My Christmas Movie Playlist

Today as I was browsing Facebook I was admiring one of my (much younger) cousin's lucky find at a church rummage sale: a beautiful artificial Christmas tree she got for free.  While she put it together, she mentioned that she had been watching her favorite Christmas movie.  I'd have to agree with her: this seems like the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit to me.  Putting up your tree, whether it's artificial or dropping sap and pine needles, with a Christmas movie playing in the background helps create a little holiday ambiance.

I love Christmas movies.  As we will be putting up our tree this weekend after a visit to the tree farm, I thought about the movies I have quick and easy access to in my DVD cupboard.  There are quite a few, and not all of them are enjoyed by the entire family. 

 My kids recently added this one to our DVR and we've already watched it.  I'm thinking that automatically disqualifies if from consideration, but they could surprise me.

Okay, this is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, I think I may be the only one who really appreciates it.  Ken is rather ambivalent.  He'll listen to it play out as he tinkers on his iPad, but I don't think he'd recommend it as a family viewing event.  The boys, on the other hand, tend to vacate the room.  Hmm.  I've never let that stop me before...

 This might not be the exact collection I own, but it's pretty close.  These are the classic cartoons that filled my childhood holidays with promises of Christmas cheer.  I am partial to the Grinch, but love Frosty, too.   The only question here is if my two teenagers are too cool to watch them with me?  Anime they adore, classic cartoons not so much.

Another classic cartoon.  It seems like we usually manage to catch this one on television, but we own the DVD just in case we miss it.  It's a tradition.  It will be viewed eventually. 

 The movie adaptation of Dr. Suess's The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is a favorite, too. In fact, in some ways I may even prefer it to the old cartoon version.  Maybe.  This one is a definite possibility for our Christmas tree decorating.  I think everyone in the house enjoys it. 

We have a few other titles hanging around, too, but these are the ones that I tend to gravitate toward when the holidays roll around. 

Kindle Freebie Book Review

New Jersey's Famous Turnpike WitchNew Jersey's Famous Turnpike Witch by Brad Abruzzi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked the premise of this book, but must admit there were times I felt my attention wandering. While I tend to attribute this inability to remain focused on the storytelling approach, I'm not sure that's entirely fair. There were some things to admire, things that other readers may find inspired, but I felt were slightly overdone.

First, this book is not afraid to skip around the timeline. Jumps forward, backward, and sideways occur with regularity.

The main character is majorly flawed. There's a reason she becomes known as the Turnpike Witch, which I refuse to put down here as I don't want to spoil anything for those who may chance to stumble across the review before reading the book for themselves. I hate spoilers, so I don't want to be guilty of springing them on anyone else.

In between all the anti-chronological viewpoint jumps, there was something very interesting going on with what I deem to be the author's message on mental health, politics, and even the perils of fandom.

If I have any real constructive criticism, it is this: the story could have been tightened by deleting a few extraneous scenes. Now, don't get me wrong, the author skillfully manipulated the English language. The story was well written; I don't remember any typos or gross grammatical errors.

And now I feel kind of bad about my 3-star rating.  I think another reader, one more patient than myself, would have given it a much higher score.

View all my reviews

NaNo 2013

I really thought I could do it this year.  I had the time and the desire.  I did a lot of pre-writing activities, like character building and plot development, months before the official start date.  I had notes on what had happened in book #1 and what I thought needed to happen in book #2.  I was prepared.

The beginning of NaNoWriMo 2013 went well enough.  I started out strong.  Unfortunately, my dedication waned after the first week.  I wrote fewer and fewer words, skipped a day here and there, and then would try to regroup and attack the blank page with a weekend writing marathon.   

It didn't work.  I came nowhere near 50,000 words. 

As of this moment, I have 20,460 words written. Given my double-spacing and fondness for Courier New's 12 point font, this brings me to page 97.  I've just started chapter eight, and I think what I have so far is a good, solid start for a first draft.  It's also 20,460 more words (or 97 pages, if you prefer) than I had on October 31st.  

There's even more good news.  The story is about to really take off.  The minor conflicts hinted at in the beginning are about to explode into action.  Jealousy, fear, hatred, confusion, and a multitude of other emotions are going to provide the impetus required to reach the climatic moment.  The denouement, as I currently envision it, will give me the space needed to indicate the current crisis has been resolved but there's more to come. 

