Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The offspring of a childless writer are her stories, phrases, poems future ideas that wait to be developed.  Those all sat in the form of a word file on my external hard drive.  Yesterday in a whirlwind of clicking and tears I discovered they were dead.  The file I kept them safe in was clean, belching a corruption error message anytime I desperately clicked to find those files.

So here I sit, empty page before me angry at the sentence of this terrible fate.  The ugly white page laughing at me.  I start over.

Maybe a redo is not a bad thing.  Fresh starts are something I have wanted in other areas of my life. I just never thought I would have to 'redo' my passion and love.

November 1st, Update-
The external hard drive is visiting the best techno genius I know.  He is up to his armpits in digging out the files.  The early report is that things are looking good and some files have already been found.

In my panic I have already started redrafting the outline for book two and the other 5 books I had started.  Feeling a bit better about life.

Just got a call from the genius..after many intense hours, 5 different recovery programs he has recovered the files!  My heart sings!  It is like a child that has been found.  Thank you, thank you!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Free E-Reads

I have to confess, as a writer I have had a turned up nose to the e-readers that are out on the market.  Seeing them as the new downfall of the publishing industry and the evil that is eating away at my breaking into the publishing world, I have kept my distance.  I think I may be crumbling, maybe they aren't that bad.

I am a member of a site called http://www.stumbleupon.com/ it randomly selects registered or submitted sites based on your interest.  It is one of the most amazing ways to burn a few hours and find some amazing sites you never knew you would be interested in adding to your favorites. Here lately, I have been stumbling on a regular basis.   I have found a terrific number of free e-books.  As an avid reader the idea that there are scores of books out there for free does send chills of excitement through me.  As a  writer it makes me sad that there are giant numbers of text that someone slaved over for sometimes years just sitting out there of no value.  It is a little like seeing the clearance rack at the book store, all those shiny sad books trying desperately to tempt someone. 

After 'stumbling' on enough of these enticing free ebook sites, and looking over at that heavy, leaning, stack of dusty books next to my bed I think maybe those new ebooks might not so bad. Plus they may be my way into being published.   

Top 8 free e-book sites:
  1. Project Gutenberg- Comes with its own mobile application for any phone.  Having perused many of the titles it, none of them have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, mostly because they came out years and years before the journal was started.  That being said there are still some interesting titles that I wouldn't mind looking at. Jane Austin and Mark Twain will always have a soft spot in my heart. 
  2. Manybooks- Supports the same titles but is way more user friendly.  The site gets its books from the Project Gutenberg, but it includes reviews of titles that you may not be as familiar. 
  3.  Scribd- Is really cool!  It links up to your facebook account showing your friends favorite books and suggests books you may be interested. This site allows you to submit your own text be it one page or an entire book to share with everyone.  It also has excerpts of books that have just been released mixed in with the self published titles. 
  4. WOWIO- Is the self proclaimed only online supplier of online comics.  Although they are not all free they are pretty cheap running any where from $0.99 to $1.50.  
  5. Bookyards- Has over 800,000 titles that are all free.  The books that they tout are a combination of philosophy, political theory, Enlightenment literature and some random stories thrown in to the mix.
  6. EBookee- Is one of the original free ebook sites.  It was a nice mix of recent fiction, classics, and nonfiction. 
  7. Worthy of Publishing- is a site of particular interest to me.  It allows aspiring writers to upload their precious pieces of writing as a test drive.  It gives you a forum to market test your writing and gives readers a forum to have their opinions heard. 
  8. Free-ebooks- Has great home page graphics, easy to navigate and is another one of those that are open to the unpublished writer.  What makes this site different is the majority of books are from brand new unpublished writers.  The books are ranked by downloads and library saves.  If you like a new writer then you can select the hyper link and go to list of books by the same writer.  It also has that cool share function that have begun to attach themselves to new articles all over the web. 
Although, I have highlighted many of the exciting sites that are open to new writers it is important to remember that these books have not received the type of editing that the traditional publishing houses require.  Just like watching those growing number of Youtube videos that lack the polish of the professionals there is a certain amount of forgiveness that one must accept when reading one of these indepenendant works.  Just like supporting the young documentarian these are easy and interesting ways to read from the writers of the future and past without having to pay a dime. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rejection Sucks!

Received my first agent rejection letter yesterday.  After doing all this research the agents start to feel a bit like rock stars.  When I got the letter it felt like LL Cool J wrote me but just to tell me, "It is not you, it is me."  I was flattered to have a personalized letter of encouragement but felt kicked in the stomach for the no. After a quick session of weeping on the back porch, I came back in to get to work.  

Knowing the rumors that this was to be expected I made a list before I sent anything out.  In this time of sad desperation I went to the list.  I plucked out my next top two favorites, Folio agency and Ethan Ellenberg.  A quick question to the magic 8 ball and the letter went to Denise Little at Ethan Ellenberg.  It was an email query, a first for me.  I was nervous about the format but think I got everything right.  Some research revealed that she is a bit behind on her queries...but to hang on and she will reply within the two weeks.  Hope that holds true even for the holidays.

Even though I am licking my wounds I still am moving forward.  The next query letter has been sent.  I added another two thousand words to book two.  When feeling sad action is the best medicine, but so are friends.  A very encouraging post was left on my Facebook page from a dear friend, Rodney.  In it he left a link to a web page that really made me feel better.  I will share it here.  Enjoy.  Remember, get back up and turn failure into victory.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Are you inspired?

Watching the Sound of Music inspired me...it usually does.  I always get the urge to glide out of my little house twirlling my front yard singing with all my might. Makes me forget the pavement is uneven, and the door doesn't stayed closed unless you bolt it and well the neighbors are not really the Sound of Music "type," so movie inspirations have to go elsewhere. 

I am constantly looking for inspiration.  When I am feeling particularly spent from a long binge of writing there are a few tricks that seem to get me going...

1) Routine. 
Not the most sexy of inspirational words, but man I love it.  It is like that afternoon walk, you start to crave it look forward to it.  This has been my saving grace many a day.  I know the writing will be at 6-midnight everyday there are no questions 1,000 words will be done.  On those days when feeling super seeped in creativity I may start a little early but that is just gravy on top of the regular day's work, because I won't finish early I will only add to what I already have.

