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Showing posts from 2012

I Resolve . . .

It's that time of year again. We all look over the past year and make a list of things we're going to change about ourselves or our habits. I've done it. We've all done it, I think. This year, I'm not making any resolutions other than to just try and be grateful for everything I've already got.

I may not be the healthiest or the skinniest person out there. I'm pretty certain that lose 20 pounds is on my doctor's wishlist for me, but in all honesty, while I'll try and be healthier I'm just not going to put that pressure on myself at the start of the year. I need to find more time to write, to clean, to whatever  . . . we all have that list. However, I'm more interested in putting the computer away a little more often to chase my daughter in the backyard, teach her how to hula hoop or bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies with her this year. I swear every time I look at her lately she's another half inch taller. Before I know it she's…

Ghosts of Christmas Past

I was actually planning to write this entry a week ago, but life intruded and then the events in Newtown and, honestly as both a mom of a five year old and a teacher, I was more than a little shell shocked. The funny thing about that was that I felt no strangeness when I got ready to go to work on Monday, but I lingered a little over my daughter's bed that morning. Felt a little odd sending her off even as I got ready to walk back into a classroom . . .

It's Christmas time. Christmas always reminds me of my grandparents. My one grandmother loved Christmas and my grandfather indulged her every whim with this holiday. He also loved miniature trains and would have an elaborate set-up in the corner of his living room--a tiny train, a lovely little village and a Victorian Santa Claus with his unraveling list looking over all the little town. Gram would fill the little front bedroom with gifts and my brother, my three cousins and I all had our "spots" for years. After Gram…

Coming Home

Do you have those books that you just love? You know, that book you actually didn't want to end because you wanted to stay in that world a little bit longer? Those are also usually the books that you fly through because you care so much about characters. I have a few of those books. Well, series, really. I've noticed that the books I love to wallow in so much are more a series of books. I always joke that my students, once they do get hooked on a writer, will read anything he or she writes, even if it's the back of cereal boxes. Kids are loyal readers once they get into a character and they will mourn like no one I've ever seen when the series finally comes to an end.

I'm a re-reader. I have to be. For the first several years we were married, my husband and I lived in an unincorporated suburb. That meant that in order to have a library card we'd have to pay a pretty hefty fee. Or . . .  I could spend that much more in books each year. Needless to say, I bought …

Now, On To Business . . .

The election is over. The votes are still be counted, but for the most part, I think it's safe to say that we know who won. I'm not going to be partisan at all in this. The time for that is past. Actually, I think the only time that that is appropriate is when you get into a good blood humming discussion. We have several of those conversations at our dinner table. I'm not shy about expressing my opinion, but I'll generally wait until someone asks me for. I don't believe in thrusting unsolicited opinions onto people.

However, I think there's one sentiment that is univeral in the US on this day after the election. I think we're all weary. Tired of our representatives, no matter the side of the aisle, not talking to eachother. It's like the little kid who takes his toys out of the sandbox because he doesn't want anyone else to play with them. Aren't we a little old for that?

I think the rising sentiment from the multitudes shouldn't necessaril…

NaNoFiMo

In the wonderful world of writing--November is known as NaNoWriMo. That would be "National Novel Writing Month" for those of you who aren't crazy like the rest of us. I don't know who started this and I don't know when. If it had been me I would have chosen July, but that's just because of my crazy schedule. Now, I admit, I'm not the best when it comes to writing during the school year. It's just a little too crazed to get the solid hours in that I need to get in to get something thought of, planned, outlined and written in one month. I don't work like that. I mull my ideas, write a scene, read a scene, pick apart the scene and then just let it sit and simmer for a while in the back of my head. Sometimes for a very long while. It usually takes me a good year or two to actually finish something and I might actually have had the idea for five years before that. There are a couple of ideas that I can cite right now that I'm not ready to write.

A…

Tilting at Windmills

Over twenty years ago, Clare and I sat in the cafe at Immaculate Heart of Mary High School and came up with two characters. I came up with Aerin Stargazer, a world weary mercenary who's caught up in forces much larger than herself and she's not too happy about it. Clare came up with Robyn Piper, a Bard touched by magic and dedicated to the helping the forces of the Light. In all reality, Robyn and Aerin were actually just a summer entertainment. Every summer of my childhood we'd pack up and ship out to our family summer home and Clare would stay in Oak Park. So, we came up with these characters as a way to keep in touch over the summer.

