Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

My reaction to this book was very interesting. I was so repulsed by the subject matter I considered putting it down after a few chapters. But I kept reading because both my kids raved about it. This is significant from my son because he reads so much, and significant from my daughter because she almost never reads if she's not forced.

Anyway, the subject matter is 24 teenagers chosen by lottery who are all forced to fight to the death--only one wins. This annual event is sponsored by the government and all citizens (including families of the teenagers) are forced to watch--it's televised live. Yes, I'm a mother of teenagers, which probably didn't help my perception of it, but I think many (most?) people would be a little disturbed by the concept. I couldn't help being a little uncomfortable that my kids had read it, but then again, maybe it's good for them to read something like that and think about why it's so wrong? The story takes place in a future America, so in that way it sort of has a 1984 feel to it--that maybe the creation of a concept that is repulsive to us might help ensure it doesn't turn out to be a prophecy?

It's a YA novel, published by Scholastic, and despite the subject matter the author did a really good job of minimizing the gore without making it seem like it was glossed over. Even though the world the characters live in is so far removed from what American Teenagers are used to, the reader can easily relate to many typical teenage emotions, and can imagine the terror in the games.

In the end, I kept reading because of the characters. Every one of them has complexities that make them interesting. The main character, Katniss, evolves and learns and grows in her emotions, in some ways losing part of who she is and in some ways learning to think differently. And then, I HAD to see how the story would resolve itself. How could Katniss possibly keep her innocence and still win a game in which all other contestants have to die?

The Hunger Games is the first book in a trilogy. The second book (Catching Fire) is in the hands of my daughter and I can't read it until she's finished.

And I actually want to. The Hunger Games ends at the end of the games, but I'm hoping to see the government punished for it's brutal treatment of children (and families, actually).

You know, it's interesting how the Capitol citizens in the book are so completely narcissistic and so obsessed with their ultimate "reality show." It makes me uncomfortable how it may not be too far removed from today's United States. Again, 1984--maybe we won't go that far.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Thoughts on Writing vs Storytelling

I'm reading a book right now (I'm not going to say what) that I'm really enjoying for the most part. The story is very intriguing and at this point I really want to follow it through to the conclusion.


Occasionally I run across some writing that pulls me out of the story and makes me think about the writing instead of the story. Has anyone else had this experience?

There are a few areas of dialog that didn't seem natural to me, and there have been a few parts that seemed "clunky." I'm not sure how else to describe it.

When I'm reading a book, I want to get absorbed in the story. I don't want to be trying to follow the story or thinking about how something doesn't make sense or doesn't seem plausible.

I've read two other books recently that I really enjoyed and got fully absorbed in the story without thinking about the writing. They were "Canticle" by R. A. Salvatore and "Eighth Grade Bites (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod)" by Heather Brewer. I enjoyed them enough that I immediately ordered the rest of the series in both cases.

Anyway, I guess my point is that I've been thinking about the concept that the goal of writing fiction is to convey the story, not to showcase your writing. To me, at least, writing, if truly flawless, will disappear and not be noticed. Which seems to be an oxymoron.

It's a bit intimidating. I don't want people to be thinking about my writing when they read my stuff. If I ever get published, I hope I have an excellent editor who cleans up all my "clunky" writing, and I hope I listen to him/her.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Well, I can't really say the subject of this post is camp, since I don't exactly know what camp will entail. I'm leaving today, there's over 100 teenagers going (maybe closer to 150), and I think I'm going to be the assistant nurse for the second year running. Maybe when I get back I'll post with a subject of "camp" and it will actually be about camp.

I've been in a remodelling haze and haven't been reading LJ much. I think my bedroom and bathroom are done (except I'm going to have to paint around the shower because I don't have enough wallpaper to patch it). When I get back from camp I have to finish the front bathroom, which means figuring out how to fix the ceiling, finishing the paint job, and replacing the vinyl on the floor. Then I can have the appraisal ordered, and hopefully close quickly on our refinance so we can pay for all this!