Not only is the time routine but I "get into my office."  Settled into the sofa, pillow on my lap with the laptop perched on top, glasses on and the earbuds in listening to my tunes I am in the zone.  As soon as I get in the position I can feel it, building inside ready to come out words race to be the first to sprint to my fingertips. According to Mark McGuinness I am on the right track, in his blog RSS Creativity, creativity is a balance of routine, systems and spontenaity.

I've tried not having a routine.  Jack Cheng on his blog states that "no routine is the worse routine." I have to agree it was an utter fail for me as well.  Whatever gives you the feeling that you are ready to work, make it yours and do it regularly enough to make that connection to the activity to the creative deed. 

There is an entire blog of interviews of artistic masters and what their routines are to be creative. 

2)Mindless wondering.
When I am so stuck I can't find my way out need a little brain message.  I hop on www.stumbleupon.com.  Just the random clicking and I find the most random and amazing things that I would have never found on my own.  It is truely a cool exercise.

3) Join the world.
The boring exestinces of being chained behind a laptop can suck the life out of you.  Every now and then getting out in crowded spaces and sitting still is all I need.  I don't have to be apart of the crazy life around me.  I pull out the notepad and write, listen, observe and ponder what the story is behind the drama that surround us everyday. It is the real life sound of music that gets my pen twirling around the page.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Once Wrote a Query

When I was up to my armpits in rough drafting, slinging words and desperate for the right phrase I had no idea that I was in the middle of the best time of my life.  I thought when I finished there would be high fives, cheering crowds and instant recognition.  Instead I clicked the close button on the screen and went to bed.   For weeks I wondered around listless, unsure what to do with my free time, scared about what came next. 

My obsessive nature wouldn't let it go.  Instead of letting the words flow on the weekends, I sat unshowered, searching, researching trying to figure out my next step.  Do I try to look for an agent and face the chance of multiple rejections?  Or do I epublish and hope for the best?  Looking to those I admire the most I asked, talked and asked some more.  Then I found the coolest site, haven't been able to find it again but man I am so happy I saw it that week.  On there it said that only 3% of those that start a novel finish it. Feeling brave as a member of the elite gave me a bit more confidence.  I took the next step...made a writer's plan.

Plans are essentially check list, another passion of mine.  With goals in hand I felt more like myself, ready to move forward and send away my baby to the unknown world.  This required a very painful first step, capture the essences of my love/book in a short summary that will blow the socks off of any agent.  Locked down for an entire weekend my hair sat thrown in the ugly, unwashed bun, I hacked at the query in my tight, faded sweats grumpy, with the world- writing my query letter to my future, (please oh please God) agent. That Monday I put it in the mail.  Looking at the mailman I felt like a bad Mom just handing her child to stranger that I bumped into after leaving the delivery room.  He could sense some hesitating and commented, "Out of site, out of mind." Boy he was so wrong.  As soon as he turned the corner with it I felt like throwing up.  That was on the 25th of October, and still nothing.  I know deep down that it has only been gone six business days but it does not help. I know that all of my favorite writers had to do this multiple...like double digits worth of times.  That doesn't help.  Maybe the pain and stress will fade as I do this more. 

Think I'm going to go back to my happy place, go back to rough drafting. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Murder on Falcon Lake

Writing murder mysteries turns you into a strange creature with an ear for the macabre.  The news is one of my favorite shows.  The odd bits that others try not to hear, you know the killings and sad odd stories are all stored away for some later use.  The best stories simmer in the back of my brain. At night they take shape into twisting into new story lines eager to take form.

One such story has recently taken hold of my imagination. There was a shoot out on Lake Falcon.

Out on a misty lake, a couple's life changed forever.  The calm picturesque scene cuts a tremulous border between two nations. Pirates started months ago attacking fisherman and tourist. The violence led the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to issue a warnings to stay off the Mexican side of the lake.  Suggestions have been made to bring a gun if going on 'that' side. 

Calling like a Greek Sirens of old, tourist often ignore the warnings and go to the dangerous side of the lake. The fishing is worthy of tournaments.  The beauty is undeniable.  And even more  enchanting, there nestled on the 'dark side' of the lake is the haunting charm of Old Guerrero the skeletal of  an old Catholic Church.  Once the pentacle of Spanish settlement of the frontier, Old Guerrero was taken by the misty lake for over 40 years. It was only with the last few years that the waters have pulled away to reveal her to us all.  Was it this temptress that called the young couple to her?  Or was it something all the more sinister?  

    The story being splashed across the news every night is of a wild shoot out on this 'dark side' of the lake that the couple decided to visit.  Splashing around on seados they ignored the warnings.  This was a final trip for the couple to the region.  He had lost his job.  They sold their house and were on their way to leaving Texas. Deciding to move closer to home. 

They were on the seados, alone.  She says the gunman sprayed bullets and her husband fell.  She was never hit.  In wild spray of bullets she was safe. Her injured husband tumbled  from the small craft into the waters.  She tells authorities that she tried to pull him onto her boat...amid the spray of bullets.  He was too heavy.  She couldn't pull him onto the seado.  She had to cruise away and leave him there to go for help.

Her story went viral.  Governor Rick Perry, running for re-election, has demanded Mexico to find and return the body.  To this date there has never been any observed investigation of the crime scene.  

What really happened?  Was it a lone gunman with the rapid fire machine gun?  Or was it a wife that wanted to leave the marriage and saw the perfect way to get rid of a husband and get a hold of the much needed life insurance money?  Was she investigated?  It is always suggested that the investigation needs to start with the spouse. 

The tale is still unwinding before us.  I won't let the findings get in my way.  Imagination has already taken control...I see book 3 in the works. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Moths and More Moths

"Between our birth and death we may touch understanding, As a moth brushes a window with its wing." ~Christopher Fry

You never know what will strike a cord with your readers.  Or for that much what will bring understanding.  I wrote a post about that very quote and had  a beautiful picture of a moth.  That moth was a popular guy. He has made that post the most downloaded international post I have yet to produce. Like the moth's wing the post brushed with understanding...or maybe people just love them some moth pictures. 

