Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Holly Hobbiest

I think it's really important not to put all your mental eggs in one basket. (How's that for an image?) What I mean is that while focusing on one thing is great, it can cause burnout. I went through that with writing a few months ago. I was so focused on writing and all things writing related, my love for the craft had disappeared.

I'd begun to think of it as a chore. Not good. Especially when I want to write for a living. That got me to do some thinking about all the other things I used to do, but put aside for one reason or another. Why couldn't I still do some of those things? They were still creative outlets, like writing, but most importantly, they weren't writing.

That's when I decided to start making jewelry again. I'd done it in high school and sold pieces in my mom's clothing store. Why not do it now? So I dusted off my bead box, reacquainted myself with the supplies in there, then went off to the craft store to restock.

It's a great outlet and I've never been happier! Unlike writing, making jewelry lets you see the end result pretty quick. I might even start selling some pieces on Ebay. It's given me the "other" outlet I so desperately needed. Not to mention I love making pieces for friends.

What are your hobbies? Are there any you've put aside? Restarted? Talk to me!

Monday, September 29, 2008

sneaking a post in

I needed to announce the winner of the "What Gwen said" mug...but didn't really want to intrude on Melly's farewell to her librarian friend.

The winner, chosen by a highly technical random generator (okay, I asked my twitter peeps to pick a number) is Will Belegon!

Congrats Will.

In Loving Memory of Ophelia Sullivan

Dear Ms. Sullivan,

You probably don't remember this, but you changed my life.

I was a voracious reader as a child. I had read all of the Little House on the Prairie books, Nancy Drew, and Hardy Boys. I was in dire need of something new, so I went to you, my school librarian.

And you changed my life by introducing me to Judy Blume.

I read ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME MARGARET. in one day. I came back for more. I read DEENIE (hands down my favorite of the Blume books) twice the next week. Judy Blume books were like brain cheese dip. I couldn't get enough. I ate up everything Judy Blume. Yes, even the naughty ones (which I didn't know were 'naughty' until much later...so I reread them.)

I didn't know it then, but you introduced me to a world that I wanted to be a part of. I was thirty years old before I realized how much I wanted to write. I wanted to inspire others the way Judy Blume inspired me. The day you handed me AYTG?IMM, was the day I discovered that fiction didn't have to be predictible or sad or cheesy.

Later in life, you and my mother became good friends. I know you were proud of me for pursuing my dream. You told my mother on numerous occasions. You were excited about reading my book--and that excited me.

I cannot express how heavy my heart is today. I knew you were fighting cancer. I knew it was a tough battle. Thank you for being my inspiration. You will be greatly missed.


Melissa (McKenzie) Francis

PS: Everyone go hug your librarian today. Librarians rock.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Rest in the Arms of the Angels, Blue Eyes

Not everyone in Hollywood is a stand up guy or gal, but we lost a great one today. Paul Newman was not just an actor, film director, race car driver, and incredible entrepreneur. He was known for his piercing blue eyes and massive talent, but also for his generous spirit.

It's strange to think that an entire generation-- perhaps two-- knew him as "the salad dressing guy." But how often did any of us really consider, when we grabbed the popcorn or any of his all-natural products, that he raised over 200 million dollars for charity.

So let us observe a moment of reflection for a tremendous loss.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The good advice that you just didn't take

Been thinking about advice lately. Some people give advice; most people don't take it. It's hard to know when someone is really asking for your opinion on how to fix something or when they just want to vent. And nothing is worse than someone telling you how to make something all better when you just want them to agree with you that it sucks.

People tell me I have a knack--but I'll tell you a secret. My best advice for giving advice is to listen...really listen...to what your friend is saying. Almost every time they will tell you in their own words what they really want to do when they are telling you what is going on. You just have to pay attention and say it back to them. Even if it isn't what you would do if you were your friend.

So...tell me the best or worst advice you ever got. And did you follow it?

I'm giving away a "What Gwen said" mug to a random commenter between now and Sunday evening. Winner to be announced on Monday.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

An Interview with Carrie Jones

Carrie Jones wrote the bulk of her debut novel, TIPS ON HAVING A GAY (EX) BOYFRIEND, while she was a student in the MFA Program on writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College. After meeting Carrie in person at the Society for Children's Book Writers & Illustrators conference in New Hampshire this past spring, I expected the book to be funny. Well, what would you think with a title like that?

But while her heroine, Belle, was at times witty and snappy in her responses and internal thoughts, this is not a funny book. It's angsty and chock full of beautiful lyrical prose, and oh, so good.

So please welcome Carrie Jones!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born. I turned out to be a girl. Actually, the doctors thought I was blind when I was born and people didn't realize that I could see for a few months. Then it turned out I was seeing four of everything in a VERY blurry way. When I was a year old I had an eye operation and had these tiny ultra-cool baby blue eyeglasses. I still can't see well with my left eye but my right eye rocks.

That's probably not what you meant.

