Monday, May 24, 2010

The Dangers of Living a Stone's Throw from Wisconsin

Ever since we moved to the Chicago area a few months ago, I've been obsessed with the idea of driving to Wisconsin to tour a cheese factory and eat samples.

This weekend we took the plunge. We came home with smoked cheddar and gouda and farmer's cheese and some other amazing cheese I can't remember the name of. A decent amount of it has already been eaten, mostly by me. I think the original (naive) idea was to "cook" with it, but it goes down just as easily with chips and salsa.

Yum. Several of the cheese factories/retail stores on the oversized tourism board map also serve ice cream and fudge, just in case the cheese isn't healthy enough for you.

I'm in serious trouble.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Funny Things We Say

Three-year-old daughter:

eppercise = exercise
flamily = family
chocolick = chocolate
ows cream = ice cream
Sleeping Booty (self-explanatory)


"I'm almost caught up on the laundry." = "I've hidden the laundry in strategic places around the house so I don't have to look at it."

"I'm giving up Pepsi any day now." = "I'll go an extra hour without my sugar/caffeine fix, get a headache, get twitchy, snap at everyone, then lose my resolve and head for the fridge."

"I will no longer obsess about the writing thing." = "I'll bottle it all up then take it out on my poor, unsuspecting flamily."

*My apologies to whomever crafted this Cameron icon. I stumbled across it years ago, saved it to the hard drive for future use because of its sheer awesomeness, and promptly forgot where I found it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When Good Mountains Go Bad

Today is the 30th anniversary of the Mt. St. Helens eruption. I was seven years old (meep! how time flies!) that Sunday afternoon when the sky went dark in Spokane, WA.

I don't remember feeling scared, really. Just fascinated. When the skies cleared we had a few inches of ash on the ground, like gritty, gray snow. We scooped some up in jelly jars and pill bottles to save for posterity. Plows and snow shovels came out of storage to deal with the rest.

I wish I'd been older. I wish I could remember more. The significance of such a major event sailed right over my little head. One of my most vivid memories involves the paper masks we wore to protect our lungs. Volunteers at school painted clown faces and puppies and kitties on the masks so we'd be more inclined to wear them.

I've always wanted to frame this event as a story, somehow. Funny how the random things that happen in childhood provide fuel for our grown-up imaginations.

Photos from and US geological survey, respectively. Couldn't find a single photo of those silly masks, though.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hearing Voices

The amazing Nathan Bransford blogged recently about infusing your writing with a memorable voice. I've been waffling back and forth between first and third person on my current project, trying to decide which is stronger; which one creates a more believable connection with the main character.

First person seems best in this case, but here's where I'm struggling: I find myself second guessing every single descriptive passage.

Me: "Ooh, that's a good phrase, that's a keeper."
*gives self imaginary, premature pat on the back*
Me: "Wait. Is it something a twelve-year-old boy would think or say?"
*says line out loud*
Me: "Crap."

My two previous manuscripts were much easier in this regard (first-person teenage girl, third-person tween boy). Can a grown woman convincingly capture a preteen boy's point-of-view? Sure, J.K. Rowling did it, but she's J.K. Rowling. And she used third person.

This should be an interesting experiment. It will probably require large quantities of chocolate.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bits and Pieces

Yay! I made it past the first page of my WIP. \0/

My newest difficulty is nodding off while writing. That's right: I'm boring myself into midday slumber. (It may also have something to do with staying up until 2 am several nights this week.)

Mother's Day was a hit, though DH had to catch a flight to NY in the afternoon. He bought me a skillet and sat there watching me squirm, trying to act excited, until he pulled out a pair of diamond earrings--easily the nicest jewelry I've ever owned, next to my wedding ring. What an amazing guy.

I also had to share this last tidbit about our cornball Middle Child. We were sitting at First-Born's game Saturday in the freezing cold weather (they won!). MC wanted to go sit in the car. I suggested he watch the game to get some pointers, since his first game is two weeks away. He rolled his eyes, flung out his hands and said in all seriousness: "But I'm already fantastic!"

Hee. It's true the kid can hit. His other skills...need work.

Zero help required in the confidence department.

Friday, May 7, 2010

First Drafts: the Good, the Bad, and the Horrific

I'm very excited to be working on a new middle-grade novel. That thrill of possibility is like a permanent sugar rush. These past few weeks I've been trying to get to know my characters, discarding ideas that don't feel quite right, fleshing out plot and setting.

The trouble is, I've started this thing several times and each time I end up throwing out most of what I write. I have a passable first page. Good. Fine. Great. But whenever I open the document intending to pound out a thousand words, I get stuck on that first page, tweaking, trying to make every word perfect. Gah. Words that seemed spot-on one day sit there on the page and mock me the next day. MY BOOK IS LAUGHING AT ME.

There's definitely a learning curve. At least the main character has found his voice and is not afraid to speak up. And apparently he has a lively sense of humor.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Book Phobia

Do you ever avoid reading books because there are too many of them to read?

I have shelves and shelves of must-reads gathering dust, and I'm so intimidated by them that I spend hours wasting time on the Internet.


After browsing a handful of agent and author blogs tonight, I'm reminded of all the AMAZING books out there, many released within the last year or two. Now I'm even more intimidated, because I know it's time for another trip to the bookstore, where I'll buy more books that I don't read.

Help! There must be a trick to breaking the cycle of avoidance. I need a library, STAT. Maybe they have a summer reading program for grownups.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Baseball Geeks

Our oldest son had his first official game tonight. He got a hit and sent a runner home! They won the game! I'm living vicariously through my kid and I'm not ashamed to admit it!

I am an indoor girl, through and through. I never played an organized sport. I quit the dance lessons pretty early in the game. I grew up as a band geek and preferred books and TV to pretty much anything involving bugs and/or dirt.

But I'm having so much dang fun with this baseball thing. We were like the second family to show up for the game (mostly to stake out prime viewing spots with our folding chairs). We've been to every practice so far, wearing silly grins, watching our 10-year-old play an actual sport for the first time. Most of the other parents are veterans, cool as cucumbers. Not that they don't cheer on their kids. They're great. Just calmer. They can even carry on conversations while the kids are IN THE MIDDLE OF A GAME, and are more prone to spouting cool baseball chatter, and less prone to wearing silly grins.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Little League

Our new town has a fantastic youth baseball league, and our boys are signed up to play! Just going to practices, sitting outdoors, soaking up the's settled something in me that's been restless--homeless--for a long time. I think we're finally home, finally in a place we can settle in to build a sense of permanence.

Baseball is so many things. It's comfortable. It's community. It's mowed grass and dusty fields. Hot dogs and folding chairs. Hope and hard work, focus and faith.

People often speak of baseball as a metaphor for life. For our family, it represents something simpler but no less profound: peace.

The boys are happy. We are Nomads no more. Life is good.