Monday, January 31, 2011

Writing Buddies Blog Carnival

About every writer I know has a furry companion. I have a cat who loves to curl up next to me while I'm working, and once upon a time, I had a beloved dog who sat under my desk every time I wrote.

They are part of the family, and part of our writing process, too. Our love for them, and their love for us, is unconditional. I can't imagine my life without a pet, even though losing them is one of the hardest things we can go through.

This is my Charlie Brown. He was one of the best dogs - and best friends - I ever had. A Border Collie/Retriever mix, he loved to fetch, loved to chase thunderstorms (translation: he would run around and around the backyard whenever it thundered), and loved to be right by my side. I lost him quite suddenly back in 2008 and really, my life hasn't been the same since. He was my constant shadow and, well, even my adorable kitty hasn't been quite able to fill the void. I paid tribute to Charlie by putting him as a character in my last novel. It's the least I can do for my beloved buddy. (Good grief. Tears are running down my cheeks as I write this...the grief we feel when we lose our pets never really leaves, does it?)

 This is Kathryn. We named her after Catherine the Great, but obviously, we changed the spelling. Ha! My daughter and I rescued her from a no-kill shelter here in town a few years ago. At first, she was very skittish. She was a former stray cat who had kittens and was taken to the shelter. Someone must have hurt her quite badly in the past because she was very, very wary of us for a long time. But I kept working with her, kept loving her, and she is now a content kitty who loves to sit by me while I write, wake me up in the morning, and "talk" to me about her day. She is one of the most vocal cats I've ever owned and it makes her incredibly fun to be around. You can literally have a conversation with her.

See? She's talking in this picture! Probably telling me to QUIT TAKING HER PICTURE, ALREADY.

Without further ado, here are some other writing buddies!

Jasmina Bolanger, a very talented travel and food writer, who blogs at East of Paris, has an adorable dog named Draga. Draga just had a visit with the vet (who made a house call, even!) and is thankfully feeling better, back to sitting next to Jasmina's desk as she writes. :-) I'm so glad Draga is feeling better, Jasmina!

The Second Sentence blogger Elisabeth has an adorable pup named Buster. This guy has an incredibly sweet disposition, according to Elisabeth, but is such a sucker for attention that it makes it hard for her to write!

And oh my goodness, this face will melt your heart! Moe, an Akita-Chow mix, who belongs to blogger Catherine Ensley at Words World and Wings looks like an absolute sweetheart!

Valerie at For the Love of Pete has a dog duo that goes together like salt and pepper.
 :-) I loved reading about these two radically different dogs, Willow and Kona, and how they bring such life and love to Valerie and her family.

Young adult author Christine Fletcher blogs over at Piccalili and has a hilarious post about her three-legged cat, Seamus O'Leary, that LOVES to be part of the writing process! This kitty has some awesome moves!

I'll be updating throughout the day for more blog posts, so be sure to check back.

Thanks to everyone who participated!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Profound, I Am Not

I know, I know. All the blog advice out there tells you to have profound, timely blog posts that engage your audience and keep them coming back day after day.

Kitty has nothing profound to offer, either.
Well, I don't have a profound thought in my head today other than I'm hungry, I'm looking forward to lunch, and I could use a nap. (I guess that is more than one thought. But still, none of them are profound.)

Some days, I don't know how to put into words what I'm trying to say, so I just don't say it at all. I could attempt a post on how I've discovered my novel had a missing element (which, thankfully, I resolved) or how writing historical novels is a lot harder than contemporary for various reasons (one being the intense research), or how I have been faithfully working out for the past month (except for the days off for dental problems) and I haven't seen any results. But my brain isn't interested.

So today, I have nothing profound to share.

Don't hold it against me.

I do, however, have a reminder. The Writing Buddies Blog Carnival is coming up soon. Be sure to check out all the details here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Adventures in Melissa's Life: The Dentist

I'm not a fan of going to the dentist. Who is? I'd rather go to the "women's doc" before I go to the dentist. Yes, I hate it that much.

But it's one of those things that must be done, so off I trudged last week to get some cavities filled. I thought it would be pretty routine, having done this before (I blame my genetics for my bad teeth!). Only something wasn't right. Every time he drilled on one particular tooth, I felt it. And I didn't like feeling it because IT HURT.

He kept adding novacaine, which made me want to curl up with a blanket and pillow and pass out. He tried drilling again. More pain. More novacaine. He left for a bit to look at another patient, and when he came back, he jokingly told his assistant, "Did you grab that rubber mallet from the back room?" At that point, I wouldn't have minded if they'd used it!

We tried again. Same result. Finally, he announced that if my tooth was that sensitive, the cavity must have damaged the nerve. A root canal was in order.

I groaned. Not only would there be more novacaine and pain, but my bank account would feel that pain, too!

The appointment was made for Monday morning at 8 a.m. at a specialist. I figured, why not? Get it over and done with. Except we had a snowstorm over the weekend and traffic was moving at a snail's pace on Monday morning. And then I couldn't find the darn specialist's office!

Finally, I made it - 15 minutes late - and he was standing at the front with his coat and gloves on.

