Sunday, November 30, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I DON'T THINK NOW IS THE BEST TIME
1. Put your iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. You must write that song name down no matter how silly it makes you look.
4. Title this email what the answer to your last question is.
5. Good luck and have fun!
IF SOMEONE SAYS "IS THIS OKAY" YOU SAY?
To the Rescue—Nighmare Before Christmas (I don't know who's doing the rescuing--it isn't me!)
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF?
A Gaelic Blessing—Mormon Tabernacle Choir (Can I switch that to Celtic blessing? The Scots and Welsh blood protests)
WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL?
Encore of One Day More—Les Miserables (Oh, yeah--always one day more)
HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY?
Loved Ones and Leaving—Harry Potter and the Order of the
WHAT IS YOUR LIFE'S PURPOSE?
Something to Sing About—Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Ah, yes, join with me: "Life's a show and we all play a part, And when the music starts, We open up our hearts")
WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?
The Shadow of the Past—Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Almost 40 years' worth of past)
WHAT DO YOU OFTEN THINK ABOUT?
Something Dark is Coming—Battlestar Galactica (turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, rolls, pie, pie, pie . . . and here come the calories)
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
Fall for You—Secondhand Serenade (if only he were coming with me to see them in concert tonight)
WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?
Many Meetings—Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (meetings are great--goodbyes not so much)
WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
Stay Close, Don’t Go—Secondhand Serenade (except when I'm reading)
WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING?
Blonde Over Blue—Billy Joel (good thing my wedding is in the past, because this song would never fly with the brown over hazel woman that I am)
WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?
Rest in Peace—Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Perfect--Katie, see to it. I want the undead vampire Spike to sing at my funeral)
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST FEAR?
Remorse—The Mission soundtrack (can't top that single word)
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET?
Whatsername—Green Day (not even going to touch this one)
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?
Stone the Crows—Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (I suppose it could have been worse)
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO NAME THIS POST?
I Don’t Think Now is the Best Time—Pirates of the
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
In the dream interpretation sites, I found that teeth-falling-out dreams have to do with anxiety. It could be as specific as anxiety about one's personal appearance (Duh! having your teeth falling out while you talk to someone would definitely be a bad way to impress them with your elegance!) Or it might just be generalized anxiety.
When I woke up at 4:30, counting my teeth with my tongue, I realized that teeth dreams will always have a subtext for me now. Considering that December 18th is the one-year mark of the day my then 11-year-old had 3 teeth pulled and the dentist told me, "There's something unusual going on. I sent a tissue sample to the lab for identification."
So I'd say my teeth dreams might now be evolving into anxiety-about-scans-and-possible-relapse-and-also-my-mind's-way-of-dealing-with-past-trauma.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to brush and floss. Twice.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Tonight I picked up my son and his friends from the high school play. On the way home, heard Paramore's new song from the Twilight soundtrack. As I was thinking about that book, I was also thinking about mine and how to create the greatest possible drama for the ending.
A good rule for drama is to know what the character wants most and then force them to make a choice between that and something equally powerful. I've been fooling around for days, trying to pinpoint what Kieran wants most so I could create a powerful ending. Home, family . . . a lot of vague and unsatisfying generalities floated around in my head.
But tonight, I got it, released somehow by Paramore's music.
By the time Kieran comes to the choice, what she wants most--what she's worked hardest for over the course of the book--is to change the past so that Colin doesn't die.
So now she's going to have to choose--save Colin or save someone else.
(Also known as What Would Buffy Do, courtesy of Supernatural.)
Remember how I searched through Tim Gunn's book to identify my style? Well, on Saturday I discovered the store Anthropologie.
It might as well have been called This Store is For You, Laura--Come In and Swoon.
Swoon I did. And not just from the price tags. (What's a little matter of cost when it comes to defining style?) I was awed. I was amazed. I was giddy. I was in my own personal style heaven.
This is how Anthropologie describes itself: "Offers clothing and decorative home items inspired by other cultures, travel, flea market finds, and antiques."
