Monday, March 31, 2008

I'm Back!


I know I sort of disappeared, but rest assured, it was for a good cause. I traveled back west to visit my family on Thursday and had a simply wonderful time. And I took a TON of photos (me and my new camera above). I still need to download them onto my computer, though, so stay tuned this week for lots of family farm photos (and even cows!), and many more.
Highlights of the trip:
  • Having supper with my Dad
  • Staying with my grandmother, talking '40s fashions, looking at family photos, and just enjoying each other's company!
  • Going to watch Horton Hears a Who with my mom, my daughter, my niece, and my nephew
  • Hanging out on the family farm all day Saturday, watching the baby calves play, and taking lots of photos!
  • Going to the neighborhood fish fry with my brother, sis-in-law, niece and nephew, my dad and his girlfriend, and my daughter
  • Having butterball soup at my grandmother's house for Sunday lunch with everyone
  • Visiting my grandfather in the rest home

It was hard to come home. I'm very close to my family and I wish we didn't live so far apart. The drive home (5 hours) wasn't too fun and I'm rather stiff and sore this morning as I only took two breaks on that entire 400 mile stretch - guess I really wanted to get home!

Pictures to follow in the upcoming days. Now I'm off to see what you've all been up to!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My Aspirations

I used to be this:

That was when I was just out of college. A slender 115 pounds. Size 7. Oh, how I love this dress. The colors are just absolutely gorgeous. Ok, granted, it was ten years ago when I wore this.

Now I'm this:

Considerably more (and no, I won't tell you how much - I've got to keep some things private!) I wore this to my office Christmas party this year and with the help of some good undergarments, I didn't look too bad.

I aspire to be this:


It's do-able. This dress is in a medium. Never been worn. I bought it several years ago as motivation. Then I had a baby. And motivation flew out the window. Granted, it looks a little UN-doable, but hey, I lost the weight once, I can lose it again, right? Problem is, this time it's turning out to be a LOT harder than last time. I've put back on 12 pounds. I worked my tush off to get those 12 pounds off in the first place. Sure, I've still got the bonus of having lost 20 pounds, but darn it, I can't wear some of my clothes again. And yes, maybe I had a good reason to gain weight - husband out of work, in the hospital with a staph infection, yada yada yada.

Well. That's over. And the reason I haven't already lost that weight is because during that stressful time, I fell back on bad habits. No more! In fact, I hope to be wearing this sexy little number when I go to Italy in the fall. Yes, I am going to Italy! I've already got some money saved and have time to save for the rest of it.

Is that motivation or what?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Perfect Job


Do you love your day job? I don't. I like it, yes, but I don't love it. Huge difference. I can honestly say that I've never loved any of my jobs. I've liked almost all of them (well, except for when I had to get up early during summer vacation and go through the bean fields on our farm and chop out the weeds. Not my idea of a fun time!).

So I got to thinking tonight. I spend the majority of my life at the day job. Shouldn't I love it? Granted, a lot of people look at it differently. They see the day job as a means to an end - the money they earn gives them the opportunity to buy a house, buy groceries, take the trip to Jamaica, etc.

Sometimes I wish this was my day job:


Then I could stay up all night writing! This job doesn't look too bad either...



Now this one really looks like the life!


(I snapped this picture just before hubby growled at her to get off the table!)

If someone called me tomorrow and said, "I'm offering you your dream day job. Just tell me what it is and I'll make it happen"...I would, of course, say, "Full-time novelist." And then I would realize that if I never left the house and buried myself in my office writing, not only would I succumb to the sweet lure of bags and bags of chocolate, but I would also become so depressed that I would write nothing but bad poetry. I need to be around people part of the time. It's taken me awhile to realize this, but better now than later.

So if I had my choice of my perfect part-time job, what would it be? And my answer right now? Good question! I am such an independent person that working for other people is sometimes very challenging.

I think this is what I would do: I'd take people on historical tours of Europe. I once aspired to be a travel guide, but somehow that got lost along the way. And, of course, this job would just double as research for my novels!

