Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Memories


My friend Tristi has this awesome thing she's doing on Facebook and I wanted to continue it here, as it's the first little bit of the Christmas spirit I've felt this season. In the comment thread, share a favorite Christmas memory or tradition. I'd love to hear them.

One of my favorite memories was the year I was 5 or 6 and we were living in a trailer while our house was being built. When we got up Christmas morning there was hardly anything under the tree and NOTHING from Santa. I was sooo disappointed and near to tears when Mom said that maybe Santa thought we were in the new house already and had delivered presents there, so we went to the house ... See Morethat was basically a shell and there were all of Santa's presents. It was thrilling to play with them there on the plywood floor and enjoy the moment together.

And my favorite tradition is our Christmas breakfast. We always have orange rolls. My daddy started the tradition when he and my mom were first married, and we carried it on to remember him all these years, and now I continue it to remember the both of them. Merry Christmas, Mom and Daddy, and to each and every one of you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Picture Says a Thousand Words


I have this strange habit when I write. Before I can write a single word, I have to know what my characters look like. You know the old saying, a picture says a thousand words? Well, I've found it true. The other saying that has hit me with this is that the eyes are the windows to the soul. It has been a fascinating process to me, but I've run into a bit of a dilemma.

I'm running out of pictures.

So, to fix this problem, I've come up with what I consider a brilliant solution. I''m turning to you, my readers, to help me fix it. Now, I know I'm taking a chance here, because there are some people who are determined to show much more than I'm willing to see, but I'm not asking for those kinds of pictures. I'm asking for HEAD SHOTS. Pictures of people's faces--yours in particular, and I am not asking that you be model worthy for this project. Actually, I'd prefer that you NOT be model worthy. I want angry pictures, crying pictures, laughing, scared, and threatening faces. I want angelic and devilish expressions. I want VARIETY, and the more unique your features, the better.

Now, in exchange for your head shots, here is what I will do. Sometime in the near future I will have a web site. It is being designed at the moment, and as soon as it's up I'll post the link. If I choose your face for any of my future books, I will post it there, will put your name in the acknowledgements section, and if I can finagle it with my publisher, might be able to get you an autographed book. I can't promise that until I talk to them, but I'll certainly try.

But still, to have your name in the acknowledgements? That's got to be worth a picture, don't you think?

So, if you are willing to send me a headshot, put it in the text of the e-mail (no attachments!) and send it to picsforkaren@hotmail.com. And remember, HEADSHOTS ONLY. I don't want to see anything below the neck.

Thanks in advance! I knew I could count on you all!

Quote of the day: Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.
E.L. Doctorow

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Double Digits

I would like to draw your attention to the countdown timer on the sidebar. Yes, that's it, look to your right. You see it? Now check out those numbers. Do you notice something different? Yep, I lost a number.

I'm in the double digits, baby!

Just a little over 3 months and The Sapphire Flute will his bookshelves everywhere and I'll be having an amazing launch party with 5 other fantastic authors. Holy cow, it's just around the corner!

I'm in the process of having a web site created, so that will give you the chance to keep updated more than just my sporadic blog ramblings and also let you read some chapters, maybe some poetry, and definitely all the news about where I'll be and when.

I'll get you some updates on that just as soon as it's done. Until then, keep writing!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reading for the Dead

My mom and I have had a tradition for years that when I finished writing something, or even sometimes if it was just a snippet of a scene, I would come downstairs and read it aloud to her. I knew when my writing was good by the emotional response I got from her. Laughter was good. Nodding head definitely good. Tears were best of all. I knew if I could make Mom cry that I'd done some darn fine writing.

I didn't write for a year after she passed. I couldn't. It was our dream. How could I carry it on without her? She was the one who dreamed of writing long before I was born. It was a dream and a love she passed on to me, but it didn't feel right to do it without her and how could I gauge if my writing was any good or not without her there to show me?

I was bemoaning this to my sweet friend Laura one night that one of the things I wanted to do the most was impossible. I wanted to sit down with my mother and read my ARCs to her. I wanted her to see this finished thing we'd done. Laura's response? "Then do it! My grandma talks to her mom all the time. She sits down with her picture and tells her all about her day."

It really got me thinking. Would it really be so crazy to read my story to my mom? The picture above was so her, it's almost like she's sitting in the room with me listening. It's so real it almost moves. I can imagine her nodding at me. Can feel her hand on my own telling me I'd done a good job, just looking at it, so why not give it a try.

Tonight, I did just that. I opened up the picture of her on my desktop and put my ARC right next to it and started reading aloud. It has been one of the most therapeutic acts I have performed, aside from writing letters to her. See, it doesn't matter if she has a body or not. I believe in an afterlife and I know with all my heart that she's not far away, and though she may not be able to sit through all of my reading, because I'm sure she's a busy lady, I know she hears parts. I can feel as if she is here as I read.

That may sound completely wacko to somebody else, but I don't care. It makes me happy to read to my mom and that's all that matters to me. It's just one more way I can connect with her and ease the ache of her loss, and for that I am extremely grateful.

Quote of the Day: "The pen is the tongue of the mind."
Miguel de Cervantes

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Change in Perspective

My blog today consists of two videos that have really touched me in the last couple of days and I wanted to share them with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. They've changed my perspective in some big, big ways.






Thursday, November 19, 2009

RETREAT!!!


I've mentioned my writer's retreat several times, so thought I'd finally blog the details about the amazing week I had in Park City with some (not enough) of my best friends. It all began when I realized we had one more week to use in our vacation club before mid december and an idea began to form.

I went to the hubby and said," Hun, I don't want a present for my birthday this year." He looked at me like I was nuts, which, basically I am, but that's beside the point. "Instead, I want TIME." Now he looks at me like I'm even crazier, but I continue. "We've got this week we have to use and it's already paid for so I'd like to use it as a writing retreat with my writing friends and see if I can't come home with 50,000 words written."

His answer? "Ooooooookay?" But he followed through and let me go, even knowing he would have the boys to himself for seven full days. I packed my bags and a TON of food, my laptop, a whole box (and I mean a pencil case) of pens, paper, my laptop, and hit the road on November 6th.

I drove up to meet my friend Lizzie in Bountiful, since that's about half way for both of us, picked her up, and after walking around the temple grounds for a bit, we went to lunch, then headed to the Bountiful library to write for a couple of hours. I was so excited I was having a hard time concentrating, and realized I had left the flash drive with the beginnings of my story on it at home. Home was about 50 miles away at this point, but thank heavens the library had internet access, even if it was slow, so I Instant Messaged my sweet husband, who found the flash drive, found the file, and e-mailed it to me. I could have kissed him.

After the library we finally headed up to Park City. I couldn't get there fast enough, though I did stay (mostly) within the speed limits. We finally found the place, the Sweetwater Lift Lodge, and checked in. The place was HUGE! I had asked for a one bedroom unit that would sleep four. We ended up with a one bedroom unit that slept six. It had a gigantic family room, a fireplace, two bathrooms, a bed that pulled out of the wall, and a teeeeeeeny kitchen, in addition to the ginormous two bed bedroom.

I was in heaven. The first thing I did was turn on the fireplace. That night, Lizzie wrote her heart out. I wrote a little, but not nearly enough. 1800 words. I was disappointed with myself.