"Are you Melissa?" he said.

"Yes," I said, out of breath.

"You just caught me. I was about to leave."

NOT a good way to start an appointment where the other guy has a drill and plans to use it.

This time, when he shot me up with novacaine (in three separate areas), I thought I was going to pass out. Literally. My hands shook, my heart pounded, and I felt dizzy. When I asked him if this was normal, he told me about how the nerves and the blood vessels are so close together and sometimes the novacaine gets into the blood stream and can make you feel "jittery."

"That jitteryness (sp?) wear off in 10 to 15 minutes."

Would have been nice to know that before I felt like my heart was about to explode.

But once he got to work, I was quite thankful for the novacaine. I didn't feel a thing.

It took him about 20 minutes to fix my tooth. When he finished, I drug myself out of the chair, dutifully paid the cost in full (gasp! that one hurt), and drove home. I crawled into bed and slept the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon away. When I woke up, I was surprised that my mouth wasn't screaming in pain. In fact, my head hurt worse than my mouth, from keeping my jaws open and tensing up so much.

This morning, though, I'm feeling pretty good. Except, I have another dentist appointment next week...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kicking and Screaming

While researching today, I came across a book that I simply must have. It's an older title and now out of print. When I saw the price, I blanched. There was no way I could afford it.

Then I looked at the Kindle price - $12.

And now I'm seriously considering buying an e-reader. As a historical fiction writer, the ability to download books that are cheaper and that I need now is a huge bonus. Plus, I can store my documents on the Kindle, too.

But I'm still a little hesitant. I am a true book lover and holding the actual book in my hand, thumbing through the pages, and not having to press the "on" button to read it is, quite simply, heavenly.

I always take awhile to warm up to technology. It took me forever to buy a cell phone. It took me forever to join Facebook. I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to both of those "modern" phenomenon.

It's the same with the Kindle, only more so because I love books.

Those of you with Kindles, tell me about your experiences. Love it? Hate it? Can't live without it?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blog Carnival 2011: Writing Buddies

Last year I did a fun "Where I Write" blog carnival and had several participants. I loved seeing where my fellow writers write: offices/rooms/living room sofas (ha!). I also made new friends out of the project.

Several of the participants included pictures or made mention of their writing buddies - their pets. So why not do another blog carnival, this time for writers' beloved pets? Perfect idea, especially during the long, cold winter days when we all could use some good cheer.

The official date will be January 31. If you'd like to participate, here's the instructions. Simply write a blog post between January 28 and January 31 about your writing buddy and don't forget to include a photo! Then send me an email with your link and I'll write a cumulative post for January 31 and include every link I receive.

Send emails to melissaamateis at earthlink dot net.

Spread the word and join in the fun! (You can grab the button at the top of my blog and put it on your blog! Aren't I a fancy one?).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Writing Speed

There are some times when my fingers fly across the keyboard. Words tumble out as I'm pulled along by the story. I don't take a lot of time to really craft the words - I save that for the editing stage. That's how I normally work.

Other times, like last night, I take my sweet time. I savor each word, carefully molding it to fit the vision in my head. My word count is significantly lower when I do this, but it simply doesn't matter. What does matter is the rush of satisfaction and joy I get by experimenting with words.

How about you? Do you write slow and savor your words or do you save that for the editing stage?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Hodgepodge

Let's do a round-up of Melissa's Life today. *grin*

On Writing...
I broke through my mental barriers the other night and managed to write some great stuff in my novel. I feel 100% better about it, and can't wait to write more.

On Exercise..
Due to our snowstorm, Curves was closed Monday and Tuesday. This is the first time in my life I've ever been disappointed and upset that I could not exercise. I consider this a good thing.

On Women's Health...
Yesterday I had my first mammogram. I was a little uneasy about it, but knew I had to do it. When I got there, two elderly women were in the waiting room, talking. When I was called back to get my test done, I said, "Wish me luck, ladies. This is my first time." They told me it was much better than it used to be, gave me lots of encouragement, and sent me on my way. I'm happy to report my test came back normal. One of the women was still there and she was so happy for me that I left with a smile on my face and thought about how awesome the solidarity of women can be.

On Times Past...
 I recently found some pictures of my high school play, "The Return of the Pink Panther" and posted them on Facebook. I'm friends with almost everyone that was in the play, and we all loved reminiscing. I was a Russian spy named Olga who was supposed to kill Inspector Clousseau, but ended up falling in love with him instead. I sometimes can't believe I got on stage and did this. I really do not have any desire to do it again for a few reasons: 1) my memory is shot and memorizing that many lines would probably result in disaster and 2) I'm old enough to know better. Ha!

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Getting Stuck

We're in the midst of a terrific snowstorm. It's been snowing since last night and we're forecasted to get several inches more. My daughter and my hubby (who is going to college) both got a snow day, but I had to go to work. Boo. I would have much rather enjoyed watching the big, fat flakes fall silently to the ground while sitting in my comfy apartment next to my fireplace instead of at work.

Ah well. Here's hoping I don't get stuck on the way home.

