Monday, August 31, 2009

Crazy Weather, Writing, and Mad Men

Nebraska is known for its hot summers. In the eastern part of the state, where I live, it's known for its hot, humid summers.

Then why am I sitting at my desk with a blanket around my legs, shivering?

It could be because the air conditioning is cranked up in my office building. Or it could be because it's not even 70 degrees outside. It's probably a little of both.

Yesterday, I sat on my deck and actually shivered. It was chilly. This feels more like October weather than August! Yet we've hardly had any really hot, miserable days this summer. While this makes me very happy (as I despite hot, muggy weather), it's also making me wonder what's to come for fall and winter. Early snow? Lots and lots of snow? (I probably won't be complaining, especially if it comes around Christmas!)

I know other areas of the country have been super hot. Rene told me the other day they were expected to reach 106 degrees. That very same day, I had a blanket wrapped around me!

Nebraska weather just doesn't act like this during the summer. But I'm not complaining. ;-)

Writing News...

Hmm. There is --no--writing news to report. Bad writer, bad! But honestly, I think my brain needed this break. Instead, I went shopping with my daughter on Saturday, and Sunday, I spent the day cleaning house, reading, and relaxing.

Mad Men

I am officially a Mad Men fan. I'm all caught up and am just waiting to watch last night's episode on the 'Net when it becomes available (as I still do not have cable at home). It's a great show - crisp writing, gorgeous costumes, and characterization that blows you away. It's weird to watch something so politically incorrect or where everyone smokes all the time and drinks at the office. The character of Don Draper, though, is, quite simply, amazing. Multi-facted and dynamic, Don Draper is the main character of the show and utterly fascinating. He's also drop-dead gorgeous.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the writers do with the show in the coming episodes. Should be good.

Friday, August 28, 2009

What are you reading?

Short, quick post for a Friday. (TGIF!!!!!)

What are you reading?

Currently on my end table: Nora Roberts' Tribute, a book of short stories by noted Nebraska author Bess Streeter Aldrich, and Stephen King's On Writing (I'm re-reading bits and pieces of it).

What about you?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Regaining Focus

My mind has been a little topsy-turvy the past few months. My recent divorce and my relationship with the ex (is it going to be civil or ugly today?) plays more havoc with my emotions than I at first realized. You tend to think that you're ok, that you've made it out of the black hole, that you're going to be just fine, thank you very much. And then loneliness strikes on a Saturday night and you realize that there's not a man to cuddle with on the couch and watch a movie with, or a man to go out on a dinner date with. While I do not need a man in my life right now, that loneliness tends to tell you differently. Getting through those times is difficult, but a necessary part of the grieving process.

I never realized how many different emotions would be involved with a divorce. Even when I'm not thinking about it, it's still there, lingering in the background. After being with a person for ten years, building a life together, and watching it systematically implode in a variety of ways, it's incredibly difficult to just forget about it. And really, I don't want to forget about it. Instead, I need to work through it, step by step, to see where I went wrong, to fix those things about me that impeded the relationship, and find healing. I journal a lot, and do probably too much thinking, but again, it's a necessary step.

All of that takes a lot of energy, both physical and emotional. While things are getting better, it's still hard to figure out this new relationship with my ex, one where we're not husband and wife anymore, not really best friends, but friends nevertheless for the sake of our daughter - and darn it, friends because we do still care about each other, despite everything that's happened.

Maybe that's why I'm having difficulty losing myself in my story. I'm not quite connecting with my characters yet. Perhaps it's because my emotions are engaged elsewhere. Yet that isn't acceptable to me right now. Maybe I'm being too harsh, but the reality is that I love to write, love to dive into a story and immerse myself in my characters' lives, and in essence take a vacation from my own struggles. I need that right now.

So I plan to take all those emotions I'm experiencing in my personal life, put them in a room in my mind, and shut the door when I'm writing. When I'm finished writing for the day, I can open that door and let those emotions back in. The key here is to take a break from the personal emotions and instead let my mind dwell on my writing and my characters instead.

To that end, I'm working to regain focus on the writing. And I believe that when I do that, it will give me the necessary perspective to look at my life differently. To me, the writing life encompasses so much more than the writing - it's our emotions, our thoughts, our everyday experiences. It all shapes the words on the page.

Monday, August 24, 2009

At the Zoo...and Other Thoughts

My daughter and I went to the Omaha Zoo Saturday. It was a fun, but utterly exhausting, day. Thank goodness the weather cooperated. It was in the low 80s, not too bad for August in Nebraska! Of course, there were lots of great animals there.

But this tiger, below, completely stole my daughter's heart. If you look closely, you can see that his front leg, the one laying on his body, is deformed. It either got cut off or he was born with it like this. At first, I thought it was just folded up since he was sleeping. But when we saw him stretch, sure enough - that leg isn't like the rest.

