Monday, November 29, 2010

Kansas City Adventures!

We did something a little different for Thanksgiving this year. Instead of heading home to western Nebraska, we decided to travel to Kansas City and take in some sights. It's only a two and a half hour drive (compared to the six hour drive to western Nebraska!) and since we had four days of vacation, we decided to take the plunge!

Now we did get lost and made several illegal traffic maneuvers (heh), but the hubby and I managed not to kill each other and our first stop was the Toy and Miniature Museum. (I don't have any pictures of it since photos were not allowed.) My daughter absolutely LOVES miniature stuff and this place had thousands upon thousands of items in dollhouses and displays. Absolutely amazing how people can make things so small!

The next day I had to stop at the Victorian Trading Company's retail store. I drool over their magazine every month, so I had to go and see all this great Victorian stuff in person! I wasn't disappointed, either, and browsed to my heart's content and made a few purchases, of course.

Then we headed out to Cedar Cove Feline Conservation Park and Education Center located in Louisburg, Kansas, about 20 miles from Kansas City. As my daughter wants to save the tigers when she grows up and is a HUGE big cat lover, she absolutely loved this place.

Look at this gorgeous Siberian tiger:

Most of the animals here are rescues. It still amazes me that some people in this world think they can have exotic animals as pets and expect them to behave like domestic animals. One woman bought a leopard as a companion for her Rottweiler dog. Are you kidding me??? So I'm very thankful that they have places like this that will take these animals and give them a forever home. And even though the pictures show them all in cages, rest assured, they get out and play!


Once back in town, we headed down to Crown Center and saw the ice skating rink, a huge Christmas tree, and visited Chip's Chocolate Factory. Ohhh. Good, good stuff to be found there!

Sunday we met my best friend and her husband for breakfast - it was great to catch up with her. She is like me in so many ways...down-to-earth, realistic, and sensible. We both have our master's degree in history and we both married men that like to cook. Thank goodness, since neither of us is too great in the kitchen!

It was a great trip overall, and we'll be making the drive down there again in the not-too-distant future. There's some other great museums I want to visit next time like the World War I Museum and the Jazz Museum, not to mention all the great shopping.

How was your Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

To Make You Laugh

This morning went just like every other morning. My daughter and I both got up and got ready - she for school, me for work.

It was cold this morning and I made sure she wore her heavy coat, and I grabbed my gloves. Autumn has definitely come to Nebraska. We trudged to the car, neither of us very happy about having to leave our cozy apartment.

At the school, I dropped her off, wished her a good day as I always do, then started driving away. A lady in a jeep flagged me and I rolled down my window.

"You know they don't have school today, right?"

"What?!? No, I didn't!"

So I drove back to the school. My daughter was still in sight and I honked the horn, then got out of the car and beckoned her over.

"You don't have school today!" I called.

She started grinning and ran over to me. Once in the car, she said, "I looked in the window and didn't see any backpacks hanging on the hooks. The school looked haunted!"

Oh me, oh my. Thank you, Lord, for sending a good samaritan! If that lady hadn't stopped me, my poor child would have been at the school all by herself and I don't know what she would have done!

In my defense:

1) Yes, I checked the calendar to make sure she had school today. I obviously looked at it wrong.

2) I don't drop her off directly in front of the school, but in a little cul-de-sac behind the school. Thus, I avoid the barrage of cars that congregate every morning in front of the school. But this morning, my drop-off spot didn't show me that there were NO cars in the parking lot!

Thankfully, my daughter has a great sense of humor and she wasn't upset with me at all.

One thing she said on the way home, though, made me laugh out loud:

"I have to write about this, Mom!"

Like mother, like daughter!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Be Thankful

This week, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. Usually it consists of lots of food, football, and family!

So tell me. What is one thing you're thankful for this year?

I'm thankful for my wonderful, awesome family!

You?

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's the Little Things


I'm one of those people that really enjoys the little things in life. I don't need a fancy car or a fancy house, designer clothes, lots of money, or lots of stuff. Besides, you can't take all that with you when you go to the pearly gates. :-)

For me, it's the little things in life that make me giddy. For example, yesterday I saw a post on my Facebook page for a CD compilation of old Christmas radio shows/programs that were aired during World War II. The price? $5! Needless to say, I had to spread the word to my fellow World War II-enthusiasts! And yes, I've already ordered it. :-) (If you're interested, here is the link).

