29 November, 2008

Maybe We Should Return to Medieval Times

My friend Susan brought this video to my attention today and in light of a lot of the things that have been going on lately, I really wanted to pass it on.

A lot of what Louis C.K. talks about in this short video rings true today. I grew up during the 70's and 80's when things like everyone having a computer in their home seemed like a joke. I remember my parents had a one of those early home computers like the Commodore 64. My mom would sit around for sixteen hours coding this massive sequence just to get the screen to repeatedly roll the words: "I LOVE YOU" until you hit escape. The games were rough too, nothing like these near virtual reality trips we take every time we plug into WOW or Everquest. We didn't have cable growing up, so we were stuck with 3 channels on antennae until I was 12. Around that time CBS became available, and shortly thereafter we could tune in one of the Fox stations but we had to wear foil gloves and hold hands while standing on the top of the sofa just to see the Bundy's semi-clearly.

Today we walk around with wafer thin iPods and cell phones watching tv shows and videos or texting people who live on the other side of the globe. It's amazing.

And yet it seems all too often like it's not enough. Everyone wants more, more, more because we're never satisfied. We're growing virtual gardens in the car on the way to the mall to buy more gadgets while they plow over fields to build more malls so we can buy more things that'll inspire us to want, want, want. When does the wanting stop and the satisfaction begin? Is it possible for our race to resume a state of simple life now that we've tasted science fiction come to life, or do we all step back and let ourselves disconnect from our very essence and existence?

Of course I know we can't go backwards. It seems a silly thing to even suggest it. They had plague in the Middle-ages and I can't even begin to imagine the smell since there were no showers or flush toilets. But the frame of mind and sense of purpose in simpler times makes us appreciate the fact that we have life. Though part of me longs to return to even the 1980's when life seemed simpler, I wonder if it isn't just because I felt safer as a child. On the other hand, I have a hard time imagining the future from here.

28 November, 2008

Twilight: From Book to Film

One of the reasons I am thankful to be the mother of a teenage daughter is that the young adult books are so much cooler today than they were when I was a teenager. I could go on for days about everything the Sweet Valley High series was lacking back in the late 1980's and early 1990's. For starters, there were no vampires gnawing away at Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. Yes, I was a morbid teen with a major fascination with vampires, werewolves and witches. Apparently, judging from the young adult literary market today, I wasn't the only one who wanted more out of books. Many of my favorite young adult writers are right around my age, suggesting that they grew up to write the kind of books they wanted to read.

Stephenie Meyer is among that list of thirty-somethings who took the pen in hand and sought out to create a better love story. The Twilight series has been on fire since shortly after the first book, Twilight, hit shelves in 2005. The series tells the story of a young woman named Isabella Swan, (Bella for short, if you please,) who moves to the small town of Forks, Washington, to allow her mother room to breathe with her new husband. Reunited with her father, there is a part of Bella that is unhappy with her choice to move to Forks. She's spent most of her life living in bright and sunny Phoenix, Arizona. In Forks it always seems to be either raining or snowing, and Bella quickly falls into a somber mood.

Joining school mid-semester, Bella finds herself intrigued by the Cullen family, particularly Edward. The Cullens are the adopted children of a local doctor and his wife, Carlisle and Esme Cullen. Not only are they obviously rich, they are the most beautiful and mysterious people on campus. The Cullens keep to themselves, that is until Edward saves Bella's life for the first time and opens her up to a forbidden world of secrecy. It isn't long before Bella puts the clues together and discovers Edward's true nature: he is a vampire. Bella is excited by the danger attached to Edward and Edward is drawn in by an uncontrollable desire for Bella's blood: components for disaster or one of the greatest love stories of the decade?

Between the release of the final book in the series, Breaking Dawn, in August 2008 and the film adaptation of Twilight on November 21, 2008, many critics are torn. I have stated in many of my reviews past that Breaking Dawn was somewhat anti-climactic for me, so I won't go into that here. What I will say is that the Twilight movie was fantastic. After my disappointment with Breaking Dawn, I wasn't sure what to expect from the film. I never read or rely on the critics, because frankly I like to draw my own conclusions and form my own opinions. Nine times out of a ten, if a critic says a movie is bad, it rises quickly to the top of my favorites list. So, I wasn't surprised when after hearing all the negative reviews on Twilight just how much I enjoyed it.

The thing about Twilight that drew me in from the start was how realistically Meyer captured that head over heels abandon with which teenage girls often fall in love or at least daydream about it. There are very few girls who did not daydream of their very own Edward, be he a vampire, a prince or some other fantastical savior from the mundane life. Edward is the portrait of the perfect boyfriend. Noble, loyal, charming and gentlemanly, his best qualities are enhanced by his conflicted nature. Here he is a "monster" in a man's body looking for redemption when the ultimate temptation lays down at his feet and says, "Take me, I'm yours."

The directors and screenwriter took very few liberties with the adaptation. There was hardly a scene I couldn't recall with a delighted grin as the story unraveled across the screen. The Cullens were exceptionally beautiful, Bella's insecurity balanced well against the wisdom of an old soul that resulted after years of caring for her flighty mother.

