Friday, October 31, 2008

Three Items of Importance

First, I'm not a huge Halloweener, but here's my effort at being festive for you:




This is the costume my youngest wore a couple of years ago and the one I'm most proud of making (even counting the elaborate lion I slaved over and spent way too much on when #1 was two).

That year, her brother was Obi Wan and one of her older sisters was Princess Lea. So Hubby thought it'd be awesome to carry on the Star Wars theme and make her Yoda. She was too young to have much say in the matter, so we went ahead with it, and she was the neighborhood hit.

(Props to #3, who refused to be a Star Wars lemming and insisted instead on being Cinderella.)

Second, Notice the link at the top right? It'll soon be replaced with a fancy schmancy button, which will be up for the entire month of November.

Starting tomorrow, November 1, go there often to bid on some rockin' awesome items, from jewelry to chocolate to Twilight shirts to autographed books to professional edits (including one by yours truly) to a massage.

(Wait. Forget I said that one. I want to bid on the massage.)

New items will be posted every week, and some of the coolest ones will be later in the month, so be sure to drop by often to get some of your Christmas shopping done early. All proceeds go to straight to the Whitney Awards to help fund the 2008 program.

And while we're talking Whitneys, be sure to visit the Whitney Awards site to nominate your favorite LDS-writers' books published in 2008. We need readers to tell us their favorites! Nominations will be taken through December 31, but don't put it off. Don't assume that your favorite 2008 release has already gotten enough nominations to be considered (each book needs five readers to nominate it).

Scroll down on LDS Publisher's sidebar to find an updated list of eligible books.

Third, a glorious moment of celebration: I turned in my manuscript today! And it wasn't even at midnight. (It happened on a national day of candy and chocolate . . . quite appropriate.)

This is the first contemporary book I've written in many years. It's quite a departure for me, but it's been a blast, and I loved writing it.

The characters are so real to me that yesterday as I was finalizing some research questions, I came this close to saying aloud, "Yeah, so when that happened to Marianne . . ."

I bit my tongue pretty quickly, but Blondie might have noticed my slip-up anyway. She's known me for nearly three decades, so even if she noticed, she probably wrote it off as another of my (many, many) quirks.

I'll keep you updated on the status of the book (if it gets officially accepted, release dates, yada yada).

In summary:
1) Yay Yoda! (Happy Halloween!)
2) Whitney Auction! Go, go, go! (Bid, bid, bid!)
3) Book turned in. (Time to celebrate!)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Your Wish . . . Sort of

A couple of people asked for a picture of The Purple Tent. I seriously don't remember ever seeing a picture taken from that Halloween. I wonder if I screamed and ran from the camera or something.

But here's one from the previous year (or the one before that . . . I'm not sure I'm remembering the dates), when all three of us sisters were gypsies:



I'm in the middle with the red head scarf.

Dontcha LOVE the 70s era curtains behind us, out-done only by the shag carpet?

Aw . . . look at my cute baby-fat cheeks. Wait. I STILL have the same cheeks. Baby fat isn't so cute when you're entering your mid-thirties, darn it.

Hope my sisters don't mind me posting that. Freaky thing is that they almost look like themselves still, especially Mel (left).

Of all my siblings (there's one more; my big brother isn't pictured. I think this was his year as a blue Incredible Hulk), I'm the one who's changed the most since childhood, to the point that my husband can't see me in my childhood pictures and people usually think my kids take after only their dad, not realizing that the kidlets actually look JUST like I did when I was two or four or six.

(Yo, reader friends out there who know my kids, don't I look JUST like my kindergartner in this picture?! I do, don't I! Totally!) Perhaps I'll blog more on that later.

To throw additional randomness in to this post, a word of advice: be careful what you blog about. As I mentioned, I've never had a problem with laundry, so I blogged about my nifty laundry system.

Bad Karma. Can you GUESS what the last two weeks have been like? Go on. Guess. Laundry CHAOS. (I almost used another word that sounds like the capital of Montana [HEL-ena], but this is a family-rated blog, so I just thought it.)

Serves me right. I get it now, people. I totally do. I'm majorly empathizing as I attempt to dig myself out from under it all and the kids keep coming to me asking if there are any clean jeans or underwear or shirts and I point them to the mounds and mounds of clean but unsorted clothes . . .

