Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Santa and Archeology

Image from www.free-extras.com
We took Little Man to see Santa Claus the other night so he could tell Santa what he wants for Christmas. We watched and smiled and gave each other smug grins and elbow taps with each item Little Man said he wanted. Then he said something new. "I want a kitchen," he said. Not just an added item as an after thought. NO. He said it with enthusiasm. Husband and I looked at each other and mouthed "Kitchen?" Needless to say, husband spent time fighting traffic and crowds looking for a kitchen to add to Santa's gifts. Don't want to disillusion Little Man at such an early age.

Tonight Santa comes and he will deposit gifts under the tree that will be added to the number of things that parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles have already placed there. Even without Santa, Little Man has a lot of stuff. Perhaps too much stuff. And really, he has waaaayyyy too much stuff when it is combined with the stuff he already has. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to deprive my Little Man of the things he needs or even wants, but there comes a time when enough is enough. I can tell his grandparents and aunts and uncles to only give him clothes and socks because he outgrows them overnight. What he gets is who knows what. Well, we'll know tomorrow. All I know is when I shake a box, it rattles. Socks don't rattle.

It's fine, really because just as quickly as he out grows his clothes, he out grows his toys. The problem is getting him to relinquish the toys he no longer plays with. He likes to keep all things that belong to him. It's not his fault. He comes from two parents who have sentimental attachments to their stuff too. We're getting better but we're not yet at the point where we can easily just let something go. My sister has mastered the "minimalist" life-style. We are still trying to simply stay off the show Hoarders.

Image from
commons.wikimedia.org
Which brings me to the next holiday that's right around the corner - Purge Day. While most people are making their New Year's resolutions (which I don't do), I'll be cleaning out the cupboards, closets and drawers. The first thing to tackle will be the Little Man's old toys. This is equivalent to an archeological dig and actually does require the assistance of several post- graduate interns.

It's not just deciding which toys stay, and which toys go, they must first be reassembled into their original and intended form with all original parts in tact and in place. Only then can the toys be triaged: cleaned and given to the church or friends, or discarded. Since Little Man is creative and uses parts interchangeably from toy to toy and then puts the "left over" parts in various boxes, bags, totes and pockets, the reassembling of his toys is on the magnitude of reconstructing Pompeii.

Until Purge Day it is time to just enjoy the toys and the paper and boxes and the chaos of the week watching Little Man play with his new toys and watching husband construct the things that need "some assembly." Have a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 16, 2013

It Takes Two to Tangle

Photo from
autumnscolorfulleaves.BlogSpot.com
Little Man's new favorite movie is Tangled, the Disney adaptation of the Rapunzel fairy tale. He likes the chameleon, Maximus the horse, the action, and the music. He's too young yet to appreciate the subtle humor, the love story, the tragic loss, or the allusions to other pieces of classic literature and jokes. I'm not usually one to like the revisionist versions of classic fairy tales that Disney puts out since they tend to dilute the stories or change them so that their original moral value is all but missing. But this one doesn't bother me as much as others. I actually like this movie.

While we were watching it today for the third time in a row, I discovered that I have a soft spot for Mother Gothel. She is supposed to be the villain in this tale, but I find that she is more of a tragic character that villainous. And she reminds me of Cher in Moonstruck. See?

Image from gaiaonline.com
Image from collider.com



 
 
 
 
 
Anyway, I read on someone's blog, well, several different blogs actually, that the antagonist/villain is the hero in their story. I watched the movie from the point-of-view from Mother Gothel. She is an old woman who discovers the magical flower from the sun that restores her youth. The flower is harvested to save the queen but now Gothel will surely die of old age. When the queen delivers a baby daughter with the healing, glowing hair, Gothel visits the babe to take only a lock of her hair in hopes of restoring her youth. The hair doesn't work once it is cut so Gothel then takes Rapunzel with her. It isn't until Rapunzel's eighteenth birthday does our action begin.
 
Yes, Gothel snatched a baby away from her parents. Yes she kept her locked in a tower. Yes her motivation was selfish. But what really happened? She didn't harm the baby. She fed the child, clothed the child, taught her to talk, walk, read, write. Gothel would even travel for days to bring back the special paints Rapunzel liked. She made Rapunzel feel loved and safe. In the end, she meets her demise - a justified one because she does turn to manipulation and murder - but all she wanted to do was to stay young.
 

 Her story started me thinking once again about the revisions I've put off for far too long and what is the story of my antagonist? How can I make that more compelling? How can I make my antagonist more sympathetic? (It was very well done in the movie Falling Down) How can I get my antagonist's story and my hero's story to be more intertwined, more tangled? It's time to get back to writing.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bucket List

My long-time friend from all the way back in college recently had the opportunity to be a balloon handler in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. She was part of the crew that led the Kool-Ade man. Pretty cool. She said it was something on her Bucket List and she felt good about crossing it off. Soon, a friend is taking off for a cross-county adventure. He’s relieved himself of his worldly possessions and will heading west to see what there is to see. I don’t know if that is on his Bucket List per se, but it sounds like something that should be.

Image from
homeimprovementbasics.com
So I started thinking; what exactly is a Bucket List? What are the criteria for something making it onto the Bucket List? Are these items things you really, really want to do and actually work toward doing? Or just stuff you’d like to do if you can? If it’s the later, then that’s more of a Shrug List. Are the things on the Bucket List fluid? For example, if I wanted to climb Mt. Everest, but now it wouldn’t be possible for whatever reason, can I take it off the list and replace it with something else? What if I don’t complete my list before I kick the bucket? Does my child have to take on my list? Do I spend time in purgatory watching others do those things? But I digress.

For me, a Bucket List consists of things I’d really like to do, fantasize about doing, dream about doing and try to plan toward. It is fluid and it changes with my personal circumstances. There are several items that were once on my list that no longer make the grade. Others I’ve accomplished and they’ve been checked off. For kicks and giggles, these are ten things on my list.

1.      Get a Mustang convertible GT (done and I recently totaled it)
2.      Build a house (done)
3.      Have a family (done)
4.      See every state (I’ve seen a good number of them already)
5.      Learn to tat. I should say, learn to make Irish lace.
6.      Take an Italian cooking class – in Italy!
7.      Be a published author (revising my first novel!)
8.      Ride on the Orient Express
9.      Complete my family tree/history (working)
10.  Travel – see South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland
 
What’s on your list? Let me know.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Believe It Or Not

At a recent critique group meeting I had the pleasure to read a piece from one of our members and someone I consider a friend. Usually I really like his writing - it's clear, well developed, unique, a pleasure to read in general. This time, I was befuddled. His characters lacked introduction, he jumped too far into the action, there seemed to be contradictory information. I was so confused. This was not like his writing. What I didn't realize until later that what I was reading was the third installment of a story he's working on. I missed the first couple of chapters. Yes, I missed a month of critique group meetings due to family engagements so I was out of the loop and therefore justly confused by his story.

What I missed was the initial premise. Every story has one and the reader is expected to willfully suspend their disbelief in order to enter this new world, the life of the character, to follow the story. This is necessary for the reader to accept the story and "get into it." How else can you expect science fiction to be successful, or horror, or even romance? No matter how I tried to suspend my disbelief, I didn't have the initial premise of his story.

