Goodbye, Christmas Tree

Well, the house is back to normal. The tree is outside and ready for the brush pile. The decorations have been taken down and stowed in the attic. My house looks much bigger with all that clutter gone. Although, I will miss the pretty lights at night just a wee little bit.

Things with the Christmas night situation have morphed into something bigger. Still no details I'm willing to share. Despite having my feelings hurt and my heart broken, I have no desire to hurt the other people involved. I'd really like nothing more than for an apology and life to go on as usual. But that's probably not going to happen.

On a happier note, we've made New Year's Eve plans. It looks like we're going out to dinner and hanging out at my cousin's house afterward. Nothing fancy but it should be enjoyable. We'll be spending the night with the same three couples we went to Las Vegas with a couple years ago.

During our little in-between-the-holidays vacation we've spent a lot of time just chilling out and relaxing. I've played more playstation games this week than I have all year. I've also read a couple of books, worked on my SIL's story, worked on my FIL's DVD, and spent an afternoon at the movie theater with my family. If you want a good family-friendly movie, I recommend Night at the Museum. My boys really liked it. Heck, so did the hubby and I.

More later.

Merry Christmas...for the most part

This year has been an odd one. I usually love the holidays. I adore the twinkling lights, the colorful decorations, the tree, the baking and even the shopping. This year wasn't quite as magical as I normally find the Christmas season, though. My heart just wasn't in it.

I blame this partly on the snowless landscape and partly on the fact that my dad's house, the one I grew up in, is in foreclosure. Things started getting bad a few months back when he retired. I'm not sure who is at fault--my dad or GM--but checks didn't start coming right away. In fact, I believe the first retirement check was almost seven weeks overdue. By then Dad was way behind on all of his bills. Once the checks made a reappearance it was too late. He couldn't get caught up. So the three bedroom ranch went into forclosure and went up for auction on December 22. My dad has no idea if it sold because he didn't go to the courthouse; my dad said the bank will send him some kind of notification through the mail.

So there's that situation. Not exactly cheery.

Yet, it hard to be totally blah about the season when you have little kids in the house. Santa is a big deal no matter what when you're eight and six. Their excitement and delight made Christmas morning a treat. We unwrapped our gifts and then played with them all day long. Everyone was delighted with their presents and eager to put them to good use. Yes, I did get that PS2 game I had asked the hubby to get for me. I'm terrible at it, but I expect practice will help.

In fact, after I put the kids to bed I decided to do just that: practice. I was halfway through the dance routine when the phone rang. I'm not going to go into what the phone call was about. Suffice it to say that if someone wants to ruin Christmas day and probably the rest of your week, a phone call like that one will do it. I'm angry. Sad. Furious. Hurt. Appalled. Disappointed. But mostly just angry.

I wanted to jump in my car and drive over there so I could confront the person slinging the accusations but sometimes that's just not an option. Not that I don't anticipate following this particular little play through to its end, I do. But I need to make sure I handle this the right way, if there is such a thing. I need to be rational and adult. Not enraged and goaded into saying or doing the wrong thing--no doubt exactly what the instigator in this little scenerio would love to see me do.

All I know is misery does truly love company, but this time a line was crossed. One I can't just blindly turn the other cheek toward.

Vacationing

So I've been on vacation since Tuesday afternoon. I went in to work that morning for a few hours and then went to the office Christmas party at my boss's house. Afterwards, my week and a half vacation started. It's been both hectic and relaxing.

I've gotten nearly all my wrapping done - I plan on finishing today. I've made the DVD for my dad (no worries about him reading this because he doesn't have a computer) and I'm nearly done with one of the scrapbook pages for his book; my goal is to get four pages done by tonight. Once those are done, I'll be ready for the party tomorrow. I may take down my little TV and a DVD player to my basement craft room so I can watch movies while I scrapbook.

What else have I done? I got my haircut. It was grossly overdue. I think I had five pounds of split-ends weighing me down. I'm not sure how well the cut is going to curl because my girl wasn't available and desperation led me to an unknown salon. It feels better, though, so I'm hopeful.

Oh, and on the boys' last day of school before the break they each had Christmas parties in their classrooms. I attended both by running the hallways between one end of the of the school and the other. My kindergartener is in the new wing of the building and my third grader is on the bottom floor of the old wing. Fun!

In addition to my holiday preparations, I've also spent a lot of time playing the PS2. In addition to a lot of other goodies, my in-laws got me Final Fantasy X (I picked it out) for Christmas. I've recently completed the Djose Temple maze and earned my third Aeon. At first I wasn't all that impressed with the game but it's growing on me. So much so that I can't seem to stay away from it for more than a few hours at a time.

After tomorrow I plan on spending at least three hours a day on my sister-in-law's story. I'm about 80 pages in and probably won't finish it but I can at least give her a good portion to start with, right?

Well, it's time to go see how well the haircut works. The curling iron awaits..

At a Snail's Pace

Yeah, that's pretty much exactly how I feel about the progress I'm making on Redemption's Path. It's slow going, my friends. I think I need to print it off and read it. No corrections allowed. Just a quick check for continuity.

But I'm afraid I won't be able to resist the inner editor. Or critic. So I've been typing one stubborn word after the other, wondering how much I've botched.

Not Making Progress

I should have kept my mouth shut about how proud I was of myself for writing every day. Every day!

I didn't even open the WIP last night. Or the night before that.

Today at lunch (an hour insted of the normal 1/2 hour) I thought I'd get something accomplished. Yeah. Right. My laptop has decided to be a total pain in the ass and won't let me do anything. I'm not sure what its problem is, but it's pissing me off. Every time I open the WIP it locks up the machine.

Can you say "annoying"?

However, I was able to at least save the damn file and transfer it to the desktop here at work. I might be able to get something done before it's time to open the door and reenter the working world.

Wish me luck!

Christmas Meme

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Both!

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Wrapped. Even the tiny gifts in the stocking are individually wrapped.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Multi-colored in the house (including the tree), white & blue icicles on the house.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Nope.

5. When do you put your decorations up? We usually get the tree the first weekend in December.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish? Christmas cookies made using my step-mom's recipe. They're so fluffy and light.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child: There were five of us kids. Every year I would wake up my brother, BJ, and we'd get the coffee and hot chocolate made before waking up our Dad and step-mom. Many years we knocked on their door before 5 am. They never complained. Not once. I think that is one of my favorite memories: me and my brother making coffee and hot chocolate in near darkness.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I don't remember! I'm assuming I had to be at least 10, though, because I think I believed even after my parents' divorce.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? I started this tradition with my kids when they were little. They get to open one present: a pair of pajamas. Want to make sure they look good for Christmas morning pictures!

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? Plug the lights into the angel. After making sure all the little bulbs light up, we string the lights around the tree. Then its garland or ribbon (depends on the year). After that...it's a free for all. The kids just start hanging ornaments wherever they can reach. Usually as a final touch we put on candy canes that they get to pluck from the branches and eat throughout the month of December.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Both. If I'm not forced to leave the house and brave the roads, I love it. If I have to go to work, I hate it.

12. Can you ice skate? Yes! Although it's been a long time.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? I have one special gift that stand out from my childhood. It was the year Cabbage Patch dolls were all the rage. They were so expensive and my parents couldn't afford to buy me one. But they didn't want to disappoint me, so they hired a lady to make a knock-off. Because they were so expensive and I was very aware of how tight money was for our family (and obviously knew Santa no longer existed), I didn't expect the doll I craved. When I opened that package, I cried. I was so touched by their desire to make me happy. I still get a little misty-eyed thinking about it.

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Traditions. I want my kids to grow up with the same traditions I did. Not to mention a few new ones my hubby and I have agreed upon.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Um...Christmas Cookies. Didn't we already answer this question?

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Oyster stew on Christmas Eve. I hate the stuff but it's been a tradition in my dad's family for many, many years. It's so popular my in-laws have adopted it and show up every year to celebrate with my family.

I can't forget the search for the Christmas tree. We take the kids to a tree farm where they get to see a live reindeer, take a hay ride, run through a straw bale maze, and get pictures taken with Santa. This is one of the things I look forward to all year long.

I am also a sucker for Christmas music all month long and watching all the classic cartoons like Rudolf, Frosty, Charlie Brown, and the Grinch.