Clare started. She wrote me a letter from Robyn's perspective telling about a search for star bearers. I still have that lavishly illustrated letter in my office. Aerin wrote back, telling her friend all about her adventures. Several years later, hundreds of pages and we had . . . well, we had a mess, but an entertaining mess all the sa…

One of Those Days . . .

I probably shouldn't even be writing right now. It's been one of those days. You know the ones. Where everything you seem to touch explodes into hot tiny fragments to spray everyone. There is no such thing as friendly fire and today I seem to be drawing a truck load. Snarky comments, irritated kids, delays and shifting plans seem to be peppering me left and right from the trees.

It might have a little to do with the weather. It's one of those dark, dreary days when it's just too easy to see the dark side of everything. Of course, I'm not Little Miss Mary Sunshine on a normal day. I've also had to be the upbeat one in the family lately. Not my natural milieu. I'm a realist. With a healthy dash of pessimisn thrown in for good measure. I know, it doesn't seem to make sense for a writer, does it? I happen to be a list of fascinating little contradictions. You may send sympathy cards to my husband, if you like.

Time to stop messing around. I'm expected t…

Twilight Realm of Dreams

My dad's currently in the hospital, being kept under because he just had surgery. I was sitting there this afternoon watching him, the monitors all beeping, whirring and clicking in the background. His feet moved, rather restlessly and every now and again he'd open his eyes and look around, but you knew that he wasn't really seeing anything. They're keeping him really groggy, and he's always hated that feeling. The meds give him some wild dreams. I've heard that from others too.

What is it like to be trapped in that twilight world of dreams? All of us have regrets, fears and parts of our lives we don't want to confront. What if we didn't have a choice? What if we were trapped in that world? What sorts of demon dreams would be scraping against our minds as we slept. All of us have had nightmares. I'm usually looking for something or fleeing from something. I wonder what that says about my subconscious? I'm sure someone who analyzed dreams would h…

Books You Love and Hate

That was the journal topic last week. I asked my students to talk about books they loved and why they loved them. I also asked them to talk about books they hated and why they hated them. I also asked them to talk about how they would change those books they didn't like in order to make them better. It's always fun to see how the kids would change books. I'm also a little shocked when I have students come up to me and tell me that they don't like any books. Or they've never actually finished a book. I die a little inside when I hear eighth graders tell me that.

I'm also always a little appalled when kids tell me they hate books I've loved. Some of them hated the Harry Potter books. Others thought The Hunger Games was boring. (How that's possible is beyond me!) I had to expand the journal assignment a little bit to movies when too many of the kids told me that they really didn't like too many books. I suppose I have my work cut out for me this year. …

Truth?

Just pondering the concept of truth today. Don't know why really. Maybe I've been reading too many newspaper articles on the presidential election. Or I listened to my daughter and her cousin blame each other for everything that fell over this evening. Just got me thinking about truth.

You know, they always say there are two sides to every story. When I think about that it's actually wrong. There are three sides of every story--yours, mine and the truth. No matter how much we try to hold onto veracity, I think we all do some judicious editing. Think about your own childhood. Have you ever caught yourself thinking about, kids these days? (Cue the Broadway song in the background!) When you were their age? How many of our parents traveled uphill, both ways, to school in the snow? Our own childhoods have that gilded look. I think back to all the years at the lake house and it brings a nostalgic smile to my face. It was so great, wasn't it? I only have to look in the journa…

Summer Reading List

I usually read genre books. I love fantasy, science fiction, romance, horror . . . you name it. I like genre fiction. I usually do not like modern fiction. I remember several years ago talking to a colleague of mine about books. We'd come back from summer break and she was telling me about how much she loved Nicholas Sparks. I don't recall at the moment which book it was, but I do remember her telling me that she sobbed through the whole book. I think I looked like a dog listening to a high pitched sound at that second. How could you possibly love a book that made you cry? Maybe I'm just deficient.

I don't like, for the most part, those tear jerker endings. Titanic, the movie? Never saw it. Never wanted to. Never thought there was a point to subjecting myself to three hours of misery ending in a freezing death. I teach Romeo and Juliet to my students, but we talk about how the tragedy isn't romantic. It's just sad. The tragedy isn't that Romeo and Juliet di…

The Olympic Spirit

I'm sitting here waiting for the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies to begin. I've convinced the four year old that these are going to be some of the coolest shows she's going to watch in the entire universe. I'm sentimentally patriotic and a hopeless romantic all rolled up into one. I always mist up at the national anthem playing in the background with the flag rising to frame one of our athletes. I also love the stories behind the athletes. The legally blind Korean archer who set a new world record, the Japanese equestrian who happens to be Buddhist monk, the sprinter with two artificial legs . . .

