Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tuesday's Top Ten - Favorite Books

"She reads too many books/ Got new movies inside her head." - "Hero Blues" by Bob Dylan

I love to read, which is probably no surprise. Ever since I was 11 years old I have enjoyed memoirs and biographies, and I have always loved fiction that blends emotion and humor. And then there's anything related to pop culture. And psychology. And thrillers. And women's fiction. And poetry. I just love books - the words on the pages, the smell of the paper, the feel of a hardcover book in my hands. It's an addiction that I am proud to own up to. It's hard to choose just ten favorites to showcase, but I'll do it for this list.

1. I first read this book when I was in sixth grade and have read it many times since. This memoir was written by Betty Mahmoody about her truly horrific and inspiring experience being trapped in Iran by her deranged husband and refusing to go back to America without her young daughter, Mahtob. Not Without My Daughter reminds me of how strong and courageous people can be, and what we can survive with faith, love, and intense determination.

2. I know I've talked about The Help before, but I will mention it again because it is a book that everyone should read. Kathryn Stockett takes readers to a place that is rarely talked about and only understood by the women filling the roles of "the help". The black women in the mid-twentieth century South who raised white children and managed the homes of white families - some appreciative, some racist, and some indifferent. The characters are so well-developed that after only a couple of chapters I felt like I knew these women. The story is gripping, interesting, and best of all, honest. I was so sad when I finished the book because it was so amazing, I just didn't want it to end.

3. Becky Bloomwood is one of my favorite characters of all time. I love the entire Shopaholic series, with my favorite titles being Confessions of a Shopaholic and Mini Shopaholic. Sophie Kinsella is a master at creating characters that are believable, hilarious, and likable. That's a killer combination that I don't always see in books. And being a card-carrying (Visa, Mastercard, Discover...) shopaholic myself, I can relate to Becky as she finds amazing deals, perfect gifts, and items she can't possibly live without, as well as the sick feeling when the bills come. "Okay, don't panic."

4. Robin Jones Gunn is my favorite author. She creates characters that people can identify with; that I would like to be friends with. I love her Glenbrook Series (women's fiction), Sierra Jensen and Katie Weldon Series (both young adult), and Sisterchicks novels (women's fiction), but my favorites are the books that make up the Christy Miller Series. I read these twelve books over and over again all throughout my teenage years and grew up with Christy, Todd, Katie, Tracy, Doug, and the rest of the group. After Christy grew up and that series ended, her story continued in the three book Christy and Todd Series which is also among my favorites.

5. Stephen King is a genius. I have read so many of his books over the years, but 11/22/63 is a true masterpiece. And I'm only halfway finished with it! Normally I would never say something was one of my favorites when I haven't finished it, but this book is just that amazing. 11/22/63 centers around a man who travels back in time to try to stop the assination of John F. Kennedy. Along the way he learns that everything he does has an impact on the future and affects so many lives. It really gives readers a lot to think about. And Stephen King has a great way of incorporating music and other pop culture references into his work that make it really enjoyable to read, even if the story is freaking you out a little at the same time. It is extremely difficult to put this book down!

6. As those of you who read my blog regularly know, I love psychology! This is the book that got me hooked on that subject. Starving For Attention is the autobiography of Cherry Boone O'Neill, daughter of singer Pat Boone. She suffered from anorexia and bulimia for many years, even before they were widely known disorders. I have lost count of how many times I have read this book and am sure I will read it again many times in the future. Cherry fought back from being on the verge of dying and was brave enough to share her story with the world. And it's an incredible story.

7. Ah, Little Women. This was one of my favorite books growing up and I still love it. Jo was my favorite of the March sisters, and I wanted to grow up to be a writer just like her. All of the sisters were so great in their own ways, and I love how Louisa May Alcott created such separate, fully fleshed-out identities for each character. It was like they were real people, and I know from personal writing experience that that is a very difficult thing to do. Little Women is a classic for a reason. It's a beautifully told, engaging, entertaining story that will always stand the test of time.