My daughter immediately wanted to take him home and take care of him. She kept running back to him, staring at him through the glass, and I realized again what an emphatethic child I have. Lots of people may have looked at the tiger and realized the deformity and decided to move on to a more "perfect" tiger. Not my daughter. She completely fell in love with him. In fact, she asked me if I could print this picture of him so she could have it.

What a sweetheart.

On Summer's Swift Departure...

Can you believe this is the last week of August? I can't get over how fast the summer has gone - especially this month. As I'm an autumn/winter person, I can't say that I'm terribly disappointed.

On Writing...

Not much writing done over the weekend since I was laid up all of Sunday with some bad stomach bug. I managed to watch an old WW2 movie called Thunderbirds, do too much internet surfing, and took a long nap. But writing? Pffftttt.

On Reading...

I'm still reading Agatha Christie. Something about her writing completely transports me back to another time, another place. That is what we should all strive for.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Let the Madness...Er...Writing Begin!

New ground has been broken on the fourth novel. I officially wrote "Chapter One" last night and started on a new adventure. It felt glorious.

While I've still been writing through my freelance work, journaling, blogging, and the like, I haven't written any fiction in awhile. I've been up to my neck in research and while research is necessary and heck, fun to do, I was itching to get my fingers moving on this story.

So even though I had hoped to wait until I had a huge chunk of time at my disposal (read: weekend), last night I decided the heck with it. I powered up my laptop, ignored the chocolate calling my name, and just started writing.

Though it may all end up getting tossed in the trash at some point, "you can't fix nothing" as the saying goes. I'm glad to be back into the writing groove. It feels wonderful.

The weekend holds promise for more, of course, and then I'm taking my daughter to the Omaha Zoo. If you're ever in the area and have a chance to visit this amazing place, go for it. You won't be disappointed.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

All You Gotta Do...

My daughter is an artist. This is something she drew last year at the age of 8. These are characters from the Pink Panther cartoon. No, she didn't trace them, but instead looked at the pictures on the DVD case and drew them. Believe me, I checked! I was in complete awe when I saw this.

After I picked her up from daycare yesterday, we were talking about the drawings she'd made that day. Lately, she's really been delving into her imagination and coming up with some wonderful pieces. I said, "You are such a great artist! How do you do it?" and she replied, "All you do is think of something and then make it come alive."

Such wisdom from a nine-year-old, wisdom that pertains to writing just as much as it does to drawing.

That's what writers do. We think of something - characters, plot, theme - and through our words - description, dialogue, etc. - we make the story come alive.

If you're struggling today with your writing, just remember: All you do is think of something and then make it come alive.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Discovering the Masters

Sometimes I wonder why it takes me so long to discover things. For example, I did not really know who Daniel Craig was until he starred in James Bond and now that I know, well, it's been all downhill from there...
No, no, that's not really the example I meant to give. But seeing as how it is Monday, such a delightful diversion is not to be wasted...

Seriously, though. I had an Agatha Christie book sitting on my bookshelf and decided to finally pick it up a few weeks ago. I was instantly hooked. I had never before read a Christie novel and this one just happened to be a Miss Marple mystery, A Murder Is Announced. I eagerly went through the pages, enjoying how the prim and proper spinster figured out the clues and discovered who the murderer was. But even more, I loved Christie's writing. She portrayed a small English village and its inhabitants so well that I became completely enamored of this world. And even better? Since many of the novels are set in the 1930s through the 1950s, I am able to pick up some of the slang, fashion, social mores, etc. of the time which is terrific research for my own novels. I've since read a few more Miss Marple novels and I'm off to the library today to pick up yet another. I tried reading Murder on the Orient Express with her other famous detective, Hercule Poirot, but I couldn't get into it. It didn't have the same feel as the Miss Marple stories. But I'm willing to give some of the other Poirot novels another shot.

Now I'm wondering what other well-known authors I've neglected all these years. It does truly amaze me how I have eschewed some of these classic writers for so long. But there's no time like the present to remedy that error.

Have you "discovered" some of the masters recently or, unlike me, you've been a fan all along?

Friday, August 14, 2009

In the Mood

Crazy lady post again.

I do feel like I've been a bit crazy these last few days. Why? Because I'm having fits with my plot. And when my writing isn't going well, it affects my mood. I feel out of sorts and lethargic, and, well, grumpy. The urge to give up, to go with every cliched plot out there, overcomes me. But I stubbornly push it away.

But when the solution to the plot finally, finally, appears? It's like magic. The mood improves. The giddiness returns. The joy explodes. I can't wait to start writing.

