Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Lose Ten Pounds Easily!
Why are we suckered into these stupid articles that promise easy weight loss? Aren't we smarter than that? Is there a reason we can't watch "The Biggest Loser" without food? I'm obsessing over these questions. Here's the latest tips I've seen and my answer to the "easy" fixes:1. Fiber rich foods fill you up longer!
This is essentially saying if you eat a pound of fresh spinach, and not a DeBrand's truffle, you won't be hungry as quickly. Does anyone else see the problem? Chocolate...spinach. Right, I see the connection. If you think spinach will make your chocolate craving go away, you're just living in a false reality.2. Drinks: Wine and rich coffee drinks add empty calories, go for water instead.
Again, who are these people? If you don't know the difference between a frappacino and an Evian, just drink out of that rain puddle at the gas station for crying out loud.3. Instead of half & half, add skim milk to your coffee.
Oh right. I won't miss that at all. Give me the watery, blue stuff, please!4. Spice it up! Spicy foods can raise your metabolism
unless it's in Mongolian Beef, Doritos, and Palak Gosht (Indian Spinach lamb). Pretty much, anything that tastes good and is spicy (Okay, except salsa -- but then what do you put them on, hmmm?) is fattening.
Skinny people are cranky for a reason.
Faith, Froth & a Designer Handbaghttp://www.kristinbillerbeck.com
With this Ring, I'm Confused -- WestBow Press
She's All That -- Integrity PublishersA Girl's Best Friend -- April, 2006
posted at 6:12 PM
Monday, January 30, 2006
AMI MCCONNELL,MASTER EDITOR FOR WESTBOW PRESS, THOMAS NELSON'S FICTION IMPRINT
The picture is of Ami (on left) with my daughter Kara at the 2004 RWA Conference when Without a Trace was up for a RITA.
Me, Kristin and Denise were at Mt Hermon in 2002 and some of the girls wanted to see the Oscars. We were the only ones with a TV, an advantage of being princesses and staying at the HIlton instead of the camp, so I offered our room. I had the fun of sitting on the bed beside Ami McConnell as we watched the show. I felt an immediate bond with her that has only strengthened over time. She's beautiful, fun, witty, incredibly smart and totally dedicated. I've had the privilege of working with Ami for the past three years, and every day has been a joy. Ami has an almost uncanny ability to see the skeleton of a story and where bones are missing, as well as an unfailing eye for character. She and my other "family" at WestBow really helped me understand how important branding is, and I'm a big believer in it now. She's helped me grow as a writer, and has been a friend through thick and thin.
She is the busy mom of Max, Maddie Beth, and Mimi, and if ever there was a supermom, it's Ami. She and Aaron have done a wonderful job with their. My buddy Max is the neatest kid, and I adore her girls as well.
Ami has a great grasp of the industry so I recently asked her some question. Here we go!
1. IS EDITING JUST A LEAP INTO THE WRITING WORLD? WOULDN'T YOU RATHER WRITE?
The good writers write because they must write. I don't feel that compulsion--that calling. What I do feel called to is what I do here at WestBow: helping writers realize their own artistic vision. Not my vision--their own.
COLLEEN HERE: Ami is a master at this. She pulls out stuff in my books that I didn't even consciously realize was there.
2. WHAT DO YOU PREFER TO SEE WHEN A SUBMISSION COMES ACROSS YOUR DESK: A REALLY GREAT VOICE OR AN AVERAGE STORY FROM AN AUTHOR WITH A MARKETING PLAN AND A SPEAKING PLATFORM? WHAT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING?
You know, I really like to see a clear connection between the text and it's author--that is, I look for work that is a byproduct of the author's character. Many writers write "to" a particular market. More important to me is the answer to this question: Is the work representative of who that author is at his/her core?
3. WHAT'S THE BEST PART OF BEING AN EDITOR?
I believe that a novel isn't real until somebody reads it and connects with it--hears what it has to say. Kind of like the Velveteen Rabbit, you know? I love being one of the first people to "hear" what the novel says and having the priviledge of talking with the author about his/her intent and meaning. They choose every word, every scene, every chapter so carefully, with such intent. I love trying to unpack the meaning and puzzle of why they made those choices. It's a real trip.
4. WHAT'S THE WORST PART OF BEING AN EDITOR?
Saying "no" is the hardest part. You really put yourself out there when you're an artist and I know that--you're so vulnerable. So I have a sense of the impact it has when a manuscript we've been reviewing is turned down. It's crummy but it's an essential part of my work.
