Tuesday, February 28, 2012


My week is completely unbloggable. Not because it's secret, but because it isn't mine to share. I am happy to sink myself into a meme or two, instead of invading someone else's privacy. *wink*

Here are the tag rules:

1. You must post the rules!
2. Answer the questions and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
3. Tag eleven seven (because it's a magical number) people and link to them.
4. Let them know you’ve tagged them.

1. What did you hide from your parents? A better question would be, what didn't I hide from my parents. Not because I was wild, but because I have always felt that no one could really know me and still like me, let alone love me and take care of me. I was a depressed teenager. From middle school on, my friendships felt precarious (and I can see, in hindsight, I made them that way) and I felt desperate to make intimate connections. I hid my desperation, or tried to. I hid the extent of my emotional issues. I hid my theology... though sometimes I hid those things in plain sight, covering lack with lavish and lavish with lack, if that makes sense. Gosh, this meme has gotten a bit deep, and we're only on question one.

2. Who are your heroes? Nikki Giovanni, Pat Conroy, Sue Monk Kidd, my mother, my husband, my best friends, Kate DiCamillo, Sarah Dessen, Jodi Picoult, Joshilyn Jackson,  Loretta Lynn, my daddy, my baby sister, Ozma of Oz, and the list goes on...

3. What is the most exciting thing you have ever done on a dare? Probably jumping naked into a pool with a friend when we were in elementary school. I wasn't very daring after that.

4. Do you think you are hard on yourself? Yes, I am way too hard on myself. Of course, I am also way too easy on myself. Go figure.

5. What's your favorite flavor of ice cream and why? Ironically, Joanne tagged me in this, and I owe my love of Oatmeal Cookie Chunk by Ben & Jerry's to her. She mentioned it in passing when I was pregnant with David. I suddenly could think of nothing else. Of course, it was a limited edition flavor and after scouring every grocery store in a 50 mile radius, I had to admit defeat. Then, lo and behold, a girl in my speech class (I was in college, not high school, relax) pulled me aside before our final to tell me she had spotted it in the cooler at Walmart. They'd brought it back. I like to think my desperate email begging for them to ship it to me on dry ice might have triggered the re-release. Regardless, it came back and still does from time to time.

6. What is your longest grudge? That's a tough one. I don't typically hold a grudge. I guess you could say I harbor some contempt for a certain group of people who treated me deplorably as a teen, but it isn't an active grudge.

7. What is your greatest talent? I hope it's writing. Within writing, I'd say I can usually take an ugly thing and find the beauty to be had from it. I can often turn an issue inside out with words or turn a phrase in such a way as to give others pause for thought.

8. Why do people like you? Sometimes I wonder... But, really, I'm not sure. Sometimes I am positively startled to discover someone cares about me, takes an interest in my life, etc... If I had to guess, I would say it is because I care deeply.

9. How do you know when it's safe to trust someone? I don't. I mostly go on intuition and sometimes it fails me. You live, you learn.

10. What person in your family would you like to travel back in time to meet? My first instinct is to say my grandmother, Stella, from whom I have inherited my crazy. However, if I stop and really think, I'd have to say my great aunt Fern. I would like to meet her in the 40s and have supper while she regales me with stories from the war. She served in WWII.

11. What were the last 3 books you bought? Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (for book club), Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren Winner (because I adore her writing) and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson, because she is the best and I always buy her books.

I tag: Ashley, Tara, Tina, Angela, Liz, Eula Mae, and Emily

Your questions are:

1. What's the best advice you have ever been given?
2. What did you think you would be doing when you reached the age you are now?
3. What would you do tomorrow if you could do anything?
4. If your favorite author asked you to name their next main character, what would you name them?
5. What is your bedtime routine?
6. What counts as comfort food at your house?
7. If you inherited a billion dollars, would you still want a career?
8. What is the last kind thing you did for another person?
9. What is the last rude thing you have done?
10. What is the first book you recall owning?
11. How many books do you read at one time?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Three Films

Three Films

{1} The only movie I will happily sit and watch over and over again? Steel Magnolias. I'm sorry if that makes me stereotypical and southern, but there's no way around it. The movie comes on TV, and my eyes are drawn to the screen. We own the movie, so you'd think I could pass it up on television, but nope. That is not the case. I'd say it is also my most quoted movie. "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."

