Friday, February 27, 2009

It's Friday; It's a Good Thing

It finally happened!!

I got to the end of last week's Entertainment Weekly today, and I HADN'T READ THE BOOK SECTION!!

Of course - curse those Oscars - the book section was inordinately minuscule and pretty boring.

But still, I never thought it would actually happen. And oh happy day... another one shows up tomorrow!

It's a Book Thing

So I read Kerri's blog, and just by opening it up, apparently, I was tagged. So if you are reading this, consider yourself tagged. In her words, I'll show you mine, then you show me yours.

My bookshelf, that is. I think the rule is this: take a picture of the shelves on your bookshelf... no cheating and rearranging, straightening them up, or stocking them with more impressive reads. It is what it is.

First, a photo of part of my library. To give you a hint of why it was hard to pick a shelf. This is about a third of it:

As for the shelves, I picked four (in two shots). They are the shelves I've used most recently. I think I've read all of the books on them, mostly in the last year or two.

Okay, now your turn.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Writing What Matters

Fess up... you have embarrassing stuff you've written that you would just about die if anyone read. Not like bad fiction.... Not blog posts from the past that might have exposed just a little too much. I mean the really embarrassing stuff. Diaries never meant to see the light of day. Journals. Gulp... poetry. That teenage angsty stuff you thought was all insightful and awesome and groundbreakingly emotionally gut-wrenchingly honest. That kind of stuff.

I've got notebooks and boxes full of it. Cringe-worthy material I can't quite make myself get rid of, because it is so honestly, heartfeltedly where I was at the time.

And there is probably embarrassing stuff I've written out in the world somewhere... letters and poetry I wrote for someone else and stupidly gave away.

I say all this because Jean and I were quite the prolific poets in our day. In a way, much of our high school days were documented by torn scraps of notebook paper dotted with free-form verse and slipped under desks back and forth. It was so much a part of our friendship, it wasn't like I could ever forget that.

Still, it came as a bit of a shock today when her daughter posted some of the poetry Jean had written for her and her brother when they were little. Jean kept journals full of her writing for years and years, and told her daughter if she ever died, to burn them or publish them. So her daughter has found them, and is reading through them now, and posting some of it.

I think, of all the gifts Jean could have given to her kids, this is the very best. It is a history of her love for them, of the years they can't remember.

I think of the notebooks, letters, poetry and journals I think of burning sometimes. But if all my kids have of me in the end is my novels, it doesn't real tell them a lot about me. And if all I have is this blog, it's only the tiniest bit I felt safe sharing. I'm wondering now if this is enough. Maybe it's time I write some more.

The friend who first told me I needed to be writing books several years ago was also the person who told me I should be writing poetry about my son when he was born. I wrote very little, overwhelmed with colic and sleepless nights and total lack of creativity. But I did eek one out, albeit a rhymed and metered one. I suspect I was in need of some sense of order in my life at the time! :)

To my son, who is now 10:

Eyes that search the room for me,

blue as the ocean, wide as the sea.

Little fists so tightly curled,

yet loose enough to hold my world.

Quiet breath, sighs so deep,
Cries of pain traded for sleep.

A tiny boy, perfect and whole,

small as a tear, big as my world.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I think I may be a closet commitmentphobe. Closet mostly to me, because it's something I don't want to recognize, even though everyone else in my life is probably rolling their eyes over the idea that this is a revelation.

I think it must have happened sometimes in college, or shortly after. Middle school, high school - man you couldn't get me out of committing. I did it all. Including lots of things I wasn't good at. And not only did I jump in to participate, I usually led it. Gads, that just gives me the heebie-jeebies now. I am sweating just writing that, which I think is clear indication times have changed.

Now I say, "Maybe" A LOT! To my kids: "Can we watch this program tonight?" "Can we play this game after dinner?" "Can I have a piglet birthday party?" "Can I invite so and so over to play?"


