Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Deathly Hallows

I finished HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS yesterday. Don't worry, I won't put anything in this post that will spoil the book for you if you haven't read it yet.

Truman Capote once said:

"The test of whether or not a writer has divined the natural shape of his story is just this: after reading it, can you imagine it differently, or does it silence your imagination and seem to you absolute and final."

In this case, J.K. Rowling silenced my imagination, satisfied my heart, and the Harry Potter series does seem to me to be absolute and final.

Is it too soon to yearn for another series out of her?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Lock It Up

So, as most of you know, Malystryx (aka bluedragoon25) is moving into the spare room on the first floor of our home. Yesterday, he brought over his extensive collection of swords and medieval weaponry.

Since I have three boys, we all decided it was in our best interests to lock the weapons up as none of us are thrilled at the prospect of dealing with severed limbs, gashed heads, or a tail-less cat.

Mal decided to place the weapons on the top shelf of his clost and buy a latch for the doors. This seemed like a good plan to us. My hubby and Mal took a trip to Lowe's and came home with a latch that required both pushing in a button and sliding at the same time to open it.


The closet in Mal's room has two doors that pull open. My hubby grabbed his drill and the latch and went to work.

For the rest of this story to make any sense, you need to know that my hubby was having the kind of day only Murphy can deliver. He has two cake orders to fill this week, one of which is an entry for the fair and is an incredibly difficult cake to make. (A bride and groom - each about 1 1/2 ft. tall - dancing) Earlier in the afternoon, my hubby had two round cakes baking and the middle of one just collapsed. It was like he'd somehow managed to bake an Angel Food Cake without using the proper pan.

He was not happy.

To make matters worse, as he was working to whip up another batch of cake batter to re-bake the collapsed cake, he dropped an entire bag of cake mix all over the floor. The only one happy about that turn of events was the dog.

Now, with the new cake in the oven, my hubby was attacking the relatively simple task of drilling screws into the closet door.

The screws refused to go.

They popped out, flew in all directions, blended into the carpet and required impaling your foot on them to find them again.

After the fifth or sixth time a screw refused to cooperate, my hubby's face was an alarming shade of red and Mal and I were desperately avoiding eye contact with each other.

He fought and wrestled with that latch for over fifteen minutes before finally bullying every reluctant screw into place. The latch was on. He slid it closed and smiled in satisfaction as it locked firmly into place.

Mal's weapons were safe.

My boys were safe.

My hubby felt triumph that something had finally gone right.

He grabbed the closet doors and pulled them, just to be sure.

They swung open. Completely.

With both doors opening outward, the latch worked as well as, say, cotton candy.

Mal and I lost it. We laughed til we cried. My hubby just laid down his drill and walked away. (He was able to laugh later - after the second cake came out perfect and he could see his day wasn't a total disaster.)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

New Favorite Quotes!

I love quotes. I have a huge book full of quotes. Most of my favorites are serious stuff.

However, I have three new favorites, recently acquired.

One, from Dragonheart: "She's a - a - a Wandering Idiot!"

The second, from Eddie Izzard's riff on the Death Star Canteen where Darth Vader announces: "Death by Tray it shall be!"

The last, acquired today, from Plankton (the evil nemesis on SpongeBob): "This is a job for an imbecile!"

Shouldn't be too hard to work those into everyday conversations.

I Know What You Ate Last Summer

My father, as regular blog readers now know, is both the Master Packer and the Mechanical One in our family. He can fit five pair of shoes, twelve sweaters, a crystal vase, nine books, seventeen lemons, and a stuffed monkey into a duffle bag. He can repair anything, fix anything, and build anything with less to work with than MacGuyver.

These skills, however, do not translate to gardening.

One summer, when I was going into seventh grade and we lived in a little house on Tokay Avenue in a sunny little town in California where gardens thrived with very little effort, my father decided that we too needed a garden.

This was not true.

My grandparents lived within walking distance in the same mint green house surrounded by a lush yard where you could choose to have fresh lemons, oranges, tomatoes, grapes, berries, plums, apricots, peaches, pomegranates, tangerines, almonds...you get the picture.

There was no need for a garden of our own but my father, the Enthusiastic Gardener, was determined.

Because the Enthusiastic Gardener is also the Lover of All Vegetables, whether they rightly deserve affection or not (he is one of five people on planet Earth who love Brussel Sprouts, Beets and Lima Beans), our garden was slated for vegetables.

Two zuchinni plants and five tomato plants, to be precise. Why one family needed five types of tomatoes is still under debate.

One of the Enthusiastic Gardener's best qualities is his determination that if he is going to do something, he will jolly well do it right. In this case, that meant that he carefully calculated the angle of the sun and chose the optimum planting spot (just across from the back door which, in the end, was not the wisest choice), set up a watering schedule, and purchased the best plant food on the market.

One of the Enthusiastic Gardener's most interesting qualities is his belief that the directions to any given product are open to interpretation. Applied to mechanically-oriented projects, this is usually a successful approach for him. Applied to plant food, this is disastrous.

The bag of food specifically stated that each plant was to receive a very small amount of the food, say one tablespoon. The Enthusiastic Gardener studied the small granules of plant food and decided that the manufacturers were seriously over-estimating their product's effectiveness.

He doubled the amount.

Days later, we had a veritable jungle of zucchini and tomato plants growing against our back fence, just two feet from the back door. The Enthusiastic Gardener was elated and proud. He'd done it. He'd created a vegetable garden he could be proud of.

One morning, a couple weeks after the plants first appeared, disaster struck.

We couldn't open the back door.

Large, leafy zucchini plants had surged across the sidewalk in the dead of night and pressed greedy, prickly leaves and stalks against the door. Zucchini were everywhere. Everywhere.

The tomatos were nearly as bad, chugging up the fence at a lightning pace, bursting with five types of tomatos, all of them nearly ripe enough to eat.

The Enthusiastic Gardener considered the problem. He studied the angles. He felt the thickness of the plants. He picked any zucchini blooming next to the back door and then he viciously cleared the sidewalk of any shred of greenery.

With his lawnmower.

It may be the first time in gardening history that zucchini plants were pruned with a lawnmower.

Our troubles were far from over. The plants refused to stop producing vegetables. They refused to stop hugging the back door. The tomatos kept making a break for it over the fence and into the alley behind our house. The lawnmower blade was wearing thin.

We harvested vegetables every few days; huge brown grocery sacks full of vegetables. We carted them throughout our street, shoving them at hapless neighbors too slow to get inside and lock up their children when they saw us coming. We packed bags into our car when we went to church and pounced on anyone with the misfortune to park near us.

But worse, worse, were the meals we ourselves ate. We've always been a family who ate vegetables with every dinner but now we were a family who ate vegetables in ways nature never intended. Despite the bags we gave away, we were stuck with piles of zucchini and tomatoes. My mother had to do something because, as I've mentioned before, she comes from strong Swedish stock and we don't waste anything.

She made zucchini lasagne. Not my favorite but doable. Sundried tomatoes. I can handle those. Salads, soups, pastas. All doable. But then, she made the now infamous zucchini pancakes.

If you are busy thinking that you love zucchini bread so pancakes must not be too bad, take a moment to slap yourself.

These were nothing like zucchini bread, which I also love. (and which, in retrospect, would have been an excellent use of the extra zucchini. Nobody runs from you when you are trying to give them zucchini bread.) These were made from regular pancake batter with the unwelcome addition of shredded zucchini. Shredded, still slightly crunchy zucchini and pancake batter do not go together. Ever.

Even my father, who will eat just about anything, didn't like them.

My father still gardens (although it was years before any of us could stand the thought of eating zucchini) but now he recognizes that while he is the Master Packer and the Mechanical One, when it comes to gardening, he is as fallible as the rest of us.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Update on Malystryx

For those of you following the blog, you know that Malystryx is a strong presence on this blog - he comments often, his blog is linked to mine, and he is featured in more than a few posts.

He has changed his online identity to bluedragoon25. Midlife crisis? Hiding from the FBI? Running from the IRS? No one really knows. =)

The point is, now when you see a comment from bluedragoon25, you'll know it's Malystryx and to avoid confusion (and because I still think of him this way), I'll still call him Mal in my posts.

Anyone have the FBI's hotline??

Want Some Spit With Those Fries?

Malystryx and I were discussing pet peeves that come along with the job of waiting on people and we thought we'd put up posts on our blogs with the items that top our "shall I spit in your food for you?" list:

First, I will make it clear that no matter how much you might tick me off, I have never nor will I ever spit in, drop on the floor then serve, or otherwise make someone's food unsafe to eat. I have my integrity even when faced with a table full of mannerless idiots who, if there was any kind of justice in the food industry, would snort pinto beans down their windpipe and hack up a vital organ or two every five minutes.

I will also make it clear that I AM IN THE MINORITY. There are many servers out there who wouldn't think twice about planting a little surprise in your food if you make them mad. I am always amazed at those who treat poorly the one person with the power to wipe your steak across a toilet seat before serving it to you.

Top Ten Pet Peeves:

1. Do not interrupt me when I'm greeting you. I can't tell you how many times I've walked up to a table and said (with my customary cheerfulness), "Hi, I'm C.J. How are ya'all -" only to be interrupted with a brusque "Sweet tea!"

Putting aside the obvious breach in good manners that is "interrupting", what you've just told me is "You are not a person. You are beneath me, a pack mule, and I don't have to give you even the basic common courtesy of a polite greeting before demanding my tea."

