Thursday, December 30, 2010

Looking Back: My 2010

I know it’s not always fun and/or interesting to read about somebody else’s year, but it’s important for me to reflect on it and write it down, and I’d like to share it with you, my friends. For you were a big part of my past year and I thank you for taking a few moments out of your busy lives each week to read my ramblings (and to comment if you so choose).

2010 was a very good year for me - a year of growth. I went through some transitions which may seem ordinary to some, but they changed my perspective and direction in life in positive ways. I also had some wonderful experiences with my family. I’m so thankful for them and how they love and support me.

The biggest transition for me was going from a stay-at-home mom for 15½ years to a part-time working mom. Someone other than my family depended on me which was scary at first. I've learned so much over my almost year there and love the people I work with. And I won't lie, receiving a paycheck feels great! However, I was forced (not kicking and screaming forced) to reevaluate my priorities and how I spend my free time. How could I get everything done in less time? What is important to me and how can I achieve those things?

The Answer For Me
  1. taking care of my family's needs is my #1 priority
  2. taking care of my needs - physically, spiritually, mentally - not skipping meals, regular check-ups, getting enough sleep, making time for reading & writing
  3. not letting the house fall to complete shambles, but also not freaking out if it isn't perfect
  4. writing when I can and setting realistic and attainable goals for my busy life and NOT FEELING GUILTY if I don't reach those goals in time frame I set for myself

I’m certainly not perfect at these things, not by a long shot, but I try to ask for help when I need it (even though I think I can do it all at times) and to surrender control (very hard after being home for so long). And though I can be hard on myself at times, I’m learning to forgive myself instead of beating myself up.

My mantra to myself: “Hey you’re not perfect, welcome to the rest of the world.”

My Not So Secret Writng Life
I started telling people that I was attempting to write a novel in 2009. My immediate family, some online friends, and a few ‘real life’ friends (for lack of a better term) knew about this from the beginning. I started two novels and put both aside unfinished. I'm on my third attempt and this year I tentatively told a few more friends and some extended family members, and their support has been great. The biggest step for me, though, was to start this blog. The title, My Not So Secret Writing Life really reflects that I was ready to step out from the shadows and announce to the world, “Hi. I’m a writer, too. Nice to meet you.”

I believe in myself and want to do what it takes to achieve publication. Like others pursuing this dream, I wanted to share my journey: to laugh with, learn from, support, and affirm other writers, the published and the unpublished. The writing community is one in which I want to be a part of.

Highlights of 2010

  • returning to work
  • attending the Harry Potter Movie Exhibit with my family
  • reaching out to writing community by following and commenting on more blogs
  • starting my own blog in August and meeting you
  • working on first draft of contemporary MG, Nitpicky
  • brainstorming ideas for a new writing project
  • meeting Laurie Halse Anderson

Thanks, 2010! I can't wait to see what 2011 has in store for me.

Monday, December 27, 2010

In Which Felicity Tells Me Off

*clickety click onto another blog*

Me: Oh, Natalie has a new post today. And so does Donna Weaver. Edit #5? You go, girl!

Felicity: Ahem. A- he-he-HEM!

Me: You really should take something for that.

Felicity: Well, if you hadn’t left me sitting in the cold on a bench in the town square for 2 freakin' months, maybe I wouldn’t have such a head cold.

Me: Oh. Yeah, I did leave you there for quite a while didn’t I? Sorry about that.

Felicity: No problem. Sort of.

Me: I just got so overwhelmed with work, the kids, holiday preparations...I had to take a break, you know?

Felicity: Yeah, I get it. I don’t mean to be “Nitpicky” (ha ha, get it?) but couldn’t you have at least left Ben sitting next to me? And it wouldn’t hurt if he had his arm around me.

Me: Oh, no no no. Ben? No. And btw, yes, I got the Nitpicky title reference. Clever.

Felicity: Whaddya mean, “No.” We are going to get together eventually, am I right?

Me: HAHAHAHA....ha.

Felicity: I fail to see the humor in this situation. So what are you telling me...I don’t get to be with Ben?

Me: My lips are sealed. It’s not that you’re not going to be with him. It’s just that that’s top secret information that cannot be revealed to anyone, least of all you, at this moment in time.

Felicity: In other words, you haven’t figured out the rest of the novel yet, have you.

Me: Um, I’ve been distracted as of late.

Felicity: *gigantic sigh* With her?

Me: Who?

Felicity: The ghost story chick?

Me: Jude? No. Truly, she’s on the back burner for now. I’m finishing your story first. That’s my New Year’s Resolution.

Felicity: Oh great. And will this resolution be as successful as last year’s “finishing my first novel,” which isn’t exactly finished yet.

Me: I did fall short on that one didn’t I. Sort of left you without an ending.

Felicity: Ya think?

Me: Okay. What if I promise that I’ll work real hard the rest of this week. I’m not going back to my job until next Monday. I’ll wake up early tomorrow while the house is quiet and crank out a chapter. Same thing Wednesday and Thursday.

Felicity: Well...

Me: I really care about you and what happens to you.

Felicity: Really?

Me: Really. You know, I reread the whole story today. Up to the part where I left you in the park. I’m pretty happy with it so far. Sure there are weak spots, and it will need a ton of revising, but I like you a lot, Felicity. I want to know how your story ends.

Felicity: Me too. And you’re not so bad yourself.

Me: Let’s do this novel thing then, shall we?

Felicity: *rolls eyes* Whatever. Just get me somewhere warm. And fast.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Tree Story

Take a look at your Christmas tree if you have one. Does it tell a story?

One of my favorite things about Christmas is our Christmas tree. I love when we pull the boxes out of the attic and unwrap each ornament. Around 12 years ago we lost about 75% of our ornaments when our basement got wet (before we had an attic). Over the years my collection grew along with my family. Now I wrap each ornament individually in tissue paper and store them in plastic bins.

What I love about our tree is that it tells a story about our family. Sure there are the glass balls and random pretty ornaments that I’ve picked out over the years. But mingling among those are the sentimental favorites such as Elmo, the Holy Family, and of course, the kids' homemade ornaments. They make me smile when we unwrap them and find just the right spot on the tree.

Here are a few that tell part of my story.

My husband and I bought this ornament on our honeymoon when we went to Hawaii - our first ornament. Year after year we'd forget to put it on the tree because it was stored away with our Hawaii souvenirs. It became an annual joke. When most of my ornaments were ruined by the water, I was relieved that this one wasn't among the others. It was safely packed in its original plastic bag in a plastic box. I think of that every year when I put it on the tree.

These 2 were hung on my husband's family Christmas trees when he was a boy. I was ecstatic when my mother-in-law passed them on to us. The blue silk wrapped ball reminded me of the same ones on my childhood Christmas trees.

My son made this one in elementary school. Go Sox!

I found Harry (shown), Ron, and Hermione one year in a discount store and scooped them up. Our family had just discovered Harry Potter not long before and we couldn't wait to hang them on our tree. They are still our favorites.

Another homemade ornament made by my oldest daughter when she was young.

One of my teaching friends loved Mary Engelbreit illustrations. She gave me this teapot ornament one Christmas. She has since passed away. I think of her kindness and the tremendous support she gave me every time I unwrap this one.

Another favorite given by my favorite snake :)
Do your ornaments tell a story? Which one is your favorite?
I wish a very Merry Christmas to all of you!

Friday, December 17, 2010


Words. An author's greatest tool. But we have to guard against the overuse of words and phrases, and avoid cliches at all cost. Fortunately, we can edit our writing before showing it to anyone. In every day conversation however, certain words and phrases become habit and can drive us (and others) crazy. I'll admit, I'm definitely guilty of this. Sometimes I don't even realize I'm overusing certain phrases. And if you have teens at home, the word "like" can send you over the edge.

At the end of the day, "whatever," is the most annoying word of 2010 according to the Marist Poll . Of course, it's not simply the word itself that's annoying. It's the dismissive tone accompanied by the mandatory eyeroll that grates on the nerves. Having said that, ( or if you prefer) That being said, "like" comes in as a close second. Maybe it's me, but I think my two oldest girls are secretly competing to see who can drive their mother to the brink of madness first by using "like" in their conversation. It is what it is, though. And to tell you the truth, when it comes to talking with my family and friends, no worries - it's all good. And honestly, you do what you gotta do even if that means taking the bad with the good.

