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I've Missed You

Whew. I'm having to take a minute for a little heart thrill. I tried to log in yesterday. It kept saying there was an "error" and that my journal had been "purged," and even though I haven't posted in years, I got sad. But I was on a different computer, one without my journal page favorited, so now, whew, I see that it still works. And now that I realize this is still important to me, I'll do better. I mean, really, who wants to have a part of themselves, a piece of their past purged? That sounds horrible.

Reading 2012

I read a lot of books this year! Or I just remembered them better thanks to twitter's #fridayreads. It amazed me that I'd forgotten Ender's Game until I looked back over my tweets. That's not exactly a forgettable book. My list may also be longer because I volunteered at the middle school library and therefore came across a lot of good books that only took a day or two to read.

1,2.  Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare. I didn't like them as much as The City of Bones, etc. books but still good.

3. Looking for Alaska by John Green. I liked this soooo much better than Paper Towns because I actually liked the characters, a lot.

4. The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Marten Troop. (Non Fiction) OK, first of all- the title is totally misleading, but the book itself is HILARIOUS, like  laughing so hard David said, "If your going to wheeze like that you're gonna have to go read in the other room."

5. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. A book every young teen girl should read. Every one.

6. A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass. Fascinating and poignant book about synesthesia, which I bet you've never heard of ( I hadn't).

7. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. Another book every middle grader, boy or girl, should read though they probably won't really appreciate it until their older.

8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Emily had to read this for class (lucky girl) so I took it with me when we went to Tulum. Loved it just as much as the first time. All that formal, seemingly stilted language and it still just pulls right at the heart. You just feel it right in the heart for poor Darcy. Like Anna Karenina of last year's list, you read it and say, Ah, yes, this is what makes a classic.

9. The Messenger by Lois Lane. Duncan had to read this, the sequel to The Giver, but it's just not the same. Duncan and I both agreed on that. The mythos of the forest, the driving fact of the story, just didn't pan out.

10. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman I loved this!!! Super cool story built around the interesting names of London Tube stops. Em like it too. David not so much.

11. Ananzi Boys by Neil Gaiman. I didn't like this as nearly as much as Neverwhere, but I've never been a fan of the Ananzi legends- just don't think someone who tricks his wife and kids so he can eat all their food is very cool or funny.

12. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr, Goosegirl by Shannon Hale,  A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray. All part of a YA study. I liked them all. Enjoyable reads every one, but I never felt the urge to read any of their sequels, though I might some day.

13, 14, 15 Hunger Games triology by Suzanne Collins. Exact opposite of the above 3. I'd heard all about these. Knew the story already and wasn't that excited about the premise- children dying violent deaths- no way. But David got HG before the movie came out . He said I should read it, so I did and I loved the whole series, much more than any of my family members. Read the first chapter the other day and almost got sucked into re-reading the whole book. Excellent writing.

16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21. The Tale of Hiltop Farm, The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Woods, The Tale of Oatcake Crag, etc. by Susan Wittig Albert These are cozies, not my usual read, so maybe I'm not a good critic of them. I picked up the first at our Church booksale for 1.00 and it was a pleasant find, but over the course of the series, I found the writing repetitive and sometimes, down right annoying. Still, they tell the rather sad tale of Beatrix Potter, (fact and fiction blended) and the inspiration for her books and all that I liked. If you give them a try just be sure and wait a looooong time between each one, that will help. 

22. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini. More bad writing and another disappointing sequal. I only kept reading for Nasuada. She rocks.

23. The 13th Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson A sequel that more than lived up to its predecessor. Fun but thoughtful read.

24, 25, 26. LOTR I know, I know. Yes, they were on the list last year, but David and Duncan were gone over seas; and it was summer and Emily and I had a lot of time to read; but I had nothing handy, so I reached for an old favorite. And when I start it, I get sucked right in to the beauty of the story and the writing. And I'm not gonna aplogize because I've found others who read LOTR about once a year just "to be refreshed."

27. Architect of Middle Earth by Daniel Grotta. Fascinating, unauthorized bio of Tolkien. Grotta concentrates more on how LOTR impacted and was impacted by its time. The parts about WWI and what Tolkien, Lewis and their contemporaries lived through and with will just break your heart.

28. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I'd heard so much about this on the internet, but it didn't sound like my thing- too scifi. I got it for Duncan. He loved it. Got David to read it.  They both said I had to read it, so I did somewhat reluctantly. OMG- you cannot put it down and its not just a pageturner. This explores heavy stuff. Should be required reading for all freshmen lit classes.

29, 30. The Prince of Ill Luck, The Wind Witch by Susan Dexter. Heard about these from @AngieBookGirl's retro reads. Prince starts out a little odd- in the POV of a horse, but stick with it, it's good. And Witch is that rare sequel that is actually better than first.

31. Daggerspell by Katherine Kerr.  I know she's a well respected fantasy author, and I was so excited about this book as it's the inspiration for one of my favorite Within Temptation songs, but...I didn't like it. It was actually kinda boring. The song lyrics are better than the actual story. I didn't buy the MC's motivation or feel any of his pain- not sure he really had any. And the love interest's big fall- same thing-too yucky and I just didn't buy it, didn't feel sorry for her or see why she did it. Nope. Just wasn't there, for me. I didn't care about them.

32, 33. 34. Harry Potter. Not sure how I started these up again, but I did and got pulled right in to Rowlings world though I'm taking it slow with months between each book. Its nice to know its waiting for me, when I'm currently out of anything to read.

36, 37. 38. Daughter of the Forest, Son of the Shadows, Child of the Prophecy by Juliet Marillier. Reread DoF and loved it all over again. Em read it and loved it too. Having been disappointed in SoS, I gave it another try. (Em said no, preferred to keep end of Daughter as the end and I understood perfectly). However, I liked SoS better this time around. It was just so hard on the first read, for it to compete with my expectations after Daughter. And I will say the ending is still...just not right, not truly believable. Because of that I never read Child. But I saw it at Half Price Books and thought what the heck. I liked it- it's better than Son.

39. Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis. Reread this in order to go to my church's bookclub. For someone who never had his own kids, Lewis writes the most delightfully real kids (and grown ups). Reading this aloud with a group of very well-informed Lewis afficianados has been absolute fun.

40. Wesley the Owl by Stacey O'Brien (Non-fiction) Awesome, awesome, awesome!!! Fascinating. Funny. Heartwrenching- and not in the way you think, that way all animal books are.This book will stay with me forever. Thanks, Stacey, you are one of my heroes.This was my favorite book of the year.

Thanks for the Memories

Yesterday, I got another one of those LJ comment notifications that was nothing but spam. I decided perhaps it was time to put my lonely blog out of its misery. But I knew I wanted to keep some of my entries so I started going through them with the idea I would print and save the ones I liked. What a ride- going through the last 4 years of my life! The highs and the low, low, lows. There were things I couldn't believe I'd forgotten! There was writing I was pretty proud of. And some that I wasn't, which was good- sort of reminding me how far I'd come and maybe why those agents weren't jumping all over each other to rep me. And there were people I had missed. And isn't that what a journal is supposed to do- preserve our thought and memories, even if its set aside so long the cobwebs have to be cleared off it? So, thank you LIveJournal for keeping my faith, keeping my life and for not having actual cobwebs.

Tulum, Mexico

This one pic of my son says it all- the beautiful, serene beach- wish we were there now.
And there's this one taken by my charming husband, showing me and Em crawling Gollum-like up the ruins at Koba.
What can I say- I hate heights!

But the view from the top was worth it.

Iguanas were everywhere!

And monkeys were in the trees....

Resolutions Check In

Woo Hoo! I said I'd check back in March and I'm early. And I did what I set out to do.
My YA paranormal, No Body to Love, is complete at 62,502 words.
My query letter is out there, right now, in the inbox of 3 different agents. 
So, yay me! Sorry to brag but writing is a lonely life and if I don't do it, no one will.

I'm especially pleased because I not only did what I wanted to do, but I also managed to take Mary Kole's Writer's Digest YA webinar, volunteer at my daughter's school's literary festival and get into Miss Snark's February Secret Agent Contest. I didn't get picked by the agent, but I got loads of brilliant critiques and very encouraging comments which can be viewed here:


If you've never checked out Authoress' Secret Agent Archives, do it now. They're full of fantastic info on specific agents' likes and dislikes.

And what of the rest of my resolutions- jogging at least once a week and stuff like that. Well, um...I'm working on it. I mean, sheesh, it's only February. But, I did rewrite my first page after the SA contest.

Read more...Collapse )

A Year of Books

I  began 2011 in the midst of an Anna Karenina reread. Twelve months later, I can still see Anna's fluttering white hands, Prince Oblonsky's moist teary eyes.

