Best Day!

IMG_0570Yesterday was an amazing day! I woke up to a world lightly dusted with sparkling snow. As a Mainer, I almost felt like I was back home. Just a little bit. That alone automatically should’ve made yesterday perfect, but wait…there’s more.

The times when my kiddo is gone can be tough. I have found that staying busy is best and it keeps me productive. Let’s face it, there’s always plenty of “life” to do on the weekends. So this weekend was no different.

Except that it was.

Yesterday I decided to let “life” just sit and chill for a moment while I took the time to do what I wanted to do. Shocking, I know. But if I want to make a career out of writing, and believe me I really, really do, then that means that my regular life will have to sit and stay quiet for small moments while I struggle and squirm in my writing chair.

I admit that I stayed in my PJs all day, not completely unheard of, and sat with my manuscript and worked on my book for about six hours total. That’s six hours of time spent in the world I created and talking with my characters as I cleaned up the story. Six hours! That never happens!

Sure, I took small breaks to change over the laundry. And then there was the dog.

IMG_0636This dog right here.

Who can focus with these eyes watching and pleading? This ball of fur wanted nothing more than to be outside in the snow before it melted away. I forced her to come in periodically because it was 20 degrees out and she is arthritic. When she was ready to return to the arctic temps, she let me know.

IMG_0629Enjoying the blizzard.

So, life did sneak in a few times. Overall, I am extremely proud of myself for shooing it away and staying focused on my book. And I realized that I really, really do want to do this full-time. It was the first day in a long time that ended with me feeling proud and content.

Status update: I’m over half-way with my edits/revisions. Soon I’ll be ready to hand it over to some readers for feedback.

In the meantime, I’m going to practice pausing moments in life while I figure this stuff out.

Happy writing to all of my writing friends! We can do this!

Books That Got Me Through July…

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July is always a busy month because we return to school at the end of the month. That means teachers start heading back in to set-up classrooms mid-July so we don’t get too overwhelmed the first few weeks. Surprisingly, I still managed to read quite a few books this month. Score!

“I followed his finger to the spot where they squirmed and twisted in the organic muck of Varner’s violated torso: three maggots performing a sinuous ballet in the infected meat, their black heads shining like polished beads.” ~The Monstrumologist

I have entered into the world of the Monstrumologist and I love it! This is a four part series, and I’m half way through the journey. So far, I’ve read The Monstrumologist and The Curse of the Wendigo. The first one, by far, is my favorite. Rick Yancey writes with such delicate prose, that it’s almost poetic, about the adventures of a young apprentice working with a monstrumologist. The next two in the series are The Isle of Blood and The Final Descent, and I hope to finish those sometime in September. Afterward, I’ll dive into his next series, the first of which is The 5th Wave.

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” ~To Kill a Mockingbird

Finally, in my thirties, I can say that I have read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I won’t lie…it was because of the hype from Go Set a Watchman that I finally decided that I needed to read this book. Like many, I devoured each and every word of this book. It took me a couple of days to get through because I was determined not to miss one word. Beautiful. Each and every word was beautiful. I have no desire to read anything else by Harper Lee. This was enough.

The other gem that I finished in July was Goddesses Never Age. Without a doubt this book should be required reading for all women. This book has changed my life. I’m a work in progress and this book has helped me to see what I need to improve upon and how to do it. It has motivated me to continue to change my outlook and to be more proactive in my life. I’m not an audience member. This is it. I get one shot at this thing called Life and I need to make it my own.

I actually listened to the audio version of this book, which I highly recommend. Anytime you can listen to the actual author read his or her own work, it adds so much life to the book. After finishing it, I broke down and got the hardback so I can refer back to it. I’ll also need it to help me stay on track for the 14 day ageless goddess program at the back. I hate using the word “program” so I’m going to change it to rejuvenation, because that’s what I think it is. It’s not anything magical or prescriptive. It’s simply good things all women should be doing on a daily basis to recharge and appreciate ourselves.

Mary Kubica…wow! I’ve had The Good Girl on my Kindle for quite some time. It was a Kindle Daily Deal a few weeks ago and I thought ‘hmm, I should probably read this’. I’m so glad that I did! Throughout the book I thought I had an idea of what was going on. Then I really wanted what I thought to be the truth. Then I read the second to last chapter and was so bummed that I was wrong and that it didn’t end the way I had hoped. And then…well, thank you, Ms. Mary. What a thrilling story!

I did read another novel by Blake Crouch, Run. This was a fast paced, quick read on a lazy afternoon. Not as awesome at Wayward Pines but I still recommend Blake Crouch as a fantastic author.

I read a lot of John Saul growing up. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was too young to be reading such twisted stories, but what can I say…I like a good thriller. Shadows popped up as a recommendation on my Kindle and I can’t resist some old school John Saul. Another quick thriller on a lazy summer day.

