Thursday, December 23, 2004

Having Another Computer is a Great Thing!

I was so happy that hubby was getting a computer of his own, and that this one in the office was going to be mine alone--at last. But things have been better than I thought they would be. Notice the time of this post as proof. {Smile} It’s after nine-thirty and I’m on the computer. Of course, I would normally be fast asleep by this late. Hey, when you have to get up at four in the morning, nine is late. {Smile}

There’s more good news also. Hubby’s computer came with a kick-butt all in one printer. All of those old, long-ago finished manuscripts that I did on my Brother WP can now finally be scanned into a computer. That old Brother WP did save to a floppy, but too late I learned that it saved the files in a way that nothing but the same old brand and model of Brother WP could read. What a blow. But now with this new scanner, and some time and work, I can scan each printed up manuscript into the computer in Word. I wish doing rewrites and making them worth reading would be as easy as scanning them in is going to be. {Smile}

Okay, so I could stay here longer and write more if I wanted to tonight, but since the words are starting to blur and I have to cook for a small army tomorrow, maybe enough is enough and I should give up. “Night, night,” she said with a yawn.


I hope all of your wishes come true in 2005!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

He Quit Smoking and I Get to Write More

I'm sure you don't get what one has to do with the other, but it's still true. {Smile} I’ll explain.

My husband has smoked since he was eleven-years-old. Yes, you read that right. So he's been smoking for almost thirty years--more than two packs a day for probably the latter half of that time. I never really believed he would be able to quit. Not that he hasn't tried.

Oh, he has tried! So many times.

He watched my mother die from lung cancer after smoking for most of her life. That was terrible enough that he tried even harder afterwards to stop, but never made it for more than a day or so.

This go around though, he tried the patches. You have to wear them every day for two and half months. People say they are expensive, but I figured it up, and they didn't cost any more than those cartons of cigarettes. (And if they had cost three times as much, but worked, they would have been worth every cent.) I will admit to you that I figured he'd open the first box, start with the best intentions, and then before week one was up he'd be standing in line at Smoky Joe's for a nicotine fix.

I almost wanted to get my hopes up when he had made it through the first week, but didn't dare. And then week three came and I started to hope just a tiny little bit. And then week four, and hope was flowing. By week six, I really wanted to believe this was it. Some how each week went by, and he didn't give in or give up, and then suddenly we were down to the last box and the last patch.

I felt the ground beneath me tremble a little when we pulled that last patch off of his shoulder. He was on his own now. No more training wheels. I just knew he was going to fall, and hard. So I held my breath and waited. (Of course I never let him know that I had any fear or doubts at all.) Day one, day two, day three. Solid as a rock. Day four, day five, day six. A couple of hard ones, but he didn't even tilt to the side. Day seven, day eight, day nine. I exhaled. My muscles relaxed. I’m more proud of him that I can put here in words.

But what, you ask again, does all of this have to do with writing more? A lot. I promise.

See, the deal is that I had told hubby that if he was ever able to quit smoking, he could have the money he spent each month on cigarettes, and do what ever he wanted with it. What he wanted was a new computer. Mind you, I don't think there is anything wrong with the one in my office, but being male and all, he wanted more power!

So last week he got his wish. A kick-butt computer all of his own. I even bought him a new desk and chair for Christmas, which he has already opened since he had to have a place to set the new computer and sit himself. {Smile} His computer is in the living room, so the office and this computer are now all mine! That means in the evenings or on the weekends, if I get the urge and have the time, I can write away. Since I spend so many hours a day keeping up with the e-mail groups I run, and answering mail, or even working on my website, I'm hoping some extra hours at the computer will mean some extra chapters. I guess that would give me a good goal for 2005. {Smile}

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Another Thanksgiving Come and Gone

I cooked too much, ate too much, and stayed busy too much. And yet somehow I managed to get a little writing done now and again, so I’m not complaining. (Smile.) The most important thing is though, that I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my family and friends.

So often now it seems we get so caught up in the busy and rush of the holidays that we forget they are holidays--times that should be enjoyed, savored, like a good piece of fried chicken that you gnaw down to the born and then lick your fingers clean after. (Smile.) I know you get it, but the chicken is the holiday and all of the good things that come with it. (Smile.)

I’m going to make sure I think of things that way this month, since today is the first day of December. I’m going to take time biting through that crispy golden brown crust, savoring each bite of that moist tender meat, not leaving even the tiniest piece on the bone, and then spend time making sure each finger is clean. I’m going to get e v e r y t h i n g out of that piece of fried chicken that I can.

