Monday, March 31, 2008

Writing Well: Behind the Completed Novel

My first real attempt at novel writing was DYING TO REMEMBER, the manuscript that earned a semi-finalist spot in the Amazon breakthrough novel contest and recently finaled in RWA's Golden Heart.

Put like that, it sounds like writing a publishable novel comes easily to me.

This is not the case. =)

Writing is a discipline as much as it is a passion. Crafting fascinating, realistic characters, vivid setting, and pacing plot arcs that keep your reader turning the pages for "just one more chapter" is as much a process of trial and error as it is intuitive talent.

Scattered in the wake of every completed novel are discarded scenes, openings re-worked fifteen different times, characters who appeared in a series two books before their time, dialogue that ended up being the exact opposite of what that character would really say, hours of agonizing over the wording in one pivotal paragraph, and a ream of constructive comments from a critique partner who refused to allow the writer the luxury of phoning it in, even once.

The reward for the hours of re-writing, re-organizing, cutting what you love, learning to make every word count, and growing a thick enough skin to put what lived inside of you on display for the consumption of strangers is polished proof that you are, indeed, a writer.

I am honored that my first finished manuscript has been recieved with enthusiasm and interest in the literary community. I can guarantee you that I worked hard for that.

Here is a look at DYING TO REMEMBER - behind the completed novel:

*Begin writing DTR with enthusiasm and excitement.
*Run into plot snag in chapter three and stop writing for a month.
*Painstakingly work through another two chapters and realize that piecing together a full-length novel is an enormous task.
*Let manuscript sit for weeks.
*Figure out what to say next and write another four chapters.
*Serve coffee to someone who turns out to be Celeste Bradley, published author of historical fiction and begin talking about writing.
*Am incredibly fortunate that Celeste offers to read my current (and first!) work in progress and give me feedback.
*Wait on pins and needles for a month until Celeste calls and agrees to meet for coffee.
*Hear her say that I am "the real deal" but that it took until chapter 7 (when I finally started getting comfortable with my characters and my plot) to see it.
*Take in feedback which included the fact that my opening completely sucked, I was relying on cliches rather than pushing for my own originality, my characters were not well-developed, and my setting was non-existent.
*Wanted to defend myself but took it graciously instead and digested it for a few days.
*Realized she was right. Scrapped the first three chapters and started over.
*15 chapters in, figured out my plot and revised earlier chapters to reflect this.
*16 chapters in, found my rhythm for plotting out a novel - for me it's a middle ground between "seat of my pants" writing and a meticulous outline (which won't work for me but is another post unto itself).
*Finished the novel by working steadily five days a week (didn't give myself a set word count goal each day but a set time devoted to writing).
*Figured (erroneously) that it was perfect as is.
*Wrote a query and a synopsis and sent it out.
*Got a request for a full from an editor in less than a week and decided that I would have a sale within a month.
*Learned the hard way that publishers move at the speed of sludge and as an untried quantity, I was low-man on every totem pole.
*3 months, and four rejections later, I heard back from the editor who originally requested the ms. and was told it was good but it was 25,000 words too long and that she would take another look if I cared to edit it.
*Couldn't believe it was possible to cut 25,000 words and still be true to my novel.
*Spent three months doing just that and learned a valuable lesson about making every word count.
*Ended up cutting over 30,000 and re-working the begininng for the fourth time (radical surgery this time!)then re-submitting.
*While waiting for a response, queried other agents (all gave rejections, though some were reluctant and asked to see other projects), started SHADOWING FATE series, and entered DTR in the Golden Heart contest and the contest.
*Semi-finaled in Amazon and was gratified to read in my review from Publisher's Weekly that my novel (the one that started with cliched characters, wordy dialogue, and no setting to speak of) had "emminently likeable characters, perfect setting, and sharp, funny dialogue".
*Finaled in the Golden Heart contest and await the results.
*Am re-working a submissions packet to take to RWA's conference with me, although I will be focusing more on submitting SHADOWING FATE and using DTR and it's finalist status to (hopefully!) open some doors.

The journey from idea to completion was long, intense, and often frustrating as my ideas would grind to a halt, the words would dry up, the characters would stubbornly refuse to speak, or I would hit a plateau creatively and need a firm shove from a critique partner or an editor to get me back in the ring, re-writing yet again.

What I've taken from this first-novel experience is this:

1. I am a talented writer.
2. Writing is a fun hobby but a demanding profession.
3. Moving from good to amazing takes effort, time, and a thick skin.
4. I now know how to construct a well-paced novel.
5. I now understand how to create vivid setting, characters, and plot.
6. Sometimes success comes after you're sure you've failed.

Most importantly: Creating a well-written novel is 20% God-given talent and 80% self-driven discipline that refuses to crumble no matter what obstacles it faces.

T.V. Evangelist Kitty

Monday's List

1. Last week's poll placed the majority of this blog's poll-answering readers squarely in the "candy AND popcorn" camp thus vindicating C.J.'s theater choices in the face of Paul and my hubby's stubborn refusal to eat anything at all.

2. Watch a movie on the big screen without munchies? It's just unnatural.

3. As are goats.

4. But I digress.

5. Yesterday at lunch, the Scientist began asking deep, thoughtful questions about marriage (like "Why do some men choose to marry good, smart women and some just marry women who are dumb but pretty?) which sparked a discussion on marriage and the importance of choosing wisely.

6. Halfway through the Scientist's pontifications on eternal love and the wisdom of being careful whom you date, Daredevil opened his mouth and said -

7. "When I grow up and get married and she dies, I'm not going to get married again. I'm going to lay around in my own bed making my own choices!"

8. At which point Starshine clued in to the fact that the family was, indeed, having a discussion and it was not just the voices in his head and said, "I like chicken."

