June 27, 2008

Book Meme

The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed. Well let’s see.

1) Look at the list and indicate those you have read (I used orange text).
2) Italicize those you intend to read.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible (parts of it)
7 Wuthering Heights
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville (don’t think I got much past “Call me Ishmael.”)
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce (thought i’d give it a try before next Bloomsday)
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (a couple, but by no means all or even many)
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

How about you? If you decide to play along, drop me a note in comments!

Writing Update

Believe it or not, I have been writing. I had a sort of breakthrough moment yesterday, which was desperately needed. The end is in sight, people! I might change a few things during the revision process, but I think for the most part what I got worked.

I'm going to finish this novel. Let me say that one more time with a bit more feeling. I'm going to finish this novel! If I could make those words dance, sparkle, or sing, I would.

It's no longer a question in my mind or a vague hope. I know I'm going to finish it. I am going to finish it, polish it, give it to some trusted beta readers, and then...

Do I self-publish or do I engage in the agent/publisher hunt? Almost from the beginning I've planned on using Lulu's services. Remember this story is a belated Christmas present for my sister-in-law (thank goodness it wasn't the only gift I gave her that year!). I started it with the intention of self-publishing it so the gift-giving wouldn't be insanely delayed.

Still..there's a part of me that is egotistical enough to think this novel might just be good enough to catch somone's eye. It might be marketable. I need to emphasize the might because the truth is there might be too much religion in it for the paranormal romance readers and too much of everything else for the Christian crowd. I'd like to think the romance crowd would still enjoy the story even if they aren't of the Christian persuasion. After all, if they can read a book about vampires, succubi, demons, and angels, they should be able to stretch their imaginations to toy with the idea of God and Satan, too.

I guess I'll wait for the feedback from my beta readers to decide that fateful next step. That's reasonable, right? The important thing to focus on now (she chides herself) is finishing and polishing the book.

June 25, 2008

Blessings in Disguise

My nephew was supposed to have surgery this morning. Imagine my surprise when the hubby and I passed my sister on our way to work and she was driving not towards the hospital but towards home! Of course, being the nosey person I am, I had to know what was going on. A quick cell phone call and I discovered today's surgery had been cancelled and she'd be heading back to work.

During that brief conversation, my sister told me how her intuition had been giving her fits for the last 24-hours and then this. We both agreed the surgery wasn't meant to happen today and, although the cancellation poses some new challenges and a whole new set of headaches, it's really for the best.

Now fast foward a few hours ahead. I'm reading Lisa Bearnson's blog and I come across the story of the little girl they had been vacationing with who had gone missing in the middle of the night. Events had transpired in such a way that the lousy start to their vacation (being unable to get on the water that first night) ended up being the best thing that could have happened for this little girl. Instead of sleepwalking to someone else's boat, she might have walked off the houseboat they had rented into the middle of a huge lake. She might have drowned.

Sometimes the bumps in the road are truly blessings in disguise. Being landlocked that extra night probably saved this little girl's life. I have to believe that there's just as good a reason why my nephew's surgery had to be postponed at the very last possible second. Sure, maybe my sister wasted gas money and burned up some vacation time this morning running him to the hospital, but I truly believe there's a reason he didn't have that surgery today.

Call it coincidence or luck, I choose to see it as divine intervention.

June 24, 2008

Vacation Highlights

It would take too long to walk you day-by-day through our Disney World vacation, so I'm going to give you the highlights.

We stayed in a condo for the week. The complex was located about 15 minutes away from most of the Disney parks; Downtown Disney with all its stores and shops was closer by half. The condo had several pools, a putt-putt golf coarse, a tennis court, an activities center, and probably a lot of other stuff we never noticed. We ended up eating at one of the restaurants on the premises halfway through the week, but other than raiding the registration area on a Friday night for free slushies and cotton candy, we spent very little time at the condo. Of course, that's not counting the nights we spent in the pools. After a day of intense heat and near dehydration (well, we could have dehydrated!), the pools were a big hit and something the kids especially looked forward to every night.

The parks. How can I talk about a week of Disney without mentioning the parks? I can't!

We spent 13 hours at the Magic Kingdom on Monday (our first full day in Florida) and still didn't get to see and do everything. It was so hot. More so than any of us anticipated, I think. I don't know how those Floridians stand that kind of humid heat day in and day out. Ick. Luckily, Disney has several rides and shows that take place in air-conditioning. Some of our favorite attractions were Splash Mountain, Mickey's Philharmagic, the Laugh Floor, and the fireworks show.

We also managed to visit Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, DisneyQuest, and Hollywood Studios. A second visit to Magic Kingdom was in order, though, because we hadn't had a chance to ride Space Mountain or visit the Haunted Mansion on our first day. I know! 13 hours and there was still so much we didn't see or do!