There was an empty spot at my Thanksgiving table this year. One very dear smiling face that always loved my cooking so much. We are human you know, and that means there’s no guarantee that we, or any bite of that chicken, will be here next year, or the day after Christmas--or even tomorrow. Now is the time to feast! Not on fried chicken, but on love, family, hugs, friends, laughter, long talks--seemingly unimportant little everyday moments that pass without the spotlight or the blaze of glory they are worthy of.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Diets & Writing

Okay, so I’m pretty sure you are wondering what a diet can have to do with writing, but in my world they have a lot to do with each other. (Smile) I’m always fighting the battle of the bulge. The ground that sees the most action is the belly area. I’ve spent few really thin days in my lifetime, so this battle goes on and on.

And where does the writing fit in you ask?

Right there with the food battle -- behind enemy lines even.

When I’m having a bad writing day, or any bad writing time at all, and those words just won’t come, I find myself escaping from in front of the computer to grab something to eat. I mean no one can blame me for taking a short break from writing to eat. Right?

I think that’s the ill-advised reasoning that started my problem at least. When I wrote freelance full-time I had a tight weekly eight AM deadline. That last day and night were H E double L. It was push to you die. Payback for every minute I’d missed writing during the week. No time for writer’s block. Finish or else! Still, the family knew I had to stop to eat. I was allowed to stop to eat. So I did, even when it wasn’t mealtime, even when I wasn’t even really hungry. I didn’t feel guilty for taking a break to eat.

I didn’t even think about it that way at the time. In fact, I’ve just really noticed it, thought about it, in the last few months. Now I can’t “not” see it. When I’m stuck or the writing just seems to suck, and I’m sitting here trying to force words to become sentences and sentences to become pages, I run from it and use food as the excuse. Someone who likes food as much as I do, doesn’t need an extra excuse. (Smile)

It’s great that I have found this flaw, since we have to find the flaw to fix it, but this means I need to fight two battles at once. I’m still trying to get back to my fiction writing, to a decent writing schedule. I have to become productive or toss in the towel. One of the two! Stop or go already!

So here I am trying to make daily -- or at least almost daily -- writing a habit again, and in the middle of it, I’m on a diet again. One seems to be combating the other. So I’m losing at one or the other each day it seems. If I try to write, I eat more than I should, or things I shouldn’t. If I stay busy in other ways, like cleaning house, working out, figuring the bills -- which should make me want to write when I see the totals -- doing the household shopping, bathing the dogs, even doing e-mail or working on my website, I stick to my diet pretty well. But once I put my butt in this computer seat and open one of my Word files to work on a manuscript, I freeze up. I do a few words, and doubts hit me. I do a few words and can’t think of what to write next. I do a few words and wonder why I’m wasting my time. I stare at the screen and do no words, and then suddenly remember I’m hungry. I don’t give in right away. I try a little longer, maybe get a few more words out, and then I lose.

I guess like everything else, I just need to take this one day at a time. Maybe one writing session at a time, until I stop thinking that being unable to write should be rewarded with food. I don’t guess rewarded is the right word. I probably should say comforted with food. When I find it hard to write, I look for comfort when I should just keep writing through the hard spots. All of those finish pages at the end of the day will offer a lot of comfort. (Smile)

Monday, November 08, 2004

Getting Organized

How do things get out of hand so quickly? Books, papers, mail, clothes, whatnots, magazines, odds and ends, everything! It can happen to anyone. It happens to me a lot. Even my e-mail in box gets cluttered and takes on a life of its own. (Smile)

I’ve put my foot down on a lot of clutter lately. Wait, I don’t mean things are so cluttered that the mass has spilled over onto the floor. (Smile) What I meant was I’m trying hard to put an end to clutter. That’s a big deal for a pack rat like me. I’ve gotten rid a lot of stuff -- out of my closet, out of my shelves, out of my cabinets, out of my files, and even out of my in box. I can’t live up to that declutter law that says if you haven’t used it in six months, toss it; but I’m getting better.

And part of that is getting organized.

So I’m working on my desk, my files, even my computer files, and the info I have collected for the three manuscripts I have underway right now.

(Yes, I said three. I’ve had a long standing rule of only allowing myself to work on two manuscripts at a time, never starting a third until the present number one or number two were completed, so don’t ask me where I slipped this time. Oh, why the rule you ask. Because it’s so easy to reach that half way mark, where many of us find ourselves getting stuck, and move on to another manuscript. That’s why so many writers have so many started manuscripts and none completed.)