I never dreamed we would have our bedroom redone. It's always the last place in the house anyone looks--we keep it closed off when we have guests. We were forced into it because we had to replace the shower, and then the carpet, and I decided I might as well paint and replace the vinyl... Now that it's done, sitting here in my chair looking around makes me feel serene. The carpet and walls are just a neutral toupe, nothing exciting, and the furniture is basically in the same place, but it's nice. I guess it's nice to know it's new (and it doesn't have dog pee in it) and it's satisfying to know I did some of it myself (the painting and the vinyl).

Saturday, June 27, 2009

My First Writer's Conference

BEFORE (last night)
There's a writer's conference in Tulsa that starts in just over an hour. It's only $60 and the topics sound really good. I really should go.

I'm terrified to go. What if I make a fool of myself? I don't have anything to wear. I have no idea what to wear, actually.

(When I commented on my lack of wardrobe in the car last night, my daughter said, "Why do you have to wear anything?")

So should I stay home, promising myself to work on my editing instead, or should I go and hope I can stay invisible and just listen?

I had a friend who was going to go originally, but she had to go to Dallas. That would have made it easier, because I would have been committed to go and I would have had someone to sit with.

When it comes right down to it, I'm very shy.

I went. I'm still alive.

Actually, it was a really good experience.

It was this:

It's for writers of inspirational books, and so far my fiction writing is all mainstream, but I figured the topics would be general enough to apply to me. I'm a Christian who writes, even if I don't write Christian books. :)

My biggest fear was that I'd have to talk to people. I hate mingling at parties, wondering who to talk to, afraid of interrupting. So I get there, and the first 30 minutes is mingling. Ack!

It was fine, though. No, I didn't get to disappear into a corner like I wanted--people came up and talked to ME! It was a little hard for me to talk about my writing, but I made myself. I don't talk about my writing much to my friends, and I thought strangers might be easier, but it wasn't.

My clothes were fine. I dressed up just a little (for me)--I wore slacks and a nice top. About half the people were dressed like me. The other half were more casual. I'm going more casual today, mainly because the temperature here has been over 100.

There was every age there, too (no kids). I saw some girls and a guy who looked like late teens or early 20's, and I saw a few women who looked like they were at least 70, and everything in between.

The speakers are a good mix--two very different authors (different genders and different genres), an agent, and a publicity person. There was also a pastor who gave a short, encouraging talk at the beginning.

I'm going back today. It's all day with lunch. I know part of the purpose of this is networking, but I'm still nervous about it. I think it will be okay, though. Last night it seemed like people actually wanted to talk to me, even after they found out I wasn't anyone important, (and even after I spilled my tea twice) and that put me at ease.

I know going to writer's conferences is good for me. But instead of taking it like medicine, I'm actually starting to feel a little guilty about the time away from home because the conference is fun!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I Wrote a Novel

R has been my faithful reader for over two years now. She's been reading my novel (and giving me feedback) a chapter at a time. She's actually read the first half of it twice since I made major revisions.

My next step in this process is to print out the whole thing and take a red pen to it. I decided on a whim to call R first to see if she had the last few chapters I gave her so I wouldn't have to print out all of it--save a tree, you know.

She had every chapter. I was touched. She knew exactly where it all was, too.

So when I picked her up for our staff meeting (we work together, and she lives down the street) she carried out this file folder with this 1-1/4" stack of papers in it (yes, I measured it--I'm a dork). I was like, "Is that my novel???" I had never seen it all together like that.

I think that's the first time it really hit me--I actually wrote a novel.

It's a big stack of papers. R said it was a lot of typing. Yes, but every word of it is an expression of me. It's my imagination articulated and put on paper.

So even if it never gets published, even if only my friends and family read it, even if the agents laugh at me and tell me not to quit my day job...


Sunday, May 31, 2009

To Do list for June

Front bathroom (we've already replaced the tub/shower, had the drywall repaired, and pulled off the wallpaper)
1) Finish sanding the walls
2) Prime the walls
3) Paint the walls
4) Paint the baseboards and door
5) Get the floor replaced
(I actually did this myself!)

