Sunday, December 31, 2006

Music & Inspiration

I've blogged about this before over at Romance Worth Killing For, the link between music and writing inspiration. First of all, I love music. Just about all music. My students will ask what kind of music I listen to, and I honestly tell them a little of everything. I like classical and jazz, disco and 80's punk, country and alternative and rap.

I like music.

Music is powerful. It moves. It influences. It inspires.

I'm working on a "Behind the Scenes" page for my website, and as part of that, I'm putting together the song lists that make up the "soundtracks" for each of my novels. At the same time, I'm finding myself finding inspiration for what I think will be the next book in my writing life.

My heroine for that book is tough, a little rough around the edges, burned by life and love already. She's cynical, a little disillusioned. She's very much the songs "Kerosene" by Miranda Lambert and "Before He Cheats" by Carrie Underwood.

My hero I'm still getting a handle on. He's younger than the heroine. He's finally, I think, coming in to his own as a man. I'm tending to link him to the music of Kenny Chesney, Gary Allan and Dierks Bentley.

For the arc of their story, I'm listening to "Baby, You Save Me" (Kenny Chesney), "Addiction" and "Made a Man Out of Me" (Gary Allan), and "Settle for a Slow Down" (Dierks Bentley).

Oh, and definitely "Your Man" by Josh Turner.

"Crash Here Tonight" by Toby Keith.

Yeah, lots of country for this book. Maybe because I've been listening to the top 50 country songs of the year . . .

I'm telling you . . . music . . . writing . . . inspiration . . . there's a link.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

It's the Little Things

Like having a sparkling clean bathroom and all the dishes washed.

My DH and the Monsters detailing my Jeep as a late Christmas present (much better than jewelry or a sweater!).

Vegging out on the couch with Pam yesterday and talking about her baby-to-be.

Updating my website and not killing it.

Being two chapters away from finishing MOU.

Knowing what happens in those two chapters!

Learning that my new planner is in the mail.

Having my toes still look good two weeks after my pedicure.

The weather being warm enough to wear sandals so I can show off said toes.

What little things make you happy?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Electronic Babysitter

I'm a baaaad mom.

Since Christmas Eve, my Monsters have been immersed in an imaginary world, one controlled by a little square called a GameCube. They've played for hours.

And I've let them.

Normally, I limit television time, make sure they're outside, with their bikes and the dog and the sports equipment.

But I really need to finish this book, it's cold outside, and it's kind of like letting them eat too much on Halloween . . . I don't do it every day.

So, it's like we're on a virtual vacation, don't you think?


Current word count: 50,007!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Quick Update

The Monsters have new toys to play with. One would think this would make the whole writing thing easier, because the kids are playing, right?

Uh, yeah.

With Roboraptor, who roars and attacks.

With Scannerz, so the Monsters are taking the house apart looking for UPC codes to scan.

With the GameCube (a gift from my brother), so they fuss over what to play, how to play, etc.

But I am now at 46K+ and I hit my average of 2000+ words today. Rough draft words, definitely. I have lots of layering to do.

However, I'm excited about the manuscript and about writing again, so I'm happy.

Monday, December 25, 2006


Total word count: 42,723

Percentage of goal: 50.26

Total words today: 2133

Last paragraph written:

“Who’s Turello?” A visible tremor shook her fingers as she recapped her pen. When she finally looked at him, her eyes were bleak, although a wry smile flitted around her lips. “I guess Bryan Turello is my Kathleen Harding.”

The Morning Of . . .

Gifts are opened.

Kids are happy.

Breakfast is eaten.

I'm already picking up the clutter because it makes me crazy.

Roboraptor is roaming the house. That thing is weird. Kitty Baby is hiding from it. Although I'm thinking I could get used to the whole virtual pet thing . . . very little upkeep.

It's very rainy and gloomy outside . . . perfect for hanging out at home. I may work a little on chapter nine (since I can't get near the living room because the Monsters are in there with the Gamecube their uncle gave them).

All in all, it's a Merry Christmas around the Winfree household.

Happy Holidays to you, too.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Update -- Word Count

I've finished chapter eight! In three days.

Today's total word count: 2199.

I'm 47.75% of the way to my targeted word count. I may come in a little short, but that's okay.

This feels good. Now if I can just keep it up!

Wish me luck.

One More Day . . .

Scarfed this from Steph:

You Should Spend the Holidays In

India - where your Christmas tree might be a banana or mango tree

Can you say, huh? :-D

This is more me:

You Have A Type A- Personality

You are one of the most balanced people around
Motivated and focused, you are good at getting what you want
You rule at success, but success doesn't rule you.

When it's playtime, you really know how to kick back
Whether it's hanging out with friends or doing something you love!
You live life to the fullest - encorporating the best of both worlds

Anyway . . . off to Mama's for Christmas Eve dinner. The Monster's have been up since, oh, six, I think. Monster #2 is way excited.

I'm finally hitting the zone, I think. My word count for the past couple days is only around 2500 words, but I have the rest of chapter eight outlined, the beginning of chapter nine laid out and I can totally see my movie and where it's going now.

Really wishing I could have another week of Christmas break . . .

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Two More Days! (Thank God)

Don't tell Larissa, but I'm beginning to understand Steph's outlook on Christmas. I'm tired, people!

My shopping is finished. All the presents are wrapped and under the tree. I don't have to cook for Christmas this year, because that's my mom's gift to us.

But Monster #2, you know, Mr. "Makes the Energizer Bunny on Crack Look Sluggish"? He's bouncing off the walls. I don't think he stopped talking yesterday. I mean, at all. Not even to take a long breath.

Plus, the DH is home. This is good. I love the guy. However. He has this thing about watching movies over and over and over again. Normally, I can tolerate this. Sure, I know all the dialogue to The Mummy and Sweet Home Alabama by heart. I don't understand the desire to watch a movie repeatedly until you want to scream, but I can live with it.


Couple that trait with an overdose of Christmas spirit. The man loves Christmas movies. Any Christmas movie. If it has Santa or elves or reindeer, he's there.

ABC Family is making him a very happy camper, because they're doing the 25 Days of Christmas. So I've been treated to every sappy, feel-good Christmas movie ever made . . .

Ad nauseum.

But he's happy. The kids are happy.

And that makes me happy.

Come Tuesday, I can make him overdose on Court TV again.

Happy Holidays, y'all.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Today's Post . . .

On the value of a good break and including contest information . . . is at Romance Worth Killing For!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Thin Line

I'm back at work on Memories of Us. This, of course, is the manuscript that I both love and hate. I've tried to abandon it and simply can't. I'm in love with the hero and heroine. I want them to have a HEA. If anyone needs or deserves one, it's Tom.

Because the book was such a pain in the hindquarters, I've put off working on it forever. I mean, I didn't have to finish it. At the time I started it, my then-agent wasn't invested in reading it. I had other manuscripts to polish and shop. It was okay if I put Tom and Celia to the side.

Then I stupidly sent a partial to my editor.

She wants to read it when it's finished.

So now I have to finish it.

And I have nothing else on my plate, until I get edits for What Mattered Most.

Which means I have no excuses.


I'm headed back to work on the thing, then.

Wish me luck.

If you hear any weird ripping noises? That's just me. Pulling out my hair. :-D


Edited to add: I think I've made progress. I spent the afternoon reading through the seven chapters I have written (about 40% of my projected word count). Then I sat, thought about where the characters were and asked, "What next?"

Started making a list. So now I have a plot list that goes up to the climax (I have an idea of what it is, but I didn't like the way my list was going there -- what I envisioned for the final scene was too similar to the ending of another manuscript. So I'll end up playing with the end, I think, but at least I have something to put at the beginning of CHAPTER EIGHT!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

From My Inbox, From MC

I have absolutely fabulous friends, for which I am truly thankful. MC somehow manages to ground me with the simplest observations. It's mind-blowing. Like the day I was griping about money (I have discovered I have major issues in terms of money ideas, LOL), and she said simply, "I have money, but I can't call my mother anymore."

Shut me up very quickly with the beautiful wisdom of that statement.

She sends me wonderful words from her "word of the day" list and passes on interesting links and tidbits and inspires me with her passion for getting kids to learn. She wows me with her passion for life.

Anyway, this was in my inbox this morning from MC, and I thought I'd share here:

A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring theoutline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhaustedidioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no suchthing as "keeping out of politics". All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.

-George Orwell, writer (1903-1950)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What's Worse Than Writing a Synopsis?

Writing a one sentence tagline.

And generating a list of key words.


Jumping the Shark

I don't watch a lot of television series. I used to not watch a lot of television, period, but I've gotten addicted to MSNBC's "Doc Block" and I love Court TV. (Hey, I write romantic suspense -- it's research!). I like A Haunting on Discovery. I like Mythbusters.