I've got a plan.  Things are falling into place.  

I'm just writing it all out at a slower, more sedate pace than NaNoWriMo allows.  That's not a bad thing. Not at all.    

Almost NaNo!

Midnight tomorrow.  That's when NaNoWriMo 2013 begins.  Of course, given the fact that I have to work the next morning, I'll be in bed sleeping instead of writing those first few lines of fiction.  The start to my NaNoWriMo journey will have to wait until either my lunch hour or, if that doesn't pan out, sometime after work. 

There's a chance that the hubby and my boys might be watching our local football team in their second playoff game, which would leave me with some quiet time at home.  Not that it matters.  Even if they're home with the television blaring, I will write.  I'll try to stay social, try to stay engaged with the family, but if it takes a little alone time to find the right words, then alone time I will find. 

As November 1st approaches I feel pretty confident in my ability to make some solid progress on the story. I've got EverNote documents of various sorts.  Organization, I hope, will help get me through the rough draft. 

Not that I have everything all mapped out.  I don't.  I expect there will be many surprises as I work my way through this next installment of what I think will be a five book series.  However, knowing where the story has already been is an absolute necessity.  Contradicting myself in print would be quite the embarrassment, one I sincerely hope to avoid. 

Getting Reacquainted with Creative Writing

This blog started out as a place for me to discuss my writing (mis)adventures.  It morphed into something else entirely, something that more closely resembles a mommy blog.  It became a place for me to record the mundane and the exceptional moments in our daily lives.  I've highlighted youth and school sports.  I uploaded vacation pictures.  I've droned on about books and school and whatever else I felt the need to discuss.  What soon became absent from the blog, though, was my writing, the very thing that prompted me to start blogging.  

This was mostly because I stopped writing and turned my attention to more immediate concerns, like work, family, and school.  I no longer frequented my writing groups - the online or the face-to-face communities.  I lost touch with the majority of my writing friends.  I opted out of writing challenges and focused my brain power on obtaining my degree.   

However, since graduating this summer, I've had writing on the brain.  I've been thinking a lot about writing the follow up to Fallen Angel.  I know it's going to be a challenge, and I'm more than a little intimidated by the prospect.  There is a part of me that is convinced I'm not up to the task, but I try not to listen to it.  I need to trust in my process.  Of course, if that doesn't work, I'm sure my "beta readers" will stop me from completely embarrassing myself when they get their hands on the revised-but-still-rough draft.  Not the first dreadful draft, mind you.  That mess will be for my eyes only!  

Well, mostly for my eyes only.  I may post the occasional snippet here on the blog, but those snippets may not end up in end product.  I may edit or even scrap them during the revision stage. 

The revision stage...that seems so far away right now, especially when I'm going to be starting fresh on the story come November 1st.  The 50K I need to write that month will probably get me to the halfway point. And hopefully that 50K is usable.  

As November approaches I will be doing all I can to prepare myself.  The first step is to know my characters and their back stories.  I'm also working out what each character wants and what stands in their way of getting it.  This will create various tensions and contribute to the larger plot-advancing conflict.  All good things.  

Yet, I'm still afraid I'm going to have trouble rekindling my creative writing juices.  I feel so out of practice! 




A Brief Update

I have no excuses for failing to keep up on my blog writing.  I'm lazy.  Really, that's all there is to it.

So, what's happened since I last posted on September 5th?  

I've been reading.  Slowly.  I finished House of Leaves, The Submission, and the first book in The Bio of a Space Tyrant series.  The theory texts have been temporarily set aside in favor of  this..

Story Logic and the Craft of Fiction

My fellow NaNo buddy and I are hoping it will help spark our creativity and get us amped up for November's writing marathon.

Oh, yes, I will not only be participating in NaNoWriMo this year, I will be winning it.  I have no excuses this time around.  There will not be any mandatory reading assignments or term papers to write.  My children will be sports-free.  Barring some unforeseen emergency or family drama, this means the only distractions I will have to contend with will be of my own creation. Therefore, I will write the first 50 thousand words on book #2 in November.

If I start to lose pace, please feel free to remind me that my reading-for-fun should be delayed until the day's writing is done.  Writing before reading in November!  Also, as fall television programming is probably my favorite of all television seasons, I have a DVR, which means I can record my shows and watch them later.