17. What tops your tree? An angel in a white dress with gold wings and candles in her hands.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving? I'll be honest; I like them both. Every year I wish I could give more. I love buying things for people, but I also find a great deal of pleasure in giving home-made gifts.

And I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy unwrapping my gifts. I love presents!

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? The Little Drummer Boy.

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? Yum!

Making Progress

I'm feeling rather proud of myself. I've been steadily writing on the Christmas gift project. A little bit every day. Not the 3000 I need, but something. Even when I'm not updating the blog with a new post I am updating the word meter in the sidebar.

It's going to be a busy weekend but I figure I should be able to break the 25,000 mark if I stick to it.

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Writing

Thanksgiving went pretty well. We went to my mom's house this year. It was quite the gathering. There were 9 adults and 9 children. We had three tables spread throughout the house--the dining room table for the adults, a folding table for the teens, and a picnic table for the little ones. Mom made the turkey and most of the sidedishes and desserts. I brought toss salad and cherry cobbler. and my sister brought the corn.

Mom didn't seem her usual self but I think that might have a lot to do with the stress of raising teenagers. I've heard some pretty interesting (as in disturbing) stories about what she's going through with the oldest girl right now. None of these have been confirmed by my mom but I imagine in time I'll hear all about it. There really wasn't any privacy on Thanksgiving day so we could chat.

I should take my mom out to dinner sometime soon. Just to give her break from the kids.

I would have invited her to go shopping with us on Black Friday but she was babysitting so one of her neighbors could go shopping instead. So it ended up being just me and my sister-in-law Ronnie on Black Friday.

Our first stop was Circuit City. Don't. Ever. Go. There. On. Black. Friday. Never ever in a million years will make that mistake again. It was horrid. Finding the items was easy enough but standing in the checkout line for an hour and a half was beyond ridiculous. Worse was the fact that my poor SIL stood in line that long just learn at the register that the item she had been told to ask the clerk for had been sold out. She stood in line for that long only to end up buying a pack of gum. Seriously.

The rest of the shopping went fairly well. I got most of my holiday purchases taken care of in a few short hours. My children are all but done. I think I have a couple of minor little gifts I need to pick up for those parties where you have to bring a gift for your own kids, but that's it.

I still need to buy a couple of gift certificates for people, though, so I'm not done spending money yet. Much to the hubby's annoyance. He hates this time of the year.

As a final note, I have been working on the Christmas Project. I'm up to 10,000 words! Only 115,000 more to go!

Temptation

I know I need to write every night right now. That Christmas gift project is always in the back of my mind. Each day it grows bigger and my confidence in completing the rough draft grows smaller. I'm not overwhelmed yet, but it won't be long if I don't get busy and stay that way!

Yet, I'd rather be scrapbooking. The photos call to me, luring me away from my computers to dabble in the basement with paper and embellishments. Not to mention all the very cool supplies I've accumulated over the last eight years. The creative potential is endless.

Still. I know I need to write. So right now I'm dancing with temptation. I'm trying to satisfy the scrapbooker and writer inside me.

Tonight I started out scrapping but guilt drove me from my scrappin' space to the laptap and the story I've promised to my sister-in-law. While this sounds good, I really didn't make any progress. I don't even think I added a sentence. But at least I had it open, right? That's a start.

Maybe a countdown would help. We celebrate Christmas with Ken's family on New Years Day, which gives me 40 days to finish the rough draft. As of right now I have roughly 8000 words (we'll pretend those are all keepers). If my overall goal is 125,000 I need to write 117,000 words betweeen now and then. Divided by the number of days left that equals a little under 3000 words a day.

Hmm. I can do that. I know I can because I've done it before. Doesn't mean it'll be easy, especially when you consider the holiday madness that is so quickly approaching.

And on that note..I'd better get busy! Night all!

Perspective

Writing workshops can be a study in perspective. Over the last ten years I've participated in community writers' groups, academic creative writing classes, and online critique groups. I've read my novels aloud, one chapter at a time, to perfect strangers. I've shared poems and short stories with classmates. I've entrusted my word docs to my online crit partners, just as they've trusted me with theirs. Each experience has been worthwhile and enlightening. Not to mention occassionally annoying.

One of my most vivid memories from my first writers group is the night I was told with my level of skill I should be writing something more worthwhile than romance novels. The gentleman who told me this said it with such a tone of condemnation. I don't remember saying anything--I was rather young then and hadn't quite developed my current attitude. I think I may have laughed, rather unconfortably. After all, it was a backhanded compliment. He wasn't telling me I sucked. Just that I was wasting what talent I had been given.

I ended up quiting that writing group within a few months. I don't really remember why. I hope it wasn't because of him. I don't think it was. More than likely, life just got too crazy. Not to mention how hard it was be in my early twenties and faced with giving up every other Friday night.

After a few years I found an online group, The Mighty Quill, who welcomed me in. We swapped stories, gave each other suggestions, and talked craft. I learned so much there. We had weekly challenges, tried writing a collab together (what we got done turned out pretty cool, if I so say myself), and encouraged each other to write when the words weren't cooperating.

Eventually the membership of the Mighty Quill changed and I ended up moving on. It was at this time that I found Forward Motion. This site is significantly larger than my first online writing community. There were so many forums and so many people at varying levels of experience and abilities. I soon found myself participating in the discussions both on the boards and in the chatroom. Eventually I ended up moderating and leading a crit group.

One of the best things about this community was finding a large group of writers who enjoyed reading the genres I like to write in. I found romance writers, fantasy writers, science fiction writers, and a few who even enjoyed blurring the lines between the genres to create new and interesting blends. I found myself talking to the same people again and again, not because we always agreed but because we could discuss our difference in opinions without personal attacks.

My academic courses have proven to be much the same. There are difference of opinions but there's also respect. There's good advice and bad. There's been insight and, in my opinion, reading too much into things. All of which makes for interesting class sessions.

While each experience has been different and taught me something about myself, my writing, and the world of publishing, each experience has also taught me about perspective both as a reader and a writer. I've discovered I am a very opinionated person when it it comes to books. It doesn't matter if the book in question is full of poetry, a selection of short stories, or if it's a novel. As a reader I know what I like. I've also discovered I'm not willing to set aside my preferences just because they go against popular opinion.

As a writer I am a bit more flexible. At least, I like to think so. I can take a crit. I can take good and bad ones. I've learned to weigh the reader's assessment, questions, and comments against what I thought I had written. There have been many instances where I've agreed with the person critiquing the piece. There have been some instances when I have not. The question then becomes what should I do?

I trust my instincts. While I may respect the reader's opinion, I don't have to agree with it. I don't have to act on their advice. After all, its all a matter of perspective. We all see things differently. React differently. We all have different hang-ups and pet-peeves. What bothers one person won't even register on the consciousness of another.

This can be proved simply by picking up a number of books off the shelf at your local Barnes and Noble or Border's. Ask several people who've read the book and I promise you'll get a variety of opinions. A variety of complaints (aka suggestions). The key here is in the variety. Perhaps there will be some overlap but, in general, the opinions will vary.

The same happens in writing workshops. With such a variety of likes and dislikes, the responses a piece of writing may generate can be wildly different. So who then do you trust? When do you stop trusting yourself?

Date Night

Friday night we had a sitter stay at the house so the hubby and I could go out to eat and watch a movie. Dinner was pretty good. My steak would have been better if the first five bites wouldn't have been full of gristle and fat. The only saving grace really was the cheese and slices of portabella mushrooms smothered across the top of it. Ken's dinner was much better. Very tender and very flavorful.

After dinner we drove over the movie theatre to see what movies were playing and at what time. There were two we were interested in. I was more inclined to see a comedy, yet I was willing to let him pick out the movie. He insisted I pick it out. So I did. I thought the new Will Farrell movie would be funny so we bought the tickets for the 10:00 o'clock show.

Left with lots of time to spare (almost two hours) we decided to go shopping. Or at least window browsing. We drove up the road to the mall and walked around Dunham's until it closed at 9:00.

One hour until showtime.

Since we needed laundry softener we opted to go to Meijer's. We got the softener and some bulk candy. Maybe I shouldn't admit this but we snuck that bulk candy into the theatre; I'd feel guilty if we hadn't spent $17 on tickets and then another $10 on drinks. Could they make going to the movies any more expensive? It's insane!