I like non-fiction stuff.


Not so much.

At one time I was an X-Files addict. I lived for the original Law & Order series. But when people start talking about House and Lost and a host of other shows . . . well, I'm clueless.

This is fairly ironic to me, since I write books that are a series of loosely-connected stories (a la Rachel Lee's Conard County series from a few years back). Even in my head, I tend to 'watch' my books as a series of movies -- I know what happens after a book, off scene during a book, etc.

I've known for a long time what the "series finale" would be. That particular novel idea scares me, not only because of the story line, but because it signals for me the end of something that seems almost as real to me as my daily life. The other thing that makes me nervous? What if it isn't "The End"? What if I find something after that finale?

And what if my series "jumps the shark" before I get to the finale?

(And could I use any more quotation marks in this post?!)

It's not like there aren't enough questions to worry about in the writing business. So what does my neurotic self go and do?

Find something else to fixate on!

Do you read series? If so, which ones? And what happens when an author's particular world jumps the shark?

Monday, December 18, 2006

This Is How It Begins

I have actually tried not to write books that are connected.

Truth and Consequences? Not supposed to be a Hearts of the South book. Yet Kathleen and Jason insisted it was set in my fictional Chandler County, and of course, Tick followed. I don't think he can help himself.

Finally, I just gave in. Several related books followed. Yes, it's a series, but it's one of those where you could pick up one book and you wouldn't have had to read the others for the book in question to make sense. Stand-alone yet connected books.

And here's how I get sucked in.

I'm rereading two manuscripts, A Formal Feeling and Anything But Mine. There is a minor, minor, minor character in A Formal Feeling. She appears in one or two scenes, in which the hero makes a pivotal choice. She goes inside her house, closes the door, hero walks away.

Only as I'm reading tonight, I'm wondering what happens once she closes that door. Her actions in those scenes are out of character (or so she claims). What pushed her to the point that she'd act out of character?

I can almost see how another story could unfold from what goes unsaid in those two scenes.

Kinda like a weird, writer's version of Six Degrees of Separation.

Odd, huh?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Snippet of Typical Winfree Conversation

10:00 A.M., Monsters playing outside, DH (who for some odd reason thinks the sun rises and sets in me) and I sitting on couch, still in pajamas, sipping coffee and reading the Sunday paper. I'm running through the Christmas list, what I've bought, what still needs to be purchased.

DH: I still have to get your gift this week.

Me: I really wish you wouldn't spend anything on me. January is always a tight month, you know that. Just tuck the money back, just in case you need it.

DH: We'll see.

Me: Rick, I'm serious. I really don't need anything and I'd rather the money went into budget.

Silence, as I sigh and realize what I'm saying is probably going in one ear and out the other.

A couple of minutes later, I show him a jewelry armoire in the Target salespaper.

Me: I think when we finish the house, I want something like this for the bedroom to hold my stuff.

DH: You know you're probably getting jewelry for Christmas, right?

Sigh. Maybe I should just give up?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Gifts, Unwrapped

First of all, wouldn't it be great if you could buy one of these for the man in your life? Mine would be thrilled. (Scarfed from

I've been working on my final gifts-to-buy list today. The DH and I shopped early this year (Thank God for ebay!), so I have very little left to do. Amazon assures me my order will be here by 12/22, I have photo gifts to pick up at Walgreen's later today, and the end is in sight!

I love shopping for others, adore the anticipation of seeing whether or not my gift will be enjoyed. Writing a novel holds the same allure. Sure, I write for me . . . I love the escape writing offers, the outlet for the stories that bounce around in my head. But don't we always write for others as well?

In On Writing, King talks of writing for his Ideal Reader (his wife). He anticipates her reactions. I have a real-life IR, but I also have an imaginary IR in my head. An IIR, maybe? ;-) My imaginary IR is my fantasy Ideal Reader, the unknown person who will buy my book, read it, laugh over it, cry over it, love it. That's why I have this sappy idea that each novel I craft is not only a gift to myself, but a gift I'm creating for someone else.

A gift I can't wait to see unwrapped.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Book Habit

I've decided my book-buying habits are anything but normal. All around the blogosphere, I read about people who have huge "to be read" piles (and many of my friends have them as well.).

Maybe it's the way I buy my books, but I don't have unread books around my house. If it's in the office, on the bookshelf, under the coffeetable . . . I've read it. Probably more than once. Whenever I get a new book, I'm like a kid with a Christmas present -- I can't wait to open it and dive in.

Maybe it comes from always having limited funds, but I don't buy large numbers of books at any one time. I keep a wish list on Amazon, and I'm developing a serious habit of buying e-books from my publisher. Once a month or so, my best friend and I hit our local indie bookstore, and I browse until I find something that I just can't live without reading. I buy a lot of books.

But I don't have a huge "to be read" stack. I can't wait that long.

How about you? What are your book-buying habits? Do you own a towering "to be read" pile?

Monday, December 11, 2006

One Down . . .

Three and a half to go!

Days until Christmas vacation, that is. I'm ready. My students are ready. My fellow faculty members are ready (Connie has had a countdown clock running on her laptop since last Monday.).

Exams for three days and a half day on Friday. I can deal with that.

Homecoming last week was a blast. I'm hoping I'll have pics from that week to share with y'all soon.

Hmmm. Wonder where Connie got her countdown clock? I need one for WMM's release. Anyone know where to find one?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Contest Details

I'm keeping this really simple because I hate complicated contests!

Beginning January 1, I'll give away a Samhain gift certificate every other week until February 26, the week What Mattered Most debuts.

To enter, all you have to do is join my newsletter group. Also, beginning in early January, I'll post to the group a weekly chapter of Through a Glass Darkly, the companion piece to WMM.

To join, send a blank email to Linda_Winfree-subscribe AT yahoogroups DOT com.

And for even more contest fun, check out what Sharon, Larissa, Amy, Jan, and Steph are up to over at Writeminded!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Oh, Wow!

I received the preview of my cover art for What Mattered Most and I can't stop looking at it! I can't wait to share.

My homeroom is winning the spirit week competition by two points at this time. I hope we'll widen that lead as the week goes on.

Check back tomorrow for contest details!

Counting Down

Five days until Homecoming.

Ten days until Christmas Break.

Twelve weeks until WMM releases!

I need one of those little ticker things. Anyone know of a good place to find one?

Hmmm, I think we need a contest, too. Let me think . . . details to come!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Oh. My. GOSH!

Look what's UP!

It's real! It's really, really real!

Oh, Lord, I sound like Sally Field . . .

Hitting the Hard Stuff

My very bestest best friend Pam is pregnant. I'm giddily thrilled for her, because this is her first (and she says only) child, after nearly sixteen years of marriage. She's pretty giddy herself. Yesterday, we went shopping for maternity clothes (which are amazingly stylish compared to what was available when I had my babies *ahem* years ago). On the drive to the mall, Pam laughed and told me she was worrying about "crazy stuff."

"Like what?" I asked.

Like she's afraid the baby will date the wrong person. She thinks she should be more worried about the right preschool right now.

I laughed, because I'm having the same fears, and my "baby" isn't even in his teens yet. However, as he grows closer, I'm dealing with stuff that suddenly makes two A.M. feedings look like a walk in the park.

Stuff like helping him define what is and what is not a healthy friendship. I want him to know that manipulation is not okay, that it's okay to walk away when a "friend" becomes poisonous. I know it's just a fifth grade friendship, but I don't want that elementary friendship to set the tone for high school dating, if that makes sense.

Six more years and Pam will be sending her baby to kindergarten, which she has already dubbed "the hard stuff." She's right. It is. Raising a child is the hard stuff defined.

But I can't wait for her to realize that it's also the best stuff.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Monster #1 hates to floss. Too bad, because he's getting the braces in a couple of weeks and he's going to get into the habit of flossing if it kills both of us. Basically, my argument is this -- I never had braces, so I'm stuck with the overbite and slightly misaligned teeth. If I'm spending four grand or so on a beautiful, straight smile for him . . . he's going to take care of it.

I've let my grading nightly habit slide this week because I've been easing the Monsters into a new routine at home. I will definitely have to pick that back up next week (if not this weekend).

I'm trying to get back into the blogging habit.

Emailed my editor in a panic that my release date is looming (February) and I'm having nightmares about pages upon pages of edits to complete . . . she very nicely emailed back to talk me off that ledge. Told me I had nothing to worry about. Honest.

I will not make panicked emails to the editor a habit.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Oh, Wow!

Received my blurb form from my editor to add key words . . . and I have an ISBN number! How cool is that?!

Next week is Spirit Week and Homecoming. Hate to tell the rest of the high school . . . but my homeroom is so going to win the overall spirit award! We have top secret plans!


