Friday, January 30, 2009

Red light, Green light

My daughter keeps insisting that I do my 10 pet peeves of driving, so I thought I'd do it this morning. I started looking for pictures I have of roads and traffic, etc., and when I saw this one, another idea struck, so... Sorry, Sweetie! Pet peeves postponed!

Here's a trip down my thought processes lane. Buckle your seat belts it can be a scary ride. 

Red light-->oh, NY-->I love that shot-->stop-->inhibitions-->What makes me stop writing?-->

So here's a list of 5 the things that red light me (There are way more. These are a few highlights.) and how I get the green light shining:

1.  Steinbeck--a few years ago when I writing and making progress with a story, I read East of Eden. It seriously stopped my writing cold with feelings of complete unworthiness. At that time it was Steinbeck, but any incredible wordsmith can do that to me, so I try not to read their works when I'm writing.

2. Trying to write something different than what is in me. I write YA. A while back a published author friend of mine was telling me that her agent was searching for novels for adult women--that was what was hot. I started trying to make myself write for that. I got so frustrated that I stopped writing again. Now, I just let the story that I want to tell come out and hope for the best with the agent/publishing side of things.

3. Blogging--I talked about that last week, and I'm controlling that one pretty well. Yippee!

4.  Distractions--I'm very easily distracted by so many things that, when I set aside time for writing, I have to eliminate all that I can. No internet with email pinging me in the background, no TV, no children interrupting. That's where the music helps me. When I did my post about music, I was surprised at how many found it a distraction. To me it covers up the distractions. It really doesn't make sense, does it?

5.  Plot stagnation--Last year, I got to talking with another published author friend about a story of my daughter's that I loved. She had lost interest in continuing with it, and he said that whenever that happens to him he goes back in the story (a chapter or however long it takes) until the story feels "true" again, and then he picks up from there and lets the story take him in a different direction where it really "wants" to go. And that usually jumpstarts him. This got me thinking about something that I had been working on that had stagnated. I followed his advice, and, I have to say, it's some of the best writing advice I've ever gotten. If my book ever gets published, he'll definitely be getting a shout out.

What gives you a red light? and how do you make it green?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--What's your favorite?

After last week's book, I'm not feeling inspired to review. I've been rereading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and writing and editing (and for me it's hard to do a lot of reading when I'm writing) so this week appears to be a bust for anything new.  As I reread, though, I'm reminded that the beginning is not as funny as later, so don't give up early. Once you meet the Society members the story really takes off.

I'd love to hear what some of your all-time favorite books and authors are. What keeps your nose in a book like my daughter here? 

Leave them in the comments. I read and love a wide variety of books and there are so many out there that I still don't know about.

Here's my short list in addition to last week's new love.

Jane Austen: Persuasion/Pride and Prejudice
Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Crime and Punishment
Chaim Potok: The Chosen/My Name is Asher Lev
Leon Uris: Exodus
Elizabeth Gaskell: North and South/Ruth
JK Rowling: Harry Potter Series
Richard Peck: A Long Way from Chicago/A Year Down Yonder
Sarah Dessen: Just Listen/The Truth About Forever
Khaled Hosseini: A Thousand Splendid Suns
Orson Scott Card: Ender's Game
Shannon Hale: Princess Academy/Rapunzel's Revenge
Robin McKinley: The Blue Sword/Dragonhaven

I'm going to have to make myself stop. I keep feeling like I'm leaving something very important out. For those I included I wouldn't allow myself to list more than 2 titles per author so just know there's a lot more. 

Y'all had to know my short list would not be very short. I could also include all those Latin and French faves, but I will spare you. 

Monday, January 26, 2009

Clear skies

I love photography, as those of you who know me, are already well aware. 

The thing with taking pictures is that when the sky is clear and the sun is bright is one of the worst times to take pictures. Shadows are harsh. There is a lot of glare. People are squinting. I'm not saying that you can't get good shots then, but generally it's not ideal. 

Some of your best shots happen when the light is coming or going--early or late in the day and, if you're taking nature pictures, when the sky has texture--when there are clouds.

The picture above was taken during a thunderstorm before dawn at the beach last summer. The noise woke me up, and when I went out onto the balcony and saw those clouds, I ran back inside to get my camera.  Cha-ching! Clouds rule!

Writing is very much like that. The clouds/trials give texture to our stories. They add drama and beauty. Without them there would be very little to tell. As writers our own trials and stormy times help us write them better for others. They may be awful to go through, but, at least, we can look at the positive side and say they help make us better writers.

