Monday, December 31, 2007

Down to Business


It's time to get down to business...in several ways. Eating, exercising, and writing - in those order. And as I see it, each one will complement the other quite nicely.

I have the next three days off, and I plan to use them wisely. I'm sure things will come up, but what's important is that I find the motivation to start working on all three of my areas. I think I'll throw out any bad-for-me snacks (gasp! Yes, I think I have to actually toss the chocolate-covered shortbread I served for my holiday tea!), take my dog for a walk if it's not too cold, (or get on the treadmill) and finish finalizing my main plot points in the novel.

And then, it's time to start writing.

I have to admit, I'm a little scared of the blank computer screen. I'm reading a new book right now, By Cunning and Craft by Peter Selgin, and one thing he stresses about writing the first draft is to have fun. I need to get that firmly entrenched in my brain before I even type Chapter One. Already I'm freezing up, worried that what I write won't live up to anyone's standards, let alone my own.

In a sense, I feel like I'm dipping my toe into the writing waters again. With the burn-out I experienced earlier, the fall-out from my husband's summer hospital stint, and the job change, I had a lot to deal with the past few months. But now I'm ready (I think!) to get back into it.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Friday Fun

Ahh...nothing like a bit of Calvin and Hobbes to put a smile on your face. It snowed this morning on the way to work and it would have been the perfect day to stay home and take a nap on the couch or indulge in a good book. But there's that whole day job...

But, I have a nice five day weekend coming up. My kids don't start school until January 3, so I'll be taking a few days off to spend at home with them. I'm hoping to get in a lot of writing during this break. Well, not actual writing, but I plan to finish up the plotting and do a lot of research. I visited the library yesterday over my lunch hour - lucky me, the library is only a block away from where I work! - and got some great books.

I also am planning
to attend the Pikes Peak Writers Conference this year in Colorado Springs - not too far from where I grew up - and I joined the Pikes Peak Writers group yesterday. I haven't belonged to a writing group for quite awhile, and I'm excited to be part of a community again - especially such a great one! Granted, I doubt I'll make any of the meetings since they're in Colorado, but there are other ways to stay in touch during this global age. :-)
Happy Friday!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Unwrapped


I do believe I had the most relaxing Christmas ever yesterday. It was just my husband, me, and my daughter. Hubby made a nice dinner of turkey (which he slow-cooked and the meat literally fell off the bone!), mashed potatoes, stuffing, and apple pie for dessert. We opened presents and of course, I got some terrific gifts - lots of Snoopy stuff, Ian McEwan's Atonement, a scent diffuser, a special picture of my grandmother and I taken when I was little, and other assorted goodies. Since my brother just returned from his vacation yesterday, we're having Christmas tonight at my mom's house - so there will be a few more gifts to open.

For the rest of the day, we watched movies - I think four in all. I sat on the couch pretty much all day. And normally this would drive me nuts - I can't sit still that long - but yesterday, it was just fine. I missed my family back home, but at the same time, it was nice not to have to pile the kids into the car and drive for five hours. If I only had access to a private jet plane...

The cats didn't disturb the tree on Christmas Eve, bless their little hearts, but they must have figured the time had come to make a mess of it again last night. I woke up to ornaments on the floor, branches skewed, and ribbon falling off. They looked pretty pleased with themselves. I just sighed and ignored the mess for when I come home from work.

And how was your Christmas?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Is Near!


With only one more day until Christmas, it's a relief to have everything done. Last-minute shopping is finished, tree is repaired from the kitties' latest escapade, gifts wrapped, and a plate of sugar cookies sits on the table.

This afternoon, my daughter and I spent some time together wrapping gifts and putting together puzzles. (Oh yes, and eating sugar cookies.) We didn't get any snow or a storm of any kind over the weekend, but we'll still have a white Christmas as there is plenty of snow left on the ground.

And here's another cause for celebration - my grandmother has internet! I am so excited that she'll be able to read my blog and email me whenever she wants to. Hi, Grandma Lucy!!!

We'll be having butterball soup tomorrow night for Christmas Eve dinner, a family tradition ever since I can remember. And we'll open a few presents, but we'll save some for Christmas morning. After all, we still have a little one in the house who is waiting for Santa!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Four Days!


Is Christmas really only four days away? Wow. I honestly wonder where 2007 went.
I finished up some shopping last night, but I have just a few more items to get tonight with hubby, then we'll be done. I'm also buying groceries tonight since we have a nice winter storm warning for the weekend. No need to be stranded in my house without Diet Pepsi or chocolate!
I have a four-day weekend ahead of me and I plan to make the most of it. This will include:
1) Rearranging the Christmas tree that the kitties have mercilessly destroyed
2) Making homemade cherry cheesecake for Christmas dinner
3) Curling up on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa and watching an old movie or reading a book
4) Researching the novel and writing down ideas
6) Wrapping presents!
7) Keeping my daughter from finding the presents before I wrap them!
8) Relaxing and enjoying the Christmas spirit!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

To Make You Giggle


A few laughs from my seven-year-old daughter:

She and I were in my Jeep a few weeks ago waiting for it to warm up and she said, "Mom, I can see my breath."

"Yeah, it's pretty cold," I replied.

She saw the exhaust coming from the Jeep and said, "And I can see the car's breath, too!"

And the second one...

The other night, my husband and I and the two kids were sitting around the living room just talking. No t.v., no music, just conversation.
My daughter asked, "Mom, why are we just sitting around doing nothing?"

I replied, "It's family bonding time."

Without skipping a beat, she said, "It's family BORING time."

Ah....kids!
And isn't the little "movie" I made for yesterday's post just awesome? :-)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

'Tis the Season to Be Unproductive

Urgh.

I am either not motivated due to my lack of exercise (entirely my own fault), or my motivation to write has been overtaken by the Christmas season.

At any rate, I don't feel like doing much of anything when I get off work. I've watched several movies over the last few days, including this one (which I highly recommend), and had zero interest in doing any sort of freelance work.

I have, however, done character work on my novel. But that's about it.

Last year at this time, I was busy editing my last novel and when I look back at my blog archives, it appears I was quite busy. Not so this year. I've had a hard time getting myself to move, both figuratively and literally, on a lot of stuff since hubby's summer medical experience, and we continue to feel the aftershocks of it - i.e. bills, job woes, etc.

I'm also fighting off a cold or some other sinus problem. I wake up feeling ok, but by about 2 p.m., I start to feel icky again. Last night I went home and went straight to bed. I watched two more movies which is a feat in itself. I never watch t.v. during the week.

I guess I'm accepting the fact that I'm going to be unproductive in lots of areas of my life right now - exercise, diet (I'm trying to watch what I eat, but it's so darn hard right now!), freelancing, and well, writing. I admit it - I'm being lazy. I have a day job that is sucking all my energy out of me right now.

If you're a writer, are you writing during this busy time?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Check List



Christmas List of Things to Do:

Baked Christmas sugar cookies - check

Decorated house - check

Sent Christmas cards - check

Hosted holiday tea - postponed due to freak snowstorm

Attended Christmas play - check

Shopping - uh...half-check. I'm almost done. Hubby and I are going shopping tonight to finish up.

Consumed more Christmas goodies than allowed by current diet plan - CHECK.

What do you have left to do for the holidays?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

It's a World War II Christmas!


Tonight I'm headed to our local community playhouse to see G.I. Holiday Jukebox. Here's a description:
It's Christmas-time, the world is at war, and for 90 brief minutes, the world is at peace as our five singing stars deliver some of the best music of the 1940's, framed by a collection of holiday and Christmas music, ranging from the classic to corny to silly and sentimental!
And since we just got four more inches of snow, it's the perfect evening for some holiday entertainment!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Have I Been Writing?




