Sunday, January 31, 2010

At Last

I moved into my apartment in November of 2008. Since that time, I've been searching for the perfect picture to put on my wall. Apparently, this search took me more than a year to do, but I finally, finally found what I wanted:



This print, along with the frame (which I got at a discount), fits my decor perfectly. The words underneath read, "Home is where your story begins." I received these "wall words" as a Christmas present some time ago and was saving it for the right place. Guess I found it!

As a writer and a book lover, (not to mention a homebody), I think this all fits quite well.

Do you showcase who you are in your home?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Writer Health Alert

Are you sitting too much at your desk, tapping away, refusing to take breaks because the muse is moving you? Stop. Get up. Get moving. Go get yourself that cup of coffee, touch your toes, mull over what you're writing, stretch, and then get back to the page. Do this every 45 minutes. Why?

Because sitting for long periods of time isn't healthy. We probably know this. But did you know that promising to exercise after you're done sitting that long isn't going to solve your problem?

Jurgen Wolff in his excellent blog
Time to Write found an intriguing article from a British newspaper on why sitting so long is bad for you.

"Office workers beware: long periods of sitting at your desk may be a killer. Scientists have identified a new threat from our sedentary lifestyles that they call "muscular inactivity."

Sitting still for long periods of time leads to the build up of substances in the blood that are harmful to health. And exercise alone won’t shift them.

Dr Ekblom-Bak said: “Everyone knows about the health benefits of regular exercise. But what we have not been alerted to before is that long periods sitting down carries an extra risk that cannot be dealt with by taking exercise. There are a growing number of studies that show this.”

Read the whole article here. And get moving!

American Artists

I love this painting by Norman Rockwell. Love it. As in, I want to buy a print of it and hang it on my wall love it.

I've always been drawn to Rockwell's paintings, and I've decided that he is my favorite American artist. This probably isn't surprising considering my love for the time period he usually sets his paintings in. I am by no means a Rockwell expert, but his paintings always explicitly show some type of emotion - whether it be humor, pride, thankfulness, joy, or surprise.

They also reveal the average, normal American. I think I like that most of all.

Do you have a favorite American artist?

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Art of the Peaceful Weekend

I've become pretty adept at having peaceful weekends. I usually try to get all my errands done during the week - except for grocery shopping. My daughter and I are both homebodies, so staying home all weekend is fine by both of us.

That's what we did this weekend. Except for venturing out to get groceries, we stayed inside where it was warm and cozy. I read, did housework, and got in some great writing time. She played some video games, watched a few movies, played with her doll house (which is full of animals, not dolls), and pretended to be a tiger stalking its prey (our cat). Together, we made cupcakes, played with her new puppets - one is a lion, the other is a tiger - and even worked on her writing homework assignment (not due until the 28th, but she's already done!).

The only time we ventured outdoors was to go grocery shopping. That was about perfect for me.

Now I don't mean to say that we do this every weekend. Sometimes, we do other things - we went to the art museum one weekend, another we went to the children's museum. It varies. But the point is, we don't cram as much stuff as we can into the weekend to the point where we're exhausted when Monday morning rolls around.

I don't know about you, but if I don't have some kind of peace and quiet during the weekend, I don't feel prepared to handle the coming work-week. My daughter is not involved in any outside activities right now - and that is her choice. She is not into sports. Believe me, I've asked her several times if she'd like to go out for volleyball or basketball or softball. It's a big, fat NO. She doesn't want to do dance class or gymnastics. She doesn't want to take music lessons.

What she does want to do is take art lessons. And I'm working on getting that one set up. :-)

(I'm not going to go into the whole discussion of whether or not I should make my child do those other activities right now because I firmly believe that it depends on the child - and I could write a completely new post on this topic!)

