Monday, December 08, 2014

The 2014 Christmas Tree Wars

Every year, I battle my cat, Slick, over the Christmas tree. He somehow thinks that he needs to climb it. And knock off ornaments. And generally engage in massive mayhem.

Last year, he and our then-kitty, LuLu, destroyed one of our trees. When I say destroyed, I mean destroyed. We had to throw it away.

This year, LuLu is a year older and she listens much better. This doesn't mean that she hasn't been tempted by the tree, but she has responded much better to my discipline than Slick.

Slick doesn't care.

He knows he's not supposed to climb the tree or play with the ornaments. But he does it anyway.

Here's a picture I took last night that I posted on Twitter with the caption, "Should I be worried?"


Turns out that yes, I should have been worried. Shortly after I took this picture, he got that look in his eye and set about trying to climb the tree. What followed would be hilarious if I were starring in a Cary Grant caper. I yelled, then ran after Slick with the spray bottle full of water and chased him upstairs.

Do you think this deterred him?

Of course not. He was back moments later. He sat on the coffee table in front of me and just stared at me, that same look in his eyes.

What did I do?

I fed him. Yes, he already had food in his bowl, but I've learned that if you don't give this cat what he wants, he will irritate you on purpose and unremittingly until you give in.

After I fed him, he was knocked out on my bed for the rest of the night and left the tree in peace.

At this rate, he's going to gain 10 pounds.

Why can't he be like my other cat, Kathryn? Look at this sweet, innocent face.



See how nicely she sits under the tree, not bothering to play with the ornaments or climb it?

The only real solution to this is, of course, not to put up a Christmas tree. But I refuse. I love my Christmas tree and besides, it's MY house, not Slick's.

Right?

I'm beginning to wonder...


Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Season of Joy

I always wait until the day after Thanksgiving to start thinking about Christmas. But when that Friday hits, all bets are off!

I've already got my decorations out of storage and ready to be put up. I'm also trying to decide which yummy cookie and candy recipes to try this year. And the music! Oh, how I love Christmas carols. I veer from The Nutcracker Suite to Big Band music to Bing Crosby. Modern carols don't do it for me - with the exception of Mary Did You Know, a song I just adore.

I'm not going to get stressed out over this holiday because it accomplishes nothing. Instead, I tend to relax and take it slow, enjoying every minute.

It's the most wonderful time of the year...here's to a happy holiday season!


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thoughts on a Lovely Saturday

I love and adore Saturdays. I don't have to go to the day job, I can sleep in, and best of all, I can write.

Today I'm working on my war dogs article while sitting in my office, listening to Big Band music. I'm contemplating going to get a large slice of chocolate cake later, but then I remember I already had my "Dessert Day" this week (huge blueberry muffins that were SO GOOD) and I reluctantly put the temptation aside.

Yet it has already been a glorious Saturday without the chocolate cake. I've made a nice dent in the article. As we all know, sometimes getting started is the hardest part. I tend to freeze up when I write non-fiction, and I think it's because I have so much information to disseminate into a prescribed word count that I panic.

That's why I prefer to write fiction. Those words are mine and mine alone.

But while I prefer to write fiction, I have an overwhelming desire to write my non-fiction World War II articles. I love to dig into the research on the topics of my choosing. And writing an article that will educate hundreds (thousands?) of readers on a little-known part of WW2 history and get paid for it? That is sheer bliss.

Thus, I've come to terms with my desire to write WW2 articles (and to overcome my frozen state each and every time I start to write one) and my need to write fiction. If you told me tomorrow that I couldn't write any more WW2 articles, I'd be naturally upset; but if you told me tomorrow that I couldn't write fiction anymore, I honestly would fall apart. Fiction is what brings me to life, what makes me think and question and explore. Without writing fiction, I wouldn't be me.

I am truly blessed to be able to do both.

I hope you are pursuing your passion and doing what you love. Life is simply too short not to.



Monday, November 10, 2014

When A Book Title Said It All

I'm neck-deep in research for my next World War II article, and that means I've been having a fantastic time digging into newspapers of the 1940s. It truly was a different time in so many ways, but there was one thing that wasn't different: romance.

Take, for instance, this very sweet story from the Chicago Daily Tribune on October 7, 1942, in the Front Views and Profiles" section written by Marcia Winn.

A girl we know received a letter this week from a soldier she knows pretty well. As a postscript he wrote, "Consult the title of Ludwig Bemelman's latest book." On her way home from work, she stopped in a book store. A priest, two business men and an elderly women were waiting at the counter as she leaned toward the clerk and said, "I don't want to buy anything, but can you tell me the name of Ludwig Bemelman's new book?" The clerk, a nice, friendly man, leaned far over the counter and whispered, " 'I Love You, I Love You, I Love You.' " The girl, her face crimson, turned and ran.
P.S. - The boy is coming home on furlough this week-end.


Not the couple from the story, but representative of wartime romance
I'll take that kind of letter any day.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Hodgepodge

Is it really November? It feels more like it should be, oh, I don't know, August? I feel like I lost two months of my life when I was going through my health issues, but I'm glad to report I'm on the other side of it and feeling better.

Which means I'm writing and planning and researching again.

What I've been doing: researching an article on the K-9 "Dogs for Defense" of World War II, researching/plotting my sixth novel, and watching The Blacklist.

Ok, so the last one doesn't quite fit with the other two, but I'm in love with this show. It's well-written (sure, a bit far-fetched, but it's TV!), James Spader is amazing, and, the best part of all? The creator and writer of this show is a Nebraskan!

And it counts as research, right? Because when you're writing a thriller, dissecting how thrillers work - even if they are t.v. shows - helps you figure out how to make it work on the page.

On the homefront, I've begun my purging project. We plan to buy a house next spring and I intend to go through every single box in my house and get rid of stuff we no longer need/want. My daughter has taken to this project wholeheartedly and has gone through her room, tossing things she's outgrown. I'm realizing, through, that I'm much more sentimental than she is - she can easily get rid of stuffed animals or drawings or stories she's written without a care. I, on the other hand, have a hard time putting those beloved stuffed animals in the garage sale pile or throwing away any of her creative work.

Still, it's a good feeling, to get rid of excess in your life. Now if I could just get rid of the excess weight that crept up on me the past three months, why, life would be better.

No, this post doesn't have much point to it- just a hodgepodge of thoughts going through my head that needed to be "purged" - and also, I needed to update my blog. How do I get so far behind on it?

I confess, I turn to Twitter much more these days - maybe it's because my brain can only handle 140 characters at a time.

If you're still reading at this point, let me know what you've been up to. =D


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Life Is Beautiful

Despite the setbacks we all have, despite the sorry state of the world, life is beautiful.

I see, hear, and feel it every day.

In my husband's morning kiss goodbye.

In my daughter's smile as she heads off to school.

In the gorgeous autumn colors painting every tree.

In the words that stream from my mind onto the page.

I have to remind myself that life is beautiful. And today, I'm reminding you.

Life is beautiful.

Enjoy it and embrace the beauty.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Finding Me


Finally.

I'm back to work.

The physical therapy is helping.

And no more prescription pain meds are necessary.

I won't go into the sordid details of how I quit those pain meds cold turkey and suffered horrendous withdrawals because honestly, I lived through it and I'm still trying to process it. I learned a lot about myself during the whole thing, and I realized that sometimes when you think you're in control, you're really not.

Anyway.

I'm slowly, slowly getting back to my old routine. I'm not at 100% yet, but I'd say I'm at about 80% and that is far and above where I was two weeks ago.

It's been rather odd, like the last two months were a nightmare, like who I was then wasn't really me.

Now it's time to find that person again.

