Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy New Year

It's hard to believe 2007 is already drawing to a close.  Talk about a tumultuous ride.  The year opened up with a lot of promise on the writing front but didn't pan out.  I suppose I should feel a little worse about that, but writing has never been the basis of my life.  Yes, I want to get published and I still think I will, but the desire doesn't consume me like other writers I know.

I'm not going to make any resolutions this year.  It is a fruitless exercise in any case.  I've yet to accomplish them.  But they make good blog fodder, don't they? 

I do need to work on goal setting.  I've taken a vacation from any sort of organization for the last four months and now I need to get back to some kind of routine.  Especially since it appears I will be going back to work part time for awhile.  I'll save those details for another post.

But back to what I was thinking about for the post.  What happened in 2007 that profoundly affected you?  Without a doubt, for me, was the remodel.  I truly had no idea how drastic an event it would be and how difficult it would  be to live through.  I'm thrilled with the results (I promise to get pictures up one of these days.  We still aren't finished, hence the delay).  It gave new meaning to the phrase "Home, Sweet Home" for me.

What about you?  I know many of you have been through some major events this year and I wonder as you look back and reflect, how you thinks those situations changed you.

Friday, December 07, 2007

How to Clean a Kitchen

I'm thinking about cleaning my kitchen today. And I'm researching the subject. Yeah, that takes a special kind of illness to do something like that. But I have my Martha Stewart book out and a book called Cleaning Plain and Simple to show me the proper way to clean. I actually give a damn about my kitchen now so I want to do it right. Also, my kitchen is bigger with more surfaces needed tending, so I want to find a more efficient way of cleaning. And efficiency is not part of my natural make up.

I love instructions. I'm not much of a free-spirit in most facets of my life. I like to be told how to fold, how to cook, how to sew, paint, apply make up, raise my kids, etc. etc. Until it comes to writing. Then all of my rebellion comes out. Oh, I apply some of the rules because some of them make me a better writer. But I like to think it is my own choice and I'm not following anyone's rules but my own. In truth, as much of a rebel as I think I am, I admit while I'm writing, I'm pretty rigid. I have my own rules for how I write and I don't vere from them. Nobody is telling me what to do except for the voice in my head.

My theory is that my yearning for order in my outside life spills over into my writing life subconsciously. All of those skills I hone in the other parts of my life make themselves useful in writing.

Do you notice behaviors or skills you use in your daily life making themselves known in your writing life?

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Thirteen Things I Bought for my Kitchen


I just remodeled my kitchen and have had the fun of filling it with new stuff. Here's 13 great things I've bought:

1. Cookware from Kohl's. This is the Food Network brand and I love them.

2. Senseo Coffeemaker. This pod maker is actually for the bar. I've had one before and totally used it to death. When it died I was stuck with enough pods to keep me in brew for a year. Hence, a new one.

3. A toaster oven. I got it for the kids to use for heating up pizza.

4. A whistling tea kette. Suddenly everyone drinks tea in the house.

5. New everyday china. This isn't it exactly...I bought the set at Costco so they have their own sets. But it is based on these patterns.

6. Nice china. I never got china at my wedding. Really had no need for it. But Costco had a deal.

7. A new toaster. My last toaster was a fire hazard. I love this one.

8. Food storage containers. I can tell you, these are the best I've ever had. Got them at Costco. You can put them in the dishasher. My husband had chili in one, left it at his office for over the weekend. I put it in the dishwasher and it came out perfect.

9. New baking sheets. Superglue won't stick to these.

10. Dish rack. Real Simple recommended this one and it works great.

11. New glassware. We are generally acrylic people, but I was at Costco....

12. New flatware. Yeah, you got it, Costco. We had a flat and two carts when we left the store.

13. My favorite, a new Kitchenaid. I already have an older one when there was just one model available to the public. This one has 575 watts of mixing power. It was also my Christmas present.


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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

There's No Place Like Home

I'm back home and it feels...okay.

I know, as badly as I wanted to come home, it has been very difficult to get back into the swing of things. It feels like a new home, everything is so different. They aren't done hence I haven't posted any pictures yet. Its more than I hoped for, but the work of moving back into the house has been exhausting. I still have people here everyday. We've gone ahead and decided to work on the exterior as well. There are a few cabinet pieces missing and my book case around my fireplace isn't done. But it is livable.

As you can see, I'm trying to get into the holiday spirit. I haven't put up my decorations yet. We tend to wait until two weeks before Christmas. Also, we aren't sure where our decorations are. My attic was completely re-arranged, so heaven only knows where my stuff is. I did buy a new Christmas village from Kohl's. The contractor built in a pot shelf in my family room and I'm going to put it there.

My car got broken into the other day. It was a smash and grab. They smashed my driver's side door and ransacked my center console and glove box. The only thing they took was the dock for my iPod that I plugged into the cigarette lighter. Oddly enough, there was a wad of cash sitting there and they didn't take it. Apparently they were looking for my iPod. As it pretty much stays with me at all times, their efforts were wasted. The dock was a total piece of junk. But it did end up costing me $200 for a new window and I had to wait around all day for the glass guy to come and fix it.

I haven't gotten back into writing yet. I think by next week I'll be able to dive in. Right now I have a to-do list a mile long trying to clean up after the construction. I finally went grocery shopping for the first time in months. Anyway, I hope to catch up with all of you this week.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Getting There

By this time next week I should be in my house. The last couple of weeks have been really difficult as I came to terms with the fact I wouldn't be hosting Thanksgiving this year. I felt pretty lousy for the last couple of weeks. The constant disruptions and the inability to be home has taken its toll on me.

This week, however, they are finishing up. The are doing the last of the tile today and the painters were in today doing the final touch up. We still have more work to do but it isn't the kind that will keep us out of the house. I'm hoping they get more of my appliances in and we can get back to normal.

Sorry, Wylie, I'm not going to win Nano this year. However, I actually have written over 6K words and I am enjoying my WIP. My lack of stability has cut into my writing time. I'm the type of writer who will pound out some words in the morning before anyone is up then go back to it for an hour or so when the kids are at school and then some more time when they are out of school and at home. Ah well, I'm pleased that I got anything written and I'm more pleased that I'm actually enthusiastic about my writing.

Today is Thing's birthday. Diva's was Friday. For Veteran's Day, we headed over to the Los Angeles Farmers Market and the kids ate at a crepe booth. When we got there I realized we were next door to the American Girl Place. Diva asked for a doll for her birthday so while the others were shopping, she and I ran over there and she picked out a doll (and I'm considerably broker). She is thrilled with her doll. I stomp around and glare at any other kids who want to touch it. It definitely needs more care than most dolls. She is enchanted.

Anyway, I'm hoping to hit some blogs today although I have to go the gym today. My friend said she had some gossip for me and the only way I'd hear it is if I went to workout. Better be worth it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Setbacks

We've had a setback in the remodel and now I'm hoping the project is done by Thanksgiving. I'm bordering on a meltdown. I feel bad because there are people who have lost everything in the fires and there are homeless people out on the streets. I don't have it so bad when compared to others. However, I'm afraid I'm going to wallow in self-pity for the rest of the day. By tomorrow I'll be more upbeat and able to appreciate what I do have.

I have determined that this fiasco will not impact my committment to Nano this year. I've decided on something new, far lighter than what I had originally decided to work on. I'm looking forward to the intense distraction that Nano brings to me. November is always a difficult month with all of the family obligations I have. My brain seems to crave the escape of writing.

This Saturday is my chapter meeting and I volunteered to present (dummy me). I'm going to talk about goal-setting, something I'm incredibly week at. I'm hoping that I can gain something from all the prep work I've done. How good are you at setting goals and sticking to it? Not just for writing but for other things in life?

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Lady and the Gentleman

Last Thursday was Cotillion for my kids. Basically it is a charm class held once a month. They learn how to behave properly and how to dance. It's quite amusing to watch but I have noticed my son says "thank you" a lot more often. I knew my daughter would enjoy it but my son seems to like it even more. The downside is the clothes. The boys must wear a coat and tie and the girls must wear party dresses, white gloves and closed toe party shoes. It gets expensive. I found a great place online for this dress called Cutie Clothes that was reasonable and got my order out to me in just a couple of days. I also got this dress for not too bad. Luckily enough for my son, I bought a coat and pants and only change the shirt and tie. I had hoped to do some sewing for my daughter but, well, this whole remodel thing happened. I think she may get one more dress and then she needs to repeat.

