The List Lady

I’m an odd amalgamation of free-spirited, crunchy-granola-earth mother and Type-A, follow-all-the-rules list maker. It makes for an interesting life. Lists relax me, they release some stress, and in many cases they’re actually pretty fun. So because I really need to start this week on a calm, relaxed note (Novel-writing and Thanksgiving baking in the same week? I shudder at the thought!), here are some of my fun lists.

Things I Miss About Autumn in the East:

  • The smell of wood smoke when I step outside.
  • Leaves in bright colors.
  • Hiking amongst said leaves.
  • Flannel sheets
  • Hot soup as a necessity to warmth.
  • Boots, gloves, hats, scarves.
  • Hay rides and bon fires.
  • S’mores at said bon fires.
  • Watching White Christmas and Meet Me in St. Louis with my mom.
  • That cozy evening feeling when it’s cold and dark outside.
  • Watching Big Ten football with my dad.

Writing Necessities:

  • A hot beverage, preferably tea.
  • Candles
  • Solitude
  • White noise or calming music. (Damien Rice, various classical artists, Explosions in the Sky, and Norah Jones are among my favorites.)
  • A handy thesaurus, just in case.
  • Being totally ready: hair done, teeth brushed, dressed as though I were going to see people, etc. (I’m always more productive this way.)

Things I Miss About Being a Kid:

  • Getting lost in a book all day because I had nothing else to do or worry about.
  • Not caring about what other people thought.
  • Discovering amazing things, like science and literature and art, for the first time.
  • Halloween. It was so much better as a kid.
  • Being innocent to the world.
  • Visiting my grandparents.
  • The exhilaration of Christmas morning.
  • School. (Not even kidding!)
  • The comfort of having my parents in charge, not me.
  • Having my own room

Things I Liked as a Kid that Make Me Smile When I Remember Them:

  • Barbies; Beanie Babies; Doodle Bear; Polly Pockets; the game Trouble; jump rope and tag at recess; playing dress-up; running through the sprinkler; the Columbus Zoo; tea parties; finger painting
  • The Muppet Show; Reading Rainbow; Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood; Bill Nye the Science Guy; The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show; Letter People; Shelly Duvall’s Fairy Tale Theatre
  • Muppet Treasure Island; The Wizard of Oz; Pete’s Dragon; Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Babes in Toyland; The Sound of Music; Mary Poppins; Brigadoon
  • Nancy Drew; The Wind in the Willows; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Rabbit Hill; Dusty Mole, Private Eye; Alice in Wonderland; Heidi; The Twenty-One Balloons; Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH; From the Mixed-UP Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Things I’m Excited About:

  • Thanksgiving: parade, food, all of it!
  • Christmas!!!
  • The Hobbit movie
  • Getting a Christmas tree on Friday.
  • Colder weather
  • Skyping with my family this week.
  • Finishing this novel. NaNoWriMo, I am ready for you to be over!
  • My birthday
  • The bubble bath I’m taking tonight.
  • The book I’m reading. Deborah Harkness is just fantastic!

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NaNoWriMo is Eating My Brain

That sounds worse than it is.

I’m sorry I have been absent so long, but writing a whole novel in 30 days is, well…exhausting. I write for work, I write for NaNo, I listen to Christmas music and eat take-out while I write, and then I get really sleepy and watch TV until I fall asleep on the couch or Tyler makes me go to bed. I know all I’ve done for the past 14 days is sit at a desk and write, but I am one tired little lady.

This is what my life has devolved into this month. Leftovers, take out, laptop (which may as well be my third limb), and tea. Oh-so-much tea.

And I’m behind. Oh, heavens to Betsy am I behind. I had 99% of the story already in my head when I began this crazy venture, but filling in that skeleton is harder work than it seems, especially with a deadline. I almost wish I’d started with a story I didn’t care so much about, one I could never revisit after November 30th if I didn’t want to, but would have helped  me get my novel-writing mojo in place before I started this story that I’m invested in and care desperately about. But it’s too late for regrets, and I’m certainly NOT starting over. I am, however, working diligently. And I’ve decided that if I don’t finish by November 30th? That’s okay. I’ll aim to finish by New Years, and then I’ll start the mammoth work of editing and re-writing. And I’ll take my time about it, because I do care about this story so very much.