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween as a Purple Tent

Somewhere around third grade, I had dreams of the perfect Halloween costume. I wanted to be a magical fairy princess, you know, the kind that flits around like a glowing orb on her gauzy wings and bestows wishes?

Something elegant, mystical, and beautiful. Something like this:


When explaining what I wanted, I made the mistake of telling my mother, seamstress extraordinaire, that I wanted to be a fairy godmother.

My bad. My really, really bad.

Mom took me at my word. She sewed up a costume that looked remarkably like this:



Yep. That year I wore a giant purple tent with a hood. I don't recall having a maroon bow or two colors of purple, though. Just the lavender tent.

It was totally my fault, because I didn't explain it well enough, and all Mom had to go by was the only fairy godmother she'd ever seen. And by golly, I did look like Disney's overweight matron. All I needed to round out the image was an extra fifty pounds, white hair, and dentures.

Mom was thrilled with my choice, because the costume was giant enough that I could wear my winter coat under it and thus keep warm while trick-or-treating.

From my perspective, with the coat I looked like Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory after she turns into a blueberry. Awesome!

I had a wand of some kind, but no one noticed it. At every door, I was asked what I was supposed to be.

No one asked Sheryl, who I went door to door with that year. She had a perfect Little Bo Peep outfit, complete with pantaloons and a shepherd's crook.

After all the work she put into it, I never had the heart to tell Mom that I hated that costume. Nay, I loathed it. (But she reads this blog sometimes. Hi, Mom! Sorry!) And to be fair, I had awesome costumes other years, like Winnie the Pooh in second grade (which Mom also made—she worked her fingers to the bone on that sewing machine regularly for us kids), and I was an awesome gypsy the year before that.

But the fact remains that on that Halloween, I learned a valuable life lesson:

If your request isn't specific enough, you can't complain when someone does exactly what you asked them to!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

An Answer: Word Nerd Rears Her Head

It's been weeks since MelanieJ asked a linguistic question involving the letter Q. In typical word nerd fashion, I dug around and answered it. Because I have a compulsion like that.

In the comments, I volunteered to explain why Brits insist on pronouncing "lieutenant" as if there's an "f" in the middle ("luff-tenant"). A couple of commenters expressed interest. Whether they were just being nice, I'll never know.

But for all three people out there who enjoy these things, here we go. Keep in mind that I'm not a linguist or an expert on these things. This is just what I've pieced together from my time in college and doing minor research on my own. So take it for what it's worth:

Many, many years ago (in the ages of Old and/or Middle English), the letters F and V were pretty much interchangeable and pronounced the same.

So fox could be (and often was) spelled vox.

Remember, this is before the printing press, public education, and other things cemented spelling rules and made the language change at a slower rate. Multiple spellings of the same word were common.

To complicate matters further, V and U were also interchangeable.

This is why you can find engravings atop public libraries where it's written out as:

PVBLIC LIBRARY

with a V instead of a U. Ever seen that and wondered why? Yeah.

I don't have proof, but I think people most likely got lazy with the V and made it round at the bottom instead of pointy, and that's how U became interchangeable with V.

In many respects, then, the letters F, V, and U could all be used for each other. And they were. Sometimes they meant different sounds (sometimes a U/V meant a vowel and at others, U/V/F indicated a consonant).

Now if you check out the OED (the Oxford English Dictionary, my favorite toy and the best dictionary in English), it has an entry for FOXES from the year 1225.

It's spelled: UOXES.

Putting it all together:

The word lieutenant was probably spelled with an interchangeable U/V in the middle:

both as LIEUTENANT and LIEVTENANT.

Since V and F were also interchangeable, the word could be pronounced with an F sound where the V was: LieF-tenant (LUFF-tenant).

Somehow pronouncing it with the V/F sound (as far as I can tell, no one agrees as to WHY) stuck in the UK but didn't in the US.

Instead, Americans kept the U sound: LIEU-tenant instead of V-inspired LUFF-tenant.

Tada! (Did that make sense to anyone else?)

I know. I'm a nerd. And proud of it. This stuff is fascinating to me.