I’ve made myself a new folder for each of the three I’m working on. I’ve printed up every note and idea I’ve sent myself about them through e-mail. I’ve printed up the on-line research I did for them, I’ve gathered up the magazine articles or any other paper with info for them that I have collected, and all of this stuff has been put into one of those three folders. I have a few completed manuscripts that I want to polish up as well, and I’m going to do the same thing for each one of them. That way when I get an idea or a spark of something that I could fix in one, I can jot it down or print it up, and put it in that folder. The same if I read an article or find a bit of research that might come in handy for one. Should make things a lot easier and should keep me from losing ideas and research that I might really wish I had later. (I actually used to do this when I first started writing. I should never have stopped.)

As far as the rest of the house being organized? Like I said, I’m getting there. I do find it harder to let go of some things than others. Since I’ve lost a brother and both of my parents, anything that they liked a lot or gave to me, or made, I just find painful to give up, even if it’s broken or not useful. But I’m learning that it’s their memories I cherish, not their things. I just have to keep telling myself that letting go of their things isn’t letting go of them. They will always be with me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Writing is Hard Work!

My daughter used to tell her friends that I didn't work. I just "stayed at home and wrote things". Then she got to spend the day job shadowing me a few years ago. She got to miss the whole day of school without it being counted against her, and in return spent the day working with me. She thought this would be a piece of cake. After all, "Mom's only a writer."

At the time I was working for a big company, doing short biographies of some well-known musical artists. Including a few rock stars that my daughter thought were just great. (Smile) I was also working out the plot and characters for a new romance novel. It all sounded like great fun to her--and nothing like work.

We started the day off by sending in a new list of names to my editor for approval. This is a list of artists that I'd like to write bios on. The editor would later give me an approval for the names she wanted me to go with. We then sent off a few interview questions by e-mail. Got a few answers in from some I had already sent off, and then got down to writing bios. That meant sitting right in front of the computer until lunch time, simply looking over notes, double checking facts, and writing, and rewriting, and rewriting. (Oh, it distressed my young daughter even more to discover that ** gasp ** grammar and spelling had to be correct. And worse, my editor wanted things done in a certain way and style.)

It only took about an hour of this for the joyful sparkle to fade from my daughter's beautiful hazel eyes. She was more than ready for a break when noon came around. I didn't even know that child could eat as slowly as she did that day, especially on a day when she didn't have to be in school. (Smile)

After lunch she helped me finish up another bio and start the next. About halfway through that one, she begged for mercy, asking couldn't we please work on my story instead.

I gave in. Of course I soon found that plotting and doing character charts were no more fun to her than writing bios had been. I think she was more happy to see three o'clock--her quitting time for the day--come around than she would have been if she were sitting in class waiting for the school bell to ring.

That evening she had to write a paper for her teacher, explaining what I did and what she learned about me and my job from the time she had spent with me that one day. The one part of that paper that sticks in my mind even now is--Writing is hard work! It seems a lot of people don't know that. I think even most writers don't start out knowing that, and don't figure it out to somewhere after chapter three of the first novel they try to write. So I'm really glad that at least my daughter finally got it. Even if maybe she wouldn't remember it later.

Fast forward to fall 2004. I was busy doing a little free writing with pen and paper when my daughter came through the living room with one of her friends yesterday evening. I didn't think to look up or nod. I was kind of lost in my words. But I did hear my daughter's voice though, when she told her friend, "Looks like Mom's still hard at work. Let's watch the movie in my room." I glanced up in time to see them walk away. I forgot about my words for a moment, and smiled, remembering a day gone by and a chance to bond and understand that all happened on one single school day when there was no school.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Making Writing a Habit

Sometimes the hardest part of writing is getting in the habit of it. I used to start at least five -- often six, and sometimes even seven -- days a week off by sitting down in front of the computer, opening Word, and writing. I didn't think about it, didn't make plans for it, I just did it. I took breaks during the day to be a mom and a wife, but when I managed to gather a little free time, right back to the computer I went.

It stayed that way for a long while, until I found out my mother had cancer. During the months of caring for her, writing was the last thing on my mind. After her death, writing still stayed out of reach. It took me more than a year to find my way back. By then I was our of the habit, and it was a battle every time I sat down in front of the computer and tried. It took months to get back into the flow -- into the habit.

Working as a full-time freelance for years after that should have made the habit of writing one that I couldn't break. But instead, it seems to have made it more breakable. When I stopped freelance writing, suddenly there was no weekly deadline, no editor watching and waiting for my words. And somehow writing non-fiction just didn't feel the same as fiction.