The initial premise is vital to, well, everything. Every story, every situation in life has an initial premise that we are expected to willingly suspend our disbelief and therefore agree with. But what happens if you don't agree with the initial premise? What if you just can't suspend your disbelief? As a writer that would be bad because then you've lost your reader from the beginning. We've all read books we "just can't get into." But what about in other applications?

I don't usually get political here and it has been my policy to leave that alone as much as possible so I will NOT make a political statement but an observation on something that is a political topic. I saw posted on Facebook an article from watchdog.net about female voter suppression. This was a blurb of an article was linked back to a longer article from Occupy Democrats. You can read the articles for yourself by clicking on the links. Anyway, the longer article is about the voter ID law in Texas and how it will suppress voter's rights by requiring photo identification.

The articles go on to establish their arguments:
  1. There are only 81 DMV's in 254 counties and rural citizens are burdened by the lack of a local DMV.
  2. Most of the rural inhabitants are minorities and therefore it is restrictive of minorities.
  3. Many poor and elderly citizens don't drive and therefore do not have a need for a photo ID and now they are being required to get something they don't need or want.
  4. The law also requires the ID to have the person's legal name and this is particularly discriminatory to women who are changing their names due to marriage. *The shorter article finds this the most heinous because it doesn't effect men.*
The woman who posted this was particularly insulted because men weren't effected by a name change and that's her privilege. She was willing to suspend her disbelief and agree with that part of the argument.

Here's my question: what if you aren't willing to suspend your disbelief? What if you don't buy into any of their arguments? Not just these, I'm speaking generally. What if we as citizens didn't readily believe any premise that was presented to us from either side of the argument. What if we, instead, required our representatives to work harder for our disbelief?

I think, perhaps, if our citizenry was as skeptical and suspicious of the initial premises instead of labels of Progressive, Liberal, or Conservative, we'd have a better run country. And that's my initial premise for today. Believe it or not.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thank You Clarence!

Unless you live under a rock, then you know that today is Thanksgiving. This is my favorite holiday because it is a universal holiday. It doesn't matter your faith, your background, or anything else. It is simply the day to pause and be thankful for what you do have. I am thankful for my family, my friends, my fixer-upper home, and all the opportunities that come my way.

photo by LeeAnn Rhoden
Yes, I am cooking today. Sort of. I cheated by getting a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the store (I don't like turkey), but the rest of the meal I'll be cooking - mashed potatoes, gravy, squash medley, and stuffing. I made pumpkin spice cake from a recipe I got from my friend, Allison, for dessert and there is a cherry pie in the kitchen too. My husband surprised me with an early Christmas gift. He gave me a new coffee maker! I love it!!

The one thing I am truly thankful for is Clarence. Clarence is my guardian angel. He isn't a graceful angel. He's not the type that will prevent me from walking out in front of a bus by distracting me with a lovely pair of shoes in a shop window or serendipitously running into an old friend and stopping to say hello. No. Clarence will prevent me from walking out in front of a bus by having me trip over my own feet and spraining my ankle. Anytime something happens that is just too weird for words, I know it is Clarence doing what he does because shortly there will be a blessing in some form. Sometimes, it's hard to appreciate Clarence's methods. Sometimes I'd rather be distracted by the pretty shoes. But, alas, Clarence is just clumsy and, well, I get that.

Yesterday, Clarence visited me. I don't know if I was saved from something else that would have been catastrophic at that time, or perhaps in the near future, but he was definitely with me. It's Clarence's way. My day started out as usual - got my husband off to work, fed the dogs, got the boy up and fed and dressed. My morning was busy: going to the gym, returning a library book, going to the post office to pick up a package, going to the grocery store to get milk, ice cream, and the Thanksgiving chicken. Finally, at the request of the Little Man, a trip to Dunkin Donuts to get a donut and a chocolate milkshake.

It rained the day before. It rained all night. The roads were wet. I should have said "no" to the trip to get donuts. On the way home, Clarence came into my life. What happened? I hydroplaned in a left-hand turn, over corrected and continued sliding up onto a curb and into a tree. Yes, my beloved Mustang, my Eleanor, hit a tree. Hard. Yes, I know they don't handle well on wet roads. I know you shouldn't over correct. I know! Whatever. It happened.


Photo by LeeAnn Rhoden
How bad was it? Well, the air bags didn't deploy and the engine didn't even stop running and I had to shut it off with the key. Little Man did drop his milkshake all over the back seat and himself. He was crying about that and then suddenly very excited about the "broken car." The worst of it was I had to call my husband to come home from work. And I was extremely embarrassed to have traffic blocked by the tow truck. Oh, it's probably totaled because the front end collapsed, the radiator is trashed and the hood crumpled. I am sure there is more engine damage. Maybe it can be repaired. Maybe not. Either way, it's okay because we are okay. I don't know what Clarence's plan is. Frankly, he could've just left me a post-it note on the fridge. But the fact that no one was hurt, even the tree had just a few scrapes, lets me know that at some point, I'll see why he did this.

In the meantime, I'll give thanks for today, my family, my friends, the opportunities that come everyday with the sunrise, and for Clarence. What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Questions

Photo from Fanshare.com
Little Man has started with questions. Why do we sleep at night, Mama? Where is the puppy dog going? How do we get to the store? When does Santa come? Who's that? When does Grandma come? I'm reminded of the scene from Uncle Buck between John Candy and Macaulay Culkin when the little boy is asking rapid-fire questions. It can be both entertaining and exasperating at the same time. This is how he learns and gains information about his world. And my responsibility as his parent is to give him accurate and truthful information at his level.

Little Man: Mama, how did a baby get in Allison's tummy?
Me: God put it there.
Little Man: Can we have ice cream?

All his questioning has me questioning if I still question things. Oh sure, there's the reaction to whatever is on the news, "What was he thinking?" or "Why would they do something so stupid?" Most of the questions that get raised on the news or through social media I already have an answer to, or at the very least a formed opinion. I know what the guy was thinking and why they did something stupid. Those are reactions, not real questions. A real question is when you are genuinely seeking an answer, a fact, a truth.

I know why the sky is blue and the grass is green. I know the earth is round and the moon is not made of cheese. Those are easy questions to answer. And I'm not talking about questions like "What are your plans for this weekend?" That's schedule coordination. But a question, a real question, is more like, "What is my purpose for being on this earth? What is my place?" I think to some degree those questions we always ask. And perhaps, the answers change depending on our stage in life.

For now, my questions will be, "How do I make this scene better?" and, "What does this character want?" or "Why would this character do that?" It's still revision time and I need to get my novel put back into shape and FINALLY get it done.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Faye's Lace

We lived in Rhode Island while I was growing up. My mother's family were all in Alabama and my father's family were all in Missouri. Obviously, we weren't raised with large gatherings of extended family. That's okay, were a close nuclear family unit. This is not to say that we didn't visit family or have family come to us, we did, just not often. Still, it was often enough to know which family members you looked forward to visiting.

