Monday, April 30, 2007

Recap

Saturday

Saturday morning, I woke up rarin' to write. This was the day I wanted to dive into all my notes on my novel, get back into the story, and start writing again.

Only I couldn't find my notes.

I looked. And looked some more. In fact, I spent all day searching for my file folder. And this folder has everything in it. Character sketches. Goals. Motivations. Conflicts. Plot notes. Ideas. Etc. Etc.

And y'know what? I never found it. I actually sat down and cried in utter and complete frustration. Hubby even helped me look and still we had no success. I have no idea where it might be. I literally feel like a gremlin snuck into my house and took it.

Talk about frustrating.

So about 7 p.m., I figured, enough is enough. I wasted the whole day looking for these notes when I could have been writing. I sat down with my first ten chapters, scanned through them, and started writing down the info I needed to know to get my head back in the story.

Unfortunately, the stress from the day got to me and my head started pounding. Needless to say, four ibuprofen did the trick - as did my wonderful hubby rubbing my tense shoulders!

Sunday

Still no folder. But I wasn't about to let another whole day go by without writing, so I turned on my laptop. And I scrolled down to where I'd last left off and started writing. And I got back into the story, immersed myself in it, and had a blast.

And that evening, I felt a sense of accomplishment. So I treated myself. Hubby took me for a ride in the convertible to go get a small dish of ice cream. Cookies 'n cream. Yum.

Tonight, I can't wait to get back to where I left off. It's an emotional scene, one I'm reworking that is surprising me with its intensity. And wow. It's so much fun. I love this writing life. :-)

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Caveat

I need to make a point about my post below. People have commented that I'm being too hard on myself. (But thank you so much for the sentiment - I appreciate each and every person who takes the time to read my blog and/or post a comment!) But there's a reason I'm hard on myself.

Why?

When my daughter was born, I made a deal with my husband. If I could have a book contract in hand before my daughter entered kindergarten, I wouldn't have to get a full-time job. I had the unbelievable blessing of being able to stay home with my daughter after I gave birth. In fact, I didn't get a full-time job until two years ago. She will turn seven this month.

So what did I do with those five years?

I procrastinated. I thought I had loads of time to get this accomplished. I worked on the same darn novel year after year. I wasn't focused. I wasn't learning much about craft. I wrote a lot of short stories and went on a lot of message boards.

Yeah, I know. I had a baby to take care of. And two stepsons. And a husband that worked on the railroad that wasn't home very much. In 2002, I went to grad school. Then I graduated and got a degree.

Wow, you might think. You didn't have time to work on your novel and get a publishing contract.

Yeah, I did.

I watched too much t.v. I ate too much. I made too many excuses. I kept saying, "Some day I'll get really serious about this." After all, I had time, right? Five years is a LONG time.

Guess what?

In the two years since I've taken on a full-time job and really dedicated myself to my writing craft, I've finished the first novel, submitted it, had rejections and requests for fulls and partials. I finished a second novel - IN ONE YEAR, not FIVE like the last one took! Submitted it. Had rejections and requests for partials (two of which I'm still waiting to hear on). I've drafted two entirely new novels that I can't wait to get started on. I've dived into the business aspect of writing, I've read craft books, and I quit making excuses.

So there's a reason I'm hard on myself. I've wanted to be a writer since the sixth grade. It's all I've ever wanted to do. I've wanted a book publishing contract since the tender age of 12.

That's a long time to have a dream.

BUT...

and this is a big but...

All of my life experiences have shaped me into the person - into the writer - I am today. I am a firm believer in God's path for my life and I can see how He wanted me to take this journey. He probably knew that I couldn't write what I needed to write to get that book publishing contract until I went through everything He wanted me to.

Now, I feel like I'm ready. Really ready.

So procrastination cannot be a part of this writing life. Yes, I will take breaks. Yes, I will have days where I'll give into the excuses. But they must be few and far in between.

If I sound a little hard on myself, that's ok - I need to be. I need to take the reigns of control and head myself off at the path before I fall into that trap again of thinking, "Oh, I've got plenty of time." There's no more time to think like that anymore. I want to live this writing life - now - and that means dedicating myself to it. It means learning the craft. Putting in the hours. Immersing myself in my story. Living the writing life.

The Danger of Procrastination



I've been a bad writer this week. I could blame the massive influx of work at the dayjob. Since I'm a copywriter for a living, I am actually writing all day, every day. But in the past, this hasn't bothered me. In fact, it's given me the motivation to go home and work on my novel.