9. The guys are throwing a "tool shower" for Paul tonight.

10. Some of their plans are cruel. Wildly amusing for the rest of us, true, but still...cruel.

11. I have complete faith in Paul's ability to wait patiently for the right moment to exact his revenge.

12. He sort of lives for that.

13. Juan Pedro has had a busy week! Two new posts up in case you missed them.

14. We all know how I detest green beans but I didn't realize how deep my aversion ran until I tried a visualization technique last night that involved imagining my least favorite food and slowly chewing a mouthful of said food (imagining taste, smell, and texture).

15. I gagged out loud twice and had to stop before any further gagging produced embarassing results.

16. I'm guessing that visualization techniques for those of us who live firmly in our imaginations on a daily basis might be overkill.

17. Did you know that at least once a week (generally in the presence of friends who are distracting me but who never quite see this happen), I take a drink, completely miss my mouth (distracted, remember?) and instead, toss the beverage down the front of my shirt?

18. In honor of the False Flushes post I put up yesterday:

19. And finally, a lesson I learned just last night:

20. When one brushes one's teeth directly before removing one's contacts, one would be well-advised to thoroughly rinse any traces of minty freshness from one's fingers before sticking them in one's eye.

Riding Dirty

Searching for love, or at least a decent, medieval-style brawl, Juan Pedro went clubbing in my '94 Dodge Caravan.

Sadly, even with his new theme song - Rollin' In My 9-4 -blasting out the open, child-safe windows, the Caravan failed to significantly increase Juan Pedro's street cred.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

False Flushes

I do not embrace all of modern technology willingly. I think everyone who regularly reads this blog and remembers my disastrous run-in with Live Journal can attest to that. I understand the theory behind all of the conveniences cluttering up our lives, but I do not always approve.

Automatically flushing toilets, for instance.

I so don't appreciate those.

Having been in restrooms where people who were raised in a goat pen have left their business lurking in every toilet basin, I understand, and even approve, of the goal behind the invention of an automatic toilet flusher.

Not going to take two seconds to send your business on its merry way? We'll do it for you! No more walking into bathroom stalls and having the sight of someone's intestinal distress put you in danger of revisiting your lunch the hard way.


Like sushi or three additional episodes of Star Wars, there's a point where too much of a good thing becomes really, really bad.

I experienced this on my last foray into Nashville's airport. We were there for longer than originally anticipated, waiting for friends who missed their connecting flight. At some point, I decided to use the restroom.

I entered the stall, grabbed the handy toilet seat cover, and had it half positioned on the seat when the toilet flushed, snatching the toilet seat cover out of my hands and flinging it carelessly into the sewers.

I gave the little green light on the toilet's sensor the Beady Eye. I'm all for doing your job but nobody likes an over-achiever.

I reached for another toilet seat cover and the toilet flushed. Again.

At this point, I need to explain the facts of life to the men reading this blog. This was a women's restroom in a crowded airport. That means there was a line. I'm willing to bet that on average, women take a full two minutes longer than men to finish their business and exit the stall. This is because our clothing is more complicated and we wear more of it. We have snaps, buttons, zippers, panty hose, layers to be tucked in and layers to be left out, spandex to stuff ourselves into so that we look a full size smaller than we actually are...this kind of thing takes time. No unzip-uriniate-zip-and-buckle-your-belt-as-you-walk-out-the-door for us.

Because we take more time and the line is full of women who are either pregnant, hanging on to children who had to pee yesterday, in the throes of menopause and therefore sporting a full bladder and an irresistible desire to commit homicide, or experiencing an emergency of the feminine hygiene variety, the line becomes restless at the slightest provocation.

Every woman in that line understands that a toilet flushing should indicate a woman has taken care of business, re-girdled/strapped/snapped/zipped herself into a smaller size, and is now about to exit the stall.

A flushing toilet brings hope.

A double-flush brings confusion.

A triple flush gives the afore-mentioned menopausal women the excuse to commit the felony their little hearts desire.

I did not want to cause a triple flush.

I abandoned my plan to carefully position the toilet seat cover and went for broke - maneuvering my clothing and the seat cover in a series of flawlessly synchronized movements designed to avoid the little green eye and establish me on the porcelain throne, seat cover securely protecting my assets, with nary a flush in sight.

I was successful.

I sighed in relief and relaxed my posture.

The toilet flushed.

I could hear murmurs from the line. Who would be so callous as to flush thrice, thus raising the hopes of every woman in the line, and then stubbornly refuse to exit her stall? I wanted to call out, "Defective toilet here! Darn thing just keeps flushing even when there's nothing to flush!" but I thought better of it.

A. It's fairly uncouth to begin conversations with strangers in a public restroom, especially where one has to yell while one is seated on a toilet with one's pants around one's ankles and

B. In the faint chance that no one in the line had yet to determine which stall was repeatedly teasing them with false flushes, I did not wish to give away my location.

Instead, I began muttering death threats to the little green light. I can't recall my exact words but I believe a hammer, some duct tape, and somebody's mother were mentioned.

The toilet responded, of course, by flushing.

At this point, I was treated to an unwelcome realization. Flushing a toilet, especially one located in a public restroom where attendants are few and far between and thus potential blockages must be dealt with before they can become problems, requires suction.

A lot of suction.

Suction of this magnitude creates a draft. When one is sitting as I was sitting this creates a draft where a draft was never meant to be.

It was most uncomfortable.

I finished my business, grabbed for toilet paper and shook my head in resignation as the toilet flushed once again.

For those of you who've now lost count that would make flush number five. Five. Now I'm not a woman who is toying with the line, I'm a woman who ate bad seafood for lunch.

I don't know which is worse.

