Monday, October 19, 2009
I love the gray sky. I love how green the leaves on my trees seem, glowing from the refraction of light on the rain drops. I love curling up under a blanket, laptop warming my lap and cup of tea steaming at my elbow. (must be tea, you cannot drink coffee on a rainy day, it's a law or something :) )
I love how when you're writing, rain inherently supports the mood and tone of a scene. From gray and ominous as a portent of the plot twists to come. From sad and cloudy or dark and angry mimicking the characters' emotions. And I love how the rain seems to spark my creativity.
I can just as easily snuggle up with my laptop as a good book on a rainy day. Blue skies are lovely, but gray rainy skies rock.
Happy Rainy Monday!
ps. I wonder...I'm descended from the English-maybe liking rain is in my blood. :)
Saturday, October 10, 2009
At 6 pm. I've been getting up at 5 am to take other son to water polo practice so by 6 o'clock at NIGHT, I am done. Wiped out, finished, barely coherent. Seriously. I'm so not a morning person that when I'm forced to get up every day like that, by the end of the day I'm in a borderline vegetative state. And by the end of the week, forget it.
Thirty bite sized servings for, no not Spanish class, but English class. Why? Because Maya Angelou apparently is partial to Spanish rice. And for the poetry presentation, his group is spotlighting Maya Angelou.
So he accesses http://www.allrecipes.com/ and searches for Spanish rice. We head to the store for the two ingredients we don't have in our pantry, one of them being, yes, you guessed, the rice.
I don't consider cooking to be helping with homework. I won't write my kid's papers, I won't type my kid's papers, I won't do their math or their French homework, or color their graphs or science lab covers, but I absolutely will help them cook.
Fortunately my sons are in culinary class so he starts the boring stuff (chopping--but don't tell him that) while I get the bacon simmering. We chatted about his day, his classes, cooking, and Maya Angelou while the spicy aromas began to fill our kitchen and what could have been a completely frustrating and annoying evening turned into a lovely interaction with my son. And the rice was absolutely fantastic. We're planning on making the recipe again, it was sooo good.
So thank you, Maya Angelou!
ps. I've included the link for the rice recipe. We used smoked applewood bacon and our chile powder is a wonderful smoked powder from New Mexico chiles.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Lots of military and espionage organizations have escape and evade kits that they give to their operatives who are in hostile territory. Information on local plants that can be eaten, maps, places or roads to avoid. Today they are usually printed on tyvek.
In World War II, they frequently printed maps and information on silk, because it wouldn't ruin if it got wet and unlike paper it wouldn't make much noise while viewed. The maps were sewn into linings of suits, printed on the inside of ties, and various other places. Very clever.
Last week, I ran across an article about taking that idea to the next level. Apparently during World War II, the Germans allowed certain items to be given to POW's through charity groups. One item deemed acceptable was board games. So Waddington's, a company in the UK, made 'special' Monopoly games to be distributed to POW's.
ps. If you want to read the entire article, here's the link:http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/monopolys-hidden-escape-maps-free-pows/Story?id=8605905&page=1
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
We as a country have lost our sense of social decorum.
I actually began this conversation with Sophie Littlefield www.sophielittlefield.com and Rachelle Chase www.rachellechase.com on our monthly trip into Berkeley for the RWA meeting last Saturday after the Congressman shouted out "you lie" during President Obama's speech. I found that shocking. Seriously.
While that was the most grossly inappropriate, the last few days have shown a growing deterioration of behavior in public situations. Kanye West. Serena Williams. It seems every time we turn around some public figure is behaving badly. And if people who are supposed to be role models behave this poorly what example are we setting for our kids and for ourselves?
This isn't to say that I always behave perfectly. Far from it. But shouldn't we hold ourselves and our country to a higher standard?
So the next time you're tempted to blurt something out...Don't!
And I'll do the same. :)
Friday, September 11, 2009
i'm fresh from back to school night at the high school, sitting through quick ten minute presents from the teachers about the class and i was struck by a very sad fact. most of the teachers made sure to tell everyone how they grade and the weight of tests vs. homework and meeting the benchmarks and yada, yada, yada.
example: honors chemistry. i was a chem major in college (for a year and a half anyway) and i LOVE chemistry. i would have liked to have known what kind of experiments they are going to do, what cool stuff they might learn. sure i'd like my kids to get good grades but i'd rather they have enthusiasm and a joy for a subject than an A.
parents here (and maybe it's everywhere but definitely the case in my little slice of california) are so focused on the end, on putting that A or B or weighted grade on junior's report card so they can get into Harvard (yeah, probably not, and definitely not in our house :) ) that very few teachers discuss what they are going to teach. and to me that makes for a sad day.
to me, learning should be the absorption of new concepts and ideas and the steps along the way, the journey's the thing.