Time to find my joy of writing, my love of studying World War II, my delight in autumn's cooler temps and gorgeous colors, my zest for reading and finding new authors, my devotion to living a full life and enjoying and embracing all that it has to offer.

All of it got lost in the shuffle. My brain is still recovering and trying to put the pieces of the last 2 1/2 months back together.

When you've lost yourself for awhile, the process of rediscovery can be a bit painful. Mistakes made must be confronted. Lessons must be learned, no matter how hard. All of it is necessary to emerge a better, healthier person on the other side.

But it is also a slow process. I don't have any grand plans to finish my novel within the next week, or to start exercising again beyond taking my walks, or the determination to lose the weight I gained while being sick. There's no energy or motivation for that yet. What I am doing is taking it one day at a time.

After all, that's how we became who we are, right? One day at a time. And thus, I will rediscover who I am, one day at a time.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I Got Ya A Dollar...

Have you watched the commercial where the gal wants a purse using money her insurance has saved her and she shouts, "Insurance, come find me money!" and this old guy in fishing gear appears, dangling a dollar in front of her? "I got you a dollar," he says. She tries to grab it and he yanks it away from her and says, "Oops! You gotta be quicker than that!"

That's how I feel with my health right about now.

I shout, "Give me health! I need to get back to work!"

And for a moment, a glimmer of hope appears, just like that dollar. I'll feel better for a few hours and think, okay, it's getting better. Maybe I can go to work tomorrow.

I'll reach for that hope. Then, just like the old insurance agent, that hope is cruelly snatched away a few hours later when the pain pills wear off, or when I wake up the next morning cringing in pain.

It's getting old.

I can't believe it's been two months since I had surgery and since all of this started. I'm now going to physical therapy three times a week and I won't lie - it hurts. We are trying to break down the scar tissue and adhesions in my abdomen from past surgeries. But getting to that point is very painful.

Nevertheless, I know hope will continue to be there, dangling, and I will continue to reach for it. It might decide to keep out of my grasp for awhile, but one of these days I'm going to catch it and darn it, be well enough to get back to some kind of a normal life.

I will continue to believe. I can do no less.

Monday, September 15, 2014

In the Mood? Nope.

Now before you think the title of this post refers to something naughty, let me assure you that it doesn't. Would I do that to you? :-)

No, I'm talking about being in the mood to write - and how I'm not. At all.

It's rather bizarre how I will be a writing machine for a few weeks, excited about my project, immersing myself in the world of literature and the craft of writing, connecting with other writers, and having a grand ol' time. But the past few days have shown a decided lack of enthusiasm for much of anything to do with the English language.

It's disheartening to feel this way, especially since I'm so close to finishing my edits of the novel. I've already got a query letter drafted and ready to send to agents. But I have to get the novel done first.

So what's a gal to do when she needs to write but can't?

Write anyway.

Now I'm not saying I've been a writing machine lately because I haven't. But I've managed to write a few sentences here and there and still stay connected to the story. After an epiphany on a certain aspect of the novel, I wrote a nice chunk tonight. Good, yes, but still not where I want to be.

However, I've been writing long enough to realize that this is just a phase I need to get through. The creative well may very well be dry and I need to refill it. My weekend was full of family time and tonight I took a walk with my daughter to enjoy the changing weather. Autumn is pretty much upon us even though it won't be officially here until next week. I have faith the urge to dive into the novel will return shortly.

Sometimes, forcing yourself to write is the correct move. Other times it's not. It depends on the situation and the writer. Everyone is different.

What about you? When you are not in the mood to write, do you do it anyway? Or do you take a few days off to refill your creative well?

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Invisible Illness Awareness Week

It's Invisible Illness Awareness Week!

I suffer from a host of illnesses that can be classified as "invisible" - i.e. when you look at me, you can't tell I'm sick.

The biggest of these is rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, as I type this, I'm so exhausted I want to nap and my feet and hands are aching really bad. I don't know if the recent medical stuff or the change in weather (we're in the 80s today - supposed to be in the 60s tomorrow) is causing me to feel so rotten or what. BUT! I'm still smiling. I'm working from home, it's raining and cloudy outside, my kitties are close by, and I've got my chocolate.

And because I'm smiling, here's a cartoon of what I look like most mornings...except I have to get out of bed and keep going. That's what life is all about - we gotta keep going!


Monday, September 08, 2014

When I Couldn't Get It Right

When I was in high school and college, I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and not gain an ounce. I didn't exercise (frankly, I hated physical activity) and my food choices were usually nowhere near healthy. Pot pies. Chocolate cake. Corn dogs. Cookies. Cinnamon rolls. The concept of eating a balanced meal with vegetables, protein, carbs, dairy, and fruit was usually in the back of my mind, but I didn't pay too much attention to it. After all, I was young and healthy and heck, if I could get away with eating whatever I wanted, why worry about it?

We can be so dumb when we're young, can't we? I sure was.

Here's the thing: when I could eat anything I wanted and stay a slim size 7, I got used to all my clothes fitting just fine. I didn't know what it was like to struggle with my weight.

Of course, I'd already had image issues from wearing braces and glasses in junior high and being called ugly by a boy I liked (why does that still sting 22 years later?), so when I did start to gain weight, I didn't handle it well.

Those weight issues began shortly after I graduated from college. I put on about 10 pounds or so, and when I went back to attend college graduation for some of my friends a year later, one of my guy pals said, "You've put on a little weight. You look good. You were too skinny before." Well, that comment didn't bother me too much. The trouble was, I was still eating the same and not getting in any exercise.

Fast forward a few years to marriage and pregnancy. I didn't gain all that much weight while I was pregnant, and a month after I'd had my daughter, I was able to fit into my old clothes again. Not bad at all.

And then a botched birth control shot sent my health into decline. I put on 50 pounds in a year. My thyroid started failing. And then I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). Over the next ten years, my weight see-sawed. I learned to exercise - I loved going for walks and going to Curves - but I still didn't know how to eat properly. My female health problems became incredibly difficult to handle, culminating in a hysterectomy in 2012. After the surgery and more weight gain, plus a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, I finally went to see a nutritionist to learn how to eat so I could lose weight.

Now part of this battle to lose weight was related to my health. I had high cholesterol and my triglyceride levels were through the roof. I also was pre-diabetic. So I knew I had to make some changes.

And while I would like to tell you that those issues were my underlying reasons for losing weight, they weren't. Yes, they were a part of it. But the real reason I wanted to lose weight was this: if I stayed overweight, I wouldn't be enough. I wouldn't be beautiful enough, smart enough, desirable enough. If only I could be a size 7 again then I would be enough.

I'm not the first person to say these words. I certainly won't be the last.

Here's the thing, though: when I lost 30 pounds last year and kept it off, I did feel like I was enough. My self-esteem soared. I felt pretty and accomplished and proud. I felt desirable. I felt like I did when I was in high school and college. And yes, I should be proud of myself for learning to eat right and exercise. I worked hard to lose that weight despite my health struggles.

But I still had a problem.

You see, I was very aware of every single bite I put into my mouth. I was always anticipating the next time I could eat. I never, ever missed a meal or a snack. I would allow myself one dessert a week and only 3 pieces of Dove Dark Chocolate a day. But if I over-indulged, the guilt would be terrible. I would cut back on my next meal to make up for my faux pas.

Then I got hit with mono in September of 2013. My appetite plunged and I ate what sounded good - mostly chocolate. It took me awhile to recover, and in the process, I gained about five pounds. No problem, I thought. I'll be able to lose it easily. But then the holidays came and I threw caution to the wind and ate whatever I wanted to. Those five pounds stayed. And so did the guilt.