I used the toilet paper, stood up, began adjusting my clothing and waited for the inevitable flush.

It never came.

I glared at the little green light. It did not seem to notice. I waited a few more seconds thinking perhaps it was just tired from its earlier exertions.

No flush.

I waved my hand in front of the sensor. Nothing. I wiggled my hips. Nada. I turned around in circles.

No flush.

Now I was a woman who toyed with the line, muttered death threats to an inanimate object, and danced in front of a toilet sensor. I was one slippery step away from a straight jacket.

I stopped moving, pulled my dignity together, and pushed the "fail safe" black button to manually flush the toilet. Then, chin held high, I opened the stall door, sailed toward the sinks without a backward glance at the line, and heard, in my wake, that stupid toilet decide to flush.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Week In Review

1. Where did this week go?

2. My two youngest dyed and decorated eggs on Easter, but the Scientist decided he was too old for that particular activity.

3. Daredevil and Starshine can dye and decorate a dozen eggs in under four minutes.

4. This is because they're boys.

5. Nothing involving the word "decorate" holds their interest for very long unless, of course, you are discussing an unauthorized re-decoration of the bathroom using shaving cream, toilet paper, and some minty fresh Colgate.

6. Not that anyone in this household has ever done anything like that.

7. I got the call I didn't think was coming (came in close to 5pm) to inform me that I earned a place as a finalist in RWA's Golden Heart writing competition.

8. Excitement was quickly followed by nerves as I discovered I needed a head shot, a fancy dress (okay, that didn't actually cause nerves...just a quick trip to, and some press contacts for RWA's press release.

9. All this for the manuscript I'd just decided to put away in a drawer and not look at again for two years minimum.

10. Now I'm trying to stop myself from doing another read-through because I know I'll want to change 439 things and it will drive me crazy because that ship not only sailed - it's already made port.

11. Personal hygiene advice (Take it! It's free!): If you work with me, bathing is not optional. I don't care how late you're running. I don't want to hear that you ran out of soap/water/common sense. I am not interested in smelling anything other than Irish Spring soap and whatever deodorant you choose to buy. Bathing. Is. Not. Optional.

12. This has been a public service announcement.

13. A group of us attended the Red concert in Nashville on Thursday night (if you missed Juan Pedro's new casual look, scroll down two posts and check it out).

14. Four bands played. Red was amazing as always. Egypt Central was decent but the lead singer needs to stop trying so hard to convince us all that he did, indeed, work as a villain in a B horror movie. The Following is a local high school band just starting out. Cinder Road was less than useless - from the synchronized hair tossing (ummm...guys? You're supposed to be a ROCK band.), to the lead singer insanely clapping for...ummm...well, it appeared to be for his own singing, they resembled Hanson trying out heavy metal for a change.

15. My hubby just brought home Extreme Moose Tracks Ice Cream and we all know that makes for a happy C.J.

16. Next week I will be starting a series of weekly posts on the craft of writing. It's possible that I will solicit some guest bloggers for this from time to time.

17. It's just as likely I'll do it all myself.

18. We have, as usual, a pretty busy weekend what with my hubby's remote broadcasting assignment, the laundry currently staging an uprising, friends coming for dinner, and in-laws coming for a visit next week.

19. I'll leave you with some very sage advice.

20. Beware of goats. They're sneaky.

Godfather Kitty

Medieval Mosh Pit

Last night, while attending a Red concert in downtown Nashville, Juan Pedro learned three things:

1. Light as a feather, stiff as a board makes for some excellent crowd surfing.

2. When the guitarist tosses out bottles of water, the best course of action is to duck. Especially when one is wearing a face plate that interferes significantly with one's peripheral vision.

3. One may enter a mosh pit brandishing a double-edged sword but only if one wants to find oneself tossed out of the concert venue on one's ear.

He did, however, get this awesome t-shirt.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Sites of Interest

One of my favorite online clothing sites: gorgeous vintage-inspired looks here!

A blog I find truly inspirational: quiet reflection found here.

It's like Netflix for handbags: I like to own my accessories but I still find this fascinating.

A treasure trove of inspirational images: seriously cool photographs here!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Golden Heart Announcement

I didn't tell anyone on this blog about this before now because

a) I was focused on the Amazon contest and

b) a girl has to work to preserve her air of mystery

but the truth is...I entered DYING TO REMEMBER in RWA's Golden Heart contest back in November.

The Golden Heart is the highest honor an unpublished author of one of the romance sub-genres can earn. Today RWA (Romance Writers of America) contacted those who made the cut as finalists in the Golden Heart and I am so thrilled to announce that my manuscript has earned a place as a finalist in the Romantic Suspense category.

If memory serves (I'll have to check the official list of all finalists once it goes up on RWA's site in the next day or two), there are between 5 and 8 finalists per category and one winner per category. The manuscripts will now be judged by editors which means that even if I don't win, I will still gain valuable exposure to acquiring editors within my genre.


The winners will be announced on the last night of RWA's conference this July.

The end of July.

So we have a long wait but I don't care. I'm really honored to be chosen. =)

Apparently, I have to send in an author you think they'd accept my red stiletto? ;)

Monday's List (on a Tuesday)

1. Hmm...

2. And here I thought I had plenty to say.

3. I've got some advice for Paul!


5. Moving on.

6. Spent Saturday at the zoo with the kids because hubby had to host the station-sponsored annual egg hunt there. We do this every year.

7. Thankfully it didn't snow this year like it did last year.

8. That was freaking miserable.

9. Daredevil had an interesting run-in with a large catfish in the aquarium.

10. I'll blog about it soon.

11. Had a Girl's Night Out (yes indeed, those get capitalized) last night at Logan's with 6 of my friends.

12. Good times.

13. Really amazing bread.

14. *wipes drool off chin*

15. My definition of "clean" and my children's definition of "clean" are about as far apart as say...Tibet and South Dakota.