I know - two posts in one day. What's up with that?

Maybe it's the compulsive need to share what's going on in my writing life.

Well, here's the scoop.

I've been:

Freelancing
Writing copy at work
Researching

But the last time I sat down to write a story was...um...months ago.

Why?

In this case, a simple answer won't suffice. A bit of detail is needed.

A few months ago, I had just finished completely outlining my next novel - it was a contemporary mainstream novel set in Italy. My character sketches were complete. The plot lines worked out. In fact, everything was done that needed to be for me to start the book. And start it I did. I wrote the first few pages. Then I promptly stopped.

It just didn't feel right.

This novel is not meant to be told - not right now. I'm not sure why. It's a terrific story and I love my characters - but, and this is a major but, I fell completely out of love with it. Whenever I think of writing my novels, a wave of excitement cascades through me. I can't wait to jump into it and see what my characters are doing. But there was a level of reluctance and - dare I say it? - actual dread at writing this novel.

My instincts screamed at me to stop, and stop now, before I damaged my psyche any further.

Maybe it was because I'm not ready to write the story, haven't experienced enough in life to do it justice. Maybe it's because I'm not being true to what I really love to write - World War II.

So to answer the question, "Have I been writing?" the question is, yes and no. I've been writing at work and on a freelance basis, but I haven't started Chapter One on the next novel. But, I have been researching the next novel, jotting down character notes and figuring out the plot. I anticipate that I'll be ready to write Chapter One by January.

This whole experience has taught me a very powerful thing: listen to your instincts.

I could have spent months on this novel, struggling to write each word, and feeling lousy the entire time. Eventually, I would have figured it out and abandoned it, but not after I lost lots of time.

The next time you're struggling with a project and you just don't feel "right" about it, listen to that voice. It may be trying to tell you something.

It's a Scooby Doo Thing



I collect Snoopy. If I see something Snoopy in the stores, I like to look at it and maybe even buy it. My collection has grown quite a bit over the years, but I've had to say "no" to a lot of things simply because I don't have room for it. And there is a LOT of Snoopy stuff out there.

My daughter collects Scooby Doo. Collects may not be the right word. Let's see...how to describe this? She hoards Scooby Doo. For her last birthday, we got her all Scooby Doo stuff - even down to the sugar cake decorations. She still has them. Yes, six months after her birthday, there are still little sugar heads of Scooby Doo in her special wooden box.

I thought perhaps it was just a phase. After all, she liked the Disney Princesses for awhile, then Clifford the Big Red Dog was a hit for a few months, and Hello Kitty also caught her attention for a few months. But none of them lasted as long as Scooby Doo.

At last count, she had accumulated more than 50 Scooby Doo books in the past two years. GoodWill, garage sales, Barnes & Noble, and school book orders (not to mention library book sales!) have contributed to this huge amount. And then there's the movies. She has at least six or seven Scooby Doo DVD's and probably as many VHS tapes. She has Scooby Doo stuffed animals, Christmas ornaments, wrapping paper, and well, anything else that she can find that has Scooby Doo. We even found a Scooby Doo Halloween costume for her this year and she absolutely loved it - even to the point of wearing it before Halloween and playing outside. She's such an animal lover that putting on the costume of a dog was perfect play time!

I've asked her if she will still like Scooby Doo when she's older. "I will love Scooby Doo forever," she tells me. At this point, I'm inclined to believe here. We're going on two years of the Scooby Doo phase and I think it's really not a phase at all. My brother told me last night that he's never seen a kid so taken with one thing for so long. I've always loved Snoopy and had Snoopy stuff growing up. Never to the level that my daughter has, of course. She's going to have quite the collection by the time she hits high school!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sugar Cookies and Christmas






Aren't these sugar cookies gorgeous? Well, they should be! After all, my seven-year-old daughter and I decorated them! :-)
I decided to make the sugar cookies last night and I only cheated a little - well, ok. I used store-bought dough and store-bought frosting. The only thing homemade about these is the love that went into each individual cookie. I rolled them out, cut out shapes (and decided that I really need to get some more cookie cutters!) and baked them, and my daughter helped me decorate.
The only SNAFU of the evening was the frosting. I had originally bought the reduced sugar whipped vanilla kind since I was trying to cut a few calories out. Unfortunately, that frosting tasted, well, really, really bad. And no way was I going to put that on my sugar cookies!
So off to the store I went and came back with some divine cream cheese frosting and red and green sprinkles. Calories, smalories! I've been eating very good the last few days and even cut back on calories so that I can have a cookie or two.
And as promised, here is a picture of my Christmas tree, although not looking its best since I've decided to wait until my holiday tea get-together on Saturday to straighten it up from the kitties adventures. Besides, if I fix it, it will just be torn apart again by morning. It's easier on me this way.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Icy Morning



We woke up to the sound of my cell phone ringing, and the automated voice on the other end said, "Due to weather conditions, school is not in session today."

When I went out to my Jeep, I could see why. There was a good half-inch of pure ice covering my vehicle. And of course, it was on the roads, too!

I'm not kidding when I say it took me a good 20 minutes to get all the ice off my poor red Jeep. I was using my ice scraper as a hammer, pounding on the thick slabs to get them to loosen up. After a combination of a defroster on full blast and my hammering abilities, I finally managed to get it so I could see out the windows.

Started reading an autobiography last night of Gene Tierney. She is one of my favorite classic film actresses. She starred in one of my all-time favorite films, Laura, as well as The Ghost and Mrs. Muhr.

Classic Hollywood holds a special place in my heart. I grew up watching the Silver Screen Classics on PBS, and I've never stopped loving these old films.

In fact, today would be the perfect day to stay home with my kids, grab a cup of hot chocolate and a frosted sugar cookie, and pop in a classic movie like Christmas in Connecticut. Maybe tonight... :-)

Monday, December 10, 2007

What to Choose?



My stepson will be in high school next year. Gulp. That is a bit scary considering I became his stepmom when he was only six years old. We've come a long way since then and he's grown into a handsome young man who is always on the phone with his friends and actually puts his clothes on the night before school to see "how they look" for school the next day.

Now it's time to choose his courses for high school. And I gotta admit, I'm a little jealous. My tiny high school (I had 32 kids in my graduating class) didn't offer such cool classes as "Literature of the Holocaust" or "Study of Music Lyrics" or "U.S. Military History." Nope. I had the plain ol' English 9, 10, 11, and English College Prep, and we covered it all - Shakespeare, American and World Lit, etc. My history classes were pretty generic, too - world history, American history, and world geography.

Since he wants to go to an NCAA university and play football, we've already got to prepare for the courses he'll need to get in to one of those schools. I think the poor kid is a bit overwhelmed. "High school is going to be hard, Mom," he said. And I agreed. But man, it sure didn't look this hard when I was in high school.

When I went back to graduate school five years ago, I had the time of my life - for the first semester. I loved going to class and soaking in the lectures, reading all the assignments, and yes, even taking the tests. It was a challenge to me. But by the second semester, I was already tired of it simply because I'm such an independent gal - I want to read books that I want to read, not because they're assigned. And tests? Blech. Hate them.

If I could just go and sit in on a few lectures, didn't have to pay for them, and didn't get any college credit (read: just go sit and listen and that's IT) I would leap at the chance. Maybe I could do this, but I'm sure it would cost me a bit. My mind gets stagnant after awhile, which is why that first semester of grad school was such an awesome experience. I was like the proverbial sponge, soaking everything up. And there's just something about going and sitting to listen to someone lecture that is different than reading it in a book.

