Monday, June 30, 2008

Sigh...

This just made my Monday morning: the trailer for the new Bond film, Quantum of Solace. It looks absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, it's already been yanked from YouTube, so I won't be able to watch it again. Oh well. Will have to wait until they "officially" release it, which will be when the new Will Smith movie, Hancock, comes out - and this movie looks good, too.

Weekend was good. Got some writing done, danced to some old music with my daughter, and got in some good quality time with hubby. It's been rather calm and quiet around the place with my stepson off to see his mom in Kentucky. :-)

Four-day work week - yay! And on Wednesday, I'm giving a talk at a retirement center, one I've been to twice before. They keep asking me back, so I must be doing something right. *grin* The theme for this particular speech is "patriotism" in keeping with the 4th of July holiday. I've started to dig into my books on the American Revolution that I had in graduate school. I did love that class - and now I'm having thoughts of diving into that time period again. I have several ideas for novels set during the Revolution, but we'll see if any of them are strong enough to knock me off my World War II platform.

Found the digital camera, so I've been snapping photos again. My daughter has been collecting fireflies at night and putting them in her "bug jar", then releasing them later. I tried to get a few photos of them, but they all turned out blurry. Little guys refuse to sit still and pose!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Topsy Turvy

It's been a week of up and downs. More than ever before, I am realizing that creative people have very different personalities, and our emotions can imitate the best kinds of roller coasters.

That was me this week.

Stick a creative person at a desk, 8-5, staring at a computer, every day of the week, and eventually, you're going to have a basket case on your hands. The mind starts to wander, to daydream, to think, "If I could only stay home and write all day...", to believe that there must be more to life than cube-dwelling.

And then the next week, the creative person might have overcome that little hurdle, be happy with their job, think they could do it another few years, and all is well with the world. (This is usually around a payday).

Back and forth, up and down. And if the creative person isn't creating, well, watch out. That's just a time bomb waiting to explode. And I've been doing more research than writing this week. Hmm...that could perhaps figure in to why I'm not very happy and satisfied with life.

There's just too darn much going on in creative people's brains sometimes, and it becomes a bit overwhelming. Depression sets in. The urge to shut out the world and sleep or just sit like a lump on the couch and watch bad B movies all day taunts us. Sometimes we give in. Sometimes we must fight to grasp onto that shred of motivation. Sometimes we win. Other times we lose.

In some ways, I envy those people who have worked at the same job for 20+ years - and are absolutely content with doing so. That's what they want. Wish I could say the same. Sometimes. Like today.

This is a bit of rambling post, but that's ok. Rambling is sometimes good for the mind to release all that gunk that's built up.

Thank goodness it's Friday.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What Are You Reading? Summer Edition

Since the temperatures here in Nebraska are starting to climb into the 90s and we all know just how much I love heat (note the sarcasm), my brain isn't quite as sharp as it normally is. So for today's blog post, I figured I'd tell you what I was reading and then you can leave me a comment and tell me what you're reading.

I think I can handle that.

Heh.

I'm reading Forever by Pete Hamill. It's for our bookclub at work and I gotta admit, it's an amazing story. A long, amazing story, clocking in at more than 600 pages. But the writing is good, albeit very different. But I like that. Different is good. We're supposed to be done with the book by Friday and I'm not there yet, so I may have to do a bit of speed reading tonight.

Your turn!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Kung Fu Panda


The day that Kung Fu Panda opened, my daughter and I went to the matinee. I was a little leery going into it because so many times, I'm disappointed by the lack of plot or continuity or character development or whatever in animated films.

But this movie was wonderful on every level.

As I sat there and gorged myself on M&M's and popcorn, I couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen. The adventures of Po the Panda and his sudden quest to become the Dragon Master kept me completely enthralled. My daughter and I laughed and laughed at several parts, and I teared up at one particular scene (which is not hard to do for me).

My husband bought the Kung Fu Panda game for our Playstation 2 and my daughter has loved playing it. And she's also showed me her kung fu moves and I have to say, she's pretty darn good at them. I asked her if she wanted to take karate lessons, but she said she wants to be "taller" when she does. ;-)

So if you haven't seen this movie yet, I highly recommend it for the entire family. I can't wait until it comes out on DVD so I can watch it again!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

One Year Anniversary

It was one year ago today that I got the phone call from my husband, telling me that I had to take him to the emergency room. And it was one year ago today that he was admitted to the hospital for a staph infection in his arm. It was a journey that lasted a lot longer than I ever thought - and even now, I can't believe it's been that long.

