Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Day

For the first time this winter, it actually snowed here. It's the latest we've gotten snow in 14 years, and let me tell you, it was highly anticipated! Unfortunately, it came on the one day we scheduled to go up to PA to hit the ski slopes. Bummer.

But, as roads were closed all around us, we hit the slopes in our back yard and down our driveway. Turns out, no one complained a bit about the change in plans! Snow, sledding, snowball fights and hikes to the Willis creek, and hot chocolate only a few steps away!

So here are a few photos from the day (since I have no news on the writing front, having spent the day juggling the family).

The backyard. I know. I can't believe I live here myself. There are kids in there. And a dad. And a big creek that was surprisingly only partially frozen. You'd think after fourteen days of below 28 degrees - many in the single digits - our little creek would be frozen solid. Much, thoguh, was a very, very thin layer covered in snow. I was just praying no one would think they were walking on snow and fall in!

We did some sledding. And by we, I mean everyone else. Because someone has to capture it on digital image, right?

There was also some eating of snow. Even though the adults highly discouraged it. Hey - we live in the woods. With lots of animals.

At least they got the "don't eat the yellow snow" thing. The rest... well, we'll just keep our fingers crossed for good health!

The snow turned to ice tonight. No school tomorrow either. Which means little writing time, and no run. But there's sure to be some hot chocolate. And some good competitive Wii. That counts for exercise, right?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Black Shift or the Eggplant Pantsuit?

Every new book is a new experience. The first one... I dove head in, a few scrawls on a piece of paper to lay out basic characters and a thin plot and in I went. It was a mess. A wonderful, adventurous mess! I discovered the story as I wrote, and fell in love with it anew each day.

The second came to me as an entire book. Characters, conflict - all of it in one gorgeous rush. As far as books go, it was an easy one to write. There were a few surprises along the way, but they were small ones.

The third one... or should I say ones. Because there have been many. A failed middle grade I gave up on six or seven pages in. Lists of characters that have no plot. Lists of titles with no stories. Pages of plots with no heart. And three or four I love, but just couldn't get more than a page or two of yuck out of.

I feel like this time around is like shopping. I'm trying all these great stories and people on like outfits, trying to find the one that fits just right. There have definitely been some missteps... you know - that outfit you try on in the store and love, and then when you get home think, What in the world was I thinking??

Over Christmas I wrote a pitch. Just that. No title. No list of characters, or even any main character. A basic plot wound into a hook that came out of the tragedy of death and the emotions I was going through that very moment. It came out of where my best stories come from: the what if? It flew into my head in a moment of pure emotion. I jotted it down, and put it away.

Lost in my funk, I forgot about it until I stumbled on it today. I struggled all day seeing if there was anything there. And somewhere in the second page it came. It feels a bit like floodgates opening. The words stopped being a struggle, and something inside the story took root, and then came rushing out.

Tomorrow will I find it's like that outfit that looks good in the store and at home fits all wrong? I hope not. Because there was something there that wasn't in all those other scraps of story I eventually tossed aside:


Monday, January 26, 2009

Fun Facts: Discuss.

Since my good friend Jen decided to post a list of "You Know You're From Oklahoma When...", I decided to post my own (and by my own, I mean, one that pertains to me, and not that I created it, which I so wish I had, but totally didn't).

For the most part, I grew up in Northern Virginia. I had no idea any of this was unique until I moved away for 15 years, and someone sent me this list. So here it is.

You Know You're From Northern Virginia When...

