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.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Old Dog, New Tricks

I don't have many vices but I'm loaded with bad habits. Or rather, I lack good habits.

As the pace of my life picks up, the easier it is for things to get away from me. If I feel overwhelmed (which is easy due to my own brain chemistry) I feel desperate. I cease to view reality in its true perspective. My ongoing battle is my house. I cannot seem to keep it under control. Considering I don't enjoy cleaning house, I feel double the despair. But I'm trying to change that. Instead of seeing the house as one huge unconquerable mountain, I'm trying to change my thought process and break it down into more manageable mole hills. Part of that is creating good habits.

My first one is to straighten the kitchen in the morning after breakfast and lunches are made. It takes me an additional 10 minutes to do, but if I let it sit until dinner time, then it has grown into a half hour task.

My second it to act rather than procrastinate. Not on the big things. The little things. There is a pile of stuff I need to take to my husband's office. It has been sitting here growing for almost a year. I go to my husband's office at least three times a week but I have managed to forget this junk everyday. So as soon as I finish this post, I'm going to go put it in the car. Same goes for putting things away. I've been working at making my laundry room a laundry room rather than a black hole of chaos. Instead of just dropping off my various cleaning products, I'm putting them away. Wow, I have a counter to fold laundry.

Third habit I'm working on is sweeping my kitchen floor every night. I really hate this one, but I realized it only takes me about 4 or 5 minutes. But this small chore saves me a ton later in the week when it is time to mop.

Oh yeah, and I'm trying to go back to making weekly menus. I got a new cookbook, Everyday Food: Great Food Fast (Vintage), and I've been using it to death. I find having a menu lessens my stress plus helps me cut my time at the grocery store.

What about you? Any good habits you are trying to develop?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Punch in "Amazon Oddities" in the tag search and let the fun begin.

1. Toilet Monster: Could you imagine what would happen if you put this in the toilet while potty training your toddler?
2. Shirt Bib: I would love to see my husband wear this.
3. Dagobert Wooden Toilet Throne: Another product tailor-made for my husband.
4. Flash iCarta Stereo Dock: Some people need mood music, I guess.
5. Knitting With Dog Hair: I think the title says it all.
6. The 2007-2012 Outlook for Household Electric Kettles in the United States : In case you needed to know.
7. Lemon Squeezer 18ct Gold plated : So much nicer than stainless steel. But is it dishwasher safe?
8. Relaxman Relaxation Capsule: Your own personal Skinner Box. The customer comments on this one are great.
9. Baby Eel with Hot Garlic Sauce in Olive Oil : Why settle for a carrot or an apple for snack?
10. POKEMON EAU DE TOILETTE SPRAY: For those ladies who want to smell like Pikachu.
11. TOILET NANNY : This could save your marriage.
12. MANGROOMER Do-It-Yourself Electric Back Hair Shaver: The beaches may become safe again.
13. 5Lb Fat Replica: Ewww!

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!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What I've Learned From Link

If you've ever owned or been around any Nintendo game console, the name Zelda is probably familiar. The Zelda franchise is one of Nintendo's flagship games. No matter what console, there has been at least one Zelda game available. I've been playing it for, well, longer than I'm going to admit to. Anyway, we have the latest version for the Wii - "Zelda Twilight Princess."

The story doesn't vary too much, it pretty much centers on the hero, Link, who goes from being a simple village lad to becoming a hero. He goes through a journey, gaining wisdom and skills as he defeats monster after monster. This latest incarnation is pretty elaborate and the story has more to it. An evil empire of shadows has taken over the kingdom of Hyrule and is creeping over the rest of the light world (this story hasn't changed in 20 years). Link is the only one who can stop it. Princess Zelda is a prisoner of the shadows and her people are bodiless spirits trapped in a twilight world, cut off from their reality. Link goes through his journey freeing these people and conquering the twilight through a series of tests.

I find this game compelling for many reasons. I'm a video game geek anyway, but my addiction to storytelling makes this a match made in heaven. Also, I like the simplicity of the story and the hit-you-over-the-head meanings. For example:

The Journey: As you know, I have a "thing" about hero's journeys and Link's adventures personify the whole thing so well. From callow youth to full-blown heroic man, he has to go through a long journey fraught with danger to achieve his goal. The Zelda games are as simple as it gets, they all have a journey. But obviously it resonantes with people, these games have been around since 1986 and is published in many languages. Journeys appeal to people. As a writer, it is important to realize that and to know that as complex as your plot gets, having a clear, simple journey is a solid basis for your story.

