Welcome

Welcome to my self-indulgent location for the stories (good and bad) that I can't prevent myself from writing. All comments and criticisms welcome. I post on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cyber-Suck, Or How I Learn to Stand on One Foot

Dear Fellow Blogophiles,

Let me describe for you my past week (which, oddly enough, I also happen to be learning to do in my Macedonian class this week, but that's completely unrelated).  I wake up early, some mornings do yoga, have my tea and cereal (or muffins one morning :) and spend about an hour on Blogger since so many people post or schedule their posts GMT 4:00-13:00 (–5).  In this time, I never get through everything I want to read, and leave at least a dozen posts open in tabs in my Firefox window.

After the morning routine (се туширам, мијам забите...) I head to class.  Including travel time, this takes about 5:30 hours—all in all not bad, considering some people have real 9-5 jobs, so I'm not complaining.  Frequently on our breaks I will even hop on the computer, check my email, and even log into Blogger to respond to someone who's commented on a post—that's how excited I am when you guys comment.  Yes, I'm a dork, but a friendly dork :)

After I come home, I get on Blogger and try catching up again or writing my own post.  I frequently discover that hours have passed and I still have 2 dozen tabs open that I want to read.  But, obviously, I have to stop, do my homework (домашна работа), make dinner (правам вечера), clean up (мијам садови), and then spend time with my husband who I haven't seen all day.  After a while, I'm exhausted, so I move upstairs and read until I pass out.

Do you notice what's missing here?  Do you see the obvious problem?

As if this weren't bad enough, I've now thrown Twitter into the mix.  Btw, folks, I don't get it.  I understand the potential.  Tweet about your new books, others ReTweet, and thousands more than otherwise will buy the book.  And that's awesome.  I haven't seen any of that yet, and instead have seen a lot of people talking about their flights being delayed on their way to SCBWI.  It actually feels similar to an incredibly disorganized chat room that I used to frequent on a dial-up modem, designed entirely in ASCII.  I know people love Twitter, and I know I just need time to sort it out, find more people to follow, figure out what an interesting Tweet might actually be, but all the time I'm dedicating to Twit-covery is yet more time I'm not writing.

I'm still new on the blogoscene, all things considered.  I'm still learning my way.  But do you have any advice for a poor girl with a time-management problem who just wants to write AND blog-network AND support her friends' blogs AND encourage new followers AND Twick-or-Tweet AND have a real life?  Is the answer: stop sleeping?  It all comes down to balance, and I've never been good at standing on one foot much less organizing my time.  *sigh*



How do you do it?  How do you manage your life, your writing, and cyberspace?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pain is Pleasure, Pleasure is Pain

There's a very fine line between pleasure and pain.  I frequently ask myself why on earth I would put myself through some of the things I do (*ehem* grad school *cough*), and I don't always come up with good answers.  For example, when it comes to grad school, I really love learning, and I love the puzzles that need to be worked out, but I HATE the hours upon hours (upon hours...) in the library, the fact that my evenings and weekends are never my own, and that I hardly get to visit my mom even though she only lives a couple of hours away. 

When I first started grad school, that pain WAS pleasure for me.  I think I'm too jaded now.  Lately it's just pain.

On the other hand, there's editing.  Can anyone out there tell me you've never wanted to pull out your hair or stab your pen into your MC's paper eyes (okay, maybe your reactions aren't so violent, but you know what I mean). 

*crickets*
I thought not.

But we all know, on the other side of the editing chasm, there's a beautiful result just waiting for us, and so we plug through.

As I'm working on revisions right now, I keep reminding myself of this—the end result will make it all worthwhile.  But I want it to be more than that.  I want to convert the pain of revisions into pleasure.  I want to learn how to enjoy the process more.  This clearly will not happen by, say, 7:30, but I think I can find the way.  Maybe I just need more practice :)


For you, does revising equal pleasure or pain, or something in between?  How do you keep yourself motivated though the process?  Any advice?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Versatility

First, to all of you in the bloghop, I'm not ignoring you.  I'm coming over as soon as I'm feeling better, I promise.

Yesterday morning I had the pleasant surprise of visiting Helen at Straight from Hel to discover she had bestowed upon me the Versatile Blogger Award.  Thank you, Helen!

This award comes with the following rules:

1. Thank the person who loved me enough to bestow this gift.
2. Share seven things about myself.
3. Bestow this honor onto 15 newly discovered or followed bloggers – in no particular order – who are fantastic in some way.
4. Drop by and let my fifteen friends know I love them.

Seven Things
I had originally planned to share 7 odd or embarrassing things about myself in keeping with the inadvertent theme of this week, but I've been under the weather the past 24 hours with little brain function.  So I've decided to share 7 reading/writing-related matters with you (if you're interested in a more serious list, go here).
  1. The first story I remember writing was in the 2nd or 3rd grade.  We had to write a fable about how a rabbit (or a cat; I can't remember) got its whiskers.  Everyone else's story was on the front of one of those huge-lined pieces of notebook paper (the ones with the dotted lines down the center).  Mine was three pages and the teacher had to photocopy page 2 because she hung them on the bulletin board so others could read them.  The other kids made fun of me for spending too much time on it, but I didn't care.
  2. My first writing attempt of 50,000+ words came in junior high, and was heavily influenced by my concurrent obsession with Goosebumps, Christopher Pike, and Stephen King—a.k.a. pretty bloody/gory.
  3. In high school, I had two stories running at once—one about a lone Chinese girl in her high school (with parents trying to only have boys these days), and the other in which King Arthur-type lore meets high science fiction.  Neither of them went very far, but I'm sure I still have them on a 3.5in floppy at my mom's house.
  4. In high school I became slightly obsessed with Russian lit.  I'm not sure how many times I read Anna Karenina, but I knew the story quite well.  Of course, it wasn't until years later when I started studying Russian that I could keep all the nicknames straight :)
  5. I started college as a creative writing major at a small liberal arts school.  I was pressured into studying something more "practical", and unfortunately left writing behind for a while.
  6. I started writing again a little over a year and a half ago.  It was my way of taking control of some horrible nightmares I was having in the months after my dad died.  I took my dream and wedged into something fan-fiction based because I didn't have the energy at the time to create my own universe.  Unfortunately, it became epic to the point where War and Peace looked like a picture book.  It resides in my computer, completely outlined, over 150,000 words hanging out in numerous word documents.
  7. My current WiP-collection was inspired by a dream I had the night before my parents' first wedding anniversary after my dad died.  Maybe it was another coping mechanism?  I don't know.  It's not anymore, and I love my characters, and I love the story.  I have sooooo much work to do on it still, and sometimes it's a struggle, but I love every minute.
  8. When I first picked them up my sister-in-law's recommendation, I ended up reading all four Twilight novels twice in 2 weeks.
7+1 to grow on, right?

Passing the Versatile Love
So, now it's my turn to pass this on.  In no particular order...

Cruella Collett at The Giraffability of Digressions
Brigid Kemmerer
The Book Vixen
Lily of Darkness at Lilium's Realm
Jamie at Three Cheers for Literacy!
Chary at Bronx Tales and Inner Musings
Talli Roland
Tiffany Neal
Charity at My Writing Journey
Jemi at Just Jemi
Lynda at .W.I.P. It
Summer at ...and this time concentrate
Hart at Confessions of a Watery Tart
Creepy Query Girl
Tawna at Don't pet me, I'm writing

There are loads of blogs worthy for this, of course, and it's hard to choose.  Definitely check out these blogs!  They're worth your time.

Okay, back to bed with me.  Talk to you later!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tweetophobia

This week is turning into a list of semi-embarrassing tidbits about yours truly.  How did that happen? (If you missed it, Sunday ended in my admitting to missing a character, and yesterday I discussed my cast and—former!—Gossip Girl obsession.)

So today, here I go admitting another of my problem areas for all the world to see:  I'm afraid of Twitter.  Yes, I admit it.  The first step in seeking help is admitting you have a problem, right?

