I'm moving...You're being redirected

I am moving my blog over to www.writtenbydonna.com. You are going to be automatically redirected.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My Life's Playlist

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A fun activity that my brother and I (and my sister this last weekend) have participated in lately is sitting around on a lazy Sunday afternoon playing music from our playlists while the other guesses the song/artist. Our fun scale is seemingly very low. However, this activity got me thinking. Music is HUGE in my life. I have songs that make me think of my husband because they suck but he loves them. I have songs that make me miss my husband because they remind me of love. I have songs that remind me of growing up. I listen to music to clean. I listen to music to exercise. I listen to music to relax. I listen to music to fire me up for a tough day. In fact, I can't do many things without music (i.e. cleaning or exercising). As I go through the day and things happen to me I think of songs that would fit the situation. I make up songs to sing to my kids all the time and about everything. In fact, they hate when I start singing because it is usually several minutes (okay, hours) before I stop singing. When I read books I either listen to music or I think of songs that fit the book throughout reading.

So I found it quite interesting when I realized that I wasn't listening to music when writing. While playing the above game with my brother I started hearing songs in my playlist that fit my book and the emotions I want to convey so well. I decided to start listening to music while writing. It made me very nervous because I thought I might get carried away in the songs and forget that I was supposed to be writing and not singing. What I discovered was music works for my writing like it does everything else in my life. It makes me more productive. I enjoy my time. I am able to write for a longer period of time. I am really loving adding music to this part of my life.

I know that not everyone can listen to music when they write. Do you listen to music when you write? Is it just instrumental? I'm very curious to know what others are doing. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

School's Out

I just got the text from my son...school is officially out for summer. So I thought I would share what pops into my head every time I hear that school is out. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Have You Ever?

Have you ever...

...looked at your computer screen/pad of paper and questioned your actual writing ability?

...read everything you have written and thought about scrapping the whole thing?

...questioned your abilities as a wife/mother/friend/sister/writer,etc.?

...panicked when you realized that your kids only had one more 1/2 day of school left?

I have had a rough couple of days. I am going to be completely honest - life has pretty much sucked for me the last few days and this is probably going to turn into a pretty sad post. My son has struggled with social skills and self esteem his whole life. He was diagnosed last year (one week before his 12th birthday) with Aspergers Syndrome. This falls on the autism spectrum. He is very high functioning and very intelligent. His main difficulty is in the social skills area. A major problem with people with Aspergers is that they are so intelligent that they know something is not right and they become very depressed. Depression is a major issue for my son. He has been bullied for all of his school career. I'm not talking little bits of teasing - I am talking punched in the stomach, harassed, threatened with his life, etc (most of this at a crappy school where the administration did nothing - we transferred him to a different school after we found out). You add to that puberty, a deployed dad, a looming move, and middle school (need I say more?) and I have not had a very pleasant son lately. Which is hard because when he is happy he is one of the funniest and sweetest people ever! He had a pretty serious incident in school yesterday which put him into a tailspin. Because I am in his mom and I love him despite the fact that he drives me insane I go into a tailspin with worry for him when he gets like he has been. I don't sleep. I struggle with eating (either eating too much or not enough). I cry...a lot. I question every decision I make on his behalf and then I start questioning every decision I make in my life. I begin to feel like a huge failure because I haven't been able to protect my child from these feelings. Then I start to feel guilty because I am giving my son so much attention that my daughter is not getting enough. Then I have to decide whether or not I share this burden with my husband and add the stress to his life when there is really nothing he can do about it when he is thousands of miles away. Basically I get to a point where I want to crawl into bed and stay there for an undetermined length and not have to worry about a single thing. So I don't clean. I don't write. I don't cook. I don't live.

So, why am I sharing this here? First of all I needed to get it all out. Secondly, I think I might have a point. Last night I was at this point. Stick a fork in me, I'm done. It was bad. I was lying on the couch watching TV and crying about everything when I looked at my laptop and decided to work on my book. I thought about skipping a few chapters to a point where my character is pretty close to where I was last night. However, I decided to stick to where I was in the story. A point when two people are first falling in love. And it made me happy. And I remembered my own life. I remembered falling in love. When I thought my husband was the sun, the moon, and the stars. When I thought that WE were so in love that nothing bad could ever bring us down. WE would be that one couple who beat the odds and never had anything bad happen to us. WE would never get to the point where doing the little things for each other was too hard.

