November 27, 2010
I have a large bar separating my kitchen and living room, and in the midst of running here and there, it often becomes a catch-all for anything you can think of, because I am generally running late. Last night, as I was trying to remember what color it is, I decided it might be a good idea to clean it off and had gathered an armload of brushes, combs, hair products, vitamins, medication, and other toiletries that needed to be returned to my bathroom.
I walked down the hall and into the bathroom, deposited the stuff on the bathroom counter for a future cleaning project, and started to peer into the little make up mirror I keep on the windowsill, because it's perfectly normal to worry about what what you look like at 9:30PM on a Friday night when you are sitting at home, when all of the sudden I heard a noise.
A loud noise.
At first, I thought it was thunder, but it didn't last long enough to be thunder. I looked outside to see if anything had exploded or if any trees had fallen on my car or something. I ended up calling my mom, who lives about half a mile from me, and asking if she'd heard it. She confirmed she'd heard a noise but didn't know what it was. Her first thought had been thunder too. Apparently, my aunt who lives about four miles south of here heard it too.
I didn't think much more about it until this morning, when I dropped by my parents' house to get something, and my mom pointed out that the noise had made the local news, and apparently, the reporters and local officials are at a loss as to what it was.
Or are they just trying to keep it one big secret?
I Googled it tonight just to see if anyone was talking and found that the "mystery blast" has made its way to a number of conspiracy theory websites. From secret missions to North Korea and exploding meth labs to sonic booms and one guy's toilet experience after eating too much Taco Bell, there are lots of possible explanations. And of course there is the occasional idiot with the aliens/government spy program/Armageddon theory. I do not believe in such things, but I did just lock all of my doors. Just in case. I mean, you can never be too careful.
Some say they saw cops and fire trucks combing the streets after it occurred. Unfortunately, living in the unabomber cabin puts me at a disadvantage when it comes to trying to see what's going on in the rest of the world, or at least on my street. The most common explanation seems to be something airplane related, but nothing specific has been reported, and many are claiming something like that wouldn't be heard over the span of at least three or four counties.
Anyway, in about fifteen minutes, it will be exactly 24 hours since the "mystery blast" occurred. Will we hear it again? Was it a one time thing? Will it be louder or accompanied by aliens and/or secret service? I guess you'll just have to tune in tomorrow to find out. Unless you live within a 30 to 40-mile radius of me, and in that case, you'll probably already know, but whatever.
November 25, 2010
Anyway, I was thinking about how when I was younger and my grandmother was alive, she'd make us go around the table and say what we were thankful for. I usually had some sort of smart-ass answer, but it made me think about all I have to be thankful for this year. It's been a very rough year for myself and my family, but I think it's made me a little stronger and given me more of an idea as to what I want from life. Anyway, I'll spare you anymore cheesy intro - the meat of this post is going to be cheesy enough.
In no particular order, the things I am thankful for this year:
1. This probably is number one and most cliche, but I am thankful for my family. If you don't know, my mother has been very sick for the last year or so and at some point over the summer, I wasn't even sure she'd be with us for the holidays. Fortunately, she's a lot better now, and there is no reason not to think she'll be with us for many holidays to come. I've learned this year, more than anything, matter what you think of each other, your family is all you have in the end, and they are the people who you can truly depend on. That sounds kind of negative but it is definitely a positive.
2. I'm definitely thankful to have a job (or several of them as the case may be). Again, at some point over the summer, things with my job go to be...I'll just say not so great. It's a long story, and I don't need to post it here, but quitting that job may have been one of the best things I've ever done for myself. It was a scary move, but thanks to some very patient and supportive people in my life, it worked out. With so many people out there who don't have jobs at all, I was lucky to find something so quickly. It also made me realize that there is still a lot I want to do. I kind of wish it hadn't taken me over 29 years to get to this point, but I do think things happen for a reason.
3. I'm thankful that I've learned who the important people in my life are. There are some people who will always be there for you, no matter what - those are the important people. There are some people who do not have your best interests in mind and will hurt you beyond belief for their own gain. I'm glad I managed to learn that, even if it took a while, and eliminate a few of the jerks from my life.
