Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday's Montage: White Christmas

Well, apparently, I took last week off from blogging, so I'm going to do as much as I can this week, because next week will probably be a wash too. 'Tis the season. I hope everyone is having a great pre-Christmas. I hope you're getting all your preparations done and all your presents bought.

Last night the hubby and I watched White Christmas. If it's not the favorite, it's, at least, one of my favorite Christmas movies. You gotta love Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby! They are so funny.
There is a lot of great music and dancing including hilarious music and dancing like in the scene with the guys doing the number "Sisters."
Every time I see this movie, I marvel at the dancing of Vera-Ellen.
And we can't forget Rosemary Clooney and her powerful, yet velvety voice. And then there's that dress she wears when she sings "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me." Here's the front, but you're missing out on half the dress if you don't see the back. (Hee hee.) I love that number whole scene.

In fact, the whole movie is fantastic. If you like musicals and haven't seen this yet, you've gotta get on the ball. It's a must see.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday's Photolife--Colors

What a different a little color can make!
A focal point doesn't hurt either, but just look at the color. The pink flowers up front really make the picture pop, as opposed to...
Color is one of the things that inspires me most when I'm taking nature pictures. I especially love when the sky is a million (ok, maybe not a million) shades of pink and blue and purple.
or when lavender stands out on a background of varying shades of green.
Or the almost fluorescent orange that comes naturally in some flowers.
Vibrant colors just move me,
but then again so do shades of gray and brown.

I've talked before about being sure we include color in our writing. Do we just use the reds and the blacks? Or do we include all the varying shades around us?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wednesday's Wonders--beta readers

I'm in the final throws of getting my first novel ready to query, and it's been quite a journey. I've sent my first few chapters around to some of my writer friends and my writing group, and what do you know? They've come back at me with some fabulous advice. I'm tweaking and polishing, and it's making my work so much better. They see things that I couldn't because I was too close. They point out things they love. (Yea!) They point out things that don't make sense. (Something to fix.) They point out things that make them laugh. (Yippee! I love making people laugh.)

They are giving of their time and knowhow to help me be better when they don't have to. I'm not paying them. There's the chance that I will one day be able to thank them on an acknowledgements page, and with their help it's more likely than without it. Still. It's a longshot. I've read and critiqued things for some of them but not all. There is the understanding that I will read things for them in exchange, and I will. I look forward to it, but that may be a ways off for some of them. And yet they are so generous with me that I'm amazed.

From the bottom of my heart I thank you!

Y'all are wonders.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday's Montage: Casablanca

I hope you all had a great holiday! Mine was lovely. I even won cookie cupcakes from Penny over at Penny Lane. Yea for me!

Last night my husband and I watched Casablanca with his parents. Now I've seen it before and liked it, but never got why it was such a phenomenon. Last night for whatever reason the stars aligned (it probably didn't hurt that I only got interrupted once and then we paused the show so I didn't miss anything), and I understood why people far and wide love this movie. I'm thinking that I never really got the whole story, and this is one movie where you have to get the whole story to appreciate it fully.
It's funny and sad and poignant. It's historical and personal. If you haven't seen it, you should, but make sure you can give it your full attention. It's worth it. Here's a trailer for it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday's Photolife--Multiple Shots

Sorry this is a little later in the day. I got so caught up in my rewrites (that are going well--boom chicka wow wow!) that I forgot I was supposed to post today. Hello, Lois, it's Friday. Thank heaven for my new schedule. At least I know what to write about. Whew!
How about some fun action shots. Digital photography has revolutionized action photography for me. I'm from the age of using film and worrying about the cost of it when you have to take a lot of pictures to get one shot. Now, if I want to take 300 pictures of something, no problem. All it costs is the extra energy to push down the button (and maybe putting in a new memory card).

If you're working with action shots, your best bet for getting good pictures is taking a ton of pictures. Here are a few photos I got of my incredible nephews on their trampoline.
Total, I probably took 250 pictures of them while they were playing around. The thing is with action shots, there will always ALWAYS be blurs, especially in waning light like I had that evening--even professionals have them. One of the differences between an amateur and a pro is how many pictures they take. (Skill would be another one, but still...) If you take enough pictures and you get some of them in focus, you're bound to have something good.

Then you can get them at the height of their jump.
Leaping the trees.
You can decide if it's better that he's looking at the sky...
or looking at the tramp.
Because with action you can get anything and sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.
Take plenty so you can delete the blurs.

Application to writing? I think we have to do multiple versions of some scenes to get the right one. Some will work and some just won't, and sometimes we don't know until we do them.

Happy weekend everyone.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday's Wonders--Thanks

Most of you who know me, know that I love me some music. Last week I led a choir of young women ages 12-18 in a performance. They had practiced the song for about a month and a half. In the first practices, it was disastrous, but, little by little, they improved and eventually the song was quite lovely.

One of those young girls came up to me after the performance and said, "Thank you for leading us and helping us learn the song." I was surprised. I often get praise from an audience for how good things sound, but the kids rarely come forward and say anything. They are the receivers of compliments and thanks not the givers. This girl's unexpected thanks made my heart soar.

At this time of year when we think about Thanks and what it means to us, let's remember to voice it to others at unexpected times and make "when you least expect it, expect it" a positive thing. We might make someone's day.

I'll follow my own advice and thank all of you for sticking by me and continuing to read my blog and comment. I've been amazed at how supportive the writing world can be. There is a lot of dog eat dog going on out there but not in the blogging trenches. Thanks! Y'all are a wonder.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday's Montage: Netflix

I love a good story. It can be as a novel or on TV or in a movie. The nice thing with movies/TV is that they combine the visual along with the story for the photographer side of me. I get so excited about cinematography. I practically hyperventilate at the camera angles and framing.