And I am enjoying it! I’m reminded every day how much I enjoy what I do, how blessed I am to have a husband and family who support my writing and think it;s a good idea for me to chase after my dreams. I could do so many other things, but would my soul be this satisfied? I remain unconvinced.

I’m sorry I don’t have more to offer than this right now. I have managed to read some, so I’ll try to squeeze out a few book reviews soon. Until then, I’m going to go take a nap, and here’s a short snippet of what I’ve been working on, just to hold you over. Nd while you read that, Im going to take a nap. At 5:38pm. No shame!

***

People of the Trees (Working Title)

Excerpt from Ch. 1: First Magic

Della was old, so old that her skin was as thinnest parchment, too stretched and sparse to hold the wrinkles that had once caressed her cheeks. When she pulled me onto her lap, it was with surprising strength and the firmness of touch that always communicates love from mother to daughter, grandmother to granddaughter, great-great-great grandmother to me.

We live long lives, we Healer women. We grow slowly, mature slowly, age slowly. But we learn quickly and forget never. We are a race in-between, not the humble humans we walk and live amongst and heal, not quite akin to the elevated Silva, the People of the Trees, those mysterious creatures who slipped in and out of our world like whispers in the wind. I think perhaps once one of their kind and a mortal must have fallen in love, and from that union came the Healers, but if that is true the tale is long-lost in time and the forgetfulness that enveloped us all in the years before the Tragedy. Strange, that the most defining moment of our age should be called nothing but the Tragedy, as if Mannix should be just the Deceiver, and Della just the Heroine.

But I get ahead of myself. On this day, when Della pulled me into her lap, wrapping me in her fragile arms like a house nestling in the limbs of a young tree, I did not know anything yet of our tragedy, of her bravery, of all the evil we had survived to get to this day, the day when I, the last Healer, would begin my education.

It is funny to think that I am the last. It was stranger to me then, but now I am old too, older even than Della. I have seen the lasts of many things, and the passing of a race does not seem so impossible now. I know it must seem odd to you as well, after all you are my granddaughter, and it would seem natural that you must be a healer too. But no, our powers are spent, the great price we paid to save the whole world, not just our people but all peoples, from a terrible fate that still, even now, sits on the cusp of the horizon, knowing it can never break through and yet salivating at the dream that someday, if it wishes hard enough, it might. Someday if vigilance lacks and our security lulls us again into foolishness, then maybe it will have a sliver of hope, a tiny opportunity to again devour us whole. I shudder to think of such a chance, but I am assured that Della’s magic was tight, that the trade was solid, that the wall will hold.

That wall is why you, my sweet plum, will never know the thrill of the first magic as it tingles through your fingers. It is why you will never feel your hands get hot on a babe’s forhead, why you will never gather mushrooms in the far glade to make the new year’s wine, why you will age almost normally, and why you now bear the sons that have been denied the Healer’s for so long. The magic is drained from us, denied you, child. In a few generations we will be all but human.

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Books, Dog Sweaters, Talented Sister-in-Laws, and a New Gig

Four things.

  1. Ermahgaad! I’m so excited, y’all! I stayed up half the night finally reading (under the covers with a flashlight, grade school style, so as not to wake Tyler)

    All the books I’m reading and plan to read soon, minus Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, which I need to pick up from the bookstore. I need to get going!

    The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Lead the Revels There. I am exactly half-way through, and though an official review will come in the next few days (duh), so far I love it every bit as much as the first. Also, I finally bought Shadow of Night, the second installment of Deborah Harkness’ All Souls trilogy. I need to hurry if I want to finish them both before NaNoWriMo starts a week from today. (Eeeek! One week! I’m excited and nervous and scared and thrilled and really unsure what to expect. And excited. Speaking of NaNowriMo, am I crazy to expect to get any reading during November? I’d like to read one of three books next month. Is that unrealistic?)

  2. Oscar got a sweater. The cuteness is overwhelming my soul!

    You’re welcome.

