Thursday, 30 August 2007
The second book slowing me down is The Princes of Ireland, by Edward Rutherford. I have read several of his books and I love his writing. But I knew when I started that this one would be a challenge to finish. It is over 700 pages long, and kind of meanders through history. I am almost halfway through, but the sheer size makes this one a daunting task.
The last book slowing me down is Pride and Prejudice. I have never read any Jane Austin before because I hate being told by people that I have to read it because I am going to love it. It makes me feel like my opinion is pre-formed for me. So I resisted for years. (Yes, I can be a little stubborn.) I finally decided to catch up with the rest of the world and pick it up. Again, loving it, but the style of writing slows me down a bit, and it isn't a fast-paced page turner.
So I am determined to finish the books on my list and review them all, even if I have to pull out the speed reading skills and do an all-nighter or two. It would probably help if I would stay away from the library and only read the books on my list. (That isn't likely to happen.) So that is the update. I have eight books left on my list and within the next month I will write eight reviews. (Gotta set those goals for myself.) But I am thinking I will have to start Jeff Savage's House of Secrets before I finish the others. I hear it is a real page turner.
Wednesday, 29 August 2007
Anyway, we moved the new set into the living room and moved the old furniture out to the family room. I mentioned getting rid of one of the pieces, but my son begged me to keep it because it is so comfortable. So we started by rearranging the new furniture. It looks great, and my step-daughter even said, "It looks like a real living room now." It really does look nice, but a new problem arose. My family room was filled with furniture that needed a new home.
So today I spent the afternoon rearranging the t.v. room in the basement and having my two teenagers help me carry a love seat and two rockers downstairs. Of course, because there is more furniture, it takes more space. But we got everything organized so it looks good and we can watch a movie as a family without squeezing every family member on the same couch.
New problem. By moving more furniture into the basement, I had to dismantle the table I kept set up for doing scrapbooking. Now that table is sitting in the middle of the playroom-which is just a problem waiting to happen. Over the last few years, the scrapbooking has spread out a bit and isn't in the nice portable containers where I used to store it. So the t.v. room looks great, but the playroom is a mess with my scrapbooking stuff.
So tomorrow, I have to reorganize all the supplies back into portable containers so the babysitting kids won't be tempted to help me with the family photos. I should be able to get that done tomorrow morning, but that leaves me with my grandmother's rocking chair, that is going to have to be moved upstairs into the family room. I don't know how I will arrange that to fit.
It all makes me think of writing. I get everything arranged the way I want in a story and then I stand back and admire. When I admire I always find something that I should add to round out the story. Once I add that new plot twist or character, I end up needing to change something else so the first change makes sense. And so it snowballs, every change piling on top of the first one until I have quite the mountain of snow. Of course, it all comes to an end at some point. And just like I will get my house back in order after the addition of two simple pieces of furniture, I always get the story back in order, with the new elements fitting tightly into place.
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
Nothing. The harder I thought the less I had. So I changed tactic and put it aside entirely. When I had a moment, I sat at the computer, determined to come up with something. Still, nothing. The applesauce is almost done, and I still haven't remembered the original idea. I know it was good. I even had a few bits and pieces come back to me, but no enough to do anything with.
So what have I learned from this? Probably nothing. I lose more good ideas this way than is reasonable. It always seems that whatever I am doing requires my full attention, although it is obviously not getting it if I am coming up with ideas. So once again I resolve to write more ideas down when I get them on the notebooks I keep everywhere. And meanwhile, maybe that brilliant idea will come to me after I go to bed tonight. One things for sure, I'll be sleeping with pen in hand.
Monday, 27 August 2007
This morning I thought about the world and realized I had no idea what was going on around me. I sometimes get so caught up in being mom and wife, babysitter and church member, I forget there is a whole other world out there. Tonight I sat down to fold laundry and turned on a newscast. To be honest, I didn't feel like I had missed anything in the two months when I didn't keep up with the latest stories. There is still tragedy and disaster all around. There are still the heartwarming human interest stories.
Really, I should take more interest in the world around me. If I pay more attention, it will only help my writing as I pick up more ideas from the stories within the stories. I guess I need to find a good online news service to send me the headlines everyday. And then I actually have to read them.
Sunday, 26 August 2007
I have tackled the room before. We set up it up for an older computer that I used as a second office where I could work. That was only partially successful because the monitor turned out to be flaky. I could work maybe half an hour before the screen would fade to black and have to be shut off to cool down. So again, the room turned out to be storage for just another item we didn't use.