If you had asked at this point how our night was going I would have given it two thumbs up. We'd had a great dinner, spent some time together just talking, and I'd found sea foam (chocolate covered buttery concoction) in the bulk candy section.

By the time the movie was over and I'd heard how terrible it was for at least the twentieth time, I'd have to give the night a firm C-. Nothing can ruin a nice evening like a rotten movie. Especially for my hubby. It's bad enough spending that kind of money on a good movie, but to spend it on a show you'd rather poke your eyes out than watch...well, that's unforgiveable.

So, a word to the wise...if you're expecting a comedy in Stranger Than Fiction, you've been misled by the previews. This movie is not a comedy. I think I chuckled--not even a full-fledged laugh--twice during the show. Twice.

Horrid movie. Damn thing ruined the whole night.

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Ken and I met with the boys' teachers on Wednesday night. First, we had the Kindergartener. After arriving way too early and sitting in the hall on teeny, tiny chairs for too long, we were ushered into the classroom. The boys sat on a chair nearby while Ken and I went over the little guy's report card with his beloved teacher.

I'm happy to report the little guy is doing great! He still has a few things he needs to work on, mind you, but nothing worth worrying over. He's already learned quite a few of the sight words he needs to memorize and he's doing well in math and such. The only thing he really needs to focus on is learning to identify his letters. Yep. He can recognize words but not letters...it's weird.

The third grader did not fare so well. In fact, he seems to be failing EVERYTHING. The only good mark he received was in math: problem solving. Can't do simple addition and subtraction, but he can problem solve. Right now the school uses a grading matrix of 1 (90% and above), 2 (71-89%), and 3 (70% and below). In area of academics my child received almost all 3s. The only 1 he received was in problem solving in math.

Now, I've known he's been struggling with science. He flunked his first geography test and had to do a retake. I worked with him all that week. By the time Friday rolled around (the day of the retake) he was able to get 8 out of 10 questions right on a mock test. Yet, when he got to school and actually had to take the make-up exam, he received a whopping 34%. I don't get it. I used the same exact questions (randomizing so he couldn't memorize the answer location on the page) as the teacher. He should have done much, much better.

This is just one example.

On the upside, he did complete the 6 mandatory AR (reading) points required by the end of the marking period. He's reading. Just not as well as the teacher would like. Or as well as we'd like. Comprehension seems to be a major issue when he has to pause to decode the words.

Fearing things may only get worse Ken and I have decided to contact Sylvan Learning Center. We're going to get the child a tutor--someone trained to help kids who are falling behind the curve. The center guarantees he'll be at grade level by the time they're done, if not above grade level.

Of course these services don't come cheap. But that's beside the point. If we don't get control of this situation now, it's only going to get worse.

So, if you've a mind to, say a little prayer for our little guy. He could use a little extra help.

Going Beta

I switched from my old Blogger account to the new beta version. The only thing I'm not liking is the header. I got an image loaded into it but it doesn't like the html code for tables. Oh, well. At least I have labels (aka post categories)!

I'm Writing

I have three stories I'm working on at the moment. One of them is a short story I wrote yesterday for my creative writing class at the University. Another is the collaboration with my sister, Chrissy, which is shaping up into a paranormal historical romance. The last of my WIPs is my vampire romance.

The short story came together in an hour's time. I don't like the ending but I already have a few ideas on how to modify it into something more short-storyish. True to my writing nature, I didn't finish things, just left them hanging. It's not the best thing I've written, but let's be honest, short stories are NOT my thing. Never have been. Probably never will be. I write them for class and as writing challenges but never because I feel inspired to write something short.

The second story--the collab--needs a lot attention. My sister has had time to play with this concept for years. I'm coming to it a little more green behind the ears. I told her I'd come up the hero's backstory and current issues. Yeah. I don't even have a name. Working on that.

The third story is where most of my energy has been directed. I'm cruising. I'm not saying the story is perfect. It's a first draft so how can it be? I am saying that I'm enjoying writing Makenna and Gabe's story. I think part of that enjoyment comes from knowing I have really no intention of attempting publication with this story. I'm writing for someone close to me who has never read any of my work and asked for a story as a Christmas gift. The only concern I have is that I don't get it done before we exchange gifts.

This brings me to NaNoWriMo. I'm not participating this year. I just can't. I had good intentions, even signed up, but there's no way I can complete this vampire romance, work on the collab, keep up with my class assignments, and start a new project. It'd be suicide. So I'm not even entering the race.

To those of you in the grips of NaNo, may the muses be kind and generous.

NewNovelist Update

If you've been a visitor here for any length of time, you know I use a writing program called NewNovelist to help keep me organized. While I really liked the program right from the beginning there was room for improvement. I guess I wasn't the only one who thought so. I received an email a couple days ago alerting me to an available upgrade. Geek that I am, I bought it.

It was worth the $44 dollars. 100% worth it! Features I wished it had are now available. I'm not sure I'll stop using Microsoft Word as my main word processing program but for the first time I feel it could become a possibility.

Here are some of the key upgrade features I'm lovin' right now:
*I can upload pictures on character profiles.
*I can upload pictures on place (location) profiles.
*It has spellcheck. Finally!
*From within the program I can access my
internet explorer favorites for easy reference.
*From within the program I can access folders
on my harddrive directly related to the story I'm
working on.

Like a kid with a new toy on Christmas morning I couldn't wait to get the program installed. Of course, that wasn't good enough. I had to use it right then and there, too! I'm trying not to rush it, though, so I only have one of my many stories loaded into the program. I have the option of importing the old NewNovelist files from version 1, but I'm thinking I'm going to rework them all from scratch. This way I'm only putting time and effort into stories I'm actively pursuing right now.

If I get a chance, I'll post some screen shots in the next few days.

Halloween Party II

This weekend went by much too quickly. As usual. It seems every weekend this month has been booked. Over the last few weekends we've had two Halloween parties, a couple of football games, campground trick-or-treating, a Whirley Ball event, and I can't even remember what else.

This weekend the hubby and I attended the second party of the month. My cousin and his girlfriend (someday she'll be his wife...I have no doubt!) had their second annual Halloween party. This means most of my family was in attendance. My dad and his girlfriend. My brothers. My Sisters. My sisters-in-law. My brother-in-law. My sister's boyfriend (who we really, really like). Cousins. Aunts. An Uncle. And a few friends tossed in here and there. I would post pictures but...

wait for it..

I forgot my camera! Yes, it's true. I forgot my camera. I know, I can't believe it either.

I'm hoping my cousin remembers to send me the pictures through e-mail like she promised. (If you're reading this, Jessica, that means you!)

All in all, it was a lot of fun. I owe my brother $10 now, though. That would be how much I owe him from the poker game I lost. Okay, so I got up and left my meager pot about ten minutes after he paid to put me into the game. I suck. I realize this.

Lucky for me, he loves me anyhow.

Sick

It's that time of year again, folks. The kids and hubby have all gotten sick and now it seems to be my turn. I don't know what this is but my back and legs ache and my head feels two sizes too big. Yet, there's no snot or congestion. And I haven't lost my breakfast, lunch or dinner. I am extrememly exhausted. All the time.

Bleh.

Halloween Party Pictures

Click on the album below.


A Valley Full of Praise




Awhile back I received an ARC of Tamara Siler Jones's Valley of the Soul, scheduled for release on October 31, 2006. Before I get to my reaction to this latest edition, let me just say how appropriate that date is for this particular author! A Halloween debut is perfect for this latest addition in the Dubric Byerly series.

Now, I don't want to give anything away because I really want you to go out and buy this book. It's fast-paced, exciting, and a tad bit disturbing. Just the way I like my Dubric books.

Of course, if you know me at all, you'll know my attraction to these books isn't really rooted in the plot or the setting. I'm all about the characters. If I care about them, I'll follow anywhere they lead. In her first book, Tam introduced the cranky but honorable Dubric Byerly, a castle castellan who has been cursed by a goddess his dead wife once served. The goddess punishes him for his crime by forcing him to see the ghosts of the murdered men, women and children he is sworn to protect. These ghosts will only disappear when their murderer is brought to justice.

Dubric isn't taxed with solving this crimes by himself. He does have a considerable staff, one well trained and effecient. While there are many secondary characters, Tam (aka the author) brings into focus Dubric's most trusted assistants: Dien, Lars, and Otlee. These three work on a daily basis with Dubric and soon become as integral to the story as Dubric himself. For the record, Lars is my favorite.