Then we got married. Then crap started happening in our life. But here is the thing - I still think my husband is the sun, the moon, and the stars. I still think that WE are so in love that we can get back up from anything that knocks us down. I still think that WE will be that one couple who, when bad stuff happens to us, we beat the odds, and we grow stronger. WE do some of the little things for each other but not all of it. One advantage to him being deployed 4 times is that we get to fall in love all over again every time he is gone and comes back. We miss each other. We remember how much we love each other and appreciate each other. I get butterflies in my stomach before I meet him at the airport and when we kiss for the first time. I have the advantage of being so close to the memory of falling in love and every time it is with the same person. When I thought of all of this I was able to add depth to my characters and make them have a true and deep love, not just an infatuated relationship built on looks (although good looks don't hurt either). I wrote about 1000 words last night and I think they are pretty darn good. And by writing I was able to get perspective back in my life.

I was also able to send my husband an email and let him know what was going on without whining and letting him know the situation was resolved and he didn't need to worry.

For my last have you ever question...I love my kids but summers freak me out! I do like sleeping in but I never know what to do with my kids to keep them entertained and I can't handle hearing "I'm bored."

What do you do to entertain your kids during the summer so that you can stay refreshed and ready to write and so that you can keep loving them? (Keep in mind that my kids are almost 13 and 9)

P.S. Sorry for the length of this post.

Monday, May 21, 2012


This week has involved an awful lot of restlessness on my part. Fortunately I had plenty to do to fill my time.

- I rearranged my blog (for both of my 2 followers). I couldn't find a header I liked so I made my own. I don't like it as much as one I made for a friend a while back (you can see it here) but I am going to stick with it for a while - at least until I get bored with it.

- I rearranged my living room. For those who don't know, my living situation is very much less than ideal right now. We are renting my sister's very small home for a year until my husband returns from his latest deployment. We left a house that was between 2200-2400 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, laundry room, separate family and living rooms, 2 car garage, with storage galore and moved into a 2 bedroom, 1 bath, no garage, nor storage 600 (?) square foot home. It has been quite the lifestyle adjustment. I have a very near teenage boy (1 month away), a very pre-teen, already hormonal, 9-year-old girl and a dog who thinks she is still a puppy but is really quite large and takes up half the free space in the living room. The advantage to this living arrangement is that my parents live next door and my brother and sister-in-law, Ruth, and their family live just around the corner. Ruth is one of my best friends and I love their kids so this part is fun. The downside is that I can't stand to hear people breathe, or chew, or move. All of those actions happen far too often in my home. I hear/feel everything! This leads to not much time to actually think or write. My living room was very cluttered and it is where I spend most of my time so I decided to rearrange. It made such a big difference and I was able to write and clear my head. It also makes me much more relaxed because I don't walk in and feel like I am being consumed by a much-too-small house.

- I rearranged my brain and my book. I spent several days not writing. I decided to add a bit to my very rough outline. It helped so much! Details that I had been questioning started to fall into place and I became refocused. I get very easily distracted and I have to refocus often.

And just for fun I thought about my favorite reasons for deciding to write women's/contemporary romance. One of the top items on my list is imagining my male characters (who are all remarkably hot - please see note about my husband being deployed) and that wonderful feeling of falling in love. Ever since previews for The Lucky One came out (I haven't seen it yet because it hasn't come to our town) I have imagined Zac Efron as almost all of my male characters. When I see the previews of him with the girl I think to myself "She IS the lucky one!" And now that he is older it doesn't make me as much of a nasty old cougar for thinking he is smokin' hot (after all he is only 10 years younger than me)! Seriously, I miss my husband.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Accidentally in Love

While writing this morning I came to two realizations. The first is that I finally have a clear image of my female character. I had no problem coming up with images for my male character(s) but I had a really hard time with my female. My story is written in 1st person since it is really her story to tell but I couldn't see who she was. I imagined her looking in the mirror and I didn't see details. I was getting really frustrated because I couldn't put the necessary detail into my book because I didn't know it. And then last night I had a dream. I knew my character. I knew what she looked like, how she acted, and even that her name was wrong! I woke up stunned. I loved her original name but then I knew that it wasn't her name. You know when you have kids and you just know their name? That is how I felt when I woke up. I had to jot it down because I was afraid I would forget by the time I could get to my computer. I am so happy now that I have clear direction. By the way, she is a little like Emma Stone and it has nothing at all to do with the fact that I have a little bit of a girl crush on Emma Stone.