(Did you know there's linguistic rule called Grimm's Law named after Jacob Grimm of the BROTHERS GRIMM?! Way cool! Even better, the law is all about voiced and voiceless stops and fricatives and a bunch of wicked awesome linguistic terms like that. Fascinating, right? RIGHT?!)

There's a reason I'd love to study linguistics if I ever returned to school for a master's degree. (Total nerd. Yep.)

(Hey, Dad, thanks for making me one!)

If you beg and plead, maybe sometime I'll explain how voiced and voiceless stops are connected to the following phrase, and why they made it a tongue-twister for my Finnish classmates learning English:

The big, pink pig

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Importance of Beta Readers

Last night I got through the last of three edits of my next manuscript. (Yay! And there will be chocolate celebrations in the land!)

All three edits were done by ladies in my critique group, women I've known for many, many years. All are published. Two are Whitney Award winners (here and here), and the other has won many awards of her own, including a Best of State medal for her teaching.

Qualified readers, no?

Absolutely. They're all excellent. So why did I bother getting all THREE of them to read the book? Because the more eyes, the better. I've known that for a long time, but this round, the truth of that was even more apparent.

For example, on the most basic level: typos.

Most typos in this manuscript were things that spell check wouldn't catch (like "an" when I meant "a").

I fixed a bunch in edit #1. Going through the second edit, I was surprised at how many new typo corrections it had. And I went through #3, and the same thing happened: she caught a bunch that had been overlooked by #1 and #2. Of course, they all caught many of the same ones.

Each of the three edits caught at least ten typos that neither of the other two did. (We won't discuss how embarassing it is to have that many typos caught in the first place.)

Another reason multiple opinions is good is because sometimes they conflict. With one opinion, it's hard to know whether you as the writer agree with it or whether most readers will see it that way. But with three, if two agree and one doesn't, then you can often have a good idea whether the passage might really be working. One person's quirk doesn't mean that the section needs fixing.

I found this aspect particularly fascinating this time around. One reader marked a passage, saying, "I don't get this," while the other two starred it, writing, "Great!" or "Love this!"

Then there are the things that you as the writer were blind to but all three of them point out. By the time you see the same issue scrawled in red for the third time, you can be pretty sure that it needs fixing.

And of course each one pointed out lots of things that none of the others did, things that resonated (you can just feel it when someone hits that target—you know they're right, darn it), so I'll definitely add or fix those things.

One issue I'm struggling with this time around is making truth believable. I think it was John Grisham (although don't quote me on that) who said that the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.

Here's the tricky thing: While this book is fiction, I'm drawing from a lot of real experiences, feelings, and events from women I've interviewed who have been through a husband's deployment. (That's what the book is about: five characters who become close friends while their husbands are in Afghanistan, and the trials each of them face.)

So when two of my readers mark a passage (based on something that really happened to a woman I talked to) and they call it unrealistic, what do I do?

I can't very well argue, "But that's how it really happened to so-and-so." Who cares? It's a novel. Fiction. And a reader shouldn't be pulled out like that.

So I need to figure out how to handle a few of those "real" elements so they sound more believable (even though they're accurate as they stand . . . ironic, I know).

I have a few minor tweakage revisions left to go that they pointed out, and then I'll be ready to submit. I'm pretty close now, and that's exciting.

I promised to have it turned in by Halloween, and I will, even if it means clicking "send" on midnight after my trick-or-treaters go to bed.

And then I'll celebrate. I'll try not to raid their candy stashes!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rescuing My Ghost-Girl

The dreams returned every few months, several times each year. Without fail.

For twenty-one years.

I dreamt of the different bedrooms I called my own. Of the living room's red velvet chairs I huddled in as I read books.

Of the kitchen counter, where I ate breakfast each morning, looking out the front window through the pine trees at people passing on foot or bicycle.

Of the family room downstairs where I spent hours watching recorded episodes of The Cosby Show because it was in English . . . and therefore a link to home.

The same room where I first cried hearing “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the opening ceremony of the summer Olympics in L.A. From the ages of ten to thirteen, this was the house I lived in across the ocean, on another continent, in Helsinki.

Sometimes in the dreams I was returning to the house. In others, I still lived there. Often the house appeared different, and I discovered passageways or rooms I never knew about. Or the floor plan had changed. Or the whole place had been remodeled. The two constants in the dreams were that I knew I belonged there and that I needed to return.