So tell me. If you had a chance to go sit in on a class and not worry about tests or taking notes or anything, but were just there to listen and learn, what class would you take?

Friday, December 07, 2007

All I Want for Christmas...


All I want for Christmas is a week of uninterrupted writing time.

Yeah, I don't think I'll get it either! But I can dream...

Last night I finished up my Christmas tree and it looked perfect. Unfortunately, when I woke up, it was far from it. Miss Gretchen, my prim and proper kitty, decided to have a little fun with my decorations. I was not happy. But maybe I can get out the ol' squirt gun over the weekend and keep her away from it, and the discipline will carry through during the work week when I'm not at home!

I also watched Pirates of the Carribbean 3. Let me just say one thing - the first Pirates movie is, in my estimation, the absolute best of the three and I would have been perfectly content if they'd just made that one movie. I found the other two (especially the third one) to be lacking the magic of the first.

But that's just me. Others will, no doubt, disagree with me and that's fine. I was just extremely disappointed in the ending. The writer in me was literally yelling at the t.v. Ah well.

Today is also the 66th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941.

It's also Friday, the best day of the week! Hope you have a good one!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Let It Snow!


Yesterday's tragedy at the Omaha mall is still fresh in my mind, especially since I just watched the news conference where the victims' names were released. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved in this horrific, senseless act.
Snow and Hot Cocoa
I woke up to a beautiful white world - big, fat flakes continue to fall here in Nebraska and it's simply gorgeous outside. Driving isn't too fun, but after years of dealing with the white stuff, you learn how to drive in it. :-)
Last night my daughter and I went over to my mom's new apartment - it is so very nice. She has a fireplace and had a warm, cozy fire going. We made hot cocoa, frosted sugar cookies, and read stories. The storytelling was my daughter's idea. She had brought a bunch of her Scooby Doo books and a few of them were winter-related, so each of us took a turn reading a story to the rest. It was a nice, relaxing evening.
Tonight I plan to stay home and enjoy my Christmas decorations, maybe work on a few freelance projects, and do a bit of research for my next novel. And I saved a sugar cookie from last night, so I plan to have it and a hot cup of cocoa for my evening snack!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Please Pray

Only 45 minutes from me, nine people are dead - one is the gunman.

During the height of the shopping season, a gunman walked into an Omaha mall and opened fire in a store called Von Maur.

I am literally sick to my stomach.

I can't listen to the news anymore. I've heard it all afternoon. I just want to run home and hug my kids.

Please pray for the people affected by this horrible act - and for the families who lost loved ones.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Beauty of Creativity


I took a nap last night. I didn't really want to, but I messed up my upper right shoulder yesterday (it's happened before) and I was in some pretty good pain (it's better this morning, but a trip to the chiropractor may still be in order). Hubby took care of me, made sure the kids were taken care of, and I drifted off to la-la land for a few hours.

When I woke up, the kids and hubby were all asleep. And I was bursting with ideas.

I'm not sure what it is with the whole sleeping process, but sometimes it really kickstarts my creativity. After I ate a few bowls of cereal (my favorite before-bed snack!), I sat down with my notebook and pen and just wrote. The story came pouring out of me. Snippets of dialogue, character motivations, the theme...in fact, just about everything came to my mind fully-formed.

Was it the nap? The four aspirin I took to dull the pain? Or just the fact that I allowed my brain time to percolate instead of forcing myself to be creative?

I'm not sure. But I now have my next novel outline in hand and there was none of the struggle of trying to figure things out like I suffered through on the last few plotting attempts. Everything was just, well, there.

Absolutely beautiful.

Photo by Gaeten Lee

Monday, December 03, 2007

It's December!


We escaped the ice/snow storm and only had a light dusting of snow on the ground this morning. Yay! It's still pretty cold out, though, so I've got on my warm fuzzy slippers and comfy sweater.

Saturday night we watched Santa Claus 3 (it was just ok, nothing spectacular) and it got me in the mood to decorate. So my daughter and I drug out all our boxes full of Christmas decorations and got to work. Unfortunately, when it came time to put up our small little artificial tree that we've had for 8 years now, part of the base was missing. Hubby thought we could rig something up to put under it, but we had to abandon the project for the night. My daughter was devastated, and proceeded to write her daddy a note that said, "Dear Dad: I really want to decorate the tree right now! Please, please please please...(she had about twenty "pleases" in there)."

Well, he saw it Sunday morning and his heart melted. He went and bought us a brand new tree that is just gorgeous. It took me about three hours to completely put it together, string the lights, and decorate it, but it was worth it. I'll take a pic of it here in the next few days.

I just have a few finishing touches to do on the decorating, and then that will be done.

We had my company Christmas party Friday night and it was so much fun! I wore my red dress, my husband looked incredibly hot, and we didn't have to worry about walking in any snow. The food was great at the party and we did a fun trivia game that our table won, so now I have a nifty little trophy to put on my desk at work. :-) We did an after-party get-together at a local 50's themed lounge and I had a divine glass of champagne and felt in a very festive mood. It was great to get out with my husband, get to know my co-workers better, and celebrate!

Now that the party is over, the decorating (almost) done, I've only got a few things left on the agenda for the holidays:

1) Baking (I'm going to make homemade sugar cookies and some other goodies)

2) My 3rd Annual Victorian Tea - I invited a few friends over to drink tea, listen to Christmas music, eat goodies, and just relax

3) Christmas shopping (nope, I haven't even started!)

And in between all this, which really isn't a lot, I'm going to start writing the next novel. I had two more ideas hit me last night just as I was falling asleep and I actually remembered them this morning. They're quite fun and I can't wait to explore them more.

I also bought Eloisa James' newest book - An Affair Before Christmas. I haven't read a romance in a long time, but this takes place in one of my favorite time periods - the Georgian period - and it's set during Christmas, so I couldn't resist!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ready to Write

Since I switched gears about a month ago and decided to put aside the Italian Duet novel, I've been plotting my next book. I have so many ideas that it's been hard to pin down what I want to write exactly and what ideas need to show up as future books.

So I've been a plotting gal for the last month. And I'm heartily sick of it.

I want to write, darn it. But I fear that if I start writing now, when I don't know a few key elements of my plot, I'll end up stuck. And I really don't want that to happen. Plus I have research to do! Sure, I'm involved in the writing process, but I really want to just sit down in front of the blank screen (yes, I really do!) and start creating.

With this weekend's weather forecast, I may have the opportunity. We're supposed to get a doozy of a storm that may turn into a lot of snow. Perfect weather for creating!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Snowmen and Santa and Reindeer, Oh My!





My daughter was sick yesterday, so I decided to tackle one of my painting projects. I'd already completed the snowman with the Christmas tree above a few weeks ago, but Monday night my daughter and I went to Hobby Lobby and picked out a few more decorations to paint. She wanted to do Santa with his reindeer and I picked out the door hanging with the snowmen, penguin, reindeer, and Santa.
After sleeping from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., (yup, she definitely didn't feel good!) she woke up, said she felt a little better, and asked me if she could paint. I thought it would be a nice, relaxing activity for her, one that wouldn't involve any running or jumping as she is wont to do after she's slept for so long!
I think they turned out pretty darn cute.
Do you have any Christmas crafts you're planning to do this year?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blog Tour: A Shadow of Treason



Tricia Goyer continues her Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War series with A Shadow of Treason. Set in Spain during the 1930s, this moving novel explores a little known facet of history - American involvement against the Nazis during the Spanish Civil War.