At least the little birdie is heading east :)

You may be wondering how on earth I could possibly be afraid of a social-networking tool.  I obviously blog, I have a Facebook account**, I have previously had MySpace and Friendster accounts (although I think I have finally gotten those closed), and I have three email addresses.  I am not anti-technology.  I am not anti-social.  Therefore, I should not be anti-social technology.

Here's the rub.  I joined FB back in the days when you needed a .edu email address to get an account—very long ago indeed.  We also all know that academics tend to have strong opinions.  Having been on FB for *cough* years when Twitter rolled around, the FB backlash strongly influenced my understanding on Twitter:  it's a useless long list of unrelated tweets about whatever random things Ashton Kutcher's brain can create, and a bunch of tweetheads who tweet sweet nothings in his ear.  Does that sound positive to you?

But I have recently thrown myself into the blogosphere, full of writers and agents and editors who all suggest you follow them, be it for networking, researching, or simply gaining more points on that contest to receive so-and-so's latest ARC release.  I've been pondering Twitter and it's meaning in my life now for two months and have yet to muster the courage/hutzpa/cajones/jajca to open an account.

Surely I have nothing to fear but the fear itself.  Now I just need to move past it.

I would ask if you have a Twitter account, but that's probably an obvious yes.  How do you use it?  Do you tweet and retweet or just follow?  And, forgive my ignorance here, but how do you follow a tweeted conversation when other tweets show up in between?  Is there a Twitter equivalent to the Blogger dashboard or Google reader?  Anybody got a Twitter for Dummies manual lying around?

**I am not trying to hide on FB from anyone, even though I haven't linked myself up here.  At the moment most of my academic compatriots know nothing about my alternative life as a writer, and I'm not quite ready to have the world merge.  If you're truly motivated, I would never deny a friend request.  But when I get more of my clashing-world scenario smoothed out, I'll add an FB link on the sidebar.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fantasy Blog Hop

What a great idea!  A blog-hop to meet other bloggers that blog similar topics to yours.  Brilliant, really.  Three cheers for Tessa.

I don't have much of my writing on my blog yet (I'm still pretty new to this), but you can check out this one if you'd like.
  1. Add yourself to the list if you think you fit the topic of the week
  2. Get the code and post it on your blog. This is essential - if you don't, people won't be able to hop on from there. That's just plain rude and a major annoyance. It will also land you on many people's blacklist of blogs-never-to-visit-again.
  3. If you like, do a post on your blog introducing yourself to your visitors. 
  4. Each list will be up for a week or so...or at least it will be accessible for that long.
This week's theme: 

The Life Fantastic
Do you write fantasy stories/novels (any subgenre welcome)? 
Do you read/review fantasy books? 
Maybe you create fantasy art? 
Join the list and meet other like-minded creatures of the web!
(this week's linky list features a thumbnail picture of you)


For the Love of Character...

Based on a particular comment on yesterday's post (i.e., I must be crazy if I'm a writer—which is quite observant), I've decided not to hide my weirdness.  There's no need to pretend I'm normal or mature. 

Though I doubt I've hidden it from you until now.

(This is not actually the point to this post.  The digression stops here, folks!  Insert poorly written segue...)

What is a story without strong characters?  There are many answers to this question, but the one that's vital is, it's unpublishable.  This is hardly a new concept.  Characters are bread and butter in this industry.  A great story can be written with little conflict (though I wouldn't recommend it), but a story is nothing without its people.

Tying all of this together now, my crazy brain likes to dream in wild ways that are so far from reality that the Milky Way looks no bigger than it's candy bar counterpart.  In this fantasy anti-reality, my current WiP comes complete with a soundtrack and full cast.  Well, not full, but close.  And by cast I mean actual contemporary actors who would play a certain role well.

Now we understand why I write fantasy—nothing in my head is real :)

This morning on my walk to class I got to thinking about my cast.  I'm a little embarrassed to tell you who's in it, but there are some definite highlights from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gossip Girl (ten points to whoever can identify the actor in both).  One actor I've never even seen act, but only seen him in commercials for movies and television, or on the cover of something akin to Teen Beat while waiting to pay for my groceries. 

While trying to keep my balance on the worn, slick brick path through the woods on campus, I had a startling, painful, depressing realization.  I have no actor for my MC.  The story's told in first person.  My MC should be the person we know the best.  So why couldn't I pick an actor to play her?

Okay, there are two possible answers to this.  The optimistic one: I don't watch a lot of teeny-bopper TV and movies (Gossip Girl aside) and therefore don't know of a good actor to play this 19 yr old girl.

And the pessimistic one: she's not developed enough.

I just about needed a triple bypass after that thought.

I've been nervous about this ever since I received some preliminary notes that said the reader didn't get a strong sense of who my MC was and that she was a little too perfect.  I mentioned this to another reader, who responded that my MC is a normal teenage girl thrown into an awkward situation, and acts more or less appropriately.  I've been trying to rough up my MC a bit during this round of editing, but I'm questioning everything.  Is it enough?  Is her response here too predictable or not predictable enough?  Should she be good at this task on her first try or not?  Is she being honest enough about this awkward situation, or too honest?

Ack!

Then a fleeting thought raced through my head (crashing desperately just above my ear, preventing its escape), whispering that there are examples of first person narrators in literature who have little to no personality, and who are merely there to enjoy the boozy partying.  I won't name anything specifically because I wouldn't dare want to imply any comparison between me and said author(s), but it exists.  Do I think it's publishable in today's market?  Hell no.  I have no illusions here.

I really wish that thought had flown right out of my ear before I could hear what it said.  Hmph.  It shouldn't have been talking on its cell phone....

Okay, enough rambling from me.  I should get back to destroying my overly perfect, goodie-goodie narrator.


What do you do to further develop your characters?  Do you write diaries or external scenes that should never see the ink of print?  Do you outline or chart different characteristics?  Do you simply listen to the voices in your head? (This may be the only industry where that's not considered unhealthy.)


PS—I want you to know that I'm a member of GGWA (Gossip Girl Watchers Anonymous).  It's been six months since my last viewing.  There's a meeting tonight at 9pm EST/8pm CST.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Self-Indulgent Update

Sunday night.  I've spent all weekend not doing the work I should have done, and I'm okay with it.  My husband and I ditched work together yesterday, and today's been a lovely day of writing, etc.  I'm currently waiting for the multiberry crisp to come out of the oven, and my tea's already steeping.  Oh, and we just brought in some beautiful wild pink lilies that popped up on the side of our house.  *grin*  Aren't they pretty?

I guess that was the self-indulgent part.

As for the update:  Thank you once again for all of your suggestions on my writing crisis last week.  Based on suggestions (and that dreaming-to-waking transition creativity), I settled on two courses of action—the assorted expository hint through the first half-dozen chapters and a brief study session between my MC, her BFF (the abbreviation makes me cringe, but it's true), and two randomly generated people for purposes of exposition.  It currently fits neatly on 4 pages (less than 1000 word).  While it's a little boring in that expository-dialogue-y way, it could be much worse, and it's punctuated by my MC's narrative voice making fun of the situation. Hopefully it's not painful to read.  And nothing's set in stone.  It's not like it's going to print any time soon :)

I can also make one of those extra people useful, of course.  He'll bring lots of extra conflict into my MC's life long after this new guy disappears.  His involvement should also help (hopefully) to resolve one of my crit reader's complaints about my MC's lack of flaws.  It will at least make her more interesting.

On a tangential note, last week while walking to class I was listening to my "soundtrack".  It's not really a soundtrack, since it doesn't actually connect to events in the story.  It's more like a song or two that seem to portray a character's voice.  One song came on, making me feel painfully nostalgic for a character that doesn't appear in WIP-1, but only in 2 and 3.  I've vowed to focus on #1 for now until I'm a bit happier with the flow, etc., but the song made me literally miss my character.  I listened to it over and over and over.  *sigh*  Oh, Zoe.... we'll meet again someday.