1. Speed limits are just suggestions
2. You take a major highway to get anywhere (95, 66,28, etc)
3. You have at least 2 friends who have no idea what their parents do because its "top secret" government work
4. When people ask where you're from, you tell them DC because its easier to explain
5. You've never told someone you're from Virginia without putting "northern" in front of it
6. You dread going to the DMV for anything
7. Its not actually tailgating unless your bumper is touching the car in front of you.
8. A yellow light means at least 5 more cars car get through.
9. A red light means 2 more can.
10. It takes you 30 minutes to drive 10 miles
11. Your local news is national news
12. You drive at least 30 miles a day to get to work
13. You do your Christmas shopping online b/c the shopping malls are like parking lots
14. Despite the fact that Virginia fought for the south in the Civil War, you are NOT, under ANY circumstances, a "southerner"
15. You know that each high school in the region had it's own corresponding McDonald's.
16. The cars in the local high school's student parking lot are woth 3x those in the teacher parking lot.
17. You are amazed when you go out of town and the people at McDonalds speak english
18. You can cross 4 lanes of traffic in under 30 seconds
19. There are at least 3 malls within 20 minutes of your house
20. You or someone in your family has a Smart Tag
21. You remember the Air and Space museum fondly from school fieldtrips to DC
22. When traveling, you have your choice of 3 airports
23. An inch of snow and you miss 3 days of work
24. All the potholes just add a little excitement to your driving experience
25. When you were driving on the beltway at 2:13am on a Tuesday there was still traffic
26. Crown Victoria = undercover cop
27. A slow driver is someone who isn't going at least 10mph over the speed limit
28. Subway is a fast food place. The transportation system is known as Metro, and only Metro
29. You've taken a wrong turn somewhere late at night and ended up in a bad part of DC
30. They just tore down the old farm house across the street and put 12 new houses in its place
31. Two words: rush hour
32. For the cost of your house, you could own a small town in Iowa
33. Helicopters, F-15s, and airplanes flying above your neighborhood is a normal occurence.
34. If you stay on the same road long enough, it will eventually have 3 new names.
35. You had over 500 students in your high school graduating class.
36. If your high school is over a year old, it is overcrowded.
37.You are friends with people from at least two other high schools.
38. You have to dial the area code to call your neighbor.
39. You live five minutes from at least two schools but yours is 30 minutes away.
40. You know at least three alternative routes to avoid sitting at a stop light.

My question is this: do any of these things sound just like where you live too? How many are really universal, and how much is unique to Northern Virginia? (and there I've done it! added that adjective before the state name! it's habit, I tell you!)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Second Resolution

No, I'm not just making these up as I go along. Well, maybe I will down the line, but right now, I actually had this one at the beginning of the year. I'm spreading them out so I have something to write about on these cold winter nights when I'd rather crawl under the electric blanket with a book.

So I've always eschewed diets as a resolution (but not using big words like eschewed.. I love when I know a big word without having to look it up - especially when I can use it in a sentence!). I did unofficially resolve to lose those five pounds last year that snuck up on me when I wasn't looking, but I did it in that non-diet-worded way like, I'm going to fit into those jeans I love by the end of the year!

So for a year I tried, quite unsuccessfully if you judge by the jeans that are still stuck in the back of the closet. The fact is - I can do all the right things (exercise, eat well, etc) and still not get the results I want. Total lack of control.

This year I decided to try a different tactic. The heck with the jeans. Hey, I've got a husband that thinks I'm sexy... do I need any other opinion? So this year I'm going to do what I've always thought impossible. I'm going to run ten miles.

Some of you have just fallen over in an apoplectic seizure. (BIG WORDS!) Some of you are rolling your eyes thinking, "Hey, what's the big deal?" (I know who you are, too, you athletic, marathon-loving triathletes!). But for me, the pinnacle of my athleticism was a running class in college ( I know! A running class! Like they have to teach you how to do that! And I got credit for it!). The end goal of that class: a three mile run. I about passed out. Three miles seemed like - well, a lot. Really a lot. And when I did it, I thought I had reached the peak of what I would ever do... in my entire life. Three whole miles. Running.

And now, I have pushed myself to six and a half. Me. An almost forty-year-old with one partially crippled foot (but it's on the mend - really - any day now). And when I got to five miles, at the beginning of this year, I thought, why not? Why not ten miles? Three months ago I wasn't running two without gasping for breath. If I can do five, why not ten?