I love other cultures! I love travel! I love antiques! I can learn to love flea markets!
Seriously, though, I walked through this store in something of a daze. This is going to sound either completely sappy or completely mad, but I felt as though I'd come home. Finally, someone got me. Even the parts of me that I didn't recognize until I saw them fashioned into clothing or designed in dishware. Like the brown wool coat dress with the full skirt and embroidered hem. Or the butterfly china. Or the brown felt cloche hat that made me long to live in a time and place where I could wear such a hat.
Being the dreamer that I am, I dreamed of a possible future where I am a writer who travels to conferences and book tours wearing silk wool trousers or a 1920s inspired shift dress. And then returns home, to the London flat with wood floors and open spaces filled with bright prints and subtle pen-and-ink designs.
I bet in that future, I can wear a cloche hat and get away with it.
If you want to take a peek into my psyche, visit:
Total word count: 61,174
Tomorrow's plan: delve into the depths of Colin's and Kieran's psyches :)
Today, I did a quick outline that goes backward from the end to where I am now. (Quick as in a couple of incomplete sentences--did I mention I'm not an outliner?) But it's given me a handle on how I see the important confrontations and resolutions. Here's hoping I can make it work.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Total word count: 57,900
Tomorrow's plan: Colin remains unshot, so that's number one on tomorrow's list
I'm pretty happy at what I did today, considering the many hours of power shopping I put in first--only one pair of shoes, but I did get a purple velvet jacket to die for (Ginger, that one's all your fault!)
Friday, November 21, 2008
Total word count: 56,839
Tomorrow's plan: buy shoes, lots and lots of shoes
Oops--that's my plan. The story's plan once shoe shopping is accomplished . . .get Colin shot. (I love this job--in what other job could I write "get Colin shot" on my to-do list and not fear going to prison?)
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Yesterday's word count: 1525
Total word count: 53,717
Today's plan: wouldn't we all like to know?
I left everyone at the ball--I know that equal parts romance and tragedy have to happen tonight--and I've got to set up well the next day so Colin ends up shot and Kieran has to drag him to her present . . .
Now I'm just babbling. Do you think I could sell a YA historical written in stream-of-consciousness?
Probably not. Sigh. Time to go work out my babblings into something approaching a story.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
But it also sounds, well, distant. Detached. One of those moving, sentimental, what-I-learned sermons that always make me wonder if the person writing it had any actual human emotions.
So here's some undetached, unvarnished, unrevised truths.
I'm still scared. I'm scared that the rhabdo could be growing right now and I won't know it until scans at the end of January. I'm scared that he'll relapse and we'll have to do it all over again, only worse, with more toxic drugs and longer treatment cycles.
I've cried more since he went off treatment than in any given period during treatment. Part of it is the aforementioned fear. Part of it is relief--finally being able to let go in the deepest parts of me that I couldn't allow out earlier because if I started I might not stop and I had to be able to stop so I could take care of everyone. And part of it is the recognition of how we have all been changed, soul-deep, by this experience.
I worry that this year derailed my dreams, that somehow I lost my chance because I had to do other things for a time. Don't get me wrong--I wouldn't change that. I did what I needed and wanted to do. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't ache if I've somehow wandered off the writing path I love and can't get back.
So there you have it--messy emotions all over the place.
At least you can't say I'm not human.
I've tried hard this year to keep my personal life separate from this blog. Well, not all of my personal life, just the parts that can't be tied into writing somehow. That's the purpose of Jacob's Journey--to chronicle my son's journey through cancer.
But now that we've reached the end of treatment and have been launched into the wide world of what-the-heck-happens-next-and-how-do-I-keep-the-cancer-from-coming-back-without-weekly-chemo, I find that my life, all of it, needs to be knitted back together.
To keep from randomly weeping all over my keyboard, I've decided to use the nice, tidy structure of a list to share a few things that come to mind.