{2} This one might make you roll your eyes, but Clueless defines my adolescence. I dreamed of that make-over of epic proportions. I copied my slang from the movie. Whenever someone cheers for Alabama, I hear Cher say, "surfing the crimson" and cannot help but giggle. I just used her Monet analogy recently with a homeschool group. No joke. I dream of her closet. I also, it so happens, adore the novel Emma by Jane Austen, of which Clueless is a loose adaptation. So, there, take that you intellectuals. *wink*

{3} From childhood, I have seen books as magical, and I cannot help but think this movie had something to do with that: The Neverending Story.  Believe it or not, however, I have not read the book that inspired it. I think I should get on that. Soon.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How Books Work

I started writing my current work-in-progress because of something my dad said. Or, rather, something my dad wrote. He keeps a blog where he chronicles family history, his own opinions, and a little bit of everything else. In one entry, he wrote about the magic of books and how they saved him when he was a poor boy in Eastern Kentucky. They took him places, into other countries and other times. I decided to write about a little boy in Eastern Kentucky who discovers a magic library. That's all I had, really. Little boy character based mostly on my dad meets magical library in the woods. Notice, I didn't say anything about a time-traveling library.

That's the thing about writing stories. Once you start putting the words down, the characters take on lives of their own. Well, one of my characters started explaining to another character that the books on the shelf were purchased in the year 3000. How? The librarian visited different periods of history (and the future) to gather books and fill the shelves. Then, come to find out, the people who created the magic library are the grandchildren of the kids visiting the library. Now, despite my aversion to time-travel with all of its loophole possibilities, I sit surrounded by family tree diagrams and lists of books published in certain years, piecing together a story that is really a love letter to my father.

I swore I would never write time-travel fiction. I struggle, honestly, to even read time-travel fiction. I tried and failed to read The Time Traveler's Wife, despite some of my most kindred spirits loving it. My dad has a couple of great ideas for time-travel stories. I mean, seriously awesome ideas. Me? I don't even enjoy Back to the Future, the cult classic of all cult classics when it comes to time-travel. Yet, here I am, 25,000 words into a YA/Children's novel in which a magical library travels through time to preserve the written word and to change the lives of two kids who discover it.

That's how books work, whether you are reading them or writing them. They take you away from where you are to somewhere you never imagined you could be.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bookish Serendipity

Sometimes, a book sends me a sign that it is exactly what I am supposed to be reading. These are tiny things really. Perhaps some people wouldn't even notice, but I always do, and it always makes me smile and feel like some part of the universe is aligned correctly just for me.

Here is an example: I just finished reading Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. It was a lovely book. The Major had a little volume of Kipling that he gave to a lady he was falling for. They often discussed Kipling. The woman was Indian and the Major had lived in India with the English military, so they had differing opinions about The Jungle Book. When I finished reading Major Pettigrew, I had a notice from the library that a book I put on hold was ready for download. A friend suggested I read The Tiger's Wife, and the poetic title alone lured me in (I've had a thing for animal symbolism -especially wild animals - for a time now). Within a few pages, the author mentioned The Jungle Book.

So, see, it is just a little thing. Within this same book, there is a scene with an elephant being lead through town at night, and I only recently read The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo (my favorite children's author).