It's not getting me into my jeans any faster. It's not helping my blood sugar (darn it, it's actually making it worse, which totally isn't suppose to happen!). It isn't clearing my head and giving me time to think about plotting my next book (all I think about while running is air! air! I need air! and who put this stupid song on my mp3 player anyway??). But I love it. And I feel good. And I actually think I could go skiing again without breaking anything, which I didn't think last year. And I have to believe that in the long run, it's good for me.

But really, I just enjoy it. And if I can say in twelve months that I've run ten miles - even if only once - that will be more than I ever thought I'd be able to say.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Keep Moving Forward...even if that's in circles!

This is going to be short. Life has got a hold of me and this new year is proving to be, in the words of Frosty's magician, busy busy busy.

I am in the in-between place. I am sure God is calling me to write. I am not sure where he is planning on taking me in that process. I have a book done and ready to go, and another idea ready to put on paper. I am querying, waiting, writing, waiting. In Biblical terms, I am in the desert.

In the Old Testament, God called the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and promised a land for them. But before they reached that place, they wandered in the desert forty years. Wondering why they left Egypt, and wondering if they'd ever make it to the Promised Land.

Beth Moore, in her study of the book of Esther, states that we, like the Israelites, are most vulnerable to attack - to doubts and despair - when God has pulled us out of our comfort zones where we are and set us on a path to someplace new - where we are not yet.

I am in that place. Between where I was, and where I want to be. I have to keep reminding myself of those clear signs that this is where I should be, and to be patient. And persistent.

And hoping it doesn't take forty years!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

My First Resolution

Courtesy of my friends up north (thanks, Heidi the Hick!), a very, very cold Canadian blast of air had invaded my state and I can't hardly get the chill out of my bones. During the day, my favorite place to be is in my car - heat blasting ridiculously high, and bun warmers going full throttle. The only problem with the car is that eventually, you have to get out. And out is cold. Very very cold.

So this week I am indulging in my first New Year's Resolution. Going to bed a little early and reading for an hour. Best of all, I have an electric blanket that kicks up a wicked heat, and I have a great book that's very hard to put down.

Back in the early 90s I discovered Michael Crichton and, typical of me, devoured every book he'd ever written in a span of less than half a year. In my beautiful new library in my own house, there is an entire shelf dedicated to his books.

And then, when I had run through them all, I went on to another author. He, meanwhile, kept writing. And last month, a friend gave me one of his books that came out years after I'd moved on. It is everything good Crichton is: amazingly detailed, incredibly scientific, suspenseful, adventurous. It takes me to another time, another place, with great characters who are fun to be with. It's total escapist reading.

Escapist, indulgent, wonderful reading. All under an electric blanket.

I love New Year's Resolutions.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Maybe I Spoke Too Soon

Just when I think I'm back to normal - getting in the swing of things again and falling into place - a day like today spins me in circles.

I know grief isn't like a light switch that you can suddenly turn off when you're ready to leave the room, but I'm not usually the griefy kind of person. I can only think of one time I've cried in the last twenty years that wasn't related to some Hallmark commercial or sappy movie. Sure, I'm free with the tears when it's completely not personal, but when it comes to my own life, I just don't. I don't know why. I've just never been the crying type.

I always feared someday I'd get horrible news and I wouldn't be able to cry and people would think, "How can she bawl like a baby through Pooh's Heffalump and not cry at real life??"

Then Jean died. And that worry went to rest.

I've made it through more than a week without crying. I've moved on. I've talked about it, written about it. Whatever needs to happen, I thought I'd worked through it. After all, even though Jean and I were very close many years ago, our relationship the past years have been more facebook/occasional lunch friendship.

But today, I was back at first base. No reason that I can pin it on, but I was on the edge of tears all day. An email, a pile of newspaper clippings, a conversation ... today was the arraignment of the kid who shot her. And during my Bible study the teacher kept harping on the fact that Esther was an orphan. "Can you think of anything more devastating than seeing children sitting in the front row while their mother's coffin is rolled past them?"