Oh, and if you'd like to join the NaNoWriMo madness, be sure to look me up and add me as a buddy.  My user ID in the community is krista225.  I'm a member of the Flint Red Hot Writers on the forums.

A Little Bit of Theory, a Little Bit of Fun.

When I imagined finishing my last graduate course, I envisioned many hours of bubble gum reading.  I'd indulge in every genre imaginable.  I talked a bit about my intended reading lists here and here.   As I look at those old posts, I'm happy to see that at least a few of them have been read.

The Hangman's Daughter (The Hangman's Daughter #1)   Calamity Jayne (Calamity Jayne Mystery, #1)     The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)

I still intend to make my way through those lists before the year's end.  Those and several more.  After all, I set myself a ridiculous reading goal this year: 100 books.  Right now, I've read a whopping 34 titles.  That only leaves...66 to go before December 31.  With approximately 15 weeks to go, that means I'll need to read four and a half books a week.  

Um. Yikes. 

That's a lot of books and not a lot of time.  Now, I'm not saying it's impossible because I could absolutely select books that are easily consumed in a day or two.  Skinny books with low page counts come immediately to mind.  Also, some genres read easier than others.  

Reading theory for fun, though, is seriously slowing me down.  Right now, I've got three books at various stages of progress. 

The Order of Things: An Archaeology of Human Sciences   The Wave in the Mind: Talks & Essays on the Writer, the Reader & the Imagination    The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination

Foucault I started just last week.  I'm reading this one with a friend (you know who you are!).  Our goal is to read two chapters a week and discuss them on one of our afternoon walks.  This is a good thing because I'm going to need someone else to bounce ideas off as this is not nearly as accessible as I first thought it would be.  Although, as I near the end of chapter two, I feel he is beginning to speak a language I can once again understand.  The abstract is becoming more concrete. 

I've read about half of LeGuin's book.  It's not theory on the same level as Foucault or Gubar & Gilbert, but it's defintely not easy reading, either.  Well, some of the essays are actually quite accessible and even entertaining.  In all honesty, this book will be the easiest of the three to finish.  I just need to figure out where I left's somewhere in the house.  I'm sure of it. 

Gilbert and Gubar's book uses theory but reads like literary analysis.  It's interesting, but can be somewhat challenging when the discussion shifts to novels I've not read.  Knowing the story and the characters the two have put under the microscope helps.  Let's just say I'll never look at Frankenstein or Wuthering Heights the same way.  Also, I now feel the very real need to sit down and read Milton's Paradise Lost.

On a more entertaining note, I'm also reading this...

House of Leaves

It's perhaps one of the strangest pieces of fiction I've read in a very long time.  I'm only page 74, so I'm not sure I should even try at this point to give any kind of an overview.  Let's just say, I have a feeling the weirdness is only beginning.  

The Badlands of South Dakota

This is it.  The last post on the big 2013 family vacation.

On our way home, we continued our small detour and ventured into the South Dakota Badlands.  We spent quite a few hours driving through the park, admiring bizarre landscape and its abundant wildlife. 

While most of the mountainous formations were a pale ash color, there were splashes of color.  These pink and yellow layers in the rock were very striking. Looking at these pictures now, it's easy to let the imagination run a little wild.  Could this be some alien landscape undergoing human terra-forming? Hmm. Story fodder for later, perhaps. 

They were so ready to go home and weren't quite as impressed as mom and dad at this point.  This changed, though, when the animals started to appear. 

We might not have spotted these bighorn sheep if some other tourists hadn't been out photographing them.  They were several ridges away and their coats and horns really didn't stand out in stark contrast against the backdrop of the sand-colored mountains.  

We watched these fellas (I assume they're boys because of those I wrong?) for some time. Eventually, though, we decided to leave them to their sunbathing. 

Not too far around the next bend we found the prairie dog town.  Can I just say that I think these little critters are adorable?  

There were hundreds (thousands?) of these little critters in the Badlands, but this concentration of burrows were fairly close to the road and easily accessible. I was able to get fairly close to this mama and her babies without alarming them.  When I got a little too close for comfort, they chittered at me to keep my distance. Strangely, they did not bolt below ground. 

There were, of course, more pronghorns.  This feisty pair even put on a bit of a show by locking horns a bit. 

Yikes!  Rattlesnakes?  I was walking barefoot earlier.  If I had known rattlesnakes might be in the vicinity, I wouldn't have gotten out of the car!

