Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Favorites

Reading is one of my favorite pastimes and most of my 2011 reads did not disappoint. I read a total of *23 novels. Not bad for the crazy life I Iead, lol. I did fall short of my goal which was to *cough* read 60 novels *cough*. I guess I was a little ambitious at the beginning of 2011. I planned to read one novel a week, and threw in a few more figuring I’d read more in the summer. Um, yeah. The averages didn’t quite work out that way. Though *23 is nothing to sneeze at. If you’d like to see my list just glance up above and click Books Read in 2011. And now for my favorites.

To be a favorite, a book must include certain Suzie criteria.

1. Excellent writing/storytelling
2. Good pacing
3. Characters I care about
4. Unputdownable - a certain something that compels me to carry it everywhere to read during every spare minute: in the car while waiting for kids, appointments, the kitchen table during lunch, etc.
5. Tug at my emotions - This could involve blurred vision due to tear filled eyes, laughing out loud, the story lingering long after I've finished, or any combination of the three.

The books that fell into this category are:

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Plain Kate by Erin Bow
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

YA and MG literature keep getting better and better. It’s hard to pick a favorite with so many excellent choices. With that in mind, my favorite read of the year is...
No, Daughter...
Wait, Kate!!

Surprise of the Year (a.k.a. Why Did It Take Me So Long to Read This?)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - Loved this!

I want to emphasize that practically every book entertained me and I’d recommend any of them. Even if a novel didn’t excite me, I know it entertained others. That’s why I hesitate to give any novel a bad review; it’s just so subjective. I mean, I’ve heard rumors that there are actually people who don’t like Harry Potter! I don’t really believe that but I suppose there is the possibility that someone on the planet might not...NAH!!

*ETA: I finished reading Thirteen Reasons Why today, so 24!

Have you read any of these novels? What are your favorites that you love to tell everyone about? 2012 is right around the corner and I'd love some recommendations for the new year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Preferences (Of the Christmas Variety)

One of the things I love about the holiday season is that everyone has their own preferences as to what makes it perfect. And though it can be fun to "debate" who's preference is better, what really matters is what makes the season special to you and your family. Below I listed a Christmas meme of sorts. Feel free to answer all, some, or none in the comments below. Or if you have an other answer to the choices I listed please do share!

The Tree
real tree or artificial
colored lights or white
flashing lights or nonflashers
garland or tinsel
themed tree or smorgasbord of ornaments
wrapping paper or gift bags

Under the Tree
presents or donation to charity
wrapping paper or gift bags
everything wrapped or half & half

Traditional Carols or contemporary artists’ songs
Rudolph or Frosty
Charlie Brown or The Grinch
The Nutcracker Ballet or the Rockettes
It’s A Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street
A Christmas Story or Home Alone

Food and Drink
eggnog or hot cocoa
fruitcake or sugar cookies
candy canes or truffles

Santa Claus, Father Christmas, or St. Nick
Holiday Cards or E-cards
Shopping: Online or Store to Store

I'd like to wish you all Happy Holidays and best wishes for the New Year!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

This Couldn't Wait Until Monday

Are you a Laini Taylor fan? Are you sick of reading about my adoration of her writing? I realize that 5 of the last 11 of my posts have included something related to Laini but this is news I couldn't keep under my hat (if I actually wore hats).

Laini's recently released Young Adult novel, Daughter of Smoke and Bone has been optioned by Universal Pictures!

It's going to be a real live film! (squee!)

 Read all about it here on Laini's blog. If you're discovering Laini Taylor for the first time, here's an incentive to check out her incredible writing.

Also, a shout out to my friend Donna Weaver at Weaving a Tale or Two. She had her query critiqued at the QQQE by Matthew MacNish yesterday. I'm sure Donna would appreciate a visit and support for the query that she's polishing up.

And finally, something I heard on the radio last week. I'm a fan of Michael Smerconish's talk radio program and Wednesday he featured a member of the American Dialect Society. Every year since 1990 at their annual meeting in Portland, Oregan, they've chosen a "Word of the Year," a significant word that has been either introduced or has been important to (mainly) North American culture. Being a word lover, I'm curious as to what it will be this year.

Last year's word was App.
In 2009, the word of the year was "tweet."
Before that in 2008, "bailout."

As for 2011, I'm thinking maybe "occupy." Ideas, anyone?

And I know it's early, but who should play the part of Karou?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Yay vs. Nay

(Or another little glimpse at my thought process)

*clicks onto Laini Taylor’s blog*

Oh. My.
Ooooooh My! Want!

The following conversation with myself went something like this. Wait. You all have conversations with yourself, right? *ahem*

Yay: I really should promote this on the blog.
Nay: No, I most certainly should NOT!
Y: This is so freaking amazing! My literary friends would go gaga over these.
N: More friends equals less chances pour moi to win.
Y: Hmm. True, but even if I don’t win, I’ll rejoice with the lucky winner. Especially if it’s a bloggy buddy (bluggy? bloddy?)
N: Who am I kidding? I’ll pout, spout a few choice words at the monitor, and sulk some more. That graphic sampler...*sigh* *drool*
Y: Still...If I mention the you know what, it could draw more potential fans to Laini’s site. That would be cool.
N: EEK! 358 people have already entered!
Y: What’s a few more? I’ll do it!

Click to read about and enter Laini Taylor’s Big Fat Holiday Giveaway. The contest is open until midnight PST, Saturday, December 10. Many will enter, few will win. And just so you know, I am on a winning roll right now. The girl who never wins raffles (me), won a 3 month family membership to the Y at a fundraiser and a gift certificate to a local restaurant at our annual school Turkey Shoot Giveaway (too politically incorrect so we had to change the name). So, following the rule of 3, I’m due to win one more thing. I plan on sending my cosmic vibes out west to Oregon so that my name magnetically clings to Laini’s (or whoever draws the name) fingers. Just sayin’.

If you'd like to watch an interview from 2009 with Laini and her husband Jim (who magnificently illustrated Lips Touch Three Times), click here. It's not short - about 30 minutes - but it's an interesting conversation about writing, illustrating, their creative journey, and YA fiction. I could especially relate to what Laini spoke about at 15:30. Enjoy and have great weekend!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Who Wants Lemonade?

Or maybe this post should be titled, Life's Too Short. Either way, this post for the monthly *IWSP is oddly enough not about insecurity. Rather, it's about taking a sucky situation, examining it closely, turning it around, and choosing to move forward.

I’m not here to whine, complain or mope today. Instead I’m filled with a renewed hope and an appreciation for all things important in my life in my little corner of the world. I’m alive, I’m healthy, I have a great family, and friends who care about me. I have a warm home, plenty to eat, and clothes on my back. I have a job that suits my way of life perfectly.

I've known quite a few people and families who have suffered loss over the past couple of months: the death of a loved one - sometimes expected, sometimes sudden and tragic. Friends facing tough health issues. I've hugged my husband and kids a little tighter knowing how fortunate we are to have each other. I chose to put my writing aside while I grieved with these friends, helped my son apply to colleges, supported one of my daughters with a particular issue. All requiring my time. Precious writing time that was sacrificed to be present to those I love. Although I've missed writing, I don't regret one moment.

The grip of a grueling autumn is finally beginning to loosen its hold on me. The stress isn't as severe; though still tired, I feel lighter. Even though the holiday season is hectic, there’s joy in the air and the promise of fun days and sweet memories in the making. Have you felt it?

And while I, like everyone, have my insecure moments, I’m brimming with excitement over new ideas and hope that the next novel I work on will be something special. Sometimes all we seem to gather are extra large sour lemons. But more lemons means more lemonade to share with friends, right? [Ugh! Did I really use the "when life gives you lemons" cliche? I like mine with extra sugar, please.]

*For more info about the Insecure Writers Support Group, visit Alex J. Cavanaugh for details and a list of participants.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I need to get the writing ball rolling again. So what do I do? Temporarily put my MG WiP on hold. I plan on returning to finish it after the new year. The reason?


Sort of sounds like the sound I'd make while spitting out burnt spinach. But what it really stands for is: Young Adult Paranormal Unnamed Novel Idea.

Ever since NaNoWriMo 2010 (which I did not come close to finishing, btw), I’ve had an outline and the first thousand words or so of a YA ghost story saved in my notebook. Heck, I even have a playlist for this potential novel! My intention was to finish Nitpicky and put it aside in 2011 before diving into this novel idea.