The house dreams lasted through high school and college, into my marriage, and continued through giving birth four times. Even while raising a family, moving, and entering new stages of life, one thing I could count on to never change was having another disconcerting house dream every few months.

I never had the same one, and they never stopped. They kept coming even when my oldest child turned thirteen—the age I was when we returned to the States.

Why did I dream of a building I hadn’t seen since I got my first pimple? What hold did it have on my psyche? Generally, the dreams weren't pleasant. They left me feeling wanting, uneasy.

In time, I realized that, in many ways, those three years defined the woman I have become. I arrived in Helsinki a young girl. I came home a teenager. In between, I navigated the confusing waters of adolescence—confused further by doing so in a foreign language and on foreign soil.

Yet, because I went through those intense changes and emotions, that language and soil became a second home, tying themselves to me in a way nothing else has since. Ever could. So the house called to me, making a hole in my heart where that part of me belonged, because I'd left something of myself behind there.

Last month, I returned after twenty-one years. I walked up the front steps as if treading on holy ground, and when the door opened, I could have sworn that I just missed a little ghost of my former self running down the hall.

I peered into my former bedrooms. Floods of memories came back—times of joy playing eraser wars with my sister, learning to knit on my bed against that wall, the thrill of Christmas mornings, putting on my first bra, applying mascara for the first time, coming home from the school's maturation clinic in Finnish and trying to figure out what it meant for me.

The house held emotions so thick that at one point I could hardly breathe. I could see myself lying on a bed, sobbing into my pillow as I prayed for help with a burden my twelve-year-old heart could scarcely bear.

During my brief visit, I sat at the kitchen counter. Walked into the sauna. Ran my fingertips along the fireplace in the family room. Inhaled the smells, the same ones I'd breathed in as a child—nothing I could describe or explain using any term but home.

I saw myself doing homework in the dining room, playing the grand piano, curling my hair for school. The longer I moved through the rooms, the more the ghosts of my girlhood slowed down. Instead of running around corners, they beckoned me further. They took my hands, leading me room to room like old friends wondering why I’d been gone so long but not holding my absence against me.

After soaking in each memory, I took a deep breath and headed out. Standing on the porch as the door closed, I didn’t have a frantic urge to throw it open again, because this time, I hadn’t left anything behind.

The ghosts had known me, and they followed. As I walked down the stone stairway, I held them close to my heart. I’d come for them, rescuing the girl who’d spent three years trying to figure out who she was and where she belonged. Where she belonged was with me now, completing the woman, the wife, the mother I am today.

I brought her and her ghosts back, and now the void my subconscious probed during my sleep for most of my life has been filled.

I would love to return to my other home again, but if I never do, I’ll go forward feeling more whole. My soul is no longer fractured as it was when I boarded that plane at the age of thirteen and left a piece of myself wandering the walls of that house.

This time the only things I left behind are the dreams.


This post is part of October’s Write-Away contest at Scribbit.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Now I Get It

At dinner, after Mom diffuses argument #2,081 of the day, she says:

"Why can't you guys just get along?!"

To which #2 replies with a matter-of-fact tone, emphasizing each syllable:

"Be-cause. We're sib-lings."

Oh, of course. Mystery solved. Duh.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Good Book . . .

Reading preferences are so strange. Even among avid readers and writers, the same book can evoke totally different reactions. Sometimes one person will enjoy a book and another person will hate it.

I've also seen a lot of times lately where one person will think a book is absolutely horribly written and another person thinks it's the cat's meow. Those aren't the same thing: I can dislike a book while admitting that it's well done but just not my cup of tea. Yet it's odd how often people can disagree on even whether something is well-crafted, aside from whether they liked it.

Who's right?

Not long ago, a good friend of mine despised two books I really enjoyed (one of which I loved and read in one sitting, which is very rare for me).

Another friend said that an author I enjoy is too much like Jane Austen . . . like that's a bad thing.

And yet another friend recommended a book that nearly seared my eyeballs it was so bad. I couldn't finish it.

At the core, I suppose, is the fact that there are few hard and fast rules when it comes to writing. While not everything is subjective in this gig, a lot is. Where I can't stand Faulkner or Hemingway, I do like Steinbeck, but I know others who feel exactly the opposite.