My second realization was that my character was slowly falling in love with the wrong guy! It just happened and it started freaking me out. And then I took some advice that I learned at LDStorymakers Conference and I asked myself, "what if...?" I realized that I am okay with her falling in love with the wrong guy. It works. It is who she belongs with and it makes her story more deep and true. I feel like I have leaped over two giant hurdles and I can move on with her story.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hello, My Name is Bob

This post is going to allow you all to get to know me a little too well. It is a bit of a confession and a bit of a question (and it is really long). I have recently had the opportunity to discuss some "quirks" that I have that are sometimes mild and sometimes greatly interfere with my life. Many people who have known me for a while are already aware of, and mostly amused by, my tendencies. It is much like the movie, "What About Bob?" where I take baby steps all day every day to overcome my mental obstacles.

I am doing well writing my book. I am writing and I am making forward progress. Where I am really struggling is with character development. The problem is this: I don't know normal. I am not normal. I have OCD. I don't know proper reactions to daily situations. There are things that bother me to a point that I require therapy that would not even cause a moment's hesitation to somebody else. There are things that bring me joy - they actually make me smile and make my heart happy - that other people don't even notice. I don't know if a character trait I am developing in my book is going to come across as too contrived even though it is really how I behave. Here are some examples.

This is actually how I eat my M&Ms and Skittles. I line them up in rainbow order and I eat them down (in order) until they all have the same amount per row. Then I eat them in rainbow order. They just taste so much better that way. My real problem is when the last color in the rainbow order is a flavor I don't like because then I have to end with a bad taste in my mouth.

Even numbers make me happy. They make me smile. Odd numbers make me mad (except for multiples of 5). If there is a sale on an item and it is 3 for $1, I will buy 6. I used to buy 2 separate egg cartons - one 12 pack and one 18 pack. Then if a recipe called for 3 eggs I could take an entire row from the 18 pack. If it called for 2 I would take one from the 12 pack. If it called for 1 egg I used the 12 pack and then threw one egg away so that the whole row would be gone. I couldn't handle one egg being left in a row. It made my head hurt. I can now survive with one egg carton but it still makes me need a calming breath when I open it and see one egg sitting in a row by itself.

My wallet does not look like the above photo. My money is in order based on the denomination. And all my bills are right-side up and facing forward. How anybody could do anything else is really beyond me.

I don't currently have much of a pantry but the above picture is what my dream pantry would look like. I seriously could just stare at this picture for hours. If I had a pantry like that I would probably sit in it for hours. I would pull a pillow in there and read or take a nap or hide from my family and be happy.

I love for my closet to be color coordinated. This is how my closet looks (this picture is not my closet). I have my clothes in rainbow order and categorized as follows: short sleeve casual, short sleeve formal-ish, long sleeve casual, long sleeve formal-ish, etc. with each category in rainbow order and facing the same direction. My clothes either look like this or piled high in a laundry basket. You see, I'm also all or nothing. I'd rather do something perfect, actually better than perfect, or not do it at all. This is also a struggle for me with my writing but I am getting over it for now (we will see how I handle it once it is time for revisions). My husband hangs things up with hangers hanging backwards, short sleeve mixed with pants, civilian mixed with military, no rainbow order and no order at all. It drives me crazy! It is difficult for me to go in our closet and see the chaos that lives in there.

My husband often asks me how our house can look like it does (read: it is a mess) when I claim to be a "perfectionist." It goes back to that all or nothing and OCD. I need it done my way, which is of course the right way, but I don't always have the time or energy to get it done right so I'll just leave it alone. Can a character in a book get by with such nonsense? Can I make it come across as cute and not near-divorce-causing-irrationality? Could my character actually meet somebody as wonderful as my husband - somebody who would put up with her crap and still love her? I don't really know. I am struggling to find that balance between making somebody I can relate to and understand and somebody others can love. Where is the line?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Truth Shall Set You Free

Now that I have "outed" myself as a writer I can actually write! It's amazing how that works. Prior to the LDStorymakers conference I didn't really consider myself a writer. I never truly aspired to be a published author because I didn't believe that I had the talent. I still don't know if I have the talent to be published but I have to decided to write for me because I have a story to tell. I want to know how my story ends.

I went to one class by the amazingly talented and witty Kiersten White and she motivated me so much. She basically said none of us were "aspiring writers" we were just "writers." Wow! She said some other great things that made me feel like I could conquer the writing world but mostly she just made me believe that I am a writer and I came home and started writing. And amazingly enough the words started flowing freely. I stopped questioning whether I was good enough and just put down my story that I wanted to tell. I will go back and revise later if I think this is a book other people might want to read. Otherwise I leave it for me and that is good enough. I'm enjoying writing and I'm enjoying not having the pressure on myself. (I also gained courage and inspiration from Becca Wilhite, Jeff Savage, James Dashner, and Robison Wells. Although mostly I just gained a belly ache from laughing so hard during the class with Jeff, James, and Rob - whom I can't stop calling Rob because that is how he introduced himself but it seems too familiar and not formal enough.There was another class I went too also but I was mostly Skyping my husband during that class because we hadn't spoken in several days at that point.)

