complete series for some time now, but never had the finances to do. Still, I'm a bit hesitant to shell out the cash because part of me wants to hang onto it. But hey, I should reward myself for a job well done, right? :-)

I was going to have a garage sale this weekend, but since there's a 50% chance of rain, it's looking like that will be the last thing I do. And really, I don't mind. I might just try and get the rest of the stuff packed up and ready to go.

Speaking of packing, I had the unenviable job of going through my daughter's room the last two days. I can't believe how much stuff she has. And it's not even big stuff. No, it's little tiny stuff. Plastic horses and My Little Ponies and dogs, cats, dinosaurs, frogs - you name it, she's got it! Then there's the matchbox cars and crayons and markers and...sigh. The list goes on. I think I finally got everything organized and ready for the move. And to think - when she was born, I thought, "Well, she doesn't have very many toys. I'll have to go shopping." Ha! Talk about the exact opposite happening! She's got too much stuff. Of course, as soon as I unearth something she hasn't seen for months, she wants to play with it.

And then there's the writing. I feel listless walking around without knowing that I should get my butt to the chair and be writing. But I think letting my novel just sit for awhile is a good idea. My mind needs that mental break.

So here's the question of the day. If you could splurge and buy something you've been wanting for a long time, what would it be?

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Lure of Editing



Despite the tension headache of yesterday (actually, my headaches pretty much never go away as I have chronic tension headaches), I wanted to write last night. It felt strange not to have to work on my novel - as far as writing new pages anyway. I really just wanted to take a break from the novel for a few days, let it sit and gel a little before I tore it apart with my trusty editing tools.

But I couldn't resist tinkering with it. To me, editing is the fun part. This is where I really get to play with the language. I think I've always loved to edit. In fact, I still have a nonfiction piece I wrote in junior high that has extensive pencil marks all over it from my editing process. While I like to think that my writing has evolved enough that I don't need to change every single word, I still love to see how I can mix things up.

Do you like to edit? Or would you rather someone else take the scythe to your work?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sidelined...

I really really REALLY hate my tension headaches. Stayed home from work today and slept for FIVE HOURS. That is bad.

Time is flying by and when I think I have to get ready for a garage sale this weekend, a RWA chapter meeting next week and our chapter conference, plus move everything out of the apartment, I just want to tear my hair out.

Must. Stay. Strong.

My daughter and I did find her a tiger costume for Halloween, though. I hate paying that much money for something she'll wear to school and trick o-treating, but I have a feeling that since she likes tigers so much, she'll be wearing it a lot more than just those two events.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Let's Celebrate!


Why do we need to celebrate? Because last night, I typed
THE END
on my novel.
WOO HOOO!!!
Let the party begin! (And don't forget the chocolate!)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Happy Dance!

What a great writing weekend! I managed to write a little over 5,000 words on Saturday and Sunday. My novel is this close to being finished. I think one more night and it will be done.

Yippee!!!

Hubby also came Sunday morning and grabbed all the boxes I had packed. That made me feel a lot better knowing that I already have stuff out of the way and over at the house. The apartment is starting to look a little bare, but that's ok - that means I'm making progress.

I've also got a pretty good idea of what my next novel is going to be about - and I'm very excited. I'll probably just let ideas float around in my mind for awhile before I start working on the plotting in earnest. I've got to get this novel finished and edited first - although I will probably do editing and brainstorming at the same time.

In Other News...

I updated my Best of World War II blog. And coming soon - a review of a new book called Thanks for the Memories: Love, Sex, and World War II by Jane Leder. It promises to be a fascinating read.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Boxes and Books

I made an executive decision this weekend. In the midst of packing, I realized that most of my boxes contained my extensive book collection. And if I'm honest with myself, I haven't cracked open some of those books for years - literally. But my whole argument with myself has been, You might need it someday.

Well, after moving them from place to place for too many times to count, I've decided to get rid of some of them. Of course, this only means I'm making room for new books, right? ;-)

My apartment is a complete disaster right now - boxes stacked by the front door, a path made in between all the stuff waiting to be packed, and just general disarray. I hate living like this, but I guess there's nothing to be done about it but endure and get through it.

I did take a four hour nap today - not what I wanted to do on a Saturday afternoon, but maybe that means I'll be able to stay up a little later and work on my novel. I need to get it finished - maybe I can accomplish that this weekend.

The weather is finally staying cool - no more 80's and 90's temps for us, thank goodness. I do get tired of that. I'd much rather have the 50's and 60's like we're having now.

Hope you're all having a relaxing weekend. :-)

Friday, October 13, 2006

It's Not the Destination, But the Journey

Great responses to my post yesterday. I think I need to take a different attitude to getting published. Yes, I want it very badly. But I need to be realistic about it. The hard work of writing isn't going to go away. In fact, I will have more things to worry about than before.