Hurray for clouds, eh? 

Friday, January 23, 2009

Blogging vs. Writing

I've found lately that I have less and less time for writing and editing. Now, that's my bread and butter--hopefully anyway. The big, bad intruder? Blogging! 

So, is blogging the streetlight or the Eiffel Tower? Accessory or Focal Point?

I know there is value in the time I spend hitting the blog trail. I've learned a lot about the industry, met friends, found beta readers and a crit group, and gotten some excellent advice from fellow writers. That support is very valuable.

But! How much time is too much time? Have I let blogging become too big a focus? Does it support my writing or has it taken over?  How do you limit your blogging time? What positives do you see? Negatives?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time--Give me a piece of that Pie!

Up for today? Drum roll please! 

by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows
                 The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by forester401
Why I bought it? Well, technically I didn't. My husband got it for me for Christmas (bless his heart), but I did request it. I had been looking on line to find some interesting reads to put on my wishlist, and, on Amazon, I pulled up a list of the best books of 2008. The title struck me as funny. I read a little about it, and it peaked my interest. On my wishlist!

Synopsis:  In 1946, Juliet Ashton, an author looking for something to write about, is inspired by a letter she receives from someone in Guernsey, one of the channel islands, to look into the Nazi occupation there during the war. She decides to write an article about it and starts researching. She asks that people send her letters telling their stories. The letters are so rich that she has to travel there and meet the people and ends up making it into a book. It's told completely in letters.

What I thought? If you've been following my blog at all lately you know I loved this book. Not just the little "loved" but the big, fat, knock down, drag out, jump up and down, like a 13 year old girl listening to David Archuleta! screaming in capital letters, with ten exclamation points! LOVED! this book. It now ranks up there with my ALL TIME favorite books! It's smart and profound and witty. At the beginning, I was charmed. By page 10, I was laughing out loud and thoroughly hooked. I could tell that my house was going to suffer. Every other page I was chuckling, weeping, or howling with laughter. I even scared my kids a couple of times with my outbursts.

A friend said that not everyone will necessarily like my selection, and I know that. I can't imagine how anyone wouldn't be swept up and carried away by this story, but I suppose it's possible. Everyone has different tastes. That's why so far I have not been able to bring myself to read anyone else's review of this book. So now you have my complete and unadulterated gushing. I think men will like it too--you men out there.

I do have to share this one little tidbit. When I was finished reading, I was so excited that I decided to send a letter to the authors. I sat down at my computer and searched them up. They have a lovely site. Through reading things on their website, I realized that the main author, Mary Ann Shaffer, has passed away. Annie Barrows is her niece, she came in at the end of the project when her aunt became too sick to finish and tidied things up for publishing. Well, I just sat there looking at my computer screen and balled like a baby. She never got to see her book on the shelves. She did know it was being published, but she never saw the final product. She'd never write another book. 

I have contemplated the capacity of a my current 5 star rating system to handle my enjoyment of this read, but after railing last week about my daughter flaunting the conventions of the 5 stars, I can't let myself do the same, but if I could...  Curse you! Restrictive 5 stars! Curse you! Being an adult about things and not simply throwing out convention! 

My rating:  *****+++++ (I can at least add pluses.)

CS:  6 out of 10--There is a bit of language, not the F word, but a sprinkling of the others. There are a few adult situational things, and there is some recounting of the horrors of war. It's not for your little ones. I plan on letting my 14 year old daughter read it. I wouldn't go much younger than that though.

Enjoy! And if you read it, let me know what you thought.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Reminiscing for MLKJ day

This is really going to date me (probably not as much as it should), but I've been thinking about this with a new President being sworn in tomorrow--a black and white mixed President--an integrated President.

When I was little my dad was in the army, so we moved around a bit. I was born in Virginia, then we lived in South Carolina for about a year and then about 2 years in Germany before moving back to SC, where my parents had both grown up, to settle down. Daddy retired from the military, and we were going to stay put. At that point I was 5 and in Kindergarten. I LOVED school. I had 2 years of pre-school under my belt and part of a year of Kindergarten. I was good at it and loved the friends I made there. 

When we moved back to SC my mother registered me for school so I could complete my Kindergarten year and meet some new friends. I was excited. The world was my oyster.