Name: Carrie Jones
Where I live: House in Maine by river
Favorite Beverage: Postum, a warm liquid cereal drink
Current Hobby: Running for political office. No. Really.
Sun Sign: Pisces
Moon Sign: Oh, you don't really want me to moon you, do you?

LOL. I adored "Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend. I thought you perfectly captured the angst Belle would be feeling. Can you tell us what inspired you to write it?

I was the community advisor for our middle school civil rights team when I heard about a hate crime against a high school girl whose boyfriend recently came out. I couldn't figure out how that could possibly happen, so I started writing. Plus, I had a very cool, long-term boyfriend in high school. Everyone thought we were getting married. It turned out he was gay.

Wow, that must have been difficult. So, what's your writing process like? Show us a day in the life of Carrie Jones.

Morning comes.
Tala Dog licks Carrie's face.
Carrie groans.
Tala Dog licks Carrie's nose.
Carrie falls out of bed.
Carrie crawls along the carpet towards the kitchen.
Carrie feeds the Tala Dog.
Carrie makes Postum.
Carrie drags herself up to the table (squished between the fridge and the piano) and stares at her laptop.
Carrie groans while staring at the computer screen.
Carrie walks Tala Dog.
Carrie comes back to computer and realizes she can't remember getting out of bed, making Postum, staring at laptop or walking dog.
Carrie starts writing.

Really. I try to write at least 1,000 words a day or revise 20 pages a day. If I get stuck I run downstairs or walk the dog for 15 minutes or do something else.

My life sounds so boring, doesn't it?

It's also pretty obvious that I am not a morning person.

What "group" did you hang with in school? Do you think hanging with them influenced your writing?

I was a floater in high school, I think. It was a little like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Do you know that show? My core group was my boyfriend Joe (who turned out to be gay) and my best friend Jackie (who turned out to be straight). We did everything together like Buffy and Xander and Willow, but then there were all these other groups we mingled we -- chorus kids, I'm heading to Dartmouth kids, Goth kids, jock kids, National Art Honor Society kids.

It was pretty fluid, actually. I think being a floater let me see that people aren't just defined by what group they are in, but by what they do, how they think, what they want... All those cool things. I hope that comes out in my writing.

My grade school was a lot like that, too. I grew up in Bedford, NH, home of the Meyers Brothers of SNL and Mad TV fame, and I was in a song and dance company with Sarah Silverman, the comic/actress. We were friends. Adam Sandler lived in Manchester. There was a lot of funny going on in the air. We'd talk in fake languages when we went to the grocery store. We'd sing in opera voices when walking through the parking lot at the Mall of NH. A bit of that weirdness comes out in my blog, but not so much in my book. Sarah does show up in my third book, GIRL, HERO, though.

What five things do you always carry in your purse?

My little Cellie, which is my not-so-original name for my cell phone.
My ATM card.
My driver's license so I can prove that I'm old enough to buy wine to cook with.

That's it.

Wow. I am soooooooo boring.

Wait! I remember.

My electormagnetic field detector
A picture of my first toe nail.

A picture of your first toe nail? Hmmm. I won't ask. Besides yourself, who are your fave YA authors? What are you reading these days?

Right now, because I'm running for political office I'm reading a lot of political memoirs, which is a little dull and really full of ego.

Do I have to play YA favorites? I hate to play favorites. I was one of those kids who could never be the captain of the team in P.E. class because if I couldn't pick everyone on the first round I would break down and cry.

Fine. Fine! You want me to pick one? Harry Stephen Keeler

If you went back in time to visit your teen self, what random piece of advice would you tell TeenCarrie?

"Carrie... Carrie... It's okay to break up with Joe. He'll handle it really well, I swear..."

Or maybe...

"Carrie! Do not put the Sun-in bleach product in your hair! Do you know your poodle, Shelly Belly. Imagine her turned orange. That will be you. Put the hair product down now. NOW!"

Thanks for coming to visit us, Carrie!
Readers, check out Carrie's website: http://www.carriejonesbooks.com/

And buy her book!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Funerals--how do you want to go?

While searching my mind for a good topic for today, I remembered something the manpanion and I had talked about a while ago...funerals.

Yeah, cheery! I do solemnly promise this won't be down-in-the-dumps depressing, okay? LOL

So anyway, he and I were talking about how we wanted our funeral to go (because you know, couples who are going to stay together should know this about each other). The manpanion at first was saying he wanted to be cremated, and I told him no way--I was going to stuff him and put him on the couch. That way, we could be together forever...and ever...and ever...haha (because of course, I assume he's going to go first, LOL).

Then, the manpanion came up with a new idea--he now wants a viking funeral. He wants to be floated off on a viking ship that's set on fire...and then, I have to fling my body onto the top so I can join him in Valhalla as his wench/maiden/whatever.

Nice...and dramatic, of course.