And I started to get really tired of worrying all the time about what I put in my mouth. So I would indulge in hubby's chips or have more than three pieces of Dove Dark Chocolate or, gasp! even more than one dessert a week. I'd stop the descent into madness every few weeks and get back on a healthy eating schedule, but you know something? Not a day went by that I didn't step on the scale. I was still exercising and still trying to stick to a healthy eating plan, but my control was slipping. And the waistband on my pants was tightening.

I would veer between panic that I was gaining weight and apathy over how much and what kind of food I put into my mouth. Up and down the scale went. I'd ride my bike with my daughter, then tell myself I could have another piece of Dove chocolate. I'd reassert control over myself and eat great for a week or two, then revert back to two days of endless snacking. On and on it went.

And then June 2014 hit. Pain began in my lower left abdomen and it kept me from exercising. We determined a cyst on my remaining ovary was causing the problem, so I decided to have it taken out - putting me into instant menopause. What do you think of when you hear the word "menopause"? For me, it was "weight gain."

Before the surgery, I joked with my husband that maybe I should starve myself for a week and lose 10 pounds so that when the surgery was over, I could comfortably gain 10 pounds again. He wasn't pleased by the idea.

To make a (very) long story short, the pain wasn't caused by my ovary, but (they think) an entrapped nerve. I've put on another five pounds in the past six weeks and the pants are tighter. I can't exercise as it hurts too much, I'm on pain medication, and I do not care about how much chocolate I eat. My rheumatoid arthritis has been flaring something awful lately and I just feel pretty darn yucky. I wear t-shirts and shorts most of the time.

And once again, because I have gained weight, my self-esteem has plummeted. I look at women skinnier than me and feel jealous. I see women who have perfectly toned bodies running and exercising and I scrunch my nose in annoyance. Why can't that be me? I think.

Then the guilt starts.

If only you would control your eating habits...

If only you weren't such a wuss and could exercise through the pain...

If only you could just eat healthy all the time...

If only you would just drink water when you're feeling hungry instead of reaching for food...

And it all comes down to this:

What's wrong with you? Why can't you get it right? 

And it doesn't matter that I have about five different health problems that make keeping a steady weight incredibly hard, and it doesn't matter that I've been scarcely able to move for the past six weeks, and it doesn't matter that my appetite has been completely off and I eat only what sounds good to me, and it doesn't matter that the various medications I'm on can cause me to gain weight, and it doesn't matter that I'm in menopause and my body is going to do all sorts of wacky things.

The only thing that matters, in my head, is that I am failing. I am failing at controlling my eating. I am failing at controlling the pain. I am failing at being strong and fighting back against all of these medical issues and overcoming them. I am failing at pushing through and exercising.

And once again, I am not enough. I am not strong enough to stop eating chocolate. I am not strong enough to push through the pain and exercise. I am not disciplined enough to make a balanced meal even when the pain meds make my stomach nauseous.

I want to make the guilt go away. I want to be able to eat without worrying about every single thing that will go into my mouth. I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and love what I see no matter what the scale says. I want to be able to accept that I have limitations because of my health. I want to tell myself, You are enough just the way you are.

I know that God loves me just the way I am.  Yet believing it myself is so much harder.

And for now, I don't have a solution to this self-image, weight gain problem. I just don't want to care about it anymore. I've spent so much mental energy worrying that I could have plotted five novels with that brain power!. And of course, our culture doesn't help matters any when everywhere you turn there's another "lose weight quick" diet or someone telling you that if you want to lose weight and cure your rheumatoid arthritis, well, eat this way because it worked for them! Don't get me started on society's obsession with thin people and how you can "have it all" if you're skinny. (I know there are a lot of thin people who have body image problems, too).

It's not that easy. So, what am I doing?

Taking it one day, one hour, one moment at a time.

By now (if you're still reading), you're probably wondering:

Why am I opening up such deep emotions and letting you in?

Because it's what I do. I'm a writer. And for me, writing is the way I figure out who I am and how I make sense of the world. It's how I realize what I'm feeling and what it is I'm facing, and most importantly, it's how I find the solution to make it better.   

But also, I share this with you because I want you to know you're not alone.

I can't tell you how many times I've read a blog entry where someone was sharing their struggles and I nodded along as I read, thinking, "I know exactly how he/she feels." There is such comfort in knowing you are not alone, isn't there?

If my words can help you feel less alone, offer you comfort or commiseration, then I am incredibly glad. I don't want pity or sympathy. Why? Because every single one of us struggles with something. None of us are untouched. We all have our issues.

I choose to share mine in the hopes my words might help.

Here's to keepin' on.





Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Sleeping Beauty

I haven't been sleeping very well lately, but one member of my household rarely has any trouble with that. His name is Slick and he is the orneriest, most stubborn, frustrating cat I've ever had. He's also incredibly cute, puts up with my cuddling, and has the softest fur ever. He also manages to look completely adorable when he sleeps. I present Exhibit A.

Now if only I could fall asleep as fast as Slick. But I'm afraid if I slept in this position, I wouldn't be able to move for a week!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The View from the Office, i. e. The Bed

When you have a prolonged illness, you tend to think that your current situation is the new normal.

I have a lovely office. Here' s a few pictures of it:




Sadly, because of my mystery ailment, combined with my rheumatoid arthritis, I have a new office: i.e. my bed. And here is the view from it on most days (though the cat pictured may vary as I have three of the little darlings):



I don't like this. My office is a room of creativity and inspiration, and it makes me feel motivated whenever I work in it. But when you're taking painkillers, stairs aren't necessarily a good thing and when you're in pain, stairs aren't necessarily a good thing, either. Also, my office is in the attic and during the summer, it gets rather hot. That's the last thing I need as I continue to be battle hot flashes from menopause.

I sometimes wonder if I will ever return to my version of normal again. Granted, I'm not a healthy person and haven't been for some time. But at least I could work. I could exercise. There were days I could do neither, but they passed, and I would be able to continue.

It's been over a month since this whole medical journey has began. A month. I can hardly wrap my head around it. How is that possible? How can it be that with today's modern medicine, all three of the doctors I've seen have been unable to tell me what's wrong? (I go see a fourth on Wednesday). In the end, I suppose it's because the human body is still a mystery in many ways and medicine is a guessing game. Sometimes, you have definite indicators of a disease or ailment. Other times you have symptoms that don't fit what the medical community has previously observed. So, you wait. And you wait some more. And you deal with the pain the best way you know how. Unfortunately, that's meant a lot of chocolate for me, which, combined with lack of exercise and the whole hormone upheaval caused by menopause, has translated to some weight gain. That is frustrating. But chocolate is one of the ways I cope. It's one of the ways I get through the day. There will come a time when I start really watching how much of it I eat, but for now, I am not very disciplined in that area.

Amazingly enough, I have been able to keep writing during this time - and it's been glorious. I am editing my fifth novel and have enjoyed the process so much. I'm very blessed that lying in bed is conducive to writing instead of other activities, i.e. rock climbing! :D

And that's it for Sunday musings. Now I'm off to work on the novel.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ahhh...Saturday

I'm so happy I have a three-day weekend to enjoy. True, I haven't been back to the office (still!) since July 20, but I've been working-from-home since then, so I still am in need of a vacation.

And today is the beginning of that vacation.

Plans include writing, perhaps napping (though after two naps yesterday, I'm not quite sure I want to do that again), reading, and of course, watching a bit of college football. Our beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers start their season today and that is akin to a state-wide holiday here. I'm thankful, though, that my husband has a television in his garage where he can watch the game. That will spare my ears the noise of his yelling at the t.v. Yes, he's one of those guys.