Well, that year was the first year of full integration. (I'm seriously not that old. According to my kids I grew up in the stone age, but really I'm only 43. When I think about it in relation to the civil rights movement, I still can't believe it happened so recently.) It was a tough year, and I was always a sensitive kid. It tore me up. There was so much tension in the classrooms, I would come home from school crying just about every day. The adult anger permeated the seesaws and scissors and paste (yes, we used paste!). I felt strung out at the end of each day. 

It had nothing to do with school. I had never cried being dropped off or picked up at school before. It had nothing to do with the color of anyone's skin. The classes in Germany had been fully integrated schools for the american families, and I had friends of many races. It was all about the fear, the hatred, the rage and discontent of injustice. The parents' attitudes were all over the children.

I had no idea at the time, but I was living through history. 

Mama was beside herself trying to figure out what to do. She wanted to support the integration, but as she watched her confident little girl falling apart everyday, she couldn't stand it. She was a teacher by trade and decided it would be better to teach me at home until things calmed down, so she took me out.  

The next year things were better, and I started first grade in a fully integrated school that had mellowed. My mother taught Kindergarten down the hall, and my confidence with school began to come back. Integration was working. There were still moments of trouble, but we were on our way.

I could never imagine not having my black friends sitting right there learning along with me. I can't imagine not having the black teachers that I adored. I can't even begin to know what they went through, but I'm glad they did. My world is richer because of them. Thanks, Tracy and Cynthia and Althea and Anthony. Thanks, Stephanie and Renne and Greg and Elijah and Calvin. Thanks, Mrs. Burroughs! Thanks, Melissa! I love you, girl! The fact that I could keep on going here for much longer (but I won't to keep this already long post from getting completely out of hand) is a marvelous sign for our country. I can't imagine my life without having these friends along for the ride growing up.  Thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr. 

And now a black President. Our country has come a long way. I'm still living through history. I guess we all are all the time.

Friday, January 16, 2009


I've just finished reading a book that has left me completely speechless. I just about couldn't restrain myself from gushing over it in a book review today, and then I thought about having nothing to review next week. Alas! Self-control won out for once, so you'll hear all about it on Wednesday. Get excited! 

How often do y'all run across books that do that to you? What are some of those books that have made you want to drop everything and just read and then call all your friends and family telling them that they just have to get it and read it?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time

BRISINGR by Christopher Paolini 

Why I bought this? I've been waiting for it forever. That's why. My daughter too.

Synopsis: It is the third book in the Eragon series. If you haven't read the first 2, I'd start there. You'd be totally lost beginning on the 3rd book. If you like dragons, it's a series you should read. The first book is Eragon, and the second is Eldest. This third book starts with Eragon seeking to rescue his cousin's fiancee and then continues, as he tries to repay his debts to the Varden, the dwarves, and the elves. 

What I thought? After so many sequels that had let me down this year, I was worried that this one would be the same. Whew! That was not the case! This one did not disappoint! (Except for the fact that I thought it was the last in a trilogy and discovered about 10 pages from the end that it wasn't. I was thinking that there was no way Paolini was going to be able to wrap up the story in 10 pages, so I flipped over to see if there was any indication of that and found this: "Here ends the third book of the Inheritance cycle. The story will continue and conclude in book four." I about had a conniption right then and there, but I quickly got over it, because I still had the last 10 pages to go. Nice long aside, eh?) I don't want to have any spoilers here so I won't, but I just have to say that I love Arya better and better with each book. I have to give Paolini his props. He did a great job, and he has really grown as a writer. His prose was much better than in his previous books. It's like he's been to college or something. =)

My daughter's rating: *****  As with last week, she wanted to throw out the restrictive 5 star limit. In her book, 5 was apparently not enough. Her actual rating was 10 stars. A bit excessive, if you ask me. "Seriously?" I said. "10 out of 5 stars?" She looked at me like I was a complete moron and said, "Yeah!" *shakes head at daughter's complete disregard for rating conventions* At least you get the idea how much she liked it.

My rating: *****  It almost lost half a star because of the not ending the series thing, when I expected it to, but I decided I couldn't do that. My enjoyment was still way up there. Plus, I now have a book 4 to look forward to. This is up from what I would have given the other 2 in the series.  Eragon and Eldest would have gotten 4s. Not that I didn't like them. I loved them, but they were not as well written as they could have been.