But a few things have changed this mindset. The first is the fact that I still haven't finished it and 2011 is coming to a close. The second came from listening to Laini Taylor speak about giving herself permission to put aside the ms that she had been writing to work on a new idea. This “cheat” novel eventually became the incredible, Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The third reason may seem cliché but has become very relevant to me over the past couple of months in my personal life: Life is too short. Why not seize the day with the idea I’m passionate about rather than putting it on hold?

And so I am going to explore YAPUNI and see where it takes me. It could very well fizzle out after a couple of chapters. But I won’t know until I try and it’s all I’ve been thinking about lately. My goal for this week is to flesh out my outline a bit and work on character development before I write. I feel strongly about structure this time around and so that will be my focus.

Hee! I’m excited to get started!

Do you have any new projects rattling around in your mind? What do you hope to finish before the end of year?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Finding My Way Back

Hey. It’s been a while, I know. I’d like to say that I’ve been sunning on a tropical beach somewhere in the Caribbean, but instead I’ve been up to my earlobes in, well, life for the last month and a half. I managed to squeeze in a couple of blog posts during that time but finally had to let blogging go for a while, too. I didn’t want to admit it but it just became too much. Not that blogging is hard, but I haven’t had a lot of computer time lately. I decided that if I’m not writing, then I shouldn’t feel guilty about not blogging, right?

I did, though...just a little. Truth is I’ve missed you.

In between jury duty, college applications, school conferences, a *sick computer, planning and cooking my first Thanksgiving dinner, etc., I’ve been thinking about those of you who visit and take the time to comment. I apologize for skipping out for so long. Unfortunately, my commitments ate up most of my free time and the early mornings, full days, and late nights caught up with me and completely wore me out. Like my post title says, I’m finding my way back, albeit slowly. And like all of you, I'm still busy, but I plan to return to regular blogging soon (as long as my computer doesn't start acting up again). Because you know what? I miss it.

And I’ll tell you what else I miss. Writing. I haven’t worked on my ms since September and I’m longing to get back to it. Even though the holiday season is upon us, I’m committed to carving out a portion of my week to writing. Though I haven't decided whether I'll continue with Nitpicky or work on my YA idea (more on this later).

Oh, and a big thank you to all of you who haven't abandoned me. I can't wait to visit you and read what you've been up to over the last few weeks. I even gained a few new followers during my absence. Such a nice surprise. Hello and welcome to Elizabeth, Cara, and Margo. Thanks for stopping by.

So again, I'm finding my way back. Leave the light on for me, okay?

*(A stupid virus nearly ruined my computer. Thanks to my brother for his time, knowledge and skill, and calm presence while his sister [that would be me] freaked out.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I'm So Not Posting an Image of This Topic

And that would be because it’s something that I’m deathly afraid of. Don't laugh. I don't admit this to everyone. In fact, I think only my family knows this about me. So what am I deathly afraid of?


I can’t look at ‘em, can’t watch ‘em, can’t read about them. They creep me out something fierce and scare the living bejeebies out of me [though what bejeebies are exactly, I’m not quite sure. (Okay, I just looked it up. Urban dictionary definition? Um, ew.)]

But can you blame me? I mean what redeeming qualities do zombies actually have?

Are they friendly?
Do they really have to eat brains and intestines? What’s the point? How ‘bout a cheeseburger and some fries?
Why do they have to leave their tombs anyway?
And what about dropping body parts? What’s up with that?

Okay, maybe they have one good quality. They can dance. Have you ever seen Michael Jackson’s Thriller video? Wicked!

As I was growing up, I never really thought about zombies. I wasn’t even aware of them, really, until I was older – maybe 19 or 20. One late night while out with friends, we were confronted by a hungry, angry mob of the undead. Well, not actual zombies, but I was out with friends and I wasn’t driving that night, which becomes important in this little anecdote. My friends and I had a conversation that went something like this:

*Greg: Hey, there’s a midnight showing of Dawn of the Dead at the movies. Let’s go watch it.
Me: Uh....
*Jack: Yeah. That movie’s hilarious!
Me: Uh...*nudges Dana and shakes head back and forth*
Greg: C’mon it’ll be fun!
Me: I don’t really think I want to see it.
*Dana: I don’t really want to go home.
Jack: Okay, we’re going. Besides, I’m driving. *backseat grumbling sounds*
Me: Maybe there’s another movie playing at the same time. *trying not to whimper*

We arrive at the movies. Dawn of the Dead is the only midnight show. I swallow hard, buy a ticket with everyone else, and find a seat.

Greg: I’ve seen this loads of times and it gets funnier every time.
Me: *squints and covers eyes with fingers slightly parted*

Opening scene in which there’s some sort of battle between soldiers(?) and zombies. The blood and body parts are flying.

Me: *in panicked stage whisper* Jack! Jack! I want your car keys...NOW! *wimps out and waits in the car until the movie ends. Dana joins me about 15 minutes later.*

*The names have been changed to protect their sorry butts identities.

And because of that experience I’ve been freaked out by the walking undead ever since. True story.

That’s not to say that I can’t appreciate zombie related entertainment. I mentioned the line dancing zombies of Thriller, I’ve heard there’s some fabulous zombie literature such as The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (though I’ll be honest and tell you I will never read it; just can’t do it). My son blasts zombies away while playing Call of Duty and I can actually watch him play - except for the close up shots - without squinting or peeking through my eyes, though the music creeps me out. And how do you actually kill a zombie if he’s technically already dead?

No, don’t tell me. I really don’t think I want to know.

Do you hold affectionate feelings toward the undead or do they give you the woollies?

Monday, October 17, 2011

What's Their Story?

Phew! What a weekend. All that blog hopping tired me out. It's a good tired, though. Thanks to all who stopped by from Alex and Matt’s Pay It Forward blog fest. I’ve added many new blogs to my Dashboard roll and look forward to getting to know all of you. What an awesome way to give and receive the support that all of us need from time to time.

As a way to unwind, I’d like to share with you a flash mob video that my friend posted this weekend (thanks, Mare). Have you seen this yet? I’ve viewed it numerous times as I love Bolero. After my 4th viewing, my focus shifted away from the musicians and to the brief glimpses of the passersby who stopped to listen in the midst of their busy days. I couldn’t help wondering what the story behind each face might be and began to imagine them.

A couple with a young child in a stroller stop to listen. Where are they coming from. Are they tourists or do they live in the city? Why are they passing through the train station?

Her hair is pulled back tight into a bun. The only color visible, wrapped around her neck. She checks her phone. No email. Will Patrick come? She raises her eyes as the steady beat of a drummer is joined by the haunting melody of a flute. She could wait a bit longer.

Another woman, black jacket draped across her shoulders, walks by barely registering the monotonous sounds of the station. Her shift was supposed to end at 8:00 but her relief called in sick. This time claims of congestion. Short-handed again. How could she keep up this schedule? Her wrists are crossed as she huddles under her jacket. So cold. She glances over her shoulder as a familiar melody distracts her from her exhaustion. Her father loved Bolero.

Does anyone else have a story? Tell me about it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pay It Forward Blogfest

Hey all! This Friday I’m participating in the Pay It Forward Blogfest hosted by Alex Cavanaugh and Matthew MacNish. The purpose is to give props to 3 of our favorite blogs so that they’ll hopefully get the recognition they deserve. It’s also a way for us to discover new writing blogs by visiting those who are participating in the blogfest. So, without further ado, here are the three I’d like to highlight.

1. Musings of A Penniless Writer – What? You mean you’re not following my Brit HP/LoTR fanatic YA writer friend who now lives Down Under? Well then, you’re missing out one of the most tenacious, hardest working women out there. Donna Hosie and I became friends because of our shared obsessiveness with all things Harry Potter and now that obsessiveness has carried over into our writing lives. Her commitment to her family, full-time job, and writing astounds me. I’m not sure if or when she sleeps, but keep your eye on her. I have no doubt she’ll be published in the not too distant future. Oh, and she wears the cutest shoes.

2. Betsy Lerner – Betsy is an agent, writer, and a former editor and has been in the biz for a while. My day isn’t complete until I read her blog. Seriously. Her blog (and never miss the comments section) is the dose of reality I crave every day. Every post title is derived from a song lyric which I find fun to try and guess. Betsy says it like it is and never sugar coats, so be warned if you are sensitive to what some might think as crass (that wouldn't be me). She's brutally honest, but that’s why I love her. Not only does she always make me stop and think, but she's hilarious as all heck.

3. The Green Bathtub – Amy Sonnichson has the nicest blog on the block...or internet. She reflects elegance and positivity, all while juggling motherhood and a writing career. I love visiting Amy’s blog – whether it’s to congratulate her on recently signing with an agent, to view pictures of her adorable family, or to read about her life in her own words.