Do you ever miss your characters when you take a break from your WIP, or after you finish it?  Or am I just nuts?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thanks!

Wow, that's two thank-you posts in one week.  Apparently I'm feeling grateful.

I want to thank everyone for their answers to my advice question from yesterday.  I was extremely helpful hearing a few different points of view, and hearing that maybe—if done right, of course—the info dump wouldn't be too bad.  It seems like most people liked the exam studying options, be it textbook or study session.  There will surely be some general exposition—how could I possibly get around it, really?  Some of the information I'll try to spread out.  For example, in the opening chapter they're watching a special news break, and that would be an easy place to throw some of it in, but not enough.  And a decent amount shows up in Chapter 6 already, but the complaint I got was that it was too late and the reader was already skeptical about the reality.

Okay, well, I shouldn't info-dump here, either.  Just a big thanks to those of you who kicked in your two dollars (inflation, don't ya know?).

Cheers!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Little Advice?

Hello, cyber friends.  I need your advice.

One of my critical readers mentioned that she finds my alternate reality a little difficult to swallow.  That's fair.  The problem is how to explain it.

You see, this alternate reality takes place in the "modern" US, but it's not so modern.  I've got 1000 years of history—not all of which has to be explained, I would say, or not up front—of royal history going back to the days of King Arthur, and a schism in the British royal family that eventually leads to one half taking over in the "new colonies".  I'm not changing a whole lot of the real history (the civil war is pretty feasible; the revolution against the monarchy), but I have to somehow weave this rather huge and important fact into the first couple of chapters.

So, the question is, do I:

A. Throw in general expository information (*yawn*)?

B. Have my main character studying for an exam and reading a textbook (this is where the reader puts down the book or just sets it on fire)?

C. Let my main character et al have a study session for said exam (icky expository dialogue!)?

D. Dear spirits on high, please tell me you have some better suggestions for me?

Thank you for reading this choose your own adventure post.  If you selected A, please turn to page 52.  If you selected B, please turn to page 124.  If you selected C, please shut your computer and never query again.  If you selected D, THANK YOU!

Discipline

Over the last few (insert time span of your choice here; it's probably accurate), I've been having a crisis.  No, not a the-world-is-going-to-end! crisis, but more of a who-am-I-what-am-I-doing-here crisis.  I waffle about school, about what I want to do when I grow up, about what color to paint my toenails—everything.  Recently, I've been finding some answers, and feel like my life is moving back onto a paved road (I've never been one to enjoy off-roading).

Oddly enough, this all comes at the same time as I've been reading the Pray part of EPL.  No, this is not a book club post, in case you're worried. :)  Maybe just an extension of yesterday's—tangentially.  Anyway, reading about Liz's life at the ashram was thought provoking.  It made me want to discipline my life more, to find balance—mind/body/spirit—where there isn't any, and to better cultivate my spiritual side, which has been sadly neglected recently.  Yeah, yeah, the physical side has, too...

I'm not good at disciplining myself.  I've never kept a regular exercise routine going (by myself) for more than a couple of months.  I don't have good study habits.  My good eating habits can be attributed to my husband.  And I promise you, you do not want to see my house!

Now, I realize there's only so much I can do, but I can attempt to institute some discipline into my blogger-laden life.  Here are a few of my ideas on where to start.
  • Get up a half-hour earlier and do yoga before class.
  • Limit the amount of time I spend on blogger (I'll still be around, though, I promise!)
  • Do they job I would get paid for doing if I did it (ah, the joy of freelancing...)
  • Read something (that I didn't write) for at least one hour per day
  • Don't forsake the trees I brought home with printed versions of the first five chapters of my novel!  (I thank them for their sacrifice for the good of YA fantasy)
This is a lot.  I'm going to try instituting one thing at a time.  Starting today, I'm incorporating the reading for at least one hour.  I've been reading, but sporadically and sometimes only for fifteen minutes (before I pass out!).  Saturday and Sunday are dedicated to that freelance book I'm editing.  Monday morning starts the yoga.  I've done yoga before but, like everything else, it was irregular at best.

The last addition to my list:
  • Visit the Tibetan monastery on Sundays for their open prayer meetings.
That is the plan for Sunday morning.  Saturday morning=farmers market.  Sunday morning=Buddhist prayer/lesson.  I'm excited.

How do you discipline yourself (or not)?  Do you have a routine that you must stick to?  In the crazy world of jobs and children and spouses and friends and mothers and the whirlpool of chaos, how do you find time to read and write?  There must be disciple in that, right?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Eat Pray Love - Prayer

"I will not harbor unhealthy thoughts anymore." (178)

Historically, I'm not a religious person.  I was raised Catholic, went through 12 years of Catholic school, had a Catholic wedding... the whole nine... no, nine's not enough yardage.  But, to be perfectly honest, I don't consider myself to be the least bit Catholic.

My apologies to any friends and family members out there who might be shocked by this.  I'm not entirely open about it.

This is not to say that I don't believe in anything, because I do.  This is not to say that I completely abhor organized religion, though I do a little (mainly due to my personal struggles with Catholic hierarchy).  I consider God an integral part of everyone's lives, and that God can be seen in everyone, but I don't need to wave my personal flag about it.  For me, spirituality is an individual journey.  I realize this is not the case for everyone, just me.

Now, religion is a loaded and touchy subject, so please don't take offense by anything I say from here on out.  I am only speaking for myself.  We each have our own paths.  My path may not work for the next person as his or her path may not work for me.  That doesn't mean we can't end up at the same place at the end of our journeys.

So, a little introduction to my path thus far...

My junior year of high school—don't forget, Catholic school—I met a girl named Leia.  She transferred to our school from the twice-as-expensive prep school on the south side of town.  We met in 1st year German because the teacher sat us alphabetically, and she sat right behind me.  We were the only non-freshman in the class, so we bonded quickly.

The reason I mention this is because Leia was (still is, presumably) Buddhist.  To my rebellious teenage mind this was perhaps the coolest thing I had ever heard.  What?  Someone who lives in the Midwest who's *not* Christian?  It took me a while to wrap my mind around it.  She introduced me to her parents, who answered lots of questions from me, showed me their prayer room, and even took me on a trip with them to visit the temple in Chicago.

The whole experience had a huge impact on my vision of what religion could be.  Since that time, I have been fascinated with Eastern religions and philosophies.  I won't lie and say that I've actively pursued anything—there's a Tibetan monastery just outside of the city limits and I've never been even though they have open prayer meetings on Saturday mornings—but my fascination lives on.

So, reading this portion of EPL had a strong impact on me.  Liz took her amorphous love for God—whoever and whatever that may be—and molded it into something concrete for herself through the guidance of Eastern traditions.  She found tremendous peace in a time of pain and suffering that helped her transcend normal prayer, or perhaps the other way around.  And it made me want to do the same.

Some of my favorite quotes from this section:

"The Yogis, however, say that human discontentment is a simple case of mistaken identity.  We're miserable because we think that we are mere individuals, alone with our fears and flaws and resentments and mortality.  We wrongly believe that our limited little egos constitute our whole entire nature.  We have failed to recognize our deeper divine character." (122)

"So I sang the Gurugita to my nephew Nick, to help him sleep.  Sometimes he has trouble sleeping because he cannot still his mind....  I filled the song with everything I wished I could teach him about life....  And, of course, I called my sister the next week and she said that—for reasons nobody could understand—Nick suddenly wasn't having trouble falling asleep anymore." (169)

About her hour of perfectly still meditation: "When it was all over, I stood up, walked to my room and assessed the damage.  I counted about twenty mosquito bites.  But within a half an hour, all the bites had diminished.  It all goes away.  Eventually, everything goes away." (174, emphasis mine)

"The former Catholic nun (who oughtta know about guilt, after all) wouldn't hear of it.  "Guilt's just your ego's way of tricking you into thinking that you're making moral progress.  Don't fall for it, my dear."" (183—gee, I wonder why this resonates with me...)