I used to love renting movies, but I was bad at returning them on time. Late fees adored me. The stores were not very convenient to where we lived. The selections often did not include the obscure movies that I love. So after a while I rented less and less. I would trawl stores and buy, or order and buy, but that was always a crap shoot. It was so hard to know what would be good. A lot of wasted money ensued.

Netflix has been a panacea of sorts for me. No more reluctance to try a movie or TV show. The selection is so broad I have found things I would have never thought of on my own. The shows come and go right in my mailbox. Hurray! And the latest thing that I love is instant viewing. I can check a lot of shows out instantly online--watch them right there, order the dvds to watch on the big screen at home, or drop them like hot potatoes. I've discovered several wonderful TV shows this way. I think, "Hey, I've got half a hour. Let me see if this is any good." Sometimes they are and sometimes they're not. If I don't like them, I just cut them off and move on.

There's a new thing where you can order shows direct to your TV, but that requires an extra fee, and I really only have so much time for watching. Plus, I don't mind waiting for the DVD to arrive in the mail. It is nice for those instant gratification junkies though.

I can search for shows a myriad of different ways. There are the standard routes like Comedy, Thriller, etc. But I much prefer checking for specific actors I like or BBC things that I haven't seen. I like that I can arrange by MPAA ratings and by how many stars viewers give them and see reviews immediately by people like me. The system has its flaws. I don't like the Unrated or Not rated way of ranking movies. It's hard to tell if the movie is really an R or a PG-13 that is the director's uncut version or a TV movie that doesn't have a rating.

The big up side, though, is that now I only buy movies when I know I will love them. It's fabulous.

So, how many of you are Netflixers? What do you like about it? Dislike?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday's Photolife--Reflections

The picture I used in Wednesday's post (the flags reflected in the WWII memorial) made me think of talking about the importance of keeping the possibilities of reflections in mind when taking pictures. Personally, I love reflections. They make great abstracts or often increase the impact of the original. (Pictures from our recent trip to DC)
Any reflective surface will do. Here's one from the Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian.
An airplane engine reflecting the trees outside and the museum across the mall.
The capital.
Sometimes the reflection alone says something lovely.
The Washington, DC temple. Combining the juxtaposition (ode to Candice's post) of natural and geometric/man-made elements and reflections.

Applying it to writing? Is it nice to use a reflection in our writing when appropriate? We need to be careful not to overuse them, but I think they can be effective. I understand that agents don't like them at the beginning because they are kind of cliché, but how about later? I have one later in my WIP when my MC is freaked out and runs to the bathroom, splashes water on her face and looks at her reflection. What do you think? Does that sound okay?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday's Wonders--Veterans

For my inaugural Wednesday's Wonders post, it is fitting that I should start on Veteran's Day.
(Taken at the WWII Memorial in Annapolis, MD)

It's always been an extra celebrated day in my house. I have a brother whose birthday is November 11 and an uncle as well. I have many relatives who have served in the armed services. (My father being one.) I have an uncle who died in WWII, one who died as a result of injuries sustained in WWII, and other uncles injured in WWII and Korea. Okay. I'll grant you I had a lot of uncles. My father had 5 brothers and 2 sisters. 4 brothers and one sister (as a nurse) served in WWII. Odds were pretty high that someone would be lost, and someone was.

It's interesting that I never knew how he died until a couple years ago. No one wanted to talk about it, and the only reason my father finally did talk about it was that he didn't want his sacrifice lost to posterity. If you are interested, last year around Veteran's Day I posted about one uncle who told us how he was shot in the war. He totally lied. Here's that post.

In my home we always honored veterans, especially from our family. The sacrifices they made and make for us fill me with wonder. I'm grateful for those who saved us from the likes of Hitler and continue working to make this world a safer place to live.

No matter what our politics we should honor those who give their time and talents and sometimes their lives to keep us safe.

Bless you, Veterans! You are a wonder.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Introducing... My new plan

I thought it would be fun to try some official structure on my blog since eliminating my book reviews. As long as it's working this will be my plan.

Monday's Montage: A mixed-bag of whatever strikes my fancy--like today introducing my new blog plan. This is where I'll make recommendations of things I love. (For those who will miss the book reviews and want to know what I think about certain books join me on

Wednesday's Wonders: Things in the world that inspire me. Here I'll include stories or ideas about nature or man's inventiveness, whatever makes my heart sing.

Friday's Photolife: Photos I take (how and why) and what I think writers can draw from them.

What do y'all think so far? Am I on the right track? Is this stuff you'd like to hear about?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wednesday≠Book Review Time

I've been writing so much this last week that I've not read a book to review. I've actually been toying with the idea of discontinuing my book reviews and only writing recommendations when I have them. I would recommend whatever strikes my fancy. Shoes. CDs. Movies. Recipes. TV shows. Paints. Books, of course. Whatever. Something like Friday Fabs. What do y'all think?

BTW: Huzzah for the writing! It is moving along swimmingly. *Cue the Hallelujah Chorus*

Monday, November 2, 2009

Candy explosion

I'm looking for good ideas of what to do with all the candy I have left over from Halloween. There were hardly any trick or treaters because of the rain, and I can't have it staring me in the face any more. I'll just eat it. It keeps calling to me from the cauldron.

Yesterday, a friend was telling me she plans to chop it up, freeze it, and use it as ice cream toppings. Great idea, huh? I plan on doing that with some of it, but there's way too much for just that, so I thought I'd throw the question out there to my bloggy friends. You guys are very creative. What else should I do with all this candy?

Friday, October 30, 2009

The foreground

When you're taking a picture, it's important to look at more than just the subject. Ask yourself: Can there be more to this picture than just the subject? For my first picture here my family went to DC last weekend, and we were walking to the Jefferson Memorial. I liked the Washington Monument reflected in the water even though it was pretty far away. I included the trees for some depth.

