Abstracts, Papers, and Other Exciting Tales

Hello from the great beyond! I feel like I'm crawling out of a very dark hole into a clearing directly in the sun, the kind of bright light that brings tears to your eyes and forces them closed. I've been buried under a mound of work - not that I mind that - and am finally, after almost 3 months blogging. So why haven't I been blogging? Well, it's simple. I've either been working or sleeping, but never at the same time.

What have I been doing with work? Well, you see, I started a new job in April. It's taken some time to get used to and get with the flow of things. Said job requires me to drive an hour each way, which I don't like doing, and it makes me incredibly sleepy. Then I get home and basically crash. Oh, I also fix dinner, because something else I hate doing? Cleaning dishes. G and I have a deal where if I cook, he cleans and vice versa. It just happened to work out that I cook a lot. Shhh...we don't need G wise to my evil plot the strange coincidence. Mind you, his cooking blows my mind, in a good way, so I'm certainly not opposed to his food! That is beside the point.

Anyway, I'm easily distracted, so back on track. By the end of this month I will have written a short abstract and a long narrative proposal, both for conferences, along with revisions on a paper I've had accepted from a journal. *Laura does a happy dance for her first accepted paper* I will have gone into British schools and talked with students and teachers about their experiences with various things and done loads of statistical analysis on questionnaires. There's more fun going on, but I don't want to over-excite you.

So that all said. I've missed blogging, and I really should have been keeping up with it. But when the nice comfy couch lulls me to sleep at 7pm, it's just sooooo hard. I'll try to blog at least once a week, and hopefully it won't be nearly as boring as this post!!

Becca's Doing a Great Contest!

I've been neglecting my blogging duties lately. I know. Sorry, but I've been trying to make sure everything is as it should be before I start my new job. That means I've been practicing driving for my test, making sure data is what my colleagues need, trying to finish updating a manuscript, and the list goes on. So, I'll be back soon. I promise.

In the meantime, check out Becca's blog for a really cool contest! Most of the contests I tend to enter center on books, but this one has to do with art! I'm not artistic in the drawing or painting sense of the meaning, but I do enjoy looking at those things. So, go there, enter, and if you win, show me what you did with you prize! Also, if you're not following Becca, you should. She's a great writer, and she's funny. So, what are you waiting for? Go to her blog!!!

Two For Tuesday: Soup Recipes!

So a fellow AWer, Kate Hart, started this Two For Tuesday thing wherein you post two of something related to each other. Since I don't have a teaser today, and I'm generally always thinking about food, I thought I'd post some more recipes for ya'll.

At the moment, I'm freezing. It's been so nice here for the last two weeks, and all of a sudden it's gotten cold again. I shouldn't be surprised. It is Manchester. Luckily, I find comfort from the cold on days such as these by making a big pot of soup. Therefore, I am going to pass along two soup recipes (that I did not make up myself) to you! Enjoy!

1. Onion Soup - It's not bad for you, tastes sooooooooooo good, and warms you up from the inside! I substituted one cup of white wine for one cup of the water, and it the added so much to the flavor! Also, you might try adding a teaspoon or two of dried thyme if you like it. Technically, it's good if you can sauté the onions a bit before adding the liquid, but this isn't as "light", so you might try using a little butter to soften the onions a little bit and let them soften the rest of the way with the liquids. Can you tell I like experimenting?? You can add a slice of a crusty white bread and top with cheese, broiling (this would be placing it under the grill in the UK, or so I've been told) it until the cheese is bubbly, if you want to. We prefer the bread on the side, which is convenient, because it's healthier.

2. Broccoli Cheese Soup - My best friend posted this recipe on her blog. She got it from another site, and I made it for dinner last night. It may just be my favorite broccoli cheese soup ever, and if not, it's definitely in the top three! It's more soupy than the thick kind I'm used to, and that's because it doesn't have loads of cheese. It has just enough to give it a strong cheese flavor and the creme fraiche (if you use it) adds a nice creamy tang. Again, this recipe leaves a lot of room for experimentation. For example, I blended the whole thing and had some frozen broccoli that I boiled and cut into smaller pieces that I added back for the chunky texture that I like. Also, I kept the skins on the potatoes (after washing them of course), because they just blended up with the rest and kept all the nice vitamins. I used two teaspoons of whole grain mustard and quite a bit of the creme fraiche container. It was so yummy!

If you try these recipes, let me know! Also, if you want some tips on ways to experiment with them, post a comment or send me an email. I hope you try them and love them as much as I do!

A Week of Firsts

Since moving to England last year, I've been faced with having to get used to many things like driving on the left (not as hard is it sounds), understanding this weird form of English (all English was not created equally...and there are many people even my Brit friends have a hard time understanding), and living without pickles (the absolute worst part about living in the UK...sorry, Mom, but the pickles come first...just kidding). I had managed to go along fine and dandy without having a haircut or having to see the doctor. I did manage to see the orthodontist a while back, and that was a surprisingly wonderful experience. Don't get me wrong; I wasn't expecting that orthodontist visit to be horrible, but I had been told nightmare stories. But, I also wasn't expecting the experience to be better than any of those I'd had in the US. Go figure!

Back to this week. On Tuesday, I finally forced myself to make an appointment to see my GP, an NHS doctor. I'd heard loads of horrible stories about NHS doctors--trying to get an appointment without having to wait until you're 90, going in only to be seen for 2 minutes and sent home, being told the same thing over and over again about you not actually having anything wrong when something still hurts, and so on. So, it was with a little trepidation that I went on Tuesday. I had no problem getting an appointment, although had I not been working from home, I could see how it would be difficult. I got there, waited no more than 10 minutes, and the doctor called me through. He did a series of tests to check where my shoulder hurt and when. Then told me what he thought it was. Then he gave me several choices for treatment explaining the benefits and drawbacks of each. He even asked if I had any questions and was able to answer them for me. Needless to say, it was a good experience, and I hope they continue to be that good.

So today, I decided to have another first--a UK haircut. This shouldn't be that scary, but have you seen some of the people walking around here looking like they have a bird's nest on their heads for the sake of fashion?? Really, it's enough to make me never want to set foot in a hairdresser's. But, I did. And the results are shocking...in a good way!



I sure hope the rest of my UK firsts are pleasant like the last several things. I especially hope I only have to experience the UK driving test once...being the first time.

What other firsts can you think of that I may or may not have experienced in the UK? Post in the comments, because I like to read them, and they usually make me happy! Let's keep it clean...relatively.

How Writers Do It: Where Stories Come From

This is the last blog in the How Writers Do It series. I know what you're thinking, "NOOOOO, it can't possibly be the last one!" Well, I'm afraid to tell you that I do not lie (well, maybe sometimes I do, but that's only when it's required in a board game...or is it?). I've enjoyed taking Cory Jackson's enlightening questions, reading the awesome Writing Down to the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, and discussing those questions in the context of the book here on my blog. I hope to do another of these sometime in the future, because I've learned a ton of stuff about myself as a writer and a person in general. I hope you've gotten something out of it to.

So, for the last question of the series, we're talking about where stories come from. Fun times.

From the time you get an idea for a novel to the day you first put your fingers to the keyboard, how does the story come to you?

Goldberg has an enormous amount in her book about where to find ideas in your daily life, like in the cafe or on the bus or at a wedding. It's refreshing to see that ideas might pop up from anything really. So, how does this tie in with the question? What happens after you get that tiny niggling of an idea? What do you do? How do you proceed?

