Saturday, July 29, 2006

Focus, Breathe, and Pray!

I'm enjoying looking at all the pictures around the blogging world of the National Conference. Still sad that I'm not there - but hey, a bunch of us from my local chapter are planning to go to Dallas next year. It's within driving distance and we can split the cost of gas, saving us lots of money on airfare.

But being at home this week has also made me realize how I really need to focus on my writing. Let me 'splain.

It's so easy for those of us not published to come up with lots of excuses for not sitting down at the keyboard and working. I've been guilty of that this week. Granted, I've had a very emotional up and down sort of week caused by Monday night's events, but now I feel ready to tackle my manuscript again. I'm trying to follow the Great Nora's advice and "just write" and treat this like my job, but therein lies the rub - I already HAVE a day job that I must do. I can't put my work on the backburner and go and sit on the couch and read like I can with my fiction writing. I can't work ALL the time.

But is that an excuse in itself? If I want to make writing my full-time job someday (outside of the office and with a paycheck from a publisher), then I need to put my nose to the grindstone. I'm astute enough to know, however, that we all need a break. And I've had that break this week. Emotional rollercoaster rides really throw me for a loop, but I've taken the time I need to recover.

Anna Nalik (I think that's her name) has a song called Just Breathe. Faith Hill has one called Breathe. When life gets in the way, I just have to remember to breathe. And pray.

That seems like a good recipe for keeping me focused. The key, the absolute key, is to make sure you remember to do all those things. I think it's time to put a little post-it-note on my monitor to remind me.

Focus. Breathe. Pray.

My friend Pauline, who also writes World War II romance, had a brilliant, inspiring post the other day on her blog. Her advice is perfect for those of us who aren't yet published. I encourage you to take a look.

And remember: no excuses - just write!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Blogging Meme

Toni tagged me for this fun meme. :-)

1. When did you first start blogging and why?
April of 2005. Rene started a blog and I thought, why not? Looks like fun.

2. What don't you talk about?
Politics and religion, for one. Very personal family stuff for another. We still need to keep some things private in this day and age!

3. Are you and your blogging persona the same person?
Yeah, pretty much.

4. How do you use blogging to build friendships?
I'd much rather use email and chatting to talk to people. I used to like to talk on the phone as a teenager, but not anymore. It's rather weird. For me, I'm much more apt to leave a message on someone's blog than call up a complete stranger.

5. How would you describe your writing style?
Very informal, like I'm talking to a bunch of close friends.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

What We've Been Doing


My daughter and I have been having a true summer vacation the last few days. We've been shopping, staying up late, sleeping in, having popsicles, and even playing hide and seek. She built her own "clubhouse" in the living room. Do you remember doing this as a kid? I sure did - draping blankets over the coffee table or dining room table and chairs...oh, how I loved summer vacation as a kid!

I'm happy to report that we found the root cause of what was going on with the family member and things are just fine. Thank the Lord!

I've also been working on my novel and hope to get more done on it today. But I'm taking this time to truly relax and recuperate. :-)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Conference That Wasn't

I have had a rather horrible two days.

No, I'm not in Atlanta. I missed my 5:50 a.m. flight this morning - I was sleeping...because I was up until all hours of the night last night. No conference for me this year.

We had a family medical emergency - and in the interest of keeping some of my personal life "personal" (hard to do in blogland!), let's just say that a close family member ended up in the emergency room last night - and I had no choice but to stay home.

Funny - the last few days, I kept having this niggling feeling that I wasn't going to Atlanta. I tried to ignore it when I got sick with my allergies or cold or whatever it is (and I'm still breathing through a half-open sinus right now and I have another headache). I also tried to ignore it when I myself had to make an urgent visit to my own doctor.

But last night's ER visit pretty much confirmed that I wasn't meant to go.

Strangely enough, I'm not devastated. Disappointed, yes. But I'm not tearing my hair out and screaming in frustration. Things happen. And that's just how life is.