Goals, Motivation, Conflict: Again, very simple but simplicity helps us understand. In Zelda, Link has a mini goal. For example, he needs to go into the twilight to defeat the shadows. So his goal is to conquer a temple or a forest. Motivation is the freedom the land and people will have if he is successful. The conflict is that he becomes a wolf in the twilight and it is never certain he will return to his human form. The game provides you with a choice each time you enter the twilight. I always pick "yes" because when it comes to video games and cheesecake, I'm a girl who can't say no. But this breakdown of a writing concept into a simplitic form shows you the strength of what you can do with your own character. It illustrates the concept of GMC in an obvious manner.

Secondary Characters: Oddly enough, the earlier versions of this game were pretty solitary. Link was pretty much on his own. In this version, he is surrounded by secondary characters and their place in his journey are very clear. In some situations, he can go no further in his journey without their assistance. They provide his motive and his conflict. They make his plight much more sympathetic. They aren't complex characters, but they illustrate to a writer the value of what they can add to a story.

Black Moments: This game is one black moment after another. Link's triumphs are always followed by a black moment. He is rewarded for his valor by being put into another miserable situation. Fortunately, the miserable situation leads to another set of challenges. And that is what a black moment does for our characters when we are writing. Our characters can either crumple or rise to the occassion. The more miseable the black moment, the greater reward when our characters accept the challenges it presents. In the game, the moment is very simple. Damsel is kidnapped, kid is greviously injured, etc. etc. But the affect is the same as what we have in our novels and it is up to Link to do with the situation what he will. If you want to win the game, you will proceed and accept the dangerous challenge presented. The biggest black moment was when I accidentlally erased my file and lost all my progress.

There are a bunch more, but I'm only a 1/4 through the game. Supernerd is ahead of me. Unfortunately for him, I'm hope while he's at school and I should be breathing down his neck tomorrow.

My point is that there are writing workshops all over. We can learn things from whatever we are doing. And while playing a video game can actually be a monumental waste of time ("Wario SmoothMoves" is totally a waste but a helluva lot of fun) it can have its value.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Chapter Two

It finally happened, I ran out of excuses for not writing and sat down and did it. Then is an immeasurable sense of relief when I complete the first chapter although I don't feel the commitment until the third. However, it has been such a long time since I got to chapter two, I've been patting myself on the back. I'm very happy with my writing on this project, I'm comfortable with first person POV and I'm able to challenge myself more.

I think most if not all writers harbor a fear that one day the well is going to dry up and they won't be able to write again. Its usually unfounded, but it swirls around our mind like a malignant fog, creating artificial barriers which lead us astray. I've been doing this long enough to recognize it for the falsity it is. I've had long writing droughts before, longer than this one, but it doesn't matter. It delivers a sucker punch all the same.

There isn't some magic incantation I muttered to get myself back on track. No magical being materialized to bless me with renewed creativity. It was more keeping my butt in the chair and supergluing my fingers to the keyboard. And turning off the Internet. Mentally, I bitched about how rough is was going until I found myself immersed in my story. Next thing I know, I'm at chapter two and I'm still going strong.

One thing I have discovered about myself is that I'm given to daydreams about my novel. But these are just phantoms until I actually do the writing. I can dream up plots and characters until the moon sets, but it only counts when I start writing. Very rarely do those daydreams actually make it to the page. But they do keep me interested. They help me flesh out my characters so that when I do write, I'm more in tune and can figure out how my characters are going to operate with the situations given.

So I'm back to writing. And, sigh, I'm now running out of excuses not to go to the gym. So I guess I'll be doing that too.

Other Stuff...

I have long given up on my kids riding bikes. My son cannot do it. He has a mental block about balance. I have explained to him if he wants to ride a Segway (yes, some kids want a motorcycle, he wants a Segway) he's going to have to learn to balance on two wheels. Diva wasn't much better, but yesterday she grabbed a bike and taught herself how to ride. Now I can't get her of the bike. Its her brother's old bike so we are going to buy her a new one.