August is proving to be even more busy than July, but I am reading some good books. I signed up for NetGalley so now my TBR pile has grown even more. Did I mention that I went to a Scholastic Warehouse book sale? So, yeah, my TBR pile is taking over my bedroom.

What book has really captured your interest lately?

Happy reading, friends!

Books That Got Me Through June…

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Thank you to Blake Couch for The Wayward Pines trilogy. Those three books got me through my dog’s stressful CCL surgery and the initial recovery. And now I get to experience the creepy town all over again as I catch up on the TV series. Nothing can top the written words, though. Mr. Crouch has a way of providing just enough detail to keep the story vivid and moving along. Just what I like! RUN was a Kindle Daily Deal the other day so I snagged it. I can’t wait to read more by this fabulous author!

Jojo Moyes has become one of my newest favorite authors. It started with The Girl You Left Behind, which is something I never would’ve picked up on my own, but was highly recommended by several friends. I’m so glad I tried something different because I discovered another great writer. Next, I read Me Before You, which definitely gave me something to think about. One Plus One was a slower read for me, but really picked up about halfway through. I’m glad I stuck it out because it’s a feel good story. Life is tough and full of bumps and challenges no matter our circumstance, but I really liked how she wrapped everything up at the end. It gives one hope that things will work out. If we don’t have hope, then what’s the point?

The parenting books are pretty self explanatory. We’ve struck the “Terrible Twos” in my house and I’m humble enough to accept all the advice I can get to support my little independent, curious, strong willed guy. It’s Ok NOT To Share really made me think about how we push our kids to do some uncomfortable things that we ourselves would never think to do. I would never force someone to let me have their iPhone just because I wanted it and felt it was my turn all under the guise of “sharing” <insert sappy music>. Good grief! I highly recommend this title for some down-to-earth parenting reminders to keep things in perspective. Dobson was a tough read and I honestly skimmed most of it. It was hard for me to take someone seriously, when giving parenting advice, after he admitted to using a belt to discipline his dog. That was hard to swallow. I did find a couple of nuggets, but overall this book wasn’t for me because I personally don’t use corporal punishment. Setting Limits for the Strong Willed Child was my favorite of the three. I loved the real world examples (although he reused some scenarios and just changed the child’s age) and the reminder to be consistent and firm. There wasn’t anything new for me in this book as I use much of this approach in my own classroom, but somehow I forget to use it at home, so the reminders were appreciated.

I made it to page 67 of The Gargoyle and had to abandon the story. I hate it when that happens! When I commit to a book and invest a chunk of time, I want to go all the way. Alas, I could not with this book. It just didn’t strike a chord with me.

The War of Art was for the artist in me because somewhere, deep down long forgotten, she still exists. Beneath the role of Mommy, teacher, dog mom/nurse, bill payer, and all the other stuff that comes first, there’s a piece of me still there longing to shine and not be forgotten. Reviving this blog is a small step in digging her out again. #smallsteps

I’ve kicked off July with some great titles! One book I’ll probably never make it through but we’ll see. I’ve got a couple of horror books to chill the spine and of course Blake Crouch’s RUN.

Happy reading, Friends!

Reflections and Projections

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Then

2012 was going to be my big year. It began with much hope and ambition. I was in the process of fine tuning the young adult novel I had written all while perfecting my query letter as the search for a literary agent took over my evenings. Short stories were cranked out and sent off in the hope of finding a new home. I had a goal to read 80 books. To top it all off, I planned to relocate back to my home state of Maine. I had a plan and my dreams were becoming a reality. Things were happening.

Now

2013 literally began with me giving birth to my precious son. I’ve embarked on the road of single motherhood with the biggest gift life could ever give me. My young adult novel is still in some folder on my laptop. What’s a query letter? An agent? For that matter, what’s a short story? According to Goodreads, I only read 26 books last year. And Maine, yeah, that had to jump to the back burner.

My days are spent keeping up with feeding, changing, playing with, and reading to my son; newborn laundry; feeding myself; paperwork; and squeezing in a shower. Soon I’ll be returning to work fulltime and I’ll be juggling all of the above along with a 40+ hour work week.

In a nutshell…life is good!

Reflections

Just when you think you have things all planned out, life throws a surprise in your direction. This isn’t to say that planning and goal setting should just fall by the wayside. Absolutely not. I don’t know about you, but I need an idea of where I’m heading. Sure, I embrace each moment and breath that life gives me and try not to take anything for granted.

But what can I say? I’m driven. There’s stuff I want to accomplish while I’m on this earth. There are things I want to see. And now, more than ever, there are things that I want my son to see and experience.

Yes, my route has changed. The map in front of me looks very different from the map I had back in January 2012, but the destination is the same. And now I have a little boy in whom I can instill a love of life and learning.