One of the family members I looked forward to seeing was my Aunt Faye, my father's sister. I guess I liked her because she was a lot like my dad - same sense of humor, liked to read, and always had an interesting story to tell. She was also the one who, like me, was interested in needlework. Time passes and there's college, marriage, divorce, work, marriage, moving, a baby and sadly, I let life get too busy and lost touch with Faye and other extended family members. Not too long ago, maybe a year or so ago, I was able to reconnect with her for family tree information. We would talk for hours and I loved to hear the stories and catch up with her and I realized, even with time and distance between us, we were more alike than I knew. My Aunt Faye passed away last June.

 Aunt Faye crocheted lace. She was prolific. I haven't attempted to crochet lace or knit lace or even tat lace yet, but it is on my list of "things I want to learn." When she passed, Dad brought back the mountain of lace doilies and snowflakes that she had made throughout her lifetime. Mom chose some to frame, my sister selected a couple, I framed some and kept some. There were so many left over and I knew that I wouldn't be able to use all of them but I didn't want them to go unused, unappreciated, unseen. What should I do with them?

On Wednesday evenings, I knit and crochet with a group of church ladies at our church. I took Aunt Faye's remaining lace to them last night. If anyone would appreciate the craft as much as I do, it would be these ladies. I was right. They loved them and could not believe how intricate and beautiful they were. They asked me about her and her life and her passing.

One woman took a pink square. She is in her eighties and a two-time breast cancer survivor. She lost her husband and all three of her daughters to cancer and raise two granddaughters, the youngest is now in her early twenties. She took this square to place on her table where she keeps her daughters' pictures.

One woman took a pink rectangle to place her crystal on. Her dining room is done in hues of rose and mauve and she had been looking for something just like it.

One woman took two for her bedside tables.

One woman asked if she could take the remainder to put up for auction. She and her husband are adopting a child from the Ukraine this coming spring. The child is a sixteen-year old girl, who needs a home before she's too old for the orphanage and they turn her out to God knows what kind of life. The woman and her husband need to come up with the money for travel and the miscellaneous fees that will come up. Aunt Faye never had children of her own, but she told me once that she wanted to adopt a girl but that was back in the day when they didn't let single women adopt. I thought this would be something Aunt Faye would be happy about.

At the end of our gathering time, we close in prayer. I was overwhelmed by the thanks they offered up to Aunt Faye's gifts and the blessing they asked for her lace. I know she's smiling in heaven. My hope is that her lace will be appreciated and passed on along with her memory.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Baking Day!!

I like to cook and I'm good at it but lately I haven't been too inspired. Little Man will only eat goldfish and chicken nuggets these days so making two meals at each meal time can be daunting. I do because my husband doesn't want to eat chicken nuggets and goldfish for every meal. The kitchen in our fixer-upper house is less than ideal for cooking; there's no flow. That doesn't mean that I don't whip out an awesome meal from time to time, because I do. And once we get around to remodeling and redesigning the kitchen, cooking and creating can resume.

In the meantime, Little Man is growing and because he's a boy, he eats all the time. No, he won't eat what he should like vegetables and such. Instead, he grazes in the pantry and the refrigerator all day. If he can't reach something, or open something, he calls me to come do it for him. It can be exhausting just feeding him all day. Often I walk into the kitchen to discover the refrigerator standing open. My husband, who was also a growing boy at one time, suggested that I keep a plate or dish of things the boy can just grab and eat. His mom did for him. He even told me a funny story of how he ate an entire pie after school as a snack. And yes, he ate dinner too. Sadly, the pie was not meant to be eaten as a snack.

So, today is baking day. I plan on baking muffins, cookies, and brownies. I hope the Little Man will like them. My plan is to get him to help me make these things. He likes to help in the kitchen and sometimes he takes an interest in something new if he's "cooked" it with Mommy. I know I'm looking forward to a warm blueberry muffin with butter on it. Mmmmm!

But, before I can start the baking of goodies, it's my turn to write on our blog and I need to bake up a good continuation of our story line. What things do you do for snacks for the family? What do you do when you need inspiration? What thoughts do you have about The Southern Tablet? Would love to hear from you!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Change Is A Good Thing

In just a matter of a few days, a few struggles, and a few tears, I am happy to announce Little Man is FINALLY potty trained. Yes, I expect a few accidents here and there, but he is now taking the initiative to do what he is supposed to do. Now to work on dressing himself. Soon, very soon, he will be mostly independent and will need me less and less. Yes, I am happy about this because I want him to be able and independent. I want him to grow up and be self-reliant and confident. I want a little me time back. Yes, this makes me sad because my baby is too fast becoming a little boy who will be a big boy and before too long be a young man. I miss my little snuggly guy. Already he pushes away when he's had too much. And dropping him off at school where he used to hug and cling to me, he now just waves me off and says, "Bye Mama."

Photo from Amazon.com
And just as quickly as they grow, they develop their own likes and dislikes. When he was a baby, one of his first words was 'tree.' He LOVED trees. We'd go to the park and he spent more time running from tree to tree, touching them, giggling, and saying "tree!" than he did playing on the slides. It was charming. So, what could a mother do? I put a tree in his room. Well, I ordered the tree and my husband put it up. I LOVED that tree. Recently, Little Man told me he didn't like the tree any more and he began pulling it off his wall. So today, with great sadness, I removed the rest of the tree. It was one of my favorite things about his room. And when I get around to fixer-uppering the bonus room into my craft/work room, I may order another one and put it in there. If you like it you can order it here. He took down all his Mickey Mouse stickers too. Now he's into pirates and fireworks. That will change someday too and he'll be into who knows what.

Meanwhile, my husband and I are celebrating our 7th anniversary on Sunday. Wow! Time flies when you are having fun! Where we started out celebrating our anniversaries with weekend trips, or visiting wineries for wine tasting, or a ride in the convertible or on the motorcycle. Now, we are going to a movie and then to dinner. We did that last year too. And I think we just went to dinner the year before that. Dinner and a movie used to be a common occurrence - now it's a treat. We don't get out much with our busy schedules and the Little Man and it's hard to sit in a dark movie theater without falling asleep since we've been sleep deprived for a number of years now. Don't laugh, but we are going to a matinee and then an early dinner so we can get home and get to bed at a reasonable hour. What can I say? We are both over 35. *ahem*

I'm constantly amazed how things change and never in the way I expect them too, and always for the best. Now that our literary journal has been launched and we're beginning to plan for March's issue, and I've finished the editing job I took on, and I'm finishing up the remaining projects I had, it's time to get back to my revisions on my novel (finally). While I've been toiling at other things, I've been marinating on ideas and scenes that need to be improved/discarded/rewritten. It's turning into quite a different story than I began. And that's for the better.

Monday, November 11, 2013

It's About Currency

This blog is about potty training and not money so if you're not interested, read no further. But since this is really the main focus of my life at this time, it's what's on my mind. Sometimes it's funny, others it's frustrating beyond words.

