Friday, May 29, 2009

Nature Walk

After a rousing game of UNO last night, my daughter and I decided to venture outside. It was absolutely gorgeous. We saw baby ducks, black birds, blue jays, rabbits, and all kinds of dogs walking with their owners on the walking path.

My daughter indulged in some jump-roping (and I tried it out myself) and we took our time looking at the piles of cotton that had settled on the ground from the cottonwood trees, studied dropped feathers, looked at forming pinecones, and laughed and talked and laughed some more.

I'll leave you with some photos for this Friday post. Have a wonderful weekend!













Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Writing Hiatus

I didn't plan to take a break from writing - it just sort of happened. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. After all, I'm still working on my freelance writing, still writing at the day job, and still writing blog posts and emails. But I'm not working on the next novel.

That is partly due to the idea for the next novel not exactly hitting me upside the head. And really, I'm ok with that right now (but not for much longer!).

Normally, when I'm hard at work on my novel, my evenings are pretty regimented. I try and always leave room for time to work on the novel in between getting off work and bedtime. But lately, I've instead allowed myself the time to do whatever I want. Last night my daughter and I played UNO, I nuzzled with my cat, I thumbed through some research books, and just relaxed. I've been doing that lately - just relaxing.

But I know I will want to jump into the next novel ASAP. Until I get my thoughts and ideas formulated, however, I plan to enjoy this downtime.

Have you ever had a writing hiatus?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Treasures!

I've discovered a new hobby.

I've always liked antiques, but I've never been what one would call an enthusiast. Only every so often would I head to an antique store to check things out, but rarely would I buy something.

On the way home from my trip to Kansas City over the weekend, I decided to take a pit stop at the Jesse James Antique Mall in St. Joseph, Missouri. And look what I found! The particular curve of this lamp shade just screams 1940s to me, so I had to snatch it up.

I particularly like the blue top here. It just adds an extra layer of elegance. Already, this lamp is in my bedroom and is in perfect working order.Ah. But the next items made me plain giddy. The first - a 1943 copy of Life magazine. World War II was in full swing and there are pictures from the war as well as from the homefront in this particular issue. And can you believe it only cost 10 cents?

But what I love are all the ads that reflect the war itself. Here's a sampling of the text from a shaving cream ad:

"There's no hot water in a fox-hole - nor at base camp, either. That's why I bet on Lifebuoy Shaving Cream for quicker, easier shaves with cold water or even a used blade!"

Here's another:

"Chevrolet Trucks
Vehicles of Victory on the Fighting Fronts - Abroad
On the Workings Fronts - At Home
War Carriers for the Nation"

This next magazine is also from the World War II era - it's a January 1941 edition of Liberty magazine. What makes this one so intriguing is that it came out shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the editorials and articles focus on America's growing patriotism and dedication to the war.


The last one is Collier's and is from 1948 (don't you love the picture on the front?). All the war rhetoric is gone from the advertising and you can see America's new properity shining through on every page. Amazing.

Old magazines are such an invaluable tool to see into the past. The historian in me comes out to play when I get my hands on such treats as this!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Remember...

Today, remember those men and women, past and present, of the Armed Forces who fought and died so that you might enjoy your freedom.

We must never forget...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

Here in the U.S., it's Memorial Day weekend. Monday is officially Memorial Day, a time to remember those who served and died in the U.S. Armed Forces. The holiday has evolved over time to remembrance of loved ones who have also passed on.

On this holiday, I usually watch war movies all day long, but not this year. I might be able to sneak in one, but otherwise, I'll be moving the rest of my stuff out of my ex-husband's house. Not an exactly fun project. And I don't know where I'm going to put it all, either!

What are your plans for this long weekend?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Looking for Inspiration

Seriously.

There is a reason I'm a writer. I can't not write. And if I don't have any story ideas (ok, I have ideas, but none that are so compelling that I must write them), I go freakin' crazy.

I'm going freakin' crazy right now. I'm not plotting or filling out character sketches or doing research or writing down snippets of dialogue. Nothing.

I can barely stand it. This has never happened to me before and it's downright scary.

Problem, as I see it? I am looking for inspiration instead of allowing it to find me.

I have a wedding to go to this weekend which involves a 2 1/2 hour drive. All by myself. Since I've never been to this place before, I'm hoping my brain will be sufficiently stimulated by the newness of my surroundings to get it jumpstarted into gear.

I figure, though, that good ideas are like trying to find the perfect mate - when you're not looking, that's when they run into you. :-)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Apartment Living: Part II

Contacting the manager was the right thing to do.