In addition to Dubric's team the reader is also introduced to Jess, who plays a bigger role in each consecutive book. No, I'm not going to say more. If you don't know how or why she plays a bigger role, go buy the book!

In this book, the third in the series, the horrors from Threads of Malace have left their mark. Although a new murder mystery is introduced, Valley does not shy away from the physical and emotional scars each character had suffered at the end of Threads. This book follows the journey of several characters as they struggle to make sense of what has happened to them and their loved ones. As new dangers and dramas evolve the characters adapt or break, snapping under the pressures layered upon them. A mixture of external and internal forces collide in this book, offering a new perspective on these well-developed characters and the world they live in.

I hope you take a chance and try it. Be prepared for some graphic material (no, that doesn't mean explicit sex scenes, people!). And while it's not necessary, I would suggest buying the first two books and reading them before diving into Valley. Half the pleasure is watching the characters develop and grow.

Weekend in the Rain

This past weekend the family went camping. We packed the boys' halloween outfits and enough candy to feed a small army. I even went so far as to borrow outdoor decorations from my in-laws. I wanted to make sure our campsite screamed Halloween. After all, campground trick-or-treating is a wonderous thing not just because of all the candy and the costumed children, but because people decorate their sites and truly give off the Halloween vibe.

I don't know if you've ever done it or not, but Halloween camping is the best. The kids absolutely adore it. Not only is there costumes and candy, there's spook walks and hayrides. Does it get much better?

Well, it might have been better if it wouldn't have rained all day Saturday. Although we camped with several other families, we were all trapped inside our campers the majority of the day. Although I must admit there was a lot of camper hopping. The adults would skip from camper to camper, checking on their offspring now and again to make sure the damage wasn't too great.

The gods were kind, though, and the rain paused long enough to let us participate in the costume contest (two of our kids won!) and get some trick-or-treating in.

Here is a group pic of all our kids. Aren't they cutest?

The Usual

Hello! It's almost my bedtime but I thought I'd take a minute or two to post. I really don't have anything significant to say. Life is its usual chaos. Work, school, kids, hubby, housework...

Okay, so I still need to do the dishes. I really thought having a dishwasher would make doing the dishes less of a chore, but I was wrong. I still hate doing them. The only bonus is I don't have to submerge my hands in sudsy water anymore. Just scrape, pre-rinse and load.

There are so many other things I'd rather do than the dishes. For instance, I'd really like to scrapbook tonight. I've got that urge. I told my sister it must be the weather. She thought it might be possible because she's been feeling the same urge. It's scary when you start daydreaming about stickers, cardstock, patterned paper, stamps, and diecuts. Yep, I've got it bad.

Sitting in front of me is a pile of zoo pictures from my son's last trip with the daycare. When I type last, I mean final. Now that he's in Kindergarten, he won't be able to attend this annual event he's been part of for the last four years. I want to journal about how wonderful these ladies have been and how much his friends have meant to him. I want the page to be something special.

I was good, though, because I managed to get my homework done despite the scrapbooking bug. I revised a story (not really happy with the results) and read the assigned pages in the textbook.

Those dishes are nagging me...I suppose I should just get it over with...

testing new google tool

I just added some photos to Picasa's web album. Click on the link below to view some recent photos of our little family.

This and That
Jul 13, 2006 - 10 Photos

Inspiration

Writers are often asked about their sources of inspiration. Of course, as writers are as different and unique as snowflakes, inspiration occurs in various ways and at various times. Some of us find we do our best thinking first thing in the morning. Others discover burning the midnight oil is the key to unlocking their muse. Some find the quiet of the road, the splatter of the shower, or the insane chaos of a mall can spark ideas.

I think, though, the truth is all writers find inspiration everywhere and in everything around them.

Take a recent experience I had a week or so ago. While brainstorming ideas I was listening to the radio. A song came on that I've heard a hundred times. Maybe more. As I was singing along (yes, you'd want to cover your ears), the song's story popped into my head. Not the lyrics, but a story. This one came complete with a character and conflict. As the song ended the story unfolded, revealing a never before glimpsed history. What I find truly amazing is that I discovered a story in a song I had heard often and knew well, a story I had not recognized until that day.

The Collab

My sister, Chrissy, and I have talked about writing a collaborative story for years. We both like to write and we both have different strengths. She's got the kick-ass imagination and I have a firm grasp on the essential elements of craft. Not that my imagination sucks...just that her ideas seem very fresh in comparison to my own. Thus, it's always been my thought that between the two of us, we should be able to come up with something neither of us would be able to write on our own. Something good. Maybe even great.

Well, we're about to put that theory to the test. We've been exchanging emails for the last week or so trying to figure out what story we could both see ourselves writing. In the end we went with one of her ideas. I'm not going to be able to tell you very much about it but I can say it's a historical romance with a touch of the paranormal. I think it's also safe to bet it's going to be set in medieval England in the era of the Black Death.

I'm excited and nervous about this new venture. Let's hope we're still speaking after this little experiment.

A Quick Update

It's just about bedtime. I have to be up ridiculously early tomorrow morning if I want to get the kids to the bus stop on time, so this update is going to be brief.

It was a busy weekend. As usual.

My oldest son had his first football game on Saturday. I arrived just in time to hear his name announced over the loud speakers. I wish I could tell you I stayed in the stands despite the cool temps and misty rain. I didn't, though. I had promised to act as the photographer for my sister-in-law's siter's wedding. I got a phone call saying it was time to meet up with the bride while I was driving to the game, which meant I had to leave the football field almost as soon as I arrived. After the wedding I called my husband and asked how the little man did. Daddy wasn't happy. Apparently the coach only played our boy for a few minutes--8 plays or thereabouts. I guess that's what happens when your child doesn't have an aggressive bone in his body--he gets to sit on the sidelines and watch all his friends play.

While my boy got passed over again and again, I was busy snapping picture after picture. In total I took 12 rolls of 24-exposure film between the wedding and the reception. I pray they turn out. I'll be holding my breath until I hear something. I haven't used the 35mm camera in almost 4 years. Once I went digital...I really went digital.

Of course there was family drama. Maybe I'll get into that another night. I don't have the time or energy to rehash it right now.

Today was somewhat less hectic but we still had obligations outside the house. My husband's aunt and uncle are visiting from Washington. They drove through Yellowstone, crossed Lake Michigan on a ferry, and arrived yesterday. This is the first time ever that they have visited my in-laws. When you consider my mother-in-law moved to the opposite side of the country almost 40 years ago, it's really kind of sad. But they're here now and they seem like very nice people. Who knows what kept them from making the trip all those years, I'm just glad they decided to make the trip now. I know it means a lot to my mother-in-law.

Okay...that's enough updating for now. I need to get my booty to bed.

My pounding head..

I have a killer headache tonight. It feels like sinus trouble. Oh, lucky me. Maybe I'll get lucky and it'll disappear by morning. I doubt it, but it can't hurt to hope.

I have some really cute pictures of my little guy on his first day of Kindergarten but I'm too lazy to leave the laptop and boot up the desktop PC where those pictures now live. You'll have to wait for pictures of His Cuteness.

I'd write more but looking at this screen is killing my eyes.

I think I'm falling apart.

Quote

"We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to." - W. Somerset Maugham

Tigers vs. Mariners


On Labor Day my husband and I surprised our two boys with a trip to Comerica Park in Detroit. On the long roadtrip my oldest son guessed every sport except baseball, which kept us from having to ruin the surprise before we pulled into the parking lot across from the park entrance. When we finally told them we were going to watch the Tigers play baseball they were all smiles. The smiles even lasted through the half-hour wait outside the gates.

When we finally got through the gates and into the park the boys each received a free t-shirt. We then manuevered our way down the stands toward the field where the Tigers were having batting practice. Even though our seats were up in far left corner of the stadium there was no one to keep us from walking down the bleachers toward the field.

As we were making our way up toward the food court my youngest stops me and asks, "Mom, where are the tigers with the four legs and teeth? I thought they were playing baseball."

Oh, how I laughed. Only a five-year-old would take Mom and Dad so literally. I had to explain to him the team was named after the animal and that men would be playing, not real tigers. The idea must not have been completely obliterated by my explanation though because on the way home he said, "Mom, wouldn't it have been cool if real Tigers played. They could catch the ball with their teeth!"