I decided to still take these days off for my vacation - partly because I need to recover from the emotional trauma of the whole ER thing and partly because I need a break from work. My daughter and I went shopping tonight at the mall to get away for awhile and we had a great time. I'm also happy to report that the family member is hopefully on the mend - we should have some more answers soon.

I'm eager to read everyone's comments on Nationals - and I hope to make it next year!

But I now have an opportunity to get some great work done on my novel. Onward!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Atlanta: I'm Off!

Bags are packed - I managed to fit everything into one checked bag and my carry on. I packed an empty suitcase for all the goodies I'm going to get. :-)

Nails are done - just the toenails. My fingernails are too short - can't type with long ones!

Allergies have abated (somewhat) - my head still feels about three feet thick, but I just took some ibuprofen so we'll see what happens.

Apartment is a MESS - y'know when I said I cleaned last weekend because I didn't want to come home to a dirty house? Well, that lasted all of two days. Oh well.

List is checked - I actually remembered everything. Amazing! But I'm sure I'll get to Atlanta and think, now why didn't I pack this???

I'm very glad that I'm getting into Atlanta early on Tuesday - if I need to, I can take a nice, long nap and just relax. Hopefully my allergies will have disappeared by then. :-)

I'll see you all when I get back and update you with all the invaluable advice I gleaned.

Have a wonderful week!

Atlanta: No, Not Allergies!!!

I woke up Sunday morning feeling like pooh (and unfortunately, it's not the Winnie kind). The rest of the day did not progress well after that. Sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, and a general feeling of blah absolutely pervaded my entire body. Do you know that it is impossible to find an allergy medication that is not a 12-hour or 24-hour pill that won't make you drowsy? I don't like to take the 12 or 24 hour tabs because if they don't work, I'm pretty much out of luck for the rest of the day. I hate the way allergy meds work because I can't stay awake with them.

So all this means that instead of packing Sunday afternoon, I took a nap. I woke up feeling just about the same. Needless to say, Monday is going to be a rest day for me to hopefully get rid of these darn allergies and be rarin' to go on Tuesday morning.

Funny - I received the latest RWR in the mail on Friday - and it was obvious that this edition was supposed to be received after the national conference was over. Anyway, there is a feature on Nora Roberts that really spoke to me and I'm even more excited to listen to her speak at the PRO retreat. This is one lady that doesn't tolerate excuses - she just does it - i.e., she just writes.

I want to have that same attitude. I find that my attitudes come and go in regards to my writing - and they generally change with how I feel. But I realize now that most of those attitudes are shaped by excuses. Had a bad day at work...don't feel like writing. I'm tired...don't feel like writing. As Nora says, you don't have those kinds of excuses for your "real" job - the day job. And she's absolutely right. I have to get that work done no matter what. I don't get to use excuses. And it should be the same for my writing.

Friday, July 21, 2006

It's a Marketing Thing

Preparing for Atlanta has made me very much aware of the need to market myself. Everyone talks about having a pitch for your novel in case you meet an agent or editor in an elevator and they ask you what you write. Most people have business cards to hand out. And let's face it - we're in a business. If you want to succeed at this whole business, you have to treat your writing like a profession. Of course, you have to make sure you have a balance. You need to love to write to make a job out of it, in my opinion.

In that vein, I have coordinated my blog and my business cards to match my writing - a classic marketing strategy. Even though I'm not published, I want to give myself a "brand" that people will remember.

More Preparations for Atlanta

I re-did my business cards last night - just printed them on some fancier, nicer-looking paper. I think they turned out well. I also printed out my flight and hotel info and information on the places I want to visit. It's all in a nice folder, along with my daughter's homemade Pirates of the Carribbean notepad that she insisted I take with me. :-)

In reading the blogs of those going to Atlanta, I'm not too sure about my clothing choices. Are jean capris completely not the thing to wear to the workshops and luncheons? (Moonlight Madness and other fun activities not-withstanding). Is it comfortable and casual, or business casual? (and the definitions of this are all over the board!) Or does everyone have their own opinion on this? That seems to be the consensus. So I guess I'll just wear what I feel comfortable wearing.