For me, it always seems like a huge undertaking going from a tiny little spark to the full-blown story. It's scary enough that it's easy to decide not to keep going. "Someone else will have some similar idea sometimes, and they can just write about it," you might say. In fact, I often talk myself out of writing because of this very problem (and the AW people kick my butt threaten to shank me calmly talk me down from the ledge and into continuing) Well, that's where Goldberg has something fabulous to say.
Only, if you remove your clothes immediately and plunge into the water, it may be too cold. You'll jump out again, saying, "It's too big a task." Approach eroticism from across the shore, fully clothed, and take your time swimming across the river. If you start taking off your shirt and pants slowly as you swim, by the time you get to the other side you'll be naked--brazenly erotic, the way always wanted to be, but you won't be so frightened or embarrassed by it.
So why did I just quote something on eroticism? Because I think it fits nicely in with this idea of taking something so small that anything's a possibility really. Your idea is a tiny speck in the ocean of the whole big bad story. "Where do I go with it? What's the story? What happens? Oh this is all too much for me, I quit." But Goldberg says instead of jumping in completely naked, do things in steps, slowly, over a bit of time. Let yourself acclimate to the story.

Is this what I do? Sometimes, but I should practice this a lot more. It's easy to get scared into thinking you can't do it or your story is stupid. Interestingly, with my first novel, which I'm still working on, I didn't have this problem at first. I had an idea of a boy and a girl who'd known each other a really long time. I talked about it with my best friend who helped me come up with some little details and I wrote the first third not even thinking about where I was going with it. So, okay, that's not great either, because I eventually got stuck. BUT, the point is, I took it in small steps. I didn't have an idea at one second and just start writing it. I talked about it and thought about it. The characters became real to me in my head. THEN, while I wrote little bits, I got more comfortable and things started flowing.

I think it's like what Goldberg said. I could have jumped in naked at that moment I had the idea and realized that the task was just too big. But I didn't, I wrote a little and thought a little and talked a little and wrote a little more. Did I plot? Well, I tried. It would have helped with the whole breaking down of the story (which I also tie to the whole taking off your clothes a little at a time while crossing the river thing, if that works for you). There's all sorts of things a writer can do to help themselves get acclimated to the "big picture", and I probably don't do any of them, but I try. It's what works for you. Everyone's different.

When I get an idea, I have to think about it a lot before I can just start writing it. Other writers don't need to do this. Things just flow. So how do my fellow series bloggers deal with their stories? This is a good segue into what my fellow bloggers have to say on the topic, so go check out their blogs! I will be.

Teaser Tuesday #4: A Bit About Fred

Okay, so last week I noticed that Olivia came to the forefront of the teaser. I admit it: I love Olivia. She's always so peppy and funny and just seems to shine. But that worried me a little about Fred (my MC). So, here's a little snippet where Fred does some talkin'. Again, it's first draft and very rough. Also, I've still not figured out how to get rid of the lines in between quotation paragraphs, so it's a boring ol' quoting scheme this time. If anyone has suggestions, email me!

As always, let me know what you think (I usually dance jump up and down read and thoroughly appreciate comments. Suggestions are always welcome!!


“Well, I’m just glad you didn’t get eaten by a bear or something. Although fighting off wild animals would have been way more exciting than what I did while you were off communing with nature and you were trying your hardest to get yourself knocked up.” I pointed at Aeron and then at Liv, who both rolled their eyes at my rant. “I had the joy of filing books and updating library database records. Talk about fun.”

Actually, I had enjoyed working at the library this summer. It was relaxing, and once I got started on a job, no one bothered me. I could be in my own little world of making sure everything was ordered and in the right place, which left me with a huge sense of satisfaction.

“Anyway. I’m glad to be back in civilization where someone can cook food for me. I think I’ve eaten enough fish and cous cous to last me a lifetime. Speaking of food, I’m going to die if I don’t get an omelette,” Aeron said as he picked up the menu again.

Aeron looked over at the waitress who was gabbing to the cook about their weekend. She showed up about two seconds later ready to take our order. I didn’t need to look at the menu before I ordered a double order of hashbrowns and one waffle. Olivia made a scene of reading the menu, not finding anything low-cal, low-fat, or low-carb, and settling on a glass of 2% milk and a bowl of fresh fruit. Aeron ordered half the menu before the waitress yelled out to the cook what we wanted.

“Don’t you ever feel like trying something different, Fred? I expect Olivia to get the healthiest thing on the menu, so that’s not a surprise. But, why do you always get the same breakfast?”

“Why mess with a good thing? And, you know I don’t do eggs. They’re just...eww.” I scrunched my mouth and pinched my nose, which garnered me a chuckle from Aeron. Liv just rolled her eyes again as she sipped her coffee.

I didn’t even need to look at mine to know that it had already been filled with two creams and two sugars. Aeron had been taking care of my coffee since we’d started this breakfast tradition. I raised my eyebrows in thanks and he winked. “Like I said, you always get the same thing.” 

Driving in the UK

So, if you follow my tweets, you'll know that I recently took my driving theory test and have now started driving lessons. Why am I doing all this when I've been driving for almost 15 years now? Well, in the UK, you are only allowed to drive on an American license for a year before having to get your UK license. Actually, you should start going through the hoops about 3-4 months before your American license is no longer valid, because it takes quite a bit of time to get all the tests scheduled and taken. I didn't do that, so now I'm scrambling!

Anyway, unlike my husband, I am scared out of my mind about this driving test. I wasn't as scared about the theory test, because, really, it's just memorizing a bunch of answers. But the driving test? It's like one of the hardest in the world! Since I'm so prone to freak outs about not being remotely prepared for things, I've started my driving lessons about a month before my test. Now, if you've never driven a day in your life, you'd probably need more than a month. But, I already know how to drive a manual, so it is all about getting rid of "bad" habits.

I thought this would be relatively easy in the whole scheme of things. I mean, I'm not trying to learn how to use a clutch and stuff, right? WRONG! Apparently I do several things wrong according to how the driving testers test you in the UK:

Handbrake Use. I only use it when I park. Apparently here, you should use it when you're stopped for any amount of time longer than you having to inch out to go forward, like at stop lights and stop signs and when giving way (yielding) to other cars. This is a difficult "bad" habit to break, because it's hard for me to switch my brain to the handbrake.
Clutch Use at Stops. I was taught to not use the engine to brake at a stop (unlike on a hill, when you should downshift instead of overheating your brakes), because it wears on the engine which is much more expensive to fix than the brakes. Here, you should use the engine to brake so you retain control over the vehicle. This annoys me beyond belief, and my dad actually did some internet searches about this. There seem to be arguments on both sides of this. However, I find it very intriguing that there also seem to be a lot of Brits having to replace the clutch before 100k miles on their car. Now, I'm not sure how normal this is in general, but I KNOW that if we ever had to change the clutch out on my first car (which happened to be our family car for 14 years), it was not before 100k miles.
Clutch use around corners. I tend to downshift before a turn, then come off the clutch and give it gas as I go around a corner. This is a no no, and one I plan to try and remedy. You should already be in the lower gear before you go around the corner.
Hand placement on steering wheel. It's just like the US-10 and 2. However, who on earth doesn't cross their hands while driving around corners? Really??? So, yeah, obviously I need to work on this.

I learned all this in my first driving lesson. And, seriously, even though I have no problem driving here and have driven a decent amount since moving here, I felt like a total new driver as soon as someone was marking how well I did! It all seemed overwhelming, like I couldn't possibly remember everything I was supposed to be doing.

If I ever say I want to be a teenager again (highly unlikely), I'll remember this. It's exactly how I imagine I felt when I was 15 and learning how to drive for the first time. Whew!!