8. This book is wonderful! Kristin Hannah is a genius at writing books that tap in to a reader's emotions and make them fall right into the story. The Things We Do For Love is about Angie, a thirty-something divorced woman who is mourning the loss of her stillborn child, and Lauren, an above average teenager from a below average upbringing, who is dealing with an unexpected pregnancy. Their lives intertwine and while I thought this novel would be predictable, it wasn't! The Things We Do For Love has one of the best endings of any book I have ever read, and I will be a Kristin Hannah fan for life because of it.

9. I just talked about The Gift of the Magi a couple of months ago, so I'll keep it brief. The reason I love this book so much is because it tells the story of Della and Jim Young, a poor couple who love each other so much, they give up their most prized possessions in order to buy a Christmas gift for the other person. Simple, lovely, and timeless.

10. I am a sucker for rock (auto)biographies, and this one was fantastic! Pattie Boyd, the inspiration behind the amazing songs "Wonderful Tonight" and "Layla" by Eric Clapton and "Something" by George Harrison/The Beatles, was married to both of these rock icons and had an interesting view of the music world that she shares beautifully in this memoir. Plus there are great photos.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Maybe Someday Those Words Will Be Heard

"A million young poets/ Screamin' out their words/ Maybe someday/ Those words will be heard." - "Check It Out" by John Mellencamp

I wrote 1,200 words for my work in progress yesterday! I know it's not much, but at least it's a step in the right direction. Who We Thought We Were is starting to take shape, I'm getting a better feel for the characters I have introduced so far, and I even have a couple of new ideas of where I want the story to go. I'm back on track!

My goal for this week is to finish the current chapter and hopefully start the next. Usually once I get going on a book, I can write pretty quickly. It's just getting through the first couple of chapters that are a little slow. But as I get into the heart of the story, I become lost in the words, words that hopefully will be read by many, many people someday. Once the story has taken over my senses, I know I've got something worthwhile. I have a feeling that will happen very soon!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Stay Lucky

"But it feels like you just might explode inside/ You've been pacing around and waiting/ For some moment that might never arrive at all/ What you don't have, you don't need it anymore." - "Stay Lucky" by The Gaslight Anthem

That is the first section of my two-part song of the day. I have listened to "Stay Lucky" easily a hundred times, but for some reason these lyrics hit me like a punch in the face when I heard them the other day. Brian Fallon's words have a way of doing that. I was driving to work and thinking about my writing when it occured to me, what if success never happens? What if that moment I'm waiting for never arrives, ever? What if it's not supposed to? It felt like someone had dumped a bucket of ice down my back. Then I heard these lines:

"But you're never gonna find it/ When your knees got so weak/ And it's
right here in case you need it/ Like when you were young/ And everybody used to call you lucky/ When you were young."

Just as quickly as the previous lyrics had hit me, these words made me open my eyes to the fact that if I'm weak, if I'm just sitting around doing nothing like I have been, I'm never going to find anything. I have to make my own luck, because I'm not going to be given a break by anyone else. I'm not a kid anymore and even though so many things came easily to me back then, that's just not the case now. I have the abilities and gifts to meet my goals, and that's pretty lucky. I had forgotten that amid the rejection letters, loss of ambition I fought for a while, and the negative thoughts that often threaten to take over my mind.

I knew all along that if I want to succeed in the writing world it's up to me, but this song put everything into perspective. I could spend my whole life waiting for some luck to drop into my lap that will never arrive, or I can be fully present, work my butt off, and make this happen. I am not a weak person, I can't afford to explode, and I do really need this. So yesterday I wrote. I completed the chapter I had started last fall, the first chapter in Who We Thought We Were, and I'm no longer pacing. I know where I'm going and I know I'll get there. Someday I will arrive.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tuesday's Top Ten - Springsteen Songs

"In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream/ At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines." - "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen

Seriously, how amazingly cool are those lyrics? I heard "Born to Run" on the radio this morning and decided to dedicate this week's top ten list to the incredible songs of The Boss. These are my favorite Springsteen songs at the moment, but he has so many fantastic songs, there's a good chance some of these would change if you asked me next week. :)

1. The River - This is one of the most beautiful sad songs I have ever heard. It is the perfect portrait of blue collar America and how our lives don't always end up like we planned. Favorite lines: Now those memories come back to haunt me/ They haunt me like a curse/ Is a dream a lie if it don't come true/ Or is it something worse.

