March 31, 2013

Easter Weekend

It's been a busy weekend!

Friday
Although the kids had Good Friday off from school, Ken and I had to work.  After getting out at the normal quitting time, we rushed home to pick up the hoodlums so we could meet up the hubby's family.  Of course, before we could do that, we had to stop at the grocery store to pick up the side dishes we had promised to contribute to the night's meal.  You didn't expect me to cook, did you?  
Decorating Easter eggs was the first thing on the agenda.  Unlike the previous years, this was the first time we had only one kid sitting at the table.  Gage, being the youngest of the four grandsons, was the only one who showed any inclination to get his hands dirty.  Good thing we only had one dozen to color!   

Ronnie, Gage, and Grandma

Gage
 The rest of the night was spent either playing on whatever electronic device happened to be handy, watching television, or playing frustration.  I don't have a clue what the name of the board game really is, but frustration is an apt description of how we often feel when playing. 
Gage, Cody, and Andy
Gage, Cody, Andy

Grandpa, Cody, KC, Ken, and Troy

The game.

The adults playing Frustration.

Saturday
I probably should have stayed home and cleaned the house, but that didn't sound like fun.  Instead, the little guy and I went to watch Ken bowl in a tournament. Then, quite to my surprise and utter delight, my little brother showed up and spent a couple hours with me and the boys.  

Not happy with his throw.

Ken and Gage

Bowling!

Uncle Jake, KC, and Dexter.

Playing Games
Of course, there just had to be a wrestling free-for-all in my living room to top things off.  I mean, really, how could this not happen? 

Uncle Jake and KC

This didn't last very long.

Winding down?

Maybe not.

Sunday
We slept in until almost 11 am!  The boys were so patient waiting for mom and dad to get around.  While Ken whipped up some coffee cake, KC unwrapped his new copy of Paul and got it queued up to play.  Later tonight we'll probably watch Gage's movie, Transformers: Dark of the Moon.  I wonder how much candy will have escaped their hungry maws by then?  Probably not very much.  My boys tend to gorge themselves on sweets.  I have no idea where they get that from....



Our Easter ended on a delicious note with smoked pork loin, smoked mac & cheese, and some green been casserole.




Yum!

March 23, 2013

Forging Ahead...A Writing Update.

I think I've mentioned here before that I realized shortly after I wrote chapter one of book #2 that I hadn't really stopped to consider a few important factors.  In the opening of this book I have our new heroine meeting the old cast at the bookstore - not that she realizes they're a cohesive group at that particular moment.  She only knows that she's interviewing for a teacher-int-the-house position with the children's mother.  This is all good and well.  It's still what I want.  It introduces my heroine and situates her nicely in the middle of the old cast.  It also sets up her on-going role with the group.

What I didn't stop to consider was the mother.  If you've read Fallen Angel, you will remember that in book #1 Charity was kidnapped by werewolves, her husband was murdered by a demon, and her daughters were rescued by angels.  If you haven't read the book, don't think I've ruined the story for you because Charity was a secondary character in that story.  In many ways, she's still a secondary character, yet her actions and reactions are really important as they will be instrumental in shaping the direction of this book. 

Keeping the hardships she endured during the first book in mind, I realized a few things that I hadn't really fully considered before sitting down to write this one.  She's lost her husband and has to rely mostly on herself to protect her girls from all the things that go bump in the night.  This will make her hesitant to trust anyone.  It will also make her a little paranoid and maybe a bit eccentric in the eyes of a newcomer who is unaware of the supernatural realities of this world I've created. 

With these little factoids in mind, I think I'm finally ready to dig my way into Chapter Two.  If my new heroine didn't notice the cracks in Charity's calm before, she's won't be able to ignore them for long!






March 22, 2013

Homework Helper?

Once every semester my office hosts a "Cool Toys" show-n-tell event.  The purpose of this one-hour gathering is to highlight technology that could be adapted for classroom use.  While our in-house instructional designers are always listed on the agenda as presenters, we also open the floor up to faculty and staff. 

Earlier this week we held our winter event.  I'm so glad I attended because I think I may have discovered something that could be useful in helping my child(ren) in the K-12 classroom.  Although, someday they'll go off to college, right?  This tool could be hugely beneficial then, too. 

Before I get into the technology in question, there are a few things I need to consider. 
  • Would my boy(s) be able to keep track of it and not lose it?  This item isn't cheap.  Amazon has it listed for $156. 
  • Would the other kids be able to resist the urge to mess with it?  
  • Would the teachers allow it to be used in their classrooms?  Some may not be comfortable with being recorded.  Also, it writes in ink, not lead. 
  • How often would we have to replenish the notebooks and ink cartridge?
These are important questions.  The most important question though is whether or not my child(ren) would feel comfortable using it?  Standing out from the crowd in any way that marks you as different can be a dangerous thing, especially as a teenager. 