We've been fortunate in my area to be the only place without wind. We haven't had any at my house and all of the fires are a good distance away. We are getting a lot of smoke and I can feel my throat and nose burning from it. Hubby's oral surgery went so much better than expected. He didn't after any nasty after-effects and the pain has been minimal. We got a new 42" plasma tv this weekend and he felt well enough to mount it on the wall.

Now onto a totally different topic. Does anyone else watch "Desperate Housewives?" Is it me or is Susan the most annoying character on television? I told my husband we are speeding through her scenes. He likes Teri Hatcher so he refused although he did agree to mute the sound.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hanging on by a Thread

Sorry, I have disappeared for awhile. Things have been...rough to say the least. I'm still trapped in remodel hell. But things are progressing. They are finishing the painting today. Hubby is having more oral surgery tomorrow so we kicked the guys out for Friday and Saturday. Monday the cabinets are supposed to come in. That will take a few days to do but at least we are at the back stretch. I had no idea how difficult this was going to be. I don't care if I never go out to eat again. For the most part, we don't come home until 8 p.m. since we have to find food. Some nights we eat with my parents and my inlaws. Other nights it is heat and eat from Costco. The other nights are made up of going out to eat. It really sucks. Before this I cooked dinner 5-6 nights a week. I really miss it.

I've tried writing but I have absolutely no focus. So I'm going to make the charge in November and do Nanowrimo. Anyone else taking the challenge?

Tonight is Cotillion for my kids. It is basically a charm school for the elementary set. They learn to dance and act properly. My son complained because the girl made him lead the whole time when they were dancing. Sigh..... My daughter likes it since she gets to dress up. However, she isn't really thrilled with the dress I picked out for her, not enough sequins I guess. I'll post pictures tomorrow and let you decide.

Well, I'm keeping this short so I can go and visit blogs before it is time to take Thing to school.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hawaii: Summer Lovin'

First, the remodel is going well. The plumbing is done (including my bitchin' pot filler above my cooktop) and they have placed a bunch of the cans for the lights. We've decided to add a skylight to one area. When I asked the contractor if it would add to the timeline, he said no, I was too far into panic mode as it was. Hopefully they will get to the drywall next week.

Now onto Hawaii.
Hawaii was pretty uneventful and I really didn't take too many pictures since I've been to the exact same places before. But I do have a couple of stories. The first happened the very first day. If you have the soundtrack to "Grease" now would be a good time to play "Summer Lovin'."

My hubby and I took the kids to the beach the first afternoon we were there. Diva started working on a sandcastle straightaway. She loves working in the sand. Perhaps she will be an engineer when she grows up. Anyway, there were a few kids playing as well. One was a cute, blonde boy with a total Hawaiian tan. He and Diva hit it off right away. I watched them talk and dig in the sand. The girl is a natural flirt, not sure where she got it, it wasn't from me and her dad isn't too good at it either. The sun set over the ocean, turning the sand to a blazing pink and it was time to say good bye. In the car going back to our condo, she told me she sure liked that 10 year old boy. She wondered if he liked her too. I asked if she knew his name. Nope. Where does he live? Don't know. So her big summer time romance lasted about an hour. It was pretty funny. Her dad looked rather ill while she talked about the cutie at the beach.

She seems to have recovered. She is on boyfriend number 2 so far this school year. Her criteria for a boyfriend seems to be she has to beat them in arm wrestling. But I do wonder if at lunch she and her friends danced around a picnic table singing "tell me more."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Breakdowns

I think the number of emotional breakdowns I've had since the beginning of September is now in the double digits. The latest was Saturday when the contractor said we wouldn't be done until close to Halloween. The reason for the change is a change we made. Anyway, instead of three weeks, I've got another six weeks of turmoil. I keep telling myself how nice it is going to be, but it is small consolation right now.

I should be more consistent this week. I've got so many things coming up, but most of them are after school and the like. First, I'll address the RSS issue. I'm not sure what is going on. I know some feed readers are able to read the feed but many others can't for this blog. I tried to repair it yesterday and had no luck, so I will have to try again. Sorry for the inconvenience. The feed option is turned on but there is a code problem in the html I haven't figured out. I'll keep trying.
So on to the other stuff. Thing started kindergarten. Here she is coloring her self-portrait. She colored the hair yellow and green since her has a green tint from the chlorine. She is in the afternoon class which has been great. The teacher is really good with the kids. It was a little rough going at first since she is so young. I'm pretty sure she is the youngest in her class. In our district they must turn 5 by December 2 in order to be eligible to register. Her birthday is November 19, so she is cutting it close. However, after a couple of weeks, she seems to be doing well. The teacher says she is a blast to have in class.

What is most odd for me is having all this time with nothing to do. I would love it if I were home, but I really have no place to go. I've done all the window shopping I can take for the moment. I've been camping out at hubby's office (I'm here now) and I should be writing, but I'm a bit scattered. But I have 6 more weeks of dealing with this, so I better settle down. I have some ideas for books I want to write not to mention the books I've already started. I have essentially nearly four hours a day when I could do nothing but write. You think that would be movtivation enough. If only I could get over these breakdowns.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Back...kind of

I'm home from Hawaii and the kids are back in school. Unfortunately, I'm unable to be at home. When I got home from vacation, this is what I came home to:
My kitchen. More of my kitchen. my family room.
Needless to say, things are beyond chaotic. I spend most of my time out of the house. I'm at my husband's office hijacking a space in his conference room with a very slow Internet connection. I'm going to try and catach up with everyoine over the weekend. But things are going to be sporadic.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Quick Update

I thought I would have more downtime than this, but I guess that was a fantasy.

My house is mostly packed up. Today my mother is coming over to help pack up the pantry. I need to empty my fridge and freezer but I can't until my husband moves the spare fridge out into the garage and I can moved the stuff into it. Saturday night is going to be a nightmare, I just know it. At least I can sleep on the plane.

Hubby had another tooth extracted this week. That wasn't too bad except they found a dark spot under his tongue and decided to biopsy it. The dentist does't think it is anything, but he wants to be cautious. However, having surgery under the tongue is pretty painful and husband isn't feeling so hot. He should be okay by Sunday.

I finally found out this week that my kids got into their school. I'm very relieved. I won't know which classes until I get back, but I'm not too concerned. I like all but one of the primary teachers and that teacher doesn't teach either of my kids' grades. Thing is very excited to be going to school.

And because it is August, it means soccer season has begun. Both girls are playing. Thing loves it. Diva, I'm not so sure about. She is quite competitive, so soccer has a different meaning for her.

I was hoping to get around and visit the blogs, but I don't think its going to happen until I get back. Maybe I will have a chance while I'm on vacation. Hope everyone is doing okay. I'll be back first week of September but I'm not sure how soon I'll be back on line.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Crazy, Crazy, Crazy

Things have kind of exploded around here. I'm leaving for Hawaii a week from Sunday so I need to start packing. Not really a big deal. If I forget something, there is a Wal-Mart and a Costco not too far from where I'm staying and the condo we are going to has a washer and dryer. Still, it is a pain in the butt since I pack for everyone.

This wouldn't be a big deal except the contractor doing my kitchen came over on Tuesday and finalized the plans. He wants to start at the end of the month. They will start the demo the week we are gone. So my kitchen has to be packed up. But wait, there's more. The remodel is going through my entire first floor and they are replacing all the flooring, so all the furniture in my family room and dining room has to be out too. We are expanding the pantry and so my walk-in pantry has to be emptied as well. Well, at least boxes of Rice-a-Roni are easy to pack.

I've already got part of the kitchen emptied. I've thrown away as much stuff as I've packed. Today is going to be ugly because I'm going to go through the little containers. Personally, I'd like to pitch the lot, but I do need to keep some of them. Then it is on to the pots and pans. Once I get those done the rest will be pretty easy. I hope.