My sister and I had talked about it before, too, and she said she wants a New Orleans-style funeral, with the jazz band playing down the street and a party atmosphere. I'm sure there will be beads involved somewhere. LOL

As for me, I have no idea. I'm gonna have to think of something good to top those. Anyone have any ideas? I was thinking it might be cool to have my ashes scattered somewhere neat, but if the wind blows the wrong way, that could be a whole lotta mess. LOL

So, how do YOU want your funeral to go?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'm In Love

That's not an icecube she's holding, it's an almost 500 carat diamond found recently in a South African mine. Estimates say it could yield a flawless center stone of nearly 150 carats, which would bring somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million dollars or more.

I'd just like to hold it. Just for a minute.

Granted, I'm not even close to living the kind of life a diamond like that would feel comfortable in, I just want to get next to it and see what it's like.

Sparklies are a weakness. Like a Myna bird or a Valkyrie (according to the Kresley Cole books), I am drawn to things that reflect light. I've worn a diamond of some kind (an inheirited engagement ring to start with) since I was in 9th grade. Currently, I'm never without my diamond wedding band, solitaire necklace and toe ring. Yes, I wear a diamond toe ring. Because that's the kind of silly, fluffy girl I am.

Everyone has a weakness of the silly variety. What's yours?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dear Girls,

I went to Oxford, MS this weekend. (Actually, I've been the last three weekends as we have a house for sale by owner there and we have to show on the weekends, but I digress.)

So Friday night, I go out with my friends Andrea and Mika. Oxford is a college town and it was a 'game day' weekend, so the square was packed with tons of coeds and frat boys.

And that's when I realized I needed to teach every girl under the age of 25 a lesson.

Less is more.

And I'm not talking about 'less clothing.' I think that's pretty well taken care of as it is. I'm talking about these girls who are out on the town, trying way too hard.

Stilettos, designer jeans, short-shorts or skirts, skin tight tops, too much makeup and way over-done hair.

If there were 500 girls on the square Friday night, 490 of them looked exactly the same.

It was sad. And disconcerting. Not one person really was out there as themselves. And the girls who were trying so damn hard to get a guy to notice them, were going about it all the wrong way.

Because when you slide into those 4 inch heels, and slap on all that makeup, you're not doing it for the guys...you're doing it to impress the other girls.

Here's a well kept secret: Guys could give a shit about all that. Even when you're out clubbing.

It's true.

When I stopped trying so hard, I started getting noticed. I could go out in a cotton tank top, a pair of jeans, and my flip-flops and I would get hit on twice as much as when I went 'all out.' And watching the swarming frat boys on Friday night, guess who they were going for? Not the girls in the glitter and stilettos, but the girls in the shorts and flip-flops.

Guys want girls who are comfortable in their own skin. If you're going out on a Friday night to meet a guy, you need to be yourself. I'm not saying you can't dress up, but don't go over the top and please, try very hard not to look like all your girlfriends. No guy wants to date a Stepford girl. And if he does--I can promise that you don't want to date that guy.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

In Praise of Techno-Crack

Hi. I'm Chrissy. And I'm a Nintendork.

Can't help it. And honestly, like television, it's one of those addictions everyone wants to deny. "I don't watch television" somehow became a battle cry for intellectualism-- or at the very least, pseudo-intellectualism-- when I was in high school. I never bought it. You can't imagine the sheer volume of cricket chirping one hears at a cocktail party when one gives the response "oh yeah, I LOVE tv." It's soooo not elegant, donchaknow.

Oh well. Neither am I. But I'd rather be cool... or at worst, happy... anyway.

And so, I will introduce you to one of my closest friends... my pink Nintendo DS Lite with Leopard Skin. Oh yeah... she's a beauty. I've got the matching furry covered carrying case with the extended pockets for games, too. Yep. And the earbuds.

Weirdly, most of the games I play on her are kinda nerdy and simple. I like the classic Sonic the Hedgehog. I like Super Black Bass Pro. I like Crosswords, My Word Coach, Solitaire Overload. The only "game head" game I have or it is Assassin's Creed. If you don't like Assassin's Creed we may not be able to be friends.

I mean, I'll try, but I don't know...

I just think that television, video games, and dorking around on the internet can be good things. And shunning technology in order to look more refined seems not only snobbish, but stupid.

You don't have to be hooked in like a character in The Matrix. You don't have to spend hours at a time zoning out with your gaze pinned to a portable gaming system. And now the Wii has exercise programs for it. Imagine that-- video games that are good for your health!

So yeah... I'm a user. I don't care for any pamphlets pointing me toward a 12 step recovery program, thanks. I like my pink pal. And I'm not ashamed of it.

So how about you? Any techno-crack in your life? Share!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Love is forever. maybe.

Are they still saying that 50% of all marriages end in divorce? Because I was thinking about that, and wondering what it is that makes or breaks a marriage. Cuz that's what I do when I'm supposed to be working--I think about really deep things. Okay, not really. Usually, I think about Cheetos and Twitter. But today I was wondering about marriage. And why I like my husband so much.
And I really do like him a lot.
So anyway...I kept on wondering. And then I wondered about all my favorite couples on TV and in the movies. We rarely get to see their happily ever after, after all. And if 50% don't make it--which ones don't?