So, Little Man is still in potty training mode. He's getting better but he's resisting. He will go on the potty when we are visiting relatives, out to dinner, on a road trip, at school, and well, anywhere except at home. At home, he turns into the resistance army and goes into counter-offensive mode - hiding, running away, yelling, crying, and sometimes slapping. It takes a LOT of time and energy to coerce him into getting on the potty to just pee. And he always seems A) surprised and B) so proud of himself (like it was his idea) he announces it to the entire neighborhood. Meanwhile, I'm exhausted and chasing him around the house to get him dressed. As for the other end of business, that's a big no. He will go off and hide in another room to um, fill his pants. I know, gross.

We've tried everything positive: praise, stickers, rewards, treats, you name it. We've tried everything negative: time-out, taking away TV, taking away toys, etc. We've gone to taking away toys in increasing numbers: today it's one toy, tomorrow it's two toys, then three, etc. Right now the Little Man has a bed in his room and just a few toys left. He's even gotten into it by removing the stickers on his walls saying he doesn't want them any more. I applaud that he isn't a hoarder but still...

I did manage to locate his currency. Clearly his toys or TV don't mean anything to him. At least not enough to get him to willingly drop his drawers and go on the potty. So, what would? How could I let him know that it is just as important to be potty trained at home as it is everywhere else? Hmmm. His currency? Me.

Every night he will only fall asleep if I'm laying down next to him. Then, sometime in the middle of the night, he will come into our room. At first we let him climb into our bed. But now he's getting too big so we set up a cot in our room where he can go to sleep. Last weekend after he was quite adamant and rebellious about the potty and even told us he would NOT use the potty, we were done. So, the thing we took away from him? Me. Mommy put him in his bed, told him a story and left. The cot was removed and it was made very clear that until he uses the potty there will be no Mommy at night time.

Yes, this makes me cry. It breaks my heart to hear him cry. I fight my instinct to cuddle him in the middle of the night. But, at some point he has to understand his choices and consequences. This went on for two nights. Last night, he woke in the middle of the night, came to me and told me he had to go on the potty. I took him, he didn't do anything but he looked at me with big sad brown eyes and said "Mommy can sleep with me now." So, of course I did. God bless him he tried and he was figuring it out. Today he has been more cooperative and every time he'll say to me, "Mama, I went on the potty, you can sleep in my bed." So, yes, in a few minutes we will be going to bed. He earned his Mommy back.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Southern Tablet and Other Stuff

So this is November. November is a busy month. It is National Novel Writing Month, National Thankful Month, there's Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas Tree lightings, Alabama plays Auburn (Roll Tide), and the beginnings of all things Holidays. Love this time of year!

Courtesy of
www.agwire.com
Best part of holiday season? Food. I LOVE food. I'm not a cake/pie/cookie person but I do like gravy and mashed potatoes, and hors d'oeuvres, and stuffing, and casseroles, and soufflés, and wine. Ummmm..... This could be why I need to hit that place, what's it called? Oh yeah, the gym. *pout*

Another outstanding thing happening this November is the launching of a new literary journal called The Southern Tablet. The first edition makes its debut on Saturday, November 9th. Initially, it will be online only, but within a year there should be a print version as well. You can see the journal at www.thesoutherntablet.com. So, what's my interest in this? No big deal, I'm just Managing Editor. That and I have one story and one essay being featured in it. Well, everyone on our staff has two pieces featured. We will be accepting submissions beginning in January for our March issue. If you are interested in submitting, please see the website for the guidelines.

Also, this month we launched our accompanying blog called The Southern Tablet. You can find it at www.thesoutherntablet.wordpress.com. What is awesome about our blog is we are writing a round-robin novel in honor of our launch and NaNoWriMo. Each one of us chose a day to write a chapter of a story. My day is Tuesday. If you have a chance, check it out. Not just my entry, of course, the whole thing. It's really good and who knew that we were actually that creative! Then keep up with it until the conclusion.

What do you have going on this November, aside from catching up on our blog and breathlessly awaiting The Southern Tablet? Yes, I plan on getting back to my revisions on my novel. Things quiet down a bit after Saturday. Would love to hear from you!

Monday, November 4, 2013

What Time Is It?

Courtesy of
www.freedigitalphotos.net
So, my husband and I joined a gym. Yippy. For those of you who know me, you not only heard the sarcasm in that "yippy" but you felt it too. Hubby likes to be active, so this is going to be good for him. Plus he says he wants to lose weight and get back into shape. I get that. There's a daycare for the Little Man so that's good for him.

Courtesy of
www.freedigitalphotos.net
I don't like working out. There, I said it out loud. I don't like to sweat. I don't like to breathe hard. I don't like to "work it." I do not understand why anyone would want to "feel the burn" and it is not a good thing to feel sore the next day. Deliberately hurting yourself is called masochism. It is abnormal behavior and psychiatrists can prescribe medication for that condition. However, I do want to lose weight. I'd like to be the size I was when I got married, which yes, ladies, was the size I was in high school. I'd like to drop my blood pressure so I can be around for the Big Man and Little Man for another 30 years. God knows they need me. So, I'll try this working out thing.

This gym may not be so bad. First, it doesn't smell like a gym. Nothing worse than walking into a place and smelling sweat and bad breath. Yuck. This gym is air conditioned. I don't like to be hot, so I was pleased to see the A/C set at 63 degrees. They offer yoga at normal temperatures and best of all, they have treadmills and elliptical machines in a movie theater! So, I think I'll be able to find things to do and going there won't be too depressing.

Courtesy of
www.freedigitalphoto.net
 
While we were being sold on the gym, the salesman health consultant said that if we made just 3 hours a week a priority, we'd see results. I guess he thought my priority was results. Actually, the 3 hours per week is what got me. I still don't know where I'm going to find 3 hours a week. If you know me, then you know that time is a HUGE issue with me so I started thinking about all the things we are supposed to spend time on during the week. After a little research, here's the list according to the pundits:

  • Sleeping = 56 hrs.
  • Personal hygiene (showering, teeth brushing, etc.) = 7 hrs.
  • Food (cooking, eating, clean up for 3 meals per day) = 21 hrs.
  • Work = 40 hrs.
  • House Work (includes laundry) = 21 hrs.
  • Yard Work = 4 hrs.
  • Budgeting (includes paying bills) = 1 hr.
  • Planning (setting up the next week) = 2 hrs.
  • Errands = 6 hrs.
  • Entertainment (TV, movies, etc.) = 14 hrs.
  • Socialization (parties, conversation, etc.) = 4 hrs.
  • Interactive time with the dogs = 15 hrs.
  • Interactive time with the child = 21 hrs.
  • Working out = 3 hrs.
Grand Total is 215 hours of things to do each week. The down side is that there are only 168 hours in a week so I'm short 47 hours each week. I guess I'll just have to give up sleeping to fit everything else in. What? You say I'm a stay home mom so I don't work? Wrong. I do work. I write, edit, do revisions, teach crocheting and knitting and we are days away from launching a literary magazine. I work from home. And I try to do all the other things I'm supposed to do too. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. What do you do during the course of the week? How do you spend your time?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Scary Things

Courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net
It's Halloween. It is one of my favorite holidays. In fact, it is my third favorite holiday. First is Thanksgiving, then the 4th of July, then Halloween. It used to be second but them Little Man was born on the 4th of July so I had to bump that one up. Anyway, I love to see the kids all dressed up. They are so cute! I love to see the families all dressed up together. It's fun. How wonderful to participate with your children that way. I love the left over chocolate. I never pass out sugary candy (I don't like it), just chocolate so I can eat it the left overs. There is nothing more fun than going to a costume party and having the house all decorated with Halloween stuff. On my bucket list is to host a Halloween costume party. Some day.