But this week...well, let's just say the last thing I've wanted to do is stare at a computer screen.

It's an excuse, and a very poor one. I've always been an advocate of "just doing it" - put butt in chair and write, no matter what. I've fallen short of my own advice. My balance has been out of whack. I can come up with a dozen excuses to not sit down and work - I'm too tired; I've been writing all day and sitting in a chair all day - I don't want to do it anymore!; I'd rather take a nap; and on and on.

Here's where procrastination turns dangerous. Because I've allowed myself to not work on the novel, I've distanced myself from my characters and my plot. Since I'm in the midst of edits, this is very bad. Why? Because I've lost the threads of just about everything - my characters' personal growth; how the subplot fits in with the plot; etc., etc. And picking up those threads and figuring out where to weave them back into the story has me sitting in front of my computer tearing my hair out. I just can't sit down and start writing - I have to go back and familiarize myself with everything again. I'm wasting valuable time here!

But y'know what? I could have easily prevented this. I could have told the excuses to take a flying leap into the nearest puddle of murky water, but I didn't. The longer I put it off, the less I remembered from the plot, and the harder it was for me to get into the story.

I won't lie - I've turned on my laptop every single night this week. But I've worked on the same page every single night. How much time have I lost because of my procrastination? I don't even want to think about it.

And here's something else. When I procrastinate and get away from my writing, when I'm no longer immersed in that wonderful world, I feel lost. Bereft. Unfocused. And once I get back to my writing, my life is so much brighter.

But I'm human. I make mistakes, and when I do this, I can only try and think of ways to not make them in the future. In short, learn from my mistakes.

I think procrastinating while in the editing process is almost worse than when you're writing a first draft. I have so much in my head that I need to keep track of...and not working on it for a few days or a week or more causes all that info to just fly out the ol' ears.

Solution # 1

Keep copious notes. Don't keep all that info in my brain. If I can't get to the page right away, I can scan through my notes and jump right back into the story.

Solution #2

Fight the excuses. Remember that there are many, many other people who had a lot more reason to not show up at the page every day and still did it.

This weekend, it's time to dive into the manuscript and pick up all those threads. I'm excited because I love living the writing life and I'm anxious to get back to it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I Make You Think



Or so Robin says! :-)





Robin awarded me with The Thinking Blogger Award. Thanks so much, Robin! I'm glad I make you think sometimes, and I hope I can continue to make you think in the future! ;-)

I'm passing on the award to five other blogs that make me think:

The Writer's Group - Four women and their unique literary lives. These gals always have such wonderful, introspective posts. A feast for the writer's mind!

Therese Fowler - This soon-to-be-published author has such awesome craft posts - I always learn so much from her! It's also great to see her in the "production" phase of the pub process - copyediting, receiving her galleys, etc. Wonderful stuff here.

Writer Unboxed - About the craft and business of genre fiction. These gals and their guest bloggers never fail to amaze me with their insight. A must read for your daily fiction fix!

Rene Miller Knudsen - A great friend as well as a terrific writer, Rene offers wonderful, insightful posts on the writing process. She also makes me laugh with the antics of her kids!

Holly Kennedy - Holly tells it like it is - the publishing process, the book tours, and everything in between!

For those blogs I awarded the Thinking Blogger Award, if you feel so inclinded, please do the following:


1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Perfect Example

Yesterday I decided to write an email to the author of Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley. As a World War II historian, I found his book to be a refreshing change from a lot of the academic stuff that comes out about the war. It was a very personable book and I thoroughly enjoyed that aspect.

Imagine my surprise when not five minutes later, I had a response from him. He asked me a few questions, I responded, and he emailed me back again. How awesome is that?

When I finally reach that moment of being a novel-length published author and I have fans sending me email, I want to respond in such a manner. After all, without the readers, there are no sales. There is no one to read what you've labored so hard to write. And in the end, that is one of our goals - to reach people and have them read what we've written.

I've never wanted fame or celebrity. I'm too private of a person. I like my space. I like being able to go places without worrying about being mobbed by people. :-) Once I reach that point in my career of being a published author, I don't plan on elevating my status in society. I'll be the same, ordinary gal who decided to write a story. And in so doing, I plan to respond to those who kindly take the time to write to me in the same manner as James Bradley. After all, I'm pretty sure he just set out to tell his father's story - and in so doing, touched the lives of millions.