In other news, well, the health stuff is still ongoing. No word yet on what my mystery ailment is. I'm still in pain and it really stinks. But I am grateful for medicine that makes it bearable and grateful that I can still function well enough to continue to work.

Also - where did August go? I can't believe it's August 30 already! Incredible.

Not much else to report, and I know this blog post isn't heavy on news or wisdom, but rather it was an excuse to write. Though really, who needs an excuse? If you want to write, then just write. :)

Happy weekend!

Monday, August 25, 2014

That Moment...

It's time for me to start working on my novel's query letter. I'm not done editing it yet, but I'm getting close. And no, I won't send out the query until I'm completely done editing.

Queries are always difficult. You would think that after writing back cover copy for fiction and non-fiction for the 7 years that it would be easy. Unfortunately, when it comes to my own book, it's not. At all.

So imagine my delight when the first few lines for a query popped into my head this morning. Unfortunately, I was driving in traffic after taking my daughter to school. Let me rephrase that. I was driving in morning rush hour traffic. Translated, this means: you better watch what you're doing.

As I didn't want to pull over and write down those two sentences, I kept repeating them to myself over and over again on the way home. Thankfully, by the time I pulled into the driveway, I hadn't forgotten them.

It's moments like these that I love - when inspiration strikes, no matter where you are or what you might be doing. It's one of the joys of writing.

Ever had inspiration strike in an odd place?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Blog: A Diary of My Life

I started my blog in 2005. I faithfully posted nearly every day for a good year before I began to ease off and post only 2-3 times a week. But it became the "story of my life" to borrow the title of a popular pop song. Whenever I need to look up a date for one of my many surgeries, I turn to my blog. When I want to remember what I was doing for Christmas in 2008, I turn to my blog.

Unfortunately, since I haven't been as faithful in posting to my blog the past few years, I can no longer rely on it for certain dates. However, I do journal a lot, so there's that. But I have to admit that I really miss recording my life online.

Which is kind of odd. Some people would say I am too personal on here, sharing things that should only be talked about behind closed doors. I happen to disagree. In addition to my writing life, I've blogged about my health issues (several times!), my struggles with depression, my challenges as a mother, and so on. All important.

That's one thing the Internet has been wonderful for: opening up the door to issues that have long remained locked away. I can reach out to others who are struggling with the same things I am; likewise, they can find me and see that they are not alone.

So I'll keep blogging. I'll keep sharing. Sure, the posts may be few and far in between, and sure, I may look back someday and lament that I didn't post as much during certain years, but that's life. We go in cycles with certain things. Blogging is one of those things for me.

And now, it's time to get back to that novel...

Oh - before I go, here is a pic of me in my 1940s-esque finery. I had a book signing over the weekend, and I wanted to look the part as much as possible.





Sunday, August 10, 2014

It's Past 1 A.M.

My sleep schedule has been really off lately thanks to my mystery pain. Painkillers will do that to you, as well as unscheduled naps throughout the day.

But tonight, I'm glad for the interrupted sleep. The house is quiet, one of my kitties is sitting on the chair, and rain is falling softly outside.

And I'm writing.

It's so incredibly peaceful that I'll gladly sacrifice sleep to be here now, at this moment, doing what I love.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Still Here (Though Not Necessarily Kicking...)

Read through my blog for the past what, seven years?, and you will see the many, many problems I've had with my health. I am often a medical mystery, and as one of my doctor's told me today, I am always full of surprises.

Two weeks ago, I had surgery to remove my remaining ovary. I was having pain on that side (left) and an ultrasound showed an ovarian cyst. I've had numerous (and I do mean numerous) cysts before, but this one seemed to be causing more problems than it was worth. So, I decided to go ahead and get it taken out.

Well, the surgery went fine. Instant menopause wasn't too big of a deal (I was weepy for one day and that's about it, plus had a few very minor hot flashes). But the pain I'd been experiencing before the surgery hasn't gone away.

Back to the doctor I went. She ordered a pelvic/abdominal CT scan. I had to drink that awful barium contrast stuff. Ick, ick, ick. HATE that stuff. She also did a bunch of bloodwork to see if I had an infection or if my kidneys were okay.

Well, I got the results back and here's the verdict:

Everything is normal.

This is good news and bad news. Good news, of course, that they didn't find anything abnormal. Bad news because it doesn't offer me an explanation for the pain.

I've been down this route before and it's agonizingly frustrating when you don't have answers to what the problem is. So now I'm off to see a GI specialist.

And yes, I've played Google Doctor for the past week trying to figure out what is wrong. Google tells me I'm either dead or going to die soon or that I have a condition so rare that it hasn't been seen since 1654.

I'm kidding, but you get the point.

At any rate, my job has been absolutely wonderful in letting me work from home, so there's that. There's also this:

My kitty has rarely left my side these past two weeks. She's helping me get through whatever this is, as is my incredibly helpful daughter (who starts school next week!), my husband, and the rest of my family.

But oh, how I tire of being a medical mystery. Still, there are advantages to being mostly in bed all the time. In addition to keeping up with my job, I've been able to work on my novel quite a bit, read, and watch t.v. (my daughter is slowly catching me up on Supernatural, but I doubt I'll ever get it all as it's endlessly complicated).

So I'm still here. I'm not kicking as that may hurt too much, but I'm determined to figure out what's wrong with me and get back to a semi-normal, healthy life.

And that's the news from the trenches.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Plotting Retreat

Yesterday I spent the entire day plotting novels with two of my good writing buddies. It was glorious.

If you have a couple of friends and a spare day, I highly suggest setting up a plotting retreat. It's fairly simple, and works best with about three people. You'll need to clear off your schedule for one whole day - we started at 9 a.m. and went until 7:30 p.m. Here's what we did.

1) Before the retreat, each of us had the concepts for two novels in mind. Homework included working on character sketches, GMCs, backstories, etc.

2) On the day of the retreat, we met at our friend's house. It was cozy and comfortable, and most importantly, there was no dress code! Since I'm still struggling to heal from my recent surgery, I was able to recline the entire time and was quite content (yes, we had chocolate!).

3) Each session is comprised of one hour and fifteen minutes. We set a timer so we wouldn't get off track. We took turns plotting out each person's book. I was first. So, for one hour and fifteen minutes, we plotted out my next novel from beginning to end. Then, after taking a fifteen minute break, the next person went. We did this all day long, stopping for breaks and to eat lunch and supper.

In the end, each of us plotted two books a piece. Suffice to say that we were all brain dead by the time we were done, but what a productive day! There's something about brainstorming with other writers that makes it so much easier to come up with ideas. It also helps you to stay on track and not let your plot wander off into no man's land.

This kind of plotting basically constructs the spine and the bare bones of your novel. It leaves lots and lots of room open for change and development. I'm quite excited because I only had the threads of my next story in mind, but now I know exactly which direction to take it.

Have a great week!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

I Write Because I Must

Quite shocking, yes. I'm putting up two posts within a week's time! What is wrong with me?

The short answer: I have loads of time on my hands.

The longer answer: I have loads of time on my hands because it's taking me forever to recover from surgery. If you detected a slight hint of frustration in that sentence, you'd be correct. I haven't returned to work yet, which means I've been watching a lot of movies (current one playing is "Thunderball" - a James Bond movie), doing a lot of tweeting, reading, napping, and eating (I am not proud of the last item, I assure you).

I've also been doing a lot of writing and/or thinking about writing. I can't get away from it. I don't want to get away from it.

In fact, if you're so interested, you can hop over to the Modern Belles of History blog and read about how I've started to explore deeper themes in my writing. There are times on the writing journey where it's fun to look back and see how our writing has changed - not just style-wise, but in what we choose to write about.