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What I'm Up To

Updating my blurb form for WMM, set for release in February. I have to come up with key words for a web search. This is hard.

Here's what I have so far:


Any suggestions?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Too Cool

Snatched from Sharon:
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Who Fills Your Bucket?

Today's post is at Romance Worth Killing For. I'm taking a look at keeping a positive attitude!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Tools For Success

This year, I'm teaching a course called High School Transitions, and I'm always on the lookout for articles and strategies to share with my thirteen Transitions kids. I found this one over at Yahoo Finance today:

What It Takes to Be Great

It's an interesting read and very applicable to writers, teachers, and students, although it's targeted to the business individual.

Go check it out. And tell me what you think.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Needing a Little Pre-Halloween Magic Here . . .

I am so incredibly tired tonight. I don't know if it's because this is our first "full" week after fall break, if it's because it's been a jam-packed week already, or if I'm just getting old . . . but I'm bushed.

Tomorrow does not promise to be a restful day. I found out this afternoon that grades are due on report cards (we handwrite those suckers, too . . . sigh) by the end of Thursday. Thursday night is PTO as well. My fear is that tomorrow will be day four that I don't have planning for whatever reason, and then how will I get report cards done?

After school, you say?

Um. Uh-huh.

It's eleven practice days until competition. I can't miss a practice, so my schedule for tomorrow pretty much looks like this:

Period One: 9th Writers Workshop
Period Two: 9th Lit/Comp
Period Three: 11th American Lit
Period Four: Planning. This week, it's been . . . helping with state reporting, an emergency conference, distributing student govt. forms.
Period Five: High School Transitions
Lunch: Hey. I could do them here. That could work. Hmmm, 83 grades X 2 copies, in 30 min.
Period Six: 11th American Lit
Period Seven: High School Study Skills
3:30 until: Play Practice
6:00: Fundraiser supper for the Spanish club
7:00: PTO

I'm doomed. So if anyone has a little magic for adding a twenty-fifth hour to the day, or one of those cool "time warp" watches from the movie Clockstoppers, I need to borrow it!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Keeping Up With the Joneses . . .

One thing I've spent the last year discovering is that the old adage about happiness equals being content with what you have is very true. Oh, sure, I always want another pair of shoes, and I can't wait until we finally finish the house-from-hell renovations . . . but I'm very thankful to have the house from hell, thankful that it's basically paid for, thankful that I can buy groceries and provide a handful of wants as well as the needs for my children.

Along those lines, I found this interesting article today over at Yahoo Finance. Go take a look. Tell me what you think.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Today's Post . . .

Is at Romance Worth Killing For!

In other news, I have tentative release dates for my four books coming out next year . . . looks like I'll have a release every three months or so. I'm excited (and scared to death)! More details as the dates are firmed up.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Point of Saturation

Hello, my name is Linda and I'm a news addict.

Actually, I prefer to think of it as being well-informed. I read the local metropolitan newspaper daily, I subscribe to two weekly news magazines, I read the Yahoo News headlines, and I watch Headline News, MSNBC, etc. pretty religiously. I like to know what's going on in the world.

However, I have no illusions about the media. I'm aware that all too often news coverage is influenced by more than the public's need to know.

This morning, I'm annoyed. There is yet another report of a school-and-gun incident on CNN. Last week, there was a rundown on the daily school-and-gun/bomb threat incidents throughout the United States. I have two issues with this.

1) Weapons at schools and bomb threats at schools are nothing new. They happen daily, weekly, monthly throughout the country. In ten years of teaching, I've been at schools at both ends of the economic spectrum. At those schools, I've helped evacuate students due to a bomb threat. I've witnessed a gun being found in a locker. At one school, a student was expelled for bringing a knife on campus. Another brought a ceramic pot with the intent to hit someone over the head (she knew she couldn't get a knife or gun through the metal detector). Every incident involving a school and a weapon is someone's tragedy. Lives are affected. Sometimes, the scale is so large that it becomes the nation's tragedy. Most incidents, thank God, end without anyone being physically hurt. There is always emotional fallout. But if you've tuned into the media lately, you would think our schools are under siege, that we live in a constant state of fear. Do we? Not really. Am I aware of where my classroom is located, of the routes an intruder might use to get to my room? Sure. I also teach with my door locked, and I mentally run through our GEMA training on safety every day. But once that door closes, it's all about English and all about the kids I teach. It's not about fear.

2) People, especially teens, are impressionable and some are easily influenced. Sure, you have those who are going to come up with the idea to take a gun to school on their own. But do some school-weapon incidents come about because of the increased (and somewhat morbid) media attention? I've taught teenagers too long not to think so.

So, I think today, I'm skipping the daily dose of CNN. Maybe I'll go sit on the porch and drink my coffee instead.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Little of This, A Little of That

Larissa's new website is up and it's gorgeous! Check it out.

I'm cleaning this week while on fall break (I keep typing and saying "spring" break and having to correct myself -- I'm already planning our trip for that week and I'm obsessing a little). There's a lot going on in my life decision-wise, but there are some things I simply haven't been able to make a decision about yet. I don't have all the facts and there are things that are out of my control -- my sister calls this being "Jonah in the whale." I call it a holding pattern. A good friend of mine is in the same "stuck" position, and she doesn't like it any better than I do.

So getting rid of clutter makes me feel like I'm doing something. How weird is that? I guess it's a mind game for coping. The same way coming up with a solution for our study skills debacle at school made me feel accomplished. I'd much rather fix something than whine about it, or have to "live with it." Ugh.

I think I may have found a way to fix the "holding pattern" situation in my life. I think. I hope.

In other news, it's only three weeks until One Act competition. Very freaked about that. Very, very freaked.

I have about four months until my first release -- even more freaked about that. Scared, I think. I've been making a list of updates I need to do on my website and I'm working on a new MS, one I'm going to use as a free online read, giving out a chapter a week for several weeks before the release of WMM. I'm hoping it'll be a way to draw in more readers. What do you think?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Same Old, Same Old . . .

It's fall break, and I so needed this. For the past month, it's felt like I'd never catch my breath at school again -- that's finally started to ease up some. So I'm looking forward to having the next few days to relax a little.

Jaye is blogging about having too much going on, genre-wise, in her WIP. I'm fiddling with the MS that I'm planning to use as a free read for promo, and I feel like I don't have enough going on.

I haven't been very vocal here lately, merely because I've been swamped and I haven't felt like I've had much to say. I'll try to do better, although I still don't have much of anything new to talk about.

Maybe as the release date for WMM draws nearer, that will change . . .

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Woman of Many Hats

I think I'm wearing too many hats. I've been trying for days to stop and catch my breath, but it's not happening. Here's what I have going on:

1) Mom. Last week: kids sick. This week: I'm sick.
2) Wife. Trying to plan construction with DH.
3) Teacher. Four English classes (9th and 11th), one 9th grade High School Transitions class, one mixed level reading/study skills class.
4) Mentor Teacher.
5) Department Head. This a big joke right now.
6) One Act Troupe Coach: 26 practices until competition. Yikes.
7) Drama Club sponsor. Another big joke right now.
8) Student Governement co-sponsor. Working really hard on this.
9) CP. It's a wonder Carol and Kristi haven't both kicked me to the curb. Many crits I owe, I owe, I owe.
10) Chief Cook and Bottlewasher. My kitchen is clean!

I'm pretty sure there's more, but my head hurts, my throat hurts, and I still have a set of quizzes to grade, a calendar to finish, Monsters to put to bed.

How many hats do you wear?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Perception and Reality

We had a softball tournament at school this weekend. I worked the gate, watched my students play, talked with board members and parents. It was a beautiful day, cloudless, warm, breezy. We had many teams participating, from all over the state. While I was chatting with a friend, she mentioned that one of the girls from another school (a well-to-do private school in Atlanta, one large enough they choose to compete in GHSA athletics rather than the independent association program) had told our softball players we were a "poor school." I think our girls were a tad miffed and a little hurt.

Interesting, isn't it, the difference between perception and reality?

If you'd walked through our softball complex today, you'd have seen three fields surrounded by chain link and wooden fences, some portable bleachers, dugouts, a wooden concession stand, a tent at the entrace gate, a concrete block restroom building. You'd have seen that the parking area was under the pecan trees and that the entryway is a dirt path worn by many cars. You wouldn't have seen any score boards. We can't afford them yet and keep score on white boards.

Yes, looking around, you'd probably think we were a "poor school," too. We all know it's easier to write a check than give of your time and yourself. It's difficult to come from outside and look at the softball fields, where there used to be a pecan grove a few short years ago, and see how rich we truly are.

Those fields, those fences, those dugouts, that concession stand, the less-than-fancy restrooms -- all of that came from parent volunteer labor. Others look at our facilities, compare them to what fairly unlimited money can buy, and find us lacking. We look at our facilities, see the level of commitment and sacrifice that went into creating not only our softball complex, but our school, and we wouldn't trade it for anything money can buy.