A quote Liz gives us:  ""All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop," wrote the sage Kabir." (199)

"The Hopi Indians thought that the world's religions each contained one spiritual thread, and that these threads are always seeking each other, wanting to join.  When all the threads are finally woven together they will form a rope that will pull us out of the dark cycle of history and into the next realm." (208)



Now, for the actually book club discussion :)

Richard is a major character in this part of the book. He really is a true friend and is brutally honest. I think everyone has a Richard. Who is that person in your life?

After all that I wrote above, can you believe this is hard for me to answer?  I think I've had a couple over the years, though none were quite as tactless as Richard could be.  Not to give the obvious answer of my best friend and husband, the best example would have to be my friend Joey, also from my high school years.  While he might try and sugar coat it just a little, he never feared telling me exactly what he thought—and it definitely upset me a couple of times.  But through it all, Joey was one of my closest friends.  Oddly enough, he still is.  We lost touch with each other once we went to college, but a couple of years ago he found me on MySpace (just because I deleted my account).  We exchanged phone numbers and one evening talked for close to two hours.  It was as if no time had passed.  We don't talk on the phone much now, but we're friends on FB and he's one of my followers here (Hi, Joey!).  Hopefully someday we can get back to the point where he'll give me the naked painful truth again, but I think we have to talk more frequently for that :)


Okay, this was a really long post.  If you made it this far, thanks!  Give yourself a round of applause! :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday Thanks

In the past 7 or 8 days (I didn't actually realize it at first) I've gotten 10 new followers, including one this morning.  This might not seem like an post-worthy number, but from 16 to 26 is pretty significant.

So, welcome to those of you who are new.

And thank you to everyone.  Even if you follow and never comment, I still feel loved in cyberspace.  And if you comment and don't follow, that's awesome, too.

I will be posting something more soon.  Stay tuned :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

BlogHop - Personal LIfe Soundtrack

Thanks to arlee bird for hosting this BlogHop.  I've had a lot of fun thinking about this over the past week.  In fact, as soon as I signed up, I set my iPod to random with all 4000+ songs and let it go.  Most things didn't fit, but a couple did, and the whole process encouraged my memory to work harder.  Luckily I have a good 20 minute walk to school everyday.

Be sure to visit the other soundtracks and their awesomeness --->

So, without further ado...

A Soundtrack to a Random Life

random [randəm]: n.  made, done, happening, or chosen without conscious decision.

Maybe a better title would be "eclectic", but as I look over the list, "eclectic" doesn't really work.  The genres are limited, most of the songs fall within a relatively short time.  But this is the sense I want to give to my word "random", not random in the sense of purely arbitrary.  Simply put, these songs seem to represent me by gut instinct, and not by conscious decision.  E.g., a large collection of people coming together to list soundtracks to their lives, people who are barely related in this world, and not perhaps an assortment of haphazard objects thrown in a jar with a firefly for light.

Besides, I love the word.  It doesn't roll off the tongue per se, but it hangs in the back of your throat like a good Anglo-Saxon word should.  Just lovely.

Note:  I tried to get a playlist to embed here.  Unfortunately, either (a) I would have had to link a ridiculous number of additional songs outside the playlist, (b) I just couldn't get the program/widget to work, or (c) the widget came through with 13 of my songs, but the songs would never load.  So, instead, here's a link to a playlist where you can listen to most of the songs.  Others are linked directly below.

Part I: Random Wanderings
  • "Pretty Bird", Jenny Lewis (pictured right).  A life wandering with questionable success, but, oh, what beautiful things you find.
  • "The Wanderer", Dion.  Yeah, I'm not a player, but he's got Rosie on his chest, so...
  • "Walk This World", Heather Nova.  In high school, I was enamored with the idea of this song.
  • "Moab", Conor Oberst.  Inspired from my iPod shuffle, when this came on I kept hitting repeat.  Something about it spoke to me.  "There's nothing that the road cannot heal."
  • "Circles", Soul Coughing.  In addition to seeing them in concert in 2000 in Chicago (a story involving an ambulance, one-way streets, and bad parallel parking), this song perhaps fits more in this category for me because of its lyrics and how I would listen to it every time I would drive home from college.

Part II: Random Memories
  • "Rose Marie", Slim Whitman.  My dad used to sing this to me when I was little. This, of course, is ignoring the fact that I normally responded, "Stooooop!  You're embarrassing me!"  But now it makes me smile.
  • "Walk Like an Egyptian", the Bangles.  One year in summer camp our group performed this song in a region lip-sync contest.
  • "Smells Like Teen Spirit", Nirvana.  Ah, Kurt...  I was such a grungy teenager.  In fact, my senior pictures portray me in a green and blue flannel shirt, a pair of embarrassingly ripped jeans, sitting on my 1967 Dodge Dart (named Daisy).
  • "6'1"," Liz Phair.  College manifesto I.
  • "32 Flavors", Ani DiFranco.  College manifesto II, plus self-esteem builder.
  • "Blue", Eiffel 65.  The dance-scene über-hit the year I studied in Russia.  If it didn't have that association, I would probably strongly dislike it.
  • "Аривидерчи (Arrivederci)", Zemfira (pictured left).  A popular Siberian pop star, this was the first hit off her debut album.  I got to see her in concert in Krasnodar, Russia in 1999.  Did you know that you can light and smoke half a cigarette while playing a thirty-second guitar solo?  Now that's talent.
  • "Tu Veneno (Your Venom)", Natalia Oreiro.  My friends came back from studying in Buenos Aires raving about this woman and saying how, not only did she look like me (or I like her... whatever), but her attitude and demeanor reminded them of me.   Not sure how I feel about that, but it's a catchy song :)
  • "Prawy do Lewego", Kayah and Bregović.  Traditional Serbian music, modernized, and the lyrics translated into Polish.  What could possible be better? :)

Part III: Current Randomness
  • "Pump It", Black Eyed Peas.  When I'm a little sluggish in the mornings, this is the song I play while walking/biking to class to increase the energy.
  • "Measuring Cups", Andrew Bird (pictured right).  Andrew Bird is probably one of the most talented musicians out there right now.  This just happens to be one of my favorite songs.
  • "Handle With Care", Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins (originally recorded by the Traveling Wilburys, 1988).  I think this song is apt for many of us, not just me.
  • "Starlight", Muse.  If any song could feel like one of my characters speaking directly to me, this would be it.
  • "Bad Romance", Lady Gaga.  So many things!  First, even if it's not the point, they "could write a bad romance".  Second, there are so many echoes in this video of "Thriller" (without mentioning the obvious influence of Madonna).  And, of course, Lady Gaga is oddly fascinating.  I'm sorry, but it's true.  I can only watch the video in awe.

(Sorry for the horrible embedding.  It was necessary to get the official version—a.k.a. the one with decent resolution not made by holding a cell phone in front of the TV.)


What songs might you have?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Getting to know you....

Okay, so the linky list is now closed on the original website, but I got these questions from Chary and I thought I would play along. *wink*

1. What is YOUR definition of sexy?
2. Would you rather clean up puke or change a poopy diaper?
3. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
4. If you had to give up one of your 5 senses for a year..which one would you give up?
5. Cake or Pie?
6. If you could play any character on TV (old or current) who would you play?
7. My favorite website is.....?
8. The highlight of my day is....?


1.  Intelligence and the willingness to discover the things I'm interested in (I'd do it, too, of course).  But that willingness means nothing if we can't talk about it.  Elitist much?  Just a touch.

2.  Hmm.  Probably the diaper, but if the world were a perfect place, I wouldn't have to do either.  Of course, if the world were a perfect place, they wouldn't exist and we'd have nothing to talk about.  Okay, fine.  Diaper.