Rene suggested that those of us who are blogging buddies should wear a ribbon or another marker to identify each other. Not a bad idea. Any suggestions?
Thanks for all the "kudos" on the new design. I am very pleased with how it turned out.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A New Look

Thanks to the kindness of my friend (who is a graphic designer extraordinaire!) and Rene (whom I cannot thank enough for her help!), I now have a new blog design!

The top banner is 100% original - and I'm proud to say that those are pictures of my family during the World War II era. My grandmother is in the first picture - she's the one in the middle. Don't you love their white shoes? I'm also happy to say that I'm seeing a return to 1940's fashion in the stores! If only I could afford all those wonderful shoes...

Atlanta: Roomates and Dresses

Hooray! We found another roomate for Atlanta. Thank goodness. That will help the checking account out quite a bit. :-)

I tried on my formal dress last night, the one I wore to hubby's Christmas party last year (which you can see here) and asked my mom to come over and tell me if it looked ok. Since losing 30 pounds, I wasn't sure it would still fit. While it was a little loose, Mom thought it looked fine. Thank goodness. I didn't want to go buy another dress and I love this particular one. I can't wait to wear it again.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Atlanta: Business Cards and Sightseeing

I sat down last night to redesign my business cards. I don't have a fancy program or template, but I think they turned out pretty well. They now reflect my new focus on World War II romantic suspense fiction. They probably look homemade, but hey, that's ok. I don't have the money to spend on fancy business cards and the free ones (like Vistaprint) wouldn't work for what I had in mind.

I was tickled to see yesterday's post appear on Blogging National and it's been great fun to go through everyone's blogs to see how they're preparing for conference. Some are first-timers, like me, and others have been there numerous times before.

I've decided that I'm going to keep an open mind about Atlanta. I have one goal - to relax and have fun. (Or is that two goals? *grin*) Most writers are introverts and I confess that I tend to lean more that way. But I'm determined to introduce my extroverted personality to everyone at Atlanta. Of course, that doesn't mean I'm going to go buck wild! Rather, it's more the friendly, outgoing personality that I used to have back in college when I was young and much less inhibited.

On my intinerary for sightseeing is the Margaret Mitchell House and Anne Frank in the World Exhibit. I might do both on the Sunday after the conference or one on Tuesday when I fly in (I get to Atlanta at 11 a.m.) and one on Sunday.

I hope I do ok in the heat - I am not a heat person. I'm just going to remind myself that I'm on vacation and that I'm having fun! :-)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Preparing for Atlanta

I started making my list last night of everything I need to pack. I don't want to pack a ton of stuff, yet I don't want to be in Atlanta lamenting the fact that I left a certain something behind. I also went through my closet and picked out my outfits. I'm notorious for changing my mind, so I think I'll actually try every outfit before I leave so that at least I'll know whether or not it looks good. :-)

The third person who was going to be our roomate can't go now, so there's just the two of us in a room - that's fine, but I was financially counting on a third person. If you know of anyone looking for a roomate, we have a spot available!

No writing done last night, but I did get the apartment cleaned up. I refuse to leave it a mess before I head to Atlanta. Coming home to a messy house is the last thing I want to do.

Even though I'm not going to know very many people at the conference, I'm looking at this as a wonderful opportunity to meet a ton of people and make a lot of friends. :-)

Monday, July 17, 2006

Weekend Activities

Hubby and I had a nice anniversary. Didn't do too much except go out for a nice dinner and get a nice hotel room. That's celebrating in our book! It's been seven years now and we've had our share of ups and downs, that's for sure.

I went shopping yesterday at the mall and found a ton of great deals. Couldn't buy all of them, unfortunately, but did find a new outfit for Atlanta. I can't believe that it's a week away! I leave next Tuesday and can't wait. I'm also freaking out a bit because well, let's face it. It's been a long time since I've traveled by myself. I used to do it all the time in college. Now I'm so used to having a child or a husband in tow that it's going to be strange to be doing everything myself. But I'm confident that I'll be just fine (with the Lord's help!).