Saturday was my birthday and I was struggling a bit. 39 is only one year from 40 and I was a little sad over it. I tried to write but had a really hard time getting into it. Finally that evening Lizzie offered to say a prayer and I won't go into details, but the spirit that was there freed me up and I finally was able to write. I got over 5,000 words done that night. My husband and sons showed up in the evening with my friend (who asked to remain nameless, due to playing hookie from work to come up), and two of my other friends Ali and Laura came up for dinner. We have a lovely evening together and good food and delicious cake made by my friend Shari (who couldn't come up but sent the cake anyway. She's a doll!). Ali and Laura had to leave after that, but everybody else stayed, including my family. They slept in the family room and I stayed out there with them.

Sunday we'd planned to go to church, but due to circumstances beyond our control, we were unable to attend and my family had to go home by noon. No writing on Sunday. We just enjoyed each other's company, talked, had a pillow fight (which my nameless friend recorded on her iphone, dang her!) and just chilled.

Monday we got back to work, Lizzie and me on writing, and the nameless one on edits. It was rather quiet around the place. We wrote and ate and slept and wrote and ate and slept for days. It was amazing. In 3 days I wrote almost 30,000 words.

Our nameless friend had to leave Tuesday evening, but we stuck it out until Thursday night.

My friend Lizzie made her 50,000 word goal while up there. I was so proud of her. I, on the other hand, was about 15,000 words short of my goal, but still, 35,000 words in 6 days of writing is pretty amazing.

The retreat taught me three amazing lessons. First, time is precious. Use every minute of it you can for the things you love, whether it be your family, your passion, or something else. Make use of it and don't let a second go to waste. Second, good friends are hard to find and more precious than gold. I have some very amazing friends. Third, you can do anything if you are willing to put in the work to do it and pray hard for help. Lizzie hit her goal because she wrote every spare moment she had, rather than messing around on FB or other random things like I did.

I learned other things as well, but I'll save those for another blog. This one is long enough as it is. Needless to say, my writing retreat was a fantastic experience and one I hope to repeat annually for many years to come.

Quote of the Day: Being an author is having angels whisper in your ear - and devils, too.

~Graycie Harmon

Monday, November 16, 2009

I'm a Winner!


So, one of my online writing groups, Authors Incognito, had a contest this week for NaNoWriMo for the most words written and I won! The writing retreat helped a ton, of course, since I was able to get away from it all and write my little fingers off. Anyway, here's my award. Pretty, isn't it?

Oh, and just a little FYI--Four months from today will see the release of The Sapphire Flute! Time is just a flying!

Quote of the Day: "People on the outside think there's something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn't like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that's all there is to it."
Harlan Ellison

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Birthday Drawing Results


Well, hello again, peoples! As promised, I've done the drawings, pulled out three names, so now just need addresses so I can send out packages of some of my favorite things. And the winners are . . . . . . . .

MICHELLE JEFFRIES

ELENA JUBE


GRAHAM BRADLEY


Send your postal address to me at luv2writepoems@msn.com within the next 24 hours so I can get those out. That means, folks, you've got until tomorrow night before I draw another name. :) I know, I'm such a meanie.

Thanks, everyone, for the wonderful comments and memories. They have truly helped to make this one of the best years yet.

HUGS TO YOU ALL!!!

Everything Changes


I've discovered something rather odd recently, something I'd never believed to be true until it started happening to me. It has taken me completely by surprise, being the sensitive true-blue kind of gal that I am, and I'm not quite sure how to handle it.

People treat you differently when you find some success.

Seriously. I mean, how weird is that? Writing a book didn't make me a different person any more than changing my sheets makes me a different person, but suddenly, just because I have a book coming out next year and people (my publisher) are calling me "the American answer to J.K. Rowling" suddenly I am being treated as if I am somebody special. Somebody important.

It is a very odd feeling. How does getting published or becoming a recording artist or a movie star make you different? When did society start to place people on pedestals just because they are being thrust into the public eye?

The people who should be on the pedestals are the ones who get the least recognition. The teachers. The volunteers who read to children. The Librarians who direct us to books and take such good care of them. The Police Officers, the fire fighters, the ambulance drivers. All the people who are there throughout our lives and make such an impact on who we become.

Of course, as a writer, I hope to make an impact on people. I pray that my words will reach and touch someone when they are in need of a friend or some comfort. I want to write the kinds of books that people keep with them and treasure for the rest of their lives, but in the end, they are just words on a page.

And yet those words have changed how people treat me. I co-teach a writing class with my friend Shanna. This is the second year we've done it and she has said several times that the kids treat me differently this year. Why? What is it about becoming an "author" rather than a "writer" that makes me different?

I guess this is one of those questions I'll just have to let go of and enjoy the ride, but it's not easy to do--when everything changes.

Quote of the Day: Every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skull.
- Rod Serling

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Final Day for Birthday Drawing

I'm extending the drawing until tomorrow as there are a few people who haven't known where to enter. All you have to do is this: at the end of this post, comment on something you either admire/like about me or a fond memory of me. You can enter as many as you wish and each one counts as an entry in the drawing. I'll pull names by tomorrow evening and announce the winners here on the blog.

Thanks, everyone, for making this a birthday to remember. Your comments have lifted me up as I've read them.

Hugs to you all, and best of luck!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

DOH!


It dawned on me this week that I have yet to introduce you to my book cover! Let me just say I LOVE my cover. At first, I thought, "wow, it's a little . . . bright . . ." after walking through the teen section of Barnes and Noble, but then I heard Candace's explanation. Basically, if you see an entire section full of books with dark, simple covers, and then you see this, which one is going to jump out at you?

Exactly. Thus, the beautiful, bright color.

Another odd note that the brilliant artist Cash Case, did NOT know is found in looking at the book title. The top blue, the dark, sapphire blue color? That's my VERY favorite color. But if you look at the bottom half of the title it's a much lighter, almost aqua shade of blue. That is my mom's favorite color and that color is peppered throughout the entire cover. It's like having a piece of my mom right there with me on the front.

I love it. Thanks, Cash, for creating something so beautiful, something I'll be proud to have represent all the years of words in the story. You rock, man!

Quote of the Day: Unless one is a genius, it is best to aim at being intelligible.
Anthony Hope Hawkins

P.S. It's not to late to enter the birthday drawing by adding memories or stories of me, or qualities you admire. Add them to this post. Or add them to the end of the current post. I'll be doing the drawings on November 14th.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Finding Joy in the Journey Part One

Update: The birthday memory comments are AWESOME! Thanks, you guys! You've all made me feel like 39 isn't such a bad year after all. Keep them coming. Remember, I'll be collecting comments until November 14th for the drawing. And now, on to today's blog.


I'm not sure why it is, but one of the bigger challenges I've had throughout my life is finding joy in the journey. In other words, living in the 'now.' It seems I'm always either so caught up in looking to the future and what's coming up, what could be, what my dreams, and hopes, and visions are, or I'm stuck in the past. Remembering or longing for what was or could have been, I forget to enjoy the moment.

Well, this blog begins my journey of finding joy in the journey, of taking the time to appreciate the moment I have right here, right now, and this small act of blogging about it is also my way of showing gratitude.

So, today, even though I'm sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head, fever . . . oh wait, that's a commercial. Anyway, despite the fact that I am unwell, I took a friend's suggestion and am copying my letter's to mom blog by hand into a beautiful journal someone gave me. I think it was my husband. Though it could have been a friend. Anyway, I copied pages for a couple of hours and stopped and looked and realized that despite all the years of C's in penmanship and hating to write by hand, I've got some pretty nice handwriting nowadays. It was a small moment that put me IN the moment and made me happy. Putting my letters to mom in this lovely journal, in my careful penmanship, lets me create something I not only enjoy doing in the moment, but can enjoy in the future as well. It's a way of putting the past, present, and future all in one neat little book.