Clair and Cliff Huxtable?

Baby and Johnny?

Jack and Annie?

Monica and Chander?
Han and Leia

Ernie and Bert

According to the stats...only three of these couples stay together. Which three do you think make it to forever?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Jane Austen Ball

OK, OK, I know. I'm a slacker. The Jane Austen Ball was more than a month ago.

But I don't know how to download pictures from my camera (yes, I really am that techno-illiterate, it's true), and Mr. Brice only gets around to doing that ever so often. And I didn't really have a good idea for today's post, so voila! Outated pics I should have posted a month ago.


Anyway, the ball was super fun. I felt like I was an Austen heroine! Naturally, I want to be Lizzie Bennet.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Which is better--fame or respect?

Writers have different reasons for wanting to publish their work.

Some want fame, to be in the limelight. To have lots and lots and lots of people read their novels. The more people who read their writing, the more hype and buzz can be built...which means the more novels that are sold and read.

Other writers want respect, both of their peers and of credited, authoritative reviewers--they want the prestigious awards. They want the professional acclaim. They want their work to be lauded as brilliant, crafty, and engrossing.

Are these two goals inclusive of each other? Can there be overlap? Absolutely--there are plenty of fantastic novels that are both famous and awarded. And when those two happen, you usually have the money to go along with it. haha

Let's play a game. Let's say you're a novelist, and you can only have one option with your book--either widespread fame, or literary respect. Which would you choose?

I'd love to have professional respect, but I'd choose widespread fame. I'd love the opportunity to have scads of people reading my work! After all, what good does a book do if it's lauded and awarded, but sitting on a dusty shelf unread? And for YA, some teens/kids shy away from award-winning books, afraid that they're going to be "message" books that try to "teach" them something. Blech--the humanity! haha

So, dish your choice and why you feel that way. I'd love to hear!

* * *


The winner of Carol Alt's book is: Eva Gale!

Please send an email with your name and address to: kbrunori@yahoo.com

Thanks to everyone who participated in our contest. I hope you'll stop by again. Be sure to add us to your RSS!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Interview With Carol Alt

Bio: Carol Alt’s face has appeared on the cover of more than 700 magazines. Her calendars, posters, and exercise videos have all sold millions of copies. She was a recent contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice, is the bestselling author of Eating in the Raw and The Raw 50, is a frequent guest on talk shows, and has acted on stage, television, and in more than 65 movies. This Year’s Model is her first novel.

1. What made you decide to write THIS YEAR'S MODEL? Writing this book was a way of reaching out and giving back. With all my books, I've really aimed to teach. With this one, I wanted to teach the history of the business, teach the girls how to conduct themselves. To show that those with a strong moral anchor make it.

3. How did the cover contest come about? The idea was suggested to me by my friend Melanie Bonvicino of Metro Management. We wanted to do it for the first book, but couldn’t because of time. I'm thrilled we're able to do it for this book. (Details of the contest are here.)

4. What authors do you read? Anne Rice, Dan Brown, a lot of the popular stuff. I also read a lot of health and nutrition books.

5. Who is your favorite character? I have to say my heroine, Melody (Mac). She was named for my favorite Abbott and Costello movie character from The Time Of Their Lives – she was a Revolutionary War ghost trying to get to heaven to be reunited with her lost love.

6. What five things are always in your purse? Water, enzymes, supplements, my phone and cash. Sometimes a lipstick.

7. What music are you currently listening to? Being that my boyfriend is Russian, I likes some European stuff, French, Italian, really a broad mix. I like classic rock, ballads, Creed. For me, it's more about the words.What's the song saying?

8. Tell us about your pets? Unfortunately, I don't have any because I travel too much, but I like cats.

9. One item of makeup you can't live without. Mascara!

10. First thing you drink in the morning. Jasmine Pearl Tropical Rooibos tea with my herbal drops and agave.

11. Best/worst prom/high school memory. I never liked high school. It was a very awkward time for me. Prom I remember having a white gown on and the waitress spilled cherries jubilee on me.

12. If you could go back in time and talk to the teenage you, what would you tell her? Holding your head high and exuding confidence will win you friends. People like to be around those who exude confidence. Kind and generous is how you win friends and influence people. Always bring something to the party and never stay to the end.

13. What are you working on next? First is the sequel to this book for Spring 2009, NEXT YEAR'S MODEL. Then a new project I'm very excited about, a line of skin care called Raw Essentials. I'm starting with a small launch in December on HSN, then a grand launch in January. I like to call this line "Beyond natural and organic." There's no reason to put anything chemical on your face because it’s absorbed into the body.