Projections

This year my plan is to embrace what life gives me while keeping an eye on where I want to be. And, hey, I’m not doing too bad. It’s February 18 and I’m already writing again (while the washing machine chugs in the background and my son naps). Oh, and Goodreads, I’m shooting for 80 books again.

Like I said…life is good!

Synopsis Time

I Need to Write a What?

I have spent the past two months really polishing my novel. I gave it out to some first readers back in October, got the copies back, and I’ve been super busy trying to fix the numerous typos and glitches with whose hair is blonde and who is a brunette. That’s now done, and I feel that my book is as good as I can get it at this point. 

I’ve been working on query letters, gathering information about agents I want to contact, and getting super excited about the next steps. That was until I read on many submission guidelines that the agents want a, brace yourself, book synposis. <swallow large lump in throat>

Flashbacks to High School

Okay, seriously it really does make sense. When I stopped to think about it, duh!, of course agents want a synopsis. They’re busy people, too! Maybe some don’t want to invest the time to read my manuscript, assuming my query letter piques their interest, unless they have a good feeling about my story. How am I going to give them that warm feeling? With my awesome book synopsis, of course!

With all of that being said, I still had major flashbacks to high school when I had to write book reports. Granted, the synopsis an agent wants isn’t exactly like a high school book report, but it sure felt that way at first. I should be more excited about it, though, since it is my story I’m writing about. But, no. Hearing the news about having to write this made me feel overwhelmed, and for a moment I considered avoiding the agents who asked for a synopsis. 

Silly! I can’t do that. I had to face the music … I mean synopsis.

What’s This Synopsis Thing All About Anyway?

What exactly should be included in a synopsis? Beats me. So, I did what all inquiring minds do … I googled the topic. There are a lot of opinions out there. Some say keep it short and simple. No, included every major detail. Make it exciting. Stick to the facts. One page. One page for every 25 pages of text in your book. Single spaced. Double spaced. Last name and title on the right header. Last name and title on the left header. And on and on and on …

I finally had to just go with my gut, what seemed to make sense, and trust the few reputable websites I had researched.

My Synopsis

I sat down the other day and actually wrote my synopsis. Condensing my story down to a few mere paragraphs did make me wonder if I even needed the other 300-something pages. It just seemed so bare bones. If I could tell the story in four pages then that’s probably what I should have done in the first place. 

Since I wrote my rough draft (4 pages), I’ve been working to whittle it down further to really just focus on the major plot points and characters. This is hard. In fact, it’s very hard. It all seems so important to me. 

Many fuzzy brain hours later …

Well, I reached my goal to have both a longer and a single paged synopsis on hand so I’m prepared for what could be requested of me. Hallelujah! There was much rejoicing after I managed the one paged synopsis. I feel like I can conquer anything now. 

Journaling

I love Journals

It’s as simple as that. I’ve been thinking about journals a lot over the past week. Mainly this is because a new year has begun, and I wanted to start it off right with a new journal. And then I decided to blog about journals because, well, why not. So, I dug around and I think I’ve found all of my journals (at least, the ones that I’ve kept). 

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There are 13 journals in that stack (I’ll save you the trouble of counting). I had to use a propped up tissue box to keep the stack from sliding. So, there it is. Thirteen records of various moments in my life. I admit, I have destroyed, um, I mean surreptitiously gotten rid of a few. The journals in this stack go all the way back to my high school days. Yikes, is right! 

During this journal reflection period, I spent some time flipping through the many pages. Some of the entries are funny, some are sad. Simply put, they’re about life. The ups and the downs. There are entries about my high school and college boyfriends, paragraphs about family trips taken, ticket stubs, pictures, notes from friends, and on and on. Apparently, I’ve been an intermittent collector over the years. 

Case in point …

CIMG2936An ant. I remember this was part of a lesson by one of my favorite teachers during my church going days in high school. The actual lesson, and it’s point, vanished from memory years ago, though. But clearly it was important to me at the time, and that’s why I taped the ant inside of my journal. 

Another example …

CIMG2930A McDonald’s flyer in Croatian! How awesome is that? At least, I thought it was at the time. I lived in Croatia for about a year many moons ago. I found this ad tucked in between the pages that recorded my experiences over seas. I see McDonald’s ads in English nearly every week, but apparently they only rock if they’re in Croatian. 

And one more …

CIMG2937My Peachtree Road Race number. Hell, I’m not even a runner, so this was huge for me. Not only did I complete it in 2006, but I did it another year, too. When I see this number, I cringe. I was in excruciating pain the day after the race. 