4. My dogs. I've written a lot about my older dog, Gabby. She just turned eight and has been with me for most of my 20's. We've been through a lot together - some good and some bad. I just got Sadie in January but she fit right in with the Gabs and me. I'm not really a roommate person, but I couldn't live without having a dog. They drive me crazy, they crack me up, they keep me company, they make me feel safe, and they give me a good excuse to go for awesome walks. I love my girls. They are just as important to me as my human family is.
5. I put Ed Helms in the title because I was trying to think of something that starts with an "E," and to actually say I'm thankful for him would be reminiscent of sixth grade when I announced to my grandmother that I was thankful for Gus C., the cute guy in my homeroom. However, upon thinking about it, I guess I am actually thankful for Ed Helms. Only about four people know this (my gay cousin, my parents, and my friend, Leah), but when I found out that Helms was into bluegrass, something clicked in my tiny brain. I don't want to go into detail just yet, but the night I accidentally found YouTube videos of Helms singing and playing bluegrass songs, the project I've been on the edge of working on for years finally started to come together and make sense in a way that freaked me the hell out. Does that even make sense? So, even though I will probably never utter a word to this man, he has been quite an inspiration to what could end up being a huge turning point in my life. I know I sound like a goofy fan, but the truth is I am a goofy fan and hopefully will be for a long time to come.
Obviously, there are so many other things I have to be thankful for, and that is just a random sampling, but I didn't want to post too much sentimental crap. This ain't the Oprah show!
November 24, 2010
I'm sure I'm not the first.
Anyway, I've quoted FO on this blog quite a bit. She has a lot of great quotes about writing, but there is also a set of tips floating around out there. To be honest, I can't relate to some of them and one of them I just flat out disagree with, but she does talk about writing habits:
"I'm a full-time believer in writing habits...You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away...Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that's all the energy I have, but I don't let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place."Over the last year or two, I've learned that habits are schedules are a necessity of life, whether you are talking about writing or any other type of productivity. But as it applies to writing, I couldn't agree more. With all of the writing I do for work, I tend to put writing as a personal project aside, but I do find I'm at my best when I find a way to balance the two. I've taken many steps to do that: I set up an office upstairs, I've set my own deadlines, and I've tried to make myself write for at least an hour every night. Even doing this "Writer Wednesday" thing helps because, as I've said, this is as much a learning experience for me as it is an excuse to make a blog post.
Unfortunately, I'm not as dedicated as FO seemed to be, but I'm getting there.
Anyway, I am going to wrap this up and go ahead and point you in the direction of this plus seven other writing tips from O'Connor.
November 18, 2010
For the most part, I've always been a reader, and I suppose I owe that to my parents. My mom claims she's read to me since I was three months old, and when I became old enough to realize I enjoyed her reading to me, we'd make weekly trips to the local library. I remember taking this book called The Easter Parade (something that would surely be banned from any public school in this day and time, but this was circa 1986) to my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. True, and reading it to her. I was very proud of myself for being worlds ahead of the other kids. If only I'd known being the smart girl only made you the coolest kid in the class through, oh, about first grade.
As I got older and discovered chapter books, I'm pretty sure I always had my nose stuck in one. I couldn't wait to get home to see what else was going to happen to the girls in the Babysitter's Club or those adventurous Boxcar Children, and I think I only got in trouble in school when I was trying to read when I was supposed to be learning multiplication tables. During long vacations, you could always me begging my dad to take me to the little bookstore in our town - almost every day.
For some reason, at some point during high school, I quit reading. I can't exactly pinpoint why. I didn't even read the books that were assigned to me by my English teachers. If there was a movie or Cliffs Notes to be found, I was your girl. I think the only two books I read in high school were Cold Sassy Tree and Catcher in the Rye. Ironically, they are now two of my favorite books. My goal in high school was to get by doing as little work as possible. All I really needed was to get into UGA. I was bored and I was lazy, but I made good enough grades in my smart girl classes, because I'd mastered that game at a very early age.