After seeing this sign, I tried my best to keep the boys from wandering off into the grass.  They found my paranoia amusing.

My oldest even did a little videotaping and cell-phone photography with my phone.  Although you can't really see it here, he was laughing as he kept the phone of my reach.  Stinker!

We were nearly out of the park when we happened to notice these bighorn sheep ambling along.  I snapped a few pictures from the car.  Ken was a bit braver.  He pulled over, grabbed the camera, and crept up along a grassy buttress that blocked him from the sheep's sight.  

They never knew he was there. 

After several hundred miles in the car later, we were home.  While it was sad to think we would soon be back at work and into the old routine, it was very nice seeing this little fella again!

We sure did miss him. 

Deadwood & Mt. Rushmore

In reviewing my previous posts, I realized I hadn't finished documenting our big family vacation this year.  I still had two more posts to go when I got sidetracked by school and all things shiny.  

First in line is Deadwood, South Dakota.  We didn't spend a lot of time here, just a couple of hours at most.  We were on a mission that day to get to Mt. Rushmore and, finally, the Badlands.  Deadwood was just one of those destinations that I really wanted to see just to say we had seen it.

It's just as touristy as I thought it would be.  They even have a street performance, which we glimpsed from our car windows as we pulled out of town. 

If we had had more time, I would have conned Ken into staying for the shows later that evening because that's just the kind of nerd I am.  Okay, and perhaps my overlong exposure to historical romance novels has somewhat romanticized the Wild West.  Add to that the HBO series and how could I resist?   

Unfortunately, we picked a rather tame time to visit the town.  We did some sightseeing and shopping, but little else. 

Admittedly, my enthusiasm was not matched by the men in the family.  Of course, the boys might have enjoyed it more if our timing had been better and they had been able to watch the reenactments.  Also,  had Ken and I been childless, we might have enjoyed a few hours of gambling, but we couldn't very well leave the boys sitting on the sidewalk while we dropped coins into the slot machines or threw the dice a few dozen times. 

So, we packed up and found a hotel for the night that would take us a little bit closer to Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands.   

Rushmore was a drive-by.  We didn't enter the park.  Luckily, this view was visible from the highway and my zoom lens was in good working order. 

Perhaps not the best angle, but it works.  Rushmore. Done. 

Next on the hit list...the Badlands of South Dakota. 

Two Weeks

It's almost here.  Freedom.  Freedom to read and write whatever I want without having to worry about a deadline chiseled into a syllabus.  I am so looking forward to taking full advantage of that freedom because it's been fourteen years in the making.  Fourteen years.  That's how long I've been taking classes, working my way through my bachelor's and master's.  I can't say that enough.  Fourteen years.  Holy Cow.  No wonder I'm ready for a nice, long break!

I've got a few things lined up as a reward to myself for managing to stick with it for so long.  First among them, finish the book I'm currently reading for fun.

The Dark Monk (The Hangman's Daughter, #2)

This is the second book in the series.  These are historical murder mysteries with three amateur sleuths investigating.  In this installment the hangman's daughter, the local medicus (physician), and the hangman himself are up against the Templars.  I'm just a little over 50% through the book right now.  With a 15-20 page final project to research and write, though, I probably won't get much farther.

The second book on my reading list isn't a traditional read for me.  I'm a lover of novels and a friend of the short story.  Graphic novels and comic books are new for me.  They'd probably still be a relative unknown if not for my need to know how the AMC adaptation of this storyline varies from its original source of inspiration.

The Walking Dead, Compendium 1

I imagine I will read this in a day or less even though it's a compilation of 48 comic books.  Pictures and bubble long can that really take to read?

Reading isn't the only thing I'm planning on doing with those homework-free hours ahead me.  I also intend to finish Final Fantasy 13-2.   It's ridiculous how long I've had this game and that I'm still playing it, but I am. Finishing may require kicking the children off Call of Duty Black Ops 2 and sending their little fannies outside to play for a few hours.  They will be delighted.

A few other things come to mind.  You know, like writing book #2.  Yeah, that's going to happen to.  I'll officially be out of excuses.  No more "I've got to focus on my school work" defenses.


Last Full Day at the Cabin

Our trip was coming to an end.  We had managed to visit the major attractions within the park, we had seen a wide variety of animals, and we had even made it through the Beartooth Pass.  It had been a full week at Yellowstone and the surrounding area, one that we spent mostly in the car.  Early Sunday morning we'd be packing up and getting on the road once more.  For this reason, we decided to spend most of Friday and Saturday at the cabin doing a whole lot of nothing.

