Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Writing Thoughts

Even though I've been inundated with preparing for my upcoming surgery, I haven't been completely out of the writing game. I'm nearly finished with my next history article. This one is on a World War II combat artist named Ed Reep. He is nearing 94 years old and lives in California. He served in Italy as an artist, painting and sketching what he saw around him. His story is amazing and since I have corresponded with him, he is also an amazing man. I would love to write his complete life story and may get the chance if I can ever get all my ducks in a row. I have an invitation to visit, no less, and I really want to accept!

I'm also embarking on a "fun" writing project - one that I turn to whenever I don't want any pressure whatsoever. When I sit down to work on this project, I am actually forcing myself not to feel any type of self-recrimination, i.e. This stinks! Who let you think you could write?. I'm also not allowing myself to edit, but just writing, writing, writing, even if it sounds bizarre and crazy. It doesn't matter. There are no rules in this particular story.

It got me to thinking how I need to use this type of mindset in all of my writing endeavors - at least for the first draft. For some reason, when I'm working on something that I know will go to an agent or editor at some point, I am not as loose with my writing. Therefore, that's why I decided to make this particular novel a fun project only. Will it ever be seen by the public? I don't know. At this point, it doesn't matter. It's just for fun.

Hopefully I can start diving into the next novel, though. Since it's part of a three-book series and the first book is completed, I need to write it. It's a good story, but a bit dark. Which leads me to another reason I'm writing the "fun" project - it is as light-hearted as can be. Comical. Carefree. I tend to write novels with weighty issues, so having an "outlet" is definitely needed.

In other writing news, my daughter has surpassed the 100,000 word mark on her novel. I am in awe.

If I haven't been by your blog lately, please accept my apologies. I will try to visit soon!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Day Has Come

I wish I could say that the title of this post refers to an offer of representation from an agent, or that I've finally won the lottery or lost the weight I've always wanted to, but alas, it is none of these things.

No, the day of reckoning has come for my uterus.

Yes, you read that correctly. She has been a constant source of misery for me for the past eleven years. I don't even want to know the amount of time, energy, and money I have spent on trying to make her work properly. She is a nasty piece of work and refuses to cooperate.

So, the doctor has ordered her removed.

The pathology report came back after my surgery last week and the results were not good. I have complex endometrial hyperplasia with atypia. A mouthful, to be sure, but what is boils down to is this: it's not cancer yet, but it has a very good chance of turning into it. As far as I know, it is only confined to my uterus, so the best method of prevention is to get it out.

When I got the news yesterday, I was halfway expecting it. What I wasn't expecting was to have to have the surgery so soon. It's scheduled for April 3. And since it is a major surgery - indeed, a hysterectomy - I will be out for four weeks from work. I have no paid vacation or any paid leave at all as I used it all up for the year already, most of them attributed to the devious uterus and the havoc she wreaks upon my body. Since hubby is going to school full-time, we are living on my income, and what small savings we have accumulated will be used to pay for living expenses for the time I'm recovering. Unfortunately, it won't come close to covering them all. I'm working on figuring that all out, and I guess it's good I have a month in which to do so.

But! I am optimistic that a solution will be found, and I have given this entire situation to the Lord since He has much stronger shoulders than me.

I guess in the end, I'm glad to have the decision made for me. I've been riding the fence on this issue for over a year and enough is enough.

On the upside (because we must have an upside to this!), I will have four weeks of writing time. Thankfully, that is one thing I will be able to do while recovering, and I'm so grateful to be able to do that. Being out of work for four weeks will be challenging as I need to be around people at some point or I tend to get depressed. But I am hopeful that the Internet will help me stay connected.

And another upside to this all? No more guessing. No more monthly drama. No more cramps. What a relief that will be! I've heard some women say that they've felt so much better after having a hysterectomy. I am hoping I also fall into that category. 

Onward!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ah, Joy

There is great joy to be found in the world. Sunny skies. Red cardinals perching on berry-laden branches. A child's giggles. Moist chocolate cake with a thick layer of frosting. Kisses. Hugs. A prayer answered.

There's also joy found in writing.

Crafting the perfect sentence. Getting an idea and rushing to write it down. Receiving a positive response from an agent or editor. Immersing yourself in your world so fully that time races by. Having your work published.

Lots of joy.

What has given you the most joy lately in your writing?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On the Mend

I'm popping by for a quick post to thank you all for your prayers and good wishes for my surgery. It went great. We're still waiting for pathology results, which will be a good five days, but the experience I had in the hospital was a lot better this time. Of course, the surgery wasn't nearly as complicated as having an ovary removed like I did the last time!

I'm recovering all week. I've been sleeping a lot and taking pain pills, reading, and sleeping some more. I'm so thankful I am able to stay home from work to recuperate. My hubby and my daughter have been taking great care of me. And yes, I got spoiled on Valentine's Day!

Hope all is well with you!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Why Good Books Are Hard To Find

(Warning: it is 10:20 p.m. on Thursday night. I have the world's worst headache and because I have surgery in six days, I am unable to take ibuprofen or aspirin, and Tylenol doesn't work on me. So I'm awake because I can't sleep because my head hurts too darn bad, and thus, if this post reads a bit odd, you'll know why.)

