Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I can't believe it's been over a month since I last posted. The weird thing is, I have written blogs. I just haven't posted them. Sometimes I feel like my words don't express the emotion I was trying to convey. But this one's going out there, no matter what!

I've been on a bit of a computer hiatus. Of course I'm checking my email, but I've been trying to avoid extended periods of web-surfing, game-playing, etc. The holidays swallow up plenty of time anyway, so I really haven't felt the loss of it. Well, maybe a little loss. My writing has taken a hit, but I'm determined to get back on track.

After wrapping a few presents tonight, I sat down to catch up with my usual list of sites and blogs. I mostly read writers' blogs; some are personal, others not. When I came to the last one on my list, it struck me in a strange, emotional way. The writer in question does write very personal blogs, and by the time I'd finished her posts from the last month, I wanted to give her a hug. I wanted to say, "I've missed you, old friend."

How weird is that? I don't really know this woman, and she certainly doesn't know me. But I feel like I know her, because I've followed her life and success for years now. Being a writer, she's a different kind of celebrity. She can probably go to the grocery store without having to sign autographs. But what about all the other celebrities? We see these strangers on television, in movies, and in magazines. We read about them and follow their tweets. We feel like we know them, but we don't.

Is this a recent phenomenon? I wonder if random people walked around London in 1601 saying, "I heard Will Shakespeare had a few too many at the tavern last night."

If you're reading this, it's probably because you actually do know me in real life. As much as I like reading about people I admire from afar, I am grateful for all the real, special people who I have in my life. I wish you all a Merry Christmas. Imagine me giving you a hug through the Inter webs and saying, "I've missed you, friend!"

Music for the week: Boots, The Killers (I love that they do an original Christmas song every year!)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Instead of a real, coherent blog this week, I'd like to share a few random thoughts.

1. I resist books when they are overly hyped, but most of the time, I end up jumping on the bandwagon full force. The Stieg Larsson phenomenon is no exception. I just finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (Literally, five minutes ago.) All I can say is wow. If they had to break the last Harry Potter into two movies, how many will this story take? I'm resisting the urge to drive to the nearest bookseller and get the next one tonight.

2. How about those Gators? I'm so glad we finally made it to a Florida-Georgia game, with twelve solid hours of friends and fun.

3. The boys had a wonderful Halloween. Not only do they have all the candy they collected from the neighbors, but we also have five bags of candy left over. Now, to keep my hands out of the candy baskets. Anyone need a sugar fix?

4. I hope everyone voted this week. Voting is more than your right as an American; it's your responsibility. And now that the mid-term elections are over, is there any chance we can stop talking about politics for a while?

5. I'm excited to be a Nielsen family starting tomorrow!

Until next week...

Today's musical highlight: Local Natives, Gorilla Manor

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I haven't posted in while, but I'm back! I've had a busy couple of weeks, and I've actually written several blogs that I didn't post because I couldn't get the words just right. I'll give you the short, sweet version of those, then I'll move on to the topic that got me on here rearing to blog!

This month I went to Disney World, turned a year older, partied with Vampire Weekend (in case you were wondering, yes they can and do recreate their signature sound live, and it was awesome!) and have had lots of fun with friends. Those are all the good things; of course, bad things happen, too. I have a tendency to have my feelings hurt too easily, but that's a topic for another day.

I am worried about my writing. I am loving my characters, and they certainly have minds of their own. I am a solid six chapters into this book, but I've had to take too many breaks from writing with all the busyness going on. But worse than falling short of my self-imposed deadlines, I've been worried about plotting.

Yesterday, while searching for the next book I want to read, I came across the blog of Kristen Cashore. If you haven't read Graceling and Fire, you should. Her next book isn't due out any time soon, but I'm so glad that I stumbled upon her site. Why? Because not only does she write amazing, complex characters with beautiful prose, she is a master of plotting and pacing. Reading her blog and website gave me hope, because her process is very similar to mine. She's a "pantser," too! (That's a writer's term that means writing by the seat of your pants, rather than complex plotting before hand.)

Knowing how brilliantly it worked out for Ms. Cashore, now I at least know that it's possible for a plot to work it's way out. Taking some of the anxiety away makes me excited about writing again, and that is exactly what I needed.