Supernerd had his own triumph last week. My folks took the kids to Universal Studios last week. They took the commuter rail then switched to the metroline to get to the park. On the way home, a woman got onto the metro holding a baby. Since it was afterwork, there were no seats available. My son, without prompting, got up and gave her his seat. I think his grandma got misty eyed. He didn't think anything of it. At age 11, I didn't think this level of consideration existed without pressure from parent.

One more thing....

I found this on Amazon. How I found it, I don't know, but it is a crack up. Read the customers' reviews. Too funny.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The kids have been home for spring break and the television is on more than ever. So its time for Thirteen Kids Shows that Drive Me Insane!
These are in no particular order. They all equally make me pray for a root canal.

1. The Power Rangers. You know these guys have been torturing adults since 1993? Thing watches this show in all its repulsive incarnations all day long. She won't watch anything else.
2. Dora the Explorer. Thing and Diva both loved this show. Dora's shrill shrieking makes my ears bleed.
3. Smurfs. Thanks to Boomerang, this show is on everyday and my kids love it. All three of them.
4. Snorks. More thanks to Boomerang. This show makes the "Smurfs" look like "Masterpiece Theater."
5. Horseland. This is actually a Saturday morning cartoon, but thanks to the miracle of Tivo, we can watch every day. Who says technology is wonderful?
6. Wonderpets. This show is just plain creepy.
7. Wow, Wow Wubbzy. This show isn't really all that bad, but it is set at such a frantic pace, I feel like I've been downing 12 oz. espressos when I watch it.
8. Winx Club. Another Saturday show that Diva will watch all the time. Fairy bimbos with annoying voices.
9. The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. I'm convinced I must have been an axe murderer in a previous life and this show is my punishment.
10. My Gym Partner's a Monkey. I like a lot of Cartoon Network's shows. This is not one of them. A little too irritating.
11. Scooby Doo Where Are You? Remember when we were kids and we loved this show? I loved it, particularly Daphne, she was so cool. Boy, was I an idiot. My kids watch this show in all its different forms as well.
12. The Doodlebops. Thing loves this show. I run and hide in the bathroom, gently bashing my head into wall until its over.
13. Max & Ruby. I thought this show had gone off the air, but while airing the shudderingly bad Easter show, the voice over said to be looking for new episodes. I'd rather clean a toilet with a toothbrush then be subjected to the whiny girl bunny and her juvenile deliquent brother.

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!

They Don't Tell You This in "What To Expect When You're Expecting"

I am the first to believe my kids are misbehaving. I have no blinders on when it comes to their behavior because I know what they are capable of. My mindset comes from the fact that I see too many parents who think their kids can do no wrong. They assume their children are angels and will not see or hear anything bad about their kids.

I've always been clear: if there is a problem with my kid, tell me. I'll listen, I want to know. I am more than likely going to believe you. I'm not unfair, but I know my kids aren't perfect and I want them to be likeable and pleasant, so if there is a problem, I want to fix it.

I blogged about a situation back in January about my daughter having problems with another girl and the mother's involvement. While I let the situation go, my manner towards the mother has been rather cool. I don't talk to her beyond a polite greeting. Anyway, damned if this situation hasn't popped up again. Diva never tells me when bad things happen. For her, its like water off a duck's back. She doesn't hold things against people and she has a strong enough ego that the actions of others don't really bother her. However, I do here about things from other mothers whose kids do talk. Apparently the little girl who hosted the pre-Christmas slumber party has been a brat and causing all sorts of drama and my daughter has been the focus of it. The teacher mentioned it to me and has assured me the little girl will be in a different class from the other girls. She and others assure me Diva is the victim in this one.

One of the other little girls hosted a spring break slumber party the other night. When I dropped off Diva, I talked to the mom. The other little girl didn't RSVP (which annoyed the hostess since she planned the party based on the RSVP's) but showed up anyway. When she mentioned this to the mother, the mom said well, since my kid wasn't there, it shouldn't be a problem. When hostess mom said that my daughter would be there, the mom proceeded to tell the hostess how our daughters were sworn enemies and there was going to be problems. Hostess mom, who gets a big high five here, tells her that if there is a problem, she will call her so she can come and pick up her daughter. The other mom was a bit taken aback by that. Hostess mom knows the score and wasn't real thrilled. Diva is one of her daughter's favorite friends and she says Diva is the one child who never says anything bad about anyone else. Anyway, the party went fine, the girls had a good time and there were no problems, no fights and the girls all behaved perfectly.