For this next picture we were approaching the Memorial, and I wanted to include some color and visual contrast. The hard, straight, classical forms of the Memorial juxtaposed with the natural forms of the trees.

When we write, it's important to include these kinds of comparisons. When setting up a scene, don't forget to include contrasting elements or things in the foreground, so to speak, to provide a depth of field.

Have a great weekend everyone. AND. Happy Halloween.

FYI. I'm making some progress with my writing at long last. *Happy Dance*

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--More than just a maze

Up for today: THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner

Why I bought it? A bloggy friend recommended it on her blog, and when I saw it at the BN I snagged it.

Synopsis: Thomas wakes up in a dark elevator with all his memories erased. All he knows about himself is his first name. When the elevator stops an all boy group pulls him out the top, and he begins his new life in the glade. It is surrounded by a maze that is only open during the day because of the dangerous creatures that come out at night. The boys are trying to find a way out--a way home, but is home any better than where they are? So far one boy a month has arrived like clockwork. With Thomas' arrival things start to change.

What I thought? Here's a great book for boys. With the cast 99% boy it's a no brainer, but it is a book that girls can enjoy as well. This story is completely engrossing--unique enough that you don't know what to expect next. There always seemed to be one more twist in the road. The writing is brisk and well done.

My Rating: ****1/2 out of 5

Cleanness Score: 6 out of 10, This is mostly for violence. There is a fair amount of death from the monsters in the maze (It's not a vague threat.), so this is not for the squeamish. I can say with confidence that there were no American swear words. The author seemed to get around that by making up his own (interesting concept) and using a couple British ones.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

FYI: Unplugged

In case any of you are wondering, I've joined the crowd of third week unpluggers. So, officially, I'm not blogging this week, but, as you can see, I've made an exception to give you a heads up. It's been good. I've actually been making some progress with my WIP.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Where's the light?

There have been a few posts lately that I've read asking about whether writers are drawn to other types of art. As my regular readers know, I'm a HUGE fan of photography and used to do posts comparing photography with writing. I've decided to bring that regular feature back to my blog. I can't help myself. I've missed it. Maybe you have too.

A lot of people may think that the subject is the most important part of any given picture. While it's true that the subject is the focal point of the picture and may even be the reason the picture was taken, for a truly masterful picture it's all about the light. What is the source of the light? What is it illuminating? How bright is it? How does it color the subject?
Bright light can be very harsh on the subject.

Same subject (our lovely daughter), same beach backdrop but this time as the sun is setting. Notice the difference in the skin tones. See how her eyes stand out.

Here are some pretty colors, but this one is lacking something.
Illuminate it with a little light from behind. It makes a more powerful statement.

What you do with your light depends on what your goal is. Sometimes you want to show the leaf.
Sometimes you want to emphasize the hole in the leaf. That's the same leaf at the same time of day. One with the light behind me, the other with the light behind the leaf. In the first one you don't even notice the hole, but it's there.

How do we illuminate our stories? Do we use light at all? Do we shine harsh light on the subjects or let a gentle glowing reveal them to our readers? Do we show our characters in different lights and different angles to give a complete picture of who they are--flaws and all? How important is light to your story? Is it a symbol you use? For mine it is very important. It is a source of truth. It reveals hidden elements. It helps the MC see her path and follow it.

Just a few things to think about.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--Austen fantasy

Up for today: AUSTENLAND by Shannon Hale

Austenland: A Novel

Why I bought it? I really enjoy Shannon Hale's writing. I love Jane Austen. I was curious to see what Hale would do with the idea. I'd seen mixed reviews for it, but still figured I'd give it a try. I looked around for it at bookstores while I was there, but no one ever seemed to have it in stock. In the end, I ordered it from Amazon.

Synopsis: Jane Hayes has been obsessed with Mr. Darcy for years. Her relationships never seem to measure up. She receives a non-refundable gift of a 3 week stay at a Jane Austen experience retreat. She decides to try for love one last time before she gives up men forever.

What I thought? It was charming. Hale's voice makes this fun and witty. It could have deteriorated into something sentimental and sappy, but Hale never lets it. There are interesting twists and turns and unexpected things popping up. In a book like this, when you think you know what to expect, it was fun not to.

My Rating: ****1/2 out of 5

Cleanness Score: 3 out of 10, It's all pretty tame. I can't remember any language, but there may have been the occasional mild word. There was a bit of gratuitous make-out kissing, but nothing explicit.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Using my ears

I've discovered a new way to exist. Oh the joy of getting tons done while "reading." I'm doing laundry--folding clothes, sorting socks, putting things away--and reading. I'm cleaning my kitchen, my bedroom, whatever is in front of me and reading. I'm cooking dinner and washing dishes and reading. Oh the possibilities. The tasks get done almost without me realizing it. What the heck? You may ask. Audiobooks, baby!

So far, I've downloaded only one book to my iPod (and it's a long one), but, with all this new productivity, I can see I'll be doing this a lot more often. This could especially be good for rereads.

The reader for the book I'm listening to right now is absolutely amazing. I just can't get over it. He has different accents and slight variations of tone and voice for the myriads of people when they talk.

I can't believe I've never done this before. I am funny about the whole reading process. I love a book in my hands, and this will not replace that entirely. But. For a busy mom, this makes the drudgery jobs so much better.

Audiobooks=A spoonful of sugar!

So how many of you have given audiobooks a try? Do you like them or hate them?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--Feeling sick?

Up for today: THE GREAT INFLUENZA by John M. Barry

Product Details

Why I bought it? It was October's choice for my book club. I was excited about it. It sounded interesting. I ordered it online from Amazon along with several others.