It's my mom's fault. I know that. She always watched the Olympics. It was a big deal in our house. My brother and I were gymnasts, never anywhere near the Olympics, but we did have dreams of gold. The same dreams of every young athlete. I know what it's like to stand on a balance beam with the crowd looking on and feel your heart in your throat. I remember the pai…

There are No Books!

According to a quote by Ray Bradbury "You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." I love this quote both as a writer and as a teacher. More so as a teacher. I teach 8th graders so I hear, "I hate to read," pretty often.

I love it when I take them to the library in the first week telling them they all need to have a book in their hands before they leave. There are a handful in each class who dive toward the stacks knowing exactly what kind of book they're looking for. A few others meander around checking covers and skimming backs of books. Two of three more wander aimlessly not even really picking up a book or getting too close. At the end of the class those two are still circling--looking for a place to land. I've spent most of the class talking to my meanderers. What do you like to read? What do you like to do when you're not at school? What's your favorite movie? As I walk with them pulling books o…

Home Stretch

How do you describe what it feels like to be in the home stretch of a book? To know that there are only about twenty or thirty pages to the end? You know where the story is, you know where it has to go, and you know what you need to write in order to get there. Of course, it's only the beginning of the end.

Once you finish the story itself, once that first draft is done--well, overall, it's a heady feeling. When you actually write those last words you automatically want to erase them. You can't be done. There's got to be more to be said. That's true. There is always more that you can say. The problem is knowing when the book is done. Sometimes there are stories that you just can't let go. Characters you love. You really want to stay with them, know more about them, follow them home after they're done riding away into the sunset.

Like I said the end of a book is actually only the beginning of the end. Once that draft is finished you have to go back and read …

Sneak Peak!

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A sample from THE SHATTERED PRISM--book one of my fantasy trilogy. Let me know what you think!

The State of Hell

I'm writing about hell right now. I know. That's a rather harsh lead in, isn't it. It's true though. I just sent a character, a fallen angel named Rue, to hell. I want it noted that I came up with his name long before I ever read the Hunger Games, by the way. It comes from Ruvan, the name of one of the angel judges. I made him an angel judge at hell's gate who'd lost his compassion. He's booted down to earth as a human to rediscover his compassion, and of course, the devil has his own plots and plans.

So, now Rue's gone to hell. He's actually there to rescue a soul that the demon Asmoday tricked into going with him. I was a little stuck, though. Hell's a huge concept--what do I want it to look like? That's a bit of a brain bender. How do you describe hell? Do you stick with the Judeo-Christian concepts? Do you spiral down into Dante's concentric circles? What about the Greco-Roman underworld with its Fields of Punishment and Sysiphus and…

The Kindle is Evil

So, I'm off for the summer and I usually spend the first week off from school not doing anything really useful. Other than laundry and trying out some of the recipes I've clipped during the school year that I just didn't have the time for, I don't usually do much. However, this week I've been fielding visits and phone calls from heating and air conditioning people all week. The AC keeled over and died this past Sunday in the middle of a Pampered Chef party. Good thing we were just using the microwave that time. Now, I've been lucky, it's been a nice week--mostly in the seventies, but this weekend is supposed to soar into the nineties.

Now, instead of using the time between the HVAC visits to fiddle with a storyline or edit a few completed chapters I'm messing around on Amazon finding books for my Kindle. Yep. It's way too easy to spend money on that toy. Now, I admit I'm looking forward to being able to take it when we travel. Not, that travelin…

Musings on Multitasking

I feel like I'm running on fumes this week. My students graduate tonight and I have a classroom to pack up tomorrow. It will be the usual magic trick. All that stuff originally came out of my closet, therefore it should all fit back into the closet. Right?

I need a bag of holding. And a few extra hours in the day. Hmmm . . . that makes me think. Think about all those science fiction and fantasy books you've read. All of them have some really neat toys, don't they? I mean, who wouldn't rather be beamed somewhere instead of dealing with the hassles in the airport? I'm just happy they're not making everyone take their shoes off anymore. That's always been fun. And disgusting. When I travel I travel during the summer (the whole teaching gig is not conducive to travel in the off-season) so I'm always in sandals. Never think of that when I'm pulling myself together at four am, but when I'm in that line and I have to stand barefoot on that floor . . .…

Words! Words! Words!