A Shadow of Treason continues the story of Sophie Grace from A Valley of Betrayal and her journey to help the Spanish in their desperate fight against the Fascists. But this time, Sophie must confront a betrayal of the past that may in turn threaten her future.

A wonderful novel full of suspense, love, and forgiveness. Read the exciting first chapter here!

Sign up now for Tricia's newsletter and be entered to win A Shadow of Treason and A Valley of Betrayal!

About Tricia Goyer: Tricia Goyer was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference "Writer of the Year" in 2003. Tricia was a finalist for the Gold Medallion Book Award and she also won ACFW's "Book of the Year" for Long Historical Romance in 2005 AND in 2006. She has written hundreds of articles, Bible Study notes, and both fiction and non-fiction books. She's married to John, and they have three great kids whom she homeschools: Cory (17), Leslie (14), and Nathan (12). They make their home in Northwest Montana with their dogs, Lilly and Jake.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Counting My Blessings

Going home always makes me realize just how very blessed I am. I have a wonderful family and we never fail to have a great time together.

Thanksgiving this year was all that it could be. We didn't get to go to the movies, but we did enjoy a lot of great conversation, laughter, and food. Oh my, the food! I had a bit too much of everything, but hey, that's ok, right? ;-)

My family stayed with my grandmother (That's one thing about going home - we never have to stay in a motel!) and I thoroughly enjoyed talking classic movies and music with her. It's pretty darn cool that I can mention classic movie stars and my grandmother knows exactly who I'm talking about. I also made some copies of my World War II-era music CD's for her which she really enjoyed.

At my in-laws, we played Mad Gab. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time! It's a really fun word game. Amazon.com describes it best: "Teams work to decipher groups of unrelated words into real phrases before time runs out. Dew Wino Hue becomes, for example, Do I know you?" Highly recommended.

AND...I also managed to get a bit of work done on the novel. I cracked open the AlphaSmart a few times, but mostly on the drive home. When you have miles and miles of straight, open road ahead of you (and your husband is driving!), it's the perfect time to mull over your characters or difficult plot points.

We got home around 6 p.m. last night and thankfully, the kitties had been pretty good. The only major destruction we found was that they'd climbed on the kitchen counter and unraveled the paper towel roll. Now I just have to figure out how to keep them from destroying the Christmas tree! Any pointers would be appreciated. :-)

Have a great day!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!


How to Cook a Turkey
by Chef Marsh (a.k.a. my 7-year-old daughter)
First, you buy a turkey.
Then drive home.
Next, you cook the turkey for 200 minutes.
Last, take the turkey out and enjoy and that is how to cook a turkey.
Happy Thanksgiving and blessings to you all!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Anticipation!


Every year, my family has a tradition. We always go to the movies over Thanksgiving vacation. This year, I'm hoping we go see this one: National Treasure: Book of Secrets.
I absolutely loved the first National Treasure movie, and this one looks like it will meet or beat my expectations.
You can watch the trailer here.
Any holiday-release movies you're looking forward to?


Monday, November 19, 2007

Short Work Week!


Wow. Saturday was, in a word, awesome. I got so much done and was in such a good mood that I didn't want the day to end. I got caught up on the all the laundry (a feat in itself!), cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom, played catch and dodgeball with my daughter, and ate too much dark chocolate. Perfect day!

Sunday was less so as I slept in rather late - you know it's bad when in your dreams you're telling yourself to wake up. It's a darn good thing I have an alarm clock to rouse me from sleep on the days I have to be somewhere at a certain time.

It's a short work week this week because of Thanksgiving - we're planning to head back home and see the family. Can't wait!

And over my lunch break today, I'm hammering out my rough synopsis on my AlphaSmart. I am loving this thing!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Networking

I am a frequent visitor of Agent Query.com, so when I went there today and saw that they have just unveiled a new networking tool, I jumped at the chance to see what it was all about. And I wasn't disappointed! This isn't like your ordinary message board - it's much more sophisticated than that. It's called Agent Query Connect.

After answering a few simple questions, you can find people with the same interests as you - writing interests, that is. And it's not just a place for writers, but for agents, editors, publicists - anyone in the publishing industry. This promises to be the place for writers to network - both published and wannabe published.

I've already signed up. What are you waiting for? :-)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Random Thoughts

Nothing of importance today, so here are a few random thoughts from my scattered brain.

--Mama Kitty has four kitties in all - she did the exact opposite of last time and had three kitties then waited 24 hours to have the fourth one. Odd. Two black and two calico. They're all in the bottom of my closet, thus I have a pile of clothes sitting on my dresser. Sigh...

--My mother had an Alphasmart sitting around. Yes, you read that right. Sitting around. She had a friend give it to her months and months ago and when we moved her to her new apartment last week, she showed it to me and said, "I don't know what to do with this." I think my eyes widened a few inches when I saw it! Since Stephanie Bond had shown us her own Alphasmart at the writing conference in October and raved about it, I'd been thinking of buying one of the little gems. And here my mom had one just sitting around!

I've been playing with it and I love how easy it is - turn it on and you're ready to go. No waiting for programs to load, no worrying about batteries or power cords. It's easy to type on, lightweight, and a breeze to use.

--I'm wondering if they're something to the whole feng shui issue. When my house is a mess, I can't stand to be around it. I feel unfocused and generally growly. But when everything is in its place, the carpet is vacuumed, dishes done, tables cleared of clutter, I feel so much better about, well, everything.

--Have you stopped to take notice of the autumn colors in your part of the world? Tell me about them in the comments section if you'd like! Here in Nebraska, it's been just gorgeous. Lots of golds, oranges, reds, yellows...and I love that crunchy sound when you walk in piles of leaves. Autumn is definitely here!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Are You Writing What You Love?



Two reasons for the cute kitty picture today.

1) Mama Kitty a.k.a. Katie had her litter of kittens this morning. Yes, yes, I am a bad pet owner, considering she just had a littler seven months ago. Unfortunately, by the time she'd weaned the kittens and was able to get fixed, my hubby landed in the hospital. And we all know how that ended up! Since we had no extra money for getting Katie fixed, we just tried to keep her in the house. She snuck out a few times, though, and we couldn't catch her. The result? More kitties. Sigh...

(Rant: why do vets charge so much for spaying and neutering? They want to control the pet population, but it is so darn expensive to get the animals fixed that a lot of people can't afford it, which equals unwanted animals! I just got Slick (the male cat from the last litter) fixed and it cost a little over $100. That's not chump change!)

Well, we're taking care of the problem as soon as these new kittens are weaned (even if I have to borrow the money!). We woke up this morning at 5:40 a.m. to their little mews and so far she has had three. Last time she went a whole 24 hours after giving birth to one, so I was surprised that we had three already. I had to go to work, so I'm hopeful she'll have had them all by the time I get home. I've already got a home for one of them, and will make sure the others have good homes, too. Then it is off to the vet for Miss Katie!

2) Ok, second reason for the cute kitty picture. This little guy looks like he is really into what he's writing. Are you?

If you're a writer, are you writing what you love? If you'll recall a few days ago, I posted about my determination to write what I love and make a living writing what I love.

I haven't changed my stance. And strangely enough, the ideas for my new novel have been coming fast and furious. I get ideas on the treadmill and doing the dishes and trying to fall asleep at night. Strange, considering the last novel (the Italian novel) was like pulling teeth to get everything figured out. Make of that what you will, but I believe it was God's little way of telling me, "Write this one later. You're not ready for it yet." So it's been put to the back burner.

