December 31, 2011

Another year comes to an end...RIP 2011 We loved you!

Here we are. It's December 31st, the last day of another year. It is also a time of reflection. No matter who you are or where you are in your life this is the day we look back at the past year and evaluate the choices we made, new discoveries, new friends, lost loves, and what grand adventures await us in the next year.

I would like to take the next few moments of your precious time to recap some of my fave 2011 moments. Just bear with my cuz I will likely get a little geektastic with some of this. But it cannot be helped, really.

First off I discovered my inner writer. WOOT! Who knew she was in there? I sure as hell didn't. For years I have lived in my own head, in my own little make believe world. Now I am in the process of sharing my world with others and it feels AWESOME!!! Why it took me so long to find this side of myself I will never know but good GAWD almighty am I glad I did.

Next up is my son, Boog. He graduated from toddler to preschooler. He went from being more self sufficient in his entertainment to discovering the wondrous world of Disney/Pixar and the Thundercats. He now likes to pretend play and it's the best thing ever! We hold 'swords' high and bellow in our best Thundarian voice, "Thundercats! HOOOOOOOOO!" Boog also finally 'got it' with Christmas this year. Seeing his face and the slight gasp of elation when opening presents from Santa was beyond wonderful. The appearance of a Sword of Omens and his very own Woody doll under the tree this year were a crowning mama moment.

Now for the geektastic moment.... NKOTBSB 2011! Yeah baby! Shush, no judging. I am slightly showing my age by expressing my obsession stalkerness.. uh...passion... um love, for the fab boys from Beantown. That is New Kids on the Block to those of you not in the know. They made a comeback in 2008-2009 and then went all boyband crazy by joining up with Backstreet Boys in 2011. Oh yeah, I went to the concert in Nashville and nearly cried my joy. I did in fact lose my voice from my incessant screaming and was the butt of many jokes on the work front. Those haters just don't understand... *wink* I will eave you with a snip-it from my fave boys while I temporarily collapse is a puddle of reborn teen lust and angst...

But there was also those fab boys from the Irish Isles... The Script. I fell hard for these boys back in 2008, but finally got to see them here is Nashville this year. If you are not familiar with these hot Irish crooners let me share a tidbit... Feel free to swoon cuz I sure will be. Oi! I love these guys... Danny can SO drunk dial me anytime.

There was also the music...oh my the music!

I could seriously go on forever here but I will refrain. *giggle* For now I will dance around the living room like it's a Vegas night club. You are welcome to join me.

The movies!!! Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Transformers, Mission Impossible, Hangover Part 2, The Help... Again I could go on forever.

So what is next for 2012? I have no clue. Have I made any resolutions? Why yes! I will continue to feed my child's imagination, I will attend my first writer's conference in NYC next month (SCBWI babay!), and I will continue to work on my writing. I hope to join in with a good crit group so I can continue to improve my craft, I will finish making the final touches on my first novel and maybe, just maybe, I will be ready for submissions in 2012.

In any event I know without a doubt 2012 will be a great year and I am ready for all it has in store. Are you?

December 23, 2011

Clockwork Prince...I have no words. Wow.

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.
With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.
Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?

As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.

Wow, I mean wow. I am not even sure where to begin this review. I finished Clockwork Prince a couple days ago and am just now getting to the review stage. There was just a desperate need to pull my shattered heart together before I could put this into words. For those of you that already read this wonderful book, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you have not, then please keep reading to find out why you should...

Cassandra Clare opens Clockwork Prince with a heart cinching prologue with Will Herondale making one of his shady purchases of the powder his best friend, and parabatai, Jem needs to stay alive. He is also in the market for another 'concoction' for indifference...for him. Only a fool would not know who he is needing indifference from and my heart broke in these beginning pages. 

It only went downhill from there. 

The Council is in an uproar after the failures of the London Institute in capturing Mortmain, or The Magister, and the questionable killing of deQuincey. The members, and more specifically, Benedict Lightwood, think our girl Charlotte is unfit to run the Institute. She is tasked with finding some concrete evidence, or get Mortmain himself, and bring him to trial basically. An impossible task, but Charlotte was giving it a go. 