How Writers Do It: Deepening Your Characters

This is the third week of the awesome Corrine Jackson's series on "How Writers Do It." Honestly, I'm kind of at a loss on this week's discussion. I haven't been writing that long, and consequently don't have a lot of experience with plot development, character development, emotional development, and well, pretty much anything that ends with "development." So, it was a great time to turn to the great book Writing Down to the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. This will probably be more my response to her readings than my actual ideas on how I do things, since really, as you will see, I probably don't do them in this case. But, it's a learning process! So, here is this week's topic:

Deeping your characters: What is at the heart of a complex character?

Ha! That's a great question, Cory! It's an important question, and probably one any writer should know. Let's see what Goldberg has to say on this subject. Actually, there weren't any actual chapters devoted to character development. However, there were several bits and pieces of different chapters that I felt offered good advice on details. Details about places, things, people, psychology, etc. All of these go into a complex character, in my opinion. Here are several quotes from Goldberg and my thoughts on each.
...use original detail in your writing. Life is so rich, if you can write down the real details of the way things were and are, you hardly need anything else.
The chapter this came from was one on details in general. She mostly talked about taking in details of things and places around you and transplanting those real details into your writing. By doing so, it causes your imagination to build on the original details, allowing itself to come up with imagined details as well. I think this is important in developing a complex character as well. We all feel and experience life in different ways, and those feelings and experiences are real. I would venture to guess that even a person with the simplest life is complex in some way. Maybe they have a turmoil of emotions that they can't deal with. Or maybe they have a secret in their past that is the basis for how they think and act now. Whatever it is, it's real. So why not use that, your own experiences and emotions, to feed your imagination for your characters to development deeper layers?
Our lives are at once ordinary and mythical. We live and die, age beautifully or full of wrinkles. We wake in the morning, buy yellow cheese, and hope we have enough money to pay for it. At the same instant we have these magnificent hearts that pump through all sorrow and al winters we are alive on the earth. We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded. This is how writers must think, this is how we must sit down with pen in hand. We were here; we are human beings; this is how we lived.
This quote was especially powerful for me, but also raised a couple of questions. First, I think Goldberg eloquently states kind of what I just discussed above, or at least I took it to mean that. We should use what we know, what we feel, who we are, and everything that makes us to pour into our characters. Goldberg goes on to talk about how it's not just us we should pay attention to, but everyone. People matter. People exist and they love and hate and feel sadness and joy in different ways. They have different backgrounds and families, schooling and friendships. We're all different. Observation and understanding are a writer's best friends. Not only should we draw on ourselves, but we should draw on others. By using the idea in the first quote (transplanting original detail) we create characters based on bits of people, allowing our creativity to open up and creates layers of our characters that we might not have known existed before we started thinking of real people.

This isn't to say that any of my characters are based on real people. They aren't. I don't know anyone exactly like Fred, Aeron, or Olivia. But I do know people who have certain qualities that each of them hold, myself included. I also know that bits and pieces of who I wish I could be are in each one of them. Some of their experiences are based on my own and those of others I've talked to. Others are based on observations with my own imagination there to fill in the motivations for their actions.

I'm not saying any of my characters are complex. In fact, sometimes I worry that they are pretty superficial. But, then I think about some conversations I've had with friends and all the introspection I've done to try and figure out why I am the way that I am, and it brings in new ideas. My characters jump out and say, "Hey! That happened to me!" And it goes into their complexity I guess. To me, characters should feel real, even if they are fantastical. There should be something real about them. When I go up and talk to someone at a party, it's never as simple as my saying "hi". There are always things going on in my head, reasons I wanted to talk to them, insecurities about having to mingle in the first place, memories about the last time I did something similar and it turned out badly. Just like people, characters should have motivations for what they do, how they feel, how they act, and those are based on everything that's happened to them before they came to the page.

Maybe none of this made since. Really, I'm not sure it even makes sense to me. So, you tell me (and the rest of us since this IS a series), what do you think is at the heart of a complex character? How do you create complex characters yourself? If you're not a writer, what makes a character "complex" when you're reading?

And don't forget to check out the other writers participating in this blog series!!

Teaser Tuesday #4: The New Ch. 1

Yay! I'm posting a teaser again. I go in spells. But, after a massive brainstorming session with my friend, Hazel, I realized that the 37k I had already written on TD were going to have to change quite a bit. I already knew this, because I committed the newbie mistake of mistakes. It was horrid in fact. I started TD with my MC waking up from a dream! *Runs and hides from the shame of it.* *Comes back with a crimson face.* Oh, but it was worse than that, my friends. That was the second version of Ch. 1. The first version was my MC IN a dream. Yes, I'm already so embarrassed, I couldn't possibly turn more red. So there it is. Version one of Ch. 1 of TD was horrid.

That brings me to this week's teaser. This little snippet is from the new (and, good grief, I hope improved) version of TD's Ch. 1. It's the cliched first day of school and Fred is meeting her best friends, Aeron and Olivia for breakfast before school starts. It's in it's craptastic first draft form. Here ya go...

Snipped...Thanks for the comments!!

I love to read your comments, so let me know what you think! They don't have to be all praising either. If you think it sucks, you can tell me. I won't bust out the tissues and sob. Okay, maybe a little, but then I'll suck it up and work on things. :-D

Note: I have no clue why this stupid quotations thing isn't working right. I'm trying to fix it. In the meantime, sorry for the massive amounts of lines!!

How Writers Do It: Getting Into the Zone

For the second part of the the lovely Cory Jackson's How Writers Do It series, I'll be discussing "Getting into the Zone". This week, I actually have the awesome Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, because it finally came in the mail. I haven't been disappointed in any way!

On to this week's question:

What goes into the creative process of writing a novel?

That's a totally general question, right? Luckily, Cory gave us some guidance. Her examples included the author's mindset and the writer's environment. So here I go.

Goldberg talks a lot--and I mean A LOT--about this very topic. In fact, I find that almost every one of her chapters has something covering our mindset as a writer and the environments where we choose to write. So what does she say? I'll take a few of excerpts from the many I've highlighted and discuss a bit after each.

In order to improve your writing, you have to practice just like any other sport. But don't be dutiful and make it into a blind routine...Don't just put in your time. That is not enough...Otherwise you are just mechanically pushing the pen across the page and intermittently looking at the clock to see if your time is up.

I've had a lot of advice from different people about how I should write a certain amount every day just to make sure I'm writing. In the same vein, I heard that you should set aside a block of time and just write. Well, I think this is good advice, but personally, it hasn't been working for the exact reasons Goldberg gives here. She goes on to say that if this is you, if you're just writing along because you told yourself you'd write for an hour, but you'd rather be doing something else, STOP WRITING. For a week or a month, whatever. It seems to be the equivalent of burnout. I found this hit especially close to home. I think I may be like this, a writer who writes in massive spurts then takes a break for a while to get the energy and excitement back up. Not everyone needs this, but I found it incredibly satisfying to know that when I feel this way, I'm not some total writing loser. Goldberg is giving me permission to keep thinking about writing, take a break for a bit, and come up refreshed!

Okay. Your kids are climbing into the cereal box. You have $1.25 left in your checking account. Your husband can't find his shoes, your car won't start, you know you have lived a life of unfulfilled dreams...you lost your favorite pen, and the cat peed on your current notebook.
Pick up another notebook, take out another pen, and just write, just write, just write...
Finally, there is no perfection. If you want to write, you have to cut through and write. There is no perfect atmosphere, notebook, pen, or desk, so train yourself to be flexible.