Didn't get any writing done this weekend and that's ok - I needed to take a break and just relax.

True to the forecast, it was miserably hot this weekend. I stayed inside most of the time except for the dashes from the air-conditioned house to the air-conditioned vehicle. I, for one, am looking forward to autumn!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Thunderstorm Watching

My daughter and I took a walk last night and at the end, we just sat down and watched the clouds. A thunderstorm brewed and my daughter was in awe of the clouds swirling and drifting. That's one thing I love about Nebraska - you can see the wide open sky. And it makes you feel pretty small and insignifcant, but at the same time, it also gives you a feeling of joy about how awesome this world really is.

I wrote four more pages last night on the WIP and really felt good about them. I didn't want to quit, but the darn day job requires that I get at least a few hours of sleep. (Ok, more than a few!)

Plans for the weekend include celebrating my 7th wedding anniversary on Sunday and getting some more writing done. Other than that - it's supposed to be unbearably hot here. Around 102 degrees. Yeah, I'll be staying inside most of the weekend!

BIAW Challenge

Everyone was pretty evenly split on when to do a BIAW - so I thought, why not do two? I can always use the extra push to get things done and that way, people can pick which one they want to do. Rene and I will be hosting it at our other blog, Villa in Tuscany. Stay tuned for details!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Procrastination at its Best




Oh yeah. I'm getting TONS of work done...

Make Your Own Romance Novel Cover!

Writing Conundrums

Last night's writing took a turn I wasn't expecting. Suddenly, my characters were in this very emotionally-intense scene. While I loved writing it, when I finished, I knew something wasn't quite right. The problem was that this emotional scene was too soon - it needed to come later.

I'm not one of those writers who can write scenes out of order and then put them all together. It doesn't work that way for me. But last night's scene was obviously not meant to be in that particular spot. While I was a bit frustrated that I had to shelve it for later, it also meant that my maturity as a writer is growing. Instead of forcing that scene to work, I knew I had to move it to later in the book. Years ago, I would have kept it in and just built around it. Fortunately, I knew what I had to do with the scene to make it work and so I cut out (and saved for later, of course) the stuff that didn't work and picked a point to start writing an entirely different scene. Unfortunately, it was 11:30 p.m. and my better judgment prevailed - the day job does require some use of brain cells and it was off to bed.

BIAW Challenge

Looks like we're all open to the possibilty of doing a BIAW here in Blogland. In fact, I think Rene and I will host it over at our writing blog, Villa in Tuscany. I think I will be rarin' to go after Nationals. Would the month of August work for everyone or should we try September? I know that no month is ideal, but if we're writers, we have to make time for our writing, right? (Guilt trip time! LOL) That's what I've learned from BIAW - that I can make time for my writing, even if it's no more than a page.

Let's take a vote. August or September?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Book In A Week

This is the second time my chapter has done a BIAW (Book in a Week) program and we're all doing great. I felt better last night and actually got three pages written, so that made me feel good anyway.

I think everyone does BIAW differently. Some just write as fast as they can, get as much down as they can, and then worry about fixing it later. My whole philosophy is to just make my book the focus of my week. It's ok if I don't get a TON of writing done because for me, a slow and steady pace is what I need. I do find my competitive edge rearing its ugly head when we all post how many pages we've done, though. One gal did ten pages yesterday. But I have to remind myself that we all work in different paces. But I do love how BIAW increases my productivity. I feel so much better about my writing and myself when I concentrate on my book. :-)

Maybe we here in Blogland should do our own BIAW sometime and post our page count (or word count, if you prefer) every day. Any takers?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Found

What: One Ford Explorer

When: Yesterday at approximately 5:30 p.m.

Where: Exactly ten blocks from our house (can you believe that?)