I have a goal with my peaceful weekends. It's called living stress-free, and it's part of my larger goal to live my life simpler, which I've blogged about before. It's also about listening to who you are as an individual and shaping your life to fit your persona. Does that mean you should always live within your comfort zone? Not at all. Stepping out of that comfort zone is imperative to keeping life interesting, to learning new things, and to broadening your knowledge of the world. We just need to make sure we keep things balanced.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Pretty Darn Cool

Back in 2004, when I was going to graduate school, I worked for Nebraska History magazine as a work-study, the journal of the Nebraska Historical Society. I loved the job and really wish that I could have got a job with them, but there were no openings.

So I did the next best thing. I submitted an article about the German POW Camp in Fort Robinson, Nebraska, during World War II (the topic of my graduate thesis) in hopes that it would be published. It was. And lo and behold, the unthinkable happened - I actually won an award for it. To say that I was incredibly humbled by this win is an understatement.

Now, the article has been published online in its entirety, and I'm feeling the excitement all over again. I'm also thinking that I really need to get organized and actually write the history of the camp since the curator of the Fort Robinson museum has no intentions of doing so (he told me he's "done" writing books), and also because he already has almost all the research done (he already went to the archives in D.C., etc.).

I am almost tempted to take it on, but writing a history book is an entirely different animal than writing a fiction book. For one thing, you don't get to make anything up! But on the other hand, you have the facts and information all laid out for you and you just have to put it together.

So, I'm not exactly sure what I'll do - but I'm thinking of perhaps looking into how much work I'd actually have to do, how much more research I'd have to gather, and what, if any, types of financial grants I could get for it (the historical society also offers these).

There's always been this pull for me between my fiction and my history, which is why I try to combine them and write historical fiction. But this particular topic holds a special place in my heart since I spent so much time on it for my graduate thesis. Maybe I need to pursue this further...but there's only so much time in the day, and the day job takes up MOST of that time.

So. What to do? Must ponder this one...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's Time

I've done the research (though I will probably have to do more), the plotting, and the character sketches. My mind feels in the zone.

It's time to write.

The character who appeared in my mind's eye a few months ago has now been fleshed out. She has a name, a job. She has dreams and goals, wants and desires. And she's about to land in a situation that will test her to her ultimate abilities.

Already, I can't wait to start typing, to start crafting and forming her world.

It's been far too long since I immersed myself in a character's world. A month, perhaps more? No wonder my moods have ebbed and flowed. I haven't been doing what I love.

Are you doing what you love?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Family of Tigers

My daughter has been watching a lot of nature shows over the weekend. She's been stalking prey around the apartment and attacking my legs. Gotta love it!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Evening

Short and quick post for Friday.

Why?

Because I love Friday.

Sometimes, I'm in the mood to go out with friends on a Friday night, have a few beers, and laugh a LOT. Other times, I want to hunker down in my apartment, get comfy on the couch, and read or write, or maybe even watch a movie.

I'm in that hunker down mode tonight. I'm reading an awesome book and can't wait to get back to it. So after exercising after work and a trip to the library with my daughter, that's exactly what I'm going to do.

What's your favorite way to spend Friday evening?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Peeking Into the Museum World

I have a master's degree in history. I am currently not using that degree (unless you count the research I do for my novels), yet I am still paying for that degree.

That rankles.

It's not that I really wanted to get into the current field I'm in. It just sort of happened. I needed a job when I got my grad degree and I didn't really have the luxury of finding a job that fit in my field (since those jobs are incredibly hard to come by anyway). So the job I landed was in my other area of expertise, writing. And that job made me not only a much better writer, but it also springboarded me into my next job.

However, while I have mostly enjoyed my career writing for different companies, it has taken me further and further away from a career in history.

I would like to change that. I have reached a point in my life where I want to be working at something I enjoy for 8 hours a day.

Thus, I have been looking at my options, trying to figure out what I'd like to do in the history field, if I need to go back to school, what kind of jobs are available, and where I would best fit in. To that end, I contacted my local historical society and asked them if I could job shadow at the state museum to see if I could get a feel for what goes on at a museum.