I didn't start reading again until I was about 20. I was in college and about a week after 9/11, I applied to work in bookstore. I was hired and started a week later. I'd go on to work there for the next three years, as I went to school and took acting classes. Once I started working there, it didn't take me long to long for a good story. I dare anyone to be surrounded by thousands of books each day and not find at least one that appeals to you. But I didn't know what I liked to read. Obviously, I was too old for The Babysitter's Club. I'd yet to really experience reading as an adult. I finally confided in another girl who worked there and who was about my age; she was giddy at the thought of being my personal book shopper. Armed with my cushy employee discount and one of my first paychecks, she and I cruised the fiction section and she pointed out some of her favorites.
This is how I learned about chick lit. Chick lit is not a cute way to describe a romance novel - I'd tried reading one of my grandmother's romance novels once and thought I'd die from being subjected to such horrible writing. So, what IS chick lit? I'm going to revert back to my lazy high school days and cheat. (Which is really sad considering it's a subject I know a lot about, not just from my own interest and three years working in a book store, but I also convinced some girls in a speech class I took that our big end of the semester presentations should be about the genre - my ice skating professor loved it.) Here is how the ever-reliant Wikipedia describes it:
Chick lit is genre fiction within women's fiction which addresses issues of modern women often humorously and lightheartedly. The genre sells well, with chick lit titles topping bestseller lists and the creation of imprints devoted entirely to chick lit. Although sometimes it includes romantic elements, women's fiction (including chick lit) is generally not considered a direct subcategory of the romance novel genre, because in chick lit the heroine's relationship with her family or friends may be just as important as her romantic relationships.A classic example of one of the first modern chick lit books is a little novel called Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding. As my co-worker and new friend explained these books to me, I got excited. These sounded like characters I could relate to. I ended up buying Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella and Jemima J by Jane Green per Jessica's request. At the last minute, on a whim, I grabbed Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner off the bestseller shelf.
Before I get into the Jennifer Weiner portion of this post (yes, I will make this more about her and less about me in a sec), let me say that by now, in the fourteen years since Bridget Jones's Diary was published, there is a lot of chick lit crap out there. The genre has become increasingly popular in the last decade and as with anything, when something's popular, everyone wants a piece of it and mass production generally means less quality. I quickly became very picky about which ones I'd read, and honestly, I don't read that much of it anymore, but the three books I mentioned above are three of the best. However, with apologies to Ms. Kinsella and Ms. Green, Good in Bed is hands down the best of the best. As a matter of fact, it's up there on my top ten list of favorite books, alongside Cold Sassy Tree and Catcher in the Rye. I'd also like to point out that not everyone is going to love chick lit. I started buying books as gifts for friends and I'll never forget my cousin Emily asking me why the girls in the books were so obnoxious.
Back to Good in Bed. I fell in love with that book! At the time, I was majoring in film and studying acting in between, and all I could think about was how much I wanted to turn it into a film and play the lead role. I could relate so much to Cannie Shapiro. I was thrilled when Weiner eventually came out with others. In Her Shoes was second, and I liked it very much, but it was no Good in Bed. I was also upset to see Cameron Diaz would be ruining it by playing one of the main characters when it became a movie. Little Earthquakes was next. It was less about single girls trying to get through the world of finding the right men, job, friends, and hobbies and more about mommies navigating the world of motherhood. I actually really liked it though - much better than In Her Shoes. And then came Goodnight, Nobody. Sigh. Unfortunately, I only got a few chapters into it before I ended up hawking it on eBay for a few bucks.
I don't want to take time to get into all of the reasons I didn't like it, but it was enough to turn me off from reading anymore of her books, or so I thought. I couldn't believe the author of one of my favorite books had failed me. Though in a way, she actually helped me expand my horizons a little bit. I started reading other stuff and books that didn't have shiny pink covers or characters who worked at publishing companies in New York. (<--Chick lit joke I used to make with my friend.) Fast forward to 2008, Weiner came out with Certain Girls, the sequel to Good in Bed. I bought the book but didn't read it until last spring. I liked it. It wasn't nearly as good as Good in Bed, but it was unique, and it was fun to revisit Cannie Shapiro. I decided we could just forget the whole Goodnight, Nobody incident and I could remove Weiner from my personal banned author list.