This weekend, I'm doing a plot retreat with two of my writing pals. We're meeting in our friend's home and that means I can take my pain pills (no driving will be involved!) and be able to relax on a couch in comfy clothes. I've got two story ideas I want to plot and I'm looking forward to working on both.

If I'm to be laid up in bed for the most part, I might as well make the most of my time doing what I love, correct?




Saturday, July 26, 2014

It Has Begun

Ever since I had my daughter 14 years ago, I've had female issues. One ovary was removed in 2011. I had a hysterectomy in 2012 (but left an ovary so I didn't go into menopause). Well, I just had surgery last week to take out the ovary as I had a cyst growing inside of it (I didn't even know that was possible!) and it's been causing all sorts of havoc.

I've lived with going to the gynecologist's office several times a year for the past 14 years. I've used tons of sick leave. I've spent far too much time in bed nursing the next problem to come around the bend. Thus, when this latest issue came up, I decided enough was enough.

Only problem? Once the ovary was removed, BAM: instant menopause.

Well, it's been four days since the surgery and I haven't had any hot flashes yet. In fact, if I'm having any menopause symptoms at all, it's my mood's insistence on being just fine one minute and down in the dumps the next. I'm already on a low dose of estrogen and I'm hoping that having the same dose every day instead of the erratic ups and downs I've experienced for years will actually be a good thing. Time will tell.

I've been sleeping a lot (and having the most bizarre, disturbing dreams ever) and trying to read when I feel like it. I take pain pills to help manage my pain and while they make me feel really good for awhile, I tend to 'crash' about two hours after I take them and feel apathetic and not in the mood to do much of anything.

Recovery is never an easy process, of course, as I've found out countless other times. I'm hopeful to return to work on Monday, but we'll see how it goes.

And the writing? I'm still at it. Funny that snatches of my main character's life are trickling through my brain now after I've already written the second draft, but they have really filled in all the missing sections of his makeup quite nicely. I understand him better now.

Blogging? Well, I don't do it very much anymore and that makes me rather sad. I'll stop by every once in awhile and post, but regular schedules are pretty much out. Though it might be worth toying with the idea of sticking to a schedule just for discipline's sake and for the sake of writing on deadline. Deadlines have a way of getting me to work, even if they are self-imposed.

In other news, I was late to the party once again and just recently became a Doctor Who fan. I remember watching the old ones when I was a kid - I believe Tom Baker was the Doctor at the time (he was the Fourth Doctor), but I do have to say that David Tennant is "my" doctor. I haven't watched any episodes with Matt Smith yet, and the brand new ones with Peter Capaldi as a much older doctor should be quite interesting.

And that's about it from this end of the universe.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Rainy Days

It's a glorious day outside.

Rain, thunder, lightning, and grey clouds.

Yep, that's a glorious day in my book. I only wish I could be at home, writing on the couch or in my office, and listening to the rain fall. These kind of days energize me in a way sunny days just can't.

Apparently there is a name for this: pluviophile.

So, I am a proud pluviophile.

Methinks I need to move to England...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Meandering Blog Post

Sometimes I wonder: is it okay if I escape the reality of the present and dive into the rose-colored nostalgia of the past and live there?

I know the answer, of course: ignoring reality and the time in which I live is dangerous. I need to be here physically, mentally, and emotionally. But sometimes - like today - I'm exhausted from trying to live in this time and this moment.

It's too loud, and it's too crowded, and it's too...not me. Despite the fact that I know that many things in the past were most certainly not better than they are today, I long to go there, or at least, take the parts of it I like and integrate it into my current life. I'd love to be able to stay off the Internet for days at a time, but that's not possible because of 1) my job and 2) my 'other' life as a published author.

But gosh darn it, I'm tired of this world. I'm tired of what I see as a huge shift away from the values of my grandparents' generation. I'm tired of seeing crookedness and corruption at the highest levels of society. I'm tired of seeing the mocking ridicule we have for each other as human beings (which is so evident when you read the comments of any online article). I'm tired of an 'us vs. them' mentality in areas of faith and politics and morality.

However, as a historian, I recognize that those things have pretty much always been there. Corruption has always existed in one form or another, and morality has changed radically during certain periods of time (the Victorian era certainly signified a decided shift to the very strait-laced while the 1960s birthed what I see as the absolute unraveling of my most cherished moral values). So in a sense, I'm watching history in action.

But if I could...if I could, I would freeze time and step into that world.

In some aspects, life really was simpler back in the 1940s. The values of the nation (i.e. America) were certainly much more cohesive. The majority believed in God, believed in marriage, believed in a morality based on the Ten Commandments. Society had its problems, of course. Segregation was horrible, women weren't exactly free to go after the career they wanted, and there was that little problem of a world war.

I get that. I get that it's very tempting to look at the past through those famous rose-colored glasses.

The problem is, I'm an old soul. My spirit longs for a simpler time, when people treated each other better, when a country came together for the good of the nation, when we weren't so polarized. And I truly believe that we are much more polarized now morally and politically than we have been in a long time. Why is that? Because of the Internet. Everyone has a voice, but there are those people who don't know how to use their voice properly. Instead, they sling mud and tell lies and incite hatred and hurl false accusations.

BUT...on the flip side of the coin, people can use their voices to make a difference, to help others, to build a community.

I suppose you can't have one without the other.

I'm just so very tired of the bickering. I'm tired of trying to stay abreast of current events and stay active as a citizen of America - which, as I see it, carries a large responsibility to hold my government accountable - and also try to live my life. You can become consumed with all the voices and opinions out there.

But the noise isn't just about politics. The noise is about everything else, too. For me, my two big interests are writing and history. So of course, there are writing websites and history websites and people tweeting about writing and history. And my brain gets full to the brim because I want to READ ALL THE ARTICLES AND TWEETS but it's not possible.

It's information overload. And my old soul can't handle it anymore. I'm starting to unravel inside.

That's why I have this longing to re-frame my reality.

I realize this is a meandering blog post and I don't know that I have any solid agenda in writing it. I just needed to write, period, and this is what spilled out. Maybe it's the depression creeping into my every cell again as it does each summer. Maybe it's dumb hormones levels. Who knows?

All I know is this: I want to get off this roller coaster. I want to simplify my life. How to do it, though, when the Internet has become so much a part of our world? I think of Benedict Cumberbatch and how he doesn't have Twitter or Facebook because it would, as he says, take over his life. Yes, he is a celebrity, and that carries with it a whole other aspect to it, but maybe I should take a cue from him. Maybe I should get off Facebook and Twitter because let's face it: I'm addicted to them, no doubt about it.

I've written about this topic before, but the fact that I keep circling to it means I need to make some changes. Obviously the changes I made before didn't work too well. So it may be time to do something drastic.

Or, maybe I just need a nice, long vacation.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Neglecting

When I looked the other day, I was astonished that I hadn't blogged since May 26, and even that was a quick post about Memorial Day.

I've been neglecting the blog and it's not necessarily by choice, but more that I'm finding the blog is less the platform I want to use for communicating. Instead, I've fallen in love with Twitter - and there are times that I HATE this. Why? Because it's a time sinkhole.

However, I have connected with people I never would have through my blog. I have had conversations with some of my favorite published authors, discussed politics with noted journalists, talked about history with well-known WW2 historians, and met some awesome writers and history lovers.

I still like to blog every now and again, though, when the 140 character limit isn't enough and I want to take time with my thoughts. But it feels like blogging is slowly losing its relevance. I've blogged about it before, but this could just be a blip in the social media timeline. People longing for life to slow down may well return to blogging.