  3. I’ve meant to write about this for a while now. I have four sister-in-laws, ranging from my age to 9 years-old. I adore them all. They are smart and funny and creative, but today I want to talk about Charity. Charity is 16, and she’s a writer. A legitimate writer whose getting a story she wrote in a local magazine! She entered a local library writing contest, and won first place! This is fantastic by any standard, but I’m even more proud of her because she choose to submit a story that shared her faith even though New England isn’t exactly a bastion of Protestantism. She won anyway, and now a local Berkshires magazine will be printing her story this winter! So, yes, I am incredibly proud of Charity and her mad writing skills. But I more proud of her for being willing to share what she really believes through her writing, and there are many adults who need to take a leaf out of her book and do the same. writing truth, for the win! (And yes, as soon as I can get my hands on a copy of the story, I will share!)
  4.  I have a new gig. A friend of mine recently started a life-style blog for 20-something women, and asked if I’d like to contribute. I said yes, of course! My first post on Miss Grown Up,  5 Tips for Writers, went live today, and we’d all be grateful for your support as we start this little blogging endeavor. I’ll be writing various articles about writing and marriage and other occasional whims, as well as book reviews that I’ll link to here.

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Filed under Books, Odds and Ends, Oscar

October Poetry, Day 23

Deeper blue, thick with water,
the ocean stretches fingers out from the bay.
Back one, now two miles, down urban streets,
among skyscrapers and taco shops and
the concrete boxes where your people live in smaller boxes.

Drunken laughter, taxi horns,
a homeless woman’s cart beating the endless rythem- cha-chunk, cha-chunk,
cha-chunk.
Bus vibrations, a dogs bark, now two, the street poet’s confused
prose, the saxophonists blaze, the baseball roar, the helicopter hum.
This is your strange California jazz, and on the edge of
America we your people dance our samba,
our clumsy ballet of business and pleasure and what we do because we know
nothing else.
We extend into one in the movement of your nighttime masses,
We plie back into many, the slow release of morning.

4 am, alone.
I stand upon the cusp, looking into the gray of your morning fog,
towards a vast, rolling body I
cannot see. The body
of your voluptuous mistress,
the one that eats away at your edges but you will never ask to leave.
This fog is her checking in, are
all the children in their places? Act 10, Scene 13 is about to begin.
San Diego Saturday, take one and go.

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Filed under California Dreamin', Poetry, San Diego

Gone Girl is Just Okay.

I’m just now getting around to the summer blockbuster book of this year, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This is a little backwards of me, I know, seeing as I write a blog that consists largely of book reviews telling other people what to read, but when a book suddenly becomes so popular that even that one friend you’ve always secretly thought might be illiterate has read it, I loose all want to explore it for myself. It’s like all my pent-up strong-willedness comes bubbling to the surface, and I just can’t make myself read that one gotta-read book. (I still haven’t read Girl With a Dragon Tattoo for this very reason.) Often times that means that I finally read it a season or two late and then realize why everyone was so gaga about it in the first place.

This instance was like that. Sort of.

This book review is Cambria approved.

I probably wouldn’t have picked Gone Girl up if my book club hadn’t selected it this month. Suspense isn’t usually my thing, but this one was intriguing. The female half of a seemingly idyllic couple, Amy, disappears on the morning of their fifth anniversary. With a messy scene left at the house, the police start investigating the abduction and possibly homicide. As the evidence starts rolling in, all signs point to Nick, Amy’s bar-owning, ex-journalist husband. Cleaned-up blood, his lack of emotion, their marital and money problems, and a bombshell secret make it seem like Nick is a man with something to hide. But as Nick lawyers up and both his family and the public turn against him, something still seems off. What really happened to Amy Elliot Dune? Did Nick kill her, or is there a much more sinister force at work?

Let’s start with the good. Gillian Flynn is an incredibly gifted writer. Although I don’t think she fully understands the meaning of the word poignant (How does one smell or look poignant?), her prose is expertly dealt out and she captures the voice of her various characters well. In addition, the plot is well delivered, fast paced but never rushed,  and I like the way she organized the chapters, flipping back and forth between Nick and Amy’s perspectives, and using diary entries to catch the reader up on the couple’s background. I like the little clues that she left the reader in the first section that later made much more sense in the second and third. This was, overall, a creative and original offering on Ms Flynn’s part.