I'm a pretty eclectic reader. I don't focus on a single genre, and the titles I pick up are all over the map, so in general, I think I have a pretty decent idea when something is "good."

Which is probably reflective in a conversation I had tonight with my husband:

Me: "Hey, you know that book I'm reading?"

DH gives me a blank look. He pretends to count books on the fingers of both hands, then looks up and grins.

And I about fall over laughing at myself.

So yeah, okay, that was a stupid question. A really stupid one. I needed to be a bit more specific, being as at any given time I'm reading half a dozen (or several more) books.

Trying again:

"Hey, honey, you know that hardback novel I'm reading that's about this thick and has a blue cover with white text? The one I was reading this afternoon while you sat by me watching Monk?"

Or maybe I should be a normal person and read one book at a time.

(Stop laughing. It could happen. Maybe. Okay, fine.)

In all seriousness, what do you think completes this sentence, at least for you:

A good book . . .

I thought I had a lot of the answers, but seeing so many titles I love being trashed by others (and the flip: books I really, really dislike heralded as brilliance), I'm not so sure anymore.

Thoughts?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Reason #8,972 I Love Him

I've spent the last week trying to get caught up with life (still not quite there since our Finland trip), and I was trying real hard to get an edit job done before my kids' school break so we could play. (Up for today: a "reading party." I'm good at tricking the kids into loving something good for them.)

Crazy busy-ness. Hence, a lack of blogging this week. I have several posts in mind that I plan to do soon, but today something happened truly blog-worthy.

See, one thing that happens when I travel (all what, three times I've done it . . . we're not exactly world travelers . . . or even continental U.S. travelers . . .) is a huge release of creative juices. Generally if we're traveling, if I've brought along my Neo to type on, I never actually get any writing done, because I'm too busy sight seeing (or sleeping off jet lag, or talking with family, or eating, or whatever). This time I just left it home.

But as usual, going somewhere new, with fresh sounds, sights, tastes, and more, woke up my creativity and filled up my writer bucket, so to speak. Visiting Turku Castle did that in a big way. So did several of the churches we visited, not to mention Ainola and some of local restaurants (especially the one inside an old cabin, complete with the original fireplace).

For many years I've thought I really need to read The Kalevala, the Finnish book of mythology. I know bits and pieces of the story, thanks to Dad teaching Finnish literature, Mom being a Finn, seeing the National Museum as a kid, and having collector plates on the wall of our living room depicting scenes from the book. (One had a naked woman on it. I always wondered if it scandalized any of my friends' parents . . . :-D)

This trip, something finally clicked in my head. I had to get the book, read it (the good English translation, of which there is ONE), and very likely write something (or several somethings) based on the stories.

I love adapted fairy tales and the like. In fact, the first novel I ever completed was co-written with a good high school buddy and was a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. (Way fun story, if I say so myself.)

Some of my favorite YA books are retellings of mythology and/or fairy tales: Robin McKinley's Beauty, Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted, and (more recently), Jessica Day George's Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, and novels by Shannon Hale like Book of a Thousand Days and The Goose Girl.

After the trip, my sister and I scoured our parents' home, where Dad thought his copy of The Kalevala was still on a shelf somewhere. We couldn't find it. I figured that to use his copy (which is probably in a storage unit), I'd have to wait over a year until Mom and Dad get home. I'm not that patient.

I decided to look into borrowing a copy from one of Dad's colleagues. Or maybe the BYU library had one I could use. I couldn't very well buy one without doing a serious budget job for it: The Kalevala is pretty rare, and even USED, you're looking at about a hundred bucks. New? Don't even bother.

Today, a package arrived for my husband. As we do a lot of shopping online, I didn't think much of it and tossed it onto the kitchen table as I went about my day. But when he got home from work, he gave it to me to open.

You guessed it: Inside was a (very gently!) used copy of The Kalevala.

I could sing!

It's not my birthday, Christmas, Mother's Day, or our anniversary (it's not even a sort-of anniversary, like of our first date, first kiss or engagement). But he knew that book was something I really, really wanted.

Yeah. He pretty much rocks.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I Heart Finland

It's all done!

For anyone interested in checking out the trip I took to Finland last month with my husband, click here to see my blog devoted entirely to our trip.