1. There is no good way to do cancer. This might seem so obvious as to not need stating, but it was a mantra that got me through self-pity. Whatever the differences of age and treatment and personality--something is always going to suck.
2. And something is always going to be funny. And if it isn't, then make something up. Laughter goes a long way.
3. So does friendship. I do not understand the impulse of some cancer mothers I encountered this year to shut out everyone except those few in their same situation. Yes, having a child with cancer is terrible. So is divorce and infertility and financial stresses and mental illness and dying parents. I needed my friends this year. They saved me. I only hope I can do the same for them when needed.
4. A lesson learned from a high school friend whose daughter has leukemia: "Kids are resilient. Parents, not so much." I saw that over and over this year, every time we'd come home from an overnight chemo and my son would be up and playing computer games with his friends by dinnertime while all I wanted was to sleep.
5. Moms and dads do things differently. Thank goodness for my neighbor and dear friend whose 3-year-old was diagnosed with cancer one month after my son. From sharing stories of our kids and marriages, we realized that a) we are not crazy and b) our husbands are not heartless.
6. That being able to choose what to do with my time is a gift. My biggest fear this year (other than the obvious mother-fear of death) was that I would not be able to do it. I am, by nature, selfish. It is my least favorite thing about me. I was afraid that I would spend this year in a welter of resentment because of the demands on my time and emotions and not being able to do the things I like to do.
You know what? There were a lot of demands. And I did give up a lot of things that are important to me--including writing.
And I did just fine. Because I was caring for those people that are most important to me, above all else. How could I go wrong?
Now I have a new life. I can't go back to the old one--if nothing else, taking my son for CT and MRI scans at regular intervals for the next five years will remind me that my old life is gone. But it's not the life of this year, either. I don't have to take him for chemo once a week or spend the night in hospital every third week or do radiation every single weekday for six weeks or have twice-weekly visits from the home nurse for blood draws or take him to the ER with a fever or take him for transfusion when necessary.
Now I send him out the door to 7th grade every morning, along his with high-school brother and his elementary-school sister and brother. And then I look around my empty house and say, "Now what?"
There's nothing like trauma to force you to look at what you want. Here's what I want:
1. To finish my new manuscript
2. To send it out
3. To begin a memoir of this year
4. To not be afraid of anything--because I have walked the path of every parent's greatest fear and I'm still here.
The night of my son's last chemotherapy treatment, I waited until he was asleep, nearly midnight, and then went for a walk in the halls that have become achingly familiar this year. I can point out the exact spot where my husband and I came together for the first time after hearing the diagnosis. (He had been at home with the younger children when I got the word it was cancer--I had to tell him on the phone.)
Only one thing could ever be worse than that moment, and that would be saying goodbye to a child. Short of that, there is nothing that can happen to me that can come close to that moment. So what do I have to be afraid of?
The following is from the hymn Thou Gracious God Whose Mercy Lends, words by Oliver Wendell Holmes. It's my own hymn of thanksgiving, now and forever.
For all the blessings life has brought,
for all its sorrowing hours have taught,
for all we mourn, for all we keep,
the hands we clasp, the loved that sleep.
We thank thee, Father; let thy grace
our loving circle still embrace,
thy mercy shed its heavenly store,
thy peace be with us evermore.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
I did the math--54 days until 40.
But that's not what made me feel old.
On Saturday, I took my 12-year-old son to to the university for the Scout merit badge Pow-Wow. It happens to be my alma mater. And from the moment I set foot on campus, I felt 22 again.
(I loved college. Loathed junior high, tolerated most of high school, liked my senior year of high school . . . but I loved college.)
My first jolt came in the Humanities Building. I hadn't been inside it for years. From the outside, most of it looks exactly the same (they did put an addition on one end.) So I was unprepared for the inside . . .
Presumably the walls are still in the same places, and there were still staircases that had a vague familiarity, but otherwise--zip. Zero.