Music I'm rocking this week: LCD Soundsystem

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

This weekend we had company at our house. It's always fun to visit with old friends, especially ones who see the world differently from how you see it. You learn from those kinds of friends. I could go on about how our friend never meets a stranger, or any number of things, but this morning I was reminded of an off-handed comment he made when we were picking up our kids from school. He said, "You guys care way too much about what goes on in the carpool line."

I'm sure he was right. He hasn't yet experienced the joy of school pick up and drop off lines, so he sees these situations differently from me. I was reminded of this when I found myself agitated this morning at son #1's school. You see, we have two lines. The line on the right, and the line on the left. The school added the line on the left to get the traffic off the streets when it backs up. The left line eventually merges into the right again, so all of the people on the left end up getting in front of the people on the right, which is fine. We are all aware of this, and we make our choices.

But this morning, there was no back-up. The right line was moving steadily, with no stopping. We, on the right, were all going the school speed limit, which is 5 mph. There was no need for the line on the left. And yet, in front of my very eyes, three cars sped past everyone on the right, taking the speed bumps at around twenty five or so, just to scoot in and cut some other cars off. Just to kick their child out of the car 5 seconds faster.

And there you have it. I care way too much about what happens in the carpool line. I care too much because life and values and the big picture are reflected there. In the carpool line you have me, and most of the other moms and dads, over on the right, going the speed limit because we don't want to run over a child. And then you have those other people. The ones who just want to get ahead. The ones who don't care who they might run over, or who they cut off.

The good news is that for the most part, I only have to deal with those people in the carpool lane. I'm so grateful for all the good people my family has in our life. I'm grateful for friends we've known for years, who come to visit and bring different points of view, and for friends who support us and love us and have fun with us. I'm fine staying over here in the right lane.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Writing Monster is a hungry one. She demands a type of selfishness, a devotion that requires me to shut out the rest of the world and all the other things I 'should be' doing. She devours my most valuable resource, time. She needles me when I'm driving, throwing images and ideas in my head when I can't stop to record them. And then other times, when I sit in front of the screen, ready to unleash her, she sleeps. She has an illicit love affair with adverbs. I know they're wrong, but she just keeps forcing them on me. She's a hard one to tame, my Monster.

Following through on the commitment to write is the hardest part for me. Some people say you have to treat it like a job, but I don't think that's true. I think you have to treat it like a relationship. Sometimes you have to work at a relationship, but you do it because you love the other person. Ay, there's the rub, though. The struggle is working at your relationships with people and your relationship with your writing when both demand so much time.

This week my goal is balance between my regular life and my writing life.

Playing now: The Weight, Thrice

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I had all planned out in my head what I wanted to talk about this week, but I just finished an awesome book this morning, and I have to talk about it instead!

Clockwork Angel is the latest from Cassandra Clare. Now, I love her first series, The Mortal Instruments. I've recommended them and found that they are not everyone else's cup of tea. But this new book, a prequel of sorts, just gives testament to the fact that writers get better with practice. Clockwork Angel is amazing. The prose is beautiful, the plotting and pacing are eloquent, and the characters jump off the page.

Set in London in the late 1800's, Tessa Gray's search for her missing brother takes her into the world of the Shadowhunters, a race of part angel, part humans, who protect the world from demons. On her journey Tessa learns that she is a part of the Downworld with a strange gift of her own and that her brother is in terrible danger, all while she's falling in love with two very different Shadowhunters.

This series promises to have something for everyone; the refinement of the classics, plenty of action, adventure, and mystery, a well-constructed supernatural world, and of course a complicated love triangle. The only bad thing about it is waiting a whole year until the next one comes out!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A while ago I heard about a service that would type out your tweets (on a typewriter) and mail them to you. At first glance it seems like a kitchy fad, but lately I've pondered how this translates to other social media. Bloggers have been doing it for a while; most blogs are essentially public diaries anyway. But what about Facebook? Imagine one year of your life in Facebook; your statues, pictures, wall-posts, etc. Printed out and bound together, it would be like your own personal scrapbook and diary wrapped up together. So the question is, what would your year in Facebook say about you?