16. That's because I do not consider hiding dirty socks, wadded up paper, half-built lego cities, and rock-hard fig newtons behind your bed in an effort to make the visible floor look spotless to be an acceptable form of cleaning your room.

17. My children disagree.

18. I win.

19. I'm going to invent a litter box with a door that automatically shuts behind the kitty once said kitty enters the box and does not open again until said kitty's business is done.

20. This is to ensure that said kitty's business end does, indeed, face the inside of the box where there is actual cat litter, rather than hang out of the entrance, depositing nasty kitty surprises for the unsuspecting woman to discover while walking into her laundry room in bare feet.

21. Kailani posted a blog listing the top 25 bands/artists of all time (in her humble opinion).

22. My own list would look quite different. (No Dave Matthews Band, for one)

23. Maybe I'll do that one day...

24. Well, I have chapters to write and laundry to wash.

25. Be sure to steer clear of goats.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Have A Happy Period!!

Thank you Katy for the hilarious email!

Dear Mr. Thatcher,

I have been a loyal user of your 'Always' maxi pads for over 20 years and I appreciate many of their features. Why, without the LeakGuard Core or Dri-Weave absorbency, I'd probably never go horseback riding or salsa dancing, and I'd certainly steer clear of running up and down the beach in tight, white shorts. But my favorite feature has to be your revolutionary Flexi-Wings. Kudos on being the only company smart enough to realize how crucial it is that maxi pads be aerodynamic. I can't tell you how safe and secure I feel each month knowing there's a little F-16 in my pants.

Have you ever had a menstrual period, Mr. Thatcher? Ever suffered from the curse? I'm guessing you haven't. Well, my time of the month is starting right now. As I type, I can already feel hormonal forces violently surging through my body. Just a few minutes from now, my body will adjust and I'll be transformed into what my husband likes to call 'an inbred hillbilly with knife skills.' Isn't the human body amazing?

As Brand Manager in the Feminine-Hygiene Division, you've no doubt seen quite a bit of research on what exactly happens during your customer's monthly visits from Aunt Flo. Therefore, you must know about the bloating, puffiness, and cramping we endure, and about our intense mood swings, crying jags, and out-of-control behavior. You surely realize it's a tough time for most women. In fact, only last week, my friend Jennifer fought the violent urge to shove her boyfriend's testicles into a George Foreman Grill just because he told her he thought Grey's Anatomy was written by drunken chimps. Crazy!

The point is, sir, you of all people must realize that America is just crawling with homicidal maniacs in Capri pants... Which brings me to the reason for my letter. Last month, while in the throes of cramping so painful I wanted to reach inside my body and yank out my uterus, I opened an Always maxi-pad, and there, printed on the adhesive backing, were these words: 'Have a Happy Period.'

Are you f------ kidding me? What I mean is, does any part of your tiny middle-manager brain really think happiness - actual smiling, laughing happiness, is possible during a menstrual period? Did anything mentioned above sound the least bit pleasurable? Well, did it, James? FYI, unless you're some kind of sick S&M freak, there will never be anything 'happy' about a day in which you have to jack yourself up on Motrin and Kahlua and lock yourself in your house just so you don't march down to the local Walgreen's armed with a hunting rifle and a sketchy plan to end your life in a blaze of glory.

For the love of God, pull your head out, man! If you have to slap a moronic message on a maxi pad, wouldn't it make more sense to say something that's actually pertinent, like 'Put down the Hammer' or 'Vehicular Manslaughter is Wrong', or are you just picking on us?

Sir, please inform your Accounting Department that, effective immediately, there will be an $8 drop in monthly profits, for I have chosen to take my maxi-pad business elsewhere. And though I will certainly miss your Flex-Wings, I will not for one minute miss your brand of condescending bulls---. And that's a promise I will keep.
Always. . .

Wendi Aarons
Austin , TX

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Poe Shout Out

The Other Side of the Tracks

My hubby and I make it a point to go out on dates every few weeks. We have two requirements for our "dates":

1. No children can be present.

2. Grocery shopping of any kind does not qualify.

Those of you with larger families will understand the second rule completely. Those of you who silently mocked it in your minds - may you have triplets and run out of milk at 10 pm on a Tuesday.

It's been a while since we've had a date night and our friends, Luke and Sandy, decided to give us one by volunteering to hang with our kids while we hit the town this past Friday. My hubby had recently m.c.'d the Nashville Advertising Federation's banquet (or award ceremony or whatever it was that forced him to be out for HOURS on a Saturday night) and as a consolation prize (I think they referred to it as a "thank you gift"), he received a $100 gift certificate to The Palm, a swanky downtown steak house catering to people who don't know what to do with food that comes encased in foil wrappers or paper sacks.

We dressed up and drove downtown.

I love downtown Nashville. I love Nashville period. It's loud, colorful, warm, friendly, eccentric, unabashedly devoted to all things country and all things Elvis, and for a place stuffed to the gills with famous people, it's downright unpretentious.

Except for The Palm. (and a few other choice locations of which yours truly has yet to be invited)

Don't get me wrong. I like fancy restaurants. I was impressed with the valet parking out front but when the tiny lobby boasted a laminated article bearing the proud headline "All the beautiful people in Nashville eat at The Palm", I'll admit to adopting a cynical sneer and making a sarcastic comment.

Or two.

We were seated immediately, thanks to a reservation and a half-empty dining room. I took a quick glance around and was forced to conclude that all the beautiful people in Nashville must eat at a later time.