The perception? Yes, I guess we look like a "poor school."

The reality? We're rich beyond our wildest dreams.

What are your intangible riches?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

MIA, but Still Alive

The Monsters have been sick for over a week, so I've been playing Mommy and trying to catch my breath with school stuff at the same time.

I do, however, already have my Friday post up at Romance Worth Killing For. Go check it out!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Isn't It Fantastic . . .

. . . when awesome things happen to wonderful people?

Go congratulate Larissa!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Lazy Sunday Post

Scarfed from Larissa:

Skinny Jeans

You are classy and a bit formal when it comes to your personal style.
Your look is feminine and well put together - and never trashy or too trendy.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Progress . . .

I love my job. I mean, absolutely, totally, passionately love my job. Believe me, I know how lucky that makes me, because I know so many people who get up, go to work, and hate what they do.

The very thought of such an existence would make me want to slit my wrists.

Today, even though I took a sick day because Monster #1 wasn't feeling well, was one of those days when I really love my job.

See, last week, I gave back the most horrific set of essays you've ever seen. It wasn't that my kids don't know how to write -- they do. I guess, as one of them so eloquently put it, "everything we learned leaked out of our brains over the summer."

Anyway, no one was happy last week -- not me, not my students, not my administrators, not the parents.

Paper #2 is due Friday. We've been working hard to stuff some of that leaked-out knowledge back into their brains before then.

So I went by the school this afternoon to meet with a handful of students who wanted feedback on their rough drafts. Revised rough drafts. With notes on them. I was thrilled. Then, when I started reading the rough drafts?

Color me tickled pink.

The rough drafts I read today are loads better than the final drafts from last week. They're learning. They're improving.

How can a teacher not love that? And how could I ask for a better job?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I have electricity again!

And papers to grade. Some things never change . . .

Monday, September 04, 2006

Progress, of Sorts

Okay, still no electricity.

But I have emailed my art forms and my blurb forms to my editor.

Now I'm off to get caught up on teacher things.

What have you spent your long weekend doing?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Out of Practice

I've been a bad, bad writer. Writing, for basically the last year, has not been my priority. Now I'm trying to get back into the habit, and boy, is it hard!

I'm picking up the manuscript I'd pretty much abandoned around January. I've been reading, trying to immerse myself in the characters, the plot, the conflicts. It isn't easy. The closest analogy I can come up with is it's akin to not running for months, then trying to get back into condition. Already, I can see it's going to be a slow, painful process.

But I'm trying. And I'm getting there.



But I'm getting there.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006



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Presented by Millennium Promotion Services, Inc.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

I'm excited!

Got an email from my editor yesterday.



HOLD ON TO ME, TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES, and HIS ORDINARY LIFE all have a home at Samhain now.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Note to Self

Don't let the DH help Monster #1 with his homework.

They take forever. It's 12 minutes to bedtime, and are they near finishing?


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Weird, Isn't It?

I have fewer preps this year, fewer classes, fewer students.

I have one more planning period.

You would think I'd have plenty of time.


I'm less stressed teaching-wise than I was last year (I was really spread too thin), but all the department head duties are kicking in. And, man, does that take a lot of time.

I did manage today to get all of my filing done (that's a task I rarely get to -- I'd end up tossing papers in a file drawer to keep them out of sight, then have to sort them at the end of the year or when I needed something.). I'm setting my classes up in our computer program now. I made emergency bathroom passes (I have to handwrite the info on those, or the kids try to forge them). Still have to set up my gradebook. Make a list of kids without access to a computer or a printer.

Finally got all the ballyhoo from this weekend sorted out. DH took care of most of it, since it was his payroll department who basically screwed my entire budget for the month. I have to do some math, but I think they still owe us money, although not nearly as much as they did.

I'm off to make a form parent-contact letter.

What are you up to?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I'm Alive

Which is a positive.

It has not, however, been a good weekend. I'm a total control freak, and this situation is completely beyond my control.

I have to wait until Monday to see how it will play out. So instead of relaxing and getting recharged for school next week, I'm wound tight, my mind like a hamster wheel.

Keep your fingers crossed that everyone who made a promise Friday keeps it Monday.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Little of This and That

What I'm reading: Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Or rather, I'm trying to read it. I know it's a classic and all, but I'm at chapter three, I don't like Holden, and I'm not all that impressed.

What I'm reading next: Gerald Graff's Clueless in Academe: How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind.

What I'm listening to: Rain, my windchimes and distant thunder.

What I'm drinking: Diet Pepsi. Is there anything else?

What I'm working on: Knocking out my teacher TTD list, waiting on Kristi to send me something to read!

What I feel good about today: My English department meeting went well.

What I enjoyed most today: Lunch with my colleagues at the coffee shop. Joe, your homemade bread and the veggie sandwich were incredible!

What I'm doing next: Putting the Monsters to bed.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sigh . . .

There's this episode of Little House on the Prairie that haunted me from the first time I saw it. As the show begins, a litter of puppies are being taken from their mother (to be drowned -- Laura or someone saves them, I don't remember it all, just that first scene). As the wagon drives away, with the puppies in a gunny sack on the back, the mama dog watches fornlornly, a sad expression on her little doggie face as she realizes she'll never see them again . . .

Well, tonight I'm the sack of puppies, whining a little, leaving the mama dog of my summer behind, with its shimmering freedom, not to be seen again. (Well, not this summer anyway . . . 190 working days, and whoo-hoo! A new summer!).

I'm packing my teacher bag (which has served as my beach bag all summer -- it's very versatile!), making my to-do list, trying to decide what I want to wear tomorrow.

I'm very aware that I have to be up at 6:00 A.M.

But I'm excited, too. I'm loving the way our high school faculty seems to be finally coming together as a cohesive unit, with the addition of some fantastic new people to an already strong group. I've been waiting four years to see this.

But I wouldn't mind just one more day to sleep in, either.

Goodbye, summer!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Gather Ye Memories While Ye May . . .

Today was a good day. Busy, but good. I have, alas, only one more day of freedom after today, and I was determined I would not show up at school today. I needed to spend my Vote for Sonny Money, plus I wanted to hit Penney's sale today, check the goodies at Old Navy, etc.

So I spent the day with my best friend Pam. After she got her hair cut (and I read part of The Memory Keeper's Daughter), we hit Office Depot. Teachers were everywhere (hey, we got ten million dollars worth of Vote For Sonny Money statewide -- that's a lot of teachers!). We went to the mall, met her DH for lunch at Applebee's (quesadilla burger, yummmm!), went back to the mall.

We will not discuss how many bras I had to try on to find the right one, but find one I did! I bought several in that style. I hate shopping for unmentionables. Picked up three tops at Penney's, two sweaters at Old Navy. Then I spent the remainder of my Vote For Sonny Money at Waldenbooks, buying books for my classroom library.

Tried to take a nap when I got home. Didn't happen.

The Monsters wanted to go fishing, so the DH and I loaded them up and took them to the river. They fished for a couple hours, didn't catch anything, but it was beautiful and quiet. Had a nice conversation with the local DNR officer. Sitting, listening to the river whisper, watching the sun set into the pine trees across the water, was a really relaxing way to finish off one of my last two days of summer. Definitely one of my favorite summer memories.

What about you? What won't you forget about this summer?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Can You Say, "Awww!"

My great-nephew Porter with me, at my mom's. I think this was taken Mother's Day.

Still Here

I've been scattered lately. I thought maybe, in all the frenzy of Nationals and the resulting explosion of blogs (which are really fun to read), my absence would go unnoticed. However, Kristi says not so much. This is what I've been up to:

1) Unit plans. More unit plans.
2) Typing assignments.
3) Back-to-school shopping for the Monsters.
4) Took the Monsters and one of their friends out for the day, to lunch and to see Monster House. Loved the movie. Go see it.
5) Getting my room ready for school. Preplanning? Uh, yeah. I can't work on my room when there are other people around. Too many distractions.
6) Completing my application for grad school. I'm supposed to start working on my master's in Learning and Literacy *or* Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment in October.

You'll notice there's no writing up there. I'm hoping to do a major push and finish chapter three of TAGD this weekend. We'll see. I have two manuscripts I want to send to my editor -- she hasn't had a chance to look yet at the two I've already sent, but she promised to get to them next week, said to send these on.

What have you been up to?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What's On Your Desk?

Yes, yes, I've been lazy since I returned from Alabama. All that theater culture exhausted me. :-)

Anyway, I have a meeting at 10:00, so this is a two-minute post (but I promise a longer one later today.).

Thought I'd tell you what books were sitting on my desk right now . . . so you could tell me!