I imagine mine would be a fair distribution of comments about music, books, and events. (By events I mean get-togethers with friends, birthdays, or silly things my kids have done, or silly things that I've done, and of course, concerts.) I know I do my fair share of complaining, but I hope not too much.

With all my thoughts about what my Facebook status says about me as a person, yesterday was one of those days when I didn't know what my status was. I erred on the side of no status update. (And I'm using this as my day late, dollar short forum instead.)

On the one hand, I was flooded with memories of where I was nine years ago on September 11. It was second period, my most well-behaved class. My coworker Jerry knocked on my door and pulled me out into the hall. "Do you know what happened?" he asked. I expected some school gossip. Instead he said, "We've been attacked." During planning the next period, when the kids were off at PE, we watched the news in the library. We called loved ones. And then we went back to teach and act normal for the rest of the day- we'd been instructed not to turn on the tvs or talk about it in the classroom.

On the other hand, yesterday was a fantastic day for college football. Several pairs of highly ranked teams played each other, and my Gators managed to pull out another win, thank you very much. (Here's hoping I get to say that next week, too.) My kids had fun at a friend's birthday party, too. What could beat jumping into a foam pit and ice-cream cake? It was an all-around, great fall Saturday.

I couldn't condense my thoughts into a few hundred characters yesterday, but I think it's really cool that we have these forums that allow us to try. It's important to remember, but it's equally important to be thankful for our blessings today, for the great time and place in which we live.

Friday, September 3, 2010

On the drive home last night, my husband asked me if I'd ever been to a concert I didn't like. I had to think about that, but I guess the answer is no. I love concerts, and I go see bands that I love- so it pretty much follows that I'm going to love every one that I see.
Biased or not, Paramore was awesome!
They played a great setlist, with a little acoustic break in the middle, and the encore was fantastic. (They shut down the house with Misery Business, and even pulled a fan onstage to sing :) You could literally feel the music- the speakers created a pulse of wind with every beat. Pyrotechnics amped things up at the end, and the guys even turned flips while they were playing.
Finally I have to say a little something about Hayley Williams. I admire her so much-- call me a tween girl, but she is so talented, full of emotion, beautiful, humble, and just cool. (And the guys aren't bad, either.) Much love to the rockers from Tennessee! Come back soon!

Friday, August 27, 2010

I love a good "book day." A book day is when I spend the whole day (or afternoon or night or all three) reading a book from cover to cover. To top things off, yesterday's book was Mockingjay, one I'd been waiting on for a year and the conclusion of a trilogy. And best of all -- it lived up to all the anticipation.

The story begins in Panem, what's left of America many years in the future after a major war. The Capitol (aka government ruled by evil dictator) controls the twelve districts, and to remind the people who's in charge, each year they hold The Hunger Games. Two children from each district are chosen by lottery to enter the games, in which they must fight to the death in an arena. The games are televised to the entire populace, and the last child left alive is crowned the winner.

Now enter the heroine, Katniss Everdeen. Her younger sister is chosen in the lottery to represent District 12, but Katniss steps up to take her place. The trilogy tells her story, from her experience in the games to all of the fallout that follows.

I don't want to spoil it, so I'll leave the rest for you to find out on your own. Suzanne Collins has told a unique, page-turning story of sacrifice, survival, and love. The story stands on it's own-- you don't have ponder the deeper meaning. But I can't stop thinking about the resonance here. Poverty vs. excessive wealth. The subjugation of the powerless. What it means to have power. Our obsession with entertainment. How far we will go to survive. The value of a human life. The value of family. What it means to love someone.

Read these books. You won't regret it.

The Hunger Games
Catching Fire

(Here's the book trailer for Mockingjay.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

For the past few days, I've been mulling over what I would blog about this week. Maybe I could talk about the book I finished reading, or the amazing pedicure I had on Saturday, or my son's first few days back to school. But something real hit pretty hard today. A few days ago, a FB friend mentioned he was praying for a family. I knew immediately who he was talking about, but I didn't want to think that anything terrible had happened. I found out today that it did.