I consider it the height of self-restraint that I don't spike your tea with pepper vinegar or tabasco. Others will.

2. Do not tell me how to do my job. Ever. If you think I've somehow taken 30 seconds too long to return with the Coke refill I promised you and that your opinion somehow entitles you to lecture me on the art of waiting on tables, you are an arrogant horse's patoot. I don't know what you do for a living but I bet anything that there are outside factors that affect how quickly and efficiently you deliver and you certainly wouldn't appreciate a customer with no expertise telling you how to do it just a little bit better.

Chances are I had to answer a question from a new server, fill up the ice bin to make your Coke in the first place, go to the dish room to get a new glass for you, mop up a spill before someone broke their neck, or take a few extra seconds to grab the three other things the table next to you needed.

Of course, I could be slow getting back to you because you kept interrupting me...

3. Do not rant and rave at me about items on the menu. I understand that you wish the gravy didn't contain mushrooms or that you could get your steak done just like Aunt Gertrude used to make but seriously, I don't care. What do you expect me to do about it? The menu is what it is. Order something else.

4. When I arrive with your food, move anything you need to out of the way, QUICKLY, so I can set it down. I don't appreciate standing at your table, balancing a tray with 30 pounds of dishes and food, and blistering my fingers (which I've done too many times to count now) on your very hot plate while you either ignore me to finish a conversation or dither about which way to move your purse. Tonight I announced to a particularly difficult table that I could always just take their food back to the kitchen since they didn't seem to want it.

That got them moving.

5. Don't walk in the door five minutes before closing and stay for an hour and half. I realize that you are enjoying your evening out or the end of your workday or whatever and that you probably have lots to talk about with your dining partner. However, if you stay for an extra hour and a half, the entire restaurant staff stays too. I'm tired. I've put in a long shift on my feet. I want to go home. We all want to go home.

If you do stay late, make up for it with a very generous tip. Show me that you appreciate all the extra time you took from me. Do that and the next time you show up at five til close, I'll roll out the red carpet for you.

6. Don't leave your table looking like a pack of wild dogs ate there. I don't mind clearing your dirty dishes and wiping down the table and seats. That's my job. I DO mind picking up silverware, napkins, bread, sugar packets and whatever else you chose to drop to the floor and then not pick up again. Do you act like that at your own dinner table? It's completely disrespectful.

I especially hate when families come in and let their children trash the place. I can say this because I have three boys who are just as high energy as any boy out there and they are trained to be respectful when we go out to eat. They do not yell or scream or throw things and if they drop something, they promptly pick it up. I don't expect anyone else to clean up after my children or myself. I am constantly shocked at how many people don't share that same standard.

7. Do not wave your glass in the air when you need a refill. Not only is this disrespectful toward me (simply making eye contact will work just fine) but you look remarkably ridiculous in a condescending sort of way. I am an excellent waitress. My tables never lack for great service. If your drink is empty one of two things have happened: One - I've just been double or triple sat and am running around trying to meet the immediate needs of several new groups of diners or Two - you are excessively thirsty and have drained your glass in the time it took me to walk away from the table after your last refill.

8. Never take plates off the tray I'm carrying. This is just flat out stupid on your part. I have the tray balanced according to the weight I'm planning on removing next. Throwing that whole equation off by reaching up and grabbing your food three seconds faster than I could set it down for you will cause the tray to tip and everyone's food to hit the floor. If karma works, of course, the entire contents would end up on you.

9. Do not make up pet names for me. I am not Sweet Cheeks, Honey, or Babycakes. I am C.J. Two letters you've been able to pronounce since kindergarden. I don't call you Moron. You don't call me Darling.

10. Don't touch me. Period. Do not tug on my apron to get my attention while I'm at another table. You're liable to get your hand slapped. Do not grab my arm while talking to me. I have boundaries that deserve respect. And if you want to escape the combined wrath and creative vengeance of every server in the building, don't ever pat me on the behind as I walk past. I'm liable to "accidentally" smack you upside the head with a loaded tray on my next pass through the dining room and so is everybody I work with.

That's My Top Ten List for what to avoid. If you want to make your server love waiting on you, be respectful. Treat them like the smart, talented person they are. Understand when the restaurant gets crazy and you send me back and forth to the kitchen five times in a row for things you forgot to ask for, that my response time might lengthen as I have others asking things of me too.

And most of all, TIP WELL. I make $2.13 an hour. I get your drinks, your refills, your salads, your extra this and that, your bread before your meal, I lift and carry and tote and burn myself, I smile as your children scream in my ear, I make multiple trips for things you've forgotten, I never slow down, I never sit down, I do everything you ask. Start your tips at 20% for basic service and work up from there. Don't make me cry because I gave you excellent service and all you could bother to part with is $2.

Well, there it is. I'm willing to bet (not that Mal will be betting anything against me for a long, long time...the recently inflicted Poker to the Death wound still festers...) that his list will be different.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Okay, I'm going to set the record straight (And if you don't know what I'm talking about on these posts...scroll down and read. It will all make sense.)

First, I went to work (and to a job interview with my District Manager) tipsy. This was not my fault. See below to read about the cake incident.

Results of tipsy first hour at work:

1.Carried off the interview well but couldn't figure out what to do with my hands. Finally sat on them. It seemed the best decision at the time.

2. Ran smack into a doorjamb. I saw it coming. I knew I was going to hit it. But the message to "STOP" just wouldn't translate from my brain to my body and I hit it, mid-sentence.

3. I provided an endless opportunity for my co-workers to be highly entertained with the idea that the "never-even-goes-to-a-bar" C.J. was tipsy at 4 pm. I believe there was a betting pool on whether I would have a hang-over. I didn't.

Okay, next statistic. Malystryx takes exception to my claim that our score is Mal - 2, C.J. 2 1/2 because a half game of checkers shouldn't count as a victory.

I disagree but will meet him halfway (I bet he's shocked to hear that). Tonight, we played half a game of checkers waiting for the manager to finish counting the money and putting it in the safe. We couldn't finish our game but Mal is extremely confident that he had it all set up for me to lose in spectacular fashion.

I'm going to give him that. 1/2 game. That makes us even. At least until the next showdown.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


For those of you new to the blog, DYING TO REMEMBER is my first completed novel and has been moving (slowly) through the process of being accepted/signed by Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner Books).

Today I received an email from the editor who initially requested my manuscript and she said she still didn't have an answer for me but in the meantime, she wanted to help me find an agent. She included four names of agents she has already spoken to on my behalf and all of them are looking for my manuscript in the mail.

To say that I am flattered would be an understatement. This kind of help with networking is invaluable in the publishing business and I would be an idiot not to thank her profusely and take her up on the help!

Off to add "send major print order to Kinko's" to tomorrow's to do list.

He Really Is Trying To Kill Me

You'll recall that earlier this summer, I suspected my hubby of trying to kill me with cake. Cake on the counter tops. Cake bursting out of my freezer. Cake everywhere you turn.

So much cake (he's decorated 5 cakes in a month and that's a LOT of extra cake) that I'm over it. I can walk through the kitchen 9 times out of 10 and totally ignore any available cake. Frankly, if I never smell a cake baking again (not likely since he has 3 orders to fill in the next 2 weeks), it will be too soon.

He can't kill me with spare cake.

He's changed tactics.

For our son's birthday this past weekend, my hubby made a huge cake with a street, skyscrapers, a beach, flaming helicoptors and car wrecks, and a giant Godzilla emerging from the ocean. My 8 year old is fascinated by the old Godzilla films and this is the cake he wanted.

To give Godzilla that gorgeous green shine, my hubby used a spray paint technique that requires the metallic paint powder to be mixed with EverClear 100 proof alchohol.

For those of you not up on your hard liquors, that means this stuff packs a punch.

He sprayed Godzilla, finished the cake, and we celebrated our son's b-day at the pool where the cake sat in the sun for a few hours. No problem right? Wrong.

Today, after lunch, I snagged a piece of leftover cake. Most of the cake is gone (thank you Malystryx) so we've come to the area of cake that was beneath the Godzilla (which, incidentally, was sculpted out of rice krispies and chocolate).

I took some cake. Ate a bite. Cringed a bit and wondered why it tasted - strange. Took another bite. Same funny after taste. Not to be discouraged, I took a third bite and this time, a distinctly chemical taste nearly caused me to spit out the cake. Since that would be a hideous waste of cake, I managed to chew and swallow before informing my hubby that something was definitely wrong with the cake.

For the rest of this story to make sense, you might want to do a quick search for my "Lemonade?" post. You'll remember that I have NO TOLERANCE for alchohol. None.

3 sips of wine gives me a buzz. One swallow of a margarita and I'm completely out of it for 45 minutes.

We investigated the cake and discovered the reason for the awful taste. EverClear 100 proof alchohol, warmed by the sun, had run off of Godzilla and soaked into the cake. And by soaked, I mean bloody well soaked. This cake is now a Russian's dream.

And I am, most unfortunately, tipsy.

It's 2:12. I have a job interview with my District Manager in just over an hour. I'm lightheaded. My tongue feels slightly too thick to properly manage most of the letters in our alphabet. I find inappropriate things hilarious.

Okay, strike that last one. I always find inappropriate things hilarious.