As a tribute to those...I honor your passion.

I give you wings of butter carmel and robin's egg blue.   Simple elegance.
The foreign alien of the collection.  Leaves must envy the free flowing form and angry read eyes.

The Colombian favorite.  Smoky wings contrasted with blood read stripe he sits on a prickled paradise.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Are we...Waiting for Superman

"Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself."  ~John Dewey

I have been in the Education business for the last eleven years.  I know it is not perfect, but I am beyond passionate about my profession. An industry that is so important will always be much criticised.  There are constant worries that we don't measure up.  The other guys are scoring higher test scores,  their graduation rates are better- are worries that echo in our ears every single year.  

The upcoming release of Waiting for Superman is making these echos grow louder.  I know that there are some schools and school districts that are not working and they are failing our future.  There are some, like mine, that work and we are not alone in huge nation.   

Eager to be see if my passions were correct I have done a little research.       

The National Assessment of Education Progress has been tracking the schools progress since 1973.  There is progress it is slow but test scores show that we are improving. Not just in Math but Reading too.  The education gaps between the races is slowly closing.  Public schools still lag behind Catholic and private schools in these test but all three groups are moving up the scale to progress. Progress and increases have a statistical relationship with the amount of money that are invested in schools.  

Miller-McCune, did an incredible posting, "What are American School Doing Right?" about researching what those top countries are doing that is working.  Unlike what many are touting here in the states of privatizing schools the countries and townships found that the resources in the district model were best to turn the system around and keep it working.  That even though we keep hearing the barrage of criticism we are doing a ton right.  We may not be at the top of the list for test scores but we are still the global standard.  Our graduation rate maybe 70% but we have not gone down we are still getting better. His findings are that despite our diversity we are doing a great job, but it all boils down to money.   

Before you rush out to see a movie that shouts at what we are doing wrong check out what we are doing really right.  

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Touching Understanding

"Between our birth and death we may touch understanding, As a moth brushes a window with its wing." ~Christopher Fry

It has been raining here for the last two days.  It is always a sad event.  Three large dogs caged for sleep wake with a giant mud pit for a backyard.  Rain means wet walks.  It means dirty carpets and bad hair days. 

Yesterday driving to work I was grumpy and running late.  Rain sprinkled all around while the traffic crawled.  Parked at a particular light way too long my morning trance was broken. A big movement caught my attention.  Turning I saw it.  I dove attempting to fly past my truck stopped and took a bit of a break on the hood of my car next to the windshield.  Worried it would get hurt I slowed down.  It turned and faced the wind holding its head up enjoying the break.  I enjoyed giving it a ride.  She sat there and took the ride from Davis to Precinct Ln, four blocks.  Stopped at another light she walked to my side then flew away.  I drove on my grumpiness melted away.  Smile returned.  It was a good day.  

Monday, September 6, 2010

Query, Query oh thou douth slay me!

Two days straight and I am wearing out the delete key on the computer.  Same page has been filled and erased more times then I care to admit.  I've searched, googling my way into utter confusion. I some how end up completely spent on Facebook feeling guilty knowing the stupid letter won't write itself.  Peering around my laptop screen at the pile of hard work that has haunted me this last year I see it sitting nice and neat in the 3 inch binder. 

Why do I query?  The only way to break into the  sainted "Six Sisters," the six major publishing houses is to have an agent.  After hunting through the list of thousands filtering the correct genre, the type of experience, the locations and the authors they represent the list has taken major cuts.  Now down to two list the 'super wish list of champions' and the 'eh at least I will be published' list. I sit with a wretched sad start of a letter that is meant to be my foot in the door.    

The little articles make it sound simple.
  1. Purpose for contacting.  Holding back the overwhelming urge to beg and plea for representation, I instead have modeled it after what I have seen others do I settled on the..."I am seeking representation for my contemporary mystery, In God We Trust complete at 62,000 words. Enclosed are a synopsis and a sample chapter." Not thrilling but it is professional. 
  2. Prove you have done your research.  There is a fine line between kissing up, complementing someone and being snarky.  I have to admit I hate this part.  Giving complements to someone I know has had huge amounts of success is awkward for me.  I got nothing for this.  Thinking of skipping it and hoping that the fact that I am querying them says enough.
  3. Summary of plot, 5-7 sentences.  Up until this point I have worried that summarizing the book to those who ask would be like ripping the soul from the book and giving it to a stranger.  Trying to put the giant living being of this project into 5-7 magical sentences feels impossible.  Having written three different summaries each represent it, but each completely different I am at a loss as to which to go with. 
  4. Credentials.  This paragraph reeks!  A B.S. in History and Secondary education says nothing to my my ability to write.   I am not a journalist.  I blog...looked down upon by those in the 'writing community' because it takes no ability, anyone can do it.  I haven't even outed my writing ability to those around me till this book was completed.  There are no awards no past experience.  I sit alone with my finished book.  Hoping for a chance.  

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Freebies and the FBI

Summers of my youth meant spending almost a month with my Grandparents.  Midland was my summer home.  Grandmother  planned adventures for everyday.  There were cooking lessons with her.  Baking lessons with her sister, Aunt Irma.  Trips to see movies and visit the water park with my Aunt. Every year she had some new adventure or project.  Her favorite involved freebies.  

One summer when my sister and I were in middle school Grandmother had gotten her hands on a book, 1001 freebies.  Not having Internet it meant sending letters to places and getting the freebies that they offered.  Sometimes we would have to shell out the $0.75 for shipping.  We mailed out a ton of letters.  If anyone complained of boredom the book would be thrusted at us as a suggestion.  Most of the goodies and free treasures arrived months after we left.  The favorite, a Time Life magazine from Russia, Grandmother called as soon as it arrived.  

The next summer we were excited to see the foreign literature.  Grandmother kept it in a special place to show off to visitors.  After looking over the cool find we were recharged with attempts to get free stuff.  That was until we got a call from the FBI.  Grandmother back from a long day making computer chips for Texas Instruments got the call.  When Grandfather returned from Hobs fixing typewriters for IBM he got an earful.  Out came the yellow pages and he was dialing the local FBI office trying to figure out what this was all about.  They told him call us with their badge numbers and we will confirm for you if they are indeed agents.  They did not talk about it after that.  The only way I learned about it was my keen hearing and the thin walls of that tiny house. 