5. A SYNOPSIS SEEMS TO BE THE BANE OF THE WRITER--HOW NECESSARY ARE THEY?
Imagine if you were going to build a house and you'd be partnering with various and sundry contractors. It's not their project, but they can't help if you don't tell them what your plan is. That's how I envision a book process: it's the author's house, but I can't help if I don't know what the plan is.
6. WHAT ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW?
Just finished A Man Called Cash by Steve Turner and now I'm reading his book Imagine because I was so impressed with the way he wrote the Cash book. I'm also reading Stories from the Blue Moon Cafe (McAdam/Cage Publishers)--you know how I adore southern fiction. Also I'm reading Flannery O'Connor's Mystery and Manners, but I do so in doses--one essay at a stretch--because it effects me so deeply. And of course I have an unopened Real Simple magazine and a Costal Living magazine, too, which I will get to in good time. In the car I'm listening to the spoken word audio (ie, poetry set to music) of Minton Sparks called Sin Sick. Fantastic stuff.
7. WHAT ARE THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU LOOK FOR IN A MANUSCRIPT?
Does it feel authentic and true? Does it have something new to say or say it in a new way? Does the author seem to know where she/he is going and does she get there? Really, at the end of the day, I have to love the work because I'll have to live with it for a long time. So that's the real question: Do I love it?
posted at 8:31 AM
Friday, January 27, 2006
I have arachnophobia. No that's not entirely true. What I really have is Anything-With-More-Than-Four-Legsophobia. Because there are many disgusting creatures that don't have eight legs.
Take the thing I found crawling across my wall this morning. Definitely more than eight legs. In fact, more like eight million legs. It was brown and long and skinny and slithered. I'm shuddering just thinking about it. Of course Kevin is not home when I find this thing--he never is. So I do what all brave women do.
I get out the can of Raid. I am the queen of walk-by srayings, and I can tell you, it can even be done with your head turned and your eyes closed. I say this in case any of you haven't heard of the spray method. It's much less messy, can be done from a distance, and--the best part--it saves the evidence of said creature for my husband. (See, it really was that big.)
There is one caveat, however, as I learned this morning. I'm afraid you have to watch the disgusting creature until he dies. You don't have to stare it down, but you don't want to take your eyes off it for too long. Otherwise, it could crawl off and possibly live. Just like my slimy, brown centipede did this morning. Now, where did I put that can of Raid?
posted at 9:30 AM
Thursday, January 26, 2006
My grandmother gives me her old magazines. She is forever hopeful that her domestic teaching will take root in me, and I will sew purple things and bake cookies for my husband. The thing is, she did teach me well. I can cook. I just try to avoid it. I'm sorry to say the sewing was just never a possibility. Not after years of ridicule for homemade clothes.
Anyway, I was reading thru a "Woman's Day" and there is an ad in the back for elastic denim pants with "flannel lining" for added warmth and comfort, which looks like baby sheets inside. I just thought, if you are willing to buy your elastic jeans from the back of a magazine, and are intrigued by the thought of pajama flannel lining, it's just over. You have said, I give up. Forgettaboutit, I am old.
Well, I'm not going down without a fight. My brother-in-law offered me his Acura NSX (very expensive sportscar) for the weekend because his brother, the man I'm married to, "doesn't get the car thing". In a very sweet act of charity, and his way of saying I know you're not ready for the elastic waistband. It's a compliment, don't you think? But I think I'll stick to my minivan with the sunroof (so sporty and yet, mom like). I'm not ready for elastic, but I'm not ready for this kind of speed either.
posted at 11:50 AM
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
The Phenomenon of Lost Socks
It’s happened again. My husband bellows through the house, “Di, where are all my socks?” That familiar churning returns to my stomach. Somehow we manage to lose a sock or two with every load of laundry. Why is that?
I start out with a full load, carefully pairing the socks to make sure we’re starting with equal amounts. Once they’re washed, I pluck them from the washer and throw them into the dryer, double-checking that there is nothing left in the washer. Then when I empty the dryer, and I do mean empty, as in, not a single speck left inside, and bring the loaded clothes basket into the living room to fold the clothes, I’m minus two socks—not matching socks, mind you. Which means I now have two stray socks without mates.
If this were happening with the toilet, I’d blame it on the Tidy Bowl man, but what’s up with this washer and dryer? I’m not exactly Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote fame, but you’d think I could solve this mystery after thirty years of laundry.
Why, just the other day I found a stray sock stuffed between our sofa cushions. Then our dog strutted past me with a second tail hanging off her backside. It was navy blue and nylon. I won’t even go into the public appearances with socks dangling from panty hose and suit coats. I’m trying to put all that behind me, so to speak. Still, the saga continues.
Yesterday I found a stray sock that had belonged to our daughter when she was, well, two. It was stuck in an old Sesame Street book. I’d give it to her, but who knows where the mate (as in sock, not her husband) might be hiding?
My dilemma continues, but I’ve learned to adjust. Life’s just too short to worry about it. Still, when you see me at conference, if you happen to see a sock dangling from my person, will you please tell me?
posted at 7:10 AM
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
What is it about men and Lowe's? Now don't get me wrong, I love to browse Lowe's and Home Depot myself--if we stick to interesting stuff like tile, home appliances, even plumbing fixtures. Or even the paint aisle is okay. I can get ideas there and dream up new things for the house we're going to build on our land in Peeples Valley, Arizona. But please, can we stick to those sorts of things?
We went to Lowe's on Saturday to order some door sidelights for the classrooms at church. They were ordered and paid for in ten minutes. Now mind you, we'd just been to Lowe's on Tuesday and had browsed through the store then. Or at least I thought we had. My husband says, "You in a hurry or do you want to browse?" I pointed out that we'd just done that Tuesday. He argued that we'd only looked through the appliances. I wasn't in a hurry so I said fine, expecting we would then look through the interesting end of the store.
But no, he wanted to linger slowly over nuts and bolts, INSULATION of all things, and gutters! Now I ask you, what can possibly be interesting about stuff like that? When I complained he was looking at the boring stuff, he disagreed, saying "this stuff is interesting. You have to have it for your house too." Well yeah, I had to have a root canal once but it wasn't what I'd call pleasant. Don't bore me with the mundane stuff. So we parted ways. I left him looking at electrical cord, and I went to look at the kitchen cabinets. We met back in the middle in what I'd call semi-interesting ground--the paint section.
If this is a taste of what will happen when we start bulding, I'm staying home when he goes to Lowe's. On second thought, I'd better plan on enduring the boredom or he may come home with green cabinets.
posted at 7:06 AM
Monday, January 23, 2006
Something has happened to me since I've had kids. I believe it happened during my pregnancies, and I don't have any scientific proof to back this up, but I'm pretty sure some of my brain cells were sucked away.
You might wonder why I make this bizarre statement, but I have evidence that supports this claim. The fact is, I used to remember things. Before Kids, I didn't make lists, didn't have to because it was all up here. (she said, pointing to what's left of her brain). I didn't even keep a calendar BK. I knew where to go, what to get, who to see because I still had all my brain cells. But slowly--one pregnancy at a time--I began to lose my faculties.
At first I worried I had Alzheimers. Then I began talking to other moms about this phenomena. It didn't take long to see I wasn't the only one with a problem. It wasn't dementia, it was Momnesia.
Momnesia means you must make a list if you have more than one thing to buy at the store (then you forget to take the list with you). It means you leave yourself sticky notes saying "Take medicine" and "Call your mom". It means you set the oven timer so you don't forget to pick up your child. It means you can have an apppointment on your calendar, remember it that morning, and still forget to go. I didn't use to be like this. Really, I didn't.
People ask me why we don't have a fourth child (gotta keep trying for that girl!). The fact is, I have no brain cells to spare. It's going to take everything I have left to keep my children alive long enough to survive on their own. I'm hoping since my pregnancy days are over, the rest of my brain cells will stay put. Otherwise, I guess I'll just buy stock in Post-It.
posted at 9:23 AM
Saturday, January 21, 2006
You say, "light" like it's a bad thing...
In the world of fiction reviews, there is deep, raw and there is light and unworthy of note. Deep and raw are Oprah picks. "Light" is what you buy at the grocery store, and viewed with a note of disdain. Fiction reviewers often speak with an air of your mother, "Read this, it's good for you." When you can't understand 60% of the verbiage in the review, I know the book is the literary equivalent to brussel sprouts and life is short!
Let me say I am a big lover of great fiction. I just don't like to be told what it is, when it isn't. My very favorite review term is that it's an "important" book. You know what? "Anna Karenina" is an important book. This one, not so much. Here's just a few words from some literary reviews:
despairing and resilient (what the heck?)
brief, tragic encounter (a favorite!)
plumbs the existentialist questions
And I want to read any of this, why?
Here's the thing. I'm a smart girl. I went to college. I graduated. I worked in the Silicon Valley, and I know what a Hybrid IC is (it's not a car), but I'm comfortable with myself. I don't have to prove to myself that I'm intelligent by reading a book where I want to shoot myself at the end. (Unless, it's Thomas Hardy, he's worth it!)
Life is filled with pain and raw emotions, yes, we all seek to better ourselves, but if on occasion, you want to read light, nix the guilt and enjoy!
posted at 11:41 AM
Friday, January 20, 2006
Panic hit me this morning as I realized it was my turn to blog, and I had nothing ready, nothing simmering in my brain ready to be put onto the screen, nothing, nada, zip.
Then I thought of last night. Some neighbors came over for a time of fellowship and prayer. One of the couples has a son who left for Afghanistan on Saturday, and we want to keep him covered in prayer. We had a wonderful time of prayer and fellowship together.
Now here’s the thing that amazes me. How does my life get so out of control, that I neglect to see what’s going on in the lives of people I truly care about? How do months go by, one after the other, without me noticing that they’re hurting or just need a phone call, note, whatever?
With God’s help, I hope to remedy that this year. I love my cyber friends, but I also want to be there for the people in my “real” world, whom I touch shoulders with day after day.
So that’s my goal. To go for coffee with a friend, pick up the phone, write an email—er, uh, send a card, whatever it takes to reconnect with the people who matter in my life—and to take note of the neighbors I don’t know so well. Those who brush my world with a wave of their hand, a “How are you,” whatever—to care about them deeply enough to pray for them and be ready to help in times of need.
I know this is a little heavy this morning and totally out of character for me, but it’s where I am today. I write lady lit because I truly care about the girls in that age group. My goal is to encourage, bring a smile to their lips, make them want to dig a little deeper in their walk with the Lord.
So while I’ll be on the computer today, because that’s what I do--and I love all you cyber friends—I also plan to make a phone call or two, and all the while count my blessings for the abundance of friends God has placed in my life—cyber and otherwise.
posted at 8:04 AM
Thursday, January 19, 2006
P-A-R-T-Y! ER, MAYBE NOT
I generally enjoy my birthday. My family all calls, all my friends email me, Dave lets me sleep in. But the very thought of this one coming made me feel I was facing the ordeal of eating an onion. It makes no sense--it's not a decade type birthday or something huge and momentous. You know what I think it is? I'm only a year away now from the double nickel.
That's the age when people people start asking you when you're going to retire (um, can you say NEVER!. Some snot nosed kid in the fast food place will tell you your drink is free. That happened just the other day when I ordered water with my chicken salad. The kid told me I could have whatever I wanted because it was free. At first I wondered if I'd combed my hair, or maybe I had a hole in my sweater. Then he uttered the dreaded words: "It's your senior citizen discount." SENIOR CITIZEN? Not me! I consoled myself with the thought that it was because I was with Dave whose hair turned white in his forties. But I have a sneaking suspicion the pimply faced brat actually thought I looked like a senior.
I don't feel any older. Not one whit. Inside there's still a nineteen year old girl amazed at the world and enjoying the ride. I'm in a rollercoaster car, and I'm not even to the top yet, so don't go telling me I need to RETIRE! I keep remembering what my former pastor, Steve Parks, told me once when I said that. He said it's because the SOUL never ages. We really are ageless, it's just the house that needs a little repair.
I think I'd better go buy some paint!
posted at 6:46 AM
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Take a good look at my plants. You would have had to see the "before" picture to fully appreciate these "after" photos. By "before" I mean before I got hold of them. Take a close look at the plant on the right. Yes, indeedy, that is a paint brush propping up the stalk.
Now, I really admire people who have virtual rain forests in their homes. Outside, their big colorful gardens with feathery fronds and leaves are truffles for the eyes.
I love plants, I really do. But the fact remains that . . . they don't like me.
Every year my kids bring a plant home from school. They are supposed to grow and nurture the plant and bring it back the following year for the plant show. But, alas, they are boys and could care less about tender seedlings, so their care falls to me.
I try to follow the directions on the little plastic stakes. Partial sunlight, no problem. Frequent waterings, hey, I am so there. But regardless of my enthusiastic efforts, they reject my care. They see me coming and wilt. Stalks droop, leaves fall, flowers wither and die and never return as if to say, "Hey, I'm outa here." A girl could get a complex. At this year's plant show, a judge informed me that one of my plants' leaves had actually changed colors. (and not to brown). I exulted at my accomplishment until the judge marked the plant down for color. Apparently the leaves were supposed to stay red.
I envy my green thumb friends, but I have learned this is not my destiny. Still the boys will bring home a plant every year, and I will make a pathetic effort to keep them alive. Then I will send them back to school and set their puny stems down on the shelves with the bigger, healthier, friendlier foilage.
It's okay. I'm fine with that. Really. Because I now have a new set of green friends. Unlike the uncooperative live ones, they require no water or sunlight and they stand up perky, tall, and straight for me twenty-four, seven. Sure, they're made of plastic or some synthetic material, but I'm okay with that. I'm not sure my live plants are, though. It might just be me but it seems like they're looking worse than ever.
posted at 9:27 AM
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
All this hair talk. And David Crowder is coming near my Podunk town with Third Day!! So ask me if I care about something as mundane as hair?? For those of you who don't know, I am David's oldest groupie. Pathetic, but true.
Once, he came to our church in Palo Alto and my son had the stomach flu and I was legitimately mad. I mean, I was like, Hello??? Do I not have four children? Can You not give me one little break?
My husband stayed home with my son, but it was hard to fully engage knowing I'd abandoned my kid. I've seen the Crowder band many times since, but this event stands out. And this is so cute. Sethy (the sick one) is coming with me to this concert and he goes, "I won't barf, Mom. I promise." That was years ago and he was only four! And my poor child remembers his Mom abandoned him for a concert. This is one of those events he'll tell on Oprah when he recalls his painful childhood. But it makes this concert more special. (And yeah, I'd do it again, so I haven't really grown or learned. Hence the reason you won't be picking up any of my parenting books.)
Seth went with me to Third Day a few months ago, and I let him hold my cell phone up like the teenagers were doing. Doesn't that break your heart? We had Greek food and I got my first glimpse of the BMW 645i in Granite Bay. Morgan, of the Spa Girls, had a new car. These are the days that string together to make life. A beautiful collision.
posted at 8:19 PM
Monday, January 16, 2006
A HAIRY SITUATION
While we’re on the subject of hair, I’ll confess that I just had mine colored. Don’t tell anyone, okay? (By the way, Colleen, I’m a little bitter that you don’t have to do this.) This is the first time I’ve ever had it colored professionally, so imagine my disappointment when $75 later it looks just like it does when I color it myself for $8.
But here’s the thing I really don’t understand. Isn’t it enough that I have the humiliation of having to color the gray roots in the first place? I mean, do they have to put me near a wide window overlooking the busiest street in the city? Anyone who has ever had their hair highlighted knows this is just wrong. Spiked hair on foil sticks is enough to traumatize little children for years to come.
What is up with that? Guys go in, get a haircut. Period. Okay, maybe their eyebrows get snipped and they might even have a stray ear hair whacked off here and there, but I mean, it’s over in the blink of an eye. In the meantime, I sit framed in this picture window feeling like a side show in a circus, while my hair stylist whips out her little brush—which looks more like a utensil for basting a Thanksgiving turkey—and goes after my hair with all the drama of Picasso.
The good news is she brings me a stack of hairstyle magazines to get my mind off of the nightmares I’m causing little children, and soon I begin dreaming of what I’m going to look like when my “time is up.”
The bad news is I pick out a hair color and style that’s just like Teri Hatcher’s, but walk away looking more like Jamie Lee Curtis in Freaky Friday. Is it the hair stylist? The color? The cut? What?
It’s one of life’s mysteries that I just don’t care to ponder.
And you wonder why I wear a red hat . . . .
posted at 10:06 AM
Friday, January 13, 2006
Why do we women obsess about our hair so much? I mean, we spend hundreds of dollars a year on shampoos, haircuts, gels, mousses, glazes, hair color (though none for me yet, praise God), clips, headbands, shine gunk, and who knows what all. This picture is my current new attempt to not have to blow dry my hair all the time. I found some new stuff that lets it dry in its natural wave without being frizzy.
I acually like it, but I've gotten mixed reviews from my friends. D and Di like it, K says it reminds her too much of her own. And then there are the friends who simply say NOTHING. Isn't that like telling you a bucket over your head might be more appealing? Or the ones who say, "Hey, you have a new hairdo." Then they shoot glances at your head while not saying if it's good or bad. It's enough to make a girl shave her head. Well, not quite.
Still, I slog away trying to find the perfect "do." At least it's something I can do something about, unlike my thighs.
posted at 6:05 AM
Thursday, January 12, 2006
CHANGE IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD
Yeah, yeah, I know it actually has six letters; I'm not a math idiot. Well, yeah, I am, but that's another story.
Now, if there's a word I like it's "routine". Some read the word routine
B-O-R-I-N-G. But for me, routine means I get things done. Routine means I do my Bible study immediately after I take our boys to school. Routine means I plant my behind in my chair and write immediately after that (with loads of laundry and various housecleaning tasks thrown in whenever I get stuck--on the story, not in the chair). Routine good. Change bad.
It's not really a fear of change either. It's more a dread of change. DOC causes me to hang on to dial-up until they tear down the phone lines running up and down the streets. DOC causes me to stick with the same grocery even though their air is so dry I get shocked every time I pick up a product. DOC causes me to drive the same van until it's unsafe and Kevin drags me to the car lot.
I'm not sure what the cure for DOC is, but you know what? I don't think I want to know. The routine thing may be boring, but it's working for me. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
posted at 9:48 AM
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Big Brother is Watching...Get Over it
You've heard it said Colleen and I are gadget geeks, but if you haven't tried "Google Earth" yet, let me just say download it right now. Go ahead, I'll wait.
Oh my goodness, this thing is miraculous. I can SEE my old house. I can find Dana Street Coffee and Pho Hoa of Mountain View (my former hangouts) I can even see the treehouse my kids built in the backyard. Of course, privacy as we know it, is at an end. Which brings me to a point. I'm curious about people who are worried about the government "spying" on us. Are you kidding me? The grocery store knows more about you than the government. Target marketing put an end to your freedoms a long time ago. They can find out what kind of toilet paper you buy, why not know if you're a terrorist? Where's the negative here for us?
Here's the thing, what am I doing that I have to worry about the government coming after me? Even the things that aren't especially great about me, like my People Magazine Subscription and my penchant for bad reality TV is no secret. Heck, call Tivo, they'll tell you what I'm up to. And guess what? No one cares.
Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't understand this fight for "privacy" when it was already given away a long time ago. The credit score people know more about you than the FBI!
Okay, I give! Here are the She's All That winners from my newsletter. Dang, you guys are fast. I'm giving away thirteen because you all were so fast:
You are all winners!
posted at 7:56 PM
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
How much is truth and how much is fiction? As a writer, specks of my real world are often infused into my stories—most times without conscious thought.
We were at a friend’s house on Friday night discussing my latest book, Hot Flashes & Cold Cream. She brought up a scene and asked me if that happened in real life. I thought a moment and with surprise finally said, “Yes.” I hadn’t even thought about that when I wrote it.
As I write this, my Shih-Tzu, Nocchi (pronounced No-Key, short for Pinnochio), is curled up beside me on the sofa, staring at the keyboard, her head peeking from under my arm. She is thirteen years old and has, well, three teeth. She was my prototype for Crusher, Maggie Hayden’s Chihuahua, in Hot Flashes. Snatches of my husband sometimes creep into my stories. A snippet of an event in my life here and there finds its way onto my pages. A frail, bent woman with a sweet smile that I happen to see waiting on a bus, a toddler’s pudgy hand--sticky with peanut butter and jelly-- reaching up to her mother, friends laughing around a table in a coffee shop, Amish children playing ball in their front yard while horses meander in a nearby field--all fodder for my crazy imagination. My real life brings color and texture to my fictional world. How could I write about sights and smells if I had never experienced them? I know, there’s always Google, but you can’t exactly smell a mocha latte on Google, you know?
For me, that’s the thrill of this job. Writing wakes up my senses, makes me aware of everything around me--course, coffee helps too, but still.
So wake up and smell the coffee today! Notice the colors around you--how about that little old woman in the grocery store whose hair reminds you of pink cotton candy? The taste of that mocha frappe? What about the feel of paper beneath your fingers when you sign your name for the debit card receipt? Okay, I'm not crazy about that one, either. Let's see, how about the feel and smell of that leather jacket you've been wanting? Well, you get the idea.
How about you? Does your real world slip into your fiction? Are you aware while writing it or do you discover it later?
posted at 7:29 AM
Sunday, January 08, 2006
IRON SHARPENING IRON
No, I'm not talking about skillets or knives. :-) We wield a pen, er, a computer keyboard, but it's still a tool that we use to advance the Kingdom, and sometimes it needs sharpened. I know you're wondering what the heck I'm yapping about so I'll tell you. A bunch of writer friends got together and brainstormed ideas. There's something special writers congregating together. Only other writers "get" the excitement when an idea just gells and we see how the pieces fit together, only someone as peculiar as I am understands when I say "No, that won't work because I have to kill someone and this sounds like women's fiction." Only another weirdly bent person nods in agreement when told they have to torture their characters more and create more dissension.
I just got home from Kansas City. We call ourselves the Kansas 10: Nancy Moser (perfect hostess though she made this fabulous toffee that made me gain five pounds), Deborah Raney (who looked fabulous and skinny this year but swears she hasn't lost weight), Judy Miller (who only seems quiet until you tell her she could create more conflict if she makes one of her characters an out of wedlock pregnant girl), Stephanie Grace Whitson (Higgins) (newlywed still who reminded us all how if feels. :-)You'd never know by watching her quilting that she's a motorcycle mama), Mel and Cheryl Hodde (Always ready to help me kill off a character and have fun doing it. They're always good for melatonin or any other supplement I forgot to bring), Doris Elaine (Till) Fell (our grande dame of fiction who had us eagerly urging her to write Esmeralda's story), and my husband and me (plotting a new series set in either Wyoming or Montana. Curious yet?). If you're counting, you know that's only nine, but we were missing Rene Gutteridge this year.
Anyway, I came away from the weekend recharged, focused, and ready to hit the ground running tomorrow. I'm a big fan of brainstorming. With other writers who have other experiences you can really hone a story and make it sing. I think it makes ANY story better. If you haven't tried it, give it a shot! You'll be glad you did!
posted at 9:59 PM
Friday, January 06, 2006
It happens every year at this time. The house gets suspiciously quiet, and I realize I haven't seen my family for a while. In fact, I've hardly seen them all week, my husband and three boys.
Then a roar erupts from the living room, and I follow the sound. There I find them, my boys, sacked out in front of the TV. And I remember.
No, there's not a Tupperware sale, and it has nothing to do with alleys and pins and funny-looking shoes that are apparently appropriate everyday attire at the moment. No, I'm talking about every sportsman's dream week. Monday Night football. And Tuesday Night Football. And Wednesday Night Football. Need I go on?
We have the Fiesta Bowl, and the Orange Bowl, and the Tangelo-Kiwi Bowl, and let's not forget the Toilet Bowl. This, I am told, is the You-Are-Lucky-to-be-Playing-in-a-Bowl-Game Bowl.
Yes, my family goes into hiding every year this time, as I suspect happens in households all across America. The bowl games are finally over now, ladies, but don't start planning Family Game Night just yet. You did know that Pro-Football Playoffs begin this weekend, didn't you?
posted at 9:23 AM
Thursday, January 05, 2006
My house goes on the market today. My dream European cottage is going to be but a memory someday (hopefully soon). All because I can't commune with nature. No, not even a little bit. I tried enjoying the wild turkeys, the cute little fawns frolicking, the jackrabbits with their ears plopping through the grass.
But I got nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. I got more excited about the Bloomingdale's email that Lilly Pulitzer is making denim now. Maybe it's because I'm Italian and I appreciate the simple things in life. I grew up on tacky. I was raised around plastic-covered sofas and rubber fruit cascading over thick glass bowls. People think Buca di Beppo is kitsch or that, "Moonstruck" is just a movie, but I'm here to tell you, plastic fruit magnets on the fridge are real. Eggs, fried in holey toast, is legitimate. Italians really do yell everything, and ornate Vatican style lives on in millions of homes.
Every year, my Nana had a calendar of naked fat women over 300 pounds. She thought it was hysterical and hung it on her fridge as diet encouragement. My great uncles had dirty magazines piled up, like side tables, in their living rooms.
So I know what it's like to be a square peg in a round hole. I don't think naked fat ladies are all that funny, actually. I don't think that porn as furniture is good design fare, and sadly, I don't think living the quiet life is any better than these things.
Like most good Italians, I want to eat, drink and be merry. Because Italians know the sweet life. Espresso and Tiramisu are from my people, and I probably owe a good bit of my sense of humor to my Italian heritage. Cleaning up spaghetti "gravy" on a Viking stove is a pain, anyway. I have no class. Why pretend? Mangia porco maiale.
(My papa's transation of eat, drink and be merry: Eat like a pig.) Can I get an amen?
posted at 9:55 PM
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
I need to get organized. No, I mean it. I sent my granddaughter to the linen closet to get a hand towel, and had to call 911 to get her out of there.
Now, I could be wrong, but I’m thinking that ain’t right.
Okay, we’ve lived in our current home for fifteen years, so that could count for part of it. People accumulate things. It’s a fact of life. But where did I get all these towels, sheets, and blankets--none of which match? I’m pretty sure it’s my husband’s fault. He can’t pass up a bargain. He probably bought mismatches on a clearance table.
Oh well, not one to slack--hey, I write fiction--this became New Year’s resolution number 967. I quickly set to work, pulling out old sheets, blankets, towels, and I got rid of everything without a partner.
I ended up with two matching towel sets, minus a wash cloth.
My little mission was pretty uneventful, well, except for the fact that as I gathered the linens to take to Goodwill, I realized our dog was missing.
She’s little, okay? It happens.
Once I rescued her from the rubble of sheets, I packed my car (which by then looked pretty much like the opening scene of The Beverly Hillbillies) and made my way to the store.
Upon my return home, I was feeling rather proud of our orderly linen closet. Adrenaline rushed through me as my eyes looked around for the next project and came to a halt at the bathroom cabinet.
The theme song for Jaws played in my mind, and I rolled up my sleeves. A quick glimpse of my face in the mirror flashed Jack Nicholson in “The Shining,” and that just scared me.
I don’t know about you but when something like that happens, I figure it’s best to let it go.
So my organizational days are over. And just so you know, if you ever come to visit, don’t expect the towels to match.
posted at 7:49 AM
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
I make them every year. Lose weight, exercise more, change this, change that. We are never satisfied, are we? But satisfaction is greatly overrated. Contentment is one thing, but I love goals. I love the fresh start of a new year. Anything seems possible when the calendar rolls around again.
Sell five hundred thousand copies of a book--sure, it's possible. Once again weigh what I did when I got married--of course, piece of cake. And this year, I KNOW one thing I've wanted and dreamed about for years is about to happen--I'm getting a new daughter-in-law, So that means anything is possible, right? I might even wish those wrinkles away that have started forming around my eyes, and the cellulite on my thighs might suddenly turn to smooth, elastic skin if I just exercise enough. Okay, maybe not.
But one thing I do know for sure. Anything is possible with God. I went to see Narnia yesterday with my kids and was struck again with how this world is not the real one. It's really the dream and heaven is the reality. So the resolutions I want to make this year include some spiritual ones too. To more clearly look past the veil that separates the two worlds and try to peer into eternity, to send some treasures on ahead by loving people and listening for God's prompting.
Of course, I'm not giving up the idea of selling a million books or of wearing a size 8 again someday. I can't quite let go of this world just yet. But I'm working on it.
posted at 8:59 AM
Monday, January 02, 2006
Typically, a trip to the electronic superstore is not high on my list of favorite things to do. But I'd been begging for a TV in the bedroom because, as I have mentioned before, the 4 males in our house consistently tune the TV to one of the ESPN channels, while I sit, my eyes glazed over, my mind somewhere far, far away.
So we enter the store, and our eyes are immediately drawn to the sharp, crisp pictures from the flatscreens by the front door. How convenient that they put the really pretty ones up front. As it happens, this is the kind we need due to lack of space, so we choose a nice middle-of-the-road brand.
We work with a salesman who, by all accounts, seems pretty laid-back and good-natured, which is good because pushy sales people make me want to slap someone. When the
salesman mentions in passing that the pictures on their TVs are from a digital source and won’t be quite as crisp on our basic cable, I ask the question.
“What exactly will it look like?” Now, I’m not ultra-fussy about the picture, but I grew up with bunny ears (you young folk, ask your parents) and I’m not eager to go there again.
Like magic, the man flips a switch on the TV and the pretty tropical view turns as fuzzy as a cheap sweater. Oh.
I look at Kevin. “What now?”
The salesman gives us a moment to talk and Kevin says, “I don’t buy it.”
Don’t buy it? The guy flipped a switch, for heaven’s sake, what’s not to buy?
It’s then that I see the advertisements posted everywhere for digital cable service, and I’m getting a picture that’s clearer than ones on the LCD screens. Sheesh, can you trust anybody these days?
We decide to take our chances with the flatscreen and are handed off to salesman #2. This man, of course, wants to help us utilize this high tech TV by making sure we have that sharp, clear picture.
Digital Service for a year with a coupon for $100.00 off?
Installation for $249.00?
A remote control for $149.00? (Guaranteed to work on any electronic equipment in your home!)
Extended Warranty for three years in case our new TV is defective? Purchase the warranty and get 10% off the deluxe remote and 15% off installation!! (Didn’t manufacturers used to stand behind their products for free?)
We leave with exactly what we came for– and I have a feeling not many can say that—although we have picked up a used car lot stench and an irritated smirk from Salesman #2.
An hour later Kevin has the TV installed on the wall, and it’s operating just fine with the free remote that came with the set. Not surprisingly, the picture, while not as slick as the models in the store, doesn’t look anything like fuzzy version the salesman showed us.
I got my bedroom TV, though I may have lost a little innocence along the way. But considering the way many businesses operate these days, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
posted at 8:10 AM