Synopsis: It explains the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. How it happened. The medical environment of the time. The primary players in infectious diseases research prior to and during the epidemic/pandemic. The role of WWI in the spread of the virus.

What I thought? The research that went into this book was astounding. Barry went into a lot of detail. He had some great explanations of what happens in the spreading of influenza. I appreciated his point by point descriptions of what the H and the N refer to--as in H1N1 flu and how we classify different flu strains. I enjoyed hearing about the doctors who were trying to come up with vaccines or cures for the flu. Barry went into their personalities and personal histories fairly extensively. It was all very interesting. I really can't fault him for most of the things he included. I learned a ton. I did find, though, that it was pretty disjointed. He was kind of all over the place. I can understand. It is a huge undertaking with lots of players, but still I was glad to be done with it when it was over. I got annoyed at the way it was written until I started approaching it as random research notes. Barry's writing style didn't do much for me either. Sometimes his sentences were all turned around. Parts of it were brilliant, and parts of it were deadly dull. If you can stand the repetitions and the writing problems, it is a good thing to read. It really gets you thinking about what happened then, the impact it had on the world, and the possibility of it happening again and how prepared we are for it. That part is chilling.

My Rating: *** out of 5

Cleanness Score: 6 out of 10, This is mostly for the horror of what happened when the pandemic was in full force.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rock on!

Happy Monday, everyone! I read a few posts about music last week and thought it would be fun to share some of my faves. I LOVE LOVE LOVE music. It moves me like nothing else can. I play the piano and the trumpet, and I sing--solo and in groups, but most especially with gusto when I'm riding around listening to music in the car. I totally rock those bucket seats and make the windows rattle!

I listen to just about all types of music. From classical to pop to jazz to country to rock to broadway to big band (in fact, I used to play in a big band) to alternative rock to folk and on and on. I write with music. I make song lists for my WIPs and listen to them while I'm writing. I have music without words for when I'm editing. I can't imagine the world without music.

The posts I've seen about music have listed seven of their favorite songs. I'll try to keep it to that, but just know that I could be listing all day on this one. So in no particular order:

1. Vindicated by Dashboard Confessional (which happens to be the #1 most played on my iPod, so, apparently, there is something to the order here but not much.)
2. Butterflies and Hurricanes by Muse
3. The Reason by Hoobastank
4. Kryptonite by 3 doors down
5. Trouble Me by 10,000 Maniacs
6. Feeling Good by Michael Bublé
7. Ain't Misbehavin' by Louis Armstrong
8. Sing, Sing, Sing by Louis Prima (Performed by The Benny Goodman Orchestra)
--already feeling constrained. I should have just done my favorites from the last year. How can anyone pick only 7 songs from a whole world of music.
9. Have a Nice Day by Bon Jovi
10. Stormy Weather by Lena Horne
11. To Make You Feel My Love by Garth Brooks
--ok. I'm going to have to drag myself away. This is such an inadequate list. I don't think I could call it my top favorites, but it is a list of songs that I really love. It doesn't even make a dent in the possible choices. Sigh!
But what about
12. Keep your hands to yourself by The Calling
13. Storm by Lifehouse
and what about... my favorites to sing O Divine Redeemer by Gounod and On My Own from Les Miserables *drags self away from the list of songs sputtering that I've left out the best ones*

Friday, October 2, 2009


I don't want to offend anyone, but lately this has really been bugging me. I thought I'd just throw it out there on my tiny platform and see what the rest of you think.

I know Americans are notorious for expecting people to speak English around the world. They have a bad reputation. How egocentric are we? If Americans live abroad, I think they should learn the language of the country they are in. The people of the world seem to give us a pretty wide latitude. I'm guessing there are plenty of them that resent it though.

I find that we are not the only ones unwilling to speak another language. It really bothers me that there are people who move to the US (taking advantage of the things this country has to offer) and don't learn English. The language we speak in this country is English. I know that seems silly, and I feel people will think I'm heartless. I am not. Really. I'm considerate. I promise.

I understand the difficulty. I've been in the same situation. When I first arrived in France, I had only had a crash course in French. Getting around and communicating were real challenges. There were days I was so frustrated and confused that I just wanted to cry. (I did some days.) I made tons of mistakes (some of them very funny and a couple inadvertently quite profane), but eventually I learned the language. When I did, my experiences there became much richer. I was so much happier. It didn't take me long either. After a couple months I could carry on conversations about lots of subjects and get around pretty easily. After a year I could talk with anyone about anything. I didn't always understand every word, but I knew enough that I could ask for explanations and definitions. It's amazing how much people will help you when they see you are trying and how much you can learn if you try.

To me it just stands to reason that if you move to a country where you don't speak the language, you learn the language of the country you are in. That country shouldn't have to learn your language just so you feel at home. I think how much I would have missed out on if I'd had that attitude in France and Switzerland. It's important to adapt, and life is better for you when you do. I grew to appreciate the beauty of the French language, the pride the people have in it and saw how much they respect those who work to learn it.

It's not that hard to learn a foreign language, especially when you are completely immersed in it--when you are living in the country and surrounded by it every day. When I spent 3 weeks in Mexico I spoke to people in Spanish as much as I could, and by the time I came home my Spanish had improved tremendously.

I know everyone is not linguistically inclined, and English can be a real challenge as languages go, but anyone can learn another language if they try. I don't expect perfection. I just want communication and respect for the language of my forefathers. English.

Is it too much to ask?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--more of the post-apocalyptics

Up for today: GONE by Michael Grant

Product Details

Why I bought it? Searching for something new at the bookstore, the cover caught my attention. I read the blurb on the back and was intrigued. Sold.