Should be an interesting day. =)

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Score: Malystryx - 2, C.J. - 2 1/2

And won't Malystryx be a happy camper when he reads that post title. =)

As you know, Malystryx and I are very competitive and we've lately taken that into the arena of games. As you'll recall, Mal beat me at chess and checkers, though both were close calls. I beat him soundly at Risk and, on our first checkers match, caused him to forfeit the game by throwing his checkers to the floor (poor little kamikazes).

By my count, that had us at Malystryx - 2, Me - 1 1/2 (you can't really count a forfeit as a true victory, after all).

Last night, we decided to play poker, Texas Hold 'Em style. My hubby is the expert at Texas Hold 'Em so we enlisted his help to refresh our gaming skills. I've only played once before (and beat my hubby, though we don't speak of it. Ever.) and Mal hadn't played in years.

My hubby played with us for an hour until he called it quits to go to bed (getting up at 3 a.m. for work will do that to you). When he left, he slid his entire pile of chips over to Malystryx.

Usually, that would be grounds for some devastating revenge on my part. After all, he's Mal's friend but he's my hubby.

This time, however, in pity for the tiny stack of chips in front of Mal, I didn't protest. This chip transfer left Mal with about two more stacks than I had. My hubby said good night and went upstairs and our true natures came roaring out.

We finished the entire poker match in one hand.

Mal made a strong opening bet, which I, of course, immediately countered. Going in to the turn card, I already had two pair and Mal was betting like a maniac. Not to be outdone (and because I was pretty sure he was only betting so strongly to try intimidating me into folding - as if.), I matched every bet he made. There is no surer way of goading Mal into foolishness than to meet every challenge he throws out as if it's nothing. When the river card was played, I was sitting at two pair and there was NO WAY I was going to let Mal knock me out of the game on what I was pretty sure was a bluff.

He went all in. I followed. Both of us had a wild recklessness gleaming from our eyes. It was poker to the death, in place of checkers. We showed our hands.

Mal had one pair.

I had two.

I won.

I didn't rub it in. Much.

We agreed that it would be sheer folly for the two of us to ever play poker against each other again without the civilizing buffer of my hubby to keep us in check. My only regret is that we weren't using real money. =)

Today's To Do List


1. Collect all dirty laundry, sort, and wash.

2. Carefully remove all spare change, silly putty, dead beetles, legos, and wrappers from the pack of gum all boys swore they never touched from all pockets.

3. Go back through boys' rooms and collect another entire load of dirty clothes from under the beds, behind the dressers, on top of the stereo, and hanging from the ceiling fan.

4. Discipline mind to refuse to consider the origins of most of the stains found in the laundry.

5. Clean the kitchen - load dishwasher, wash counters, wash pots and pans.

6. Spend 3 pointless minutes wondering how peanutbutter could possibly be smeared across the blinds, the wall, and the baseboard.

7. Spend another 3 minutes being accutely thankful the brown substance on the blinds, the wall, and the baseboard really is peanutbutter.

8. Finish kitchen just in time for every child to wander in bearing another three dishes out of their rooms.

9. Realize that over half of those will need to be soaked in some sort of acid to break through whatever substance boys manage to create on their plates.

10. Don hazmet suit.

11. Clean boys' bathroom.

12. Wonder for the 50,000th time why in the world boys can't be bothered with the simple mechanics of flushing.

13. Realize that at this point, the mechanics of flushing are no longer simple.

14. Refuse to contemplate the suspicious substance on the wall beside the tolet paper.

15. Refuse to contemplate any suspicious substance in the entire bathroom. Period.

16. Disinfect every toothbrush.

17. Disinfect every sink.

18. Disinfect every inch.

19. Discover additional load of laundry in the bathtub. Refuse to wonder why dirty clothing is kept in a bathtub.

20. Have more cake just to keep sanity.

21. Realize that half the day is gone.

22. Decide housework dues has been more than paid.

23. Write two songs and scrap an entire chapter of Alexa.

24. Wish for someone taller than four feet to talk to.

25. Decide in present mood, conversation might be asking a tad much.

26. Plan to spend the rest of Monday writing, taking kiddos to the pool, and studiously ignoring the ironing.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

From The Mouths Of Babes

Having a six year old of my own, I can appreciate this list! A teacher gave her kids the first half of a well-known proverb and asked them to put an ending that made sense to them.

This is what she got:

1. Don't change horses until they stop running.
2. Strike while the bug is close.
3. It's always darkest before Daylight Saving Time.
4. Never underestimate the power of termites.
5. You can lead a horse to water but How?
6. Don't bite the hand that looks dirty.
7. No news is impossible.
8. A miss is as good as a Mr.
9. You can't teach an old dog new Math.
10. If you lie down with dogs, you'll stink in the morning.
11. Love all, trust Me.
12. The pen is mightier than the pigs.
13. An idle mind is the best way to relax.
14. Where there's smoke there's pollution.
15. Happy the bride who gets all the presents.
16. A penny saved is not much.
17. Two's company, three's the Musketeers.
18. Don't put off till tomorrow what you put on to go to bed.
19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and You have to blow your nose.
20. There are none so blind as Stevie Wonder.
21. Children should be seen and not spanked or grounded.
22. If at first you don't succeed get new batteries.
23. You get out of something only what you See in the picture on the box.
24. When the blind lead the blind get out of the way.
25. A bird in the hand is going to poop on you.
26. Better late than Pregnant.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's - Where?

This morning, my Mom went shopping at Costco. My Mom is the Queen of Coupons - she cuts, sorts, and plans her trip through the store like a general planning a battle.

As we mentioned before, my Swedish genes are diluted (unlike my mother's pureblood stock) and as a result, I get excited over coupons and then forget them at home.

So, the Queen of Coupons entered Costco and began a seek and snatch mission. Granola. Check. Ridiculously large jar of peanut butter. Check. Toilet bowl cleaner.

Not there.

She searched up and down the cleaning products aisle, drifted into the toilet paper aisle and even checked near the napkins, just in case.

Not there.

Frustrated, she asked an employee to direct her to the toilet bowl cleaner. He smiled and said, "It's in the produce section."

Well of course it is. Where else would it be? Thinking that Costco had completely lost their minds, my mom opened her mouth to tell him what she thought of this when the employee continued,

"It's in the produce section right beside the beer."

Never mind the oddity of finding these two items surrounded by fruits and veggies.

Toilet bowl cleaner and beer - I can't think of two items that go together better.

WARNING: Laughter Not Always The Best Medicine

I love to laugh. I don't do little giggles or quiet chuckles or anything like that. When I laugh, I laugh. I just let loose. I often laugh so hard, I cry.

That's not a problem. I learned early on to wear water-proof mascara.

However, I've learned other things while laughing hysterically. Here are just a few:

1. Laughing on a full bladder is risky, at best. It's better to frequently visit the restroom, just in case. One never knows when the urge to double-over with laughter will produce more than just tears.

2. Laughing while carrying a heavy tray of plates full of hot food is not advisable. For one, it makes it very difficult to maintain one's balance properly. For another, restaurant guests do not look kindly upon a waitress walking by herself and laughing hysterically. Makes them wonder who spiked the sweet tea.

3. Laughing while drinking a carbonated beverage can be disastrous. One has only three choices:

A. Choke it down and hope your lungs can clear themselves of Diet Coke before you cough one of your vital organs right out of your mouth.

B. Abort your attempt to swallow and send the whole fizzy mouthful out your nostrils. This has several disadvantages - namely pain and a significant loss of social standing but on the plus side, it does a remarkable job of clearing the sinuses.

C. Spew the whole mouthful in whichever direction you happen to be facing. This is the least painful option, of course, but tends to ruin electronics and irritate those standing in front of you.

4. Laughing loudly while in a quiet setting, like church or a wedding or your neighbor Milly's daughter's first piano recital, is difficult to explain. One must act quickly to change the laughter into something more plausible for the occasion. Hiding your face and hoping others think you are sobbing uncontrollably works well in weddings and sometimes church but is inadvisable for a piano recital (unless you are my father who really would sob uncontrollably at a butchering of Beethoven). For those moments when sobbing would not excuse you, you must whip out a sudden onset of asthma, a flare up of tuberculosis, or gesture frantically to those around you that you are in need of the Heimlich Maneuver. And for heaven's sake, pray that your bladder is already empty.

5. Laughing uncontrollably when no one else knows what is funny is one of my most common "laughter related faux pas". Not that I really care. I can be amused by something in my own head enough to laugh til I cry. No outside assistance needed. My true friends will begin to laugh with me (because laughter is just as contagious as leprosy or finding yourself oddly fascinated by the train wreck that is Paris Hilton) and others will shake their heads and say that they always knew I was crazy.

6. Finally - a lesson I just learned today thanks to Malystryx - laughing while chewing a mouthful of chicken is NOT ADVISABLE. One has the same three choices that one has when faced with a mouthful of carbonated beverage but with important distinctions.

For one, your lungs cannot discharge a mouthful of chicken with the same painful ease as a beverage. Also, spitting a mouthful of food out takes just seconds longer to accomplish than spitting out a beverage and those seconds make all the difference between expelling and snorting. Snorting chicken is about the most painful thing I've ever done while laughing and I do not recommend it.

Off to empty my bladder again, just in case.

Sappy Hallmark Warning!

Okay, this is a fairly sappy poem, I'm sure. It doesn't have any of the gothic undertones of most of the poetry I write but the theme just didn't call for it (and it's good practice to write happy, happy, joy, joy stuff now and then, right?) Anyway, see the post beneath this one to find my source of inspiration.