Our waiter greeted us instantly and proceeded to unfold my napkin for me and place it in my lap. As I was already reaching for it with the same intention, this nearly caused a small scene. Fortunately, our waiter was adept at the whole unfold-and-drape-napkin-for-helpless-lady routine and thus avoided any confusion on my part as to why his hands were aiming for my lap.

I hate to start out the evening with physical violence. Everything tends to go downhill from there.

We listened to the specials, ordered filet mignon with truffle and chive mashed potatoes and creamed spinach and reached for the basket of bread sitting on our table.

The French bread was fine. The dark bread was, oddly enough, infused with raisins. The light in the restaurant was dim enough that I didn't know there were raisins to be had until I bit into the bread and began to busily dissect the strange textures in my mouth until I had accurately labeled everything. It was not unpleasant, just...strange.

And why is it that fancy restaurants do not serve butter that can be easily spread across the bread?

The food was wonderful. I enjoyed every bit of it. And the service was prompt and attentive, for the most part.

But it was the end of the meal that really set The Palm apart from other restaurants. At one point, my hubby rose from the table to use the restroom and left his fancy cloth napkin carelessly discarded on the seat of his chair.

This is, apparently, against some secret Code at The Palm which insists that every table, even while it is occupied, must look as though no one has eaten there. We'd noticed that any small dish or piece of trash (I was using Splenda packets in my tea) we placed on the table was instantly whisked away but we didn't realize how serious they take the Code until our waiter followed hastily in my hubby's wake, snatched up the discarded napkin (yes, yes, the dirty discarded napkin), and quickly refolded it into a fancy little triangle to set beside my hubby's plate.

I nearly reached over and unfolded it again just to see which of the hovering staff would rush over to right the wrong but my hubby arrived back at the table in time to thwart my plans for the evening's entertainment.

When we were finished with our meal, the Code came into force again as the girl who cleared our plates snatched a comb (a comb, I kid you not) from her pocket and scraped any semblance of crumbs from the tablecloth.

We looked, for all the world, like we'd just sat down to eat.

The dessert tray was populated with cheesecake, a bowl of tempting looking berries, key lime pie, carrot cake, flan, and a piece of chocolate cake big enough to feed a small country.

As I had not been apprised of my options earlier in the evening, I had not displayed the good sense to leave room for any of those tempting desserts (well, flan isn't really all that tempting but the rest of it certainly was) so we've decided to go back some night and sit with all the beautiful people in Nashville, eating dessert and watching as our crumbs are whisked away with grooming implements and our napkins are refolded at every opportunity.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Things I Find Odd

1. NO, I am not going to put myself at the top of the list.

2. Why??

3. Because it's my blog.

4. I am surprised at how many people tell me they read my blog.

5. I guess because not many of you are "commenters", I don't really know who all reads this.

6. Which makes for interesting conversations when near strangers say to me "Hey! How's Starshine?" and it takes me a minute to realize they're a friend of a friend and they read my blog.

7. That, however, is not nearly as awkward as when I meet people who think they "know me" because they listen to my hubby on the radio.

8. Here are a few tips: If you don't know the name of my hair stylist, the two items I order the most off Cracker Barrel's menu, the title of my work in progress, or my cell phone number - you don't know me.

9. The South's addiction to the consumption of catfish.

10. It's a bottom-feeder, folks. It eats dirt - a habit which is directly responsible for the fact that it tastes like dirt.

11. I'm told it's an acquired taste (much like caviar and cow's tongue).

12. I think if you have to convince your taste buds over time that they are liars and should stop threatening to expel the foul mouthful you've just forced upon them, you might want to consider the thousands of other culinary options available to you.

13. Like pancakes.

14. Or Peanut Butter Moose Tracks Ice Cream.

15. Parents who put so much energy into convincing their children that competition is bad and we are all winners no matter what we do or how much effort we put into things.

16. Bet that's a pretty difficult concept for the New England Patriots to digest right about now.

17. Maxi-pads with peppy little messages on the inside. (Unless, of course, the peppy little message says something useful like "Murder is a federal offense" or "Chocolate Solves Everything".)

18. Anyone still sporting a mullett.

19. The fact that a woman struggles to think of a single use for a roll of duct tape while a man is busy using it to bolster the garden, repair the lawnmower, and hem his suit pants.

20. Llamas.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Need A Raise?

Yesterday, Starshine and Daredevil were playing Guitar Hero in the living room. Starshine has surprised us all by rising to the challenge and garnering the most 100% scores in the family.

You will, no doubt, not be at all shocked to learn that I have the least.

In fact, I've only played three songs. I think Guitar Hero is Simon Says to rock songs, many of which I didn't like the first time around - never mind how I feel about them after listening to the kids play them twenty times in a row.

But I digress.

Starshine, as I'm sure you realize, can be a bit convoluted in his communication. In this particular instance, he was trying to explain something about a song and his stats and the money he'd earned to play the gig.

At least I think that's what he was saying.

Daredevil couldn't understand it either and asked him to repeat it. Starshine repeated himself and managed to sound even less clear than his first effort.

Daredevil asked for another repeat. Starshine obliged, with no more success than his first two attempts.

Daredevil (who has all the patience of a seriously provoked badger) threw his hands in the air and said, "I'm not getting paid enough to understand all this!" before walking out of the room.

Starshine simply went back to playing Guitar Hero and the beginning strains of yet another run-through of Slow Ride quelled my momentary amusement.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Consider Yourself Forewarned

Random Update

1. I'm a HUGE LJ slacker, that's what I am. *hangs head*

2. Took the kids to see Horton Hears A Who yesterday and, cheesy ending song non-withstanding, really loved it.

3. The kids are on spring break this week and of course allergy season hits so two of them are little balls of misery at the moment.

