Wednesday, December 30, 2009


It seems like I've been waiting for this year to end since it started.

I've been thinking over 2009 and trying to come up with something cheerful to say, something that will spin the negative into positive (which I'm very good at), but I keep getting stuck. The two things that stand out are getting Owen over the summer, and my grandmother finally coming home in mid-December. Other than that, meh.

(Well, meeting my writing friends and my middle school friends ALSO ranks quite high...)

This year has been tough for more people than I could ever list here, in more ways than I really should list here (and believe me, I wrote a two-page post that does not need to see the light of pixels), so instead let's raise a toast to 2010.

*raises fat-free Hazelnut-creamer laden coffee above head*

Here's to you!

I stopped making resolutions years ago, but if you have any, let's hear 'em!

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's Snowing!

I know everyone in the Midwest and on the east coast is probably sick to death of the snow, but it thrills me to see everything coated in a couple inches of the white stuff. Yes, I may change my mind when I'm driving to Kalamazoon later today, but for now it's so pretty!

The hockey game on Saturday was a lot of fun. Our seats were on center ice, and while we weren't exactly on the glass, we had an awesome view (well, we did when the tall guys in front of us went to buy beer).

The pie-baking and side-dish making for Christmas dinner went better than expected. I was most impressed with my ability to get everything on the table at the same time. Generally I'm very good with timing and never keep anyone waiting -- except for cooking. Inevitably the vegetable will be the first thing ready and we spend ten minutes waiting for the rice while the meat "sets" longer than it needs to.

I'm at my sister's right now and we're getting ready to run a couple errands (including Target!!!) then we'll camp on the couch watching movies until it's time for my middle-school get-together. Tomorrow morning I head back to Detroit for my final week of caring for my grandmother. Did I tell you I extended my stay until the 6th? Hopefully my house and my dog will still be standing when I get there.

I hope you had a good weekend and have a wonderful week.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I'm in the Huffington Post!

My aunt has an article in the Huffington Post called What's the Oldest Item in Your Refrigerator?

I am "the niece." I also took the picture.

I wasn't planning to tell my gramma that I took pictures, but I guess the cat's out of the bag. Now I'm off to the grocery store to restock her salad dressing and bbq sauce.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

So You Think You're a Writer?

I've mentioned before that I struggle to come up with story ideas. Most of my writer friends talk about having entire notebooks full of ideas and they often struggle with choosing one thing to focus on. Not me.

Don't get me wrong, my mind is always going and a day doesn't go by without me making up a story about something or someone I encounter, but these ideas are just fleeting things... nothing worthy of an entire novel. Or even short story.

The week before I flew home (so two weeks ago? I've lost track) I came up with an idea for my next novel. I wrote the first couple paragraphs, I did a rough timeline since it covers almost fifty years, then I hopped on a plane excited to start writing.

Then I got tired.

Then I arrived in Chicago, then Michigan, and then I chatted with my aunt the writer and she encouraged me to think more about YA. And think I did.

During one of my numerous drives to the hospital last week, the premise for a YA novel surfaced. I say premise because I still have no idea what the actual story will be -- I only have the premise. If you aren't familiar with the concept, the dictionary defines premise as "a proposition supporting or helping to support a conclusion." Yeah.

Since I don't want to talk about my idea just yet, an example of premise would be a young boy wizard goes to a school for wizards. The story is what happens. That's the part I still need.

Nonetheless, this new character has been in my head (not talking much just yet) and during a 5am check on my grandmother, my character spit out a prologue and an opening paragraph. I already have blank spaces because I need to define the thing that makes up the premise, and I'm excited to get online and do some research.

I was about to do just that when suddenly I remembered I'm supposed to be doing research for my other idea. Whoops. So now I know how the rest of you feel.

Monday, December 21, 2009

That's Not the Garbage

Whew! It's been a long couple days. (I should note I'm writing this Sunday evening and I'm a little loopy). After a roller-coaster of a week (ahem), my grandmother was released from the hospital on Sunday and is now back in her apartment. She's already refered to me as her cook and bottle washer several times, but she enjoyed the first meal I cooked for her so I don't think she'll ride me too hard. ;)

I saw my first snow in almost three years over the weekend and despite my baby-deer-like legs and uncooperative front-wheel-drive vehicle, I made it to all my destinations in one piece. And did I mention I now have a pre-paid cell phone? BIG WEEK.