Master bedroom and bath
1) Move everything out, including furniture, and figure out where to put it (and where to sleep)
2) Get the shower replaced
3) Paint the bedroom
4) Paint the doors and the baseboards in the bathroom
5) Get the drywall around the shower repaired
6) Patch the wallpaper around the shower
(I actually painted instead)
7) Get the carpet replaced in the bathroom and bedroom
8) Get tile laid in front of the shower
(I actually did this myself!)
9) Move all the furniture back in

1) Go on a mission trip the third week
2) Refinance the mortgage to pay for the remodeling
3) Edit "finished" novel
4) Outline new novel (right now I have almost 20 pages of notes that are so jumbled they're almost incoherant)
5) Keep up with my job, the laundry, and the dishes, as well as entertain my kids who are out of school

Overwhelming? I'm trying not to think about it. Notice I wrote down the thing I did yesterday and crossed it off, even though it's not June yet. That makes me feel a tiny bit better.

I wonder how much my kids can help?? I'm not sure I trust them with the painting, so maybe not much. I think I'm going to make them take over the cooking and dishes, though, and maybe most of the laundry. That will help indirectly. :)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

My Novel

I think I might have finished my novel.

I have a couple more scenes floating in my head, but I think I'm at the point where I need to call it done and start into editing. One of the scenes will need to be worked in for foreshadowing, but the other might be unnecessary.

I'm printing the last few chapters out for my faithful reader of two years to read, and then it will be time for The Red Pen Of Doom.

I'm not sure if I'm elated or terrified.

I think I'll go watch a movie.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Star Trek, books, and other stuff

My kids are gone. The house is so quiet--it's weird.

Yesterday was the last day of school. My parents picked up my kids right after school and took them to Branson. So far (from my daughter's text messages) it seems they're having a really good time. :)

Hubby and I went to Red Lobster last night (we had a gift card), which cost over $50 with just us, so would have been $100 with the kids! Man! It's getting so expensive to go out! This is why we will remain loyal to Taco Bell for the remainder of our days. And why I will try to cook most nights, even though I get tired of it.

Tonight we're going to see Star Trek again. Hubby and I are huge fans--have been for 20 years (him longer). We've seen every episode of every series and every movie. I don't guess you would call us "hard core" fans since we don't go to conventions and stuff, but we do like the franchise.

So anyway, as fans that are almost "hard core," we loved the movie. Yeah, the time line shift changes a lot, but we felt like it worked, and the plot was in keeping with the spirit of Star Trek. (And I don't feel like that's a spoiler since it happens in the first five minutes.)

I'm in the weird position right now of reading two books I have trouble putting down. I started reading "Hearing God" by Dallas Willard first. It's a fascinating and balanced (in my opinion) look at how God communicates with humans. Then I got the e-mail from the library that they had the third Maximum Ride book for me, and I HAD to start that because the second book left me hanging in many ways.

So one of the things I will do while my kids are gone is finish two books. I suppose I should finish one before the other, but I keep going back and forth. The one book is feeding something in my soul that is hungry, but it's very academic so I have to be focused to read it. The other is something my eyes can fly over quickly and gives pure entertainment.

I love both in books. :)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Another book

Okay, I had another experience with a book I hadn't had in a long time. This one made me cry.

Suspense and Sensibility by Carrie Bebris is the second in her series that casts Mr. & Mrs. Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice as unsuspecting and reluctant sleuths. This time they interact with the characters from Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. It isn't necessary to have read the Jane Austen books to enjoy this one, or even the first in the series.

I read the first of Bebris's Darcy mystery books and reviewed it earlier in my blog. I liked this one even more.

The plot starts out with Mr. & Mrs. (Elizabeth) Darcy sponsoring Elizabeth's sister's (Kitty) first season in London. She quickly catches the attention of a young dashing heir, Harry Dashwood (introduced as a spoiled child in Sense and Sensibility), who intially worries more about the tying of his cravat than the tenants on his estate. However, the idea of settling down with a wife seems to cause him to think more seriously about the responsibilities that come with his inheritance, and he wins Mr. Darcy's support by asking his advice. Harry and Kitty become engaged, and everyone seems to approve the match except Harry's mother and an aunt who hoped her daughter would catch Harry's eye.