CS: 4  This is for violence really. Fighting and the horrors of war. My daughter was thinking that the score should be a little higher though. Maybe a 5 or 6. (She's 14, for those who don't know. You can gauge for your children accordingly.) There is not really any language that I can recall. Sorry, but I read it when it first came out in Sept. I'm reviewing now though because my daughter just read it this week. She couldn't really recall any language either, so I think you're good there. She's pretty quick to notice that.

Only one review this week, since this was so long.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Get me some tunes

Do you listen to music when you write? My oldest daughter can't write with music on at all. She finds it too distracting. The next daughter can't write without it. As for me, I like to write with Music.
The kind of thing I'm writing or doing will influence the type of music. If I'm strategizing, something without words is better--Jazz or classical. If I'm editing, I have a certain couple of CDs with piano music that are a must--again without words. If I'm composing and letting the words flow, the music has to be current. I'm particularly fond of alternative rock, but anything that masks the brain noise seems to unleash the words.

The music helps keep me from getting stuck. The lyrics don't distract me. If fact, I hardly even register them until I start getting hung up and things stop flowing. Then I just lean back in my chair and listen, and the pounding rhythm, the complexities of the melody, the soaring or hushed or raspy vocals all help unwind my tangled thoughts. Then I can move on and keep writing.

Friday, January 9, 2009


I've had several friends talking about choosing a single word to focus on for the year. I like this idea, and so I thought I would choose one for me. I've thought long and deep, and the word that won't let me go is hope. So this year I'm going to focus on hope.

As a writer looking forward to that elusive chance to publish, I'm firmly grounded in a need for hope. It's even one of the core messages of my novel.


With a nation reeling from a falling economy...
With my children's goals looming large ahead of them...
With my husband's desire to have a tidy organized home... ;)
With family and friends searching for love and striving for success...
With a new President about to take office who based so much of his campaign on hope...
With people suffering near and far looking for a better life for themselves and their children...




Thursday, January 8, 2009

Here's a question for you

Are the book reviews working for you? Maybe yesterday's just wasn't all that interesting or helpful. Maybe I need to pick some better books--more obscure? more popular? Maybe I need to use a different format. Any input from y'all out there in blogland. I'd like to make this into something helpful that you want to check out.

Should it just be recommendations? 

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Wednesday=Book Review Time

Up for today we have The Tales of Beedle the Bard  by JK Rowling and All-American Girl by Meg Cabot


Why I bought this? It's by JK Rowling, and I need no other reason to plunk down whatever amount of money she demands. Plus the proceeds of this go to charity. I got it for my daughter for Christmas. We had been eagerly awaiting its release.

Synopsis: It is the translation of five witch "fairy" tales, as translated by Hermione Granger. There are commentaries by Albus Dumbledore and an introduction and notes by JK Rowling. I don't want to give away the plots of the tales and have this be a spoiler. Let me just give you the names of the 5 tales. They will whet your appetite if you're a Harry Potter fan.  They are:  1) "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot," 2) "The Fountain of Fair Fortune," 3) "The Warlock's Hairy Heart," 4) "Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump," and 5) "The Tale of the Three Brothers."

What I thought? The book is clever and funny and engaging just as you would expect from JK Rowling. I LOVED it! I even liked the paper the book was printed on. It felt so smooth and papery--but I digress.  Some of the tales were a bit gruesome like the Brothers Grimm Tales--just so you are forewarned. My favorite parts though were the commentaries by Professor Dumbledore and the footnotes. So much of that is tongue in cheek or told with a secret twinkle in the eye. I think that, if you haven't read the Harry Potter books, a lot of what makes this fun will be lost on you. If you are a fan of HP you will enjoy this latest addition to the HP world.

My daughter's rating: *****  She was insisting that I give it six, but I couldn't shatter my rating system like that.
My rating:  *****

CS: 3  There are no swear words that I noticed, but as I said before some of the stories are a bit gruesome. 


Why I bought it? I have a weakness for Meg Cabot's quirky, fun writing style. I thought this would be one my daughter could enjoy. I was trying to find one that would fit the bill.

Synopsis:  Samantha (Sam) Madison accidentally, sort of, saves the president's life and finds herself trying to decide if she really likes her sister's boyfriend like she always has or if she is falling for the president's son.

What I thought? I really enjoyed this story.  Sam is an endearing main character. The romance intrigue that develops is entertaining. Cabot is a master at that. No wonder she's sold so many books. Some of the references are dated (like Sam loving Gwen Stefani and wanting to be like her), but it was published in 2002. My daughter overlooked that, since she is not a Stefani fan, and liked the book anyway. There has been some controversy over whether this will be made into a movie by Disney or not. It would make a great movie, but there have already been some with a similar storyline made--not that this will stop anyone.