Beneath bright smiles and laughter pure
A void lingered and beckoned here
A quiet sense of loss and grief
That spoke to me from underneath

Every person who saw me and said “how strong”
I wanted to shout right back “how wrong”
Every person who said, “she’s got it together”
Then ran to hide from my stormy weather

I held them up to my inner space
Searched for truth written on their face
And every one of them was wrong
Not one of them really did belong

I needed someone true and real
Someone willing to go deeper still
Someone to love me when I was easy to take
But who loved me more when I threatened to break

Someone to listen with more than their ears
To delight in my laughter but stay through my tears
Someone to find more than I thought I could give
Someone to cherish and freely forgive

Someone uniquely shaped just for me
My kindred spirit, my foe’s enemy
My brave defender, with love pure and true
My empty space was waiting for you.

Words Fail (well, sort of...)

WandererInGray posted something on her LJ today that got me thinking about the people in my life who make a significant impact on me.

It's true that every person who has any sort of relationship with me has changed my life in some way - added something to make my life richer and more complete.

If you are reading this and you know me personally (or know me online like my totally kicking critique partner, KB), then you should know you're a valuable part of my life and you bring something unique to me that only you could bring.

I can't mention everyone here. I have a lot of friends.(and what a blessing that is!) Instead, I started thinking about that deeper hole in our spirits that basic friendship never touches and how, since I moved to Tennessee, my hole has been filled.

There is an emptiness, a vague sense of loss inside of us when we are known by many but truly, unconditionally understood and loved by none. True friendship takes on the shine of kindred spirits, entwined hearts, and is the rarest find of all.

I have true friendship and love, first and foremost, from my amazing husband. He's added balance, leadership, protection, fun, laughter, and love to my life. He's my favorite conversationlist, my biggest fan, my strongest challenge (and I do love a challenge) and my complete partner in all I do.

We are best friends.

Even though we are best friends, I longed for more. I longed for friends who would go beyond the surface, beyond what we show to the outside world, and dig for what was underneath - unflinching and delighting in what they found. I have that now in Malystryx and his fiancee Kelly. KB's post made me wonder if I'd ever told them what they've brought to my life and how grateful I am for it.

In Kelly, I have a sister of the heart with an incredibly compassionate, gentle spirit. She is open, trusting, loyal, and when she loves someone, she does it 100% or not at all. She's added an element of comfort and gentleness to my life. I feel joy whenever I see her. She makes me smile without saying a word and she believes in me even when I struggle to believe in myself.

In Malystryx, I have a kindred spirit (we share some warped brain waves) who respects me, challenges me, and protects me fiercely. We share interests, quirks, competitivness, and we sharpen each other while looking out for each other. He's added all of the above plus rekindled my love of music and sci fi. I always wanted a brother and he is mine.

With my hubby, Kelly, and Mal, I feel complete. There are others who are on that deeper level with me as well and I don't mean to leave them out (Leigh, Shelley, Tricia, and Sandy come to mind), I just have constant contact with these three and I wanted to publicly say what they mean to me.

Together, they give me balance, they give me the freedom to be vulnerable, they appreciate my strengths, they support my creativity, they defend me, they can finish my sentences, they make me laugh until I cry (or snort chicken which is just as painful as it sounds), they let me into their hearts completely, and with them I am always confident that no matter what, I am completely loved.

There are no words (and this from the Queen of Loquaciousness - Mal's favorite word) for what this means to me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Argh! My Eyes!

I work with a highschool kid whom we'll call, for lack of any other realistic images coming to mind, Breezy.

You'll soon know why.

Last night, while observing the infamous Checkers to the Death match between Malystryx and myself, Breezy commented that a friend of his had been "flapping around without any pants" that evening.

Well, eww. Thanks for that enjoyable mental nightmare. I don't wish to imagine anyone "flapping", with or without clothes. I really, really don't. (And as I've already explained my overactive imagination to you, you'll realize that I was quite hung up on the whole "flapping" visual for the rest of the night.)

Tonight, Breezy explained that yesterday he went swimming with 7 of his friends at one of his friend's houses.

Sounds like fun, I said.

He agreed it had been fun. Then he explained that immediately following swimming, all 8 of them decided to run through the streets of our city, from one friend's house to another's, stark naked.

Flapping, indeed.

Now I had 8 flapping 16 year olds jogging inside my head. I swear there isn't enough medication in my cabinet to take care of that.

While I was trying to perform a brisk mental anti-nightmarish-image scrub, Malystryx was laying into our friend. Something about being arrested for indecent exposure.

I think if his parents ever found out, he'd be lucky to have anything left to "flap".

My mental image scrub completed, I decided to interview Breezy, hoping to discover the thought process behind this stunt. (I know, I know - assuming a 16 year old put a lot of thought into streaking is a tad naive on my part.)

Here's the gist:

ME: So, I'm curious. Why did you decide to streak from one friend's house to another?

BREEZY: Well, we were swimming.

ME: *Is this supposed to constitute an answer?* Okay, you were swimming. Were you wearing suits?

BREEZY: Yes *spoken in a tone that clearly said I was silly for even asking. My mistake.*

ME: Sooo, why did you streak to the other house?

BREEZY: We wanted ice cream.

ME: *checks over conversation to see if I'm missing something obvious - nope. Non-sequitor number 2.* You wanted ice cream?

BREEZY: Yes. And there was ice cream at this other guy's house.

ME: Which explains why you went but not why you went naked.


ME: You decided to take off your swim suits and run several blocks to someone else's house because there was ice cream?

BREEZY: Well, we had to dry.

ME: *feeling somewhat foolish for not realizing the severe towel shortage afflicting the Nashville area thus forcing young men to literally dry themselves in the wind* Did anyone see you?

BREEZY: Oh, yes.

ME: And you were fine with that?

BREEZY: I guess.

ME: I guess? I think I'd be pretty sure of that before I decided to prance around wearing only what God gave me.

BREEZY: Some people honked.

ME: Hmm. *thinks it highly likely the honking was more a reflexive spasm as drivers caught a flash of 8 strikingly white boys "flapping" along naked but wisely keeps this observation to myself.*

ME: So, where were your clothes?

BREEZY: I left them in my friend's car. But I kept my boxer shorts with me, just in case.

ME: Yes, I can see the advantage of facing a police officer - who's just seen everything you've got to offer - wearing nothing but boxers. You won't have your dignity back but maybe just a scrap is all you really need.

BREEZY: Like 4 of the guys are football players and they ran the whole way, uphill. I didn't think I was going to make it. I needed to stop and walk.

ME: Well, there's the rub, isn't it? You couldn't stop. If you're with the whole group, it's a prank. A stupid stunt. If you're by yourself, you are just a crazy naked person with a sizeable anti-psychotic prescription in your very near future.

BREEZY: Girls never streak.

ME: No. *of course we don't. We have better sense than to do anything where "flapping" is a requirement.*

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some more mental scrubbing to do.

It's All Fun & Games -

Checkers: (noun) a game whose object is to annihilate one's opponent using stealth, cunning, manipulation, bullying, and mind games.

synonym: see Open Warfare.

I rarely play games against Malystryx. The few times we've played card games with family and friends, we were a team and we were invincible. We are both incredibly competitive (there is no surrender, no backing off, no mercy), we are both stubborn as mules (of course, in my personality, this comes across as pleasantly determined. In his...well, I won't go there.), and we know the way each other's twisted minds work.

We are an excellent team.

We make fierce opponents.

Tonight, Malystryx challenged me to a game of checkers. Given that the last time he played checkers against me, he ended up throwing all of his pieces to the floor in a fit of pique to rival that of a three-year-old, I was somewhat surprised.

Naturally, I accepted, even though I knew I would lose. Why would I lose?

A) It's been years since I've played any kind of strategic game where long-term planning is key to success. I'm much better at games that require instant reactions and quick, on-the-spot thinking.

B) Malystryx ammended the rules to suit his strengths and exploit my weaknesses. (In other words, no creative interpretation of the rules or moving of the opponent's checkers while they've turned their backs was allowed) I do well by approaching a game with a certain flexibility to the rules. If you are foolish enough to provide an opportunity for me to maximize my chance of success by any means possible, I'll do it. Malystryx takes exception to this - note the checker throwing fit mentioned above.

Why did I accept, though I knew I would lose? Because I don't back away from a challenge. Because Malystryx knows this. Because I knew he would be overconfident of a quick victory.

His victory was anything but quick.

As team members, knowing how the other's mind works is helpful. As opponents, it's invaluable.

To beat Malystryx (as I believe I mentioned in the "how to bring down an evil Malystryx" post), I needed to make him mad, frustrate his sense of order, and defy his bullying of my poor little blonde checkers. Malystryx approaches games like a 5 Star General approaches a world war. He thinks several moves in advance and calculates all potential outcomes.

My job was to throw a monkey wrench into the whole thing.

I just love throwing monkey wrenches.

I began by refusing to give him the upper hand. He told me to start. I declined. He also declined and it was an instant stalemate. I was prepared to sit there and make small talk for an hour just to defy him. I know better than to give in to him right from the start. He knows me well enough to realize I meant what I said. The stalemate lasted less than 3 minutes when he caved and made the first move.

