Wednesday, September 30, 2009

So...

A funny thing happened when I posted on my Facebook status that I was out of books. One of my friends said (and I'm paraphrasing), "Stop reading so much and start writing. You should be seeing YOUR books on the library shelf."

Gulp.

He was right. Completely and totally right. I'm ready to write and need to stop procrastinating. My story is a good one, I'm excited about it, and I'm trying something new with it. So why the reluctance to hit the page?

I've been too soft on myself lately. And it was needed, believe me. I needed to take a break from the "should" committee - i.e. you should be writing, you should not be crying over your divorce, you should put on a brave smile to the world, etc., etc.

But now the time for that is past. My dream has been restored to me and I mean to go after it.

Sometimes, it just takes someone to point you in the right direction.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Feelin' Good

Chatsworth Park, Derbyshire, England


I love autumn for a lot of reasons - the leaves changing colors, harvest time, the crunching of leaves, the wonderful smells of pumpkin pie and apple cider...

But I also love autumn because summer is over, the heat has receded, and the days and nights grow chilly again. I love curling up on my couch with a blanket and a book, a fire roaring in the fireplace.

Most of all, though, I love autumn because my entire mood changes.

I've been in hunker-down mode for awhile and it was much-needed. Now, I feel refreshed and ready to tackle things again.

What have I learned during this time off?

1) I need to pray more and listen to what the good Lord has planned for me

2) I need to be content with what I have now instead of always looking for ways to be happy. Instead, I can be happy right now - no special magic required!

3) I have incredible friends, both online and in "real" life that have helped me navigate this recent difficult journey.

4) Nothing, but nothing, beats the power of a good book to help you escape the world for awhile.

And speaking of good books, I have to give a shout out to Francine River's Redeeming Love. It is one of the most powerful books I have ever read and it has made me re-evaluate some key issues in my life. I encourage you to check it out.

How are things in your life?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tidbits

Unplanned Day Off
I'm at home today with a sick little girl. She's got a fever, a slight cough, and is tired. Poor wee thing. But she has an excellent appetite, so I'm hoping this isn't that nasty H1N1 virus that's been going around. (She just popped in here and said she's tired of laying around. That's a good sign!)

We Have a Winner!
Last night, my daughter told me that she won a drawing contest at her school. Every 4th grader in her school (probably around 60 kids or so) drew a poster for our local fire department fire safety contest. She was picked out of them all. Now she is a semi-finalist for the city-wide competition. We'll keep our fingers crossed! When they gave her the blue ribbon, they had all the kids stand out in the hallway and cheer for her as the principal handed her the prize. I almost started crying when she told me (I'm a sap, I know). How special it must have been.

On Blogging
My blog posts have been sporadic, at best, but I almost feel ready to jump back into it with both feet. If I haven't shown up at your blog lately, don't feel bad. It's all been part of my "hunker down" mode.

On Writing
And like blogging, I almost feel ready to jump back into my writing, as well. I'm excited and feel more refreshed and ready to tackle it.

On the Weekend
My mother is coming to visit this weekend. We plan to hit a pumpkin patch and the local arts festival - in fact, my daughter was concerned that she wouldn't be well enough to visit the festival tomorrow. Here's praying she'll be much better by then! I'm also hoping to find a cool painting for my living room wall. I've been here almost a year and I've been searching and searching for just the right painting. Maybe I'll find it tomorrow.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Good Cry


So I'm curious. Do you ever feel blue, moody, out of sorts, and a good cry sets everything to rights?

I'm thinking this is more a female trait, but I could be wrong. Anyway, I was feeling pretty blue last night for no good reason and after a good cry, I felt better. Something about releasing those emotions does wonders for me.

You?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Your Core

I admit, I've been enjoying my time in my foxhole. Why? Because I've started to really get into the heart of why I write. And, surprise surprise, it's not to have my book published.

Is that one of my goals? Sure. But it's not the be-all-end-all reason I write. And it shouldn't be for you, either. Why?

Because even after that book is published, you still have to write the next one. Only this time, you won't have the luxury of making your own deadlines or watching your favorite t.v. show instead of writing. You also won't have the luxury of keeping your story on your hard-drive where it's safe. No, it's going to be in front of editors and reviewers and readers. And that, my friends, opens up a whole 'nother can of worms.

If you do not have the strength and fortitude of knowing why you write - really why you write - to sustain you through the publishing world, you won't survive. You need to have the reasons why you write locked tight inside the very core of your soul, ready and waiting for the time that you want to give up the game and chuck your latest contracted manuscript into the trash.