Friday, September 4, 2009
The lemon cucumber is really yummy. Now something seems to be attacking the leaves and it's looking a little sickly. The beans never really took off. I'm about to harvest them and have one decent side dish. The corn was a bust. I have ears that are small but the ants got the corn so I'll have to figure out what to do about that next year. However, I'm going to have a great front porch decoration with those stalks so all is not lost. :)
I've got watermelon, honey dew, and canteloupe that has yet to fully ripen. And if the damn squirrels would leave my tomatoes alone I'd be ready for my own Tomatina.
We've had a great time eating from our garden already this year. Although I'm thankful we aren't really headed for the apocalypse because while we had some tasty meals, we'd starve if we had to live on my gardening. :) But hey, it's a start.
And I've been bitten by the gardening bug. I'm looking forward to planting my winter crop soon....
Thursday, August 27, 2009
This article was written and published by the Associated Press. And not to make light of the situation but I read this sentence:
Before scaling back its "enhanced interrogation program," the CIA used 10 harsh methods, including waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning. It later used six techniques, including sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation and slapping.
And my first thought was Motherhood is a form of torture.
Friday, August 21, 2009
It's funny how much I long for summer, envisioning lazy days lounging by the pool, the sun sizzling along my skin, an ice cold glass of water at my fingertips and a steamy novel ready to be devoured.
Maybe a weekend at the beach, listening to the sea gulls squawk and the tide crash along the sand, the screech of kids as they run from the cold (West Coast :)) ocean, the salt in the air, and later, the scent of burning wood from the raging bonfire and moonlight rippling on the water.
The idea of summer with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Except these days, that's a fantasy rather than reality. Instead it's swim practice, water polo practice, running practice, swim meets, water polo tournaments, movies, sleepovers, barbecues, shopping, and on and on and on.
The summer may just be more tiring than school because those lazy days (ha!) mean no set schedule and no time alone for me. I can't wait until school starts and I can sit down to write without being interrupted twenty times a day to drive someone somewhere....
Until about mid-May when I'll start longing for those lazy summer days once again. :)
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
on a deeper level, it signifies a shift in the dynamic of the parent/child relationship. the first step in becoming an adult. the beginning of the journey of separation from the family unit to an autonomous being. in ancient cultures tribes had specific ceremonies for boys and girls to transition from child to adult, usually involving some sort of painful and permanent mutiliation of their body. thank goodness we have moved on from such procedures and now only strap them into thousand pound hunks of metal and let them loose on the world....
so while i am happy for him, it's a bittersweet day at my house because my baby is almost not a baby anymore.
ps. another milestone, Eunice Kennedy Shriver passed away today. She was an inspiration to many and will be missed
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
In a nutshell: CIA, USSR, Cold War, spies, counterintelligence. Caveat...I'm only about halfway through. It's fascinating. Really. The twists and turns and sheer amount of mental logistics to develop 'lines' which are really fake stories with actors (spies) who memorize their stories and then go after the enemy (that would mostly be US, but not always) to ferret out what we know and what we think we know and what they can learn and how they can penetrate our counterintelligence....
it's like a really, really complicated thriller that when you finish...the reaction is NO WAY. Except, it's true.
apparently, truth is stranger (and frequently more complicated) than fiction.
ps. Fun note...I bought this at the CIA gift shop, yes, our nation's most top secret (at least known top secret)facility has a gift shop. I refrained from picking up a CIA coffee mug :)
Friday, July 31, 2009
1. you can only control what you can control and write the best damn book/article/short story you've got inside of you at the moment and learn from each project you complete and revise.
2. writing is not for wimps. everyone loves to talk about that one person who wrote their first book, sold it, had to do zero revisions and it became an overnight instant bestseller. all that sounds great but the reality is writing is WORK.
writers work and submit and get rejected and write and submit some more and get rejected and so on and so on. this is the career path for most people. it is not for people with fragile egos whose feelings are crushed at the slightest bit of criticism or rejection.
writing is for warriors.
ps. please don't fall down in shock--two posts in a week!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
aka cleaning your office, culling out unread books, sorting through borrowed books to give back, filing your reams of internet research on various topics, scheduling the next year's worth of www.pensfatales.com topics....
aka sprucing up your front yard, watering your apocalypse garden (i have zucchini! and the corn is sprouting or whatever you call what they do), spending quality time with your children (whether they want to or not), heading to the bookstore and buying books but not reading them because you can't until you write....
aka mulling over your plot, working through story lines, fretting over character motivation, pondering the potential settings of the next scene....
in other words...all of that aka stuff is productive, no question, but it isn't writing. Writing requires BICHOKTAM. Butt in chair, Hands on keyboard, Typing away madly.