2. Racing in the Street - This song is just cool. Plain and simple. Bruce is a great storyteller, and this tale comes complete with classic cars, drag racing, and an ode to the Martha and the Vandellas' hit "Dancing in the Street". What's not to love? Favorite lines: I met her on the strip three years ago/ In a Camaro with this dude from L.A./ I blew that Camaro off my back and drove that little girl away.

3. Born to Run - This classic from 1975 is as powerful as the suicide machines Bruce sings about. Hearing this song makes me want to sing at the top of my lungs and drive as fast as I can, just for the fun of it. Favorite lines: Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend/ I want to guard your dreams and visions/ Just wrap your legs 'round these velvet rims/ And strap your hands across my engines.

4. Born in the U.S.A. - One of the reasons I love this song so much is because people think of it as this patriotic anthem, but it's actually a protest song about part of what's wrong with this country. "Born in the U.S.A." gets me amped up just like "Born to Run" which I love, but maybe I shouldn't listen to Bruce when I'm driving. Just a thought. Favorite lines: Got in a little hometown jam/ So they put a rifle in my hand/ Sent me off to a foreign land/ To go and kill the yellow man. Yes, America, this is how you handle things - with violence. (Insert eye roll here)

5. Dancing in the Dark - Bruce gets rebellious again. I love it! This song was his answer to being pressured by his record company to churn out a hit. Creative inspiration, heart and soul, thoughtful writing, none of that was important as long as it was popular on the radio. Leave it to Bruce to turn that kind of pressure into something amazing. And yes, this was a hit, but Bruce didn't sell out, he made a hit record in his own way, the only way that matters. Favorite lines: You can't start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart/ This gun's for hire/ Even if we're just dancing in the dark.

6. My Hometown - An honest portrait of a small, run-down American town over the years. Four and a half minutes of melancholy beauty. Once again, this song shows off Bruce's storytelling skills and makes me feel like I'm right there, driving next to him down Main Street. Favorite lines: Last night I sat him up behind the wheel and said son take a good look around/ This is your hometown.

7. Glory Days - This song is so much fun! I could listen to Bruce reminiscing about his good old days in high school all day long and never get bored. Plus, the music video for "Glory Days" is great too. Bruce and Little Steven Van Zant seem to be having the best time, and that joy is contagious. Favorite lines: I had a friend who was a big baseball player/ Back in high school/ He could throw that speedball by you/ Make you look like a fool boy.

8. The Rising - I rememeber when this song came out after September 11, it just felt so powerful and emotional, and kind of healing at the same time. Music does have the power to heal, and this song, this album, was Bruce's response to that terrible time that changed the world. Favorite lines: Sky of blackness and sorrow/ Sky of love, sky of tears/ Sky of glory and sadness/ Sky of mercy, sky of fear. Those words always give me chills.

9. Thunder Road - Bruce and Mary are busting out of town! Forget about the pain and the fear, jump in the car, and go. I love this song. Bruce just wants Mary to trust him enough to hop in the front seat and say goodbye to the losers in their town, hit the road and find something better. Haven't we all felt like that at some point in our lives? Favorite lines: Show a little faith, there's magic in the night/ You ain't a beauty, but hey you're alright/ Oh and that's alright with me.