Does that make sense?

Now it's your turn. What word or phrase sends you absolutely up a tree?

p.s. Gah! Absolutely is one of my weaknesses. I absolutely overuse it to death!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mountain Memories

Friday night, my daughters, some family members, and I were fortunate enough to spend a “girls overnight” at my sister-in-law’s home in the New Hampshire mountains. Since we arrived in the dark, we had no idea how beautiful the view was until the next morning. And, my oh my, was it lovely!

From the deck I could look down through the leafless trees and see the pond which connected to a lake. Beyond the trees, surrounding the lake, were distant mountains - above, a cloud streaked sky. The most delicate snowflakes floated through the air. Though they didn't stick to any surfaces, it was first snow of the season for me.

Along the back roads, before reaching the main route home, my girls and I could appreciate the true beauty of the area and the panoramic views.
We stopped the car a few times to take pictures, but really, they don't do the natural view justice.

camera shy cows (except for that one in the front)
The trip got me thinking about how I see the world and how that naturally helps my writing. Obviously, an experience which is out of the ordinary routine - like a trip to the mountains - would cause anyone to stop and ponder.
As I tried to keep my eyes on the road which was difficult surrounded by such natural beauty my mind started to wander. I thought of stories I'd read in which a character had to travel long distances by foot through forests and over mountains like Jamie and Claire in the Outlander series or Torak in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. I thought of the pitch dark roads we traveled and the eerie look of the tall pine trunks illuminated by my highbeams as we drove up to the house. What would it be like stopping for the night on the mountains - huddled on a frigid night, camping in the dark?

My senses translated my experience into memory.
purple-blue mountains;
the sky, painted with watercolor-blue brush strokes;
leafless branches, like fingers reaching for heaven
the sharp coldness of the impenetrable night;
the quiet solitude of a simpler way of life

Story fodder for another day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

'Tis the Season to Reread

Fa la la la la la la!

With Thanksgiving come and gone and the Black Friday craziness over (complete with sore legs and feet the next day), not to mention celebrating my first Christmas party of the season Friday night – yes, I’m aware that it’s still November – I’m ready to dive into the holiday season with gusto (now there’s a word I don’t use that often).

I spent Saturday cleaning so that we could take down the Fall decorations and begin decorating for Christmas. I even got my first holiday card in the mail yesterday. By far the earliest I’ve ever received one. They even beat my parents who usually send theirs out December 1st. I like to wait until the first Sunday of Advent to begin transforming my house from Fall to Christmas, and traditionally we start with the Nativity set. It’s my little way of reminding myself and my family about the humble beginnings of this holiday before we get caught up in the holiday hustle and bustle.

As I try to juggle a few extra balls during the season, keeping up with reading and writing can be difficult. I enjoy reading too much to stop, so I’ve decided to devote this time of year to rereading books that I’ve wanted to revisit. I’m doing this for a few reasons: 1) I already have the book in most cases, so I don’t have to make a trip to the bookstore or library. Most books that I’ve loved enough to reread, I’ve purchased to add to my collection. 2) Knowing the story prior to reading, I don’t have to guess what will happen and can enjoy other aspects of the novel (plotting, dialogue,characters). After a few hectic days, it’s easy to pick up the story where I left off.

In my last post I mentioned that I was rereading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and I’ve finished it. The first time I read this novel I had purchased it at midnight, read a few chapters, went to bed, then inhaled it the next day until I finished that night. I read it one other time with a reading group then forgot about it for 2 years. Until last week. Can I tell you how much I loved it? I really savored it this time, knowing what was going to happen, and found some lovely treasures along the way.

Currently, I’m finishing up a reread of Speak (I didn’t get to finish it the week I met Laurie Halse Anderson) and loving it. After that I'm looking forward to rereading Gossamer by Lois Lowry and I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. Maybe I'll throw in A Christmas Carol by Dickens to get in the holiday spirit.

How do you keep up with reading time during the holidays? Or do you just take a break and resume reading after receiving new books as presents when the season is over?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blogging Around the Holidays

Sounds like it could be a holiday song, doesn't it?


Sorry for the one post a week lately, but I'm afraid that pattern may continue until the holidays are over. Between work, school, mom's taxi service (aka Me), shopping, holiday prep (of which there is a lot), and celebrating (I like that part *grin*) my spare time has dwindled down to a few precious hours a week. I'm not alone, I know, and I'm not complaining. I absolutely love this time of the year! Yes, there is anxiety and exhaustion, wondering if I'll get everything done, but I've learned to surrender and delegate so I can enjoy this time of year. Celebrating with family and friends -- Church services, the school Christmas performance, family gatherings, meeting up with friends, receiving greeting cards -- reminds me of how thankful I am that they are in my life and what they mean to me. Creating wonderful memories is what it's all about.

And so I'm trying to squeeze some writing and reading time in there because I love them both. My focus is on preparing for and celebrating the season right now, but I need some "me" moments so I won't get burned out. They relax me and help me to escape The List. You know the one, right? No matter how many things you cross off it still seems to grow longer? Some days I'm successful and some days I'm not.

I'm continuing to work my way through my reread of Deathly Hallows, I hope to see the movie tomorrow (last weekend was impossible), then this weekend I'll work on my WIP which I"ve missed doing. I hope to blog sooner but if I don't, see you next week!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Potter Fever!

I've got it again - Potter Fever. It's contagious and has been infecting my whole family.

1. Symptoms - Connecting real life situations with Harry Potter continuously. For example: Friday when my 11 year old and I were riding in a sluggish elevator I pointed to the door and cast an Alohomora! spell. It opened! (tee hee)
Another symptom - the inability to resist watching the movies or picking up a HP book when it's in the room, and being drawn to anything HP related in stores (the 2011 calendars, the ads for Deathly Hallows Wii game, etc.)

2. Remedies - I've found in the past that it's just easier to give in to the illness instead of trying to fight it. Immersing myself into the Potterworld again is the best remedy. Part of that for me has been chatting with like-minded friends, "Are you getting excited? I can't wait! What show are you going to? IMAX or AMC?" and so on. Also, I can always count on the ABC Family channel to provide HP movie marathons before movie releases. I've seen bits of my favorite of the movies, Prisoner of Azkaban, and also Goblet of Fire (last night) and can hear the music for Order of the Phoenix in the other room now. Another remedy for me has been rereading Deathly Hallows which I started this weekend. It's been almost 2 years since my last reread so I need to get cracking!

3. Cure - As long as there is something new regarding the Harry Potter world, be it a movie, book, theme park, Rowling interview, there can be no cure for me. I'll always be excited by anything new involving Harry Potter. Usually, my obsession is in remission, unless drawn out by someone else who shares my passion for Rowling's world. Then there's no holding back.

I've had some great conversations with a couple of my friends recently who share my obsession. We're all looking forward to Deathly Hallows. I won't be able to see it on the release date but--

Sorry about that! My kids just shouted, "Mom! There's a DH scene on NOW!" *squee* The scene where Scrimgeour gives the trio what Dumbledore left them in his will! Oh, right. There. Did you notice that? Another symptom is squeeing without warning over anything related to---Oh, I can hear it! The beginning of Order! If you'll excuse me for a moment...

Okay, I'm back. See, my husband loves that part and he was on the phone. I had to run to the kitchen and silently mouth, "Order of the Phoenix! The Dementors attacking Dudley and Harry!" so he could watch that scene. Yeah, the fever is rather high right now.

Excuse me again, but one of the kids just asked me when I think Deathly Hallows Part 1 will be released on DVD. (I know, right? The movie isn't even in the theater yet) I'm not so great with Arimanthcy, er, Arithmatic so I may have to ponder this a bit.

Squee!! Another scene! Kreacher telling the trio about the locket in Grimmauld Place! The very chapter I'm on right now!
(I think I need to lie down. I've got it bad)

Monday, November 8, 2010


This is the post that I tried to avoid. The post that admits that I cannot finish the NaNoWriMo this year. I won't bore you with the details. Life is just too time consuming right now.

