Merry Happy

I have been a bit remiss in my blogging, but I would guess you noticed that.  We had a bit of a crazy few weeks, filled with last minute shopping, doctors visits, a field trip, a christmas party, school, work, illness, and much more driving than I would care to repeat.

Living far away, we very rarely have the opportunity to be with family around a holiday.  When we get the chance, we have to take it.  It might not be international law, but it is close enough in our house.  A few months ago, my husbands cousin moved out to Germany to be with his fiancé, (now his wife), and his mother and grandmother were coming out to visit for Christmas.  The chance to see cousins, aunt, and grandmother was very appealing, so plans were made to go out and visit.  We tried hard to get everything done before leaving, not really successfully, packed up, and drove the three and a half hours to Mannheim Germany.

Then the plague hit the house.

There was a bit of a discussion as to who started it, but I’m not sure we’ll ever know.   All I know for certain is I felt close to death a few times.  Head cold, chest cold, fever, chills.

In spite of the sickness, we had a great time.  I planned to get a little blogging done while there, but it didn’t happen.  I’d say I’m sorry, but well, family and illness took my time.  One should have, and the other doesn’t give you a choice.  Hopefully I can catch up some of my before Christmas stories before New Years.  If not, well, it happens.

For today, I am working to nurse the last of my own illness, take care of the last to fall ill (the littlest one lasted the longest), put my house back together, and relax after a mad dash home last night.  When the weather reported heavy snowfall and storm in Mannheim, we hightailed it home a night early in order to beat the storm.  The storm didn’t hit there as expected, but we had a nice snowfall overnight here.  Unfortunately we are all too sick to enjoy building a snowman.  Perhaps we’ll come close later and let the little sick one watch Frozen instead.

Well, for now, to cover all I missed and all that is to come, Merry Happy everything!

Advertisements

Thankful

I’m sure there are a million blog posts out there from the American bloggers, all talking about what they are thankful for, and showcasing their gigantic Thanksgiving meals as they wonder if their newly bloated stomachs will ever deflate.

I am not planning on joining their ranks.  Well at least not yet.

While it may be Friday morning here, my family has not yet celebrated the holiday.  Big one attends an international school, and Little one attends an American school that is a subsidy of that school which keeps to an almost identical schedule. (I don’t think subsidy is quite right here.  Hmmm.  Suburb?  Supplement?  I’ll think on that more.)  Since the school is governed by American, Canadian, and British offices, and two thirds of the school does not care about American Thanksgiving, it is not one of their scheduled holidays.

While we could protest and pull the kids out for the day, it seemed just as easy to move our celebration to Saturday, gorge ourselves on food, roll out to a Christmas market, and then sit around playing games while we engage in round two of eating, also known as pie time.  I will be kind to you and leave out the pictures of our bloated and pathetic selves.  You are welcome.

So why is this post called Thankful if not for being my Thanksgiving post?  Because it shouldn’t take a holiday to remember what you are thankful for.  Here are a few things that I am happy to have in my life right now.

1. Ikea- Thank you for including all of the proper screws in the table and chairs my husband and I put together yesterday.  You may have saved our marriage with that one.

2. Books- Thank you for existing.  I need the make believe worlds you create as an escape from my own from time to time.

3. Time- I am very thankful to have this time to devote to writing and education.  I know most people out there are trying to write novels with full time jobs and families.  I am very lucky to have this time, limited though it may be, to devote to something I am passionate about.

4. Blogging- Yes, of course, I am thankful for all of you out there.  Having this way to talk about my random thoughts helps to give me perspective.  It is nice to get the comments letting me know things are normal in my weird little brain.

5. Family- I know, last but not least.  I am very lucky to have the family I have.  Not only are they supportive, but they try to be understanding even when I think they would prefer to simply put me in a straitjacket and be done with the insanity.  They never question why it is so important to write 3000 words one day, or why I will not talk about a story at any one time.  They simply let me go about my business, and listen when I need to whine.  Without their help, I would not still be working as I am now.

Of course, as soon as game night starts, all bets are off.

A Momentous Occasion

I reached a milestone the other day; I finished my NaNoWriMo novel.