Weiner has two new books out right now. I purchased Best Friends Forever today and started reading it tonight. My plan was to read a chapter or two, but an hour later I was several chapters into the story. As a matter of fact, that's exactly why I'm sitting here on what is technically Thursday, making a post called "Writer Wednesday."
Maybe I'm a little OCD about reading, but Jennifer Weiner's books have helped shaped my desire to read and helped me return to something I loved and lost as a jaded teenager. That's huge. One of my favorite things about Weiner's writing is how realistic her characters are. They have real problems and issues I can relate to.
In an effort to wrap this up, I am going to go ahead and point you in the direction of Jennifer Weiner's website, where she has provided a section called "For Writers." Again, the goal of "Writer Wednesday" is to seek out writing tips from writers whose work I enjoy, not only to make a good blog post, but because it serves as a weekly education for me as I work on my first novel. (No, really, I swear my goal was not to chronicle my lifelong reading habits.)
You can also follow Jennifer Weiner on Twitter, where I just learned she has written a pilot for a new TV show...something about a curvy actress from Georgia. Sounds like a winner to me. :-)
November 14, 2010
If you haven't heard of The Secret Sisters, you must
Last night I was working on my aforementioned novel, and without giving too much away, it's very bluegrass and classic country music-centric with a fairly modern setting. One thing I like to do when I'm writing is set a little personal soundtrack to the story; it helps get me in the mood. So, I started a playlist on YouTube - with everything from Bill Monroe to Ed Helms (don't judge me - the man has amazing musical talent) - to help get me to that place of nostalgia and pureness that I get from this music and need for this story.
Anyway, I ran across The Secret Sisters, AKA Lydia and Laura Rodgers, while I was searching for things to add to the list, and I absolutely loved them! T. Bone Burnett calls them "a breath of fresh air," and upon listening to them sing, I know why. Their music invokes everything I love about REAL country music, without just being some kind of blatant rip-off of the classic artists.
If you go to their website, you can sample each song (my favorite is "All About You"); some of them appear to be remakes of classic songs. I don't know much about them, but according to the site, they are currently touring with Ray Lamontagne and Levon Helms among others. You can also check out a few of their songs below:
1. Tennessee Me
2. House of Gold
November 13, 2010
"I went and watched the New York City Marathon. It goes right by my apartment in Brooklyn, and I went with a group of friends. And all my friends are cheering for the runners; they’re like, ‘Whoo! Good job! Way to go! Keep it up! You’re looking good! Great job!’ I was like, ‘You don’t have to do that! That’s unnecessary! You know what? I’ve got a bike, you can take it. Better yet, come inside. I’ve got air conditioning; my roommate made some guacamole, it’s awesome; we rented Meatballs.'" - Ed Helms
I don't really have anything to post, and I have an uneaten pack of nuggets from Chick Fil A and half of an unwritten novel calling my name. Maybe a hot bath too. Hmm. Oh, yeah, anyway, I just ran across that and thought it was funny. Especially after I just worked out for ten minutes and called it a day. Plus, I'm trying to keep this baby updated a little more regularly - even if it's just a QOTD. I do have few music related posts queued up for the near future; one is about my beloved Christmas music and one is about "f$ck you" songs. Quite the dichotomy, I know.
Stay tuned for those. I'll try to get one in tomorrow if I don't spend too much time playing journalist girl all day.
November 11, 2010
November 10, 2010
I have been trying to keep my chosen writer related to whatever book(s) I read that week (assuming it was a good book), and this week, I read Just One Look by Harlan Coben. It's only the second book by Coben I've read. One day last summer, my aunt sent me home from her house with one of his Myron Bolitar novels. After listening to her talk about them for years, I decided to give a try. I loved the book, but I didn't rush right out and buy the rest of them. I think it has something to do with my aversion to starting a series in the middle. Be it a TV show or a book series, I all but break out in hives when I can't start from the beginning. There's a reason every episode of "Modern Family" is sitting on my DVR and has been for about a year. I did, however, go out and buy some of Coben's stand-alone books.