The following evening we had dinner early.  We were in the middle of watching Wheel of Fortune when a knock was on the door interupted our evening ritual.  The two men in dark suits were on the porch.  Grandpa opened the door just enough to see the badge number and Grandma was on the phone calling to verify.  Not to be left out of the excitement I was up at the door peaking under Grandfather's arm, finally seeing what the commotion was about I had only one question for Grandfather, "What did you do now?" 

A furrowed brow and loud, "Get to your room!" Was his only reply.  Like any good eves dropper I was silent and listening through my cracked door.  The suited men walked in and asked for one thing, the package that was received from Russia.  

"Oh for crying out loud," Was my Grandmother's reply.  She could be heard coming down the hall...boy was she miffed.  Like good little spies my sister and I were on our separate beds fake reading when my Grandmother walked in.  She marched over to the closet and pulled the prized Russian Life Magazine and marched back out to the front room pulling the door completely closed as she left.  The FBI left along with them they took Grandmother's zest for the freebie.  Grandfather banned any more sending away for fun freebies.

What about the freebies?
God bless the Internet!  Grandmother would be so proud of me.  After wading through many unseeingly sites that spiral into some identification spam mess I have found the most perfect place to carry on the tradition of summer freebies.  (My two favorites!)
  • Shop 4 Freebies is sweet!  You can find anything from shampoo to dog food for free.  After a few minutes of filling out my address I am sure I will not have to buy shampoo for at least 4 months. 
  • The Freebie Source is easy to navigate and you get genuine deals not nonsense. 
  • Not to be too hyper focused on one single way to save money I have found some other great tips.  On Bread is Pain there is a great article about saving money on food. Freebies can come in the form of great tips.
  • Another favorite is Craig's list the free section.  It is amazing what people are just giving away. 
I am pretty sure that Grandmother would be overjoyed at all the freebie options there are today that won't trigger some government investigation.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Christmas in August

How else would you describe the first day back at school?  Teachers everywhere anticipate this day.  We plan, go to classes and plan some more. There is painting and decorating that changes every year.  Not to mention the endless attempts at peaking at our possible list of darlings.  Text and emails are exchanged discussing who the specials are that we don't want to have...then second guessing of the source. Each teacher is sure that the little darling had a magical summer and outgrown the annoying traits that they had before. 

Today was that day for me.  I feel the same exhaustion that takes me when I am sitting in a pile of ripped up Christmas paper with a kitchen full of dirty dishes.  Feet are pounding almost as bad as my head.  The soaking summer heat is unrelenting outside and my new teens are still struggling to remember to put on any deodorant.  Smelt great by the end of the day.  It is not quiet turkey and pie. 

Parents eager to help with the transition drop off students early and are early eager to pick them up again.   There are other ways to help your child's education.  Then waiting in a cool car.  On the Cubicle Chick, she elaborated on how to help your child's education.  As a teacher drunk on the possibility the new year holds I say communicate.  We promise not to believe all the stuff your child says if you promise the same.  Realize that your sweet baby acts differently here...and that is okay.  We are here because we love working with these little weirdos.    

I love the promise that this day holds for them and for me. It is magical.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sorry my dear blog...

I have abandon you of late.  Instead of my religious posting I have been choosing to work like a crazy lady on my book. It is a delicate balance that I have been failing.

The book rewrite is almost complete. It is time to climb out of my cave and emerge back into life. There are but a handful of chapters left to comb through.  The query process will begin soon and I will come back to you seeking balance and begging forgiveness like a scorned lover. 

Maybe..then again school is starting again. The preparation has been waiting for me.  I have a short 5 days and shiny little faces will be there ready to learn. 

I also have been back at the gym...another long lost friend I am returning to in search for my regular routine.  It was a chubby summer.  My skin feels tight.  Enjoyment in the minute has become a spare tire around my midsection.  I am seeking out my stretchy pants in the morning not a fun scavenger hunt. 

Be patient with me I will be back this weekend.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Take a breath and enjoy the dream

When I grow up I will have the happy family with the big house and be able to travel all the time.  That was the mantra of a little girl who was in love with the Disney fairy tale and summer vacations. 

Fast forward a few years and well- the prince never showed even though I've kissed way too many toads. I take that back...he showed but he was married or engaged and he already had his own house and was working on the family thing with someone else.  Not to worry his creepy stable boy  tried to hollar at your girl but when she found out he was living with his parents she politely said no thank-you. 

As for the happy family...what would  a writer do with a happy family?  Instead we prefer a little bit of crazy gives us inspiration for that next book.  I accept the crazy and have added to it three phyco dogs. 

The American dream, is it the same for everyone? 

I must admit in my American dream I never was working two jobs and struggling to make ends meet.  In a survey of 2,200 American families 84% described themselves as middle class.  I would agree with them I am in the middle...barely.  The Parade survey defines the middle class to be those families earning between $30-$99,000.  Of those surveyed 66% say they tend to live pay check to pay check.  And 83% agree they don't have much left once all the bills are paid.  It is good not to be alone.  What is amazing to me is that in this same fiscally pitiful group 80% still believe that the great American dream is a possibility. Maybe it is in our American blood not to give up the hope it could happen.

This entire blog post was inspired when I read Remembering to dream, by Lindsay Shugerman.  She recently posted a picture of a 2 million dollar house to her facebook wall.   It spoke to me.  Breaks from writing my next Great American novel have been filled by me searching for a mountain home in Colorado. Not to mention the the eclectic antique furniture and paintings to fill it.  Part of it could be because it is a million degrees outside and we are all eager for some relief.  It is not that I feel I need more because I am more.  I am fully aware of how important it is to be happy with what you have.  I understand that there are so many around the world who will never have all that I take for granted on a daily basis.  But it is just the feeling that maybe I could have "It."  That this daily grind, the worries I carry they could all go away and be replaced with only joy and relief.  I think we all want a little of that.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What are your favorite all time quotes?

Quotes stolen from movies, music, literature and friends infiltrate our daily language.  I've seen the smirky smile that is snuck between two people when one recognizes the quote from a new movie or cheeky television show.  I've been the one with the sly smile when I recognize it in others. 