Synopsis: I don't want to give too many spoilers because part of the fun of this book is the unraveling of the details. In the first few pages you know pretty much everything here. Everyone 15 years old and older disappear. They are just gone. Poof. The kids are left to deal with daily life on their own with the danger of bullies becoming dictators, mutating animals, starvation, neglect, and some kids (evil and good) developing powers. It's a world gone mad. It reminded me of Lord of the Flies except this one includes everyone 14 and under. Babies too.

What I thought? It started out extremely well and after a while got incredibly gross (which for me was okay), then it got bogged down in all the side stories the author included. The concept was great, the execution flawed--at times a page turner, at times a bore. I checked out ratings overall on BN and Amazon thinking I was being overly harsh, and maybe I am, but I found the prose clunky in lots of spots, and the plot meandering. Some people loved it (mostly younger readers as far as I could tell). I liked it enough that I have bought the second, but I'm not dying to read it. I'm just sort of interested. I'd like to see where the story goes, but in researching a bit for this review I found out there are going to be at least 4 books in this series. If the writing doesn't get better, I'm not sure I'll be able to stand it. I'll withhold that judgement until after I've read the second one: Hunger.

My Rating: *** out of 5

Cleanness Score: 6 out of 10, no sex and little language, but the violence is high, very high.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Watching the Monarch

I have just finished watching a series that I found on Netflix that has delighted me so much I thought I'd share. It's called Monarch of the Glen. It's by BBC Scotland. Anybody else seen it?
Set in the Scottish Highlands, it tells the story of the Laird of Glenbogle and his family and their attempts to save the Estate.
The story is fun and lively with plenty of poignant moments and lots of quirky characters. One of my favorites is Golly the Gilly.
Humor abounds. There were some shows where I was laughing so hard and then crying. It's a great journey. Plus, it's really tame for those who are especially looking for that. It was primetime tv in Scotland, so it was something the whole family could watch.

The biggest stars of the show are the castle and especially the Highlands.
They are absolutely gorgeous
and the cinematography
really shows them off.

Just a few glimpses for you.
Give it a try sometime.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--on fire again

Up for today: CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins

Product Details

Why I bought it? It's the sequel to The Hunger Games, and I loved that book. I've been anxious to read it, since I read the first one. I pre-ordered it through Amazon, and it came at the beginning of the month.

Synopsis: I don't want this to be a spoiler for those of you who haven't read the first one, so let's just say that it continues the story begun in The Hunger Games. (Follow the link to see the synopsis I gave for it.)

What I thought? I was very worried that this would not measure up to the first book. It did though. It was fantastic. I was completely absorbed and caught up in this world again. Catching Fire was un-put-downable. It was intense and compelling. I can't wait for book 3. (Except I'm going to have to. I'm guessing it will be another year.) If you haven't read The Hunger Games, what are you waiting for? If you have, you've probably already read Catching Fire (and if you haven't because you're worried it will let you down, don't. You're good.)

My Rating: ***** out of 5, This was such an easy choice. It was that good.

Cleanness Score: 5 out of 10. This is mostly for violence. It was not as violent as the first book and didn't have as many disturbing images, but it's still not for the younger readers out there.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What's better?

I've been thinking a lot lately about how literary or complex I want to make my story. Of course, visuals come to mind for me. Is it better to make the story intricate and decorative like this window,
exciting and commercial like this ferris wheel,
or simple and organic like this camellia.

Is one better than the others because of the type of image it is? Does one appeal to more people than the others? Hmmm.

Is one type of writing inherently better because it has tons of literary devices? Or is another because it appeals to a huge audience? If one appeals to a large group but has very little or no literary devices does that make it bad writing? I'm just sitting here wondering about the depths of my writing. Will I be judged harshly if I choose to make my writing less literary?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--learning the craft

Up for today: CHARACTERS AND VIEWPOINT by Orson Scott Card

Product Details

Why I bought it? I attended Card's writing class in the summer, and lots of students there had the book and kept referring to it thinking it was great.

Synopsis: This is one in a series of books on writing by different authors put out by Writer's Digest. Card goes into his theories about what makes characters compelling and the positives and negatives of different types of viewpoints.

What I thought? It was an excellent review of the course I took--more in depth with more examples. The thing that I especially liked about this book was how practical and down to earth it was. It has been incredibly helpful to me in evaluating what I'm doing right and wrong in my writing. The questions he tells us to ask ourselves have been invaluable in helping me make my work better. There were several times when I was reading a section on mistakes beginners make, and I saw my own work in his examples. In recognizing myself I could pinpoint some of my weaknesses. At least, I found the solutions along with the problems. So! Yea! Some of the examples are a bit dated, since it was written quite a few years ago, but they are still understandable (and I don't think it's just because I'm a bit older).

My daughter's thoughts--While I was reading it, Elizabeth kept looking at the book with longing. She'd ask, "You're still not finished with that?" I was taking my time, highlighting, reviewing, and processing/digesting. When I finished, I handed it over, and she jumped right in. She says it has been extremely helpful and is taking her time working through it just as I did. Her rating: 4-5 stars--she wouldn't commit, since she still hadn't finished when I asked.

My Rating: ***** out of 5, I went online to see what others thought for this one (I was afraid I might have been biased because I had taken his class), and on Amazon it has a 4 1/2 star average rating with 75 people weighing in. So there you have it. I suppose I'm not any more biased than other people.