Here we go:

1) Introduction to Theater Arts, Zimmerman
2) 7 Keys to Comprehension, Zimmerman (different one) & Hutchins
3) Understanding by Design, Wiggins & McTighe
4) Deeper Reading, Gallager (my hero!)
5) Play Director's Survival Kit, Rodgers & Rodgers
6) Going to Ground: Simple Life on a Georgia Pond, Blackmarr
7) On Writing, King
8) What's Happening, Hamlet? (script), Chikiar

What's on your desk?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

I'm Back!

Had a wonderful trip. Hope to have a handful of pictures up in the next few days to show you.

Remember I'm chatting tonight over at the Samhain Cafe from 8:00 until 9:00 EST with fellow author Kate Rothwell/Summer Devon. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

These Are NOT My Kids . . .

(Although I could see mine doing this years ago . . .)

From an email my sister sent me and too good not too share!





LOOK ON MOM'S FACE................................PRICELESS!

Planning & Plotting

Beside writing this week, I've been working on unit plans for the coming school year. I have fewer preps and fewer students this year (whoo-hoo!), and I can already tell that it's going to allow me to deepen my teaching. I can also see that I'm finally getting the hang of the whole backward design planning concept. I knew I was close last year, but I still had issues, including problems with designing authentic performance tasks. I'm loving my plans so much better this year!

My day is all planned out today -- cleaning, errands, pulling together outfits for this weekend. My best friend and I are going to see a couple of plays one state over -- To Kill a Mockingbird and Trojan Women -- and I am soooooo excited! I love theater.

DH is keeping the Monsters for two days while I'm gone. That should be interesting. I've no doubt he can handle the kids, but I could plot a list of things that won't get done while I'm gone:

1) The toilet paper roll will not get changed. They'll just sit a fresh roll on the back of the toilet.
2) No one will wash dishes.
3) The living room won't get swept.
4) The kids won't comb their hair until church Sunday morning. If they need to go somewhere Saturday, they'll just pull on a hat . . .

I think they'll survive, though.

I'll be back Sunday, to chat with fellow Samhain author Kate Rothwell (Summer Devon) over at the Samhain Cafe. Remember that Reader Appreciation is going on all this week at the Cafe -- with over forty prizes being given away! Kate (Summer) and I are chatting from 8:00-9:00 PM Sunday night, and I'll be giving away a Samhain gift certificate. Make plans to come join us!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Well, I didn't make my four pages yesterday -- I made two. So my goal for today is 6 -- 3 this morning, 3 tonight. I've found that if I break it up, it seems less daunting. The WIP seems to be coming along, although I know it's really rough. Lots and lots of layers in my future!

I had two of my CP's read the first seven chapters of MOU. Both of them hit on the same thing -- how quickly the relationship develops between chapters six and seven -- and I think that's why I was stuck. Anyway, I deleted ten pages (saved them in case I could use them later) and went back to my original plan for those chapters. Haven't written anything, but I feel more comfortable with the work now.

I did make progress on the teaching front -- I have plans sketched out for the first semester for my 11th American Lit and my 9th Lit/Comp classes. Made my independent reading lists for those classes, too.

Trying to get everything at home done before I leave Saturday for the theater. :-) I can't wait!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Update . . .

Total pages written today: 4

Total this week: 18 (Whoo-hoo!)

Will see if I can stick it out this week. I've got to start hitting those teaching units pretty hard, too.

Days until school starts: 28 (32 for students)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I Am . . .

in the ZONE, baby!

It's been so long, I'd forgotten what it feels like.

It feels weird.


I like it!

I have a rough draft of the first chapter of Through a Glass Darkly, my new WIP, and I'm working on the first chapter of HOTM, revised.

I'm trying something new, and we'll have to see how it goes. In that past, I've only worked on one manuscript at a time. However, my, er, goal (ugh, the G word again!) is to have three chapters and a synopsis on TAGD completed and to add three chapters to MOU by the time pre-planning starts. That's approximately 120 pages, roughly 4 pages a day on to meet my goal.

My goal for HOTM is to outline the revisions (which I've already made copious notes on). Any writing I get done on there is gravy. I'm fiddling with it tonight because I finally figured out how to rewrite my inciting event.

I'm figuring I'll update my progress bars every Sunday (maybe Monday).


Oh, and don't forget that Samhain's Reader Appreciation Week begins Monday. Find out more at Samhain Cafe!

Updated -- Total pages written today: 7.5

Friday, July 07, 2006

Meet Dani . . .

The heroine of my new WIP, Through a Glass Darkly:

Dani Stuart huddled in the hard wooden chair, her hands wrapped around a foam coffee cup. The sharp tang of antiseptic hung around her; rubber-clad feet whispered against the white tile flooring. She focused on the greasy film floating atop the dark liquid, because if she didn’t, she’d have to think about where she was, what she was about to do.

Oh, God, what if it was true? What if it was her Sophie?

“Ms. Stuart?” She looked up to find Detective Marsh standing in the doorway. “We’re ready for you.”

Clutching the cup with both hands, she stood to toss it in a nearby trash bin. Left with nothing to occupy her hands, she shoved them in the pockets of her thin windbreaker and met the tall detective at the steel double doors.

Sympathy flickered in Marsh’s blue eyes. “Are you sure you’re up to this? We can take another couple of minutes, if you need-”

“No.” The word emerged more sharply than she’d intended. She swallowed hard and shook her head. She needed to do this now, to get this over with. Surely knowing would be better than this . . . this horrific limbo she’d been in for almost two days. She forced a smile, her face aching. “No, thank you. I’m ready.”

He nodded and held the door for her. She stepped into a long hallway, fluorescent lights not brightening the grayish-green walls. A gurney rested alongside one wall, a white sheet covering the body it held. A hand, skin wrinkled and spotted with age, peeked from beneath the fabric.
Dani’s stomach roiled.

Oh, God. She couldn’t do this after all. In her limbo, she could pretend Sophie was safe, merely staying away to punish her for one of the many wrongs she’d surely committed . . .

Here, there was no hiding from the reality that her daughter, her baby, might actually be dead.

Her eyes blurred, burned, and her throat tightened.

Her steps didn’t falter.

Marsh ushered her into a small room, a shaded window running along one interior wall. With yet another sympathetic glance her way, he rapped on the glass.

Slowly the shades opened, revealing another gurney, another sheeted figure.

Bile crowded Dani’s throat. In her pockets, she fisted her hands, nails biting into her palms. A woman in scrubs stepped forward, folded the sheet away from the head, revealing, dark hair, a badly battered face.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Today's Post . . .

is at Romance Worth Killing For!

It's REAL!

I know I got the offer back in May and that I signed the contract and made the sale announcement, but it still didn't seem completely real. I'm not sure why.

But . . .

Today I get to start thinking about my cover art form.

Today I get to start thinking about excerpts and blurbs for the publisher promo.

Today, the fact I sold is REAL.

And I have to confess . . . this reality is pretty darn cool.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


The last few days, I've been thinking hard about the WIP. I tend to "see" my work as a mini-movie in my head. The nice thing about that is I can rewind or fast forward, freeze frame, etc. With the new book, I don't have a complete film yet, something more of a trailer -- I have the premise and the concept, the opening scenes, some snatches of later scenes. Basically, I have the overall idea of the plot, but not the entire outline. That's not really a problem at this point, because I can write those opening scenes (my normal MO is to write the first 2-3 chapters, then write the synopsis/outline). However . . .

There is that little thing called plot braiding. (Thanks again, Elisabeth, LOL!)

So while thinking about the WIP, I'm focusing on the threads of the plot . . . or should I say "plots"? Because this piece has two external plots, as well as the internal romantic thread. Both external plots are integral to the novel, both involve the main characters, with the conflict of one external thread opening the book and ultimately leading back to the second external thread. (Confused yet? Good, so am I!)

I've begun visualizing my plot as a DNA section rather than a simple braid -- you know how you see those 3-D models of DNA, with the two outside spirals connected and supported by the protein steps? That's what my plot braid looks like in my head. The two external plots are separate, yet joined, and if one is taken away, the entire structure collapses. So as I visualize my movie and get ready to outline, I must explore each step in both plots and how they connect and affect each other.

Is this writing dangerously? Does this show growth as a writer? Or just that I'm a complete idiot?

I really hope it's the former rather than the latter!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Review -- N.J. Walters's THE WAY HOME

The Way Home is a classic marriage of convenience book -- the hero Jake has inherited his orphaned niece after the death of his brother and sister-in-law, and he needs a wife. The heroine Rebecca has loved her best friend Jake for years and sees the marriage as a chance she can't turn down.

However, just as Jake's proposal isn't what Rebecca had always dreamed of -- a business-like proposition rather than a hearts & flowers offer -- the marriage throws her for a few loops. Jake's not immune from the emotional turmoil either, as he tries to adjust to sharing his home and life after years spent alone.