No magic handshake, no muse on vacation, no excuse. Time to write.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Their motto: We are the nations first line of defense. We accomplish what others cannot accomplish and go where others cannot go.
Everyone knows the headquarters are located in Virginia. An impenetrable fortress of security that only the ultra top secret clearance people can ever access. Unless of course you have the secret decoder ring (a.k.a. the Romance Writers of America, Kiss of Death chapter).
We visited the OHB (everything is DC is an acronym-it borders on absurd :) ) The Original Headquarters Building. I felt a little like Dorothy in Oz, wandering (escorted at all times mind you) through the halls of the CIA. It’s the kind of experience that is almost surreal. So fascinating and exciting and unbelievable that your mind is racing a thousand miles a minute. Unfortunately I can’t tell you about it because then they would have to kill you. (Kidding, sorry, couldn’t resist.)
They have a museum of gadgets, from the ultimate in high tech (at least for their time, their ultimate high tech gadgets are still classified) to the very low tech.
One of my personal favs was in the Cold War Gallery. The East Germans (pretty sure that’s the right country) would bump up against a person of interest and they would mark them with German Shepherd girl dog pheromones. (Later I read the Soviets would put it on the bottom of shoes.) Apparently boy German Shepherds can uber-track that scent for about four days. So once the pheromones were applied to the unsuspecting mark, then the boy dog traced the target’s movement seeing where they went, if they took the same route every day, etc. Very low tech but apparently very effective.
I'll leave you with this caveat. If you happen to see a very determined German Shepherd following you around you’d better be on your best behavior. :)
ps. The CIA has a website:
Also, the secret decoder ring people website:
Thursday, June 18, 2009
My friend Martha believes in being prepared and her comments a few weeks ago totally spurred me to take action. I started my apocalypse garden. Prior to this awakening, I had a couple of tomato plants in a pot and some herbs by the back door (which if I don't say so myself, for a plant killer are looking pretty good) I've discovered a secret--fertilizing them regularly makes a really big difference. This isn't to say that I didn't fertilize before but clearly I didn't fertilize enough. Now look at these tomatoes!
So this past weekend we (and I use the term 'we' loosely, I picked the stuff out, figured the dimensions, and how to construct then left the actual construction to the husband) built a 3 x 3 planter box. Then today I forced, er, asked the kids to go with me to pick out food plants. We planted green beans, lemon cucumber, zucchini, cherry tomatoes (someone stuck those in the cart when I wasn't looking), green bell pepper, and cantaloupe. And look how great it looks.
Now I just have to convince the family that they will love eating everything in that box. And since I'm prepared for the Apocalypse, I can get back to writing...happy Summer!
Monday, June 1, 2009
This has been a labor of love from start to finish (yeah, cliche I know). We have had so much fun planning and discussing what we do and don't want, how we want to structure, and amazingly we have agreed on most things without much debate. We've found connections among group members that we had no idea existed three months ago.
When we started, we were eight writers in the romance and mystery genres with a common friend. With inspiration from Maya Banks (www.writemindedblog.com), we decided to make the leap.
Writing is so solitary. Even if you have critique groups and readers and chapters, in the end, the work is accomplished alone. So to have this more intimate outlet to develop friendships and forge connections that I believe will last a very long time, is a gift.
I consider myself very, very lucky. Happy Grog Launch to us!
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
i'm trying to be healthier. of course, i hope this will lead to a loss of pounds as i really don't want to have to buy new clothes, but what i really want is to be healthy.
i've eliminated diet coke from my food choices. soda is bad for you, whether diet (aspartame--very bad chemical, my son will tell you it changes to a toxin when heated above 70 odd degrees) or regular (high fructose corn syrup is clearly from the devil according to every health advocate everywhere). but i like fizzy, so i now drink soda water.
there was an interesting study done recently about women and body image. the basic gist of the results that there was little correlation between how women felt about their body, what they were doing about it, and what was reality. many of the women were unhappy with their body image but unwilling to change their diet or their exercise habits. but the world doesn't work that way. you have to be committed to yourself. i think we try to change too much at once and then when we fail (eat whatever it is that we are trying to eliminate) we decided it's too hard and fall back into the easiness of chaos.
so, why obsession? i've figured out that i am not a moderation kinda girl. i either have it or i don't. i don't do well with the only one a week, because slowly that one a week turns into one a day and then one in the morning and one at night, and then what the hell, all day long....
so i'm trying to change...one food at a time. :)
ps. one thing i don't like is that i used to take a break from working by going out to get a diet coke from the local fast food place...i miss that mini-break. i had a purpose but it was a quick jaunt and then i was back to work. somehow pouring a glass of tea from my fridge doesn't have the same feeling. oh, well....