I bawled. Like a baby. All snotty, teary, ugly crying. In the middle of the Bible study full of women I really don't even know. Who probably wondered why in the world I cared so much about a video taped lecture.

Great gasping weeping. Quiet sobbing. Blinking lots to keep the mascara in place. What is wrong with me?

I'm not angry. I'm just very sad. Waves of it that crash over just when I think the storm is gone. Life will never be the same again, and not just for the obvious reason of her being gone, but for the larger significances. Maybe someday I will reach for the doorknob and not wonder what would happen if someone is inside. Maybe someday I will listen to Billy Joel and not fall apart. Maybe someday I will hear noises upstairs and my heart won't stop. Maybe.

But I will never watch the news the same. I will never hear about a death and not think about the hundreds of people, even remotely associated, whose lives are now changed forever. I will never be the same.

Today was not a great day. But there is always the chance tomorrow will be better. And isn't that what drives us all?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

This in from Entertainment Weekly: "I think all writers are failed social animals." *

Every Friday I get a gift in the mail. It's a magazine. Okay, it's Entertainment Weekly. Not exactly high brow reading, but hey - it started out as free for a year, and now I only pay $10 annually for 50 issues!

While I'm not entirely enthralled with anything Hollywood, I do love that I can read it in small bursts: waiting for my coffee to brew, for my computer to boot up, for the bus to arrive. It's no big investment in time or money, and I get to casually say, "Oh I knew that a month ago" when my husband comes home and tells me tidbits he heard on the news on the way home, and I can fill my kids in on all kinds of trivia about their favorite movies and music.

AND, best of all, it has a book section. A pathetic, small, inadequate book section tucked in the very last pages. As soon as I get the mail, this is the thing I turn to and read first. I scan the section for debut books and read their reviews first, then go back through the rest. I find out about a ton of great books I would never otherwise have heard of, and occasionally I hear about books months before the media or agents or bloggers "discover" them and they are big. I love being in the know!

And when I go back, over the course of the week, to work my way through the magazine from front to back, I always secretly hope that this week is the one I forgot to check the book section first and when I get to it I will find it all new to me.

It never is. But I can always hope.

*This quote is from Entertainment Weekly Dec 26,2008 issue. It is written by Rick Moody in a tribute to late great author David Foster Wallace.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Little Levity

It's not all serious around here, so here's a little Friday fun at the Willis household.

The kids make gingerbread houses every year. They sit, in all their tempting, sugary, smelly glory in plain view of three kids who walk around for an entire month salivating every time they enter the living room. So when it was all over - the holidays - I gave permission for the little mice to nibble just a bit off the edge.

It didn't go well:

It reminded me very much of this house that got hit by a tornado that came through here last spring.

For Christmas, my eight-year-old picked out Lindt chocolate for each person in our family. My husband got a reindeer. I got a Santa. I started at the top. In typical fashion, my husband chose the funnier end. And when we went to wrap them up for another night, he decided it might be fun to mount the reindeer head. On Santa. So this is our new hybrid:

We are not entirely without culture, though. We did spend several days in D.C. doing cultural things, like seeing monuments and the Smithsonian. But even that showed our true colors.

Here's the kids and friends at the Roosevelt Memorial, joining the food lines:

Here's the boy holding up the Washington Monument. He gets his strength from his dad.

This one involves some explanation. The boy got a ski mask for Christmas - it was one of his few requests. His face gets cold at recess, he said. So he wore it around D.C. while the rest of us worried we'd get pulled over for harboring a terrorist. At the Jefferson Memorial he was goofing off with his sister... they were totally laughing and pulling each other on the bench, and I snapped the photo. The one where it looks like my terrorist son is strangling his sister.

Yeah, this one's gonna be used as blackmail at some point.

Just trying to keep it real.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Shack

I don't do book reviews often. Rarely, actually. And never a fiction book. Not that I don't love reading other's opinions of a book, but I hate to draw judgments on writing that is so completely subjective. What I may dislike, obviously someone liked and saw not only redeeming value in but also "loved it," "connected with it," or whatever it is that agents and publishers need to take on an author's work.