Monday, April 23, 2007



I'm trying to take pics of the kitties to show you, but the furry little guys just won't stay still long enough for me to get a good shot that's not blurry. The good news is that they're doing great - and are starting to eat their mom's food. I'm sure she's happy about that! With their little teeth, they're probably starting to hurt a little bit when they're drinking her milk. About one more week and they'll be ready to go to a good home - but just two of them. We're keeping two - and we already have names for them - Slick (a boy - the black cat whose eyes have turned green!) and Gretchen, the only girl out of the litter. According to my daughter, she has "sad eyes." I'll try and get her to pose for me so you can see.
Finding the Joy!
Saturday and Sunday, I found the joy again. I immersed myself in my writing and renewed my spirit. And oh, how wonderful it feels. I've discovered two things that need to be in harmony in my life before I feel good - my faith and my writing. For me, those two go hand in hand. :-)
Odds and Ends
The weekend was nice. Went to my stepson's track meet on Saturday and he did well, winning his heat in the 400 meter race. Of course, I didn't come prepared and now I have a very painful sunburn on my chest and shoulders. Luckily my face didn't get it too bad, but wow. I will definitely slather on the sun block next week!
I also decided to try and make a little extra cash by selling some books on Amazon.com. Already had one sold the day after I listed one, so that was encouraging. I know I won't make much, but at this point, every little bit helps.
I also indulged in two naps this weekend - one on Saturday (which, unfortunately, I had to take because of a killer headache) and one Sunday afternoon. Both were lovely.
Finishing reading Flags of Our Fathers and I plan to post a review of it over at my World War II blog sometime this week. This is hands down one of the best books I've ready on World War II. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

Friday, April 20, 2007

One of Life's Truths



It's been days since I've looked at my manuscript. Granted, I've gotten back on my workout schedule (3 times at Curves this week - yay!) and spent some quality time with the family. But I'm really not very happy.

I don't mean "not happy that I haven't even opened the Word file on my computer", but a general sense of unhappiness has literally pervaded my life.

My simple truth boils down to this: if I'm not writing, I'm not happy.

So there's only one thing to do to correct this - write.

And that's just what I intend to do.

Do you feel a change in your personality or mood if you don't write?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Nothing New

If I haven't commented on your blog lately, my sincere apologies. I've been buried with the day job and normally I have a bit of time to pop in to everyone's blog and make a comment. Not so this past week! While it's nice to be busy and the day goes by faster, I don't like feeling that I can never catch up.

Last night I went and worked out, then tackled the back yard. Our St. Bernard, Missy, is still in the puppy stage. She's a little over a year old now, but shows no signs of calming down. She tackled a dog food sack and ripped it to shreds, so I had to pick that up last night, and various other assorted things she's found as chew toys. When my daughter goes to play in the backyard, she invariably leaves something behind, which Missy quickly grabs and destroys.

And then hubby, my daughter, and I went for a leisurely ride in the convertible. Hubby has always wanted a convertible and he found a nice used one very cheap that he's fixing up. He loves to fix up cars and while I don't exactly love the expense, it's his hobby and I'm glad he enjoys it.

Didn't even open the manuscript last night and probably won't tonight, either, since I'm going to be helping a colleague celebrate her birthday tonight. But Friday is just around the corner and I think I get the majority of my work done over the weekend.

Have a great Thursday and look for some more writing-related posts soon!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A List


Things I'm digging:

Maroon 5's hip new song and video, Makes Me Wonder. Love the colors in the video, the rhythm, the beat. And lead singer Adam Levine is looking very good.

Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun. Her imagery, her writing, is just mesmerizing. It sucks me in so much that I want to stop whatever I'm doing and just curl on my porch swing and read, read, read.

Things I'm angry about:



Things I'm grieving over:

Virginia Tech As more details emerge, the sadness grows in my heart.



Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Back to Editing

While it's nice to take a break from editing, I find I am really missing my manuscript. I got excited over my Italian Duet series and am glad with the progress I made, but I want to go back to editing my last novel and get it finished.

I love editing. I know, I'm weird.

There's something about playing with words and language that I just adore. I guess that's why I'm a writer.

Yesterday's Events

My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the events at Virginia Tech.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sucked into Research

What a great weekend. Not only did I get to sleep in (always a bonus after the crazy work-week!), but I also managed to get quite a bit of research done into the Italian Duet project. Remember how I worried over not being able to get all those details right? After this weekend, I'm feeling much more confident in that particular area. Why? The power of the Internet!

I've found blogs aplenty from Americans who are living in Italy - most of them are from women who moved to Italy to be with their Italian husbands or who moved to Italy and met an Italian man who became their husband. I've even found blogs from Americans who live in the exact area that I'm setting my novel. Not only does this give me insight into their lives, but it's also a great networking tool! People who blog are usually wonderful about offering their help.