It is amazing how things that surround us sometimes are lost to our own perception.  I never really thought about it before this morning when I ran across the blog Practice of Madness, by Scarsarestories. She asked what was your favorite all time novel quotes?  It got me to thinking...dangerous I know.  How much of our daily conversations come from quoted material?  And what is it that we are quoting the most?

US Today did a story, 25 Most Memorable Quotes apparently we are all heading out the door with a quick, "Lets roll" before we go do work.  I know I have been guilty of a "just say no," although most of my 7th graders don't get it.  When  backed into a corner I have thrown out a "You can't handle the truth," the effect is a slight different then the movie I dare say. 

Screenwriters are sometimes so good we all want them to be the writers for our own life.  The American Film Industry was doing a 100 years in review and this list emerged...100 of the most quoted film lines.  Some of you are saying "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." But I know that some of you are cheering and bidding that I "Go ahead and make (your) day," with this amazing list of more conversation quote arsenal.  I have to admit finding this list has got me thinking...an entire blog post done with out of nothing but popular quotes would be more then fun. 

On a side note...
In my exhaustive research I stumbled onto a site that is hilarious.  The site is made up of random snippets of conversations overheard in New York city.  As a writer these are great fodder for story starters. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Facebook Games: My Obsession My Guilty Pleasure

This morning I sprung from bed with a quickness. Rushing through my morning routine one thought in mind, 'did anyone attack my backyard monsters?' My latest most favorite obsession on Facebook is a cartoon world of tiny monsters that are made for the purpose of attacking my neighbors.  It is intense.  Yesterday my entire town was wiped out.  All my hard work to save up twigs and pebbles for my new town hall were gone.  Some guy named Jeff took them all..urgghh Jeff! Incensed I was on a mission yesterday to reorganize and so far it is holding the possible attackers off and the new town hall plans are back on track.

As I write this I toggle back and forth checking my updates so I can move my little workers around and get the most from my time before I have to go off to work.  I know it is obsessive.  Wondering if I was alone in my obsession I went to facebook- where else would go for questions about the world.  I am not alone.  Friends tell me that they set their alarms to harvest crops in similar games on the same social network.  Still not satisfied I pulled out the big guns and googled it.  

CNN ran an article February 23, at that time Farmville had more active users then the entire population of France.  It is nice not to be alone.

The article then goes on to explain that the huge popularity is attributed to the type of games that Zynga (the genius company that came up with Farmtown and Monster Backyard) has created. Comes with their structure.  There aren't any prolonged stories or intricate computer skills needed.  These are the games that you can play while you are on the phone, they are the play and walk away games that we love.  Well some may play and walk away...I'm too busy plotting my revenge on this Jeff guy. 


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Web writing VS. Novel writing

This summer I challenged myself to post daily and write in my novel daily.  They are more different than I ever believed. 

Novel writing
Writing in my novel is done is dark solitude. Typing for hours with no outside conversations.  Perfect sentences and amazing metaphors sit for only me to see.  I battle with characters, plot construction and the art of dropping clues that don't look like nuclear bombs but are instead slight and elusive like a wispy fog. Each chapter is determined by me.  I am the rule maker.  God of the pages before me. Omnipotence is lonely. 

Blog writing
This blog is a breathing beast.  I write and it talks back in a range of voices.  I post and link and before I know it the post has run off.  Gaining in speed and wreaking havoc all along the way. Like a good nursemaid I watch its stats and monitor its health in amazement.  Some days I think, 'ech...not bad' it thinks otherwise.  I sit and bleed out my soul and the post melts away into nothingness. There are no restrictions.  I post poems, research pieces, personal narratives whatever I am interested in for that day.  It is very seductive. alluring me with a daily freedom of choice. 

The summer goal fell apart briefly but the seductive call of free choice of subject and form have been pulling back at me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Death: A party we are all garunteed

Ever feel that some times death is too close?  It is around every corner and haunting you when you at every turn.  It was one of those weeks for me. 

Two funerals in a single week and I was spent.  Too tear streaked to write.

In these times of loss and sadness I want to be ready for my own passing.  I want to know that my family will not have to scramble with the business of going on after I'm gone.  My Grandmother was a planner.  She had everything ready at her death.  Will written, letters to loved ones expressing her last feelings and good byes, service planned and plot purchased she had us taken care of even at her death and we could focus on the process of healing and missing her. She taught me how important it is to be there for your family even when you are gone.

God love the Internet, it has made this process so easy.

I have become a bit of a freak about being prepared.  I have a binder that I keep a copy of my life insurance policy, my health insurance, my identification, information about my death plan.  Did you stutter over that?  Death plan is what I want done with my body, and what kind of celebration I want at my death.  Even more importantly I have an updated will.  Probate court is not how you want to have your loved ones remember you. 
There are websites (http://www.deadmansswitch.net/ or http://www.ifidie.com/ )  that you can join and get a log in and it will allow you to type up emails that you want sent following your death.  The site will check in with you every month by sending an email that you respond to testing if you are still...well alive.  If there is no response then it will fire off a total of three tries before it sends the emails to your loved ones that you want them to receive at your death.  You can include passwords that your loved ones may need to access your accounts. http://www.thedigitalbeyond.com/online-services-list/ Has a giant list of additional sites that have similar accounts that you can set up.

It is better to live a life that is prepared for the end.  Your survivors will thank you for it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Too early to go

Death is a suit that does not fit the young.

It is to big, the seams are all wrong.

The shade is too dark for lives that are so bright.

The suit would be more fitted on some one of my stature.

Not you.

You were mine for a year in my heart of a lifetime. 

Childlessness vanished for a moment with your smile.

Teacher's nightmare- energetic with always something to say. 

I wouldn't, couldn't imagine you any other way. 

I will miss you dear friend. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Does your neighborhood make you fat?

Does where you live impact your physical health? Researchers are looking for a link to just that. Physical health, measured through body mass index (BMI) is a combination of several complex relationships in a person’s life. Researchers have linked it to living environment and neighborhood driving conditions are just a handful of influencing factors for BMI.

What is BMI?