Putting in a Plug

Want to add a personal touch to your gifts? How about sending an extra-special card to a good friend who lives far away? Maybe it's just time to send out the Christmas cards. Whatever the occassion, Homemade by Victoria has just the card you need. If you don't see what you need, email the owner and she'll create to your specifications.

In addition to handmade cards ($1.50 apiece in most cases), Homemade By Victoria also has some tempting extras for scrapbookers. Page toppers and tags round out the available stock of this new online business.

Writer Humor

If you're in the mood for some writer humor, you may want to bounce on over to this post on Maureen Johnson's blog.

Very cute.

Read This Post

First, let me say Blogger can be a real pain in the ass.

Second, go read this post Tamara Siler Jones made on her blog today. It's about why some writers feel the need to tear down and destroy the confidence of their compatriots. I don't understand the need but I've been treated to glimpses of such ruthlessness. It's never pretty and I'm certain it's never really necessary.

Some writers will try to say they're only trying to help, but often their help is wrapped in a surge of negative energy a paperclip could pick up on. Learning to avoid these personalities is key to survival.

If you've ever been treated to the harsh end of a pitiless critique, chin up, my friend. You're not nearly as bad as that person made you think you were. Every word you write, every sentence you compose, teaches you something more of your craft. Above all, keep writing!

As Promised

I have pictures of our new camper to share with you. I took them this weekend while we were camping and after we got home. Of course, our maiden voyage wasn't smooth sailing. We discovered a major water leak in the bathroom; once Ken tightened down the clamps under the sink that little problem was resolved. Still, I'm sure you can imagine the panic I felt when my sister-in-law pointed out a rivlet of water traversing its way from the bathroom toward the entertainment center at the far end of the camper.







I'm not sure if you can get a good idea of just how much room there is inside this little darlin' but it's very spacious for a camper. I love the floor plan. There are bunk beds for the boys. A table and sofa that make into beds if necessary. The entertainment center holds two TVs--the one you can see in the picture and another in one of the cupboards overhead that opens into the "master bedroom". Our bedroom has wooden panels that slide out to allow privacy--not to mention they also block out the illumination from nightlight we leave on for the boys.

New Images

If you have nothing better to do, I have posted a couple of new pictures on Art Zone. My favorite is Kieren. I wanted to use her character in several settings but I screwed something up and failed to save her properly.

Busy, busy, busy.

I feel as if I'm in hyperdrive. There's just so much that needs to be done. The everyday chores, the last minute tasks. They never end. As soon as I think I'm caught up, I realize there's a half dozen things I should be doing.

I did take a few minutes this morning to upload some recent pictures to Flickr. If you care to look, you'll find pictures from our boat trip. It was lovely and fun and I'm so glad we went. I haven't had a more relaxing break this summer. I only hope we'll be invited back next year.

I also updated the ipod. That's good, right? I thought so, too.

I have not written anything. Nor have I revised a single sentence. Yes, I know this means I suck. I realize this. I claim no exuse in my defense other then...hello! busy! And you can't begrudge me an hour of television before bed; I can't sleep after I write because my silly brain refuses to shut down after being so stimulated.

Just Checking In

Howdy! I've been MIA lately thanks to work and kids and the hubby. Another reason would be the new travel trailer we just purchased.

Somebody stop me! I'm out of control! No more spending. I'm going to go bankrupt. LOL

In all seriousness, this is something Ken and I have wanted to buy for several years now but couldn't afford to because of the insane cost of daycare. Now that the little man is starting kindergarten (~sniff) in a couple weeks we won't be paying full price for daycare anymore. I know. We should be putting the money we're going to be saving into the bank but like I said, we really want this for the family.

Camping is big in Ken's family. (I'm working on making it big in mine.)

I'll try to post pics in the next day or so.

A Kingly Moment

While in Maine it's hard not to think of the master storyteller, Stephen King. If you've read any of his books, you know how many of his stories are set in his native state. Of course, considering how large the state is I doubted I'd run into him. Still, I must admit I thought of him once or twice.

I know his wife is also a writer, but I have to admit I hadn't given her much thought until I happened to stumble across her at a book signing in Sherman's Bookstore in Bar Harbor. Now I don't usually buy hardcover books because I find them unweildy and more than a tad bit pricey, but temptation got the better of me for once. I picked up a copy of Candles Burning and paid for it before approaching the author for a signature. Not only did she sign the book, she even agreed to a picture! Very gracious.


On the way home I finally got a chance to begin reading the book, which is a collaboration of sorts between Tabitha King and the late Michael McDowell. It's a ghost story but not in the traditional sense. I would consider it more of a story about a girl with a strange psychic ability. In all honesty it was a bit slow now and again. I'm not sure if this was because of the beyond-the-grave collaboration or if it's a style both authors normally fall into. As I've never picked up a Tabitha King book I just don't know.

Even if the book doesn't make my favorite list, it stays on the keeper shelf just because it was personalized by Stephen King's wife while I was on vacation in Maine.

Pictures of Maine

A pretty lighthouse as seen from the tour boat out of Bass Harbor, Maine.


My Aunt and her granddaughter. I really posted this picture so
you see the rocky shoreline, though. Isn't it gorgeous?



Family Photo from Within Acadia National Park.
One of the very first stops after the Visitor's Center.

A somewhat sandy beach. You can see the rocky
shoreline behind us, though.



My son caught this huge snapping turtle while fishing off the
dock right in front of our cabin. Freaky as this is, it was made worse
by the fact the kids had been swimming just on the other side of the dock.


The Little Man and His First Starfish

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According to the Stars....

Cancer:
Astrological researchers have found that the Moon, the ruler of Cancer, is prominent in the charts of the great writers of our time. This year, with Jupiter in Scorpio, the stars support your projects, lift your spirits, and line your wallet.

Taken from Astrology for Writers, Editors and Filmmakers

Parties

Well, it's done. We successfully pulled off two parties on Saturday. It was crazy and a little bit chaotic for the host and hostess (that would be the hubby and me), but it was also a lot of fun.

First we held a small "Meet the Baby" baby shower for my sister's firstborn son. Christian is now 5 weeks old and hardly weighs anything at all. He's only gained a few ounces and is all arms and legs. I have a feeling he may turn out like his daddy, tall and thin!

Although there were more people at the baby shower than I had anticipated, there were still too many missing family members. I had one person call with a legitimate reason for not showing up--I wouldn't have missed my kid's playoff game either. The rest of the family just kind of sucks. There's a whole history of treating my brothers and sisters like this. Sometimes I'd really like to say, "Hello--Not our fault our parents divorced and the rest of you are too damn immature to get over it!" Of course I try to keep the peace, though, and end up saying mum.

Which is really weird. I'm not exactly known for keeping my mouth shut.

My sister didn't get very much either. I think four or five little gift bags. Of course, she already had a shower on her mom's side and got lots of goodies there. It should also be noted a small percentage of my dad's family went to that first shower despite the fact my ex-step-mom was there. But then these are the few people in my dad's family who understand it's not about my dad and his ex-wives, it's about us kids, my sister and her baby in this instance.

Do you detect some barely repressed resentment? Yeah, me, too.

Family sucks.

But not always.

Unlike my sister's baby shower, my dad's retirement party was a raging success. Lots of people, most of which were the family members who couldn't be bothered to come to the baby shower. My dad received several cards and a couple of wrapped gifts. A few old friends showed up to share a beer or a half dozen with him. We even ended up renting some silly fight off the pay-per-view channels. Horseshoes, a bonfire and a buffet of food rounded off the evening.

While most of our guests left before midnight, we had a few people staying the night with us. That group stayed up almost until the crack of dawn. Ken made it to 1:30. Somehow I outlasted him but by 3:00 am Jessica and I were beat and finally threw in the towel. The other three (LeAnn, Troy, and my brother Jake) stayed out at the bonfire until 5:00 am. CRAZY!!!

I didn't learn until the next morning that my brother, who had promised to spend the night, had grabbed my hubby's bike and rode home in the predawn hours. This wasn't exactly the smartest thing to do after drinking all night but it was better than walking the three miles through woods, which he had originally thought of doing.

Brothers!

After getting a few hours sleep we grabbed some breakfast and then started the clean up. It didn't take nearly as long as I had feared. In fact, I even got in a mini-nap before taking the kids to see Pirates of the Carribean II.