But this isn't really a book review. It's about a book I read.

I'd heard of The Shack for months. Every time I turned around, it seemed, someone was asking if I'd read it. During an email exchange, one of my fantastic critique partners offered to mail me her copy. It arrived the day Jean died. When I pulled it out of the envelope, the German airmail postage stamped days before when she was alive and well, I knew it would be a different book than had I read it two weeks before.

And it was.

I think this is what I learned about books this week: a book so often is not just what the author writes, but what you as a reader bring to it. Passages that would have meant nothing to me weeks ago were heavy with meaning, passages I read over and over, sometimes trying to figure out in my head, and sometimes causing me to say "Yes! That's exactly what I think too!"

The Shack, if you haven't heard about it, is a book about a man whose daughter is brutally murdered. Weighed by depression, he receives an invitation in the mail from God to meet him at the very shack where his daughter was killed. The vast majority of this book is this meeting of the main character and God, and working through the questions all people face at some point in life: Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? How can we trust - even love - a God who allows the innocent to suffer?

This book is sold as fiction. It is fiction. But much of it actually reads as theology. It took me much longer to read through this 248 page book than most fiction books, mainly because of the stretches of theological conversations that range from the way the trinity works to forgiveness. There is an entire Bible packed into this book, in a very non-conventional way. And if you want to get something out of it, or even "get it," you need to take your time wading through it. Take time to ponder, to dwell in the ideas and siphon them through your own biases and experiences.

It may not be the book for someone not interested in spiritual issues, but for anyone who has wrestled with faith, with God, with the idea of church and religion as an institution, this book may make you take a new look at it all. And spark controversy.

When God shows up as a large black lady and says, "I'm not too fond of religion," you know there will be outrage among some readers. But it's this very kind of twist on the world view of Christianity that makes this book alive and something unique. And all without really leaving the truth of the Bible, even if it does eschew tradition.

But like I said, this book is as much about what you bring to it as what it brings to you. In the face of recent tragedy, I found myself dwelling on certain parts of conversations more than others, like this one:

"Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn't mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don't ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn't depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors."

Two weeks ago, would I have stopped over that line and reread it? Would I have marked the page, come back to it days later?

Maybe if I read the book again, in a few months, it will mean something else to me, will flow with the something elses that are going on in my life. But I will have to keep wondering, because now it's time to pass it on to the next writer in my critique group. That was the deal.

A Writer Reads A Writer's Speech

I came across the neatest speech while hunting for a quote and just wanted to link it here, since it's the kind of thing any writer should read, but most won't ever know about.

It's a speech given by Connie Willis, a many-times honored science fiction writer, given when she was the 2006 Worldcon Guest of Honor. It is about how she came to love reading, and eventually writing, and the specific books that influenced her and, in many ways, changed her life.

Many of the things she talks about are probably common to most writers, but one thing in particular connected with me, and with where I am in my life at this very moment. Here is a good chunk of what she says:

When I was 12, my mother died suddenly and shatteringly, and my world fell completely apart, and I had nobody to turn to but books.

And they saved my life.

I know what you're thinking, that books provided an escape for me.

And it's certainly true books can offer refuge from worries and despair--

... But it wasn't escape I needed when my mother died.
It was the truth.
And I couldn't get anyone to tell it to me.

Instead, they said things like:

"There's a reason this happened,"
and "You'll get over this,"
and "God never sends us more than we can bear."
Lies, all lies.

I remember an aunt saying sagely, "The good die young," not exactly a motivation to behave yourself.

And more than one person telling me, "It's all part of God's plan," I remember thinking, even at age 12, What kind of moron is God? I could come up with a better plan than this.

And the worst lie of all, "It's for the best."

Everybody lied--relatives, clergymen, friends.

So it was a good thing I'd reached the D's because I had
    James Agee's A Death in the Family
    and Peter Beagle's A Fine and Private Place
    and Peter DeVries' The Blood of the Lamb to tell me the truth.
"Time heals nothing," Peter DeVries said.