This year, Little Man and the Big Man will go trick-or-treating like they did last year and I will pass out candy to the kids who venture down our street. Little Man is going to be a pirate. He loves pirates. Pirates and cowboys. He has been carrying around his hook (plastic and part of his costume) and his belt which he calls his cowboy lasso. He told me he is a cowboy pirate. It works for him. Tomorrow, Little Man will be asking for his candy from the time he gets up in the morning until he goes to sleep. This will go on for days, or at least until my husband and I can eat it all so we can tell him there's no more candy. Mean? Not really. The last thing a 3-year old needs is candy. That's scary.

Courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net
Tomorrow is also the 1st of November. That means there are only 17 days until our anniversary (7 years), 28 days until Thanksgiving, 55 days until Christmas and 61 days until New Year's Eve. Throw in my husband's birthday for good measure too. Yikes! Menus must be planned, travel/guest arrangements made, gift lists need to be written for wishing and purchasing. All of that makes my hair stand up when I think what few days there are for making all these plans and arrangements. Can I eat chocolate now?

November is also a big deal because our literary magazine,
The Southern Tablet, launches on the 9th. That is more exciting than scary, but you never know what sort of reception it will have. The anticipation makes me chew my fingernails.

Finally, November is also National Novel Writing Month. I am partially participating in NaNo this year in that our journal staff each has chosen a day of the week to blog a round-robin "novel." I picked Tuesday and will have 4 installments to write for the whole month. Unless Allison delivers her baby early in which case I'll have Thursdays too. I'm still revising my novel and I still have a half-finished novel that needs to be completed so I don't think I'll start anything new. However, I am considering using the NaNo month to complete my revisions. Getting back to my writing schedule and discipline is what I need to do. Nothing creepier than being disciplined!

These are scary times, starting with today -- Halloween. From here on out it is a speeding roller coaster taking us up and down and around in all directions until the last champagne cork pops on New Year's Eve. Time passes too quickly and with all the things there are to do crammed into this short amount of time it seems to go faster and faster. It feels like taking that first step into a haunted house. You know your perspective will be skewed. You know that there will be things jumping out at you. You know that the passageways have been darkened and narrowed and there are sounds of banging and screaming from all directions to disorient you. Still, you take a deep breath, hold it, and run on through; stopping for nothing, and only exhaling when you've made it safely through the maze and have exited into a peaceful place.

Monday, October 28, 2013

In Search Of Pizza

Pizza by Suat Eman
www.freedigitalphoto.net
Friday night is Pizza Night at the Rhoden household. There are 52 Fridays in a year so the quality of pizza is vital. I grew up in the northeast so I know quality pizza. We had Steve's Pizza, and Balzanos. We won't even talk about the pizza you could get in Providence on "Garlic Mountain" or in Boston, and of course, New York. My husband grew up in Maryland so he knows crab cakes. That being the case, the responsibility of finding a really good pizza falls on my shoulders. I haven't lived in the northeast since I was 17 when I went away to college so the task of finding pizza in the south that can compare has been a long journey.

I'm not disparaging southern cooks. Southern food is fabulous in its own right. I mean really, who doesn't love chicken and dumplings, or fried chicken? Pizza requires the right touch and the right water to make the right crust. Fortunately, I lived in Florida and saw the great in flux of Yankees of the 1980s and 90s. With the Yankees came pizza.

One of the best pizzas that came to our little town is Scorpio's Pizza. The pizza is fantastic and their other offerings are equally wonderful. If you make it to Deltona, FL for any reason, you must have one of their pizzas. I was very happy to introduce my husband to real pizza and he loved it! Scorpios Pizza established our "pizza scale" in our quest for a good pizza. I'm happy to see that they've been successful and have two locations now.

We have settled here in Georgia and our pursuit for pizza continues. We prefer to try the mom & pop run pizza places for good food, and cozy atmosphere. We like it when we can get to know the people there and they know us (yes, like Cheers, "where everyone knows your name"). We thought we had found that place and for the last 3 years we have been patronizing the same location every Friday night (well, most Friday nights). Little Man was still in an infant carrier when we found the place. He grew up there. and for the first two years it was great. The people knew us by name. They knew our order without needing to take it. We tipped well. Little Man had his first bite of garlic bread there. He had his first taste of pizza there. When he started talking, he knew their names. Last year our place changed ownership. The food is still good but the atmosphere has changed and all the people we knew left.

So, with a heavy heart, we have begun our search for a really good pizza and a really good atmosphere. Last week we tried a place and loved the pizza. The atmosphere wasn't bad either but it was a bigger place and not necessarily "cozy." The pizza ranked 7 on the Scorpio's scale and the atmosphere placed a 5 or 6. This Friday we will try another place to see how they rate.

In my novel, which yes, I'm still revising, Walter Martin has a regular place where he is known. What do you look for in a "regular" place to go? Good food? Good atmosphere? Friendliness? Let me know some of your stories.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Happiest Place On Earth

We recently took our Little Man to Disney World for the first time. We didn't tell him where we were going and we watched him during the hour drive from my husband's mother's home all the way into Orlando and onto the Disney Highway. It wasn't until we were in the parking lot and he saw the signs with the Disney characters marking the parking lots and the convoy of shuttle busses with Disney written on their sides until he lit up like a light bulb and shouted "We're at Disney World!" It was like Christmas.
Photo by LeeAnn  Rhoden

The day belonged to him; choosing rides he'd like, looking for characters he knows, singing along with the songs he can sing. Even down to selecting where to eat lunch and dinner so that there would be something he'd eat. He wasn't hungry. He wanted to ride and to see and to go. His favorites? It's a Small World (of course), the Flying Carpets, and the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House. We stayed late for the Electric Parade but bugged out before the fireworks to avoid the million-person dash to the parking lot and because Little Man fell asleep in my arms and he was getting heavy.

It was hot. It was crowded (it's a small world). Things that only really matter to adults. He doesn't remember that. He doesn't remember waiting in 30+ minute lines. He sings the songs and asks me "Remember the flying carpet, Mama? I made it go up, up, up!" Hopefully, he will remember this trip for a while, at least until our next trip.

Photo by Mr. Rhoden
Sure, I could go on about the crowds, temperature, lines, the expense ($30 for 3 hot dogs!) and a couple of rather unpleasant encounters with other park patrons and their behavior. I might even mention that the park employees are not what they used to be. But this was not my trip. This day belonged to Little Man and to him it was all magic. Characters brought to life, images made real, dreams come true.

