Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z is for Zero

Zero, Zip, Zilch. I have nothing to complain about, nothing to ask for today. My kids are happy, safe and fed, sitting in their classrooms down the street holding bright yellow pencils in their hands. The sun has peeked over the horizon, promising me another lovely day while I sit on a soft couch in a room with a view of an apricot tree, just sprouting its soft new leaves. I have the taste of lightly roasted cashews in my mouth and the prospect of a hot shower in my future. My husband's music plays softly over the speakers while the keys tap beneath my fingers. What more could I ask for? There's nothing more that I need.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Yearn

It isn't all about chocolate.
Sometimes I yearn for the
Scratch of salt across my lips 
Or the pucker of lemon
As bright as the sun
Against my tongue.

At night, I yearn for the 
The brush of your skin,
Barely touching the tips of my
fingers to the side of your arm
As I drift into sleep.

I yearn for the warm, dewy
Air of summer evenings,
For the drone of the mower
and the lazy hum of bees by
the red geraniums.

I yearn for turquoise twilight
And the squeal of childrens'
Laughter from the yard
Coming and going,
Drifting through the windows
As we smile at one another.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X is for X Marks the Spot

Shiny New Idea alert! Shiny New Idea alert!!!! A completely intoxicating new idea has worked its way into my mind and I've spent the last few days plotting. 

Maybe it's because the book is about a thirteen-year-old boy, or maybe it's because it's about buried treasure, but my son was so excited about the idea that he actually sat with me for hours brainstorming. 

There's not much more helpful to me than being able to bounce ideas off of someone else while brainstorming. Talking through a plot feels a little like digging up gold. With each new idea, I go a little deeper. And like real digging, it's always nice to be able to hand the shovel off to someone else.

Do you like to brainstorm out loud?

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Wikimedia Commons

Christo Coetzee: The Perfect One 1994

I'm a visual person and I love using unique images in my blog posts, but sometimes it's difficult to find images that are in the public domain. That's why I was so excited to find the Wikimedia Commons webpage. It's a huge database of images, videos and sounds that are available for common use. If you haven't visited it yet, here's the website:
Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Voice

Ah, voice, the illusive je ne sais quoi that writers are always chasing after. We all want to find that unique style that's both all our own as a writer and perfectly singular to our characters. Because voice is so difficult to define and so particular to each book, I thought I'd make a list of some of the books that I feel have captured the strongest, most successful sense of voice.

Are there any books that have astounded you with voice?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U is for Ugh

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm a cheater, I know it. But did you really want me to write a whole post about udders or underwear. Believe me, it would have been uncomfortable for both of us. 

So instead, I'm just saying "ugh", because MAN is it hard to write a synopsis. I bet you'll never guess what I'm doing today. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for Ted

I don't know about you, but when I'm feeling stuck or uninspired, sometimes I just need to listen to some brilliant and funny people. I'm totally indebted to the Ted talks for recharging my batteries. If you haven't taken the time to listen to any Ted talks yet, do yourself a favor and try one right now. 

Here's one of my favorites. Elizabeth Gilbert (on your elusive creative genius):

What's your favorite Ted talk?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

S is for Scars

What if we wore them
Across our skin, 
A patchwork of past hurts?
Like Rembrant's etchings, 
Crosshatched with grooves, 
Some thick and deep, 
Some so fine that they hardly 
Scratched the surface. 
If we could look at one another
And see them written there, 
A lifetime of fat jokes, 
And crushed first loves,
Of betrayals
And little humiliations,
Maybe we would be more gentle.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Recommendations

Although every so often I do pick up a book based solely on the blurb or the cover, most of the time I choose my next read based on a great recommendation. There are so many books out there, more books than I could ever read in this lifetime (or even multiple lifetimes), that I just have to be a little bit picky. 

I get recommendations from friends whose taste I trust, but I also like finding new books from recommendations on blogs and radio shows. NPR seldom disappoints when recommending a good book. 

Here's a list of some of the best books that I've read within the last year:

How do you choose what book to read next? And by the way... do you have any great recommendations for me?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q is for Question

Almost every story I've ever written has started with the same two words... what if? It's a question that I'll never get tired of asking. Held within it are seemingly endless possibilities. The answer could take me anywhere. Just imagine all the lives, all the worlds that are wrapped up in those two words.

What if humans had evolved into two distinct but separate species?

What if scientists discovered that humans were actually aliens?

What if a high school student discovered Noah's Ark in his backyard?

What if a massive disease wiped out all life in the ocean?

What if the icecaps suddenly melted and people had to leave the coasts in a mass exodus?

What if people were going extinct and a few scientists were trying to save our species from disappearing?