The boys and Ken tried their luck at fishing once again.  We even visited the outrageously priced gift shop and travel store near the camp.  We also investigated horseback riding.  We were fortunate to find a place within a five minute drive of our cabin that had an opening on Saturday.  We quickly made our reservations.

The boys were so excited!  Okay, I was, too!

Geysers and Hot Springs - Our Last Day in Yellowstone

Oh, this day.  This is the one that I may never live down.

We were supposed to get an early start because Old Faithful, our ultimate destination on this particular day, was on the other side of the park, kitty-corner really, from where we would enter Yellowstone.  This meant many, many hours in the car.

Ken was up bright and early, ready to go.  My energy levels were not quite so high, but I, too, managed to get out of bed and into the shower.  When I was done in the bathroom, I went to get the boys up.  This is where the schedule went offline.  KC didn't feel good and didn't want to go.  Thinking about all the driving we had been doing, the motion sickness he had suffered the day before, I wondered if a few more hours sleep wouldn't be enough to reset his system.  

I'll admit I didn't want to miss Old Faithful.  It's one of the big geographical attractions of the park, after all, and how lame would we be if we had visited Yellowstone without making it to the most famous geyser of all?
So, determined to go, but concerned that the children were simply overwhelmed, I encouraged Ken to let the boys sleep for a couple more hours.  He agreed even though he wasn't happy about it.

The extra sleep helped, though.  The boys woke up, ate breakfast, and showered.  KC no longer felt sick. Mind you, he wasn't happy about spending several more hours in the car, but at least he didn't feel like he had when he had first opened his eyes.  With some encouragement to hurry up, we loaded into the car and started toward the geyser basins. 

The first one we stopped at was the Norris Geyser Basin.  It was quite pretty and, despite the parking lot being packed, didn't seem terribly busy as we walked along the pathways. 

After a brief stop for a picnic at one of the roadside parks, we continued on our way.  Along the route we spotted this fellow relaxing just a few yards from some fishermen. Unlike the streams in the northeast area of Yellowstone, this river was dotted with quite a few fly-fishermen.  The animals, though, seemed fewer in number.

Doesn't he look relaxed? 

Between Norris Geyser Basin and Old Faithful, there was another cluster of geysers and hot springs.  We decided our time was rather limited and a walk wouldn't do.  Lucky for us, there was a paved route you could drive.  

Okay, so I did get out of the car for just a second to get that picture right there.  And Gage had followed me so he could snap this picture.

I'm short.  Sometimes this requires standing on things not meant to be stood upon.
Eventually we made it to Old Faithful.  We filled up on gas and goodies and then made our way to the benches which would afford us the best view the timely eruption.  Only this eruption was not very timely. If my memory can be trusted, I believe we waited for a little over an hour.  

Eventually our patience paid off and we were able to see Old Faithful do its thing.  It was quite pretty, but I must admit I thought it would go a lot higher and last a lot longer.  Ken felt the same.  Ken also felt the urgent need to get in the car and on the road.  Unlike yours truly, he was actually paying attention to the time and was getting worried that we would get stuck in Yellowstone after dark.

Turns out he was right to worry.

It was a long drive back to the cabin that night.  We got stuck in construction and a rain storm.  As we were driving through Lamar Valley the last little bit of sunlight deserted us.  

Map Courtesy of LonelyPlanet.Com

If this wasn't clear before, let me make it abundantly clear now.  All those animal pictures I've been posting?  99% of them were from Lamar Valley.  The bison, elk, antelope, and bears seemed to find it the most appealing section of the park.  So, imagine it's pitch black and there's no ambient light, not even stars or the moon, to help you spot these critters along the road.  Oh, and add in some sprinkles and then a nice steady downpour.  Luckily, we only had one antelope run out in front of us and a couple of black bears roaming next to the road. 

Once we were out of the park our worries did not end.  Apparently guardrails on mountain roads are not seen as an absolute necessity.  Driving on rain-slicked roads in the dark with no ambient light?  Yeah, Ken was not a happy camper, and I can't blame him.  If I had forced the kids out of bed and into the showers when he wanted me to, we would have been back to the cabin just before nightfall.