The next part of my strategy was to provoke a frustrated response from him. (again, see above for checker throwing fit) I mirrored his every move. This was a piece of unmitigated brilliance on my part (and cheeky to boot). For one, I know nothing of setting my board up for success in checkers and he does. By copying him, I turned his own strategy against him. Also, he was ticked at me in just five moves.

I think that's a record for throwing him off his game and provoking an outburst.=)

Once he thought I would continue to copy his every move, I changed strategy and began thinking it through on my own.

This was tricky.

I am easily distracted. I don't even need outside distractions for this. A stray thought that sounds interesting can pass through my head and my brain will seize upon it and examine it thoroughly. Several minutes will pass before I remember I'm supposed to be playing checkers.


Still, I played well because if I am going to do something, I'm going to do it with everything I've got, losing battle or not.

Malystryx relaxed. Got cocky. Started with the smack talk. Began pushing me to back into corners.

I don't back into corners.

Also, I know Malystryx enough to know that most of his smack talk and bullying was because he knows me and he realizes that if you push the right buttons in me, I'll do just the opposite of what you've said just to spite you.

Thankfully, I know that about me too and I caught him trying to manipulate me.

I had the upper hand once or twice. Not bad for a girl who likes to think on her feet, improvise, and hasn't played checkers in years (and frankly, was never good at it then, either).

I was like Jamaica trying to stave off the advances of the entire United States Marine Corp. Guerrilla warfare only gets you so far before the Corp blows up all the trees and you are left running from rock to rock, knowing there is no where left to go.

In the end, he backed me up as far as I was willing to go. Refusing to be cornered, I instead used the kamikaze approach and stepped in front of the opponent.

I'm satisfied with the outcome. I played well. I got under his skin. I saw through his mind games. I made him work for his victory.

Now he wants to play me in chess. I will. As long as the rules are a little flexible.

Change to Blog Format

I've changed a feature to this blog. Now, when you comment, it will immediately post (instead of waiting for blog owner approval).

Happy commenting!!

Random Facts

I admit it. I am just warped enough to find all of this interesting.

A shrimp's heart is in its head.

The "sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep's sick" is said to be thetoughest tongue twister in the English language.

Rats multiply so quickly that in 18 months, two rats could have over a million descendants.

In every episode of Seinfeld there is a Superman somewhere.

A duck's quack doesn't echo, and no one knows why.

23% of all photocopier faults world-wide are caused by people sitting on them
and photocopying their butts. (Should offices institute a "wash your hands after using the copier" rule?)

Most lipstick contains fish scales.

Like fingerprints, everyone's tongue print is different.

In a study of 200,000 ostriches over a period of 80 years, no one reported a single case where an ostrich buried its head in the sand.

It is physically impossible for pigs to look up into the sky.

A pregnant goldfish is called a twit.

More than 50% of the people in the world have never made or received a telephone call.

Horses can't vomit.

Butterflies taste with their feet.

In 10 minutes, a hurricane releases more energy than all of the world's nuclear weapons combined.

On average, 100 people choke to death on ballpoint pens every year. (This one seems so easily avoided...)

On average people fear spiders more than they do death.

Thirty-five percent of the people who use personal ads for dating are already married.

Elephants are the only animals that can't jump.

Only one person in two billion will live to be 116 or older.

It's possible to lead a cow upstairs...but not downstairs.

Women blink nearly twice as much as men.

It's physically impossible for you to lick your elbow.

The Main Library at Indiana University sinks over an inch every year because when it was built, engineers failed to o take into account the weight of all the books that would occupy the building.

A snail can sleep for three years. (Lucky bugger)

No word in the English language rhymes with "MONTH."

The electric chair was invented by a dentist. (And dentists wonder why people fear them...)

All polar bears are left handed.

In ancient Egypt, priests plucked EVERY hair from their bodies, including their eyebrows and eyelashes.

An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.

If Barbie were life-size, her measurements would be 39-23-33. She would stand seven feet, two inches tall.

A crocodile cannot stick its tongue out.

The cigarette lighter was invented before the match.

Americans on average eat 18 acres of pizza every day.

Almost everyone who reads this will try to lick their elbow. (You know you did!)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Which Death Eater Are You?

My hubby got into the spirit of EVIL this weekend as we discussed how to turn our friends into authentic villains for the sake of building characters and he had a very interesting idea. (Well, interesting to those of us who adore Harry Potter.)

He and I spent several minutes discussing the different Death Eaters and which ones we would be. (again, if we were raised without conscience)

Feel free to join the discussion.


1. Tom Riddle: the early version of Lord Voledemort, Tom was smooth, handsome, and charming with a thirst for power and a taste for revenge. He manipulated others into doing his bidding - either offering them a "place" in his inner circle or by terrorizing them with the consequences of disobedience. He hid his penchant for evil from most authority figures because he was very skilled at presenting only what he others wanted to see. He was also a long-term planner, always thinking of ways to ensure his immortality and his chosen place in this world.

2. Lucius Malfoy: a consumate elitist, Lucius joined Voldemort because he embraced the ideal of pureblood superiority and because he wanted a taste of power. Lucius enjoys causing petty discomfort and pain to others and abused every shred of power given him (witness his threatening the council at Hogwarts in order to overthrow Dumbledore). He doesn't really hide his evil intentions, but glosses over them with a thin veneer of civility. He is a follower of Voldemort less because he is a rabid believer than because Voldemort offers a sense of superiority over others. When Voldemort is seemingly destroyed by the infant Harry Potter, Lucius lies convincingly to get out of a stint in Azkaban and then uses Tom Riddle's diary to his own ends, rather than save it for the Dark Lord he no longer believed had any power. For Lucius, his own skin always comes first.

3. Peter Pettigrew: the spineless follower, Pettigrew (or Wormtail) does Voldemort's bidding because he is too cowardly to say no. He would never dream of standing up for truth or justice. It isn't in him to risk his own skin. He gets no respect from Voldemort but Wormtail doesn't need respect as long as he can keep his life. He serves Voldemort faithfully in the capacity of servant, his mannerisms reminiscent of a beaten dog.

4. Belatrix LeStrange: the fanatical believer, Belatrix is a devoted, loyal follower. She accepts everything Voldemort says and obeys him without question. When she is sent to Azkaban, it never occurs to her to lie about her allegiance to avoid prison. Instead, she proudly proclaims that she will be honored to be in Azkaban for the sake of her lord. She is extremely dangerous because she acts on Voldemort's behalf with no thought to saving her reputation or her skin.

5. Fenir Grayback: the werewolf who deliberately infects children with his disease and who aligns himself with Voldemort, not because he respects Voldemort but because he hates everyone else. Fenir is evil because he enjoys it. He does what Voldemort wants if it suits his own purposes but mostly continues his plan to infect as many werewolves as possible. He has no conscience, no reluctance, and indeed, enjoys causing pain.

6. Voldemort: driven by a lust for power, for immortality, and for revenge, Voldemort (the older version of Tom Riddle) will stop at nothing to achieve his own ends. Surrounding himself with followers to do his bidding, he is the puppet master behind the increasing evil wreaking havoc on the magical community. He uses whatever he has to use to get his way: lies, fear, seductive promises, destruction - anything. He is a master at controlling others but he cares nothing for their fates. The only one he has ever cared about is himself. He wants to destroy Harry Potter because Potter once stopped him and because he wants to be believed by all to be the most powerful wizard who ever lived.

I've left Snape off this list because I don't believe him to be a true Death Eater. If you think you'd be like Snape, however, by all means put his description in your comment and let us know.

My hubby and I decided that if we were evil, I would be Tom Riddle and he would be Fenir Grayback.

Who are you?

Villain Character Sheet

Here's my working model of a villain character sheet. If you can think of any question worth adding, please let me know!

Villain Worksheet

1. What are the character’s strongest traits?
2. What does the character value most?
3. Is the character motivated by winning/competitive streak?
4. Jealousy?
5. Fear?
6. Anger?
7. Sense of entitlement?
8. Does the character display emotions? Which ones?
9. Would the character take a life?
10. Why?
11. How would the character feel about taking a life?
12. What is the character’s weapon of choice?
13. Why?
14. Does the character “dress the part” of a villain?
15. Why or why not?
16. How did the character’s “villainous” career start?
17. Why did it escalate?
18. What does the character want to gain from his/her villainy?
19. Does the character have any accomplices?
20. Are they equals?
21. Are they his/her master?
22. Are they underlings?
23. Does the character love anyone?
24. Does the character respect anyone?
25. How would the character respond to a physical threat?
26. How would the character respond to an insult?
27. How would the character respond to someone stealing or hurting what is his/hers?
28. How does the character make money?
29. What are the character’s weaknesses/blind spots?
30. How can this character be defeated?
31. Is this character a careful strategist, a blind sheep, or a master of improvisation?
32. Does this character commit crimes of passion?
33. Crimes of malicious intent?
34. Pre-meditated crimes?
35. What does this character secretly long to be?
36. What stops him/her from commiting a crime?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

He's Square - The Shape of EVIL!

I borrowed the title line from an episode of SpongeBob where Plankton is trying to convince Patrick that SpongeBob is not his friend so that Patrick will compete against him in the Fry Cook Games. That line always makes me laugh.

Anyway, the next post down is a very interesting exercise I did with my friend Malystryx and I think I've discovered a great way to thoroughly understand my characters and to find new/unlikely villains by doing this exercise on other people I know (not on a public forum like Malystryx and I agreed to do but on my own.)