Which brings me to the topic of today's oh-so-informative blog post: getting stuck in your writing.

I am very near the end of my novel, but the last two days, the writing has been akin to pulling teeth (speaking of, I just went to the dentist today and I need three crowns...three!). I managed to rattle off 2,000 words or so, but I wasn't confident in them. The thing is, I know how my story ends - I just have to tie everything together. Am I worried that I can't do it? Possibly. Am I worried that I'll destroy the entire novel by writing a terrible ending? Probably.

My husband asked me why I was in a foul mood and I said, "I can't write." For a writer, there's really nothing worse - especially when the end of the novel is in sight. Everything around me turns a shade of grey and I mope around the house, eat too much chocolate, and spend too much time thinking about why I can't write.

In short, I'm stuck.

I don't know if what I'm doing is the answer to this - I've just forced myself to write, hoping that if I at least get stuff down, I can fix it later. Maybe I shouldn't force it, give my brain a rest from thinking about it, and return to it a few days later.

But a few days may lead to a few weeks and so on. I don't want that.

I plan to try and write some more tonight. My strategy? Don't think. Just write.

We'll see if it works.

What do you do when you're stuck?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

It's a Writing Day

As  I write this, snow is gently falling outside, much like it is on my blog (I love that I can at least make it snow on my blog!).

Apart from a few chores I have to do, the day is reserved for writing. I have nowhere to go, nothing to do, but write.


Have a wonderful Saturday!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

That One Resolution

Losing weight and exercising is a common New Year's Resolution for many. It is for me. But then again, I've had that resolution for several years now, and I've kept it for several years. So truthfully, it's become more like a lifestyle change than a resolution. I exercise at least three times a week and except for that little holiday glutton SNAFU, I eat fairly healthy.

But this year, I needed to go a different direction with my lifestyle change.

Back in the summer of 2010, my fitness club closed. I loved it. It was open 24 hours, was for women only, and mirrored the circuit work-out of Curves. I lost a good chunk of weight there - last count was somewhere over 20 pounds - and was set to lose more. But when it closed, I thought I could save myself some money by using my (free!) treadmill at home and taking walks outside (when the weather permitted). I did this during the summer and the fall, but I felt my weight creeping back on. Reason? I was getting the cardio, but not the strength-training.

Various health problems plagued me for a few months and even more weight came on. So when I found myself returning to those old, big jeans in the closet again because my regular jeans were too tight, I knew I had to do something. The treadmill wasn't cutting it.

Last night, I came home, ate some supper, grabbed my keys, and announced to my hubby that I was going to join Curves. Now.

I had been a member of this Curves gym three years ago and lost weight. But because of a new job, I'd quit the club (the new job had a gym, so I thought I, once again, could save money by exercising at work. I saved money, but not once did I use that gym!).

After I signed all the paperwork, I started exercising. It was like my body breathed a sigh of relief. It felt so incredibly good to work out my muscles again and to get off that treadmill. Thirty minutes flew by and I'd done a complete work-out. I'm pretty sure my body released a ton of endorphins because when I climbed into the car to go home, I was grinning from ear to ear. This is what I'd been missing.

Lesson learned. When it comes to my health, saving money by cutting out my fitness routine just doesn't work.

It feels good to be back.

Monday, January 03, 2011

It's a New Year

Because we all need a little Calvin and Hobbes once in awhile.
Is it just me or did 2010 pass by faster than the Millenium Falcon at light speed?

A recap of the three-day weekend...

We didn't do anything too exciting for New Year's Eve - a movie (Salt with Angelina Jolie) and pizza. Hubby didn't make it past midnight and while I was fighting sleep to make it to 12:00, I ended up going to bed at 1:30 a.m. since I couldn't tear my eyes away from the book I was reading.

And speaking of that book, I highly recommend it: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. It's on the New York Times Bestseller list right now, as it should be. What an incredible story. I read it in four days. It's not exaggerating to say it truly is a testament to the strength of the human spirit. Louis Zamperini, the subject of the book, went through absolute hell: his plane crashed in the Pacific; he drifted for 46 days on a raft; when he found land, he was captured by the Japanese; he endured torture, starvation, and degredation in several Japanese POW camps for more than two years. Yet he survived and is still alive today.

Yesterday I de-decorated the house and it was an exhausting affair. Not only did I take everything down, but I had to dust and clean while I put everything back in its place. Still, it's nice to have the house back to normal. My kitty wasn't too happy that I was taking her tree away and she laid under it for quite awhile before I finally hauled it back into its box.

I was feeling a bit off last night and wasn't completely sure why. Sunday nights are always hard for me. I don't know if I'm really dreading the end of the weekend and the start of the work week or what, but it's not fun. I've been having trouble figuring out the end of my novel and I knew that was causing me some strife. Right before I went to bed, I started writing down notes and lo and behold, the good Lord gave me the ending, plot point by plot point. I'm rather pleased with it and my mood lifted considerably. A true blessing.

Happy New Year!

Missing My Manuscript

After I finished the first draft of my manuscript, I wanted to take a break from it, get some distance before I started revisions. That didn...