And I like that. I like it a lot.

Quote of the Day: "Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark."
Annie Dillard

Friday, October 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Drawing


So, I've got a birthday coming up on November 7th. The last one I'll have before I hit the next decade mark, so I'd kind of like it to be a big deal. This year, instead of a gift, I told my husband I wanted TIME. So, I am taking the last week of our vacation club for this year and going to Park City for a week long writing retreat with a few of my friends. I am VERY excited and plan to come home having written at least HALF of The Armor of Light.

But since not all of you fine folks will be able to attend with me, I'm going to steal an idea from my dear friend Ali and have a drawing here on my blog. Leave a comment on any post between now and November 14th (a week after my birthday) about a favorite memory of or about me, or something good you've seen in me, and on November 14th I will do a drawing or two . . . or three . . . for some of MY favorite things. I'm not sure what those things will be yet, but I'll let you know as the time gets closer. In the meantime, be creative. I know you've got some fun stories out there, happy memories we've shared. Let me hear them. I want to celebrate all the good the last 39 years have brought to my life instead of remember that next year is the big 4-0. Oh, and you can enter as many times as you have memories to share!

And thanks, to all of you, for being such great friends and supporters. May your own birthdays bring you as much joy as I hope this one will for me.

Quote of the Day: "Writers aren't exactly people.... they're a whole bunch of people trying to be one person."
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Blanding Librarian Conference


A few weeks ago I was at the state fair when I used my phone to check my e-mail and found a message from Dan. Dan and I have a mutual friend who lives just up the street, though he lives clear down in Blanding. We are both writers so, the last time he'd been up my way, our friend Kayleen had invited me over for dinner to meet with him. We got along splendidly.

Well, when I got the e-mail from Dan my jaw dropped. He wanted me to come down to Blanding to be the keynote speaker for a Librarian Conference. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Don't you need to be important to do those kinds of things? Granted, I've got a book coming out, but not for another several months. Still, I wasn't stupid enough to pass up an opportunity like this, so I immediately said yes. He asked me to, in essence, give a "pep talk" to the librarians, which I didn't think would be difficult. Libraries and books have had a huge impact on me as both a reader and a writer. I played with the thoughts and ideas for weeks before I finally sat down and wrote the speech in one sitting just a few days before I was to leave.

Part of what I wanted to share was an experience I'd heard Tracy Hickman share at the BYU Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference I went to in June, so I e-mailed Tracy and asked if I could use it. Being the kind gentleman that he is, he of course said yes, and the final piece of my speech was in place. Still, I was nervous. Would the librarians react the way I hoped they would? Or would my first speech be a total flop?

Kayleen and her husband Allan caravaned down to Blanding with me on Thursday and we got there around 8:00 that night. I kept trying to read my speech to get it in my head. I didn't want to have to read the darn thing during my presentation, but I was too nervous to concentrate right then. Finally Friday morning arrived and before I knew it my time had come. I made my way to the podium and all of the nervousness just melted away. I was able to give my speech slowly and concisely and didn't have to read the whole thing. I could feel the energy building in the room. It was awesome. And when I finished I had a round of applause that seemed sincere, but the greatest compliment of all came around lunch time.

A lovely older lady come up to me just before breaking up for classes and, sniffling, said, "you made me cry!"

You just can't get any better than that, and let me tell you why. If you can make someone cry, you just made them feel, and when people feel, they remember.

I wanted all those Librarians to remember that they are the gatekeepers of knowledge and the title they hold is a noble one. I want them to remember that they are special--for they are the wizards of our world.

Quote of the Day "Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn't matter. I'm not sure a bad person can write a good book, If art doesn't make us better, then what on earth is it for."
~~Alice Walker~~

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blogless


I'm afraid I've been at a loss for words lately. My life is busy, but boring. Not much of interest to talk about. I'm moving my office into the basement and have been working hard on painting it Fairy Godmother Blue and Forest Sunset Orange. Disney colors from Home Depot. Love them. Anyway, it's been a long and grueling process and I am tired. Worn to the bone, so to speak. There hasn't been much time or brain-power left for writing, but the end is in sight. I should have all of my stuff moved into my new space today or tomorrow and hopefully can then turn to more intellectual pursuits. Or more fantastical ideas. Yeah, I'll get back to writing and soon, I hope. In the meantime, I apologize for being gone for so long. I'll post pictures of my new office as soon as it is finished and shall return within just a few more days.

Quote of the Day:" But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think."
Lord Byron

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

OUCH!


I woke up yelling today. I never knew people actually did that until I found myself rolling around in pain this morning. See, I have this strange tendency to sleep on my side at the very edge of my bed and let my arms dangle into the open space. For my right arm, that's fine, but for my left arm my elbow locks and it sticks straight out. Add to that a fan blowing cool air across it all night long, and many mornings I wake up with it stiff and achy.

Not today. Today it started screaming at me. Went into total spasms and didn't want to stop. I just rolled around, trying to rub the cramp out of it, yelling, "Owie, owie, owie" (no, really, I did!) over and over again, but every time it would ease and I'd push the muscle, thinking to rub it out, it would cramp again. Five minues worth. Seriously! I finally put some chinese massage oil on it I love called Po-Sum-On and it's starting to calm down.

Looks like I'm going to have to find another way to sleep! OUCH!

Quote of the Day: "If writers stopped writing about what happened to them, then there would be a lot of empty pages."
Elaine Liner

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

You Are God's Original Masterpiece

One of my Facebook friends posted this yesterday and it has had a profound impact on me. I couldn't wait to share it with all of my friends. Watch this and tell me what you think, how it makes you feel. I'd love to hear from you. An please be patient . . . it takes a couple minutes to load.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Artist's Way



Years ago, my friend and mentor gave me a book to help me through some of the creative self-doubt I'd been struggling with. It is a book that has changed my life and one I have bought and given to friends many times over. The book is called The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron and it is a 12 step program, a spiritual path to creative self recovery. Who would have thought artists needed creative self recovery? But we do. Artists as a group tend to be very sensitve and doubt themselves and their abilities frequently. Artists are rarely encouraged to pursue their love of the written word, or music, or painting. It's most often supported as a hobby or not at all.

I was blessed to have a mother who encouraged me to write. It was a love we shared. She'd always wanted to be a journalist, but life and family made her put that dream on the back burner for many years. She finally turned that love to writing several family histories, and writing occasional articles for magazines, and gaining a final publication credit of two experiences in a book just a few weeks before she passed. Mom always told me I could do anything I wanted in this life if I wanted it bad enough. She always told me she had confidence in me and my abilities--and yet still this book was needed, though I've never been able to get beyond chapter 4, for some strange reason. Just those first four chapters have given me tools that allow me to be creative and know where that creativity comes from.

Recently, three of my dear friends and I have begun this journey together. They are new to the Artist's Way, but their e-mail to me have been full of excitement and eye opening wonder as they discover the gifts that doing morning pages have given them, or the eye-opening understanding of adding voices to their Monster Hall of Fame. Discovering where those negative critical voices come from has been crucial to their creative self-recovery, just as it has been to mine.

This journey for me is not new, and yet even now, the fifth time I've begun it, I have discovered things about myself and the blocks that have made me what I am. I've added new Monsters and am realizing some of my potential.

But, I think the pinnacle of this week was knowing that I'd made a difference. While doing affirmations two of my three friends told me that they weren't hearing any blurts (the negative self talk that comes when we praise ourselves). And then they told me why. They in essence said that they weren't hearing blurts because when they did the affirmations they heard my voice telling them it was true. One of them listed me in her Hall of Champions. It was an act that was more dear to me than any award I've won, made me feel more value than any money I could gain. It humbled me to the depths.