I learned that I have a pretty accurate understanding of Malystryx's personality and that I can shape his personality to fit either hero or villain, depending on his upbringing and morals.

I could do this with other friends and find what would motivate them and how they would act if they were evil...I can see a whole range of new possibilities on the character horizon in my books. Thoroughly understanding others and what shapes them, motivates them etc. is the foundation of writing strong characters.

This was fun and educational. I've discovered a new weapon in my writer's arsenal.

If Malystryx Was Evil

Tonight at work, Malystryx and I had an interesting conversation about what we would be if we'd been raised in an environment devoid of morals, faith, or any sense of guilt/conscience. It started with us discussing a game where characters could choose a good quest or an evil quest and could use their particular skills/gifts to accomplish either end.

We decided to write a post on our respective blogs describing what the other would be like if, with the same personality, strengths, and weaknesses, we were the product of environments that turned us evil.

So, my job is to describe what Malystryx would be if he was evil.

Malystryx is a man of honor, integrity, pride, fierce competitiveness, a black and white sense of right and wrong, no room for error, calculating, likes to stand back and observe others, find their weaknesses, make a strategy and implement it at the maximum opportunity for success; he doesn't consider failure an option, he protects fiercely those he loves, he values his world view highly enough that other's opinions of him rarely influence his decisions, and once he's commited himself to a course of action, nothing stops him.

In short, he makes either an excellent hero or a coldly calculating villain.

For the sake of this exercise, I'll paint a picture of Malystryx as the coldly calculating villain.

1. He would kill for gain or for revenge but rarely would it be an act of passion. Instead, the act of murder would be well-thought-out and deliberate, with maximum advantage for success and minimal chance for blame to fall on him.

2. He would use a sniper's rifle or con someone else into doing the dirty deed for him so that the crime couldn't be tied to him. In the rare instance where he was forced to kill "up close and personal", he would use hand to hand combat or a small, deadly dagger and it would be over before the victim knew what hit him.

3. He would have few friends and his enemies would constantly try to outguess him and fail.

4. He would expect complete loyalty to him and disloyalty would be viewed as unforgivable.

5. He would act for personal gain and to prove to himself that he was the best at everything. No one would outcon, outsmart, or outmaneuver him because he would always play to win and would be willing to do whatever it took.

6. He would seem cold and distant to his enemies and to those who didn't know him well enough to see that behind the silent watchfulness lay a depth of thought and emotion.

7. He might start his "evil" career with petty crimes like theft or fraud but he would distinguish himself quickly by always stealing the biggest, the best, and the most dangerous and by commiting the most complicated, outrageous fraud. He would graduate quickly from that to major crimes or running a major crime syndicate because he would constantly crave more challenge. Once he knew he could beat everyone on the playing field, he would up the game to attract better players until he leveled every field and controlled the entire city/nation/world.

8. He would always have a plan. Always. And his plan would be seven steps ahead of where anyone expected him to be.

9. Stealing or hurting anything he labelled as "his" would require that the perpetrator be punished in a way that set an example to others thinking of taking him on.

In short, Malystryx's personality devoid of a conscience would make for a pretty scary villain. How could he be defeated?

By exploiting his pride, refusing to play by his rules enough to goad him into a careless display of emotion/weakness and being ready to take him out when his emotions clouded his judgment. It would take a very determined, competitive, "out of the box" thinker with the same "do anything it takes to win" mindset and a mile-wide streak of foolish courage to do it.

Want to see what one of my best friends thinks I'd be like if I was evil? Go to Malystryx's blog (link on the right) and see for yourself. =)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Seen Any Black Cats Lately?

Today is Friday the 13th. Last night this sparked a conversation at work with several people and I was totally surprised to find myself alone in the view that superstitions were nothing more than self-fulfilling prophecies.

One girl said she thought most superstitions weren't true but she never walked under a ladder. Well, I never walk under a ladder either but that's only because with my lack of coordination, I would likely knock it over and injure the person balancing on the top.

One guy said he always threw salt over his shoulder, was terrified to break a mirror, and that black cats gave him chills.

I never throw salt - and encourage my children to throw food over their shoulders? I don't need that headache, thank you very much. If broken mirrors caused bad luck, my Dad will be miserable until he's 160 as he's broken every cosmetics mirror my mother ever bought. (You see I come by my lack of grace naturally)

As for black cats causing bad luck, my Taz is very pleased to hear that she gives someone chills but honestly, she's brought nothing but good to me.

Another girl said that she was leery of stepping on cracks in the sidewalks. I'd like to take her to downtown Nashville some afternoon and watch her walk. It must be a sight. I can't believe that a modern-day girl would honestly believe she could cripple her parents by stepping on a sidewalk crack.

If I believe in luck at all (and I really don't), I believe we make our own. I believe we get out only what we put into our lives, our passions, our relationships. And I don't think the bad things that happen to us are caused or could be prevented by avoiding black cats. I think that's a way of feeling like maybe we have control over our fates when we rarely do.

I don't judge those who believe these things. Heavens knows, with the things this life can throw at you, I can't fault anyone for grabbing at something that seems to help. For me, I find it more useful to stop worrying about the next bad thing that's coming (because it is, someday down the road...that's the nature of this life). I'd rather celebrate what I have now and know that when tragedy or hardship strikes, I have a well of strength from Christ, from my family, and from my friends that I can draw on.

So, I was alone last night at work in saying that Friday the 13th doesn't even phase me. It's just one more day full of potential waiting to be filled. Besides, it's a Friday. What could really be wrong with that?

My Writing Process - Part Two

My critique partner just said something in an email that sparked the idea behind this post.


That is an essential element to any book I write and anything I like to read. I start with a basic idea of conflict and then ask myself:

What could complicate this?

What could stop the positive outcome?

What could distract my heroine from her mission?

What could cause my heroine to lose her purpose?

What internal conflicts existed in her before she faced this external conflict? Do they need to be resovled before she can be victorious?

I love to layer the internal and external conflict to the point where the reader can't see how my heroine could possibly triumph (and often I can't either until I get there...usually at 3 am). If a reader can accurately predict the ending to the story and the road I'll take the get there, what would be the point of reading?

All good stories have strong conflict, vivid characters, a clear setting, and a central theme or two to tie it all together.

This is how I approach conflict. Right now I have Alexa in a situation where her incredible hunting skills won't save her because what she hunts isn't human. She needs the help of a warrior who can teach her to track with her other senses but she won't pay the price he wants for the help he offers. She has two Alpha males living under her roof, ostensibly to protect her, though she feels anything but safe. Her interferring neighbor has joined forces with her best friend to marry her off and the one man she wants, she doesn't think she can have, especially when he realizes what she is truly capable of doing. Finally, she is convinced that to stop her enemy, she'll have to kill him and though she's willing to kill to protect those she loves, she isn't sure she can live with herself afterward.

My Writing Process - Part One

I was thinking it would be interesting to do a series of posts in the next week or so about my writing process. (and the great thing about having MY blog is that if I think it's interesting, I can do it.)

It's fascinating to me to see the differences in the writing process of successful authors. Stephen King locks himself in his office and writes for as many days as it takes to finish the book (usually 2-3). If you've experienced the size and complexity of his novels, this is completely mind-boggling. Of course, I'm sure it's a rough draft and he does a lot of editing and polishing but - still.

Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb approaches her writing like it's her job - she writes from 8-5 Monday-Friday and she does 3 entire drafts of each book. Celeste Bradley lets a book run around in her head for weeks until she can clearly hear her characters and see the story arc and then she writes each scene, later putting them in the order that works for that novel.

I write novels, poetry, and songs and my approach to each is different but there is one key element to all of my writing: an idea or emotion that grabs my attention and blooms into something larger than life.

I don't need much of an idea to get started. A spark of something that speaks to me, inspires me, captivates me, or upsets me is enough. I use that small piece of emotion or that speck of an idea as a springboard to more.

For example, when I write songs, I often start with a single phrase or an isolated emotion and then explore it/experience it with words. I know right away if I can write about it or not. For me, my songs either pour out in less than 20 minutes or they never happen at all. There is no rough draft, starting and stopping etc. Either I am captivated and it all flows, or it dies.

My song lyrics tend to seem extremely personal, sometimes dark, sometimes painfully honest. Sometimes that really is an accurate reflection of me. Often it's only a piece of something in me (or something that was once in me) that I use to translate the original idea/emotion that grabbed me.

Trying to understand me and know me through my collection of lyrics is as useful as trying to see how my life mirrors Alexa's. Some of them are pieces of my soul on paper. Some of them having nothing to do with me beyond the initial spark of emotion.

Writing Songs

Here is a song I recently wrote. My inspiration came in part from watching the Elektra video and in part from some music (no words) I was listening to.


Blood red spills
Across the sky
And I
Am not afraid

I see the lie
Beautiful disguise
Would you die
Just to bring me shame?