As I get requests to help out in choir and church and the kids' school and local community groups, I look at the emails and then just file them. Under maybe. Because I can't say no, but I am afraid of saying yes. Afraid that I already have too much on my plate. Afraid that I will get into a position where I'm not comfortable. Afraid I will be over my head on time and ability. Afraid I will be stuck doing something I don't like for a long time with no way of getting out except to break a promise. And once I really commit, I dig in like a pit bull and can't let go.


Maybe the problem is that I don't know how deep I want to get into something until I am at that deep point. I don't know I'm over my head until I can't breathe and I can't see any way out, and won't let myself out.

I had two commitments I started here this year. One, to run ten miles. Another, to write a new book.

The ten miler thing is going great. I'm already up to eight and a half, which is about three times more than any other time in my life, and for which I'm pretty proud. It takes a lot of commitment too. I run almost everyday. Whether I am tired or not. Whether my schedule is otherwise filled or not. And I am never ever sorry I did it.

The writing thing is harder. Because after waffling back and forth on several book ideas, I committed to one in particular. One which resonated with me, which I felt an emotional attachment to. One that I plotted and semi-outlined and developed the characters for. One which I wrote pages and pages on. Until I just couldn't anymore. Because it depressed me.

The book came out of the murder of one of my good friends. It wasn't about her, but it did deal with many of the issues that came from her death: random evil, forgiveness, ways in which people grieve, and how they heal. Seriously, I think it was a really good idea, with a great plot and tremendous depth of character.

But I just couldn't do it. Day after day, my own emotions still a bit raw, coming to that place where I was back in the darkness. And finally, I had to let go.

I had a dream last night that my friend came back - that she had 24 hours to spend with her family and friends again. And when she left, it felt as though she died a second time.

My dreams cling to me when I am awake. What I feel in my dreams is what I wake with, what I carry with me all day until something more powerful can shake it off. And today I felt the loss again, and the emptiness of saying goodbye.

And I realized that while the book might have been good, it was good to let it go. Maybe just for now; maybe forever. But I really don't want to go to that place everyday right now.

I think it was a smart decision, albeit a hard one. But now I am even more fearful of committing. What if my new books ends the same? And the next one? And the next one? I am afraid of saying, "This one is it." I've got a new book I've started. One I look forward to visiting every day. A character that is fun, and complicated, and a setting to die for. I am excited about it. But will that last?

I'm hating that the only answer I can give to that is: Maybe.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What would you do to get published?

Detective mystery writer Dennis Lehane was recently interviewed in Entertainment Weekly. After five bestselling whodunits, he's hanging up his detective hat for historical fiction. He says, "I was never comfortable with them anyway. I'd be writing these figgin' whodunits and I could care less. I wanna tell everybody on page 2, he killed so and so, he done it! If you look at my books in that regard - and I'll be 100% honest about my flaws - you can see how I was whipping out the kitchen sink just to obscure s---."

So he's done with them.

Which begs the question, if he didn't like them so much in the first place, why did he write them?

Because they were marketable? Because he could garner interest with them? Did he like to read them and think he could write them?

I find this so interesting because, with the publishing industry as tight as it is, I've found myself asking, what is more marketable? What kind of book is more likely to get my foot in the door?

And I tried. I tried to write something I thought might be easier to break into the industry. I just couldn't. Not that I couldn't put the words on the page, but I couldn't fall in love with it. It felt like crap.

I've contemplated the idea of writing as a job. Sometimes jobs aren't always fun. Sometimes, you do what you have to in order to make a living. Do I want to write badly enough to veer from what I am most drawn to? Is that smart, or selling out?

For those of you who are writers, why do you write what you write? Would you write something else if it was the only way to get published? And is that the smart thing to do?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Who Me? I'm Not Jealous At All!

I've dreamed about my future library since I was in fifth grade, drawing architectural diagrams of my future home in my spare time, half of which was a huge library. Floor to ceiling books, wood, huge windows overlooking cliffs that drop down to the ocean below. A desk for writing.

Entertainment Weekly has been featuring writer's writing spaces lately. Some sparse rooms in NY apartments, some more traditional library looks.

Not too long ago, they showed Patricia Cornwell's library, and it almost took my breath away. It's not exactly what I pictured for myself (including all the foresnsics paraphenalia and skeletons), but it's strikingly similar. It's the windows and wood, I think.