Well.  Sort of. I completed the story arc I had outlined, and written all of the scenes I had planned, but I am still sitting at just over 35000 words.  Yes, I still have 15000 to write in order to ‘officially’ complete NaNoWriMo.

I am not at a complete loss as to what to do.  As I wrote I would occasionally make notes as to what I would need to add in later.  You know the type of things; change this fact, more build up on this relationship, more interaction among characters on this point.  It is not specific details, but is reminders on what I noticed as I wrote, which would help me in fixing things later.  I’m not entirely certain that it is 15000 words worth of add ins, but it is a start.

The biggest thing I have noticed in my writing this novel is my current focus on dialogue.  In the past, I have often been told I spend too much time on exposition.  I would tell details quickly, or include unnecessary details which would bog down the story.  In my attempt to avoid this pitfall, I tried to take out most of that, or present it in other ways.  Other ways read, mostly dialogue.  Seriously.  I have pages of dialogue at a time with little in the way of a break.

I am currently looking at four days of adding in and fixing this imbalance.  Unfortunately, I have no idea what should make a balanced novel in this respect.  I mean, let’s be realistic.  Good books are in the eye of the beholder.  Everyone likes something a little different.  There are bestsellers that I cannot stand, and little known books I am deeply in love with.

On top of the personal taste issue, is the emotional connection.  What makes this book resonate with the reader at this moment in time?  Timing is important.  I have read books which I considered only ‘eh’ at best, and then, months or years later had a strong pull to read the book again, only to fall in love deeply.  There are books from my childhood that will always be special to me, simply because they were there when I needed them.  Poor writing can be forgiven when the reader is really reading something they need at that moment.

That connection is not something you can count on when writing, and can occasionally work against you.  I mean, if the agent/editor/publisher/reader is just not in the mood at the time, then it will not be your day, no matter how good the story is.

It is a tricky business, trying to figure out when to break up the dialogue without losing the rhythm of the conversation.  In order to figure out if I had too much dialogue (I was really sure I did) I turned to my trusty friend the internet.

The first article I found, I actually liked quite a bit.  Ask the Writer gave the honest answer I already knew.  Maybe you do have too much, and maybe you don’t, it really depends on the novel.  Looking at your dialogue, you need to determine if it is important for story and character development, or if it is boring filler words.  It also recommends the reminder of what people would never say in normal conversation.  It might be easy for someone to drive by a house and say ‘My Mom died there,’ but it doesn’t mean it was natural.

The Creative Pen gave me recommendations that were more about keeping dialogue natural and productive.  They also pointed out that many readers like books that may have plenty of dialogue.  The white space it presents not he page can look less overwhelming to readers, even if they are not aware of that part of their screening process.

Of course Writer’s Digest is always a good resource, however in this instance not particularly helpful.  They recommend intuition as a guide; if it seems right to leave it as mostly dialogue, leave it there, and if it doesn’t add more narrative.  Hmmm.  If I intuitively knew, I wouldn’t be asking for advice, but I appreciate the affirmation that I can figure it out.

I finally found some clear numbers however!  When discussing dialogue as one of the seven deadly sins of writing, they estimate 40-50% of a novel being dialogue, with a potentially higher percentage for novels for younger readers. Finally, something I could quantify, and count.  Thank you!  Of course they were not really saying if this was a correct percentage you should have, they were discussing how to make your dialogue stronger.  I’m not sure if that means I am doing things right or wrong still.  Hmmm.

Okay, I have to be honest. I think the internet failed me on this one.  Or it told me what I already knew.  All books are different, and there isn’t an absolute formula for writing correctly.  There is no right or wrong, there is just something that works or doesn’t work.  Sigh.

I guess I am on my own with this one.  Wish me luck, only 4 more days!

Insert Something Witty

I was completely going to write brilliant post today.  Really.  You would have cried at the beauty of my words.

Unfortunately, life happened.

Between an overly busy weekend leaving me with homework and NaNoWriMo work to catch up on Monday, an inspector my landlord failed to mention was coming (who also turned off the power for an hour and a half when I REALLY needed internet), a sick child, and a messy house, I’m afraid I am all out of brilliant. I currently feel clever for being able to walk with a cup of coffee in my hand and not fall.