Now, your turn. Are you writing what you love? Are you excited to sit down and get to work, or are you trying to tailor your novel to what's selling? And here's another question. If you're not writing what you love, is it difficult for you to write or can you even notice the difference?




Friday, November 09, 2007

What's Up?


The blog-o-sphere has been rather quiet lately.
On my part, I've been busy researching and plotting the next novel.
What about you?
Do tell!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Believing!

Yesterday's little "open letter" after receiving my rejection was very, very good for me. After I wrote it, I felt so much better - ready to tackle this business again. I just sometimes wish this business wasn't so darn tough. But hey, I could choose to do something else. No one is forcing me to write a novel and try and sell it.

But, I am a writer. It's what I do and what I'll continue to do.

Last night I hunkered down with my WW2 research books and loved every second of it. (I know, I'm a big ol' nerd!) Here's the funny thing. When I write contract stuff for encylopedias or any other piece that requires research for someone else, I don't enjoy it nearly as much, even if the article is on a topic I love. But once I start researching for my project, it's a whole 'nother story.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

An Open Letter

After another rejection, I had to write this.

Animals in Fiction


I'm a sucker for novels that feature animals as one of the characters. Heck, they don't even have to play a main part, but just the fact that the main character has a dog or a cat or whatever can reveal a lot about that person. Children's books abound with animal characters and I gotta say, I'm a sucker for a lot of them - particularly the Bear Snores On and other books in the same series by Karma Wilson who, incidentally, kindly responded to my gushing email about how much I loved the Bear books.
One of the best books I ever read featured a Golden Retreiver as one of the main characters - Dean Koontz's Watchers. It remains one of my favorite books to this day.
My next book will have a character who has a pet - and it will undoubtedly be a dog. But I'm a dog lover and thus, it's a natural thing for me to want to include dogs in my novels.
How do you feel about pets in fiction? Like or dislike? And are there any great books you've read - adult or children's - that have prominently featured animals as the main character?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Watch This

This is quite ingenious - and very entertaining. I can't imagine the work involved in making this - the animator said it took him five months.
Amazing!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Reasons to Love the Weekend



What a great discussion we had from Wednesday's post. Loved it! And I answered each and every one of you in the comments section. Would love to keep the discussion going!

(Had to share a pic of the kitties - brother and sister curled up next to each other. Awwww...)

Alrighty. Weekend activities. Here goes.

Picked up Slick (the black cat in the photo above) from the vet. He got neutered. Poor guy wasn't too happy when I brought him home, but it's in his best interest, y' know. ;-)

Deep cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom. Vacuumed. Did laundry. Did dishes. Bought this dress (in red) for my company Christmas party. Cannot wait! It has a vintage feel to it that I just adore. In fact, I plan on doing my hair circa WW2-style - or maybe a good Veronica Lake style. And then I have to get the perfect shoes, of course! I'm thinking of these.

Spent a little too much time surfing this wonderful hang-out and finding all sorts of cool info.

Tried to work out details for my new WW2 book, and even had my husband writing down ideas. And of course, I came up with a ton of stuff - now it's narrowing it down to what I really want to work on.

Slept in Sunday morning - and was very grateful that we had to turn back the clocks and hadn't done it the night before, so when I woke up, I realized I had an extra hour! It made for a nice, long day.

Went and got groceries, worked on housecleaning a bit more, then hopped on the treadmill and my ab machine for a good, hard workout. I'm blogging about my weight loss with a few gals from across the pond (Hi, Diane and Kate!) and it helps so much to have others on the journey with you. I stepped on a scale last week and my worst fears were confirmed - I did gain 10 pounds back. AAAARRRGHHH. Ah well. I'm back on the wagon again. I have healthy meals for my lunches this week and have started walking and working out again.

Writing plans for this week include typing up a synopsis of my WW2 book and ironing out the details. I also have to write a speech on the origins of Veteran's Day - I'm speaking at a senior citizens' center. I spoke there before and thoroughly enjoyed it.

(Gotta throw this in there...If anyone is interested in starting a blog devoted to writing WW2-era stuff, email me at melissaamateis at earthlink dot net)

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trends and Fiction


Here's a question.

How does a trend become a trend? For awhile, chick lit was super hot. Now, according to Stephanie Bond and other sources, chick lit is well, not hot. Werewolves, vampires, and anything with paranormal elements is super hot (in the romance world anyway).

Here's my humble opinion on the subject. A trend becomes a trend when an agent/editor/publishing house takes a chance on something new and innovative. Bridget Jones by Helen Fielding was probably one of the first break-out chick lit books (and I loved both of them). And then, suddenly the market was flooded with chick lit. It boomed for a few years, but now, the popularity has suddenly dropped.

Regency-historical novels continue to be popular. Have you seen the boom of Jane Austen-related books? There's even a few movies about Jane Austen and her life, and not adaptations of her stories.

So here's something I don't quite understand when it comes to World War II fiction. I've had agents pass on my manuscript because "World War II is a hard sell at the moment." Well...ok. But then I point to the success of Ken Follett, Alan Furst, Jack Higgins, and...

Wait a minute. Those are all male writers. Female novelists who write about World War II are few and far in between. Why is that? The most obvious answer, of course, would be that men generally are more interested in military subjects, i.e. war.

BUT...

Wars involve everyone - man, woman, child. World War II saw the advent of women, especially American women, enterting the workforce, of keeping the homefront going while their men went off to war. Women were in the military, too - as WACS, as WAVES, as army nurses, as airplane pilots, and yes, even as spies. Books abound on women's role during World War II. I should know - I have most of them!

Yet World War II fiction written by women continues to fall short of the male novelists' output. The inspirational market has more World War II-set fiction than the secular, and though there are a few female novelists that have written secular war fiction - Anita Shreve, Pam Jenoff, and Morag McKendrick Pippin - the balance is clearly in the men's favor.

This whole idea intrigues - and frustrates me. I have so many tales I want to tell about World War II - but is the market there?

I believe it is. Look at the popularity of Hollywood movies like Saving Private Ryan, Pearl Harbor, Black Book, and Schindler's List, to name a few. Ken Burns' documentary was hugely successful. History books on new subjects of the war continue to be released every month. The interest is there.

I can think of only one solution to getting the powers-that-be in the publishing industry to sit up and take notice of our need for World War II fiction written by women - write a great book. A high-concept book. A book that will spark a new trend.

You know that burn-out I had last week? Well, consider it gone. I now feel like I have a mission - to write a book that will spark a revolution of sorts, one that will open the market to more novels set during WW2 written by women.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on World War II fiction. Ever read any? Have any desire to read any? Do you have any ideas on why it's not a big seller in women's fiction?

(And if you would be so kind, please take the poll in the left-handed column).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Outrage

I don't often use this blog to discuss potentially "hot-button" subjects. We all have our opinions, after all, and I like to keep this blog to, well, my writing.

But I can't stay silent on this subject.

If you have kids, especially little girls, I'm sure you've heard of the Bratz dolls. I've never liked them for a few reasons, but the main one is that they look like little prostitutes. I'm not being harsh, really I'm not. But dolls wearing belly-showing shirts, short-shorts, mini-skirts, high-heeled platform shoes, and tons of make-up, is just a bit much for a girl aged 4-10 or so to be playing with. My daughter was given a Bratz doll for Christmas at one point - I vowed never to buy her one. But since she's not into dolls (she is a huge Scooby Doo fan) I didn't worry too much about it.