So here it is. For those of you who drool over such things. I think if you click on the photo you can see it full screen.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Wherever you are, I hope you have a little bit of love in your life. Today, and everyday.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

It's Friday; It's a Good Thing

I haven't done one of these posts in a long time, and after a few hard days, it's time to focus on the good again.

So some good things in life:

1. My family is all tucked in asleep as I write this, healthy, safe.... I take this for granted too often. And other times I worry about it. Tonight, I am grateful.

2. My camera. There's something about holding it, feeling the weight in my hands, looking through the eye piece that makes everything else disappear and I am focused on just the small, beautiful thing in the lens.

3. A husband I love who is home every night. I have friends with husbands in Iraq they haven't hardly seen in 400 days. I have friends who aren't married, with no serious prospects. When I am sad, or lonely, or even happy, I can cuddle up with my husband, feel safe under his arms. I can talk endlessly with him and he appears to actually listen and care. And most of the time, he knows exactly what to say to make me suddenly feel a little better.

4. Wii. It's just plain fun. And I haven't hurt myself playing it in over a year. :)

5. The DVR. Face it - those of us with kids who have homework and bedtimes (and can't bring ourselves to let them put themselves to bed by themselves yet) pretty much have shot prime time TV. Anything worth watching is on during the putting to bed times. Now I DVR it all, and watch it when I want. Usually on Friday ... a whole slew of them hour after ungodly hour, with a bottle of wine. And that great husband. And his safe arms.

6. Which brings us to Survivor. It begins again. I love this time of year. American Idol and Survivor at the same time! Survivor tops my DVR list. Exotic locations. Ridiculous challenges. Backstabbing. Twists. Real people, acting real stupid, real arrogant, real conniving.... can you ask for more? I DVR it and watch it Friday night. With that glass of wine. And the hubs. A perfect night.

7. Electric blankets.

8. Good books.

9. Surprise emails.

10. People who smile, even if they don't know you.

11. The crossing guard who directs traffic at my kids' school. Rain, snow, high winds, below zero or above a hundred degrees. She is there. And everything is smooth. And when she isn't, it takes fifteen minutes and a nightmarish backup to get into the parking lot. And she always smiles.

12. Friends who know exactly what to say to keep me from jumping off that cliff... even if they don't know how important what they are saying is.

13. The hope of a warm, tropical vacation.

14. Really good teachers. There are a few of them.

15. Punctuation and grammar. I've got an abnormal love for them. And occasionally misusing them. But only with purpose.

Okay, I'm done for now. Some things need to be saved for next Friday. What are some of your favorite thing?

Friday, February 6, 2009

By The Number

The last two weeks have been maddeningly up-ended. Routines shot to heck. Abnormality all around. It seems like I am constantly keeping count of stuff in my head. So here's a few totally useless numbers I've been tossing around:

In the last 12 days:

Lowest temperature: 16 degrees (F)
Highest temperature: 55 degrees (F)
Days schools were closed for weather: 3
Days at least one kid was home throwing up: 4
Loads of laundry washed: 10
Loads of laundry folded and put away: 9
Highest blood sugar: 318
Lowest blood sugar: 37
Sinus infections from hell: 1
Cups of coffee I normally drink in 12 days: 12
Cups of coffee I drank: 2
Number of son's science fair project plants: 40
Number of science fair project plants still alive: 38
Average hours of uninterrupted sleep: 3
Nightmares that someone broke into our house: 1
Books read: 1
Blogs read: too many to count
Words written on new book: 1,500
New queries sent out: 14
Requests for my full manuscript: 1
Emails read and replied to: all of them
Tears: none
Days at the gym: 3
Miles run: 17.85
Hotels in the Caribbean I've researched for our anniversary: 6

I'm off to try and double that word written on new book statistic. Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

If I Lived Another Life..

Do you ever wonder what you'd be doing if you weren't you? Or rather - if you weren't where you are in life, having made the choices you've made... maybe what you'd be doing if you could have chosen the gifts and personality you'd wanted, or if you had another life to live...