Anyway, I may be even more scarce for the next month. We expect the remodel will be done at the end of September but life is going to be pretty chaotic during the month. I'm not looking forward to it, however I'm ecstatic at the thought of a new kitchen.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Things Get Complicated

One of the biggest stresses I've had this summer has to do with the fall.

We have open enrollment in our school district. It means we can enroll our children in a school other than our home school...as long as there is room. We have to apply for an intradistrict transfer every year and so far it hasn't been a problem.

This year is different.

Each elementary school in the district is different. They are structured differently and have different philosophies when it comes to education. My kids go to the earthy-crunchy granola eatin' school as I like to say. It is multi-age, meaning the classes are blended with grades. All upper grades are 4-5-6 classes while the primary grades are blended in different combinations. It is very family oriented and parent participation is encouraged. As important as academics are, the school focuses on arts and music as well as social awareness. Anyway, it is unique in the area and my kids are doing really well there.

Apparently, everyone else in town wants there kids there as well and the school has been flooded with intradistrict transfers. They cannot grant all of them and are now cutting kids. My son is safe, he will be in 6th grade and they are not overrun. The problem is at the primary level. I think Thing will be okay for kindergarten but the hardest hit grade is the third grade which is Diva's grade. Yes, after going from kindergarten through second at the same school AND having two siblings at the school, she could get kicked out. And, to make it more stressful, the minute I submitted my intradistrict transfer, I gave up my spot in my home school. My home school is actually across town from me (my part of the city was incorporated long after the boundaries were drawn so they just threw us in) and so she'd have to go to a totally different school and there are only two open. Neither one is acceptable: there are reasons they aren't full.

Now I saw the writing on the walls plus I got inside info last spring, so I made sure I volunteered for tons of stuff. We've contributed financially to the school over the last 6 years we've been there. I'm hoping its enough to tip the scale in my daughter's favor. But here it is August 10th and school starts Sept. 5th and we still don't know. So what will I do if we don't get into the school? Well, there are a couple of private schools around, neither of them are really that great. But one dark option comes to mind. Something so black it is the Thing That Can't Be Named. I'll say it once but just once, I fear the backlash such a thing could do to me. Homeschool.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

It's like having a fly trapped in your ear canal

Everyone has been posting pictures of their kitties lately so I thought I would post this. I took this from my dining room window. I didn't dare get any closer since this kitty is a bobcat. I'm not sure where it was headed. I'm hoping he didn't set up home base in my side yard. Isn't he cute?

Anyway, last night I had a series of epiphanies about my WIP while I was doing dishes. I had my iPod on and a series of songs came on that triggered ideas about my characters and some world building issues I was having. I finished the dishes and sat down at my laptop to write. But hubby had the t.v. on to an Angel's game and the annoying sound of the babbling idiot announcers ruined my concentration so I moved to the office and worked on the desktop. I just got my WIP opened and had written two sentences when Thing (aka Voldemort) comes in and wouldn't stop talking. Any creative flow I had immediately evaporated.

I've realized that has been my main problem this summer. While I have more time to write, my focus is shot since I have this constant swarm of flies flitting about my head. If it isn't one thing, its another. The kids are either fighting or whining or begging for something. In Thing's case, she sees me sit down and focus on something not related to her and unleashes a torrent of verbal diarrhea that makes my ears bleed. This has been the worse summer for this kind of behavior. Combined with my own internal struggles with writing, this has really hampered me.

I've noticed I've been reading a lot. I contstantly have a book going. Reading has replaced writing since they both focus my mind in the same way (BTW, while I'm writing this, two of the kids have been talking non-stop to me although they can clearly see I'm doing something else). But I can hide with a book although lately that too has been impossible. Maybe it is a sign of age or perhaps having three active kids, but focus is a lot harder to maintain or even find.

Last summer I wrote a ton and I'm not sure what the difference is this year. Some of it is the ego-blow of my last book, but I generally recover quickly. I'm hoping this fall helps once I have all three (pardon me while I savor the words) in school.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Moaning Meme

Toni tagged me with this last week and it has taken me this long to finish it, I kept changing the answers.

4 things that should go into Room 101 and be removed from the face of the earth:

1. Processed Cheese Food
2. Hunger
3. People who gain pleasure or satisfaction from abusing women, children and/or animals.
4. Rap music that degrades women and promotes violence.


3 things people do that make you want to shake them violently:

1. Let their kids ride bikes/skateboards/scooters, etc. without a helmet.
2. Decide stories about drunken starlets are front page news.
3. Spend all their time with a cell phone attached to their ear.

2 things you find yourself moaning about:

1. My weight.
2. My kids.

1 thing the above answers tell you about yourself:

I'm an intolerant mom with a bizarre prejudice against Cheese Whiz.


I tag Melissa, Lory, Chrys
RULES

Link to the original meme at freelancecynic.com so people know what it’s all about!
Be as honest as possible, This is about letting people get to know the real you!
Try not to insult anyone - unless they really deserve it or are very, very ugly!
Post these rules at the end of every meme!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Summertime Blues

I'm ready for summer to end. Yeah, I know, I got a ways to go but for the most part, I'm ready for change.

My first problem is obvious. The kids are home. They fight, they're slobs and they're bored. Drives me crazy. I feel bad for them on one level because when I was a kid, my street was filled with kids around my age and we all played together. They don't have that advantage. There aren't that many kids around and those that are generally aren't home. Still, there is plenty to do and my two girls are of an age that they can play together and heaven knows there are enough toys although that number has been shrinking.

Second problem arises from the first. It is impossible to keep up with the housework. My sink is filled with dishes all the time. I could run my dishwasher twice a day. During the school year, my kids eat something quick for breakfast and they eat lunch at school. With summer, they are eating at home. And they eat all the time. Healthy stuff but all seeming to require dishes. They leave their stuff around and won't pick up after themselves. This has led to multiple meltdowns on my part. I've also been picking up their toys and putting them away in a place they can't get to. There is more laundry and the bathrooms get a lot more use.

Third problem is just me. I can't seem to light enough of a fire under myself to change. In my mind, I know what I need to do, but I've felt so listless, I can't seem to operate. I had great plans for the summer, but they aren't coming to any fruition. My motivation to get things done has fallen off the chart.

Most of it is a chain reaction. I really thought my kitchen would be done this summer. I've had my new kitchen appliances sitting in my family room since March. It is a big enough stack to block a window. On top of that, I have a massive dresser my SIL insists she wants but hasn't arranged to pick up yet. It gives my house a sense of disorder. My kitchen is difficult to keep clean and its so ugly I have no desire to clean it. The disorder in my house is affecting my writing. I've actually been writing and while its good, its not what I like to write. So back to the drawing board.

Sounds like I need a vacation, right? And yes, I'm going at the end of this month which just makes it all the worse. Remember how miserable the ninth month of pregnancy is? It is the month most filled with anticipation but it is also the most uncomfortable. You're huge, you're slow and it doesn't matter what you eat, it sours on you. That's how I feel right now. In less than four weeks I'll be relaxing under palm trees at the beach but for now everything seems too much. Its more of a viewpoint issue.

It hasn't all been bad. Hubby and I got back into dance class. I found two swimsuits that fit and look cute. I've read some great books and "Hell's Kitchen" has been on. And while I'm frusterated with my writing, I'm aware that it is a bump in the road rather than an obstacle and I feel like I can get over it if I put my mind to it.

How about you? Has summer been what you thought it would be?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Liszt's Kiss by Susanne Dunlap


My first introduction to Franz Liszt was when I heard "Liebestraum." I was immediately captivated by the music. The composer himself was no less fascinating as well as the world he lived in.

Susanne Dunlap captures the drama of the Romantic period in Paris in her book "Liszt's Kiss" (Touchstone, April 2007). At the book's center is the story of Anne, a young aristocrat who loses her mother to the ravages of cholera which is sweeping the city. She drowns her sorrow in music and begins taking lessons from Liszt. While she works to develop her talent, intrigues surround her, threatening everything she knew about herself and potentially endangering her life.