4. The QQQE – Oh, wait. Is that against the rules? Um, if you haven’t visited Matt’s awesome sight then take a peek. Not only is it fun to try and say the name of his blog without messing up, but on his blog Matt shares his writing journey, offers inciteful query critiques (I've learned so much!), and is all about connecting with the writing community.

Why not check them out? To check out other blogs participating in the blogfest, click the Pay It Forward to the right of this post (under Followers). That will take you to the linky list on Matt's blog.

Click. Read. Follow. Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 10, 2011

If Every Weekend Had Three Days, I'd...

...get all my laundry, folding, and ironing done.
...have more time to bake. (Like the toll house cookies I made today. Mmmm.)
...get to sleep until 6:30 and feel rested. (trust me, that's a treat)
...finish my cleaning for the week.
...catch up on blog reading and commenting.
...get more projects done, such as yard work, switching seasonal clothes, changing sheets (6 beds takes time!), sorting through papers with my kids more (we played Life Friday night. Fun!)
...plan a day trip. in the sun on my back deck guilt-free.
...have a shorter work week which means,
...more time to write!

Did you get to enjoy a long weekend? What would you do if every weekend had three days?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Signing That Almost Wasn't - Part II

Part II will also be my post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. Keep reading. I promise it ties in. If you missed Part I and would like to read it, it’s here.

I continued driving and at one point thought I missed a turn. Glancing at the clock - 6:57pm - I started to panic but knew I was close to the bookstore. “Just keep going and hope for the best.” Maybe I could turn around up ahead. As I passed the library where I listened to Laurie Halse Anderson speak last year I realized that I hadn’t made a wrong turn after all. The bookstore was only a couple of blocks further. I found a parking space across from the store, and thanks to my weird but awesome ability to parallel park in one swipe, I entered Wellesley Books at 7:05pm. I quietly headed downstairs and around the corner to a small, cozy gathering. The organizer for the night's event had just finished speaking and Laini was introduced as I sat down in my seat (and said a silent ‘thank you’ inside).

There were maybe 40 people in attendance, mostly teens and young adults. Laini stood behind a table with a small podium on top. Three walls lined with books framed her – the perfect backdrop. Laini’s lovely smile and pink hair lit up the room as she talked about her new book, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and how it came to be. She had been writing a novel and working on it a long time, but it wasn’t going well. (familiar) A new novel idea came into her head and she gave herself permission to cheat on the ms she had been working on for one day. (familiar) This new and intriguing story started pouring out as she wrote but it was important for her to complete the novel she was working on. So she went back to the former ms and finished writing it before continuing her new ms. (also familiar) The previous novel she told us, “never saw the light of day,” but she didn’t feel like it was a wasted effort. She went back to working on Daughter, turned the first 6 chapters in to her publisher (they loved it), and finished writing it.

Laini then read an exerpt from her novel. There’s something special, magical about listening to an author read from her own novel, and if you ever get the chance to go to an author event, I’d highly recommend it. The scene started out humorous but ended with an emotional ache that is written beautifully. I instantly fell in love with the MC, Karou, and I’m really looking forward to reading her story.

How does this tie in to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group? I mentioned in Part I that I really felt like I needed to get to this signing – to listen to a writer who has made it. I’ve been having some serious doubts about whether or not to continue with pursuing publication. I don’t think I could ever give up writing, but at this time in my life, actively working daily towards writing – blogging, commenting, finding time to write – is taking its toll on me. I suppose if I felt confident about my current ms, I could handle the exhausting schedule of daily life plus writing life; in other words, if I felt like I was making progress.

Did you notice all the times I wrote "familiar" up above? My experience with writing my ms is eerily similar to Laini’s. I’ve worked on my current ms for almost 2 years now. I started out strong but I’m losing my momentum and am having a lot of doubts about it. Last year, I took a break during Nanowrimo and started writing a YA that I was really excited about. However, I promised myself that this time I would finish a novel, the one I'm working on - Nitpicky. That’s where I am now, trying to finish it so that I can turn my attention back to the YA project. I can’t tell you how consoling it was to know that a struggling writer like me can share a similar experience with an incredibly talented author – and it’s okay.

(Laini and me)

After Laini’s presentation, we went upstairs to have our books signed. I thanked her for coming so far from home to speak to us (she’s from Oregon) and told her that I also write for teens. When I shared with her that sometimes I wonder if I had started too late in life to become an author for teens, she gave me some advice. I’d like to pass that along to all of you, especially if like me you’re in a stage of your life where you’re thinking it’s too late.

There are two perfect times to plant a tree. The first time was 20 years ago. The second time is now.

and don't forget: "Just keep going and hope for the best."

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Signing That Almost Wasn't: Part I

Before I begin, I made it.
I met Laini Taylor.
I never give away the endings to books or movies, but you may want to skip through my misadventures on the afternoon and evening leading up to the signing. So yes, there is a happy ending which will be part of my next post. This one was getting extremely long, so I'm splitting into Part I (today) and Part II (Tues. or Wed.).

When you have 4 kids who attend 3 different schools, throw in after school activities, and the inevitable last minute change of plans, you never know what the day will bring. All the planning in the world doesn’t guarantee that the day will go as expected. And so when I learned of Laini’s signing earlier in the week and checked my schedule, I knew the timing of getting there would be tight, and there was a good chance I might not get there at all.

Enter change of plans: My daughter’s game was cancelled. At first, Aw (sad face) but then, yay (happy face) I could pick her up earlier. This meant I could go to a wake I needed to attend earlier. Then there was dinner. Friday is takeout night at our house. Easy, right? I had just enough time to go to McDonald’s for the kids and pick up a pizza for my husband and I.

No problem, until we hit traffic. Okay. It’s okay, I murmured to myself. I just needed to leave to my house by 6:15. I arrived at McD’s and there were 10...TEN cars in the drive thru! Were they giving away burgers? I’d never seen the drive thru backed up that much. Plan B: I pulled into a space and directed the 2 girls who were with me to RUN TO THE DOOR! WE’RE ORDERING INSIDE! I got to the counter, ordered, then reached into my purse when I realized, I left all my money at home. NOOOOOO! I died just a little bit inside at that point as I saw in a flash what the next half hour would be like and how my chances of getting to the signing were slim to none.

So I did what any self-respecting person would do in my situation. I shouted, GIRLS, RUN! Thankfully my girls know that Mom can be kind of a maniac at times. This was about when I started talking myself down from a frantic state. This may sound corny, but I use little mantras to calm myself down when I feel myself starting to tense up. “Just keep going and hope for the best,” popped into my head and was repeated over and over again. I really, really , really wanted to go to this signing, I needed to go to this signing (will get into that in my next post), but knew safety and staying calm were top priority. So we got back into the car and crawled through traffic back home. I grabbed my wallet which was thankfully where I thought it would be (after giving older daughter cash to go out with friends). Then we crawwwwwled to the pizza place, crawwwwled back to McDonald’s (but no cars in the drive thru this time – Woot! Small victory!), and made our way home.

I got the kids settled, grabbed my sweater and camera, and left without eating supper – it was now 6:30. Getting to Wellesley on a good day is about 20-25 minutes. I was definitely going to sweat this ride out. By now it was getting dark and I was so afraid I’d miss a turn; the timing was going to be right down to the minute. As I approached the long lines of traffic at the red lights tense as can be, I purposely diverted my eyes from the dashboard clock and whispered, “Just keep going and hope for the best.”

to be continued...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Discovering Laini Taylor

Don’t you love when you discover an author so talented that you devour her/his work and want to tell everyone you know about it?

Two words. Laini Taylor.

The story of how I discovered Laini isn’t extraordinary. I had heard her name before, seen pictures of her distinctive pink hair, and read rave reviews of her novel Lips Touch: Three Times on some of the blogs that I visit. I’ll admit, sometimes it takes me a while to catch on and picking up this book to read was no exception. In fact, I knew that my library owned it. As I browsed the YA shelves seeking new reading material, many times I’d find Laini’s book, slide it off the shelf, gaze at the beautiful cover and put it back. “Maybe another day,” I’d say. Why? Sometimes because I already had 3 books in my arms, but mostly because of my own preconceived judgments, I’m embarrassed to admit.

Preconceived judgment #1 – It’s 3 separate short stories, not one novel, so I won’t really get into it. I’m not really in the mood for YA short stories. I want to get completely drawn into a novel and really get to know the main character. I just can’t do that with a short story.