3.  It depends on my mood.  If I want to be extroverted, I can make myself be extroverted.  But I think deep down I'm an introvert.  I need lots of no-talking, no-people time.

4.  That's a really hard question.  I want to say hearing, but I love music too much.  But I can't imagine life without sight—I think that one needs no explanation—or touch, and I love food too much to give up taste or smell, interconnected as they are.  Can I just give up my ability to talk and learn sign language?

5.  PIE!  Fruit pie!  Unless it's a really amazing, gluten-free cake.  Chocolate helps.  If you'd like to convince me otherwise, I'm willing to accept samples by mail.

6.  Buffy or Willow from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer".  I'd be a pretty wicked slayer or witch.  Maybe a slayer-witch?

7.  Favorite website?  I don't know.  My blogger dashboard so I can keep up with what YOU're doing? :)

8.  Making dinner with my husband.


If you want to share, copy and paste the questions over on your blog.  And send me a link to your blog in your comment because I'd like to get to know you too!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Odes To Those Which Sustain Us

This summer I've been taking intensive Macedonian (it's Slavic, not Greek, I promise).  A couple of weeks ago our instructor was trying to find videos on YouTube to show us how one of the national dishes of Macedonia—burek—is made.  It's pretty crazy, kind of like stretching unbreakable silly dough and then stuffing it with meat!

While we searched, we also came across this:




How AWESOME is it that Ali En—a Macedonian singer/rapper that my instructor has never heard of—dedicated an entire song to one food?  And not just any food.  I'm mean, we're not just talking about bread here.  It's a national dish, full of patriotic pride.  I can't really think of anything comparable for the US (apple pie, maybe?), but it would be like writing a song to shepherd's pie in Ireland, or mole in Mexico, or borshch in Russia.

The only other remotely ode-like song I can think of (help me out here, folks) is That's Amore, but that should hardly count because 1) it's about love, not food; 2) it references lots of different foods, not just one exalted dish; and 3) no one involved in the creation of the song was Italian.  While number 3 shouldn't make-or-break it, 1 and 2 do.

So, in honor of national foods, I have decided to dedicate the following Drabble (a story of exactly 100 words) to... the Polish Pierogi.


Pierogi!

Oh, pierogi!
How I adore the smell of thee!
Let me count the ways
In which your potato filling
Oozes
Upon my plate and tongue,
Or your sweet cheese stuffing
Slides down my throat
Like flower petals
Along my skin,
Or your ground meat
…oh, well, that generally makes me sick…
All topped with butter and
Smalec** and
Thick sour cream.

Or how about your sweet, fruity dessert-self
Filled with strawberries,
Raspberries,
Blackberries?
A sprinkle of sugar makes you
Perfect
For my digestion.

Oh, most versatile and wondrous pierogi!
Your dough is so simple
And yet you taste so extraordinary!


**In this case, smalec is crispy, fried pork fat.  Think of tiny, chopped bacon bits without the meat part.


What songs/poems/stories do you know of that are dedicated to a particular food?  Is there a food you would like to pay tribute to?  Feel free in the comments section :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

ACK! Book Overload!

So, this should not be a problem.  It just shouldn't.  I shouldn't have to complain about this at all, but here it is anyway.

I have too much to read.

And it's all stuff I want to read—meaning, it's not for research or homework! :)

*sigh*

1) Eat Pray Love, of course.  I need to keep up with that for my book club obligations.  And I'm loving it even more now that we're into the Pray part.  I'm really interested in her spiritually journey.

2) I still have my copies of Lizard and Kitchen, both by Banana Yoshimoto, from the library.  Lizard is due tomorrow, so I think I'm going to try and get through that tonight (I've already renewed it once).
Update: Already finished Lizard.  Still haven't started Kitchen.

3) Today in the mail I got my copy of Lindsey's Leavitt's Princess for Hire.  What I didn't realize is that I would ALSO get a copy of Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick.  I thought the other winner from that drawing would get it, not me.  How excited was I when I opened the box?!?!

Admittedly, I'm going to wait at least a little bit on Princess for Hire.  I'm going to read it along with my sister-in-law.  It's a YA book (Disney/Hyperion), so it would also be appropriate for my niece.  I think it would be fun for us all to read it together.  But she needs to get the book first :)

4) We got a notice today from the library that The Passage by Justin Cronin is waiting for me.  With all the hype around this book, I just couldn't wait.  I just get giddy for vampires, what can I say?  The problem is that it's 766pp, and since it's so hot and there's a waiting list as long as Rapunzel's hair, I won't be able to renew it.  That's going to be pretty intense, I think.

So there will be more book reviews in my future.  I can't tell you which will come first, but keep an eye out.  And keep your fingers crossed that I get enough sleep and get my homework finished :/

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

YouTube Love

For my Macedonian class, we put our longer assignments online on a blog.  We're also encouraged to add other things, like reflections about what we're learning.

Well, I went to YouTube heaven on this one.  For some video entertainment, check out my other blog.

If you watch nothing else, please take a look at Valentina Hasan and Nevena Tzoneva.  Both are impressive, though for very different reasons.

*wink*

A Review, a Review-Like Rant, and Other Book Related News

Actually, I think I'll start with my non-review news.  A couple of weeks ago I won two books!  Woohoo!  First, I won Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt through her Impact Initiative series, and I'm really excited to read it.  Second, I won a copy of No Place for Heroes: A Novel by Laura Restrepo from Goodreads.  I haven't received either, yet, but I'm really excited.  I'm sure you'll hear all about it when I do.

Princess for Hire (from Goodreads):  When a well-dressed woman steps out of a bubble and wants to know if you'd like to become a substitute princess, do you

A) run
B) faint
C) say yes?

For Desi Bascomb, who's been longing for some glamour in her Idaho life, the choice is a definite C). Desi has a rare ability: with the help of "Royal Rouge," she can temporarily transform into the exact look-alike of any princess who needs her subbing services. Dream come true, right?

Well, Desi soon discovers that subbing involves a lot more than wearing a tiara and waving at cameras.... In this winning debut, one girl's dream of glamour transforms into the desire to make a positive impact. And an impact Desi makes, one royal fiasco at a time.

No Place for Heroes: A Novel (from Goodreads):  During Argentina’s “Dirty War” of the late ’70s and early ’80s, Lorenza and Ramon, two passionate militants opposing Videla’s dictatorship, met and fell in love. Now, Lorenza and her son, Mateo, have come to Buenos Aires to find Ramon, Mateo’s father. Holed up in the same hotel room, mother and son share a common goal, yet are worlds apart on how they perceive it. For Lorenza, who came of age in the political ferment of the ’60s, it is intertwined with her past ideological and emotional anchors (or were they illusions?), while her postmodernist son, a child of the ’90s who couldn’t care less about politics or ideology, is looking for his actual  father—not the idea of a father, but the Ramon of flesh and blood.

Anything goes as this volatile pair battle it out: hilarious misunderstandings, unsettling cruelty, and even a temptation to murder. In the end, they begin to come to a more truthful understanding of each other and their human condition.

No Place for Heroes is an addition to that long tradition of the eternal odd couple—in works ranging from Waiting for Godot to Kiss of the Spider Woman—waiting for their fortunes to change, written by one of the most talented and internationally celebrated authors at work today.



Now, on to the reviews:

Review: I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder

From Goodreads:   
Girl meets boy.Girl loses boy.
Girl gets boy back...
...sort of.

Ava can't see him or touch him, unless she's dreaming. She can't hear his voice, except for the faint whispers in her mind. Most would think she's crazy, but she knows he's here.

Jackson. The boy Ava thought she'd spend the rest of her life with. He's back from the dead, as proof that love truly knows no bounds.


