Saturday, February 28, 2009

Isn't She Pretty?



My new toy! Well, actually, my new writing tool.
A Toshiba Satellite.
I love it already!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Writing Mistakes

Vacation picture of a Derby rose


Rene pointed me in the direction of this awesome post from the Holt Uncensored blog. It's full of wonderful writing advice and lists the ten mistakes writers don't see. I urge you to take the time to read it.

Several good nuggets of wisdom stood out, but I love this one the best:

"Flat
writing is a sign that you’ve lost interest or are intimidated by your own narrative. It shows that you’re veering toward mediocrity, that your brain is fatigued, that you’ve lost your inspiration. So use it as a lesson. When you see flat writing on the page, it’s time to rethink, refuel and rewrite. "

I have been cursed by flat writing before, and it's from all those reasons above - I'm too tired, I've lost my inspiration, or I just plain don't care. I think a writer is vulnerable
to this when editing, especially when that's all you've been doing is editing for days and weeks on end.

So take the time to "rethink, refuel, and rewrite." Your writing will thank you for it.

Now, go and read the rest of Holt Uncensored's wisdom, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Planning the Vacation


After traveling to England last October, the traveling bug has bit me full force. I've decided to give myself the gift of vacationing at least once a year (if I can afford it!). And this year, I've chosen Colonial Williamsburg.

I have always, always wanted to visit this place. I've also wished I could work there! My love for Revolutionary War history has always been strong. The birth of our nation is a compelling story and I originally wanted to study it when I went to graduate school. Then I decided to focus on World War II. But I've still got a bookshelf full of books on the American Revolution.

So my next destination will be Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown. And this time, I've invited my mother to come along. I have a feeling we will have a blast since she loves this time period, too.

Have you ever been to Colonial Williamsburg? What was your experience? If you haven't visited, do you ever have any interest in going there?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On Blogging Awards

Confession. I have been the recipient of a few blogging awards and have not acknowledged them on my blog. For that, I feel really guilty. And these awards go back quite awhile.

Thus if you have most recently awarded me a blogging award and I have not put it in my blog, it's not because I am being snobby or ignoring you, but simply because I forgot to recognize the awards I previously won and feel like if I recognize your award now, I will be thumbing my nose at the awards I failed to recognize before.

And since it's been months and months since I received some of those awards...well, I have no idea what they are anymore.

Solution? I'm just going to give a big thank you to all those who nominated me for awards. I do appreciate it. Really. I just have a very bad memory. So don't feel bad if you've nominated me for something and haven't seen it turn up on my blog. It's not you. It's me. :-) And if you nominate me in the future, thank you, but I think I'll have to stick with my policy of not sticking it on my blog because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.

I really need to improve my memory...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Laptop Dilema

So. My laptop displayed the Black Screen of Death the other day. It wasn't completely black - I could barely see my icons, but nothing I did, or nothing any of the tech guys at work did, brought it back.

My laptop also needs a new battery. Since the battery is shot, I've not been able to be mobile with it - which means I'm still chained to a desk (or in this case, the couch).

In addition, my laptop doubles as my t.v/DVD player. My older desktop computer won't play DVDs, so unless I want to intrude on my daughter and watch a movie in her room on her t.v. and DVD player (which doesn't work so great, either), I'm just outta luck.

I bought this laptop back in 2006, I believe, and it was used when I bought it. I do almost all my writing on it, and I am missing it terribly right now. I only use it for those two things - movie-watching and writing.

I just found out that I can repair it for $200 - new battery and new screen. While this is cheaper than buying a brand new one, I do not know if other things will start to "break" in the near future and I don't know that I want to pour more money into it.

However, I do not want to spend a lot of money on a new laptop. Before the laptop went kaput, I was going to buy a t.v./DVD combo to put in my bedroom. Now, though, I can't afford to do both.

I am not a fan of refurbished laptops, either. There's always too many "if's" associated with them.

So. Buy new? Buy a system only good for writing or watching DVD's and without any of the bells and whistles?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Productive Recluse

(Picture from the Jane Austen Center in Bath)


I admit it. I was a complete recluse over the weekend. I didn't step foot outside on Saturday (didn't even go get the mail!) and then on Sunday, the only time I went outside was to take a nice, long walk beside the duck pond. Other than that, I was a worker bee.