What about you? What is your perfect dream job?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Movie Marathon

Had a change of plans this weekend. Instead of heading west to the old homestead and my family, I ended up staying home, nursing whatever it was that brought me to my knees on Friday. Let's just say I did a lot of sleeping, took lots of ibuprofen, and was very glad I wasn't driving. I was very disappointed not to see my family, so I will be making the trip this weekend instead.

At any rate, being under the weather provided the perfect opportunity to do a little movie watching!

First up, Will Smith in I Am Legend. Creepy. And nail-biting. And very sad. Will Smith gave an excellent performance, though, as an army doctor who is the last survivor in New York City. He's trying to find a cure for a virus that has wiped out most of mankind and made zombies out of the rest. A little far-fetched, but still a good flick.

Second flick was Keira Knightley and James McAvoy in Atonement. Wow. This was an absolutely beautiful film. The cinemotography, the music, the setting, the acting...all top notch. Set in England before and during World War II, this movie centers around the tragic ramifications of a single lie. Powerful and heart-wrenching. Very well done.

Third flick was The Spiderwick Chronicles at the movie theater. This was my only outing of the weekend, otherwise I was housebound! But we went as a family on Easter Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed it. This film tells the story of a family who moves into an old house that contains a book full of secrets of the fantastical creatures that live in the nearby woods. Great fun.

Hubby and I rounded off Sunday evening with a game of Scattergories and despite my pledge to whoop his tush, I ended up losing. He is the master of coming up with very distinctive answers for this game, so really, I don't mind losing to him that much. Ha!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Watch This Space...

My old digital camera finally bit the dust, so I decided to buy me a new one. I am so pumped to use it. I am going to be a photo-taking fool! My new little camera will accompany me everywhere, so if you're anywhere near my vicinity, watch out! *grin*

I am a sucker for photos on people's blogs and find that I visit them much more than I would others just so I can see what pictures they have for the day. So I decided I needed to do the same for my blog.

This weekend will be the perfect time for photo ops since I'm headed home for Easter break. I'll be visiting the family farm, my grandparents, my brother and sis-in-law, niece and nephew, and my dad and his girlfriend. Can't wait!

What are your Easter plans?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sleep

Ever since I was a young girl, I've loved to sleep in. This was great during the summer, but not so much during school. It used to take my Dad marching into my room to wake me up, and sometimes my two brothers would threaten to pour water on me. They actually did a few times and thus, witnessed the Wrath of Melissa. Not a good thing.

Yesterday my daughter was ill with a stomach ache, so I stayed home from work. We both crashed on the couch and slept for four hours. And I loved it.

I look forward to Saturday mornings because I get to sleep in. On the days I have to get up, I set the alarm clock fifteen minutes fast, then set it to go off earlier than I need to get up so I can hit snooze several times. My husband is baffled by this behavior. "Why don't you just get up when the alarm goes off?" I have no explanation for him, other than I have hardly ever done that in my life. Guess it's just a habit.

It's not that I don't love early mornings - when I actually do have to get up for one reason or another, I love the brilliance of morning. The air is crisp. Everything is in sharp focus. Yet I will not go out of my way to get up to experience this. I am a night person, through and through. My grandmother is the same, and so is my mom, so maybe this is hereditary, I don't know.

What I do know is that I am growing frustrated with my love of sleep. I don't want to sleep as much as I do. There are things to do! Scenes to write! Books to read! Why waste time on sleep?

But am I frustrated enough that I will give up my Saturday sleeping-in ritual? Doubtful... :-)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Writing Maturity



Sufferin' succotash!

Four pages, single spaced, written on Sunday afternoon. Approximately three of those pages will have to be dumped.

Arghhhhh!

I should have listened to my inner voice. I should have stopped and reevaluated where the scene needed to go. I should have taken a nap instead. (And I really should have quit eating all those Cadbury Mini Eggs...) But no....I kept at it.

This could be a tragedy, but I'm not going to look at it as one. Instead, it's an opportunity - an opportunity to learn and heed that inner voice. More often than not, it knows when a scene is wrong, whether it doesn't advance the story, is written from the wrong POV, or doesn't have the right punch to it that it needs.