Now, I'm not giving up completely; just readjusting the rules for myself. I know I won't even come close to 50k this month. That's a given. I love my new novel idea, but I'm starting to pine for the novel I've worked hard on so far. I really, really, really want to finish it this year.

One of my goals for 2010 was to finish this first draft. I've got 51 days before the new year. So, I've decided to put the NaNo novel (it's still unnamed) on hold for now and continue working on Nitpicky. I'll still try to write like crazy each day, like NaNoWriMo, but instead I'll continue with Nitpicky. Who knows? Maybe I'll add another 30k to it this month!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NaNoWriMo Update

It's been 4 days and I've written 790 words.

Now I could have written, I've only written 790 words, but you know what? That's 790 words that I didn't have written last Sunday and so I'm holding my head high.

Yeah, so I'm not flying. Truth be told, the NaNoWriMo isn't about reaching the magical 50K mark at the end of the month for me. Personally, I can't do it and I know that. What the NaNo does for me is it gets me excited about writing again. The anticipation in October, the planning of something fresh and new, the thought that thousands of others are pushing themselves to achieve a writing goal at the same time...that's what makes it fun for me.

I write when I can and make myself write during those snippets of time during the day when I usually say to myself "I don't have time" to start now; the half hour before work when the house is empty, the half hour when I get home, 15 minutes after supper, a paragraph before bed. All of these times add up and move my goal forward.

I'll push myself a lot this weekend, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to catch up. I can't write nonsense for the sake of reaching a certain word count. Not that I hold that against anyone, of course. Everyone has their own method, what works for them. Turning off my annoying inner critic and putting butt in chair is how I benefit from the NaNoWriMo.

Whatever your personal goal is, good luck, whether you're a NaNoWriMo-er or not. As for me it's back to work. I took a nap today so I could stay up later tonight. I'm hoping to reach 1,000+ before bed. Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 31, 2010


How do you condense an incredible experience in one post?
I’m not sure, but I’ll give it a try.

My birthday present to myself was to buy Laurie Halse Anderson’s newly released historical fiction novel, Forge. It’s the second book in a trilogy for kids. My husband left work early so that my 14-year-old daughter and I could attend a presentation/book signing that Laurie was giving in Wellesley.

After overcoming various obstacles – slow traffic, trying to locate the bookstore while driving behind a large truck, driving past the bookstore and having to turn around at Wellesley College, my uptightness (though honestly, my poor daughter had to endure that more than me), arriving at the WRONG location, driving to the LIBRARY instead – we managed to make it with 10 minutes to spare (whew!).

Wellesley has a gorgeous library and the presentation was held in a beautiful, intimate room. When we arrived there were maybe 25 people present at the time and we sat in the front row – less than 10 ft. from the podium. As I waited I felt relief, excitement, and gratefulness all rolled up together. I enjoyed listening to 2 boys sitting behind me. “I’m here ‘cause my teacher said I’d get extra credit if I came.” The other boy replied, “My mother made me go.” I smiled to myself thinking, “They are in for a real treat.”

Although I felt like I might burst with excitement sitting there, fortunately I didn’t have to wait long before Laurie was introduced. She started with a brief bio: how school was a struggle for her, how she sat in the back row because she was tall and shy, how she made “picture movies” in her head as she lay in bed trying to get to sleep, how 9th grade was difficult and she was often depressed, how she never planned to go to college and why/where she did, how she never dreamed of being an author and why she did, and about her love for history and historical fiction. She spoke about her first historical fiction book, Chains (which I’m currently reading) and its sequel, the newly released, Forge, and how she researches using primary sources for her factual information.

Laurie was warm, funny, passionate about her love of history and bringing that to kids through her writing - a dynamic speaker. I sat there grinning - savoring this special time. Then came the Q&A. I held back because there were quite a few kids with questions, mostly related to Chains and Forge. Then my daughter nudged me and whispered, "Go ahead," and I timidly raised my hand.

Moment #1 that I’ll never forget:
With her full attention and eyes on me, I asked, “Are you currently working on a young adult contemporary novel?” She is. *big grin*

A couple of questions followed about her YA novels, Speak and Wintergirls, and then it was time for the signing. There were about 20 people in front of J and me. She brought her copy of Speak, I brought Forge. We were given a post-it to write our names on so Laurie would know the spelling ahead of time. Can I tell you how impressed I was with her? She took the time to speak to each child as she signed, asked if they had a question for her, and posed for pictures.

Moment #2 that I’ll never forget:
Then we approached the table; it was our turn. My daughter went first, asked a question about Speak, and then posed for a pic. Then she took my book and asked if I was a teacher. I swallowed and willed myself not to gush. I told her that I once taught but am now raising 4 kids of my own (she’s a mom of 4 too), and that now I’m writing for teens and hoping to be published some day. She asked if I belong to SCBWI. I confessed that I had thought of joining but how I decided to wait until I finished a first draft to see if I was committed to writing. “You don’t have to finish to join,” she told me and that New England has a wonderful chapter. She then turned to J and said, “Make sure she signs up this weekend!” and wrote the link on my post-it. Grinning (and by this time a deep shade of red), I stood beside her and J took our pic. And then, because I knew this was my last moment with her, the gushing started. It went something like, “I admire you so much and thought it was great how the writing community backed you during the Speak controversy, it was an honor to meet you, thank you!”

Moment #3
I'm not sure how I got to my car but I think I floated out of the library to the parking lot. When we got in the car, J and I read our dedications to each other. Sorry, I can't share it with you - it's powerful but very personal. And I tear up every time I read it.

Laurie is on tour right now for Forge. If you have the opportunity to hear her and meet her, I encourage you to do so.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Okay. Admit it.

Who's raided the Halloween candy yet?

Go ahead. Raise your hand. You're among friends.

We know you really didn't want to do it (or maybe you did!), but in a moment of weakness, you tiptoed over to the place where you hide it from your kids, rationalized it by picking the "least likely candy" that kids will like (but conveniently it happens to be your favorite), made a small tear in the bag so no one will notice, and took one, maybe two pieces out to satisfy that craving. Before you know it, you have to head to the store before Sunday for an extra bag. How do I know so much about this? Um, no reason.

What's this have to do with writing? Give me a minute; I'll think of a connection.

How about... We know you really didn't want to waste your precious writing time surfing the web, but during a plot snag, you rationalized it by clicking "just one or two" writer blogs to keep up with the current posts. Before you know it the dryer buzzes, the kids need help with homework, you need to start supper, (fill in the blank). How do I know so much about this? Eh, again, no reason. No sir-ee.

What "least likely candy" are you planning on stocking your Halloween bowl with this weekend? (i.e., what's your favorite?)

Monday, October 25, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Ready?

Are you ready? One week left until the madness begins!

Isn't it funny how a month ago, November was a clean slate? Soccer ends for the season the first Saturday in Nov. YES! Other than Thanksgiving, it seemed like a rather calm month. Except now, I have 2 separate family get togethers (one's a sleepover) apart from Thanksgiving. Okay. No problem. I'll either write like the wind earlier that day, or write extra on another. *sweating* Oh yeah, two FOUR night school events I have to attend (cutting into prime writing time) and then of course, Black Friday (gone from 5am until I drop - usually around 3ish). *panicking*

Now, it may sound as if I'm lining up excuses in case I don't reach 50k. And you'd be right about that. Just kidding. But it does go to show that you don't have to lead a life of leisure to participate in the NaNo. You just need a passion of writing, the willingness to challenge yourself, and snacks...lots and lots of snacks.

I'm still in the getting ready mode. I've started a rather lame outline which I'll be working on this week. Tomorrow, I'll hit the office supply store for way cool motivational tools (mechanical pencils, highlighters, post-its, notebook, neon post-its).

All this week Nathan Bransford is featuring NaNoWriMo posts to help prepare participants. His first post is here if you'd like to check it out. So let's hear it. If you're joining in the insanity fun, how are you getting yourself ready? If you're not, you'll be in a much better state of mind than me at the end of November. Oh, and how will you cheer us NaNoWriMo-ers on?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What Day Is It?