I laughed quite a bit when I read this. Then I stepped back and was sobered by how true this rings for me, especially recently. For a while, I had the symptoms of the burnout discussed above. But now, I have this story simmering in my head, permeating my body until I have to talk about it all the time. Am I writing? No, not really. Why? Because I have a 1,001 things to do and life sucks and I'm hungry and there's this great TV show on and I don't have anywhere to write and and and... None of those excuses matter. What matters is that there's this creative energy bursting to get out of me, and it's not going to rest until I cut the crap and make myself sit down somewhere--anywhere--and get it down.

I don't need the perfect room or a kitchen table that doesn't wobble when you walk near it or chairs that aren't close to busting every time I sit down. I just need a plug, some headphones to block out the husband's video games, and maybe a cup of tea. Tea helps me think. And, you know what? I love that Goldberg has given me all this freedom! Or maybe it's that she's given me the permission I thought I needed to not confine myself to what I was told I should be doing. Maybe I can find what works for me. Maybe if I feel like writing in bed one day and on the couch the other (which is exactly what I end up doing, by the way), it's okay, as long as I can write.

And, I totally forgot that you can visit Cory's blog and comment to win a book!!! Plus, don't forget this:

Check out the other writers participating in this blog series!!

Fantastic Book Giveaway Contest

As you know well, I like books. So, lucky me, there are so many generous bloggers out there willing to do book giveaway contests. And, since there's an amazing one going on right now, I thought I'd bring your attention to Elana Johnson's contest! She's celebrating having a how hoard of followers by giving away books!! Oh, and that's not all! She's giving away SIGNED (and personalized!) by their authors. Sweet!!! So, get on over to her blog to enter!!

New Blog Layout

As you can see, I have a shiny new blog layout!! After seeing Vero's amazing layout on her blog, I decided to waste fill the day searching for blog layouts and trying to apply just the right one! I found a couple others, but they didn't fit the bill. Then I stumbled upon this one. At first, the title was boring, but then Vero snazzed it up for me and created the one that's there now! She also helped me figure out how to do cool things with blocked quotes and the page links. Basically, what I'm saying is Vero is awesome! You should check out her blog to see just how talented she is.

What do you think of the new layout? Am I missing something you think I should have? Is it easier or harder to navigate than the last one? Any other thoughts?

How Writers Do It: Writing as Art?

Howdy! You might be asking yourself why on a Thursday I am not being thankful. Well, I am, BUT even better than that, I'm taking part in a month-long blog series on "How Writers Do It: A Writing Process Series". Each Thursday in March nine writers will each read a separate book on the writing process and discuss a prompt within the context of the book they've chosen and their own writing practice. For more information about the series, check out Cory's blog post introducing it.

The books I'll be reading for this series is Writing Down to the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Naimark-Goldberg*

So, without further ado, here is the prompt for today:

Writers as artists: How do you define yourself as a writer? Are genre writers artists?

I'll admit that I was quite intimidated by this question. For one, even though I've done artsy things in the past (i.e., singing and acting), I've never really considered myself an artist. I tend to reserve the word "artist" for those few brilliantly creative people who paint or sculpt. But really, what is an artist? Merriam-Webster defines an artist (in the context of this post) as "one who professes and practices an imaginative art" or "a person skilled in one of the fine arts." I also looked up what forms of art are considered to be a fine art, and creative writing was included in the list.

So, is writing an art? According to the definition above, yes! Still, do I define myself that way? I guess I should. When I think more about, I continue to compare writing with something I've been more familiar with in the past: painting and sculpture**. What these artists do is take some plain--a canvas or piece of clay--and turn it into a glimpse into a world or a single point in time or person with a mysterious glint in his or her eye, anything their imagination takes them, really. As the viewer, we look at these paintings and sculpture and wonder. These works of art allow our imagination to go beyond that of the original artist to make the scene or the expression on a scultpure's face our own. We wonder what was going on in Saint Teresa's mind--what is it that she sees?--when she's in extreme ecstasy? What is the man whispering to the girl with the wineglass that makes her smile like she does? What I just did there was attempt to create a story surrounding these glimpses in time. Not only has the artist succeeded in sent his imagination into the physical realm, but he pulled me, as the viewer, into the world and encouraged me to make it my own in my mind.

So, isn't that what writers do? I think so. We, as writers, take the ideas in our heads and physically manifest into a worlds and characters and time periods through our words. Our paper (or computer monitors as is usually the case now) are our media, but the effects are the same. Maybe even more powerful in some cases, especially when we are able to create characters that readers can identify with and feel connected to in some way. I know as a reader I often feel incredible grief after having spent a long time with a particular character and then have to leave. It's like losing a good friend. How is a person's ability to bring out such emotion in another person purely through their use of words and imagination not art?

That leads me to the next question posed above. What about genre writers? Are they artists too? Well, yes. Why wouldn't they be? Landscape artists tend to paint landscapes, but the effects are generally the same. They bring out emotion and imagination in others. In the same way, a romance writer creates worlds and characters that bring out emotions in us as the reader. A mystery writers pulls us into the solving of the mystery. And, YA writers, like me, pull teens into a world with characters they can hopefully relate to or remind those of us past the teen years what it was like to be so embroiled in the overwhelming wave of emotions of teenagedom.

Although writing might not be visual, in that it doesn't show you what a world looks like or depict the character for you, it describes it. Sometimes I think this might be better than a painting for me, because it forces me to really build the look of the world or the character in my head. In fact, I often feel disappointed when I have this idea formed and I see another person's physical representation of what a character looks like. I know that happens all the time (The initial controversy over RPattz portraying Edward in Twilight, anyone? Yes, I went there. So sue me.).

As writers--and artists--we take something incredibly personal to ourselves. As Naimark-Goldberg says, "Writing is a path to meet ourselves and become intimate." In doing so, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to complete strangers, offering up that part of ourselves that we dared to put on paper. I think in every case, a person's writing is reflective of that person in some way. It may be small. Obviously, I don't think a writers who writes about a psycho killer is one themselves, but something in that story will reflect something about the author. And in the end, our readers either connect or they don't. It either effects them or it doesn't. They like it or they don't. But what we've done is set the stage, so to speak, for our readers to take what we've put to paper and make it personal for themselves.

That is what I consider to be art.

I guess by my own discussion, I should consider myself an artist. Right? I don't know why it's so hard for me to so. Maybe it's the scientist in me hammering away that I'm a scientist not an artist! But whatever it is, it's a growing process. I didn't choose to write to make money or get popular or have tons of praise. I started writing because I had something to say, something that wouldn't leave me alone until I got it down on paper. If no one but me ever sees it, it's art to me. It affects me. I hope some day it will have some meaning for others as well, even if it's just to pull them away from reality for a little while. For the time being, I'm content to put my ideas to paper and build a world where I get lost with characters I love or hate or love to hate. After all, in doing all this, I'm growing and learning about myself. And if nothing else, that is a good thing.

What is your take on today's topic? Do you think writing is art? I'm always curious to hear from others!

Also, if you read Cory's post for today and comment, she's running a contest this whole month (one per week). You could win a book on writing! And, don't forget to check out the other seven writers (see bottom of the post for links) participating in this series and comment on their posts. I'm sure they love hearing from you as much as I do!! I definitely plan to get over there and read what they (and the authors of their selected books) think about writing as art.

Check out the other writers participating in this blog series!!

* I ordered the book last week, and it still hasn't come. So, I've managed to read a small amount which was available on a preview. I will update this post when I read the chapter on art and writing after the book gets here.

** I do not profess to be able to paint or sculpt. I can't nor do I want to. It just fascinates me and gives me an extreme pleasure when I contemplate it and spend time just immersed in the world of it.