Now I'm speaking from the unpublished side of things. I don't know what it's like on the other side. I have an inkling, thanks to the great published authors out there who share their experiences. But in reading books on writing from those who are published, I keep hearing the same thing.

After you're published, you still have to write. Only I think that writing is now even harder than it was before. Why? Because you've got an audience, you've got an editor, you've (maybe) got an agent, you've got reviewers, etc. And in the midst of all that, you still have to churn out your next book. So the question of, "Why am I doing this?" will surely come up when the pressure is on, when the deadline is days away, when the reviews are nasty.

You need to rely on that core.

I think that at this stage of the game, laying the foundation of who I really am as a writer is a necessary and vital part of making sure I can navigate the publishing world. Let's face it. It's not going to be easy. The heavens will not part and I will not suddenly be gifted with flawless words and a perfect life when my book is published.

So before that publishing moment happens, I need to establish my writing core and focus on why I write.

What about you?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Commitment to the Craft

Let me tell you a story.

Last weekend, after picking my
daughter up from daycare, we came home and she immediately started working on her new drawing project. She wanted to create a Crash Bandicoot book. If you don't know who Crash is, he is a video game superstar. This is what he looks like.

My daughter loves playing the video games which, I admit, are pretty silly and fun. When you conquer certain levels in the game, you are rewarded with "extras" (think DVD extras). In this case, it was a storyboard of the game, panel by panel. For each level you conquered, you would get a new storyboard panel. These panels all looked hand-drawn by pencil.

This is where my daughter's creativity kicked in. She wanted to draw all of these panels and make a book to tell the story of Crash's journey to victory. Now I thought this project might just last an hour or so, but it didn't. She worked on it all night long. In fact, I fell asleep around 11 p.m. or so and she was still working!

The next day, while I read and puttered around the apartment, she still continued to work. She would play a level of the game, get the next storyboard, and draw it. This went on from 10 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. when I finally decided we both needed to get out of the house! After we went grocery shopping, we came home, ate supper, and then she went right back to it. Play the game, draw the panel. Play the game, draw the panel.

Sunday morning brought church and my little miss didn't want to go because she wanted to work on her project. I assured her she would have the rest of the day to do that. And that is exactly what she did.

Finally, she finished all her drawings and I am not kidding when I say she had done around 50 of them. Coloring came next. She got out her colored pencils, matched the colors up to what was on the video game, and dove in. By bedtime, she wasn't done and wanted desperately to stay up late so she could finish it. I couldn't grant her wish since she had school the next day, but as soon as she got home from school on Monday, she set to work on it again and finished it.

She is so proud of her finished product. And I am in awe of her complete dedication and focus. She is only 9! Yet she could teach us all a lesson in commitment to our craft.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fall Is in the Air!

Can you feel it? The breeze is slightly cooler. The leaves are just starting to change. Football games bring excitement to Friday night and Saturdays - and don't forget Sunday NFL football!

There's a longing for a blanket, for candles lit on the fireplace mantle, for the sound of leaves
rustling against the house, for the smell of pumpkin and cinnamon and spices.

I love this time of year. The summer months bring about depression for me (I think I have the opposite of Seasonal Affective Disorder), but with the coming of cooler breezes and the change in the landscape, I feel positively alive.

Are you ready for fall?


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Let's Talk About Pressure

Indulge me for a moment whilst I come out of my semi-hiatus from blogging...

In this world where we are constantly driving ourselves to succeed, to be involved, to do this, to do that, we put a tremendous amount of pressure upon ourselves.


We feel pressured to lose weight, to be healthy, to work out every day, to eat right. We feel pressured to volunteer at our kids' school or our church or our charity group or our writing group. We feel pressured to be the best friend, the best daughter or son, the best husband or wife, the best mom or dad, the best sister or brother, the best employee. In terms of writing, we feel pressured to meet our deadlines (self-imposed or publisher-imposed) or write a break-out novel, or come up with a unique character, or write 1,000 words a day or write to satisfy the market, or blog on a daily basis or visit blogs and comment every day.

Just
looking at that list overwhelms me. I have the urge to crawl into bed and pull the covers over myself in a vain attempt to hide from the world and all that pressure. Are you feeling it,
too?

*deep breath*

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be or do any of these things. Who doesn't want to be a better mother or father or be healthy? Many of us believe that we need to do these things to be happy, to find contentment. And this is true in many ways. But it's the pressure to be perfect that throws a monkey wrench into the works.