This happens to me quite often. A character in one book will have a pet ferret and the very next book I pick up will feature ferrets in some part of the story. One novel will be set in Norway and the next will include a vacation in Norway. The only time this became a bit creepy was when the connection was leprosy. But that time worked a little differently. That time, I had picked up In The Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White but I felt like something lighter, so I set it aside and pulled a book from Mount To Be Read at random. It was a book I had bought used and I chose it based solely on it's pretty cover. The book was Molokai. Molokai was a leper colony in Hawaii. The book was gorgeous, and it worked out well. I saw two different cultures handling leprosy in two different time periods.

How about you? Does this ever happen to you?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Felicities 2/17/12

Friday Felicities

Long-sleeved t-shirts
Opening a new book to the first page
Warm brownies
Ice cold milk with those warm brownies
Reading aloud to Haydn
Watching my word count rise
Facebook messages from Cheri


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Emerald City Isn't Even Green

I came across this quote this morning:

“My people have been wearing green glasses on their eyes for so long that most of them think this really is an Emerald City.”
― L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz

One of my complaints about the Oz film was the turning of a city seen through green lenses to an actual emerald city. On the one hand, it seems a minor change. Why not have a true emerald city in a beautiful fairy land? But this quote gets to the heart of the issue. The people of Oz were being fooled. It seems they knew the truth in the beginning, but they looked through those green glasses for so long, it started to seem real.

There are so many spiritual and political applications here that my head is spinning. I will give one example of each.

Political: Look at our country. The founders came here in a quest for freedom, religious and otherwise. A slew of men, great and not-so-great, argued and discussed and decided on a constitution to keep their dream alive through future generations. Slowly, over time, our government has made changes here and there. The way America runs is not at all how she was started. Consumerism has gone beyond birthing independence and landed us in a mire of greedy debt. Our senators can make laws that they are exempt from. Each party is trying to say what people want to hear and gain votes to get elected or re-elected. They are power-hungry, slapping green glasses on the people and telling us our city is built of emeralds. We know it isn't. We know it is failing in so many ways. But every time we vote for another politician, another man behind the curtain, we choose to go on wearing our pretty green glasses. No one is willing to snap back the curtain and expose our system of government for the decaying body it is.

Spiritual: I am ace at this one. Most of my life has been spent wearing glasses that make my choices look unselfish and just. I can justify just about anything. I've been doing it so long, I mostly don't even notice anymore. I live in a world of materialism and self-righteousness and pride, but my green glasses tell me the city is made of emeralds and my thoughts and actions are perfectly acceptable. I don't want to remove my glasses. I don't want to see my life without the green tint that makes it something beautiful and special.

In what area of life are you wearing green glasses rather than facing your own reality?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Just a wee bit o' the randomness today...

My current novel has exploded onto my walls. Normally, I keep character lists and such in Evernote and flip windows as needed. This time, with the addition of a time-traveling library, I added a family tree via ancestry.com. All of the window flipping was starting to kill my eyes, so I scribbled my main character's info and family tree onto sketch paper and taped it around my writing desk. I feel 100 times better now.

Also, I have been writing each chapter as its own Word document, and that is new for me. It means that, as I completed Chapter 5 today, I had no idea what my word count might be. So I totaled each chapter's count and discovered I am almost to 20,000 words. My goal is 50,000 but I think it will end up taking more than that to do the story justice.

I finally got to write the scene I have been toying with for a while. I knew it had to happen, but I wasn't sure where to include it. Today, it just spilled out. When that happens, I have usually hit magic. I am pretty excited about that scene.

My youngest has a school performance tonight and a Valentine's Day party tomorrow. I have Angry Birds valentines to send to school with him. The oldest will take a couple of valentine's to his therapy office. I already gave Corey his, because I wasn't sure I'd see him tomorrow. It is a seminary day. His card says, "I love you more than books and Diet Coke," so you know I must be serious, right?