When I got home last night, there was a friendly reminder from management about noise (which was distributed to everyone in the building). My daughter read it and she got upset again. So I decided to formulate an email to my apartment manager.

I just heard back from her and she completely understands and agrees with me on this neighbor's behavior.

Sometimes, assertiveness can be a good thing. :-)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Apartment Living

I've lived in several different apartment complexes over my lifetime. I've lived on the top floor, the garden level, and in between. But one thing I've learned is this: the top floor trumps them all. Sure, you have to walk up three flights of stairs (good exercise!) and it's a pain to move in and carry your groceries, but it's worth it for the noise factor. You don't have to worry about people walking around, dropping things, stomping, etc.

That is one of the main reasons that I chose the top floor when I moved into my apartment building last fall. That and it has vaulted ceilings and a fireplace, which the other levels don't.

But last night, I had a knock on my door that made me immediately want to move to a house.

My downstairs neighbor is nice enough. She's always been pleasant, smiled at me, made conversation. But last night, she told me that my daughter is being too loud. She said that whatever she's doing, it is really loud in her apartment below and would I please tell my daughter to stop whatever it is she's doing because she has to get up early and she can't sleep, blah, blah, blah.

Deep breath.

Ok. Since I have lived in a downstairs apartment before and listened to the crashing and bashing, I know exactly what she's talking about. But...I also know that ordinary walking can create such noises. Creaking floors that sound quiet in my apartment may sound too loud in her apartment. When my daughter runs into my room to tell me something, that may sound loud below, too.

So I find myself torn. Having been there, I know how irritating it can be. But here's the thing - that's apartment living. Unless there is extremely loud partying going on, jumping up and down for hours at a time, or screaming and yelling, you deal with it. The quiet hours at my apartment are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and I make sure that my daughter isn't doing anything during those hours (she's usually asleep!). I try to accomodate as much as possible.

Here's the behavior that my daughter was doing that so offended my neighbor (and this was before 10 p.m.)- she was pretending to be a dog. Consequently, she was walking around on her hands and feet. She'd made herself a tail and ears and we found a mask on the internet that we printed out for her. She was having a blast and to me, it wasn't loud at all. She wasn't stomping or pounding or barking or anything.

Now I understand that even walking in my apartment sounds noisy to the apartment downstairs, so I'm sure that my daughter's galloping didn't help, even if it didn't sound loud to me. But what irritated me was that my daughter heard my neighbor say all this. My daughter took off her mask, her tail, and her ears and put them in her closet and said, "Well, I guess I can't play that anymore." That broke my heart.

This is an extremely fine line. I can't expect my daughter not to be a kid. I have to respect my neighbors below, but they have to respect that I have a child, too, that isn't just going to sit still all day. Neither do I want her to sit still all day! At night, if she wants to pretend to be a dog, by heavens, she should be able to - within reason. And it wasn't that she had been sequestered all day and hadn't been able to get outside and play - she was outdoors all day yesterday at her dad's.

My downstairs neighbor smokes on her deck. Sometimes, when she's smoking and I'm home and my patio door is open, the smoke comes into my apartment. So what do I do? I shut the door. I deal with it. I don't go downstairs and tell her to stop smoking. And second-hand smoke is much more hazardous than dealing with the noise coming from an upstairs neighbor.

It's apartment living. It's give and take. I try to accomodate and keep my child relatively quiet. I keep her quiet during the hours specified. When she gets too loud (which is rare), I calm her down.

What do you think? Am I over-reacting to this?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Finding Your Story




I'm feeling listless lately. Why? Because although I have story ideas wandering around my brain, none of them have grabbed me. A few characters pop up here and there, but again, none so compelling that I must write their story.

And it's driving me crazy.

Even though I just finished editing the last novel a few days ago, I'm already raring to go on the next one. But as of this writing, the story for that next one is nowhere to be found.

I only know one thing for sure about it - it will be set in World War II. And that's it. I don't know if it will be in America or England or Germany or even Italy. Right now, I'm keeping my mind open to all possibilities.

The whole process has got me thinking about how story ideas emerge. It's different for each person. Some have tons of ideas that call to them quite loudly and just need to pick one. Others have characters with no stories, and have to sit and listen awhile for their characters to tell them what their story is. Still others (like me right now) have no concrete idea of what the next novel will be, but trust in their creative process that there is a wonderful idea waiting to be unearthed.