It's all perspective. Adults may see the unpleasant parts of things or the dangerous parts of life but children see the new, the magic. Perhaps adults need to just let go and look at life through children's eyes more often. To see the possibilities rather than the impossibilities. Then anywhere can be the Happiest Place On Earth.

Monday, October 21, 2013

How Can I Help You

Courtesy of Federal Express
A man entered a Federal Express office minutes before closing time. He had a package that "absolutely, positively had to be there overnight." The last truck had already left with the last load of the day and was on the way to the airport to be sorted and loaded. Undeterred by this minor technicality, the clerk accepted the package from the man and assured him his package would arrive at its destination on time. He then called a messenger service to take the package to the airport sorting facility. His second call was to the sorting facility letting them know a last minute package was on its way. Unfortunately, the plane leaving for the package's final destination had just taken off. The clerk, made one other call; he chartered a plane to make sure that package made it to its destination on time, as promised. The next day, the package was indeed where it needed to be. What happened to the clerk? Was his boss angry by the exorbitant cost of sending this lone package? I mean really! A messenger fee, a chartered plane! No. The clerk received thanks from upper management and a promotion. Why? Because this clerk took responsibility, took initiative, took ownership of the company's motto.

Whether or not this is a true story or an urban legend, it shows what true customer service is all about. All too often companies use customer service as a means to shrug off their customers. How many times have you called for assistance and received a phone tree? A mechanical woman or man offering opportunities to press 1 or 2 or to repeat these options, press 9. En Español, marque ocho. How many times have these options not been even close to the reason you called?

My favorite is when you finally reach a live human being. After you give them your vital statistics and information you hope they will now be able to help you. Isn't it disappointing when they start reading from a script? And then when they transfer you, the new person starts all over again with the same questions. Arg! I am not angry with the person I'm speaking to. He or she is simply following the guidelines and the company's policies and culture. I am frustrated with their inability to really provide customer service. And sadly, perhaps it is today's culture that has forgotten what it means to be helpful. My recent run it left me sad and disappointed with today's concepts of serving the customer.

So I asked myself, what would have happened if the first person I talked to at the USPS had taken initiative to locate my missing package? What if the customer service people at the USPS had taken ownership of the situation and worked on actually solving the problem instead of parroting the tracking information I got online already? Would my package have arrived any sooner than it did? No, probably not. But they may have been able to tell me where it was, specifically as opposed to some vague "departed destination" with no update for 12 hours. This was an overnight package for heavens sake! And perhaps, if the customer service person had placed a few calls such as, what plane was it on? when did it depart? why was an overnight package placed on a 2-day plane? Perhaps, someone may have taken initiative and gotten the package on the correct plane and it would have arrived in the evening.

Sure, the Post Office has a money back guarantee if the overnight package doesn't get there overnight. But companies that do that are missing the mark. Their customers are, yes, angry about paying for something they didn't get, but they are MORE upset about missing the original promise. Overnight means it needs to be there the next day. Thanks for my refund, but because of you, your lack of service, your lack to uphold your promise of overnight, I missed out on my promise. I can't get that back.

What have been some of your customer service run-ins? Any good stories?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Few Of My Favorite Things

Photo from www.stacksandstacks.com
Yesterday, on the way into school, my Little Man told me that triangles are his favorite shape. I hoped he wouldn't ask me what my favorite shape is since honestly I've never given it any thought. He didn't ask, and today his favorite shapes are rectangles.

But, I started thinking about my favorite things. Of course, all things Little Man and Big Man. But aside from them, what are my favorite things? I was surprised to find that it has been so long that I thought about just me I was hard-pressed to make what should be such a simple list. But, after a second cup of coffee, I was able to make my list. So, just for kicks, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite things. Oh, these are in no particular order either.

A second cup of coffee - the first cup is necessary. The second cup is savored. It's the one I can taste (now that I'm awake). It's the one that starts my day.

Wine - I like wine. I prefer red to white, but both are nice to sit and sip at the end of a long day. Just a glass, maybe two, every so often is just wonderful.

Vacations - I like to take vacations but I need to qualify this. First, a vacation is planned with an itinerary. A spontaneous "Hey, lets go somewhere this weekend" is not a vacation. That is a stress inducer. But something scheduled where the dogs' care is arranged for, the mail is stopped, reservations made, appropriate packing has been done - that's good. Second, the itinerary should consist of only 3 things: relaxing, sightseeing, and eating. There should be no "doing" on a vacation. "Doing" is work.

Learning - I love learning new things. I used to try to learn something new everyday and I should do that again. I also like learning about what's going on in the world and my community.

Games - Who doesn't love a heated, competitive game? Better, who doesn't like to win? I love a good game of chess, backgammon, Risk, Monopoly, Balderdash, or charades.

Needlework - Of course I enjoy knitting, crocheting, embroidery, crewel work, cross stitch and needlepoint.

Writing -  Duh. Of course I love to write. Storytelling and creating worlds and people and getting lost in their lives is refreshing.

Reading - Reading is the best. I think that's why I value my book club so much. That and they challenge me to read books that I might not otherwise read. And reading in bed before going to sleep is fantastic!

Bourbon - I like bourbon, what can I say? A nice glass of Maker's Mark on the rock while watching the Crimson Tide on autumn Saturday afternoons is awesome.

Entertaining - How fun is it to have a bunch of people over for hors d'oeuvres, or a dinner party? Especially for a football game, or holiday party? The best part is the decorating and cooking. (See pet peeve list for cleaning up).

Cozy Evenings At Home - Put a fire in the fireplace, a pizza on the coffee table and a movie on the TV and who wouldn't be happy?

A Night Out On The Town - This could be a wine tasting, a piano bar, dinner theater, the opera, or any excuse to dress up and go see what there is to see and to see who all is out seeing it.

Anyway, these are a few of my favorite things. I still don't' know what my favorite shape is, I'll keep thinking about it. What are some of your favorite things?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pass It On

Last weekend we went to the art festival in our downtown. Lots of beautiful crafts, paintings, photography, wood turnings, etc. and music and food from everywhere around the world. It is always a good time and this year it was even better because for the first time since we moved here it wasn't a hundred degrees. This year it was overcast and cooler than years past and so we were able to walk around and breathe and not sweat. My husband ate food from Samoa, I ate Greek food and Little Man ate a hotdog. After lunch, and a little more walking around, we experienced potty training in a port-o-potty.

When we left, we strolled downtown and ducked into several antique stores. My husband was looking at the furniture for ideas and joinery techniques. I just browsed around looking at old books, and knick-knacks. In one of these stores, upstairs and tucked away into a back corner, I noticed several pillows. They had some wear and tear and needed a little love to restore them but even in their discarded state they were beautiful.

These pillows were needlepoint and embroidery. They were intricate, graceful, feminine, and meticulous. The number of hours it must have taken to embroider the small flowers makes me gasp. The even stitches that were patiently and lovingly laid with each pull of the thread. Even the design was unique, well, certainly nothing I've seen before.

I touched them and felt their delicateness. The still silky feel of the embroidery floss and the durability of the tapestry wool. The once vivid colors were fading and the seams were splitting in spots. There were stains of use and living. I found myself standing still and staring at them for a few minutes with thoughts and emotions racing through my mind.