4. That translates into Mom being a little miserable herself as well.

5. Going to see Doomsday Wednesday night after work with Paul and Kailani.

6. My hubby washes his hands of those kinds of movies but I find them fun. (World-wide destruction from an incurable virus whose victims look like ill-fated experiments with acid, gravel, and alien parasites? Only one woman can save the world by kicking the butts of all the tattooed nasties who somehow survived but don't want anyone else to? Government officials stay in their towers tracking the spread of the virus but remaining incredibly immune to it themselves? Sign me up!! Hey - she drives a cool car and she can wipe the pavement with a man twice her size even while she's chained to a ceiling - what's not to love??)

7. Registered for RWA's conference in July. (Yay for Katy as a roomie!!)

8. Been talking back and forth with an editor about the project I entered in Amazon's contest but I really think that isn't going anywhere.

9. I will now formally stop all revisions etc. on DYING TO REMEMBER and finish the last few chapters of SHADOWING FATE for which an editor, an agent, and my critique partner have all expressed an interest in reading. :)

10. I just need to figure out how to kill something that doesn't actually exist...

11. I discovered that the local coffee shop makes the world's best peach smoothie.

12. Once the kiddos are back in school, I may have to head down there a few days a week to sip on peaches and kill what doesn't exist.

13. Once I figure out how...

14. If I don't get my dog groomed soon (long-haired black Chow, spring, white do the math), I will be able to assemble a new dog from all the hair he is currently shedding.

15. That's a really gross idea.

16. I think vanilla ice cream is as boring as it gets.

17. I think if you're going to do the calories, they ought to be worth it.

18. Peanut Butter Moose Tracks flavor is worth it.

19. China is probably raising their orphanage bribe - oops! I mean fee by two thousand dollars in an effort to curtail international adoptions. (Never mind the fact that a million baby girls will still be abandoned every year. The important thing is that China save face and stop the international community from doing for their daughters what they ought to do themselves.)

20. This is a move which clearly demonstrates the Communist government's priority of money and image over a child's life.

21. I, for one, am not deterred in my quest to bring home my daughter by another measly $2000.

22. Maybe I'll set up a PayPal on my blog for anyone who wants to help us by donating.

23. Perfect strangers donate to my friend Kailani's travel fund through her blog, why not donate toward adoption?

24. Now to figure out how to set that up....

25. Never mind, that's what Paul and Kailani are for.

Monday, March 17, 2008

In which Ursula realizes she has become her mother.

Monday's List

1. Looks like the battle for crunchy vs. smooth peanut butter is neck and neck.

2. I'm a "smooth" girl, myself.

3. Not that there's anything wrong with crunchy.

4. I'll tell you what's wrong: chunky stuff in jello.

5. That's just ewww.

6. Well, honestly, jello is just ewww for the most part.

7. And to think, after 20 something hours of labor with The Scientist (and absolutely NO food during those hours), the good nurses of Los Robles hospital saw fit to offer me orange jello for my first meal.

8. I just endured twenty-something hours of labor, another two hours of things I won't mention to repair the damage I sustained while birthing a child the approximate size of a bowling ball, and all I get is orange jello?

9. That's just wrong.

10. Another thing I recently discovered that is just wrong: Cracker Barrel now carries the original Nestle Crunch bar (because we're really into selling vintage candy).

11. Did you know that the original Nestle Crunch was chocolate with peanuts and raisins?

12. Raisins.

13. Nothing ruins a candy bar like shriveled grapes.

14. And speaking of shriveled grapes, my local movie theater recently dropped Hot Heads (the equivalent of Hot Tamales and the only candy I found to be worth eating) and replaced them with boxes of chocolate covered raisins bearing the apt title "Goobers".

15. Who goes to a movie and craves raisins? Goobers, apparently.

16. If you are out there, do yourself a favor and don't admit to it.

17. Starshine quote of the weekend: My hubby was understandably frustrated with Starshine's refusal to clean his room when the rest of the family was busy getting the house ready for company. When he finally lost his temper, he told Starshine "You haven't cleaned Jack today!"

18. To which Starshine yelled back, "I don't even know Jack!"

19. At which point I ruined my hubby's efforts at discipline by laughing. Loudly.

20. Starshine was sorry to realize that, all mirth aside, he was still required to clean his room.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Highlights of the Week

1. Starshine, while earnestly explaining something to us about the legendary Dr. Suess, said that something was "True! The kind of true that isn't false!"

2. Ahh, yes, that kind of true.

3. When he saw our faces (as we struggled to contain our mirth and don expressions suitable to a serious discussion of Suess) he followed it up with "Wait...I'm a little confused."

4. *grins*

5. Saw The Bank Job. It wasn't what I expected. That's neither a compliment nor a criticism. But I wouldn't watch it again.

6. Spring is creeping up on middle Tennessee. I know this because allergy season has hit our home.

7. I strongly dislike slow computer servers.

8. I was going to just say "servers" but then I realized people might think I'm talking about waiters.

9. But actually, come to think of it, I don't care to be waited on by a slow server either.

10. Why do people assume that because I'm able to bear children I must inherently know how to hem a pair of pants?

11. I don't.

12. And you really don't want me to try.

13. Paul has a neighbor who is consistently fascinated by the fact that Paul will soon be one of the "po-po".

14. I would have paid good money to see Paul's face when confronted with that statement.

15. Perhaps he can get a "po-po" hat for Juan Pedro.

16. I'm sure it would be quite fetching.

17. There must a rule in the Handbook of Doggy Etiquette that states that the proper protocol for wiping one's lips once one has slurped deeply from one's water bowl is to go rest your chin on the nearest human knee and then sneeze for good measure.