According to the arrow thingy on my computer (sorry, don't know the techie term for it) , the day/date is Thursday, October 21, 2010 (unless you live on the other side of the planet where it's already Friday). I have been off a day all week and apparently so have others I know. A woman I work with commented that she thought today was Friday. And one of my daughters thought yesterday was Thursday. Me too! Yesterday I kept thinking it was today and today I keep thinking it's tomorrow. Do you follow?

I think part of the reason is because I'm not going to work tomorrow (tiny "yippee"). I feel like I won the lottery or something. There will definitely be a little spring in my step. After an appointment in the morning, I plan to spend some time preparing for the NaNoWriMo. Maybe sneak off to the library and plan an outline. I also plan on starting my reread of Speak. Can anyone guess why I might be reading this book in particular? Hint: I mentioned it in a previous post.

So even though yesterday was NOT Thursday but Wednesday, and Friday is actually tomorrow instead of today, which is in fact Thursday *taking a breath* I'll watch one of my favorite shows tonight, "Big Bang Theory," knowing that I have a long weekend ahead of me.

Happy not Friday everyone!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Setbacks and Moving Forward

Friday was a lousy day, both personally and with writing. Often these go hand and hand with me. If I’m having a bad writing day it will affect my mood and if things in my personal life (work, family, health, etc/) are off it affects my writing. Anyway, after a hard day, I got home and decided to reread a book that I had enjoyed a year ago. I liked this book a lot the first time I read it because the author realistically portrays the angst, uncertainty, and changes that adolescents go through in middle school. That’s what the MC in my WIP experiences. As I read, I’d come to a scene that sounded familiar. A sleepover where there are fantastic snacks? That’s in my novel. Walking home alone because a parent forgot to pick her up? That’s in mine too. I read the whole book that day and as I read I’d come across scene after scene that sounded just like what I had written. I can’t tell you how deflated I became by the time I reached the end. (Btw – I still love the book and cried in exactly the same spot that I did a year ago).

Then I went on the computer to distract myself. I read an article about a book that was soon to be released – a YA ghost story with a similar main element that I had planned to develop. I thought, “Now what do I do? Throw both ideas out and start over? Do I even have an original idea in me?” The thought of all that hard work going “to waste” and the self doubt began to overcome me and brought on lots of tears.

The next day was better. They usually are after a good night’s sleep. My personal situation didn’t seem as bad as it did the day before. The writing? Well, I still wasn’t in a great frame of mind, but I didn’t want to give up writing altogether like I did the night before. By Sunday I was googling ghost stories to see if there was anything similar to my new idea on the market. As far as I can tell, there isn’t and so I think I’ll continue to brainstorm this month to prepare for the NaNoWriMo. By last night I actually felt good and said to myself (as I’ve done every time I experience a setback), “Well, maybe I’ll try again.” That’s what we do as writers if we really love to write, don’t we.

Literary agent, Sarah Davies, from The Greenhouse Literary Agency offers great advice on her blog. This morning before I left for work, I checked it out. I think she was thinking of me when she wrote it. Her post was exactly what I needed to read, especially #8 and #9.

So now I’m moving forward. Instead of dwelling on the similarities between my WIP and the other book, I’ve decided to list the differences and work on making mine unique. And my next idea? I plan to do more research, continue to check out the YA market, and plow ahead this November. Setbacks can be horribly frustrating, maddening, and depressing. But after venting to friends, a couple glasses of wine (or other comfort of choice), and a good night’s sleep, we have two choices: give up or move forward. I choose to move forward.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Power of a Good Story

(click for Reuters photo slideshow)
Is there anyone who hasn't been riveted by the story of the Chilean miners andtheir rescue? Early yesterday morning when I first heard that a few men had reached the surface, my eyes welled up, I smiled, and said a silent, "Thank you," to God.

When the story first broke, it became the topic of conversation among my family and friends. Can you imagine being trapped a half a mile underground? How will they survive? We talked, we hoped, we prayed that these men who were trapped would return safely to their loved ones. We watched video that showed us the faces behind the names and learned their personal stories; the sons, husbands, dads, and friends of so many. The whole world united with positive thoughts and/or prayers for these men and we fervently hoped that there would be a happy ending. And last night, as the last miner rose from the underground cavern (and how appropriate that the rescue capsule was called Phoenix) their happy ending was realized. We celebrated in their joy, because it was our joy too.

That's the power of a great story, whether it's real life or fiction. Think of the stories you love; the ones that are so powerful they linger in your thoughts for days. They touch something deep inside and draw forth powerful emotions from within. They are the stories we want to talk about, we have to talk about. Maybe it reawakens a memory or maybe the character's voice is so strong that we feel a connection through the author's powerful writing. These stories can be triumphant or devastating, compelling and/or thought-provoking. Sometimes they even have the power to change us forever.

Some of the stories that have touched me deeply are The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I couldn't stop thinking about these novels for days. What stories have had a powerful impact on you?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Catch Up Day

Today in the States it's Columbus Day, a long weekend for some folks. The kids are off from school and I'm lucky enough to have the day off. I've been spending yesterday and today catching up with my neglected house; chasing away overgrown dust bunnies, changing sheets, cleaning the shower, switching the bureaus from summer to winter clothes.

I'd also like to give a long overdue thank you to Shellie from Chapter Writer for these blog awards.

I'm not sure what I've done to deserve these, but I appreciate your thoughtfulness. It's been great meeting new readers and writers over the last couple of months and I hope I'll be able to offer posts that are both fun and informative (but mostly fun) in the future.

So part of receiving these awards is to post 7 random things about myself.

1. I still have an original baby tooth - my top left incisor.
2. And going along with the tooth theme, I have a wicked sweet tooth. Naturally, I love chocolate, but I also love Sour Patch Kids, cake, pastry, pie, cookies. The bad stuff, I know. I'm trying to cut back but oh, do I love the s word.
3. I'm a firm believer that many problems can be solved over a cup of tea.
4. My home away from home is my library.
5. I lost three years of my life to Harry Potter (and made some fabulous friends in the process - you know who you are :)
6. I love rollercoasters!
7. My favorite color is midnight blue, straight from the Crayola crayon box.

And now to pass these lovelies along. - If you haven't visited Casey's blog, you don't know what you've been missing. She works incredibly hard to spotlight and interview literary agents in children's publishing. Not to mention she's a genuinely nice person. - I recently met Amy through KarenG's Labor Day weekend blogparty. I love her blog and find it helpful and inspirational. She has such a beautiful family! And isn't The Green Bathtub such a cool name?

Why not go on click above and visit Shellie, Casey, and Amy? I think you'll enjoy their blogs as much as I do.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tortoise or Hare?

When it comes to writing are you...
a tortoise or a hare?
a snail or a sailfish?
molasses or lightning?

I'm more of a snailish tortoise crawling through molasses.

I'm slow and always have been when it comes to writing. When I was in college my roommate and I were both English majors and were sometimes in the same class. If we had a paper due and were working in our dorm room together, we'd both sit down with our notebooks and start writing. My roommate would put her pencil to paper (this was before the days of laptops) and before I knew it she'd have a full page written while I agonized over the first paragraph trying to get it just right. She'd have hers written in one night and it would take me days. And yet we both received high grades for our work. We simply had different methods.

Even in my journal writing or when writing a letter to a friend (no email or social networking back then), I'd try to choose just the right words. Then I'd edit it and write it over. Imagine writing a rough draft for a journal entry? Yes, I can be a bit about my writing, no matter what it is.

Sometimes I wish I could write faster. I marvel at those authors who can whip out a first draft of 80k in three months or less. That's Speedy Gonzales fast! And so not me. But that's okay. I accept that about myself. I'm never...well, I don't think I'll ever...write a novel in a month (hello? why did I sign up for another nanowrimo). Could I be more disciplined? Sure. But I'll still sit and ruminate over an idea, a scene, the right word choice. I'll still write a chapter longhand, let it sit overnight, then type it in Word while I edit along the way. It works for me.