One hurdle my grandmother and I have yet to comepletely overcome is figuring out how she'll get my attention in the middle of the night if she needs something. For the past ten weeks she's had a button within arm's reach that brings nurses and aides running (in theory anyway) and no matter how nicely she smiled, they wouldn't let her take one home (the button, not the aide, although that could be helpful).

Our solution? A little brass bell.

We're not sure if it'll be loud enough though. While I'm not a deep sleeper, I have learned to sleep through a lot of odd noises and a gentle tinkling in the next room (the bell... the bell...) may not be enough to rouse me. Plus, as you may recall (I can't track down the post, I'm sorry), there are a lot of bells in our neighborhood in the morning -- specifically, the trash collectors -- and I've trained myself to block them out. Hopefully the fancy bell will break through my defenses.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Mexico City Airport

I’ve heard horror stories about the Mexico City (DF) airport but aside from ridiculously long waits in between flights, I’ve never really had any problems.

On Friday my plane landed in DF at 11am and I had a whole plan for how I was going to amuse myself until my flight at 3:40pm. I figured my biggest problem would be not falling asleep from sheer boredom and missing my flight.

Let’s just say I didn’t get bored.

When I checked in at the Zihua airport I was told I’d need to get my boarding pass for the connection once I landed. Okay, no big deal. Well, an hour and a half later I finally had that boarding pass and arrived at my connecting gate. The longest I waited in line was maybe five minutes, so that was 85 minutes of schlepping across the DF airport, going from one counter to the next to the next, then yet one more. No one seemed to know exactly where I was supposed to go, but that didn’t stop them from giving me a destination, all of which involved going “way way down there, all the way to the end, then turn left.”

The most bizarre was when I was told I had to go to Terminal One. My instructions were something along the lines of “go way way down, all the way on the left, then go outside and at the very end there’s a white bus.”

“A bus? Not a train?”

“A bus.”

Sure enough, I walked outside (with the cabs, etc) and at the very end was a white bus surrounded by a little rope. Two women sat at a folding table and were checking IDs before you could board. Shortly after I got on the bus took off on the main road that normal cars drive on – not an airport access road. Then someone emerged from behind a bush and opened a large gate and we entered the actual runway. We even had to stop to let planes go by! (This was the point that I started looking around for hidden cameras, convinced we were either filming a movie or I was part of some prank show.) We meandered past hangars and planes and luggage carts. Apparently that was just a shortcut because we came to another gate where we were let back onto the street.

Or we tried to get back onto the street. See, there was a parade going by and no one wanted to let us in. The man who’d opened the gate stepped into the 4-lane road to stop traffic, but they kept driving around him. Finally another bus let us through. A few minutes later we pulled up to Terminal One and I only had to go to two more counters before I finally got my boarding pass.

In the midst of all this I was asking everyone I talked to where I was supposed to get my FM3 visa stamped because I somehow missed that step when I came to the States in August and they didn’t want to let me back in the country. Once again, everyone agreed with me that “yes, you would have problems if you didn’t have it stamped, but I’m not the person who does it, but if you go way down there then turn left, you should find the person that can help you.” I did eventually find the proper counter.

After all that, I still had three hours to kill, then a four-hour plane ride. I’ve never been happier to see cold weather.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What a Weekend!

Sorry for the silence – I had a whirlwind of a weekend in Chicago, then took the train to Detroit on Monday to see my grandmother and was promptly rerouted to the ER. Nine hours later she finally got a room and my aunt and I were able to get to sleep. As of right now she should be released back to her home on Wednesday so my nursemaid skills (ha) will still be put to use.

Now about this weekend. I flew in Friday night and had dinner with a friend, then breakfast with another friend, and Saturday afternoon the AW mayhem began. Fortunately I’d seen photos of everyone so I was able to spot AB from across the street, I picked Trish out in a crowded room, and fled when I saw the Monkey*. Angie was the sweetest zebra I’d ever met & Ray handled five woman quite well. I’d met Rachel before and we picked right up where we’d left off last September.**

I also squeezed in a visit with my cousin on Sunday evening before joining the AWers again at a dueling piano bar (where we completely took over the joint, naturally). I lost my voice each evening and caught a migraine somewhere between Ohio & Michigan Ave, all of which I blame on the monkey.

The train ride from Chicago to Detroit was nothing like I imagined. There was snow, but the train rocked A LOT and I somehow ended up seated next to the exhaust thingy. Let’s just say I bought breakfast on the train and the breakfast never left the train. Not fun. I haven’t started working on my new novel yet and I think I need a few more days rest before I get to it.

Now, what’d I miss?