I was watching my four year old daughter the other day. Some of her friends were coming over to play with her and she was bent over the coffee table frantically scribbling away on a pad of paper with a pen. She told me she was making a list of everything they were going to play. When I looked over her shoulder I saw random letters and lines. She so badly wants to be able to write and read.

Do you remember that time? I don't. I really don't ever remember no knowing how to read, how to write. It's amazing watching her discover letters and sounds and start to put them together. I recently got her a little series of books with sight words and she loves to read to me.

I've been reading this book this week--it's called DARKNESS FALLS by Jessica Sorensen. I picked it up for my Kindle for $1.99 because I'm a sucker for vampire books and post-apocalyptic fiction and this one has both combined. In it, is a world controlled by the Highers, a "perfect" race that …

Who Wants a Knight in Shining Armor Anyway?

Alright, full disclosure here . . . I gave damsels in distress a bit of a drubbing in my last blog post and I do stand by every word I said. I am so happy to see some strong heroines out there kicking butt, but I am also a sucker, every now and a then, for a well done D.I.D. tale. In fact, I use the line myself in the the blurb on the back of MY book--"She's a damsel in distres . . . " Of course, it's a little tongue in cheek and ten minutes after meeting the hero my heroine maces him. So . . .

On to the gentlemen. We'll stick with the principals of the three stories I culled out last time--Harry PotterThe Hunger Games and Twilight. Interesting to note that there are more guys in the stories than girls. Hmmm. Maybe that clues into not only the knight in shining armor fantasies as we speculated last time, but the desire to be persued? Something to think on.

Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. I know, they aren't both vying for Hermione's hand, and for the l…

Girls with Spunk

Katniss. Hermione. Lessa. Polgara. Lady Macbeth. Alright, I'll even give you Jane Eyre, but I refuse to add Bella into the mix of heroines who I believe are really kick ass. Now, admittedly, most of them are grown women, so I don't think it's fair to really pull them into the mix. I'll stick to the girls in the group--Hermione and Katniss, and because she's their exact opposite in all ways, Bella.

Think about it. Back when all we had were fairy tales told to scare children, the spunkiest of the fairy tale heroines was Gretal who had the wherewithal to shove the witch in the oven and free her brother. I suppose she was one of the first heroines who really took the story in her own hands and proved to the world that we were more than damsels in distress waiting languidly in some tower for Prince Charming to rescue us.

Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White--all waiting around for a prince to come and save them. Or in Cinderella's case weeping for a Fairy Godmother…

Influence

I've been a teacher for fifteen years. I've seen my students struggle, succeed and fail. I've watched them cross the stage and receive their diplomas. I've given them a metophorical kick in the back end when they needed it and literally been their shoulder to cry on or the hand to hold. I've held their children and stood at their coffins. I celebrate their successes when I hear of them and mourn the loss of their potential when I hear that another one has fallen off the straight and narrow.

Think for a moment about your favorite teacher. We've all had one. Some of us have more than one. I do. I wouldn't be a teacher if there weren't multiple wonderful influences in my life. Everyone had that one teacher who gave them that extra push, that spare moment, the words that made a difference. Ms. K and Ms. Stopka. Mrs. Nosek and Mr. Reynolds . . . like I said, I had a lot of great teachers. Ms. K told me I should write. Ms.Stopka got me Robert Aspirin's au…

The Obligatory Hunger Games Entry

Just imagine for a moment that a book you've written has not only become a wildly popular book, but also been optioned for a movie and it's the most hotly anticipated movie of the season. You know, I have a really good imagination, but even I can't believe that. By the end of next week how many people will not have seen The Hunger Games?

Now, I'm an English teacher, so anything that gets kids to crack a book, even those awful Twilight books, I'm a fan. Honestly, I would prefer that they like a well written book with a strong character and a beautifully detailed world. And that's what The Hunger Games have. It's not a cheerful book. It's not a beautiful utopian world. It's brutal, cold and cruel with a main character who is not always the most admirable person, but she's the right person. It's complicated with twisted political intrigues that kept me guessing and I'm not bragging when I say that I can usually see what's coming in mos…

Why are the Movies Stealing All the Good Storylines?