I'm also a sucker for finding incredible resources in researching my novels. Yesterday I found a book written in 1938 by the Federal Writers' Project (started during FDR's campaign to get the country employed again during the Great Depression) and it is the perfect, and I do mean perfect, source for the novel I'm currently working on. Best of all? I found it at my local library - no cost involved!

Other little things I love...

1) My cat curled up at the foot of the bed. Something very cozy and calming about that.

2) Candles lit in the living room. I love the atmosphere!

3) My dark chocolate!

4) The perfect writing day equals a gray, cool, cloudy day outside and me inside next to the fireplace. It's amazing how content and utterly happy I am on such days.

5) My daughter's incredible sense of humor and imagination.

6) A yummy snack on Friday afternoons.

I could go on and on. Sometimes I feel a bit silly for getting so much joy out of simple things, but really, that's what truly matters in this life, isn't it?  And in this season of thankfulness, we need to take a moment and savor those things that mean the most to us.

What are some of the little things in your life that you love?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reading Tastes

I am curious.

Am I the only one who will start reading a book, put it aside, then pick it up weeks, or maybe even months later?

After leaving the library today with another armload full of books, including one I'd previously tried to read, I wondered about this. The only conclusion I came to was that it wasn't the right time for me to read the book in question.

I've done this several times, so it's not just weird blip on my reading radar.

Granted, there are some books that I read for a bit, then toss aside never to pick up again. Others, though, beckon me again and I usually pick them up and thoroughly enjoy them.

What about you?

Monday, November 15, 2010

News: A Catch-22

I am a political news junkie.

Lately, though, I find that I'm in a much better mood when I don't surf the political blogs (both conservative and liberal - I like to read both sides of the story), check out the comment boards, or peruse the mainstream media websites.

Man, that stuff can really get my blood boiling. Which makes me question why I do it in the first place. I can only think that I am a passionate person with passionate beliefs and very firmly held views of right and wrong.

But when it starts wearing on me, leaving me physically and emotionally exhausted, that's when I need to step back and re-evaluate why I'm reading the news at all. Is it because I like the conflict (thinly disguised as opposing ideas) or because I want to become more enlightened? A little of both, I'm afraid.

So I take breaks. Sometimes they're long ones. I can go for a week or more without checking out the latest political scandal, and my blood pressure thanks me for it. Then something will happen and I'll get sucked right back in.

Right now, I'm declaring the news (at least the political news) off limits for awhile. Time to sink into my story and lose myself in my characters' world for awhile.

What about you? Are you a news junkie or a news phobic?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bliss

Yesterday, I spontaneously decided to take Friday off. We've been involved in a massive project at work and I was just worn out. Plus, my brain has been too full of "work-related" junk to focus on the novel. It was the right decision.

Today was absolutely lovely.

I slept in, had a leisurely breakfast, wrote a bit, then met my brother (who is visiting here with his family) for lunch, then came home, turned on the fireplace, lit the candles, turned on the classical music, and got to work on the novel.

Glorious.

It's been a nice, low-key day, exactly what I needed.

And I even have a bonus to end the day on: it's snowing! :-)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day 2010


To all the veterans, past and present, who have served the United States of America, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
God Bless You All.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

UPDATE: An Important Message

You would think it would be common sense: If you're a print magazine (or even an online magazine), and you see a photo you would like to use, contact the person who owns the photo.

Suzanne McMinn runs an amazing blog, Chickens in the Road. I have featured her here before as an intelligent, thoughtful, and altogether inspiring woman.

She is the victim of theft. Suzanne had one of her photos stolen and used in a magazine without her permission or knowledge. She has contacted the magazine and not only have they not recognized the photo as hers, but have refused to do anything about it.

This is unacceptable.

Suzanne is fighting this blatant theft, and if you'd like to lend her your support (because as artists, whether we are writers, photographers, or painters, we need to protect our work), you can visit her website to find out all the details, including information on where to email the publisher of the magazine.

