Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tis the Season

The holidays have always been a special time for me and my family. From the time I was a little girl, Christmas was a season where everyone packed into the same house - aunts, uncles, cousins at Grandma and Pap's house.

My memories of Christmas are of delicious food, rounds of laughter, and of watching how happy my grandparents were with giving to us grandchildren. As a kid, I suppose I never considered how lucky I was to be at two houses each holiday full of family, laughter, and love. I also never thought about how it would all eventually change.

It's been a slow metamorphosis, drifting away from the holiday at my grandparents house to being holidays at my parents' and my husbands'. As my oldest daughter now starts her own life, I realize things will soon be changing yet again.

Despite the changes, there are things I hold onto or do that began with my grandparents, and possibly with my great grandparents. The most elaborate is the village I do under my tree. While a lot of people, my childhood friends included, put their gifts "under" the tree, we always put ours "around" the tree. The reason is the full winter village that began with my grandmother making one gingerbread house for under one of her first trees. She told me once that her kids (my mother and aunts and uncles) liked it so much she continued to add to it each year. The houses changed to styrofoam structures that could be reused with small plastic people on tiny plastic stands, then to balsam wood with full figures of people. Mine is a village of balsam wood buildings I made from designs I came up with myself.

There has been a year or two where I considered not putting the many hours it takes into building my village but I heard quite loudly "you have to do the village" from at least one of my kids.

Then there's the sugar cookies that we can only make with certain cookie cutters that can no longer be purchased, so I have to borrow my mom's each year. The stockings and Santas are a must, but also a lot of work, first to get them shaped just right, baked, then painted with colored egg white then quickly covered with colored sugar and tapped to shake loose the excess. The stockings have three different colors - red, green, and gold.

And then there is Christmas supper (yes, here we call the evening meal "supper"). It's not ham or turkey - not those alone anyway. My dad's mother always did her "pigs" - pigs in the blanket. That's what we always called them - porcupine meatballs (meatballs with rice) wrapped in cabbage and cooked in a sauce that was mm'mmm just delicious. She always had a bit of vinegar sitting next to the stove in a fancy little flask easy to pour just a dash from. That crystal flask now sits on my kitchen windowsill, a treasure I will remember for always as being a part of Christmas.

This holiday I remember with great joy the smiles of my grandparents, of the parent and friends my husband and I have lost, and take in the new memories, passing on the simple joys of being with family and carrying on traditions.

For us, it's not about the gifts, but of the family and friends and fun we have together, not just on Christmas day, but through the entire season. I will miss those who are gone, and those who choose not to visit this year, but I'm very thankful for the new friends, and all my family.

Merry Christmas everyone! Make this season a good one.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Getting through

For all of us, there are times when life insists on being difficult. There's rarely anything we can do to avoid it or any secret recipe for getting through the rough stuff. The key to persevering is how you pick yourself up after the beating.

I've had my share of difficult, possibly more than my share. Some have left what feels like a dark mark on my soul and some have left me feeling stronger. All have taught me much.

Whatever life throws at you, just be sure you plow on through, reach for the future, keep your eye on family, friends, and small personal goals that can be as small as sweeping the floor one day and laundry the next. And remember that nothing stays rotten forever even if it feels like it will at the time.

After a few rough weeks here, I'm finally able to let my characters speak again. Even wrote a few hundred words last night. Starting small, and getting back into the groove...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

That's interesting.

I've always loved the quote "Writing is the socially acceptable form of schizophrenia" from E.L. Doctorow. Considering I have several voices in my head at any one time telling me their stories, that quote fits quite nicely.

Tonight I've been informed that I also have CDD. I was wrong in my first assumption of what "CDD" meant, to which my daughter was quick to clarify. I apparently have "Character Divergence Disorder."

Okay, that certainly fits too. But I didn't earn this label until said daughter poked her head above my screen as I typed saying "oh no you didn't.... Nooooo..." and proceeded to tell me how bad I was for writing the beginning few paragraphs of a story that has been growing in my head for weeks while I've been trying to write Retribution - the seventh book of my Disillusionment Series.

Trust me, no one wants that seventh book written more than I do. But Aliski and Egan keep butting in to the point where ignoring them is nearly painful. My dilemma was made worse - ironically - by my daughter who took it upon herself days ago to describe a cartoon scene with me sitting at a desk, all the characters (seven of them and possibly one old half-blind dragon) from Retribution huddled together in a far corner, and Aliski with her vicious pet fisher standing in front of the desk giving them the evil eye. Nothing like giving bad-attitude antagonistic Aliski even more power. (A character whose name may continue to change considering she started out "Kaliska.") So this problem I have was reinforced by my wonderful daughter who has now labeled me CDD.

