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 " 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!