Cleanness Score: 4 out of 10, There's a little bit of language but not much and not strong words, and there are a few examples that are fairly racy but not explicit.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Bruschetta and a birthday

Saturday I finally made that Bruschetta from Julie and Julia. Here's the recipe I actually followed. Well mostly. The visuals of my steps looked just like hers. Amazing. It was incredibly delicious. The hubby was just as thrilled as I was. I didn't sauté the tomatoes or add the chunks of fresh mozzarella this time, but I think I will next time just to see what the difference is. I think part of the key is the different types of tomatoes. I especially liked the dark green looking one. I also tried it with 2 different kinds of bread. Regular French and Sourdough. They were each good in their own way. My husband liked the sourdough best. I was on the fence. I would try the sourdough and think, "Oh, I like this best," and then I'd try the french and think, "I don't know, maybe this one is better." Davin, this is very similar to yours, eh? 

Today my daughter who helps me with reviews on here sometimes is 15! It's very exciting and scary. She is getting her permit and has dedicated much of the last month to studying, etc., to make it happen. Watch out world! I hope my nerves hold up. Actually, she's very responsible, and her driver's ed teacher praised her tons. That makes me feel better about the whole thing. Whew!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Changing POV

My wrist is getting better slowly but surely. Yea!

Today, I thought I'd share a little about what's happening with my writing. I had originally written my story in 1st person, but as I've been learning more and more about the writing process and what works best for most stories, I've come to realize that this particular novel should be told in 3rd person. I've started over and am taking things from a 3rd person POV with the same POV character and only her (I considered having 2 POV characters but for now have decided against it), and it is making a big difference. 

I had my daughter read over what I have so far, and she says she likes it better. It's so nice to know that it's working. I'm so grateful for the advice that I have gotten about this in my class I took over the summer and the book I just read (I'll review it next week and talk a lot more about it.) and those of you who have chatted with me to help.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--Tedium

You'll have to forgive me today. This will be brief. I have sprained my wrist and typing is a pain. Literally.

Up for today: THE MAGICIANS AND MRS. QUENT by Galen Beckett
The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett: Book Cover
Why I bought it?  We were reading it for September's selection in my book club.

Synopsis:   It was really a combination of  Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre with a fantasy twist. It was set on an foreign planet that had days and nights of varying lengths in a society had early 19th century manners and conventions.

What I thought? Now, I'm one who loves a twist on Austen and Bronte. I've read a ton of them, and I had high hopes for this one. It sounded strange, but I figured it could be really cool.  The friend in the book club who suggested it had said it was great. As I read I kept thinking I was missing something. She had said it was slow starting and that it would pick up, so I waited for it to pick up. It did ever so slightly. It was slow starting. Slow developing and slow wrapping things up. Plus there were a lot of things that were never wrapped up. It's the first in a trilogy. Ugh! There were some neat twists, but I found the language (It was trying to sound like early 19th century prose.) pretty distracting and unclear at times. It was a real slog. Beckett was slow to get to almost every important point, and then he'd often make it again in a slow, round about way like someone telling someone else about it. Ugh! Again! The ideas for this story were interesting, but it was not a fun read for me. It could have been reduced in length by at least a third and been much better. 498 pages. It was only my determination to finish it that got me to the end. 

My rating: ** out of 5. Just barely. There were enough intriguing story points to keep it from the dreaded one star status. It just didn't cut it for me. The friend who recommended it didn't like it as well on second reading.

Cleanness Score: 4 out of 10. This is a book intended for grown ups, and it's pretty clean for an adult book. There are some violent things and a couple of references to rapes.

NB: We discovered in our book club that even though this is advertised as a debut novel, it really isn't. The actual author is Mark Anthony (and that's not Marc Anthony) who has already had several books published, but this book is a departure in genre and so he's taken a pen name for it, and this is the first book under this pen name.

Oh well, sorry. It wasn't that brief. 

Friday, September 4, 2009

I'm ready to cook

I've been on a cooking jag ever since I saw the movie Julie and Julia on Saturday.
Y'all have to go see this one. I made my sweet husband go with me, and there was so much humor in it that he actually enjoyed it.
Meryl Streep is amazing as usual, 
 Amy Adams does a fantastic job too. In fact, the whole cast is great. 
Stanley Tucci too.
That night I tried to pick up Mastering the Art of French Cooking at the Barnes and Noble and was totally denied.
 Here's the real Julie with her book that was made into the movie. That one was there.

Apparently a lot of other people are having the same reaction to the movie. The BN was sold out. When I got home I ordered it on Amazon. I was supposed to get it on Tues., but, Ack!, when I was checking the tracking of it, there was a huge delay. The updated delivery date was the 10th. Wow! The whole country must be trying to get this book, but joy of all joys, it came yesterday! Yippee! 
I can now cook with Julia! Heehee! There's one big problem though. That colossal bruschetta that Julie makes at the beginning of the movie isn't going to be in the cookbook. I want the recipe for that! It's what started my mouth drooling sitting in the theater. It looks simple enough, but I want the details! Maybe I should google it. So I'm off to see what I can find. Bon appétit! And happy long weekend! 

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--Tea anyone?

Up for today:  THREE CUPS OF TEA by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson: Book Cover

Why I bought it? I had heard it recommended over and over. I had seen it at the book store a few times and almost gotten it. I was running errands with my daughter at Target and stopped by the books and finally grabbed it. The cover above is the one I got although I really like the other two covers I found. I included them so you could see. As most of you know, I'm a big fan of a good cover. The funny thing about this book to me is that I kept thinking it was a novel. I never actually read the blurb on the back (which I practically always do). For those that don't already know, it's not a novel at all.