Last year's resolution was to finally finish The House of Niccolo series and I did!
I picked up at #4 To LIe with Lions (when I'd become really, really upset with Nicholas) and went all the way through to 9!!! Thanks to the fabulous ladies at Shamrock and Stone  http://www.voy.com/202493/ who encouraged me to do so. I'm glad to know how Nicholas' and poor Henry's stories ended and how Lymond's began. However, while I am still in awe of Dorothy Dunnet, I think, that no matter how much we love the characters, no story stays fresh after 6 books. (barring Harry Potter that is!)

Speaking of Harry Potter, I reread all 7 this summer. Emily had, in preparation for the last movie. She was so sad that "her childhood was ending" I picked up the first book so she could have someone who was willing to talk endlessly abou them. The sacrifices a mother will make. ; )

I got so inspired with wonderful rereads, I said what the heck and read the Silmarrilion and LOTR again (I'd read Hobbit last summer). This has to be at least the 5th time I've read that series and I still closed the last page with a sigh wishing it wasn't over just as I did the first time over 30 years ago.

I also re-read The Great Gatsby (because a friend wanted me to read it with her) and while I still dislike all the people in it, I am also still blown away by Fitzergerald's beautiful writing and what his book says about all of us who are awed by wealth and its trappings whether we admit it or not.

The same friend wanted me to read John Irving's Prayer for Owen Meanie. It started out OK but ugh, halfway through I was bored, bored, bored. I thought I'd wretch if I had to read one more supposedly humorous and poignant  Owen anecdote, but friend said I had to keep reading, that I would bawl at the end. I did not. I celebrated. I just found Owen to be so self-righteous and full of hate

If you want to read a poignant and beautiful book, go right now and get The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. It's true I read it the day before I picked up my mother's old doll from a restoration shop so the story hit home; but that book could wring a tear from a heart of stone and Kate Dicamillo does not waste a single word.

So, what did I read new and loved, loved, loved? A book I picked up off Emily's nightstand. The Mortal Instrument Series by Cassandra Clare, a way-cool mix of arcane, biblical mythology with hip, edgy people. (I'm currently reading the first in her spinoff series- Clockwork Angel and its good- but that's for next year's post).

If you like a little Monte Python mixed with your horror, read The Gates by John Connelly. Very Funny.

I found Julie Kagagawa's Iron King at the grocery store, liked it and its interesting mythology and passed it along to Em. She and I both read The Iron Daughter but felt the series stalled. Neither of us have read The Iron Knight yet.

The other book I took from Em's room was Of Mice and Men. She had to read it for lit class. I, somehow, never had. Wow. Powerful writing, powerful story.

I also read Wise Man's Fear, the looooong awaited sequel to Patrick Rothfuss' debut, The Name of the Wind. There was some major word wasting there. The story really doesn't get going until page 150 (i'm not kidding) We finally got to Faeire but... I'm still waiting to find out more about Bast, the main reason I read the book!

Now, as to what Duncan got me to read: The Rise of the Hoard, The Last Guardian and The First War, all best selling books based on the World of Warcraft game. Its the backstory/mythos of the game's characters. It is to Duncan what Tolkien was to me at age 12. They remind me very much of the Silmarrilion. I was suppose to read the rise of The Lich King next  but I weanied out because I knew it would be so sad.

Instead, I did a final reread of a favorite author, Susanna Clark's wonderful collection of stories, The Ladies of Grace Adieu.

And I'm still working through editor, Cheryl Klein's, Second Sight, the only non-fiction of the year. So far, so good. I'll let you know final thoughts next year!

New Year's Resolutions

It's a cliche topic; I realize that, but this is my journal and writing something down gives it power. Especially if you do it in ink rather than pencil. Or you post it on the internet! So here goes.

1. I will finish my new manuscript, No Body to Love, by the end of January. I mean it. I had planned to do it by November 1st so I could query before all the NanoWrimoers got the agents in a bad mood. Here it is, January and I'm not done. But I will be. I love you family and friends but this is my month. For these four weeks, you gotta fix your own problems, entertain yourselves- you can do it.

2. I will run at least once a week.

3. I will fix up The Room of Requirement. (we redid our house last Feb/March and ended up with a small, wonderfully cave-like room that could be used as craft room, writing room, exercise room, whatever) It's still just the place we put things we don't know what to do with.