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
So...I would enthusiastically jump right in and go gangbusters for...about five days. Then the kids would have a bunch of sports, or the dh and I would have a night out, or we'd have the kids' friends and parents over, or, or, or...and pretty much after the weekend, I'd have to start over. I probably attempted this for a month (maybe longer as I am stubborn) before I stopped writing altogether. The failure to keep at it past four or five days took an incredible toll on my psyche and that was it.
But of course because I am the type of person who REFUSES to give up, I would start the cycle all over again. And because I am also an occasional rule breaker, after failing again and again, I finally made up my own rules. I didn't have to start over. I just acknowledged the day off and kept my own tally of days.
I'm in my third year of going my own way and today I hit day one hundred for 2009.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
My daughter loves the Twilight series, loves, loves, loves them. To me, it’s the same old, same old (this is not to say I am not thrilled with Stephanie Meyer’s success...because hey, go Stephanie, it’s always great when a work inspires that many millions of people to read. :) )
But if I’m going to read vampires, I want the story to be extraordinary. Enter J.R. Ward and her Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Just finished Lover Avenged last Saturday, a treat because I’ve been writing like a fiend so I haven’t read anything for weeks.
Ward manages to craft a vampire series that is totally rockin’ by changing up the story. Vampires have their own society, their own governing system. They don’t prey on humans, don’t drink human blood (because...yuck!). The Brotherhood protects vampires and humans from the Lessers. This series is brilliant. Every single vampire has major trauma to overcome and their character arc is intense and fascinating. She manages to layer in multiple subplots, and although the main romance is wrapped up, she always has some unresolved complication for the reader to contemplate building anticipation for the next in the series. So that is me being analytical, now for the gushy reader stuff...the pace is unbelievably fast, the action brutal yet not gratuitous, the sexual tension is incredibly hot, and the story is over in a blink.
If you haven’t read this series, I suggest starting with the first Dark Lover. My favorite was the story of Butch and Marissa in Lover Revealed, but they are all excellent. And you can bet that I will be at the bookstore on the day the next Lover book is on sale....
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Check it out....
Do we look like we could have an album coming out in the Fall?
Monday, April 20, 2009
Twitter, however, is different. I couldn't tell you why, it just is. It's short and compact and even though I get tired of 'sound bytes' that substititute for substantive discussion, twitter is FUN!
I blog, I'm about to grog, and now I twitter. :)
www.twitter.com Check it out!
Friday, April 17, 2009
not enough praying to the tax gods apparently because we owe lots of money. My husband has a job (in and of itself a good thing these days) which allows me to write so for that I am grateful. And I love what I do!
Ashton Kutcher beat out CNN for gathering one million Twitter followers first. I have nothing against AK but gosh what does it say about the future of our society when a single actor has more people wanting to know what he's thinking about than a global news organization?? On the other hand, isn't technology amazing?
the death of the newspaper. I am sad that lots of newspapers are going under but I confess that I don't read them. Too much information and not enough time. Plus every time I look at a paper, I think, a tree is gone--with the exception of picking up a New York Times when I travel because frankly that paper is the bomb.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Until now, I've been moseying along, writing and using the family account for my expenses. After doing my taxes and having to dig through paper statements to find any deductible expenses from the three months that my computer refused to download my bank information (I'm assuming it was mad at me :)), I decided to finally set up a separate designated 'writing' account.
Yesterday in the mail, I got my checkbook and my 'writing only' credit card! I remember being sixteen and getting my first bank account. I was all grown up! :)
I've got that same feeling--it's official--I'm a writer. :)
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
And yeah, the company has to scramble to get patches made and announcements out. But at the end of the day, who pays for the virus? The general public who has done nothing but buy the most common software on the planet.
It's a lot like egging houses. Which when I was in high school was the mean thing to do. But I never understood the reasoning behind it. What is the point? The parents are the ones who pay. Egging just makes a mess that has to be cleaned up, frequently not even by the person you're mad at in the first place.
The only eggs I like to throw are plot eggs. I toss them at the wall of my manuscript and hope that my evil plan makes sense and I've created an interesting work and not a puddle of gooey yolks and sticky whites that needs to be washed down the drain or eaten by a virus. :)
My tip of the day. Back up your work!