How about you? How do you find your story?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wading In

I've started the submission process for my novel. Already I'm steeling myself for the rejections. But it's part of the biz and I'm ok with that.

What is different this time around is this: I've recently lost a lot in my life. My marriage, my now ex-husband (who was also my best friend), my status as a wife, my being part of a whole family - it's gone. And while I feel like I'm coping with that just fine (there are good and bad days), I have always had my writing to help me through it. It's been a big, solid rock for me on the days I want to just forget about the emotional turmoil in my mind and lose myself in my characters' story.

Now I'm letting that part of me out into the world. And with the recent losses I've experienced, I don't know if I'm ready to handle another loss - of those in the industry rejecting my work.

It's a strange dimension to inhabit. On one hand, I am excited about sending the manuscript off to prospective agents. On the other, I want to cling to it for dear life. Why? Because if the "rock" of my writing is shattered by rejection, how will I handle it with all the other losses I've endured?

But I already have an answer to this question. I will handle it with prayer, with support from others, and with acceptance. There is no other way. Despite any personal difficulties in my life, the publishing business isn't for the faint of heart, and I can't expect to be treated with kid gloves simply because I've gone through a hard time. We've all experienced the dark clouds of life. And it only makes us stronger.

So I'm not going to keep my novel on my hard drive where it's "safe" - instead, I'm sending it out into the world. I'll deal with whatever answers come my way. In the meantime, new ideas are percolating. New characters are beginning to form. And I can once again lose myself in their world.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

To My Little Girl

She was ten days late.

Every time I thought I was having a contraction, it turned out to be a false alarm. My husband had taken off an entire week from work around her due date and for that entire week, we sat and waited. Nothing.

The doctor told us that ten days past the due date was long enough - it was time to help our little girl (though we didn't know it was a girl at the time) come into the world.

I went into the hospital at 7 p.m. that night. They gave me a drug to induce labor. My husband stayed with me in the room, though the foolish hospital policy wouldn't let him sleep on the bed. So he slept on the chair.

At 4:30 a.m., I woke up. The pain was already substantial. I called my mom and dad at home.

"It's time," I said.

"We'll be right there," Dad said.

The nurse came in, told me to get up, walk around, take a shower. The pain started to increase. Finally, I walked down to the delivery room, my husband by my side.

The next few hours are a blur. I remember falling asleep through some of the contractions. The pain was so bad, I couldn't believe I'd wanted to do this whole thing naturally - no epidural (no way was someone putting a needle in my spine!) and no drugs. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and asked for some pain relief. It did nothing.

I formulated my own way for getting through the contractions. I held my arms out and made fists, over and over, getting through each excruciating moment. At one point, I didn't want my husband to touch me. He told me later that he went out to the waiting room where my parents were and said, "I don't know what to do. She won't let me touch her."

Strange what we do when we're in the midst of such pain.

And then it was time to push. My husband was right there beside me, holding my hand, telling me, "As soon as the baby comes, all the pain will disappear."

I clung to that hope. And pushed some more.

First the head, then the rest of the body, and my daughter was born.

My husband was right. The pain disappeared. And after awhile, they brought my beautiful little girl to me. When I held her in my arms, I realized all that pain had been worth it. And I would do it all over again for my daughter.

That was 9 years ago. Hard to believe that tiny little baby is now a rambuctious little girl, full of life and humor and empathy and creativity and so, so much more.

Happy birthday to my beloved daughter! I love you.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Messy House...

...is the sign of a finished novel!

My house is a disaster. Paperwork covers my dining room table. Dishes crowd my sink. Clean clothes lay in the laundry basket, waiting to be folded.

But...

The novel is done!

Yes, the major editing has been completed. Now all that remains is a quick read-through to make sure that my characters' eyes stay the same color in every chapter, that the names stay the same (I had to change some secondary characters' names), and other continuity issues. Otherwise, the main editing is done.

Woo hoo!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to my beautiful mom!


And to the gorgeous little girl who made me a mother, I love you!

Friday, May 08, 2009

When I'm Wrong...

...I admit it.