Of course, this is a cycle. When I'm in the midst of the novel and am having problems, that 'mood' will return again. I'll withdraw from others, grumble, groan a bit, and otherwise be a pain in my own tush.

Tell me I'm not alone in this! ;-)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Do You Ask for Help?

I'm one of those people that hates to ask for help. Why? Because I feel like I'm bothering people. This is something I've had to overcome over the years, but in certain areas of my life, I'm very stubborn about trying to do something myself.

And, of course, one of those areas is my writing.

Whenever I have a plot point that is giving me trouble or I can't figure something out, I am just bound and determined that I have to fix it myself. Maybe this stems from wanting my writing ideas to come solely from my little ol' brain - which is rather ridiculous when you think about it, considering I get some of my best writing ideas from reading other books or observing other people.

Of course, Rene knows that I have broken down and asked for brainstorming help before, and together, we always figure it out. But why do I resist for so long?

Am I alone in this? Do you resist asking others for help in your writing?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pursuing Your Passion

I recently had a friend ask me for some advice on writing. One question in particular really caught my attention. She basically asked, "What does it feel like to pursue your passion?"

In one word: joyous.

My life has been defined by my writing since the 6th grade. Everyone who knows me knows that I am a writer. It's who I am. If I didn't write...well, I wouldn't be me.

If I didn't pursue my passion of writing, I would be denying one of my most basic components.

And then, I thought of those people who ARE denying themselves their passions. Whether it's drawing or writing or painting a picture, becoming a cake decorator or building a house, or taking photographs or planting a gorgeous garden, for some reason or another, they're not pursuing those passions.

If you're one of those people, I want to tell you something. If it is possible for you to pursue your passion, if you are saying, "Oh, when the kids are grown, I'll (paint the picture, write the story, draw the children's book)" or "I don't have time" or "I'm too old and set in my ways" or whatever excuse you're using, stop right now. You're denying yourself an immense amount of happiness. Life is far too short to put your dreams on the backburner.

This is not to say you should run off to an isolated log cabin and create your next masterpiece, leaving your responsibilities behind. Far from it. Instead, find a balance in your life. My daughter is my number one priority. She has an intense passion for drawing and I encourage it. But I also want her to see me pursuing my passion of writing. This will help her to see that mommy is not just her mother, but she is also a writer, and she will see that it is possible to be many things in this life. The key is balance.

From this moment, start thinking how you can start pursuing your passion. If you have to, start small. Or jump in with both feet first. It doesn't matter. Just start.

Friday, August 07, 2009

It's a Date

Since I took a nice vacation last October, I pretty much burned through my vacation days for the entire year. So really, I haven't had any time off since, oh, about six months ago. That's quite awhile to go without a day off, other than the customary holidays which, let's face it, are never really a day off.

Next month, I get all my vacation time back. And I think one of the first things I'm going to do is take a day off and do nothing but work on my novel.

It's been crazy the last few weeks. I get very
focused on researching the novel and getting my mind prepared to write, and then life gets in the way. I know this is normal, but I really just need an entire day by myself to get my head on straight instead of the customary few hours after work or on the weekend when I'm trying to balance time with my daughter and cleaning the house and doing other odd things. Now I'm not going to necessarily wait until next month to wrap my head around my next work-in-progress...but it will be nice to just have a single day solely dedicated to it.

So. I've got a date with
my novel next month. When's yours?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Movies on the Green

Quick and short post today. Been swamped with work and various other writing ventures. It's good to be busy, but I miss making my annual blogging rounds.

My daughter and I are off tonight to watch You Were Never Lovelier, made in 1942, at our city's "Movies on the Green" summer movie series. It's a bit late - starts at 9 p.m. - but hey, it's summer!

Catch you soon...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

"This Itch of Writing" Blog

I just stumbled upon a new blog today by historical novelist Emma Darwin called This Itch of Writing. I haven't read either of her novels yet, but I plan to. Her posts are intelligent, thoughtful, and incredibly useful for the aspiring or published writer. Great stuff here.

I loved one post in particular. It's about "getting out of your way" when you write, and I wanted to share it with you all. Yes, it's that good.

Check it out: Ugly Ducklings and Wonky Ducks

Monday, August 03, 2009

How Much Do You Share?

I'm getting ready to start the actual writing process of my next novel. There's still some stuff to research, but I'll do that as I go along.

Besides the fact that it's set in World War II, however, I haven't really shared any of the story's details with anyone. That is a deliberate move on my part. This time 'round, I'm determined to keep my story "close to the vest" as the saying goes. Why? Because sometimes I feel that I ruin the bond I have with my characters and the story itself by discussing it with others.

Or maybe I'm just weird. (This is entirely possible).

Do you keep your story "close to the vest" or do you spill the details with anyone who will listen?

New Digs

I've got a new home on the web - stop by if you get a chance!