That's how it goes for me. To be honest, I'm surprised I've gotten through the first six books of the series before anyone else poked their head up from the mass of ideas always whirling through my mind. When Aliski did, it was to show me she had a very different kind of story than my usual. One that is looking to be an interesting one to do.

So which book will I work on tonight - that is to be determined by which characters yell the loudest.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

When a Writer Gets Bored

My house is a funny place on weekend evenings. It's usually full of teenagers and a friend or two. My girls aren't typically aching to run out anywhere but are happy to stay home. For years, Friday and Saturday nights were good writing nights for me too - with one exception. The muse isn't all that thrilled to come out and play when I'm trying to force it to stick to something it doesn't want to do.

So here I am, the most entertaining thing on television being my girls playing Resident Evil 5 on the XBox (I mean that sincerely - they are entertaining to watch) - this after we cleaned and took care of some typical household things. When I watched my eleven-year-old dust happily away on the entertainment stand this morning, it felt good to know she actually enjoys shining up glass candle holders and polishing wood. We work as a good team in this house. A good thing or I wouldn't be able to accomplish half of what I do. But anyway, back to the subject...

I sit down with the intention of getting to work on my book. My muse is not happy with me though. It has taken off to create a book that was suppose to stay in the background until Retribution: Disillusionment Book Seven is complete, finishing the series. But my muse is telling me it's bored with the series and doesn't care that readers would be very unhappy if I don't finish it quickly.

So as I sit here Saturday night trying to occupy myself, my mind is at war. I have Retribution open, but there is no enthusiasm driving me to write it. I feel sad about that because I do love the characters. I'm just ready to move on to a different kind of story, one that doesn't appear to be quite so light and the plot looks to be a much more complicated weaving of character threads than Retribution.

Only time will tell which story will win out this evening or if I'll give up and go find something else to do...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

All About Perception

We're preparing for our third annual Halloween party this year. We decided to move it forward in the month of October for a few reasons, the biggest being the weather. See, along with the party, we do a trail through the patches of woods on our acre and a half of property. It's not much, but with the trees and the paths we have, it leaves lots of options for some creepy little set-ups. Of course we have our graveyard. And we have our boneyard. We also have an infestation of spiders and madmen this year.

It's gotten bigger and more extravagant every year. This year more so than others because I've been working on ideas for it for months and I plan to be working on what I don't have time to finish for this years' party for next years'.

When I first started writing and my books were full of ghosts and psychos, people who knew me were a bit confused. Those closest to me of course weren't confused in the least, but so many saw me as a person who would like and write kids' books or romances. I like kids' books all right, read many to my girls over the years, but I could never write one. I like the darker, scarier sides of storytelling, even while writing my fantasy novels.

I had one reader ask me why I wrote things so dark. Dark - that word can mean so many different things, and after the conversation, I had to wonder if the reader missed the message of the story. Yes, the characters were subjected to some terribly scary things, but in the end, they prevailed. So is that really a dark story or is it a story of hope that any obstacle can be tackled, real or supernatural? I guess it's all in how you look at it.

So here's to all of us who like the spooks and monsters of the fall season but who look to the brighter side of things all the same.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Some days

I'm an optimistic kind of person. I mean really, I'm lucky enough to have several worlds to run to if one or the other isn't cooperating. During the school year it was never much of a problem. While the house is empty of everyone but me, I work. I consider work the jobs I do for other authors, the dealings with bookstores and distributors, the non-creative part of my career. The problem lately is that I'm never totally alone.

I'm hoping it won't take long to adjust because I have quite a few people who are not going to be happy with me if I can't get my mind on work to get it done in the quieter hours and start "work" on my own books.

I have a little difficulty calling my writing, revising, and art "work." It is - I have to treat it as such or else it never gets done because I'll be forever bugged by people who only leave me alone when I'm "working." And if I can't unload the bundles of ideas my characters heap on me daily, it's not pretty by the end of a week. Still, writing my own books, doing art that brings to life the images in my mind - it's fun. No, not all aspects of my chosen profession are fun. It gets tiring to constantly prove your quality of work to stores and readers. It gets tiring fixing database glitches in places that should be watching their own dealings.

Just the same, I still have days when nothing clicks, where my brain won't focus on writing, revising, editing, database listings, emails, or even reading for research. It's not anything so fancy to need a name like writer's block because it never lasts too long. This is one of those days. So, it's best just to move away from the desk and dive into something purely physical - you know, cleaning house, gardening, monster building (I'll save that explanation for another day) the kind of things that let my mind rest and reboot. At least I hope so.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fresh starts

I've not done well at keeping up with this blog, despite my best intentions. I hope to be able to change that soon, and go back to what I meant to accomplish here - blogging about my wild imagination.