I could spend hours asking what ifs. Sometimes the questions are intriguing and sometimes they fall short, but I'll never tire of dreaming up the answers.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P is for Persistence

I hate to say I'm a quitter, but there's really no nice way to put it. If my husband and I are painting a room, I'm the one who moves the roller over about three square feet of wall before I complain that I'm tired and end up reading on the couch while he finishes up. 

I'm the one who has lists full of good intentions: health plans, organizational goals, the plan to learn French. But we all know what happens... I last a week before it all goes down the drain.

But there is something that I won't give up, one goal that I stick to even when it seems impossible. Writing. It goes against all of my impatient tendencies, all of my laziness, my pessimism, my instinct to give up. But that's because there are stories to tell. So many stories that I probably won't get to them all in this lifetime. But I hope that these fingers will be tapping away, scribbling and scrawling until they're old and arthritic. And maybe someday those stories will be read, but for now... I'll just keep writing. 

Are you persistent? What goal are you unwilling to give up on?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O is for Odd

As writers and artists we're often drawn to the unusual, the quirky... the odd. Whether it be an interesting gesture or the beautiful and unexpected pairing of words that once seemed ordinary, but become transformed by their position in a sentence, we crave to see the world in a new light. 

Here are a few peculiar photographs that I found to disturb and delight you...

Now you make up the rest...

Monday, April 15, 2013

N is for Night

I used to look forward
To falling 
Between the sheets,
Almost instantly
Swept away to
Someplace dark and deep.
But now I have
Outside the streetlights
stare unblinking
into the black sky
While I lie suspended 
Eyes open
For that old friend
To sweep me
Back into his arms.

M is for Mistakes

I've made many. Some I can look back on and laugh (don't worry, I don't have a misspelled tattoo), but others still make my stomach twist with regret. Even so, I know that I'm a more interesting person because of them: more compassionate, more understanding, more... human. 

And what would the characters in our stories be if we didn't allow them to make mistakes too? Boring! I don't want to read about someone who's perfect. I want to watch them falter and mess up, time and again, just the way I have. I want to watch them fall because when they finally do lift themselves up, I'll believe that they're like me, and I'll know that there's a bit of redemption waiting for all of us.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Liebster Award

Sunday is a day off from the A to Z Challenge, but it's also the perfect day to fit in a new challenge: the one that comes with the Liebster award. Thank you to Kathleen Doyle at Writing, Reading and Life for nominating me. 
Now that I've accepted the challenge there's still a few things I have to do:
1.Post the award on my blog
2.Thank the blogger who gave me the award and link back to their site
3.Post 11 random facts about myself
4.Answer 11 questions that the presenter of the award has asked
5.Nominate 11 new bloggers with fewer than 200 followers that I want to pass the award on to
6.Ask my nominees 11 questions of my own

So thank you Kathleen for passing this fun award on to me. Everyone should pop over to her blog to learn a little bit more about her. It's amazing that with just a few short questions I already learned that I'd like her to be my new BFF.
Now for 11 random facts about myself (and hopefully you'll all want to be my new BFF). Let’s see...
1.I wrote (and illustrated) my first book in forth grade. It was about a girl in the forth grade who liked a boy in the forth grade (who looked an awful lot like Wes Brewer, but obviously wasn't because this boy was in a wheel chair. So, you know, no connection there).
2.I have a crazy obsession with moving to a farm. I want to be able to look out my window and see trees and rolling hills (and lambs, and goats, and horses, and ducks, and chickens... you get the idea).
3.When I was little I REALLY wanted to change my name, either to Alice or Liz, but now I love my name.
4.I can't play an instrument or really keep a tune, but I still dream of being a rock star.
5.I'd really like to write a movie script some day, but I want someone to cowrite it with me. Any offers?
6.For the past few years I've had terrible anxiety and hypochondria, so I'm often up at odd hours in the middle of the night, unable to sleep.
7.I could probably live off of candy. Someone get me some Skittles...
8.I used to have a reoccurring dream that I was in a dance performance, but didn't know any of the steps. I always had to improvise and this normally meant that I ended up doing a bazillion pirouettes in a row (even though in real life I could hardly do three).
9.Sometimes at dinner my kids make me laugh so hard that I'm pretty sure I'm going to inhale my food down my wind pipe and die. Don't be surprised if you read this in my obituary some day.
10. My favorite snack (besides candy) is cherry tomatoes sprinkled with lemon pepper.
11. I'd like to be a bird, but I'm kind of afraid of heights.

Wow. That was kind of fun. I guess I like to talk about myself.
 Now to answer the questions from Kathleen.