Thanks, Carol! I look forward to reading NEXT YEAR'S MODEL and checking out Raw Essentials. And thanks to photographer Jimmy Bruch for the fabulous author photo of Carol. If you haven't read THIS YEAR'S MODEL yet, leave a comment and put yourself in the running as one lucky commenter will win a copy!

Monday, September 15, 2008

tagging me, tagging you

Okay, I was tagged twice in less than a week. The same tag by two different people. And since I had to get up and drive for almost 4 hours this morning, I figured today would be the perfect time to play because my brain is mush right now.

So forgive me for this substance-free blog. Actually, if you're miffed by it, blame Savvy One and Lynn. There. How's that for passing the buck?

The rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. List 6 unspectacular quirks you have.
4. Tag 6 bloggers by linking them. (for the record, this ain't gonna happen. I'm a rebel)
5. Leave a comment on each person’s blog to let them know they’ve been tagged.

6 Unspectacular things about me... Melissa (Mel) Francis...

  1. I'm a Pisces
  2. I misspell Pisces every time I type it.
  3. I have lunch once a month with my high school boyfriend. (the boy I made out with in the sheep barn at the Arkansas State Fair. Yes, my hubby knows. Actually, last month, Fishdog had lunch with us...)
  4. I read my first romance novel when I was 13. (Kathleen Woodiwiss)
  5. I don't eat shredded coconut because it tastes like grass.
  6. I believe it is a sin against man if the toilet paper rolls over instead of under.
There. I tag any reader who would like to play along in the comments.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Post About Nothing

I've got nothin'. I've got no pretty pictures or clever phrases. I've got no prepared remarks. I'm tapped out.

I woke up this morning more exhausted than I can remember being in ages. Bear in mind I've survived cancer and chemo. I scoff at pulmonary fibrosis. I taunt death and snicker at pain.

But this week a 4 year old and 5 year old took me out. Seriously-- cute little dimpled faces, big shiny eyes, endless energy. They beat me. I've lost, and willingly submit to the will of the victors... so long as they stay at home and let me sleep. Honestly, they can have anything they want. They can have my car. I'll set up a trust fund on Monday.

The first week of school for my nephews transformed them. Both were wired, excited, and bubbling with joy. Both have fully embraced their new school-- big boy school, btw-- like Hagrid picked them up on a flying motorcycle and carted them off to Hogwarts. But they're not on a flying motorcycle with a giant a few times a day. They're on a bus or in my SUV and I'm no giant.

The school, incidentally, was my own grade school. My first year was the year it opened and it was whispered over and buzzed about by many, being what was then considered "progressive," and that translated as "suspect." Turns out it was amazing. I got a foundation in those hallowed halls still serving me to this day. So my exhaustion is for a very good cause.

But wow. I mean, WOW. In my day everyone took the bus. They didn't even have parents at bus stops then. I remember the huge hysteria three years into my elementary education when a sexual predator was trying to lure children into a green van with a small black puppy. We still either walked or took the bus, but they stepped up police patrols and warned parents. It's a pretty wonderful thing that now-- thankfully!!-- parents meet kids at the bus stop or pick them up with an ID in hand. I'm not all that convinced I grew up in safer times. I think I grew up in more ignorant times.

But it's more work, that's for sure. Work I am glad to do... but work that kicked my butt.

So I'm wussing out and crying "uncle." This is a post about nothing. Jerry Seinfeld can bill me. Demons can feast upon me. Just do it quietly... and for the love of all that is sacred don't wake me up.

Friday, September 12, 2008


That is how I feel lately. Kinda...down, but for no reason. It's too early for winter doldrums and I usually find Autumn invigorating.

I know we all have phases where we have less energy or enthusiasm--but I have a lot of things I should be doing--and not enough energy to tackle any of them. Part of my issue is pushing myself through this infection that I've had instead of resting when I should --but that only explains why I'm physically drained. Where is my mojo? Where or where can it be?

And so we come to the actual point of the post (you knew I had one right?)
When you get the Monday Blues that last all week...what is your favorite pick-me-up?
I'm especially willing to try those that involve food.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Day of Remembrance

Although most Americans wouldn't be able to tell you what they were doing on any given random day, the overwhelming majority would be able to tell you exactly what they were doing the morning of September 11, 2001.

I was in bed.

I'd just started my first year of law school, and was living in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. I was deep in slumber when my cell phone rang just after 6 am. I snuck a groggy peek at the Caller ID.

My mother.

Immediately, I knew it couldn't be a good thing, because the only time I ever got calls waking me out of bed was when something horrible had happened.

I picked it up and said hello, and my mom said "Don't worry, your dad didn't go into work today."

No greeting. Just what would seem to be a cryptic statement. But somehow, I knew. Call it women's intuition, or maybe just latent scary reminders of the day my Dad was trapped on the 102nd foor of the World Trade Center during the 1993 bombing back when I was in high school, but I knew.

Something had happened at the WTC. I wasn't sure what exactly -- I assumed a bomb -- but it had to be the WTC.