18. Kelly's bridal shower is Saturday and (yikes!) I don't have a gift yet.

19. Thankfully, she's registered at Bed, Bath, and Beyond and they gift wrap.

20. Gift-wrapping, like sewing, is not my forte.

21. Daredevil has a field trip to the Adventure Science Center today. ASC has an exhibit entitled "Grossology" where the enterprising child can be vomited from a mouth and can wander through the insides of a human and then exit through the posterior region on a slide.

22. I'm told the mat beneath the slide makes a farting noise when you land.

23. Daredevil is thrilled to death to become poop for a day.

24. Weigh in on the side of crunchy or smooth peanut butter in our current poll. (thank you Katy for the idea)

25. Off to clean house and finish up SHADOWING FATE.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Monday's List

1. Paul steadfastly refuses to call Juan Pedro by his given name.

2. One wonders what this campaign of cruel depersonalization will do to Juan Pedro's psyche.

3. One feels the need to remind Paul that Juan Pedro carries a weapon with him at all times.

4. This latest poll garnered the most responses. I had to post this pic in honor of the winner, Lord of the Rings. =D

5. Saw Vantage Point last night with Kailani and Dusty and really liked it.

6. Saw a preview for Superhero: The Movie (at least I think that's the title) - it is to superhero movies what Scary Movie is to horror movies.

7. Laughed like a lunatic when Dragonfly "saved" an old lady from being hit by a semi only to discover he'd actually flung her (and her little dog too!) into the mouth of an active trash compacter.

8. Yes, my sense of humor is twisted.

9. Still, we decided we need a "human-size" trash compacter at work to motivate people to tip better. ;D

10. I cannot take seriously any professional who expresses themselves poorly in writing.

11. I don't mean you have to be a stellar writer but for Pete's sake, master the basics of grammar and spelling so you come across as smarter than the average fourth grader.

12. Decided to surprise my hubby with the gift of a full gas tank (no small feat, considering how often I forget to check the gauge) and a car wash for the Explorer last night.

13. Filled up. No problem.

14. Realized the line for the car wash was ridiculously long (given the recent spat of nasty weather here which left every car covered in dirt) but decided surprising him would be worth the wait.

15. 35 minutes into the wait only 2 cars were ahead of me. Victory was in sight.

16. They shut off the car wash.

17. I believe most of middle Tennessee heard me scream.

18. So I surprised him with a full tank and the code for a car wash which he can redeem today.

19. Hubby did all the laundry and a chunk of the ironing this weekend because he loves me very much.

20. Whoever decided cow's tongue was an edible delicacy should be taken out back and shot.

21. Need fun ideas for the next blog poll. Got one?? Leave a comment. =)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

PMS Kitty

My Children Are Not Aliens

I feel the need to state that. Publicly. Maybe it will offset the overwhelming evidence to the contrary that my children so publicly offer on a regular basis.

Yesterday, we met Kailani and Amber at the airport (bearing gifts of flowers and a hubby-made shamrock-sculpted cake) to welcome them home from Ireland. While we were waiting, my hubby was approached by numerous people admiring the large green cake he held.

Daredevil took this as an invitation to begin conversations with strangers.

This was not good.

You'll recall that Daredevil has no filter between what he thinks and what he says. And that he does not consider ANYTHING to be rude as long as he has avoided the obvious pitfalls of using profanity.

Therefore, questioning people on their way into the men's room as to the nature of their business therein falls under the category of "Acceptable" in Daredevil's book.

Also deemed "Acceptable" is the following response to those who jokingly asked "Hey, is that cake for me?" : "No! We don't even know you! Why would we bake you a cake?" or, the more pithy reaction: "You're wierd."

And finally, when a limo driver waiting for his fare recognized my hubby from his radio gig and stopped to say hello, Daredevil leaned in, gave the limo driver his best impression of his mother's Beady Eye and said "Hey! Who are you? Why are you talking to my dad?"

Today, after church, we went with Kailani and Dusty to TGI Friday's and ordered mozzarella sticks to tide the kids over until their lunch arrived. While we waited for our appetizer, the background music played the opening notes of Queen's "We Will Rock You" and my children proved that, while their education may be lacking in some areas, the heading of "Classic Rock" has been substantially covered.

They sang the song. Loudly.

I was impressed that they knew most of the lyrics and that Daredevil, at least, managed to be mostly on-key. We were at the restaurant just as it opened so there was only one other diner in our area and he poked his head around his booth, grinning, and egged my children on.

Not that they need any encouragement.

The mozzarrella sticks arrived as the music shifted to Pink Floyd. I handed out mozzarella sticks left and right, giving out seconds when the first was inhaled.

Halfway through his second mozzarella stick, Starshine looked at me and said, in utter seriousness, "Hey Mom! These have cheese in them!" He even managed to sound surprised.

Ah yes - Starshine. There may be a touch of outer space in my children's DNA after all...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Dear Juan Pedro

When the slump in high-paying medieval warfare showed no signs of recovery, Juan Pedro signed on as a seasonal employee with the local mall.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Things I've Found Amusing This Week

1. Ryan Seacrest pronouncing "niche" as "neesh" on live t.v. last night.

2. Reminds me of the ever-pompous Alex Trebec pronouncing "Don Juan" as "Don Jew-an" for a Jeopardy clue and then defensively telling the laughing audience that "Jew-an" is the correct pronunciation for "Juan".

3. Bet that cleared things up for conflicted Hispanics across the globe.

4. Starshine playing Guitar Hero: total concentration and focus (for once!!) and he jerks his body forward every time he hits a long note.

5. The fact that everyone in my house seems to think that since they love to play Guitar Hero, I should love it too.

6. It just doesn't capture my interest.

7. The customer I had on Tuesday night who looked at our menu, pointed to a section and asked, "So, on these Weekend you only have those on the weekend?"