For weeks, my days consisted of getting up, taking my daughter to school, going to work, going to the hospital over my lunch break, going back to work, picking up my daughter, then going back to the hospital and then, at last, going home to fall into bed and get up and do the same thing the next day.

It was exhausting. I credit God with getting me through it, and my friends and family for all the wonderful support they showed us. And all my blogging buddies were just awesome. Since I chronicled the whole journey on my blog, I had tons of people offering me daily support.

And now, finally, a year later, hubby has a good job, is completely healed, and has one hellacious scar on his arm. But what counts is that we made it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Rational vs. Irrational

I reached the halfway point in my novel the other night. I'm pretty pleased with it so far. But what I finished was the easy part. Let me explain. It was easy because the research required to write it doesn't even come close to the research needed to write the second part.

This terrifies me.

When I told my husband about my novel a week or so ago, he was intrigued by the concept and thought it was a great idea. I thought this was a wonderful thing because he is a big reader and will tell me straight out if he thinks something won't work. BUT, he also said, "You're ambitious."

Hmm. Yeah, I suppose I am. Without giving away the plot of the novel (because to do so doesn't jive with my inner writer), this research has to be accurate. Spot on. Because if it's not, there will be plenty of people who will tell me so.

This is a good thing and a bad thing. A good thing because there are lots of people that I can turn to who will have the information I need. A bad thing because, well, they'll know if I get something wrong!

Thus, I've been engrossed in autobiographies, historical studies, and surfing for articles on the web, taking lots of notes and searching for tiny pieces of information. I've found quite a bit, but not exactly what I'm looking for. I'm starting to think it doesn't exist!

So for the past few days, since I reached the halfway mark, all of this has been mucking about in my brain, and the irrational part of me has started (ok, has been for awhile) freaking out. How can I possibly hope to pull this off? Why in the world can't I write something simple? Why did I think I could do this?

Ahem. Yes, slight hysteria on my part.

However, the rational side of my brain has come to the rescue - I hope. I figure that if I start leaning toward those irrational thoughts, I will freeze up when it comes time to write. And that will be a bad thing. But if I take it slowly and get my details right (this is not a place where I can frantically write everything down and then go back and fix it later), then I'll be ok.

Slow and steady. I think I can handle that.

So! Off I go...

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Writer's Journal


When I started plotting my Italian Duet novel, I decided I needed to keep everything in one place - no more looking for random pieces of old envelopes with notes scribbled on them, no more trying to find that sheet of paper where I wrote down a book I needed to get at the library, and no more disorganization.

I went to Barnes & Noble and picked out a big, fat spiral journal. Lots and lots of crisp, white pages waiting for me to fill them up. And the cover of it even featured an illustration of Venice. Perfect for my Italian story.

And off to work I went. I found pictures of my characters (what I thought looked like my characters, anyway), printed off the photos, and then pasted them into my journal. I filled the notebook with all my random thoughts and plot ideas, character sketches and brainstorming notes. If I happened to be without the notebook for whatever reason and wrote something down on a piece of paper, I made sure I taped it into my notebook to keep everything in one spot.

I carried the notebook with me everywhere - no matter where I went. It went to work with me and sat on my desk in case I needed to jot down something. It went with me on lunch breaks. It stayed on my nightstand for journaling before bedtime or waking up with an idea I needed to write down.

Even though I've put the Italian Duet novel series on hold for awhile, I still have the journal and it will be waiting for me when I pick up the threads of the story again.

But now, I have a journal for my WW2 story. I found it at a local craft store, on sale, and fell in love with the cover because of its vintage-feel. And with it, I've done the same thing - put down my aimless thoughts and ideas, wrote reminder notes to myself for things not to forget when I write the story, put lots of my research notes into it, and any research books I need to be on the look out for.

My writer's notebook is one of the best things I've done for my writing. Anything and everything can go into this journal, and anything and everything does. And I've found two immense benefits in having a journal for my novels: one, all my stuff is in one spot and two, it keeps my head in the story.
If you want to try this idea, there are two rules that you should follow for the ultimate success: each novel should have its own journal, and...(this is a big one) it should go with you everywhere.

You see, I made the mistake of not taking my journal with me for a few days and then I forgot it altogether. Big mistake. I was writing stuff on sticky notes and other pieces of paper, misplacing them, and getting frustrated by my failure to put them in my notebook.

No more. I took my journal with me to work today, tucked it into my purse, and promptly put it beside me on my desk, reminding me that it was there and that I didn't need to use my stack of sticky notes to write down thoughts or ideas.

If you find yourself disorganized and wishing you could put everything in one spot, you might want to try this method. Buy a journal and let yourself have fun with it. Or you could really get creative and buy a binder and put separate folders in it to organize everything. For me, that's a bit too big as I like to be able to put my journal in my purse. I'm much more likely to carry it with me if it's smaller.