My husband gave me a laptop for my birthday so I could be portable and also not have to compete for computer time with the rest of the family. I spent Saturday, making a home for the laptop. I moved the old computer out of the way and cleaned off the desk. I hung up some cork board and a white board. On the other wall I hung up several certificates I have that remind me that I can have success in this crazy writing world. Written on decorative pieces of paper and stuck right in front of my nose, are quotes that inspire me to reach for the stars. This is my fovorite thing about the space. Whenever I feel discouraged, I look up and the first thing I see are these reminders not to give up.
So now, whenever I have a few minutes to myself I can escape to the clean, organized office and work in the quiet. Of course, tomorrow night, my step-daughter will use the bedroom portion of the room. That is why it is great that laptops are so portable. At least the room is clean.
Friday, 24 August 2007
Anyway, I think at our next meeting I would like to introduce the Whitney Awards. I believe because we are an LDS book club we should do something to support LDS fiction. Most of the time when I mention this, people roll their eyes and change the subject to talk about "real" writing. I hope that by encouraging them to read some current novels written by LDS authors, we might find some books to nominate for the Whitney awards and develop increased appreciation for the stories that stem from our own culture.
I have a few books that were published this year that I will recommend they read. My selection might be somewhat limited, though. If anyone has any other suggestions of the best books eligible for the Whitneys this year, I would appreciate hearing what they are. I am determined to get at least some of these ladies converted to LDS fiction and maybe even read some great stories in the process. And authors, feel free to recommend your own books :)
Thursday, 23 August 2007
This morning I went into the garden to see if any tomatoes were ripe and ended up harvesting all the beets. As this wasn't a planned part of my day, I immediately had to scratch several hours of computer time so I could preserve them. I thought I would take the easy way and freeze them, but I started thinking of pickled beets in the middle of winter and ended up pickling and canning them instead. They sure are pretty in the jars, and I can't wait to eat them in a few months.
In the afternoon I turned my mother's brain from feeding my family to torturing them, or allowing them to torture me-I can't always tell the difference. I had to take my oldest daughter to the dentist to get a tooth pulled. (One of her baby teeth just refuses to fall out and she can't get her braces on until the adult one grows in. See, tooth-pulling and braces...it is all about making them miserable). She has never had any real dental work done, so I thought she might have a nervous breakdown right there in the waiting room.
Of course the dentist was a walk in the park compared to the next task of finding my son a pair of jeans for school. For a kid who doesn't care how he looks, he is awfully picky about jeans. We found several different pairs and none of them fit quite right, (he is too tall and skinny). The attitude just about pushed me over the edge, though. You would have thought I was applying thumb screws to the kid.
It was all worth it in the end when the two girls and I stood in line at the check out while my son lurked in the mall. Standing behind us was an older lady who commented on how pretty my girls are. Of course, I love to hear that and I agree completely. But the day's torture was all worth it when she declared that she thought we were sisters out shopping together because I certainly wasn't old enough to be their mother, and she could tell where they got their good looks from. Okay, I'm not sure how sincere she really was, but I'll take what I can get.
Just like writing, I'll take what I can get. And those torture sessions with the kids; they are all just fodder for stories anyway. So now I need to decide, do I make the 13 year-old who needs an attitude adjustment the victim or the villain in my next story?
Wednesday, 22 August 2007
So I am asking for a little help. I need some ideas of how to get the writers who hide behind closed doors to come out of the shadows and be willing join me in this newest venture. How do I go about finding the writers who have some experience or talent, so we can all build each other up? If anyone has any ideas, please share them with me. Hopefully, with your help, I can work on forming a group as active and productive as some of the others I have heard of.
Tuesday, 21 August 2007
This is actually the first rewrite of a book I wrote in November for NaNoWriMo. (Check out their website, it is such an interesting idea.) Anyway, I wrote my fifty-thousand words in thirty days and was pretty proud of myself until I calmed down and reminded myself that it wasn't fit for any one to read...yet.
In February I pulled out the first chapter and sent it to the LDStorymakers first chapter contest. Imagine my surprise when I won second place in the Romance category of the contest. That made my day, and gave me new motivation to pull the rest of the book back off the shelf. If the first chapter could place in a contest, how would the rest of the book stand up?
I have spent the months since then re-writing and revising. And now I have it to a point where I can send it to others to read. (Did I mention I'm excited?) Tomorrow the excitement will wear off and I will start to wonder how polite everyone will be when they tell me what they thought of the story. Then there is the stress and hard work involved in submitting, and hopefully, someday publishing. And of course, this one is done, but there are a hundred more jumping around in my head waiting for their own happy dance.