Wrong. There are 3 separate stories but they have a common theme. And Laini’s gorgeous prose pulls you right in from the introduction of each story. Here’s an excerpt from the first page:

"There is a certain kind of girl the goblins crave. You could walk across a high school campus and point them out: not her, not her, her. The pert, lovely ones with butterfly tattoos in secret places, sitting on their boyfriends’ laps? No, not them. The girls watching the lovely ones sitting on their boyfriends’ laps?

Them.” (Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor, p. 13)

Preconceived judgment #2 – The cover is intriguing but with a title like Lips Touch, it must be about kissing and I’m not really into novels heavy in the romance department.

Wrong, again (except for the cover and inside illustrations being gorgeous). Each story has a supernatural element and involves a kiss that is pivotal to the main character and the dilemma/consequences that may occur.

So why did I finally decide to stop in the middle of reading Going Bovine to check Lips Touch from the library? Laini's latest novel, Daughter of Smoke and Bone was released this week. It has received terrific reviews from bloggers who have read Advanced Copies and my curiosity started getting the best of me. But that’s not what made me jump in my car on a busy Saturday soccer morning to check the book out from my library [which was totally worth it for 2 reasons. 1 –They had the book, and 2 – I had a great conversation w/ the YA librarian about teen lit and authors we liked].

The night before, I visited the website of an independent bookstore in my area, Wellesley Books, to see if there were any upcoming author visits. It's been a while since I checked. Last year, I was lucky enough to meet Laurie Halse Anderson here. Guess who’s coming there this Friday? Laini! I decided right then and there to check out her book so I'd be familiar with her work. If all goes well, I'll be at Laini's book signing Friday night *crosses fingers*.

Simply put, Laini is an incredible storyteller. She weaves imaginative descriptions, intriguing characters, fantasy, and emotion together to create stories that you won’t want to put down. I'm really looking forward to Daughter of Smoke and Bone and plan to read her other works.

Have you read any of Laini Taylor's books? Are there any other books you can't wait to read?

Monday, September 19, 2011

September Evening

I was missing from blogworld this past week as I try and adjust to my new schedule. My hope is that I'll be able to post once or twice a week. However, I'm trying to schedule writing into the little free time that I now have. Blogging may have to take backseat for a while. The only writing I was able to do last week was this piece below. I thought I'd share it with you.

Tonight is one of the last summer-like evenings of the season. The sun was strong and hot on this September day, but cool days and chilly evenings return later this week. This will be my last night to sit on the front steps and enjoy the sights and sounds of a warm summer evening. I sit comfortably without a sweatshirt, *my feet resting in flip flops.

The difference from my other front stoop observations is that I’m sitting in the dark, though it’s only 7:30pm. I’m jotting down my reflections, not even sure if I’ll be able to decipher my writing in the light. But my senses are heightened and I’m determined to capture and absorb these remainders of summer. Perhaps they'll sustain me through the long, bitter cold months of winter.

It’s peaceful but by no means quiet. A chorus of various insects is performing tonight. I’m unsure of their names, and so I call them all crickets. Layers of sounds blend together: a rhythmic background melody, a back and forth of louder chirps, repetitive clicking insects. Their cadence soothes my thoughts, helps me to unwind, releases the tension from work, school, and another season of chaotic responsibilities.

I’m hidden in the evening shade, an invisible observer. A lone jogger keeps a slow pace on the street across from me. Headlights shine on the black pavement, cutting through the dark for a brief second as they drive past. A car slows across from where my street and the other connects, and my neighbor pulls into his driveway. I watch his rear lights as their red glow is extinguished. A person exits the driver’s side of the vehicle first, then another from the passenger’s side. Only their silhouettes are visible. One thin boyish figure tosses the jingling keys to the larger figure. Derek can drive? Wasn’t he just playing Pokemon with my son on their Game Boys on this very same porch?

Although I can't feel it, there is a gentle breeze. Against the twilight blue sky, the top of a large dark mass, which I know to be a maple in the daylight, sways slowly. A flag hanging in front of another neighbor's house gently flutters back and forth. Most likely hung to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

I know it's getting late. My youngest needs to get ready for bed. And yet leaving these steps means leaving summer behind and I'm not ready to let go - just a few more minutes. I'm glad I had one more night to say goodbye to my favorite season of the year.

*Flip flops were not the best choice of footwear on a muggy evening. The only thing I won't miss about the summer...MOSQUITOES! I got four bites!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Love, Love, Love

I always struggle to put my feelings about September 11th, 2001 into words. Fortunately, there are those who can and do so eloquently. One such person is my friend, Donna Hosie, at Musings of A Penniless Writer. You rock, my friend.

Another is author Meg Cabot's personal account of what she experienced living in NYC that day.

Some of you know that I've been a U2 fan for over 20 years. When I heard that they would be perfoming at the 2002 Super Bowl halftime show I was pumped beyond belief. But what I wasn't prepared for was U2's powerful, moving tribute to those who lost their lives that day. There are moments when tears and smiles co-exist and can express what's in our hearts better than words. This was one such moment for me.

I will never forget.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It's Only A First Draft Mantra

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is the brainchild of awesome author/blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh. From Alex's blog, the purpose of the IWSG is "to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"

I've mentioned before that I don't sign up for many blogfests, but this is one I wanted to participate in right away. Why? Because we all could use a little support now and then. And who understands the insecurities that writers face better than the writing community?

And so here's my contribution this month.

One of the writing ailments I suffered from when I first started writing 3 years ago was the need to make my first draft perfect. I agonized over every sentence, every adjective, every image, scene, dialogue exchange. And while there's nothing wrong with setting the bar high it My first two novel attempts lead to frustration when I reached a point of no return in my first draft. Perfectionism wasn't the only contributor. There were other reasons they met an early demise - poor planning, no direction, plot jam after plot jam.

With the novel I'm working on now, a third attempt, I'm trying to let go and let it flow. Taking an idea and running with it. Not caring if it sounds crappy. Not stopping even when a voice in the back of my head whispers, "This rots, you know." Some days I can shut off that voice, but other days it paralyzes my writing because I start to believe it. First drafts are hard for me and I get down on myself for not being able to finish one yet. I've been working on my current ms for over a year now but I'm determined to finish it.

Some days when I'm in that zone - you know the one - when every word, sentence, scene comes pouring out faster than I can scribble it down, writing is a joy. The satisfaction that comes from being in that zone is why I write. But other days when scenes feel forced, sentences sound choppy, and my MC is bland and boring I need to remember that it's only a first draft. It doesn't have to be perfect. That's what revisions are for.

Training my brain not to focus on the suckiness of my ms is hard. But what I've learned is that it's normal. Every writer experiences this at some point, even the published authors we look up to. The first draft is supposed to be craptastic. And so when I find myself loathing every word I write and wondering if it's all worth it, I use this little mantra to settle myself down. I put down my pencil, take a deep breath, and say to myself...

It's only a first draft. It's only a first draft. It's only a first draft.

Are first drafts easy for you?

To visit other participants in the Insecure Writer's Support Group, click the above link to Alex's blog and scroll down.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Do I Frighten You?

Gee, I hope not. I’m really not that scary except when I don’t get my coffee in the morning. Trust me, you don’t want to be there. Or when I spent two days in a row of torturous back to school shopping...but I won’t bore you with those details.

The lovely Donna Weaver over at Weaving A Tale or Two tagged me which means you get to learn all kinds of fun, but let’s face it, useless information about me. Which might come in handy if you’re playing a trivia game sometime and someone asks, "What’s Suzie F’s favorite flavor of jello?" Except you wouldn’t know that answer since I didn’t mention it below. See, I have to share 10 facts about myself that won’t scare my followers away. And if they learned that my favorite flavor is (blank) they may scamper off in fear. Anyway, this game of tag is called...

Here's my list:

1. I’ve stayed the same weight give or take 5 lbs. since I was 16 (except while pregnant).
2. Same height too.
3. Scraping a popsicle stick against my teeth gives me the chills (like nails on a blackboard for me)
4. My favorite cartoon character is Daffy Duck.
5. Coffee in the morning. Tea in the afternoon.
6. Steven Tyler walked by me with his entourage during a Cheap Trick concert. Later he appeared on stage to perform as a guest.
7. The first concert I went to was to see Amy Grant.
8. I’ve gone to 3 Harry Potter midnight book releases/parties.
9. The writing bug first bit me in the 4th grade when my teacher submitted my poem to Jack and Jill magazine. My first rejection, but what mattered to me was that Miss D loved it.
10. Writing lists about myself make me squirm with embarrassment.

Are you still here? Good. Now for the really scary part.
Tag! You're it...

Shelley Sly at Stories in the Ordinary
Suz Korb at Bang Out the Prose
Bethany Elizabeth at Ink-Splattered
Magan at The Punching Bag Fights Back

Please visit the tagees above. I just met them all recently and look forward to getting to know them better.