I certainly won't be taking down my blog or say I'm never going to post again. I will post, though it will be more when I feel the need.

But if you are on Twitter, feel free to follow me. I'm at @WW2HistoryGal


Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

As I sit here on my couch and gaze outside at the beautiful spring morning, a mourning dove coos, my Snoopy flag wafts gently in the breeze, and my two cats drowse under my chair.

There is no gunfire erupting, no house-to-house combat, no tanks rolling down the street, no riots.

It is calm. Peaceful. Serene.

This is what freedom looks and sounds like.

And men and women fought and died so that I may enjoy it and live my life in such a way as I see fit.

To those who fell in service to their country, sacrificing their lives, I say, Thank you. I will never forget.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Broken Record

I don't envy my husband.

I must sound like a broken record to him every few weeks. Because, dear readers, every few weeks I get a flare-up of my rheumatoid arthritis and I feel so horrible that I can barely move. My husband never complains. He holds me, brings me chocolate, and keeps the house running while I usually lay in bed and sleep and try to keep the tears at bay when the pain gets to be too much.

It's amazing how this disease can make you completely forget that there is such a thing as feeling good. I don't really remember what that's like. A few days a month I'll feel pretty good, but there's always a headache lingering at the back of my skull and there's always a crunching sound in my knees when I go up or down the stairs. Still, those are my great days. My mood is up, I can take a walk with my daughter, I can get tons of housework done, spend time with hubby, and feel great about life.

But then the bad days come, like today. My dreams last night were strange and bizarre, and I kept waking up with pain in my knees and my legs and my hands. I got up and took my daughter to school, trying not to cry at the pain in my knees, and by the time I got back home, all I wanted to do was sleep. So I did, for about five hours. When I woke up, I was still in pain, but I ate a lot of chocolate (probably too much) as a way to "self-medicate) and to cope. Maybe not the best idea considering my weight loss has stalled considerably in the past few months, but when I'm in bed all day because it hurts to move, I don't care about calories. I just care about getting through the day.

My daughter, bless her heart, asked me this morning if she was at risk for getting rheumatoid arthritis. Since my mom has it and I have it, plus the fact that auto-immune diseases run in our family, I told her that there was a good chance, at least from my side of the family. She wasn't keen to hear this. Who would be? She's watched me struggle. She's seen me grimace in pain. She knows how this disease affects me and the last thing she wants is to have it affect her, too. "How will I be able to go to band concerts?" she asked (she's really into going to watch live music). I told her she'll still be able to go to those even if she did have RA. But still, she's worried.

I'll be 39 next month. But some days, I feel like I'm 99. How, I think, will this body make it if I feel this badly now? The good news is that apparently auto-immune disease slow down as you get older. That's what my doctor said anyway, and I'm glad for that. But in the meantime, I've got to deal with it.

What's most galling about this disease is that it robs of me of time. I need time to work at the day job, time to exercise, time to spend with my family, time to travel, time to work on my novel, time to go to book signings for my history book, time to research for more books, time to go on dates with my husband, time to clean the house, time to spend with the Lord, time to sleep!

But when I'm out for the count, the pain makes it impossible to do a lot of those things. Focusing on a book is hard. Focusing on a movie is hard. The pain makes it hard to do much of anything but just somehow stay occupied.

This post doesn't say anything new and it's certainly not inspiring. I don't know that I'm complaining. Instead, I think I'm just venting. And we all need to do that every once in awhile, right? I've been pretty open about my health and certain parts of my life on this blog because I want people to know that even though life has some pretty intense struggles - and let's face it, we ALL have struggles - you're not alone. You're never alone.

And here's another thing I want to make clear: it's okay to vent. It's okay not to be positive and sunny all the time. It's okay to say, "This disease stinks and I feel awful and my feet hurt and I want to EAT ALL THE CHOCOLATE."

As a writer, you need to experience the good and the bad. But more importantly, as a human being, you need to experience the good and the bad. How else will you know how to relate to those who are struggling? How else will you know how to embrace joy when it comes into your life after a particularly rocky path? Life is about experiencing it all. That's why I usually dismiss all those "25 ways to be happier!" things floating around the Internet. Life isn't about being happier all the time. It's about experiencing everything - highs and lows and in-betweens. Just as you shouldn't want to be sad all the time, neither should you want to be happy all the time. Does that sound bizarre? Maybe. But for me, personally, that's how I feel. I can't know the full extent of the human experience if I'm constantly smiling and flitting through life thinking everything is wonderful and good and joyous. Because it isn't.

Sometimes, it just plains stinks. Like today. Sure, I look for the joy in the midst of trials. But I also deeply feel the trials I'm enduring. It forces me to think about life, about my faith. It forces me to turn to God when I'm at my lowest. And it forces me to realize that I'm not perfect, that my body isn't healthy, that I can't do it all.

There is something humbling about that.

So go. Embrace the good and the bad and everything in between. Be human. Be you.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour: How I Write

I was so excited when my friend Ilene Goldman asked me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour. I love to read how other writers work, and I love to discuss my own writing process.

For this tour, we were asked four questions. They, and my answers, follow.

1. What am I working on at the moment?

I'm finishing up my fifth novel, a historical set in Nebraska during World War II.

2.  How does my work differ from others of its genre?

A lot of World War II fiction is set in Europe and deals with the Holocaust, the French Resistance, Occupied Europe, England, etc. There's not a lot of work set on the American Homefront (though Kristina McMorris is a notable exception as her American homefront novels are superb!). My work also deals with a rather unorthodox view of the war from the perspective of a German exile who comes to Nebraska and actually encounters prejudice against him for being German - even though he fled Hitler's regime. It's been a lot of fun to write (and also very challenging) because I have to look at World War II with a totally different perspective than I'm used to.

3.  Why do I write what I do?

I actually just answered this question pretty thoroughly on a new blog that I am a part of - Modern Belles of History. We are a group of historical fiction writers who focus on the time period from about 1890-1950. It's a time period that usually isn't thought of as being "historical", but we are aiming to change that! So check out why I write what I do.

4.  How does my writing process work?

Actually, I'm amazed my writing process works at all! It's incredibly messy. I usually have a scenario that comes to mind first instead of characters which may be somewhat backwards. But it works. I'll usually do a general outline, character sketches, plot points, etc., though I am by no means a writer who meticulously records each scene. That would destroy the creative process for me. Many times I find out important plot points just by the sheer act of writing and then I have to go back and rework the rest of my novel.

I've tried to fine-tune this process by trying out different methods, but it hasn't worked yet. So I've just come to the conclusion that I'm a "discovery" writer in that the plot, characters, theme, symbolism, etc. really comes together through the writing process itself. And when that happens...oh, it's heavenly.
________

Make sure and stop by the blogs of Elizabeth Foley and Rachel D. Muller next Monday, May 5, for their stop on the Writing Process Blog Tour!


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Getting Back on Track

Every once in awhile, we need to press the "RESET" button in our lives. Well, I'm having one of those moments. I've been far too lax in the eating department when it comes to chocolate. I used to limit myself to three pieces of Dove Dark Chocolate Promises a day. Now it's more like 9 or 10. Not good. The weight isn't dropping off anymore and I'd still like to lose another 10-15 pounds.

So. That means I've got to employ the will power again. I've got to quit saying, 'Oh, having lots of chocolate won't hurt a bit. As long as I eat right for my other meals, I'll be fine.' The thing is, it does make a difference, as does the little nibbles I have of hubby's treats (peanut M&Ms, cookies, etc.).