Ms. Dunlap does a lovely job of bringing this romantic world to life. While the artists of the day live in a world of music, poetry and art, the streets of Paris reel from the constant death and horror of cholera. This contradiction is most visible in the character of Pierre Talon, a young medical student who sacrifices to immerse himself in the arts and yet must face death and disease on a daily basis. Liszt is larger than life, indulgig in daydreams and fantasies, enclosing himself in the passion of his music. In between these two is Anne, innocent of both the beauty and horrors of the outside world. Ms. Dunlap takes her heroine from a state of grief and naivete to an understanding of the world. Anne grows from a child into a woman, gaining strength from her experiences in the world, both good and bad. With a colorful cast of characters, Ms. Dunlap brings the world of 1830's Paris to life with romance and tragedy. Romance, intrigue and music make "Liszt's Kiss" a fascinating and fun read.

Ms. Dunlap has a PhD in Music History is the former Director of Development for the Connecticut Opera. She has spent much of her life teaching, writing, and working in the world of music and opera. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and Northampton, Massachusetts. She is also the author of Emilie's Voice.

I had an opportunity to interview Ms. Dunlap about "Liszt's Kiss" and the challenges the faces in writing the historical novel:

From the tone of "Liszt's Kiss" it is obvious you have a passion for this era. What about this time period and place attracts you?

I think first and foremost is the music. As a pianist, I really consider the 19th century the golden era, especially in Paris with Liszt and Chopin around. I’m also a huge Francophile. That era, during the restoration of the monarchy after Napoleon, was a fascinating one. Full of contradictions. A very rich field to mine for fiction about music.

How difficult is it to write about real people and place them in a fictional story?

That’s I think the most difficult thing of all. You have to know a lot—as much as any historian or biographer if possible—and then try to find ways to look between the facts and the recorded history to see if you can get at some truth about your character that would only be revealed by daring to put yourself inside that real, historical person’s mind.

I don’t often dare that, which is why so far my really famous historical characters have been in supporting roles rather than the main heroes. I admire those writers—like Sandra Gulland with her Josephine Trilogy—who can do it successfully. I keep reminding myself that history, the scholarly discipline, is also a matter of interpretation.

You have so many different points of view in this story and they were all wildly different. Was it difficult writing them? Particularly as these characters have different motivations and dramas of their own to play out, it would seem quite challenging to be able to give each of them their own distinct voice.

I really love looking at a story from many different angles. It fascinates me that what one character sees in a given situation can be so completely different from another character’s experience of it. It is challenging, certainly, to keep each voice distinctive in itself, and something I take a lot of care over in the writing.

But I think it can be even more of a challenge to do the opposite of what I have done in Liszt, to limit oneself to only one character’s viewpoint. It’s hard to give other characters roundness and believability if you only allow yourself to see them through a main character’s eyes. I admire writers who do that enormously. That’s a real mixture of craft and imagination.

With music being so much a part of you, did you find it difficult to transcribe your feelings into words? I'm thinking of the scene between Liszt and Anne when she plays Chopin's etude and gamut of emotions she experiences. I found it very powerful and I felt how overwhelming this music was for her. Was it a difficult scene to write?

That scene was in my mind from the very beginning of the writing process. It was the crux of the relationship between Anne and Liszt, and knowing I would write it helped me choreograph everything that happened between them before and after that point.

As to putting the emotions in music into words, yes, it’s difficult. Writing about music at all is difficult, but I have thought so much about music and music history, and spent a lot of time actually trying to describe and explain music in my more scholarly endeavors, that those scenes where I write about it either as a performer or a listener are crucial to my novels.

One daunting aspect of writing a historical novel is the amount of research. "Liszt's Kiss" is filled with so many aspects of the time period, it seems like a difficult project Not only are you writing about musicians of the period and the manners and customs of the people of the time period, but you've also included a character who is a medical student. How did you handle the research necessary for such a large task? Do you have a system of organization?

I’m awfully disorganized, I’m afraid. I do keep a bibliography, however, and I’m always surrounded by books as I write so that I can look things up. For the larger history, the political changes and who is in power when, I keep a timeline.

The music history is sort of “there,” from when I spent 11 years as a graduate student. I don’t know everything, and constantly have to reread, re-research, look things up, but I find I have enough background knowledge to get the ball rolling and to see where the stories lurk.

Much harder is all the research about the little things. I spent some time buying and selling vintage clothing and textiles to help support my family during graduate school, so I’ve actually handled a lot of old clothes, seen their construction. Pictures are wonderful, and I rely on them, but there’s nothing like being able to examine the real thing.

Still, there are always details I’m hunting down. Values of money, social practices (when did ladies where gloves and hats, for instance), transportation—these are the details that offer me the most challenge. There’s a wonderful series of books that I rely on quite heavily: A History of Private Life. Invaluable for anyone writing historical fiction.

For the medical stuff, I had a fabulous book by Catherine Kudlick, “Cholera in Post-Revolutionary Paris: a Cultural History.” But the details of the operation, what they could do at that time, actually came from the first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, from the late 18th century. There were incredibly detailed articles with pictures of surgical instruments. Utterly fascinating.

Unfortunately, a lot of the articles about medical history are housed in journals online that cost a lot of money to subscribe to. That’s always a problem for someone trying to do research while working in a full-time day job. The libraries that have the rare sources keep regular office hours, and local libraries usually don’t have the specialized materials one needs.

What's next? Will you revisit the same time period or will you move to something new? Liszt certainly made for a fun and engrossing character, have you thought about including him in another story?

Liszt could easily make a cameo appearance in another book, but it’s not something I’ve started yet. I will no doubt return to Paris, but I’m working on something that takes place in late-eighteenth-century Vienna at the moment, and have also started something from early 17th-century Florence and Paris. I look for the story in the music history, then I start researching the period and go from there. Fortunately for me, I love that process. I can’t imagine ever running out of things to write.

Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Something to Look Forward To

I'm glad the weekend is over. I know most people don't feel that way, but they haven't had to be home with my husband and kids. Hubby was pretty miserable. He felt pretty good on Saturday and during the afternoon we did some furniture window shopping. My family room furniture is falling apart and we have decided we want a partners desk in the home office so we can both work in there. After an afternoon of traipsing through furniture stores with three whiny kids, he was pretty miserable. Sensing our weakness, the kids were particularly obnoxious and by Saturday night I was ready to explode. Sunday didn't start out too well either. Hubby was miserable and just wanted to rest and be left alone. My daughters were awful and he finally ended up locking himself in our bedroom. He was in pain most of the day and took a long nap. He didn't do anything yesterday and everything fell to me. I am so biting my tongue right now, I may choke on the blood. But I won't say anything. I was a bit cranky yesterday to say the least. He did manage to read the entire Potter book this weekend so I get to read it next. Today he seemed better. I really hope we are over a hump.

Now something to look forward to. I have a special guest tomorrow. Author Susanne Dunlap will be answering some questions about writing and about her book "Liszt's Kiss" which I had the good luck to read, so make sure you stop by.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Little Shameless Promotion

My RWA chapter is sponsoring a contest. East Valley Authors is holding its first annual query contest. I know many of you are preparing your query letters for agents so this might be a good opportunity for you. This contest is not restricted to romance. Genre is not a consideration, it simply needs to be fiction. First round will be judged by PRO & published writers. Yours truly is taking the lead on judging. The final round is being judged by Kevan Anne Lyon and Jill Marsal of the Sandra Dijkstra Agency. The entry fee is only $5 so it's not a bad deal. You can find details over at East Valley Authors website.

Other stuff....

My hubby had his wisdom teeth out this morning. It went fine but DH has be dreading this forever. The thought of being put under made him nervous. I was very impressed with the oral surgeon and his staff. They were wonderful and in fact called this afternoon to check on him. I'm hoping he heals well, I got dry socket when I had mine out and I was miserable for over a week. He seems to be doing better than I did however. My mom took the kids for the last couple of days so that has been helpful.

So is anyone else expecting a package from Amazon tomorrow?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007




Thirteen Places I Love To Shop At



Some of these are brick and mortar, others are online.

1. Target. I love Target. My week isn't complete unless I've gone there at least once. I look for their ad on Sunday like some men look for their "Playboys."

