Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Writing Goals: 2011

I got hit with some sort of flu bug yesterday that left me exhausted, achy, and headachy. I slept most of the day, but by last evening, I was feeling somewhat better. I decided to open the laptop and look at the novel largely because 1) my daughter told me it was strange that I hadn't worked on my novel in awhile and if she notices I'm not writing, then it really has been too long and 2) my brain finally felt ready to tackle something other than Christmas gifts, travel plans, and family get-togethers.

I'm back in the writing saddle again, so what better time to make some goals for 2011?

So here they are, for all the world to see:

2011 Writing Goals

1) Finish novel by end of January. Completely do-able since I have about 15,000 words left to write.

2) Edit novel by end of February or March. That's a flexible enough goal (I love flexible goals!).

3) Start querying agents.

4) Begin work on next novel in April.

5) Start stretching myself with my writing projects. Instead of just my freelance work and my novels, I need to write some articles (which I jotted down ideas for yesterday) and maybe even try some short stories. Haven't done either of those in awhile.

Of course, I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't make these goals by a specific date. I've been tough on myself in the past and it just backfires. Besides, I also have some other, non-writing related goals that need to take top priority in my life related to my health. When my health isn't good, the writing suffers, so this is a win-win situation.

Your turn! Do you have any writing goals for 2011? Do you give yourself flexibility with your goals, or are your deadlines hard and fast?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Home

Wow. What a weekend.

Christmas is always fun when you have a billion different places to go in only two days. We went home to western Nebraska again and had a grand time, but this morning, I am just exhausted.

Still, I am very thankful for the time I had spending with my family. We played games, ate lots of yummy food (remind me to get on the treadmill every night this week!), talked, laughed, and enjoyed each other's company.

I received some lovely Christmas presents, including a very special one from my grandmother: a pair of earrings that my grandfather gave her years and years ago. I'm wearing them now. :-)

How was your Christmas?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Edition

While browsing through my archives, I came across this meme and thought it would be fun to see how things have changed in five years! Feel free to use it on your blog (with your answers of course! lol)if you're like me and can't think of a good blog post. ;-)

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?

Hot chocolate, though strangely enough, I have not yet had a cup this season!

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Santa has been unmasked, therefore, we will not be getting any presents specifically from Santa. It was a rather sad moment for me this year.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
I always use white lights on the tree and they must not blink. I don't know...just a thing with me, I guess. I think blinking lights is one more symbol of commercialism. (Wow, maybe that's going too far, but I had to think of something more profound than simply that they annoy me!)

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
Nope.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
I always make myself wait until after Thanksgiving. After that, it depends on when the spirit strikes!

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?
Homemade raviolis and butterball soup (the first dish is Italian, the second is German-from Russia). If anyone doesn't know what a butterball is, click here. I blogged about it a few years ago and I'm still getting hits on that particular post.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
We had a set of vinyl records from Reader's Digest - "An Old-Fashioned Christmas." I used to listen to them over and over again. One song in particular captured my imagination and I created an entire dance complete with characters and a story. I can still do that dance today (though probably not as well) and I can tell you exactly what the story is. And yes, I still have those records. :-)

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
Hmm...y'know, I don't think I ever truly believed in him. How sad is that?

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Yes - at Grandma Lucy's house. Every. Single. Year. Part of our holiday tradition. We also always eat butterball soup on Christmas Eve!

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
This year, I went with a new theme - gold, red, and green with gold beads and ribbon. I also include all of my ornaments from my childhood and those my children have made.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
Love to look at it- hate to drive in it.

12. Can you ice skate?
Barely. I tried it once when I was in junior high. I remember falling a lot.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
I don't think I had one in particular. I do remember getting a very cool pink cassette player from my parents that I loved.

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
I love celebrating Jesus' birth, spending time with my family, the decorations, the Christmas carols, and the spirit of giving!

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Either my grandmother's homemade cherry cheesecake or frosted sugar cookies.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
I'm starting a new one. I have a book of Christmas stories by Nebraska author Bess Streeter Aldrich that I want to read every year. This is my second year to read them and they really put me in the Christmas spirit.

17. What tops your tree?
An angel!

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?
I love to give! Nothing better than seeing their eyes light up when they open their gifts!

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?
God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman
Carol of the Bells
O Holy Night
Santa Claus Came in the Spring

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?
Yuck!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Resistance

It's been a few days since I've looked at the work-in-progress. I'm nearing the finish line and have a lot of loose ends to tie up. But I'm encountering some resistance.

I've blogged about resistance before, but this time, it's a bit different.

You see, my character has to do something that is going to significantly impact his life - and the lives of those around him - and not in a good way. I am having a hard time writing this stuff simply because I don't want to put him - and everyone else - through the misery that is about to come their way.

