Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Musings

Random thoughts for today...

1) I had to laugh when I checked out my Google stats today. The most popular searched words for this blog are "Bugs Bunny," which refers to this post.
The World Wide Web never ceases to amaze me...

2) We went bowling yesterday. I love to bowl. Hubby won a game and I won one. I'd say that satisfies both of our competitive spirits.

3) Tonight is undoubtedly the last true trick or treating Halloween for my daughter, who is now 11. I hope I don't cry. She is going as a Twilight vampire which, if you're going to be a vampire, a sparkly one is better than a bloody one, right?

4) I've decided to work on two books at once. We shall see how this progresses. The first is the next book in my trilogy. The other is one that needs to be reworked. I'm excited for both!

5)  Autumn has embraced my city. The trees are so unbelievably gorgeous, it literally brings tears to my eyes. God's beauty is amazing.

What's your random thought for the day?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Following Your Passion

So I have this friend. He's talented. Very talented. His ability to draw, to sketch, to paint, just blows me away.

Yet like most of us, he has a busy home life. Kids. Responsibilties. The day job.

But he's still pursuing his passion. To that end, he recently began a new blog focused not only on his art, but on the creative process itself.

If you get a chance, stop by RandyMadeIt. Check out his incredible pictures of Louis Armstrong that he painted on wood - yes, wood! Take a look at the sock monkey pictures on the Illustrations page. And read about this wonderfully creative, talented guy in one of the best "About Me" pages I've ever run across.

I always get a little giddy when I see fellow artists following their passions, and have to spread the word.

Are you following your passions?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Patience

Querying agents is an exercise in patience.

That's where I'm at right now.

It's hard.

But to be published, it's something we have to endure.

Must. Think. Positive!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Take Care of You

As artists, we have the ability to be incredibly self-critical. We insult ourselves ("You're a horrible writer!"), reprimend ourselves for not writing, and have a knack for feeling lower than dirt when we don't think we'll ever be published/get the plot right/find the right words.

Those are the bad days.

I've been experiencing those bad days lately, and last night, I finally realized something. If I were to say the things I've been thinking about myself to anyone else, it would be emotional abuse.

So why on earth am I doing it to myself?

It needs to stop.

Writer and creative coach Julia Cameron says, "When you feel yourself to be in critical condition, you must treat yourself as gently as you would a sick friend.”
Exactly.

If you're in a critical place, if the writing isn't flowing, if you can't get started on the next novel or can't for the life of you imagine how you'll finish your current work, then treat yourself gently. Don't criticize. Don't berate. Don't threaten. You wouldn't do that to a sick person, would you? No. So don't do it to yourself.

Be kind to you. Take care of you.

And most important, keep believing in you.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Death To the Pumpkin!

I imagine this must be the squirrels' battle cry in my neighborhood: Death to the pumpkin!

I managed to salvage two pumpkins from our garden that hadn't been eaten by the squirrels and the rabbits. I proudly displayed them on my front step.

Then yesterday afternoon, I found this:


Poor little pumpkin! *sob*

I should have known something was up when I saw one of the squirrels get nose to nose - literally - with my cat through the front door window.

They're very brave little buggers, but if I wasn't worried about my cat running away, I might be tempted to open the door and let her loose on those bushy-tailed fiends...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Listless

I'm in between projects right now. I just finished my fourth novel and now I'm trying to decide which novel to write next. A lot of that depends on the kind of response I receive to the fourth one.

So, I've had to develop some patience. But it hasn't been easy.

Because I can't focus on the next novel just yet, I feel listless. I've been reading - I just finished Daniel Silva's latest thriller, Portrait of a Spy - meandering around the house a lot, writing down notes and ideas, watching a lot of classic movies, spending time with my hubby and my daughter, and generally being a slug.

A week of this is fine. I'm going on two weeks, though, and I must say, I'm tired of it. I need a writing goal to work toward, to motivate me, and since I don't have it yet, it's affecting the rest of my life.

You see, to me, writing is life. That is who I am. Yes, I'm also a mother and a wife and a lot of other things. But writing is my essence. It drives me. If I'm not working on the next project, I'm not a very happy gal.

I'm trying to enjoy this time off. Really, I am. But enough is enough.

It's time to get to work! Only...which project? Ah. This is the question with no answer. So until I do have an answer, I must be patient. 

Patience is a virtue.

I just wish it wasn't such a hard virtue to attain.

Contest Winner!

I'm pleased to announce that Shirley Wells has won a free copy of Elisabeth Foley's The Ranch Next Door. Congratulations, Shirley!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Guest Post: Elisabeth Foley

Today, I'm pleased to welcome fellow blogger and writer, Elisabeth Foley. She's just published her first book of short stories and they're all westerns. How cool is that? Even cooler? You have a chance to win a copy! Just leave a comment and we'll randomly draw a winner!

My favorite singing group, past or present, is the Sons of the Pioneers. One of the most famous Western singing groups of all time, they were pioneers in nature as well as name, with their unique harmony singing and an array of fine original songs by group members Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer. Nolan, who is best known as the composer of their biggest hits “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” and “Cool Water,” was an especially gifted and versatile songwriter—who never learned to read or write music, although he composed hundreds of songs in his lifetime. Many of these songs are considered lost, because some were never written down or recorded, and in addition Nolan lost a large amount of his work in a 1948 fire.