And hey, it's a great excuse to go and pick out a journal. There are so many neat ones out there. Find one that fits your novel's theme and maybe buy a nice pen that you use only in your journal. Make it special. Make it yours.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Random Thoughts

Thanks for all the great birthday wishes! It was a nice, relaxing day, exactly what I needed. I got in a nap and boy, did that ever feel good! And of course, the birthday cake tasted wonderful. And lo and behold, I had enough energy to work on my novel for a bit, too. Unfortunately, that meant I hit the sack a little too late and made it a bit hard to get through the day.

Last night I fought the urge to curl up on the couch and take a nap. Instead, I took the dog for a walk and then dived into some research for the novel I've been putting off for awhile. Sometimes, research requires good, old-fashioned note-taking, and that's what I did.

Short blog entry today as my head is too wrapped up in research and the novel (this is a good thing, right?) than it is in writing a scintillating blog post. I hope to be more witty and entertaining tomorrow. ;-)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

It's My Birthday

When you get older, birthdays aren't as big of a deal - until you hit the big 4-0, that is. I'm a few years away from that milestone, so to me, it's just sort of another day.

So I'm not doing a whole lot today. Lounging around, eating my birthday cake (because calories don't count on your birthday!), watching a few movies, and tonight we'll go out for dinner. Since it's also Father's Day, my husband and I get to share the day. :-)

I already received some very nice presents - a Lifehouse CD from hubby, a beautiful bracelet from my mom, and some birthday cash from my dad, which I will undoubtedly use at my local Barnes & Noble.

Happy Father's Day to all those dads out there, and a special Happy Father's Day to my own Dad!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Writing...Take Me Away!


For me, escaping into my writing world is a whole lot better than any bubble bath (for those of you who aren't sure about the reference, there is a popular bubble bath soap here in the U.S. called Calgon and they're tagline is, "Calgon, take me away!" and their commercials show a harried mother who is fed up with the kids, the housework, and the husband).

Anyway...that's all I wanted to do last night - write. After we cleaned up all the water and went through the other boxes in our basement that got hit with the water (and oh, horrors, I realized there was another box of books that I'm going to have to go through...), all I wanted to do was write. But then I knew I needed to take myself and the dog for a walk because I haven't been exercising like I should lately, and it was a beautiful evening. So off I went. And when I got back home, hubby was still working downstairs and I hung around and we chatted about our day. By the time I took a shower and crawled into bed, ready to turn on my laptop, it was 10 p.m. and all I wanted to do was go to sleep.

So I did.

Sigh...hopefully tonight will be better.

Escaping from my reality into my fictional world is better than any therapy in the world. Suddenly, I'm in charge (or I like to believe I am) of my characters' thoughts and actions and words, and I can make bad things happen to them without any consequences for myself (not that I like making bad things happen for them, but fiction is all about conflict, right?).

What about you? If your world is in turmoil, do you like to turn to your fiction to escape it all?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Weather Is Ruining My Writing Plans

(This is what thunderstorms look like in Nebraska)

Last night we had more severe thunderstorms in our area - plus lots of tornado warnings. So we spent most of the evening in the basement. I shut my computer off because I didn't want it to get fried with all the lightning, and we had the radio on since our satellite t.v. wasn't working because of the storm.

My poor daughter was in tears when she heard about all the funnel clouds around us, but I assured her that we were in a safe place - the basement. Poor thing is really having a rough summer weather-wise.

But the weather is playing havoc with my writing plans. Who can concentrate on writing when a tornado might be headed your direction? I went to bed before 10 p.m., exhausted by the night's activities. The tornado warning would expire, then they'd issue another one. Rain flooded our back yard and the animals were all in the basement with us, my dog Charlie running back and forth whenever a particular loud thunder clap sounded.

This morning, I woke to water in my basement - and of course, it was in my office. A good inch or more spread a nice little pool on the floor - thankfully, it is a concrete floor, so no ruined carpet. BUT...I had a box of paperback books sitting under my desk - my favorite, most-treasured paperback books. And yep, you guessed it - the bottom stack of them got water-logged. Some of these books I have had since high school.

Yet I tried to keep everything in perspective. After all, books can be replaced. People cannot. And this storm system created tragedies for many people last night. We were very fortunate and blessed that the only problem we had was some water in the basement.