8. You will, no doubt, be proud of me for responding with a simple "Yes ma'am."

9. Never mind that it took me twenty seconds of silence to reject every other response that came to mind before I settled on "yes ma'am".

10. Sarcasm, no matter how justifiable, tends to have a negative impact on my tips.

11. That every male in my household is incapable of wearing socks with the slightest hole in them without either a)complaining mightily and demanding new socks or b) throwing them away and then complaining that they have no socks to wear.

12. Oddly, none of them feel the same way about holes in their pants, shirts, sweatshirts, or underwear.

13. My hubby for thinking a little thing like needing sleep would stop me from watching Lost on Thursday night.

14. The fact that no matter what I'm aiming for, I somehow manage to hit Paul in the eye with whatever weapon we're currently using...straw wrappers, carrots, balls of paper...until I use a weapon that would be truly interesting should it hit his eye (a wad of chewing gum) and then, of course, I miss.

15. Opening a Chadwick's catalog recently and seeing outfits I wore in junior high being touted as "chic" and "sophisticated".

16. The late 80's and early 90's were many things.

17. "Chic and sophisticated" are not one of those.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Value of Proof-reading

Thank you to Carolyn for the funny email!

They're Back! Those Wonderful Church Bulletins!
Thank God for church ladies with typewriters. These sentences appeared in church bulletins or were announced in church services (Summer, 2007 Release).

The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.
The sermon this morning: "Jesus Walks on the Water." The sermon tonight: "Searching for Jesus."
-------------------- ------ -! ------- ------------------------
Our youth basketball team is back in action Wednesday at 8 PM in the recreation hall. Come out and watch us kill Christ the King.
Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a conflict.
Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say "Hell" to someone who doesn't care much about you.
Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.
Miss Charlene Mason sang "I will not pass this way again," giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
The Rector will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing: "Break Forth Into Joy."
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.
At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What Is Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice.
Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.
Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.
The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.
Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow..
------------------------------------------------ ---------
The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.
----------------------------------- ------ -----------------
This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.
Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morn ing at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B.S. is done.
The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.
Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.
The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.
Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use the large double door at the side entrance.
The Associate Minister unveiled the church's new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday : "I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours".

Monday, March 3, 2008

Monday's List

1. I can't believe it's already March.

2. Thankfully, the weather is beautiful at the moment and makes it feel like spring is really here.

3. This is a middle Tennesse lie, of course, since last year it managed to snow in April.

4. I put up a new poll today. I love all four series but found it surprisingly easy to pick my favorite.

5. This morning I have that nagging "I'm forgetting something" feeling.

6. Hmm...

7. Nope, I'm wearing pants.

8. Must be something else.

9. The empty house beside us finally sold and our new neighbors moved in Saturday.

10. They seem very nice and their 5 year old little girl latched onto my boys and played outside with them all yesterday afternoon.

11. My friends Kailani and Amber are currently backpacking across Ireland.

12. I'm jealous.

13. Sort of.

14. I really want to visit Ireland.

15. I, however, do not backpack.

16. I do not consider strapping a fifty pound bag to my back and eschewing all forms of public or private transportation to be a vacation.

17. I put my contacts in this morning and one of the little buggers folded in half and slipped as far back and to the side of my eye as is possible to go.

18. It was not fun trying to get it out.

19. Paul moved into his condo and took Juan Pedro with him.

20. The house still feels a little empty without them.

21. I took an online quiz that said my weapon of choice would be a dagger.

22. Huh.

23. I really think my weapon of choice would be whatever was handy at the time.

24. My laundry, for once, is pretty manageable.

25. My house in general is pretty manageable.

26. If, of course, you take my advice and studiously avoid examining the boys' rooms.

27. :D

Coming to a theater near you...

Saturday, March 1, 2008

It Is Only A Matter Of Time

Excerpt from EVERY DAY DESERVES A CHANCE by Max Lucado (footnoted as being part of a sermon by Rick Atchely)

Excerpts from the diary of a dog:

8:00 am Oh boy, dog food - my favorite.
9:20 am Oh boy, a car ride - my favorite.
9:40 am Oh boy, a walk - my favorite.
10:30 am Oh boy, another car ride - my favorite.
11:30 am Oh boy, more dog food - my favorite.
12:00 pm Oh boy, the kids - my favorite.
1:00 pm Oh boy, the yard - my favorite.
4:00 pm Oh boy, the kids again - my favorite.
5:00 pm Oh boy, dog food again - my favorite.
5:30 pm Oh boy, Mom - my favorite.
6:00 pm Oh boy, playing ball - my favorite.
8:30 pm Oh boy, sleeping in my master's bed - my favorite.

Excerpts from the diary of a cat:

Day 283 of my captivity. My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat while I'm forced to eat dry cereal. I'm sustained by the hope of escape and the mild satisfaction I derive from ruining a few pieces of furniture. Tomorrow I may eat another houseplant. I attempted to kill my captors this morning by weaving through their walking feet. Nearly succeeded. Must try this strategy at the top of the stairs. Seeking to disgust and repulse these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit on their favorite chair. Must try this on their bed. To display my diabolical disposition, I decaptiated a mouse and deposited the headless body on their kitchen floor. They only cooed and condescended, patting my head and calling me a "strong little kitty." Hmmm - not working according to plan. During a gathering of their accomplices, they placed me in solitary confinement. I overheard that my confinement was due to my power of allergies. Must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.

I am convinced the other household captives are flunkies, perhaps snitches. The dog is routinely released and seems naively happy to return. He is, no doubt, a half-wit. The bird speaks with the humans regularly. Must be an informant. I am certain he reports my every move. Due to his current placement in a metal cage, his safety is assured, but I can wait. It is only a matter of time.

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...