I burst into tears even before she could get the horrible story out about the two planes that had crashed into the Twin Towers. I ran into the living room and turned on the TV. There was a correspondent at the Pentagon, talking about whether or not it was terrorism-related. All of a sudden, the correspondent got a look of terror on his face and said that there had been a loud explosion. A few seconds later it was confirmed that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon.

At that point, I started crying even harder. Before moving to AZ, I lived in DC, and I had friends whose apartments were not far at all from the Pentagon, and even some friends who worked there...and on the Hill...and in the White House...and other such places that could be potential targets.

I spent much of the day in a stunned daze, trying to get through to friends in DC and NYC, and failing miserably. Glued to the television, as I watched increasingly macabre images of the planes crashing into the Towers and the Towers falling...over...and over...

But eventually, out of the darkness came hope, and the stories of courage. We began to learn of the heroes, and as a nation, we came together.

The victims of that day may be forever lost, but they are forever remembered.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sweet bliss, I'm done! Funny pics to celebrate

I finished the first-round revisions on STUPID CUPID book 1 yesterday. I'm so thrilled with how it came out--I added 40 new pages of material to the manuscript. That's no small thing for me, considering I tend to write on the very short side. haha

I am also a little brain-dead, so today's post is going to be comprised of funny pictures I found on the Internet. I love digging up little gems and sharing them with the class. haha.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

38 Going On 13

Like many people, I once had braces. But I had them when I was 34, not when I was 13. As a result and because of what my orthodontist like to refer to as my "advanced age" (I always say it with air quotes, too) I have permanently bonded retainers behind my top and bottom teeth.

They look like this:

Saturday night, I bit into a radish (lame, I know) and snapped the bottom retainer loose from the first three teeth. ARGH!!! It immediately stabbed into the side of my tongue. I fiddled with it a bit to unstab my tongue and went and put my other set of retainers on. They're hard, clear plastic trays that fit over my teeth and are meant to be worn at night. They look like this:

I know you can't believe I'm so cool that I actually have two different kinds of retainers. It's like, a teen dream come true really. *gah*

Anyway, I spent Monday morning at the orthodontist getting my apparatus recemented. I knew it would be tons of fun the instant they couldn't find the "adult" paperwork for me to fill out. The patient wall didn't have one adult on it, so I can understand why the paperwork was missing. They were all very nice, though. Especially the cute, young, preppy doctor who, in retrospect, probably had a nice cleavage shot the whole time he was working on me.

Maybe that's why it took so long. Have any brace stories of your own to share?

Monday, September 08, 2008

getting on my soapbox

I've been talking about apathy and voting on my personal blog and I've decided that the horse isn't quite dead yet, so I'm going to continue beating it today here at Fictionistas.

America is in trouble. And I'm not talking about our government, or the war, health care or whether or not we decide if abortion remains legal or homosexuals can marry.

I'm talking about apathy.

From Merriam-Webster.com

Main Entry: apathy
Pronunciation: \ˈa-pə-thē\
Function: noun

Etymology: Greek apatheia, from apathēs without feeling, from a- + pathos emotion — more at pathos Date:1594
1 : lack of feeling or emotion : impassiveness
: lack of interest or concern : indifference

Sigh. Why don't we care anymore?

I hear a lot of people talking about the Electoral College. How their voice isn't going to be heard because only four states will elect the President this year. I agree the EC is outdated but seriously, that excuse is terrible. Change cannot happen if you do not state your opinion. If you do not attempt to have your voice heard.

Did you know that in 2004, only 55% of the voting age population actually voted? Our national leader was elected by approximately half of the eligible Americans. In 2000, only 50% of the eligible population voted.*

We cannot use the Electoral College as an excuse if we do not vote. Period. Stop making excuses. Our ancestors died for us to have the right to vote. We will not be heard if we stop using our voice.

Here are some links. Educate yourself on the issues and vote according to what's right for you. The Republican party isn't only about pro-life and prayer in school. The Democratic party isn't about giving those who don't work a free ride. Do your research. Use your voice.

Let's kill apathy together.

Here are some links to get you started. Thanks for letting me beat the horse dead. I'm through now. I think.

REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRAT? (a blog from 2004 that has a simple test that will help you see where you land.)
and for even more party information (there are more than 20 US political parties)

I did most of the work for you. All you need to do is take a little time to read, decide, and vote.


*stats from United States Elections project

Saturday, September 06, 2008

What Gets You Pumped?

I don't know about everyone else, but I've been so busy this past week and a half I've barely had time to think. And much as I know the people who love me will worry about me doing too much, I'm pumped and exhausted at the same time. It reminds me of college.

I think college, for me, was an experiment in what a young body completely addicted to knowledge can do. I didn't just get satisfaction from all night cram sessions. I got an adrenaline rush every time I conquered the need for sleep, overcame constraints, and strolled into a 4 hour test with absolute confidence. I was hooked on pushing my brain the the limits. It was a high... an actual high.