So what's your method? Do you write fast or slow?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Something Special

I'm tired. I'm cranky.
But instead of subjecting you to a whiny post about my week, I'm going to tease you a bit.
Something has been getting me through the past week. I mean besides caffeine. Something that I'm looking forward to and very excited about. I'm not a superstitious person, but I'm keeping this a secret for a wee bit longer because I'm afraid I might jinx myself. That if I tell anyone too soon, it might not happen.

This something is happening at the end of the month. It's not Halloween and it's not my birthday, but it's right before both.
Want a hint?
I'm planning on meeting one of my author heroes at the end of October at a book signing. More hints to follow.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010

It's that time again! Time to prep for National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.
Just curious...when you're telling someone you're participating in NaNoWri Mo using vocal words, as opposed to typing to your bloggy friends, do you you pronounce the Wri with a long i, like write (which would make sense, right?) or like me with a long e, like reeeemo? I feel like I'm always saying it wrong but feel weird calling it riiiimo - but I digress, like usual.

So, this is my second official time. I signed up in 2008 under a different user name and started my second novel, Wilhelmina's Wishes. I reached the halfway point - about 25,000 words - the most words I had ever written during that time span. Last year I did an unofficial nano because I knew I wouldn't come close. I used the month to motivate myself while working on another project.

This year I have a new, shiny idea for a novel that I'm excited to get started on. To avoid long periods of staring blankly at my computer, I like to prep before November 1. I've already decided on my MC's first name and have a general idea in which direction I'd like the story to go. Tomorrow I hope to take my notes from the brainstorming session and form a rough outline. If I think there may be some early research, I'll set up some links to refer to and/or take out library books for motivation.

Anyone else participating? Do you want a friend (am I pathetic or what)? Feel free to friend me once you sign up. I'm Suzie F. over there as well.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cover Dream (or Thank Goodness My Nose Wasn't Red)

Today's blog post is about dreams and waking up.

Hahaha! I betcha thought I was going to write about how it's not a good idea to start a novel with a dream sequence or with your MC waking up.

If I'm being honest, and I am, I have to tell you that my first attempt at writing a middle grade novel began with my MC waking up to the sound of her alarm clock ringing, complete with the onomatopoeia, Rrrring! (btw, how cool is the word onomatopoeia? I love saying it but totally had to look up the spelling. Four vowels in a row? Cool! /spellingnerdtangent). I proceeded to write a backstory scene while Samantha was lying in bed thinking about it. I thought it was gold. Ugh. Bo-ring. Little did I know at the time, waking up scenes at the beginning of a story are a big no-no with agents and editors.

What this post is really about is the dream I had last night. I hardly ever remember my dreams and I've never had a dream about writing. I've never pulled a Stephenie Myer either. Right before I woke up I had a dream of walking in a bookstore. Not a ginormous bookstore like a Barnes & Noble, but instead I walked into a messy, disorganized room with books piled haphazardly on tables and chairs. As I glanced around I recognized a book cover from a friend (perhaps yours, Donna?) and thought, "How cool!" Then I turned around and there it was...

My book! With a big ol' picture of me grinning on the cover! Ha! As if that would sell a boatload of books. But in the dream I looked at it and said, "Hey, that's not so bad! Thank goodness they picked a pretty good picture of me. And my nose doesn't look like Rudolph's." How weird is that?

I stink at dream analysis, but maybe it's a good omen; a dream I hope will come true some day. But I think I'd like to keep my author pic on the inside of the cover. In the back. Hmm, maybe a black and white.

Monday, September 27, 2010

One of Those Days

Today's plan was to drop off the kids at school, start some laundry, go to work and then spend an hour at the library writing before picking the kids up. Today was the only day this week I had a good chance of getting there and I was really looking forward it. But due to some unforeseen circumstances (don't you just hate those?), I couldn't manage to squeeze in that hour.

Once I got home, it was impossible to sit down and write. Just too much going on. I thought, "Well, maybe once I finish this I can go upstairs where it's quiet." Of course this was the day my neighbor decided to expand his driveway. Expanding a driveway is NOT quiet in case you were wondering. All kinds of machinery and trucks and loud noises were involved. "Well maybe after dinner...after the dishes...after...after...after..." Just too many afters tonight.

But it wasn't a total loss. No, I didn't get any writing done. But I discovered something about myself. I LOVE to write! No, really! And yes, I already knew that in my head of course. But today, the longing to sit down and write was overwhelming. I felt it right down to my toes.

Yeah, writing can be frustrating to the point of wanting to delete chapters or throw the notebook across the room (um, not that I ever did that *crosses fingers*), but the flip side is the rush when a scene seems to fly from your fingertips. Or those lightbulb moments that come out of nowhere that are so brilliant. You just know it's perfect and you can't wait to flesh it out on paper (or computer). I had such a moment in the shower last night and couldn't wait to write the scene that would accompany that thought. That's why the disappointment hit me hard today. I never got the chance.

But tomorrow's another day. It should be a quiet afternoon with only one at home. It won't be the library, but maybe I can tempt my muse to visit here with a new supply of chocolate.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Deathly Hallows, Part 1 Trailer

In my best Chandler Bing voice. "Could I BE any more excited for November 19th?"

Can't wait!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


As I drove home tonight from soccer practice, the full moon was rising. Beautiful.

Bittersweet thoughts of the last day of summer swirled around like the wispy clouds flitting across the moon. Summer passes much too quickly for my liking. I often find myself mourning the loss of carefree days, late nights, and visits to the ocean.

The first day of autumn is tomorrow.

I love living in a part of the United States which has four very distinct seasons.

New Englanders love to argue about which season is the best; we all have our favorite one and the stubborn streak to defend our choice along with it.

Although summer is my favorite, I love them all. Okay, maybe love is too strong of a word to describe how I feel about winter, but I do appreciate its beauty.

Autumn is a favorite of many people living here. Travelers from all over the country visit New England for the beautiful fall foliage which decorates our mountains, forests, and neighborhoods. And though I too love the warm days and cool nights, there's usually a "yeah but" that nags at my brain. Autumn is beautiful... yeah but it leads into the endless, bleak winter.

This year I plan to treasure each day of fall. I don't always appreciate the crisp autumn days with its blue sky and the brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows that decorate each tree because I'm thinking of next week, next month the next season. "Oh, the trees are pretty, but I'm dreading winter." Now how fair is that? What did autumn ever do to me? After all, my birthday is in the fall.

So this year I'm all about autumn love. No whining! Sounds simple and yet I always seem to get caught up in the negative - ugh, the days are shorter, the wind chill blows right through me, more leaves to rake! This year I'm treating each day as a gift and appreciating all it has to offer, trying to avoid worrying about a future I can't control.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Speak Up

First, please read this post over at Mad Woman in the Forest, Laurie Halse Anderson's blog. To say I'm angry is an understatement.

This book made me feel.
This book made me cry.
This book has helped so many young girls and boys care, know they were not alone, that it wasn't their fault, that they could SPEAK.

I wish that I had this book to pass on to some of my friends when I was a teen, a college student. I will strongly encourage my daughters to read this book.

If you've read Speak you know how powerful this book is.

If you haven't, watch Laurie Halse Anderson reading a poem she composed mainly from the reactions of readers who sent her mail after reading Speak, and you'll get a sense of the impact her book has had on them. Maybe you'll be inspired to read it. The name you hear, Melinda, is the name of the main character.

If you feel inclined to speak out against Dr. Wesley Scoggins and his poisonous remarks you can do so by clicking the links on Laurie's site. Why can't more energy be used toward educating people and helping the victims who feel they have no voice, like Laurie has done with one book?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Inspiration Celebration

I know I'm not the only one who doubts and questions my writing. I'm not the only one who feels like giving up at times. What keeps me going are the people and things which inspire me. Especially during those moments when I'm lacking confidence in my ability. You know, while writing those crappy first drafts? When words seem bland, the characters flat, and the plot filled with more holes than a piece of swiss cheese. It's so easy to give up and do something less frustrating, like matching a laundry basket full of socks.