So here's my dilemna. I feel like the other mother is fomenting trouble. My first inclination is to go on the offensive and have a "chat" with her. I despise this idea that she is spreading trouble for my kid and I'm pissed. My maternal instincts are offended. My rational side says to let it go. We have less than two months left of school. All the other parents who deal with me and my kid (including the teacher) know the score and who is really causing the trouble. To say something to her would be more for my benefit, getting my irritation off my chest. I'm not at my best when I'm emotional.

I really find it hard to believe there is so much drama in elementary school and that parents feel the need to cause more. I expected this kind of stuff in jr. high and high school.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

How Dean Koontz Makes Me a Better Writer

I've always enjoyed words. When an author uses language in unique and lovely ways, I am amazed. Poets tend to have the advantage in this arena and while a poem inspire me in other ways, it does not inspire me as a writer.

When I was in high school and a staff member of the "Tepee Times," the school's newspaper, my advisor would read from Tom Wolfe's The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. Wolfe has a gift for language and he dug deep to find unique ways of describing the events he reported on. He was able to communicate the wonder of his topic with the power of his words. As a journalism student, he inspired me to look at my stories in a different light and find new ways of writing a story.

Now that I write novel-length fiction, I look for new inspiration. I could rattle off the names of many romance writers who inspired me, who pulled me into writing. But as I've advanced in my writing, my inspirations change.

I suppose it would be more appropriate to find inspiration in literary novels, but my taste in fiction is far less lofty. Right now I'm reading Dean Koontz's Forever Odd and I almost lose track of the story because of my enchantment with how Koontz writes. I get weird looks from people when I say I draw inspiration from Koontz. I don't draw inspiration from all of his books, just the "Odd Thomas" series. Koontz's use of structure along with words moves me. Written from the hero's point of view, the books use a gentle humor with witty dialogue to deepen the poignancy of the character and his stories. Koontz uses short sentences with minimal articles and places them in small paragraphs. Odd is a simple person, uneducated but smart. He isn't a showy character and the way Koontz writes communicates this to the reader.

I like Koontz's use of dialogue to move his characters and reveal them. While Odd is an introspective character, Koontz shows this introspection is only half-right and uses his other characters and their dialogue to give the reader the other half of the story.

As a writer, particularly as one who writes in first person, I delight in Koontz's style. It isn't as easy as it seems to create a multi-dimensional character with just one point of view. But Koontz manages with a combination of things.

Anyway, as a writer, who inspires you right now? Is there an author's structure you admire? Their use of characters and plot?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Spring Cleaning

I seemed to have disappeared from the blogosphere. I wish I could say it was the overwhelming desire to write which kept me absent. No, I decided to dive in and do some spring cleaning. Each day this week I've taken a room and cleaned it top to bottom. Here's a suggestion: if there is a couple getting married and you really don't like them, get them silver for a present. My arm still hurts from polishing my silver. I don't have much, but what I have at least never gets used. I still polish it about once a year, but it is a royal pain. I washed all the wine glasses hanging from my bar. I rearranged the liquor cabinet (and didn't sample). Polished all the furniture. CLEANED MY DESK!!! I still have a tic from that experience. Cleaned the windows, went through the dvd's and put them away and cleaned out my bookcases. Ugh. I'd hoped to avoid this since I'm supposed to be getting a remodel. However, it appears that's not going to be happening for awhile.

Why this big urge to clean? Well, my house was dirty and it needed it, but it also serves a couple of other purposes. When I'm busy and active, I don't feel like eating. It keeps my mind away from those things that bother me and a lot has been on my mind lately. I tend to sink into melancholy if I think about things too much. I crank up my iPod and lose myself to the tasks at hand. It keeps me from worrying about those things I cannot change at this time.

I don't feel like writing right now. I'm in limbo with my last book and I don't have the heart to keep writing on anything new. So I'm trying to use my time constructively. Its too easy for me to lounge in front of the computer lamenting my struggles with writing and publishing. In the meantime, nothing else gets done. I'm hoping a clean house reflects a clean mind. When this is over, I'm hoping my writing juices will charge in and demand to be recognized.

Do you spring clean? Besides the obvious, does diving into a project like spring cleaning have any other benefits?