I'm thanking God right now that she could care less about dolls, especially the Bratz ones, after reading this article. If the American Psychological Association is issuing warnings about these dolls, we better sit up and take notice. Our current society teaches our children - especially young girls - that their bodies are the most important thing about them. I'm not being a prude - but come on. Some of the girls clothes in stores today I would never let my daughter wear. In fact, that's another blessing I have to count - she doesn't like skirts. She's a jeans and t-shirt gal. At this particular time in our culture, I think I'm glad she doesn't want to get all dolled up with the make-up and hairspray, etc.

Being a woman is a wonderful thing. But where has our femininity gone? Even I have fallen victim to the mentality that I have to show a bit of skin to get some respect. That is so darn backwards, isn't it? What about modesty? Now if you wear a long skirt, you're looked at as being a prude. Less is more in the world of fashion. But we're adults. We can make our own decisions on what we want to wear. That's our prerogative.

But here is the kicker. Our children are now the targets. The Bratz dolls are not your average Barbie dolls - Barbie was tame compared to the Bratz! The name alone is insulting. Yet someone is marketing these dolls to children. Hollywood is going to make a movie about them. And their "fashion" is creeping into the girls' clothing departments in every major store. Short mini-skirts. Flimsy, too-tight tops. Shirts that say, "I'm spoiled" and other sayings that really only degrade instead of flatter.

Let's not even get into what this is doing to the little boys of our society. That's a whole 'nother rant. I have a teenager, and let me tell you - the costume I saw his girlfriend wearing to the Halloween party made me eyes pop - and not in a good way. Yet he said it was "hot."

There's something wrong in our culture if our little girls, who should be enjoying their childhood, are worried about how they look. As the mother of a little girl, I refuse to succumb to society's pressure. I have every intention of raising my daughter to be a woman with high self-esteem based on who she is, not what she looks like.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Advice from the Pros

I met Stephanie Bond this weekend. Yes, the Stephanie Bond, the highly successful, prolific, and wonderful novelist. She is the epitome of Southern gentility, very soft-spoken, and gracious.

She gave a one-day workshop at the Nebraska Romance Writer's 5th Annual Conference and although I no longer belong to NRW or RWA, and even though I have been experiencing writer-burn-out, I still went. I wasn't quite sure if I wanted to go, but I'm so glad I did. Not only did I glean some great writing advice and wisdom, but I also feel energized. Two of my friends and I are forming a critique group and we've already set a deadline for ourselves to get started. This has given me focus, and I'm suddenly rarin' to go.

There's just something about being with other writers - face to face - that is, well, essential. I haven't had that lately, and I miss it. Internet communication can only take you so far.

Here's a few tidbits of advice from Stephanie:

--Stephanie always writes a synopsis before she starts the book. Always. Does she sometimes deviate from it? Yes. But what's important is that she has a roadmap of her book. And here is the second important thing she does - she gives that synopsis to her critique partner. That way if there are any holes in the story, her critique partner can point them out before Stephanie even starts writing. This is exactly what my friends and I are going to do - we each have to have a synopsis of our story to each other in two weeks. Here's the crucial part - do not discuss the book with your critique partners before you send them the synopsis. That way they act just like an editor - they know nothing about your book and cannot fill in the holes of the story with the information you've already given them.

--Your story begins on the day your character changes. Simple enough. But this will help you get rid of all that gunky backstory.

--Use definitive sentences in your novel. What are definitive sentences? Think of the most often-quoted movie lines. For example, "This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship." or "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Those lines are memorable and can reflect a turning point for your character, and can set apart the beginning of your book, a chapter, or even a paragraph. Make a conscious effort to include these types of sentences.

--If you're writing a tragic story or it doesn't end in a "happily-ever-after", then above all, do one thing: Leave the reader with hope.

And on the business side of things, if you're struggling to find time to write, remember this: We take as much time as we give ourselves. You're the CEO of your own business - your writing business. Write a business plan to help you keep on track and know where you're going.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Choices We Make

In my younger years - oh, say age five to around age 18 - I was quite a crafty person. I loved to dabble with my grandmother's craft stuff. I drew, painted, sewed, glued, latch-hooked, colored...you name it, I did it.

When I hit 6th grade and started to really focus on my writing, I didn't leave my crafting love behind and continued to do just as much as before. But during college, marriage, and a career, I abandoned it. I got into rubber stamping for awhile after I got married, but I haven't done much of anything with it for a long, long time.

The other day, my daughter and I went to Hobby Lobby again where they had pre-made wooden Christmas decorations on sale. So I selected a few a few, bought some acrylic paint and brushes, and headed home. Wednesday night I decided to not worry about the writing or the housework, and I just sat down to paint.

It was so much fun. I didn't have to worry about a character's motivation or if this particular plot point made sense, I just painted. All I had to worry about was what color I wanted to paint my snowman's scarf!

This led me to wonder at why I chose to pursue writing above my other creative endeavors. Why didn't I pursue art instead? I loved to draw in elementary and high school, but I haven't picked up a pencil to sketch in years. Drawing wasn't the easiest for me, but when I look back, I think it was a lot easier than trying to write a novel.

I guess there's only one answer for this - I had the passion for writing. Sure, I loved to draw and paint and hot glue, but it wasn't a consuming need. I did it because it was fun to do and I enjoyed it. It was a hobby, not a passion.

Writing is my passion. But I've also recognized that I need to take time to just sit and paint and let my mind be creative without being mentally exhausted afterwards. That is what triggered my burn-out. I was focusing on the work and not the fun. And let's not kid ourselves - writing is a lot of work. But it's also a lot of fun. When you lose the fun part, well, it's just a miserable existence.

What about you? Do you do any other creative activities besides write?

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Must-Read: Patricia Wood's Lottery

I really can't say enough good things about Patricia Wood's debut novel, Lottery. It is one of the best books I have ever read - and I have read A LOT of books.

Here's a summary:


Perry L. Crandall may have an IQ of 76, but he is not retarded—he’s just not as fast as everyone else. Perry works at a marine supply store in Everett, Washington, and lives with his wisecracking Gram. After Gram’s death, Perry tries to resume a normal life, but that all changes when he wins Washington State’s $12 million lottery. His famously-callous family suddenly takes an interest in his well-being, and Perry’s fame makes him a target for unscrupulous money grubbers. With the help of his boss, Gary, his best friend Keith, and Cherry, the gum-chewing convenience store girl, Perry has to navigate this scary new world. But just because he’s slow, doesn’t mean he’s stupid…

A truly remarkable novel that will make you think twice about the world around you.

And my second book review (for those interested in my other passion, WW2) is over at my World War II blog - a new picture history of World War II with several never-before-published photos.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Role Reversal


It's fall break this week, which means my kids can stay up late and sleep in late. That's what vacations are for, y'know!
Last night I went to bed and I asked my daughter if she would read me a bedtime story. Her eyes lit up and she said, "Yes!" and then went upstairs to pick out a book. She chose the one pictured above, a book that I absolutely love.
And while I was tucked under the covers, she read me Bear Snores On, even holding it up like her teacher does in the classroom.
I nearly cried. Not only was it a precious memory, but to see her read and sound out the words she didn't know was such a blessing. If you'll remember, she struggled with reading quite a bit. But thanks to the wonderful efforts of her school and the Reading Recovery program, she is back on track.
On Writing
Yesterday, I had a bit of a lull at work. So I decided to do the unthinkable - write. *grin* I had an idea for a story while riding the elevator and I started typing. I didn't think about what I was writing, didn't worry about spelling or grammar, but just wrote. And I got lost in flow, forgot about the noise around me, and just wrote. Will this story ever see the pages of a magazine? Doubtful. But that's perfectly ok. I need to get the idea out of my head that everything I write has to be for publishing purposes. Sometimes, it's ok to write just for writing's sake.
I also had a bit of a breakthrough on the whole burn-out issue, and felt the spark start to slowly flame to life again. But I'm not pushing the issue, and so spent the night reading, learning how to draw Scooby Doo with my daughter, watching Disney's Cars, and talking with my husband.
Thanks to all of you for your great advice and comments on yesterday's post. Each and every one of you is awesome!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Spark Is...Gone?