There's always the urge, though, to keep what I wrote as part of the book because it means I'm that much closer to finishing the book. Thank goodness I'm not going to give in to the urge. Oh, I'll still print out the pages and file them away for perhaps another time in the story, but right now, they're going to go bye-bye on the ol' hard drive.

This, to me, is a mark of maturity in my writing life. There were times before where I would keep the offending scene in the story and make the rest of the novel work, no matter how many twists and turns I had to make. I wasn't going to delete that many pages, darn it, because that meant I'd wasted that much time.

Now, I recognize it's not time wasted - it's time spent learning a lesson. And because I wrote this scene, I figured out the scene I should have wrote instead - and I also learned more about my character.

I look at this as a good thing. But gosh, I hope it doesn't happen too often!

Friday, March 14, 2008

What I Don't Get About Teenagers Part II

Every morning, I look to see if my 14-year-old stepson is wearing a jacket or a coat. We leave the house at 7:15 a.m. for school and it's rather chilly outside. When there's snow outside and the temps are quite low, he'll wear a coat. But once we begin to get even a hint of warmth, the coat gets relegated to the back of the closet and more often than not, he doesn't have a jacket or coat or even a sweatshirt on.

This morning, after I dropped him off at his middle school, I had to drive by the high school. Lo and behold, I saw lots of kids with no jackets or coats. In fact, one kid was carrying his sweatshirt and was wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.

I don't get it. Is wearing a coat when it's cold outside not cool? I've stopped nagging him to wear a coat or jacket or at the very least, a sweatshirt because he just doesn't want to take my advice. So I figure, if he gets cold, it's his own fault. But then I also think that there are those that might believe I'm a bad parent for letting him out of the house without something to ward off the morning chill. Apparently this is a growing trend, however, as this video clip proves.

When I stretch my memory back to my teenage years, I'm pretty sure I didn't have a problem wearing a coat. But I do remember the boys not wearing one.

Maybe it's just a guy thing? Does it make you look tougher, more manly, more grown up if you don't wear a coat when it's cold?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Where Should I Go?


Slight change in plans. I won't be attending the Pikes Peak Writer's Conference (sorry, Lisa! But maybe we can still meet someday - after all, Nebraska and Colorado are neighbors!) and a trip I had planned to Hawaii has been put on hold.

So! I think I need to take a vacation somewhere this year - but where?

Northern Italy to visit the relatives...lovely England to visit friends and soak in the sights...Colonial Williamsburg to immerse myself in history...Washington D.C. to visit the World War II memorial and all the other wonderful national treasures...

Decisions, decisions! Of course, with the price of gas going up, that means airplane tickets will be more expensive and that might limit my choices. But goodness, I can't let it stop me! I figure I have plenty of time to save up if I want to go on a vacation say, in the fall months when it's not hot and most of the tourists are back home.

Help me decide!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Seriously - Read This

One of my blogging buddies, Lisa, has a wonderful post up on her blog, Eudaemonia, about writing, writing well, publishing, and well, a lot of other stuff. Read it. It's that good.

There's also a great discussion going on in the comments section. Check it out.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Pining for Spring


I want warm weather. I'm tired of snow and cold. And for me to say this, well, it's something of a miracle. I love cold weather. But it's time. Time for green leaves and green grass. Time for warm spring breezes. Time for days spent outside in the sunshine. Time for bright, spring colors for my clothes (ah...an excuse to go shopping!), watching my daughter ride her bike, and taking long, meandering walks.

I'll savor the next few months, but once summer hits...I go into hibernation mode again. I know that sounds a bit strange, but I am not a heat person at all. It makes me cranky and growly and downright grouchy. I do my best in the spring, fall, and early winter.

Weekend included a lot of research, which I enjoyed, but which also prevented me from writing. However, I feel as though I have a much better grasp on the historical elements of my manuscript which is absolutely imperative. So it was definitely not time lost.

Soon, I'll be able to grab my lap top and sit on my front porch swing. Ah...bliss!

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Magic of Mini Eggs


Already the stores are bursting with fuzzy bunnies, plastic eggs, and candy, candy, candy. Easter season is here! And this season is the only time of year where I can find the utterly delectable Cadbury Mini Eggs.