Robert Pattinson did a fantastic job portraying Edward and Kristin Stewart played the perfect Bella. It was like watching the characters I'd envisioned while reading the book come to life from the pages. The most accurately portrayed character of all was Alice Cullen. The moment Ashley Greene stepped up to Bella, hugged her and announced that they were going to be very close friends, I got chills. Alice was one of my favorite characters in the series, so it was awesome to see her live and in person.

The only scene I had a complaint with was near the end, when Bella is being tracked by the bloodthirsty vampire, James. I really loved the scene in the hotel when Jasper and Alice were with Bella and Bella learned more about Alice. In the book, Bella really had to think on how she could outsmart Alice's ability to see the future, but the in film she just easily walked away and no one noticed.

If you're a fan of the books, the film won't disappoint. I can honestly say I enjoyed it and had a great time talking with my teen on the way home about my favorite parts in comparison to hers. On many things we both agreed, including that the actor playing Jacob Black has the whitest teeth in the universe and Robert Pattinson is a fantastic Edward Cullen. Get out and see it if you haven't already! It's a great reason to go to the movies--with or without a teenage daughter.

24 November, 2008

The Vampire Appeal: An Essay for Susan

After my last post about the beautiful, but deadly vampires that had been forgotten in the lists of hottest vampires of all time, Susan broached the question: What makes vampires so appealing. Of course, being the lifelong vampire lover that I am, I could not let this question go unanswered.

For many of us, the first brush with death comes early in life. Be it the loss of a beloved family pet or even more tragically, a friend or family member. I was seven years old when the reality of my own mortality sunk in. While I had been through the funerals of a couple of great-aunts by this point, it hadn't quite made sense to me what was going on at that time. It wasn't until my grandfather died that the truth started to sink in. Everyone dies, and there's nothing we can do about it. Quite a revelation for someone so young. Like many other children who attended church, my questions at that time were steeped in religion. Some said upon dying our souls went to heaven, my Roman Catholic neighbors said purgatory. Either way, it meant leaving Earth, a prospect that didn't seem appealing to me at the time.

Being only seven, I didn't struggle with it very much, but it had sparked something inside of me that would drive a lifelong search for answers about the truth. Now before I diverge from my intended path, let's just say that when at least three teenagers I had known on some level wound up dead during my time in high school, it really opened up a can of fear. Teenagers tend to be self-destructive simply because they are laughing in the face of their own mortality. It's a "you can't touch me, Death" sort of game that nearly all teens play on some level. This began my obsession with vampires.

Many of the myths surrounding vampires made them seem dull and listless, but the novel and film industry found sex appeal. Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee lured the lovelies in with hypnotic powers, but in the 1970's Anne Rice gave literary birth to Lestat de Lioncourt. A tragic, Byronic rock star of a hero, Lestat made clear the agony and ecstasy entwined around both life and death. Lestat's suffering made the ability to live forever seem exciting and dreamy, while many of the fledgling vampires he created seemed loathe that life went on and on for ages.

In the face of eternity, many believe impulsively that they would want to live forever. The young who are in their prime believe that eternity will always feel so fresh and exciting, but then there are those who have lived past that wonder who might not be so quick to choose eternity. Eternity to someone who has lived a full life might seem like too much. One of the greatest appeals of the vampire is the opportunity to continue. Knowing that one had an eternity to live would make it easier to relax. "No need to climb Mount Everest today, I have all eternity for that..." There's no hurry. Since many people spend their days thinking about how there isn't enough time to get it all done, it can take away from the quality of life and make you long for more time.

Sure, they make vampires beautiful in fiction. We need only look at the lists that have been popping up all over the net with the release of Twilight to see the sex appeal is definitely there, but what about the story? Bella Swan tells us that the entire Cullen family is indescribably beautiful. It practically makes one ache just to look at them, but Bella's real reaction and attraction to Edward does not begin until after he saves her life the first time and she discovers what he really is. Again, there it is. The potential for more time.

In a nutshell, the physical appeal of the vampire is only a small fraction of what draws us to them. In essence, they are freedom from death, the opportunity for more time in a world that is absolutely governed by time.

23 November, 2008

Hottest Vampires of All Time

In response to Nikole's post Hottest Vampire of All Time, and the moviefone poll on the hottest vampires of all time (check out the results here Hollyscoop,) I thought of a few smoking hot vampires that the polls left out.

Here's my sexy vampire top five:

How on earth could we forget Shane Brolly as Kraven in Underworld: Kraven

Then there was Angus Young as extreme sports vampire, Shane Brooks in Lost Boys: The Tribe. Yeah, the movie itself was not so hot, and he may not be the bets actor, but let's face it: Angus was sizzling:


In 1992 an almost unheard of independent Vampire flick called Tale of a Vampire starred sexy Englishman, Julian Sands:

Another horribly obscure 1990's vampire film, Son of Darkness: To Die for II starred the dashing English actor, Michael Praed as Vlad Tepish. My best friend and I walked around quoting the lines from t his movie until yesterday because they were so sexy... that's over 15 years of line quoting. Photobucket

I could go on for days and days, but I will end this vampire sexiness with one of the sexiest vampires of all time: Gary Oldman as Dracula.