I love my life. Given anything in the world, this is what I'd want. I love my husband and kids with a fierce passion. I love being a mom, and a media production creator, and a photographer, and writer. I love my house in the woods and minivan I swore I'd never own (but mostly for those bun warmers!).

But I do find myself wondering every now and then... what if?

There is a photographer I follow on Twitter. I don't know him. He followed me first and, intrigued by his photo ID (which showed him on a mountain top taking a photo), I added him too. From what I can tell, all he does is travel around taking pictures. He sits in San Francisco cafes and drinks mocha frappucinos, listens to really cool music and takes awesome photos of whatever strikes his fancy. He travels to exotic locations like Rome and Paris and takes photos of kids swinging over lakes in summer and birds taking off from the pond in front of the Capital building. He also does weddings, although even those are not your run-of-the-mill weddings.

I fantasize sometimes about doing that. Certainly not leaving the life I love, but having another life to live that way - to travel at whim, take amazing photos of wherever I land, centering my whole existence around getting the shots I want and making beautiful images rather than trying to make something beautiful out of wherever I am at the time.

I fantasize about being the kind of person who is comfortable traveling alone and making friends everywhere I go. Having nothing to tie me to anything. And to be okay with that.

Truth is - even if everything I had right now disappeared, I'd never be that person. I like the ties that bind me to people, and to places. I like having some roots and routines. And I like traveling with someone that I can share those experiences with.

Still, it's fascinating.

It makes me think that this is what writing is for: to live vicariously through characters I create - to get to be them for a while. Maybe I'll write a book with my fictitious roving photographer. How fun would it be to live in that world every day for a few hours!?

Do you ever think about what you'd love to do or be if you had another life to live?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Just For Fun

I stumbled across yet another website that promises a bit of wasting time. It's called Despair Inc.

I'm usually a very positive person. A glass half full, if you will. Even so, I'm not against a little sarcasm every now and then, a bit of harsh reality mixed in. I found these de-motivational posters pretty hilarious! If you are one of those people who take things too much to heart, you might want to stop reading.

Some you have to see the picture that goes with the saying, but some sayings are pretty funny on their own. Here are a few of my favorites:

Success: Some people dream of success, while other people live to crush those dreams.

It could be that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.

Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now

Hundreds of years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove... But the world may be different because I did something so bafflingly crazy that my ruins become a tourist attraction.

If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon.

Give Up:
At some point, hanging in there just makes you look like an even bigger loser

If you think the problems we create are bad, just wait until you see our solutions.

Give Up:
At some point, hanging in there just makes you look like an even bigger loser

Sometimes the best solution to morale problems is just to fire all of the unhappy people.

Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable

Consulting: If you're not a part of the solution,there's good money to be made in prolonging the problem

There are No Stupid Questions. But there a LOT of Inquisitive Idiots

The Secret of Success is knowing who to Blame for Your Failures

Monday, February 2, 2009

5 Memorable Things My Husband Said Today To Me

1. Thanks to you I could talk intelligently about the Super Bowl today.

2. Remember there's always someone out there who doesn't understand quality.

3. I've never known you to back down from a good fight, so stay the course as long as it's the right course to take.

4. ain't no dead horses here! (channeling those Texas roots...)

5. I love you. (okay, he says this every day, but it's always worth noting that he says it!)

So hon, that first dedication is for you! Whenever it comes around. You are the one who gets me through each day! And I'm glad to fill you in on those football highlights you couldn't care less about.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

What's Next to Go - Excalmation Points and Question Marks?

I heard about this tidbit on the news a few nights ago and have been scouring the Internet trying to find it in print. And here it is.

In one of England's largest town, they are getting rid of the apostrophe.

That's right. They think it's a nuisance. It's confusing. It's hard to use on a GPS. It's - get this - expensive. So now it's gone.

Possessiveness is archaic and antiquated, they say. It shouldn't matter. So now it's gone.

I found this so appalling I wanted to rant about it a while... but honestly? I'm so stunned I have no words.