Our team of Shadowhunters are all backing her and they set out to get the required information. The team meets obstacle after obstacle and we feel this is all going to end disastrously. We, the reader, are not far from the mark. In true Cassie Clare fashion the odds are piled up against our heroes Tessa, Jem, and Will. There are spies once again in the Institute, Jem's health seems to be in a more precarious balance than ever before, Will is fighting his feelings (and beginning to lose) and we are not entirely sure why, Tessa is left with more and more questions about her origins, and to top things off, Mortmain is one step ahead of them as always. Will's walls are cracking as he is faced with his family, Jem and Tessa become closer as Tessa continues to fight the feeligns that burn for Will, The Institute is betrayed by one of their own, The Lightwood boys may just have redeeming qualities after all, and sweet little Sophie is quite an unexpected joy. 

When we finally learn why Will is the way he My heart broke. But it broke again as we see the truths behind what Will believed. Our poor, broken Will.... Will my heart ever stop aching for him? Probably not.

As always, Cassie's characters are wonderfully written. Fierce and caustic Will breaks your heart, gentle Jem warms your soul, and the quiet brevity of Tessa rings like a crystalline bell. Nate's reappearance is a double edged sword. His treachery is both sickening and pitiful. Charlotte and Henry "find" each other and bring new joy and Jessamine's narrow-mindedness makes you pity her. 

For being longer books, Cassie's world of Shadowhunters in Clockwork Prince is a fast paced read. The action does not seem to stop. As we have come to expect from her books, the plot twists are highly enjoyable and the love triangles rip your heart to shreds. Her beautiful world of Victorian London spills from the pages and paints your mind's eye with wonderful clarity. The subtlety of the steampunkish clockwork figures is magnificent and does not overpower the deeper parts of the story-line. 

All in all I am so addicted to Cassie's Shadowhunters and her world of Infernal Devices and Mortal Instruments. I can only wish I had found them sooner and they could go on forever. It is sad, almost, that the next installment will be the final book in the series. There are so many things we desperately need to find conclusion for and I hope that Clockwork Princess will be the icing on the figurative cake. If I know Miss Cassie at all, I would say it will be a delightfully scrumptious icing.

Did Clockwork Prince rock my world? Indubitably Richter scale says 10!

December 20, 2011

Southern living from a Cali girl

I have lived in Tennessee for about four and a half years now. DH and I moved here in the peak of the California housing crisis. Things were waaaaay too expensive to rent unless you wanted to live in an area where houses looked for like fortified fortresses. You know the kind; iron bars covering the windows, motion lights on every corner, a vicious Rot/Pit-bull crossbreed running yard surveillance, and a moat lined with electrified, razor edged, barbed wire. Okay, so I wasn’t serious about the barbed wire. Well maybe a little.

In any event, unless we wanted to live in a less than desirable area we would be looking to pay about $1000 in rent, and in many cases more. This was no bueno for our modest Sacramento income, plus having a large dog was a handicap, so when DH’s job decided to move to the South we signed up!

Hello Tennessee! The Volunteer State!

Since living here I have found a new appreciation for colloquialisms. In a big way. My grandmother was from Oklahoma, and my mother raised in Georgia, so I was not totally shell-shocked upon moving to the South, but still… The last couple years I have come to love certain things about Tennessee and the South in general…

Food: Oh good GAWD the food! White beans, collard greens, turnip greens, grits, fried okra, Bar-B-Q, fried pickles, fried green tomatoes, buttered biscuits, mashed potatoes you can stand a wooden ladle in, banana pudding, and gravy, gravy, gravy… It is heaven. I have also discovered Crisco is a necessity in every southern woman’s kitchen, corn bread is its own food group, and by GAWD if sweet tea is not how I normally take my tea!

Seasons: Holy crap there are seasons! If any of you have been to Northern California you will agree that there is not much in the way of seasons there. More so than Sothern Cali, but still bare minimums. Nor Cal is basically Summer and Winter with like 2 week breaks in-between the two. Winter is not bad, if you live in the valley or on the coast. Summer is generally horrible with regular 100 degree weather that ends in rolling blackouts across the state.