M&Ms - destroying diets since World War II. =)
I figure now is as good a time as any to get back on track, though perhaps it may be wiser to wait until after this week. My little brother is getting married and Thursday through Saturday are going to be very busy days with relatives coming to town (my 87-year-old grandma is staying with me! Yay!), wedding rehearsal, hair appointments, the wedding, the reception, etc. But I think I can still stick to my eating plan without veering too far out of control.

After this week, I don't have anything else scheduled on the horizon (save for a book signing in late May), so I plan to focus on the novel and finish it up. I don't have much left to write - maybe the last quarter of the book or so - and I've set myself a deadline of June 7 to be finished with it. I think it's quite doable.

Tonight, as I sit here in my living room and listen to the birds singing outside (we just had a wonderful thunderstorm with lots of rain earlier), I feel a sense of peace. I'm ready to hit the 'RESET' button and get back to better eating habits and exercise.

How about you? Have you ever felt the need to hit the 'RESET' button in your life?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Doing the Work

Having trouble sitting down and writing?

Here's a little trick.

Make yourself accountable to someone.

Last week, I had three separate writing sessions with a few of my friends. We made plans to meet online at 8 p.m. and write for an hour. Just knowing that I had to show up and write because people were counting on me to be there made all the difference in the world.

In other words, I used one of my strongest traits - responsibility - to my advantage. If I would have begged off the writing date, I would have felt guilty and also felt like I let down my friends. Since I had no desire to feel lousy, I showed up.

And I did the work.

Underwood Typewriter ©2011 Robert Moran


Sometimes, it really is that easy.

Will this work all the time? Probably not. But at this stage in the game, when my writing muse demands lots of chocolate and naps and time spent doing a whole lot of nothing, I've got to crack the whip. This strategy is just the thing I need to get those words down.

How do you "do the work" when your muse is being lazy?




Tuesday, April 08, 2014

It's Getting Real

My publicist (how cool is it that I can say "my publicist"?) emailed me today and asked if I'd be available for a book signing in May.

That is rather surreal to think about.

Yet it's something I must think about, now that my book's release date is just around the corner. It's already for sale for the Nook on Barnes and Noble.com and the paperback will be released April 15.

Ready or not, here it comes.

I'm ready. At least, I think I'm ready. I don't know that you're ever really "ready" for something like this. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep living one day at a time.

I haven't really thought about reviews yet - especially the bad ones. I'm sure there will be some. Maybe I should decide here and now not to read them. But I know I'll read them anyway. I'm too curious not to.

My biggest fear? That my book will be disappointing, that it won't live up to expectations.

I blogged about this phenomena earlier and for the most part, those feelings of angst have receded, but they're about to come roaring back to the forefront again when people actually have the book in hand and, y'know, read it. This book isn't fiction - it's fact. And getting those facts wrong scares me to death.

In the end, I'm only human, so I will just give it to God and let His shoulders bear the burden.

I do have to admit, though, that I get a big, goofy grin on my face when I think of holding my book in my hands. My author copies are scheduled to arrive this week. You can be sure I'll be taking pics and documenting that moment!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring!

I'm so excited.

Today is the first day of spring!

Flowers and green grass and sunny days...BLISS!

Happy Spring!


Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Quiet

I could tell you that the reason this blog has been quiet is that I don't have much to say, but that is rarely true. I am a person with lots to say about lots of things. (My husband knows this well).

However, I think this nasty, incredibly harsh winter has taken its toll on a lot of people. Those who have been hit with snowstorm after snowstorm and temperatures below freezing on a continuous basis know what I'm talking about.

Bottom line: I'm tired of being cold. And I know I'm not alone. People are weary of the weather, and I'm no exception. It's now affecting my mood. I'm ready for spring!

But that's not the only reason the blog has been quiet.

The other reason is that I'm searching for the quiet I used to have two or three years ago, before my husband got cable t.v. and a giant flat-screen t.v. hooked up to a powerfully loud Bose speaker. Way back when, I blogged about how quiet my life had become. I didn't watch t.v., but only had a DVD player. My house was blissfully serene. If I wanted to watch a television show, I found it on my computer and watched it at my leisure. But the t.v. certainly wasn't on 24/7.

Since my husband is a garage/car/get your hands dirty type of guy, this winter has driven him bonkers. He wants to be out in his garage working and tinkering, and he can't. (Our garage isn't heated). So he ends up spending most of his time downstairs watching t.v. And if I want to spend time with him, I end up watching t.v., too.

Which means I've become addicted to t.v. shows, the latest being Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch (which has led to an entirely new obsession with the British actor). Of course, watching t.v. or movies isn't all bad. In fact, after a very challenging day at work, I don't mind sitting in front of the t.v. for a few hours to relax. Friday nights are movie night for our family, complete with pizza and snacks, and I love being able to enjoy a movie without worrying about getting up for work in the morning.

But it's not just the noise, literally and figuratively, from the television that has started to consume me. Add the constant noise of social media to the mix - keeping up with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, my blog, and email - and my head is about ready to explode.

It almost happened last night.

Since my daughter was sick yesterday, I worked from home, which means I sat in front of the computer all day, only on my living room couch instead of my desk. Spending that much time on the computer finally got to me and, in a dramatic departure from my normal routine, I decided to go exercise. My body simply couldn't take sitting in front of a screen anymore. It needed to move.

Later that night, I shut off my laptop and went into my bedroom. No radio playing. No t.v.  Just silence. I picked up the book I'm reading, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, and determined to focus on the story and nothing else. No getting distracted by any type of social media notification.

It was heavenly.

And I realized that my brain had become consumed with noise, and it needs to stop.

I have to believe I am not the only one who feels like this. My recent social media fast (over one weekend) showed me that I wasn't alone in feeling overwhelmed by today's technology.

So, what's the solution? I'm not sure. But I think I have to be pro-active in finding one.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It's Here!

I'm so excited to show you the cover of my upcoming book on the history of POW camps in Nebraska during World War II.

Here it is!


To say I'm excited is an understatement. The graphic designer at The History Press did an absolutely incredible job. They nailed it.

We're looking at a release date of mid-April.

So excited!

Sunday, February 09, 2014

The Social Media Cleanse

Last Thursday, I'd had it with social media. I just wanted to escape, to not be constantly "in touch" with everyone. To be honest, I feel addicted to checking Twitter and Facebook statuses, and that scares me.

Plus, I have a novel to write, and social media and mindless Internet surfing is a huge time suck.

If I want to be serious about this writing career, that means I have to take a good, hard look at how I spend my time.

So on Friday, I announced that I was taking a social media break for the weekend.

When Saturday morning dawned, I resisted the impulse to check Facebook and Twitter. It wasn't easy. I use both networks to communicate with a lot of different people - my family, co-workers, fellow World War II historians, and other writers. But I also knew that if they needed to get in touch with me and it was urgent, they either had my phone number or email address.

All day yesterday, I worked on my novel. During the times when it was difficult, I wanted to click onto Facebook or Twitter, but I refused to allow myself to slip. This was novel time, not social media time. Isn't my creative process worth more than endless hours spent on social media? Absolutely.

Today was easier. Yes, I still wanted to check my Facebook and Twitter, but I didn't. Instead, I opened the Word document of my novel and got back to work.

Of course, I didn't just write this weekend. I spent time with my husband and my daughter, too. I also took a nap!

It's 6:20 on Sunday evening, and here's what I've learned:

1) I rely on Facebook and Twitter to stay current on what's happening in the world and with family and friends.

2) At first, I felt like I was letting people down by not being "available", but then I realized I was not beholden to anyone but myself. It's okay not to be available 24/7. It's okay to not know what everyone else is doing via FB or Twitter. There's a certain liberation about it.