Getting back into the daily writing, the fiction writing, has been a war, and I've lost a lot of battles along the way for many reasons. It seems like just as soon as I'm doing well, something else happens to throw me off. And since the habit isn't set in yet, it's easy to throw me off. Even with really little things like not feeling well or extra stuff to get done during the week.

I'm not giving up though. I know if daily fiction writing was a habit I had for years, I can make it a habit again.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Hurricane Ivan Is Gone

I'm here. :-) No harm done. Well, a little. :-) Like too much money spent and almost the whole week of hubby's vacation wasted. But we're okay, the house is here, the cars are okay, and right now after some of the things I've seen for others, I feel like we've won the jackpot here.

We spent a lot of time on Monday and Tuesday running from store to store, trying to find enough bread, ice, peanut butter, water, batteries, those kinds of things. In between we kept watching the local weather, and watching Ivan come right up for us. I wasn't sure if we should stay here or run, for a lot of that time. They kept saying he was going to get really close, but that at the last minute he was going to turn and go for AL. I just kept thinking of the other times they've been sure one was going to turn or wasn't going to turn, and it did just what they thought it wouldn't do.

By day break yesterday morning I had decided we would stay for sure. Before noon things began to look even better as Ivan took a few jogs to the east. He had stopped coming west at all, and seemed dead set on going mostly north, which would put him coming in on the MS/AL state line. I'm right on the LA/MS state line....which is close, but the weather people said we'd be fine here. We kept our eye on the news -- they were doing weather reports around the clock on our local stations....for us that means New Orleans even though it's nearly two hours away.

In between watching the news we did a lot of work in the yard, getting everything picked up, put up, or tied down. (Everything now has to be put out, taken down and untied.) :-) The only people they asked to leave from our town was those in trailers and unsafe type housing. Almost everything in town shut down by four yesterday, big windows were boarded up, and we were all waiting. Sitting and waiting and wondering isn't a great thing. :-)

The wind was picking up some by around seven. At nine they put a curfew into affect, not allowing any one out on the roads. Things didn't get too bad until around eleven. By midnight we could hear transformers blowing here and there, some tin giving way, the snap and pop and thud of limbs once in a while. The wind stayed pretty high off and on, getting its worse probably around two or three this morning. There were still some pretty good gusts around until about noon today, even though Ivan was long gone. Things ain't bad though, and we've been through much worse . :-) (Okay, so I sure could use some more sleep--a lot more.) :-) If that's the worse thing I've got to complain about, then I'm doing great!

Now if Ivan hadn't made that turn....well, things wouldn't be okay. I feel so sorry for those in MS, AL, FL who weren't so lucky. Not only were we lucky that Ivan turned, but we were on the good side. Yes, a hurricane has a good side and a bad side. :-) The winds and rains didn't reach out as far on our side, and there isn't the same flooding and danger of tornados. On top of that, we had dry air feeding in from Texas that kind of ate up some of Ivan from our side, and really saved us even more. I wish everyone could have been so lucky!

There are some trees down in town, limbs and leaves, that kind of thing. But it seems most have little to no damage at all here, and power and phone, even cable. :-) We only lost power twice, and only for a very short time. Like I said, most of us in this area, all the way down to New Orleans, were really very lucky this time. And maybe now it'll be a very long time before we have to worry about another hurricane, especially one that is a category four or five -- five being as bad as they come. Well, guess I better get outside and start putting the lawn chairs back out, cleaning up the yard some, putting my plants back out, that kind of stuff. Boy am I'm grateful that I have that kind of stuff to do today. So many others probably woke up to a much different world this morning.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Contest Scores & Helpful Comments

I got my contest scores back yesterday on Read My Mind. I missed the finals by only a few points. I don't know if that makes it better or worse. (Smile) I got one great judge who gave me almost a perfect score. No, don't laugh. (Smile) She wasn't great because she gave me such a high score. She was great because she really put a lot of effort into judging my pages. She made comments on every thing she liked and every thing she didn't, then even explained why she didn't like something or why it didn't work. I hope I'm half as helpful when I judge as she was. Some of her comments made me feel good about my writing, and I needed that right now. The couple of things she found problems with really left me thinking. Hopefully my story will be better because of the time she spent on it.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

My First Blog

Seems I'm kind of coming into this blog thing a little late. I've seen them on so many websites, and kept thinking how neat it would be to have know how we all put things off.

This morning I decide to stop putting it off. So here I am. My blog is all set up and I'm writing my very first post in it. Now all I have to do is think of interesting things to talk about. Hmmm. That might be a tough one. (Smile)