So, I am afraid you will have to insert your own witty post in today.  Just make me really funny when you do.

Post Halloween Post

October is my favorite month.  There is usually a crisp and cool bite to the air, but it is not too cold yet.  I get my birthday halfway through the month, and finish everything off with Halloween.

Now my husband is a Christmas person, but me?  I have always been all about Halloween.  It wasn’t the candy, though that didn’t hurt.  I always loved the idea of being another person for a little while.  I wasn’t stuck being plain old boring me anymore; I was able to be someone magical, mystical, strong.  Simply put, I was able to be whoever I wanted.  Whatever made me love Halloween as a child is still alive now; it is the same thing that pushed me into drama in high school and writing now.

As far a dressing up?  No, I don’t dress up anymore.  Between the cost of adult halloween costumes, the lack of fabric included in the costume, and the husband who won’t dress up, the fun has waned a bit.  Now, I am the costume support for my children.

This year, I had to simple costumes.  First, Small One.

photo 1-1

Meet Shadow Girl, a superhero ninja of my daughter’s own invention.  She is imbued with all the superpowers, and moves undetectably through the night.  She also occasionally uses her swords when her Daddy comes after her Kit Kats.

photo 2-1

Big One was not as willing to be photographed.  For a variety of reasons we did Halloween 45 minutes away, which involved us picking her up from her school and getting her costume together in a bathroom, and taking the costume picture in front of her friend.  I would have pictured them together, but her friend was even less excited to have a picture taken. Yea (almost) teenagers.

Big One, is currently severely into anime.  She had a very clear costume in mind, however I was unwilling to spend $200 on a costume that would likely be worn once.  Silly of me, I know.  Instead, we went for Alice from Wonderland, her favorite character in general, with a bit of an anime twist.  The long black wig was going to be put into pigtails, but that wasn’t going to work with her blonde hair underneath.  I offered to do a large anime eye, but she didn’t want to bother since she had her glasses on.  Her current plans for her future involve getting into cosplay, learning how to refashion and sew her own costumes, and trying to talk her parents into going to conventions with her.  I imagine if she wants to do that she will have to accept the possibility of wearing contact lenses occasionally.

I hope everyone enjoyed their Halloween, and is ready for a great November!

NaNoWriMo!

All right everyone, it has officially started.  And guess what?  I am already officially behind!

Okay, not technically.  I still have all day to get moving, however, I feel like I am already behind.  Writing on the weekends is always a little dubious for me.  Everyone is home, and getting anything done without being interrupted is incredibly difficult.  I’m usually able to squeeze out enough peace and quiet to get one paper written for school, but that is all. Asking for anything else is a lot to request from my ‘family time.’

My solution for this morning was going to be to get up early and get my writing done before everyone else wakes up.  Simple enough, just wake up a couple of hours early, sneak downstairs, take care of the dog, get my coffee and write through the semi-awake fog for a little while without being distracted by the internet.

Simple right?

Yeah, I started off by turning off my alarm and going back to bed for another half an hour.  When I got up, I stumbled downstairs, took care of the puppy and coffee situations, and then instantly fired up the internet and was lost until my youngest child came down to poke through her candy bucket from Halloween last night.

Oops.

Mornings aren’t my ideal writing time I guess.  I already have my wake up routine, and it does not involve thought.  I could try at night, but that is currently the time I decompress and try not to lose my place when I fall asleep in a book.  Not my greatest creative moments either.

I’m starting to worry my NaNoWriMo is going to start very poorly indeed.

Luckily, I was prepared for this. I know how my weekends usually work, and I am ready to get what I can, and make up words on weekdays.  The technical goal for NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words, but it is also to complete a novel.  I am choosing to work on a YA this time around, and the typical word count there is 55,000-70,000, with a little leeway on either side.  My real goal?  Work on a quality piece I can be proud of, even if I am proud of something that lives in my hard drive until I (or the hard drive) die.

As none of these words will count towards my novel, time to move on people.

Happy Writing!  Enjoy your NaNoWriMo, whatever you choose to do with it!