Thankful Thursday #4

Back in November, our dishwasher stopped washing on one setting--the half load setting that we usually use. It wasn't such a big deal when we could just load the full dishwasher and run the full load. However, just before Christmas, the whole thing stopped working. Talk about perfect timing. It definitely made cleaning up after Christmas dinner loads of fun for everyone.

This actually shouldn't have been that painful for me. After all, I didn't have a dishwasher the entire time I was in Colorado (5 years). But I'd managed to get used to the convenience in the 9 months we've lived in our apartment. It also was cause for several mini-arguments on who had to do the dishes. Being the manipulative incredibly intelligent lazy person that I am, I came up with the idea of "I cook, you clean." It worked beautifully, until he cooked. Then I had to clean. Bleh.

I finally got around to contacting the landlady who immediately contacted a repair-person. This process took a while, but I'm pleased to say we've washed several loads of dishes thus far. All it took was a new circuit board.

So, today, I'm thankful for my dishwasher, which keeps me from scalding myself on the ridiculous water system here. Also, it keeps me from having to touch the icky old food. I like to leave that job to the hubby. :-D

Teaser Tuesday #3: Grasping at Straws

I've been bogged down with basically nothing for a month now. That is to say, I've not really been able to write. I add a couple of words here and there, but nothing seems to flow. Then, about a week ago, the characters from my old WIP started coming back in my mind. I started seeing scenes in my head with them, and got a little excited. Since then, I've tried to rewrite some things in that novel. Here is one scene. It's not all that great, and it doesn't really say too much, but it's something I added. I decided to change some relationships around, etc. This is me trying to do that. :)

In this scene, we meet Cassandra Barret (well, she showed up in the previous scene, but we didn't actually meet her). And, we also find out why Fred is called Fred...and possibly how she got her full name. ;)
As usual, it's rough.

Snipped. Thanks for the comments, guys!!!

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

It's a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?

Why did I just sing Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood on this blog? Well, because it makes me happy just like the show did all those years back. You know what else makes me happy?? My friends!!!

One awesome friend, Stephanie, just gave me a blog award for my sunshininess (did I just make that word up???). Apparently, she was smoking something really good, because she does actually talk to me and still thinks I should get the Sunshine Award. Go figure. Maybe it was because I told her the sun was shining here today. Or, more probably, I have the word "Sun" in title of my blog. Yeah, that's it.

But seriously, I get to pass this award on to other deserving bloggers. Who you might ask? Well, I'll tell you:

Courtney - My best friend! Need I say more? No, but I will. We've been friends since college, and she's pretty much the only one I talk to regularly. She knows me better than anyone else (other than maybe my hubby), and she makes me laugh. A lot! Also, when I'm not laughing, she listens to me gripe and almost always agrees with me even when I know she totally doesn't (I'm on to you, C!)

Krista - Her stories make me smile and laugh (especially Rafe, who just cracks me up), and she's just awesome. She also has a gorgeous smile that seems to be contagious! Plus, I think we were separated at birth or something, because we're so much alike it's scary. So, if I'm sunny, so is she!

Amy - Every time I used to call Amy, I'd smile. I mean, her voicemail is just so cute--"Hello everyone..."-- and so welcoming. How could you not smile? Her blog also features hairless cats, which would make anyone laugh, but I've met at least one of them in person, and they are awesome! Also, her husband is probably the funniest person I know, and his pictures are on the blog, which makes me think of jokes he's told, and that makes me laugh. Obviously, Amy's blog is full of sunshine.

So, ladies...go forth and spread the love, erm...I mean, Light!

Wine and Cheese with a Side of Estrogen

Friday was good. Actually, it was fantastic. For the first time in quite a while, I actually left my apartment for a girls-only wine and cheese party hosted by my good friend, Hazel, and her roommates. Having grown up with mostly male friends, I've never really been one for the chick parties. In fact, I joked around with Hazel that I expected all the estrogen* in the room to cause sobbing in the first 15 minutes followed by fits of laughter followed by a cat fight over clothes, guys, or guys in clothes. I was only half-way serious.

For the record, there was no crying as far as I know, but there were fits of wine-induced laughter. Also, I think I only witnessed one fight, but that was literally with the cat, Tuesday, guarding her stairs. She doesn't like it when you invade her territory, especially when you've got on a kick-ass outfit that makes her feel inferior. No, really, no fights at all. Tuesday was secure in her cathood, so there was no need.

When I got to Hazel's house, I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I definitely wasn't expecting so much cheese! I know I should have, considering it was a wine and cheese party and all, but really, there were crazy amounts of cheese that just beckoned to my waist line like Snow White's witch and her apple. I succumbed. Fortunately, the only sleep-inducing effects of the evening came from all the wine--wine that I hadn't touched in the last three weeks.

At some point, my feet hurt from standing, so I led the charge into the living room where we were greeted with Kevin Bacon doing weird dancing combined with gymnastics moves in a random factory that strangely had a high bar in the epic 80s film, Footloose! Oh, it was excellent, and started us down the path of other 80s music. And, guess what! I wasn't the only American, the conversation consisted of more than just me saying, "Oh my god, have you seen Sixteen Candles" followed by "...um...no...what is that?" Instead, both of us asked those questions and were met with the same responses. It was great fun.

Oh, and since I'm a writer, this post would not be complete without me talking about writing--or, rather, the fact that I didn't talk about writing the entire night! Really. I do not jest. As much as I wanted to, I knew that I would get met with the same glossy-eyed stares that usually come from my talking about random stuff no one cares about. So I kept my mouth shut this time. But next time, people, no guarantees. I will most probably kill the party with my writing talk. You are forewarned... :-D


* Google informs me that I have misspelled Estrogen. It says I should spell it Oestrogen, because I have my British dictionary on. So, just in case you don't know what estrogen is, just think "oestrogen", and you'll be fine. Also, Google thinks I've misspelled Google, but when I try to look up the appropriate spelling, it's not in the dictionary. Go figure.

Photo Friday: Massive LINGER Giveaway!

Linger Cover LargeIn Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other.  Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack.  And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.

Comes out in stores everywhere July 20th. Pre-order here.

Enter to win an advanced review copies of LINGER, Sisters Red, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Replacement on Maggie's blog.

WW: What in the World Am I Doing?

I ask myself this question just about every day, sometimes more than once. I don't always ask this about my writing. It could be anything, really. But, I do question my writing more than anything else.

Usually this question takes on a bitter, self-degrading tone: what in the world do I think I'm doing?? It usually follows a period of sitting at the computer writing utter crap. Or reading other people's writing and wondering how on earth I can think I'm a writer when I feel so subpar to everyone else. Mostly, I just think I'm posing at this little thing called writing, and after a while, someone will figure out that I'm really NOT a writer and call me on it.

Is this normal? I don't know. But, thinking more on this, I realized that I feel this way about a lot of things I do, especially things that are particularly important to me. I have a PhD and I like to think I'm good at what I do in my day job. Even still, I just KNOW someone will find out one day that I'm just posing at what I do and am not actually any good at it.

It's that niggling doubt in the back of my head, that devil on my shoulder, that says, "You're just not good enough." Sometimes, I just need to angel to pop up, slug the devil off my shoulder for a while, and whisper sweet confidence for long enough to get me back on track. That angel often presents itself in the form of my writer and non-writer friends, my husband, and my family. Even still, I only really overcome that festering thought when I push it away, ignoring it for a time.