Who had made these? Who were they made for? What happened to the creator and the owner? How many people had rested upon them? Questions with no answers. I was sad that these pillows, which represented care and love and talent and practice and patience and planning, had ended up in the dark, dusty corner of this antique store. No one to know their history and no one to carry it on.

I felt sad for these pillows, or rather for what they represented - lost history and perhaps the last in a family line. More so, I felt sad for those who gave them up. They have no appreciation for those that came before them. No knowledge of their history or care to look beyond their own world.

I have things like this that have been passed down in the family - furniture, needlepoint, lace, jewelry, books, etc. I love it. To me, these are the tangibles of our DNA. "Your great-great-grandperson made this." Well, they also made me. Isn't it a responsibility to pass these things, this history down to the next generation? What do you think?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Amazing!

So last week I talked about my pet peeves (and I have discovered more) so this time I thought I'd write about things that amaze me. Not amaze in that Twilight Zone sort of way, but in a happy way. Everyday, there is at least one thing that will catch me off guard and make me smile.

Photo Courtesy of
www.freedigitalphotos.net

First, Little Man is absolutely amazing. Everything about him is amazing. Parents, you know what I mean. Not a day goes by when he doesn't say or do something that just takes me off guard and sweeps me off my feet. By far, however, the most amazing thing he does is something he hasn't changed all that much since he could reach out his little hand. In the morning, he reaches out his hands and places them on my cheeks and says, "Good morning, Mama." Then he puts his nose to my nose and gives me an Eskimo kiss and says, "nose, nose, nose," with each rub. This has varied over the few years of his life. At first he'd put his hand on my face and I'd say good morning and rub his nose. This made him smile. It evolved to two hands and his pulling my face to his so we could rub noses. That made him giggle. When "mama" and "dada" were his only words he'd just say "mama" and then we'd nose rub. Of course, now he can climb up in my lap and initiate the whole ritual. I love this more than anything and the day it stops I will secretly weep.

The second amazing thing is my husband. He is after all math-science guy and therefore very analytical. Yet he has taken up the hobby of woodworking and has demonstrated a hidden creative streak. He has designed and built several beautiful things. His current project is making a Federal-style table for our foyer that will match an antique piece we have. I am amazed at the vision he has for it and how he is carefully executing it in such detail.

So, my advice is to look for the things that are amazing!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

That Bothers Me

It's pet peeve day. I have a number of pet peeves; everyone does. Some days they seem to be everywhere, depending on how much sleep I've had I guess. Other days they don't bother me as much - but they never don't bother me.

One is when I'm emptying the dishwasher and the tops of cups and glasses (or the bottoms) have water on them. Worse is the Tupperware, or sippy cups, that flip over and fill up with water. Yuck. I need to invent tiny bungee cords that can be hooked to the rack and stretched over the flippy things to keep them from doing that.

Another is dog fur. We have two BIG yellow labs who seem to shed an additional dog in fur daily. It gets under the furniture, on the furniture and in places I don't like to look. I sweep and sweep and still there's more. Love the doggies, not the fur. Sigh. Maybe I'll get one of those robot vacuum cleaners that can suck up fur all day.

Carpet on stairs ranks up there. Actually, it's not the carpet itself that is offensive, it's the vacuuming of it. I think whenever carpeting is installed on stairs, the cost should include someone who comes over to vacuum it. Have you ever tried to balance the vacuum with one hand, yourself with another and use the attachment and hose with the third hand? Really, who has three hands?

Those are the ones that mostly bother me. I'm sure there are others, but not today. I wonder if my characters have pet peeves. I know Walter doesn't like pickles, but that's a dislike, not a peeve. Would it be realistic to add peeves to my characters? What are your pet peeves and what do you do when they flare up?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Where's the veggies?

In an effort to get the Little Man (and the Big Man) to eat more healthily, I'm trying to incorporate more vegetables into our diets. The problem is, I don't particularly like them either. Oh sure, I prepare them with most meals, and eat them, but there aren't that many I like and there's not much variety. And really, just how healthy are vegetables that are smothered in cheese sauce or sautéed in butter? Fortunately, you can hide vegetables in lots of ways. You can puree them and hide them in tomato sauce, meatballs, meatloaf, and in stews. There is even a pasta that's made from cauliflower.

Carrot cake cupcakes
Typically, I don't bake. I cook, but baking isn't something I like to do. I marvel at these women who can whip out an upside-down pineapple cake, or those moms who just put out a batch of cookies at a moments notice. However, in an attempt to get vegetables into a tasty form and to satisfy my husband's request to have cookies of muffins every now and then, I have turned to the recipe box.

Recently, I have made zucchini bread and carrot cake cupcakes. Both males have tasted them and deemed them good enough to eat. My husband is aware that the treat is made with vegetables but Little Man is not. We let him come up with his own name for the treat. He calls the zucchini bread "chocolate bread." The carrot cake cupcakes he calls "cupcake muffins." That's fine, for now it's our little secret.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Too Much Or Too Little And How Do You Know?

Courtesy of
www.freedigitalphotos.net
So, I like to cook. It is a creative outlet for me although I admit to falling down on this a bit recently. Toddlers don't really like to experiment with food and I don't like cooking separate meals all the time so we've been eating like children lately. Or ordering out so someone else can cook separate meals. But, when I do cook, I enjoy it because I can combine and layer flavors and textures making something pleasing to the palette. Or, as my husband says, "Mmmmm! This is good! You can make this again."

I like knitting too because I can combine knits with purls to add texture and patterns. Throw in different color yarns and make stripes. Make cables too and Celtic knots. My goal is to learn Nordic patterns (yikes!). I know what you're thinking. You live in the south, you don't need sweaters and mittens. No, but I have family up there. Besides, an Irish sweater or Nordic sweater just plain looks cool.

Needlepoint and embroidery is fun for me too. Same reasons - different color yarns, different materials (wool or floss), different stitches. All yield different textures and patterns.

As you all know, I have also been editing and revising my novel. There was a horrible error that was caught by one of my beta readers. Terrible, but no big deal really (now that the twitching has stopped). I'll just move some chapters around and alter a few things. The important thing is that it was caught and can be corrected! Yay!

But the one thing that has me scratching my head is more about editing than revising. I have had some readers say they like certain things, and others say they don't like it. I've read blogs and editing resources that say don't do this, but then in just about every book I've read or am currently reading, it's there.

I'm not talking about too many or redundant adverbs. He shouted loudly. Duh, how else do you shout? I'm not talking about asides - he thought to himself. Well, who else do you think to? I'm not talking about weird physical things (although I've seen this in many professionally published books) - her eyes followed him down the street. No, her gaze, stare, glance can follow, but not her eyes.

I'm talking about what's called "stage direction." You know, telling what the character is doing. I get that we don't need to know that the character opened the refrigerator door, reached in, pulled out a beer and opened it. He lifted it to his mouth and drank deep gulps, downing the beverage in a matter of seconds. Simply saying he downed a beer may be enough. I agree, that that much detail is too much. But, I've had some readers say they like to know what the character is doing (downing the beer) and others say, cut it all out. Which is right?