Tennessee has seasons! All four of them! I was amazed the first full year. Spring is full of fluorescent green grass, white, violet, and pink blossoms on trees, and hummingbirds. Summer gets sweltering in July and August when the heat index tips the scales and you wonder why in the hell you even bothered to shower that day. The nights make up for it with the lightning bugs and cicadas. Fall brings out the orange, pink, red, and bright orange leaves that, until this point had only seen in calendar photos, fill the rolling hills. Winter is milder than most places, but there is generally some snow. The perfect kind of snow; it falls, makes everything pretty and white, and then melts within a day. The only problem with snow in TN is people are less able to drive in the white stuff as they are when the roads are merely wet.

People: They are all really nice! A friend of mine (our husbands worked together) moved out here two years before us and she prepared me a little. When I pulled up to Tennessee I found that my neighbors DID openly talk to me, children ARE taught at an early age to say ‘yes sir’ and ‘yes ma’am,’ and I’ll be damned if people I do not know WAVE at me while I drive by! It was surreal for a bit.

And my favorite…Sayings: Oh LORD the sayings! Those subtle things that are different than what I grew up saying in good ole Cali. You do not have your picture taken, but made. You use a buggy at the grocery store not a shopping cart. Daffodils are Buttercups, ‘round yonder is actually a form of direction, and if you are so mad you could spit you might just be PIST! (Hard T there by the way)

Phrases, also part of sayings, brings me constant joy. I will leave you with a few I have learned over the years…

~~ “I would rather lay flat an’ pee straight up than… (enter activity)”

~~ “Well shit fire and save the matches!”

~~“I had to pee so bad I shot a stream a squirrel could climb!”

~~ “He/She was rode hard and put up wet!” (quite possibly my favorite. Had to ask for a translation the first time)

Love it.

December 12, 2011

NYC Bound Y'all!

Before I start to hyperventilate I thought I would jot a few notes about what I have just done. See I am not a huge risk taker. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a sissy-la-la type of chick, but not exactly Joan of Arc either. Well I just book a flight to the Big Apple for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Winter Conference 2012 next month!
 Holy…..crap! I’m going to NYC, the Big Apply, the Main Stage, the City, the Grand Gala of hub-bubs! If I were Catholic I would have my rosary in hand praying to each bead right now.

I’ve never been to New York. It’s always been kind of a fantasy to see a show on Broadway, to have official New York style cheesecake IN New York, the sit in Central Park and watch the world walk by… Well, now my little fantasy is coming true. And I am so totally freaking out!

I signed up with the SCBWI several months ago as a forward movement of my writing career. A step in the right direction, a commitment to it, a way of telling myself “I belong” to the wonderful writing community.

When I got the email about the conference a couple weeks ago my mouth actually began to salivate. I looked at my measly bank account (severely sickly looking after DH’s 6 month layoff) and nearly cried. “I wanna go… “ I kept telling myself. Sure it’s expensive and sure we can’t really afford this around Christmas, but gosh darnnit this was an investment to my career!

I declared to DH that my bonus from the day job was going to pay for my trip to NYC for the SCBWI conference. No choice in the matter, just told him. It’s MY bonus after all! Selfish? Maybe. Do I care? Nope. Like I said…an investment into my career. These conferences, I understand, are gateways to priceless information and by golly this conference would be dealing with the very subject matter I write!

So here I am. My hands are shaking and my brain has gone numb from the “oh my god – oh my god – oh my god” that keeps running through my head like a hyper-active gerbil on an exercise wheel. If it weren’t so freakin’ cold in my office right now my palms would be sweating! A lot!

I am so very excited to be surrounded by people who are writers, authors, illustrators, and the vibe that is NYC. Part of me, a large part, is also as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. This is huge. It will be a great learning experience and I so look forward to meeting people and maybe even make a few new friends. And hell! The one and only Cassandra Clare will be there! =^)

So Merry Christmas to me and a big self high five for making another step into my career as a writer!

December 03, 2011

2 going on 13...Oi

Admittedly I have been on a sort of hiatus from blogging, reading, and my new BFF Twitter because of the grand task of editing. Yeah, a lot of have been there, right? I have also been dealing, coping, puzzling over the behavior modification my son has undergone lately. By a show of hands who all has, or has had, a 2 year old child? I see... Let me ask you this, from one parent to another, did your child come equipped with the 2YO 2.0 chip as well?

