Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Patience

The last two mornings, I've hit the red light at almost every stoplight on my way to work. This includes those dinky side streets that normally I blow right past. Each time I pulled to a stop, I grumbled, looked at my car clock, and tried not to let the tension eat at my shoulders.

This morning, as I slowed down for yet another red light, I wondered: is God teaching me a lesson?

I believe that we are given signs every single day that teach us something we need to know to live a more fulfilling, peaceful life. The problem is, we don't always recognize those signs and lose out on our chance to learn.

The lesson for the last few days? Patience.

It's a lesson I need to learn again and again. There are times when my lack of patience literally makes my shoulders bunch and spikes my blood pressure. Those are the times I need the patience and just don't have it. Lately, I've needed patience in a lot of areas. My writing. My career. My relationships (especially with men!). And since I haven't had that patience, I've struggled and wrung my hands a lot in the past few days. I've lost focus of my goals and have spent more time than necessary worrying, being frustrated, and generally being unhappy.

Result? Stoplights. God tapping on my shoulder and saying, "Patience, my child. My time, not yours."

So once again, I am having to draw back, take stock of where I'm at, do lots of praying, lots of journaling, and lots of thinking. It feels like I've been doing that a lot lately, but it's been a roller-coaster of a year.

I've come to realize that life is just like this. We ebb and flow. Sometimes, we're focused. We're at peace. We're sure of where we want to be and sure of what path to take. Other times, we get off track. We get frustrated. Then we have to stop, take a deep breath, and slowly work our way back to that moment where the world made sense. We just need the gumption to know when we need to stop instead of barreling full-speed over the cliff and ending up with a huge crash that takes us far too long to recover from.

That's where I'm at. Taking stock. Journaling. Thinking. Praying.

Listening.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Home

I love going home.

I have an amazing family that surrounds me with support, warmth, and love. I would not be who I am today without them. Fortunately, the weather enabled me to spend a few extra days with them and it was a true blessing. I also had the chance to meet with some old high school friends. We had a blast catching up and reliving old times.

I left the country and the small town behind last night and made the long drive back home to my city. Thankfully, the roads were completely clear. Already, I miss the closeness of hanging out with my family, of playing Wii with my nephew, of chatting about boys with my teenage niece, of laughing with my brother and my sister-in-law, of sharing conversation with my mom, of talking and laughing with my dad, of sitting on the couch and discussing the wonders and absurdities of life with my grandmother.

And this morning, as I sit back in the office, I'm eating homemade banana bread from my sister-in-law and thinking about how truly blessed I am to have such a wonderful family and so many awesome friends.

What is your favorite part about going home?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We were supposed to get snow. Lots of it. And ice. Lots and lots of ice. So in the interest of keeping me and my child in one piece, I decided to head home for Christmas early instead of waiting until the middle of the week like I'd originally planned.

Well, I've been here since Tuesday night. And all we've gotten is a dusting of snow on the ground. As I type this in my brother's home office on the farm, the sun is shining, the skies are a gorgeous blue, and the little bit of snow on the ground is just enough to give us a white Christmas.

Yeah, I had to take a couple more days off, further depleting my vacation time, but I'm glad I came when I did. Better to be safe than sorry. And I've been able to spend more time with my family, relax, eat some Christmas goodies (and jump on the treadmill a few times since I'm eating those Christmas goodies!), watch some great Christmas movies (daughter and I watched The Polar Express and the Nativity Story last night), write down a few more ideas for my next novel, and enjoy the lights of the Christmas tree.

It's been wonderful.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas filled with love and joy!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Power of the Internet

I've always been interested in my family history. As proof, I've written about it numerous times on my blog. My great-grandfather's name was Pietro Amateis and he came from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. In the past, I've always thought how great it would be to meet my Italian relatives. And now through the power of the Internet, I'm doing just that - through Facebook.

I started a group for the Amateis family and already I've had a great response. I have relatives from Italy and Argentina (apparently my relatives didn't stay in one spot!) as well as the United States. I'm sure there will be more forthcoming.