Amazingly, it's still in good condition. The speakers and stereo are gone, the satellite radio is gone, and the bag of clothes is gone. Strangely enough, the seat to his motorcycle is gone. Why they took that, we don't know and probably never will. But hubby's checkbook was still laying on the floor, his Bible was still there, and they rifled through the CD's and picked which ones they wanted, leaving the rest.

Very bizarre.

We're just glad to have it back, although hubby says he feels as though he's been violated when he looks at his truck and sees how much they went through it. The villains also apparently did some joy-riding as the gas tank was full when it was stolen, and only had a quarter of a tank left yesterday.

After hubby finishes fixing the broken window and cleaning it up, I'll get to drive it. :-)

In Other News...

Apparently some strain of the flu has hit me. I nearly upchucked at work yesterday, but held it together and finished out the day. This morning, my stomach is still churning. I refuse to give in, though, because I hate and loathe throwing up.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest



We went to see Captain Jack Sparrow in his much-anticipated sequel on Saturday. Overall? I'd give it 4 stars out of five. Maybe even 3 and 3/4 (if such a thing existed). I've seen reviews of this movie all over the board which I find interesting. Some love it, others think it starts too slow, others think it's not nearly as good as the first. Let me just say that I liked it. Didn't love it - but then again, neither did I love the first Pirates movie until I saw it again. I'm like that with some movies - I need to see it twice before I really can make up my mind.

I'm not going to review the movie because let's face it - you can go somewhere else and find a review. No, I want to talk about something different - something that has gotten a bit under my skin about the loveable Captain Jack (Johnny Depp was excellent once again - let's hope that this time he's nominated for an Academy Award and wins!).

In this instance, however, it is not Captain Jack that has run into my foul mood - but rather those marketing this movie. This movie is darker than the first. It's scarier. In fact, there are a few scenes that made me flinch. And it is certainly not for kids under the age of 13. True, the movie does have a PG-13 rating and rightly so.

Now here's my gripe. My six-year-old daughter loved the first movie. LOVED it. She couldn't wait to see the second one. And why not? The marketing campaign has saturated her generation with stuff. Into Barnes & Noble, there' s a whole shelf dedicated to the movie in the children's section - and no, this isn't the area where the 13-year-old's usually go! Sticker books for a thirteen-year-old? I don't think so! Yet there they are and of course, my daughter talked my hubby into buying her one. :-) In fact, I even bought her a t-shirt with Captain Jack Sparrow on it for her birthday. Yup, it was in her size and even in smaller sizes. Again, not the sizes of a thirteen-year-old!

There's toys, there's posters, there's Captain Jack's face on Lunchables and other food packages. Even McDonald's has Pirates of the Carribbean toys in their happy meals.

I think Rene blogged about this once, so I know I'm not alone, but c'mon - this is ridiculous. Why make a film that you are marketing to children that they can't even watch? And here's the thing - they could have made this a PG movie VERY easily. They could have made a lot of the scenes much less intense and dark and yes, downright scary if they so chose. But they didn't. Why? Adults would have enjoyed it either way as evidenced by the box-office smashes of so many children's films - Madagascar, Over the Hedge, etc., etc.

Pirates grossed $55.5 million on its opening day. That's a record. And those earnings are only for ticket sales. What about the millions they're making on everything else? Books, toys, etc.? It boggles the mind.

In the end, I guess that's what it's about. But I sincerely wish that Hollywood would wake up and start paying attention to things other than the bottom line.

In Other News...

Nope, the thieves have not been caught, the truck has not been found, and hubby had to go to the store and replace all his stuff - mostly clothes. He is, however, the happy recipient of a new vehicle - a 2001 Dodge Durango. It's the nicest vehicle we've ever owned and he's quite ecstatic with his purchase. And I'm hoping that we find the Explorer and that it's just been abandoned along a roadside somewhere, still in good shape. 'Cuz then, I get to drive it. ;-)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Dude, Where's My Car?

Or more appropriately, where's my husband's SUV?