If you're not familiar with the 2YO 2.0 chip...let me explain the finer details. The 2YO 2.0 is an upgrade from the standard 2YO chip. The standard 2YO chip comes equipped with increased language skills that include such things as 'pee pee on the potty,' 'I hungry,' and the ever popular 'lub you too.' It also has fierce hugs, infectious giggles, goofy grins, and never-ending tickle buttons installed. The standard 2YO chip was what my son was running on until a couple months ago. That is what his upgrade was installed.

The problem is no one warned me, or DH for that matter, that there was in fact a 2YO upgrade and that this upgrade would override the existing operating system at random. The 2YO 2.0 chip comes with all that was available in the standard version, but with added bonus material. Included in the language package you will find 'don't want it,' 'no, Daddy do it,' and the less popular 'go away.' The upgrade also includes random screaming to the point of exhaustion, Disney/Pixar movie obsessions that border OCD, tourette's like behavior that parallels multiple personality disorders, extreme aversion to waking before the sun rises (which also includes turning on the light before he's awake), and the ability to disintegrate all bones in their body at will when they do not wish to be held.

Let me give you an example. The following is a typical night in my house...

Get home with Boog about 6pm after picking him up from school (aka day care). The whole trip home, it's three miles door to door, was met with announcing over and over that he "wants to watch Buzz Lightyear first!" In big people speak this is Toy Story.

Upon entering the house Boog takes off his coat, shoes, and IMS hat (he wears it every day) and immediately goes to Daddy's laptop. It's fascinating yet terrifying that my 2 year old can work a laptop with proficiency, but that's another post. He pops in Toy Story and informs me "we wait" while Microsoft boots up the DVD player. Boog contentedly watches Buzz Lightyear while I get dinner ready and DH vegges out to Top Gear reruns.

Then it's time for dinner...

Up until this point Boog was running on the standard software. When faced with leaving his blessed Buzz Lightyear the upgrade is triggered and 2YO 2.0 takes over the operating system of my child. After lots of "NO!"s and "DON'T WANT IT!"s, and even more falling limp-noodle style on the floor for good measure, DH and I look daggers at each other and ignore him. I try to rationalize that if he's hungry he will eat.

Boog approaches the table repeatedly, but runs when you make eye contact yelling 'no, don't want it' only to return looking longingly at his now cold plate of food. It reminds me of hyenas in the wild skirting the fresh kill still surrounded by lions. The constant darting in and out, testing the defenses. DH and I finish our plates and do our best to pretend Boog does not exist as he slinks his way back to the table now holding 'Lubby' (aka small blanket he likes to snuggle with). Avoiding eye contact, Boog slips in over at my side and says "Hold this a minute" referring to Lubby. Timidly, as you never know what will trigger the next 2.0 upgrade, I take Lubby and place it on my shoulder. "I want you," says my son. "Sit in lap...peeeze."

"You can sit in mama's lap only if you eat your dinner," I state with mild authority, still wary of the impending 2.0 upgrade.

I place Boog in my lap where he proceeds to devour his plate of food with the single minded obsession of a starved beast.

My point is...children should come with a warning label. Something that will inform parents that no matter how much you try to do right, you will constantly second guess yourself when it comes to their behavior. That your adorable little person, who still enjoys snuggle time before bed, will occasionally turn on you with the vehemence of a angst riddled 13 year old. That the little angel who takes your face in their hands with a declaration of "look at me" before kissing your face will undoubtedly tell you to "go away" if you're not their favorite person right then.

Is the warning label necessary? Does its nonexistence make me second guess bringing a child into this crazy world? Absolutely not. It would just have been helpful to know what to look out for.

So for now I will grit my teeth when Boog doesn't want me, or when the shirt I have chosen for him to wear is not the right one, or when he insists on Daddy taking him to bed (when it's my job), or when he refuses to touch anything on his plate because he wants pizza for dinner and not the chicken and veggies I have provided. Why? Because he is my Boog, my Booger Butt, my Pumpkin, my Little Man, my Baby Boy and I know, without a doubt, that one day when he is grown with children of his own he will seek advice from me on this very same thing. But instead of hearing 'no, don't want it' or 'go away' he will look at me and say, "Thanks, Mom."