Ten years ago, it would have taken lots of digging, lots of letters overseas, and lots and lots of waiting. Now, with the click of a button, I'm finding relatives that I probably never would have known otherwise.

I'm hoping to get lots of genealogical information together and start mapping out the family tree. It will be a difficult, yet fun project. And who knows? It just might turn into a novel someday...



Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cliffhangers


I just finished reading Stieg Larsson's The Girl who Played with Fire. This is the second book in the series and features the character of Lisbeth Salander. I talked about the first novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, here.

When I got to the end of The Girl who Played with Fire last night, I literally yelled. My daughter rushed into the room and said, "What? What's wrong?"

"This book!" I said. "It just...ended! Just like that!"

"How did it end?"

"The guy dials 911 and then...nothing!"

She gave me a strange look and then went back to her bedroom, probably wondering what in the heck was wrong with her mother.

Larsson uses a true cliffhanger for The Girl who Played with Fire. I won't put any spoilers here, but suffice to say, you read the last page and immediately want to start the next book. Only the next book hasn't been released yet in the U.S.

I have to wait until May 2010 to find out what happens.

I'm thinking I will order the third one from the U.K.!!!

What do you think about cliffhanger endings? Like 'em? Hate 'em?


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's Time to Be Bold

Through writer Stephen Pressfield's blog (he of The Legend of Baggar Vance and The War of Art fame), I discovered that another writer, Seth Godin, was giving away an e-book he wrote about creativity and changing the way we look at our art.

Of course, I had to go download it.

With contributions from 60 other artists, this book is a goldmine of creative goodness. And best of all? It's free. In fact, author Seth Godin wants to give this book to as many people as possible. That's part of his strategy. As Pressfield writes, "What we can learn from Seth is how to use the principle of Giving It Away–to connect, to raise visibility, to make friends (and maybe even a little profit) and to actually help."

That sounds like an amazing goal to me.

So here is the link to go to Seth Godin's blog and download the e-book, What Matters Now. Prepare to be inspired!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Decisions


Last month, I wrote about an image I've had of a woman walking through the streets of D.C. during World War II. I wasn't sure what her story was. She's been quiet since then, but yesterday, she spoke up.

I really liked what she had to say. In fact, her story is a fascinating one and it's nearly making me want to abandon my current work-in-progress to find out more. The two stories couldn't be more different and to tell you the truth, the novel I'm writing now is...boring me.

That's not a good sign. If it's making me bored writing it, it will put the reader to sleep. I'm thinking I need to take a good, long look at it and figure out what's wrong.

Or I could scrap it (hard to do when I'm written almost 30K on it and I really do like my characters...) and start on another one.

OR...

I could work on both!

Hmm...decisions, decisions.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ready to Throw In the Towel?


Yesterday wasn't the best of days. An agent who had requested my full manuscript finally got back to me after nearly six months. The response? "Thanks, but no thanks." While it was a good rejection as far as rejections go - she said I was a good writer, at least - it still made me sigh with frustration.

The marketplace is very, very tight right now. This is the second agent who has had the full manuscript
who has told me that while she likes the book, she doesn't think she can sell it in this market. Since my books are set in America during WWII, I'm pretty sure that has something to do with it. I think publishers are banking on projects that have a history of selling - and what is hot right now is not WWII America, unfortunately. I could be wrong...

Five minutes after I got this email, I got another rejection. This was only on a query, but it still stung.

What's a girl to do?

Well, after much gnashing of teeth and a longing for a whole bag of Dove chocolate, I decided that I can't quit writing what I love. It's that simple. Right now is the time to write for the joy of it. It's time to hunker down and wait out this dip in the marketplace.

And you know what? That takes some of the pressure off right there. Writing for the sheer joy of it, regardless of if it sells, is what we should all be doing anyway. That's an incredibly hard mindset to get into, but if you achieve it, you're golden.

Here's hoping I can keep this mindset and keep churning out the words. For a brief moment, I thought, I'm done. But then I realized that even if I never sell a book, I'll still keep writing. That's who I am.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

I Really, REALLY, Got My Snow!