Like I said, a classic MOC plot, but once I started reading, I couldn't put the story down. I love watching a rather clueless hero come to his senses about his feelings, and Walters delivers that in Jake. He's not perfect, and his tendency to speak before considering Rebecca's POV results in his hurting her more than once. But he redeems himself quite well as he realizes his love for her, how close he's come to losing her through his own actions, and sets out to make it right.

Rebecca is a quietly strong heroine, and Walters paints her with very realistic strokes -- I could envision myself responding much the same as Rebecca does in several situations.

The pacing of the book drags some at the beginning, with backstory revealed through chunks of character thought, and I would have liked to have seen more of Jake's feelings for Rebecca layered in during his early POV scenes . . . however, as a whole, The Way Home is a fantastic read, earning three stars on this teacher's grading scale.

Monday, July 03, 2006

It's All Sharon's Fault . . .

. . . that I'm behind in writing. She keeps pointing me toward great books to read!

My current wish list:

The Way Home by N.J. Walters

72 Hours by Shannon Stacey (this one sounds GOOD!)

Hunted by Amilia Elias

Hmmm . . . where to begin?

Tag, I'm It!

Courtesy of Elisabeth:

1. A song by the first band you liked: "Skyhigh" by Jigsaw. (My older sister had their LP. I think I was six.)

2. A song that makes you think of your best friend: Ack. Some dance mix. Heard it on the radio yesterday, can't think of the name!

3. A song by the first band you saw in concert: Foreigner - "Juke Box Hero"

4. A song that reminds you of college/school: "Parents Just Don't Understand", Will Smith, UGA!

5. A song that makes you think of a boyfriend/girl (love) past or present: "When You Say Nothing At All", anything by the Eagles

Tagging . . . YOU! What musical memories will you share?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

What Makes You Go, "Augh!"

I bought a bad book.

Now, you have to realize I very rarely meet a book I don't like. But I bought a stinker this time. $4.45, because I liked the cover and because I'd heard good things about the author and because the first couple of pages along with the blurb caught my attention.

So I'm out the cost of a tropical latte with whipped cream from the Java place, when I could have had another book from my wish list.


What makes you go "augh!"?

I think I'm going to go watch Bridezillas.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

We're Home

500 mile round trip.

Husband has boat.

Husband is thrilled.

Monsters are thrilled.

I'm exhausted.

More later.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Today's Post

Is at Romance Worth Killing For.

(And Anonymous? Of course I know who you are, AC!)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Oh. My. God!

I had a post all planned out for tonight . . . definitely saving it for tomorrow now!

A few minutes ago, I got up to set up the coffeemaker for the DH (in exchange, he doesn't wake me up when he leaves for work).

I kept hearing something munching in the kitchen, and I figured it was the cat, although it was very noisy munching.

I walk in my kitchen . . .

And there's a POSSUM eating Kitty Baby's food!



I was not a happy camper.

Heck, I'm still not a happy camper.

I chased him out, didn't wake the DH (hey, he has to work tomorrow).

But I left him a big note on the fridge about how we really need to further secure the bathroom with the torn out floor, so POSSUMS don't come through there, climb over the partially removed wall in the laundry room and eat the kitty's food.

I bet Amie had something to do with this! She's sending me possums!

(And oh, my Lord, my mama warned me about "something" getting in through that floor. Now I have to tell her she was right. Hmmm. Maybe I just won't tell her!)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Following The Rules

If you're following all the rules, you're missing all the fun. -- seen embroidered on a towel at a gift shop today.

I love that, and it got me thinking. I'm pretty good at deciding which "rules" of writing I want to flout. As a teacher, I like rules . . . although I use them more as "guidelines for behavior." My students call me a comfortist, and I'm sure they're right. I don't like conflict, and following the rules can help one avoid that.

After browsing the gift shop with my best friend, we went to the new local coffee shop, run by the parents of a former student of mine. It's in a historic building, and the proprietors did most of the renovation work themselves. Renovating took months, but the shop is absolutely gorgeous. It gives me hope for my own house. (BTW, I've been taking photos of the in-progress renovations this week, and I'll be posting those soon.)

The funny thing was, the combination of that "rules vs. fun" towel and seeing Joe and Patty at the coffee shop helped made a recent nebulous realization concrete. For months, no visitors except my mom and dad have been allowed into our home. I freaked out last week because I cut the corner of the kitchen to find my DH's best friend in the living room, borrowing a tool. He'd actually allowed Mike into our house, the way it looked!

Later on in that same week, Monster #1's best friend invited him over to play. He went, with me assuring friend's mom that we'd reciprocate with an around-town activity and apologizing at the same time for the ever-growing evidence of renovating at our house. Renee laughed -- she and Mark just spent three years doing what we're doing now. She understands how I feel, but she also said that even though they're not completely finished (they're down to finish trim and some electrical stuff), she'd told her son that Monster #1 could come over for a sleepover soon, with the realization that kids didn't care what the inside of their friends' homes looked like.

And you know, she's right. Both of my Monsters have newly renovated, decorated rooms. Their bathroom is also newly madeover. Their end of the house is clean and attractive. The living room is full of boxes and furniture from rooms we're working on, and we pulled the carpet up months ago and are walking on plywood, but who cares? Would their friends look at the plywood, the plastic-and-duct-taped hole in the ceiling where we ripped out the fireplace, and judge us?

Lots of people would, but my kids' friends? Surely not.

Then I thought about my best friend, who loves me dearly. About my sisters, with their lovely homes, who've been banned from my home because I was ashamed to let anyone see the chaos.

Did Mike think less of the DH because there were tools and pieces of paneling scattered across the living area the day he came to borrow a hammer? Probably not.

So what am I so worried about?

A rule, that's what. An old ingrained, Southern rule that anything less than a perfect house isn't fit for company (a high school friend's mom used to say it wasn't convenient for anyone to die when the house was a mess . . .). And believe me, my house was and continues to be a mess . . . probably will be for at least six more months.

If you're following all the rules, you're missing all the fun.

So for the next six months, until the house is finished, here's the deal: the house is relatively clean, despite the chaos. It isn't the prettiest thing ever (in fact, right now, it's pretty darn ugly still.), but I love my sisters and my friends more than having a perfect house. I want my children to have their friends over. I want the DH to be able to have his friends come in without my having a duck fit afterwards.

I'm thinking I may break that "a less-than-perfect house" rule. I'm tired of missing out on the fun. And if anyone wants to think less of me for walking on plywood right now, well, who needs him/her, right?

What rule are you ready to flout? C'mon, you know you have one. Share.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Story of My Life (This, That and the Other)

My best friend and her DH have this ongoing power struggle . . . if one of them spends money, the other has to spend an equal amount, or more. My DH and I tend not to have this struggle, because most of the time, all of our extra funds go into the Monsters' tummies.

We've been baaaaad the last week or so, though.

Over the weekend, the DH bought THAT:

Buying That involves a 500-mile round trip to pick it up. That's when IT decided not to cooperate. So I spent a lot of $$$ on parts. Didn't help.

Although I love IT, i don't think IT loves me.

So since we needed a second vehicle again anyway, we went shopping today.

I came home with THIS:

This is my first-ever-in-all-my-life brand-new-off-the-showroom-floor car. I've never had one before. Somehow, I think I got the better end of this deal. What do you think?

Monday, June 26, 2006


Now how am I supposed to stalk Karin's blog when her bandwidth is exceeded?! Obviously, other stalkers had the same idea I did.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Splitting Hairs

I like words. Obviously, right? I like the connotations of words, the shades of meaning within similar words.

I've been tinkering today with a new template for my business cards. When my laptop crashed last week, I lost the old ones. (PSA -- Back up all your stuff, now!) I loved the old ones, which my friend and CP made for me. They had this cool reddish double line, my name, and beneath that the title novelist.

Webster defines novelist this way:

"one who writes a fictional prose narrative of considerable length, typically having a plot unfolded by the actions, speech and thoughts of the characters." (By the way, "novel" comes from Latin, novellus, which means "new.")

Yep, that was me. I wrote all that. Still do. So I'm a novelist.

I pondered that while playing with the new design of my business cards.

There are others who would call me a writer. I tend to call myself that more than novelist, although novelist sounded pretty darn good on the business card.

Webster defines writer thusly:

"1) one who has written (something specified): the writer of the note. 2) an author."

But wait. I can't be an author! Only people who've published something are authors, if you are to believe the scuttle abounding on blogs and lists everywhere. Or even more specifically, only if you've sold to a large print house. Maybe a small print publisher. (<-- that's me being facetious, which my students could tell you is defined as "mildly sarcastic" or "flippant.")

I had to check out this whole author thing.