Don’t let me be
Don’t let me breathe
Or I might scream

I will take what’s left of you
And drown it down below my skin
I will stake my life on you
Never seeing what I truly am
I’ll break you
I’ll break you

Did you forget?
You asked for it
Crimson regret
Bleeding on this ground

Now all has changed
It’s rearranged
I’m far too sane
To let you keep me bound

Don’t let me be
Don’t let me breathe
Or I might scream

I will take what’s left of you
And drown it down below my skin
I will stake my life on you
Never seeing what I truly am
I’ll break you
I’ll break you

I can lie here
I can cry here
Till you turn your back on me
I can take it
You can’t make it
You won’t make it away from me

The following song was inspired by some music that reminded me of an emotion/experience in my own life years ago. I followed the trail of that memory and produced this:

Out of Darkness

I can see inside of me
The darkness that I’ve tried to hide
Claims my heart, every part
Though I swear to you I’ve tried

Forgiveness stays miles away
I swallow bitterness instead
It sinks within, beneath my skin
Until I’m left here for dead

I’m left here for dead

I am bleeding
Not believing
Anyone can heal what’s been done
You are reaching
Still believing
You can save anything I’ve become

I am broken; it’s unspoken
But we both know its true
The price is paid; I’m so afraid
I am lost to all but you

I breathe the anger; know the danger
When death looks like release
It’s so tempting, nothing preventing
Me from finding peace

I’m finding peace

I am bleeding
Not believing
Anyone can heal what’s been done
You are reaching
Still believing
You can save anything I’ve become

You can save me
You save me
I’m lost without you
You can love me
You love me
I’m found inside you

Both approaches (one personal, though not real for me at the moment and one not personal at all) work for me.

Fourth of July Cake (blown to pieces)

My hubby hasn't finished the video of making his 4th of July cake yet but here is the video of our friends blowing up the top layer. We had to quickly rescue the rest of the cake before they decided to blow up the whole thing.

I think we've found a new holiday tradition.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Contest Reminder

Entries for the "Deli Naming Contest" will be accepted up until midnight Friday the 13th. If you haven't entered yet but you want a chance to have a character in Alexa's story named after you (or the person of your choice!) and a chance to receive an autographed copy of the book when it hits the shelves, ENTER!!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sometimes I Wonder

Some of life's deeper questions:

1. Why is there braille on drive up ATM machines?

2. Why does McDonald's have a sign saying "Picture Menus Available Upon Request"?

3. Why do my children wake me up to tell me they are using the bathroom?

4. Why does my cat believe all fur balls should be regurgitated on my side of the bed in the middle of the night?

5. What is the point of goats? Really?

6. Why get tattoed on an area of your body that hundreds of generations of women before you have proven will sag below your belt before you turn 75? Unless, of course, the tattoo is of Gumby, in which case, it will make perfect sense.

7. What possesses my children to store already chewed gum in the refrigerator?

8. Or on their wall?

9. Or next to the bathroom sink?

10. Or on the dog?

11. Why does Taco Bell's drive-through have a sign stating "If You Can't Read English, Ask For Assistance"?

12. Does anyone really need to read English to order from Taco Bell?

13. Why are there 7 different types of apples but only 2 types of lemon?

14. Can anyone tell the difference between one lemon and the other?

15. Does anyone care?

16. Why does chicken poop smell so much worse than the poop of other fowl?

17. Why are my children unable to remember to flush a toilet until it has been used to the point of no return?

18. Why is my husband unable to wield a plunger when faced with a toilet brimming full of little boy deposits?

19. Why can't our planet lose a few species of moths along with the recently extinct species of white-winged sandpiper or stumptoothed minnow?

20. Could JJ Abrams be the next generation's Lucas?

I've had 4 hours of sleep. It's late. This looks interesting tonight. It's highly possible I'll wonder what I was thinking when I reread this in the morning.

Until then.

Characters vs. World

I'm curious. What element in a novel is most important to you as a reader?

Do you read primarily in one or two genres and anything in that field interests you?

Do you need vivd, life-like characters?

Do you crave heart-pounding, can't-put-the-book-down-suspense?

Do you love imaginitive world-building?

Do you have to have a satisfying romance?

Does humor float your boat?

Do you seek authentic, interesting voices, regardless of plot or genre?

For me, I need, first and foremost, an authentic, interesting voice but that alone isn't enough. I crave suspense, world-building, and vivid characters too with dashes of humor. Also, the book must be well-written. As a writer and former English teacher, I can't help but read with an imaginary red pen. The writing has to be extraordinary enough to make me forget that pen even exists.

The authors that consistently deliver this for me are J.K. Rowling, Tolkien, J.D. Robb, Dean Koontz, Stephen King new authors Melissa Marr and Rachel Vincent, and some of Linda Howard and Janet Evanovitch's works.

So tell me, what do you have to have in a book and what authors do it for you?

Avada Kadavra!

Last night (okay, technically, early this morning), my hubby and I went to the midnight showing of Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix.

Never mind that the theater was crammed and we were near the front (not the easiest seat for viewing fast camera shots...), nevermind the midget who kept going in and out of our row (and hitting my leg with his hand when he wanted back in instead of just saying "Excuse Me" like a decent, well-mannered person would) or the fact that I got about 4 hours of sleep -

It was FUN! (In an "I won't be doing this again for a looong time sort of way.)

The movie was one of the best in the HP series...captured the plot, the characters, and the darkness to the action scenes better than any movie since the first. The visuals were vivid and intense. Dolores Umbridge was exactly as I imagined her from the book. Alan Rickman delivered another impeccable performance.

The real fun was being surrounded by die-hard Potter fans dressed in capes, carrying wands, and cheering for Dumbledore, hissing or clapping for Snape, booing Voldemort, and giving the movie the applause it deserved when the credits began to roll.

It will hold me for the next week and half until I can get my hands on the 7th Potter book.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Read This

I just finished reading THE HUSBAND by Dean Koontz and I highly recommend it. Koontz is a rare species of writer able to combine chilling plot turns with beautiful imagery. I read his books as much for his lovely turns of phrase as I do for his ability to make me lose a good night's sleep. With Koontz, I am always plunged completely into the world of his making, only coming up for air after the final sentence.

For more on this satisfying book, click here.

Happy reading!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Revised Again!

Earlier, I posted a revised beginning to Alexa. Several readers commented, either on this blog or through email. I listened to your comments (which ranged from "LOVE the new one, much better" to "Hated it, want the old one back"). I decided to do a hybrid of the two.

My goal is to keep a fast-paced, suspensful tone while incorporating Alexa's voice in an opening that flows smoothly. Let me know what you think of this one.


Evil has a voice all its own. It sounds like insatiable greed, impotent rage, and terrible grief blended into one throbbing hunger for power. To the best of my knowledge, I am the only one who hears it. It haunts me, compelling me to make it silent.

I have no control over the fact that I can hear the worst people have to offer. I do, however, have complete control over my wardrobe. Few things are as thrilling as hunting down evil in a kicking pair of four-inch stilettos. I never know when the need to hunt will strike and the fact that I can wipe the pavement with a man twice my size while wearing heels is a pretty satisfactory bonus. It’s like being Wonder Woman without all that tacky spandex.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds.

Why else would I be clinging to the side of an old brick apartment building on Fifth Avenue wearing a little red dress and a gorgeous pair of leopard print Manolo Blahnik stilettos?

Friday, July 6, 2007

I'm Sensing Something Here...

So, I was just surfing the web for athletic clothing (researching Alexa's wardrobe) and I saw a picture of tank top. The title said "Hind Motion Sensor Top".

I laughed so hard I cried.

I can tell you what would happen if I wore that while exercising - that sensor wouldn't know what hit it.

"Sir, Sir! We are sensing movement. Definite movement."

"Tighten that spandex! Bolster those seams! Hold your positions. Hold....HOLD, Sergeant! I don't care how much g-force you're experiencing, you've been given a direct order and you will suck it up, soldier, and endure!"

"Sir, she's going to jog."

"Not the jog"

"Good God, man, not the jog!"

"Oh the humanity!"

"What, are you crying???! There's no crying in battle!"

"We have a breach!"

"Stretch, man! Stretch!"

"We can't hold her, sir! It's impossible!"

"Retreat! Retreat!"

Hmmmm, I may have to get one of these.

Early (waaaay too early) Morning Ruminations

Sometimes I struggle with insomnia. I freely admit that this is because my brain races in too many directions at once.

Last night, for example, I went to bed around 1am because I was writing and didn't realize how tired I was until I finished the chapter. You'd think, after putting in an 11 hour day on the job and then staying up to write, I would fall instantly to sleep.

Not me.

I had too many things to think about. Someone once suggested that if I write down the ideas racing through my brain, I can somehow empty it out and sleep. (This person obviously missed the point that once I start writing ANYTHING I get so interested in the process that I lose another hour or two without realizing).

Anyway, in the spirit of following that advice (and just to see on paper what kept me awake until past 2), here is what I obsessed about last night: (in no particular order)

*How do I explain ______ about Alexa?

*How many more seasons of Lost will they produce before they pull the plug and leave me bereft?

*I really should clean my shower.

*I hate cleaning my shower.

*I bet I can finish this book by the end of July like I orignially planned. Who needs sleep anyway?

*Ooooh, a half-elven/half-human outcast Bounty Hunter. Cool idea! Let's see....

*Alexa, Alexa, Alexa...

*I wonder when I should invite Mike and Lori over for dinner? Do I even have their phone number?

*Crap, I fogot to charge my cell phone. Again. At least my gas tank is full.

*Or is it?

*I need to buy milk. What can I make the kids for breakfast if I have no milk?

*I need to go spend a long weekend in New York City for research. Strictly for research.

*Shoe shopping counts as research.

*Speaking of shoes, I need an outfit to go with my new pair.

*Dragon scales. Yes, dragon scales. Definite possibilities there. Can I combine that series with the fae Bounty Hunter or will that water them both down?