My favorite teacher passed away this weekend. I'm not sure why I'm having such a hard time with this -- I hadn't seen her in over ten years. I don't talk about my mother's passing often, and of course this new loss rakes up all those same wounds. But I think I just need to give voice to what this wonderful lady meant to me.

I could talk about what she taught, or even how she taught, but all that was secondary to the fact that she cared. She cared about each and every student who passed through her doors, and every one of us knew it. She was there to help when things were messy and inconvenient. She made time to listen.

I didn't want to become a teacher. I majored in English because I love to read. I went to graduate school in the education department because it was a one year program. But somewhere along the way, I remembered the impact that Mrs. Hughes had on my life. My #1 goal in the classroom was to be the kind of teacher that she was. I'm sure I failed early and often, but if I was for even one kid what Mrs. Hughes was for me (and hundreds of others, no doubt) then all the other stuff was worth it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I am all about awesome alternative rock music. The weird thing is most people I know and talk to have never heard of the bands that I love. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Arcade Fire's The Suburbs is the #1 Album in America -- That means lots of people have caught on to their greatness, and I'm thrilled for them! Here is a little taste:

I guess I should be embarrassed to admit it, but I cried the first time I heard this song. It's that good.

On a more personal note, with the school year fast approaching, and my prime writing time with it, I'm having an identity crisis of sorts. I am about a quarter of the way through my second book, but I stalled out a while ago. Genre wise I'd say it is general fiction. I like to read all kinds of things, but lately I've been in love with adolescent lit. I have an idea brewing for an adolescent novel -- the question is, do I abandon book 2 to start a new idea, or do I finish what I've already started? Feel free to share your insights!

Until next week!

A quote from the great Mark Twain:
All you need is ignorance and confidence, and success is sure.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This week I wanted to talk about the great book that I read, and I have some random thoughts to share.

Last week I read The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan. As a former middle school teacher and as a human being, this book is fantastic. A brother and sister discover that they are descendants of two ancient royal Egyptian families. Their ancestry gives them special powers, which they use to save the world. Riordan gives a unique take on the classic good vs. evil, seamlessly weaving Egyptian history and world geography into the complex story. The point of view alternates between the African-American male protagonist and his sister, raised by her Caucasian grandparents in England. It's part science fiction, part family drama, part suspense, with a hint of a love story. I could say I've never read anything like it, but really it's like a mixing pot of different genres, all melded into something new. In case you couldn't tell, I loved it. If I were still teaching, I'd already be angling to get a class set and teach it.

Random observation #1: In the mall parking lot this week I was driving behind a car. I noticed one of those fake bullet hole stickers on the back of the trunk, and I thought, that's weird, because it's just one. Usually people put a row of them, and they're a little more obvious. When I stopped behind the car at a stop sign, I realized it was not a sticker, but an actual bullet hole. Nice.

Random thought #2: I'm not a big fan of Kate Hudson.

Random opinion #3: I've read in several places the assertion that if you like Charlaine Harris's novels, you won't like the show TrueBlood, and if you like the show, you won't like the books. I couldn't disagree more. I thoroughly enjoy both the books and the show. Alan Ball and crew create a perfect balance of the heart and characters of the books, with just enough extra spice to keep you interested, even when you know what's going to happen next.

Random closing thought: The iLuv alarm clock/dual iPod docking station I got my husband for Father's day has really good sound quality. To quote Coldplay, which is playing now,
'Nobody said it was easy,
It's such a shame for us to part.'

Until next week!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My kids spent last week with their grandfather, while I took my own personal summer break. All week people asked me, "Are you getting a lot done?" My stock answer was no, because I should have been doing things like cleaning my house or discovering a source of free, clean, renewable energy. But, to quote a favorite piece of Facebook flair, a clean house is a sign of a wasted life, and I'm no scientist. My lofty summer goals were to read more, write more, and see more movies. I know you can't wait to see how those are coming along.

I read an excellent book (which deserves it's own post), I have a solid beginning to a story down in the saved files, and I saw six movies. Yes, six. In case you're looking for a movie to see this summer, here are the 10-second reviews:

In Theaters:

Charlie St. Cloud *** Boy's brother dies. Boy plays baseball with brother's ghost. Boy meets girl who can bring him back to the world of the living. Not my usual thing, the girly date movie, but it was decent.