Anyway, I did do a little research tonight and I couldn't really find many writing tips from Coben, but I did find this quote from an interview that I could really relate to. It's actually about reading,
"I know a lot of authors who don’t read in their fields of work, and especially when writing a novel, because they feel that they might somehow be influenced by what they’re reading. At this stage of my career, I feel my writing voice is my own, which may not have been the case when I started. I’ve just finished Philip Roth’s Everyman and I loved it because it so depressing, but so beautifully written, but I don’t so much get influenced by other writers as inspired. In the past a book might have touched me enough so I might have just curled up into a ball and cried. Now I find that if I’ve read something that great, I want to up my own game. It’s not just with novels either; a new Springsteen CD, a movie or a work of art might do it, too. I especially like the books of emergence. The ones you take on holiday that beg you to stay in your hotel room to finish."
There have been authors whose books I have been afraid to read because I was afraid I'd feel like I was copying them. Eventually, I gave in to temptation and I totally understand the whole inspiration vs. influence issue. Reading does inspire me to write better and seek different ideas.
Another great quote from the article is about writing what you want to write as opposed to what you think will sell.
"...write from the heart and don’t try to follow the current trend. Nobody is going to want to read The Da Vinci Dog simply because dog books are selling well and Da Vinci books are selling well. Besides, they won’t be by the time your book’s finished anyway. I don’t know of any successful author who writes what he or she thinks might sell well, but instead they all write what they know is a good book regardless of trends. Thirdly, my favorite quote on writing comes from Elmore Leonard who said: 'I try to cut out all the parts I would normally skip.'"This is yet another dilemma I've faced in my lifetime, even up until last night. As I've mentioned, I'm working on a novel right now. It's not the first novel I've ever started in my lifetime and it's certainly not the first idea for one I've had - I'd actually been working on another one when the idea for this one hit me.
Something that happened to me almost three years to the date inspired the general idea for this story, but the pieces didn't fall into place until a couple of months ago. I don't want to go into too much detail but a series of very small, random events helped me round out the rest and sort of got my creative juices flowing or something else cliche like that. I've struggled with trying to make this story fit into a specific genre, to make it something I thought other people would love, but it wasn't until about 2AM this morning, while I was banging away on my laptop, that I decided to just write what I think is a good story and hope other people love it as much as I do. Then I'll go from there. I'd much rather read something that comes from the writer's heart.
And with that, I need to get back to my writing. But check out Harlan Coben if you haven't already and one day, maybe I'll finish the Myron Bolitar series without having a panic attack, because I already know what happens in the eighth book.
November 03, 2010
If you don't know, I do support myself, and have for the last two years, as a freelance writer/journalist. Yes, even with these grammar skills, I've managed to pull it off. I mostly worked for one company from February '09 to August '10, but in September, I decided to branch out a little bit and go for bigger, better, and more interesting things. Not only do I love to write, but being a freelance writer totally indulges my fear of commitment. And, as I've mentioned I'm working on a few personal projects (a couple of websites, a book - I know, I know; who isn't working on a book - and about three times a week, I debate getting back into acting), and I really want to make all of this stuff happen sooner rather than later. That's kind of hard to do with a regular, nine to five job.
But enough about me! My first choice for "Writer Wednesday" is J.T. Ellison. She writes a series about a female homicide detective in Nashville that is amazing! I actually discovered Ellison a couple of years ago when I saw that she and a friend were following each other on Twitter. I asked if her books were any good, he told me they were, and the rest is history. I actually just finished her latest book, The Immortals. I believe it's the fifth (and without a doubt, my favorite) in the Taylor Jackson series.
Anyway, if you visit JTEllison.com, you'll see she has an entire list of advice and tips for writers. I've actually referred back to it a few times over the last year or two and have found it to be very helpful as I slowly work on my book and other projects. From a "Top Ten List for Unpublished Authors," to tips on writing a sex scene, head on over to the "For Writers" section of Ellison's website and I'm pretty sure you'll be there for a while!
While you're at it, you can follow Ellison on Twitter at twitter.com/thrillerchick.