Ah, bliss for the tastebuds! I have been known to devour an entire bag within the space of a few days. (That was before the whole weight loss, of course!). Now I must limit myself. Sigh...which almost seems, well, wrong.

Thankfully, they have come out with mini bags of mini eggs. Heh. Gotta love that. I can restrict myself to a small bag and not feel so guilty and still enjoy the chocolatey (is that spelled right?) goodness of these little treasures. The hard part is not going back to the store again and again to buy more bags. I have yet to try the dark chocolate mini eggs...I'm a little leery because I love the original so much, but doubt it's going to stop me. ;-)

So yes. It's Friday. The weekend looms ahead with possibilities. For me, that includes writing, researching (oh, I LOVE being able to walk to the library from my office building!) and hanging out. And it may also include a little bag of pastel-colored, chocolate eggs...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Happiness Is...

Yesssssssssss!

I am now the proud owner of Ken Burns' phenomenal documentary, The War. I am so excited I literally feel like running down the hallway and yelling for joy, a fact which my co-workers undoubtedly would not appreciate.

Suffice to say, I love Amazon.com (because that was the only way I was able to afford it), I love the Internet (because it gave us Amazon.com!) and I absolutely love the fact that I can watch this amazingt series to my heart's content. I cannot wait to have this in my hot little hands.

Okay. Gushing over.

Back to work!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Consistency

I must have either been really happy when I wrote yesterday's post or really tired because I sure did use a lot of exclamation points. Apologies for that. Heh.

Ok. Ahem. Now to the topic at hand. Consistency.

In the past few days, I've done a fair amount of work on my novel. But I'm noticing that my main character is sort of morphing out of the GMC's that I originally gave her. And I think this is a good thing because my critique partner has pointed out some things in the first few chapters that I hadn't noticed before. Mainly - my character isn't very sympathetic and well, my critique partner didn't like her. That's not a good thing.

Now don't get me wrong. I believe you can have a main character that isn't universally liked and show how he or she changes and becomes a better person (if that is your goal). But while my character is, in the beginning, spoiled and a bit selfish, there are very good reasons for her to be that way - my job is to make sure that she is still likeable or at least sympathetic. Because let's face it - if she's not, then the reader really won't care what happens to her.

Here is where consistency comes in - and also where I thank God that this is the rough draft and I can go back and change things to my heart's content. (I am resisting putting an exclamation mark after 'content' ...) I need to make sure that she is staying true to who she is. I, as the author and the One In Charge, cannot deviate from this or the story will ring false.

And so, it turns out, after writing chapter five last night, that my character isn't who I thought she was in chapter one. And really, that's ok. I just have to make sure that her character growth remains consistent throughout the story. And this means going back and looking for places that my character is acting, well, out of character.

Sometimes this novel-writing business blows me away and I wonder if I can do it. There are just so many things to keep track of when you're writing a novel - characterization, plot, subplot, theme. All I can say is, thank goodness for second, third, and fourth drafts. :-)

Monday, March 03, 2008

March Already?

What happened to the month of February? Or January, for that matter? 2008 is going a little fast, if you ask me!

And of course, March is just that much closer to April which means tax returns. BLECH. I did ours on Saturday and wasn't too happy with the results. I'm not sure how you can have the type of year we had - hubby out of work for three months because of the staph infection and no other income for those three months but mine - and still owe the government money! Nothing to do but bite the bullet, though. I wish we could write off all those medical expenses, but unfortunately, with all the paperwork involved, we haven't started paying our share of cost yet. Guess we can put that on next year's return.

In other news, I finished the lovely Therese Fowler's debut novel, Souvenir, at three in the morning! Yes, I stayed up that late to read it because it was that good. I had been waiting to read it, kind of like waiting to enjoy a fine wine, and I wasn't disappointed! Get thee to a bookstore and buy it - and buy a box of tissues while you're at it. You'll need them!

I also found a terrific new series to watch - Foyle's War - a BBC series about a detective fighting crime during World War II in England. I watched the first one last night and loved it! Now I just need to get the rest!

It's Time

I've had this blog for over 10 years. But I'm finding that I go to it less and less. Maybe it's the death of blogging that broug...