2. Wal-Mart. Actually, I have a love/hate relationship with WallyWorld. I don't care for the store but I love their prices. Rarely do I go in there when I can't find something I need. My local Wal-Mart is awful. It feels like a halfway house...and that's just the employees.

3. 99 Cents Only. I'm the only person I know that actually spends enough there to use a credit card.

4. ABC Store. When I'm in Hawaii, I love shopping here. It has taken the place of Hilo Hatties in my heart. Another thing is you can find them on pretty much any street.

5. Big Lots. I find the damndest things here. They get these odd close outs on steak sauces that I love. Believe it or not, I've found a couple of decent wines here too.

6. Costco. Believe me, I do go through that much toilet paper.

7. Bevmo. Do I really need to explain?

8. Trader Joes. They have very cool food stuff plus great wine prices. I do a lot of shopping here around the holidays.

9. Sprouts. This is a new store in my town and I love it. Great price on produce.

10. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. I blame this entirely on Gypsy. They've got great perfume oils. Last year's Pumpkin Patch was to die for. Feeds my inner goth girl.

11. Amazon.com. Duh! Even worse now that I'm Prime.

12. iTunes. I'm connected via PayPal. With just one little click I can have the single "How Bizarre" by OMC with little guilt.

13. Barnes and Noble. Both brick and mortar and online. Great bookstore, nice prices.




Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!



Getting Back Into The Swing

Well, my BIAW I did last week didn't do much...at first. I wrote maybe half a page the entire week. Then yesterday, I wrote over 1000 words. Perhaps it was the realization that things are not going to change. There are always going to be kids in the house driving me crazy. There is always going to be a pile of laundry to fold. There will always be dishes in the sink to be washed. And there is always another chapter to complete. For most of us, there will never be a perfect time to write. We may get an hour or two without interruption, but quite often it is accomplished at the sacrifice of something else (yesterday Melissa talks about how her sacrifice affected her the next day). Sometimes it feels worth it, other times it doesn't.

However, my defibrillator moment occurred yesterday when I saw Nienke's blog. Go check it out. Something about it truly jarred me from my lackadascal attitude and got me writing. Sometimes its the little things.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Kathleen Woodiwiss

Kathleen Woodiwiss died at the age of 68 yesterday. It was a little jarring to me, it meant the true end of an era.

The summer between 6th and 7th grade, my neighbor lady lent "Shanna" to my mom. My mother was never a romance reader so she tossed it aside. I found it and literally my life path changed. I was so enamored of that book, I cannot tell you how many times I've read it. But after reading it, I knew I wanted to be a writer. She brought such passion and vivid characterization to her novels, it blew me away.

Younger readers and writers are probably unable to appreciate how important she was to the romance industry. She and others like Shirlee Busbee, Rosemary Rogers and Jennifer Wilde put historical romance on the map.

People put these books down now, but that is truly unfair. There was far more than heaving bosoms and uber Alpha males running around. There was always adventure and passion on a grand scale. They were not politically correct, there was always an edge to the relationships. But they engrossed me, pulling me into another world so completely, I never wanted to leave.

Goodbye, Ms. Woodiwiss, your work meant more to me than even I realized.

Are any of you Woodiwiss fans? Which was your favorite?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Book In A Week


I've been a slacker in the writing department for awhile. I whine with excuses but really I'm just out of the groove. So I'm going to do a Book In A Week over at Villa in Tuscany starting tomorrow if you care to join me. The goal is simple, try to write as much as you can during the week. This isn't a time to beat yourself up, just a week where you can spend some extra attention on your WIP. Maybe push yourself to finish or give yourself the impetus to start.

I'll try to have some inspiration to keep you going everyday. Doesn't Gerard Butler look pensive here? I think he is contemplating all the wonderful things we are going to be writing this week.

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Big Rock

So last weekend hubby and I took off just the two of us for a road trip up the coast. Wow, what a great time we had. We haven't had a weekend alone since before Thing was born 4 1/2 years ago. It was so quiet.

First stop was Morro Bay. I love the rock. From there we headed up the road and stopped in Cambria, a little artsy community in a foresty area near the ocean. Then it was on to Monterey. We stayed the night in Monterey then got up early and headed for Napa Valley.

I did a little wine tasting. Well, I did a lot of wine tasting. We only hit 3 wineries (all we had time for) but one of them was Mumm so I got to taste some sparkling wine. Very much worth it.

The biggest plus, however, was spending time with hubby. With all the stresses of our lives, it is sometimes hard to remember what drew you to your spouse and why you are still married. I honestly feared we would have nothing to talk about but the kids. We hardly talked about them at all. In fact, we enjoyed the silence. Neither of us felt compelled to talk. Of course, conversation in a convertible going over 60 mph makes chatting difficult. But it was so pleasant and rejeuvenating.

Now, back to the grind. But at least I've had a chance to take a deep breath and have some great memories to think about.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Square Pegs

When I set out to write my last book, I didn't really think about it. I didn't think of the genre, the marketability, etc. In fact, it was probably my most thoughtless book to date. When I write historicals, certain elements guide me and the same goes for paranormals. But this book was different and therein lies the problem.

It blends 3 different genres pretty much equally. Therefore, it doesn't really fit anywhere. As I'm learning, commercial publishing is made up of round holes. And my book isn't out-there enough to be its own unique niche.

The feedback I've received on my book is good. They like my writing. But the book sits on too many fences to make it marketable. This is the problem with writing straight from the heart. While the publishers want fresh voices, they don't want something they have no idea how to market.

Knowing this, would I have written the book differently? I'm not sure. I enjoyed writing the book and I felt like it was a great writing experience. Will I write the next one differently? Oh yeah.

I'm not trying to write the great novel which expresses my pain and doubt at the human condition. I'm not trying to write a piece of brilliant fiction filled with the angst of my soul. I'm writing to entertain. I'm not trying to teach lessons or make a statement. So I'm flexible. I'm married, I have kids, I'm used to compromise. Now to get my butt in gear and get writing.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Tumultuous

I really planned on blogging all week last week but it was an odd week.

I got bad news from my agent. My book is nearing the end of the line with editors and we had to make the decision about where to go next. We could take it to smaller publishers, but she didn't think that was a good idea. Based on her reasoning, I agree with her. Ergo, the book will soon retire to the ol' hard drive. It won't be alone and I have to say this book went further than any before it and who knows, it may eventually find its way to publication eventually. Why it was rejected and why we are letting it go is a blog post all on its own.

I'm not a big chocolate fan so I couldn't really bury my disappointment in a Cadbury bar. I did get a manicure and a pedicure. I also got my hair colored and bought a bunch of new clothes. I also went to a cocktail party with my hubby and Friday we took off for the weekend up the coast just the two of us.

While I'm disappointed, I'm not devistated. In the general scheme of things, not getting this book published is not all that tragic. I suppose that is what keeps me in perspective. As tough as rejection is, it is not the end of the world.

Now I have to get myself writing. I spent much of the weekend sorting through story ideas in my head. I have to admit, it is difficult mustering up a whole lot of enthusiasm right now. I feel like I'm walking on creative eggshells. My biggest problem is that I think too much and I'm not relying on the insticnt which has guided me all these years. So now I need to silence that little voice and go with the flow.

Now I'm back to playing catch up on the blogs. I've got a little jet lag and a bit of a hangover (wine tasting), so I might have to wait until tomorrow.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Disappearing Act

Seems like a fell off the face of the planet, doesn't it? I basically did, my Internet kept going in and out for nearly a week. Do you know how much stuff you can get done without the distraction of the Internet? I spent a week cleaning house, I mean really cleaning. I rearranged cabinets and closets, cracked the whip on the kids, you name it.

I didn't do much writing, however, I did get an AlphaSmart. I won a Dana on Ebay and I love it, if only I loved my writing as much right now.

My hubby had a deposition down San Diego way on Friday so we all went down with him. I dropped him off at the depo then headed over to Legoland. We had a blast, when my husband was done, the court reporter dropped him off and he joined us. We spent the night and came back to the park the next day. The kids really enjoyed it and I liked the fact the temperature never got above 73 degrees.