Wow. We had one heckuva storm yesterday. It snowed all day and then the wind started blowing last night. As a result, we got lots of snow and lots of great big drifts. These are the views from my apartment after they plowed. The poor guy in the last two pics really had to dig out his car. As I type this, he's still not done digging.

Hardly anyone could make it into work today and I didn't want to chance it since I now drive a car and not my beloved Jeep Liberty, so daughter and I are staying home today. She didn't have school yesterday, either, so it's been a nice vacation for her.

On tap for today? Maybe a cup of warm cocoa, a book, and my laptop. I got some writing done last night as the wind was howling and I'm thinking today is the perfect day to keep up the momentum.


Monday, December 07, 2009

I Got My Snow

Great weekend! Had a nice time at the company party, got to see and listen to the Band of Brothers (more on that in another post), went to a Christmas concert, and spent all of Sunday marveling at the gorgeous snowfall, writing, and relaxing. Here's a shot of me and two of my wonderful co-workers:

And here's the snow at about 4 p.m. or so. It kept snowing and I'd estimate that we got a few inches.
Ahh. Here's the finished Christmas decor in the living room! It went together well and I'm pleased with the results.
Felt great to get back to my novel. I'm hoping I can concentrate on it a bit more this week since most of the Christmas shopping and decorating is done. I'm not baking anything this year, so no need to worry about that. I do still need to get my Christmas cards sent off. I always enjoy Christmas cards, even though the tradition appears to be dying out somewhat thanks to the Internet and e-cards. Still, I think receiving a Christmas card in the mail is nice.

Today is also the 68th anniversary of the attack of Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941. You can read President Roosevelt's speech asking Congress to declare war on the Japanese here. Unbelievable that it's already been 68 years - and even better? The Japanese are now our allies. Amazing what happens in history, isn't it?





Thursday, December 03, 2009

I'm Thinkin' I Need a Cave


Life is hard. We know this. But I feel like mine has been a series of knock-outs this past year. Separation, divorce, financial woes, emotional upheavals, (not to mention those darn agent rejections), and assorted other issues have left me feeling drained. There are times I'd like to crumple into a heap on the floor and not move for a couple of days.

Of course, I can't do this as I am a mother, have a job, and well, it's not in me to give up. I'm a fighter. Or at the very least, a survivor.

The latest emotional upheaval left me reeling and I've felt scatter-brained and "off" my game ever since. I haven't looked at my novel since Wednesday (I actually wrote a page or two on the laptop while on the road home - don't worry, I wasn't driving!) and I miss it. My writing is my escape.

I also am not yet possessed of the Christmas spirit. This is my favorite time of year, a time when I'm usually blissfully happy and loving the spirit of the season. Yet I haven't felt the joy. Last night, my daughter convinced me to put up the Christmas tree. I wasn't in the mood, but I wanted to do it for her. So I put on my Christmas music and we hauled out the Christmas tree. I felt maybe a twinkling of Christmas spirit, but nothing like I usually do. This saddened me.

There are bright spots in all of this. I have reconnected with old friends, discovered (once again) what an amazing and awesome family I have, and this weekend, I have a few Christmas parties to go to that require dressing to the nine's. I'm looking forward to it.

But mentally, I need to go to a cave for awhile. I need to regroup, rethink what I want out of life, and do some serious soul-searching. This is a good idea to do every few months anyway, but right now, it's paramount to my sanity. I've lost focus and need to regain it in a lot of areas of my life, particularly in my faith, in my writing, and in my relationships with others.

Sometimes I wish gut-punches weren't so painful. But they all include a lesson that I need to learn. Even though I have to go through the agony, it makes me a stronger, more resilient, and much wiser individual. And really, you can't beat that.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Christmas Is Coming!


Wow. It's December 1st already. How did that happen?

The majority of my Christmas shopping is done - hooray! Now all that's left to do is wrap the presents, decorate the house, and put up the tree. But I'm just not in that Christmas spirit yet.

I'm sure I'll get there.

Have you started decorating the house for Christmas? Started listening to Christmas music?

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...