Personally, I think this thing is very, very cool and I can absolutely see the value in it.  I would hope that my kid(s) and their peers would think so, too.  However, I know there's a possibility that they wouldn't and that my kid(s) might get some flak for using it.  I'd like to think that if the tool has value and helps improve my child(ren)'s grades that my kid(s) would pay no attention to what others thought.  

A certain level of self-confidence and maturity might be needed here.  I acknowledge that. 

Now that I've gotten all of that out of my system, here is the tool in question.  It's called Livescribe.  Take a minute or two to watch the video.  It's pretty impressive what this enhanced writing instrument can do. 


Thoughts?

I think I'm going to ask my co-worker how she feels about me borrowing hers for a home demonstration. 

March 21, 2013

Kindle Books I Intend to Read This Year

Continuing yesterday's discussion about books I intend to read this year, I thought I'd take a look at my Kindle library and select a few promising titles.  I will admit most of these decisions will be based on visual appeal and not necessarily on the merit of the book's premise.  I often buy Kindle freebies in a carefree frenzy of button clicking.  However, there are some notable exceptions to this buying methodology.  Every now and again, I actually spend money on authors I know and appreciate, so some of these titles are 100% intentional and not mere happy accidents.

In no particular order....


The Hangman's Daughter (The Hangman's Daughter #1)  I picked this one up for free.  Not to worry, dear author, I have purchased the next two books in the series because my friends have raved about this book.  I hope it doesn't disappoint!

Refugee (Bio of a Space Tyrant, #1)  This author is well known to me.  I've read many of his Xanth novels.  My favorite of his collection, though, has nothing to do with that magical pun-filled land but with mutant aliens.  Mute is one of those books that I hope and pray I can someday talk one of my boys into reading.  I think they'd like it if they'd give it half a chance!

I'm hoping this book, the first in the Bio of a Space Tyrant series, delivers the same great storytelling I'm accustomed to getting from this author.

Must.Have.Wine.: A Toast to Motherhood  The title says it all.  It certainly is a familiar refrain, something I say with perhaps alarming frequency.  Must. Have. Wine.   Reading the book's description, how could I not pick this one up?
Must. Have. Wine. It’s a modern mom's mantra, no matter what type of day we’re having; when we’ve come to the end of our rope, had the best day ever, or simply just want to unwind.
Along with that glass of wine, we often find comfort in knowing other moms are going through the same things we are. Must. Have. Wine. A Toast to Motherhood, is a collection of relatable stories by everyday moms assuring that none of us are perfect and we’re all in this crazy race together.
Frost Moon (Skindancer, #1)  Hmm.  Is that a dragon tattoo I see on her abdomen?  That brings to mind some interesting possibilities for what clearly looks like a paranormal cover to me.

The Ptorrigan Lode  I'm sure I'll need another science fiction fix eventually and this one is apparently a short story.  Why not give it a try, right?

A Sixties Book: Spiderwort  I'll admit it.  This one makes me nervous.  I like the title and I like the cover art.  What I don't like is that no one seems to have reviewed this book on Goodreads.  Maybe I'll be the first!  Or not.  What if it's terrible?

Calamity Jayne This could be funny.  One reviewer describes the main character as "two parts Nancy Drew, one part Lucille Ball, add a dash of Stephanie Plum." I really enjoy the Stephanie Plum books so hopefully I will enjoy this book, too. 

New Jersey's Famous Turnpike Witch Really this one is all about the title and how the cover art promises a new twist on a witchy theme.  The title, in case you can't read it, is New Jersey's Famous Turnpike Witch.  How does that title and this cover art go together?  I don't know, but I want to find out.

Roanoke: The Lost Colony (Keepers of the Ring, #1) It's the mystery of Roanoke.  Do I really need another reason to want to read this?  Nope, I don't think so, either.

The Heart of a Soiled Dove (Book #1) Every now and again, I'm in the mood for romance.  The title and the cover promise a historical romance.

March 20, 2013

Books on the TBR Shelf

This post was inspired by Kelley at Another Novel Read.  There she's discussing the top ten books she just had to buy, but hasn't yet read.  As my to-be-read (TBR) pile is just a tad bit out of control - okay, insanely out of control - I thought I could share with you the top ten books that I'm most eager to read this year during my Goodreads 100 book challenge.  Because some of them have been on my TBR shelves for so long, I can't remember if I purchased them, found them somewhere, or had them given to me by a friend or relative.

This list of ten is available to me in either paperback or hardcover form.  I am not including Kindle e-books in the list.  Maybe I'll list those in another post.  (Hey, look at that, an idea for tomorrow!)