Since my novel is set in the region of Italy where my family comes from - Piedmont - I'm also uncovering lots of the same recipes that I grew up with. Take for instance Bagna Cauda - which literally translates to "hot bath." It's a hot anchovie and olive oil sauce that you dip raw vegetables in. My family used to get together to eat Bagna Cauda and it was so cool to find it in the travel guides as one of the premiere dishes of Northern Italy. Palenta is another dish we used to have - even though I remember I didn't like it - since it was made out of cornmeal. We also eat homemade raviolis every holiday using salami that our family makes, as well.

It's so great to have these traditions and I can't wait to eat these foods in their native home!

So I'm curious. Do you have any special dishes from your heritage that you still eat today?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Why I Need Pets

Yes, I'm an animal lover. I love dogs. And only recently have I started to love cats. Well, maybe not all cats. Just my cat.
This morning, I watched our four kittens playing and tumbling on the floor. They are so darn cute. Watching them flex their pouncing muscles, attack each other, and tumble around makes for a great way to start the morning.
I've always had pets. Mostly dogs, but growing up on the farm, we had our fair share of cats to keep the mice population at a minimum (although there was the occasional mouse who made it into the house, much to my mother's horror). We had outside dogs, the ones who trudged off to the fields with Dad and my brothers, and then the inside dogs who kept Mom company and warmed our feet at night.
For me, animals keep me sane. They are the ones who listen when that's all you want - someone to listen. When you don't want or need advice, they'll sit there and look at you with their big eyes as if to say, "I understand. It will be ok. Pet me. Feed me. Then we'll both feel better."
They say that people who have pets live longer lives. I believe them. There have been many nights when I've been upset over something going on in my life and all I want to do is just hug my dog. And he's the type of dog that knows when something is wrong. He doesn't like to be far from my side. Unfortunately, since the kitties have arrived, he's been left outside an awful lot.
As a writer, I like to incorporate pets into my stories. I feel it adds a special dimension to things. Not all my stories have pets, but when I do decide that one fits the storyline, it's always fun to write about them.
And also as a writer, I love to write with my dog beside me. It's an added comfort.
I don't think I'm the only writer that has pets. I think cats are probably the preferred pet of choice for lots of writers - as evidenced by the blogs I've seen with cat pics! - but I'll take both. I still prefer dogs for their lavish devotion (ha ha), but those kitties come in at a close second with their cute little paws and furry faces.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Writing as Therapy

Last night was not a good night for a myriad of reasons. Work, stress, more stress...but anyway, enough of that.

While taking a long, hot shower (why is it ideas always come to us in the shower?) I had a great idea for a short story based on my evening. And as soon as I was able, I opened up Microsoft Word on my computer and started typing. I typed for probably an hour and the time just flew by. I didn't stop to edit, didn't stop to stare at the page and wonder what to write next - I just wrote.

And by the time I was done, I had a complete short story. Rough, but complete. And boy, did I ever feel better. I felt like I'd cleansed my soul from all the gunk that had been clinging to it from the evening's activities. I went to bed feeling exhausted, but strangely refreshed.

This isn't the first time I've used writing as a form of therapy. I remember when I had a relationship go south on me in college. I wrote a novella of it, and put the male character through the ringer. After I was finished, I felt incredibly better.

I've also written pages and pages in my journal when I've been upset, or just sat down at the computer and wrote, a sort of stream of consciousness. It has a way of emptying the well of bad emotions and making me feel rejuvenated. I've also written poetry when the mood strikes, usually when I need to deal with a difficult situation or work through some rough emotions.

Have you ever used writing as therapy?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Swamped!

Wow. The flood gates have opened and I'm drowning in work. I guess that will only make the day go by faster, right?

But I have a mission over lunch - to head to Barnes & Noble and buy me a nice journal. I'm going to try something this time with my Italian Duet novels - keep all my notes with me in one spot. I usually have stuff strewn everywhere, to the point where hubby better not throw any scrap of paper away. I envision this journal as being a sort of scrapbook full of ideas, pictures that inspire me, and anything else.

I need to get organized this time around so that I can cut the editing process in half, if at all possible. With each novel I write, I learn a new way to help me streamline my process. If I'm going to be a published author someday, I need to figure out a way to cut down the work that goes into each novel because let's face it - I won't have oodles of time to tinker with things. I'll have deadlines. It's at times like these that I think I better have a firm grasp on the whole reality of being a published author before it happens.