22 November, 2008

Battlestar Galactica: Is it January Yet?

You have no idea how itchy I get thinking about January. January is when the final half of season four, the end of Battlestar Galactica, is set to air. Our beloved characters have dropped anchor on a dead Earth and all of their shattered dreams have been hanging in the balance since the middle of June. The series has been phenomenal and I know the upcoming episodes and made for TV films will be well worth the wait, but is it January yet? This is the current Sci Fi Channel promo for season 4.5:

Now, being the obsessive BSG fan that I am, every couple weeks or so I dig through the entertainment news for updates on Caprica, the bridger webisodes for BSG and of course, any new details or hints on what we can expect in Season 4. Today, I found this article on Buddy TV: Battlestar Galactica Outing Two Gay Characters in Upcoming Webisodes.

Apparently this has been a big deal to some viewers, since it has been rumored that one of the male characters is a sexy, female-fan favorite. Now I don't have the inside scoop, but come on, haven't we come a long way both on television and in real life this last couple decades. While many would say that Proposition 8 suggests that we have actually moved backwards, the fact that gay and lesbian couples and those of us who support them are fighting to change the system says otherwise.

The thing is, David Eicke, Ronald D. Moore and the writers at BSG have always worked actual current affairs into the series very well, so that despite the futuristic setting, viewers are able to identify with the characters and the situations they face. I am not saying that the webisodes and the outing of these two gay characters has anything to do with Proposition 8, but I wouldn't put it past the series or its writers.

For those who are disappointed, remember what they always say: "The good ones are always either married or gay!" So he's still a good character, and just unattainable as all the hot married BSG men.

Oh, and the fact that they're imaginary characters... yeah, that kind of puts a damper on any real relationship anyway. ;)

By the way, what is going on with Caprica? Inquiring minds want to know. I want to know.

20 November, 2008


I love that word, and not just because I'm a writer. It's also got very little to do with the fact that I just submitted a personal essay to a magazine I've admired for a couple of years. I think my love affair with that word has more to do with its multiple meanings. Submission could refer to the above mentioned literary endeavor, or it could mean to give over and yield power to someone or something, to surrender.

All too often, the idea of submission or surrender feels like a negative thing. The weakened warring nation had no choice but to submit to their enemy. The dominatrix forced her naughty client to submit (though for the submissive this is probably a positive thing.) After giving everything she had to keep her head above water, the only option left was for her to submit.

And yet, when carrying a burden on one's back, is it not best to surrender worries to a higher power? She faced her goddess and knelt in submission. When battling an illness, we submit to treatment. When you know your best friend is right, you submit to her better judgment. I browsed through the contents inside the envelope one last time before dropping my submission into the mailbox.

The word originated from the Middle-English word submitten, which is what I would have done had Geoffrey Chaucer written a poem in my honor. The Middle-English word was derived from the Latin word submittere.

So what about you? Are your submissions in order?

17 November, 2008

Book Review: The Graveyard Book

Nobody Owens is a normal boy, just like other little boys. He learns his letters and loves to read, but what separates Bod, as he's known to his friends and family, is that he lives within the confines of a cemetery. His parents and teachers are all ghosts, and his guardian is something even more strange and mysterious, but Bod doesn't know the difference. He's lived in the graveyard every since he was a toddling baby, which just goes to show that sometimes the things that go bump in the night are far less dangerous than that which walks in the light.

Master storyteller, Neil Gaiman, returns with yet another fantastical tale that will make you look at the every day ordinary world with wonder and surprise. The Graveyard Book begins with a dark and sinister man named Jack who has only just finished brutally murdering a small family. He's just about to finish off the family by killing the final member, a toddling baby boy, but the boy is nowhere to be found.

Taken in and protected by the ghosts in the graveyard just blocks from the scene of the crime, it is only within the walls of the cemetery that the baby can remain safe. Named Nobody by his adopted ghost parents, as Bod grows and learns the truth about the outside world and the danger that awaits him there, he becomes adept at walking the line between the living and the dead. More haunted by the details of his past than the ghosts that surround him, the outside world proves to be repeatedly dangerous in every instance Bod ventures out, which makes it remarkably difficult for him to make friends with anyone else alive.

Only from the mind of Neil Gaiman could such a realistic tale be spun from the threads of dreams. Each character in every scene from page one through page three-hundred and seven is delightful. Gaiman continually writes the kind of urban fairytales that make adults and youths alike daydream long after the final page has been read with a delighted sigh.

The Graveyard Book is absolutely as memorable as Coraline, Stardust and Mirrormask.

16 November, 2008

Cooking With Beans: Hawaiin Stromboli

We are a busy household, and often dinner is the only time we find to sit down together and talk about what's going on in our lives. Even as it's just the three of us, we tend to have a hard time agreeing on what makes good eats. I'm outnumbered in the house as the only "fool" who likes onions, and our teenage daughter would gladly eat Fruity Pebbles 24 hours a day if we let her.