The movie was really good but it totally leaves you hanging. Number 3 needs to be released as soon as possible!

What a Weekend

I realize it's Friday and this weekend will be starting in just a few short hours but the title of this post refers to last weekend.

We were scheduled to leave Saturday around noon to go camping so I thought it wouldn't be a big deal to allow my oldest son to have a guest Friday night and my youngest son to go spend the evening with his cousin. In all honesty, it wasn't a big deal. Our house guest was incredibly well-behaved and well-mannered (kudos to his parents!). My youngest son had a blast at a bonfire complete with fireworks and marshmellows.

After taking our house guest home and picking up our youngest and our nephew, we left the house on Saturday by 11:30. A whole half hour ahead of schedule! Miracles do happen.

I had asked to take my nephew with us because he's going through a rough time with his parents' divorce and I was hoping the trip would help distract him. I must admit I was a bit nervous about taking this extra little person with us but all went well. The kids played well together with only a few minor arguments, in and out of the water.

Sunday dawned bright and beautiful. Unfortunately it not only brought sunshine and warmth, it brought the flu. Yes, the flu. Of course at the time we didn't realize it was the flu. When my youngest started throwing up I assumed he had eaten too much junk food the day before, then I worried it was heat exhaustion (the camper doesn't have air and it was HOT in there the night before), then I worried he was allergic to the pond water he had gone swimming in the day before. Not once did I think "great, he has the flu."

Hello. Not flu season.

He stopped throwing up in the afternoon and ate a little bit. Even went swimming later that night--giving weight to my heat exhaustion theory. He livened right up in the water and seemed fine. He even watched the fireworks that night.

Sidenote: My sister had come up for the fireworks show and took her little guy home with her. He had asked for her the night before and I doubted he'd do well staying another night with us. Poor baby.

Monday the puking started all over again. Okay, so it must have been the pond water, right? After all, his dad gets plugged up everytime he goes swimming in a pond or lake. The little guy has always had allergy problems, so allergies seemed a reasonable culprit. Especially when the puking stopped mid-afternoon again.

Wouldn't you know that night my stomach started turning. By morning, I was the one throwing up outside the camper in a garbage can. Not pretty. I felt so bad for the people sleeping in the tent next to our site. I finally managed to get things under control and could help the hubby break down camp. We were about halfway done repacking the camper when our oldest gets sick.

Although the campground was only an hour and a half away, that was the longest ride home. Flu + bumpy roads = feeling really shitty.

Luckily the thing seemed to run its course in two days. I ended up extending my long weekend by another day but I much rather would have been at work. I think my boys would have rather gone to daycare.

Let's hope we've seen the last of it. Considering we have two parties at our house tomorrow (a baby shower and a retirement party later that evening), my hubby doesn't have time to get sick!

I'm Losing My Mind

It's official. We all knew it was coming, and now it's here. I've lost my freakin' mind.

My memory has always been questionable. I can remember the most bizarre details and facts, but not what I had for dinner yesterday. I'd like to say this has always been true but I honestly can't remember. Maybe once upon a time I remembered not only the bizzare and unwanted things but those things I deemed truly important.

In the last week I have forgotten three major events. Not things, people. Events! I missed two open houses last weekend. And, no, I didn't blow them off. I truly, honestly, sincerely FORGOT! Okay, so both of them were on the same day and it stands to reason if I was going to forget one of them, I would forget both. Now I might have been able to shrug this unfortunate "oops" off if the lastest instance of senility hadn't happened less than a week later.

My nephew, who is adorable beyond words and I just love to pieces, had a birthday party last night. I knew about the party in advance. I have no excuse for completely forgetting about his party. I got a phone call at 9:30 from my sister (not his mom). I am such an idiot! And a terrible aunt.

They even moved the vehicles around so my oldest boy and their oldest boy (another totally adorable nephew of mine) could play basketball or ride their bikes. So I didn't just disappoint the little 5-year-old birthday boy. Oh, no. I disappointed six nephews and one little niece.

Ug!

Still revising

Okay, so the line edits were a breeze. It stands to reason, then, the actual revision would take a bit more time and attention, right? Right! The good news is I think I've managed to redo the opening chapter without forgetting to re-introduce any of the necessary threads I had felt compelled to cut.

As I progress through the novel I'm discovering I really loved the word "was" during the rough draft stage. It seems as if every other sentence needs to be slightly restructured in order to do away with the unnecessary "was"es. Fun, fun! Not that I'm a purist. I will admit I've left in a few here and there.

Something else slowing down my progress is my desire to create a nice and tidy NewNovelist file for the final revision and polish. This organization, while painful now, will become a lifeline to my sanity when I begin writing the sequel. So many little details have escaped my memory. Taking the time to not just read them but to extract them and organize them is going to help make this world come alive once again within the depths of my imagination.

Edits done.

It took me two days to get through the grammar and clarification corrections on Return of the Fallen. I expected to take a bit longer, but I'll manage I'm sure.

So now I'm onto the revisions. I'm cutting scenes, adding words, and praying what I'm writing makes sense. If I leave out something important the whole story will fall apart. Threads will unravel. This makes me more than a little nervous, but I'm pushing myself to keep going.

Editing

Minor Annoucement: The book formerly known as Dragonborn will henceforth be referred to by its newest title, Return of the Fallen.

There. Now that that's out of the way I can get onto the writing news. I am editing RotF. My beta reader, Brenda, has given me her electronic and manuscript notations. I have already worked my way through 100 pages, which leaves approximately 450 more to go.

I must admit I'm feeling pretty pleased with my little self right now. I have a plan and plans are good! I intend to fix all the little grammar issues first, clarifying where necessary without adding or deleting too much. I expect this will take the rest of the week--she really didn't find too many errors (thanks to all the wonderful critiques I had from my crit partners at FM & the Mighty Quill).

Once the simple fixes are taken care of I will then address the two major aspects of this revision. The beginning needs to be strengthened. The action needs to be tighter, more fast-paced, and provide more of a hook. Once I accomplish this, I will focus my attention on the ending. Although what I have works, I'd like to see something a bit more positive. Instead of leaving my characters amid the destruction, I think I'm going to follow them to the horizon of their new beginnings.

Hopefully the entire revision process won't take me more than three weeks. A week for grammar/clarifications and a quick re-read of the entire manuscript, a week for the new beginning, and a week for a revised ending. Once I'm satisfied it's as good as it's going to get, I'm going to do some serious name and address collecting.

See. I do have a plan!

Updates

The Dog: Came racing down the driveway as I pulled in Friday night. Didn't even need the hubby's magical voice to bring the little darling home. Funniest thing...she was clean! Someone had bathed her. She's so fluffy and soft right now.

Christian: I made a trip out to see my newest little nephew yesterday. He's so darn tiny! I can't believe my oldest son was the exact same birth weight. It seems impossible to reconcile the 8 year old giant with the tiny, frail infant I held in my arms.

Writing: rotflmao. I'm hoping to get back to it sometime this week.

Scrapbooking Gift: Completed and delivered to the lucky grad. Damn, am I ever grateful to have that thing out of my hair.

TGIF

Seriously. You have no idea...

I've been doing the single mom act all week because the hubby has been in Chicago attending a conference. I really don't care for the single parent act. I don't know how people who have no choice but to be a single parent do it. I think we should award each and every one an award for heroism. Because seriously, it's a lot of work. It's exhausting. It's time-consuming. It's difficult. And that's just scratching the surface.

The boys had five games between the two of them this week. My Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings were consumed by cleats, baseball bats, gloves, and rushed dinners. Last night was made even more exciting by having to have my oldest son to the field 45 minutes early for pictures.

None of this would have been so bad if I wouldn't have had offered to make a scrapbook for my co-worker's daughter. She just graduated from High School and the Open House is this weekend. Of course, I didn't have all the pictures I needed until Wednesday, so I'm terribly behind. Even after recruiting my sister's help (the single mom with 3 kids), I still have 8 blank pages I need to complete. I wonder if I'll be able to pull the book together before 1:00 tomorrow?

Of course, because I've been running here and there and working on the scrapbook project, my house is a wreck. I have four or five laundry baskets full of clean clothes in need of folding. The dishes need to be done. The bathrooms are disgusting. The floors are a wreck.