I was somebody's hero.

Quote of the Day: "Creativity is God energy flowing through us, shaped by us, like light flowing through a crystal prism."
--Julia Cameron, TheArtist's Way

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Googling


I googled myself yesterday, wondering if having a contract and publication date gave me more hits than just my blog, facebook, and my one published poem. I found two very surprising things in this search. First:

I'm dead.

Yes, Karen Elizabeth Hoover passed away on August 6, 2009 in Missouri. The eerie thing about it is not just that someone by my exact name passed away, but that she did so exactly one year after my mother passed. It felt very strange seeing my name attached to a memorium. Not liking that one much at all.

Second: Somehow I've been added to a list of LDS authors with books coming out in the near future. My name sits directly below Tracy Hickman's! I'm on the list with people like Shannon Hale, James Dashner, Stephenie Meyer, Brandon Mull, and Orson Scott Card. My head sort of exploded when I found myself on that list.

It made it all real. It's no longer just a dream that I will become an author. Word is already spreading about my book and I find myself both thrilled and terrified to have leapt into this league.

It's funny how we put people on a pedestal, make heroes out of ordinary people who write extraordinary things. I don't know how to be part of that group. I'm awkward, and quiet, and like to do silly things like talk in a silly high pitched "bobby" voice, and play video games. I'm a book worm and movie buff who likes to tell stories. And I'm on the same list with these guys?

And yet, if I am completely honest, there's nowhere else I'd rather be.

Hi. My name is Karen Hoover, and I am an author.

. . . But, I'm not dead yet!

Quote of the Day: "Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe, shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish."
John Jakes

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Secret to Good Soup


I love soup. I grew up with my mom frequently creating what she called "Garbage Soup," which is actually much better than it sounds. It basically meant pulling whatever was on the shelf and any leftovers or fresh vegies in the fridge and putting it together. It never tasted the same, but one thing I could always count on is that it was going to be good.

So, as I became a mother and wife and started looking for cheap ways to feed my three boys, soup was a natural solution. My first attempts were edible, but not great, until I found a book on making soup. I never liked any of their recipes, but they had some awesome advice that has stuck with me over the years.

The advice was this: Flavor your broth the way you want it before you add any meat or vegetables. That's it. Simple advice, but I've found that when I follow it and make my broth as tasty as I can ahead of time my soup always turns out perfect. When I forget and add the flavoring later, no matter how hard I try I can't make it quite right.

Tonight I made some vegetable soup that totally rocked! I'm not a follow a receipe kind of gal. I'm like my mother in this. I take what I can find and toss it in if I think it will taste good. I know most people aren't like that, so I'll toss out my ingredients here and if anyone wants to attempt my rockin' veggie soup, go ahead, and let me know how it turns out!

BROTH:
Water
beef bullion
chicken bullion
Knorr Vegetable Bouillon (4 cubes)
Knorr Tomato bullion with chicken flavor
Knorr Chipotle seasoning bullion cube
Garlic powder
Onion powder
curry (not too much. Just to taste)
juice of one lime
3-4 sprigs fresh basil

Everything else:
1 can of black beans
1 can of red beans
1 can of RoTel diced tomatoes & Green chilies
1 bag of frozen white corn
3 stalks celery
2 carrots
1 sweet onion
1 large zucchini (=about 4 small)
3 small potatoes
3 fresh roma tomatoes
multigrain noodles

Dice all the vegies to whatever size you like and toss them in. Let it boil until potatoes and noodles are soft enough to eat and veggies are cooked through.

Sorry I don't have specific amounts on the bullion. I'm a shake and taste person. Just remember, you can always add more water if it gets too strong.

One last tip: BE GENEROUS with the garlic and onion powder. They make everything taste better!!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Edits, edits, edits . . . .

I haven't forgotten you, my loyal readers. I've been swimming through edits and dealing with crisis after crisis around here. Nothing life threatening, but very time consuming. I should be back by next Wednesday at the latest, and if inspiration strikes before then, I'll post something new.

Until then, adieu.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

In the Beginning . . . .


I've been pulling all my old notes and files out on the series I'm writing and sticking them all together in a notebook for easy access. You know, we always think our early writing is crap and are embarrassed to show it to people, but I've discovered something tonight in doing this. I've rediscovered what made me fall in love with writing. It's one thing, plain and simple.

I love playing with words.

The way some kids play with clay and glue, I stretch words and use them to paint pictures on the page, and many of those words never even make it in the books. I wrote a twenty four page paper on the history of my world. It's basically Rasann's creation story, it's mythology, written in a biblical style. And you know what? It's not half bad. It made me fall in love with words all over again. Let me share just a couple of paragraphs:

In the eternal circle of time there are many beginnings and many endings, all of which cycle around the wheel of eternity. But within each cycle, each revolution, each story there is always a starting place, and so we come to this one. The birth of change. The newness of creation. The forming of a world that does not follow the pattern of others. And so that is where I shall start . . . with the beginning of the world known as Rasann--and the end of the Era of the Guardians.

In the beginning there was a man who lived among his brothers and Fathers, and he was a Guardian like unto them. but as with all families, there came a time for him to disperse and create worlds like unto his Father's home and propagate that world as his Fathers before him. The Father of Fathers, The One, spoke unto Lahonra and said unto him, "Go, my son, and create a world like unto my own and give it life and breath, and if I deem it worthy, it shall become a Heaven for thee like unto mine own." And so Lahonra went forth and created light from the darkness and breath from the void and he called it Rasann and did place all kinds of living, breathing, growing things upon the face of it. And his father, The One, did speak unto his son in joy. "My son, you have created a world like unto mine own, with great beauty and life. In thee I am well pleased. Do with this as I would, my son, it is thy home now." And Lahonra was well pleased with his works.


Much time passed and Rasann turned endlessly and Lahonra watched over it alone. He stood in the heavens and walked upon the clouds and watched the creations of his world be born and grow and die. The cycle of life fascinated him, for Lahonra knew not of death, had not tasted its sting, and so in curiosity breathed a piece of himself into the earth to more fully learn of this death through another's fullness. He took some of the earth and spat upon it and formed a ball of living clay. He used his breath to give it life and harden it like a seed, then planted it within Rasann and watched it grow. It grew quickly with the breath of a Guardian breathed upon it each hour, and in a short time there stood a tree with fruit the brightness of the sun hanging from its limbs. Lahonra plucked a fruit from the nearest branch and breathed upon it once more and it sprang to life. A creature the size of an apple was born within his hand. She looked at Lahonra and smiled, with full knowledge, for Lahonra had blessed her with such, and they spoke one to another, and Lahonra was no longer alone.

The creature grew and matured and came to be something never seen in a world before, but something that came from Lahonra himself. She was winged, but with wings the color of the sunset and a head the color of the mid-day sky. Her breath was sweet as nectar, her eyes the color of the sun. Lahonra called her Phoenix, for her flight was as a flaming star and her mind hot as a southern wind. Together they created much beauty upon Rasann. Instead of learning of death as he had intended, Lahonra learned about life, and lived as he never had before. In Phoenix he found a piece of h imself he had not known was needed, and in a short time they were inseparable.

I won't go on with any more, but just reading that little bit made me remember the joy that came when I wrote back then. I didn't worry about show vs. tell. I never thought about run-on sentences. I just poured my heart out on the page and thrilled over each moment of creation.

That's the kind of writer I want to be again. I want to find that joy in the written word and let my heart pour out on the page once more.