My take:  This novel is beautifully crafted, written in verse.  It's written in such a tight fashion that I read it in two sittings of about a half-hour each.  But don't let the speed fool you.  This story is a continuous emotional ride.  Every word has shade and substance enough to redirect your emotional compass.  It's been a long time since I've read a book so beautifully written and so powerful that I cried.   It is truly an amazing read.

WARNING:  This is not a book to be read in a park, on a train, while driving, in the library, at your friend's house (although, your boyfriend's place might be okay if you want to induce extra snuggling), or any other public venue.  You will cry.

The bottom line:  You must read this book!

Want to know more?  Check out this interview with Lisa Schroeder.


Review/Rant:  The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

From Goodreads: Bree Tanner can barely remember life before she had uncannily powerful senses, superhuman reflexes and unstoppable physical strength. Life before she had a relentless thirst for blood... life before she became a vampire.

All Bree knows is that living with her fellow newborns has few certainties and even fewer rules: watch your back, don't draw attention to yourself and, above all, make it home by sunrise or die. What she doesn't know: her time as an immortal is quickly running out.


Then Bree finds an unexpected friend in Diego, a newborn just as curious as Bree about their mysterious creator, whom they know only as "her". As they come to realize that the newborns are pawns in a game larger than anything they could have imagined, Bree and Diego must choose sides and decide whom to trust. But when everything you know about vampires is based on a lie, how do you find the truth?


My take: Stephenie Meyer said recently that she was burnt out on vampires.  After reading this, so am I.  Well, her breed of vampires, anyway.  While this novella was surely not written of the fly in the past six months to be released—coincidentally—just in time for the release of Eclipse, I can't help but wonder if this was past of the idea eighteen months ago or two years ago, following the instant success of Twilight.

I don't know what I was expecting.  This novella doesn't have the tortured, forbidden romance or the overwhelming fear of impending doom, or, hell!, even a suspenseful, surprise ending—unless you haven't already read Eclipse, in which case I wonder why you're reading Bree Tanner.  Anyway, Meyer's writing style is consistent throughout her four Twilight novels and this novella and, well, as was well put by Alan Rinzler, some people are great writers and others are great storytellers (he mentions Myers (sic) specifically).

While I do not contest that Meyer is a great storyteller—I love Twilight as much as the next vampire junkie—I did not connect to Bree's story at all.  In Twilight et al, I can connect with Bella.  I don't necessarily have to like her, or agree with her actions, but having two X chromosomes and having been to high school and remembering what it's like to fall in love really puts us on the same plane.  On the other hand, I've never been a vampire, I've never seen myself sparkle in daylight, I've never bounded through trees so that someone else wouldn't catch my scent, I've never fallen in love with someone while hiding in a cave, and, well, I've never eaten anyone.  Call me petty, but I couldn't find the love or sympathy for Bree anywhere inside me.  And I wanted to.

I wanted to like the latest addition to the Twilight Saga.  But, sadly, I feel like it's simply a rushed marketing tool to help up the ticket sales at the box office—as if they needed any help!  Twi-hards have long memories, just like their vampires.  They wouldn't have forgotten to see the movie, folks, I promise.

Anything positive?  Sure.  I really appreciated that the whole Twilight team decided to put the e-book online for free, even if it was only for a limited time.  If I had paid for this, I would have been upset and not simply disappointed.  Of course, that's also part of the marketing tool, right?  Make it available to as many people as possible right before the movie....

I need to stop.

My not-so-humble bottom line:  This one should have stayed on the shelf.


PS—None of my complaining will keep me from seeing the new movie.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Drabble Challenge

As mentioned yesterday, the folks over at the Burrow are starting a weekly Drabble contest (write a story of exactly 100 words based on a given picture and win the glory of being the Burrow's coolest groupie... oh, and they'll post it next week to encourage all the other groupies toward jealousy and better writing**).

**Disclaimer: my sarcastic words, not theirs.  And all sarcasm is due to the excitement of having a challenging writing prompt.

PS--This one was hard for me.  Not sure why.

Without further ado:

Conversation - Camille Pissarro

“Are you sure you need to leave?”
“I am.”
“But think of how it will affect mother.”
“She’ll be upset, I know.  But I won’t be gone forever.”
“What about father?”
“He’ll be fine.”
“He only did it because he loves you.”
“I know.”
“You’re really going to abandon Donald?”
“I don’t love him.”
“But everything’s arranged.”
“I know.”
“What should I tell him?”
“Anything you want.”
“Should I say you’re sorry?”
“I’m not.”
“But I could tell him…”
“No.”
“And what about me?  Will you miss me?”
“Of course.”
“I love you, sissy.”
“I love you, too.  Goodbye, Ginger.”

Eat Pray Love - Eat

"...the appreciation of pleasure can be an anchor of one's humanity" (115).

I just finished the first part of EPL (literally thirty seconds ago).  The last chapter of this section is all about Sicily, a.k.a. the land of my grandmother's heritage.  Liz travels from town to town, enjoying the ecstasy that is the food while marveling at the poverty and corruption.  Certainly, Sicily is the extreme example of the Italian heritage, or perhaps the living museum of Italy's history with their mafia-induced peasantry, and perhaps the majority of those amazing Italian artists, musicians, dancers, singers, etc. are/were not Sicilian (I actually don't know, but I would say it's a fair guess).  Nonetheless, the disbelief in power structures that leads to only a belief in art and beauty** is epitomized in this island's lack of modernity.

The romantic in me would love to attribute my own desire to pursue beauty to the small part of me that comes from this culture.  It's in my genes.  It's in my blood.  But it's not all of my blood.  It continually fights against my northern European heritage that likes order, cleanliness, and potatoes.  It also explains my "About Me" quote (see?  it's over -->-^).  My brain suffers, trying to find what it considers it's "correct" path, when perhaps there's more than one (multiple personalities, anyone?).  Perhaps this is why the first part of Liz's journey is so appealing to me, along with those various characters I mentioned in my last EPL post.  Perhaps, deep inside of me, there's a true Sicilian trying to fight her way to the surface.

The realist in me (darn those northern genes!) tells me that it has nothing to do with my Italian grandmother and everything to do with some blocked childhood memory that will only reveal itself after years and thousands of dollars of psychotherapy.  Oh, well.

**Gilbert attributes these ideas to Luigi Barzini's 1964 work The Italians, mentioned on p. 114.



Aside complete.  Now on to the official book club discussion questions.

Having finished Italy discuss what the first phase of the journey has been like. Something fun could be that in Chapter 33 while sitting in an outdoor café in Rome, Gilbert’s friend declares that every city—and every person—has a word. Rome’s is “sex,” the Vatican’s “power”; Gilbert declares New York’s to be “achieve,” but only later stumbles upon her own word, antevasin, Sanskrit for “one who lives at the border.” What is your word? Is it possible to choose a word that retains its truth for a lifetime?

The first thought that comes to mind for me is "Transience".  In three decades, I have lived in nine cities.  Add to that the four years that I moved between dorm rooms and my parents' house for the summer, and two different apartments in two different cities, and that leads to a total of fourteen homes—an average of one home for two years.  There was even an apartment that my husband and I called home for only one month, but I'm not counting that apartment (or city) here.  Come about year four in any given location, my foot starts to tap.  I can feel the itch on the bottom of my feet.  I need to move.  I need a change of scene, new people to meet, new places to explore.  We've lived in Indiana five years now, and the itch is borderline painful now.  One more year here, and it will tie for the longest location of my life, along with where we lived when my father retired from USAF.