Haydn and I are about to spend some time reading about Ancient China, this week. Also, we started reading Tuck Everlasting, and I am enjoying it. So far, Tuck has the feel of sitting around a fire listening to wonderful tales. Those tend to be my favorite kinds of children's books. Tuck is also one of our book group selections for this month, along with Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. I have been reading it, and I don't love or hate it yet. It is a quaint little taste of England, which I always enjoy. The story doesn't call to me though. I don't feel desperate to pick it back up. If it weren't a book group selection, I might not finish it at all.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Felicities: 2-10-12

Friday Felicities

writerly tweets
completing Chapter 4 of the WIP
Irish accents
morning cuddles
completed scrapbook pages slid into album
fun project for my sister


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Four Books

Four Books

Oh, right. Like I can really pick just four books...

{1} The Oz books by L Frank Baum - I can clearly remember walking through the tiny Paintsville Walmart as a little girl. Mom and Grandma were shopping for something specific, I'm sure. Mom has never been the "just browsing" type. On display in the middle of an aisle I spotted books advertised two for a dollar. They were like magnets and I could not resist. Mom said no. Grandma said, "Aw, now, Carol, buy them for her." And, because she knew Grandma would spend the money if she didn't, Mom bought four of them. I have three left. I leant one out, against my better judgment, when we lived in Tallassee, and it was never returned. I am a bit of an Oz purist. I prefer Return to Oz to The Wizard of Oz. I am not a Dorothy fan. Ozma is more my cup of tea, and I am planning a tattoo of her on my shoulder blade. Honestly, this topic is a whole entry in itself, so I should probably leave it at this.

{2} Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - In 8th grade, we got to choose a book from a long list instead of reading exactly what every other student was reading. I chose Rebecca, though I cannot tell you why. I don't even remember what the other options were. I fell in love with the book and have reread it a handful of times. I am not a rereader in the general sense, but I do return to certain books again and again. I have read a few of the sequel attempts. In 8th grade, I wrote my own. As you can imagine, my english teacher loved me. My friend, Kimmi, sketched beautiful portraits of my characters and we would hand them to Ms. Robertson to ooh and ah over. My copy of Rebecca is an old volume discovered at The Gnu's Room on Gay Street in Auburn, Alabama. That is my favorite book store of all-time. It was labyrinthine and smelled of old paper heaven.

{3} Harry Potter (but not for the reason you think) - A girl named Anna convinced me to read the first Harry Potter novel. I was reluctant. At that point, all seven had been released and a few of the movies were out. I had even seen the first and fourth movie. Neither tempted me to try the books. But the majority of the teen girls in my small group loved Potter, and I always try to relate to what my girls are passionate about (this is also the reason I am currently watching Gossip Girl). I was hooked as soon as I started and sped through all seven books in four weeks (while working full-time and caring for a house and two children and volunteering at church). I was, shall we say, obsessed? My husband grew to loathe Harry for stealing me away. It probably didn't help when I claimed Sirius Black as my fictional husband with whom I planned to have many fictional babies. (I am prone to hyperbole and have a wild imagination, so sue me). The reason I list these books however has little to do with the story itself. For me, reading Rowling's novels marks a return to children's literature. Since then, I have gone back and devoured all sorts of wonderful books I missed as a child. I was in such a rush to grow up; I thought such books beneath me. In hindsight, I would have been so much better off with Anne of Green Gables than I was with V C Andrews, but I can't undo history. Now, as I try to launch a career writing for children and young adults, I am ever grateful for what Ms. Rowling has done for this generation of readers. When I was in school, reading was something only nerds did. I was teased for it. But now I see the coolest of kids carting around books and discussing characters as though they are real... because they are real, aren't they?