I miss the word magic.

Quote of the day: Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.
E.L. Doctorow

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I'm wearing WHAT???


I lost my sunglasses on the airplane flying into Long Beach so decided to buy a new pair while I was in sunset Beach. I walked down to the 7-11, since it was closest, and found a few sitting on the counter that I kind of liked. One pair in particular caught my eye. They were black with some silver trim and a pretty little plant in silver on the side.

When I got home I was visiting with my brother at his house one day and he kind of stopped and did a double take, and leaned over to look at the silver plant. I, of course, thought he was just admiring my sunglasses until he said, "Is that pot on your sunglasses?"

"Huh?" was my intelligent response.

He looked again. "Is that marijuana on your sunglasses?"

I took them off and looked. "I don't know. I've never seen pot. What does it look like?"

"Like that," he said, pointing, then started to laugh.

Holy crap, I've been a walking advertisement for drugs. In Utah. *shaking head*

I just thought it was a pretty fern.


Quote for the Day: "If you have other things in your life -- family, friends, good productive day work -- these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer."
- David Brin

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Vacation Report and Book Review


It's been a very long time since a book has sucked me to the point that I wanted to do nothing but READ for days on end (well, except for my friend Ali's book, but that's another story). When Gary and I decided to go to the beach for our anniversary trip, I told him I didn't want to rent a car. I didn't want to spend the time running from place to place, trying to get all the sight seeing in before we left. The only thing that would accomplish was to send me home more tired than I was when we left. I wanted a truly relaxing vacation doing absolutely nothing.

So that is what we did! We spent our days lounging around in the condo or on the beach. We walked to the 7-11 for bottled water and basic supplies and eventually walked two miles to the closest grocery store and another two miles back. It just about killed me but I loved (nearly) every moment of it. It was awesome finally stepping back long enough to breathe and watch people, to notice my surroundings.

After a while I started looking for more ways to relax and picked up my kindle2 for a good read. I'd found a book a while back that I'd read a sample chapter from and was very intrigued. Not only was it a fun urban fantasy with a great main character, but the voice of the writer was just the kind of thing that resonates with me--and the story takes place in a city close to my heart as my grandfather homesteaded there back in the 40's and my mother graduated from high school there. It's one of those places that is more home than most because of the family history. I started school there as well. It was a place of refuge after my father passed away.

It's the Mercedes Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs (Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, and Bone Crossed) and takes place in the Tri-Cities, Washington. It's a world full of werewolves, vampires, Fae magic, and one half native american woman who is also a shapeshifting coyote. They call her a "walker."

Briggs is brilliant with chracterization. She has a way of making these people alive, more alive than many people I walk amongst. She creates individuals I want to be friends with, who I'd invite into my home and stand next to in a fight. People who make a difference.

If you're looking for a rip-roaring ride through an alternate reality, check out Patricia Briggs. She'll be sitting on my shelf next to my other favorites that I'll read time and time again. Mercedes Thompson is definitely someone I want to share more time with.

Quote of the Day: "A classic is classic not because it conforms to certain structural rules, or fits certain definitions (of which its author had quite probably never heard). It is classic because of a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness.
Edith Wharton (1862 - 1937)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

And the waves washed over me


My honey and I are on a week long visit to Sunset Beach, California for a belated 15 year anniversary trip. We got here yesterday and discovered the ocean is literally over the hill from our condo. I've never been in the ocean. I've seen the Atlantic once, when I was a missionary in Rhode Island, and the Pacific a couple of years ago when we drove down the Oregon coast, but I have never stood in the water, not even a single toe.

Not until today.

It's amazing the things nobody ever talks about when they rave about beaches and the ocean. My idealized vision of visiting the ocean consisted of walking hand in hand with my sweetheart through the satin sands, dancing away from crashing waves while a gentle breeze tossed my hair. Today, Gary said "I'll bet the ocean would help your back," as he's knuckling my shoulders into subservience. Cringing, I squeaked, "okay," willing to do anything to make the pain stop.

We were on our way shortly and the first thing I noticed being different from my idealized vision of the ocean, was that sand is awfully hard to walk in. I finally understood the whole "shifting sand" phrase. By the time we reached the water I was huffing and puffing and my feet hurt from all the jagged bits of seashell scattered through the sand. We tossed down our towels, then chased them because the "gentle breeze" could compete with gale winds in my hometown. "Stiff Breeze" took on new meaning when my hair stood out straight behind me or whipped around to snap me in the eye.

With our towels weighted down by shoes, we finally made our way to the water, my feet still stinging from the beach sand. We crested the final hill and saw the majesty of the ocean. It was every bit as beautiful as I though it would be . . . until the massive bits of seaweed rolled onto the beach right before my eyes. I hadn't expected seaweed. I don't know why. It just hadn't occured to me that seaweed might be found on the beaches. Silly me.

My heart started pounding as we neared the water, Gary's hand in mine, a huge smile splitting my face. The water surged up and nibbled at my toes, my eyes widened. It felt marvelous, except . . . nobody had ever mentioned how water and sand are so pervasive they will go anywhere. The grit flowing under my toenails surprised me, but I quickly got over it and stepped deeper into the water. The waves crested, the frothy white tops curling down and smacking into my knees, then spread across the sand. That was fun, so I went deeper, and deeper until I could barely touch the sand on my tippy toes. A grin was spread across my face from ear to ear. I was happy.

And then a monster wave rushed toward me. My heart raced a bit, but I thought, I can handle this. I readied myself and jumped just before the wave hit. Only, I can't jump THAT high. The wave slammed into me, engulfed me, body and head and shoved me toward the shore, where I stumbled in the sand and fell to my knees. I started to laugh, kneeling in the sand, when another wave smacked me from behind. I came up sputtering, still laughing and was hit again, and again, and again, until I was coughing, spitting out salty water (another thing I hadn't envisioned. The ocean is salty? Really??), and STILL laughing. I couldn't help myself. Finally my husband came and offered me his hand. I was laughing so hard I couldn't stand. My legs wouldn't work. The ocean had just about drowned me and it was freaking hilarious!

So, what did I learn today?
1) The ocean is powerful. I am in awe of the overwhelming force of it.
2) Never turn your back on a wave. They take advantage of you. Yes, I do belive in water nymphs. Do you have a problem with that?
3) Sand is migratory. Enough said.
4) Remember to laugh. It feels better than anything in the world.
5) Sunset Beach really IS all about the sunsets. Talk about AMAZING.
6) It has been MUCH too long since I had my last vacation.

Quote of the Day:The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible. ~Vladimir Nabakov

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tuesday Teaser: Newtimber Part 3




My heart hammered in my chest harder than it ever had. Putting on a burst of speed, I rounded each corner tight, racing down twelve flights of stairs, and didn’t trip until the very bottom. The heel of my shoe caught in the metal grating and threw me forward, my head cracking against the metal door. I opened it with shaking hands, hardly feeling the bump on my head, and slammed the metal slab behind me, then leaned against it trying to catch my breath and calm the shakes.

When my heart slowed enough to hear, I put my ear against the door and listened. It was silent for a long time, then a soft hissing started, a lot like that of sand in the desert when the wind blows, piling it wherever it can. It grew louder until it chipped at the metal door. A soft squeal sounded and the door flared hot under my ear. I pulled away, quickly backpedaling down the pipe laden tunnel behind me. A few clouds of what looked like green pollen surged from beneath the door and paused, almost as if they sensed me, then rolled my direction like dandelion puffs on the wind.