I highly doubt I'm ever
going to be a size 7 again. It would be nice, but my body has changed since I was in college - for one, I had a child. And two, well, metabolism changes as you age. But instead of looking at my attempts to lose weight and eat right as a quest to be the perfect size 7, I've had to perceive it differently. Instead of "needing" to lose the weight, I "want" to lose the weight because it will result in a healthier me. Have I lost track of this vision? Sometimes, especially when I'm at the mall and see all these perfect size 6s and 7s walking around!

But the pressure valve can be released on many of these situations if we simply change our perception
. If, instead of saying, "I need to be a perfect mother/father", we say, "I want to be a better mother/father," that takes some of the pressure off.

Look, perfection in this world ain't gonna happen (forgive my lapse in proper grammar). So why do we keep wearing
ourselves out trying to find it? Why do we continue to put more and more pressure on ourselves to achieve something we'll never have? I'm never going to be a perfect size 7, never going to write a perfect novel, never going to be a perfect mother or daughter. What I can do is be a better writer, a better mother or daughter, and heck, a healthier size --whatever--.

I think this whole bit of "hunkering down" I've been doing lately has shown me some truths. I think too much
, for one, and I am putting way too much pressure on myself with my writing. I need to back off. I need to write just to write. I need to isolate myself from the publishing and marketing news and just focus on the story. This also means perhaps backing off on writer-related posts on the blog. I feel a foolish superstition that if I let anyone know about the project I'm currently working on, the motivation and love I feel toward it will melt away. So I'm keeping my yap shut. This may be hard for me, but at this point, I feel like it's the right thing to do.

And it has eased the pressure.

Have you felt under pressure from too many things in your life lately? Has it affected your writing?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Being Creative

Sometimes, all you need is some paint, some stickers, some glittery glue, and a little crooked house.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Battle Fatigue

It's a battle to get published. We all know this. But I think if you've been in this game for a long time and you've fought and fought to hear those magical words of, "I want to represent you" or "I want to buy your book," and you have yet to hear them...well, battle fatigue sets in.

Like the State Farm commercials say, "I'm there." I modify it to say, "I am so there. "

Rejections are part of this business. But it seems that those rejections come a lot faster when you don't write the "normal" type of fiction. What is normal? Hmm. Well, perhaps that is a wrong choice of words. But for example, I don't write what's "hot." I don't write fantasy or paranormal or vampire novels. Heck, I don't even write novels set in the Regency anymore (though I do have one of those languishing on my hard drive that will never see a bookshelf and that is a-ok with me) or even novels set during contemporary times.

I write novels set during World War II.

And yes, there are many novels set during this war out there - but the majority of them are thrillers or deal with the Holocaust or are more literary in tone. (If I lived in England, well, it would be a different story. There's LOTS of WW2 novels over there!)

I don't write literary. I don't write thrillers (though I'd love to be able to as I love to read thrillers - but my talent does not shine in this format). My stories are simple, as I've blogged about before. I believe there is a market for them. I know this in my heart. And the book I'm shopping around right now to agents is a deep reflection of who I am as a storyteller. It is the first book that I truly believe showcases my voice. Simply put, I love and adore this story.

All I have to do is wait for an agent to read my query, request my novel, and then say the same thing - that they love my book, that they want to get behind it 100% and find it a home on the shelf. I keep telling myself that when a rejections come in, it wasn't meant to be, that God has a plan and I have to wait on Him - my motto is, "His time, not mine."

But the battle sometimes gets me down. I feel weak and battered, and want to go hide in a corner and eat lots of chocolate.

I'm not looking for sympathy or any, "Poor you. Don't give up. It will get better!" Reason being, I know all this. I'm not giving up the fight. I am just weary, that's all.

I might take a hiatus from blogging for awhile, or I might just post whenever I feel the need. Lately, though, I've felt more of a "I have to write a post" feeling rather than "I want to write a post." It's no fun when you're blogging because you have to.

There's been a lot of regrouping, rethinking, and redoing in my life lately. This thought-process has fallen on just about every spectrum it can - my health, my role as as mother, co-worker, and friend, my faith, my career, and yes, my writing.

Sometimes, you have to hunker down in the foxhole and stay put. Sometimes you have to get out and yell, "Charge!" Well, I'm in the hunker phase. The shells are exploding overhead, I can smell the smoke and sweat of battle, but I'm not going anywhere. So while I'm still in the battle, I'm holding back for a minute, looking at the situation, and seeing which direction to take next.

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...