I went there this morning and had an amazing time. Not only was the museum staff incredibly gracious and helpful, but they made me realize how much better life is when you are doing something you love. Why do I say this? Because nearly every single person I talked to had been at their job for years and years. All of them said they absolutely loved their job. How many people do you hear say that?

I want to be one of those people.

(This does not mean that I am leaving the novel-writing behind. Far from it! I think I will write fiction no matter what type of day-job I have. My ideal life would be to have the opportunity to work part-time at a museum and then work the rest of the time on my novels. Ah...bliss!)

I loved learning the ins and outs of what makes a museum work. I talked to the education coordinator, the registrar, the exhibits department (I had a ton of fun with those guys - all of them creative and full of life!), the collections department, and the museum director. Each person offered wonderful advice and encouragement, and answered all my questions.

I now realize that I don't necessarily need to go back to school to get a museum studies degree, a fact that gives me tremendous relief considering I wasn't quite in the mood to go back to school and also had no desire to add to that considerable student loan I've accumulated.

But that doesn't mean I can just sit idly by and wait for a job to open up. I plan to volunteer for special projects, get into the museum more, and look for opportunities to learn via online courses or workshops.

This all just feels right. Working hands on with history is a dream of mine. Seeing the massive amount of historical items stored in the museum, looking at all the wonderful exhibits, and watching how it all comes together made me realize that being surrounded by history is exactly where I want to be.

From here, who knows what will happen. But I'm excited for a new journey to begin!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dealbreakers

Over the weekend (which was fabulous, by the way), I was chatting with one of my guy friends and we were talking about pets. The gal he is dating just got a dog and it's annoying him to no end. He doesn't want a pet. He doesn't have the time nor the inclination to take care of one. She, of course, is adament about having the dog.

I'm thinking this may be the dealbreaker in their relationship.

Now I tend to side with the girlfriend on this one because I am a huge dog lover. When I lost my beloved dog Charlie in July of '08, I plunged into a very deep grief. That dog loved me unconditionally. Having to let him go was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I finally feel like I'm ready to have a dog again, but it's not the right time. When my daughter and I eventually find a nice house to buy (a book deal would sure move that process along!), we intend to get a dog. She wants a white German Shepherd. I'm going for a Golden Retriever. Maybe we'll get both!

Anyway, as I told this to my friend, and said that there would be no question in my mind that we'd get a dog, he laughed and said, "It's a good thing we're friends. We could never date."

That was a dealbreaker for him.

Now we could get into the whole compromise thing, which I am a firm believer in and which I hope my friend and his girlfriend will do. But for this post, I want to talk about how you can use dealbreakers that you come across in real life in your fiction.

Dealbreakers in relationships offer a fascinating technique to use as conflict for your novel. It's the old adage of "two dogs, one bone." Each person wants something, but neither can have it exactly the way they want it.

To build on the example above, a dog lover and someone who dislikes dogs might fall in love and have everything else in common except for that one thing. How do they work around it? Is there any working around it for them, or does this particular couple have to go their separate ways because they'll never be able to reconcile this difference?

Here is where it's interesting to dig into your characters' pasts. Let's say the dog disliker had a dog bite him when he was little and he's distrusted them ever since. This might very well be something the couple could work through - undoubtedly through the very tender affections of a loving dog and a loving woman. On the other hand, this same character could be a fastiduous dresser and can't tolerate dog hair on his clothes. This might be a dealbreaker that isn't open to compromise.

Let's look at another dealbreaker - religion. I've come to discover that I cannot date someone who doesn't share my faith. This is a dealbreaker for me and it's really not open to compromise. Is that harsh? Maybe. But having gone through a marriage with someone who didn't share my faith, I know from first-hand experience what an incredibly hard struggle it is. I was open to compromise on this issue before - but not now. Can I use this for a future story? You bet. Which brings me to my next point.

