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!

One Day at a Time

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