I can't "taste" it to see if there is too much salt or "feel" it for too loose or tight stitches. When do you know what to cut and what to keep? If I cut too much, will the story now be a little stiff? If I don't cut enough, will it be trite? I guess I'll just have to make that decision on my own.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

When Stars Die

So, I promised you something special today, and here it is!

This is the cover reveal for a fellow author, friend, and member of our critique group, Amber Skye Forbes! Her book is going to be published! Due to be released October 2013 by AEC Stellar Publishing The title is When Stars Die. It is a Young Adult Paranormal Romance. Viola Estrella of Estrella Cover Art is responsible for the beautiful cover. Way to go Amber!
 
Synopsis: Amelia Gareth's brother is a witch and the only way to save her family from the taint in his blood is to become a professed nun at Cathedral Reims in the snowy city of Malva. However, in order to become professed, she must endure trials that all nuns must face.
          
Surviving these trials is not easy, especially for Amelia, who is being stalked by shadowy beings only she can see. They're searching for people they can physically touch, because only those they can touch can see them. Amelia soon learns why she is being stalked when she accidentally harms her best friend with fire during the third trial. Fire is a witch's signature. The shadows are after witches.
          
Now Amelia must decide what to do: should she continue on her path to profession knowing there is no redemption, or should she give up on her dream and turn away from Cathedral Reims in order to stop the shadows who plan to destroy everything she loves?
Where Amber Can be Found:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Revision *twitch*

Well, after the second edit of my novel (I'm still calling it Murder at the Primrose Inn), I sent it out to a number of betas. One came back with preliminary thoughts, two had partial thoughts, my Dad says he has "nits to pick with me" once he's finished reading it. One beta received it just the other day so I don't expect to hear back from him for a few days at least. Anyway, my friend Allison used to work in forensics and she told me that I had a serious problem with the discovery of my victim's cause of death. *gasp* So, now what?

Revision. Or re-envision. Rearrange. Re-research. Yes, it's time to correct the GLARING error by rearranging some of the events in the story. No big deal really. *twitch* That and I need to play up the sub-plot a little more and build tighter tension. Okay. *twitch* All of which can be done with the story I have simply by revising. (yeah, right, simple)
Courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

Building blocks. Right now I have a big pile of blocks that are good colors, sizes and shapes. I've managed to stack them into what is some sort of structure, but it teeters. My goal is to rearrange the stack into a towering castle. It's like the movie Premonition, all out of order. Put it in the correct order and it will make more sense. *twitch*

I'm okay, *twitch* really. It's my first novel and I didn't expect to get it perfect right off the bat. I didn't expect to get it right the second round of edits or even the third without having to do revisions. The important thing is that it will eventually be right and good! And I am grateful for all of these people who are helping me to get it that way. *twitch*

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

It's a New Year


schoolhouse by aware.org.sg
Little Man started school yesterday. It's his second year in "school." Last year he was in nursery school only a couple of mornings each week. This year he's 3 so his school is called early pre-school. It's only 3 mornings per week but they have more structure and actual lessons.

He was so excited taking off in the morning with his backpack and his lunchbox. I was so nervous wondering if he'd have an accident and if he'd actually eat his lunch. See, this year he has to be potty trained and even though we've been working on it since his birthday in July, he still doesn't quite get it on his own. When I picked him up, he had eaten his entire lunch and had had 3 accidents. He was wearing clothes that didn't belong to him. Sigh, oh well. He had a great time and was so excited to have been there.

I am taking the opportunity of his absence to go through his toys and organize them, getting them off the floor and into containers that can be put away into his cabinet. Today, I will tackle the toys in his room and rearrange his closet. Some of his beloved toys will be donated for the church yard sale. Some, will go into his "memory box" I have started for him and be kept for his children.

It's difficult to decide exactly what to eliminate and what to keep. In many ways, Little Man is fast changing from a baby to a little boy. He is so much more independent and capable than he was even just a couple of months ago. Yet, in almost surprising ways, the baby will show up and something I think he should be able to do on his own will completely flummox him. And a toy that has been idle for months will suddenly become interesting again.

But, it's a new year and he has new clothes, new hair cut, new backpack, new shoes, new classroom, and new friends. He can have new toys and a new organization of them too.

I guess I'm in editing mode since I just finished editing (for the third time) my novel. I need to hone my query letter blurb and start in the dreaded synopsis so I can begin soliciting to publishers and agents. The blurb has almost gotten as good as it's going to get. And I don't know why I feel intimidated by writing the synopsis. Maybe I'm worried I'll find another GAPING hole in my plot, or that when it's boiled down, my story won't be as good as I hope it is. Well, it can only be as good as it's going to be. In the mean time, I have to get Little Man ready for school and hope he doesn't have an accident today.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I Do It And I Do It

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I used to teach 7th grade (I know, right?). Actually, I enjoyed the teaching part and the kids part (I know, right?) but the rest of it was just... not so much. One of the things I found humorous and annoying and worthy of an eye roll, was the response "I don't know." Former students, you know who you are. Now, don't get me wrong, "I don't know" is a perfectly reasonable response to some questions.

Teacher (me): Which word is the subject of this sentence?
Student: I don't know.

I was okay with that. It let me know that A) I had not yet reached that student and B) the student had not been paying attention.

Where the answer "I don't know" bothers me is in a completely different context.

Teacher (me): Why did you break your friend's pencil?
Student: I don't know.


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See to me, that is unacceptable, and I'd tell them so. If you have performed an action, then you should have had some reason for doing it. I found most of the time, the boys would reply with "I don't know" more often than the girls. It's even more bothersome when it comes from an adult - like my husband. He does it to pick on me and it is usually followed by a look (and a smile and wink).

Me: Honey, why did you stop mowing the lawn?
Hubby (dripping with sweat gulping Gatorade): I don't know (look).

My husband tells me it is a common young male response because most boys are so engrossed in what they are doing they aren't paying attention to what they are thinking, and visa versa. I
didn't believe him until the other day.

We are in the process of potty training the Little Man. (GEEZ!) We've made progress, but for every 2 steps forward, there seems to be 1 step back. I'm comforted by the fact that there are no 4-year-olds I know who wear diapers and Little Man will be 4 in 11 months. Anyway, after a day of wonderful progress and cooperation, I left my Little Man watching TV while I went to cook dinner. A few minutes later I returned to check on him only to find him staring at the TV, standing in a puddle.


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Me: What's this?
Little Man: Peepee.
Me: Where does peepee go?
Little Man: In the potty.
Me: Why did you put the peepee on the floor?
Little Man (with a shrug!): I do it and I do it.

That has been his newest phrase for EVERYTHING! Why did you pour your juice on the table? I do it and I do it. Why did you throw your toy down the stairs? I do it and I do it. The precursor for "I don't know." Sigh, eye roll.

So, I wondered if there were things that I do just because I do. I really can't think of anything I do that doesn't have an underlying motivation or reason. Even though the answer is "because it makes me happy" that is still better than "I don't know." Writing is one of those things for me. What things do you do just because "I do it and I do it?"