As I started thinking about it I realized a post on where I find my inspiration would be too long. There are just too many. I don't know if having so many sources to choose from comes from luck or simply from the ability to recognize and be truly thankful for them. I suspect the latter. So instead I'm going to post maybe twice a month about a source of inspiration. A person, place, or thing which inspires me to write or what I write about.

Okay, so first up - my parents. I might as well start at the beginning. My mom and dad taught me the value of working hard. Dad wasn't (and still isn't) a reader. He would scan through our daily newspaper, but I've never seen him sit down to read a book. Mainly because the man cannot sit still. He always has some type of project he's working on whether it's wallpapering/painting a room, knocking out walls, building something or planting a garden. My dad is also artistic and when I was little we would sit at the kitchen table on Saturday mornings and draw together with Captain Bob. And although my dad wasn't a reader, he loved making up stories. Part of my bedtime routine included dad's stories about three mice brothers and their adventures. Then it would be my turn. And more often than naught, I'd repeat the exact same story with different animals.

Mom, on the other hand, loves to read. My childhood memories of mom include her starting her day early (like 4:30am early!) by enjoying a couple cups of coffee and her latest Good Housekeeping magazine or paperback - usually a mystery, supernatural or horror. She adored Stephen King and always looked forward to his latest paperback. My love of the library came from Mom who took me for my first card (the cardboard kind w/ a metal plate). She was the first to introduce me to Nancy Drew and helped me build my collection. I loved visiting the library and was amazed that they let me borrow so many books for free!

My parents inspired me to believe in myself, that I could do anything I wanted if I worked hard enough, and that creating was a worthy pursuit - one that was both satisfying and a source of joy. Combine that with my love of books and reading, and voila, a writer was born!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Change and Adjustments

Isn't it freaky when another person in the literary world blogs on a topic that you were just thinking about and planning on blogging on yourself? That happened to me today. Have you seen Nathan Bransford's post on burnout? Go check it out and come on back.

I feel like a wimp complaining that I'm burned out. Why? I had the whole summer off, I've been working part-time for only a week, and have a great husband who helps me a LOT. But seriously, I am dragging like you wouldn't believe. At 3:00 every afternoon, my energy level plummets and I long for a nap. Unfortunately, I can't sneak in a snooze (and not because my bed is covered with unfolded laundry. Nope.). I really don't think I'm burned out. If I am, I'm in serious trouble - it's only September! I think my body is adjusting to change.

So far my strategy has been to try to get to bed earlier, though I need to work on that some more. I have a little rebellious streak in me that likes to stay up until 11:00pm. I also need to just give myself time. Time to adjust to my new schedule and to get the necessary daily tasks done more efficiently. Hopefully, that will give me some time to write without it feeling like a chore. Because really, why would I put myself through that if it wasn't what I felt passionate about?

I don't mind change. Change is good. It challenges me to grow. But sometimes it's mixed with frustration as I try and adjust from something comfortable to something different and challenging. Maybe I just need another cup of tea.

Monday, September 13, 2010

How to Read While Eating

It's hard to find time to read every day now that I'm back to a crazy schedule. If you're like me, you love to read any chance you get. Right now I'm reading Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White. I usually take the book I'm currently reading in the car so I'll have it with me when I have to wait for kids or if I have an appointment. One of the ways I squeeze reading time in is by reading while I eat breakfast or lunch. However, the last thing I want is for my book to be soiled, especially if it's new and pretty like this one. And don't you hate when you're reading a library book and you turn to a page with gross, food smudges or stains on it?


Here's a little helpful guide to prevent that from happening.

1. Prepare your reading spot: Wipe the table of anything that might stick to a book before placing it down. In my house that includes Silly Putty, water rings from cups, crumbs, nail polish. Don't forget to dry your spot with a towel to prevent a wet book.

2. Book Placement: I'm right-handed and have found that placing my book to my left prevents me from eating or holding food over my book. Eat to my right, read to my left. I'll assume that left-handed people would most likely benefit from eat to the left, read to the right.

3. Open book before eating: This is beneficial for two reasons. a) Food touched before opening book might soil a page. b) Searching for a page may lead to hot food cooling down. Using a prop is helpful for keeping a book open while reading. Napkin holders work well as do any heavy object within range.

4. Hold a napkin in left hand (if you're a righty like me): Besides the obvious use of a) wiping fingers every time you need to turn a page, napkins have other essential uses. b) It quickly serves as a mouth shield when reading a laugh-out-loud moment, preventing nasty food expulsions onto your book. c) Can serve as a tissue to dab the eyes during sad scenes.

5. Beverages: They can be quite a threat to a pristine book, particularly if children are at the table (trust me on this one). But with special care and attention one can avoid spillage and soilage. Paper or plastic disposable cups are a no no while reading. The slightest upheaval can send a flood of liquid to forever stain and crinkle your book pages. To avoid this, a weighty cup placed as far away from eating area (but within reaching distance) is advisable. Keeping plenty of napkins close by is also helpful.

6. Ending the reading/eating experience: I try to stop at the end of a chapter, wipe my fingers with my hand held napkin, close and push my book away from the eating area, and either finish my meal or clean up my spot.

Following these steps should provide you with an enjoyable reading and eating experience. Using your time wisely by engaging in two pleasurable activities simultaneously will leave you well fed and well read.

Unless you are totally disgusted by the mere thought of anyone eating and reading at the same, feel free to leave any other helpful tips that I may have missed below.

Friday, September 10, 2010

My Muse is Not From Xanadu

Does anyone remember the movie Xanadu starring Olivia Newton-John?(I'm definitely showing my age here). Kira (Olivia) was a muse who was sent to inspire a struggling artist. I loved this movie and played the album over and over again. Take a trip down memory lane with me. Or if you're too young, here's why 80s fashion can NOT make a come back any time soon.

Okay, confession time. For a while I wanted to BE Olivia Newton-John. I longed for a muse to come and touch my voice so that I could sing like Olivia. Yeah, that didn't happen. I'm a brunette and couldn't touch the final high note of Xanadu with a ten foot pole. So then I wanted to be Pat Benatar. But that's another story.

My muse is not from Xanadu. My muse lives at the library.

She flits among the book shelves and flies up to the high ceilings. When I walk through the entrance she senses my presence and beckons me to my favorite room upstairs. She waits patiently while I empty my tote bag. I begin my ritual of spreading out and setting up my notebooks, pencil, cell phone (on vibrate), and post-its at my table. Before she sprinkles her magic, she waits for a treat. She knows I have a sweet tooth. We've been known to share Hershey nuggets, Eclipse mints, and Sour Patch Kids. Then she goes to work.

The library is where I always work best. There are no distractions (except for trying not to crinkle my candy wrappers too loudly) at the library. The writing flows so freely there. It's amazing how focused I become. I can often reach between 500 - 800 words an hour thanks to my little muse. I'm thinking of leaving a trail of candy on the way home to see if she'll follow me.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Has this ever happened to you?

You're working on a novel and you're making good progress. Then out the blue an idea for another novel - BAM!! - hits you out of nowhere. At first it's just a spark of an idea - a 'hmm...what if...' question tickles your brain. You put it aside, and then - WHAP!! - something else which follows that idea keeps you thinking about it. Then soon you find yourself thinking it about it A LOT. I mean, ALL THE TIME. And it threatens to take your focus off your original WiP.

That happened to me recently. Most of my novel ideas come out of nowhere, usually when I'm doing some sort of menial task. My second novel spark flickered when I was taking a trash bag out to the garage. Not too long ago, I was washing dishes, my mind began to wander, and different thoughts starting rising up like the bubbles in my dish pan. When an idea comes into my head, I jot it down fast lest I forget it. Then I add it to my 'Children's Novel Ideas' file for future reference. I have little phrases, song lines, questions, something silly one of my kids says, a potpourri of possibilities that I might develop into a story some day. Usually, I add my latest one to the list and forget about it. But this one has been distracting me and I'm excited about developing it into a novel.