I am always looking for healthy new dishes to try out that don't take a lot of time, or that can be prepped ahead and then popped into the oven. This one only takes a few minutes to prepare and it is absolutely scrumptious!

You will need:
1 loaf frozen bread dough (you can make it fresh if you're feeling ambitious)
1 can pineapple rings
8-10 slices of Canadian Bacon
1 medium sized diced tomato (fresh, not canned)
1 Tbsp honey mustard
2 cloves fresh minced garlic
2 Cups of shredded cheese blend (I used Colby, Jack, Mozz and Cheddar blend)
1 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 Cups of Pizza Sauce

Follow the direction on your bread dough and allow it to fully rise. When the dough is ready preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spread some flour over a smooth surface and begin to stretch your dough out. You may need a rolling pin to get everything even. Once the dough is stretched to your preferred thickness layer Canadian bacon along the bottom, allowing a one inch lip for when you're ready to seal it up. Break the pineapple rings in half and add one half to each slice of Canadian bacon. Stir the diced tomato with the honey mustard and garlic and once even coated, layer it in on top of the pineapple. Generously spread cheese over the top of the tomato and garlic mixture. Pull the top half of the dough down over the inside and tuck that bottom lip up around to seal it. Make three or four small vent slices in the top and brush the outside with olive oil.

Pop that into the oven and bake for twenty to twenty-five minutes.

About five minutes before it comes out of the oven, heat your pizza sauce. When you take it out, slice it into Candian bacon sized servings and top with a dollop of steaming pizza sauce.

The honey mustard adds a nice zing to the sweet and salty mix of the Canadian bacon and pineapple. My teenage picky-eater devoured three slices of this at dinner time tonight!!

The possibilities when it comes to stromboli are endless. My husband, who also said it was pretty darn good, was already adding ingredients like fresh mushrooms and black olives... you know, for next time.


15 November, 2008

Why I'm a Lucky Writer Gal

After spending days or weeks, sometimes even months, writing a short story, there is a sense of joy that comes with the act of polishing up my manuscript before I begin the submissions process. I look forward to the feedback and criticism of my fantastic writer's group and relish in finding those little errors I missed during the writing process. I love reading back through the completed draft and listening to the story's tone and the speaker's voice.

I have been fortunate enough to be one of the founders of a fantastic online writer's group for nearly four years now. We started out rather large, but over the last two years our numbers have dwindled a little bit. Some lost interest in writing, while others simply no longer seemed to have the time they once had to commit to the craft. Nevertheless, we are blessed with a core group of people who I feel both blessed and lucky to count among my friends. Some of our writers are published, while others simply write for fun, but while we workshop together everyone is an equal willing to give what they have to help their fellow writers move on to whatever next step awaits them.

I know that when I finish a story, if I am serious about submitting it somewhere, I can count on any of those friends to help me out with feedback and proofreading. Let's face it, an extra pair of eyes or two is always welcome. The last thing anyone wants is to get rejected because they typed the the or missed a vital word or two.

As I was prepping my most recent manuscript for submission, I was so grateful for all of the help and feedback I received. Friends and fellow writers alike took time out of their busy schedules to offer feedback, criticism and editing. The venue I submitted to closes tomorrow, so I was very fortunate when one member and friend offered to proofread the entire story for errors and consistency at the last minute.

Having a writer's group is a learning experience and a blessing. Writers from all levels of experience putting their heads together to help each other get a leg up is a beautiful thing. So, this is an open thank you to all of my friends at the CoC. You have all helped me grow as a writer so much in the last four years that I couldn't imagine life with you. Thank you!

If you're interested in learning more about CoC, navigate through our homepage. Whether you write nonfiction, fiction or fanfiction, all writers over the age of 18 are welcome to swap ideas and workshop with us. We have a safe, password protected archive capable of supporting full drafts without compromising future publication opportunities. The archive also offers a review feature where your fellow writers can offer feedback on your draft. We also have a full forum for interaction, so check us out! We even set up a special section we revisit every year for NaNoWriMo.

By the way, don't let our name fool you. CoC stands for Circle of Crones. The crone is referencing the memory of our meeting, and the fact that we started out a full circle of adult women, any of us over thirty.

CoC Writer's Group

14 November, 2008

Beer for My Horses: A Review

I grew up in the era of great movies like Smoky and the Bandit and Canon Ball Run. Even though Smoky and the Bandit was about bootlegging, it was still a fun film. I rank Toby Keith's Beer for My Horses right up there with those classic comedies.

Deputy Sherrif "Rack" Rackman (Toby Keith} and his goofy partner Lonnie (Rodney Carrington) find themselves in deep after they arrest a Mexican drug cartel's younger brother. When Rack's girlfriend is kidnapped and held for ransom, it's up to Rack and Lonnie to save the day. In a souped up pick-up truck, the partners hit to the road to Mexico with the silent and mysterious "Skunk" (Ted Nugent}. The group manages to get themselves into some hilarious situations, including broken down amidst a family of wandering circus performers headed up by Willie Nelson.