I once knew that building inside out. I could point out the copy center and the various classrooms where I took Shakespeare and Linguistics and Romantic Poetry and Victorian Women's Lit and Mystery Novels. I knew the spot in the halls I preferred to sit and read between classes. I even remember where I was sitting, three months pregnant with my first and waiting to do an oral presentation on Florence Nightingale, when I heard my first labor and delivery horror stories.
Still, it wasn't all bad. It looks a lot nicer. There are benches against the walls so students don't have to sit on the floors. It was absolutely empty on Saturday morning. And I had an iPod to listen to and a notebook to write in. I coped.
But my pride had taken a crack in its foundation. What is the saying about pride and falls?
Mine was about to fall.
I spent an hour in the bookstore, which was much less changed, wandering up and down the aisles browsing like I last did, oh, fifteen or twenty years ago. I was feeling fairly secure about my appearance. I know I look younger than my age. With my new jeans (BodyBugg still working--down 15 pounds) and black ankle boots and slim-fit long-sleeved t-shirt, I thought I could pass for a grad student.
Then a man in a scout uniform asked, "You're here with your son for the Pow-Wow too?"
Ack. My prideful foundation trembled. But that's okay, I told myself, he's one of us--a father who has lots of experience picking out other parents.
I chose several books and waited to pay. The cashier asked the young man in front of me for his student ID. He gave it and received his discount.
Me? I was smugly happy to pay full price as long as I got to say breezily, "Thank you so much, but I'm no longer a student."
She didn't even ask.
Bam! There I was, in the ruins of my pride, facing the fact that I can no longer pass for a student--even of the graduate variety.
Do you suppose being in Maui for my birthday will make the pain less?
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Total word count: 47,335
Tomorrow's plan: the long night with Colin watching over Gemma
Ah! So close. I so wanted to say that, at the halfway point, I had hit my daily average of 1500 words. But as I do the math, I see I'm short of that goal by 165.
You would think I might go back and force myself to add 165 more words.
But I think I'll call it a night. I wrote an intense scene, I'm fairly happy with it, and I'm at a good starting point for tomorrow.
All is well.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Total word count: 42,435
Tomorrow's plan: haven't a clue
Today is one of those I-hate-the-middle days, mixed with a generous leaven of I'm-truly-kidding-myself moods. I hate plots. Why can't I just write wonderful characters having great scenes? Why does it all have to knit together? Why does a book need a middle anyway? And why, oh why, don't I want to something else with my life, like bake great treats or run for office or go to graduate school?
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Total word count: 40,901
Tomorrow's plan: Kieran investigates Eliza's death
I'm 600 words behind where I should be, but feeling pretty good overall. By far my favorite scenes to write are those between Kieran and Colin--should I just give in and start writing romance novels?
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
Thursday, November 06, 2008
CYBELE'S SECRET/Juliet Marillier/A-
It's not secret to anyone who knows me that I love Marillier's hsitorical fantasies. This is a sequel to WILDWOOD DANCING, a YA novel set in eastern Europe in about the 16th-century. In this outing, Paula, the middle daughter, travels with her father to Constantinople to trade and in search of a possibly mythical artifact. But the artifact proves to be all too real, as does the danger surrounding it. Of course there's a handsome man (two actually) and Paula has to learn to use both her cleverness and her courage to follow the clues being laid for her by those of the otherworld. Full of strong characters, compelling action, and wonderful setting and detail.
FINAL EXAM/Pauline Chen/B+
Chen is a liver transplant surgeon who was troubled by the difficulties the medical field had in dealing with terminal patients. This book is a collection of essays about the topic--from how it's taught (or not taught) in medical schools to dealing with individual patients and making realistic recommendations for their care. I read this for obvious reasons and found it moving and a decent insight into the doctors and nurses we've spent so much time with this year.
SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS/Marisha Pessl/A+
This is possibly my favorite book of this year. Marketed as a YA novel (presumably because of the 17-year-old protagonist), it's a wickedly clever, deadly funny, and brilliantly and unexpectedly plotted. Pessl obviously wallows in language, but she doesn't let that come at the expense of plot. Blue van Meer has spent her childhood, since her mother's death, moving around the country with her professor father. They've landed in North Carolina for her senior year of high school, a private school where Blue meets Hannah, the charismatic and mysterious Film teacher, and somehow winds up running with the cool kids. But when a man drowns in Hannah's pool during a costume party, things take a turn for the dramatic worse. Blue is an absolutely and utterly engaging narrator and when I finished the book, I thought, "Man! I've got to read that straight over again now that I know what's really going on!"
THE SONNET LOVER/Carol Goodman/A
Another wonderful Goodman romantic/literary suspense novel. This one is set in Italy, where Renaissance poetry teacher Rose Asher retreats after the apparent suicide of her favorite student. There are rumors that the student had stolen sonnet manuscripts from the Italian villa that hosts the college's study abroad program. But that's not her only concern--twenty years ago, Rose fled the same villa at the end of a painful affair. Now she's face to face with her lover, his wife, and their son and she's beginning to suspect that her student's death wasn't suicide. Throw in a possible identification of Shakespeare's famous "Dark Lady" and you have all the elements for a fabulous read.
THE SISTERS MORTLAND/Sally Beauman/B
I loved the first part of this book, and then it went a little flat later on. The opening is set in 1960s England in a country house that is falling down and houses three sisters--beautiful Julia, clever Finn, and odd little Maisie. Maisie narrates the first part, giving us a 13-year-old's view of her sisters and the men around them. Then we jump to 1990, when an art exhibition displays a now-famous portrait of the three sisters. It's a slow unraveling of the disasters and accidents that happened at the end of Maisie's summer account and how those disasters are only now playing out to their end. It was worth the 5 dollars I paid for it on clearance, but not more.
THE BLADE ITSELF/Marcus Sakey/A-
Danny and his best friend Evan were once partners in crime in Chicago. But when Evan wound up in prison for attempted murder, Danny went straight. Seven years later, he's shocked to find Evan out of prison. And Evan wants something from him--something Danny is afraid not to give. As the saying goes--"The more you have, the more you have to lose." A hardboiled novel, not my usual fare, but this is eloquently written and the characters are unique. But I thought Sakey's strongest element was his creation of setting and atmosphere. I felt like I was right in downtown Chicago, at night, in the dark, with winter looming and danger in every shadow.
And I re-read several of The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnet (you can find my reviews of these historical novels somewhere last year)
THE GAME OF KINGS
THE DISORDERLY KNIGHTS
PAWN IN FRANKINCENSE
And I still loved them every bit as much as the first time :)
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Monday, November 03, 2008
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Last November, I challenged myself to write 1500 words each day for the duration of the month, aiming to complete the first draft of my absolutely endless YA historical fantasy. I didn't quite hit the absolute numbers (I believe my daily average was between 1300 and 1400) but I did finish the draft.
(As for what's happened to that draft since--don't ask. The first half is in decent shape, but after working at it during the early months of Jacob's treatments, I just couldn't go on. I do plan to return to it, but that's a story for another day.)
I have another story I want to finish this November. I began writing it after I returned from WorldCon in August, the idea sparked by a faithful writing friend and a Regency ball, as well as inspiration from Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER. Here's the query I worked out to get me started--think of it as back-cover copy on a published novel.
Seventeen-year-old Kieran Holt is visiting
Or is it the first time?
Kieran has disconcerting flashes of memory at
It’s not all empire dresses and candlelit balls—in
Can she change the past? Should she? Caught between times, Kieran must choose what to believe—history or her heart.
So there you go. As of last night, I had reached 25,000 words on the first draft. Now I go on. As last year, I'll post each night my word count for the day, my total word count, and my plans for the next scene. Wish me luck!
Today's word count: 1579
Total word count: 26,649
Tomorrow: more of Rosemary Langlie's history and visit to Whitby