Sunday, 19 August 2007
Mice came to mind first. We have had the pesky creatures before, and as much as I dislike them, I know how to handle them. But the sound didn't match the usual mouse noise. I sat in my chair and listened closer. My typing stopped and I held my breath. The steady sound made me think of hundreds of fingernails tapping the ceiling above me. I tried to imagine what it might be, but the answers I came up with didn't make me feel any better. I started to feel like I might be in a Stephen King novel and something was sure to burst through the ceiling at any moment. I don't enjoy horror novels especially when they involve me.
So I did what any logical person would do. I sent my husband into the attic to find the answer. I sent him up because I am a chicken and don't like strange noises or the ladder that would take me up into the attic to explore. He came down several minutes later, sneezing from the insulation and saying there wasn't anything there. We both stood in the corner by the chair and listened to the odd sound again. He couldn't deny I was hearing anything, but we couldn't figure out where the sound was really coming from.
I told him my suspicion that wasps were somehow up there and he agreed that it made the most sense. We just couldn't figure out exactly where they were. He went up in the attic again and searched farther and deeper but still couldn't find them. I got the stethoscope out and he used it to listen against the ceiling and the wall. He didn't hear anything. Finally he went outside and found the opening where they are getting in. He hung a wasp trap and now we wait to see what happens.
Meanwhile, I am sitting on the chair, typing and listening to crawly things above me and wondering will the trap get them first or will they finally work their way into the house for our own horror movie. You can guess what my imagination is telling me.
Friday, 17 August 2007
There is a new website, The Long and Short of It, that will be reviewing romantic fiction. To help promote their website, they are running a contest. There are several ways which you can enter and win a tote bag full of books. Go check it out and enter the contest...good luck.
Wednesday, 15 August 2007
The story is narrated from a twelve year old boy's point-of-view. He is surrounded by a crazy cast of characters: from his mother who wants to be a missionary and contemplates joining the Mormons because she knows they have missionaries, to his two quarreling aunts, Mag and Pigg. When his mother and father leave for Africa, the aunts step in to babysit and the adventure begins. They decide to take a summer vacation and Henry is dragged along as they drive all over the United States.
I thought this book was delightful. The characters are well crafted and they are funny without being obvious about it. Polly Horvath has written a book for young adults that even us old adults can enjoy. I will definitely be looking up more books by this Newbery Honor author. And now, back to my real reading list...
Tuesday, 14 August 2007
Truth is, I claim not to have much of a green thumb. It could be that I don't give my garden a whole lot of attention. There are so many things I would rather do and so many things that I am much better at. It could be that I don't really know what I am doing. Sure, I know which plants are weeds and which are the vegetables, but the vegetables don't always grow. Take this year for example. I know I planted carrots, but the five that came up looked like weeds, they were so randomly placed. (I felt a little better when my aunt, who has a green thumb, said her carrots didn't do well either.) Now, on the other hand, the zucchini came up. I have a few that will make great baseball bats.
The thing I've noticed is this. I can plant a garden. I can care for it and pray for the best. But I can't control the weather and I can't always keep the deer away from the fruits and vegetables. But when I follow the council of our church leaders and plant that garden, my family is always blessed and we have plenty of food to eat and plenty of food to store. The key it is that we keep the commandment. The Lord measures our success in his own terms, not ours.
For me writing is a similar thing. We are commanded to develop the talents we have been blessed with. We each choose a different way to do this, and we all have different goals in mind. When I write, I do it hoping that I will be published one day. I have chased different types of writing and changed my goals slightly over the years. I believe someday I will get there, but the true test is that I don't give up. I know I pass the test when I see the blessings that come to me and my family as my talents grow and blossom. And just like my garden, the fruits may not always come the way I expect them to, but they will come one way or another.
Monday, 13 August 2007
As a teenager, my friends and I used to make it a game to see who could come up with the best story. We would sit in a fast food restaurant or a park and watch the people around us. Then we would take turns telling who the people were and what they were up to. I still swear we saw Stevie Wonder's chauffeur making a quick stop in McDonald's to pick up a happy meal for Stevie. You see there was this toy...
On Saturday I took my daughter shopping. We were in the mall and sat in the food court for awhile having something to drink. While we sipped our drinks I taught her a little about observing and finding characters for stories (she is an aspiring author as well). We watched the people around us and took note of the little things that made each person unique. Like the group of people that walked by us dressed in black and chains. They were trying to make a statement, but what about the boy that trailed behind slightly looking around like he was afraid someone might see him in that get-up. What is his story? Something simple like the girl with a broken leg, turned into a trapeze artist who had a little accident...or was it and accident? The stories go on.
I love making stories with her and we both have fun coming up with interesting ideas together. I tell her that someday we may just have to write a book together. But first we'll need to make a quick trip to McDonald's.