The body mass index is a number that is a ratio of weight to height. Calculators can be found anywhere online. A BMI of less than 18 is seen as being underweight. Normal range is anywhere from 18.5 to 24.9. The overweight range is 25-29.9. The extremely dangerous range is the obese with a BMI of 30 or more. Recent reports from the CDC states that Americans have grown from the average BMI of 25 to 28. As a nation we went from the edge of normal to the edge of overweight bordering on obese. This increase has scientist in a scramble to discover what is driving the dramatic gain.

What relationship to your neighborhood and your health?

Scientists are looking for connections to out BMI and our environment. The most recent was conducted in a neighborhood study by a team of researchers in various fields of at the University of Buffalo. They had three significant findings. First, the larger the number of restaurants within a five minute walk of the person’s house results has a higher BMI. Second, women who reside closer to supermarkets and grocery stores tend to have lower BMIs. Third, they found that the interaction of food environment and the structural environment has a huge impact on obesity. If the land is used diversely meaning there are parks and trails near home it is beneficial for promoting physical activity but when there are more restaurants then the BMI increases.

Another study, related to a person’s physical environment was published earlier in the year by the University of Alberta. They focused on the perceived traffic in a neighborhood and its relation to BMI. The biggest surprise for researchers was when people believed that traffic was bad in their neighborhoods they had a higher BMI. Researchers failed to connect the participant’s level of physical activity to the study. They did find that the neighborhoods social economic status and the age of did have a connection. The oldest and poorest neighborhoods had the highest BMI.

Tanya Berry, leader of the UA study suggest that there are three D’s of a neighborhoods walkability: diversity, density and design. Berry explained that lower income neighborhoods many times would rank high in all of the three D’s but it is their perception of their environment that keeps them from going out into it. They fear for their safety and stay inside. Combining the studies, it is not only your environment but how you see your environment.  See the benefits and use them and your body will reap the benefits. 
In conclusion

Environment and the how we see our environment impacts our health. Instead of walking to that nearby restaurant go to the grocery store next door. The key is to walk. Walking in your neighborhood and other regular physical activity is what can keep us all healthy.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Stumbleuponed...Live what you love

"...as an exercise for myself and you, I’ve created a list of questions to ask ourselves to help define that passion."
Have you ever played on with www.stumbleupon.com?  It is the most genius!   You click a button and then random (registered) sites pop up in no particular order.  I shockingly picked history, art, writing and a random selection of things.  This has become a secret passion of mine.  (There is a link to it on the bottom of this site.)

You see the most random bizarre and most amazing things that I would have never searched for, and most likely don't have the google rating to even show if I did search for them.  In my reckless random wandering last night I found 'Living Legacy' by Tia.  She was featuring the top 50 questions to ask yourself to define your passion.  50 questions are a lot!  I got overwhelmed just looking at it.  I have chopped the list.  Enjoy!   

Life Questions:
How do you really feel about what you are doing right now at this exact moment?

What is your fondest childhood memory? Who was there? What was going on?

How comfortable are you in your home?

What is one quality about your parent(s) that you really loved?

What is one quality about your parent(s) that you really do not like?

Do you like what you are doing for money?

What do you feel is your greatest skill?

What do you feel is your greatest personality trait?

Do you feel like anything in your life is holding you back from ultimate joy? List everything.

Write a paragraph or two about your ideal weekend/time away from work. Include location, sights, smells, food, activities, and people.

How close are you in proximity to the people you absolutely adore the most?

What do you want out of life?

How do you think people will remember you, when you die?

Write your epitaph - the sentence you would want to appear on your grave.

Do you have a hobby that you like to do but you don’t get paid for? What is it?

Does money hold you back from anything? What does it hold you back from? Be very specific.

Do you know anyone who you feel is living their dream? Who? What do they do all day and night? Be very specific.

Do you think you can be completely satisfied living where you do right now?

What do you want to accomplish?

What are three things that you do everyday that make you totally happy?

What do you want to pass on to your children?

What is something you have never tried but would like to?

Are there things in life you wish you could reverse or make right?

Do you feel like you have enough money to live the way you want to?

Are you happy when you think about the upcoming day and all that it comes with?

What do you find challenging?

What do you find thrilling?

What are three memories you haven’t yet created but you would like to?

Do you feel energized when you work?

Do you feel creative when you work?

Describe what you consider work, and what you consider play. What are the differences?

Do you feel blessed or lucky to wake up each day? How can you get to that point?

If all of your debt was forgiven tomorrow, and you had a completely clean slate, what is the very FIRST thing you would change about your life?

Where are three places you have always thought about living but never did?

When do you want to retire?

Is there an award or accolade you have always dreamed of winning or being recognized for?

If you could learn how and money was not an issue, is there anything else you would do for work besides what you are doing now? Be specific.

List three things you would immediately change about your work day if you were the boss (assumes you are not the boss).

List three things you would immediately start doing on the weekends if you had the money.

Imagine it is a big holiday and you are with your loved ones and you are living what you truly love. When they ask what you have been doing, what do you say in reply?

Hope you take a little time and think about what your legacy will be. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Creativity Part II: How do you get it jump started?

Writing daily is draining.  I am starting to think that the screen's fluid light is sucking my powers to create.  Working in creative mode all day means that you have to give yourself a chance to refuel. 

When I was working on my MBA, in marketing I would hear of these marketing agencies with bicycles, air soft guns, meditation rooms, walls made completely of sticky notes where the atmosphere was constant party and adults were expected to play.  My work environment is a little different.  The television is on with some day time rubbish about some desperate female trying to find the baby daddy. The dogs battle with the laptop for lap space.  Instead of a sticky notes I have a pretty scary stack of old mail that beckons me to go through and file or toss. If I need a moment of meditation I do dishes...not quiet the same.

I decided I would not go into marketing I chose this.  I keep telling myself that in hopes that it makes it easier.  With this as my chosen life path I have to find ways to motivate and ignite creativity for myself.  In this constant search I have turned up a few jewels. 