To top all of this off, my dog is missing. I let her out yesterday morning to go potty and forgot to put her back in the house before leaving for work. I walked in the house last night and knew something was wrong. She's always at the door to greet us. I must admit my first thought wasn't that she had ran away. She's old and I feared the worst. I called her name, checked each room in the house (expecting to find she had passed away in her sleep), but found only the mess we had left from the night before. Relieved but worried now for an entirely different reason, I went outside and started calling for her. Normally she stays really close to the house but yesterday there was a thunderstorm and she totally freaks out in bad weather. You would think she'd curl up somewhere close to the house but...no. The last time something similiar happened it took three days for her to find her way back to us. If she's outside and we're not home to let her in the house, she runs. And runs. And runs.

Of course, the boys started to get upset. They started going out toward the woods, calling for her at the top of their little lungs. Nothing. She didn't suddenly dart out of the woods, tail wagging and covered in mud (I know this is how she will turn up...she always turns up muddy).

Try getting your kids ready for pictures and games when they're dog is missing. It's not easy and it's not pretty, but eventually I prevailed and we left. I really thought she might have heard us and we'd find her waiting for us on the porch when we got home. No such luck. So I put a blanket on the front porch, hoping scent would draw her home when our voices hadn't.

It's been 24 hours now and she's still not shown her little face. Convincing the kids she's okay and will turn back up is getting progressively more difficult because I'm starting to wonder myself.

On a happier note, the hubby comes home tonight. We're supposed to pick him up from the train station after work. Maybe the dog will coming running when he starts calling for her. After all, she does think he's the best thing since puppy chow.

Nephew #10

Well, it's a boy! This means I now have 8 nephews from my side of the family and 10 nephews overall. It's so funny when you consider my parents have 10 grandsons and 1 granddaughter.

Christian Alexander was born last night at 11:16 pm. He weighed 7lbs, 6oz and was 20 1/2 inches long. He has a fair amount of light bown hair and an impressive set of lungs.

My sister's blood pressure was dangerously high (195/120 I think I remember her Mom telling me), which is why they decided they couldn't continue to let nature take its course. Although she was contracting, she wasn't really making any progress and the doctor didn't want to mess around with the blood pressure issue.

By the time I got to the hospital she was already in surgery. I kept my brother-in-law, James, company until the rest of the troops began to arrive. Sarah (my cousin and good friend of my sister's), and my dad and his fiance had a little bit of a wait but not much. Within 20 minutes someone had come out to announce it was a boy. Another 15 minutes or so and the baby was rolled into the birthing room for the new dad to see.



It was quite some time before my sister made it back to the room. They kept her in recovery for a little while. The nurse had time to show James how to bath and diaper his son. Explained how to properly care for the umbilical cord.



We also had lots of time to take pictures of the baby. Camera flashes were going off all over the place.



(Do you notice the little mark on his butt cheek? We think it's a birthmark.)

Eventually we also got to see the new Mommy. She was still recovering from the surgery and looked very tired. I only stayed long enough to tell her how beautiful her son was, snap a picture of her holding him, and kiss her cheek. I remembered how darn tired and out-of-sorts surgery had made me and I thought sleep would do her good. Well, as much sleep as a new mother gets with a crying baby in the room.

She's in Labor!

My baby sister is finally having her baby! It's about time, too. She's looked ready to pop for several weeks now.

Of course the baby doesn't seem to be rushing out to meet any of us. It seems content to move at its own maddening pace, which is somewhat faster than a snail. The contractions are slight and not doing much. The only reason they admitted her to the hospital was because of Chrissy's blood pressure. It's been high on and off for a few weeks. Since the baby is due tomorrow, the doctor seems to be willing to move things along regardless of the baby's wishes. If the contractions don't strengthen and begin dilating her cervix, there will be pitocin.

I'll keep you posted. Hopefully I'll have pictures of my newest neice or nephew to post very soon!

Sports

The boys have finished the soccer season. They played their last matches nearly a week ago.



Unfortunately, the baseball/t-ball season has just begun. We have games nearly every night during the week. My oldest son plays on Mondays and Wednesdays with the occassional Friday thrown in for good measure. If my youngest played on Tuesdays and Thursdays only, this might not be such a bad thing. But you know it doesn't work that way. Oh, no. Of course not.

At least we'll get a break during the month of July. There's not a single sport we can sign them up for; football doesn't start until mid-August. Thank goodness!

Elementary School Idol

Last night my second grader won third place for his performance in his class's version of American Idol. The kids were all partnered up with a classmate. KC and Alex sang (okay, so they danced more than they sang) One Little Slip by the Bare Naked Ladies; it's a song off the Chicken Little soundtrack.

I truly think KC earned the 3rd place award. He did a couple handstands, a few slides, the worm, and a flip or two. Oh, how the crowd clapped and hooted and hollered.

I'm glad I used the videocamera sparingly, though, because my batteries ran out seconds after KC and Alex accepted their award. If I had videotaped all of the kids and not just my own, I would have missed it!

WIP Update

I did manage to work on By the Blood this weekend. I didn't really add much to it, though, because once again I got mired in the opening paragraphs. I'm hoping what I came up with last night will pass the next inspection; I'm tired of second- and triple-guessing myself.

I can tell you what the problem is. The story is set in a psuedo-Ancient Egyptian world. I've done lots of research. Although, let's be honest, can you ever really research enough? Someone somewhere will nitpick the smallest details. I think I may have to put a nice little author's note at the beginning of the manuscript. Something along the lines of "While many elements in this story may resemeble Ancient Egyptian culture, landscape, and beliefs, this story is a piece of fiction and pure fantasy. It is not meant to be used for scholarly purposes. For accurate portrayals of the Ancient Egyptians, please seek reference books available at your local bookstore or library."

Even with those boundaries established, it's a challenge to nail the setting and cultural intricacies in the first few paragraphs. I hate opening a book with a long-winded description of landscape. Boring. I prefer to start with some action, even if it's very small action. Adding landscape and cultural references in between lines of dialogue or during action sequences is how I normally work. Yet, because this is fantasy and so many fantasy books have a medieval feel, I want to establish a sense of difference right away. But I don't want to dump a bunch of description, either. So it's a balancing act. One I'm struggling to maintain.

Of course, once I put my heroine into action, I need to consider how best to introduce my hero. And my villians--both big and small.

Beta Reader Update

My beta reader for Dragonborn emailed me last week. She's given up on reading it on screen, which means she printed off all 500+ pages. Ouch.

It sounds like I will eventually get some feedback. In fact, she's worried I will be offended or put off by what she has to say. I doubt it. I'm no longer attached to the story and I know it needs a major overhaul.

Funny Video Clip

Okay, I don't do this often but I really got a few good chuckles out of this little gem. If you've seen Star Wars (the originals), you may find this funny, too.

Video Clip

Television

American Idol

I'm done watching the show for this season.

I still can't believe Chris was voted off. He was by far my favorite and one of the most talented, IMO. Okay, and he wasn't bad looking either, but that's not why I thought he deserved to say. The boy can sing. And he has presence. And I love the whole rocker thing he had going on.

Despite being voted off, I expect to see Chris signed to a label. He's simply too good to disappear.


Grey's Anatomy

What a season finale! While I found it a tad bit unrealistic (okay, a majorly unrealistic--the hospital would have fired all of them for what happened), I still enjoyed the drama.

Poor Izzy. Although I totally expected her to leave the show, I still feel for her character. To finally find a man who loves you not for your big boobs and blonde hair (her words, not mine), only to lose him to a blood clot. That's bitter. Even if her quitting the medical field seemed an emotional response rather than a logical one, you can't feel anything but sympathy.

George and his lady. What the odd couple! I'm still not sure exactly how I feel about those two. She seems to overwhelm his character in so many ways. It was nice to see him take charge there near the end of the episode.

Alex. I go back and forth on his character. One week I hate him. The next I feel sorry for him. Then I'm back to hating him. Then I find myself admiring him. This week his tactful handling of the grief-striken Izzy really impressed me.

Burk & Christina. Another odd couple. I missed some of their interpersonal conflict last night thanks to the kids and the hubby. I thought they were breaking up...but perhaps not. It looks like she might have gotten her act together after Denny died. Perhaps witnessing Izzy's grief brought her own emotions closer to the surface.