So, in no particular order, here are the books that have been sitting on my shelf, staring me in the face, and mocking my inability to get them read already. 

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)  I remember picking this one up at a ConFusion conference a few years back.  Rave reviews.  Lots of word-of-mouth promotion.  I'm really hoping it lives up to they hype because it's a lovely, thick beast of a book.  I should be able to immerse myself in this fantasy land for several days.

Misfortune  Library book sale.  I'm 99.9% positive that's where I stumbled across this one.  Here's what Goodreads has to say about the book's content:
As his carriage passes a trash dump, Geoffroy spies an abandoned baby in the jaws of a cur. He saves the child, names her Rose, and declares her his rightful heir. The shock fells Lady Loveall on the spot, and Rose becomes the pampered daughter of Lord Loveall and his bride of convenience, the resident librarian Anonyma. This joyful period lasts until Rose's adolescence, when it becomes increasingly difficult to hide the one great secret of Love Hall: namely, that Rose, now in the position of fending off suitors for her titled hand, is in fact a boy. 
Sounds promising, right?

The Diary of a Young Girl  Believe it or not, I've never read this classroom classic.  I'm not sure how I got through high school, let alone college, without this book crossing my path, but it didn't.  At the time, I was relieved.  World War II and genocide were not topics I felt very eager to explore during those tender years.  Now, more hardened and cynical, I think I can handle it.

Okay, okay...maybe my desire to read this really has more to do with being able to say I have and being able to carry on a conversation with others who have.  I hate it when I've not read a book that so many have!

Issues...I have them.

Mortal Coils  This one was a recent B&N gift card purchase.  Now that I have a Kindle I rarely buy books from the store.  (Sorry, my fellow authors, but I don't live near any bookstores and purchase through Amazon is just too easy!)   

I picked this one up because it looked like a fun read.  That is all.

The Stepsister Scheme (Princess, #1)   I was first introduced to Jim Hines at yet another ConFusion conference.  He sat on a panel or two.  After listening to him discuss women in fiction and his attempt to create strong female characters that defied the typical gender stereotypes, I had to go out and find the first book in his Princess series.

Jim is also awesome because of his cover posing posts.  In his words:
In January of 2012, I decided that I wanted to talk about science fiction and fantasy cover art, particularly the ways women were portrayed. At first, I thought about writing a long blog post, talking about how saturated we were with imagery that emphasized women as sexual objects at the expense of power, agency, realism, and so on.

Then I decided there might be a more effective way to encourage discussion. With assistance and surprisingly little eye-rolling or laughter from my wife, I contorted myself into the poses of women on various SF/F covers.

The Illuminator  I don't know.  The cover art is pretty and it's historical fiction.  The first drew my eye and the second pulled the cash from my wallet.

Watership Down  Maybe I shouldn't include this one.  You see, I've already read it.  Many, many years ago. So long ago that my feeble little memory, which I loathe, recalls only fragments.  I don't even know that I could articulate the plot should someone ask.  What I do remember, though, is that I loved this book as a 14- or 15-year-old girl precisely because it wasn't targeted to youth.  It was so much more than the books I had been reading, which were mostly historical romance or coming-of-age books about teenage girls.

Kushiel's Scion (Imriel's Trilogy, #1)  Jacqueline Carey's first Kushiel trilogy rocked my world.  It was bold and daring.  It was novel in that I had never read anything like it.

P.S.  50 Shades of Grey has nothing on the first few books in this series; I can't yet speak to the next three books in the series.  In fact, I'd say 50 Shades sadly lacks everything that makes Carey's work spectacular. You know, like depth, high stakes, and character development.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy, #1)  This one kept catching my eye.  I hope it's good because I've already purchased book #2 in the series.

Changeless (Parasol Protectorate, #2)  I really enjoyed the first book int he Parasol Protectorate series.  I fully expect to enjoy it's sequel.  If I do, I will no doubt hunt down the next book in the series, too.

March 19, 2013

Some of My Favorite Shows

Today I bring you a hodgepodge of my favorite television shows.  This is what happens when I don't know what else to talk about on the ole blog.

Not my photo.  Linked from real owner's URL.
I didn't start watching The Walking Dead until season two had been mostly aired.  A coworker or two had mentioned it, and Facebook was abuzz with how fabulous it was.  I'm so glad I let peer pressure goad me into watching the first season on Netflix.  I was soon up-to-date and eagerly awaiting Sunday nights.  

What I Love:  The fact the zombies are often less of a threat than the human survivors.  I really think this show has a lot to say about human nature, both the good and bad. 