{4} Poemcrazy by Susan Wooldridge - I happened upon this little gem on a bookstore shelf a few summers ago. After years of trying to fit my writing style into someone else's mold and forsaking poetry because other people so often belittled it, I had decided to let myself write. No more attempts at journalistic topics I didn't really care about... No more writing for people who hated the word "I" and didn't want my personality to show through any of my words... I purchased Poemcrazy on a whim and spent that summer flipping the pages, highlighting, underlining and - most importantly - writing poems. I still turn to it when I am teaching poetry workshops or just need a pinprick of inspiration to get me going. My worn copy is ink stained and soft-covered. It feels more like a friend than a book, and I have to say that is one thing my Kindle can never do for me.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Currently: The Love Month

Books: I am about half finished reading Creeker by Linda Scott DeRosier. It is a reread for me, and I am enjoying it all over again. I chose it to get a better feel for the time and place Linda Sue grew up in. My current book is set in Eastern Kentucky, circa 1950. The boys and I are reading the second Harry Potter. I am reading Made to Crave by Lysa Terkherst, though I have to admit little to no commitment on my part. This is not the time to be making major dietary changes.

Current Playlist: The only way I get any writing done is to don headphones and play instrumental bluegrass very very VERY loudly. In the car, the boys and I listen to The Silent Boy by Lois Lowry.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: I am still watching Gossip Girl on the weekends. So sue me. I grew up on Days of Our Lives, and this is a modern teen version. Chuck Bass = John Black.

Current Color: Dark purple

Current Fetish: eh

Current Food: brownies, brownies, more brownies

Current Drink: I made the mistake of drinking Mountain Dew at church last night. I slept like poo. Lesson learned.

Current Favorite Favorite: Poetry by black poets. For Black History Month I am reading poetry with the boys before school. My favorite, thus far, is "Let America be America Again" by Langston Hughes. It expresses so clearly how I feel about my country. This morning, we read "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou. I heard that poem performed by a woman when I was in high school. She had a dance that went with it, and she was gorgeous. Since then, I have loved the poem.

Current Wishlist: a coffee pot. I used to have one, but it disappeared in one of our last moves. I'd like to switch from Diet Coke to coffee.

Current Needs: To make a dental appointment, buy Haydn new glasses, take David to the eye doctor

Current Triumphs: Continuing to plug away at writing fiction. It is a hard year to be doing anything and sometimes I just want to throw in the towel and cry in my loser corner.

Current Bane-Of-My-Existence: Corey's schedule. He has 5 years of seminary behind him and one to go. This semester also includes a hospital course that takes up an extra day each week.  Not to mention, ministry doesn't just quit happening because he is busy. He still has to juggle a whole lot more than 40 hours of church-related work. Honestly, in 10 years of marriage, this is the first year I have actively wished he had some other career. We'll survive it though, and we'll both be better for it. Besides, after 6 years of seminary, when I need to hit the road for a book tour or writer residency in the future, I think I will have earned the time away. ;)

Current Celebrity Crush: The woman who will play Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games movie adaptation.

Current Indulgence: Did I mention the brownies? And the watching of Gossip Girl?

Current Mood: Stressed. Is that a mood? I hit highs and lows, like normal, but mostly I am putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming."

Current #1 Blessing: Other people, even when I fight so hard against being social and letting others in. I most definitely need community.

Current Slang or Saying: I can't think of anything.

Current Outfit: Dark blue jeans, baseball tee from Target, black and white sweater, painted TOMs

Current Link: Coloring pages made from famous works of art

Current Quote: “I am not only from Appalachia; I am of Appalachia.” -Linda Scott DeRosier

Current Photo:  My niece, Eliza, who called me on the phone last week.  :)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Poem: Thy Kingdom Come

How many of us mean it
when we say to God
"Thy kingdom come?"
We whisper the words on
Sunday morning, sitting
in an air-conditioned building,
not the least bit prepared
for a world turned upside down,
a world where the first
are last and the last
come first, because most of us
are first. Admit it;
the people who actually long
for the kind of ruler Jesus
once proved to be
are living and sleeping on
the street, regulars at the
Salvation Army, sometimes stealing
to survive. The people Jesus
made time for are the people
on American welfare and the people
praying, "Thy kingdom come"
are those complaining about being forced
to care, because they'd rather choose
to give on their own, right?
Would you give on your own?
Would you truly take care of the poor
if no one forced
your hand?
No. Those of us repeating stoically,
"Thy kingdom come"
are individual-minded, consumer-driven, capitalists
with no real desire to see
anyone's kingdom come
except perhaps
our own.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Five Foods