I probably would not have picked up this film if I wasn't such a big Toby Keith fan, but I'm glad I did. It was laugh out loud funny, romantic and had some great action scenes. Keith's sense of humor never fails in his music videos, and that same playful bad boy transfers well to the big screen. While there were definitely a couple of potty humor jokes, they definitely tended to be slightly more wholesome than many of the supposed comedies that pour into the box office these days. Ted Nugent's character was a fantastic addition to the Keith and Carrington comedy duo. The film also featured Tom Skarret, Barry Corbin, David Allan Coe and the beautiful Claire Forlani.

The film did a short stint in theatres before debuting on the Country Music Television channel (CMT) and then releasing onto video November 11. If you've got CMT, definitely check it out when it comes on, but I'd be willing to bet it's a lot funnier on DVD!

You can find out more about the film on the Official Site.

13 November, 2008

Cooking With Beans: Vegetarian Bean Wraps

I am not a vegetarian, but I definitely embrace the goodness of a healthy vegetarian meal from time to time. One of our family favorites is vegetarian bean wraps. These zesty wraps have a southwestern flare you can taste, but are mild enough not to upset spice sensitive tummies.

You Will Need:

1 1/2 cups prepared black beans
1 1/2 cups prepared pinto beans
1/2 cup kidney beans
1/4 cup diced onion
1 diced green bell pepper
1 diced
1 can of diced, stewed tomatoes
1 cup corn
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
Whole wheat tortillas
Spices: fresh cilantro, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. chili powder, salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add in garlic, cilantro, onions and green pepper. Saute until onions and pepper begin to soften. Add in corn and stir. Allow everything to cook together for about two minutes, then stir in your tomatoes, cumin and chili powder. Let everything simmer for about 5 minutes. If you are using canned beans, drain off all of the liquid before adding them. Slowly add in the beans and stir in salt and pepper. Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for ten to fifteen minutes.

Remove from heat and spoon into warmed tortillas. Wrap and eat!

You can garnish these with sour cream, cheese and a little picante sauces adds a some zing. This colorful, vegetarian dish is a good source of fiber and very filling. Enjoy!

12 November, 2008

When Your Mother's Curses Come True...

I am the mother of an almost fourteen year old girl. To date, I have been incredibly proud of the young woman she is growing into. She's an individual. She's artistic. She loves to write poetry. She isn't afraid of what anyone says about her or the choices she makes. Overall, she's a pretty good kid.

Why am I complaining? I'm not, but I will tell you this: she has the worst taste in friends. I blame myself. We sheltered her when she was small. We didn't do play dates. She was the firstborn and only grandchild on both sides of the family until she was ten. She didn't go to daycare until she was four. She had very little interaction with other kids until she headed into school.

Right about that same time she started to play with some of the neighborhood kids. All of them were girls. All were within two years of each other's ages. Now my daughter is a Capricorn, and anyone who either is a Capricorn, or knows a lot of Capricorns can tell you that they are headstrong, powerful, influential and even a bit bossy. No offense. Bossiness can be a great asset. Maybe one day she'll be a world leader. THe thing is, when she would play with other kids that side of her always got overpowered. She felt insecure and unsure of herself around them, so a lot of the time she got bullied.

In first grade she asked to invite her first friend over. This girl was the epitome of nasty. She refused to talk to my daughter for an hour while she was at our home because my daughter didn't want to swing on the swingset anymore. They quickly became BFFs All through elementary school my daughter and this little nightmare were friends. Then we bought a house and moved away the summer before sixth grade. That limited how much time they could spend together and my daughter started to hang out with another girl that was friends with both her and the evil girl.

For her twelfth birthday party my daughter decided to have a big slumber party since she had a much bigger room than in our apartment. She invited 9 girls to the party and 6 of them spent he night afterwards. At three o'clock in the morning I woke up because my daughter was in her bedroom crying over something the evil girl said.

That ended their friendship. This gave her more time to focus on the other girl. For the most part she seemed nice. She was a little shy, but she and my daughter had a lot of musical favorites in common and they both liked to stand out in a crowd. The thing is, this girl was really needy. She liked to try and control my daughter so her focus was always on them. Typical teenage friendship, but this girl has taken a turn for the worse in recent days. She's actually 8 months younger than my daughter and just turned thirteen. She's got a boyfriend that she's been talking about having sex with. She's been smoking pot. Today she was expelled from school for having cigarettes in her backpack.

My daughter wouldn't tell me why the girl was suspended because, and I quote, "You won't let me hang out with her anymore."

Well duh. Seriously, the last thing I want is for her to get involved with a group of people who are making bad choices. She says that she knows about peer pressure and we should trust her, but statistics show what happens to kids who run with bad crowds. Maybe she won't drink and smoke pot herself, but what happens when she gets into a car with one of those morons and they kill her?

Call me paranoid, but this is exactly like one of those curses my mom laid on me when I was sixteen. "You're going to grow up and have a daughter just like you!"

I wasn't an angel, and my daughter is an angel compared to my behavior all those years ago. That is why her dad and I both worked very hard to teach her about life firsthand. On one hand, I don't want to deny her the freedom of learning and making her own mistakes, but on the other, I don't want her to make the same mistakes her friends are making. I don't want her to make the ones we made either.