I threw off my shoes and ran full force down the tunnel, listening for the sounds of people ahead of me, the broken concrete biting at my feet, but I didn’t have time to stop. Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong and my heart told me I had to hide from the pollen or I would end up just like the tree man and sagebrush family.

Finally I heard cries and panting ahead of me. I put on a burst of speed, too scared to even glance over my shoulder to see if the cloud was still there. I tucked my chin and pumped my arms as the concrete gave way to moist dirt and moldy smells.

I almost passed them. If it hadn’t been for Auntie Chieko’s voice I probably wouldn’t have caught the door in the dim passage. I slowed and spun, racing back toward her voice. The cloud seemed to be gone, but there was no point in taking chances. I dashed through the door, threw it closed behind me, then pulled off my slip, knelt, and stuffed it into the gap.

“What are you doing?” a panicked voice came from the back.

“It came under the door. I have to block it. Didn’t you see what that stuff can do?” My slip wasn’t stretching far enough. It only covered half of the gap and I had nothing else to stuff under it without stripping. I was seriously considering it when someone knelt beside me.

“No, but I can imagine. I mean, think Hiroshima, dude,” the skinhead said. He pulled off his overshirt and shoved it beneath the door.

“It’s not like Hiroshima. Didn’t you see it?” I stopped long enough to scan the room. Everyone was either staring at me like I was crazy or shaking their heads. “It turned an old man into a tree! It’s like a . . . a . . . ,” the words just wouldn’t come. “A magic bomb!”

Principal Robertson pushed his way through the crowd of ten people. “That’s ridiculous. There’s no such thing.”

“Do you want to go tell that to the tree that just sprouted in the middle of Main Street? It’s a magic bomb. Sir.” I remembered my manners at the last minute. “Go ahead and think I’m crazy if it makes you happy, but I saw what I saw. That wasn’t an atomic bomb or a nuclear bomb. It moved too slow and it didn’t look right, not like the pictures and movies I’ve seen. It was slow, like . . . like . . .” I just couldn’t find the words, but wasn’t sure if it was because of adrenaline, fear, or my stupid brain. Frustrated I stood and spun. “It was like watching pollen moving in the wind, but it’s no kind of pollen I’ve ever seen. It followed me. It’s like an allergy disease or something.”

Somebody snickered in the back. They all stared at me like I’d grown another head. I couldn’t blame them, not really. I knew how crazy it sounded, but I’d seen what I’d seen and I couldn’t say it was a lie. It wasn’t a lie. It was truth.

Newtimber had just been hit with a Magic Bomb. A bomb dropped by a dragon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Tree Path



It's my 15th anniversary today. Happy Anniversary to me!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Rambles are Back!


I had to talk in church yesterday. The young women were reporting on girl's camp and since I have the honor of being one of their leaders and had to choose who was going to speak, I thought it only fair that I speak right along with them. Usually when I'm giving talks or teaching in any form I give myself notes and then improv what I want to say, but my brain was so fuzzy yesterday I ended up writing my whole talk out and then reading it almost verbatim. I didn't have the privilege of going to girl's camp with the girls this year as I've been gone so much this summer already, I felt my kids needed me to be home with them, so I didn't have anything to talk about there, so instead I talked about the thing I always feel the most when I AM at camp.

Love.

Love of others. Love of self. Loving our Heavenly Father. And knowing our Heavenly Father loves us. Those are the things I've wanted to leave with the girls as I serve them. A knowledge of who they are and their divine potential. There were a couple of interesting things that came to me through all of this. I discovered that I needed to be reminded of my divine potential and to love myself and show my love of heavenly father by serving him. I was also reminded that part of serving him, for me, is writing, and that he is the author in all I do and I but the pen in his hand.

It took away a big chunk of the fear I've had that I can't write another book like The Sapphire Flute and I'm ready to get to work. I'm finally ready to write again.

Quote of the day: "The man with insight enough to admit his limitations comes nearest to perfection."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Late Announcement



I'm sure you've noticed I've been rather absent as of late. Things are fine. All my limbs are still attached, my kids are still alive, the house hasn't burned down, and I'm still writing. I guess the only excuse for my absence is that I have this amazing, stupendous, ridiculously awesome news and I don' t know how to share it. So, without any further ado, here it is.


On may 25th I opened up my e-mail to find a note that began--


"Karen,

It is my greatest pleasure to inform you that you and your manuscript “The Sapphire Flute” have been selected for publication by our new company, Valor Publishing Group, LLC. All the members of our acquisitions board were pleased with your writing ability, excited about your truly captivating story, and confident that your book will do well in this market. . . .

. . . We are all looking forward to working with you, and we’re excited … especially after watching you win contest after contest … to finally see you officially in print."



After 17 years of learning the craft, working so stinking hard to perfect and polish it, I got a contract.

Yes, people, The Sapphire Flute will be available in bookstores everywhere March 15th of 2010. Can we say Exciting? Happy? THRILLED???

Oh, yeah. We sure can. VALOR PUBLISHING GROUP ROCKS!!! I'm gonna be published!!! Woo hoo!!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Errrrr . . .

Somehow I gained an extra day this week and Wednesday suddenly became Thursday. My apologies. There's a lot going on and my brain seems to have melted in the mix. Hopefully I'll be back to what passes for my normal in a day or two.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Yes, it's a THURSDAY Teaser! Newtimber Part 2


Most of the kids called it Oldtimber, but it was just the old part of town that had lost appeal thirty years before. The only businesses that survived were a couple of bars and a drugstore. Abandoned buildings lined both sides of the street, boarded windows covered with graffiti and peeling wood. Nothing new had come to Oldtimber for half a century until the new Concert Hall had refurbished one of the old buildings in the hopes that it would bring business back to the historical district. It was strange that such a place could exist, surrounded by homes, with Main Street only three blocks away—like having a leper colony in the middle of town.

Auntie Chieko raced the car around the corner, tires jolting over the curb as she swung into the parking lot. She climbed out, opened the back door, and grabbed her violin case. I got out reluctantly and slammed the door behind me, three inch heels making my feet hurt already, but it was a worthwhile sacrifice for vanity. Auntie shoved a ticket into my hand. “Go, go,” she said, making sweeping motions with her hand. “Curtains go up in twenty minutes. I have to warm up. You go around the front and I’ll meet you here after.”

Aunti Chieko almost ran to the back entrance door, her heels click-clicking in a quick tap across the pavement. She grabbed the handle and pulled, but the door didn’t budge. I couldn’t believe it when I heard her swear. Auntie pounded on the door, then kicked it when nobody answered. Grumbling she walked quickly toward the front of the theater.

My mouth took over again at that point. “Maybe they grew a brain and decided Oldtimber isn’t the best place for a concert hall after all.”

Auntie stopped and turned as we reached the sidewalk. “Look, I know this isn’t what you want to be doing tonight, but I need the support, especially with Tony gone. You could at least pretend to appreciate what I’m trying to do.” She looked like she was about to cry.

I took a step back, hands up in defense. Why couldn’t I have a filter to my mouth like everyone else? “Whoa, whoa, I didn’t mean to upset you. I was just joking.”

“Of course I’m upset! You mock and taunt who I am and what I love and . . . and . . . you destroyed my dress!” Her arms flew out, her violin case swinging toward the sidewalk just as a gray haired man stepped in its path.

“Oof,” he said, the breath knocked from him. Auntie Chieko spun, her hand going to her mouth in shock, the violin swinging around with her. She pulled the case to her chest, embracing it like an injured child.

“Principal Robertson! I am so, so sorry. I didn’t see you,” she started, but he waved a hand, cutting her off.