When I went to pick up one of my kids from track practice last week, I didn't know what time he'd be finishing up. I took a guess, showed up, and ended up waiting for an hour in my car. But it wasn't a wasted hour because I came equipped with my notebook and the current book I was reading. The dish washing idea had started to take shape, so I spent a good part of that hour jotting down ideas. As I wrote down one idea, another came, and then another. I didn't worry if it made sense, I just wrote and wrote. I even came up with names, something which for me usually happens later in the brainstorming process. Before I knew it I had two full pages. I'm really excited about developing an outline from these notes, but I want to keep working on my current WiP.

I'll let you in on a little secret. I've started 3 novels so far and haven't finished a one. This was going to be the year I finally completed a novel. I don't want to get sidetracked right now, so I'm putting this new idea on the back burner. I'm thinking I may use it for this year's NaNoWriMo - working hard on Nitpicky through Sept. and Oct., then taking a break to do the NNWM (Ha! as if that's really a break). But, for myself, it's important that I finish Nitpicky, even if it doesn't end up being "the one." (more on that another time)

Now, this is where I need your help. The story idea I'd like to develop is a ghost story. However, I haven't read a lot of them. Like none. I'd really like to know and read what is currently out on the market. I recently read on the children's book review blog, Searching for a Good Read a review for The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, a YA ghost story. I checked it out of my library and will start reading it this week. So, if you've read or have heard of a good YA ghost story, preferably current (within the last 10 years) which you're dying (pardon the pun) to tell me about, please leave the title in the comments and I would be oh so grateful.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Of Squirrels and Word Counts

The other day I sat at my kitchen table and looked out my sliding glass doors to the back yard. Something round and white moved in the grass behind a small slide. My curiousity got the best of me. I stood up and saw a squirrel carrying a round piece of bread that was at least twice the size of its head! Take a moment and picture that if you'd like. I wish my camera had been in the room.

The squirrel carried the bread in its mouth and disappeared up into the giant maple. Amused, I sat back down at the table. A moment later the squirrel was back at the bottom because the bread had dropped out of its mouth. Again, it tryed to pick up the bread that was TWICE THE SIZE OF ITS HEAD. It finally managed to hold the bread between its teeth and resume its climb. Persistent little thing, I thought.

Not long ago I made a crazy squirrel-like goal for myself. 10k words written in one weekend. 10k words in a loooooong weekend. A word count that's at least twice the size of my No, scratch that. I don't really know if its within my ability, yet. I started on Friday and had a rockin good start - around a thousand. No problem. Saturday - NOT ONE WORD. Sunday, another thousand. Monday's not over yet, but I'm not planning on reaching 8k today.

There have been lots of distractions this weekend. Distractions are not necessarily a bad thing, though. In fact, I've had a lot of wonderful ones. Two of those distractions happened right here in Blogville. Thanks to Donna's Blog Party and Karen G's BBQ I've met some lovely friends, some who write and some who encourage those of us who write. I don't consider the time I spent visiting blogs and meeting new people as wasted writing time at all. We're in this writing thing together, right? We need all the support and encouragement we can get!

Spending time with my family has been another happy distraction. Nothing special, but it's the last laid back, stress-free weekend we have together before the madness of schoolworksoccerhomeworkpractice-ohwehavetoeat-laundrywritedrivingdrivingdrivingbed. (Note to self: don't forget to breathe.) Family will always be my first priority.

Even though I did bite off a bit more than I can chew this weekend, I'm not going to beat myself up over it. I'm still proud of what I've accomplished so far. I can pick up my piece of bread, keep on plugging away at my novel, and continue to climb up that tree. On second thought, I think I'll skip the tree climbing.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Open House

If you're blog hopping your way over from the the lovely, Donna Hosie's, Musings of A Penniless Writer blog, or just happened to stumble by, then welcome! Feel free to indulge in the decadent chocolate fountain and look around. I'm a blogging newbie, just started last month, so keep in mind, it's a work in progress. And now for the bad poetry.

An Open House Message

Welcome friends and visitors
And those who love to lurk,
Your presence here's delightful
A break from all my work.

Please look around and feel at home
I hope you'll read a bit.
May I offer you a beverage
And endless choc-o-late?

Just click below to comment
And leave a link and name.
I'd love to return your favor
By offering the same.

I thank the lovely Donna
Whose musings make me smile,
For hosting a fab party
With charm, (hot men) and style!

A gift for the hostess ----------> chocolate shoes!

p.s. I apologize for not preparing a topic to blog about today. As you may have read in this previous post, I'm in middle of trying to add 10k to my upper MG novel, Nitpicky (working title). Not to mention preparing for another visitor, Hurricane Earl who will be passing by tonight. I'm crossing my fingers that he won't throw a tantrum. Word is he's mellowed out over the last 24 hours, but I'm not taking any chances.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Last Hurrah

In six days I'll be returning to work and need to get some things done before then. I love lists. I especially love crossing things off lists. Unfortunately, I get a bit enthusiastic and ambitious, adding things I just know I'll never get to. And this one is the same. My hope is that if put it on the blog it will guilt me into accomplishing most, if not all of it.
  1. Declutter my room. I really need to do this!
  2. Clean out 2 closets. Long overdue.
  3. Iron back-to-school-and-work clothes
  4. Label school stuff and pack backpacks
  5. Finish weeding my garden. I'm halfway there!
  6. Go out for Chinese food with friend. I need some fun in the middle of all this, right?
  7. Color my gray stripe which is reaching the inch mark.
  8. Write 10,000 words this weekend. Say what?

In the spirit of jumping on the bandwagon and riding into the sunset with dreams of finishing this first draft, I sort of committed myself to a writing challenge.

Sigh. Do I ever learn?

Over at Nathan's, one member started a Labor Day Weekend Write-Off. Set a goal and write like crazy for 3 days. Kind of like a mini NaNoWriMo. 10,000 words in 3 days sounded like a good idea at the time. I've never written that amount in such a short time but I'm going to give it a try. A last hurrah as the end of summer approaches. Sure, I could edit my post. I mean, would anyone really notice if I changed the amount to, oh, I don't know, 5,000 words? But no, I'll stick to my original goal (with the cloud of humiliation when I report back hanging over my head if I don't at least come within range). Speaking of end of summer hurrahs, I need to add one more thing to my list.

9. Take the family out for a long drive ending in icecream. No word count is going to take that away from me!

Monday, August 30, 2010


I love a good series, don't you? Revisiting favorite characters, their friends, family, enemies, and the world they live in. A sequel is like a pair of broken in sneakers. I settle into the story quicker, it's comfortable right from the beginning, especially if there's a little recap, and I enter the next adventure with the characters I've come to know.

Most of the series I read are continuations of the story told in the first book. Sometimes there's a cliffhanger but more often there are threads which tie each story to the next. Take Harry Potter for instance. Each book takes Harry through a school year at Hogwarts in which some type of adventure occurs leading him to his final confrontation with Voldemort. I know that's an extremely simple look at HP but you get the idea. Diehard fans (me) spent months speculating and discussing what would happen to Harry, wondering if Snape was good or evil, who was the Half Blood Prince or RAB, while waiting for J.K. Rowling's next book. And that's one of the fun parts about a series, particularly if it's the last book - the anticipation and wondering how the author will wrap it up. We saw that just last week with the much anticipated Mockingjay, the third and final book in The Hunger Games trilogy.

I bring this up because even though I love to read books in a series, I know I'll be investing a lot of time with the same characters, their world, in their particular circumstances, and also with the same author and his/her own style of writing. That's why I have to be in the mood to read a series and like to choose whether or not I want to invest that time. I just finished Leviathan, a book I had heard a lot of good things about by well respected YA author, Scott Westerfeld. Ironically, I picked it up because I was looking for the first book in a series by him called Uglies. When the library didn't have it in, I chose Leviathan, a steampunk, historical adventure. It's such an imaginative, well written story, a real treat to read, and a refreshing change from what I've been reading lately. And the illustrations are incredible and really add to the novel. As I got near the end, maybe 50 pages away, and was waiting for a particular character to do something (sorry for the vagueness but I don't want to ruin it) I realized that I wasn't going to find out. There's a sequel called Behemoth coming out in October! Somehow I missed the fact that there would be a sequel and felt let down at the end. Not that I'm blaming Westerfeld or anyone else, and I really don't have to read it, but now I'll be wondering what happens to Deryn and Alek. Even though I found steampunk a different and creative genre, I'm not sure if I want to read another, at least not now.
What about you? Do you like to know ahead of time that you're reading the first book in a series? Does it matter?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hot Chocolate in August?