Kids. I swear.

10 November, 2008

The NaNoWriMo Blues

I have not worked on my NaNoWriMo story since last Thursday. Friday I had my three year old niece overnight and Saturday I opted to finish a short story I'd been working on. I don't regret Saturday's choice because I finished the story and I'm very happy with the first draft! Sunday night I wound up falling asleep at 7:30, and by the time I woke up again, it was time to go to bed.

So here I am on Monday night, ten days into NaNoWriMo, with my word count still idling at 8560. I'm having issues with my main character. He started out vibrantly. His personality was coming across nicely, and then the action started. It was like the first sign of insanity kicked in and he clammed up. Sure, he made it through the action really well, but his personality fell flat. We can't have that.

I will be returning to the early half of the chapter to the place where the action started to see if I can give Ryan mouth to mouth. Hopefully he doesn't deflate, because his lackadaisical response to zombies is really pushing me toward either starting a new project, or just going back to the edits on my nearly completed summer novel.

I hope that all of my NaNoWriMo friends are having better luck. I know now that it's not that I don't want to write. I just don't know if I can keep on trying to breathe life into characters that don't want to live. In all seriousness, he's not even a zombie, and the zombies have more life right now than my main character. That can't be good.

I do have another idea, one that I am almost positive I can whip out 20,000 words in a week over if I actually start it. Tempting, tempting.

09 November, 2008

The Spell Has Been Broken

For a few months I had been feeling like I had cursed myself. No matter how much effort I put into a story, finishing it seemed like an impossibility. Maybe I was psyching myself out too much. I had even taken on the challenge of not writing another story until I finished my last novel. Well, I finished it all right, but was so unhappy with how quickly it all ran together when it was done, that it has been placed on the backburner until further notice.

In July, I started writing my first zombie horror story, but it was slow going at first. I worried that the idea that compelled it in the first place was just a whim, and once the novelty wore off the story would wind up in limbo.

Last night the self-inflicted curse was broken. We were driving our daughter to the skating rink and talking about Eckhart Tolle. I had spent most of the evening writing and mentioned that I really wanted to finish the story. I knew where it was going, how I wanted it to end, and had known that information since mid-September. Why wasn't I finishing it? My husband said it was excuses. No matter what I said, I was just continually making up excuses for why I hadn't finished it. We came home and I updated my status message on AIM and Facebook with what I was doing in the story.

Then it hit me.

I was putting off what needed to be done because I liked the characters too much. I jumped up like a light bulb had just gone on over my head and explained to my husband why I was making up excuses. I didn't want to hurt the characters. Even though I know you have to to make good story in many cases, their situations already seemed dire. What I was about to do seemed downright awful. I imagined myself in that world, in their position and cursed whatever gods put me through that hideous horror.

It occurred to me that the reason my last novel is still sitting on the backburner was based on similar inhibitions. The situation wasn't as "dire" as it is in the short story, but it still involved causing two of my characters a great amount of discomfort and pain. The difference is, they got to have a happy ending. So instead of pushing the pain on them, I muddled through it and gave them the ending, but I know now that it is my job as their creator to wreak havoc in their lives.

Philosophically, I can't help but wonder if that is how our creator feels as it wreaks havocs great and small in our lives. "Oh man... I just really did a number on the Sones's. Maybe I should hold off on killing their Grandpa right now."

Either way, it was an eye opener that allowed me to go through with what needed to be done, and the first draft of the story was completed. I felt great. And while I know I need to go back in and do some serious editing, add more to a couple of scenes that I felt were lacking, I don't feel like I skimped out on my duty as the great havoc stirrer in my characters lives. Sure, they're cursing me in their world, but that's life.

07 November, 2008

TAPS, Ghost Hunters & Honesty

Apparently there have been a recent string of criticisms circulating the net, even some supposed video garbage claiming that the guys in TAPS faked evidence in their recent live Halloween show. I don't know why it bothers me so much that there are skeptics out there. As someone who has experienced paranormal phenomenon first hand, Ghost Hunters is the type of show I have been longing for as long as I can remember. The chance to sit back and feel somewhat assured by the experiences of others who have seen things similar.

While I don't claim to know the guys in TAPS personally, I can tell you that they have a reputation for the thorough work they do and have found more ways to disprove hauntings and so-called paranormal activity than any of the other wanna-be shows. As much as I love a good psychic, they don't rely on intuitives to declare a place as haunted and gather information from the other side.

Researching the paranormal is a risky business, and sharing the evidence one uncovers is always going to be open to criticism from skeptics and nonbelievers. I'm sure that TAPS has faced their fair share during their time together, and while it hasn't killed any of them, it has served to make them stronger. Anyone who has ever watched the series, or read the book Jason Hawes put out last year, can tell you that Jason Hawes himself has an incredible time declaring a property haunted. He and Grant Wilson both have trained their team members to look for alternative explanations, every day causes for what might be considered paranormal activity. They have long argued against the accreditation of things like spirit orbs as actual evidence of paranormal activity.

TAPS have changed the face of paranormal research for the better. They have provided well documented evidence time and again, called in experts for second and third opinions on cases and evidence both and they put their reputations on the line every time their show airs on the Sci Fi Channel.

