Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Thanksgiving Tree

This year we made a Thanksgiving Tree. Neither Jon nor I are very keen to spontaneously talk about personal things and inevitably someone will want to ask, "What are YOU thankful for?" This usually means a couple of seconds of mental scrambling only to come up with something lame...like grilled cheese or chocolate covered walnuts while other family members wax poetically about family and friends.

Our Thanksgiving Tree was an excellent way to get around the awkwardness. Not that there's anything wrong with being thankful for grilled cheese (I am...very thankful indeed!) but this tree gave us the opportunity to be honest without being embarrassed.

Besides - I'm a writer not a public speaker.

I took an old silver urn that Jon picked up from a previous job and filled it with florists' foam. I had some dried flowers from two old bouquets, cut them to size and jabbed into the foam around the edge of the urn. When we moved this past summer, there were dead bushes in front of our house. I pulled them up and left them in the back yard to use for kindling. One of them turned out to be a perfect tiny "tree" so into the middle of the urn that went. Burlap cut from an old coffee sack went around the base of the "tree" to cover the foam. Finally, we put out a stack of tags, string, and a pen and encouraged others to write their Thanksgiving thoughts down by hanging ours before the guests arrived.


That's the final product! It turned out so lovely I may take the tags off and just decorate the "tree" with Christmas ornaments.

And yes...those are real book pages hanging on the wall. That's what happens when I have a week off from school.

TELL ME: Did you do anything different this year for Thanksgiving? Have any "unbreakable" family traditions you're dying to change? Just curious...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

May you all have your fill of good food and family.
Rest easy and enjoy the weekend.
See you next week!

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Good morning!

Just wanted to pop in and ramble a bit. I hope you're all having a wonderful week! Where I am, it's blissfully cold, wet, and grey. I am one happy writer :)

* Been reading David Lebovitz's EXCELLENT book The Sweet Life in Paris. Even if you've never had an infatuation with The City of Light (as I have), you'll get a kick out of his humor and his everyday situations in Paris. Not to mention the recipes are to die for!!

* I've been trying to get through Carson McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter for about two months now. It's beautifully written but it is so...slow.... Seriously. I read five pages and feel like I should have read 30. Anyone else read this one? Honestly, is it worth finishing? (It goes back to the library Monday)

* Book Club just started reading Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson. I'm only a few pages in, but it is blissfully British. I'm really looking forward to this one.

*Last, for my Literary Theory class, I'm reading Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko. This book, while not what I'd normally choose to read, is beautiful. It's very cyclical and takes a bit to get the feel of who it's talking about and when. It's written like a spiral, or a Celtic knot, in and out, weaving stories together to form a whole narrative. I've never read anything like it. Even if you're not a fan of literary fiction, I'd recommend it (PS to make it even harder to follow, there are no chapters)

So-I've been busy where reading is concerned. Also been writing a bit thanks to the gloomy weather. How is everyone doing? Sorry I haven't been around much this week. I started a volunteer program and have a paper due. Not to mention Thanksgiving is next week here in America. And guess who's hosting 22+ people at their house only 2 days before they host another 20+ people for a left-over party?

Yep. Me.

I am crazy.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday is for planning...

Good morning! There have been several new faces in the comments and that always makes me excited! A big HELLO to all of your new readers and followers. I see your lovely faces on my sidebar. Welcome!

I still haven't made it through as many IWSG posts as I wanted to. WOW are there a lot of  bloggers on that list. It's a wonderful problem to have (as I'm sure Alex would agree with me).

Ever since I started back to school full time, Mondays haven't scared me so much. The last full time job I had was a terrible fit for me and Monday brought a sense of dread the likes of which I had not experienced in a long time. Don't get me wrong; I was thankful for the job and it came at the right time. But over time, it was painfully clear I did not belong in that environment.

Now, I look forward to Mondays. I see them as a clean slate, a fresh start, and an opportunity to plan a week that will leave me feeling as though I've actually accomplished something come Sunday night.

Ever get the feeling at the end of a week that you've just floated through, let your schedule control you? Oi I feel like that waaay too often.