Hopefully, this evening will be a bit more quiet storm-wise and the writing will commence.
EDIT: Damage Assessment
It is a truth universally acknowledged that your absolutely favorite books, the ones that you have had since you first started buying books, the ones you remember all the stories to, the ones you lovingly put on your first bookshelf, will be the ones to get the most damage. It is also a truth universally acknowledged that the books that you picked up at a library book sale, have yet to read, maybe will never read, but looked good at the time, will be virtually untouched.
I am in mourning for my water-soaked books.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Spring...Er, Summer Cleaning

Six sticky notes hang on my kitchen wall. Each one has a heading: bathroom, kitchen, basement, fix, replace, paint. And under each heading is a list of chores to do.

I'm in the spring cleaning mood, but since it feels like summer around here, we'll just call it summer cleaning.

It's the chores that have been neglected for too long - washing the window sills, washing curtains, washing the baseboards in the bathroom, fixing the broken kitchen cabinet, cleaning cobwebs in the basement, replacing the blinds in my kids' windows, and on and on and on.

After I made the list, I no longer felt so overwhelmed. It was the first step toward tackling a very difficult and time-consuming task. Lots of difficult and time-consuming tasks.

Hubby jumped right on things when he got home from work, bless him, and I started on cleaning the windows in the kitchen. I'm also in the de-cluttering mood, and I'm sick of having a bunch of "stuff" around that I never use and don't need. I have no doubt that I'll be donating stuff to Goodwill or my local FreeCycle group.

I think if I pace myself, and keep looking at my lists, I'll be ok. And when I put a check mark next to the chores done, the sense of accomplishment will keep me going!

I've also done a bit of "summer cleaning" with my writing. I had a few short stories that I've wanted to submit for awhile now, so I got them out, "dusted" them off, and finally got the motivation to send them this week.

And even though this has nothing to do with spring cleaning, I couldn't resist sharing my other bit of good news. I won Christine Fletcher's new book, Ten Cents a Dance. It takes place during World War II in Chicago. I've been looking in the bookstores for it and couldn't find it, so was just about to order if off Amazon.com. But no longer! And of course, I can't wait to read it.

So. Spring cleaning. Do or don't?

Monday, June 09, 2008

7 Random Things

Because I'm on Rebecca's blogroll, I'm therefore tagged to do the 7 Random Things About Me meme, which is a good thing because it's Monday and I can't think of a decent blog topic.

Ok. Here goes. 7 Random or Weird Things About Me You Didn't Know (And Maybe Don't Want To Know)

1. I can't swim. I even took private swimming lessons when I was a girl. Still didn't help. My mind could not get over the fact that if I tried to float, I would definitely sink because it was obvious that I was heavier than water. I couldn't even dunk my head under water.

2. My mom and I wrote two children's books and had them published about seven years ago (I'm not listed as an author because I have no idea who put this on Amazon. Wasn't us!). They were commissioned by the Nebraska Dry Bean Grower's Association that my mother worked for. We wrote the stories and we had a local illustrator draw the pics for it. They turned out great. They were sent to every school in Nebraska, and we even did a few book tours, went to local schools to speak, and even libraries.

3. I still have my prom dress from when I was a junior. I can't bear to part with it since it was handmade. It's still gorgeous to this day.

4. I went to Las Vegas to get married. It was just hubby and I. Terribly romantic, plus we saved a ton of money in the process. We had a reception for our family and friends when we got back.

5. I have to eat pizza with a fork. Otherwise, it's too messy. My husband calls the way I eat pizza un-American. I just don't want to spill sauce on my shirt.

6. I am addicted to email. I will check my private email at work once every hour. At home, I have to check it at least every four.

7. I have to get the mail from the mailbox No one else. If they do, I get irritated beyond belief. Don't ask me why. Maybe that's why I am addicted to email.

If you're like me and can't think of a good blog post, go ahead and consider yourself tagged to do this meme. :-)

Friday, June 06, 2008

64th Anniversary of D-Day: Operation Overlord

Sixty-four years ago, the Allied Invasion of Eurupe commenced. Thousands of troops - American, French, English, Canadian, and others - embarked on a quest to save Europe from Hitler's tyranny.
It wasn't an easy landing. The beaches at Omaha and Utah were brutal. Machine guns from atop the bluffs strafed the soldiers even before some of them got off the boats. Earlier, paratroopers jumped from the sky and landed in France, some scattered far away from their units, others killed when German soldiers saw them falling from the sky and shot them.
Before the invasion commenced, General Dwight D. Eisenhower said the following words:

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.

In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely. But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men.

The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory! I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory! Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

SIGNED: Dwight D. Eisenhower

Today, take a moment to remember these brave men and the incredible courage it must have taken to do what they had to do.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Thunder and Lightning and...Tornadoes?