Early last year, I was reading a list of these lost songs. At some point they were registered for copyright, so only the titles remain—the music and lyrics were never found. One of these titles caught my eye in passing: “The Ranch Next Door.” I remember thinking that it sounded like a good title for a story.

And my incorrigible imagination started saying, “I wonder what it would be about…?”

For some reason that title stuck in my head. I couldn’t help thinking about it over the next few days, and mechanically started to put the story together in my mind. I envisioned two ranches side by side, but with something that separated them so effectively that their near neighbors might as well not have existed. A feud, of course! From there it was an easy step to the classic cattleman vs. sheep rancher conflict, and then to the romance that threatens to break the long silence.

In the end, I just gave in and wrote the story.

Having done so, I still needed to reassure myself about “borrowing” the title before pursuing publication. So I contacted archivist Elizabeth Drake McDonald, who has researched and collected all of Bob Nolan’s surviving music, and asked her if it was all right to use the song title. She shared my request with Nolan’s grandson, Calin Coburn, and they both encouraged me to go ahead with it.

That was back when I was still thinking along the lines of submitting my short stories to magazines. But I used to daydream sometimes about what it would be like to publish a collection of stories. I always pictured “The Ranch Next Door” as the title story of the collection, whether because I had written it first, or because the title had so captured my imagination, or maybe because the barbed-wire fence dividing the feuding families seemed the strongest metaphorical and visual image to emerge from the seven stories. And here I am, a year and a half after putting the first words of the story on paper, and that old daydream has actually come true!

If you’d like to read more about Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers, you can visit this website, which has a wealth of pictures, music, biographies and much more.

Thanks, Elisabeth! Visit her blog at The Second Sentence.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Suffering for Art

There's the common understanding that artists suffer for their art. Usually, this means we suffer emotionally. Creative types are at a higher risk for depression and other mental disorders, including OCD. Some of the most famous creative artists throughout history suffered emotionally.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I was diagnosed with depression back in high school, and I've fought it on and off over the years. I've even blogged about it before. Yes, I'm on antidepressants. Yes, I tried going off of them. No, I couldn't do it and yes, I have accepted the fact that I will be on them probably the rest of my life.

But the suffering I'm talking about for today's post is the physical suffering. Granted, as I have been in deep depressions, I would rather take the physical suffering any day. But that doesn't mean it's not painful. Quite the opposite.

I worked on my novel all weekend. I rarely left the couch. I did get up and take periodic stretches and move around, but then I forced myself to get back to work. Unfortunately, I don't think I was sitting correctly, and as I normally use an ergonomic keyboard for my desktop computer, I knew that working that long on my laptop (which does not have an ergonomic keyboard) might cause some problems.

By Monday, this was confirmed. I have tension headaches that have their root in an old volleyball neck injury from high school. I've been to several chiropractors over the years, have tried several pain medications, and now, I just live with the fact that I have pain in my head almost every day. There comes a point when you get tired of going to the doctor all the time and just learn to deal. I'm at that point.

As Monday stretched into Tuesday and then Wednesday, the pain kept getting worse. I had no one to blame but myself. I, after all, was the one who had sat in that same position and worked my tail off. I had a finished novel, yes, but at what cost to my body?

Wednesday night the headache got so bad, I was in tears. My husband was on alert, knowing he might have to take me to the ER. Thankfully, two prescription pain pills took the edge off and knocked me out so I could get some sleep. But I was a zombie yesterday and had to miss work.

To tell you the truth, I'm a little angry with myself. I should have known better. I should have known that I needed to change my sitting position, done more stretching, done something to prevent it. While I was writing, I knew I might have to deal with a tension headache, but I thought the few stretching sessions I had was enough to keep it at bay.

Wrong.

It's Friday and I still am feeling this headache. Not good. I may have to visit the chiropractor (which means more money and time). I simply can't afford to lose days like this. It's not worth it, in time or in money. And why should I put myself through pain?

Thus, I'm pledging to myself that I will do better next time. Despite being within the throes of creativity, I have to take care that my body doesn't suffer for my art. In the end, it only hurts me as an artist. AND, I can actually prevent a lot of the physical pain whereas the emotional suffering is a slightly bigger beast to slay.

If you're like me and need a few lessons in good posture and ergonomics, here's some helpful links:



Here's to staying healthy emotionally and physically!


Monday, October 03, 2011

At Last

I often like to leave my weekends free to write. This may make me a fuddy duddy, but I've discovered that in this stage of my life, I'm a homebody. I don't want to go anywhere. And after my recent traveling experience, I'm quite content with that decision.

So this weekend, I had a goal in mind: to finish editing the novel. Sunday night at approximately 11:30 p.m., I met my goal.

The entire weekend, all I did was write and edit. Ok, I took a few breaks: watched a football game on Friday for a few hours and got groceries on Sunday. But really, that was it. Otherwise, my tush was planted on the couch, laptop in hand.

Of course, it wasn't without its ups and downs. On Saturday, I was in love with my story. On Sunday, I wanted to trash the whole thing. Now I'm feeling in-between about the whole thing.

But the novel, my fourth one, is done.

My body is feeling the effects today, though, and it only reminds me of the importance of exercise. I'm still going to Curves three times a week and that helps tremendously. In fact, I'm betting my body will thank me when I hit the gym today and work out the kinks from all that sitting.

The good news? The plot for the fifth novel is already spinning in my head.

How's your writing coming?

One Day at a Time

I've always tried to live with this mentality: One day at a time. Unfortunately, when I implement it, I fail spectacularly. But for this...