Animal Kingdom was probably the least enjoyable park, which stinks because under other circumstances I think it would be my hands down favorite. There were just too many people. Think of the most crowded rock concert you've ever been to and envision the crowd after the show's done. Bodies everywhere, pressing against you, threatening to cut you off from your friends or family members. Yeah. That was Animal Kingdom. We had to be hyperviligiant that day. With five little boys to keep track of, we couldn't take our eyes off them for two seconds. Add to that the intense heat and you can guess how miserable we were. However, there were some definite highlights:
  • I absolutely adored the Finding Nemo puppet production. The fact that it took place on a huge stage in an air-conditioned auditorium didn't hurt, either.
  • I also enjoyed Everest Expedition. Ken and Kellie, not so much. It made both of them feel a bit sick.
  • The animals were simply amazing. The Safari Ride rocked. I have some amazing pictures from that brief ride. (I haven't uploaded them to Flickr yet, but I will!)
  • The silverback gorillas. Wow. Kellie captured this amazing shot (I love the zoom on her camera! It gets much closer than my 18-55mm lens).
  • Funniest Memory of the Day: The baby shat all over my hubby while I was in the restroom and everyone else was riding a water ride. For the record, he handled it very well.
We tried to break up our visits to the regular parks with water parks. It didn't quite work out to every other day, but it was close. My favorite water park was Tyhpoon Lagoon. The wave pool was simply amazing. It was also the prettier of the two parks, even though it had the worst food. I think the most amazing thing there, though, was the chance to swim with the sharks. Here's a photo of me and the boys getting ready to snorkel! Only the baby and one of my nephews didn't make it across the artifical reef. Everyone else went at least once. The water was frigid, but the experience pretty much took your mind right off the fact that you were suddenly freezing.

Probably the least impressive park for my little family of four would have to be Hollywood Studios. This was a great disappointment. I think we had set our expectations a little too high. Of course, perhaps we might have felt better about the attractions if we had seen more of them. We didn't make it to the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectatular, which was high on my list. However, we did watch the Beauty and Beast musical, rode on the Tower of Terror, and watched a pretty thrilling Lights, Camera, Action stunt show. (Again, I've not uploaded any of these pictures...I'll try to add more photos to my Disney set tonight).

Wow. This is getting lengthy.

Time to say farewell for now I think.

June 20, 2008

My New Baby


Cash (Cassius)
Originally uploaded by Krheiser

I'm skipping ahead a few days in the ducumenting of our family vacation because I just can't wait to show you the latest addition to our little family. He weighs about 4lbs right now and we're thinking he'll top out around 8-9. His name is Cassius (call him Cash, we do!).

He's not potty trained.

He's a bit of a biter when he's in play-mode.

He wakes me up about 5AM every morning.

He's a lover most of the time. Seriously. So many kisses...

We don't know his full name yet. His Momma's name was Braveheart Did-It-Bite-Ya. His Daddy's name is Max (no idea if it's just plain ole Max, Maximus, Maximillion...) I thought we should give his parents some kind of recognition, but I'm not sure. Is that a requirement when naming a registered dog?

June 19, 2008

Some Words

I thought it might be nice if I posted something other than just pictures of our vacation. You know, like words! Maybe even full sentences. Paragraphs with nice transitional phrases. (Don't get your hopes up!)

I should probably start by mentioning that the kidlets were surprised. Perhaps a bit less bouncy than I had anticipated, but the surprise was definitely there. We pulled into the airport around 10AM Sunday morning. As we were merging with traffic and trying to figure out how to get to that off-site parking lot across the expressway, I pulled out my camera. Then, when the camera had been turned on and the settings checked, the hubby and I told them we were getting on an airplane and going to Florida.

The oldest looked like a deer in the headlights. "We're going on an airplane?" he asked, not at all eager and more than a little intimidated. Yes, maybe even a touch of instant anxiety shadowed his little hazel eyes.

The youngest did a little hop in his seat and pumped a fist into the air. This might have been after I confirmed that they were going to miss the last day couple days of school.

We didn't tell them we were going to Disney until after we had parked, found a shuttle to the airport, checked our bags, and passed through security. Then we sat all 5 boys down and gave them the news. There wasn't any shouting or squealing, but there was definitely excitement. Except for my oldest nephew, who had apparently been told by someone who didn't know it was supposed to be a surprise. He seemed happy but unimpressed.

The plane ride itself was uneventful. My youngest was absolutely freakin' adorable. He loved flying. He even went so far as to draw a picture for the flight attendants. Cute, cute, cute!

Okay, that's enough for today...more tomorrow.