I also need vacations like some people need that first cup of coffee in the morning.  It's refreshing.  It helps get you moving again after eight hours of inactivity.  It's the boost that makes you want to keep moving for the next sixteen.  If I need to be stationary for long stretches, then I need to get out of Dodge periodically.  I need the long car ride or the painful airline delays.  I need the confusion of being lost while trying to find the hotel or the camping grounds (as long as we can find it within about 15 minutes).  I need the excuse to do all the things that I don't do when I'm at home—like finding the pleasure in the food, the atmosphere, the people, going to museums and movies, walking on the beach, hiking in the mountains.  I think it gives me "permission" to unveil my inner Sicilian :)

But it's not just physical transience.  It's mental as well.  I switch gears pretty quickly.  For example, when I started grad, I wanted to be a language teacher—English, Polish, maybe Russian.  I also really loved historical linguistics—how the language changes over time.   Then I got more into theoretical linguistics, and I started working phonology (the study of sounds and how they go together).  After about a year or two of that, I dropped phonology and moved into syntax (how the words go together).  I'm still in this phase, and I love it.  But I loved phonology, and before that I loved historical, and before that I loved teaching.  This, mind, is just since 2005, and just in terms of my "job".  It doesn't include discussion of hobbies or musical tastes or anything else.

Is it possible to choose a word that will retain its truth for a lifetime?  I guess it would depend on the person, and maybe it would depend on whether that person was being honest with him/herself.  For me, I have no doubt that this will be my word.  While I can handle staying put for longer stretched, I complain about it.  I remember asking my father when I was nine or ten when we would be moving again (this was already house number 4, mind you).  Maybe when I'm older or have children I'll get tired of the move.  Maybe as long as I have a good vacation every year, though—still ensuring my own personal transience—I'll be okay.


Thanks again to the Book Vixen for organizing this book club.  I'm really enjoying reading EPL.

Please check out our other book club members (in no particular order):  Charlie at Life Happens, Jen at Jen's Corner, Jamie at Three Cheers for Literacy!!, Nicole Rene at Home Grown Me, Erika Lynn at Kiss My Book, LilyofDarkness at Lilium's Realm, Jamie at the Book Junky's Bookshelf, and, of course, the lovely Book Vixen.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Drabble

The inspiration for this post is brought to you today by the Burrowers, the letter D, and the number 100.

I've never tried anything like this before.  My personal assignment: write a Drabble (a story of exactly 100 words) based on the picture below.  Tomorrow the Burrowers will be posting another picture for a follower writing-challenge, so I thought I would give it a test run.



“Coffee”

You were there before I was awake, but I felt your presence even in my dreams.  You permeated my every pore until I could smell you, feel you, taste you as if you were dancing in my dream yourself.

“Honey?”

I roll over, longing for this sweet fantasy to envelope me again.  I seek your deep caramel beauty in my sleepy yearning. 

“Dear?”

Begrudgingly opening my eyes, I sit up.  I gaze at the white surrounding your intense darkness.  How is it possible that something this sensual is truly mine?

“Honey, here’s your coffee.”

I smile.  Oh, how I love…

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Hodgepodge

Places to go:
First, there have been some really awesome posts this week that I felt the need to share.  These aren't all the ones I was thinking about, but I'm a little slow today from too little sleep and too much in-class time.

And, without further ado...

How to become a better writer (Rachelle Gardner)

Undercooking a Novel (Nathan Bradsford; I think I love this one so much not just for the content, but because his example is beets.  Yum, beets!)

The Book Vixen's interview with Spoonful of Chocolate (I **LOVE** these things!  *swoon*)

Motivational ideas from Burrowers, Books & Balderdash


People to see:
I did leave the Burrowers' post for last intentionally—which had nothing to do with order of importance and everything to do with segue.

I think I mentioned this in at least three posts this week (indirectly), but I've been blind-rewriting a scene from my first novel.  The first critical reader of the story pointed out that my heroine is a little too under-flawed.  And, yes, it's true.  The first round showed her as a prissy, perfect goodie-goodie.  I knew there was something wrong, and how I didn't pick on this is still completely unclear to me, but that's what critical readers are for, right?

So, here's the question?  Anyone want to crit read my spicy, obscenely sexually-tense chapter?  I'd like to go over it a few more times before said limited release, but I think I'd be able to get it sent around by the middle of next week.


Food to eat:
Tonight on the menu, we have kale almond pesto.  It's fantastic.  I would highly recommend it.

Also, for any of you who like food (and don't tell me you don't like food because I won't believe you), I'm going to shamelessly promote my husband's food blog.  I want to draw your attention particularly to the salsa that's named after your truly :)

Smacznego!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Eat Pray Love - Part 2

Thanks again to the Book Vixen for organizing this book club.  I'm really enjoying reading EPL.

Please check out our other book club members (in no particular order):  Charlie at Life Happens, Jen at Jen's Corner, Jamie at Three Cheers for Literacy!!, Nicole Rene at Home Grown Me, Erika Lynn at Kiss My Book, LilyofDarkness at Lilium's Realm, Jamie at the Book Junky's Bookshelf, and, of course, the lovely Book Vixen.


After reading the book for a week what are your first impressions? So much of this part of the book is about Liz’s battle of modern vs. traditional, where do you fall on the spectrum. Are you married with children or do you never want to get married, or like most I would guess are you somewhere in between?

First impressions:  I was really enamored by the structure of 3x36.  It's a small detail, and simple, but there's something very romantic about it.  Plus, when I'm busy, it's easier to pick up the book, read 2 story-ettes, and set it back down without feeling like I need to keep reading at that exact second.  But it's also engrossing enough that I want to keep going back to it.

And her word choices frequently make me smile.  That's all.

Modern v. Traditional:  I recently read the vignette in which Liz discusses the Italian love for passion versus the American inability to really experience it.  This hit home with me.  Sleepy reflection showed me that I am, indeed, one of these poor souls (those of you who know me in person are probably giggling right now at my overdue realization).  I rarely want to sit on my porch and drink a glass of wine just because (the fact that our yard is a mosquito's heaven doesn't help).  I don't always get the idea of taking a walk just because the weather's nice.  I even remember one time a friend and I were driving through the country to our classmate's isolated home, and she remarked (something to the effect of), "This is so beautiful, driving through this tunnel of autumn leaves in every hue."  Honestly, I hadn't even noticed.  I glanced around quickly while also trying to keep my eyes on the windy road, but I took almost no time to savor it.

So, I tried to imagine myself in Liz's shoes, alone in a foreign country, desperately trying to learn a language, meet new people, and find my way.  And I couldn't imagine myself able to avoid finding "work" of some kind.  Something to keep me busy.  Something to keep me from sitting on the edge of the fountain and staring up at the cathedral and wondering at it's centuries-old architecture.

What I find amusing about this is how I relate to characters in film and fiction.  For example (especially for anyone out there who's a Joss fan), I must admit that Firefly/Serenity are not my favorites.  But, of all the characters in the show/movie, I don't love River—the subconsciously trained, psychic superninja—or Mel (though I won't deny the hotness... sorry, honey).  But I love Kalee—the carefree, naive mechanic who finds pleasure in everything she does.  Or maybe it's fitting that two of my favorite literary characters are similar:  Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's and Natasha from War and Peace.  Now, I'll happily admit that Holly's got all kinds of baggage, but don't we all?  But both of them simply enjoy being, living, celebrating the people around them... pleasure.  They may not call it as such (especially in reference to Tolstoy), but it is what it is.

If I'm so drawn to these characters, why aren't I more like that myself?  I feel like I'm the antithesis of it, really.  I know I've made huge steps in moving away from my OCD, type A+ personality over the past couple of years, but I do have a long way to go.  Having Liz's example will hopefully help.

The Significant Other:  Yes, I have one.  And he's amazing.  I'm super lucky, and believe me, I know it.  Obviously, it's not all roses and candy, but he's supportive in my mental teeter-totter when I feel like others would have gotten fed up with me long ago.  Thank you, honey!


PS--After reading a few other people's posts, I want to add to mine.  I think I'm connecting to this on many levels, including the depression and the always putting other people before myself.  It took twenty-eight years and the death of my father (yeah, I was definitely daddy's little girl) to finally look at myself and focus on me first, all through the "therapy" of bawling on the bathroom floor/the kitchen floor/in bed/everywhere.  I'm not too good at focusing on me yet.  It's a daily struggle, I admit.  This is yet another reason that I am happy to be reading this book right now, and trying to follow Liz in her quest for passion.