“No harm done, Mrs. Shimizu. It’s not the first time I’ve had the wind knocked out of me.” Then he turned toward me, his eyes much colder. “Miss Kondō, I hope you’ll find the evening a refreshing change.”

I snorted and rolled my eyes. This coming from the guy who called me a degenerate? Who was he kidding? I didn’t bother to answer. Nothing I could say would make one bit of difference in his eyes. He’d already made his mind up about me and I wasn’t going to bother trying to change it.

My eyes settled on the sunset over Principal Robertson’s shoulder. The brilliant orange and pink sat on the mountain peaks, purples streaming up into blue. It was a gorgeous sunset and just the thing for calming my nerves when in the presence of Principal Robertson.

A black worm-like figure streaked through the orange sky. If I hadn’t known better I would have sworn it was a dragon, but dragons weren’t real. It couldn’t’ be, but as it veered from the sun and headed toward bald mountain it came into sharp view. Wings pounded against the sky, its long snake-like body curled forward for a moment, just like the images I’d seen on T-shirts around the state. “What the . . .” I muttered just as a large something fell from its grasp and hit the side of the mountain with a thunderous explosion. My eyes grew wide with horror as a huge mushroom cloud grew slowly upward and a wave of dust rolled in slow motion toward Newtimber.

The line heading into the theater stopped and turned at the sound. A skater flipped his board up with his foot, wheels still spinning as he caught it and came to a running halt to stare at the wave heading our way. “What’s everyone staring at?” Principal Robertson turned around a little late. The man had to be half deaf to not hear the bomb.

Bomb. It hadn’t occurred to me until that moment that we were facing fallout from some kind of explosion. My mind raced through the images I’d seen in science class and on TV of what happened when people had to deal with fallout and radiation poisoning. My heart leapt into my throat as I glanced around at the people just standing there like stupid deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming train. Nobody was moving. We were all going to die.

I didn’t even think then. A lifetime of dealing with an alcoholic and addict for parents had left me prepared to deal with whatever came my way. Not a lot surprised me anymore. “It’s a bomb!” I screamed, “Everybody get inside! Get below ground! Come on, come on!” I grabbed Auntie Chieko by the hand and raced down the street to the old waterworks. The red brick was crumbly and sealed, but I knew how to get in. I shoved past one of the boarded doors that hung on a loose nail, then pushed people in, one after the other. There weren’t many. Not nearly enough. The skinhead and his skateboard nearly dove through the opening, then a blond secretary type. The wave rolled over the far end of the street and the people . . . oh, man, the people changed. I know it sounds crazy, really I do, but as the green wave hit a tall old man, suddenly a tree sprouted roots right in the middle of Main Street. His face opened into a scream as his feet rooted first, then his body leaned forward and his arms reached out, the bark racing across his skin like a wave of superfreak ants. His face changed last of all, his mouth still open in the scream as the bark rippled and tore his skin, his eyes and nose fading into knotted wood with a gaping hole left for his open mouth.

Shocked, my eyes turned away from the tree-man toward a lady with her three children. They ran screaming down the street, she herding them in front of her like a hen and her chicks. All of a sudden it was like they tripped and spun, their bodies exploding into strings that sprouted leaves, and when they rolled to a stop, the family was a line of gnarled sage.

My heart pounded so hard in my chest I couldn’t swallow, could hardly breathe. I glanced back toward the mountain. The wave rolled ever closer and all I could do was stand there pushing people through the half-boarded doorway as fast as they would go, getting as many as possible to some kind of shelter. I waited as long as I could, but there wasn’t enough time to get everybody in. When the slow cloud was half a block away, I dropped the board back into place, a group of people surging toward me at the last moment but still too far away. The wave licked at their heels as I tied off the rope to lock the door and raced down the stairs as fast as my three inch heels would carry me.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Playing Catch-Up

Sorry, guys, I've been at CONduit for the past few days and was having trouble accessing the internet. I'll catch you up soon on the events and post something new. Bear with me until then, okay? Thanks!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Mystical Forest



Quote of the Day: “Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself”
Truman Capote quotes

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: Newtimber, Part 1


This week you get a bit of my Grand Prize Winning Chapter from the LDStorymakers First Chapter Contest. It's not the whole chapter, but I thought it would be a nice place to start.



“I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but hero was never one of them. Worthless—punk—loser—degenerate—those have followed me around for a long time, but hero? No way. Who would be stupid enough to make me a hero?
“Evidently I did it to myself. I didn’t mean to. I was just looking at the sunset when the fairy bomb turned Newtimber into a ghost town.”
--Sianna Kondō, Newtimber Gazzette, July 31, 2009



Chapter One

“You have got to be kidding me. I’m not wearing that.” I thrust out a hip and pointed my finger at the hideous dress Auntie Chieko held in front of me.

“Yes, you will,” she said without raising her voice. She didn’t have to. Her eyes had needles in them, I swear. Black stretch knit. It was awful, but I knew that look. There would be no getting out of this one. Auntie didn’t often lay it on heavy handed like that, but when she did it was like standing in cement. I knew I’d be stuck so I shut my mouth and had to be satisfied with a glare. When she saw she’d won, she continued. “It is opening night, Sianna. You will be attending and a black dress is required.”

I rolled my eyes and pulled my little black jacket to my sides, the better to show off the leather mini-dress I’d just peeled on. “I’ve got a black dress.”

“No, you’ve got half a black dress.” Auntie Chieko marched to the doorway, her tiny geisha-like feet quiet in the carpet. She stopped in the doorway, her strong fingers gripping the frame like she’d pull it off in pieces if I dared give her any lip. I was surprised when she sighed and turned to face me. “Just put it on, Sianna. This is really important to me and I’d appreciate your support.”

I wanted to say something. I wanted to say it bad, but I had nowhere else to go and Auntie had been nothing but kind to me since Mom kicked me out for throwing away her booze. I owed it to her to be supportive and I knew it, even if it meant wearing fashion decades old. I clenched my teeth, the black knit itching already, but nodded. Maybe I could dress it up a little and make it my own. I could add a belt or a jacket, or just trim it up a bit. I nibbled at my lip, trying to visualize the changes. It seemed like a lost cause, but I’d try. There was no one else in the entire universe who could have gotten me to wear the lousy dress, but I’d do it for Auntie Chieko.

I finally made it out to the car after Auntie Chieko honked three times and called my cell phone. I’d given the dress a few changes that made it more to my liking, but only the slip and a silky black blouse kept the itching at bay. I’d trimmed the sleeves off and cut away the collar to expose a little more of my assets. This, of course made the edges curl, but it had just the effect I was going for. I didn’t think she’d care nearly as much as she did. As soon as I slammed the door I felt the negative vibes shooting from her. She would have called it angry chi. For me it meant I’d done one more thing wrong. Why couldn’t I think before I did stuff?

“Did you have to cut it?” she asked, one eyebrow quirked and her mouth turned down.
“If you expect me to wear it, uh, yeah.” I didn’t mean to say it disrespectfully, but it popped out that way. I was too used to being on my own and having to defend myself from drunk and stoned parents. The changes I’d made in the past few weeks had been hard, but I’d do them for Auntie Chieko. She was everything her brother wasn’t, including out of jail. In her I had a home free of pain and addiction, but I’d traded my freedom and gained a lot of responsibility. I felt bad that I seemed to hurt my aunt every time I turned around, but I couldn’t help it. There’s no filter between my brain and my mouth.