Five Foods

{1} My grandmother spoiled me, according to Mom. That's what grandmothers are supposed to do, right? When I was a wee thing, we ate dinner at Grandma's house quite often. She always made my favorite foods: macaroni & cheese and deviled eggs. These are still two of my favorites. I could eat nothing but those two foods for days. I have a great crockpot recipe for what I call "grown-up mac & cheese."

{2} I like a bazillion different casseroles. My love for a good casserole is rooted in books, as are most things I love. If a meal fits in one bowl, it is much easier for me to balance my dinner and a book. This has been slightly improved by my easel-stand case for the Kindle. Hands-free reading is a lovely lovely thing.

{3} The go to food in our house? Eggs. I like them scrabbled with a pool of ketchup for dipping my bites. I like them with ham and cheese mixed in. I plop them onto buttered toast for a quick yummy sandwich. I add some flour and milk and make a hootenanny on Saturday mornings. When I do my monthly grocery trip, I buy 5 dozen eggs.

{4} I'm not a big seafood eater, but Leila took me to Bonefish Grill once, and I still salivate over that order of Bang Bang Shrimp. I wonder if they really are as good as I remember.

{5} When I take a trip to Brandon, there are two places I have to visit. Of course, I will drop into a Target. We live where no Target exists. Such a sad state of affairs. Also, I have to run into a Cups location and pick up a Blondie and a cheese danish. A blondie is, basically, cafe au lait with white chocolate and caramel, but no other coffee shop makes it correctly. Believe me, I have tried, and I worked at Cups so I know what I am ordering. Cups' blondies are just better, hands down. The danishes are by Sara Lee, so you can get them a few places, but Cups is where I discovered them and where I prefer to find them still.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Twinkies and Toilet Paper (or Closing the Cover on the Best Kind of Book)

I was born of two readers. My dad was always reading. My mom, on the other hand, says she gave up reading when I was born. According to her, she never would have gotten anything done and there would have been no one to parent me, because once she started a book she would sit right there and read until she finished it. Being a person who usually reads multiple books, each with varying degrees of interest and different purposes, I couldn't grasp her reasoning. I can put a book down and pick it up later, the story like a good friend popping in for coffee in the early afternoon and then again for drinks after dinner.

Joshilyn's books are different. If she were to put them out weekly, I'd be like Mom and never get a thing accomplished outside of page turning and hysterical laughter. With most books, I mosey through them like I'm shopping for pleasure, nothing specific in mind. When I crack the cover of a Jackson novel, I am on an old game show with a cart and a timer and I have to get as much merchandise inside that cart and make it back to the front of the store before the ugly sounding buzzer goes off and signals game over. I find myself in bed, bug-eyed, sleep-deprived, desperate to know the next detail.

I finished A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty today. I slid her carefully onto the shelf by my other two signed hardbacks and lovingly nestled my little Between, Georgia fox girl by the spine. She'll be happy there, but I am already sighing. What do you read after that? I feel as I did when the final episode of the final season of Gilmore Girls wound to a close on my screen and I had no more witty Lorelei and Rory banter to anchor my days. Only, this is worse. No one but Joshilyn could write a line like, "It was just my best friend Roger, fixing my tit for me," and make you sigh at the sweetness. I mean, the word "tit" rarely elicits feelings of nostalgia and peacefulness, but if you read the scene, that line will bring a little smile to your lips. 

Who knows when another novel will send me barreling through store aisles shoving Twinkies and toilet paper into the cart, tripping over three-inch heels, rushing to beat the clock and devour the story. Those are rare treats, those books, but every time I choose a novel to read, a part of me wonders, "Will this be it? The next book I can't put down?"

I'll let you know when the next one comes.


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