Soon after the engagement, however, Harry begins to act oddly, and as his behavior escalates into rudeness and debauchery it threatens everything he formerly held dear, including his fortune and his engagement. This is the mystery that Darcy and Elizabeth end up solving.

One would expect members of the ton in their situation to try to use their influence to persuade Harry to behave, and if that didn't work, to eventually encourage Kitty to break the engagement and discontinue association with the cad. However, the author does a good job of believably keeping the Darcys involved in Harry's life by other associations.

I guessed at the solution to the main puzzle of the book long before the characters did, but I think the author intended that, meaning to give it away in the prologue. Anyone who has read the first Darcy mystery knows that the author employs a bit of mysticism in her plots, and that knowledge paired with the prologue makes the solution to the mystery obvious. However, I don't think it diminished my enjoyment of the book at all--I still didn't know how they were going to figure it out, and I knew from the first book that Mr. Darcy would be skeptical of anything he couldn't explain with science.

There were a few other twists in the book that I predicted, but the two things at the end that moved me to tears were surprises to me. I really liked that the book didn't tie up completely like I expected.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

American Idol

Yes, I'm a fan. I've been watching the last four seasons and I think it's gotten better every year. It's the only TV show I keep up with, and I enjoy watching it and discussing it with my kids.

This year, I remember noticing Adam during the top 36, and every week I became more and more convinced that he would win. He seemed to be on top of his game every single week, and set a standard that, in my opinion, none of the others could reach. He was consistant--consistantly good.

However, all the "girls" at work seemed to like Kris Allen, so I couldn't help taking notice of him. I liked his personality, and he seemed to improve every week. I was surprised the week he beat out Allison to take a place in the top three, but then when he sang "Heartless" with only his guitar the next week I began wondering if he could actually beat the "top two" contestants (Danny and Adam).

I was surprised last night, but not disappointed. Honestly, it was fun to be surprised. I think maybe that's one of the things that keeps me going back to the show year after year.

Did Adam deserve to win instead? (Kris seemed to think so!) Maybe. He was, in my opinion, the only one who was consistantly good every week.

However, it seems to me that Kris improved in skill and confidence to the point that he matched Adam. When Kris did his first audition, Simon actually told him that his lack of self-confidence was off-putting. Kris gained enough confidence on stage to be molded into a star, but at the same time stayed true to his humble personality.

So, from that standpoint, yes, I do think Kris deserved to win. I hope he is very successful. I'll look for his CD. :)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Book Review--Maximum Ride

Last night I had an experience I haven't had in a long time, and it felt good, though I was hurting this morning (literally, my back, but also because I'm sleepy).

I couldn't put a book down.

Granted, I came home last night from going out of town so tired it was hard to string a sentence together, and a little grumpy because I couldn't watch the NASCAR race (we don't get the Speed channel), so I decided I was going to curl up in a chair and read. However, the reasonable time for me to go to bed came and went, my husband went to bed, and then one of my kids (no telling how late the other one stayed up--my son is a night owl). I had to finish the book.

Though, I have to say, I was a bit frustrated at the end because I was left with many more questions than answers.

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment is the first in a YA series by James Patterson.

Six "mutant" children (they have wings and can fly, among other things) spent most of their life in cages undergoing painful "experiments" until a kindly "doctor" rescued them. After four years of freedom, six-year-old Angel, the youngest, is kidnapped and taken back to the "school." The other five, of course, must rescue her, and along the way must discover their own destinies.

Okay, on paper this plot sounds cheesy, but the writing is so skillful that it's anything but. There are many twists and turns in the plot to keep the reader guessing, and the author has the storytelling ability to keep adults entertained while allowing his younger readers to keep up. The loose ends at the close of the book were frustrating, but since Book 5 in the series came out recently I can only assume the questions are answered eventually. And, of course, the author wants you to keep reading the series!