Flipped through Webster's. Found this definition:

"1) The writer of a literary work; a writer. 2) The beginner, originator, or creator of anything."

Hmmm. Yes, completely splitting hairs on the connotations there, but to me, sounds like I'm a novelist, a writer, and yes, even an author.

So what do you think I should put on the new business cards? ;-)

Friday, June 23, 2006

First the Dog, Now the Cat . . .

Have I mentioned I have a psychologically damaged dog? Her name is Sallie. I didn't want this dog. Our beloved lab Hunter had died, and I was adamant we were not having another dog. Nope. No more dogs.

(Unless, maybe, a cute little Schnauzer . . .)

So this stray dog had puppies in our yard. I found homes for all but one, and then mama dog got hit by a car. Hence, this sad little lonely orphaned puppy, which my son named Sallie.

I was still swearing that we were not keeping this dog. No way, no sir, no how.

Guess what? We ended up keeping the dog, she fell in love with me, I fell in love with her, we all live happily ever after, right?

She has separation anxiety issues.

She chews things. Not small things. Big things. Drags them right in front of my porch and chews them up, makes a nest. We're home, no chewing. Leave her alone, chews everything.

I solved that by making sure she had a comfortable, secure kennel so I can pen her while I'm gone and she won't destroy everything (Did I mention she shredded the mosquito netting on my new garden gazebo? And the seat off DH's bike? What's next?!).

Obviously, it's not enough that I adopted one mentally damaged animal. Nooooo. Now the cat is in on the act. Her name is Kitty Baby. Our neighbors gave her to us. We love her.

I think she has agoraphobia.

She's always been an in-out kitty. She comes in at night, goes out in the morning, stays in the yard, she's a happy kitty.

Except some feral cat had kittens over at the empty house next door and keeps trying to run in our house to steal her food. She doesn't want to go outside, so she hides in the bedroom and sleeps all day.

And now she's borrowing tricks from Sallie's book . . . when I went to put my pj's on earlier, after hearing major thumping from the bedroom, I found said Kitty Baby in the middle of the floor . . . eating my navy Old Navy flip flops!

I now have cat saliva and teeth marks on my navy flip flops. Do you know how hard it is to find navy flip flops at Old Navy this time of year?!

Did she attack DH's ratty tennis shoes? Noooo. My shoes.

Darn cat.

Does anyone want to recommend a good pet therapist? Maybe one who gives group rates?

Today's Post . . .

Is at Romance Worth Killing For.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Back Up!

First, consider this your friendly reminder to always back up your work. My laptop crashed and burned over the weekend, and fixing it required reinstalling everything . . . which means I lost everything not backed up.

The weird thing is, I didn't lose much of my writing. But teacher-wise? Oh, my heavens. I keep a paper copy of everything, but I realized this afternoon that all my performance standards files are gone, as well as my rubrics file, and all of my teacher web resource links.

If you've emailed me in the last few days and I haven't replied, I'm not ignoring you -- there are over 300 emails in my inbox and I'm trying to make sure I don't delete something important without reading it first.

Anyway, the good news, before said computer crashed, is that I had written the first four pages of my new WIP -- and even though those pages didn't get backed up and are now gone forever -- I have a handwritten copy so I can (pretty much) recreate them.

So go back up your work. And anyone have suggestions for me on more convenient ways to keep my work backed up, just in case?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

My Reading Buffet

My new favorite place to read, since I've been displaced from the bedroom by construction, is in the gazebo by the pool. I do a lot of reading for school and also quite a bit for writing/research purposes.

The weird thing is that I don't read a lot in my genre -- romantic suspense. Now, I know authors who only read in the genre they write. I can't do it. I get bored easily (I also tend to read more than one book at a time, as well as a daily newspaper and several magazines a month), and I want variety in what I read.

So just for fun, here are the last ten books I've read (two I'm finishing now, so I'm putting them here) along with the author and genre. (I also didn't include any school or research-related reading -- this is just-for-me reading).

1) The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood -- literary fiction
2) Going to Ground: Simple Life on a Georgia Pond, Amy Blackmarr -- nonfiction
3) Seducing Simon, Maya Banks -- contemporary romance
4) Sweet Mercy, Jean Brashear -- contemporary (category) romance
5) A Family of Her Own, Brenda Novak -- contemporary (category) romance
6) Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden -- literary fiction (?)
7) The Untelling, Tayari Jones -- literary fiction
8) Cell, Stephen King -- horror/suspense
9) Derailed, James Siegel -- suspense
10) Pompeii, Robert Harris -- historical fiction/suspense

What's next on my reading plate?

1) A Break With Charity, Ann Rinaldi -- historical fiction
2) The House of Gentle Men, Kathy Hepinstall -- literary fiction
3) The Mermaid's Chair, Sue Monk Kidd -- literary fiction (actually, I read part last year, put it down, and now I'm going back to it)

I have some reading to do for school as well, but right now, I'm reading for me.

What's been on your reading buffet lately? Anything I should add to mine?

Building from the Ground Up

For the last year or so (oh, heck -- thirteen months to be exact), I've been involved in the complete renovation of our home. Every room we tackle ends up giving us unexpected and pretty much unwelcome surprises -- more work to be done, hidden problems beneath the walls and floors. There have been times when we've been tempted to just give in and give up, go for the huge mortgage and build from the ground up.

The last day or so, I've been looking at my planned revisions on HOTM with the same eye. It's the book of my heart, and the characters have been with me forever, it seems. I believe it has potential, and I've spent the last month or so identifying the structural problems with it.

The problem is that every time I sit down with a hard copy and try framing it (my preferred method of revision with a completed manuscript), I can't do it. It's too much; I get frustrated and put it aside. Instead, I started outlining revision notes within my much beloved Carribbean-blue notebook, where I also keep my budget notes, promotion notes, and renovation ideas. That's helped me stay focused by streamlining what needs to be done.

And it pointed out one very scary reality: I'm going to have to build HOTM from the ground up. Again.

That means instead of working within the original manuscript, I'm writing a new book. Starting with a blank document, old ideas blended with new ones. It's the only way to make this monster work. For the most part, I have to pretend the 411 pages that I've already written about Tick and Cait don't exist, and you know, they really don't -- with the new backstory line I'm looking at, Tick and Cait have both changed. They're different people. Hopefully stronger people. Their story will be different.

Only the ending, that shimmering promise of an HEA, will remain the same.

I guess I need to go lay a foundation.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Just One of Those Days . . .

I was busy today (heck, when am I not busy?!). Laundry, cleaned out the fridge, cleared yesterday's demolition debris from the yard (Monster #2 was quite impressed -- "Mama, you're strong."), vacuumed the pool, etc.

So while I was busy today, Monster #2 gets ahold of a can of shaving gel. Okay, you'd think at some point we'd move beyond shaving gel disasters, right?

Oh, nooooo!

I walk into my bedroom, where there's no furniture anymore, and shaving gel is oozing out of the wall where DH has disconnected the outlet boxes. Huge, oozing amounts of green foam.

I sigh. Call Monster #2, because I know who did it, into the bedroom. Ask him, because I really want to know at this point, what he was thinking.

He covers his eyes, sighs bigger than I did, and says, "I wasn't."

Smart kid + High impulsivity = some of the stupidest actions I've ever seen.

What was he thinking?

Missing Girl

The daughter of author Marjorie Jones is missing. Please visit the link below for more information and contact details.

Marjorie, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Almost Afraid to Say It Aloud

But I wrote this tonight. A whopping 116 words, the beginnings of my revisions to HOTM.

Where it goes, I have no idea.

It wasn't a matter of him kissing her or her kissing him. One second, she was staring into the dark depths of his eyes; the next, his mouth was on hers, and she was lost, melting into his lean form, soaking up the warmth and contact she'd hungered for since he'd walked out of the nondescript hotel room sixteen months before.

He pulled back, sudden anger blazing in his gaze. "No."

An immediate chill filtered through her. Move. Now. She couldn't, though. Her legs refused to work.

"Not this time, Cait." He stepped away with a deliberate motion and ran a thumb over the corner of his mouth. "I'm not letting you suck me in again."

116 words. Wow. Can't wait to see where tomorrow takes me . . . 120? 130? Whoa . . . what if I manage 200?!

I don't think I could stand the excitement.

My Other Newest Hobby

Now that the remaining lines are up at Karin's blog, I'm still stalking . . . marveling at how awesome some of those second lines are and seeing who I know!

D'Ann is there.

So is Kristi -- loving the bubble bath hook!

Saw Jan Kenny, from Writeminded, there, too.

Can't wait to see who else shows up!

But first, I have to go clean out the laundry room. Sigh . . .

Sunday, June 11, 2006

My Newest Hobby

Stalking Karin Tabke's blog, seeing if the 45 finalists in her first line contest are up.