4. Once I have fixed up the Room of Requirment, I will organize our family photos. I stopped doing this when Duncan was in kindergarten. (right about the time, I started writing actually- ok, great, now I feel guilty about Resolution Numero Uno). That's 7 years of photos. Gasp.

All right Resolutions- I'll be checking back with you in March. I'm putting it on the calendar! Right now.

Duncan hanging with our doorman, Jorge. I thought he was a statue until he moved. His brother, Jose, hung out by the outside lunch area but never ate the chicken legs I threw at him. Guess he was a vegetarian.
One of the monkey family that came onto the resort every afternoon.The others were a mom and baby. We realized they were there, above our head, by the smell, musky monkey.

 Emily with her afternoon smoothie, mango and honey. I tried cactus. I can't say it was tasty, but I did feel healthy and local. We took our waiter's advice and walked along the beach into the town. It took an hour but was worth it.

 We decided NOT   to eat here and to move along quickly and ran into these guys.



Back at the Azul Five (yes, that's fives with an s) Duncan wins, again. Emily at the Sea Olive and shopping with me!
 Sunset over the jungle.

Rio Rumba for Easter

Through a tweet, I found this wonderful blog on which a father posted a fabulous painting he'd done of his daughter hunting Easter eggs. http://adaddyblog.com/2011/04/my-daughter-is-a-work-of-art/#comments He asked us to share our favorite Easter traditions and that inspired me to post.

Our church holds a vigil on Maunday Thursday (the night before Good Friday.) The chapel stays open all night and we sign up for shifts so there is always someone there. The idea comes from the Bible when Jesus laments that Peter and one of the other Apostles (whose name I can’t remember) fall asleep while Jesus is praying for strength to make it through what he knows is coming. He’d asked them to accompany him in his prayers.

So my son, at age 8, wants to sign up for a shift. There is absolutely no talking during this time-its a very solemn soul searching event, and there are always more people there than those who sign up, so I’m hesitant but also willing to let him try. Our time is 10 pm- very late for him. He gets up to light a dozen candles in our hour but he does stay quiet.

11 o clock comes, but no one else does; everyone else has left- so we can’t. Minutes tick by. There's a piano in the corner and my son asks if he can practice his recital piece. I think a minute and decide that if I were in mental anguish I’d sure like to hear him play for me. His piece happens to be Rio Rumba. I figure it will certainly keep us from falling asleep like poor Peter did.

He’s in the midst of that very jazzy tune when the next person walks in. I look up rather nervously and she smiles. He finishes and we leave giggling. Every year, now we take an hour and we always giggle a little remembering how my son played Rio Rumba for Jesus.

Frodo's Facebook

I've decided Mark Zuckerberg didn't really invent Facebook. And whoever invented twitter didn't really invent that either. Dogs did, millenium ago. Anyone who has a dog has seen it. Maybe Mark had a dog. If so, then he sees what I see. Frodo stopping at every streetlamp, tree and fence corner in order to sniff out status updates and post his replies. He spends a lot of time outside the home of Bella, the lovely Bijon mix. Either she updates a lot or there's a lot of replies he has to read.

I imagine they go something like this, to Frodo:

Out for my walk today. I hate this rain. (Bella)
Smelling good, today, Bella, (Max).
Really good. (Big, scary wolf-like dog)
I hate rain too. (Tex)
Stay away from Bella. She's mine. (Frodo)

Then there's the street lamp at Hanover which also requires alot of sniffing.

Jimmie was here.
Millie was here.
Spassy dog was here.
Big scary wolf-like dog was here.
What's up, everybody? (Frodo)

And the fence corner at the alley of Purdue:

You guys have not asked permission to be in my world. I bark at you. (loud dog who lives there)
I bark back. (Spassy dog)
I stare in disdain. (wolfdog)
You're mean. (Millie)
I'm hungry. (Jimmie)
I'm lovely and I don't even have to wear a leash. (Bella)
Nanny, nanny, na, na. I'm free and you're behind a fence. Now, I'm running away. (Frodo)

By this time Frodo, who is a Pomeranian, is out of pee. He fakes it continuing to lift his leg at all the great smelling spots, but I see that this is the drawback to the canine system and a definite disadvantage to those who are small in stature.  Even so, I think we should thank our dogs for the idea though I'm glad Mark and twitter-folk perfected it.


susan b. james

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