And Margery Allingham said, "Mourning is not forgetting. It is an undoing. Every minute has to be untied and something permanent and valuable recovered and assimilated from the past."

When I discovered science fiction a year later, Robert Sheckley said, "Never try to explain to yourselves why some things happen and why other things don't happen. Don't ask and don't imagine that an explanation exists. Get it?"

And Bob Shaw's "The Light of Other Days"
and John Crowley's "Snow"
and Tom Godwin

taught me everything there is to know about death
and memory
and the cold equations.

But there were also hopeful messages in those books.

"There is a land of the living and a land of the dead," Thornton Wilder said, "and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning."

And Dorothy, in The Patchwork Girl of Oz, said, "Never give up. You never know what's going to happen next."

"If you look for truth," C.S. Lewis wrote, "You may find comfort in the end. If you look for comfort, you will not get either comfort or truth, only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair."

I found what I was looking for,
what I needed,
what I wanted,
what I loved
in books
when I couldn't find it anywhere else.

Francie and the public library and books saved my life.

And taught me the most important lesson books have to teach.

"You think your pains and your heartbreaks are unprecedented in the history of the world," James Baldwin says, "but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me where the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who have ever been alive."

Before even reading this speech I have been thinking of this very thing. When my friend died this past month, I heard those sentiments - "There is a reason for this" - and I thought that was baloney. God can make something good come out of this, but there isn't anything in the Bible that says he causes it for some reason. Allowing some 17 year old the free will to choose to do right or wrong and allowed him to pull out a gun and shoot doesn't mean he wanted Jean to die, or intended her to die. It doesn't mean he isn't in control. It just means he allows people to choose what path they will take in life, and because of that, there are consequences. Sometimes terrible ones.

I'm not saying I understand why, but I think that's the point, too. We don't understand. And maybe it doesn't make sense.

At the funeral the priest said not to question why it happened because that could only lead to doubt and despair. I disagree. I think that there probably wasn't one person in that church looking at the caskets of Jim and Jean Smith not wondering why God allowed them to be murdered in their own home in broad daylight. And we were all bound together, many of us strangers to each other, in that feeling. Yet, in the intensity of the moment, we can't put into words what our heart is feeling, and conversation is awkward.

Then I come home and read a book, and there is someone who shares my feelings, who experiences that pain, who deals with similar situations and comes out the other side. I have found someone who lets me cry without trying to make me feel better, and yet who does all the same. There is a character who speaks with the grace I can't, and the wisdom I want. There is communion and catharsis.

I felt very strongly when I wrote my last book that the main character's faith be that kind of strong. On the surface, when facing the death of her child, her church thinks her faith is weak, because she doesn't believe God will heal Ashley. But in reality, her faith is the opposite. God is not at our whim, to do what we think is right. And sometimes, even though we don't understand why, he allows bad things to happen. He doesn't cause them. But he lets them come into our lives. And it's then he begins to work in our hearts.

This is all not really what the speech is about. It's about books, and how important they are, not just to entertain and provide escape but to shape us, to speak to us. And in her words, Connie Willis spoke to me, if only to give voice to those things in my heart I couldn't find the way to say.

Monday, January 5, 2009

I Heart Your Blog Nominees

Before Christmas break I was honored with the I Heart Your Blog award. I should have immediately shot out this post. Instead, I waited, and now nearly every blog I read has the award. It's a small blogosphere!

I wanted to award all writers, the way Kimberly Derting did when she gave this badge of honor to me, but most of my favorite author blogs already have the stamp of love. (Sadly, despite my husband's belief that I am blogging allllllll the time, I actually only have a few very passionate reads daily, some of whom are personal friends with more personal interest blogs). This will be a more eclectic list, I'm afraid.

So, here are the “official” rules:

1) Add the logo of your award to your blog.
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog.
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs.