They have done amazing work for years, and I hope this skirmish of boo-hissers and nay-sayers washes down the drain where it belongs. Yes, we're all entitled to our own opinions, even the fools who aren't happy unless they're crushing other people's excitement and happiness, but those on the second half of that spectrum can laugh now. It's the people who aren't afraid to believe that there's something more to all of "this" who'll be laughing later. That's a guarantee.

Cooking With Beans: Chicken and Rice

As the weather starts to grow colder and the days shorter, we spend a lot more time indoors where it's cozy and warm. This also means a lot of friends dropping by, sometimes unexpected. My family and I tend to eat a lot of slow cooked, savory meals that stick to the bone this time of year, and one of our favorites is a chicken and rice recipe that I inherited from my mother. The great thing about this dish is that it makes enough to feed a small army well, and the ingredients can be easily multiplied if your kids bring in a few extra friends at dinner time.

You will need:
3 cups of chicken stock
4 Chicken leg w/thigh
2 bell peppers cut into strips
1 small onion coarsely chopped
15-20 button mushrooms, whole
2 lbs. coarsely chopped turnips
15-20 cherry or grape tomatoes
2 cups of rice
1/2 lb. of sliced bacon

Spices: Tarragon, parsley, 2 bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper

Start by spreading the bacon strips out on the bottom of a stock pot. Begin cooking bacon on medium heat and layer the chicken on top. Add turnips, peppers, onion and turnips. Allow the bacon on the bottom to sizzle for about ten minutes so that it forms a nice layer of fat. Add chicken stock and spices, cover and simmer on medium until the chicken is fully cooked. Remove the chicken from the broth and take out the bay leaves. Drain chicken and allow to cool. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Once the chicken has cooled, pick it from the bone and toss pieces back into the broth. After all of the chicken has been added pour in the 2 cups of rice. Return the lid to the pot and pop the whole thing in the oven for about thirty minutes. Pull it out and dump in the tomatoes. Return to the oven covered for another ten minutes.

This is one of the most delicious dishes I have in my recipe box. I hope you'll try it out, and don't be afraid to experiment. No one in my family likes onions, so they are often omitted, or chopped into large enough pieces that I cook with them for flavor, then remove the evidence before deboning the chicken. I have also used turkey bacon and chicken breast when making this for a lower fat solution.

If you do make this dish, definitely let me know how it turned out. Enjoy!

06 November, 2008

Limbs, Blood & Gray Matter Everywhere

Well, despite the fact that I spent most of my day procrastinating, I did manage to add 2537 words to my NaNoWriMo total today. That brings the overall total to 8560. I'm currently on chapter three. The body count is rising. There are six dead so far, one of them a suicide who had been bitten by a zombie.

Chapter two was pretty gory. It was where most of the violence and vomiting took place so far, and I am feeling a little disconnected from the characters right now. I feel like Ryan has fallen a little flat because all of it has been the interaction with really limited emotional response. I may need to go back in and connect emotionally or I don't know if I'll be able to go on. It's very rough.

In my procrastination today, I did manage to have great conversation with some friends I went for a nice walk and did a lot of thinking. All in all, I feel it was a good day. On to the next.

Dylan and Brenda vs Kelly and Dylan

During the 1990's, I did not watch Beverly Hills 90210. My friends and I were nothing like the characters on that show, and the drama we faced often seemed much more intensive than the things that go on on that show. Recently, I've taken to religiously watching all the old episodes on SoapNet.

Yes, SoapNet is the devil. Soap operas in general are very nasty things to get involved in because they are a stretch out there from real life. The glamorous characters make us feel empty and small. Every woman on these shows is incredibly beautiful (okay, Donna Martin didn't get attractive until after graduation. She had the most poofy and hideous hair in the world, but I digress...) The men are all either perfect and gorgeous or beautiful, exotic and dangerous. Let's face it people, Brandon Walsh was the perfect boyfriend every teenage girl wishes she had. He was intelligent, kind, thoughtful, encouraging and between him and Dylan McKay it's hard to tell which one of them is more like James Dean half the time.

We had a friend once who watched Little House on the Prairie every night while watching dinner because he said it was like his daily dose of religion. So, as my obsession with this show of my youth grew into monumental proportions, my wonderful husband made a joke that Beverly Hills 90210 was like my daily dose of religion.

From the church of Peach Pit, the big question that continually baffles me is what on earth would possess Dylan McKay to choose Kelly Taylor over Brenda Walsh? Yeah, sure, we all know Kelly puts out. She was the bit slut of West Beverly High before she met Brenda. Maybe Kelly changed her ways, but let's face facts people. Kelly Taylor is a bitch. Okay, so Brenda Walsh isn't perfect. She certainly has her own bitchy edge about her, but she was much more suited to Dylan's tastes academically. All he and Kelly ever seemed to do was fight and have sex. He and Brenda shared a love for poetry, drama, great literature and the passion for life itself.