My laptop is sadly under the weather right now (I think the diagnosis is a bad screen inverter) so I've had to be chained to my desk if I wanted to get anything done. This brought the added distraction of the Internet, but I think I handled it ok. Since I am in 'edit mode' all those little notes I made to myself during the first draft (check on this, research this, etc.) now need to be fixed. So it's actually worked out well to just pop open the Internet and find the fact I need instead of putting the laptop down, going into the office, and booting up the other computer. It's not like either one is a chore...but it's just easier, is all.

By Sunday afternoon, though, I was feeling a bit like a recluse. But isn't that the writer's life sometimes? Solitary? I had two whole days of solitude. And that is definitely enough! I was actually glad to go to work and be around my co-workers.

How do you deal with the solitude of writing? Do you enjoy it?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturdays

I cleaned the apartment today, did two loads of laundry, and even dusted. But I also stayed in bed this morning and finished reading a novel, am wearing my lounging clothes, and do not intend to step foot outside today other than to get my mail. Instead, I'm sitting at my computer (my poor laptop is on the fritz right now) and working on editing my novel. The candle is burning, the baroque music is playing, and I've had my chocolate and Diet Pepsi for inspiration.

The first three chapters of the novel are done. I am pretty pleased with them. I have a whole lot further to go, and it's taking longer than I expected, but really, that's ok.

I may or may not take a nap this afternoon. But that's what I love about Saturdays. I have nowhere I have to be and time to indulge in whatever I want to. Since I was very busy last weekend, I'm savoring every minute of free time today.

And that's just how I like it. Stress-free, relaxing weekends are an absolute must for me, otherwise it is incredibly difficult for me to make it through the work week.

How is your Saturday?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Zest! Gusto!


I just ran across this quote by Ray Bradbury:


"Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto."


Are you using zest and gusto when you write? Are you using it in your life?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Getting In Focus

I was born and raised on a small family farm in western Nebraska. I lived there from birth until I went off to college. My father and mother raised cattle (and pigs and chickens for awhile, too) and grew corn, sugar beets, and dry edible beans (Great Northern beans - think of bean and ham soup). This farm is now owned and operated by my older brother. He is the fourth generation of our family to live and work on this farm.
The farm was my place to play and explore, to learn the value of hard work and the importance of family. Granted, my two brothers usually went out to the fields with my dad while I helped my mom with the housework, but I had my fair share of working on the farm. I hoed beans (read: chop out the weeds in the bean field with a hoe or sometimes a machete); I went irrigating and scooped ditches; I failed miserably at starting irrigation tubes, but at least I tried; and there were the occasional times I went and tried to move cows. Let me tell you - you will learn the true meaning of frustration when you try and move a bunch of cows somewhere they simply do not want to go.

Since we were ten miles from town, my family had each other for company. My two brothers were also my playmates. We built forts (mine was Fort Whopper and my little brother's was Fort Johnson); we made mud pies; we drove our three-wheeler (before they were outlawed) around and around our land; we played in an old tractor cab (my first "office", albeit a "detective agency" office); we would make sail boats and float them in the huge mud puddles in the yard after a hard rainstorm; we would go sledding on country roads after a blizzard; we became wayward travelers stopping by a welcoming inn (my brother and I used to put the kitties in a baby carriage and walk around the farm, pretending to be traveling in a distant land and stopping by the "inn" (house) for a bite to eat. Mom would always treat us like special guests).

I have so, so many memories of the farm. Some of those memories aren't good - we got hit by the Farm Crisis in the '80s and had to have a farm sale where we sold a lot of our equipment; we also got hit by hail and drought and bad livestock prices. But a lot of the memories are wonderful - family get-togethers, the time my graduating senior class all ended up at my house because the traditional senior party was a dud, the Sunday dinners, the visitors. Oh, I could go on and on.

Strange how I always wanted to leave that farm. My head was always in my books - I wanted to visit England and France; I wanted to live in a city where there was noise and people; I wanted to have grand adventures and meet handsome, exciting men! Most of those dreams have happened. I've visited England (not France, though) and I now live in a city (though a small one) and I've had a few adventures and met some handsome, exciting men (and learned to steer clear of them!).

Yet whenever my life has become clouded and murky, going home to the family farm centers me. It is here that I remember the important things in life - family; faith; forgiveness; hard-work; trust; love. It is here that I became a writer - and here that I first had the dream of becoming a published novelist.