*To the tagees - No pressure to play. Sometimes if the the timing is wrong, these awards/tag games can bog you down. Just wanted to give your blogs some recognition :) If you do decide to play, list 10 facts about yourself that won't frighten your followers away. Then tag as many bloggers as you'd like. I followed Donna W.'s lead and tagged 4.

Anyone care to guess what my favorite flavor of jello is?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Karen G.'s Fabulous 2nd Annual BBQ Get to Know Other Bloggers Party

I think that may be the longest blog title I've written to date.

Hi and welcome! If you’re already a regular follower or visitor, nice to see you again and help yourself to the cooler. If you’re hopping over from Karen G’s BBQ for the first time and/or a new blogger, feel free to look around, pull up a lawn chair, and introduce yourself.

I thought I’d take a break from a regular post so that we can get to know one another. A little about myself...I love kid lit and currently I've been working on the first draft of an upper MG ms for a while. Okay, over a year. My goal is to make this the first first draft I complete, revise, and query. (I started 2 previous novels but didn’t finish them). Are you a writer and what do you write?

I thought it would be fun to play a little get to know each other game. Below are some questions to get to know each other. Feel free to copy/paste the list at the bottom of this post and to answer as many or as few as you’d like. No pressure.

I like to call this the What’s Your Favorite (blank) This Week Quiz? Yesiree, I thought that title up all by myself. Quite a writer, eh? Basically, it’s hard to narrow down one favorite in some categories. For instance, I would never be able to name my favorite song unless I only liked one song, there are just too many. So instead, name your most recent favorite or favorite this week in the comments below after you introduce yourself. Simple enough, right? Okay, here we go.

What’s Your Favorite...This Week

bbq’d food – sausages (smothered with peppers and onions)
treat - eclairs
color – midnight blue crayola crayon
pair of shoes – my cushy slippers
game - Yahtzee
book – This year so far, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
celebrity – Audrey Hepburn (always)
song – most recent fave: What the Water Gave Me by Florence and the Machine. For your listening pleasure...

Oh, and don’t forget to leave a link to your blog so that I can visit you. Thanks for playing and a special thank you to Karen G over at Coming Down the Mountain: A Writer's Blog for hosting such an easygoing get together. Hope to see you back!

bbq’d food
pair of shoes

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The War of the Worlds

My kids have been finishing up their summer reading/assignments and one novel was a real bear: The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. The style in which it was written, the vocabulary, and the subject matter – Martians invading planet Earth – made it a tough read for one of my kids. So I decided I’d do a sympathy read, just in case she had trouble with her written assignment and needed someone to talk it out with.

I was always fascinated by the Orsen Welles radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds and as a kid I loved watching the 1953 movie with my mother. So even though I was up for the challenge of reading the novel, I thought it might be a dry sci-fi read. I was a bit apprehensive about committing to it but you know, the things we do for our kids, etc, etc.

She completed the assignment not long after I started the book (yay for J!). However, I wanted to soften her negative reaction to it so I decided to keep reading. And guess what? It's great so far! I'm only on Chapter 8 but I love it. She thinks I'm absolutely crazy for reading it voluntarily, but every now and then she'll ask, "What part are you on?"
Heh, heh.

I told her to just wait 'til tomorrow - me and her and a big bowl of popcorn.
Movie night - 1953 version.
Oh, yeah!

Here's the trailer. Woot!

Has anyone read Wells's novel? And has anyone seen the updated 2005 Tom Cruise adaption? When it first came out, I couldn't bring myself to watch it for fear it might taint my memories of the earlier film. Weird, I know. But if it's good I might check it out.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Writing Out the Storm

Today Hurricane Irene is passing over us – in fact she’s just about gone by now. We’re still experiencing some gusty winds but for the most part we lucked out with very little damage – leaves everywhere and some small branches. In other parts of MA there are trees down, flooding, and power outages. Just down the street from us power was lost from a down line. My thoughts go out to those who are experiencing a loss and damage.

We’ve got all the necessities here: milk, water, bread, and batteries. A little tip...if you’re looking for D size batteries right before a storm, try a toy store. After checking 3 sold out stores, I walked into Toys R Us and they had plenty. Score!

Because I have access to all my electrical appliances, baking comfort storm brownies is mandatory. And hopefully we won't lose power in the middle of baking or we'll be eating brownies with a spoon. It’s a great time to batten down the hatches, hunker down, and ride out the storm. Love those weather related phrases, don’t you? But this is how my brain translates those phrases when I stay in the house all day to stay safe from the elements.

I'm planning to put chocolate batter and hunks of brownie down my hatch while I write out the storm.

Okay, I know. Not very funny. I blame it on being a little stir crazy while being trapped in the house with everyone. But at least you didn’t have to endure me singing the entire song, “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” like my girls did earlier (Thank you 8th grade chorus for drilling those words into my head so I’ll never forget them. And how is it that I can remember the entire song but I can’t remember where I put my kids’ framed school portraits last Christmas? I digress).

Is anyone else dealing with Irene? Are there any songs/poems/passages that you can recall word for word if prompted?

Stay safe, everyone!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pottermore Blues

Summer is slipping away and with it my free time. *sniff*
I knew it would pass fast this year with college visits, vacation, home projects, and now, back-to-school shopping. But I’m not ready to say good-bye just yet and I don’t have to for another 2 weeks. Then it’s back to school and sports/activities – Hello, mom’s taxi service - and back to work for me.

Hmm...what to do, what to do. I could finish cleaning the attic. I could rearrange my kitchen cabinets. Maybe clean and organize my bathroom linen closet or the art/school supply closet in our office. All of these are worthy goals and a clean, organized house would help the beginning of the school year to run smoother.

But do you know what I’d really like to be doing with my last two weeks of free time before life gets crazy, I have no spare time, and I’m too tired at night so I just veg BIG TIME and fall asleep on the couch until I drag my sorry butt upstairs to bed?

(Just had to get that out of my system.)

Two or three rounds of invitations have been sent to those who registered to beta test Pottermore, J.K. Rowling's new interactive Harry Potter site. I obsessively checked the site for my chance to find the magic quill (a prerequisite to registering), found it, and received my invitation and super cool username (USER name; a name to be USED; I want to USE IT!!) but alas, the Pottermore communications have dried up. Not even a hint of an owl flapping my way. This makes me a very sad Hufflepuff.

Most writers check their emails obsessively for news about a query or pages submitted, revision notes, critiques from betas or CPs. I check my email obsessively, numerous times a day, for my invitation to enter Pottermore.

I want to be sorted!
I want to earn house points!
I want to explore Philosopher’s Stone! (see that Potter gods? I used the original British title. Doesn’t that count for something?)
I want to learn the backstory about the Dursleys, and don’t even get me started on Professor McGonagall (LOVE her). I want the deets on her past romance!!

No, don’t tell me. Don’t tell me. I know some of my friends (you know who you are and I still like you) have been in for weeks, but I want to find out on my own. I hope I don’t have to wait until October when the site officially opens to those who didn’t get to preregister. I want to wander Privet Drive, Diagon Alley, and Hogwarts in leisure before the madness begins.

:checks email again:
:trudges up to the attic:

Are you waiting for your owl or are you one of the lucky ones? Do you even give a hoot about entering Pottermore?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Passing the Snore Test

Have you ever read a book that everyone and their next door neighbor has declared wonderful, 5 stars, unputdownable? Or maybe you decide to read it because you heard great buzz about the book/author, or enjoyed another work by that author so you assume this other book would be just as great? Then you borrow or buy said book and happily start reading, because it's the beginning, filled with such promise of adventure, magic, romance, or mystery. You can't wait to meet your character companions who will guide you through the land of make believe for a few days.

Then the reality sets in. What usually takes you a few days to finish a book turns to a week, 2 weeks. While reading in bed, you snore and a tiny bit of drool unattractively leaks out the side of your open mouth. A month goes by and you’re only on page 200 with another 100 some odd pages to go. Each time you pick it up you sneer and think, "You will not make me crack. I will finish you!"

This is happening to me now. I’m not going to name the book (I saw you peeking at my side bar. No, it’s not Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone), because I know from blog hopping, even from comments I read yesterday, that it’s a well-liked book by a well-known YA author (That’s all I’m sayin'. Lips zipped). And hey, just because I didn't like it doesn't mean someone else won't, so I'd hate to give a book a bad wrap on my blog. But I have to tell you, up until today, I was this close – picture a millimeter between my thumb and index finger – after reading 200 pages to putting it aside. And the worst part is it’s the first book in a series (!) so I’m already not anticipating the ending because the story will be left up in the air (and between you and me, I won’t be reading the rest of the series).