So I have resisted writing this next part, even though I know it is needed to push the story forward. But our characters can't have shiny, happy, perfect lives, now can they? The real world doesn't work that way - and neither should our fiction.

Have you ever encountered this type of resistance in your own writing?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bittersweet

I finally got the question last night from my daughter.

"Mom, is Santa real?"

I was wondering if this would be the year she asked. She's ten years old and it's probably natural that she would put two and two together by now. Besides, she and her friends talk about this stuff at school. The catalyst for this conversation was her telling me that one of her friends saw her mom putting presents under the tree.

Instead of coming out with a straight, "No, Santa is not real," I decided to take a different approach. I told her about St. Nicolas and how the legend had sort of evolved over the years into its present-day belief.

But I wanted to make sure that she understood one thing. "The spirit of Santa Claus is very real," I told her. "The man himself might not be, but the spirit of giving is."

Then I kissed her goodnight, turned on her CD of music from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and quickly left before she could see my tears.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried. Part of her childhood is forever gone. But that is how it must be. I will miss preparing the elaborate notes from Santa on Christmas Eve and seeing her excitement at the presents he brought her on Christmas morning. But I will always have the memories.

Monday, December 13, 2010

So I Was In My Pajamas...

My Christmas Decorations This Year
Every year, I like to have a little Christmas gathering at my place for some relaxing music, hot tea, yummy treats, and good conversation. This year I decided to invite my two wonderful critique partners. I sent out the invitation and suggested we meet at my place for this month's critique and have a nice Victorian-themed tea party. The only difference was that we would meet in the afternoon instead of the morning. My two friends thought it was a wonderful idea.

I was quite excited. I have some beautiful china that my mother gave to me and I couldn't wait to use it. I went and picked up some treats (all the sugar cookies we made last weekend were gone!) and went to bed Friday night mentally preparing what I had to do in the morning.

I woke up earlier than usual on Saturday. Outside, it was bitterly cold with snow falling and the wind blowing. But I knew my comfy, warm abode would be the perfect respite. Besides, we would be talking about writing and eating scrumptious food at the same time. What could be better?

Around 10 a.m., I was still in my pajamas and my husband had just finished cleaning (he even mopped the kitchen floor!). My phone rang. The ID said, "Building." (Our apartment's intercom system is linked to our cell phone). I answered it and two chirpy voices said, "We're here!" To which I responded, "Who is we?", thinking someone had buzzed the wrong apartment.

But no. It was my two critique partners. They had forgotten that we changed the time to 2 p.m. and were instead meeting at our regular time - 10 a.m.

All my intentions of preparing my home - candles lit, music playing, tasteful spread of tea and goodies on the table - went down the drain. Instead, I rushed to throw on some clothes, pulled my hair in a ponytail, put some water in my kettle to boil, and tore open my cookie packages and threw cookies on some plates.

But you know what? It was completely ok. We had a wonderful time. We laughed and joked, had a great critique session, and thoroughly enjoyed each other's company.

"Now you have material for a new blog post!" they told me when they left.

Yep. And we also made a great memory!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Ode to Stubborness

My daughter and I started a Christmas puzzle Sunday evening. It's a scene from the classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer movie, and we've been working on it a little each night.

Last night, though, I really was on a roll in putting it together and reached a point where I knew I could finish it that evening. My reasons for wanting to finish it were twofold:

1) I'm having company on Saturday and didn't want the puzzle mess spread out all over the coffee table

2) I love the challenge of puzzles and was having fun

After watching me work on it most of the evening, my hubby said, "You're so stubborn." Then he helped me put every last piece in place. By 9:30 p.m., the puzzle was complete.

Yes, I am stubborn. Sometimes too much so. But I don't necessarily consider stubborness a bad thing. It keeps me from quitting when things get tough. And in the writing business, things can get really tough.

The huge onslaught of recent rejections for my last WW2 novel left me disillusioned, yes. But instead of refusing to write another word, the rejections spurred me to keep writing. I'm now nearly finished with my next novel and I think this particular work has come from a deeper place than my last novel. I'm really enjoying the process this time around, and even though it's had its share of pitfalls, I've taken a slightly different approach. I've just let God guide me. And it's working.

If you're going to succeed at this writing game and be a published novelist, you have to be stubborn. You must not quit. You must work in the face of rejection, of your own evil inner editor, of potential bad reviews and bad sales. You must clench your jaw, put up your fists, and fight the forces of doubt and fear. You must be stubborn.

So I raise my glass in a toast to my stubborness. Without it, I wouldn't be the writer I am today.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Blog Tour: Diane Parkin's Night Crawler

I'm giving the blog over today to my good friend and fellow writer, Diane Parkin. I "met" Diane through blogging some five years ago and when I went to England in October of 2008, I had the privilege of meeting her in real life! I had a lovely time with her at her home in South Yorkshire (along with her two cats!).