As a small side note to anyone who reads my blog and does not give two flips about NaNoWriMo, do not worry.  My blog will not be completely overtaken this month.  I mean, yeah, sure a little.  I do write about what I am doing, and this is something I am doing, but it will not be the only thing.  Unless I get really far behind.  Eek!  I better get started!

How To Embarrass Your (Almost) Teenage Daughter

This is my daughter.  She is smart, funny, creative, and wonderful.  She is also just a couple of months away from becoming a teenager.

At this point the few months we have to wait is really just a technicality.  She has the attitude, and personality of a surly (yet still livable) teenager.

There are many disadvantages to living with a teenager.  The grunting as a way of speech.  The late sleeping, which combined with the weird smells of a messy room, makes you wonder if they died in their sleep.  The pickiness regarding food, clothing, and entertainment.

It is not easy, but there is one large advantage; teenagers are so much fun to embarrass.  Every little thing can yield a cringe, or a blush. Even on a bad day, I still manage to get an eye roll.

It’s not easy.  It takes work to constantly make certain you have something planned to keep my day interesting, and making sure she always knows her mother loves her enough to embarrass her.

1) Show affection in public.  Let your child know you are proud to be their parent.

IMG_1739

2) Dance and sing in public.  The store has your favorite coffee creamer?  That is worth a dance.  Cheesy 90’s song on the radio?  Sing loudly.  Extra points if it is some sort of rap.

3) Selfies.  Whenever possible, preferably squishing in together.  Be super excited about it.

IMG_1838

4) Use faux-modern teen slang.  I constantly use words at home such as ‘totes’, ‘cray-cray’, or ‘for realsies.”  When I really need to pull out the big guns, I channel Snoop Dogg and throw in a few ‘fo’ shizzle’s into the mix.  Big One swears she has never heard any person speak that way in real life.  I’m kind of grateful for that.

5) Photobomb!  This is Little One’s favorite way of helping to embarrass her big sister.  As I am usually behind the camera, I have few opportunities to try this one but the look on her face whenever it happens lets me know it has potential for the future.

IMG_2123

6)Take pictures of her when she isn’t expecting it. Make sure to tell everyone how adorbs she was when it was taken.

IMG_1793

7) Take her picture at all.  Private, public.  It doesn’t matter.  It gives the illusion that she is a cute little kid in her big girl panties for the first time.

IMG_2122

8)Call her adorbs.  We also enjoy the term ‘adorkable’ in our house.  In a real pinch I go with calling her my nerd-dizzle.

9) Video her embarrassing moments.  Make sure she knows it is now preserved forever.  (I am not posting the video of her first archery shot where the arrow landed directly in front of her.  I don’t want to be smothered in my sleep.)

10)  Make sure she knows she is awesome, in spite of her embarrassing parents.

IMG_1669

Welcome Home!!

I am home!

Six days in Rome were wonderful, more so than I ever anticipated.  We went everywhere we could, it felt as though we walked all of the seven hills, though there was so much we missed.  Much of our time was spent in churches, because that seems to be the best place to find art in Rome, and many of them are free to visit.  We also visited ruins of things that were amazing feats of architecture in their time, and impressive to have anything left standing.  I left feeling relaxed, inspired, and incredibly lucky to be able to travel as I do.  I also left feeling very angry.

Now I will get to the good eventually here, but I need a moment to complain about something that angers me to unreasonable levels.

First of all, I am aware that this is unreasonable.  I am angered by something that technically has nothing to do with me.  It is not my business, it is not my problem, but at the same time it effects me.  Is this reasonable?  Should I be so passionately angry about this issue?  No, probably not.  But I am.

Second, I know some people may be offended by these comments.  I know I should say I am sorry for being rude or offending you.  But I won’t.  Your being offended won’t change how I feel about this, just as much as my being angry is not likely to change your actions.  If I say I am sorry it would be a lie.

So what has me riled up?  Smoking.

There were a lot of people smoking in Rome.  Everywhere.  All the time.  And it makes me so angry.

I don’t care that these people want to do something that will hurt them.  It’s their life, they can live and die as they choose, it is not my business.  However when they are smoking in places, blocking pathways with their smoke, and blowing it on my family, it does become my issue as well.

