Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Novemeber, as you may or may not know, is National Novel Writing Month. It's a big deal in writerly circles, or at least it's been heard of. The object of NaNoWriMo is simple--to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. That breaks down to 1657 words per day.

I'm not participating in NaNoWriMo. For several reasons, none of which matter here. But I am taking the point of the challenge to heart. And what, you ask, is the point of the challenge?

To write.

I've been working on the same novel for more than a year. The short story that is sprang from was written two years ago. I have beautifully written and rewritten the first 100 pages dozens of times. But I've never gotten further.

And I have to get further. Because I have a whole trilogy I want to tell, and I'm ready to outline the next two books, and I can't write them until I write the first.

So here comes November.

My rules:

1. I will write 1500 words a day. (That will give me 45,000 words at the end of the month, enough to either finish or come very close to finishing the novel.)

2. I will only write new words and new scenes. I am not allowed to touch the first 100 pages. No matter how much still needs to be fixed or added or deleted. Those 100 pages will just have to wait until November is over.

3. I don't think there is a 3 . . . Wait a minute, I've got it. I will post here every day my word count from the day before and a simple outline for that day's writing.

How about it? Want to help keep me on track and see if I can finally finish off this book?

I attended another concert last weekend, with another child. As opposed to Blaqk Audio, this performer is one a few more people have heard of. In fact, so many people have heard of her that some tickets in some cities were selling for 2000 dollars apiece.

Hannah Montana.

Actually, Hannah Montana is the alter ego of Miley Cyrus, daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus of Achy-Breaky Heart fame. Disney Channel launched her to fame this last year in her own television series where Miley is a regular 14-year-old girl in school, and only a few people know that she's also world-famous pop star Hannah Montana. Now, of course, has come the album and tour.

First, the concert was in lieu of throwing my daughter a party for her 9th birthday next month. And in lieu of several presents.

Second, I am not telling you how much I paid for tickets. It's none of your business. (Although, to preserve my dignity, I will tell you I paid considerably--way considerably--less than top price.)

Third, I enjoyed myself. Does this mean I have no standards? Or, as I prefer to believe, does it mean that I'm capable of finding pleasure in almost any situation?

My oldest son asked me which concert I liked better--Blaqk Audio or Hannah Montana.

On the side of Hannah Montana--I got an actual seat to sit in. And I brought a book to read during intermisison.

On the side of Blaqk Audio--way more interesting people to watch. Everyone at Hannah Montaha looked pretty much like everyone else. Lots of moms of a certain age, lots of pre-teen girls who shrieked a lot, and an occasional father who was the very definition of longsuffering. There were no fishnets, no corsets, no persons-of-uncertain-gender.

Honestly, where is that Mother of the Year award?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

CARMEN'S STICKY SCAB is available now!

And if you want to know more about the woman behind the book, click on the link below to read an interview with Ginger Churchill.

Love you, Ginger!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

September Reads

THE EIGHT/Katherine Neville: a fun airplane sort of read, which worked out well as I was on more than my fair share of airplanes going to and from Kenya. It's one of those ancient secrets/conspiracy books that I assumed was inspired by Da Vinci Code. But I stood corrected after looking at the original publication date--1985. So now I assume it was reprinted and repackaged to take advantage of the Da Vinci Code furor. It traces the history of Charlemagne's magic chess set that apparently gives the holder of creation. Or something like that. I skipped the technical parts. It's told in two time periods: 1970s New York and Algeria and 1790s France. Other than that, I can't remember a lot of details. It passed the time pleasurably, which was its sole purpose.

THE RUINS/Scott Smith: also a fun trip book. I picked this one up because it's set in the Mayan jungles outside Cancun. Having just been there, I thought I'd enjoy it. I did. It's a horror book, but an understated kind of horror. Four American friends wind up on a day trip into the jungle to find a German tourist's brother who's gone missing from an archaelogical site. After encountering hostile local farmers, they stumble onto the site--only to find out the farmers are now armed and will not let them leave. There's no sign at first of the archaelogists, just a hillside covered with a strange vine that grows bloodred flowers and a big gaping hole that descends into the old mind. So what's the first thing they do? That's right, they go down into the big gaping hole. Creey and atmospheric, maybe don't read this right before going to Cancun.

AFRICAN DIARY/Bill Bryson: my favorite travel writer wrote a very short book about Kenya for CARE International. I can only hope he'll return to Africa at some point and write a longer book. His trademark wit and self-deprecating humor are leavened with touching accounts of Nairobi's Kibera slums and the Dadaab refugee camp near Mombasa. I loved it.

A SHORT HISTORY OF TRACTORS IN UKRANIAN/Marina Lewycka: From a professional review (because it says it better than I can): "In this comic first novel, two estranged sisters living in England discover that their addled elderly father, a Ukrainian war refugee and expert on tractors, is planning to marry a young, enormous-breasted woman who sees his modest pension as her ticket to capitalist comfort. The sisters put aside their differences, and embark on a spirited campaign to save him from boil-in-the-bag dinners, slovenly housekeeping, and such extravagant purchases as a broken-down Rolls-Royce. In the midst of these machinations—which include long-winded letters to solicitors, venomous gossip, and all-out spying—Lewycka stealthily reveals how the depredations of the past century dictate what a family can bear."
To which I can only add--this was a remarkably surprising and touching book, as well as laugh out loud funny.