He woke up this morning to go to work - 5 a.m. - and came back in a few minutes later and said, "Someone stole my truck!" (I always tell him it's a SUV - Ford Explorer - but he insists it's a truck.)

Yup. Someone smashed the glass in his front window, hot-wired the ignition, and took off. Hubby was all packed to go on a trip to Western Nebraska today and everything is gone. Clothes, shoes, everything.

Sigh...

The only good thing I see in this whole ordeal is that the truck was paid off - we don't have to pay on something we no longer own.

So it's an early morning for me - just nearing 6:05 a.m. My daughter is already up. I think both of us are going to need naps tonight!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Fort Robinson

I took this photo standing on the ground where the German POW camp used to be during World War II at Fort Robinson. Those are buttes in the distance. The camp was actually a mile away from the main post at the fort.

It has a sort of stark beauty to it. I snapped this picture a few years ago during the winter, so it's a bit more dreary than the spring and summer months.

But I can't imagine how the Germans must have felt living in such a place. It's a far cry from the lush land of Germany. The wide open spaces must have been a shock to their system, as well. In fact, the richness of America astonished them. Their government had led them to believe that German bombs had devestated America. How surprised they must have been to see the United States not only intact, but thriving.

Nebraska still has those wide open spaces. Miles and miles of them. The first time I went to California, I was shocked. From Anaheim to L.A., it was nothing but houses. I couldn't fathom that at the time. Here in Nebraska, if you travel between two towns, there's always a stretch of land between you and your destination, not a steady string of buildings.

What's the whole point of this post? I'm not sure I have one. I just like to wonder sometimes at how our perspectives are shaped by our surroundings. Growing up in the city, one will have a vastly different perspective of the world than those growing up on a farm or in the country.

So here's my question...how do you feel your childhood surroundings shaped you?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Firecrackers and Fireflies

My daughter and my husband had a blast on the 4th of July. Since her half-brothers are in Kentucky with their mom, it was just her and her dad shooting off fireworks last night and she thoroughly enjoyed herself. And of course, her dad spoiled her just a tiny bit. They had so many that they were up until after 11 p.m. shooting them off!

Everywhere you looked last night there were fireworks - rather cool. And in the midst of it all, the fireflies were celebrating their independence, too. :-)

I have a feeling not many people are going to feel motivated to go to work today, me included. But at least it will be a short work week.

How was your 4th?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Where I Create: New and Old















Middle Photos: Old Office
Top and Bottom: New office

Thought it'd be fun to compare my old and new office. Yup, my new one is in my bedroom right now since we moved to the apartment, but that's ok - I have a door! I didn't have a door last time, just a space carved out of an unfinished basement room. And no carpet. :-) I did try to dress up the ugly conrete walls with motivating phrases, but dealing with the dust and the chilly winter eveinings didn't quite make it the best office.

I just finished cleaning so thought I'd snap a picture to preserve this moment because we all know, it won't last for long. But now I feel like I'm reading to tackle the edits on my synopsis. For a writing update, look at my earlier post for today. :-)

If you have a picture of your creative workspace, post it on your blog! I'd love to see it. :-)

Late Night Inspiration

Saturday night, I couldn't sleep. (Hubby's snoring didn't help any.) Thoughts of my story kept swirling in my head, so I surrendered to its pull and headed to the computer. Before I knew it, I had three pages written of my synopsis! So what if I headed to bed around 1 a.m... *grin*

I finished the rough draft of the synopsis yesterday. Today and tomorrow, I hope to finish editing. I also finished editing my first three chapters. Woo hoo!

No work today or tomorrow...it was great to sleep in this morning. But now I'm off to go shopping for clothes for the RWA conference in Atlanta. Fun, fun!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Watch out, bugs!



I think she looks like a pretty good exterminator, don't you? I love how my daughter comes up with this stuff!

Have a great weekend!

One Day at a Time

I've always tried to live with this mentality: One day at a time. Unfortunately, when I implement it, I fail spectacularly. But for this...