Off to the day-job trenches...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Open Road

My vacation was everything I wanted it to be - lots and lots of down time. I took a couple naps, went to two Easter egg hunts, had a great Easter dinner with my grandparents and dad, and hung out with my brother, sis-in-law, and my niece and nephew on the farm. Saw some adorable baby calves, too.

Of course, I always dread the drive back. Once I hit the interstate, it's a straight line from the farm back home. No turns, no changing interstates - just one, straight line.

That leaves lots and lots of time for thinking, especially when my daughter slept most of the way. I figured since I had nothing but the open road ahead of me for the next four hours, it would be the perfect opportunity to get a little plotting done.

And those ideas came. Wow. I couldn't believe how images started playing through my brain, almost like a movie. But of course, the logistics of making sure I didn't forget these images/ideas was rather difficult. So here I am, driving down the interstate with a pen and pad of paper, trying to write everything down and drive at the same time.

And what fantastic ideas! I now have my first book in the Italian Duet series (although is it a series if there are only two? Probably not) plotted out, complete with great characters, the theme, and GMC's. I can't wait to get started. The second one is well on its way to being completely plotted, too. Isn't it strange how some books sort of write themselves and others are a struggle?

Look forward to catching up with you all...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Vacation and Easter!


My vacation couldn't come at a better time. I'm ready for a break! Work has been stressful and that's enough to throw the rest of my life into a bit of a spin. I'm taking off after work today for the homestead and going to stay at the family farm until Monday. Even though it's a long drive (450 miles) and it snowed in western Nebraska last night, (that's Nebraska weather for you!), I'm excited.
Have a wonderful Easter weekend!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It's That Time of Year



For those of us in the U.S., the tax deadline is fast approaching. But thanks to Easter being early this year, they gave us a few extra days to get the darn things done - final due date is April 17.

Well, I tackled mine last night. Since I use TurboTax, it's a snap to do - although I wasn't pleased with the end result for two reasons: I hate paying a computer program to do my taxes and...(and this is the worst part) we owe the federal govt. this year.

No, it's not a lot, but still - it's a nice chunk of change that we could be using for something else.

I think it's ironic how the American Revolution began with lots of protests over all the taxes the British government imposed. And now, our income tax system is so complex that we've created computer programs to help us navigate through the mess. Clearly, the forefathers did not see this coming.

But for me, the tax return is done and filed. Now I just have to mail in the stupid payment. Sigh...there goes money I could have saved for my trip to Italy. But one day, I may be able to write those trips off as "research." I am looking forward to that glorious day!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What's Your Breakfast Look Like?



Nothing profound today. Last evening I worked on the novel, ate a wonderful dinner with the family (yes, we were all sitting around the dinner table!!!) playing basketball with my two kids, and fussing over the kitties.



So as I'm munching on my breakfast of lowfat baked apple granola bars and Diet Pepsi, I wondered what everyone else eats for breakfast.

I love big breakfasts - pancakes, eggs, sausage, and toast is a favorite. No oatmeal though! The picture at left is from some yummy blueberry pancakes I had when I was in Chicago.

I don't just eat breakfast in the morning, though. I've been known to boil a few eggs and make a couple pieces of toast for my evening meal. And I've also visited Cracker Barrel on more than one occasion to have some pancakes for supper.

So what's your breakfast look like?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Weekend Recap


It was quite the productive weekend. Saturday saw me typing madly away on my detailed synopsis. Perfect day for it, too, with lots of rain, cool breezes, and cloudy skies. And I finished the synopsis in record time, edited it a bit, then declared it finished and sent it and my partial through cyberspace for an agent to look at.


Strange - after I'd been working on it so intently all day, I felt sort of listless and rather lost knowing that it was done. In fact, I told my husband that I still wanted to work on editing the novel (it's halfway there) instead of relaxing and taking a break. But it was also 10 p.m. on a Saturday night, so I figured I really should take a break - and I popped in Casino Royale. Nothing like a bit of Bond to round out the day.


Sunday was a shopping day for my daughter and I. Since I've lost the weight, clothes from last summer don't fit - so I needed to buy a few new outfits for spring. Believe me, that's a great excuse to go shopping! I still want to lose another 30 pounds, but lately, I haven't been doing very well on the exercising. Illness has been the culprit most of the time, but I pray I can get back to it very soon - maybe even today! I wouldn't mind being a little skinnier when swimsuit season rolls around - even though I can't swim, hate the heat, and never lay on a beach. But hey, it's the thought that counts. ;-)


New Digs

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