THE ROTH TRILOGY/Andrew Taylor: Okay, I only read the first two of this trilogy in September, I finished the third this month. But I'm putting them together--deal with it. The unusual thing about this trilogy is that the books are in reverse chronological order, each one revealing more of the layers that underly what comes later. Each book can be read on its own, but there's a beauty and bittersweet harmony to reading them in the order intended. In THE FOUR LAST THINGS, set in 1990s London, a little girl is kidnapped. Her mother, a new Anglican priest, thinks the kidnapping is aimed at her and the controversy over ordaining women. But her husband has stories from his childhood he's never told her, and the truth is far more complicated. The second book, JUDGMENT OF STRANGERS, is set more than 20 years earlier, in a small village where the parish priest, David Byfield, remarries, setting in motion events he cannot predict and may not be able to live with. The third book, OFFICES OF THE DEAD, is set ten years before that and gives us a view of David Byfield's first marriage through the eyes of his first wife's best friend. Through each book there's a secondary thread about a late-Victorian priest who may or may not have been mad, who may or may not have been a religious and social radical, who may or may not have killed himself, and who definitely wrote very odd poetry. Highly recommended.

THE WHITE MAASAI/Corinne Hoffman: bought in Kenya, the true story of a Swiss-German woman who came to Kenya on holiday and ended up marrying a Maasai warrior and living in the bush for several years. Very intriguing, but my overwhelming thought through the whole book was: "Did you hit your head on something? Have you completely lost your mind?" But then, I'm not a big believer in destiny-changing, world-shattering love at first sight. I think it's always nice to back up attraction with, I don't know, speaking the same language.

A few others, mostly continuations of various serious I love:

JAR CITY/Arnaldur Indridason

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I except to receive my Mother of the Year Award any day now. Or at least, Mother of a Teenager Award.

What did I do to earn this award you ask? I stepped way out of my comfort zone. I did something I never expected to do. I threw myself heart and soul (or at least bodily) into a teenage experience.

I took my 14-year-old to a Blaqk Audio concert.

And not just any concert. This wasn’t assigned seating, civilized ushers sort of concert. This was a downtown Salt Lake, dance club, cram onto the floor as close to the stage as humanly possible concert.

How did this happen? First, my son asked. Which might not mean anything, except he’s a great son. Fabulous grades, good attitude, easiest teenage boy in the world to get along with. Doesn’t break curfew, doesn’t lie, doesn’t sneak out. He makes it hard to say no to. Not that I haven’t said no before. But the second part of this I can only blame myself for—I didn’t check if my husband would be in town. I planned to send dad and son off to the concert.

But no such luck. Dad was in Boston. Which meant mom got to go. (And leave the 11-year-old babysitting—don’t call social services—my neighbors and friends were on high alert for any possible problems!)

So off Son 1 and I went. First, we drove for 45 minutes. Then we parked and walked a block and half to the club through streets that made me a little leery. Then we joined the line that snaked around outside and waited for 45 minutes until they opened the doors. It really is a decent club. It’s not like I let him drag me into a den of drugs and drinking. It’s a non-alcoholic dance club, you generally have to be 18 to get in but they make exceptions for their “all ages” shows, in which those under 18 can get in with a parent.

(But I must say that none of this meant they knew how to clean their bathrooms. We stood near the men’s room while waiting to buy him a sweatshirt, and the smell was enough to convince me that I could hold it until I got home.)

About 8:30, when we’d been inside 15 minutes, I realized that the 8:00 and 9:45 times printed on the tickets didn’t indicate the time during which the band would be playing. It indicated the time the doors would open, and what time they would take the stage. I had a bad moment or two when I realized I had another hour to stand around and wait before the music started, but I made the best of it. I found a convenient pillar on the side of the room, which gave me a good view of my son ten feet away in the crowd, and turned to contemplation. And there was a lot to contemplate.

Wardrobe, for one. I was extremely glad, standing in line outside, that I hadn’t decided to wear my denim mini-skirt, black leggings, and leopard print ballet flats. How embarrassing would it have been to show up in the same outfit the woman in front of me was wearing?

I have never seen so much black, so many pairs of fishnet stockings, and so many people that filled me with the great motherly urge to push their hair out of their face and say, “Let me see your eyes!” I also saw a girl wearing an actual corset. I know about corsets, having made two of them. Mine, however, are worn on Halloween, and always with something beneath them other than skin. This one, not so much.

I imagined Tim Gunn standing by me for a while. He hosts his own “Guide to Style” on Bravo and I could dream many the many comments he’d have made, along with the shrieks of purely visceral horror. The band was actually the best-dressed there—white shirts, ties, dress pants and vests. Wasn’t wild about their hair, but at least they weren’t wearing eyeliner.

The good news for me? I really like Blaqk Audio’s music. I’m listening to their album right now, in fact. It didn’t hurt that they’ve only released one album, which meant they were through playing in an hour. Although I’m not much of a crowd person (the reason I took the pillar against the wall was so that I wouldn’t embarrass my son by having a panic attack) but I really enjoy performance of almost any sort. There’s something vibrant about live performances, the energy and enthusiasm of both the performers and the crowd. I enjoyed myself much more than I expected to.

There was only thing that bothered me for the first half of the concert—I couldn’t figure out who the keyboard player reminded me of. You know how annoying that is, running over everyone you’ve ever met or seen in your head trying to make a match. And then, my blog to the rescue!

Victoria Beckham. Dye his haircut platinum blonde and put him in six-inch heels and he’d have been the spitting image.

All in all, I’m resting on my mothering laurels this week.

Feel free to send my award.