* I don’t really have anything to note here, but those of you who know him should understand…
** And that’s all I can say about this weekend in public. ;) Actually, there’s a thread on AW with photos, if you’re so inclined.

Friday, December 11, 2009

All Packed & Ready to Go!

By 8pm this evening I should* be eating Thai food and doing my best to keep my skin from flaking off. Small sacrifices for a couple weeks at home.

In addition to all the exciting things I mentioned earlier this week, there's a chance I'll get to see several of my friends from MIDDLE school. As in 1990.


I should have regular internet access starting Monday, but I plan to cut back my posts to 2-3 times per week. I'll know better once I'm at my grandmother's and settled in. I finished the second draft of After the Fall Wednesday night and word on the street is two of my beta readers have already started reading.

Go beta readers!

Sorry, I'm a little excited. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and as for those certain writer friends, I'll see YOU tomorrow!

*Assuming the blizzard takes a breather and allows my plane to land. Cross your fingers people!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Friendly Books

In honor of my mother's birthday (Happy birthday Mom!), I have books to tell you about!


My friend Kelly Meding's debut novel, Three Days to Dead, came out last week and I've been told there's a copy waiting for me in Chicago. I cannot WAIT!

She’s young, deadly, and hunted—with only three days to solve her own murder…

When Evangeline Stone wakes up naked and bruised on a cold slab at the morgue – in a stranger’s body, with no memory of who she is and how she got there – her troubles are only just beginning. Before that night, she and the other two members of her Triad were star bounty hunters — mercilessly cleansing the city of the murderous creatures living in the shadows, from vampires to shape-shifters to trolls. Then something terrible happened that not only cost all three of them their lives, but also convinced the city’s other Hunters that Evy was a traitor . . . and she can’t even remember what it was.

Now she’s a fugitive, piecing together her memory, trying to deal some serious justice – and discovering that she has only three days to solve her own murder before the reincarnation spell wears off. Because in three days, Evy will die again – but this time, there’s no second chance…


My friend Jennifer Caddell has a short story in the newly released What If?, a collection of science fiction short stories.

A collection of short science fiction stories that finally answer the classic question, What If?

I'm so proud of her. This is her first publication credit and it's a printed book! Much more impressive than a measly online pub. Go Jen!


My friend Stacey Graham has a short story in the zombie anthology, Hungry for Your Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance.

I'm not a zombie person, but her Zombie Dating Guide (her current wip) has me itching to read about them.

Zombies are everywhere. You can't escape. So you might as well fall in love.

In the pages of HUNGRY FOR YOUR LOVE, the very first zombie romance anthology ever, you'll find romantic stories about loving a zombie, love stories between zombies and a tale of love and lust during the zombie Apocalypse. There are funny zombie stories, a zombie story that will make you cry, and even a few that might make you blush. We have zombie noir and zombie paranormal romance. You will be amazed at the scope of zombie lovin'. There's something for everyone in this star-studded collection, including stories by New York Times best-selling authors John Skipp (writing as Gina McQueen) and Brian Keene.

Be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Another Peek

I may be asking for trouble here, but while reading my wip last night I came across this passage and had to share. I think it may be my favorite.

Becca and Justin are seventeen-year old next-door neighbors and she's still freaking out from the attack that I posted on Monday. She has a hard time getting close to him and the past couple times he's tried to kiss her she panicked.

"It's okay," she whispered, and he kissed her. Heat flooded through her and she tightened her grip on his hand. He didn't put his arms around her like he normally did, so she rested her other hand in the crook of his arm and traced his bicep with her fingers. Their lips parted and he pressed harder. Justin's free hand found her thigh and she moved closer, her senses spinning out of control. Something in the back corner of her mind watched over her, waiting for the fear to come. She tried to lose herself in the softness of his lips, in the sigh that came from deep in his throat and mingled with her breath, but the fear wiggled in, a pinprick of light that grew brighter and brighter until her body tensed and sweat trickled down her back. The light blinded her, squeezing her lungs until she thought she might die right there in Justin's arms. But she refused to give in. She loved Justin and couldn't bear to hurt him, to make him feel like he had to pay for his father's sins. She broke away from the kiss and smiled, pretending her chest wasn't about to explode.

Hmm, that's a little steamier than I realized. I also just realized that I'm two for two with sweat trickling down the person's back. I swear this doesn't happen that often.

Again, feel free to leave comments. Now pardon me while I get all smooshy inside.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tuesday Stuff and Things

I've got a lot swirling in my head right now because I'm really excited to go home this weekend and nothing coherent is forming for a post so... I'll give you a peek inside my head.