Enjoy your meditative creative break.  Now grab a cup of coffee and get back to work.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Benefit of Failure

“My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at his feet.” ~Mahatma Gandhi quotes

Yesterday I had the good fortune of finding the JK Rowling's speech to Harvard graduates.  (JK Rowling: The fringe benefits of failure Video on TED.com)  In her warm, funny speech she looked back at the time in her life where she was having her biggest failures.  The times when she learned, was humbled and kept writing kept going for her goals. 

I have always loved her story.  I connected to it because it reminds in a way the same as what I have lived.  As a college graduate I taught for three years in a school in a tough neighborhood. I wanted to help everyone.  I volunteered for every position there was. I was at the school for meetings or events for hours each week on top of my regular schedule.  It was the perfect storm for burn out. 

Convinced that the college diploma was a magic piece of paper to get me any job I desired I quit, left teaching.  In six months I struggled daily to find a job.  It seems even with a degree people still wanted experience.  August came, as the families buzzed around the school supply aisle I wept.  Yearning for the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, and the sight of sparkly group of new students.  Knowing I had let that all go broke my heart. 

After some failed attempts to work in the mortgage industry I knew I had to scramble to get back into education.  It pulled at me everyday.  In September it is difficult to find any teaching job much less one as a history teacher- those are typically saved for the coaches.  I lucked out and got a long term substitute teaching job.  Meanwhile, I was homeless living on a sofa.  The mortgage company job had fallen through and  the finance company was trying to repossess my car.  I was just trying to find something to bring in money.  Minimum wage jobs said I was over qualified others said I didn't have enough skills.

Through luck I found a long term substituting job in the district I had just left.  The meager salary did not cover everything.  By night I would do inventories for ten dollars an hour then sleep a few hours and teach.  On weekends I was a house/pet/kid sitter when I was not working as a cleaning lady.  I continued this for several months.  It looked like it was going to work.  I got a little apartment, the scary neighbors were just a side benefit. (They provided fodder for stories that I had yet to write.)  Opened a checking account and could afford food every now and then.  It looked like I was clawing my way out of the bad times.

Working late one night at the school I came out of the school and could not find my car.  I knew immediately, repossession.  They had found me.  Tough to work several jobs in Texas with no car.  I was crushed.  I called the company, they told me I had 30 days before my car would be put up for auction or I could pay them $1,500.  Felt like they were asking for a million.  I was going to have to do something I had been able to avoid till then, begging.  Contacting all my family my stomach was turning with defeat I asked for money.  I got it after letting go of my pride and admitting I needed help they were there.  The Queen of Independence learned a tough lesson. There are people all around you that want to be there for you you just have to reach out.  

This Cinderella story didn't end with a White Knight and a big castle at least not yet.  Instead I learned.  I can live off very little.  Rice isn't that bad, even if you have to eat it everyday for months.  There are some jobs where you become invisible in our society.  Stripped of all the stuff, I write.  I write for escape.  In my writing I am free,  I do not suffer, fear, or regret.  My successes as a person is not measured by what I have it is by measured by what I have overcome. 

I hope you never have to overcome the levels of poverty I have.  I do hope that you fail.  It is how you find out who you are and what you have when everything else it gone.  It is not something to fear.  It is something to learn from to become better inspite of.  Is this the last of my failures?  Most likely, this is just the beginning.  I know there are many lessons for me still to learn and I embrace them.       


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Freedom's ROI

"The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.”- Thucydides (Ancient Greek historian)
What is freedom? Sounds like a question that one of my college professors could talk about for months. Freedom is one of those elusive modern terms that we hang the hat of our nation on yet don't really understand.  The dictionary defines freedom as the absences of necessity, coercion or constraint in action.  In short, freedom is choice. The choice of how to live, vote, pray, eat, talk it is all parts of who we are.

"ROI = Return On Investment. Although this term originated in financial circles I recently figured out it also applies to life in general." ~ Melowout's Missteps

On this fourth of July I wonder, how would a nation determine the Return on Investment for Freedom?  Like the earlier quote suggest this is something that we associate with the financial realms but what if we applied it to our fourth of July.  First we have to look at what was invested which can be immeasurable.  How do you calculate lives lost, fortunes gambled, the precious value of choice? 

If we can't calculate a set number than lets focus on the cost versus profit or this case national benefits. 

1) When the signers of the Declaration of Independence took those bold steps against a government they made the hard choice to jump from being rowdy to rebellious. For a country that largely considered themselves British this was a deadly switch. The cost were reputations, fortunes and lives.    

Those signers determined the fate of a nation.  When they singed that paper there were only 2.5 million people in the United States.  Little did they know that 309.6 million people would be celebrating that choice over two hundred years later.

2) The forefathers were stepping up against the tyranny they felt from taxation, economic repression.  The "heavy taxing" was still less than the continental British citizens had to pay but it was the lack of vote that upset the colonist the most.  The benefit of their wanting an economically free nation has been a tradition that has stuck.  If you look at current economic indexes of freedom the United States is still one of the most free nations economically ranking as the 8th most free. Interestingly the United States is ranked two above her colonial mother which is ranked ten. 

3)  Every fourth of July an email starts to float about that tells the wretched outcomes of the men that signed that fateful paper. History, particularly historians are prone to embellish for the making of a good tale.  These men did pay a price however it may not have been one that is much different than the other United States citizens. Our soldiers and their families today still pay the price of freedom of stepping up to tyranny.

What is the ROI of freedom? The cost of human life, of courage it took to fight against the familiar for some unknown was a pretty high price.  Everyone in those early years was touched by it and paid some how.  The benefits have been overwhelming. Even in an economy sitting in recession we are still one of the most blessed nations having the highest GDPs.  The United States is by far the largest donor to International Aid for foreign development encouraging nations world wide to follow our lead economically.  A nation that was butt of many a joke starting out has become a global powerhouse because we chose  freedom. 

Celebrate this day- celebrate your freedom.   


Friday, July 2, 2010

One way

"There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still."  -Franklin D Roosevelt

Inspired by a slew of books I have read lately I decided to give this meditation stuff a try.  The books made it sound like this metaphysical experience.  That would bring you internal peace something that I would love more of in my life.  I thought it would be easy at first.  You close your eyes and the brain falls into this trance and boom you are there.  Apparently that is not how it works...at least for me.  

The first attempt I fell asleep.  To my defence, it was an especially long day and I was comfortable. 