My son started enrichment classes this week from 8-12 everyday. The girls enterain themselves while their brother is away by fighting. Geez, these kids can whine. I've told them today if they can quit fighting for an hour or so we will make chocolate chip cookies.

Now to play catch up on all your news!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

8 Things I Like

Willow tagged me with a meme. I've actually done it before so I thought I'd give it a twist.

Here are 8 things I like:

1. Movie star men. I love the larger than life personas they have. Hugh Jackman as Van Helsing, Daniel Craig as James Bond and Johnny Depp as, well, anything, feed my daydreams.

2. Perfect fruit. I do not like fruit. I think it is because it is hard to get really good fruit in the store. This morning I was out in the yard and I picked an apricot off the tree and it was perfect. If I could this kind of fruit all the time, I'd fruit.

3. Martha Stewart. Not her personally, but everything she represents. She presents a lifestyle that is graceful and effortless. Yeah, its an illusion, but I read her magazine like some men read "Playboy." I know these things only exist in the glossy pages of "Living," but I still enjoy the pictures.

4. Books. There's a no-brainer. I love books, love to read them, love to write them. I love to look a them at the bookstore.

5. A hot shower. Isn't it amazing how a little hot water and foo-foo soap can restore a person?

6. A roaring fire on a cold winter night. We discovered we could actually use our fireplace this winter. What a difference it made. There is nothing like dozing in front of the fire while watching t.v.

7. Rose gardens. I love roses, but only on rose bushes. I don't care for cut roses although I will cut some of my own for a centerpiece. But rose gardens are something else. They are generally planned with attention of a person. My husband has his planted in rows, recorded in a notebook so he knows what is where and where he can add more. He tends his rose garden with care. I like the fact rose gardens are created with pleasure in mind.

8. Baking. I don't like the clean up, but I love to bake. Bread, cakes, pies, any of it. I get such satisfaction from turning two cups of flour into something wonderful.

What are some of the things that you like?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Thirteen Places I'd Like to Take My Kids This summer


I plan this every year and every year something happens and we don't go.

1. The Big Island. We took the kids last year and they had a blast. My folks are planning on going with us so it should be more fun and easier.

2. The Arboretum. I remember going here as a kid and really enjoying it. If anything, it has large expanses of space where kids can run around.

3. California Science Center. My son has been here several times and always enjoys it. I think my other two might appreciate it now.

4. The Getty. I've wanted to go since it opened but always something comes up. My two older kids really enjoy art and their school makes it a serious part of their curriculum, so I think they would appreciate it.

5. American Girl Place. Okay, so I probably will let Supernerd out of this one. The girls are really going to have to behave because I know they want one of those damn dolls.

6. The Huntington Library. I live about 20 miles from this place and I've never been there. I hear it is incredible and I know my kids will like it.

7. Legoland. My kids love this place. I like it because it is in Carlsbad and always several degrees cooler than home. The food is good too.

8. Natural History Museum. They got dinosaurs.

9. La Brea Tarpits. They got sabre tooth tigers.

10. Aquarium of the Pacific. Both of my older kids have been here more than once. I've never been. Too bad they have to do what I say. I'd love to see it.

11. Raging Waters. We are getting season passes. Its only a few miles from my house so I figure we will be going at least once a week, probably more often.

12. The Claremont Club. Most of everyday will probably be spent here. I can get 3 hours of free babysitting, hence the reason I want an AlphaSmart. I can stay in the shade while the kids go swimming and do whatever.

13. Home. Nothing exciting in that, but my husband has worked very hard to have a nice yard for them to play. We have a croquet set, badminton, bocce ball and a sunk golf hole. I'm hoping they can enjoy the simple games. Sometimes the simplest pleasures are the best.





Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!


The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!



AlphaSmart


I work on a laptop. Well, its a laptop in name only. Its a big Sony Vaio which is pretty good but it isn't portable. Its heavy and too wide to fit into a laptop case. The battery sucks and drains completely after about 40 minutes. Ridiculous, I know, but for the most part, it isn't an issue.

However, this summer I plan on going lots of places with the kids or staying outside with them when they are playing. I'd like something more portable and far more rugged. All I need is something to write on. So I'm considering an AlphaSmart, probably the Dana. I thought about getting the wireless option, but I really wonder if that is a wise idea. I spend way too much time on the Internet as it is.

Do any of you have one or know someone who does? What do you think or what do have you heard?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

So Now What?

I don't like to admit it but the single biggest issue I have with writing is my last book.

When my book first started its journey into the shadowy world of editors, my enthusiasm for writing was high. I quickly wrote the first few chapters of the sequel book then dove into something new. But as the rejections started coming in, my elan faded and doubt took its place.

I have no doubts that I'm a good writer. I'm confident in my own abilities to realize my trouble isn't with the quality of my writing. Where my doubts come in is whether I write marketable stuff. We as writers sling around platitudes about writing what we love and what our heart dictates. I've followed a version of that theory in all my writing. But once the rejections started pouring in, well, maybe not pouring since my book has only been with a few editors, my attitude changed and not for the better.

No, it isn't any easier to anticipate the market from an editor's comments. They all have a different opinion as to why the book wasn't right for them. Obviously trying to gauge how well a book will do with this variety of opinions is nigh on impossible. I know this, but the doubts creep in.

I feel like I'm at the Hilary Step on Everest. The most challenging part of the climb is the summit ridge. All the really hard work has happened already, but I'm mentally worn out. I can see the sale, see the summit of my journey, but these last few obstacles are here. And I'm not sure how to face them or work with them. I have a well-regarded agent who knows her business and works hard for me. I don't want to waste this opportunity, I don't want to waste her time and mine by writing a book that isn't going to sell.

It crippled my writing. I kept flitting from project to project, starting and stopping because I wasn't confident that it was marketable. Talk about a maze with no end!

I can write about it now because I seem to have gotten over my hang up. I'm back to writing. I realized that I was thinking too much rather than letting my writing work itself out. I need to trust my instincts more rather than trying to think too hard. By worrying about what I think is going to sell, I lose the value of my writing. I suppress just the thing that attracted my agent in the first place. I'm back to writing and more importanly I'm enjoying it. One thing my agent said when she signed me is that she felt the fun in my writing. She had fun reading it and felt the fun I had writing it. So I guess that is the lesson I've learned. Go with instinct, it won't let you down.

Now I'm hoping my blogroll is back up. I sat down yesterday evening to catch up with everyone and the darn thing crashed and I don't have my links saved anywhere else.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Changes

I'm a big believer in change as my oft changing blog skin can attest. Change is the mechanism we use to improve ourselves and our lives.

We had a big change around the ol' casa this weekend. My husband turned my daughter's room into...well, we aren't exactly sure. The one thing it isn't is a kid's room. He pulled out the carpet and put in laminate. He added crown molding at the ceiling. My youngest now sleeps upstairs. While I greet the change with relief and joy, the displaced child is not so happy. Moving upstairs means she is becoming a big girl and she isn't real keen on that. She's happy being the baby. But change is good and while she won't like it at the start, I'm guessing by the end of summer she will embrace it.

Changes run the gamut. Some are anticipated, others are not. Some changes make us decry our fate. I'm real good at that. But eventually we have to accept change and decide what we are going to do with it. We either sink or swim. Sometimes sinking doesn't sound like such a bad option. Swimming is tough and exhausting. But it gets us to the other side.

I tend to want make wide, sweeping changes. The changes I wish to make reflect goals which are, frankly, nigh impossible to accomplish. Or I tend to focus on the goal and not on the process it takes to accomplish it. I do it with everything from weight loss to housework and most definitely with writing.

This week I want to focus on my diet and fitness. My goal is to lose, well, a lot, but putting that plan in motion has always been a problem. My other goal is to be more focused. I'm easily distracted and thus I don't accomplish what I want to accomplish. Which leads to frustration. I've started writing lists again. I focus better if I see the words written down, imagine that.

Anyway, for this week, my focus is on what I'm eating and making exercise a priority. I'm hoping to make going to the gym second nature because I cannot lose weight unless I exercise. My goal is to make going to the gym something I do as a habit like drinking coffee. The more I go the more it becomes necessary.