I was wrong about Ian Fleming. When the movie Casino Royale came out and introduced Daniel Craig as the new James Bond, I knew I had to actually read the Ian Fleming novel. So I did. And was very disappointed. Now maybe this was because I watched the movie first and well, couldn't get Daniel Craig's amazing performance out of my head and kept trying to transfer all that action onto the page. Maybe.
But then I decided to give Fleming another try. I went to the library and picked up From Russia with Love, one of my favorite Bond movies. This time, I wasn't disappointed. I was completely drawn into the plot, the characters, and the setting. I saw and tasted Istanbul. I felt the Orient Express moving through the Turkish countryside. I experienced doubt and anger right along with Bond. This time, I had Sean Connery pictured in my mind and it all just clicked.
Here's one thing I found very interesting. Bond is not introduced in the From Russia with Love novel until well into the book. I'm talking five chapters or more. Instead, we're given a lot of information on the Cold War Russians and their plot to throw the British Intelligence realm into chaos. An entire chapter is dedicated to their main assassin and to be honest, I didn't think I needed to know all about this cold-blooded killer. Fleming gave much more information on this guy's background and his upbringing than on Bond. I found that odd.

But I can no longer deny Fleming's talent as a writer. But here's the thing that makes reading Bond novels all the more exciting. Fleming actually worked as a spy for British intelligence during World War II. So he knew what he was talking about. He lived the world of espionage. And that definitely adds a unique flavor to his books.

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the Bond novels, but I'm going to try and take the actor and the movie versions out of the equation. Since I've seen all the movies, it's going to be a natural leap to put those actors and their mannerisms into Bond's character. But that is doing Fleming a disservice. Instead, I plan to try and think of Bond as Fleming meant him to be - a flesh and blood man, and not as an actor playing a part.

Though that may be hard...

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Thoughts on the Next Novel

There is a new story idea niggling about in my brain. It came to me one night while I was waiting for my Wednesday evening church class to start and I started writing ideas down in my journal. (Never leave home without it!)

Of course, the current novel isn't done yet - the editing process is taking me awhile, but that's ok. I think that's how I work. I don't want to be rushed.

But this new idea is a really cool idea and I'm excited to explore my options with it. And here's one of the questions I wrote in my journal, "Can I write a light-hearted novel?"

Good question. Breezy novels do not come easily to me for some reason. My characters are always angst-ridden, my themes and topics always serious and thoughtful. Every time I've thought my novel would be "light-hearted", it's always ventured into the land of "serious." I've stopped fighting it. If that's what the story calls for, then that's what I write.

So maybe, just maybe, this new story will be lighter than what I normally write. I'm anxious to find out.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Things That Make You Go Hmmm...

While picking up my daughter's bathroom the other day, I happened to glance on the floor next to the bathtub to see what toys had accumulated there lately. A quick look saw nothing out of place.
But then I peered closer.
Lo and behold, there was Shaggy and Daphne locked in a passionate embrace!
Now I'm sure my daughter has no idea that these two figures fell into each other's arms. Instead, I'm pretty positive she just dumped them out of the bathtub and let them fall where they may. But I can't help feeling sorry for ol' Freddie. All this time, Daphne's had the hots for another man!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Does Blogging Feel Like a Chore?

I've been blogging for oh, a little over five years now. I love it, yes. But there are days when I really don't have anything to say. Amazing, I know! ;-)

But on those days, I still feel like I owe it to my faithful readers to post something. Usually, it's not a problem to come up with a topic. But lately, my brain has felt empty. And really, does everyone want to read about the nap I took on Saturday afternoon, or the walk down to Walgreens yesterday? I don't think so. *yawn*

On the days when there's nothing to say, blogging feels like a chore. And I don't want it to feel like a chore. I enjoy it too much and I especially enjoy reading other people's blogs to have it wander into the territory of "chore-like." Chores are doing the dishes and folding laundry and vacuuming. *Not* blogging!

So if I don't post every day, you'll know why. I really have nothing profound to impart. I could always post random Daniel Craig pictures, which judging from the last time I did that, no one would really have a problem with. Ha!

Do you ever feel like this?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

What I'm Doing Today



Just got this in the mail yesterday. It's Donald Maass's newest book, The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose, and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great.

I haven't bought a new writing book in a long, long time, so this is a little treat for me. Since it's from Maass, I'm hoping it has lots of good info in it. I'm sure it does.

I'll be reading this today - probably out on the deck since it is gorgeous outside - and also reading From Russia with Love. I'm so glad I gave Ian Fleming another chance - maybe Casino Royale was the exception to the rule, but he is a much better writer than I thought. I'm thoroughly enjoying this Bond book and I'm thrilled that I have several more to read after this. I always like it when I have a steady stream of something I enjoy.

I also will be diving into the manuscript today. I am very close to finishing - maybe this weekend will be the perfect opportunity to do just that.

Have a great Saturday!

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...