See, the thing is I like to give every book I read a real chance. Doesn’t mean I’ll love it when I finish it. But even if I don't love it, I do appreciate the hard work that it took the author to write it and the the long, arduous road travelled to publication. The book made it, after all, and is getting good reviews. If I choose to read something, I really like to give it a fair shot before bailing. But alas, if it’s a chore to read I will put it down. After all, I am reading for pleasure.

So I had been slogging my way through my current read, waiting for the action to pick up when I got a call from the library the other day. A book I reserved about 6 weeks ago came in. Perfect excuse to drop this baby like a hot tequito. But I decided to give it one more chance since it finally started getting a bit more interesting. It’s going to have to pass the reading-in-bed test. If I put it aside on my own to go to sleep, I’ll finish it. If I fall asleep mid-paragraph, I’m starting Divergent tomorrow!

How long do you give a book before dropping it?

Monday, August 15, 2011

My Not So Secret 1st Birthday

Last week this blog turned 1 year old. Where did the time go? I remember its birth like it was yesterday.

Blogging has been fun but not without its ups and downs. I have a nice group of friends who stop by to say hello - some I've know for a long time and others I just met recently. I know how precious your time is and I appreciate when you read and comment. I don't mind talking to myself; I do it all the time. However, it's nice to know that someone else is out there and has something to contribute to my tangents. And to be honest, looking forward to your comments is what keeps the desire to post during the difficult times of the year.

Why did I start blogging? I don't facebook and I don't twitter (tweet?), but I enjoyed reading blogs as a newbie writer seeking publication. For me the next logical step was starting my own blog. It was my way of acknowleging to myself that yes, I want to write and share my journey with others who may be travelling that same path. Sharing my take on this crazy, scary, exciting, sometimes fulfilling - sometimes draining writing process is what I enjoy and keeps me going. Blogging gets me to write during those weeks that I'm drained from all the real life responsibilities weighing me down. Hopefully, it's helping to improve my writing and develop my voice.

Writing can be lonely, especially when family, friends, co-workers don't fully understand the drive and passion that go along with it. It's not just, "I'm writing a book." It's, "I have this idea that won't leave me alone. And these characters I'm creating are real and I have just have to listen to them and write their story. And maybe someone will read it one day and it will help them forget their misery, give them an escape, help them through a hard time, etc." You get that.

There have been rumblings that perhaps blogging has run its course. I don't know. My favorite bloggers are still around and I don't get the sense that they're going anywhere. This is what's comfortable to me. And although I know that I have to master the shorter post, this is my preferred form of interacting with others.

I hope you'll continue to visit and offer your opinions. They're always welcome. I don't follow many blogfests. Not that I have anything against them, I just don't have the time. I don't chase followers either. I don't want my blogging experience to be about artificial numbers. I'd like others to come because they like it here and plan on coming back.

So, happy birthday, blog. May you have many more.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Here I am, wondering what I should write. Should write? Would like to write. That’s better.
This blog is not about what I should be doing, but what I’d like to be doing.
And right now, that’s kind of fuzzy.

See, I’m restless right now. It hasn’t affected my writing too much, though I find that physical distractions (cleaning, shopping for school, etc.) are helping me through it more than thinking/creative distractions (writing, blogging, reading). I'm struggling with identity. Who am I? How do I define myself? I haven’t had to ask that question since I was a young adult. But I’m asking now.

I’ve been cleaning out my attic. As I sort through toddler shoes, kindergarten drawings, old pictures of a younger family, the lump in my throat burns and I taste salty tears as I smile at their past innocence. Life was simpler then when the biggest problems were combing out the tangles in my daughter’s long hair and wiping away the tears after cleaning a boo boo. My role as a mother was to be ever present, to protect, and care for my children's needs - of which there were many back then.

For my family, there will be big changes this coming school year and the need to be patient, flexible, understanding and most of all loving is important.
I can’t even wrap my head and heart around the fact that my little boy will be leaving for college a year from now. How did those years melt away? A wave of mixed emotions grip me - anxiety, excitement, fear, pride and even sadness - and it hurts sometimes.

As they get closer to adulthood my identity is changing. Sure, I’m still their mother but that role is changing and I'm trying to figure it out. Yes, it’s still to love, support, nurture...but now I have to step back and stand offstage in the shadows. Wait for them to come to me. They don’t need to sit on my lap anymore, they don’t need me to tuck them in, or sing their tears away. Part of my role is to trust them when they walk out the door. Now it’s time to watch them strengthen their new wings, allow them flutter, to stumble, to try again, until they fly.

And so I’ve been restless as I wrestle with my identity. It was clear for so many years: wife, stay at home mother, friend.
I’ve added part-time worker and writer into the mix.
Writer. I write. And yet I still struggle with calling myself that. Is what I create worthy? How will I know? So I take tiny baby steps looking for some kind of validation and then I chastise myself for looking for it. But I want writer, children's author, to become part of who I am. Not only to myself, but to others as well.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Awesome August

There's so much cool stuff happening in August I just had to share!

1. Most of you know I have an author crush on Laurie Halse Anderson. Nothing creepy, I promise. She's an incredibly gifted children's author whom I greatly admire and had the pleasure to meet last year. For the past 4 years Laurie has encouraged writers to devote 15 minutes a day during the month of August. There are no rules, though she does provide daily prompts if needed. Check out the Write Fifteen Minutes A Day Challenge on her blog.

2. Did you know that kidlit literary agent extraordinaire, Mary Kole, from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, has invited writers to post their first lines from a current ms on her blog to be critiqued by other bloggers (and a few lucky ones from Mary herself)? I held my breath, typed the first line from my ms Nitpicky, and then quickly clicked "post" before chickening out. Why not post yours?

3. Natalie Whipple celebrates her 1000th post with a video post.

4. Write On Con, the online conference for kidlit writers is right around the corner! Woot!

5. Karen G. is planning her second virtual Labor Day BBQ! I don't participate in many blogfests, but this one is right up my alley. Just blog hop, say hi, and bring a virtual dish to the BBQ. What could be easier? It's a great way to connect with other writers. For more details visit Karen's blog, Coming Down the Mountain: A Writer's Blog.

6. My blog is celebrating its 1st birthday this month! Details to follow since I, er, have nothing planned yet.

Did I miss anything? What are you looking forward to this month?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Vacation Brain

Fingers? This is a keyboard.
Okay, left hand. Fingers on asdf. Right hand? Fingers on jkl;
Brain? Send your message down to the fingers and they'll type.
Got it?

Well, now. That didn't go so well.

Let me try again.

I returned from vacation yesterday. Physically, I'm back. I managed to unpack, sort three garbage bags full of dirty laundry, and get three loads done. I even made a Cosco run (no tequitos in the house? how will we survive?). But my brain is still lost among the sand dunes of the Cape.

While I was away, I took a true vacation from my plugged in world. For me this meant no internet, no cell phone, and very little television for 5 1/2 days (though I did watch the the evening news and my kids discovered Cash Cab 2 days before we left). Coincidentally, one night a newscaster asked, "Are you addicted to the internet and could you live without it?" I chuckled and boasted, "Of course I could. After all, I grew up without it, computers meant nothing to me in high school, and I tapped all of my college papers on an electric typewriter." And though giving up the internet wasn't a problem while I was away, I wouldn't want to live without it. I've met so many cool people and have learned so much about the publishing world and what it takes to achieve my own dream of publication some day. In fact, I doubt that I would have ever pursued that dream if it wasn't for the internet.

Now that I'm back, I feel refreshed and ready to write. Even though I took my notebooks with me, I didn't write a blessed word while I was away. Today I read through some of the blog posts I missed and I'll try to comment on some of the more recent ones. However, what I really need to do is get back to my ms. I think I've pushed my brain hard enough today with this post so I'll be giving her the rest of the night off. Starting tomorrow and through next week I'm dedicating as much time as I can spare to writing.

Hear that brain? Vacation's over.
Back to work tomorrow.

Have you given your brain a vacation this summer? Or have you been working hard?

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Message For Us All

Last night I went out for Chinese food with a friend. When I opened my fortune cookie this is what was written on the paper.

Ride your ambition to the skies.

So what do you say, friends? Let's ride!