I'm actually not sure, at this time of my life, if this was a good or bad thing. I've never really shaken that addiction. And it's possible it has hurt me in my career as a fiction writer, which is the only thing I have tackled in this life without-- so far-- success. I've published some short fiction and similar, but the Great American Novel eludes me still. My young adult novel does not suffer from neglect but I am, I believe, an overbearing parent with ridiculous expectations. And I research every tiny detail to the point of obsession.

I'll be honest... the high is still there. Like this past week, in a somewhat related foray into local and national politics, when I wrote a few quips that spread through the headquarters like wildfire and were picked up by everyone around me. MY words. It was heady and addictive and I felt smart, valued, validated.

I feel that rush when I write something, read it back, and get the giddy sense of resonance. When the words on the page feel so incredibly right my hair stands up. I get a similar feeling when I sketch or paint something... or create a graphic from nothing... or take a photograph that makes me pause for breath. I don't need drugs or alcohol. I've got journals and a computer.

So on this hurricane-heavy Saturday I submit to you: what's your natural high?

Friday, September 05, 2008

I'm pretty sure you are mad at me.

Well maybe not yet.
But soon.

When I say to you, "It's a Small World After All", what happens? Maybe you hum. Then you think of Disney, then you shrug your shoulders. And then....and then.....and then...
And then you most likely say, "Gwen! You just got that stupid song stuck in my head."

I would say I'm sorry, but that was pretty much part of my evil plan. Let me start at the beginning.....

About an hour ago, I was trying to figure out what to blog about and I was humming a little song in my head and it started annoying me. (That new Coldplay song La Vida Something or Other.) It started really bugging me, so I took the Google train to "song stuck in my head" and found a really interesting article in the University of Cincinnati news archive. (I know hyperlinks don't highlight well--so click on the word "article".) The article, Songs That Cause The Brain To 'Itch': UC Professor
Investigating Why Certain Tunes Get Stuck In Our Heads
by Carey Hoffman explores the deeply disturbing effect that jingles and simple tunes have on our mental sanity. Well, okay, I may be overdramatizing.

According to James J. Kellaris, an associate professor of marketing in the University of Cincinnati College of Business Administration (at least he was in 2001), songs like "It's a Small World" and "Whomp-There it is" are likely offenders of what he coined a "cognitive itch". Your mind sort of scratches it--only just like the chicken pox--it gets caught in a pattern that won't let go.

But fear not, campers, I'll not forsake you. the people who took the survey from Kellaris gave some great tips to apply to your brain like you apply calamine lotion to your chicken pox. Most said they try and distract themselves, but my favorite was give "tune kooties" to someone else.

You guys remember the Barney song right?

I love you...you love me.....

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Changing Role of Adolescent-hood

As you may remember from last week, I've been on vacation in Hilton Head. And I should note that I'm tan. Very tan. Yay!

I'm home now, and just in time, as the island is currently under mandatory evacuation due to Hurricane Hanna. (I hope my cousin Natalie left last night after work rather than get stuck in potentially up to 8 hours of standstill traffic leaving the island...trust me, it sucks...been there, done that.)

Anyway, I got to spend some quality time with the relatives on my mom's side this past week (I've got some of them in the picture at the top of the post...from left to right: my grandmother; my cousin Lauren, who is studying for the MCATs at the moment because she takes them a week from tomorrow; me; my Aunt Bobbie). It's always a treat to see them, especially my grandmother.

My grandmother, who we call Gaga, will be 90 in May. She was born in NYC, and grew up in Spanish Harlem, the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants. Gaga was the oldest of 5 children, so when she graduated from high school at age 15 at the height of the Great Depression in 1934, she couldn't afford to attend college, despite her fervent desire to go. So off to work she went, to help her mother and stepfather (her father had passed when she was younger) provide for her younger brothers and sister.

Yes, age 15. At an age when most teens today are going to Homecoming dances and football games, my grandmother was out in the working world and essentially raising a family (albeit her siblings) because her parents worked long, long hours and money was extremely tight. She sacrificed her own teen years so that her siblings teen years would be a little better.

She married my grandfather, her high school sweetheart (a neighborhood boy...son of Puerto Rican immigrants), at age 19. Had she followed her dreams and gone to college straight out of high school (remember, she graduated really young), she would have graduated by then, but that wasn't in the cards.

But she never gave up her dream of pursuing higher education. After raising five children, Gaga started commuting into the City to attend Hunter College when my Uncle Dick was in college, my mom was in high school, my Aunt Cookie and Uncle Peter were in junior high, and my Aunt Bobbie in elementary school. She majored in Spanish and French, and then got her teaching certificate.

So in the 1960s, more than 30 years after she graduated high school and started working, Gaga became a high school Spanish teacher. She retired in the early 80s (I remember going to the Spanish class Christmas party when I was 3 or 4 and getting to take a whack at the pinata), but to this day, continues to help tutor students in Spanish.