Diane recently released her first book, Night Crawler. It's an amateur detective murder-mystery set in Birmingham, England, and features a unique female protagonist: Marcie Craig, a rock DJ who makes a living from her love of music, rides a Harley Davidson, and lives in a trailer park in Meriden, England.

A short synopsis:
Easter, 1996: /Rock DJ Marcie Craig sets out to solve the murder of a young junkie whose boyfriend is the prime suspect in his death. Marcie doesn't believe he did it, and she's determined to find the real culprit. It's a dangerous road, though, and she winds up putting her own life at risk to find the truth.

What gave you the idea to write this story?
“I knew I wanted to write a mystery novel set in Birmingham but I didn’t know where to start. Everyone told me to write what I know but I didn’t think I knew enough about anything interesting. The only thing I did was work or go out to rock pubs and clubs, so I settled on the local music scene. I needed a protagonist and came up with an amalgamation of all the rock DJs I had ever known, then I made her a female and put her on a motorbike. Marcella was a favourite name and Craig was the professional surname of one of my DJ friends.


“The milieu gave me my scene of crime and it was easy enough to place a victim there, but I needed a reason for Marcie Craig to get involved, I needed her to care. So I had an old friend of hers falsely arrested and charged."


What was your writing process like?
“I wrote copious character notes for all of the main players, I wrote a detailed chapter-by-chapter breakdown, I made timeline notes as I went along. I drew a map of the murder scene and I made a detailed timeline for the actual murder so I knew where everybody was.


“I wrote the first draft by hand, every day, making notes of things I didn’t know, and then I carried out my research interviews. The second draft was also in longhand but this took into account what I had learned. The first typo-free typed draft went out to my “experts” for checking, and all of my factual errors were corrected, most of the feedback was also incorporated. Then the second type-written draft was produced and the polishing process begun.

“I did two more handwritten drafts before the final print-ready version. Then years of submissions began.”

Why did you decide to self-publish? 
"The book was completed by the end of 1996 and in 1997 it started to do the rounds. I hawked the manuscript to publishers and agents for more than ten years, building in many of the suggestions they made. While many were genuinely interested, the only company that offered to publish it ran out of money. Spurred on by mostly positive feedback, I decided to have a go myself and 'get it out there'."

Why did you go with Lulu?
"Lulu is a print-on-demand self-publishing organisation that offers authors various levels of support. With so much editing experience, however, I decided to do everything myself. I did all of the editorial and technical work and even sourced my own artist for the cover. Lulu is available to anyone with internet access and offers various distribution services and packages. Every book gets an ISBN."


Visit Lulu.com and purchase Night Crawler in hardback or digital format.

Learn more about Diane by visiting her blog. I, by the way, am jealous of all the snow she's getting in her little corner of England!

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Stress-Free Guide to Christmas

First, start with your grandmother's rolling pin. It's full of love and lots of memories.

Make sure you have lots of flour on hand since you used the 1/2 fat margarine in the cookies and they're really, really sticky.

Make lots of different shapes and bake until done.

Enlist the help of your incredibly creative, funny, and adorable daughter.

Make sure you have more than one project going at a time.

Watch the roof of the gingerbread house slowly slide apart and frantically try to fix while still baking cookies.

Wait too long to fix roof, realize frosting has hardened, and decide whether or not to abandon project.


Decide to decorate gingerbread house anyway because you might as well.

Be very satisfied with the finished product, even if it looks nothing like the model on the box.

Thank hubby for coming up with the ingenious "patching" for the gingerbread roof.

Display the finished product with pride!
And, of course, laugh and laugh and laugh some more during the entire process. Make memories, forget about the rush of shopping, listen to old Christmas carols, and enjoy spending time with someone you love!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Friday Fun: Your Favorite Christmas Song

I am a sucker for Christmas carols. I love listening to them all through the month of December. When I was a child, we had a Reader's Digest set of Christmas records and my mom graciously gave them to me a few years ago. It's simply not Christmas without those songs. I even bought a record player expressly for the purpose of listening to those old vinyl records!

Recently I've really been into the Christmas songs from the 1940s. I'm a traditionalist, so these songs fit me perfectly. I'd have to say Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole top my list of favorite Christmas singers.

Narrowing it down to one favorite Christmas song is hard, but I've always been a huge fan of Bing's God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. A close second is Nat King Cole's Christmas Song. And Burl Ives and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? A classic!

I've tried to listen to the "updated" versions of Christmas songs by current pop artists, and I just can't do it. Give me Bing, Nat, and Burl anyday.

What is your favorite Christmas carol?

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...