The truth is, smokers can be incredibly rude.  In Rome, I had smoke blown in my face more times than I could count.  Several times I had someone else blow their smoke into my open mouth as I was talking.  Maybe they couldn’t understand how disgusting that is, but it made me gag and cough.  Now, there is a little credit to be given to some smokers who try not to be rude.  They hold their lit cigarette down, trying to keep the smoke out of people’s faces.  However, do you know where that puts the smoke?  Directly at the level of my children’s faces.  Trust me, that is not any better.

Beyond the rudeness, intentional or otherwise, smokers can be a bit dangerous.  These are people who are walking around swinging hot sticks, capable of burning passers by.  No it doesn’t happen often, but trust me, when you feel that cigarette get close it is not fun.

It all just comes down to showing common courtesy.  Smoking all over the place, breathing it all over people, and waving it in their faces is rude.  Maybe I am biased, as a lifelong nonsmoker, but the other side is just as biased to their opinion.

I love living in Europe.  Quite honestly there are times when my husband and I am not sure we ever want to go back to the states.  However, there are also times when I wouldn’t mind going somewhere where there have been limits put on smoking in public.

All right, rant over for now.  If it offended you, well I hope at least it also made you think.  Soon, I will share things much more pleasant about my trip, and how it is helping me to be ready for NaNoWriMo in just a couple of weeks.

Seco

50 Books-Jane Eyre

photo (6)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Where did I get the book and how many pages?

Kindle version, purchased a year or so ago, with 322 pages.  I did notice there was several pages that seemed to repeat in number, so I think that was just a standard thing which can account for font size and other formatting things.  I’ve never noticed that before, so maybe it always does it.  Hmmm.

Have I read this book before?

About the first 5 pages, but that was it.

What did I already know?

Jane Eyre is a woman who did not have a happy childhood.  Other stuff happens that is also not necessarily happy. Charlotte was one of a few writer sisters, with a quirky story as well.

What do I think now?

The first time I picked up this book it was part of an effort on my part to first, read more classic literature, and second read more cheap or free books.  I read the first few pages and decided I had no desire to read the depressing tale of an abused child.  (Oddly enough, I had a very similar reaction to Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.)  I can’t say exactly why I gave up.  Maybe I was just not in the right mood to enjoy this book the first time.

When I pushed through I began to see a little more than a sad tale of an abused child. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Jane’s life was hard, but it wasn’t just a story about how hard her life was.  The story was also about a woman who was strong enough to keep going no matter what happened.  She was strong enough to forgive those who wronged her, or maybe just strong enough to forget them.  Her life was not easy, but she never gave up.

The writing was a bit flowery for my tastes, but not bad.  There was simply a certain point where it was too much.  I get it, no one has every loved as you do.  You pool of grief is deeper than an ocean. Message received.

Should you read this book before you die?

This is a hard call for me.  There is nothing about this book that makes me fall in love.  It simply was a story I read.  It does however show a great tale of adversity and persistence.  Read this book when you feel like you cannot go on anymore, and remember that everyone has those moments where they need to keep going.

For those who are following along, get out your copies of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and start looking for a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Happy Reading!

I’m Still Here!

When I first started blogging, I was certain I should always post on Sundays.  Sunday seems to be a dead zone for most of the bloggers I read, and I always hate that.  I wanted to be a little different, but even for me, it has now turned into a dead zone.  What can I say, I guess there really is no post on Sundays.  (Yes, the Harry Potter geek in me is loving this.)

I intended to have a long and well thought out post today, but tomorrow morning my family leaves for a week in Rome.  It is a combination fall break/birthday trip and I am really excited.  I hardly felt like we were going for the month we have been planning this, but today, with the dog dropped off at the kennel, tickets in my hand, and my bag packed?  I finally feel like we are going.

I still have a few posts coming this week, but I am busy getting ready today, so I don’t have time to try to fix my no post on Sunday’s issue.  I plan on coming in strong in two weeks (though probably not on Sunday), hopefully with amazing pictures and stories to tell.  Until then, you will have to pick up a book instead of my blog, and follow me on instagram for the quickest access to my Roman Holiday.