This Monday is dark and dreary: just my style! A blanket of fog is covering the cow pasture behind our yard and the regiment of trees that line the fence are dressed out in orange, yellow and red. A troop of black birds just landed and are clamoring for worms and insects. And a writer is sitting at her computer, sipping tea and running through her mind all the things she needs to do and wants to do.

HOW do you balance the needs and the wants? HOW do you allocate time to get things accomplished while still maintaining hobbies? AND HOW do you actually write those stories that are begging to be put on paper and screen?

It comes down to this fact: I all my schedule to dictate what I do. In other words, I allow my day to set the tone for what I accomplish. All this means is I'm not taking responsibility for my time and that's no way to live. If we as writers, artists, human beings intend to accomplish anything in this life (being a great parent or spouse, getting the laundry washed, writing 50,000 words during the month of November) we must recognize that everything we do is important and time is a precious commodity.

We will never get the time we spend or waste back. SPEND IT WISELY.

Hopefully this post isn't too somber. Autumn is always a time for me to get my priorities straight, try to reign in things that I'm doing that aren't really getting anywhere. So I've set myself a new goal for the rest of 2012:

Don't let time get away from me.
Do what I can and don't stress over what I can't.
Do what I can do where I'm at.

As I put on my blog banner: Start where you are, write what you know, make do and mend, and grow, baby, grow!"

Time to live by my own advice :)

TELL ME: How do YOU reign in your time when you see it getting away from you? Any other NaNo writers feeling the inevitability that you won't win NaNo this year? What's so special about starting where you are and growing where you're planted?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Frivolities

Time for some pre-weekend fun! 
All pictures taken from Living to Read Fantasy.
Have a wonderful, safe, and creative weekend.
And if you're participating in NaNoWriMo - May the Force be with you!

<3 Jen

And one more...just because I think it's precious:

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Happy 165th Bram Stoker

I can still remember the first time I read Dracula. It was only a couple of years ago and I remember getting the distinct feeling as I cracked open the book for the first time that I was in the company of a genius.

Bram Stoker created a nightmare that has endured for decades. We still shudder to think of creatures of the night stalking our homes to drink our blood. Recent sparkling additions aside, people are still creating tales of horror with the ancient vampire. 

Interestingly, there are vampire legends in just about every culture. Check out this Wiki list of all the various vampires and vampire names throughout the world: List of Vampires in Folklore and Mythology.

Strange, isn't it? How something that we attribute to the over active imaginations of frightened children or the folktales of primitive cultures trying to explain the unexplained flourish the world over? I've often wondered where do our myths originate and if they are only stories, only nightmares, why do people on the opposite side of the globe recognize them? Consider this: every fairy tale has a counterpart to be found in most countries. Every country was once separated by great land masses and oceans that were impassable without the benefit of modern transportation.

So I ask you: Do you believe that vampires and gargoyles, dragons and fairies have their origins in fact? Or are they just spooky stories to tell by the light of a dying fire on a cold, dark night? Or maybe, possibly, a little bit of both...

PS: A great big THANK YOU to all the new visitors to my blog yesterday from the Insecure Writer's Support Group! I still plan to do a bit more blog hopping today! Great to meet all of you! Cheers :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Genre Woes

A bit late, but -whew!- still made it! I promise to stop by to read some of the other inspiring posts :). If you're not a member of the IWSG, go visit Ninja Captain Alex. He'll show you what to do!

What are my current writerly insecurities? Well, to be honest, I am always second guessing what I write. Not the stories themselves, but the general direction all my stories tend to go. The basic genre in which I write. Imagine if you will, you're at a party. Someone comes up to you - someone you've met before but don't really know well- and they ask, "So, how have you been?" "Good," you answer. "Staying busy, working, writing, the usual." "Oh?" Their left eyebrow goes up. "What do you write?"

I tend to answer this question with a hem and a haw and a look-anywhere-but-at-the-asker expression.

"Oh, I -ah- I write speculative fiction."

"Oh. What's that?"

"Um-ah...horror. I write horror."

There are three reactions. First, I get the, "Oh. Nice. Ah, excuse me." reaction. Then there's the, "Why?" which I actually love because you can scare them further. And every now and then you get, "Cool!" but nothing more.

My insecurity in this department stems from the fact that I have always cared waaaay too much of what people think of me. And I hate explaining myself to anyone. I don't think everyone needs an explanation but everyone usually demands one. Ugh. How do I get around this?

