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. :-)