Another bonus to using "dealbreakers" from real life in your fiction is the authenticity you can give your story. I could write a novel using characters who have conflicting faiths and have a greater understanding of how they wrestle with the situation. It also gives me the opportunity to examine the situation from both sides and perhaps give myself greater insight into the problem itself.

If you're searching for conflict for your characters, make a list of dealbreakers that you might have for any potential relationship. Mine would look something like this:

  • Must love dogs AND cats
  • Must share my faith
  • Must be financially responsible
  • Must like to read

Now, for fun, write down the opposite of what is on your list and be creative. Look at how it changes and just imagine what kind of character would have these requirements!

  • Must hate dogs and cats
  • Must be an atheist
  • Must leave all finances to me
  • Must never lose themselves in the fantastical world of books - reality is where it's at

Now I don't know about you, but that's one person I really don't think I want to be friends with, nevermind a relationship!

Dealbreakers can be a great way to introduce conflict to your story, and the resulting compromise or lack thereof can make for some incredible writing. Your story may take a turn you never expected - and that's the most fun of all. :-)

Friday, January 08, 2010

My Snow Day!


This is the third day in a row that they have canceled school. This time, it's due to the extreme temperatures - our wind chill is supposed to reach -35 degrees. That's dangerous. So all over town, the kidlets are home yet again with exhausted and stir-crazy parents!

For me, I couldn't justify bringing my own kidlet to work with me again. The poor girl deserves a snow day. And darn it, so do I.

So here I am. I'm planning to relax today, to read in front of the fireplace and maybe do a bit of writing. Maybe I'll take a nap, drink a cup of hot cocoa, or even throw together a batch of sugar cookies (though I really shouldn't since I haven't been able to get to the gym this week, either!).

Yes, I'm sacrificing a vacation day, but for my daughter to have a "proper" snow day, it's completely worth it. :-)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

More Snow???

I had a feeling we were in for a harsh winter since our summer was so mild. I can count on one hand how many times the temperature hit 100 degrees, and that is pretty unheard of for Nebraska.

Our schools have already had four snow days - and today is one of them. If there's one thing that can make your kid happy in the morning, it's telling them "snow day!" We're in for another big winter storm and the snow is already falling.

I remember when I was a kid, we used to have giant blizzards. My two brothers and I loved snow days back then since we lived on a farm and the possibilities of sledding were endless. This invariably involved pulling the sled with the pick-up or the three-wheeler, the dogs nipping at our feet. Warming up in the kitchen afterwards with a hot mug of apple cider or hot cocoa with cinnamon bread was the perfect way to spend the day. I'd usually curl up in a blanket on the recliner with a good book and sigh in utter contentment.

Nowadays, snow days aren't nearly as fun for me. Why? Because I have to work. That alone sucks all the joy out of it!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Falling In Love...Again

Sometime over the last few days, I fell in love. No, Daniel Craig didn't suddenly show up at my door and propose (I wish!), but rather, I fell in love with writing again.

Writing and I had a falling out about a month ago. I didn't want to have much to do with it for awhile. It would nag me to open the laptop and at least attempt to string some words together, but I ignored it. Then it would switch to the guilt ploy, but that failed, too. Every day, it would emerge from its place in the dark, black corner of my mind and whisper in my ear. I was oblivious to its increasingly desperate pleas.

Until this weekend.

My latest issue of Writer's Digest landed in my mailbox and it was filled with articles on creativity and inspiration. Spurred by others' passion for writing, I opened up my journal and began to focus on what I wanted to achieve with my writing this year, putting aside the disappointments and frustrations of last year. Scribbling those words on that fresh white paper gave me such a feeling of newness and refreshment.

And as an added bonus, I had an amazing brainstorming session with a few friends that sent my new novel in a wonderful direction. Suffice to say, I can't wait to get started on it.

I feel centered again, focused on what I want and need out of life, especially my writing life.

It's a good place to be.

Friday, January 01, 2010

To A New Year

May your new year be filled with blessings, friendship, family, and love!

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...