If you're more interested in seeing locations from At the Water's Edge than in reading all twenty-some-odd posts, the ones having to do with that book are tagged. Just click on the label in the sidebar, and they'll all pop up.

Now I'm homesick again for Finland. I have a little Finnish chocolate left. Excuse me while I indulge . . .

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A Life of Almost

This week there's been a lot of talk on the LDStorymakers e-mail list about teachers, English ones in particular, who beat down students' morale—students who have gone on to fight back and become published.

Several writers shared similar stories, some so dreadful I wanted to hunt down those evil teachers.

Other writers had the flip of the equation: a teacher who believed in them whole-heartedly and encouraged their writing genius, which led them to believe in themselves and try to live up to their mentor's belief in them.

It seems that both sides (major discouragement and major encouragement) can light a fire under a student to do well.

My journey has been a bit different. I didn't really have either side of that coin.

First off (for which I'm grateful), I never had an English teacher tell me I was terrible or anything like that. I always managed to be in the advanced English classes, where students took the subject pretty seriously and the teacher expected higher quality work. So I never had to fight against terrible opposition to prove myself.

On the other hand, I never had a teacher gush and praise over me, either. In third grade, Mrs. Mixa read one of my stories and told me to keep writing, but I was in third grade. I'm glad she gave me some encouragement, but I don't recall it being along the lines of, "You're brilliant. This is what you are supposed to do."

Throughout the rest of my school career, I was a good student. A very good student. But did anyone ever pull me aside or write on top of a paper about how I should really be a writer? No. I did write an essay my sophomore year that Miss Drummond thought was kinda funny (about our Drivers Ed teacher, whom we called Squiggy behind his back, and his orange polyester pants), but that's about it.

The other high point was my senior year, when I took College Prep with Miss Drummond (again) instead of the Advanced Placement class. I knew the AP English teacher was a bit of a loon. Plus, he insisted his students read an insane number of classics in preparation for the test. I knew the test was based on writing well-crafted essays to literary questions. If you had half a dozen or so classics firmly under your belt, you could do well on the test. Knowing more books than another students didn't help if you couldn't write a coherent argument to go with them. Miss Drummond taught us to write good essays.

So I took CP with Miss Drummond instead of AP, firmly planning on challenging the AP English test anyway. Around January, she slipped to the back of the room next to me and another student, and told us she thought the two of us ought to consider challenging the AP English test. I hadn't told her my plans, and it felt good to have her confidence. (I got a 5, by the way. Yay me!)

But aside from Miss D liking that essay in 10th grade and her encouraging me to take the test in 12th, I never got a real sense that I was a great writer or ought to pursue it. I ached for that kind of validation. Other students got it, and I always came close. Sometimes very close . . . but usually in second place.

Literally.

I took second place in a city writing contest my junior year. I was the English sterling scholar alternate my senior year. (Losing to the gal who took first place in that essay contest. That's actually a fun story. Read it here.) For the school literary journal, none of my stories got in, but a small little poem did. I didn't care about the poem. It was the stories that, in my mind, counted.

The "almost good enough" label applied in other areas, as well. All through high school, I was almost good enough over and over again. Several awards, positions, roles, etc. passed me by because I was almost.

The same thing happened years later when I started submitting to publishers. My first LDS-themed novel was rejected with a very nice (and long) letter from a big company telling me why they had almost accepted it. I got a phone call from the same company emphasizing how almost I was. I'm still not sure if the call helped or just rubbed salt into the wound.

I got similar rejections for years, with editors saying, "This is really good. You're a great writer. We almost said yes. But we're saying no. Good luck."

For a good chunk of my life, I've felt like the brass ring has constantly been just out of reach. (Whitney finalist, anyone?)

In some ways, even with my sixth book preparing to come out*, it still feels like that way. I'm not sure why; maybe I'm wired to be dissatisfied. But there's always another level, another place where I'm coming in #2. Now, instead of breaking into the market, it's trying to be at the top of the market instead of almost there.

There was a time I thought I should be happy with where I am. As a teen when I'd moan and wail over failing, my parents tried to make me see that for Pete's sake, I hadn't failed, I was second place. I was still doing great. I didn't see it that way.