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's All About the Books

By now, most of you have probably read a review or post about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows II. I went to see it last Friday, but decided not to review it on my blog. I love the films, but view them as something entirely different than the books, mainly so I won’t be disappointed (and even then...). As good as the films are, they could never compare to my reading experience with this series. I expected to be a bit sad after it DH2 was over, but I realized “the end” really came 2 years ago. After attending my last midnight book release with my kids, I rushed home and read until I was bleary-eyed, slept for a few hours and then read through the next day until I finished. I was a tired, weepy mess. That’s when I mourned the end of Harry Potter.

For me it really has been all about the books. I thought about sharing how I discovered Harry, but decided to instead share one of the multiple stories of how Jo Rowling has given my entire family – husband and 4 kids whose ages now range from 7 to 17 – memories I will always treasure.

Short introduction: I first shared the following experience 4 years ago with friends I met through an HP forum/Reading Group on my LiveJournal. At the time my girls were 3, 7, and 10 and my son was 12.

May 17th, 2007

I've been listening to the Order of the Phoenix cassettes (read by Jim Dale) to get ahead of the story as part of my Reading Group prep. Partly because it had been close to 2 years since I last read Order and mostly because of my sieve brain which doesn't retain the written word as well as it used to.
Usually I listen to the tapes in the van while running errands or driving to and from the kids' various practices. For my girls, this is their first experience with OotP. My 7-yr old had been too young before and my 10-yr old lost interest when the school year started so we stopped reading it together. They've been enjoying listening to the cassettes and I've been enjoying their reactions; their outrage at Umbridge and their laughter and cheers when Fred and George made their grand exit.

Yesterday we began listening to when Harry and Dumbledore's Army arrive at the Dept. of Mysteries and get cornered by the Death Eaters. Each time we climbed into the van I swelled with pride as I heard the words, "Mom, can we please listen to Harry Potter?" How could I say no? We listened on the ride to and from dance class and for the first time, we were grateful for the traffic backups (Another red light...YES!)

Last night, the whole family attended the school's Art Fair and as we piled into the van to head home, "Mom, can we listen?" Now, my husband likes HP and has read all of the books once, but hasn't joined me in my obsessiveness. He teases me about it occasionally but I try not to subject him to it too much. I asked, "Do you mind if we listen?" He didn't, so I turned it on. We listened in silence when Lucius Malfoy tells Harry, "You see, there are ten of us and only one of you...or hasn't Dumbledore ever taught you to count?" And Neville runs in shouting, "He's dot alone! He's still god be!"

As we pulled into the driveway, we all listened as Bellatrix cast the Cruciatus Curse on Neville. I shut off the tape, anticipating everyone jumping out and running to the house like usual. Instead I heard a chorus of "Awwww!" and the sole voice of my husband saying, "We can't stop there." So we brought the cassette in the house, settled into the den and listened; listened as the Order arrived just in time to help Harry and Neville, listened as Bellatrix and Sirius duelled, listened as Dumbledore appeared in the doorway, and listened to the inevitable fate of Sirius. "Can Sirius come out of the veil, Mom?" my 7-yr old asked. With a lump in my throat I answered, "No, he died. He can't come back." Hard words to speak. We listened to the end of the chapter. It was bedtime for the younger ones.

There aren't too many moments when we all come together and enjoy a moment like this. This is one memory I'll treasure. Simple. Magic.

Thank you, Jo Rowling.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Beautiful Words

Do you have a favorite word? One that you are drawn to every time you read it?

Last Friday, Jason Boog from Galleycat asked, What’s the Most Beautiful Word in the World? It’s a fun topic to talk about with friends and family. We all have favorites – certain words that evoke an image or an emotional response, a particular association with a word, or just the beautiful combination of consonants, vowels, and syllables.

The first word I remember making a note of was the word waft. It’s simple, but beautiful at the same time. I love the image of something drifting lightly through the air.

The scent of spiced apples and cinnamon wafted up the staircase and through the open door. Rachel’s scowl melted like the sugared fruit baking downstairs in the oven. She could always be mad at mom later.

The word felicity made the list. I’m particularly fond of this one. Not only do I love the sound of the word, but it's the name of my MC. I wanted a beautiful name for this girl who is trying to find her place in a new family situation, a new neighborhood, a new school, with new friends and classmates. She struggles with how she sees herself and how she wants others to see her.

Other words I find beautiful:


What are the most beautiful words to you? Is there a particular reason why?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Good Vibrations!

Lots of Beach Boys songs make me smile, and they remind me of carefree days in the summer. One of my favorites is Good Vibrations. I love the feel good beat of the chorus, the harmonizing, and how the song just kind of shifts by slowing down in the middle, until the "AHHHHHHHHH" moment when it picks up again. Like most of their songs once I hear it, it's in my head for the entire day.

Maybe it's the summer, maybe it's the Beach Boys, maybe it's something else, but there seem to be a lot of good vibrations rippling through both my own life and through the writing world. I've been on a roll lately working on my current WiP. I've added 4 new chapters, writing my way through a spot that's been giving me trouble. Soon I'll reach a part of the story that I've been waiting to write. Why? Because it's going to be a blast and my head is bursting with ideas. Then it's writing down to the end - a first for me.

There have also been a lot of good vibrations rippling through the writing community as well.

Josin McQuein - You may have read Josin's comments on other blogs. She has a great eye for what works and what doesn't in a query, a first page, etc. She blew away the Shark herself, Janet Reid, with her near flawless query here. If you've read any of her excerpts online, either on other blogs or her own, she has talent. You can read first pages from three projects she's working on by clicking the tabs at the top of her blog. Be warned: You'll wish you could read the next page and so on. I wasn't surprised when she announced not long after querying that she was offered represented by Suzie Townsend from Fine Print Literary Management. Josin has a great career ahead of her and I personally can't wait to read her first book, whenever that may be.

Natalie Whipple - We all knew her day would come and yesterday she announced that she sold TRANSPARENT in a 2 book deal by Harper Teen. Natalie's blog is an honest account of her long, and often difficult journey to publication. Her positive outlook, even during the times she struggled with doubt, and her encouraging advice to writers are what bring me to her blog daily. Congratulations, Natalie!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Independence Day!

Keeping it short and simple. I suspect the blogosphere will be rather quiet today and throughout the weekend. I'll be spending the 4th of July weekend with my family close to home. I'm looking forward to burgers, potato salad, and watermelon with my brother's family, and of course, fireworks!

I have many special memories centered around the 4th of July. Spending the day on the Esplanade in Boston with friends, listening to the Boston Pops at dusk, then watching the fireworks over the Charles were amazing (but exhausting) experiences. One of my favorite memories, however, was while traveling home from my honeymoon. Nearly 18 years ago, my hubby and I were flying home and able to view fireworks as tiny colored bursts of light while approaching the airport. Amazing!

A very Happy 4th of July weekend to all my friends in the U.S.A.

What about you? Do you have any special plans for the weekend or any special Independence Day memories?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I've been feeling thankful lately, so instead of waiting for Thanksgiving, why not post now? I’m thankful for...

Charlotte Brontë - for writing Jane Eyre. Loved this novel!

Donna Hosie, whose butt kicking comment (and I write that affectionately), shamed me into reading encouraged me to read Jane Eyre. You were so right, Donna!

Summer!! - I know I already blogged about my favorite season of the year here, but it’s a gorgeous 70 degrees at 7:30am. I’ve leisurely read through blogs in my pajamas with my first cup of coffee, finished writing this post, and plan to write on my deck with my second cup of coffee. Ah, bliss!

Harry Potter reread with friends – I’ll be rereading the HP series again with a longtime group of friends that I met through a HP fansite a few years ago. It’s casual, laid back, and a fun way to read about my favorite boy wizard. What I love about these highly insightful people is that every time we reread together, I always gain a new perspctive about Rowling’s series. It’s the perfect way to prepare for Deathly Hallows II and Pottermore!

The Stylish Blogger Award

Thank you, Kimberly, from Meetings With My Muse, for your thoughtful award and for making my day. I hope to make this blog style-worthy of this award during the next couple of weeks by sprucing things up around here, experimenting with a new design. So the rules to these awards are:

*Thank and link back to the person who passed on the award.
*Share 7 random tidbits about yourself.
*Pass on the award to 5 others (the number varies at times from 3-10)! and link to their blogs.
*Let those people know you've given them the award.

Random tidbits:
1. I’ve been craving Kit Kat bars lately.
2. I recently broke a tooth while chewing Sour Patch Kids.
3. I still haven't seen my dentist.
4. I <3 Audrey Hepburn.
5. And so my favorite movie is Roman Holiday.
6. I hate folding socks and underwear.
7. I love spending time at the ocean.

Three people I'd like to pass this award onto are:
1. Becky Taylor at Becky Taylor YA Writer
2. Jamie Burch at ~Dancing Down Serendipity Street~
3. Kate at The Scribbling SeaSerpent

Please check out their awesome blogs!