My favorite journal of all time (drum roll) …

CIMG2938The Kraft Journal by M. Roger Press. The spiral makes it so easy to lay the book open and write for hours. The lines are small so I can fit a lot of text on a page, which makes the journal last a really long time. I don’t care for small journals that I can fill in a month or two. These journals have gotten the most use out of any that I own. The one on the bottom was filled to the last page, it took two years, and now the back cover doesn’t want to stay on. That’s a good sign. That journal has been through a lot. 

A New Year

2012 has begun and it’s time to start a new journal.  

I’m doing something new this year. I’ll continue to add small things to the inside pages, but now I’m going to add stuff to the cover. See, I got a bit crafty for Christmas this year when I discovered Modge Podge. That stuff is amazing!!! I now want to make a collage out of everything. But I can’t. That would be weird. So, instead I’m going to make a collage out of my journal cover (the Kraft Journal would be perfect for this). As the year progress, I’m going to add small, memorable things to the cover–things that are specific for 2012, treasures I’ve come across, interesting notes, pictures of things that I love … you get the point. 

I bought a plain black journal for the new year, but now I’m not really feeling it. I really wanted another Kraft Journal by M. Roger Press, but I can’t find them anywhere. I used to buy them at Borders (RIP) or Barnes and Noble. B&N carries the sketch books, but I haven’t found the actual journal. I think it’s time to head over to their website to see if I can order some (yes, some). 

How about you?

Do you journal? What are your favorite journals?

The Shelf of Five

Writing Spaces

I recently read one of Joe Hill’s (author of Horns and Heart-Shaped Box) blog posts about his writing space. In this post he described his office in great detail (pictures included). Side note: I noticed three wireless Mac keyboards on his desk … three! I have no need for a wireless keyboard at this time, but man, there’s something about having three Mac keyboards on your desk that gives you power. It’s like a container full of sharpened Ticonderoga pencils. Joe also shared some of the books he keeps on the various shelves around the room. 

Two thoughts left with me when I finished reading his post: one-I need my own writing space; two-I need a Shelf of Ten. 

He shared that he writes at a desk that he’s had for about 16 years. Wow! That’s commitment. I float around my apartment from my desk (which isn’t even my desk), to the balcony, to my kitchen table, to the chair by the window (which my dog fights me for even though we both don’t fit there simultaneously), to my bed, to the floor in my closet, and then to Starbucks down the street. Why do I float? I am constantly trying to get away from my loud neighbors who fight with the characters talking in my head. 

My ideal writing space would be a clean, cavernous basement. The walls would be lined with bookshelves and photos of wolves. My desk would be large enough for me to comfortably spread out. The space directly in front of my laptop/monitor would be white and blank. I wouldn’t mind a few eyebrow windows on the opposite wall from where I’m writing to let in a little natural light. A large couch is a must. 

The Shelf of Five

Joe also has a Shelf of Ten. This holds the next ten books he’s going to read all lined up in the order in which he’s going to read them. Something clicked when I read that. Duh! That makes total sense. 

I love books (see my previous post), and I have them everywhere in my apartment. At one time they were divided by books I’ve read and books to read. Then like books returned to like books. Certain authors just merged together like finding lost friends. And I lost my mind trying figure out where I left off in my reading pile. 

I love the idea of having books all lined up for when I’m ready to start the journey. But ten? I don’t know if I can commit to ten books at once. I can commit to five. I’m a mood/situational reader. Sometimes I find a book and love the blurb on the back. When I get home and start to read it, the books fails to deliver, and I question why I even bought the book in the first place. It then gets tossed to the shelf. A year or two later I’ll pick the book up again, only this time I fall in love with it and wonder where it had been all my life. I suppose if the next book on my Shelf of Five just isn’t jiving with me, I can always toss it back to the pile and move on to the next book. 

What if one of my Five is on my Kindle Fire, though? Should I line my Kindle Fire up along with the other titles? Sometimes I use my Fire for other things which means that it wouldn’t be in order and I’d have to keep track of what comes next (back to square one?). I suppose I could use my other Kindle, or some other place holder, to hold the spot . 

So, after much deliberation, here is my first set of Shelf of Five books (in order … I think):

1. The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner (I think a Shelf of Five needs at least one non-fiction title, and I’ve been dying to read this book)

2. The Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (I borrowed this book through the Kindle Lending Library, and I just want to finish the trilogy)

3. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (every sci-fi writer needs some good sci-fi in their reading pile)

4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (this title was recommended by many people at a sci-fi symposium at GA Tech)

5. The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson (another title recommended at the sci-fi symposium)

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(The Fire is on top only so you can read the title. I’ve since moved it back in line.)

So, that’s my Shelf of Five. The good thing about this selection is that I’m super excited to read all of these books, so I really think I set myself up for success. I know I can commit to these five titles. 

But what will come after these? Hmm …

What titles would be on your Shelf of Five (or Ten, if you’re feeling brave)?