November 02, 2010
It's election night, folks, and like any good little freak who has been obsessed with politics since, oh, about the age of seven, I've been awaiting this night for weeks. Admittedly, between the summer from hell and my candidate for governor not making it past the primary, I've been a little apathetic. I've kept up with what's going on and all that, but compared to how obsessively I've followed elections and politics in the past...well, let's just say that from about May to last week, my TV didn't even hit a cable news channel and I'm not sure I've listened to talk radio since the spring.
Back to tonight. Election night, for me, has always been like Christmas Eve meets the Super Bowl. Waiting all day, counting down the hours and minutes until the polls star to close, asking family and friends if they've voted, pulling for your favorite team, watching to see who is going to win, groaning when one of your candidates loses and cheering when one of them picks up a victory. It's exciting, and it's patriotic. It's history. It's America. There's a certain feeling in the air that's hard to put into words. It's a reminder of how amazing this country is. For one night you can forget the "compromise" crap everyone tries to force down your throat and let your raw emotions shine through. On election night, it's okay to be totally honest. It's okay to gloat or get upset if you win or lose. It's okay to embrace competition, what drives so much that is right with this world.
I could go on but I have about five other things I should be doing right now and I think you get the point.
I do want to stay this: after being such a big Karen Handel supporter, I've had a lot of people ask me if I planned to support Roy Barnes or Nathan Deal for governor of Georgia. I've never been one to vote down party lines. I vote for whomever I feel is going to follow the Constitution and make the government smaller. The first time I voted (2000), I voted for a Democrat for senator and Republican for president. This year, I voted for neither. I think Roy Barnes is a crook and I think Nathan Deal is a crook. Forget the charges against them; I look at both and see politicians. They both surround themselves with smiling grandchildren, and they both run commercials with folksy Southern people who point out which one is more like other politicians, in this case Dick Cheney and Barack Obama. They both smile, shake hands, and hold babies, but at the same time, they're both type of guy who looks you in the eye and doesn't hear a damn word you say. They don't wear their hearts on their sleeves, and they don't show just how passionate they are about the issues and the reasons Americans want them to represent them. They're in it to win it. That's it, and I can't respect that.
When I decided to vote for John Monds, I'll admit, I was only doing so because I couldn't bring myself to vote for Deal or Barnes. I knew he was the libertarian candidate and libertarianism is pretty much what I identify with. However, the more I learned about Monds, the more I liked him. From education to drugs to taxes to marriage, I liked what he had to say. I had friends who had been campaigning for him all along and I liked what they had to say about him. I watched a couple of debates and even though Barnes, Deal, and most of the people asking the questions didn't take him as seriously as one would have liked, he stayed classy, he held his head high, he defended what he's all about and he fought hard and with passion.
In John Monds, I saw a man, not a career politician. I saw someone who truly wants less government intrusion into our lives and who believes in the Constitution. I saw a man who was just another person, just like me - a man who wanted make changes because he believes in something, not because he wanted a fancy title in front of his name.
I'm not stupid. I knew there was no way in hell John Monds would be our next governor. But I know I can go to sleep tonight knowing I voted for the right person. I know I will never regret my vote. I know one day when I'm teaching my children about how the country works, I can proudly tell them who I voted for on November 2nd, 2010 and why, without any hesitation.
Once I voted for Monds, I went down the list and voted libertarian with one exception. Probably not the smartest thing to do, to vote so blindly, but there has been so much hypocrisy in politics over the last few years - from both the GOP and the dems - I don't feel like I can trust either party to do the right thing anymore. Both parties have an "it's good for you, but not for me" mentality, whether they're talking to us or to each other. Both parties want to pick and choose which parts of the Constitution they want to uphold (see: Mosque at Ground Zero + Burning Korans). Both parties seem more concerned with what they want vs. what the American people want. That's not cool.
Tonight, Republicans took control of the House, Democrats held on to their control of the Senate. I *think* I'm actually okay with that for now. I think each party is learning a little bit about humility and I think voters are learning what happens when you take a less than active role in our political process.
Next stop, 2012.