What are you thankful for today?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer Love

Not of the boy meets girl variety but rather a tribute to my favorite season of the year.

I’m one of those perpetually cold people.
I layer my clothes and have a sweater or sweatshirt within arm’s reach 9 out of 12 months of the year.
I’m one of those “I’d rather be hot than cold” people and can’t wait to shed my winter clothes.
I love the smells of summer - peonies and roses, freshly cut grass, the scent of the moist air before a storm, sidewalks after a summer rain, neighborhood barbecues...

And so hooray for 2 ½ work free months and schedule
...not having to make 4 lunches 5 mornings a week
...not having to iron uniforms
...not having to get to bed at a reasonable time

Hooray for
...the warmth of the sun on my bare arms
...morning coffee on my back deck
...collecting seashells on the beach
...hanging clothes outside on the clothesline (love that fresh air smell)
...early evening leisurely walks with my youngest daughter on a Tuesday or Wednesday night or any other night for that matter rides where the only destination is an icecream stand
...time to write, read, dream, laugh, garden...

What do you love about summer?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Something in the Water

Some writers have a variety of ideas swirling around their brains just waiting to be developed into their next novel.

I’m not one of those kind of writers.
I focus on one idea, brainstorm, and if it has potential, I outline and begin writing. Sometimes the idea takes off and sometimes it dies out. Well, it’s happened again. I’ve been hit with an idea for a new novel and I’m noticing a pattern. My lightbulb moments seem to revolve around water. Weird, huh?

The initial spark that turned into my current WiP struck while rinsing my recyclables and carrying them to the garage. My next idea, which is on hold for now, came to me while doing the dishes. This week while washing my hair another idea started taking shape. I was thinking about a friend who’s daughter missed the cut off birth date for moving up to the next soccer level, my mind began to wander, and before I knew it I had a rough skeleton of a YA dystopian before I had rinsed the conditioner out of my hair.

This is crazy! I know nothing about world building. I love to read dystopians, and in fact, have 2 on reserve at the library, but never in a million years did I ever imagine I’d write one. Even though dystopians are the new vampire novel – very hot in YA right now – there are indications that that trend is passing. That doesn’t matter so much to me since I don’t write to trends. Dystopian writing is so outside my comfort zone and I admire those who write them well. Contemporary MG/YA fiction is what I like to write.

I tried to shrug off the idea, but it keeps returning to my head with more details.
My next step will be to brainstorm and write down whatever comes to mind, then maybe a rough outline. This will be another backburner project – one to simmer while working on Nitpicky. And if I get stuck, I can always take a shower, run through the sprinkler, wash the car...

Where do your ideas come from?

Thursday, June 16, 2011


(photo credit)

The sun is shining a little brighter,
Bostonians are walking a little lighter (though our eyes are a little tired)
It’s a beautiful day!

Congratulations to the Bruins who won the Stanley Cup last night after an exciting 7 game final series against the Vancouver Canucks. One of the great things about living in Boston is how passionate we are about our sports teams. And there’s nothing sweeter than winning a championship. After 39 years, The Cup returns to Boston!

How sweet it is!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Q. Which Book Are You Embarrassed to Admit You've Never Read?

(And do you plan on ever reading it?)

A. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Last year I read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee for the first time. I know! I was never required to read it in middle or high school, but it was one I always wanted to read. For one reason or another I just never got around to it. Same with the *list below. Although I majored in English and read many classics, we (obviously) didn’t cover every work by every author.

After I graduated, I gravitated to the authors I enjoyed studying such as Dickens and Forster, and later Tolkien, but that was it. As a teacher my focus shifted toward children’s literature as I searched for authors I could introduce to my students. One of my goals was to inspire a love of reading in them which I hoped they would carry with them. I read them James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl), The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett), Mr. Popper’s Penguins (Richard and Florence Atwater), Ramona Quimby (Beverly Cleary), Chocolate Fever (Robert Kimmel Smith) among others.

When I had children of my own, again, I read to them in the hope that they would become readers as they grew older. Now that they've passed the infant/toddler ages, the last few years have been wonderful as I’ve turned back to reading for my own pleasure. So many books and so little time. As a writer I try to read as much in my genre as possible, but not exclusively. It’s important for me to read in different categories and across genre lines. And I’ve realized that there are many classics that I’ve never read and feel that I should read.

But why? Where does the guilt come from? I claim to love literature so much that I sought a degree in it, but have neglected to read and study certain novels that “everyone” else has read. If I’m so well-read, why haven’t I chosen to seek out the classics that I didn’t read as a student? And if I’m a writer, shouldn’t I read from the masters – the ones who have stood the test of time? This last question is one that haunts me every so often, and so I try to make a point of choosing a couple of these novels a year. Since I have summers off and more time to read, I try to mix up my reading material: more MG and YA, adult fiction, and classics.

As I mentioned above, last year I read To Kill A Mockingbird. Loved it so much that it’s now one of my top 10 favorite reads. Two years ago I read The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood), a powerful dystopian from the 80s that floored me. Three years before, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – another classic, never read before, that I ended up loving.

*Here’s the short list of books I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read. My plan is to cross off at least a couple this summer.

The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
The Great Gastsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Frankenstein – Mary Shelly
Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton
The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Middlemarch - George Eliot

Okay. I could add more but my face is properly beet red at the moment.

Is there a book(s) that you're embarrassed to admit you've never read? Do you plan to read it?

Don't worry. I won't judge. Feel free to leave a pseudonym if you don't want to leave you're real name. *wink*

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Friend to Follow

A quick plug for my friend, the lovely and talented, Donna Hosie. If you’re not following her blog, Musings of A Penniless Writer you’re missing an up and coming YA writer who has more drive and determination than anyone I know.

When I’m feeling lazy, I read one of her posts in which she gets an idea for a plot and writes an 80,000 word novel in 3 months or changes her whole novel from third to first point of view. And that’s while she works full-time, raises her kids, tends to her garden or yard or whatever you like to call that big grassy space surrounding your house. Oh, and she’s probably planning her next trip to Hobbit Country as well. Whips me into shape in no time, she does!

No challenge is too daunting for my supportive, hard-working friend and I know it’s only a matter of time before an agent snatches her up. She’s 1 follower away from reaching 200. So what are you waiting for?

She lives on the Aussie side of the world so (hopefully) she’s sleeping right now. Unless she decided to get up early to revise her ms. Wouldn’t it be great if she woke to see 200 followers? You could be the one!
Now shoo! Get going!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Good News!

I love sharing good news, but first I’m going to be totally lame today and point you to another post.

After meeting with some of the big names in publishing, agent/author Mandy Hubbard, generously shared some valuable information on her blog in her post, The Epic Post on Trends (YA & MG). For kidlit writers who have high hopes of being published this info is invaluable. I suppose if the genre you write in isn’t included on a publisher’s wish list, then it would be simply “eh” news. Not necessarily bad, but not good if you just typed the final period on your epic high fantasy novel about an alien merboy and the girl who loves him. Personally, I don’t believe in writing to trends, but when my ms seems close to hitting one of the desired targets I can’t help feeling encouraged.

On to the Good News:

Ms. Hubbard's post was relevant to me because MG may well be the new YA and I’ve been plugging away at an upper MG contemporary for over a year. Just the incentive I need to finish this novel.

My “on hold” project is a YA ghost story that I’m dying to explore.

I’m not sick anymore!

The Science Fair is over! (3 kids + 3 projects/papers + 1 computer = too much tension) My life will finally start becoming my own soon.

The sun broke through the cloudy gray drizzle for about a half hour today!

And, it's Friday!!

Meet you on the other side....of either the weekend or in the Great Beyond.

What good news do you have to share? Has this song been stuck in anyone’s head besides mine this week?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Oh Blogger, You Devil!

Thought you'd be tricksy on Friday the 13th, did you?
Well, I'm on to you.

Thought you'd wipe out yesterday's brilliant *cough* post?
Well, I'm 2 steps ahead of you this time, even though my mad tech skillz are usually 5 steps behind everyone else.

See, because I'm so anal efficient, I wrote yesterday's post in Word and saved it. Pretty smart, eh?

So today when I discovered that you had a craving for clever writing, or maybe just writing, I was able to retrieve my words and voila!

Mwahahahahaha! Foiled again, Blogger!

(Even though I was able to repost below, the comments by the lovely Donnas were gobbled up. Sorry gals. I invite you to recomment if you'd like to.)

Did Blogger's meltdown create havoc with your blogging? Do tell!