Now for the bad. It’s rare for me to be engrossed in a book that I don’t end up liking, but that’s exactly what happened here. All of her characters- from Nick and Amy to their families and the police- were singularly unlikable. Sure, I understood them. I understood why Nick cheated, why her parents turned on him, why the Ozark rednecks were thieves, why Amy (to a point) was like she was. But I couldn’t like any of them, even in the beginning before I knew Nick’s secret and when Amy was supposed to be likable. The only one I really liked was Nick’s mom, and she is a periphery character. I’m not some modern Pollyanna who only enjoys books full of sunshine; I enjoy Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie and my fair share of drama and true crime and human messiness. But while I was enthralled, like a train wreck you can’t look away from, I can’t say I enjoyed this book. I felt about it the same way I feel about Ernest Hemingway, or certain movies like Mr. Holland’s Opus- I can appreciate the craftmanship, but it left me felling a bit hollow.

Also, I didn’t like all the cursing. I’m not a prude by any means, I know curse words exist and I’m not opposed to them in literature if they serve a purpose. They could have served a purpose here, but I think they were overplayed- a few too many f-bombs dropped, and suddenly no one cares about the damage anymore, they just want the noise and shrapnel to stop. And I never ever, for any reason at all, approve of the c— word. Ever. If offends me down to my very marrow. It’s almost worse when it’s uttered or written by a woman. I know someone out there will think it’s empowering or very feminist, but it’s almost like a betrayal; even if it’s not true, every use of that word by a woman feels like some sort of collusion with the misogynist of the world, like a small admittance that maybe women aren’t really worth more than that. The argument could be made that it’s usage here fits the profile of the characters, but I feel like any usage in any context says it’s okay in other contexts. I just…no. You can’t convince me it is ever okay.

So there you have it. Gone Girl is not bad, but it’s not dazzling. It earns a solid three-out-of-five stars from me.

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100th Post, an Anniversary, and a Poem.

Big things are afoot today!

First of all, this is my 100th post on this blog! Considering that I took a good chunk of time off, hitting my 100th post just 14 months after I started is not too shabby. Thanks to all of you who have read, commented, shared, and encouraged. A blog is nothing without community, and mine is small but wonderful.

Today also marks our first anniversary of living in San Diego! I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since we rather unexpectedly packed up our lives and moved to a new city. There were some tough, lonely months in the beginning, but we have gained so much since we arrived in our new city: a wonderful home, great friends, a fantastic church home, a cute puppy, and lots of life experience that we are the better for, both individually and as a couple. San Diego is not home in the way that Ohio is home, but it is the next best thing, and I definitely look forward to what the next year has in store for us here. I feel undeservedly blessed.

Also, I feel like this blog needs some gratuitous animal pictures. Because blogs without pictures are booo-riiiing!

This is what Oscar looks like when someone takes a bath without him. He really likes baths.

And this is what Cambria looks like when she wants more food (because a half-full bowl is not good enough for our little queen), but you ignore her and blog instead.

Now, on with the show.

Today is the 15th day of Poetry Month, so as promised, I will share. Here goes nothing:

When most are just beginning to thing about running, we
are finishing the first major lap. We stop for
a drink, and they ask our advice, but their eyes
are glazed. “Run hard and don’t be selfish.” They smile
and nod, as though what we have will
be so easily attained. As though we did not battle and
bleed, as though a good marriage can be
selected and gift wrapped at any department store of choice.
We continue running, smiling our secret smile because we know that
soon they will begin, and words will be thrown that no one really
meant, and she will cry and he will
feel a little fooled by her rosy lips that tricked him here, and
the real marathon of love will begin.

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Filed under Odds and Ends, Poetry, San Diego

October Poetry, Day 10

There are so many poems inside these fingers,
but words are complicated
and a good pen is hard to come by. Someday I
shall peruse greatness, but
today the triumph is just getting the
words, a few small words,
onto paper
in order
without fear.

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