*Who dies in the last Harry Potter book?

*I should probably dust my house.


*I miss Paul and Kelly. Saturday. They come back Saturday.

*Would my hubby freak if I put pretty green streaks in my hair for the month of October?

*I really should clean my shower.

*I need to think of a really cool name for ______ in Alexa's story.

*What is the point of goats, anyway?

*Shoot, I forgot to buy a birthday present for ______.

*I need to ride a Harley at least once. For research. Can I ride a Harley in gorgeous strappy diamond crusted stilettos?

*You only live once.

*Maybe I should just get up and write another chapter. I have to finish this book so I can start on the next and get some of these voices to be quiet.

*I am so not cleaning my shower tomorrow. It's Friday, July 6th. That's like National You Don't Have To Clean Your Shower Day or something.

*Can't wait to see the new Harry Potter film.

*Can't wait to go to sleep.

*I'll make a deal with myself. Either I go to sleep in the next ten minutes or I just get up and clean my shower.


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Let Freedom Ring

It's July 4th and before I head out the door to a cookout and an obscene amount of fireworks, I decided to spent a moment considering what freedom means to me.

Freedom means I can say what I think about our country, our laws, and our leaders without going to prison.

Freedom means I can believe in God and worship God without fearing for my life.

Freedom means others who worship differently from me can do so without fearing for their lives either.

Freedom means the government does not control the press.

Freedom means I can live anywhere I want.

Freedom means I can choose any career I want.

Freedom means I can have as many children (or choose not to have any) as I like.

Freedom means my life, my liberty, and my pursuit of happiness cannot be taken from me without due process.

Freedom means even if I completely screw up, the government will still make sure my rights remain unviolated as I go through the court system.

Freedom means my children will not be taken from me because of my religious beliefs, because of my economic status, or because I've had one too many.

Freedom means as a woman, I can own property, I can vote, I can press charges against anyone who abuses or hurts me.

Freedom means I can peacefully protest without being shot or run down by a tank.

Freedom means I can speak to anyone without fear that I will be stoned to death in the middle of a street.

Freedom means I will not be hunted down and slaughtered because my ancestors were not the same color as the current dictator.

Freedom means I can own any book ever published.

Freedom means soldiers will not ransack my home looking for any hint of dissent from the current political climate.

Freedom means my children will not witness rape, torture, or murder before they are old enough to walk.

I am grateful for this freedom. Grateful because I know it comes to me with a heavy price. Grateful because my grandfather who fought in World War II paid that price for me. Grateful because my father who fought in Vietnam paid it for me too. Grateful because my friend Rob who just returned from Iraq is still paying the price for my freedom.

I don't take the celebration of our freedom lightly. I don't take those who pay for it lightly either.

Let freedom ring and let us never become so comfortable that we forget the cost of what is ours.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Revise, Revise, Revise!

Fitzgerald once said that the act of writing was really the act of rewriting. I've certainly found that to be true. In the spirit of getting under Alexa's skin and in response to a constructive comment from a published author, I decided to revise the first few paragraphs of the novel.

I hope this captures Alexa's voice better than the original and transitions smoothly to her clinging to the side of that apartment building. Let me know what you think.


Evil has a voice all its own. It sounds like insatiable greed, impotent rage, and terrible grief blended into one throbbing hunger for power. To the best of my knowledge, I am the only one who hears it. It haunts me, compelling me to make it silent.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds.

Why else would I be clinging to the side of an old brick apartment building on Fifth Avenue wearing a little red dress and a gorgeous pair of leopard print Manolo Blahnik stilettos?


Few things are as thrilling as hunting down evil in a kicking pair of four-inch stilettos. I have no control over the fact that I can hear the worst emotions people have to offer: they sound like insatiable greed, impotent rage, and terrible grief blended into one throbbing hunger for power. To the best of my knowledge, I’m the only one who hears evil in others and it haunts me, compelling me to make it silent.

Like I said, I have no control over this. My wardrobe is another matter. I never know when the need to hunt will strike and the fact that I can wipe the pavement with a man twice my size while wearing stilettos is a pretty satisfactory bonus. It’s like being Wonder Woman without all that tacky spandex.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds.

Why else would I be clinging to the side of an old brick apartment building on Fifth Avenue wearing a little red dress and a gorgeous pair of leopard print Manolo Blahnik stilettos?

Cake Results

Thanks to all of you who put your two cents in on choosing a name for my hubby's new cake decorating/sculpting venture.

We've decided to name it Once Upon A Cake. He's working on building the web site now (and finishing the Fourth of July cake we're taking to a party tomorrow...we'll be lighting fireworks out of the cake. I'll try to post a video.) and when the site is up and running, I'll post a link.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Character Building

As I get deeper into writing the first book in the Alexa Tate series, I'm realizing that to capture the complete essence of my characters, I need to know every little thing about them, even the things I'll probably never use.

With that in mind, I thought I would share some of the facts about Alexa that I'm using to understand how she acts/reacts/thinks/feels.

MUSIC: Alexa likes alternative rock with a bite. Her current favorites are Evanescence, Linkin Park, Breaking Benjamin, and Three Days Grace. I think it's because no one who hunts villains (even a girl who hunts in stilhettos) could possibly listen to anything less than hard, edgy rock and roll. I also think the darker undertones in her life find a voice in these type of lyrics. Whatever her reasons, she relaxes better listening to Evanescence's FALLEN than to anything else. Her MP3 player is her lifesaver when she wants to go anywhere and stay blissfully ignorant of any evil intentions. Of course, with Alexa, the desire for blissful ignorance is always fleeting.

BOOKS: Honestly, with a full time job, a string of blind dates from hell, two men stalking her, and a city full of evil waiting for her to hear it, she rarely has time to read.

TV: Ditto the book thing. Although she does make an exception for E.R. But then, who doesn't?

HOBBIES: Shopping. Alexa believes strongly in shoe therapy. She buys name brand clothes, not because she's conscious of her image but because she enjoys spending money on nicer pieces of clothing. As a result, she owns less but the items in her closet are amazing. She also loves to hang with her best friend Trisha. She hates clubs and bars. Without the buffer of her MP3 player, the sound of lust, lies, and hunger for power are deafening. She loves to play sports, especially tackle football and swimming. She learned early on, however, to hold herself back. A girl who can swim 400 meters without ever coming up for air or who can flatten a 280 pound man with one shove of her hand tends to draw unwanted attention to herself.

FEARS: Just one: failing. After her parents were murdered, a hard kernel of blame lodged in her heart and stayed. Despite the fact that she was on a vacation with Trisha's family at the time (her one foray beyond the boundaries of NYC and one she isn't anxious to repeat), she is convinced she should have known something in time to save them. It drives her relentlessly to hunt down those who hurt others.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: 5ft 9in, lightly tanned, straight black hair falling down below the middle of her back, light green eyes, clothing size 8, shoe size 9, athletic and toned.

FOODS: Alexa loves meat. Any kind, doesn't matter. She craves protein the way some women crave chocolate. I don't know if this is because she is athletic and her metabolism needs protein or if her kind have to feed on meat. She doesn't have much of a sweet tooth but she does love donuts. Especially cream filled.

DRINKS: Diet Coke. Bottled water. Never any alchohol. The one time she drank, it lowered her defenses enough that every stray emotion in the room rushed violently through her. Once was enough, thank you very much, and she never touches the stuff now.

PARENTS: Benjamin and Elizabeth (Ben and Libby to their friends) were returning from an antiquing trip through Virginia (one of Libby's many short-lived hobbies) when they found a little black-haired, green-eyed baby girl sitting silently beside the road, miles from anywhere. They loaded her into their car, drove to the next town, didn't care for the local authorities so they took her home with them to NYC and long story short, petitioned for adoption and were able to bring their daughter home eight months later (these things take time, you know). Ben taught history at a local high school. Libby managed their apartment building and raised Alexa.

CHILDHOOD: Alexa was a silent, serious child for the first few months with the Tates but then she slowly blossomed into a happy, friendly girl. The only time she reverted to her earlier silence was when the Tate's traveled outside of NYC. They soon stopped planning outings to the country. Alexa was encouraged to explore her strengths but even her parents were a little freaked at her first swimming lesson when she refused to come up for air and indeed, didn't need to. From Libby, Alexa learned to love shopping, to hide her talents when necessary, and to fiercely protect those who couldn't protect themselves. From Ben she learned to to play football, to cling to family, and to treat others with quiet respect.

HER NAME: Libby refused to name her for several months as they worked through the adoption process. She claimed she needed to know her child before she could choose the right name. Ben did what he did best and humored Libby. On the day the adoption became final, Libby announced that her daughter was Alexa (no middle name) which means "savior of mankind".

Okay, okay, I'm sure you're bored stiff by this but this is just the start of the details (many of which will never see print) that I need to know to be sure of who Alexa is in any situation.

Off to turn Alexa loose to hunt.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Welcome Home Mya Leigh

My good friend and sister of my heart, Leigh, and her husband recently brought their first daughter home from India. They struggled for years with infertility and the adoption process itself was (as ours is) a long, sometimes painful journey. Check out the link below for a heartwarming news story done on their little family.

Click on the following link and go down three or four articles to the "Answered Prayers" with the picture of beautiful Mya Leigh and then click on Watch the video

Harry Potter Trailer & More!

The final trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 has been released, and I'm not going to lie. I get choked up every ti...