Three Cups of Tea by David Oliver Relin: Book Cover

Synopsis:  Mortenson was a climber in his younger years and made an attempt at K2. He got separated from his group and turned around. He failed to reach the summit. The altitude and cold were taking their toll, and he started feeling bad and tried to go back down to their last base camp area. He missed the path to it and ended up in a little village that changed the course of his life. They nursed him back to health, and before he left he promised to build them a school. He was not a wealthy man, so he had to figure out how to raise the money. This book shares Mortenson's amazing perseverance and charisma that has brought 55 (in 2006) schools to some of the poorest people in the world--in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In a lot of ways he's fighting the war on terror with education.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson: Book Cover

What I thought? I was blown away by all that Mortenson has accomplished--how dedicated he was to making it happen. He's a rare breed of person. He saw a need and has dedicated his life to filling that need. If only there were more people like him in the world! The author is actually Relin. He recounts Mortenson's story. There were times I was put off by his way of telling things, but the story is such a compelling one that I let a lot of that slide. A friend of mine gave up on it though, because she found it too slow moving. I didn't really have that problem. I wouldn't pass this book up for that. I would say, if you start getting bogged down, just skim to where things pick up again. Finding out what Mortenson has accomplished is worth it. It was quite an education into the world of Islam and the Taliban, etc., as well, which I think all Americans need. 

My Rating: **** out of 5 stars. It probably gets that many because of how much respect I now have for Mortenson and his compassion and triumphs.

Cleanness Score: 4 out of 10, This is mostly for violent situations. 

Monday, August 31, 2009


I got an award last week from the sweet Pen Pen. I feel so honored. Yea me! I'm just feeling so London Tipton. I'm a superior scribler. 

Whew! Who knew? I'm also a rule breaker so as per my rebellious nature, I will not be following the rules for the award. Mwa haha!

I will however pick out the 5 blogs I follow that have helped me most lately. So in no particular order:

There's always a great discussion going on over there.

Tess gives up to the minute advice about working with her agent and submissions, plus she does contests.

Michelle is one of the most supportive people on the net encouraging us all to do our best writing and giving us some great tools to do it with.

I love Natalie's amazing insights. Seeing her writing life helps keep me going.

Beth's book reviews and interviews are very helpful and the classroom antics keep me laughing.

If you haven't checked them out yet you should. 

Friday, August 28, 2009

What a week!

I was so determined to be back on track with my blogging, but... Yikes! I should have thought about the first week back to school. With my youngest, it was no problem. She's going to the local elementary, so there's really only the homework time when she gets home that is extra. Oh! but with the 2 middle kids, my homeschoolers, time has been eaten up completely. 

It's been nice, though, getting back into discussions of Charlemagne and feudalism and whatever comes up. The whole getting organized and signing up for classes has overrun my days. (I didn't even get a whole book read this week. For those of you who know me, you know what that means.) I think things will actually be a lot lighter now that we're all in motion

I was really worried about trying to teach a High Schooler (aaaaaaaaaak!), but I found an accredited HS transcript program online through a University where she can eventually take college credits in HS. It is working out really well, and she's loving it. (Well, all except the math) Whew! She's even getting to take a Philosophy class (Oh boy! Her first objective in there distilled down to something like--learn the elements of an argument and improve your arguing skills. Oh great! She's already really good at that. It's all I need. But, hey, she'll be reading Plato and Descartes.) and Japanese that she's been working on learning for a while now. (Of course, she picks a language I know nothing about. Languages are my thing. That's what I taught in high school. It would be so easy to help her through French, Latin, Spanish, even German some, but noooooo! She has to learn Japanese. I've had to find her a tutor. She has her first session with the tutor today. Crosses fingers that all will go well.) Actually, I'm happy for her. I want her to be able to study about what she loves. That's a big part of the upside of homeschool to me. 

I hope all of you with kids in school are getting back into your routines! 

Friday, August 21, 2009

I've got a question for you...

I took a writing class with Orson Scott Card a few weeks ago. One of the things he encouraged us to do rings true, but it also disagrees with so many of the things I've been taught about writing and rewriting and editing. I thought I'd ask you guys what you thought about it.

He feels that the best way to proceed through writing a book is from the beginning to the end--to make what you have right and good before you move on. He doesn't believe in multiple drafts. That's not to say that you don't let things flow when you're being creative, but, as I understood him, he feels that the story is freshest and best in the first draft. With editing you can kill what makes the story vibrant. He advocates rewriting as you go and making the story what you want before you move on to the next element. He says what we need to do is make our first draft the final draft--that if things start getting off track we should go back straight away and fix them. Don't put it off for later. Don't skip ahead. Make it work or change it before you move on.

This doesn't mean you don't go through it at the end and make grammatical corrections and small adjustments, but for him when he types the final page the MS is done. The story is what it must be. 

What do you think of that approach? There's a lot in me that says it's a wonderful way to proceed. I wish I could do it, but I like the idea of being able to go back and fix things later. It frees me up to let things flow. I'm afraid I can't get it right the first time through. Is that just a cop out? Is it just my insecurities that makes me think I have to do multiple drafts? Have any of you written from beginning to end correcting as you go without tons of drafts?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--my first Anne Tyler

Up for today: BACK WHEN WE WERE GROWNUPS by Anne Tyler

Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler: Download Cover

Why I bought it? A well-read, discerning friend recommended it as one of the best books he'd ever read. The next time I went to the BN I bought it and immediately read it.

Synopsis:  Rebecca Davitch begins by questioning who she has become--if she is her true self. She's 53 and wondering if she should have traveled a different path through life. Her husband that led her into her current path had died many years before leaving her to continue in his family without him. She does, even though it takes her out of her comfort zone. Her life since has been out of her comfort zone and she wonders if life would be better if she went back to what comes natural to her. She decides to give it a try by looking up her high school sweetheart, the man who was perfectly suited for her. 