Meredith, Derek, Addison & the Vet. Oh my. I really was not happy last night. Meredith is an idiot. Derek is a scumbag. Addison is such the victim. The only one I really feel sorry for in this tangled web is the vet. He seems like a decent human being. The other three all need psychiatric help. I was so disappointed by Meredith and Derek's sex scene. Maybe it's the prude in me, but I really hate cheaters and Derek is becoming quite adept at screwing around on his wife. I'm not liking him all the much any more. I'd respect him more if he had ended it with Addison and then went after Meredith.

What's your opinion? Are you at all distrubed by how the relationship between Meredith and Derek is progressing?

Charmed

The series finale is next weekend. I'm so bummed! I really like this show. I just hope they end it well. I'll keep you posted.

A Surprising Find

I had to work today. The University held an openhouse meant to draw in non-traditional students (basically anyone not right out of high school). With all the pending layoffs and buy-outs in the automotive industry, there's a huge target audience in our backyard. Unfortunately, I guess no one got the memo. Hardly anyone showed up.

On the upside, this meant I got to leave early. I got my hair cut. Bought Mother's Day gifts for my mom and mother-in-law. Grabbed some lunch.

While I was doing my shopping I couldn't resist buying a little something for myself. They had a discount counter at the Christian Bookstore. There were quite a few fiction titles, so I treated myself. Now, I don't read a lot of Christian fiction, but that's mainly because there aren't many titles on the shelves where I shop. It's rare I find the time to visit an actual bookstore.

I'll have to let you know what I think of Gideon's Dawn. The back cover sounded interesting enough. I was especially surprised to find a fantasy novel in this particular bookstore. I hadn't realized such a book would be accepted in a Christian-themed store. Of course, I assume this book has a very significant Christian message somewhere within its pages. Otherwise, why would the store stock it, right?

Lunch-Hour Writing

Life has been so busy lately I've resorted to lugging my laptop back and forth to work just so I can write on my lunch hours. Over the last few days I've opened and closed so many unfinished, half-thought-out stories. I can't even keep count of how WIPs I've looked at. Today, though, I finally got my act together and opened By the Blood.

The beginning was rougher than I had remembered so I spent most of the hour smoothing things out. Deleting and inserting. Rearranging.

I can't even tell you how good it felt to be writing! For a few brief moments, I was me. I was doing what I love and escaping from the daily grind. For those of you who don't write, you may not understand that place, that exact emotion or cognitive awareness. For those of you who do, I have not a single doubt you know what I'm talking about. Those days when the writing, despite it's imperfection, is a blessing.

Of course, lunch hours never last long enough and I didn't accomplish nearly as much as I would have liked. But at least I wrote. That's something.

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Graduation Day

Today Gage graduated from pre-school. Isn't he too cute for words? You should have seen the little skit they put on for us. It was adorable, as only 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds can be. Posted by Picasa

Going Out

I know I haven't posted here in quite some time, so I thought I'd take a minute or two to say hello. I can't stick around for very long because I need to throw in a load of laundry before the hubby gets home from his haircut.

We're going out tonight! We don't do it very often, thus the exclamation point. Tonight we're dropping the boys off with a sitter and picking up our best friends. I'm not sure where we'll eat. I'm happy with Taco Bell but I imagine we'll go somewhere a bit more upscale. You know those places were you get to sit down and a waitress comes to your table? Yeah, one of those.

After dinner we plan on heading to the theater. We're going to see Mission Impossible 3. I'm not really expecting to be blown away (ha!), so I imagine I'll be pleasantly entertained. After all, low expectations are so easy to meet.

Okay. Time for laundry.

Later!

The Cause of Creativity

I was taking an ice cream break and came across PBW's entry on hypergraphia, which is an uncontrollable urge to write. Apparently the term became prominent after a Harvad neurologist fell victim to a pressing need to write. Her research led her to the discovery of how the brain functions during the creative process.

I don't know about you, but I find this whole concept fascinating. So much so, I've actually ordered Flaherty's book, The Midnight Disease.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not self-diagnosing here. I don't believe I suffer from this particular pathology. Sometimes I must write, especially if I want to remain civil and happy, but I can resist the urge. I can force myself to focus on my other responsiblities. I'm not so sure a true suffer of hypergraphia could say as much.

However, there are a few writers out here in cyberland in think could be suffering from this affliction. I've always wondered how they've churned out book after book in the course of a single year. Now I have my suspicions. :-)

Loss of Direction

That's the title of the short story I'm working on right now. It's the final project for my Creative Writing class and it's due next Tuesday. I intend to turn it in on Monday. I'm either going to work on it tonight or Sunday; Saturday is out of the question.

The story is about a dryad who has been displaced from her grove. She's not simply lost. She's been yanked out of her world and dumped into ours. The story has the potential to become a novel, so it's been a struggle to scale down the scope to a single moment in time and make it feel "complete". I've gotten some great feedback from Gail and the story has already improved dramatically.

Once this story is complete I will begin working seriously on my WIPs. It's funny how writing steadily actually makes you want to keep writing. I'm actually anxious to get this short story completed so I can start working on By the Blood.

Not sure what this means...

But I got the link to the test from Tambo and thought I'd give my blog a run through the thing.

Here's the results:

The following table contains the readability results for http://krista225.blogspot.com/.

Reading Level Results Summary Value
Total sentences 132
Total words 383
Average words per Sentence 2.90
Words with 1 Syllable 230
Words with 2 Syllables 79
Words with 3 Syllables 58
Words with 4 or more Syllables 16
Percentage of word with three or more syllables 19.32%
Average Syllables per Word 1.63
Gunning Fog Index 8.89
Flesch Reading Ease 65.61
Flesch-Kincaid Grade 4.83

Does this mean my blog is hard to read? That's not good! Reading ease at 65% doesn't seem like a good number. I'll need to read up some more on what these results mean and get back to you. :)

My Boys

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originally uploaded by krista225.
Look how big they are!

Sit pretty!

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originally uploaded by krista225.
Brittney's gotten a little chubby and doesn't like to work as hard for her treats anymore. Doesn't stop the boys from trying!

The boys & Brittney

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originally uploaded by krista225.

Getting Feedback

For my writing class we're supposed to write a short story in 16 pages or less. My rough is currently 15 pages. The only problem with it is that it reads more like a chapter than a short story. I need to figure out how to rework it. I suppose printing it off and grabbing a red pen would be helpful.

Know what else would be helpful? Feedback from my critique group. Only one person has actually provided comments so far.

Some Interesting News

The Sigma Tau Delta Critical and Creative Writing Conference will be held at the University this Spring. When they advertised a Call for Papers I submitted a poem and a short story. I didn't expect to hear anything back.

Why not, you ask? Well, I'm not a poet. I only wrote this poem because it was required. The short story is also not my chosen medium. I am, without a single doubt, a novelist. But I had this short story I've tinkered with for some time and figured it wasn't doing any good just sitting on my harddrive. So, I submitted both just to see what would happen.

Both pieces were accepted. I have to make any revisions I deem necessary (there were no suggestions) and resubmit the pieces by April 27th. I also need to practice reading them out loud as I have to present them at the conference on May 4th.

Egads! What have I gotten myself into? Public speaking is not exactly my favorite pasttime!

In addition to being selected and having to present, both pieces will be published. I don't know exactly what this means. I believe it will be published through the organization and not a major publisher, so I doubt you'll find it at Borders. ;-)

PacMan!

I use Google's personalized homepage feature and I love it. I've customized it with links, daily quotes, weather, and games. Yesterday I found PacMan. I don't if you're old enough to remember PacMan but it was perhaps the most popular video game of my youth. I remember playing it in the arcade with my brothers. And, if I remember correctly, it was also on the Atari system we owned.

Geesh! That makes me sound so old!

Although PacMan is great, I'd love to find Centipede again. That was my all-time favorite arcade game.

A Poem by Maya Angelou

Christians - By Maya Angelou
(I thought this was actually someone else's poem but I could be wrong! If I've given credit to the wrong person, please let me know and I'll change the byline.)

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not shouting "I'm clean livin'."
I'm whispering "I was lost,
Now I'm found and forgiven."

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble
and need Christ to be my guide.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak
And need His strength to carry on.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed
And need God to clean my mess.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
But, God believes I am worth it.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.

When I say... "I am a Christian"
I'm not holier than thou,
I'm just a simple sinner
Who received God's good grace, somehow!