I realized today that a lot of my favorite authors are dead--or really, really old! David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Aspirin--some of them I didn't even know were gone, like David Eddings, but in the grand scheme of things I suppose I shouldn't be all that surprised. It does make me start to think, though. If you look in the genre section of the bookstore (provided that you can actually find a bookstore anymore) there are the same names over and over again. Have been the same names for years and years. I'm always amazed not only at those established authors' productivity, but also the fact that the big publishers could never find all that much new blood.

There are some new names out there now, but I've veered away from science fiction and fantasy over the years. There weren't any risks being taken for the longest time in that genre. If there were new names the stories were a lot of the same old, same old. I started reading more young adult lit. There were …

Stories that Haunt Us

There are a few stories that stay with us. I think, for the most part, we read books, we enjoy books, we're entertained by books, but the stories and the characters don't stay with us for very long. I'm a re-reader. If I weren't I'd go broke, but I like to go back to stories and worlds for visits. I'll look over the shelf and decide, "I think I'll go to Pern right now," or "I feel like early twentieth century Egypt," or "futuristic police procedural." For the most part, that's how I pick a book from the shelf. There are a couple of stories, though that stick around, linger in our heads even when we aren't thinking about reading them.

The story that's been stuck with me for the last year or so is The Hunger Games. Truly haunting. I try and tell myself it's because the movie's going to be coming out in the next month or so, but I know in my heart of hearts that's not the case. It stays with me because for…

Rejection!

I teach a lot of kids writing--I tell them everyone has a story to tell. And that's true. We all have a story to tell. Not all of us have a story to sell, however. It's a dream, though. I think I once read that writing a book is on almost everyone's bucket list. Could you imagine if everyone who wanted to write a book actually did?

I went to a convention in November and one of the author panelists, when asked to sum up the problems with balancing writing and a day job summed it up beautifully, "Stop f--ing around and write." Vulgar, but true. It's also been called, "ass in chair." However, after you've written, edited, and rewritten it's time to send it off. Which leads, almost inevitably to rejection slips.

I've gotten a lot of them. The publishing industry has changed a bit in the last decade or so and most of my thanks, but no thanks letters show up in my email in box than in my mailbox. I remember waiting, stalking the mailman as my …

The Winter Crazies

Why do they have to have graduation pictures in January? I've been teaching for fifteen years and every year the last two weeks of January roll around and it's time for graduation pictures. The high school placement and entrance exams are all finished, they're waiting for word, and everything is going along just swimmingly and bam! Let's have graduation pictures. That won't make them ricochet off the walls at all.

We had snow too on Friday. Yipes! Add snow to that mix and you have a special kind of crazy. Not only at the middle school. We've been so spoiled this winter. I think it's interesting that all the experts predicted a colder than normal, wetter than normal, snow up to our eyeballs winter and it's been warmer than usual. Admittedly, we got about six inches of snow on Friday and the commute home was a little longer than usual--an hour rather than my usual 20 to 30 minutes, but that's not that bad. We're used to digging out around here.

D…

Houston, We Have A Problem . . .

I know, it's probably a misquote. I've found out that most of the famous "quotes" out there are actually misquoted. Interesting and useless little detail there.

My wishes of a week ago still haven't come true. The craziness is still there--in spades with work vying for the top spot of insanity with my personal crises. Life is turning into a bad country song. Dad's still in the hospital--the ICU now (like I said, three steps back) with no end in sight and no real answers. I remember him saying once that it's called the "art of teaching" and the "practice of medicine" because you can never get that medicine one perfected. I'm starting to see his point.

Work stuff--contract craziness and I'm the one charge. So, they shout at me. Usually I can take it. Usually, I'm able to go toe to toe and nose to nose with the best of them, but now . . . now not so much. Feeling kind of fragile now. Taking everything way too personally. So, I…

Scattered Focus

My attention has been a little scattered lately. I intended over this Christmas break to bang out about 5000-10,000 words. That was the goal. There's only one day left to my break, I go back on Thursday--I know, but talk to the school board--and I've written only about 2,000 words. It's been an odd break. First of all, it's been weirdly warm around here. Yesterday was the first day we've had that dipped into the 20's. Very strange for the Chicagoland area late December, early January. Usually, we're in the 20's by the middle of December and by this time in January, 30 feels downright balmy. I think we're all waiting for the other weatherwise shoe to drop around here. We got pounded with over 20 inches of snow last Groundhog Day and I think we're all wondering when the real weather is going to get here and make us pay for the warmth. What does that thought say about Midwestern thought processes?

Also, we had Christmas this year, but it's stil…