Insomnia and the Art of Half-Dreaming

Yeah, it's 5:30 as I start this.  I've been up for at least an hour.  Technically, it's not really insomnia.  I slept for maybe six hours.  Please understand, I LOOOOOOOOVE sleep.  While six hours is more than sufficient for some, I will need a nap by noon (and my class doesn't end until 12:30... whoops).

Please forgive any typos or horrible uses of grammar.  I'm tired.  I would forgive you under the same circumstances.

The only reason I'm not more bitter about being awake is that what woke me was a half-dream—you know, the dream when you know you're dreaming but you're still completely a part of the dream as well—that seemed wild enough to come with its own entire plot.  I love that.  In fact, I think everything sitting in my "extra ideas" folder came from a half-dream.  My entire three part series started from a half-dream.  I have well over 150,000 of my epic (War-and-Peace style, five-book über-novel) story of vampires and demons and slayers (oh my!) that started from a pretty nasty recurring dream.  I think the only story I've recently created from a completely awake state was this one.

Point being?  I'm excited.  I'm always excited when I wake up and there's some wild story playing out in my head and I'm completely aware of it.  I do everything in my power to stay in that semi-conscious state for as long as possible and try not to let my conscious self tamper with that dream world.  And then I get up and write as furiously as possible.  Even if it's 4:30am.

Where do your plot ideas come from?  Dreams?  Memories?  Places?  Daydreams?  Silly things your friend said?  Inquiring minds... and all that jazz.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Calling All Members of the Geek Squad!

Imagine, if you can, a particular signal in the sky, calling you to the special secret meeting place.  Is it a bird?  Is it a plane?  Is it a poorly-written footnote with an incorrect bibliographical reference?  If you're a true member, you already know.

Today's been odd at best.  This morning (and when I say morning, I mean 9am to 1:45pm), my Macedonian class met at Kroger.  Yes, at Kroger.  I now have pages upon pages of food vocabulary to memorize on top of my delinquent backlog of vocab from three units of my text book.  Luckily, random things like cilantro (coriander) are (transcribed) koriander, or mango, or banana.  But I digress... 

While sitting in the wacky little cafe-like area at this particularly over-sized Kroger (like a genetically engineered watermelon/lubenitsa?), I open my planner to write down my homework, and there, written in my usual, messy, pencil scrawl, is a note telling me I have a meeting with one of my linguistics professors at 3.

Crap!  (I think I actually said that out loud in the middle of discussing our favorite movies.)

Yeah, I forgot.  Camping and migraines certainly didn't help, but I don't need to make excuses for myself.  I just plain forgot.  And what preparation had I done?  Zero, zilch, nada, nic, nishto, nichego, rien, ingenting...  (If anyone has any other languages to kick in, I'll happily inflate my list.)

So I rush home from this morning's grocery-store antics, flip open my computer, rummage around trying to find the right files full of half-baked Polish clitic data.  I've migrated computers since I collected the data, and I couldn't remember where it ended up, so it took an extra couple of minutes.  I had enough time to print off two copies of the data, eat my lunch, and read a handful of today's blog posts before I had to hop on my bike and head to campus.

And was it worth it?  So very, utterly, completely worth it!

Yup, I'm a geek.  Possibly the queen of geekdom.  Why? you ask.  Well, because I'm taking an incredibly complicated problem (the one that guides almost everything I write anymore**) and trying to work it into an up-and-coming new alternative framework.  And you know what?  It might not work.  And that's friggin' cool, because it means that I get to adapt the system.  Oh, yeah!

On the other hand, it means that I need to be WAY more organized with my life and my time.  No more three-day stints of laying on my couch for eight-hour stretches and trying to increase the sexual tension between my characters.  Nope.

*sigh*


The Priorities List: (the order is subject to change without notice)

1) Study for the class I'm actually taking right now!

2) Work.  Yeah, I have a job.  I usually forget about it since it's relatively freelance and my boss is infinitely more disorganized than I am (meaning, he doesn't check up on my progress).

3) Friggin' awesome linguistics research.

4) Writing.


I hate that writing comes at the end of my list, but surely it must at the moment.  We'll see how well that sticks, but I need to try for a little while.  Blogging should probably also come in as #5, but... well... a girl needs her cyberfolk, right?  Here goes nothing...


**...that's not fiction. Although it might be fiction.  I'm not sure.  Most graduate studies that abstract past the point of sanity could (should?) be considered fiction.  But that's probably a topic for another blog post.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Broken

*sigh*

What was supposed to be a relaxing weekend—with a camping trip and a bridal shower—wasn't.  Actually, the bridal shower was fine (minus one of those people who just keep talking and you try to walk away but they follow you to keep talking to you...  a pat-yourself-on-the-head, Seinfeld kind of moment).  And the camping was fine, too.  It was me that wasn't fine.

I am a chronic migraine sufferer.  In December I finally went off my daily, preventative medication that I had been taking for four years.  That was a huge breakthrough, to not need that anymore.  And, usually, I don't.  Since December, I've now taken three trips of note—one to a conference, one to visit family, and one camping.  And each trip has found me gripped by migraines almost every day.  Luckily, I have my Wünderdroge (sumatriptan to the rescue!), so normally this isn't much of a problem.  Get migraine, pop pill, stir, wait one hour, and serve up to social obligations.  No problem.  It does make me as loopy as a slinky, but hey, I'm not in pain.

So, Saturday?  No problem.  I drove with my migraine (it wasn't too intense yet) to the bridal shower (1hr 30m), and took it when I got close enough that the loopy after-effects wouldn't inhibit my driving.  Twenty minutes in to shower, and migraine was gone.  No one ever had to know.

Sunday?  Uh oh.  The pill I took yesterday was my last one.  And it's a long weekend.  And the pharmacy with my scrip isn't open on Monday...

*sigh*

So, I spent most of Sunday handling a slowly growing migraine, only tempered by over-the-counter baby meds.  I spent most of Monday lying on my couch with an ice pack on my head (it really doesn't do much, but it makes me feel like I'm doing something proactive).  Usually my migraines can last up to three days, so I was planning a trip to my walk-in clinic to ask for the insta-shot this morning.

The other thing about my migraines: if I don't move much, they're not quite so bad.  Bending over, shaking my head, walking can all cause spikes of pain.  But sitting on the couch or lying in bed make it "better".

So, grouchy?  Yes, I was pretty grouchy.  And so not only was my head kind of broken, but I also broke my pledge from Friday:  I opened Word.  It was easier to focus on the glowing screen than on the pages of the book, and I had had a few ideas over my two computer-free days.  Fifteen pages later, I have no idea if it's decent, and I don't care.  Sometimes you have to do things to help your soul, and I needed Anabelle and Marcus in my time of grouchy pain.

This morning, I got up later than expected, and my wonderful husband drove me the pharmacy.  The migraine wasn't as bad as the past two days, so I didn't think the shot was necessary.  I picked up my scrip and took a pill before I even left the place.  Then I went to class.  I couldn't concentrate, almost fell asleep, couldn't remember vocab in Macedonian that is IDENTICAL!!! to it's Russian AND Polish counterparts (which means I have absolutely no excuse whatsoever for not knowing it).  And so I went home early and slept a few more hours.  And then spent some more time with A&M.

It's a fun scene, and there's a ridiculous amount of sexual tension.  Who wouldn't want to work on it?

Starting tomorrow, though, I'm going back to my pledge.  I will close Word.  I will not write about A or M.  I will read.  I will clear my mind for creativity.  And, to add to my pledge, I will study my Macedonian vocabulary.  I pledge this in the name of all the spirits who guide... well, not me, but Anabelle and Marcus.  They're the ones who need convincing, anyway, right?

But feel free to remind me.  I might need it.
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