I recently finished the sixth book of my seven book series. I have to admit it was one of the most entertaining to create. It all started in the front seat of my Chevy Impala on the back of a receipt with a pen dug out of my 16 year old daughter's purse while we waited for my oldest to accompany her boyfriend out of the dentist's office. It was the first time I was ever thankful for our ridiculously long grocery store receipts.

I'm sure every person who passed my car along the side of the small street that day thought for sure it was filled with two crazies. After ransacking everything in the car to find something to permanentize our thoughts (resulting in finding the old grocery receipt) we laughed, we mimicked what each character would say to the others, and had the ages, personalities, and purposes for seven new characters.

I came home and jotted it all down in the tablet I had for the Disillusionment Series. But I kept the receipt too, despite the fact that if I looked at it now, I couldn't make sense of the scratching and scrambling scrawls of ink. I still won't part with it, just in case I might, at some point, need something on it again.

And while I'm writing this, I'm reminded that, while I have managed to stock my own purse with several writing utensils, I have yet to throw a few tablets into my car. I'm an odd writer that way, I suppose, but usually when an idea hits, it bubbles and grows happily in the back of my mind until I sit down at my laptop. The day Descended was begun was unique because my daughter and I both needed something to occupy ourselves. And while I could remember what I came up with, I wouldn't so easily hold onto my daughter's input.

And now my only chore is writing Retribution. The characters my daughter and I created that day outside the dentist's office star in it as well and help me bring the series I've worked on for several years to a conclusion I hope will continue to please the readers who have loved the first three in the series.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Another summer gone by

The summer days are at an end. Today was the last of the coveted official summer days off from school. Monday starts the crazy school schedule. I know I might be one strange mom, but I'm not looking forward to it at all. To start, I'll need to set aside time to sign the dozens of forms for one thing or another for each kid (one less this year than last) then hours for making sure everything that needs to be done for homework and chores is taken care of. Some days I find that harder and more stressful than when we are all home. I guess that's a sure indication that I like my family, and that my family does not consist of any very young children because a few years ago, I wasn't saying quite the same thing. Strangely enough, my teens aren't scary.

It would be nice to have just another month to do all we wanted to do. This summer wasn't kind in a few areas which left us wanting to do anything but take a trip for fun. It was good for life lessons, I suppose, ones I have learned before and didn't need a refresher course on. I'm very thankful for my girls and husband, and also thankful for my tenacity and ability to weather the storms, no matter how vicious they become. I can only hope I'll recover as a better, stronger, and smarter person from it all.

As the house goes quiet after the yellow bus comes Monday morning, I will set to work with Star Publish to get a few jobs finished that I couldn't focus on this week. I will also be refocusing on my writing and continuing on with the Disillusionment Series. Starlight and Judgment is just released and I'm working on the fourth book, The Freedom Wars. I hope to soon be meeting more readers soon and introducing them to the worlds in my mind. And just for some extra fun, I'm continuing on with a two year course to better my art skills.

Bored is not a word we say often in my house. "If it's not one thing, it's another" is more like it :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In the deep of night...

As I sit here with my Macbook in a completely dark room after midnight with my current WIP (work in progress) opened and written up to page 122, I can't help but hope everyone I'm thinking about is all right. Life is such a finicky thing especially mixed with the raging rapids of human emotions - or as my goddess character calls it, our human "condition." Age and experience has tempered me greatly over the last thirty some years, though not completely.

Some things still stir my blood into a frenzy, things like watching people in power make ridiculous decisions so obviously not with the good of the people in mind is one. People who judge others is another. But even those two things don't get a lot of my attention anymore. Life is too short to spend it fired up over things I can not change. Those I can change, I will do when the time is right and let it go. Yet, as I watch those who are younger than I am now coming into their own, I can see so very clearly the patterns in behavior, what will come and go. What can't be guessed is the choices each of my loved ones will make. All I can do is sit on the edge of my seat and hope for the best outcome for everyone.

Is that maybe why I give my characters full reign to do as they please without outline, allowing them to drive the plot often to surprise twists even I don't see coming? It's the thrill of not knowing, but hoping for the best. With my characters, I can steer them to whatever decision I want them to make - for the most part. In real life, I will voice my opinions if asked, but keep them to myself if I'm not. Free will is not something to be manipulated by a woman in a mere human condition, after all. So I'll stick to writing my stories and hoping for the best.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mother Nature seems to have dumped summer on us yet again. The warm temperatures wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't days removed from days that were downright cold. Which makes me wonder just how flexible we humans are.

But, as we plan our first weekend away of the summer, I'm glad to see temperatures should be pleasant and not too extreme either way. We can only hope rain of any big amount will also stay away. And I hope my muse will bug me while I actually have the opportunity to let it and write on my current WIP (work in progress) Descended, the sixth book of my Disillusionment series.