It's finally time to admit it.

I'm burned out.

I sit down in front of the computer and open up my novel, then I slave over each and every word. It's not fun.

I'm not excited to write right now. When I'm at the day job or in the midst of a particularly bad day, I don't stop and think of my novel and feel a rush of relief because I always have my writing (I used to feel this way all the time, especially when life was tough). Lately, it's more of a yoke around my neck than anything. I've started second-guessing everything that I write. Everything. A little gremlin has popped into my head and said, "You can't write anymore. You lost your talent. It's gone. And it's not coming back. So there!"

I know I shouldn't believe him. But right now, that psychological block is there.

Barbara Bretton wrote a great article on writer burn out. After I read it, I felt better. Yes, it does happen, even to multi-published authors. The creative well runs dry.

I've suspected something was off-kilter for awhile now. My entire mood has been up and down. There are times of the day when I feel really good - and then an hour later, I'll be depressed again.

Maybe it's all just the residual effects of the summer medical disaster with my husband. Maybe I'm still adjusting to the new job. Maybe I am just going through a particularly down period.

Whatever the reason is, it's scaring the crap out of me. I don't like feeling this way. I don't like thinking about my writing and not feeling that burst of happiness. I don't like going through life feeling, well, rather numb.

I don't know what's going on, but I'm trying to take some action. I went to Hobby Lobby yesterday because I felt the need to be creative in something other than writing. I wanted to paint, to draw, do something different. But by the time I got there, that same lackluster feeling overcame me and nothing caught my eye. I decided to make my own charm bracelet, which consisted of picking out charms that represented who I am and then attaching them to the already-made bracelet. That took all of ten minutes to make. I love how it turned out, but it didn't ease the ache in my soul.

I haven't been exercising as much, although I do take a break every afternoon and go and walk. My eating habits are getting better. And this is my favorite time of year! I love fall. I love the leaves changing color. I love the cool breezes. I love preparing for the holidays.

I've also been reading a lot, watching movies, hanging out with my daughter (we colored pictures last night and watched a movie), and spending quality time with my husband.

In a way, I'm grieving for my writing. I want it back. I want to feel that spark again. But it's been doused.

Will it come back? I'm sure of it. But at this point, I'm not going to rush things.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Constant Struggle?

Here's one thing that I've recently learned about writing (okay, maybe not recently, but you get what I mean). No matter how many times you pick yourself up from a bad writing day or no matter how many times you remind yourself to shut off the internal editor when you're writing your first draft, you're going to keep doing it.

Here's what I mean.

I've immersed myself in craft for the past two months. I've studied books, worked on my outline, and prepared myself to write. Now that I'm actually in the writing stage, I'm having a hard time shutting off that internal editor.

Is this the first time this has happened? Absolutely not. Will it be the last? Nope.

Our writing personas are constantly in flux. One day we'll have no problem zipping through our daily word count or coming up with an awesome turn of phrase. The next we'll have a gremlin jumping up and down on our fingers, making us produce absolute rubbish or criticizing every single thing we write.

It's a cycle, isn't it? Every day is different.

But that's what makes the whole writing journey worth it.

Agree or disagree?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bit by the Travel Bug!



I haven't traveled anywhere outside of the U.S. since, oh, 1994! That's pretty bad. But if you're a faithful reader of this blog (thank you!), then you know I'm planning a trip to Italy sometime in the near future.


If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be? Money is no object!


List your top three places!


Here's mine:


1) Italy

2) United Kingdom

3) Germany

Monday, October 15, 2007

We Have Lift Off!


I started Chapter One on the Italian novel, tentatively titled Catch and Release, last night.

And it felt great.

I've been trying to figure out a way to plot this novel so that I don't run into any dead-ends, thus prolonging the entire process. Here's what I came up with. Chapter by chapter outlines. Does this stifle my creativity? On the contrary! Before I started writing last night, I sat down and wrote a short synopsis of everything I wanted to include in this chapter. I sat down at the keyboard and felt, well, free. I didn't have to worry about sitting there and trying to think of what was going to happen next. I could see the scene in my mind.

No, I didn't put every detail in my short chapter synopsis - but just the essence of what I wanted to happen in the chapter. My plan is to write one of these short synopsis for each chapter before I write it. That way I'll hopefully be able to catch any potential problems before they start.

Otherwise, weekend consisted of a bit of shopping, a horrific tension headache on Saturday that thankfully was pretty much gone by Sunday, and lots and lots of rain. We're slated to have thunderstorms and cloudy skies for the rest of the week. Since I thrive in this kind of weather, that's a forecast I can live with!

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Power of Lunch Breaks


Yesterday I decided to ditch the office over my lunch break and head to a new coffeehouse/sandwich shop that just opened here in town. After I ordered my sandwich, I settled into the cozy backroom on a stuffed leather chair, ate my lunch, and then dove into some character work for my novel.

It was glorious. Not only did I have a yummy, healthy sandwich, but I found out new things about my character that will add an amount of depth to the story that I didn't have before.

I have a feeling I'll be heading back to this place several times a week, if possible. Taking that creative break in the middle of the day gave me an energy I didn't have that morning.

It's the weekend, and I plan to start Chapter One on the Italy novel. Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

It's Time

Time to get back in shape. Time to quit with the excuses.

Hubby's whole medical experience over the summer severely derailed my weight loss and workout plan.

Well, now that he's back to work, (albeit with a huge scar on his upper arm) and we've recovered from the whole experience (although not financially), I need to get back on my plan.

To that end, I've resurrected my weight loss blog.

This may not be the best time of the year to get focused on my weight loss with the holidays coming up, but in my experience in the past (I lost 38 pounds in the past year and a half), I know that it doesn't matter what day you start - putting it off only makes the whole thing worse.

I have to get back in that mindset. I was a lot happier in that mindset, let me tell you!

Another powerful motivator, besides my health (I still need to watch my diabetes, even though my levels were great last time I went in for a checkup), is my clothes. They're starting to not fit so well again. I refuse to go back to those old clothes.

So.

Here's to getting back on the wagon and staying on it this time!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hidden Treasures



I'm deep in research mode right now and finding lots of cool info. Little did I know that the region of Piemonte, Italy, (where my great-grandparents are from and where my next novel is set) is the birthplace of Nutella. The region also supplies the yummy hazelnuts used in this divine spread. And little did I know how great Nutella tastes!

My local Walgreens on the corner had a jar of this yummy, creamy stuff, so I decided to try it. Oh. My. Goodness. Wunderbar, though I will have to watch my intake so I don't gain any more weight!

I love all the little facts and hidden treasures I'm finding about the region where my great-grandparents used to live. So much fun!

Hmm...I think my main character might just have a thing for Nutella...

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Downside of Being a Pubbed Author

I just read a book set on the American homefront during World War 2 by a New York Times bestselling author. I'd read the reviews and while they were mixed, I figured I'd go ahead and give the book a shot.