June 6, 2008

Writing Update

I'm making progress - I need to remember to update my progress bar - and feeling decent about what I'm getting. I think a lot of my problem revolved around the fact that the weeks long hiatus from the book had thrown me out of the story. Little details escaped and eluded me, setting me adrift in a sea of uncertainty and confusion.

Luckily, those important and pesky little details that make a story work are coming back to me. The characters are breathing once more, urging me to hurry the hell up and just finish it already! A couple of weeks ago I would have squirmed uneasily in my chair, but over the last few days I've discovered I'm eager to do just that.

So excuse me if I don't stick around here and chat. And don't worry if I disappear for a few days!

New Baby Alert!

We have yet another baby in the family. My cousin has just welcomed her third daughter, Lola, into the world. Word has it mommy and baby are dong fine.

June 4, 2008

That Child

I think I've mentioned before that I've set my oldest boy up with his very own blog. It's private and requires an invitation, so all worries about pedophile stalkers can be laid to rest.

Worries about mom losing her mind should be taken out of the closet and given new life.

That child!

I know writing is hard for him. I know the ideas in his head never quite make it onto the paper how he wants it to. I get it. What I don't get is his total lack of concern over the matter. Last night's entry is a key example. I'm going to copy and paste from his blog for your reading...pleasure?

Keep in mind, I've not made any changes to the text. This is exactly what appears on his blog.

funny jouks
ock nock whose there hands hands who hand off my cat!
nock nock whos there there run run who run the dog is gaging onn us
nock nock whos there bit bit who your dog bit me

As you can see, the spelling is atrocious. Punctuation? Who needs it?

I tried reading it aloud to him last night. Tried helping him to hear the difference between non-punctuated text and punctuated. I don't think it helped.

Tonight, I'm going to try something different. I'm going to find a picture from DeviantArt or Artzone and have him use it as a prompt.

I'm also thinking in the future of letting him do an audio recording using Audacity. If it wasn't so expensive, I'd even attempt to use speech-to-text software so he could see how spoken words appear on the page. Although, maybe a $100 purchase might be worth it if he continues to struggle. I don't know.

Maybe you have some ideas you'd like to share. I'm certainly open to suggestions!

June 3, 2008

The Talk of Washington

I'm sure you've at least heard that Bush's former Press Secretary, Scott McClellan, has released a book on the Bush Administration. I think I first heard of it on Eric & Carson, a local radio show. The next morning it was on the news, who emphasized again and again that McClellan's criticism has been met with surprise and disappointment by White House officials.
Really? Say it isn't so!

Now, I haven't read the book. I haven't seen more than a couple of quotes and read more than a paragraph or two of the actual text using Amazon's "Look Inside" feature. Um. Not sure what all the buzz is about. I didn't see anything all that shocking. In fact, I couldn't even find anything remotely interesting.

Maybe I'm burned out on political propaganda. Maybe I'm not discerning enough.

However, I did find one interesting quote I'd like to share:

"I want to quote his defenders, but he doesn't have any," Peggy Noonan writes in her overview of responses. "Those in the mainstream media who want to see the president unmasked, who want to see the administration revealed as something dark, do not want to be caught cheering on the unmasker." (Source)

I think that might be the most insightful comment I've heard yet.

June 2, 2008

Shopping & Packing

This may come as a surprise, but I don't consider myself much of a shopper. Don't get me wrong, I could be! I could easily spend my weekends hopping from store to store, searching for that perfect pair of jeans or a cute little shirt to go with those shorts I have at home. I could also spend hours browsing the local B&N in search of the next best read. Oh, yes, I could easily become a hardcore shopper if the funds were available.

But I don't frequent the mall because there's always something more pressing to spend my paychecks on and I'm not very good at window shopping. If I'm browsing, I'm buying. So I don't go. At least, not often.

However, as we all know, there are times when shopping is necessary. Family vacations happen to be one of them. My feeling on the matter is that everyone needs to look good in the hundreds of photos I will undoubtedly take. Last year's wardrobe just won't do, not even if it still fits! Besides, I doubt my boys have very few items remaining that haven't been stained or soiled in some irreparable manner.

This said, you can imagine what I did this weekend. I shopped. Friday night I went to the Outlet Mall and picked up both of the boys a couple of outfits. Saturday I hit Kohls. Oh my. I love that store! I love the clothes they carry and the shoes and the accessories... I also loved the Early Bird Sale we lucked into. I got quite a bit for $127.

Once the shopping was done - for me and the boys only - I had to figure out what to do with them once we got home. Remember the boys have no idea why they just got new summer wardrobes. We want the vacation to come as a complete surprise, which means packing the new clothes into the suitcases right now is impossible. Instead, I've got piles of clothes on my dresser. If I wasn't so excited, I'd probably be annoyed.