I should probably clarify the title of this blog post. Good books are everywhere. But what I think is a good book and what someone else thinks is a good book are often radically different. On occasion, there are some books that transcend this divide and nearly everyone agrees on how magnificent it is (The Book Thief is such a book, and if you haven't read it, READ IT. NOW.).

Recently I picked up a book that I'd ordered a few months ago. It received good reviews and I'd had it on my to-read list on GoodReads. Since there was nary a bad review in the bunch, I figured I was golden.

Oh boy, was I wrong.

The writing was just so awful that I couldn't even get interested in the story itself. There was no hook at the beginning, flat characters, and really, really bad prose. After two chapters, I threw it down in disgust. How did this get published?

We've all read bad books, true. But I can't help but wonder if I'm finding fault with more books these days because of how I'm growing as a writer. I could have read this book ten years ago, perhaps, and not had a problem with it. But I've come so far in the writing craft (though I have a lot to learn yet) that I immediately saw all the flaws in the story. I couldn't make myself continue. While the idea for the book was intriguing, I couldn't get past the poor prose and lack of craft.

As my writing has developed, my reading tastes have become much more discerning. I can't pick up any book and invest my time in it if it's not written well. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), I cannot read a book that is written poorly, no matter how good the plot is. Bad writing pulls me completely out of the fictional world.

Whenever I go to the library, I get at least three books. Why? Because if one is a dud, I can go on to the next, and so on.

In a way, I feel awful for abandoning these books. As a writer, I know how much work goes into them. On the other hand, I wonder if they put enough work into it. However, this has only reinforced the subjectivity of this business. What one person loves, another hates. That's why we have one star reviews and five star reviews on the same book. In a way, it's rather fascinating to see how we all look at the world through different lenses.

Have you seen a shift in your book-reading tastes in regards to where you're at with your writing? Have you gravitated toward more well-written books as your writing has grown or can you overlook poor writing in favor of a good story?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

A Writer's Health

A writer's productivity is often intricately linked to their health. So it has been with me.

I'm pretty open on this blog about the health issues I deal with, and I do so for two reasons. One, if I can offer any kind of support or commiseration for others out there going through the same thing, I'm happy to do so. Sometimes, when you suffer from often invisible health issues, it's nice to know you're not the only one. And two, I am a writer, and therefore I write about issues that are important to me.

I've blogged about my female health issues a lot over the last few years. There was the whole unexpected surgery to remove my right ovary, my foray into acupuncture to stave off more surgery, and my struggles to make the right decision. Well, the acupuncture didn't work (and I sometimes think it made things worse). I've been in a lot of pain the last few months and quite frankly, I'm tired of it.

This has been made worse by the news I received last Friday. I was scheduled to undergo an endometrial biopsy - a painful process - but unfortunately, my doctor couldn't perform it due to some issues with those pesky female parts. When she told me I would need a D&C procedure, I was shook up. Not only did I not want to go under the knife again, but I figured if I was going to do this, then I might as well get the hysterectomy done.

Yeah, that wasn't a good day for me.

However, after a lot of thinking and praying and a pre-op visit to my doctor yesterday, I'm holding off for now. Instead, we're doing the D&C and an ablation. This means I will no longer be able to have children. Even though my husband and I never had any plans to have more, it still is a bit unsettling to think about. But I have to look at my quality of life, and lately, it hasn't been that good. Two weeks out of the month I'm pretty much a mess - I can't exercise, am in constant pain, and moody from everything going on.

The weird thing through all this? I've been editing up a storm. I've lost myself in my novel to such an extent that I forget about all these issues swirling around in my head. It's been a blessing in disguise. Thankfully, that is one thing I can do when I'm pretty much bedridden - write.

I'm scheduled for surgery on Feb. 14 - Valentine's Day! This means my husband has to be extra special to me on that day, no?

Funnily enough, I've never had the urge to write a story where my character goes through the same health trials I've been through. I guess I've lived it enough in my own life and have no desire to explore it in my fiction. But my writing has been an absolute lifesaver for me. I've loved escaping into my fictional world and focusing on my characters' dilemmas instead of my own. It's been a welcome release, and, dare I say it, a healthy one, too.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Share Time: What Are You Writing?

I love to read about other writers' projects. It still amazes me how different our ideas can be and the way we express them. The longer I live, the more I realize how we all approach life - and thus our writing - from varied directions. Given one scenario, five writers will undoubtedly come up with five different stories. I love that.

So it's time to share what project you're working on. You can be as detailed or as vague as you like.

I'll go first.

1) I'm working on revisions for my last completed novel. It's set in Nebraska during World War II.  I'm digging deeper into the story and through an agent's suggestion, making some big changes. I'm taking my time and really enjoying the process.

2) I have another article contracted with a major history magazine. This one is about a World War II combat artist. He is in his 90s and still going strong. I've corresponded with him a few times and he is such a humble man. I love writing his story.

3) The research I've done for the article has spawned another novel idea. I'm slowly starting to shape that story in my head.

4) The fifth novel is currently on hold while I make revisions for my fourth novel. But since the fifth is a sequel to the fourth, these changes will have a definite impact. I can't wait to get back to that novel.

Your turn! What writing project are you working on?

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