I won't actually go to my HOME until after Christmas, but just being near my friends & family is enough. In addition to the trip itself, the following things keep distracting me from doing anything productive:

- When I arrive on Friday I will finally get to cuddle with my netbook. Squee! I've started taking notes for my new novel and I plan to work on the outline while traveling on Friday. During reading breaks, of course (Middlesex -- loving it).

- On Saturday I'm getting together with six of my writing friends for the very first time. If the conversations over the past couple days are any indication, I may never be the same.

- On Monday I'm taking the train from Chicago to Detroit and my plan is to start writing then. I'll have roughly five hours of uninterrupted ME time (assuming no one interesting sits near me) and the idea of writing on a train while traveling across three states in the snow sounds so magical. Yes, I realize something will likely derail (*snort*) this plan, but I can dream.

- Sometime next week my grandmother will be released home (or into the wild, as I've been joking) and I get her all to myself.

And that's just five minutes worth of swirling. Aside from the general holiday hoopla, do you have anything exciting that you're looking forward to?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Shiny New First Page

Several writing friends have recently posted excerpts of their wips, and as I tweaked my first page all weekend, I thought I'd share. Please feel free to leave any criticisms -- they help me more than praise. Enjoy.

After the Fall -- Chapter 1

A thump from down the hall echoed into Greg's subconscious and forced his eyes open. He stared at the ceiling, listening to the hush that enveloped the house, and soon the familiar quiet lulled his eyes closed and he burrowed his head deeper into the pillow.

The distinct squeak of bedsprings made him lean up on one elbow. One of the girls must be awake.

A muffled cry made him sit upright.


Becca! He fumbled for his glasses and scrambled out of bed.

"What's the matter?" Janet rolled towards him, her face buried in the blankets.

"I heard something." He glanced at her arm, draped casually across his pillow, then hurried from the room and rushed down the hall. Sweat beaded on his forehead, his upper lip. It was probably just a bad dream. But she stopped having nightmares years ago.

The nightlight in the bathroom shone onto the carpeted hallway and stopped at Becca's closed door.

Was he overreacting? He reached for the doorknob and stepped into the room.

Moonlight filtered through the curtains and bounced off the bare back of a man bent over his daughter. The man had her upper body pinned beneath him and her legs flailed as she bucked on the mattress.

Oh God!

"Daddy!" she screamed.

The man turned his masked head for a moment but didn't let go.

Greg's stomach rolled but adrenaline propelled him forward and he grabbed the man by the shoulders. With one pull Greg threw him to the ground and lashed out, striking his head, shoulders, neck, until his hands found his way around the man's throat. He turned his head to shield his face from the man's fists and pressed his neck into the carpet. "Becca, are you hurt?"


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Like a Duck to Water

Or something like that.

Schnauzers aren't known for their prowess in the water, but apparently no one told my husband because on our last beach outing he decided Owen would learn how to swim.

And swim he did.

Prior to last week the only times I'd seen Owen actually IN the water was when he was itty bitty and Ibis carried him out much farther than I was comfortable with. Since then I've only seen him run along shore, chasing Ibis and barking in this high-pitched yip that sounded more like a squeaky toy than an animal.

I couldn't believe it when I looked out at the water and saw Ibis running backwards in waist-deep water, Owen paddling after him. They went back and forth, back and forth, until me, being the ever-paranoid person that I am yelled for Ibis to give Owen a rest. When they came ashore I asked if Owen seemed like he was having fun or if the look on his face was more of a OMG! OMG! GET ME OUT OF THIS WATER NOW! type thing, and he said it was kind of a combination of the two.

I'm just happy he can swim.

There was also a lot of running, jumping, barking, leaping, and general chaos. And digging. Lots of digging. How the sand only stuck to his nose, I don't know.

I swear he wasn't as miserable as he looks here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Shiny New Idea

I haz one.

It's too soon to share details, but I've been hoping something would come to me in time for my trip home, and it has.

Right now I'm getting to know my main character and figuring out the plot. Thinking about the story for several weeks before actually writing worked well for me with NaNo last year, and I'm hoping the same will be true this time around. This is another women's fiction and I'm beginning to think that's my niche.

This makes the third novel idea that's really grabbed me, and as this will be my third novel, I've got my fingers crossed that I can see it all the way through.

Have you had an idea really grab you lately? About anything?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Contents Under Pressure May Grow Abnormaly Large & Scare the Bejeezus Out of You

Remember the ticks? Do I have a story for you.