Auntie didn’t say anything more, though I knew it was killing her. It was frustrating that she wouldn’t just tell me what she felt. It had to do with the Japanese culture her parents knew so well, and my dad had never taken the time to teach me. I didn’t understand it and sometimes the frustration made me say things I didn’t mean. “If you didn’t want me to adjust it, you should have said something. You know how I am.”

“All too well.” Auntie threw the car in reverse and backed out of the driveway, the bumper scraping the asphalt as it leapt into the road. She threw it into first, the tires chirping as she surged forward and raced toward Old Newtimber.


Quote of the Day: Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us from the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals.
Don Delillo quotes

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday's Ramble


So much is going on lately that my brain is just exhausted and I can't think of what to blog about, but rather than leave you with nothing I decided to post another poem and only hope it will satisfy until tomorrow.


Home

Monochrome mountains stand tall and proud
encircling this valley of mine
while their children litter the fields
and the yard
where I plant seeds of grass
and rows of peas
and they,
not so gracious as their guardian fathers,
nibble at my garden and twist my carrots
to grow sideways instead of down.
Most days I know not whether I shall harvest potatoes
or infant mountains masquerading as stone.
Still--I love my rocky home,
with spritely sunflowers and prickly burrs
that whisper against little boys' shoes
and gather in pantlegs to come in from the heat.
There is safety in this frozen desert,
joy in this simple life of seasons and stone
with granite majesty guarding the seeds of my life
and memories of home.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday's Poet: Earth Eater


The great, red dragon bursts to life.
The growl thrums deep from engine throat
while clouds of smoke
billow and whirl about his snout.
He raises his great snake neck,
head swaying as he searches for prey,
then dives to the earth
and devours great chunks of her flesh.
Earth Eater he becomes
as time after time
he dips his head to feed,
a pile of refuse building beside him.
And as the sun begins to set,
the great red dragon
lifts his head
and pauses.
The smoke stops,
the growling ends,
man drops from dragon's back,
removes his hard yellow hat and wipes his brow-
and leaves the dragon
with nose perched in the air
waiting for another sunrise
in which to feed on Mother Earth.

Karen E. Hoover
September 27, 2003

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday's Music Review: Blackmore's Night


A year or two I was talking with my friend Eric about music and he suggested a group to me that I'd never heard of and whose name I immediately forgot. Every time I saw him after that he'd ask if I had looked them up yet and I was embarrassed to admit I had not. Knowing I was going to be seeing him at CONduit next weekend, I decided to rectify that this week and simply fell in love.

I've blogged before about how big a fan I am of renaissance and middle age music--but I am also a fan of modern day music with all the accompanying drums and electric guitars. Now imagine combining the two and what you get is Blackmore's Night. It is a fascinating combination to me. Not really dance or chillout music, maybe writing music for me as it certainly puts me in the mood for fantasy writing with a little added zing, but it's not like anything else I've ever heard.

You can check out their bios here and I've posted a video below and reset my music for the week to Blackmore's Night on the sidebar. Leave me some comments and let me know what you think!



Quote of the Day: “Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe, shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish.”
John Jakes

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My New Blogging Schedule


I've been thinking for quite a while that I needed to set myself a schedule on what to write each day so that I've got something coming out each and every day. So--I've borrowed ideas from several of my friends blogs and came up with a couple on my own so there's something a little different to come back for each day. So, here's the list! Hope you'll stop back by more regularly now that I'll be putting fresh stuff out every day.

Random Mondays--If you like my usual rambling blogs, you'll love Mondays. This is where I'll talk about whatever pops into my head or has been pinging through my brain for a while.

Teaser Tuesdays--I'm stealing this idea from my friend Ali. You can read little bits of my writing on Tuesdays and see what you like. It could be a random paragraph from the middle of a book or an entire chapter. You'll just have to come back and see what I've got for you!

Wordless Wednesdays--I've seen these from a couple of my friends, though of course now that I'm trying to remember who it completely eludes me. Wednesdays can be anything that struck me during the week in a profound kind of way. A picture. A bit of music. A clip of video. I don't know what form this will take yet, but I'm going to have fun with it, I just know it.

Thoughtful Thursday--This comes again from my friend Ali. This is where I'll post the stuff that really means something to me or causes people to think. Heck, if it makes me think it should make anybody think. lol

Friday's Review--For reviewing books, movies, music, and videos. If you have a book you want me to review, this would be the day for it.

Saturday Poet--For posting poetry and/or song lyrics.

Sunday Lessons--Here is where I'll continue my lessons from Mom posts along with any other lessons I've learned.

So, that covers it. I'll be starting tomorrow with a review, though what I'm reviewing yet, I have no idea. Probably music tomorrow as most of the books I've been reading lately have been for friends' critiques. Thanks for your support, guys. I sure hope the new format will work better for us all!
Quote of the Day: "It only takes one person to change your life – you."
Ruth Casey

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Intermission


I apologize for getting behind on my Lessons from Mom list. Life has been super, super busy and well, I'm having a hard time coming up with meaningful lessons from Mom. I guess they're all meaningful, but my brain's just not going in that direction right now. Mother's Day was a little harder on me emotionally than I'd thought it would be and constantly dredging up memories at the same time has been painful. Joyous, but it still hurts.

So, I'm going to change this a bit and will post 3-5 things all at once every few days unless something screams at me and says it needs a day all for itself. That will give me the chance to blog about other things as well when they jump out at me.

Forgive me, folks. Some days my intentions are just bigger than my ability to follow through. I'll still get my 25 things in there, it just won't be quite the way I'd originally imagined. Mom's lessons were too important for me to race through without contemplation. Thanks for your patience.

We will now continue our regularly scheduled program.

Quote of the Day: "You should never be ashamed to admit you have been wrong. It only proves you are wiser today than yesterday."
Jonathan Swift

Monday, May 11, 2009

Lesson #5: Don't Be Afraid to Try Things


When I was ten or eleven one of my older sisters came to live with us. She'd spent a lot of time in Mexico and had learned to cook authentic Mexican food. The first time she cooked for the family and I came to the table I asked, "What's this junk?" Probably not the best approach, but I'd always been a little picky with my food, meat in particular, and was not impressed with the smells wafting up from beneath my nose. It was kind of soupy, with vegetables and pork and there weren't any spoons. We were supposed to eat it with homemade corn tortillas we tore into triangles and used like spoons.

After being chastised for my rudeness, Mom enforced the "one bite" rule. I had to try it and if I couldn't choke it down I could have something else. I was determined I wasn't going to like it, but I gave it a chance and took my single bite. And another. And more and more until I was done and asking for seconds.

Mom put the "one bite" policy into practice in other areas of her life as well. It was a matter of you never know what you can do until you try. I can't begin to tell you how many walls we painted, how many times Mom fixed her own plumbing by calling people in the know or getting a book and figuring it out, or how often we tore down walls and built them up again. She laid her own carpet, tried to break my horse (and broke a collarbone in the process), wrote family history books, and improvised anything and everything that needed a fix.

At the age of seventy she took it upon herself to build a shed and a deck on the back of our house. When I offered to help her (because I love building stuff too), she turned me down. She wanted to do it herself and I have been very impressed by the quality of her work. Had she ever built a deck or a shed before? No. She just figured it out and did it.

I have always loved that quality in her. She was not only capable, but teachable, and took pride in the work she did. I love to go sit on my deck or stand in my yard and look at the wood and know she created something with her own hands. She wasn't afraid to try new things, and it's a quality I try very hard to incorporate into my own life. Thanks, Mom, for teaching me to find ways to do whatever needs doing.

"There's always a way to learn about what needs doing. You've just got to be brave enough to try."