Sometimes, that dream takes a hit. Life gets in the way. And I feel like that dream is just like my windshield after driving through a swarm of gnats. Lots of splatters. Job. Finances. Personal relationships. Health. Family.
But when I go to the farm, or really, whenever I go home and am surrounded by my wonderful family, the windshield is wiped clean and I get my focus back. I tune in to what I want out of life—and I have a renewed sense to achieve it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Randomness

Not much to report today since I went home from work last night, tried to watch a bad World War II movie, shut it off, then went to bed at 7 p.m. and didn't wake up until this morning. Yeah, I'm not feeling good. Darn it. I've got too much stuff to do to be sick, mainly editing the novel.

I hope to get back to that tonight, though. Now let's just hope I don't fall asleep at my desk today...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

On Weddings and Weekends

This is my mom and my daughter - and I absolutely love this picture. Aren't they both just beautiful? It makes me smile with pure joy whenever I look at it. I took it this weekend while we were home for my mom's wedding. You can tell that she's a happy lady! She found a wonderful man and I am so thrilled for her.

The wedding was very nice - it was just the kids and the grandkids of the bride and groom, so it was very small and intimate. But it was also perfect for these two people who met only a year ago yet love each other so very much.

Other than the wedding, I hung out with my family. We always have so much fun together, no matter what we do. Even sitting around and remembering our childhood antics (I have two brothers - I'm the only girl and I was also the middle child) is such a blast. We weren't the types of siblings that ever said we hated each other. Oh, sure, we got into fights, but it was never anything big where we wouldn't speak to each other for days or carry a grudge over into adulthood. We respect each other a lot and we pull together and help each other out whenever we need to. In short, we actually like each other. :-)

Going home always makes me refocus in life. It also makes me put things in perspective. I like that. I need that.

So how have I refocused? Hmm. Will post more on that this week. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Figures

I've said again and again how much I love snow and how much I want more snow before winter is through. Well, I'm about to get my wish. We are slated to get 5-10 inches of the white stuff tomorrow. Hurray! Well...except for one little thing...

I have to travel to western Nebraska for my mother's wedding on Saturday. I had planned to leave Friday after work, but the storm is supposed to hit overnight. Since I don't want to miss the wedding and I also don't want to drive in bad conditions, my brother and I are leaving tonight and will probably drive through the night until we get home. I hope we can beat the storm, but we'll see.

On the plus side, though, is that I will be on the family farm and hopefully will be able to go sledding with my daughter or build a snowman in the front yard where I used to build them myself. I'm looking forward to that.

But oh, why couldn't the snow wait until I didn't have to go anywhere? Ah well. I'll still take it!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hibernation Mode


Lately, when someone from my family calls me and says, "What's new?" I really don't have anything to tell them. I'm in a funk, but it's not a depression funk. I'm having a hard time getting excited about, well, anything. The world is just spinning around me. I'm not smiling a lot, not laughing a lot, not interacting with people, not wanting to go hang out with friends, not wanting to do much of anything except stay at home, read, and work on the novel (and I've been exercising regularly, too).

It's weird. Maybe it's just the fact that it's February and we're in
this odd weather pattern where instead of snow, we're getting rain and temps in the high 50s. Maybe it's because of the economic doom and gloom the whole world seems to be experiencing. Maybe it's the normal, everyday routine that has done it. Or...maybe I'm just in hibernation mode.

I admit it. The past few weeks, I've wanted nothing more than to stay home. I recognize that
I can't do it for any long periods of time because I need to be around people (which I've blogged about before) otherwise I get depressed. But at this particular moment, even when I am around people, I feel a disconnect. I don't feel the need to socialize. I don't want to socialize. But I'm not depressed. I'm just...here.

Now this is not necessarily a bad thing. I'm doing a lot of observation
. I'm thinking a lot. I'm deep into my novel. And I know that this, too, shall pass and I'll feel the need to go to a movie with my friends, go on a road trip, or even go shopping. But not yet.

Have you ever experienced this?

Monday, February 09, 2009

It Ain't Easy


I spent nearly all day yesterday working on the edits for my novel. I took a break to go work out (yay!), eat, and read. Otherwise, I sat on my sofa, laptop in my lap, and edited.