Do you look for change or do you avoid it? What has been the biggest changes in your life recently both positive and negative? How are you dealing with them?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Vanishing Act

Don't you hate it when a blogger disappears and you have no idea where they are?

Sigh...

I wish I had some long tale of woe or wonder to explain my absence but I don't. I have the blahs. Not depression. I'm actually quite creative when I'm depressed and I tend to write more.

The blahs are something different. Its like being on a sailboat in the water and the wind dies. You could probably start the motor and get going but you don't because if you do, you'll just have to go back to the dock and leave the Coronas behind as you pick up the threads of reality.

I haven't totally disappeared. Friday I blogged about writing over at Journey. I think I might have posted over at my MySpace blog in the last week as well. But still, I've been pretty absent.

Maybe it is spring fever, but I don't feel particularly wild. I've been reading a lot. I've given up updating my sidebar for books since I'm whipping through them so fast. I wish I could say the same about writing. I'm not doing much. I wrote a few pages on a historical to try and light my spark. Didn't work as well as I planned but I at least I got some writing done.

Anyone else got the blahs? If you do, how do you leave them behind?

Monday, May 21, 2007

40

First, I want to thank all of you who commiserated with me about my kid. Misery loves company and I'm glad I'm not the only one with a monster child. My nephew was over last night and he makes my kid look like an angel, so I guess I should be thankful for what I have.

Today is my birthday, the big Four-OH. Doesn't really seem to be a big deal anymore. I will say having a pre-schooler at 40 was not in my game plan. When my mom turned 40, she was seeing her only child graduate from high school. Sigh...

Hubby bought me a really pretty heart necklace, I'll try and get a picture of it one of these days. It is a floating heart on a white gold chain made up of yellow and pink sapphires and diamonds. He also got me a nice watch. My watches usually come from the clearance section of Wal Mart, so it is a nice change. Last night we had the family over and hubby fried chicken in the deep fryer outside. It was so good. Today promises to be nice as well. My parents are picking my daughter up this morning and my friend and I are going out to lunch. My folks are going to pick up my kids after school and feed them dinner so hubby and I can go out by ourselves. All in all a good day.

I'm not a big birtday fan. I feel better when they are over. I suppose the anticipation of a decade birthday adds stress. But I think 40 is a good year and one which will bring many possibilities. If nothing else, my youngest will be starting school. That counts for something, right?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Aggravations

I can't believe its been a week since I blogged. It has been a week of non-stop annoyances and aggravations. This time of the year usually brings its own special brand of irritation. We are seeing the very end of baseball (YESSSS!!!) which has its own ends and rituals. This morning I'm going out on a quest for thank you cards and gift certificates for the coaches and team moms. Also on the agenda is registration for soccer. We don't start until August but registration is now. My son's science fair project is due this week and I've been working with him on that. He didn't do one last year and the principal ripped him a new one, so I put my foot down on it this year.

The rest are things that zap me mentally and emotionally. Mother's Day was a big bag of petty annoyances, none of which I will get into because it gets me spewing fire. Suffice it to say sometimes I wished I married an orphan. The other biggie is my 7 year old. Diva is truly living up to her name right now. I'm so mad at her right now, I don't want her around. She is so self-centered and blind to anything that doesn't have to do with her, it's incredible. I expected this behavior at 12, not 7. And if one more person tells me how sweet she is, I'm going to explode. At school she is the darling. She listens, she helps the teacher, she helps other students. She has a reputation for kindness and is a friend to everyone. At home....*shudder* I don't get it. On the baseball team, skills wise she is one of the better players, but as soon as she hits the field she is either goofing around or whining. At home, she is always dragging her dad out to play ball with her, but once she is with the team, she turns into a brat. Hand me the Tums, please.

All the turmoil has drained me of creativity. The thought of writing exhausts me. Heck, the simple act of blogging is a monumental effort. I think part of it is burn out. The school year is coming to an end and I'm burned out right along with the kids. While they have school, I have the school and sports functions I've been responsible for. Hopefully summer will help, but if my daughter keeps up with her behavior, I'm not too hopeful.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Special Guest

As some of you know, I'm a patsy for the paranormal. I like all manner of preternaturals like werewolves, goblins, faeries and Paris Hilton. But vampires hold a soft spot in my heart. Not sure why.

I'm not alone in my fascination. Silhouette has read this desire and is featuring the undead in their Nocturne line. The latest is Caridad Pineiro's Blood Calls. This is the sixth book in an ongoing series.

Diego Rivera lost his life during the Spanish Inquisition, but when he is saved by becoming a vampire, he swears to become a better man. Ramona Escobar is a promising young artist who is struggling with a mother with Alzheimer’s and a disease that is slowly robbing Ramona of life. Ramona unwittingly becomes involved in an art fraud and when her life is threatened, handsome art gallery owner Diego Rivera comes to her aid. Attraction will flare to life between the two, but both Diego and Ramona are hiding secrets. When Diego reveals his true face to Ramona, she reveals the true of her existence – that she will soon die. Will love help Diego find a way to deal with Ramona’s betrayal and his own secrets, or is it the call of her blood that is tempting him to put the bite on her?


I was fortunate enough to ask Caridad a few questions about writing and the popularity of the undead.

As a writer, how hard is it to switch genres? Going from police procedurals to Latina chick lit to dark paranormal seems like a tough jump, how does you do it?

It is hard to switch genres at times, especially when you have deadlines for both books. I generally like to stay with each genre at one time, but that hasn’t been possible lately. When I am writing the dark vampire novels and romantic suspense, I am in one mindset and the women’s fiction mindset is very very different. For the dark vampire novels, I am concentrating on the paranormal elements and the psychic wounds of the protagonists. These psychic wounds will oftentimes impact on life and death situations. For my women’s fiction, the stories generally revolve around the relationships of women and while the conflicts there are life-altering, they are grounded much more in reality and do not have life and death consequences. They do, however, impact on the life courses of the protagonists. As for the suspense stories that I write, the focus there is generally on the romance and how the mystery impacts on that relationship. There’s actually more similarity between my romantic suspense novels and the vampire novels as both generally have a mystery and of course, romantic elements.

BLOOD CALLS is the 6th book in a series that started awhile back. Was it tough to pick it back up or has this story been floating around in your head for awhile?
I knew when I wrote TEMPTATION CALLS (October 2005) that I wasn’t done with the stories for some of the characters. TEMPTATION CALLS turned out to be one of my favorite books because of the characters and their very unique lives. From that one book, I’ve been able to spin off DEVOTION CALLS (January 2007) and BLOOD CALLS (May 2007) as well as FURY CALLS (tba 2008). I hadn’t planned on so many other stories from that one when I started, but as I wrote, I realized that there were a number of secondary characters that were so unique that I had to explore them in greater depth. Part of it is that I like to write series and always try to make the secondary characters so real that people want to know more about them. The one hard thing about this is that you need to keep them in the background and not let them overwhelm the main story.

Why vampires? Why do readers come back to the undead again and again and again?

I think people have always been fascinated by the otherworldly creatures and vampires in particular. There is the fascination with immortality and what it would be like to never die. We always imagine them as romantic and sometimes tragic creatures. We also think of them as very sensual creatures and the sharing of blood is definitely high on the list of intimate acts. For all those reasons, readers love vampires.

How is Diego unique amongst his kind?

In my mythology, Diego is unique in that his age makes him nearly an elder. That age gives him greater powers and a higher rank in the Manhattan vampire hierarchy. It also brings profound worry in him since with each year that passes, Diego has seen the loneliness of those around him and has experience his own loss – his long time vampire companion was killed nearly two years earlier. With her passing, Diego sees himself on the way to becoming like the other vampire elders – devoid of passion for anything other than blood. Lonely. When Diego finds himself attracted to a human, however, he wonders if he can allow himself to experience her passion or if by doing so, he will doom himself to even greater misery.

Hmm...sounds like a vampire in need of heroine's touch. If you are a sucker for blood suckers, Caridad has created a world for you. For more information on Caridad, please visit www.caridad.com or watch her interview at www.romancenovel.tv.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

8 Things Things You Probably Didn't Need to Know About Me

I got hit with this meme from both Toni and Bebe.

1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

2. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

3. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.

4. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.


Here we go:

1. I'm allergic to olive trees. The blossoms send me into massive sneezing fits.

2. I'm an only child.

3. I'd never changed a diaper until my son was born. Personally, I could have skipped that part of motherhood.

4. I've been to Hawaii six times and I'm planning my seventh.

5. I broke both of my pinkies when I was Christmas caroling. I was about 9 I guess and they healed funny. When I did NaNoWriMo they were in constant pain from the typing. Beer took care of the problem.

6. I married my boss. I was a legal secretary, he was the partner I worked for. How sordid is that?

7. I have to wear orthotics in my shoes. The structure of my hips makes my gait wrong and I get severe shin splints. The orthotics correct the problem. Of course, the less I weigh, the less necessary the orthotics are, no surprise there.

8. I've been dying my hair red since 1993. I have no idea what my natural color is anymore except that it has lots of gray.

Okay, now I have to tag 8 people. Gypsy, Amy, Chys, Kelly, Lory, Teresa, Zephra, and Henri.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

$138,095

Salary.com , "compensation experts," have compiled a list of a stay-at-home-mom's jobs and figured out she would be paid about $138K a year for her efforts.

Interesting.

This number has started a flurry of opinions. Amazing what a hot button issue this is. Usually it boils down to an appreciation factor and misconceptions.

When I worked outside the home, my workmates and I would head down to Target for lunch time shopping. We'd watch the SAHM's shopping with their kids and we'd be filled with envy. How great would it be to have the freedom to go shopping with your kids? How awesome would it be to head over with the crumb crushers for a perky lunch at McDonald's? Boy, those women had the life.

Skip up a couple of years and I discovered what kind of "paradise" it is shopping with kids. Trips to McDonald's are bribes. All of my pastoral visions of being home were quickly obliterated. When I hung up the pantyhose and pumps for sneakers and sweats, I traded in a lot more than a wardrobe.

It isn't that one experience is tougher than another. Moms who work outside the home have a job plus the responsibilities of parenthood. They still have meals to plan and homework to assist with. There is laundry and housework. But when I worked, I also had help. If hubby got home before me, he started dinner and we both did the dishes. On the weekends, we both worked on the laundry. I also had the luxury of using some of my income for a housekeeper who came in every other week to clean. Since no one was home during the day, the house stayed clean. My time was considered more valuable. I actually had more writing time than I do now.

As an SAHM (by the way, I'm not trying to exclude SAH dads, I'm just speaking from my own experiences)I don't have the daycare worries. I don't have to fit in grocery shopping on a weekend. I almost never wear make up. But the expectations also increase.

With the house, there is an expectation it should be clean. Not really out of line...except I hate housework. I cook six nights a week. I don't mind cooking so much and hubby still helps with the dishes, some nights this is the only time we get to have adult conversation. But it is also expected that I will serve on every committee at my kids' school. It means that I should volunteer for team mom/coach/Girl Scout leader/classroom assistant because I have so much time. And most important, that time I get to spend with the children.

My kids are convenient like the ones on "Desperate Housewives." They are always there and constantly demanding something. They fight with each other and they defy me. It is a constant battle to get them to pick up after themselves. If I leave the room, the youngest one is into something. My fridge and pantry are locked. Somedays I have to lock all the rooms in the house just to keep her out of stuff. She's four going on fifteen and figures whatever trouble she gets into, it was probably worth it.

Anyway, enough of the sob story. Parenthood is rough no matter what the circumstances. But people are incensed by the idea of putting a monetary number in relation to parenthood. The value of raising our children and mantaining a loving home defies mere salary. Which is exactly the point and why like to see this kind of validation. It isn't that we think we deserve money or financial compensation and I can tell you, I don't do enough to earn $100K. I just want to do enough to justify my online shopping habits.

Parents who stay at home are either praised as selfless beings devoted to their families, taking satisfaction in the pure joy their nurturing brings. Or they are seen as mindless zombies content to spend their days watching purient televsion munching on Doritos and bon bons. Neither one is true of course, but it does point to one thing: the loss of identity.

My biggest adjustment was my loss of identity as a person. From 8-5 Monday through Friday I was me. Now, there are days where I never hear my name. I am a mother then a wife and that is the extent of it. I do it myself. I allow it.

I think when a parent sees a breakdown of what the value of their services would be in the working world, it makes them appreciate themselves. As mothers, whether you work outside the home or stay at home, we need to appreciate ourselves. We need to appreciate our strengths rather than focusing on our failures.

No one is going to do that for us. Our spouse who spends the day working isn't going to understand how difficult our day is. Our kids aren't going to care. We can only hope they have children of their own and then they will understand.

Look at what you do every day and appreciate the skills it takes to do what you do. Go use the salary wizardand see how much you really do and how tough it really is. Understand how valuable you really are. If you treat yourself like a valued employee, everyone else will to. If not, go on strike.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Work in Progress

It's like magic around here lately. As soon as I sit down to write a post, some crisis crops up. I've had this particular window open on my computer about 10 times and this is as far as I get. But no more. I'm determined to post. By the way, the picture of Capt. Jack has nothing to do with the post, but I felt I'd been limiting myself with Daniel Craig and neglecting my Johnny Depp obsession. Besides, I thought this was a cool picture.

But onto the meat and taters. One thing I've noticed in my writing is how much it matures with each new book I write. My style and voice continue to develop. Its easier to read what I've written without cringing. It shouldn't be surprising, for the most part, we get better at anything with practice. But I think we as writers have difficult expectations of ourselves. We want to be at our zenith with every book. There is nothing wrong with that, the quest to be at our best is a natural one. On the flip, I think it also sets us up for struggle and disappointment.

We as writers are works in progress. As we continue to write, we learn to be more comfortable with our talents. Once we are, we can move onto a new skill or focus. We need to remember that each manuscript we work on is another step in our progress.

Writers tend to treat their current WIP as our children. We put our hearts and souls into them, terrified when we send them out into the cold, cruel world of publishing. Every rejection is a crushing blow smacking to the core of our egos. Talk about pressure. But manuscripts aren't children. They are products of our hard work. Yes, it hurts when they get rejected, but the next book will be better.

I'm working on a new book while my other one is in submission hell somewhere. Oddly enough, I don't think about the other book itself anymore. My focus is on what I'm writing now. I'm allowing myself to branch out into other directions with this story and I can see it in the writing. It makes me happy. And that's what writing should do. If I dwell on the rejections I'm receiving on the other book, it would be very easy to never come back to the book I'm working on. But I recognize that I'm still progressing. I am willing to accept the book out in submissions may not find a home. Having an agent is no guarantee for a sale. I'm going to have to be okay with that. Hence, a new book. This picture also has nothing to do with the post, but I liked it and I thought Orlando looked a bit dashing.

As I was saying, its easy to feel like your writing life has ended when a book is rejected. But having a new project is the best cure. You are a work in progress and each book you write continues your progression. Enjoy the process and be proud of the skills you develop no matter what.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Another Doodad for the Sidebar



Melissa has awarded me the "thinking blogger award." I was kinda hoping Daniel Craig came with this award, but apparently not. But here's a picture of him anyway. It may not be intellectual, but it gets me thinkin'.

So I need to give this out to five other blogs that make me think. That's a tough one because they all make me think. But I'll pick five out of the hat:

1. Rene Lyons. Besides having a great first name, she is a fun blogger and her chronicles about her writing career are fun and informative. I also won a book from her this week that I can't wait to read.

2. Joely. Another writer who is chronicling her journey as a writer that I find myself often nodding my head to in agreement. She is very eloquent in describing her struggles and her triumphs.

3. Kelly Parra. THis girlfriend has been on a roller coaster of a ride in her writing career and she always discusses it with candor on her blog. Her debut YA novel Graffiti Girl is coming out next month. She has been jounaling her adventures for this book and its been informative and interesting.

4. Nienke. Nienke looks for inspiration and is always happy to share it when she finds it. She finds these amazing writing links. Love it.

5. Toni. Toni has a nice mix of writing, family and world posts. I'm also guaranteed a nice Sean Bean picture if I go visit.

Here's the fine print for those folks that I've nailed.

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.