Saturday, 11 August 2007
Living in Southern Alberta, we grow apples, strawberries, raspberries and a few other things. But most of the fruit we eat comes from British Columbia or Washington. My aunt brings in fruit to sell every year. We put in our order for cases of fruit every time she is expecting a shipment. The fruit direct from the orchard tastes so much better than anything we buy in the grocery store.
Of course, by ordering I am just making work for myself. We always can dozens of bottles of peaches, pears and applesauce. Most years I will find a few new recipes and try them out. I find if I do smaller batches and try new things, I don't mind the canning too much. Truth is, canning is one of those chores I could do without. But there is something satisfying about going into the storage room after the work is all done and seeing hundreds of colorful jars lining the shelves. I also appreciate being able to control what goes in the jars. In the long run, food tastes so much better than anything we buy.
Tonight, my husband and I sliced and bagged a case of nectarines. I can't wait to pull them out in the dead of winter and enjoy the sweet goodness on some ice cream or in a smoothie. And they taste even better when I remember that we worked together.
I remember working with my sisters a few years ago. Dad had a bumper crop of apples and we decided to get together and do them all in one day. We worked all day with Dad and our husbands helping where they could. At midnight and 150 quarts of applesauce later, my belief in smaller batches was born. We are still trying to finish off that applesauce. And even though I will never do that much in one day again, every time I open a jar, I am tasting yet another sweet summer memory.
Thursday, 9 August 2007
So what is it with us women? We all want to watch what we eat, we all complain about our weight, and yet given half a chance we gather around tables in restaurants all over the country and eat things that will show up on our hips within twenty-four hours. I've heard the reasoning behind it. Food is a social thing and allows us to sit and visit for hours.
Even among family, we get together and the first thing we ask is "Do you want me to bring anything?" (Of course we mean food.) Kids bring their friends over and always say, "What can we have for a snack?" Church falls in the same category. There is always an over-abundance at every potluck supper or Relief Society activity.
So how do we get around this? How do we socialize with our peers and family without the food aspect. Wouldn't it be nice to meet and sit and visit in a quiet place where we can actually hear each other, rather than competing with the noise of the restaurant? I really did have fun tonight, and it was great to get out of the house, but if anyone has any ideas about how to get around the whole food thing, I would love to hear them. And my scale and tape measure thank you in advance for your wisdom.
Wednesday, 8 August 2007
I think that many newlyweds can relate to the things that Beth experiences during her first year of marriage. I found familiar people in the characters of the book. No one was perfect, but everyone was doing the best they knew how. And in the end they kept trying and that was the most important part.
Crystal Liechty had a fresh, almost irreverent style, and she infused the book with humor that kept me smiling. I will be interested to see what her next book brings.
Tuesday, 7 August 2007
We took an afternoon trip to Waterton Lakes National Park today. The park is about an hour from home, but I don't spend nearly as much time up there as I could. The kids and I go maybe once a year. My step-mom, on the other hand, has a year pass to the park and goes up there whenever she can. She isn't from Alberta, so maybe for me it is a case of not appreciating the things in my own back yard.
Waterton is a popular tourist attraction and whenever I'm there I always hear a group or two speaking in some European language. My family plays the license plate game to see who can find the plate from the farthest away. Today it was Florida. Again I wonder why I don't get up there more often. What am I missing that people fly all the way from Europe and drive across the United States to see.
There is so much to do in Waterton. As we drove into the park, we passed the stables and I remembered the trail rides we used to go on when I was a teenager. It immediately went on my list of things to do with my own children. Then I remembered the ferry that goes around the lake, taking us all the way over to the American side in Glacier Park. Another thing to put on the list. Then I thought about the "Summit" hike. The hike takes all day, but has some of the most breath-taking scenery. (I am certainly not in shape for that type of hike this year, but it will make a great goal for next year.) We used to do this hike during young women's camp. We almost always saw interesting wildlife along the way, even the occasional bear.
I guess I don't take enough time to stop and enjoy the scenery. Even today, I hesitated to go because there were so many things at home that needed to be done. I have a hard time stopping the roller coaster and getting off once in awhile. And yet the trip was worth it. The kids had a great time, we were in the great outdoors, we spent time together as a family and the memories made this afternoon will linger long after the day ends. It was a much better use of my time than more hours staring at the computer screen. And who knows what little tidbits from today will end up in a story.
Monday, 6 August 2007
Anyway, about Heritage Day. I got to thinking about the heritage around me. I see it every day when I go to the post office and pick up the mail. This town was built over a hundred years ago and there are some great old buildings to remind me of that heritage. We lived in a hundred year old house for awhile and I still miss the character that infused the home. New houses just aren't built that way anymore.