And let
me just say one thing that probably all of you who have written a novel or are in the process of writing a novel know very well: It ain't easy.

There are some people who think writing a novel is easy. I don't know of one novelist who would agree with them. Sure, you can put a bunch of words down and throw in a few characters, plot twists, and call it a novel, but it's not.

A novel, a well-written,
good novel, has numerous elements beyond the surface that must be done the right way. There's character motivation. Sub-plots. Sub-text. Dialogue. Goals. Conflicts. Emotions. And much, much more. All of this must meld together seamlessly.

At one point, I put aside my laptop, laid my head in my hands, and groaned. "This is hard!" I said out loud. And it is. I don't know that it will ever get any easier
. Perhaps the more novels I write, the easier certain elements will get. But I don't think it will ever be easy to write anovel.

It's a whole lot more gratifying to finish something that is challenging and difficult than it
is to finish something that's pretty
darn easy. And while there are days that I wish this whole writing life was easier, I'm thankful that it's not. Therein lies the challenge - and the reward.

Friday, February 06, 2009

It's An Emotional Thing


Last night my daughter was watching Two Brothers, a wonderful tale about two tiger cubs who are separated from their mother, lead very different lives, and are eventually reunited. Set in Thailand in the 1920s, there is a scene where a hunter must get a tiger skin and he goes to a local circus. One of the two brothers is at this circus - but so is an older tiger. When the hunter says he needs a tiger skin by tomorrow, you know the older tiger is going to get it.

I had to leave the room because I started to cry. Tears welled in my eyes as I thought about this poor innocent animal being slaughtered for man's greed. It was tears of sadness, tears of anger, and tears of frustration. Yes, I know this is a movie. But I also know that things like this happen in our world. My daughter is on a mission to save the tigers and I hope that when she grows up, she will keep to her promise to save them - if there are any left.

But the whole situation just reminded me that I am a creature of emotions. Some people can watch a movie like that and it doesn't affect them at all. Not me. Heck, I cry at commercials, for heaven's sake! If I know a movie is going to be sad (as I have heard Marley & Me is), I refuse to go to the theater to see it because I know I will end up bawling. And I hate having people see me cry.

Disney movies, books, pictures, and even blog posts will often reduce me to tears. At times I am embarassed by it because the tears seem to come so darn easily. I don't know if I've always been so prone to it, but within the last few years, I've really noticed it.

I guess this all means that I'm just an emotional gal. And I hope I can translate those emotions onto the page. That's the challenge, thought, to get your readers to feel what your characters are feeling, no matter if it's joy, sadness, anger, or elation.

I'm keeping that in mind as I edit the novel. And if I shed a few tears or laugh out loud because of what my characters are experiencing, then I guess I've accomplished what I set out to do.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

On Editing

In a sense, when you start to edit a huge piece of writing (a smidgen over 100k), you are beginning again. This time, you are looking at it with new eyes. The heart must retreat behind its wall for the time being, and the head must take over. I have said it many times - write your first draft with your heart, write the second with your head.

But by heavens, it's hard. It's hard to take yourself out of the equation, to distance yourself from the characters you have created and fallen in love with, to look at things with an objective eye, and cut and slash and delete as much as needed, even if you love the words.

What you create, however, will be so much better.

However...

There is one thing I learned from my last venture into editing a novel-length manuscript: you can edit too much. You can over-analyze and try and spit-polish every.single.word until you edit the very life and breath right out of your story. Your voice fades into the background and your characters have been wrestled into doing what you think they need to do to make the story work instead of letting them decide their direction.

But in the end, it doesn't work. At all.

Lesson learned. This time around, I'm not going to be so ruthless. I'm not going to edit my voice out of the story. I'm not going to agonize over every single word despite what some other writers might advise.

I tried it that way once, and in the end, I realized that my story wasn't mine anymore. I'd edited the heart out of it.

Solution? When the head (editor) gets too zealous, the heart must gently whisper in its ear. And the editor must listen and consider, then proceed to the best of its ability.

Only then will the true story be told.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Your Definition of Publishing Success


If you're hoping to become a published novelist, what does your success look like? Will you be happy just having the book published, no matter if it makes any bestselling lists? Would you be happy just having a career publishing books in the mid-range list? Would you consider yourself a success if you just had one book published?


Discuss!

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...