First let me explain that we have large sheets of two-inch thick styrofoam on several walls and most of the ceiling. You know how those cheap coolers keep things amazingly cold? Well, we were hoping that sealing ourselves in would have a similar effect and keep the heat OUT. We're on the end of the building so the sun hits us from sun-up to sun-down and the first couple months here were HOT.

The styrofoam does a reasonable job and we've painted it the same color as the walls so most people don't even notice our homemade insulation. (Just ask Mary.) We have to be careful not to bump it because as you may be aware, styrofoam crumbles pretty easily. Even elbows and fingernails can take big chunks out.

Now back to the ticks. About a month ago we had quite a few of the creatures crawling all over our bedroom. Most nights I'd be just getting into bed when I'd see one scurry across the floor, so I'd get up, get a tissue, and toss it in the toilet. I'd get back into bed and STUPIDLY look at the wall and see another one, even though I SWEAR I just checked when I still had a tissue in my hand.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Well one night I saw one of the black ones that look like a water bug on the wall with the styrofoam and I just couldn't bring myself to get up again so I did what any normal person would do: I shoved it deeper into the styrofoam and blocked it's escape.

This would be the time when you should glance at the title of this post.


Oh... about a week or so later I was making the bed when I noticed a black thing roughly the size of a dime but in DIAMETER emerging from the depths of the styrofoam. I screamed for Ibis and together we stood there, jaws hanging on the floor.

I mean, seriously? What the heck was it eating in there?

He eventually popped it out with a pencil and the mongo-tick joined his brothers in Mexico's water system. We found another one about the same size the following day, and I hope to GOD that's the last we see of those.


Did you know ticks could get that big?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Subtle Touch

My time away from my blog last week was well used -- I got through my entire wip (officially Draft Number Two) and I'm almost ready to send it to my next round of beta readers (be warned beta readers).

I've mentioned before that I seem to write cleaner first drafts than I realized, and so often when I'm editing I feel like I'm doing something wrong. I don't cut large chunks of prose, I don't hack away at my characters... things stay pretty close to the way I originally wrote them. But because I hear about my writing friends and their editing processes (procesi?) I can't shake the feeling that I'm missing something important.

Well, I finally did some honest to goodness EDITING. I rewrote entire pages. Even -- gasp! -- cut a couple paragraphs! In once instance I actually rewrote a scene from a different point of view. (That was tricky yet surprisingly fun.)

I'm currently beta reading for a friend and once I finish I plan to do another pass on my own wip. I need to tighten the father's POV in the earlier chapters and I'm considering changing up the opening scene. Right now I have him "bolting upright in bed", something I keep hearing is beyond cliche, and I have it so the father hears a commotion down the hall, but the mother, who's sleeping in bed next to him, does not. I think if I have him already awake that will resolve that issue. I'm thinking about having him going to the bathroom but don't really want to open my book with a flushing toilet.

One exciting (to me) thing that happened during my editing is I worked the title of my wip, After the Fall, into the story. I love when I'm reading and I come across the title that way. I always wonder if the author incorporated it after she came up with the title, or if she inserted it like I did. Either way, it always makes me smile, like I'm included in an inside joke.

For my writing friends, do you slip your title into your manuscripts? And you non-writers, do you notice when the title appears in the book you're reading?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Free at Last

On the heels of yesterday's post (aren't they all?), I have more exciting news: I'm getting one of these:

It's an HP Mini netbook and it should be arriving at my parents' doorstep this afternoon. SQUEE!!

It's roughly 6" x 10" and has a 6.5 hour battery, perfect for long flights and even longer afternoons at the beach. I'm sure many of you already understand the beauty of a laptop so you can sympathize with the fact that for all of my computing life I've been shackled to a desktop computer. A pretty amazing desktop computer, sure, but some days the last thing I want to do is sit at my desk for hours on end.

As you may be aware, I'm a Mac baby, and HP is a PC. I do know how to use Windows (sort of) and since my primary purpose for the netbook will be writing, I'm not too concerned that it's a different operating system than my Mac. I did an informal poll on Facebook and Twitter and almost everyone recommended this netbook PLUS I hear it not only comes with Solitaire, but it also has BEJEWELED!! Double squee!

(In case you live under a rock, I waste hours a day playing Bejeweled.)

My dad is letting me borrow his Verizon card so I'll have internet while I'm staying with my grandmother and since the netbook has a webcam, I'll be able to talk to my honey anytime I want. I mean, I'll be able to write all day. Yeah, that's what I meant.

Ooh, pretty.