Inception ***** Super cool architects/scientists/druggists can steal your innermost secrets while you dream. Oh, and they can plant ideas in your mind, too. I'm really not doing this one justice; it is awesome. If you see one movie this summer, see this one.

Eclipse **** Vampire and werewolf fight for the love of a human girl, but an army of vampires is trying to kill her. Okay, I'm not objective about this one, being a Twihard and all, but it is the best in the movie franchise so far.

Dinner for Smucks **** To get a promotion, a guy has to invite an idiot to dinner. The guy who brings the biggest idiot wins. Funniest movie I've seen in a while. I love Paul Rudd and Steve Carell.

At Redbox:

The Book of Eli ***** A man travels west through post apocalyptic America to protect the last Bible, but lots of bad guys try to stop him. Violent (disclaimer for the faint of stomach) but a beautiful, excellent film.

Hot Tub Time Machine ** Four misfits go back to the 80s to fix their lives and renew their friendship. Couple of good laughs, kind of a dude movie. Craig Robinson steals the show.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Nothing makes me feel older than technology. Don't get me wrong -- I love it. I love unlimited information at my fingertips 24-7. I love my iPod, my phone, and my laptop -- I don't go anywhere without them. But I can remember what life was like before, and it seems like that wasn't very long ago.

I took a road trip to visit family last week. During the five hour drive, I flipped back and forth between satellite radio, which has three stations directed specifically at my musical tastes, and my entire personal music collection on my iPod. I also talked to a friend on the phone via Blue tooth, and my boys watched two DVDs.

Not too long ago, radio signals would have faded from city to city. I would have listened to two, maybe three carefully chosen CDs. I couldn't have talked on the phone because I wouldn't have had reception. My boys would have cried and asked 100 times, "How much longer?"

It is not lost on my that I'm writing a post on technology on a website it took me less than an hour to create. The Internet has flipped the switch from science to magic; it can actually read my mind. A few days ago I typed in the search engine "what to get," and by the time I got that far, the engine had already provided a list of ten options to finish that sentence. More amazing is that my exact question was the fifth down on that list -- "what to get an 8 year old girl for her birthday." I'm sure my niece will like the gift I picked out for her because three different websites told me she would. When my older nieces were that age, I spent hours browsing stores. I doubt I ever picked out what was cool to them.

That tangible difference, the memory of how things used to be, makes me feel my age more than my stiff knuckles and grey hair.

Writing update: I have started a new short story. I plan to finish it this week, but I am faced with the classic dilemma. Do I create a story arc for my characters, or do I let them play around with each other and see what happens?

Monday, July 19, 2010

We're at that odd transition, the summit of the summer. It's hot. The children are restless. We're having fun, keeping busy with park days, the library, the pool and the beach. I know it's all downhill from here. Soon they'll be back in school, and I'll be wondering where the time went. We'll all be glad to get back in the routine, but summer's great glory is the potential to sleep late and stay in pajamas all day.

The boys keep moving forward as always. Son #1 lost his second tooth last night. Son #2 can now touch in the shallow end of the pool. I, on the other hand, haven't done half the things I wanted to this summer. I haven't read enough books. I haven't called enough of my friends and family. I haven't finished writing any stories or chapters. I haven't seen many movies. (Thanks to Red Box I have at least caught up on a few. Shutter Island was pretty decent -- Remember watching Leo on Growing Pains? Who knew what a solid actor he'd become.)

So here's my kick in the pants, to myself. Call it my New Year's in July. I'm not letting this summer get away from me. I could add this motivational quote to my list up there, but too many people have said it for proper attribution. If you want to be a writer, write. To that end, I will post to this blog at least once a week. I will finish one short story, polished and ready to send out, by then end of August. Finally, I will finish the first draft of Novel #2 by Christmas. (Novel #1 is officially 'under the bed.')

Welcome to my first blog.

My blog title comes from Ernie's quote up there at the top: What amateurs call a style is usually only the unavoidable awkwardnesses in first trying to make something that has not heretofore been made. That pretty much sums up not just my writing, but my whole life.