As an adult, I can now see what they were trying to say. And, yes, today I'm happy . . . to a point. I'm really enjoying the publishing ride. It's gratifying to see how far I've come. But am I completely content? No.

I don't think I should be, either. If I were content, I wouldn't continue striving to improve my game. I wouldn't have a new goal to shoot for. My work would probably start going downhill, like some authors I've read who have "made it." To me, that's a horrific thought.

The way I see it, not being completely satisfied is a good thing for me. Someone, somewhere, knows that being almost, while frustrating, is what drives me to continue, to improve, to reach—which is why I'll probably continue to fall there.

So I'll keep trying.


*The release date for Tower of Strength has been moved up from April to March. Yay!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Help the Techno-Idiot

We got a cat a few months ago. That's another story in and of itself. (It's white with "flame tipped" markings, meaning it's got orange ears and a striped tail. Way cute. Sorta matches my redheads.)

Anyhoo, this morning as I was scrolling through my Google Reader (HOW did I read blogs before I got one of those things?!!!), she walked off my lap and onto the keyboard. Her feline paws pushed . . . something.

Then the highlighted post in my reader popped up, expanding to this really big font size. When I scrolled to the next one, I got this jump/pop where the old one went back to normal size, and the next one expanded to the giant font for someone seriously near-sighted. Happened every time I went to a new post. The jump/pop was blinding. (For someone prone to migraines, this kind of visual stimulus is unpleasant.)

And I couldn't figure out what the heck the cat did to make that happen or how to turn it off.

It was driving me crazy, people. Kitty couldn't have hit that many keys, but for the life of me, I still can't figure out what she did or how to undo it.

Several hours after the fact, I did what I should have done first: I killed my browser and started over. That reset the reader, so I'm okay now. (Phew!)

But what caused it? If it happens again, what can I do in the future to undo it, short of exiting my browser any time the cat's in the room or banning the cat from the area completely?

Ideas? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

(I swear I'll post something worth reading soon . . . this is just an itch I have to scratch! WHAT did the cat DO? Sounds like an Arthur episode or something . . .)

Monday, October 06, 2008

One Chore I'm Good at

I'm the first to admit that my house isn't as clean and tidy as it could (okay, should) be. I do work at it, although I also think that my kids need to be taught to do their share (one of many reasons I don't do Fly Lady—I may end up with a squeaky-clean house, but the kids won't be the ones cleaning the toilets. That's not okay with me).

Like most human beings, I dislike many areas of housework. But I've been surprised at how many times I've run into bloggers recently who say they abhor the one chore I don't really mind doing: laundry.

Really. I don't mind. It's rare that my laundry becomes a mountain of doom. It's one chore that almost takes care of itself. You load it and walk away. Sure, there's the folding afterward, but that's minor (and it doesn't involve crumbs or germs or dirt).

So it occurred to me that maybe my method of doing laundry is different, especially after I did that meme where I showed a picture of my laundry room and people commented on my sorting baskets. Doesn't everyone have baskets like that? My mom did when I was growing up, so I thought everyone had them.

Or maybe my method isn't anything special; I don't know. But since laundry really isn't a burden to me, and it is for many other people, I thought I'd mention it. If this something useful to know, I'll have Josi throw it up on her sidebar of posts with things that work. You tell me.

Here's how my laundry life will go today:

  • Fold the whites that have been sitting in a laundry basket over the weekend.


  • Load the clean items back into the basket that belong in Mom and Dad's room. Put them away.


  • While in our room, put dirty clothes from the hamper into the now-empty laundry basket.


  • Take those dirty clothes into the laundry room.


  • Sort them into the four baskets there: darks, lights, whites, and delicates. (Clothes that need to be pre-treated get slung over the edge of the basket so I can identify them later when it's their basket's turn.)


  • See which basket is fullest. (Today that will probably be the lights.)


  • Throw in a load of that basket. If it has two loads' worth, pre-treat any stains now so they can hop into the second load later today.


  • Take the now-empty basket back to the sorting area (the couch by the TV) and load up the kids' folded whites.


  • Trot downstairs and put each kids' pile on their beds. (The trick here is making sure the little people put their own clothes away after school. I have one kid right now who has three or four stacks on her bed. Last night, she slept on the floor. Cute.)