What I thought?  Tyler is amazing at writing daily interaction in a family. She's captures it completely. The story is extremely well written. I was a little put off by the nicknames of so many of the characters. It made it hard to figure out who was who at first, but after a while I got it. There was a lot of humor. I came to care about the characters slowly, and by the end, it surprised me how much I was invested in them. Some books I've read lately are wonderful the first time through but less so with repeated readings. This is the kind of book that I think will get better with a second reading. It's rich with depth and resonates truth. I'm a new convert to Anne Tyler. How have I never read any of her books so far in my life? What have I been reading? I'll be reading many more in the future. 

My rating: ****1/2 out of 5 

Cleanness Score: 4 out of 10. There is a little language but not much. This score is mostly for adult situations and themes. There is nothing indiscrete really, but the book is intended for grownups. 

Monday, August 17, 2009

I'm back!

Hello! It's been a crazy summer around here! How about you guys? I'm finally making myself buckle down and post. Back in May I thought I was going to get so much done in the summer. Lots of writing and thinking and creating. I was full of hope. That was my word for the year, and I was full of it. On the other end of the summer I realize I was just full of it, and I don't mean hope.

I promise I didn't just abandon you for nothing. I've been chaperoning and driving kids--camps and conferences and lessons and friends, oh my! Hosting visitors and being hosted. I attended a writing class (yea for me! It was very informative and helpful. I even have some new story ideas to work on--one I'm particularly excited about.) Planned, organized, and put on activities for teens and sometimes younger. A friend and I wrote a script for a skit and helped the kids perform it. (They did a fantastic job and stole the show at the skit night. Someone who didn't realize I had helped write it went on and on about how much she and everyone else loved it. What greater compliment, eh?) I could keep going, but I think you're getting the picture. I'm beginning to realize as my kids get older my summer gets more and more devoted to what they need me to do. Such is life. I'm thinking that for the next 10 years my summers will not be my own. (My youngest is 8.)

For those of you who don't already know, I received an award from Beth Revis! Woohoo! I'm her blog of the month for August. Aren't you impressed?
Here's my award. I feel really honored. I appreciate all of you new followers who have come over from Beth's. If you haven't already read her post featuring an interview with me, check it out. I almost feel famous. She interviews real published authors and everything. I promise I'm getting my show back on the road and will have posts coming on a regular schedule. Summer's over, and it's time to get back to work.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--another Dessen

Up for today: ALONG FOR THE RIDE by Sarah Dessen

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen by Vette R Awesome

Why I bought it? For those of you who have been following my book reviews you know that Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite YA authors. There's just something about her storytelling that sucks me in and won't let go, so I've been eagerly awaiting this book. It just came out in June, and I ran by the Barnes and Noble and picked it up. 

Synopsis: Auden has grown up as a mini-adult. Always responsible. Always studious. When her parents divorced she started having trouble going to sleep. As a result she stays up into the wee hours of the morning. In the summer after her senior year she goes to stay with her father and step-mother in the small beach town where they live before going off to college. She finds a guy there who also can't sleep. He helps her start a quest to experience some of the things she missed in her childhood. 

What I thought? As always it was well written. Dessen is a master of literary commercial YA. She makes the story fun and tells it in such a way that it is hard to put down, but there is a depth to what she tells that reaches in and grabs you--makes you think and feel. This one did not disappoint. I wouldn't say it was my favorite, but it was still very good. Also it was fun to revisit a few old friends and places. If you're not familiar with Dessen's writing she always has some sort of cameo of characters and places from earlier novels. It's not necessary to have read those novels to enjoy this book.

My Rating: ****1/2

Cleanness Score:  4 out of 10. There was a little language, but not much. I've found that her books have gotten cleaner as they've gone. Her earlier novels seems to have more language, etc. than the later ones. There is fighting/arguing/family discord and references to hooking up (you don't really have the descriptions of what specifically happens). 

Friday, July 3, 2009

Banging the Bowl

This morning my alarm was a banging metal bowl. In my dream it sounded as a gong a few times before I realized what it was. We have family visiting and I thought someone was playing around being loud. I went to the kitchen to ask whoever it was to quit playing around and making so much noise and lo and behold... It was my 14 year old daughter (who loves sleeping in) making pancakes for everyone. She woke up before she was called. Before me. Bless her heart! To serve the family. My heart just swells. Sometimes your kids surprise you. Sometimes you get to see that they are growing up. Sometimes they humble you. It is a wonderful thing! 

Happy Friday everyone! Have a great 4th of July!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--Will the real princess please stand up?

Up for today:   PALACE OF MIRRORS by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Palace of Mirrors by Margaret Peterson Haddix: Book Cover

Why I bought it? My daughter and I were book shopping and I thought she might enjoy it. I like Haddix. I especially enjoyed her "Among the Hidden" series. This is sort of a sequel to Just Ella but not really. Ella is in it eventually. I had enjoyed that book too, so I thought it could be a fun read for me as well.

Synopsis:  Cecilia is a princess in hiding. A knight comes and gives her classes in ruling and Latin, etc. Desmia, a commoner is in the palace as a decoy to keep her safe from those who killed her parents. When someone shows up in her little village to capture her she escapes with her best friend, Harper, and goes to reclaim her crown. Will Desmia be glad to just step aside and give Cecilia her crown?

What I thought? In pure Haddix style there are some major twists. I knew she liked to do this and was completely surprised anyway. It was a fun read especially because of the twists. I really enjoyed the role that Ella played when she showed up. It's not your standard Princess story. If you liked Just Ella you will like this too. (You don't have to have read it to follow the story, but it does help you enjoy Ella's role more.)

My Rating: ****1/2 out of 5

Cleanness Score: 2 out of 10, Other than her being pretty dirty most of the book, it is a clean read. Heehee! I can't remember any language and the 2 is for situational things that little kids might not get and a bit of violence. Nothing bad though. It seems more MG than YA, but I think your YAs would really enjoy it. I did.