The second attempt I got wiser.  I decided to do it in the morning when the sleep has been all wrung out of me.  Laying with slow deep breaths, hands resting on my on my stomach I concentrated on breathing. Well, I did at first.  Then I thought about what I had do with the day, how hot my room was, how I needed to lose that chubby roll under my hand suddenly I remembered I was suppose to be quiet.  With great work I went back to that state of mental silence.  It lasted a minute...almost.  Then it was back to the absent wondering from one topic to another.   Dragged myself back to the mental quiet three times after.  After the third time, I was in a full sweat and fed up with my lack of metaphysical ability. 

The third attempt came after several months.  I had to really talk myself into it.  After researching I found that I could concentrate on one thing in my life that I was struggling with rather than the mental silence that eluded me.  That was a great relief to me.  With my new technique in hand I decided I would try it again in the morning.  My eyes popped open and I was ready, I assumed the position.  Hands resting on my stomach, laying flat breath deep mind focused.  Well, it started that way.  Focusing on the problem...breathing deep I was better at this.  No telling how long I was in that state, felt like a million years.  Then it was like word association.  I thought about one problem, I was having with a friend.  Next I was thinking about that delish dessert she made last time I was over at her house, about a book I read about a chef who solved murders  then wondered how she would be at solving murder. Suddenly catching myself I went back to the problem with the friend.  Felt like eternity of weighing both sides.  She has a beautiful house. If I had that house how would I have decorated it?  There I went back down the wrong road.  Deciding that keeping my mind still was like telling a hamster to sit.  It might sit for a bit, but it is by accident and won't last long.  A hamster has got to get on that wheel and spin in circles for a bit or burrow and dig.  Sitting is not its style. 

I have not made a fourth attempt. Maybe I will give it a go...the 4th of July is around the corner.  Inner peace is still elusive...I will keep trying.     

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Some dreams die early

Writers witness and write.  After seeing the sadest little student council race I came home and had to write this.  The child in the story was a stranger to me, but watching him innocent and brave gave me hope for any dream I have hopes of accomplishing.  It showed me that you have to try and do your best and that when that isn't good enough that God will send people to your life to help you.

“Josh, you’re up!” Thundered throughout the cafetorium, or maybe the thundering was only in his head. His ten year old body was concrete as he tried to make his way to the microphone. All the eyes were on him. He could feel each one steeling his strength.

Last night in front of his mirror he was the greatest politician that ever lived. The people he spoke to laughed, cried, they were moved by him. He was empowered by them. He was strong. He knew what to say. Last night he knew this moment would change his life forever. He was right.

Today, the walk with all eyes on him took every bit of strength he could muster. In his mind he told himself, “Okay Josh, this is show time,” and he slowly turned around to face his audience.

Facing the audience was much worse then before. Earlier he could only imagine the eyes, now here they were, all on him. He swallowed hard.

That giggly girl from his history class was sitting in the front row swinging her feet back and forth without a care in the world. He had a deep and sudden urge to punch her as hard as he could in the face. He didn’t. Mr. Frank, his math teacher, was smiling strangely at a visiting mom. His other teachers were shifting from side to side like their feet hurt. Josh wanted to go back to his seat, but there he stood frozen. Absentmindedly his hand clutched at the microphone gripping and releasing causing a loud static to ring out on every contraction. Josh never noticed the static noise nor could he stop clutching.

Knees weak and feeling a sudden need for oxygen he squeezed his eyes close and inhaled with all his might. Unfortunately with eyes closed he did not see that when he blew his air filled cheeks out that the stream of oxygen was aimed at the microphone amplifying his panic for all watching. When his eyes opened for a quick second all that he could see before him were tiny dots. Josh clutched at his speech. His hands were moist and the paper wilted under his touch.

“Hmm, hmm I am Josh. I am running for …” his panic had stolen the last of his air. Time to breathe, Josh get a grip on yourself. What is wrong with you? His mind shouted. Block out the eyes. Pretend it is the mirror you are looking at.

“Hmm, hmm,” he just couldn’t seem to clear his throat enough. Nothing would help. “Just do it, so you can sit back down,” he screamed at himself.

“I am running for Student Council Vice President.” Where was his place? Between the breathing and the eye clinching he had no idea where he was on his paper. Oh, God! Why? Why did everything always go wrong for him? No good, the paper is of no use. In a disparate display he crunched the paper loudly at his side with his free hand. Finally the uncomfortable display was too much for Mrs. Jones and she snuck up behind him embracing his shoulder while she uncrunched his paper and whispered in his ear.

“Come on, we can do this together. She found his lost words and slowly one by one fed them to him like a baby bird. Josh, followed her lead repeating everything she said with his eyes safely shut, squeezed tight and hard while he continued to grasp and release the microphone. If she paused he breathed, shooting every heavy stream of air at the awaiting microphone. When she was done, she patted him on the shoulder and he opened his eyes. His chest ached. His fingers were numb. His nose felt like it was running down his face. His ten year old body felt as though he had been in a car wreck. Not caring who watched he returned to the security of his seat. Cheeks hot from the burn of embarrassment he looked down at his knees, it was all over. Some dreams die early.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I am spent

Typing so much yesterday got me seeing spots. My typical writing binge has been a meager 500 words a day.  Yesterday was like a Thanksgiving day feast...at 2500 words.  Staggering to bed I was barely able to shower before I was out for the count. 

The flow of words yesterday was at times inspiring and other times painfully difficult.  Family trying to be helpful, I am sure, suggested that the best way to get over a momentary block was to do dishes, cook meals or the so very exciting walk the dogs.  It was as challenging to get those words to paper as it was to dodge the helpful suggestions. 

I am not sure how full time writers do this on a regular basis.  Even today I kept fighting the urge to stretch, and take that nap that is beckoning at the fringes of my conscientiousness.  Felt like the day after a tough workout, I didn't want to go near the gym nor do I feel like I am ready for the  fight to write these words.  Yet- after I hit publish for this I will again wrestle the same fights with dyslexia, grammar, spelling, and some times a dried pool of words. 

The end is in sight.  This  first stage is nearing the end and so many stories shudder through my being.   

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.
~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith