Sunday, May 3, 2015

Twitter Parties

Have you guys discovered twitter parties? I am such a geek, but I kind of love how it is a quick rush and there are prizes and people are all happy...I mean how many happy places are there in the internet world? Aside from cat videos, naturally.

This week (tomorrow!) I'm going to enter the #ModernDayMoms #CerealWars contest, which runs tomorrow at 1pm. RSVP Here

I know, I know...they sound silly. But I've won some great prizes and I'll be honest, it is a nice change in my day to tweet at someone who is listening for an hour!

Good luck

Friday, June 28, 2013

Look! The return...

About a week ago I nearly took a picture of my loveseat because it was laundry-free. For those of you who either 1. do not have small children or 2. are amazing at getting laundry done (or 3. are aliens) laundry is the evil that multiplies all on its own. I know I seem dramatic, but I swear laundry has the ability to procreate. You look away for a minute and suddenly your pile is twice as big and all those socks? They've run off for fantastic honeymoons in far-off places.

I wonder if someday someone is going to unearth a giant mountain of socks on some Caribbean island? Everyone else will see it as some big mystery but we'll be laughing, won't we precious. We always knew about those sneaky socks.

Anyhow. Laundry. I contend that summer is the worst for laundry because of all the changing in and out of swimsuits and such, though a good argument can be made for winter because of the bulky clothing. In the middle of my passionate, and logical defense of my own position I wonder: how did my life get reduced to this?

But I remind myself: it isn't reduction, its addition. I wanted these kids, all frustrating, stubborn, dirty, sometimes lazy and always patience-testing parts of them. I volunteered to have them take over my life. And I am better for it. Maybe not today, with a bit too much yelling and all the frustrated proclamations (no more tv ever! You will never have another new toy! No more desserts!) (that last one was aimed at me). I still believe if you don't learn to get over yourself and focus on others, the little or big people in your life, you become a weirdo. And frankly, I came out weird enough.

They are slowly and surely softening my rough edges. And each time I mess up and try to do better and am forced into confronting my weaknesses and foolishness I end the day grateful I was brave enough to try. Change is hard and trying to become a person good enough to raise these beautiful children? Scary enough some days I am afraid to get out of bed because I know I will fail the moment I open my mouth.

Luckily, they forgive fast. And love hard.

Does this post have anything to do with writing? Maybe. You should squint hard between the lines. In the meantime, I have to check on daughter #1 (on the toilet) and pray daughter #2 will not wake up while I make sure the twins are cleaning their "stations." Luckily, I'm not Cinderella. I have a deadline. I'm going to write an hour today even if the toilets don't get cleaned.

So there. Take that laundry.

Monday, May 20, 2013

In Defense of the Weak Girl

When the discussion turns to common annoyances in YA books (or any books, probably) one common complaint is the weak female character. I won't say her name, but she loves a sparkly vampire and has become the poster girl for the kind of character nobody wants. She lets things happen. She is obsessed with a boy. She whines. 

And before I go further let me clarify, I don't love a weak character. My favorite books feature characters who make things happen, who are intelligent and problem-solving. Who save themselves and don't wait for someone else to do it for them.

But I got to thinking as I was listening to an audiobook this afternoon (and I won't mention the title right now. I will just say it is making me uncomfortable, but not in a bad way. But we'll see.). You know, sometimes I am a weak character in my own life. Sometimes I've let people save me. Sometimes I've needed them to save me. Sometimes I'm stupid. Sometimes I care too much about trivial things and crave praise to make me feel valued. 

Does that make me one of those girls? What does that even mean, anyway? Is there a list of qualities which you must achieve in life to become a "real" woman? Because sometimes I feel like there is. A complicated algebraic equation of amount you're allowed to care about fashion over the time spent reading times which boys you swoon over to the power of which indie bands you listen to. (I am clearly a math genius). 

And if the numbers add up right and you take a few kickboxing classes then you qualify as a "strong" female. Or in the case of books, a strong female character. 

But what if my numbers don't add up? Can my story still be valuable? What if the girl waits for the prince to save her? What if she doesn't know how to save herself? Can she still be an interesting character? Can her story still be worth telling? 


Because a real girl can sometimes be a damsel-in-distress and still be intelligent and complex and have hidden depths. Because I can care too much about what number the scale says and what other people think of me. Because when I was a teenager I just wanted a boyfriend because it made me feel like I had value. And not a single one of those facts tells the whole story about me or defines my strength, then or now. In fact, some of my strength now comes from feeling that way then. I learned things. I grew. And yeah, some of it I still struggle with. 

I'm rewriting my WIP (again. I know.). And I'm thinking about my two female characters. I love them both. And I hope they don't get plunked in a category (Strong. Weak. Mid-weight!) because they fit some checklist. 

A weak character can be complex and worthy too. And a strong character can kick butt but lack depth. Women come in all shapes and sizes and personalities. There's room in my library for a weak character. What about yours?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book Recommendation: Hex Hall

Okay, so this book has been out for awhile. And there are sequels. And I might read them even. Here's the thing: Hex Hall has been on my TBR list for a long time, and I think that long lead time worked in HH's detriment. This is the blurb from goodreads:

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters. By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. 

Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect. As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Hex Hall was published in 2010 (I know, super behind. In my defense there have been lots of babies around here since, oh, 2006). Anyway, if I'd read Hex Hall in 2010 I think I would've liked it way more. Reading it now though it felt a little tired. The suspense didn't pull me in and Archer--oh, I want to love him more. Should you read Hex Hall? If you've got a spare afternoon and a warm day, (and a hammock, why not?) then for sure.

And just a note, I did listen to this book.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Today at the Pool

D (my 3-year-old): Look Mom! Dad's can nurse too! (points an overweight gentleman exiting the pool).

Me: (gasping noises like I'm the one drowning).

How has your Monday been?

Monday, April 29, 2013

All This Messing Around Has to Stop

It's that time again. That time when I start to think, "you know, I could be a better blogger." I usually ignore these kinds of feelings because they come pretty constantly about pretty much everything. I could be a better housekeeper, writer, parent, chocolate-chip cookie maker.

 Actually, that last one is a lie. I am an excellent chocolate-chip cookie maker. Really. They ruin my diet every week.

 Anyway. Today is Monday and even though I hate Mondays they do offer the opportunity to start a week right. Today, already (nobody point out it is almost two and "already" hardly applies) I've, um, eaten breakfast, fed the brood, taken D to swimming and done 30 minutes of cardio, fed them lunch (why? Why do they need to eat so much?), showered, gotten the terrible twins on the bus and eaten lunch myself. And I think other stuff.

And let's be honest, if I'm going to fit something else in I need to learn to be more organized. Things that take me, right now, 30 minutes need to take me 20. I need systems. I need plans. I need (*shudder*) to-do lists. 

But here's the problem. Whenever I decide to get organized in my house, or in my writing (hello outline, I'm looking at you) my brain explodes. And that is a hard thing to recover from. Honestly, all the little pieces flying and somehow the organizing is MORE complicated than the chaos. Which frankly can't be true.

The thing is, to get to the organized you have to wade through the chaos and that forces you to face it. To look at each little McDonald toy you've been shoving in a bin for five years and think "this has served its purpose and can be thrown away." Or you can throw the bin away. Both work. And facing all those little loose ends you've been ignoring take a level of mental honesty I am not really prepared for.

 You know how when you're revising a book you're supposed to kill your darlings? (sidebar: is this a quote from Stephen King or does it predate his writing book? Because it feels like something he should've said). I think cutting back is hard for the same reason. You clean up a little corner which only reveals how messy everything else is. So once again its Monday and I have good intentions to do better this week. And I'm going to tackle one of those little places, in my house and in my book, that is all kinds of cluttered with broken dollar store toys and ripped up books (so the hardest, right? How do you throw away a book? I have board books my oldest chewed on so they look like they were shelved in a hamster cage but you can still read them so I keep them).

I'm going to tackle my little corner and make it cleaner, neater, and more organized. And I'm not even going to roll my eyes when I do it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

If there is anything cuter in the world than an eighteen-month-old, I don't know what it is.

And yet. They sure do keep you busy.

But because of that busy I've been listening to more books and I've got a new! (qualified) book recommendation for you.

I just finished listening to Dan Well's Partials. 

From Goodreads:

The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials--engineered organic beings identical to humans--has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out. Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic-in-training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws have pushed what's left of humanity to the brink of civil war, and she's not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will find that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them--connections that humanity has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew were there.

 Well. Sounds kind of amazing, right? I mean Kira is definitely a tough cookie. And you know what I liked best about her? She doesn't assume because smart people have been working on a problem for a long time that she won't be able to solve it. Isn't that important? I mean, so what if people who have more experience, are older and are wiser or whatever have been working on a problem. That doesn't mean the young whipper-snapper won't be the person to think of the solution. I don't mean that to sound snarky: it is really what I enjoyed about her. A specific kind of fearlessness.

 Unfortunately, Kira and I aren't bound to be BFFs (which is a word my boys just learned on the bus. They crack me up sometimes). Kira is a well-drawn character. At least, she should be. And maybe for some people she is. But there was something missing for me. That extra little bit of humanity or common experience that takes a character from interesting to living. So I leave this to you. If you like sci fi and post-apocalyptic novels, you will likely enjoy this. Dan Well's is clearly an excellent writer. And he attended my alma mater, so I like him for that too.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Books to Read: Wonder

You know how sometimes there are those survey question, where they ask if there was a book you've read which changed your outlook on life? I never know what to answer. Especially in terms of novels. I have read lots of books which challenged the way I thought, or opened my mind to new ideas. I remember being really affected by The Poisonwood Bible, for example.

But when I think about my everyday, my habits, I can't think of a book which has made a distinguishable impact. Until maybe now.

From Goodreads:

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances? R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

Wow. There is a lot to love about this book. Is it perfect? Probably not. But Auggie's story, which is told not just from Auggie's point-of-view but also from others who are close to him, really struck a chord. And made me ask how I treat people. Do I shy away from people who are different? Am I just friendly enough? Do I not risk looking foolish myself to help and be a friend to others? And because I am asking those questions still, now, a week or a month later, I am going to give Wonder a perfect score.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Books to Read

So, I've been reading. Okay, mostly I've been listening. And let's be honest, audiobooks are a little different from regular books. I mean, I'll stick with a book where the pacing is a little slow or the characters aren't quite as gripping if I am also doing the dishes or gardening or (gasp) doing laundry. So audiobooks have an edge there, I'll be honest.

 But then sometimes I don't want someone else's voice in my head while I read. I listened to part of Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices books and I enjoyed reading it more, though the one I listened to, The Clockwork Prince, ended up being my favorite in the series. A series, by the way, you should read. Personally I liked the Infernal Devices much more than the Mortal Cup books.

 I've listened a lot lately, because four kids? Yes, that leads LOADS of time for cuddling up with a good book. And I also have a timeshare you might be interested in... Anyway, on to the recommendation.

 I really enjoyed Gail Carriger's  Etiquette and Espionage. From Goodreads: Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education. Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail Carriger's legions of fans have come to adore. I thought this was really cute. Sophronia is an excellent heroine. She's spunky and funny and relatable. Carriger has a well-nuanced world she built for the Parasol Protectorate series (which were also cute) and frankly its a world I really want to live in. Werewolves AND automatons? It took me a bit to get fully engaged but by the time this ended I was sad to see it go. I'm excited for the next book.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Books to Read: Sapphire Blue

Things I learned from reading this book: I always spell "sapphire" wrong on the first try. Other things I learned: good characters trump everything. Is there good plot going on in Sapphire Blue? Yep. Lots of adventure, beautiful dresses, hot smooches and danger. But mostly, there is Gwyneth. I love her.

From Goodreads:

Gwen’s life has been a rollercoaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the secret time-traveling Circle of Twelve. In between searching through history for the other time-travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean. At least Gwen has plenty of help. Her best friend Lesley follows every lead diligently on the Internet. James the ghost teaches Gwen how to fit in at an eighteenth century party. And Xemerius, the gargoyle demon who has been following Gwen since he caught her kissing Gideon in a church, offers advice on everything. Oh, yes. And of course there is Gideon, the Diamond. One minute he’s very warm indeed; the next he’s freezing cold. Gwen’s not sure what’s going on there, but she’s pretty much destined to find out.

I keep trying to figure out why this series works so much better for me than other urban fantasy books have. You think you've read enough of a category that you couldn't be engaged by it again, but then...

And I keep coming back to Gwen and Gideon. Really, all the characters here. I care about them. I want them to succeed. And I am totally convinced that there is some bad stuff coming. 

This is a definite read, especially if you like a little adventure and romance while you're, say, doing the dishes.