I understand the need for excessive drama in a soap opera. And teenagers, having been one once myself and now being the mother of one, I can tell you that they really do trade off boyfriends and girlfriends and toss around the words, "I love you" as casually as they might say, "Can I have ketchup, please?" The point being that I can see where a high school Kelly and Dylan fling could carry off into the first few months of college, but after that break up when Dylan thought they should see other people I really think they should have called it a day and moved on with their lives.

How in the hell can Kelly Taylor be Dylan McKay's soul mate? I don't care if they do have some random child together in the new series. Dylan and Brenda belong together.

I hate to say it, but I think that Kelly was more suitable for Brandon. She balanced out his goody-two-shoes air with her sleazy past.

So to the writers of Beverly Hills 90210 and the new series rekindled, grow a brain. Dylan McKay is too complicated a character to be worthy of Kelly Taylor.

See all the wonderful distractions one can come up with when procrastinating? I'm going to end this rant here, and really start writing now, but I know it won't solve the travesty that is Dylan and Kelly! The only way to solve it is to kill Kelly off. I hope the writers get the hint. Kill Kelly Taylor's character. Dylan and Brenda or bust. :p

04 November, 2008

And then his secretary ate his face...

There was a part of me that worried it would take me too long to get into the action in my NaNoZombie novel, but tonight I got right to it. Of course, the zombie attack had to take place right in the middle of a boring executive meeting. What better way to get out of a meeting? Though after watching the zombie secretary quickly devour two suits, I'm thinking maybe I might have actually enjoyed the meeting better. My poor protagonist is currently vomiting into a hallway radiator and trying to figure out how to help the people still trapped in the conference room.

Four days in and I'm about 2000 words behind. My four day NaNoWriMo total is at 6023 words, but I will kick that totals butt tomorrow.

For now, it's late. It's been a long day filled with zombie secretaries and of course, new presidents. Apparently the results are in. Barack Obama will be the new president of the United States. I'm excited. This is the first time that I felt good about my vote, that it wasn't just choosing the lesser of two really icky evils. Our country is ready for change, and I look forward to where the future will take us!

The Most Important Election in History

So, I just got home from doing a bit of holiday shopping, and of course, while I was out I stopped and voted in what journalists are calling most important election of our time. If you haven't gotten out to vote yet, what are you waiting for? No matter who you are planning to vote for *COUGHOBAMACOUGH* the results of this election are going to alter the face of politics forever. So, while you're out and about, or on your way home today, don't forget to stop and vote.

By the way, a great way to keep track of election results is to check in with Mahalo's real time coverage of the 2008 Election Exit Polls and Election Results.

02 November, 2008

A Bad Place to be When Zombies Attack...

So, day two in NaNoWriMo and my current word total is at 3141. I'm not done for the day, but definitely taking a break to do some reading, eat dinner and maybe catch an hour or so of television.

I'm at the early stage of chapter two and things are coming together rather nicely. While the story is written in third-person omniscient, I am mostly focusing on the character of Ryan Greene. Ryan used to be a travel writer, who spent his twenties making a living exploring remote, exotic countries. The more removed from urbanism, the better for Ryan. He's something of a survivalist, and has a degree in cultural anthropology and archeology. He is now the co-host of a television travel show that balances between the remote wonders of the world and their neighboring night life. His co-host is a nightmare. I've only known her for two days and I already hate her guts myself.

It occurred to me as I was writing the introductory scene of chapter two that Ryan hates the city. He's on his way to a network meeting in New York City's Time Square, which is where he'll be when the zombie outbreak takes place. What more awful place could you possibly be when zombies attack than a place that makes you want to break out in hives?

So, as the scene comes together, I keep asking myself if I'm going to be able to hold poor Ryan together. After all, he's going to be the one that has to lead everyone to safety in the end...

I am also intrigued by a secondary character that has sort of stepped into the spotlight. I'm anxious to see how the two characters come together, and can't wait to get them to that point. It should be fun.

01 November, 2008

NaNoWriMo Kickoff!

I did everything in my power to stay up last night to start my NaNo novel after midnight. I started out watching the Ghost Hunters Live seven hour Halloween investigation hosted by Josh Gates, and though I was completely engrossed, I did manage to get out the first 100 words between commercials. Then, I passed out just fifteen minutes before the end of the investigation.

So, after spending most of my afternoon procrastinating with everything from cleaning, bathing and working to cooking, napping and chatting on twitter, MySpace and the phone, I finally managed to glue my behind to the chair so I could squeeze out 1903 words.

The zombies have yet to appear, as I am trying to establish characters and their current relationship and situation before the big apocalypse, I did manage to sprinkle mysterious sickness in through a phone call. Yay for mystery Solanum virus.

Now, I didn't do a lot of pre-plotting. I have no outline I'm working from, except for the basic plot outline that started in my head. I did start out with two main characters, but about halfway through the introductory chapter a third character emerged that proved to be equally important, so now I have the three main characters already introduced along with their relationship to each other and their current situation.

I'm off to watch an inspirational zombie flick, but hope to get more written before I drop off to bed tonight. I'd like to get to at least 3300 so I have a nice buffer.

Good luck to all of my NaNoWriMo friends. May the word force be with you today!