The main character and leader of the group is Maximum Ride ("Max"), a 14-year-old girl, and most of the book is written in the first person from her POV. If I had had any skepticism about a man writing a teenage girl, it would have been gone a few pages in. Patterson manages to capture typical longings and emotions of a teenage girl, including motherly instincts, and combine them with the toughness, anger, and sometimes hatred of a girl who began her life constantly abused and was later trained in combat. Max is a very complex character, full of passionate love for her family and hatred for her abusers, and very often repressing strong emotions to convey the image she needs for leadership of the family.

I highly recommend this book for teenagers as well as adults, and I plan on reading the next one as soon as possible!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sharing Interests

Tonight I made my kids watch "Bringing Up Baby" (and I got grumpy when they tried to text during). On the other hand, I'm reading Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson.

My son has been enjoying the Maximum Ride series, a YA fantasy/action/adventure series, and has been telling me he thought I'd like them. I'm about 1/3 of the way through and I'm enjoying the non-stop action, blunt narration, and character development so far. I'll let you know. Has anyone else read them?
(I have a hard time getting through books quickly these days because I'm so busy, but I'm making myself read.)

My husband and I watched just about every old black & white movie we could get our hands on before we had our kids. We love them, but that interest has sort of gone by the wayside in more recent years. However, now we're finding we can enjoy them all over again with our kids. Once they get over the whole non-color thing, they really enjoy them. I think tonight I picked a good one since it's a screwball comedy with animals--what's not to like? (Cute is not the description I would prefer my kids to use about a leopard, though.)

And I like to play Guitar Hero with my kids. Is that weird?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Novel Update

I wrote "THE END" on my novel Sunday.

But I didn't mean it.

I was sort of stuck and staring at the last thing I'd written, and my son sat down beside me and typed, "'You're weird,' he said scornfully."

Then I typed, "Attack of the adverbs!!!!"

Then my daughter typed "LAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

So I deleted all of that and typed, "THE END" which amused my son.

I'm actually so close I can envision it. (Or taste it, since that's more graphic.) I have one chapter to write and two to finish, and then it will be time to start edits. I'm finding this is a very different process from fanfiction because I posted a chapter at a time then, and didn't have the opportunity to go back and revise from the beginning. The first half of the book has already undergone an extreme makeover, and I'm thinking the second half needs it, too.

Monday, May 4, 2009


The plumbers are on their way over here and I'm trying not to panic. I'm committed now. Yes, the bathtub is cracked, and the unit needs to be replaced, but:

1) We don't have the money sitting around to pay for this. It's going on a credit card on faith that we'll be able to refinance our house when this is all done and get cash out to pay off the credit card.

2) It's going to lead to a lot of work. They'll have to tear out a significant amount of drywall in the bathroom to replace the unit, as well as cut a hole in the dining room to access the plumbing. So the drywall will have to be replaced, then the wallpaper torn off and the walls sanded, primed, and painted, and while we're at it we'll replace the floor and lower the baseboards to where they should be. Then there's repairing the dining room wall. *sigh*

3) Before we can do #2 we're going to have to have the other bathroom repaired so we'll have someplace to bathe, which also involves tearing out and replacing--this time tearing out tile and putting in a shower unit.

So we need to trust that the timing will all work out, the interest rates will stay low, and that our house will appraise high enough for the cash out. Or that God will provide another way for all this to happen.

While praying this morning, I started to make a list to God of all the things I needed, but I quickly gave up and said, "I really don't know what I need, but You do. Please give me what I need. And please help me to listen to You."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Black & White Movies

Yesterday my daughter stayed home from school because she was still recovering from a virus. I went to work for awhile, and then brought some work home and watched a movie with her.

We watched My Man Godfrey from 1936. Really. It's one of my favorite movies of all time!
(I was going to suggest that you go out and rent it immediately, but I guess you can watch it online for free! )

It didn't take long for her to say, "Mom, doesn't this movie have any color?" I had to explain that most movies were filmed in black and white back then because the technology for color was new and expensive (and not very good).

I also had to stop and update her every now and then because it was hard for her to keep up with the dialog. She's an intelligent kid, but people talked a little differently seventy years ago. Also, I don't think people these days are used to having to really listen to dialog in TV and movies. I often say that I think most filmmakers today assume their audience are all idiots.