Friday, March 27, 2009
I don't mean to. I actually try really hard to care for them and nurture them and get flowers and food. But in the end, I kill them. My family actually makes fun of me because they know that the attempt will be futile. I pretty much gave up with indoor plants and bought some silk ones. Although according to feng shui experts, fake plants are not good for your chi. Sigh.
Still I'm compelled every Spring to buy some living plants, bring them home and stick them in the ground (with all the appropriate fertilizer, mulch, and tender care) or a pot (thank God for drip systems!). And sadly, once they've been transplanted to my garden the death process begins. If we ever have an apocolypse and have to grow our own food, I'm in trouble.
I've already hit my Home Depot once this week and I'm probably gonna go again this weekend.
So say a little prayer for my garden. Happy Spring!
Monday, March 16, 2009
I love the internet. I love technology. I love the new terminology. New words...what writer doesn't LOVE new words?
Blogs, grogs, twitter. New words spring up overnight like mushrooms in the loamy winter soil. One day underneath the tree a whole colony is just...there.
We were lucky enough to listen to the very popular, prolific and talented, Maya Banks (http://www.mayabanks.com/) speak this past weekend. I'm sure she would be thrilled to know her words inspired action among us.
Pumped up on excitement from her speech, a group of like-minded writers decided to take the plunge into the world of grogging. What is grogging? Group blogging.
So, Juliette Blackwell/Hailey Lind, Martha Flynn, Rachael Herron, Sophie Littlefield, Adrienne Miller, Gig Pandian, LGC Smith, and myself are coming to a blogosphere near you! Just as soon as we figure out our name....
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Which got me to thinking...the themes of romance and love figure prominently in ballet, opera, movies, theatre, and music. Frequently those works with a central romance become favored classics. So why is it that the moment a book is labeled as a romance suddenly the conception is the novel has less value than a literary or other genre fiction work?
In a time of global financial and political upheaval, tales of love and romance should be celebrated as enduring and inspiring. In my opinion, any artistic work that details the trials and triumphs of love should be revered not ridiculed. For at the end of the day, whether you have a home, car, 401k, or not, if you love and are loved in return then you are rich in spirit.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
This election was historic on so many levels. Going into the voting booth, I knew whichever party won, this country was breaking down barriers. Whatever your ethnicity, gender, religion, or politics, today we are witness to history.
As we move into what will (hopefully) be an inclusive era, I'll leave you with this final thought. Love too can transcend the boundaries of differences. Love is universal, love unites, and love inspires a profound hope for the future.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Writers who critique are not hard to come by. Pretty much anyone who has been writing for more than a month will have something to say if you put your draft, aka your baby, in their hands.
Whether they offer anything productive is another story. :)
I am blessed to have the best critique group on the planet (and sorry, but no, we are not taking new members). We didn't start out as the best ever, we evolved into our current group slowly and sometimes accidentally. Underlying every meeting, we have each other's best interests at heart, we are not afraid to give criticism but we're also not afraid to ignore criticism (even if we're sometimes wrong in ignoring it!) We each have our own critiquing strength which when put together equals a well-rounded judgement.
I've heard horror stories about professional jealousy from people who are supposed to be your friends. We have managed to avoid that trap because we are geniunely as invested in our friend's career as we are our own. We celebrate our triumphs and our disappointments equally, cheer each other on, commiserate through family trials, go on writing trips and field trips together, inspire and motivate and nag each other when necessary. Such as, thank you Sophie, for the nag, er gentle reminder to write my blog post for the week. :)
So with all the craziness in the world today, I wanted to just say thanks to my fabulous critique group. :)
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Resolutions are a funny thing. I bet if you looked at your list year after year, the resolutions haven't changed much. Lose those ubiquitous pounds (only the amount changes), drink less, exercise more, be kinder to those around us....
A few years ago I used the expertise of a life coach to help focus what I wanted and how to go about it. Looking at my goals for 2009, I was pleased to see that while some of my resolutions are the same (weight and exercise :) ) in many areas I have moved on to new and more challenging goals and I've replaced old behaviors with more productive and satisfying ones.
The trick to achieving any goal is to break it down into manageable pieces. I also believe there is much in the attitude you take while trying to achieve the goal. Instead of thinking of achieving a resolution or goal through discipline (which infers toil and drudgery) think of the actions as devotion. I heard this in a workshop given by Eric Maisel (www.ericmaisel.com) and it really struck a chord with me.
I don't write every day for drudgery, I write because I love the process (even when I hate the process). It is an act of devotion.
So here's hoping that your year is full of devotion.