I don't think I'll ever feel completely confident in anything I do. I've always been this way. Even when I was young and competed in choir or worked my butt off to do well in school. I always felt like I was pretending at being a musician or a good student. But just like I succeeded in those choir competitions and I got good grades in school, I know, deep down, that I AM a writer. I may not be a great one or an extremely successful one, but I AM a writer.

Do you ever feel this way about yourself? Even if you don't write fiction, do you ever get like this in other things you do? Or is it just me? :-D

Music Monday: Am I Just a Depressed Person??

Having joined a community of writers, there's always lots of talk about "playlists". Some of my writer friends take  a lot of time putting together groups of songs for writing certain scenes, inspiring voice in characters, and representing the novel in it's entirety. I even posted about a song inspiring a whole scene/idea and I have a playlist of sorts.

But, I found that I didn't really plan the songs that went into the list. It turned out that I tended to listen to specific songs while writing and skipped over the others. After a little while, I moved those songs to a list and have added others over time after hearing them.

So what does my playlist sound like? In a word: Depressing. I could make an excuse and say it's that way because my book is so full of sad emotion, confusion, and anger. But, no. Really, I just flat out like the music. When I look at my big playlist (not just for writing), I notice how incredibly depressing most of the songs are! Sure, there's the occasional happy, upbeat song.

Thinking on it now, I think this is genetic. No, really. My dad loves a particular song about some guy drowning (either physically or metaphorically, I don't know). I like the same song! We both know how utterly depressing the words are, but it doesn't make us dislike the song. In fact, I think it makes me like it more. My mom thinks we're both a little nuts. I'll agree.

So, what about you? What do your playlists look like? Do they tend to have a lot of the same songs from novel to novel or are they completely dependent on what you're writing? What about your overall listening preferences? Is there a wide mix of music, or do you find a lot of the songs following a similar theme?

Fun Nights that End in Bad Next Days

AKA Burn's Night

Burn's night was actually 2 weeks or so ago, and I had planned to post about it earlier, but it took me this long to confront the aftermath of such a fun night.

My husband is of Scottish decent; his father is from Scotland (really cool accent and everything!). We weren't actually planning to do all that much for Burn's Night, but my father-in-law happened to be in the UK (he actually resides in the US, so this was a really cool thing) and came to visit us for the evening! Add to that a friend from the hubby's work and his girlfriend and it equalled a grand mini dinner party!!

Niall even cooked for us: Haggis, Nips (pronounced: neeps!), and tatties. YUM! Actually, I was less than enthusiastic about the haggis, having only really had it in the US where it just tastes like liver. Apparently, that's because in the US, they can't add all the wonderful yummy goodness (i.e., all the really disgusting parts of the animal no one would ever actually contemplate eating), so they substitute all that for liver. Ew! I hate liver, so I thought I hated haggis. NOT TRUE!! This haggis was really tasty. I even had seconds.

(From left to right: Nips, Tatties, Haggis)

The food was set off by dudes in kilts!

And father-in-laws reading poetry!
And Scotch! (Oooohhhh...darn you Scotch!)

And, word to the wise, if you're ever thinking of drinking wine, Scotch, and ale all in one night, DON'T DO IT! Trust me on this. It's why it took me so long to post this. In fact, looking at this bottle of Scotch is making a break out in a cold sweat...

We interrupt this Thursday...

...for a FOOD UPDATE!!

Yeah, so I'm totally not keeping to my blogging schedule. What's new? It was good while it lasted. I've had other things to do like working, beta reading, writing, and reading other books. I realize those all make for poor excuses, but since the schedule is totally off, why not have a random post about good scrumdiddlyumminess (Hmmm...that just came out, and I think it like it!)??

I felt particularly culinary last week--moreso than I normally do. In fact, I even used recipes to cook! Now, maybe this isn't so much of a shocker, but since moving to the UK, I've had a tendency to make ready meals, the kind that aren't yet cooked, but have everything thrown together already. While they are quite tasty, they tend to get a bit monotonous. I was just about to get completely bored in my food, when fate stepped in. The store where we shop had some specials on meat, forcing me to find recipes using those meats, because really, how could I pass up a deal?!

What did I make with said on-sale meat?

Yummalicious Sour Cream Enchiladas (Amanda's Modified Recipe)

I've made beef stew before, although it was several years ago. I would probably make it more, but I'm pretty picky about my stew, and none of the recipes I found over the years really screamed to me, until this one. Seriously, it's some of the best stew I've ever had, and the the husband asked me to make it again this week (not even a week after I made it the first time!). I had no problem eating it for lunch for three days in a row either. THAT'S how good it is. Try it!! (Several Notes: You might have to use corn starch at the very end if it doesn't thicken. I think it'll depend on the type of potato you use. Also, definitely make sure to scrape off the fat...there's a lot! It can get really salty, too, so don't use too much salt up front. Oh! And, I substituted 2 cups of broth for red wine. It was perfect.)

Speaking of fat. Did you see those enchiladas?!?! Amanda's a genius! She links to the original recipe, but I definitely think her additions make the overall flavor so much better than it would have been. Don't eat this to be on a diet, but the nice thing is, half and enchilada will fill you up. Well, at least that's what happened to me! Now, we're eating it for lunch. It makes excellent leftovers! I'll be making this again after a while. It's definitely worthy of my precious cans of Ro*Tel (I only have TWO LEFT!!!).

So yeah. Those are examples of what I've been doing, among many many other things. If you try the recipes, let me know how you liked them. If you change them up (like I have a tendency to do) what did you do?

Thankful Thursday #3 - Tomatoes & Green Chiles

Oh, yes, my friends. I am dedicating this Thursday's thankfulness to the four wonderfully spicy cans of tomatoes and green chiles that sit in my cupboard. "Why?" you might ask. Well, I'll tell you.

They rock my world!!

The yummy tomato-y goodness mixed with the peppery spice of the chile is making my mouth water as I type. In fact, I really want to get up, open every can and make myself some Mexican rice and salsa. But I won't. No, I will restrain myself, because I live in England, a place where the only way for me to get tomatoes with green chiles* (or green chiles at all, for that matter) is an importer or friends and family.

So, I will not give into the temptation to eat them right away. I will ration them, keeping them safe in the cupboard until I absolutely cannot stand it any more. Only then will I give into temptation.

Maybe I should also be thankful for my restraint. :-)

*No, I'm not talking about what people here call "green chiles", which apparently are any number of chiles that happen to be green. I am talking about these (in no specific brand)...and if you know where to get them that won't cost me a fortune or a plane ride, please comment or email me!

Photo Friday: I Wish I Was Here

St. Peter's Basilica - Rome, Italy (Click the picture for the full size)

Cough, cough--Groan--Oh my back!

The past two weeks have shown me something: I'm not getting any younger.

It's not that I'm all that old, but time seems to have gone somewhere. I'm writing a YA novel with the main character being a 16 year old girl. I find myself looking back on when I was 16, trying to pull from my experiences. It'd hard, because, you  know, that was AGES ago it seems!

Actually, I can't believe how long it's been. But, over the last couple of weeks, I got sick, got a little better, got much worse, and thought I was about to die. Yeah. A stupid cold that might have made me feel a little bad in the past, but never would have gotten me out of school (my mom was one of those moms that made me go to school unless I was bleeding to death or had a 115 degree fever), had me laid up in bed for almost 2 weeks.

It reminded me of the week my parents went to Israel, and I got stuck with the colon infection. Yes, that IS as  bad as it sounds, but it got me out of school for a week.

That memory led to others, and pretty soon, I was lost in Memoryland, replaying all the heartache and angst, boycraziness and dork moment that I had when I was growing up. Actually, it was pretty useful to my book. 