3) I felt disconnected at first, like I was missing out. We've become so conditioned now to know everything that's going on all the time that not being plugged into our social media network is almost like falling off the grid. And frankly, that's a little sad, isn't it? But it's also the reality of our world. This isn't the days of the telegraph or the Pony Express. We're far, far from it.

4) Forbidding myself from social media freed me up to focus on my fiction. Before, when I hit a particular rough spot, I would click on my FB or Twitter and browse for awhile. Then I'd go back to my story. I'd do this several times in an hour. I realized that this is an avoidance issue. I'm avoiding working on something difficult in my story by clicking on FB or Twitter. Instead, it's better to face it and deal with it. With no social media to fall back on, I became much more focused on my novel.

5) I'm on the computer all day at work. Social media is a small part of my job, too, so I can't abandon it during the week days. BUT, I can abandon it on the weekends and survive.

My fiction is too important for me to relegate it to the sidelines like I've been doing. I've put social media before my first love - writing fiction. No more! I hope to make my weekends as free of social media as possible because my writing is worth it.

Have you ever taken
a break from social media?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Easing Back In

With the nonfiction book safely in my editor's hands, it's time to get back to the novel. I thought I could jump right back in, but it turns out it's been more of a slow process. I think it's because my brain is fried.

This month has been full of a lot of upheavals for our family, and the stress has taken a toll. In the midst of all of that, I was trying to finish a book. Now that it's done, my brain is yelling at me to just take a break. Play. Read. Watch movies. Be lazy.

Of course, the Should Committee is out in full force.

"You should be writing right now."

"You should quit being lazy and get to work."

"You should turn off the t.v. and do something productive."

I'm telling the Should Committee to take a hike.

The older I get, the more attune I become to what my body (and my brain) is trying to tell me.

And right now, it's telling me to relax.  Refuel. Re-energize.

So that's what I'm doing.

The excitement is slowly returning, and I can't wait until it's time to become immersed again in my fiction.

The moment will come. I will be patient, and I will wait.

Monday, January 27, 2014

It's Done

It's done.

The project that started over a year ago has finally been sent to my editor.

Yes, I'm breathing a huge sigh of relief.

I did it.

*fist pump*

Now it's time to clean my office. Files and books and pens and paper are scattered everywhere. And the cat has claimed a permanent spot on my reading chair!

I can't wait to get back to my novel.

And this saying below is oh-so appropriate. I went through a lot of ups and downs this past year (and this past month has been a doozy!), but I just kept on because I knew God was working with me the whole time.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

SNAFUs (The Clean Kind)

There are a lot of SNAFUs when you're writing a book.

(SNAFU is military jargon. The clean version is, 'Situation Normal All Fouled Up.' I'll let you fill in the blanks on what the censored version is.)

I sent in the images to my editor. She sent back a list of images that had problems.

I panicked, got frustrated, and frantically emailed a friend for help. Said friend told me to calm down, that we'd figure it out.

Photos were finished today, sent to editor, and whew, thank goodness, they are okay.

Then comes another SNAFU.

Did a certain POW branch camp (one that was under the jurisdiction of the main POW camp) exist in this town or not?

One record says yes, another says no. The town is so miniscule that finding someone knowledgeable about said camp is like finding a cat who doesn't like its head scratched.

And then there's the indexing, which I haven't even started yet. Here's hoping there won't be any SNAFUs with this one, but I wouldn't be surprised if a few crop up.

Writing a book is like living your life, though. SNAFUs come up all the time. It's how you deal with them, how you react, how you move forward and work through them that matters, not the SNAFUs themselves.

Onward.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Another Round of Randomness!

I love doing my "random" blog posts because I don't have to think too much. Ha!

1) I can now say that I've completed the rough draft of my non-fiction book on the POW camps in Nebraska during World War II. It's been a whirlwind of a challenge. I'm very glad I decided to tackle it, but I'm also looking forward to turning it in to my publisher!

2) My family's life was thrown a very sharp curve ball last week and we've been struggling to deal with the fall-out. Being thrown into unchartered territory is never fun, but we are strong and we will get through it together.

3) I made it back to the gym on Monday. Hurrah! It's been ages since I went - in fact, it was in September, before I got hit with mono. It felt great to work out again and I hope I can keep a regular schedule this time.

4) We have a new resident at our house - a kitty named LuLu. She is black with white patches on her chest - one even looks like the Batman symbol. She was my stepson's cat, but since he is unable to have her where he's currently living, we decided to take her in until such time as he can care for her again. She is a huge cuddle bug and loves to play with our other cat, Slick. Now my cat, Kathryn, who is old and grouchy, doesn't particularly care for either of the two youngsters. At most, she tolerates them. So she hasn't been too thrilled with the new addition.

I fondly called LuLu my research intern (my other two cats are known as Research Assistants #1 and #2), but now she has been promoted to Research Assistant #3. Here she is goofing off (Slick is looking on).


5) I have to go to an open house this week for my daughter's school for next year. And it's a high school. Yes, she will be a freshman in high school next year. How has this happened? I refuse to believe I am old enough to have a daughter in high school!

6) The novel...ah, the novel. I am chomping at the bit to get back to it. I'm already trying to figure out which novel to write next and I think I'll go back to a novel I previously put aside. It's still a very strong story and with some tweaking, I am quite excited by how it will play out.

7) The next James Bond movie release date has been announced: November 2015. GAH. That is far too long to wait, but wait I must. I think Daniel Craig has reinvigorated the James Bond franchise and I look forward to seeing what he does next.

I'll leave you with this:
(You know you tried it!)

Monday, January 06, 2014

Dream Travel

Because it is SUPER cold here today - so cold that they canceled school - I've been dreaming of heading to a slightly warmer locale. I'm not a tropical gal at all, so Hawaii and anything with beaches doesn't fit my the bill for me (I know, I'm weird).

But I could certainly go for a stay in Italy with my Italian relatives. One of them posts pictures on Facebook all the time of Volpiano in the Piedmont region of northern Italy (where my grandfather's family is from) and the surrounding countryside. It looks absolutely gorgeous. Plus the food! Oh, the food...I would love to be able to have some traditional Italian dishes that I've been enjoying for years that are actually MADE in Italy.

Volpiano, Italy.
Then there's Germany. Since I'm a World War II historian, I naturally want to go here for historical purposes, but it's also a beautiful country. Just today, I connected with an 88-year-old German man who was a POW in Nebraska during WW2. I wish I could hop on a plane and go interview him.

I wouldn't mind England or Scotland or Ireland, either. But I'm not sure that they are much warmer than we are! Of course, I did hear today that it was colder in Colorado than it was in the North Pole. That's a little frightening.

I think I could easily go to the south of France. It's warmer there during the winter, isn't it? That sounds like a good idea to me...

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?


Wednesday, January 01, 2014

New Ventures

The new year will bring some exciting new ventures for me!

First, my non-fiction book on the World War II POW camps in Nebraska will be published this year. That's scary and exhilarating and very, very cool. I'm looking forward to that day, especially since I'm still in the midst of editing! But the end is in sight.

Second, I joined a new group blog for historical fiction writers of the twentieth century called The Modern Belles of History. We write Edwardian, World War I, World War II, the 1920s, the 1930s, etc. I'm quite excited. We plan to launch in mid-January, and there are three ways you can follow us:

1) Our blog, http://modernbellesofhistory.com/
2) Twitter @bellesofhistory
3) Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/bellesofhistory

And third, look for more reviews on my World War II blog, The Best of World War II. I have a lot of terrific books in my review pile and I can't wait to dive into them.

Do you have any new ventures you're planning to undertake this year?



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...