This morning my daughters requested this with breakfast. Yup. Hot chocolate. It's August. Does this seem strange to anyone but me? I mean, I drink coffee and tea (not iced but hot) all year round, but for some reason I associate hot chocolate with winter. I understand completely why they requested it. This is our third day of rain and it's in the 60s. Hardly summerlike weather.

It lead me to think of things I associate with books I've read. Powerful images that have stuck in my brain and take me back to a favorite story. When I smell peppermint, for example, I'm reminded of Basta from Inkheart who chewed mint leaves and was often identified by its scent on his breath. Roses will forever remind me of President Snow from the Hunger Games trilogy. I can't look at a snake without thinking of Voldemort.

Authors create characters who become alive and memorable through the careful and deliberate images they use to describe them. These descriptions often appeal to our senses and are usually the ones that linger long after we're finished reading. A tinkling bell has me looking over my shoulder for a certain thistle-down haired fairy from Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and the mention of whiskey? I'm back in Scotland with Jamie Fraser. I think I'll ponder that last association a little while longer....hmmmm

What sounds, scents, objects do you associate with your favorite books or characters?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blogger Woes

Dear Blogger,

You and I both know that I don't have a lot of computer savvy, but when I signed up with you, you promised it would be easy and I took your word for it. And while yes, I admit it was fun thinking up a cute name and creating just the right look, I'm a tad annoyed that you won't let me post any images. What's up with that?

Remember the baseball game I went to last week? I had a lot of fun that night looking around the park (it was Fenway btw), thinking "Hmm..what should I take a picture of? Which shots could I share with my friends on the blog? Oh, wouldn't a pic of the food on my lap be funny?" I couldn't wait to try scanning my images in the computer the next day (because there's something wonky going on w/ my cord) and was thrilled when that worked. Uploaded to photobucket - easy, peasy! I was all set to go. Followed the blogger instructions, clicked the cute little image button and ...nothing. I tried again. Nothing. Surely, I must have forgotten a step. Reread, posted, nothing. Searched Help, uploaded again, STILL NOTHING! Left it for the weekend, searched every place I could think today, tried again and you guessed it.

I'm not giving up. I WON'T give up. Blogger, we can probably still be friends, after all it's not you, it's me. But today I'm hanging out with MOCKINGJAY. There's no techy kind of thing-a-ma-jig I have to figure out (until the day I buy an e-reader). Don't worry, I'll be back when I'm finished reading.

Until tomorrow when I have more time to waste,


Monday, August 23, 2010

Sunday Night of Summer

Even though I try to convince myself that summer doesn't end until late September (in the Northern hemisphere, that is) let's face it, after Labor Day weekend, summer is officially over. And for those who go back to school in August, summer ends even earlier. I've always thought of this time of year as the Sunday night of summer. Remember that feeling you'd get in the pit of your stomach on Sunday night before the school week started? The weekend was over and it was back to the routine of getting up way too early, sitting in classes, mounds of homework, etc.

That's how I feel at this time of the year. I'm fortunate enough to have summers off and stay home with my kids. I'm able to get up later than the usual 5:30 wake up during the school year, there are no school lunches to pack and uniforms to iron, I'm not juggling my schedule to get the kids where they need to be, and there's a lot more free time to procrastinate, er, I mean, get things done. That's all coming to an end soon and that familiar pit-in-stomach feeling is returning. Soccer practice for 2 of my kids starts this week, cross country practice for 1 starts next week. I've been nervously go over and over in my head if everything is ready - supplies bought, uniforms pressed and ready, school assignments completed - and whether I've forgotten anything. (Cleats! The kids have to try those on today!). This fall I'm also returning to a part time job that I began last winter (with the possibility of extra hours) which means bye-bye to my free time to write. I'll need to get back to a disciplined mindset if I want to achieve some writing goals I've set for myself.

I recently reached the 10,000 work mark in the first draft I'm working on now which means it's only 1/4 of the way finished. I plan to push myself the next 3 weeks before I officially return to work. I'd like to add another 20k by then. This is rather ambitious for me because I'm not a fast writer, but I have other writing goals I'd like to accomplish between now and the end of the year.

Unlike those Sunday nights, I'm not dreading the fall, I'll just miss the laid back, carefree days of summer.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Win

Thanks to one of my awesome sisters-in-law, my 11 year old and I were able to go to a *baseball game Wednesday night. It was a beautiful night and best of all the home team won. Now I promise I won't subject you to bad puns and analogies relating baseball to writing, but I will give you the answers to Wednesday's (read Tuesday because I'm still learning the blogger ropes and the day I drafted this appeared as the post date) first line quiz. Oh, you didn't know it was a quiz? Well, since I gave away Coraline, you all start with 1 out of 10. But Jason correctly identified 4 out of 10 for the win. Way to go! So without further ado, here are the answers.

  1. Coraline - Neil Gaiman
  2. I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith
  3. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
  4. To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee
  5. Feed - M.T. Anderson
  6. Princess Academy - Shannon Hale
  7. From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler - E.L. Konigsburg
  8. Leviathan - Scott Westerfeld
  9. Inkheart - Cornelia Funke
  10. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis

Surprised? I'll admit #10 surprised me. I loved this book growing up but when it comes to first lines it's not very intriguing. I think most of us are forgiving when we begin a new book and an ordinary line isn't going to stop us from reading further. As I mentioned, I'm working on the first draft of a novel. Sometimes it takes a while for me think of that perfect opening, but this time the line came first and I've been building on it ever since.

"Girls named Felicity should not be allowed to play tag football with boys, especially with Timothy Williams."

*I'm planning on posting some pics of the game, but I'm having difficulty uploading to blogger for some reason. I'll try again in a while.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

First Lines

We've all heard don't judge a book by it's cover, though I'll admit I do that all the time. I've been known to pass on a book if I don't like it's cover. But that's not what I want to write about today. What about judging a book by it's first line? If the first line doesn't hook you or grab you by the eyeballs, do you put it down or continue reading? Personally, I keep going, but that first page has to pull me into the story. Here's a an example of a great first line that gives just enough information and tickles our curiousity bone (which is connected to the funny bone, of course).

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling)

Right away I'm thinking, who are these Dursleys and why are they so proud of being normal unless they were constantly worried about appearing not normal? And the 'thank you very much' indicates that they were a bit snooty about appearances in general.

At first glance it seems easy to come up with one line. But every word choice is important to convey tone, voice, mood. One little line could be the difference to whether someone picks up your book and buys it or whether he or she puts it down and moves on. Oh, the pressure! So far I haven't entered many online contests, since most require a finished ms, but I did submit my first line to a critique thread on literary agent Nathan Bransford's blog. In his forums there's a thread for rating and commenting on first lines. I typed my line in and nervously clicked 'post now.'


That was 3 days ago. I figure everyone was either blown away by the absolute genius of my word usage or else they couldn't find a polite way to say, "Write much?" Did I mention that the thread has been moving lower and lower down the blog roll, my name glaring off to the right as the last person who posted?

To comfort myself, I looked up some first lines from books I have around the house. See if you guess can guess where they come from.

Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved in the house. (Okay, that's a give away. But there's good stuff in that opening line. That door leads to a very creepy adventure.) Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.

When I wake up the other side of the bed is cold.

When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.

We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.

Miri woke to the sleepy bleating of a goat.

Claudia knew that she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away.

(From the book I'm currently reading...)
The Austrian horses glinted in the moonlight, their riders standing tall in the saddle, swords raised.

Rain fell that night, a fine, whispering rain.

Once there were four children named Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy.

What do you think? Did they grip you? Intrigue you? Did they set the tone? Would you want to read more or is there just not enough to tell? If you recognize some of these, feel free to put your answers in the comments. I'll post them on Friday along with the first line from Nitpicky.