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!

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...