At the same time, it just made me feel old. Then I sat on the couch, watched my husband playing video games, and reminded myself that if he could act like a zit-riddled teenage dork then so can I!! Is that a good thing? ;-)

Thankful Thursday #2 - Absolute Write

I've mentioned Absolute Write several times on this blog now. This one is adding to the others. I actually had another post set up for today, but I'm postponing that one. I've been having a lot of trouble writing lately. I could blame it on the holidays, but really, that wasn't it at all. I think I have this thing called fear. I'm not afraid to write, and I'm not even afraid to share my stuff. I think I'm afraid that when it comes down to it, I'm going to completely suck at it.

It's not a new thing with me. I have what I like to call "poser syndrome". I don't know that I'll ever feel I'm good at something, whether it's academics, singing, writing, or whatever. I'll always feel like a poser. And, I definitely feel like that with writing.

All this is to say what I'm thankful for today: my AW friends!!!

It doesn't matter how down I feel, I know they will smack me for being stupid--in the nicest virtual way possible of course, right Steph?? ;) --and pick me back up to keep writing. I know they'll give me honest feedback on my stuff, so I don't have to worry that I really do suck and people are just being nice. (And yes, I would definitely think that.) They'll tell me things like, "I look at it this way: writing styles are like fingerprints--no two are exactly the same," when I read things and feel like I'll never be as good as the other writers (THANKS BECCA!!!)

Anyway, I'm incredibly lucky to have found such a wonderful group over at AW (most of them in OPWFT - Old People Writing For Teens), and I can't really be thankful enough. :)

Note: Check out the blogroll on my sidebar to see lots of awesome blogs from my AW pals. k?

Speaking of AW pals, go check out Race's blog and win a copy of The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard! No, really...go there NOW!

Teaser Tuesday #2

This every other week schedule seems to be working out quite well. The past couple of weeks have been pretty productive in terms of writing--maybe not as productive as for some others, but for me, it's a good start. I found myself having to go back in and add my new favorite character, Hailey, into the beginning of the story. It's amazing to me how much this random character has influenced so much of the story so far.

So, today, I'm teasing a snip from a scene with Hailey. The girls are helping to build a house for a family in need. It's lunchtime, so they've headed out back to eat with the other volunteers.

As usual, this is the first draft and completely unedited. I'll take the snip down sometime this week.

Thanks for the comment, guys!!

My Year in Review

I saw a lot of posts around the New Year recapping people's past year's experiences. I didn't jump on the bandwagon then, but today I'm feeling nostalgic. Maybe it's because the hubs and I are celebrating our first year wedding anniversary today or maybe it's just because I've been thinking a lot about where the time goes. It does seem to fly by.

This time last year, I was still sleeping (it's 5:30 am in Colorado while I write this), but I was about to wake up to a full day of pampering and pictures followed by the best commitment I've  ever made in my life. It seems surreal that it was a year ago. It seems like yesterday, and at the same time, it feels like it was so long ago.

Lot's of things feel that way. Shortly thereafter, I had to begin filling out visa application forms and packing to move my stuff to Texas. The hubs had to return to England right after the wedding, so I had a lot time by myself.

Then I moved to Texas for around a month. It was nice being with my parents again, and it was hard to leave. But then I flew to England and have been here almost a year now. Even time here seems to fly. I work out of my apartment, and sometimes I wonder how it became Friday when it seems like the day before should have been a Monday.

Before moving here I was so concerned that things would be hard. Maybe I wouldn't make friends easily or I'd be depressed because I was so far from my family. But my awesome hubs and the great people we've met here had all that taken care of. I have fantastic friends and never feel bored.

After I defended my dissertation last May, a book idea popped into my head, so I sat down to try and write. It quickly became apparent that I didn't know what I was doing, so I sought out an internet community that might offer some clues on how to write. That's when I found Absolute Write. I can't say enough how amazing the community is there and how helpful the people are, especially my new friends on the OPWFT (Old People Writing for Teens) board. Through the lovely ladies (and some dudes, too), I feel connected to the outside world even when I pull back and stay in my apartment.

When the hubs goes on field studies, I know I can't hang out with my British friends everyday, but I can always count on my OPWFT friends to be online, keeping me from being lonely.

Since getting married and moving to England, I've seen some wonderful sites (e.g. Scotland, Yorkshire, the Lake District, and Rome), but I always find myself wanting to come back home. I always feel the need for that connection to those people I feel such a kinship with. In all honesty, I'm not sure what state I'd be in right now if it weren't for my friends and family supporting me.

Photo Friday: My Mood Today

Note: Yes, I'm dressed as an evil faery, which just adds to the whole tone of my mood right now. Also, the horns are real. Yes, they come out when I get like this. You have been forewarned.

Writing Wednesday: When Characters Invade

About a month ago, I sat down to write a certain scene in my WIP. I had it all planned out it my head, where it would go, what would happen. And then Hailey showed up. She wasn't even a blip on my radar until she started flowing from my fingers. Now, she's become such a favorite character of mine--and a huge part of the story as well--that I've had to go back and fill in other scenes where she shows up.

This was the first time I've had the experience of a character invasion. I was a little annoyed at first. I mean, why couldn't my characters behave like I wanted them to? Slowly, I came to realize that this was for the best. The story was missing something, someone to help the MC grow. It just happens that maybe Hailey pushed her way into the story for that reason.

Now, I'm excited to write more with her in it. I'm also a little scared that I've been neglecting my other characters, or maybe they are all in hiding at the moment. None of them seem to be pecking at my head much.

Seeing as this is the second fiction piece I've started in my adult life (the other being on hold because of some major plot issues), most all experiences I have are new. I expect many writers have this happen. If you're a writer, have you had this happen to you? If so, how did you handle it? Did you ignore the character or let him/her flow to life on the page? How did it change your story?

Note: If you're a non-writer friend reading this, I may sound a little insane. I mean, characters talking to my in my head? Well, if you know me, you already know I'm insane and this shouldn't bother you, right?!?! No, really. Apparently, this all perfectly normal, or so all my writer friends who also have characters talking to them tell me. ;-)

Music Monday: Inspiring Scenes

So, I listen to music using this really cool program (that was free when I joined, but isn't free anymore) called Spotify. It's pretty sweet, because it's streaming, free for me (and I hope it stays that way), and allows you to make playlists like on iTunes but with streaming music.

Anyway, through Spotify, I found this list of sad songs. You might be asking me now why I wanted sad songs. And the answer is simple: my story is kind of depressing at the moment. To the get into the mood of things, I needed to have sad music. And, there's definitely some sad music.

But one of the songs stands out above the rest. I'd heard it before, but it wasn't until last night that I really listened to the words. Said song is "Drawn from Memory" by Embrace.

I've posted previously about my attraction to both music and lyrics. This is a case of both. But, it was the lyrics that ended up inspiring an idea for my WIP (for you non-writers, that means Work In Progress). I won't tell you what the idea is, but when I told my crit partner about it, she thought it was good. So, here are some of the lyrics that inspired the idea. I hope you go find this song and listen to it, too.

Drawn From Memory by Embrace (selected lyrics)

So innocent that sweet look in your eyes
No hate nor fear could open
You blessed a part of me
Without knowing

And it strikes me that I could cry
And the thought of me crying
Will start me laughing
You blessed a part of me
Without lying

P.S. Spotify is also great, because it gets me so freakin' addicted to particular songs that I have to go buy them so I can listen to them away from my computer. :-) Crappy on the wallet, but great for the ears.

Ay Caramba! Recipes!