For starters, stop caring so much what people think. Easier said than done, but I have made tremendous progress over the past few years. I can surround myself with like-minded individuals which sounds great but is also easier said than done where I live. The best piece of advice I can give myself (and anyone else struggling with the genre woes) is this:

Write what you must, do it every day, become the best you can at it, and submit, submit, submit!

Getting a short story published or the coveted book contract may not cause people to like what you do any more or less. However, it does lend a bit more credibility TO YOURSELF. Even if you submit a short story to the local paper for no financial compensation, you are a published writer and no one can take that away from you.

Don't give up. Cliche, I know, but true. Just keep writing what's in your heart to write and you will be a success...

...whether anyone else likes it or not!

TELL ME: What do you enjoy writing? Have you ever experienced genre prejudice? Have you ever tried writing in a totally different genre than what you normally write in? Do you honestly NOT care what people think and if so, HOW did you get to that place in your life?!?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The morning was ghostly...

The mornings was ghostly with the soft cries of raindrops just outside my window. I can hear them clamoring against the chimney  trying to get in. The sky is deep grey, just like I like it. My tea has grown cold but my fingers itch to begin a tale...

Good morning!

How have you all fared through the crazy hurricane? I hope you're all well and your family and friends were well out of the path of Sandy. Until today, all we've seen is wind and more wind. This morning, however, woke me to one of my favorite sounds: rain.

The house is dark and a little chilly but nothing a good cup of tea and a robe can't fix! The only sounds are the clacking of this keyboard and the ticking of the two clocks -one on the shelf in the corner, one on the wall.

Gone are the Halloween decorations.What few non-Halloween decorations we have are now happily scattered throughout the house. I couldn't bear to take down the tattered cloth on the mantle, so it's now being used as a backdrop for autumn. Honestly, I like the way it looks: without the pumpkins and horror novels it looks less like mummy wrappings a bit more like an old shawl.

Soon this lovely bubble of rain induced peace will be broken. I've got to leap into my classwork since I spent most of yesterday running errands and trying to recheck out some library books! You know, you change bags, forget your library card, call to renew at home, and THEN find out that one of the books can't be renewed so you have to FIND the library card, get BACK in the car and drive down there anyway...

Good think I only live a mile away! HA!

As you can see from the little tab on my sidebar, I've only written a whopping 2100 words for NaNo so far. but I'm not stressed. I'll write as much as I can. At the very least, come December 01 I'll have more than I would have had if I'd not attempted! There. That's me being optimistic.

How are you all this fine, gloomy, rainy day? Is it raining in your neck of the woods? My husband chalks it up to one of my many quirks but I'm much more alive and alert on stormy days than sunny ones. Too much sun and I start getting depressed. No joke. Must be all those English/Irish ancestors jostling about in my DNA.

Have a wonderful Tuesday, dear readers!

TELL ME: What's your favorite type of weather? Dong NaNo this year? Got any Thanksgiving decor you just can't live without? What about Thanksgiving stories...there aren't that many of those are there? Hmmm...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Are you in?

Halloween is over for another year. I put up all the decorations this morning and pulled down the turkeys and "Give Thanks" banners. Almost Turkey Time BUT that's not what I'm pondering...

So far, this school term has been rather, dare I say, less stressful than the last few? Sure I have two projects due by Sunday, but all they require is a bit of writing. No sweat. But, nope, that's not what's on my mind.

Today is November 01.

And I KNOW you all know what THAT means...

NaNoWriMo is here again! And I am participating.

I've participated for the past three years, "won" in '09 and '10. Last year was bust but at least I tried. This year, I'm ready because I'm not stressing it.

Something happened between last school term and this one. I'd like to think it was just me becoming more mature and easy going but I honestly think it has to do with adrenal burnout and the fact I honestly can't handle any more stress. Whatever it is, it dawned on me that being stressed out, even about maintaining my current (really, really good) G.P.A. just isn't worth it.

I'm letting that attitude trickle on down to my participation in NaNo this year.

So, for the next hour, I'll be sipping tea, listening to bossa nova on Pandora, and chiseling down that 50K word count.

Are you in this year? If so, look me up in NaNo land. I'd love to cheer you on!