My daughter's rating:  ****
My rating:  ****

CS: 4  It's got a little language and some situational stuff, but there was nothing really "offensive" in this one. 

Monday, January 5, 2009

10 things about me

I've been tagged several times to do this and my rebellious nature planned to just do my 10 driving pet peeves, but, as I sit here to do it, that seems so negative, and I'm really in a positive state of mind, so... Ten truths it is. 

I'm a study of contrasts with myself.

1) I'm not a morning person, but I love seeing the sun rise.
2) I was more "grown-up" as a teenager than I am as an adult. Then I felt like I was about 30 inside; now I feel like I'm about 15.
3) I love taking pictures, but I can't seem to bring myself to like doing videos.
4) As a kid I always ate all my vegetables. I actually like vegetables, but I don't really care for fixing them, and so I eat fewer vegetables as an adult.
5) I love movies and will watch the ones I love over and over again, except the ones I love that I can't stand to watch over and over. The same with TV shows.
6) I'm pretty conservative and getting a bit up there in age now, but I like to rock, especially with the alternative groups. Give me some Muse, some Paramore, some Hoobastank, some Keane or The Bravery or any of a bunch of others and I'm there. Of course, I like a lot of other stuff that old people like--classical, opera, broadway, country, bluegrass, etc. Actually, my love for music knows few bounds.
7) Ask me to speak if front of a crowd, and I'm cowering in the corner. Ask me to sing, and I start warming up--hardly a nerve on edge anywhere.
8) I would love to read fast so I could read more books, but I can't let myself for fear of missing some incredible turn of phrase or the smallest little event. I get too much joy in the details of the story to pass them by quickly.
9) I'm a bit of a jack of all trades but master of none--a good photographer, singer, painter, writer, teacher, translator, pianist, french speaker, cook, trumpet player, knitter, decorator, etc., but not great.
10) I adore writing, but some days I do everything I can to avoid it. Go figure!

There you have them--just a few of the many contradictions that make up me. Care to share any of yours? I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I've been Mamma Mia-ed

I was very blase about seeing the movie Mamma Mia.  I mean, I like Abba alright, but I've never been a huge fan.  I figured I'd like it about as much as I like Abba--moderately well.

Poster Mamma Mia la pelicula by MyCine

One of my nieces is totally in love with it--you might even say obsessed--and tried to convince me to take a look.  I kept planning to get to it.  Then my husband and I got tickets to the Broadway traveling show version for February, and I figured I'd wait and watch the movie after we saw the live show. No biggie!  No rush!  Then another friend watched it and was instantly just as hooked as my niece.  Well, hmm! Fine!  I figured I should just go ahead and watch it. I caved, and New Year's Eve was the day. 

What can I say?  I totally lost all my blase-ness!

Wow!! There is seriously good reason why Meryl Streep has received more nominations than you could shake a stick at and has won 2 academy awards and 6 golden globes.

 Mamma Mia movie meryl streep jumping by nicolomanaloto_911

Everyone in the movie was great, but, for me, she totally stole the show.  Look at her.  She's 59 and jumping on the bed like that among many other things I was amazed she could still do.  In fact, at several points I was in complete and utter awe of her.  When she sang "The Winner Takes It All," I had chills and tears, and at the end of the movie I had to immediately go back and watch that scene again and I had chills and tears again. Who knew she could sing like that? and act like that while she's singing like that? Holy cow! A! maz! ing! 

I laughed hard, and I cried, and then I laughed again and again.  The all-star cast was a surprise for me, especially Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth.  Who knew they could sing?  and dance? Seeing Colin Firth dance at the end--I haven't laughed that hard in a long time.  You have to watch all the way through to the very end.  It's like your reward for watching the credits. Julie Walters was also a show thief!  (Go Mrs. Weasley!)

The music was fun and surprising and was perfectly woven through the storyline.  There were songs I had totally forgotten that Abba did.

On top of everything else, that gorgeous scenery in Greece is breathtaking--show stealer extraordinaire!  

There you have it.  I have now been Mamma Mia-ed!  Thanks Alyssa!  Thanks Michelle!  Thanks Meryl and Pierce and Colin and Julie and Stellan and Amanda and Dominic and Christine and the stags and hens...  Thank you all for some seriously entertaining entertainment!

Anybody else seen it?  What did you think?