And if you've never been to Suzanne's website, you're missing out! She is a former romance writer who moved to the wilds of West Virginia to start her own farm. She is funny, witty, and just plain awesome. And I'm standing behind her on this blatant disregard for her creativity and urge you to do the same!

UPDATE:

Victory! The publisher of the magazine called to apologize, and is sending her a check to cover the use of her photo (plus a bit more). Read here. Thanks to anyone who helped spread the word! That is the power of the internet!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Stubborn or Stupid?

Books set during World War II  - especially those that involve a love story and are not thrillers - are a hard sell.

I know this because I've got the agent rejections to prove it.

But that is what I write. Since I want to be traditionally published and at this point, am not considering e-publishers, I've had to deal with some emotional turmoil at the constant stream of, "Hard period to sell" that I'm hearing.

And yet...no one said this writing-for-publication gig would be easy.

My next novel-in-progress, which I should have completed by the end of the year, is also set during World War II. Since I'm planning this as a three-book series, I've got two more novels to write, and already have a rough outline in my mind as to the storylines.

Since World War II is a "hard time period to sell," I could chuck the whole lot of them and write something that does sell.

But I'm not going to.

I would not be true to myself if I did that. I don't want to lose my soul in this publishing business, and if that means I have to hold on a little longer to see my dream come true, than that is what will have to happen.

I've prayed an awful lot lately, asking God what He wants me to do. I get frustrated with the whole thing, but then I realize that these are the books I was meant to write. These are the stories I'm in love with. And I don't want to be published so badly that I will cave and write a story I'm not in love with.

Maybe this is a harder path. Maybe I should do myself a favor and write something that will get my foot in the door, and then roll out my World War II novels. But I can't fathom taking this route. Why? Because as we all know, you can't just write one book and then write a second book that is completely different from the first. You don't gain a following that way and you don't create the all important brand that way, either.

Is this stubborness or stupidity?

I'm not sure. But at this point, I'm sticking to my guns.

What about you?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Nerves of Steel

Admit it.

To write, you must have nerves of steel.

Even when you feel like you have nerves of wet noodles.

You need even more steel running through your veins when you start submitting to agents and publishers. Obsessive email checking, anxiously awaiting the postman's arrival, and checking Publisher's Marketplace for the latest new agent alert can be daunting. Yet if you want to be traditionally published, you have to go through it.

When I started querying agents for my first novel, those rejection letters hurt. As I've progressed to querying my second and third novels, those rejection letters still make me wince. But they don't hurt as bad as they once did.

That's a good thing. It's a sign of growth, of my thin skin being toughened up and growing thicker.

In a way, I'm grateful that my first novel didn't sell. Not only wasn't it up to snuff, but it gave me the chance to start developing those nerves of steel. I don't know that I would have been able to handle negative reviews or poor sales at that point in my writing career.

Now, I'm ready. They will still sting. They will still hurt. But I will be ready for them.

How are your nerves doing in this writing game?

Don't forget to enter the Christmas Short Story contest! Deadline is November 1. You can find all the details here!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Announcing: 1st Annual Christmas Short Story Contest

Sharpen those pencils, get those fingers limbered up, and grab a little (early) Christmas spirit! Writing with Style is hosting the First Annual Christmas Short Story contest!


Here's the rules!

Rules

1) The theme of the fiction story must center around the Christmas season.

2) Word count: No more than 3,000 words long.

3) One entry per person.

4) Keep it clean!

5) Deadline is December 1, 2010.

6) Grand prize winner will win a hodgepodge of fun Christmas items featured below, in addition to the book, The Little Red Writing Book! PLUS, the winning short story will appear on the blog December 20, 2010. 

Entry Information
1) Send your short story in an attachment (Word is preferred) to melissaamateis at earthlink dot net by midnight of December 1, 2010.
2) You will receive a confirmation email.
3) NO ENTRY FEE!

Winner Info
Winner and runner up will be notified by December 15, 2010. Short story will appear on the blog December 20, 2010.

Questions? Email me! melissaamateis at earthlink dot net

Spread the news!

It's Time

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