Numbers 1 and 2: Done. Number 3 I am breaking, although not for lack of trying to find seven great, uninitiated blogs. There are a few personal friends I read that I'm not tagging here, mostly because I don't think they'd want to go through this process and find seven new ones of their own. (I still think you're great though! I do heart your blogs!!)

So with no further ado, here are my choices:

Miss Snark's First Victim Not one particular writer, but a collection of them... a veritable community of writers whose personalities are as big as their talents. They critique, they contest, they share, they write awesome Christmas songs.... and best of all - anyone can join in!

2009 Debutantes (A Feast of Awesome) Kimberly Derting turned me on to this great blog of debut authors. I love that they are both just a step away from where I am, and yet on the other side of a great big chasm. This is a new blog for me, but I've already loved getting to know these awesome debutantes.

Patricia Wood Aboard SV Orion I actually read Pat's book Lottery before I read her blog, which made it all the more amazing that she was so real and human and wonderful! If you comment, she replies. If you email, she emails back. She has a terrific sense of humor, and some awesome photography on her blog (hey, she lives on a boat in Hawaii... she better post photos!). And she has a very interesting cat...

Moose In the Kitchen Moose is the only one on my list not clamoring to get published, but her blog is publish-worthy. She writes about her life, the day in and day out, with incredible honesty and a fantastic sense of very wry humor.

Sue Seeger - Sue, like me, is a writer without an agent yet, with high hopes for a great 2009, a fun-looking family, and cool insights into a variety of topics. I first got to know Sue by her regular commenting on my other friend blogs. I hope, this year, to get to be her friend, too.

So there you have it. I'm off to let them know. And the rest of you - if I could give you two awards I would!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I'm baaaaaaa-aaaack!

I should have thrown up my snowman out-of-office shingle last week and just admitted I wouldn't blog over the break. Instead, I thought I'd manage to get out a few posts here and there between company and Christmas and a funeral and all that holiday cheer. Unfortunately, I sunk into a bit of a funk during the holidays and staring at the blank screen on the computer was about all the accomplishment I could muster. That, and a few lackluster games of Pathwords and Word Twist on facebook.

The fact is, Jean's death struck pretty hard, and despite trying to keep busy and make Christmas something special for my family, that event seemed to follow me. No matter where my body was, my mind was in that house, imagining what had happened. In the middle of conversations, my voice trailed off and without knowing it, I suddenly was thinking about it. It was everywhere.

Where we ate on Christmas Eve, I found myself facing a window overlooking the restaurant Jean and I last ate at, staring at the parking lot where we last hugged goodbye and promised to get together again after the new year.

On the radio, Billy Joel came on, the song she used to sing all the time around me - used to write around our pictures in the yearbook: Only the Good Die Young.

In a box in my storage closet while digging around for photos to scan, I found a pile of letters she wrote to me when I was at college... I didn't even remember her even writing me while I was there.

It all became overwhelming, this everywhere-I-turn thing. And busy didn't help.

Until New Years Eve, when I was preparing for company, and filling the time with all the things I thought needed to get done. Cleaning, new sheets, food prep, laundry... busy busy busy...

until the winds blew out a power line and we found ourselves with no electricity. No water. No way to clean, or cook, or shower or vacuum. And the house quickly got very, very cold. So all five us dug out a bunch of blankets and snuggled down on two couches downstairs and read. Two blissful hours of reading guilt free.

It was, for lack of a better description, soul-soothing. It was the start of healing for me.

Later this week, I'll write about that book I read, along with another author's reflections on how reading saved her life when her mother died.

I'll also post my I Heart Your Blog Awards, two weeks late (some things about me never change). I have great plans for a New Years Resolution post (which I promise will not mention a word of dieting or losing weight but will involve books.... lots of books), some more reflections on Jean and faith, updates on queries and my publishing progress, possible stories about guitar hero and falling down the stairs. And if you are really lucky, a photo or two of what happens when a gingerbread house meets Wizard-of-Oz-like winds (or Hansel and Gretel.. you decide!) You won't want to miss a word.

Goodbye 2008. No offense or anything, but I'm glad to be moving on.