Not my photo.  Linked from real owner's URL.
I've been a fan of The Big Bang Theory for quite a few years now.  I enjoyed it when it was just Penny and the boys, but now that they've added in Bernadette and Amy, I find the show 100% more enjoyable.  

What I love: Geek humor; Sheldon. 

Not my photo.  Linked from real owner's URL. 
Two things drew me to this show.  First, the fact that a writer was featured as the main character.  This is almost always an attention-getter for me.  I'm sure my own writing ambitions have a lot to do with it, but I can't deny I probably romanticize the profession, too.  However, this show also offered one more incentive to watch.  Nathan Fillion.  I loved his character Mel on Firefly.  Seeing him in the prime-time limelight just tickled me. 

What I love:  The cheesy banter and one-liners.  The family dynamics between Rick, his mom, and his daughter.  

Not my photo.  Linked from real owner's URL.

Ripper Street.  I discovered this little gem quite by accident.  Although this is yet another detective show, the era in which these mysteries take place sets it apart from the majority of the sleuth shows out there.  

What I love: The slow reveal of each character's backstory.  The setting.  The scientific process of the era. (I've not fact-checked any of the doc's science know-how to see if it's era appropriate, but I hope it is.)


Not my photo.  Linked from owner's URL.
Okay, so the title isn't that great.  It doesn't really give you a clue as to what the show's about, but the first episode certainly did.  A secret religious sect hides something of historical and possibly supernatural significance away from the Nazis during WWII.  Fast-forward to modern times and the kidnapping of a woman who can help relocate the missing artifact.  All that stands between the bad guys getting what they want are the woman's husband and the FBI. Not that the FBI dominate the scene.  The camera focuses mostly on the husband and his team of reporters as they begin uncovering clues. 

What I love:  Secret societies (the Rosicrucians in this instance).  Good vs. evil.   Ancient artifacts.  

What I hate:  It was cancelled after three episodes.  Three!  Never mind that more episodes had been recorded.  Instead of challenging America to use their brains, ABC has elected to air reruns of some dumb ass show (Shark Tank, I believe).   This makes me both angry and sad.  Angry with the idiot who made this decision and sad that more people weren't intrigued by this combination of history and mystery.  

Not my image.  Linked from owner's URL. 

The Big Brother is watching theme sparked my interested.  Here's the opening montage.  I think it says it all:

You are being watched. The government has a secret system, a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people, people like you. Crimes the government considered "irrelevant." They wouldn't act, so I decided I would. But I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You'll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number's up... we'll find *you*.  

What I love: The big brother is watching theme, obviously.  The mysterious past lives of Finch (the system's creator) and John (his muscle). 

  

March 18, 2013

6th Grade Science Projects

So far this year my little sixth grader has created two science videos, both set to music.  In case you're unable to make sense of the first video, the boys had to work in the elements of the water cycle into their lyrics.


Although they had their lyrics mostly put together before they arrived at my house, it took them nearly a hour and a half to finalize their song and start recording.  I remember being slightly out of patience with them.  Okay, maybe more than slightly.  I think I may have even pulled out the "I'm-not-messing-around-anymore" voice in order to get them focused on the task at hand.  

If you're wondering, my little guy is the one in the sideways hat.  Don't ask.  I don't know.  Apparently he was trying to be gangsta.  Heh. 

For the record, my irritation with their ADHD-like behavior evaporated when I was finally able to view the video.  I mean, really, how cute are they? 

Not to mention I was immensely relieved to have the project done and submitted.  This was one assignment I wouldn't have to worry about going missing because I was in control of the upload and follow-up e-mail to the teacher. 

Fast forward to this weekend.  It seems the first round of science-in-the-form-of-song videos had been a hit because we were suddenly tasked with doing another one.  This time the lyrics had to include rock formations and processes. 


This assignment went much faster than the first.  There wasn't a lot of debating or artistic differences.  The three boys divided up duties.  Two would sing and one would run the lyrics PowerPoint on my laptop - he never makes it on camera, but was essential to the process.   I couldn't run the video camera and the laptop at the same time because I am simply not that talented.  

Overall, I thought the boys did a really good job, which is why I rewarded them with about an hour's worth of video games before I had their parents come pick them up. 

March 11, 2013

Things I Wonder


If we home schooled the children, would I have less gray hair?

Will I ever be able to get rid of some of this belly fat?

Why do good people have to die so young?

Will mankind ever create the technology to make space colonization possible?

Is the inability to turn in a homework assignment on time really the fault of the ADHD, or is the ADHD just a convenient excuse?

Why does dried fruit have to so fattening?  It's fruit, and as such, shouldn't it be "good" for me to eat?

Would I really be disciplined enough to write everyday if I quit my job or retired early?

Why did our middle school cancel boys baseball?

Why is my side of the car always cold and his side always hot?