I lead a sad, sad life . . .

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Writing Dangerously

An issue I've struggled with the last few months has been a deep-seated sense that something was wrong with my writing. Not the technicalities of it -- I've got a grasp on the mechanics of grammar, thanks to my day job, and I've never had difficulty stringing words together to fit my voice. However, every single time I began toying with something new, I'd end up stopping dead. I couldn't go back and rework old manuscripts, I couldn't move forward, and it seemed I was forever destined to stay in this one place.

A place I didn't want to be.

I couldn't write.

In the end, there were many factors at play, some having nothing to do with writing, keeping me in that place. I'm just beginning to move out of that holding pattern. But I've come to the realization that one big problem was I was trying to write safe.

Last night I read Lydia Joyce's blog on "dangerous" writing, and it resonated with me. From the beginning, I've wanted to write with gritty realism, to create characters who were real people, to formulate situations that weren't always wrapped up cleanly.

No problem, right?

Well, at first I was targeting SIM, which is an excellent line and reads I've always enjoyed. However, that meant toning down the grit and reality, and when I was lucky enough to have a very talented, multi-published SIM author read one of my manuscripts, the one I thought was my it book, she was very quick to point out that the hero's defining moment, his choice, would probably have to be changed before SIM would look at it -- the choice placed him in the position of being unheroic.

Aren't we all sometimes?

That encapsulated my choices for me -- write safe for the line I'd researched endlessly. Follow the rules. Be safe.

Or be me. Stretch for the dangerous. Write real people with real problems. As Jennifer Crusie says, write my good book.

Let the rest take care of itself.

I feel better about writing now than I have in a long time. I'm feeling eager again.

And that is a great place to be.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

All the Comforts of Home

We've retreated to a local motel for the night. Why?

Renovations from Hell!

For the last month of so, I've had no A/C. No biggee -- it's been temperate and I can use window fans.

Last week, we lost the hot water. Well, it's hot, so a cold shower isn't much of a trial.

Today? Lost the electricity. Won't be fixed until tomorrow.

So I'm ensconced in a rather nice room, with air conditioning, lights and yes, hot water!

I'm a very happy non-camper.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Writing Process: Thinking

The mountain of laundry has been reduced to one sheet, a pair of khaki shorts, and one brown T-shirt. Those will have to wait until they have matching loads to be washed.

I've been busy, busy, busy the last couple days -- laundry, packing things up for Goodwill, discarding other items, getting ready to paint furniture.

And believe it or not, the whole time I've been immersing myself in the writing process at the same time. A large part of my process is thinking about the book. Or, in this case, thinking about the revisions.

I started with thinking about how the changes in backstory and external plot would change things. It changes a lot, with the most significant change being in the hero's characterization and reactions to the heroine's presence. The plot changes will hopefully tighten up the external structure of the book (hey, I'm telling you -- that whole distance and perception thing works for me).

Today, I've been thinking about scenes -- or rather, visualizing scenes. Listening to the dialogue. Getting into the characters' heads. I finally, finally feel like I'm getting somewhere.

Maybe soon I'll be putting words on paper!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

What Inciting Event?

I finally settle on a summer progect -- revising an existing manuscript. Completely changing the backstory. I think it will make for stronger conflict. Working on strengthening the external plot as well, making it more unique.

I might as well right a new book.

Want to know where I'm hanging up?

The inciting event.

The problem is that if you write romantic suspense, you have two plots -- the suspense/mystery and the romance. Hence, two inciting events.

Now I don't know if scene one needs to be inciting event for the suspense/mystery plot or the inciting event for the romance plot.

Suggestions, anyone?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Distance and Perception

Ever notice how events and passages in our lives seem like horrible trials at the time, but as we gain distance and a different perception, they often turn out to be the gifts and blessings? I've already blogged here about how I believe not selling to a large house last year turned out to be the best thing for me, as I know I would have messed up the opportunity with everything going in my life then.

For various reasons, I spent the last ten months cursed with a crippling inability to write. I tried all the tricks to jump-start my process, and nothing worked. I. Could. Not. Write. I was devastated.

And now I'm beginning to see, I was blessed.

While I struggled with not being able to create, rejections on HOTM trickled in. I got one on TAC, too. The nasty little plot word kept cropping up in those letters, forcing me to look at my entire concept of plotting. I mean, I thought I knew how to plot. But what did it matter anyway? I couldn't get words on paper, so obviously plotting was the least of my worries, right?


Not being able to write kept me from falling into the trap of continuing to write and continuing to make the same mistakes.

Not being able to write compelled me to go back and look at my existing work and really analyze pacing and plotting.

Not being able to write urged me to read, in different genres, and compare the various ways authors plotted.

Not being able to write didn't solve my issues, but it's given me a new perception, along with some uncomfortable, enforced distance from my own work.

I'd call that a gift. Wouldn't you?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

101 Must-Read Books

Filched from Lydia -- the ones I've read are in BOLD.

1. Bastard out of Carolina, by Dorothy Allison
2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
3. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
4. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
5. Waiting For Godot, by Samuel Beckett
6. Farenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
7. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
8. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
9. The Baron in the Trees, by Italo Calvino
10. The Stranger, by Albert Camus
11. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote
12. Cool Salsa, ed Lori M. Carlson
13. Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
14. The Cherry Orchard, by Anton Chekov
15. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
16. The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
17. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
18. The Inferno, by Dante
19. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
20. Poems, by Emily Dickinson
21. Ragtime, by E.L. Doctorow
22. Crime and Punishment, by Fydor Doestoevsky
23. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
24. The Beet Queen, by Louise Erdrich
25. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
26. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
27. Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
28. Grendel, by John Gardner
29. Unsettling America, ed Maria Mazziotti Gillian and Jennifer Gillian
30. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
31. Mythology, by Edith Hamilton
32. A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry
33. Tess of the D’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy
34. The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
35. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
36. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
37. The Holy Bible
38. The Odyssey, by Homer
39. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
40. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
41. A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen
42. Rhinoceros, by Eugene Ionesco
43. The World According to Garp, by John Irving
44. Daisy Miller, by Henry James
45. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce
46. The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka
47. The Liars’ Club, by Mary Karr
48. Schindler’s List, by Thomas Keneally
49. On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
50. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
51. Annie John, by Jamaica Kincaid
52. The Painted Bird, by Jerzy Kosinski
53. Angels in America, by Tony Kushner
54. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
55. Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt
56. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers
57. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Garbriel Garcia Marquez
58. In Country, by Bobbi Ann Mason
59. Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller6
0. In Search of Color Everywhere, ed E. Ethelbert Miller
61. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
62. Harper’s Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry, ed Duane Niatum
63. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
64. The Complete Stories, by Flannery O’Connor
65. Long Day’s Journey Into Night, by Eugene O’Neill
66. 1984, by George Orwell
67. Metamorphoses, by Ovid
68. The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
69. Tales, by Edgar Allan Poe
70. Hunger of Memory, by Richard Rodriguez
71. Earth Shattering Poems, ed. Liz Rosenberg
72. The Ghost Writer, by Philip Roth
73. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
74. No Exit, by Jean-Paul Sartre
75. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
76. Macbeth, by William Shakespeare
77. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare
78. Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare
79. Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw
80. 100 Best-Loved Poems, ed Phillip Smith
81. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, by Art Spiegelman
82. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
83. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson
84. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, by Tom Stoppard
85. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan
86. Walden, by Henry David Thoreau
87. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
88. Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
89. Candide, by Voltaire
90. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
91. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
92. The Double Helix, by James D. Watson
93. Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton
94. Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman
95. The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde
96. Our Town, by Thornton Wilder
97. The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams
98. This Boy’s Life: A Memoir, by Tobias Wolff
99. Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
100. Native Son, by Richard Wright
101. The Autobiograpy of Malcolm X, by Malcolm X with Alex Haley

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I'm very much the realist. I do, however, not only believe in dreams, but in the wonder of achieving a long-worked-for goal.

Tonight, I've been watching the premiere of Last Comic Standing. I don't watch American Idol, but I imagine the concept is pretty much the same -- many talented people make the show, many talented people do not, you end up with one winner who gets a step closer to achieving a dream. Along the way, LCS gives you glimpses of those people who attend each and every open mike call -- those who refuse to give up.

I like those people.

One of my most favorite students of my entire teaching career stopped by to see us today. He left school earlier in the year, took his GED, and he's preparing to leave for a major city to pursue a career in ballet. He knows he has a long, very hard road before him, and realist that he is, he knows achieving his dream is not guaranteed. However, he has the drive and the courage to try, and I couldn't be prouder. Besides, how many teens get the opportunity he's undertaking?

Because that's the funny thing about dreams . . . even if you never achieve the dream, would you want to miss the journey?