  • Once the basket is empty, load up the kids' dirty clothes from their dirty clothes baskets, located in their closets. If it ain't in the basket, Mom doesn't take it. (If it's awfully close to the basket, maybe I will—if it looks like a sock fell out of the basket, I might be generous. But underwear and jeans all over the floor? Sorry. If you run out of clean clothes, it's your fault for not putting them in the basket.)


  • Take the basket of dirty kids' clothes to the laundry room and sort into the four baskets.


  • Walk away until I feel like coming back later. (Be a mom, work on writing, editing, blogging, run errands, oh yeah, and that shower thing. Whatever.)

  • At some point after the washing machine is done (when it occurs to me), throw the wet clothes into the dryer.


  • If there's a lot of dirty clothes (say the "lights" basket has two loads' worth in it) and I'm in the mood, at this point, I might throw in another load of clothes, particularly if I already pretreated something.


  • I don't monitor the washer and dryer that closely. I'll transfer clothes when it occurs to me throughout the day (like if I'm in there feeding the cat or walking past the laundry room for some other reason).


  • When the clothes are all dry, unload them into the basket and call it a day. Sometimes they don't get all dry until bedtime. That's fine. They're clean, and they're dry.

    • That's it. I don't worry about folding all the clothes every single day. I know I'll get to the current basket of clean ones in the morning. Or tomorrow. Whenever.

      So here's the photo from that meme again:


      I have no idea what day of the week it was taken, but you can see that I probably did delicates that day, because the basket on the right is empty. And I probably did whites the day before that, because the whites basket is medium-ish. The darks and lights are both pretty full, so they'd be up next. I'd decide which to do the following day based on which one I did most recently if I remembered and/or what clothes I knew are needed next—or I'd pick one randomly.

      There's a good chance that in the picture, the delicates are in the washer or dryer right now, because the brown basket (my trusty transporter one) is empty and on top of the dryer. You can tell that a few lights need to be pretreated because they're on the shelf (if there are several items that need treating, they'll be in a pile instead of simply draped over the edge of the basket.)

      Here's the part where it's not a burden: if I do one or two loads on most days, then when things get chaotic (you know what that is like, right?) it's no big deal to skip a day or two. No one runs out of underwear or jeans for school.

      I know I'll get to it. So it never gets to me.

      Granted, there are some weeks I end up needing a few loads several days in a row, like after a family trip or after #2 came home from a week-long summer camp. But for the most part, if I just do a little laundry four or five days a week, it never builds up, and there's never a mountain to tackle.

      Tada!

      Now if I can just figure out a way to get the sweeping, vacuuming, and clutter issues under control, I'll be set. Maybe.

      Thursday, October 02, 2008

      Resistance is Futile

      I'm in the process of putting together a whole blog about our trip to Finland (it's almost ready!).

      When it's done, I'll post the URL here for those wanting to check out part or all of it. I'm even labeling the posts where I visited locations that appear in At the Water's Edge, for all three people out there who remember it's existence. :)

      Be forewarned, this trip was a huge thing for me, so on the blog, I'm verbose, and we took LOTS of pictures.

      In the meantime, here are two photos taken while browsing a bookstore in the heart of Helsinki. I almost didn't believe my eyes.

      YOU CAN'T ESCAPE IT, PEOPLE! IT'S EVERYWHERE!!!


      Yes, those are what you think they are. Translated into Finnish. I wasn't sure whether to laugh, cry, or retch. Are you kidding me? The madness has gone that far?

      But according to Katri, a good friend of mine over there, in Finland it's really only teens reading the series rather than grown women lunatics who pine after Edward. Apparently Finnish women have some maturity and half a brain.

      (Oops. Did I just say that in public? Please don't flog me. For the record, I could write several posts on things I admire about Meyer as a writer. I still say that women's unhealthy addictions for her hero are just sick and wrong.)


      And here's more. The Host and Breaking Dawn haven't been translated yet, so they're for sale in English. In big stacks the size of a pallet. Which means they expect to sell a lot of books in a foreign language.

      I don't get it, people. I just don't.

      Only marginally more disturbing was seeing ads on the back of buses for High School Musical. I seriously wanted to shake the American marketing machine and tell them to saturate the U. S. for all I care, but crimeny, people, lay off the rest of the world and let them have their own culture!