Perhaps that's why I haven't been published yet - because I'm not yet mentally ready for it and that is being reflected in my writing - as in I'm having a hard time finishing the book or making excuses not to write, etc., etc. So I think I need to sit down and really think about being published and what that means to me. Above all, I do not want to take away the joy in my writing. I do not want to make being a published author my sole goal in writing. It can't be. Instead, that must be the end goal and certainly not the most important. Writing is what I do, and a writer is who I am. That cannot change just because I have a book in print.

This needs to be tacked on my computer: It's not the destination, but the journey.

An old, but very wise saying that we should all adhere to.

Oh yeah - TGIF!!!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Can You Handle It?


When I started to think about why I was reluctant to finish my novel, one thought struck me in particular. If I finish this novel and if it sells, my whole world will change. No longer will I be an "unpubbed" author - I will be a published author. And that is an entirely different world than an "unpubbed."

There are similarities, of course. You still have to write the book. You still suffer angst and doubt and tear your hair out when the words refuse to appear. But when you're published, you suddenly have an editor and a deadline, your name is going to be out there, and marketing and publicity will suddenly become a big part of your life.

Does the fear of success keep me from reaching my potential?

Maybe. But then again...I've finished one book and had it requested for partials and fulls by a number of agents. The fact that they all ultimately rejected it doesn't bother me too much because hey, it's my first novel and I can still see lots of things wrong with it.

I'm inclined to think that the fear of success isn't what's holding me back when I write...but rather the fear that I can't continue to write well enough to satisfy myself and my future potential readers. Does that make sense?

There's a certain pressure to writing, the pressure to always be better than the last book. And when you're a published writer and it's your career, that's quite a lot of pressure. The question is, can I handle it?

If you're a published author, how do you handle that pressure? If you're unpubbed, do you feel the pressure to outdo yourself? Does it cause you to look at your words with a cynical eye?

Here's how I've decided to handle my dilemma. I just write. I poured out 1200 words the night that I didn't think I could write even one. That little nagging voice of "this isn't good enough" kept chiming in, but I squelched it and kept on going. Are those words the greatest to ever come out of my brain? Not a chance. Are they useable? You bet.

Bottom line is that as writers, we all have pressures of a different sort that are strictly to do with our writing - not the pressures of outside life because we all have those, too. And those writing pressures affect us on a daily basis. How we choose to deal with the pressure is perhaps what determines whether we are a success or not.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Nearing the End


Here's a somewhat baffling event. I am nearing completion of my novel - and I'd say I really only have about a week's worth left to do on it and the first draft will be finished.

Then why am I having a terrible time forcing myself to write those last few pages? You'd think I'd be ecstatic to type The End and then dive right into the next project.

Maybe that's the problem. I don't yet know what my next project is. I've got several ideas swimming around in my brain, but haven't pinpointed one in particular as being The Next Novel.

Perhaps if I figured that out, I'd be ready to finish my current WIP. Or maybe it's because I feel overwhelmed with everything going on this month - moving out of this apartment is big on the list. But you'd think I'd want to finish the novel so I could have the satisfaction of having it done by the time I have to move. It could be that my brain feels I should be packing instead of writing, though... There's really no solution for it but to just buckle down and write. Even if I churn out drivel, I can fix drivel.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Nothing Too Terribly Important

Utterly Random Thoughts

I feel icky. Hurt-all-over, achy, tired icky. I sneezed up a storm at work on Monday and I'm sure I went through half a box of tissue. After work, I went to the grocery store and picked up a can of tomato soup (soup and cold weather go together, y'know!) and some sugar free Pillsbury chocolate chip cookies. I figured out the secret to making them taste good - take them out of the oven before they're fully cooked and leave a nice, chewy, middle. Almost as good as the "hard" stuff. Boy, I sure do miss being able to eat all those yummy things...but then I think about all the weight I've lost and I guess it's not so bad after all.

I had planned to write all evening long, but ended up watching Toy Story 2 (a classic!) with my daughter, helping her with her reading, doing the dishes and a few loads of laundry. I didn't want to do the last two, believe me - but it's always a good thing to have clean clothes in the morning. But my body wasn't too happy with me afterward.

Halfway Focused Thoughts

Some of the members of my local writing group are doing NaNoWriMo. I've thought about it, but not too seriously. I've tried it a few times before and bombed big time. Of course, I was in grad school at the time...

For some reason, I don't think I do too well with things like that. I always start out strong, but sort of run out of steam somewhere in the middle. I guess I work at my own pace and if it gets the novel done, then I suppose I'm doing ok. Which is why I'm incredibly frustrated at being sick right now. I want to be writing. There are those who say you should write even when you're sick, but I don't know that I agree. There's a reason you're sick - your body has had enough and needs to slow down and rest. Fighting that compulsion to rest only makes things worse - at least it does for me.

But then again...if the urge to write is strong, why resist?

Not My Thought At All

"The best writing advice I've ever heard: Don't write like you went to college." ~Alice Kahn

New Digs

I've got a new home on the web - stop by if you get a chance! www.melissamarsh.net