Another great thing is that I am now discussing my book with my husband. He is encouraging and helpful and I don't know how I ever thought I could get any of this done without him. My WIP is the story of an Army wife and he has decided to be my "military consultant" to make sure everything military is portrayed correctly.I know a lot about being a military wife and I know quite a bit about the military but he knows a lot more! Let me tell you - it has been awesome sharing this dream with him. As we Skyped today he had me laughing with his comments while at the same time giving me the details to make my story credible.

Now I just need to get to the point where I can actually share my work with other people (besides the dog - whom I read it to as I work).

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Insomnia = Hilarious Brilliance

I have quite the dilemma. I don't sleep. Well, it's not that I don't ever sleep, I just rarely sleep. When I do sleep it is typically not for more than 4 hours in a row. When I can't sleep I love to write. I feel the most productive when I write late at night/early in the morning. That is the time when my brain seems to be the most full of ideas. Brilliant and hilarious ideas. Ideas that make me believe that I am the funniest person on the planet! When I get to that point my husband usually tries to avoid me because I laugh at my own jokes so hard that I nearly wet my pants.

Now here is the dilemma. I work on my book when I'm not able to sleep. During those moments I think that I am writing a brilliant, intelligent, witty piece of work. I am amazed at my skill. I believe there is no way in the world that I will not become a world-famous author winning a multitude of literary awards. Then I sleep. Then I read what I wrote when I hadn't slept in 36 hours and I tell you, it is not good. In fact, there are times when I don't have any idea what anything means. So I have to rewrite it all. The advantage is that sometimes there are some basic ideas that about and I am able to improve them during my well-rested writing times.

So, do I keep writing at 3am or do I just write down my basic ideas that come to me at 3am?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Jumping in With Both Feet

This past weekend I attended the LDStorymakers Conference and had a blast! This was my first outing as a "writer." Remember, I have only been out of the writing closet for a very short time and I have only discussed my book with one person. It was so great to meet other writers and to learn some extremely valuable skills. I came home super motivated to continue writing my book and found out my laptop charging cord had broken!!! My book is on my laptop so this created a problem. Enter Amazon Prime and I will have a new cord tomorrow morning. Hooray! Once again Amazon Prime saves my life, or the day.

The week leading up to the conference sucked! I was supposed to head up with Ruth on Thursday to attend a dinner that night and then stay for the conference on Thursday and Friday. However, my daughter got sick on Tuesday. I took her to the doctor and they suspected Strep or influenza. Not good. We were waiting for the results to decide if I could go or not. My husband is deployed and my mom can't afford to get sick so I couldn't leave my kids with her if my daughter was still sick. Thursday  morning I call the doctor and both tests are negative. Woo-hoo! Then I decided to look down at my foot which had been hurting for the last day and I saw what looked to be an insect bite on my toe and red streaks shooting up my foot. I bailed on Ruth for dinner that night and cancelled the conference for Friday. Long story short: Dr., infection, blood work, antibiotics, swelling, spreading, and finally good enough for me to head up on Friday evening. That night I met some great people, we hung out, and we even got to go see a rooftop concert featuring Peter Breinholt, whom we all thought we knew but it turns out he was not who we were expecting. It was still fun.

The conference was amazing. I was fortunate to have Ruth around to guide me and provide me with an instant group of friends. I can't imagine entering into that world alone. I roomed with some really great people and we stayed up way too late, laughed way too hard, and had way too much fun. I learned some really great things and I am ready to get serious about writing my novel. I have now confessed my passion to my husband who is fully supportive and that makes me happy because he will now push me and encourage me.

I have no pictures because I don't have a point-and-shoot and I didn't want to lug my DSLR around with me all weekend. Just imagine a lot of pictures of me with people I don't know, people I aspire to be, and me having a fun time on my much needed weekend away from my kids. The pictures might look something like this:

To those I met, it was great meeting you! To those I didn't meet, maybe next year. Thank you all for welcoming me and making me feel completely comfortable.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Welcome to the Writing World!

I have always loved writing and I have always had grand visions of eventually writing a novel (or two or three). However, I am also shy and never shared these dreams with anybody. Not a soul. Not even my husband. A year or so ago my sister-in-law, Ruth, shared with me that she was writing a book. I was so excited to find out that she and I shared a hobby and I told her about my closet writing too. I haven't really done much with it yet but I am ready to start on this adventure. Please join me as I start this crazy journey!