I have to say this book has been fun to create. I've been told that the older I get, the more lighthearted my books are becoming. I suppose that is not all bad as fun books are, well, fun.

I can handle that :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Are you laughing at “Global Warming?”

I remember many a time, laughing at the experts for shouting “Global Warming” when the summer or some winter was colder than usual. But after hearing about it enough, my muse got hold of it and ran with it. From 2005 to 2007, I researched the topic of global warming for my Rise of the Arcadians, published in 2008. When I say researched, I don’t mean a quick trip to Wikipedia. No, I dug up scientific articles, studied past climates, researched into ancient cultures and what their lives (and climates) had been like. I went back in history to Pangea and followed things forward to present day. Everything I found, I backed up with two or three sources. National Geographic and the Smithsonian magazines were good jumping off points. Unfortunately my overworked mind hasn’t fully retained all of it, but I knew it when I wrote the story.

I created Rise of the Arcadian’s setting in 2122, years after the world fell apart, but the world the story encased was built strongly on my hours and hours of research. Each change I made to my future Earth was made on the basis of some fact or some slight twist of fact, but all of it was “this is possible” stuff. I studied topographical maps to guesstimate where water levels might rise, found fault lines to help me shape my world. The Mississippi Sea in the book is very possible if ocean levels rise – which is also very possible if all our ice melts. The cold climate – Earth has cycled through ice ages since its beginning. Its not going to stop simply because we humans are here and want it to. Places in our North American continent, the Sahara desert, were very much different at one time. And we have that oceanic conveyor belt ( that could slow down if enough cold fresh water floods into our oceans.

I also researched Earth’s ice ages. ( Many have happened. Do we really believe they’ve just stopped because we’re here or that we have the power to control them? It is related to the Earth’s tilt on the axis, the wobble (we are not a perfect spinning top in space) and many other variables. Earth also makes enough of those nasty greenhouse gases we all hear about all on its own. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be more responsible. We absolutely, positively should, as we have just this one world (that we know of) to call home, so we best take care of it.

Nothing irritates me more than to hear some expert claim something of some past time couldn’t be possible because the current conditions wouldn’t support it. They have found whale skeletons in the Sahara. ( Can’t get much more different from then to now, can we? Things have changed on Earth tremendously and it is still changing. We shouldn’t sit and argue about whether it is happening or not or what is causing it or not. We should simply acknowledge change is imminent. Now, a hundred years from now, who knows, but our Earth won’t always be as it is right now or even as it has been since our recorded history.

So, how does it all relate to global warming and how does global warming possibly relate to the fact we’ve had a record of all 48 connecting US states having snow on the ground for the same day this year? To put it simply: Dump an ice cube in a hot cup of tea. You heat up and melt the ice, but what happens to the tea? It won’t stay hot – will it? Despite the fact the ice was “heated up” the tea gets cold. That is how global warming could lead to so much snow or even an ice age. Climate change.

Whether our glaciers and icebergs are melting at an alarming speed or not, and whether we are causing it or not, is not what I’m disputing. I’m simply saying it can and most likely (due to past cycles) will happen again. Ice ages are natural. Shifting tectonic plates are natural. Disasters are natural, and they are happening (Haiti’s earthquake, the 2004 tsunami, Katrina, the recent snow storms, droughts in the western US, Australia, and that’s just to name a few).

It does no good to fear it but it does equally no good to deny and ignore it. We should be aware of the ride we are along for and prepare ourselves that life does not go on unchanged. We are not masters of our Earth. In fact, I often wonder just how little we really know. For all our experts and great accomplishments, there are so many things we still can’t answer but are quick to dismiss and ignore because we can’t answer them.

The bottom line is, don’t laugh off or dismiss global warming until you really understand it. Maybe it should have been labeled “global climate change.” Then maybe it would have made more sense to those of us who don’t or didn’t fully understand it at first.

I’m not writing this to lecture, or providing the links here as absolute fact. They are just quick things I found to hopefully help people understand things. If you wish to learn more, I suggest searching for the answers in trusted places yourself and be aware of the arguments you will find on things. Build your own conclusions with good knowledge and facts.

We would do good to show modesty and understand, for as advanced as we think we are, there are many more things we simply have not or cannot yet grasp. We as a species tend to believe we are intelligent and know it all, then go in and destroy or warp things to our use with no regards to what we might be destroying in our ignorance. We have but this one world to take care of and leave for the children of the future. Let us be responsible enough to acknowledge there is much we don’t know and tread carefully as our understanding grows. And most of all, let us be aware of what changes are possible so that we may better handle what Earth throws at us as it continues on its cycle of life.