1.Of the Three Stooges, which one are you most like: Larry, Curly, or Moe? I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I've never really seen the Three Stooges, but since I have a daughter that we call Mo, I'm going to go with him.
2.If you could take the place of any character in any book, who would it be and why? Hmmm... should I pick a human or an animal? Some of my favorite books have rabbits and mice for protagonists. But even though I've always wanted to snuggle up in a burrow in WATERSHIP DOWN, I think I'm going to have to go with Celia from THE NIGHT CIRCUS because I'd really love to be able to walk through Le Cirque des Reves in real life.
3.Mac or PC? Macbook air and I LOVE it!!!!

4.What is your favorite book cover of all time? This is difficult because there are so many that I love. I guess I'll pick...


6.If your life was a movie, who would you want to play your nemesis? (HA! Tricked you on that one!) That's hard because I don't really have a nemesis in real life. I'll pick Stephen Colbert, just because it would be hillarious.

7.Vanilla or Chocolate? Both :)

8.By some strange accident of fate, I’ve been stranded in your home town. Can I stay at your place? Of course, if you don't mind barking dogs.

9.Are you sure? Yep :)

10. What was your favorite book as a child? TUCK EVERLASTING, WATERSHIP DOWN, and MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIHM.

11. What is one word that describes your current MC? Philosophical
Here are the people I’ve discovered through the A to Z Challenge and am nominating for the award:

And if you choose to accept the challenge, here are your eleven questions...

1.If you were an animal what would you be?
2.What is your favorite book of all time (or two, or three)?
3.What's your biggest fear?
4.If you could have any talent (that you don't already have) what would it be?
5.If you could invite three famous people (alive or dead) to dinner, who would you choose?
6.If you had a time machine, where would you go first?
7.If calories didn't count, what would you eat today?
8.What book do you wish you'd written?
9.What antagonist do you most relate to?
10. If you could relive any day of your life, what would it be?
11. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

L is for Lists

Yes, I'm a list maker. It's not because I'm a particularly organized person, in fact, it might be because I'm so disorganized that this little bit of order makes me finally feel like I have a semblance of control over my life. 

I use lists for everything: to-dos, groceries, goals... but it seems like lists are most handy when it comes to writing. I use them for plotting, for drafting, for revising. You name it. 

I become overwhelmed easily, so it's nice to be able to see a step by step account of what I need to do. Of course, it doesn't hurt that I get such pleasure from checking things off.

How about you? Are you a list maker?

Friday, April 12, 2013

K is for Kindle

I'm not sure who's more in love with my Kindle, me or my husband. No, it isn't because he likes to borrow it. It's because over the years, our house has been overrun with books. Really. It's like a book infestation. I'm not positive, but they might be breeding at night...

Last year we redecorated our study and added two extra floor-to-ceiling bookcases thinking that finally our days of stacks of books overflowing on every surface were over. I bet I don't need to tell you how wrong we were. Just now, I counted over fifty homeless books stacked throughout the house.

Yet I can't say I'm sorry. Even though I love the 80-some-odd books on my Kindle, I still love my real books a little bit more (Don't tell my babies that I have a favorite). I love the feel of their covers; the heft in my hand; the swish of a page turning beneath my fingers. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm one hundred percent sold on digital readers. I love that I can slip it into my purse and have a whole bookshelf at my fingertips, but no one is ever going to get me to give up my real books. 

How about you?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for Junkie

You know you're a junkie,
Just like me. 
You can't get enough. 
It started out that you just needed a quick fix, 
One a month, 
Maybe two. 
But then you realized that you crave it all the time:
While you sit in the car waiting 
To pick the kids up from school; 
At the dentist office; 
In the quiet minutes before you fall asleep. 
You think about it in the shower 
Or while you cut the vegetables for dinner. 
It's worked it's way into your veins, 
Infected you. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for Illustration

I've been working on some illustrations for a middle grade novel that I just finished writing a few months ago and thought that the letter "I" would be a perfect time to share some of them with you.

I'm so endeared with these characters, so it's a treat to be able to bring them to life, not just with words, but with pictures too.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for Happiness

Happiness is...

  • The patter of rain on the roof
  • Lying in the sun on warm grass
  • Opening a new book
  • The smell of tomatoes fresh off the vine
  • Warm socks on cold feet
  • The sound of the wind through the aspen trees
  • Clean sheets
  • Snuggling with kids on a winter night
  • White lights on bare trees
  • Clear water
  • Writing the words "the end"
  • The first bite of creme brûlée 
  • The music of crickets on a summer evening
  • Smooth stones
  • A soft breeze through the window at night
  • Rolling hills
  • The reflection of streetlights on wet pavement 
  • The smell of freshly cut grass
  • Listening to my daughter sing in the shower
  • A new pen
  • The unexpected beauty of rusted metal
  • A hot shower
  • The pale blue of sea glass
  • The tight squeeze of a good hug
  • A blank notebook
  • Cuddling up under a down blanket
  • The sound of my kids laughing