One thing she understood clearly--early in the movie she asked, "Mom, does he like her?"

Later in the afternoon she decided she was determined to go to school the next day (she did). I laughed and quipped that she'd better go to school or I'd make her watch Bringing Up Baby! When I explained to my husband and son that I'd made her watch a "horrible" old black & white movie that day, she looked at me seriously and said, "It wasn't horrible. I liked it!"

Score one for the Old B&W Movie Lover!

Of course, later when American Idol came on and I expressed excitement at the "Rat-Pack" theme, and knew all the songs, she said, "Mom, you're old!"

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pride and Prescience by Carrie Bebris

A book review seems rather frivolous with all that's going on in my life, but I'm tired of talking/writing about my current challenges, so... book review!

I love Jane Austen. I think I've read all her books (and seen the movies), but it's been several years, and since I'm getting old I've forgotten a lot of the details.

Carrie Bebris has taken Darcy and Elizabeth, the lovebirds from Pride and Prejudice, now a newly married couple, and put them in the position of solving a mystery. I think a good way to label it is Pride and Prejudice meets The Thin Man. (If you haven't seen The Thin Man movies, shame on you! Go out and rent them immediately!)

Well, maybe Pride and Prejudice meets The Thin Man meets a bit of mysticism. Bebris did a fairly good job of adding the fantasy elements--there was a believable amount of skepticism and open-mindedness among the characters. Overall, I thought the mystic elements felt a little out of place, but that might have been my attachment to Jane's original characters and settings.

I thought Bebris did a good job of setting up several suspects (all red herrings but one, of course) and keeping the reader guessing with dead ends (literally, in the case of one suspect). Toward the end I was actually having a hard time putting the book down, which is a high compliment.

I thoroughly enjoyed the dialog, particularly the banter between the newly married Darcy couple. At first it seemed to me that the story was starting slowly, but I didn't mind because I was enjoying the dialog.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, or as Elizabeth might say, I found it very diverting. I intend to read the next one (it's a series).

Sunday, April 26, 2009

ABCs of Me!

A - Age: 42
B - Bed size: Full
C - Chore you hate: Going to the grocery store
D - Dog's name: Butter
E - Essential start your day item: Coffee
F - Favorite color: Blue
G - Gold or Silver: Silver
H - Height: 5'6"
I - Instruments you play: Um... I played the violin when I was a kid.
J - Job title: Um... I have no idea. Data Entry Clerk? That sounds good.
K - Kids: Two, twins, age 13
L- Living arrangements: own a home? Yes
M - Mom's name: Mom
N - Nicknames: Mom
O - Overnight hospital stay: Three. Ear tubes put in, Gallbladder removed, and Twins removed
P - Pet Peeve: The sense of entitlement
Q - Quote from a movie: "Laugh it up, Fuzzball!"
R - Right or left handed: Right
S - Siblings: Two, a brother and a sister
T - Time you wake up: 6AM
U- Uniforms worn: Girl Scouts is the only one, I think. A long time ago.
V - Vegetable you dislike: Cauliflower
W - Ways you run late: Probably any way you can think of
X - X-rays you've had: Feet, neck
Y - Yummy food you make: Chicken and dumplings
Z - Zoo favorite: Owls

Saturday, April 25, 2009

New, not so new

I'm not new to blogging, but I'm new to Blogger. I've had a LiveJournal since 2003, but I decided to float over here to try something a little different. I'll probably cross-post some, and some of the content may be different. I haven't quite figured it out yet.

I also have a Xanga and a MySpace and a Twitter that I rarely touch, and a FaceBook that I'm fairly active on.

Over on LJ I just finished a commitment to post something that made me happy every day for eight days, and I think that might be a good way to start out over here.

So what has made me happy today?

Prayer. Literally. I was swimming in paralyzing anxiety earlier because of the refinance/repairs/insurance claim we have in process. I didn't feel fearful, exactly, just so caught up in thinking about it that I couldn't really accomplish anything. I needed peace.

I paused. I prayed. I got peace.

Heaven will be really cool if for no other reason than the absence of plumbing and morgages. :)