I devoured the book in 24 hours - something I rarely do (of course, I was also sick and didn't feel like doing much else!). But when I got to the last two chapters, the author had her character make a decision that I neither agreed with nor thought plausible. I felt cheated. Because I cared about the author's characters, I decided to come up with my own ending, one which satisfied me much more.

When I went to look at the reviews, I found that I was not the only person who disagreed with the ending.

Now I know that book reviews are subjective - some people will hate a book that others love. But when the same thing is cited in the majority of reviews as being the kicker as to why the book didn't receive the best rating, you've got to take a look at it. For me, the author's decision to end the book this way effectively "broke" the promise that she'd made with me when I started the book.

Some reviewers stated that they'd loved this author's books - all of them - but this one. And that got me to thinking about several things not only about writing, but about the publishing industry in general.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

1) The pressure.
I can't imagine the pressure that NY Times bestselling novelists have to produce great books one right after the other. Does there come a point where they just type the ending, throw up their hands, and say, "Good enough!" ?

2) Deadlines.
I'm talking about the push for authors to produce a book a year or sometimes even more. I remember reading an author's first book - it was extremely well-written, emotionally-intense, and remains one of my favorite books. But her second and third books, well, fell flat. I wonder if it's because she spent all that time on her first book, honing and polishing it until it gleamed, because she had time to do all those things. In the rush-rush world of publishing, I'm thinking authors don't have nearly the luxury of all that time. Pubbed authors, if I'm wrong, let me know!

3) Burn-out.
We all get it. But when you have a deadline and a contract to fulfill, it doesn't much matter, does it? You've got to get the book written and submitted. Does this lead to a less-than-enthusiastic effort on the author's part? And is there a way to avoid burnout as a successful, published author?

Lots and lots of stuff to think about. It only reinforces the notion in my mind that becoming a published novelist will be wonderful, BUT it will have its own stresses to deal with.

In the end, it's the writing that matters. Here's the thing, though. Does the writing get pushed to the side because of one of the three reasons above, or a combination?

Curious to hear what you all think...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

My Body Is Rebelling

Thursday afternoon I felt pretty darn yucky. But after work, I drug myself to the annual library book sale and discovered that the history table had already been picked clean (and of course, every other table had plenty left to offer. This leads me to the conclusion that historians are a mad bunch who love their books). But Thursday night I had a feeling I wasn't going to be feeling much better.

Sure enough, Friday morning I felt worse and decided to take the day off. Not happy about that, but then I realized that if I was to get better, no sense in going to work and allowing my body to get sicker than it already was. I slept until after lunch and hubby was fantastic in bringing me something to eat, plus two great movies - North by Northwest with Cary Grant and a new one with Nicolas Cage called Next. Excellent flicks, both of them. Also have been doing a lot of reading - I finished John Grisham's new book, Playing for Pizza last night (loved it) and finished Elmore Leonard's newest Up In Honey's Room (meh...) the other night. I'm now reading Elizabeth Berg's Dream When You're Feeling Blue.

I just came down with a cold a few weeks ago and my conclusion is that my body is crashing. When I went through everything with hubby, my adrenaline was going all that time and I think that now things are back to normal (hubby starts a job on Monday!!!), I'm bottoming out.

I am of the mindset that I can snap back from things (life-altering things) quite easily. In other words, the week's vacation I had should have been enough to get me "centered" again. Unfortunately, I don't think this is the case at all. I've changed jobs, had financial problems to deal with, finished a novel, and dealt with hubby's health issues. I think I stayed pretty strong through the whole ordeal, but now...now I just want to lay in bed, read a book, watch a movie, and eat bad things for me. The adrenaline has worn off, the "tough girl" attitude has crept off to the shadows, and I'm left with the fall-out.

Never despair, though! This, too, shall pass, and I know I'll get my act together again - eating right, exercising (although I must admit, I have been doing an awful lot of walking lately), and working on my writing.

But tonight I'm going to lay on the couch, crack open my book, and maybe sneak in a bit of chocolate...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Bound to Happen

I'm pretty proud of myself for staying as focused as I did on my writing while my husband went through his medical ordeal that lasted for two months plus (and then there was the whole broken foot thing). I finished the novel, got it sent off, and dealt with everything else.

Now I think my brain is rebelling.

I've been working on my plot for the next novel and while I pretty much have it figured out, there's still some research I need to do before I start writing. But lately, I've been just going home, vegging on the couch, and reading. Granted, I'm reading books set in Italy to give me a better feel for things, but I still feel like I should be doing more.

In short, I don't feel too focused right now. I tend to think that this is a result of being so mentally focused on so many things for so long. Now that things are pretty much back to normal, I think my brain is down-shifting and being lazy.

Of course, I'm my own worst critic. It's not like I've been completely ignoring everything. I research on a daily basis. Of course, I haven't been writing. Maybe that's why I feel a bit of guilt.
I can't write right now because I'm not ready - I still have some critical research to do.

What about you? Do you feel guilty when you're not doing what you think you should be in regards to your writing?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Good Ol' Days


A little more than ten years ago, I graduated from college (undergrad). I wish I could go back for a few weeks and not worry about marriage or mortgages or student loans or...*gasp* gaining weight.

Wish I had that figure back, too!

This is me and one of my best friends in college. We still stay in touch, but it's nothing like it used to be. He's married, has kids, I'm married, have kids, and well, we're both doing the whole "adult" thing. They say that your college years are some of the best of your life. I tend to agree.


The Top 10 Things I Miss About College


1) Ditching class and sleeping in (which I didn't do too often)

2) Wednesday night "history club" meetings at the bar

3) Staying up late because I could

4) Wild excursions out to the country for the evening's "big" party or being otherwise completely spontaneous

5) Ok, I don't necessarily miss this, but I'm glad I did it a few times - being the designated driver.

6) All my friends were right there - not scattered across the entire USA like they are now

7) Eating whatever I wanted without having to worry about gaining weight

8) Wearing whatever I wanted because everything fit perfectly! (dang, I miss being a size 7)

9) Hanging out with friends. Whenever. Wherever.

10) Independence.

What do you miss about college?

Monday, October 01, 2007

When You Think Too Much

Over the weekend, I tried to iron out some specific plot details for the Italy novel. By Sunday evening, I was depressed because I just couldn't figure it out. Why, I thought, do I make things so difficult?

There's a few reasons. One, I don't want to do every other idea that's out there. I want to be original. And in so doing, I can't use the first thing that pops into my mind. The problem is, by blocking those thoughts, I'm also blocking the entire creative process. I'm not allowing my brain to cast aside the junk to get to the gold.

The two sides of my brain are at war - the analytical side and the creative side. This makes for some darn frustrating moments where I just want to abandon the entire idea and move on to something else. I'm just thinkking too darn much.

There's a book called Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath, a new and upgraded edition of the online test from Gallup's Now, Discover Your Strengths. This book helps you discover your strengths. After taking an extensive online questionnaire, my results came back and honestly, I wasn't too surprised by them. Number one on my list? Intellection. And the definition boils down to, "You like to think."

But there's a danger in thinking too much - on everything. My brain needs a break sometimes!

Last night, before I went to sleep, I started to look through my novel notes with nothing more in mind than to see what I'd already come up with. Before I knew it, ideas began to spark and suddenly, everything fell into place. I tried not to scrutinize those ideas, but to just let them come. When I was finished writing everything down, I knew I'd made it to the top of my mental mountain.

I went to bed with peace in my heart. And now, I can't wait to get started writing!

New Digs

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