If you read my post on 31 December, you might notice that this is not, in fact, a book review or author interview. No. I changed my mind, because really? Did anyone expect me to actually keep to my original schedule? If you did, I'm sorry. But, well, I've decided that since I do book reviews on my GoodReads page, I could do something different on my blog. And, that's exactly what I'm going to do. I've updated that original post to reflect these changes.

I'm embracing my inner laid-back person (ha!) and assigning Saturday as another random post day, because, really, why do we have to plan so much?

On to the actual post!

I am a Mexican food addict. There. I said it. Unfortunately, I live in the UK*. You'd think that with the advent of, I dunno, trade, one would be able to find decent Mexican food here. But, after the first couple of tries, I had all but given up. We then found a restaurant in the mall that is passable (actually, it's quite good, and it's not even a Mexican restaurant!). But, we don't have a car, making travel to the mall pretty difficult.

During the summer, we got desperate and decided to make our own enchiladas. I was pleased with the results, but they still didn't taste like they do in a restaurant. We're still attempting different recipes for enchiladas.

Last night, I got a craving for something even remotely Mexican, so I made burritos using a recipe found in a British cookbook. I had tried this recipe out on my parents when they were here over Christmas, and it was really good! So, I made them again, tweaking the recipe slightly based on my mom's suggestions. (Yay, mom!)

But, one cannot live on burritos alone. No, we needed some rice, I decided. But, I didn't like the recipes I found online, mainly because I didn't have a lot the ingredients, and I was too lazy/cheap to go get them. So, instead, I made up a recipe! *Pats self on the back* It. Was. Good. The hubster even noted that he thought it was better that some he'd had at restaurants**.

As an afterthought, I felt we needed something green in our diet and happened to have a package of fresh spinach. I LOVE cooking fresh spinach, so I almost always have some on hand. Tweaking my usual cooking style just a bit, I made some pretty yummy spinach.

Without further ado, here are the recipes!

Bean and Cheese Burritos
1 can Refried Beans
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp oil
1 jar Chunky Salsa (mild or hot)
Shredded Cheese (I use a spicy Mexican cheese)
8 Flour Tortillas
Cilantro, chopped (Coriander, for you Brits)

Saute onion in the oil until soft. Mix half the sauteed onions with the beans in a small saucepan and cook over low heat.

When beans are hot, heat a large frying pan (sprayed or oiled to keep from sticking) over medium heat. Place one tortilla in the pan for several second, then turn to get the tortilla pliable. Transfer to a plate, and put a dollop of beans, followed by onions and cheese. Top with salsa and cilantro. Wrap tightly.

Repeat until all burritos are made. Place burritos in already-hot frying pan and cook until golden brown. Flip until the other side is golden brown. And, enjoy!

Mexican Rice (serves about 4)
1 small onion, diced
1 T oil
1 cup Long Grain White Rice
1 can Ro*tel (or Tomatoes and green chiles), drained, juices reserved
1 cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock
1 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Mild Chile Powder
1 tsp Garlic Powder
Salt to taste

Sauté  onion over medium heat until soft and golden. Add uncooked rice and continue cooking until rice turns slightly golden (only a couple of minutes), mixing constantly to keep rice from burning. Transfer to a medium saucepan. Add drained tomatoes and mix well. Add all liquids (reserved juices and stock) along with the spices. Note: I used my hand to measure the spices, so these are an estimate. Use as much or little as you'd like.

Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes until rice is done.

Yummy Wilted Spinach
1 Bag Fresh Spinach
Garlic Powder

Add spinach one handful at a time to a non-stick frying pan. When about half the spinach is starting to wilt, season with the spices (to your taste). Take off heat just as all spinach has finish wilting. (If you overcook the spinach, it tastes fine, but the texture isn't the same.)

*I realize that sounds mean. I love the UK, actually. We may be planning to stay a bit longer, in fact. But, really? You have to admit. The selection of GOOD Mexican food (i.e., salsa not made with ketchup as the lead ingredient) is few and far between.

**Yeah, yeah. He married me, so he has an obligation to tell me my food is good. But, really. I'm honest with myself. I've had some real disasters (*remembers steamed fish* ewwwwwwww...), and I can admit when my stuff tastes like cow manure. :-D

This is Dedicated to the One I Love

This post starts my bi-weekly thankfulness post. Like I said before, I tend to rant quite a bit, and never really stop to think about how good I really have it. So, that's what every other Thursday is for. I'll pick at least one thing (and there are tons of things to choose from!) and write a little about it and why I am so thankful.

To start of the first post, it's only fitting that I dedicate this post to my hubby. I can't even begin to convey how thankful and blessed I am to have him. I've posted about him before and will probably post about him again, because, well, he's just awesome!

Today, I had some bad news concerning a paper I wrote that got rejected. I was pretty down, but he picked me back up again by reminding me that it was my first try and telling me all about his rejected papers. I know how smart he is, and it reminded me that it happens to everyone.

Last night, he made me a very yummy dinner before I could get in the kitchen to make it. It was nice, and of course, I think the food always tastes better when he makes it. :-)

Oh, and he also retucked the sheets into the bottom of the bed, because I was whining that they were loose. I'm a total freak when it comes to sheets and have to have my feet touching tightly tucked sheets. He didn't even life at me when I whined like a baby!

So, yes, I'm thankful that I was blessed with such a great, loving, funny, smart, amazing husband.

Teaser Tuesday #1

I'm going to start number my Teaser Tuesday posts so I know how many I make throughout the year. So, here is #1 of 2010. Unfortunately, I suck, and this little snippet was not written in 2010. But, I liked it and thought I'd share. It's from SoMH, which I plan to finish writing this year...

As always, it's rough and unedited.

Snippity snip snip -- Thanks for the comments you guys!

Note: I'll keep this post up until Thursday. It will come down when my post about being thankful goes up.

Another Note: Thanks go to Vero and Steph for looking at this little snippet for me and helping me get it to this point. I swear, sometimes it's like pulling teeth to get the words to flow!

I don't do resolutions...

In keeping with my new blog schedule, this is a random post. I'm now typing whatever comes to me. No, not really that random! But, I am tired, need to cook dinner, and should go wash dishes, because our dishwasher is broken. So, this may be pretty short and completely nonsensical.

Okay. Something came to me in the two seconds it took me to hit "Enter" twice.

As the first post of the New Year, I think it's only fitting to talk about my resolutions.

**Cricket chirping ensues**

And there you have it. I'm not sure when the last time I made a New Year's resolution was, but much like the inevitable failings of this blog schedule, I'm fairly certain I never kept the resolutions. Sitting here, I wonder why I'm often able to achieve goals I set for myself, but not adhere to resolutions. Maybe it's because said resolutions are not tangible or are too restrictive. Instead of striving to DO something, I would be striving NOT TO DO something.

In fitting with this reasoning, I'm going to make a New Year's GOAL:
Finish writing this darn book before 2011.

"Why have you given yourself an entire year to finish a book you've already started?" you might ask. Well, it's simple. I'm a slow writer who just got a new job (that involves a long commute) and is trying to enjoy the little time she has in Britain.

But, just like any good anal-retentive goal setter, I need small goals to underscore the larger one. Rest assured, I'll most likely have a goal schedule worked out in calendar form within the week. Then I'll send that to my crit partner who will hound me (because she's awesome like that) until I send her chapters. Much like the blog, if I can keep this up will be no small miracle.

Here's to miracles in 2010!!!

Note: Yes, this is also technically a writing post, but since it literally popped into my head while I was typing that first paragraph, I'm going to count it as random. Maybe I'll use the writing post to expand. :-)