We've had quite a run of severe weather the past two weeks. Last Thursday, a tornado hit parts of Kearney, Nebraska, which is about 120 miles from us. We had some damaging winds and rain from the storm, but thankfully no tornado. However, we did have the news on the entire evening and hubby stayed up late to make sure the tornado watch expired before went to sleep.

Last night we had another patch of storms roll in. And let me tell you, those clouds were nasty looking. So dark they were almost black, they converged on our city and sent the tornado sirens blaring. We headed to our basement and kept watching the weather on our local station to see if there might be a tornado headed our way. We were under a tornado warning because this same storm had a history of producing tornadoes.

My daughter was not a happy camper. She was quite scared, but I reassured her that we were in a safe part of the house if a tornado happened to come by. Thankfully, the warning expired without any funnel clouds appearing.

I woke up to a lake in the backyard, but if there was any thunder, I didn't hear it. We're supposed to get more severe storms this afternoon and this evening, which means more sky-watching and nail-biting.

Of course, the funniest part of the whole evening was my scramble downstairs - I had my laptop running and had written about a half a page on my novel when the warnings sounded. And of course, the laptop is the one thing I grabbed before I went downstairs.

That's a writer for ya.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Being Creative

Creativity is amazing. The good thing is, you don't have to be a certain place at a certain time to find it. My daughter takes her drawing stuff just about anywhere - here she is at work on the picnic table in the backyard (a picnic table that's been painted just about every color of the rainbow!) Sometimes I can't bear the thought of working in my basement office. My mood doesn't match the no-windows, cinder-block wall environment. Other times, I crave the solitude and enclosure. But on the days that I don't, I like to use my laptop and either camp out in my bedroom, on the couch, or the front porch.


But location isn't the only thing that affects my creativity. Lately at work I've been listening to a classical music radio station. When I do, I can feel my brain shift and suddenly, I have more creative energy. Music definitely plays a part in how I feel. And the weird thing is, sometimes it makes me creative and sometimes it interferes with that creativity and I crave silence. There's something musical about silence, too, don't you think?

Browsing in the bookstore stirs my creativity. When I head to Barnes & Noble and walk through all those stacks of books, I am in awe that there are so many writers out there who got their book on the shelves. And when I see that, yeah, I'm a bit intimidated - but I'm also more determined to become one of those successful authors. And I usually can't wait to get home and start writing.

Taking walks also fuels my creativity. How can you not be creative when you look at nature? It is simply fascinating. If you take a moment just to look around you, you'll notice things you didn't before. Look, really look, at a flower petal, at all the different shapes and vibrant colors bursting in that tiny little canvas.



Check out the ants scurrying on the ground, building their home one piece of dirt at a time.


Watch how a cat gracefully jumps on the window sill (or the couch), his body moving in just the right way at just the right time.



And in our writing, we can explore that creativity to our heart's content. We can play with words to create images and thoughts and emotions. We can create our own world, populated with characters from our own imagination. How much more creative can you get?

Creativity is all around us - we only have to open our eyes to see it. And as my nephew once said, "God is a pretty good artist."

I couldn't agree more.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Weekend Recap

My daughter had her first sleep over party on Friday night, which left hubby and I free to go on a date. It was a beautiful evening, so we walked downtown, grabbed a bite for supper, and headed to the movie theater just in time to watch the new Indiana Jones flick. We had great seats and I enjoyed the movie - I laughed through a lot of it. I must say that it's not as good as any of the first three, but it's worth seeing. Though if you're not a diehard fan, wait for it to come out on DVD and don't spend the atrocious amount on movie tickets (for two of us, it was $17!!!)

I went shopping Saturday morning and got a few more summer outfits. I can't believe it's June already! And the thermometer is already starting to climb. If you've followed my blog, you'll know that I am not a heat person. It makes me grouchy and downright miserable. I spent most of my summer time inside anything that is air conditioned, be that the office, the car, or the house. Only when the temps cool off enough do I venture outside on the front porch.

Sunday was my designated writing day. And since it was rather warm outside, I decided to hole up in my basement bedroom where it was nice and cool. I turned on the t.v. to the 1940s station on XM Radio, turned on my laptop, grabbed my chocolate, switched on my fan, and started to write. My cat, Slick, hopped up on the bed and curled up beside me.

A few hours later, I had written 3600 words. I was rather proud of myself. ;-)

Hubby and I took the dogs for a walk, we filled water balloons with my daughter, and then I relaxed on the couch and did a bit of reading.

And now it's Monday already. The kids are out of school, so that eliminated a few miles off my morning commute this morning. They took advantage of summer vacation by staying up late. Hey, that's what summers are for!

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...