My grandma, whose teen years were not conventional by today's standards, taught me the importance of education and achieving your dreams, no matter what the odds. She's my hero.



Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Teen Pregnancy, and a contest!!

Given the hubbub around this presidential election--and most recently, about McCain's VP candidate Palin's pregnant teenaged daughter--I wanted to talk about teen pregnancy.

Confession time. I was a teenage single mother (that sounds like a Lifetime Television for Women movie, doesn't it? haha).

I got preggers when I was 19. I was a sophomore in college, and the father of my child and I were not, and did not, get married. When I found out I had a bun in the oven, I moved home for a while, then moved out and was on welfare for a year or two. All the while, I continued going to school to get my bachelor's degree, and I was working a part-time job to help bring in extra income.

Yes, I had a few people tell me it was shameful that I was single and pregnant--especially as a teenager. But for every person who pointed a finger, who shook their head in shame at me and my "unfortunate" situation, I had twenty more who told me how much they loved and respected me for trying to keep moving forward.

I clung to that comfort and support during those long nights when I couldn't get my daughter to sleep, or when I was stressing over final exams, and work, and missing milestone moments in my child's development.

Palin's daughter has a long, tough road ahead of her. Being a single teen mom is hard enough, but being a single teen mom whose mother is striving to be the VP of our country? It must be incredibly trying on her to be in the spotlight right now, to have so many people judging her and her family. I can't even imagine the pressure she must be under.

But you know what? Politics aside, I'm happy to see that Palin is supporting her daughter in this difficult time. I know I couldn't have made it without my mom and dad's support.

Here I am, 13 years later, with my own house--that I pay for with my own $$. I have a Master's degree in English. I couldn't have gotten my day job, or my weekend teaching job, without my schooling. My children are happy and healthy. I'm happy and healthy.

I think I read a statistic that said 1 out of 4 teen girls will get pregnant. It's scary how common this occurence is, but it's a fact of living in the US.

Yes, it happened to me, but even from the start, my family and I knew I wanted to be more than just a "statistic." I was going to make something of myself, and just because the path was harder didn't mean it was impossible. My folks insisted I stay in college, and I'm thankful every day that I did.

I hope Palin's daughter will keep moving forward and let her family's love and support launch her into being a strong, independent woman who can take care of her family--as well as herself.

Teen pregnancy doesn't need to be a tragedy. Out of my struggles, I developed character, inner strength, tenacity, empathy, and the capacity to deeply love. And I wouldn't trade my kids, or my past, for anything. They made me the person I am today.

* * *

Contest time--please leave a comment here on today's post. Tomorrow, I'll pick one lucky commenter to win a $10 Amazon gift certificate! This is my way of apologizing for being MIA last week...boy, was August totally insane!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Pranks For The Memories

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Columbus teenager who was throwing eggs at cars as part of a late-night prank was fatally shot, police said Sunday.

As a teenager, I (and my friends) often resorted to "pranks" as a way of entertaining ourselves. Living in a summer resort as we did, winters meant the place turned into a ghost town. No more tourists to laugh at, no more summer jobs, no more hustle and bustle.

Our pranks consisted of things like driving our cars on the boardwalk, laying down in the center of the highway and drawing chalk outlines around each other, tp'ing houses, abducting construction cones, that sort of thing. Pretty harmless as far as I'm concerned. We never egged, because that just seemed too mean, and we never had any run-ins with the law, but in this less temperate climate and news items like the one above, I'm wondering if such antics are no longer tolerated. Granted, I don't think the police intended to kill the teenager in the above news story, but it certainly sheds a different light, don't you think? OKAY, MY MISTAKE. I READ TOO FAST. THE POLICE DIDN'T SHOOT HIM, SOMEONE ELSE DID. THANKS, CARA, FOR POINTING THAT OUT.

Did you pull pranks as a kid? What did you do?

Monday, September 01, 2008


Here in the US, it's Labor Day. Which means I plan to do a whole lotta nothing.

According to Wikipedia:

Labor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September. The holiday originated in 1882 as the Central Labor Union (of New York City) sought to create "a day off for the working citizens".

Congress made Labor Day a federal holiday in 1894.[1] All fifty states have made Labor Day a state holiday.

Traditionally, Labor Day is celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer.

The symbolic end of summer. Sigh. Is it really over?

Today I slept late (9:00...that really is late when you're 'old', as my children like to say). Hubby baked some orange creme rolls for breakfast. We've had coffee and watched a movie and probably I'll go buy groceries today. But that's it. No laboring on Labor Day. (shouldn't they rename the holiday? Unlabor Day?)

I'm sad summer is over. I can still go to the lake on the weekends. It won't get too cold here until sometime in October. But it's not the same. School has started which means homework, soccer 4 days a week, cross country 6 days a week, early mornings to make it to school on time and late nights studying and finishing homework.

Sigh. I'm going to miss summer. But the older I get, the quicker the summer seems to come. So it won't be long until next year. And I'm already ready.