I also believe Canada has a great heritage as does the United States. Since I have dual citizenship, I feel free to appreciate my heritage from both countries and like to think that I've taken the best parts of both of them. This is the heritage of my family. We have great stories I love to hear and traditions I love to take part in. I am actively trying to pass that heritage on to my children and trying to teach them to really appreciate where they come from.
One of my favorite ways to learn and teach my kids about where they come from is through old family journals and the family histories that have been recorded over the years. I'm sure many of those who kept the journals had no idea that 150 years later a grand-daughter would be reading their day-to-day thoughts, and finding them fascinating. I've kept my fair share of journals. Maybe someday my posterity will find some sort of fascination with my life.
Another heritage I hope to leave my family is my other writing. It may not be a journal, but everything I write contains part of me. Every story is a piece of my being put on paper for the world to examine. So since I did some writing today, I guess I did celebrate Heritage Day in my own quiet way.
Sunday, 5 August 2007
It is really hard to kick the kids off the computer when they are doing genealogy or researching some strange topic that fascinates them. (They also spend plenty of time playing games, but that is another topic entirely.) So it has been very nice this week to open up my own machine and work whenever the muse strikes, or whenever the work just needs to be done.
I'm not telling you this to get birthday wishes or brag about my new toy, but I tell you this because I want to share the constant amazement and appreciation I feel for my husband. Every day he encourages me to follow my dreams and reach for lofty goals. He spends time on the internet learning about the LDS book market and the publishing industry so he can knowledgeably help support and promote my work. When we meet people and they ask what I do, he tells them I write novels, even though I don't have a published book to show for it yet. He constantly tells me what great talent I have and encourages me even when I think I might be wasting time for both of us.
He claims to be my biggest fan and who can argue with that. I guess this is what I am getting at. With my own personal cheering section giving me that kind of support, how can I lose? Because in his eyes, I am already a winner.
Friday, 3 August 2007
Being a forgetful reader, I feel like I need to go back to the first book and start again so everything will really make sense. I am amazed at the amount of detail she managed to keep straight in the seven books. The amount of planning must have been enormous. It will be interesting to look back over the other books and note how all the facts lead to the end. I look forward to see what else she comes up with now that this series is done. But really, how do you top that kind of success?
Thursday, 2 August 2007
I only took the two girls because my son HATES shopping. (I told him I wasn't buying him any new jeans until the end of the month since he grew a quarter inch in the last week!) We started out with the boring things-socks, underwear, shoes- and then we got to move on to my favorite part. The school supplies. I love looking at pens and pencils, paper and binders, and all the other cool things the kids get to take with them on the first day.
I remember how exciting it was as a kid to spread all my new supplies around me on the living room floor while my mother wrote names on everything, and then arriving at school and carefully placing all those labeled items in my desk. Now it is my turn and I get my trusty permanent marker and write names on each crayon and pencil.
I realized today that I really don't have that many years left. When my last one leaves home, I will have to find new reasons to shop for office supplies. (Maybe since I am a writer, I'll use that as an excuse, although that may not explain the crayons and markers.) My oldest daughter has also developed a love for writing and she collects paper as much as I do. So even when she graduates and doesn't need to make the yearly shopping trip, we can still shop together and stock up on paper to fill with the imaginings of our minds.
Wednesday, 1 August 2007
I’ve come to the conclusion that summer is the craziest time to try writing. Every time I think I am going to come up with a little time, something comes up. So far I am not progressing very quickly on my latest project. I am a little closer, but summer keeps happening.
Not that it’s a bad thing. I’ve taken time off to play with my kids, I went on vacation with my family, other family came here for our town celebrations, I am watching more kids this summer than I planned on, and my primary president is having a baby in a week or two, so the rest of us need to pick up her job for a little while. These are all good things, but they sure get in the way of what I feel driven to do.
“There are no limits to what we can achieve except for those we place upon ourselves.” –anon. I heard this quote a few weeks ago and it got me thinking about the things we let get in the way of our dreams. We can’t turn off our family, work or church obligations, and really, why would we want to? They are only limits because we allow them to be. These things make our lives complete and surround us with people who love us, and ideally support us in our dreams.
Without that support we would have a hard time achieving our dreams at all. Sometimes I think we use all those other obligations as excuses. So how can we take those limits and make them work for us? When I let my family know how important writing is to me, they become my greatest supporters. When I fill my church callings without complaint, I find more energy for other pursuits. And the extra kids I watch, well, at least I am home, so I can take the spare moments and type a few words. Suddenly, the possibilities seem endless and I know anything is possible.