10. Girls in Their Summer Clothes - A quiet summer evening of a time gone by is the backdrop for this song. Kids playing ball outside, people eating at Frankie's Diner and Pop's Grill, and Bruce thinking about a lost love as the girls in their summer clothes pass him by. Equal parts nostalgia, heartache, and small-town summer nights. Definitely my favorite song from the "Magic" album. Favorite lines: A kid's rubber ball smacks/ Off the gutter 'neath the lamp light/ Big bank clock chimes/ Off go the sleepy front porch lights.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Always Waiting

"We were always waiting, always waiting/ We were always waiting for something to happen!" - "Great Expectations" by The Gaslight Anthem

This weekend I was busy, once again, making my list of agents to send queries to for my first "Willow Ryan" novel, Secrets. I'm ready. More ready than I have ever been, and I'm almost afraid to say this because it has a hint of optimism to it, but I kind of have a good feeling about this round. I have a solid list of a couple of dozen agents who I think may be a good fit for me and my work, and I will be sending out letters to the top six or seven tomorrow. Then I play the waiting game again. I am not good at waiting.

But instead of agonizing and obsessing over these queries like I normally do, wondering if the agent has read my carefully chosen words about the book that I have poured my blood, sweat, and tears into, whether I will receive a request, a rejection, or any response at all, I will put myself to work instead. In addition to Who We Thought We Were, my latest work in progress, I am also going to fine-tune some articles I wrote a while back on child development and start submitting those. I am going to make my career happen. I am a writer, and if I have anything to say about it, soon I will be a published writer. :) Now to get some good responses from the agents...

Man, I hate waiting.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Once Upon a Time...October Road

"Well I'm going back down maybe one more time/ Deep down home/ October road/ And I might like to see that little friend of mine/ That I left behind/ Once upon a time/ Oh promised land and me still standing/ It's a test of time/ It's a real good sign/...October road." - "October Road" by James Taylor

After not working on my latest novel for about three months (it makes me a little sick to admit that it's been that long), I'm getting back into the groove of things. Who We Thought We Were is a change for me since it's not part of the "Willow Ryan" series, but I am once again very excited about this novel. I reread the pages I had written last autumn and am pretty sure where I need to go next. I have a good idea of what direction the story is taking, who the characters are, and most importantly at this point, why I am writing this book. I'm putting a little piece of myself and my high school history down on paper. But just a little piece.

The Willow series is completely fictional. Sure, there are elements of the books that are taken from real life experiences, but the town of Santa Elena is fictional and the characters come entirely from my imagination. Who We Thought We Were is a little different. For those of you out there who are familiar with the short-lived TV show "October Road", I am kind of taking the Nick Garret route and creating a fictional story based on the people and places I knew in high school and events that took place during that time. None of my characters are based solely on one person I knew and the vast majority of the novel will come purely from my overactive imagination, but there will be elements of truth there as well. The book takes place in the same town I went to high school in. One of the main characters dreams of being a writer, is very sarcastic, and wasn't exactly a full of school spirit, peppy cheerleader type of teenager. Sound like someone you may recognize? (Hint: She's a fictional version of yours truly.)

Now that I mentioned "October Road", I can't let it go without recommending it to all of you. This drama starring Bryan Greenberg (from "One Tree Hill") and Laura Prepon ("That 70s Show") was only on for two seasons, but it made a big impact on me. The main character, Nick Garret, left his small hometown for New York after high school and eventually wrote a huge bestselling novel based on the town he grew up in and the people he knew. When he finally goes back to his old hometown after several years, he realizes that some people aren't that happy about his book, some people's circumstances have changed (like the fact that his ex-girlfriend is now a mother), and some people haven't changed at all. It was really a unique, well-acted, wonderful show, but for some reason it just didn't catch on. Thankfully it is available on DVD, and I encourage all of you to check it out. "October Road" was a very special show.

So, to wrap things up, I'm back on track with my writing, I'm super excited about continuing Who We Thought We Were, and don't forget to check out "October Road". Have a great day, everybody!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tuesday's Top Ten - Song Lyrics That Describe Me

"And you can tell everybody this is your song." - "Your Song" by Elton John

Anyone who has read my blog probably realizes that I love music. Today I thought I would share the top ten song lyrics that I feel describe me the most. Even if the whole song doesn't quite respresent me, if one or two lines mean enough, I will count it as one of my songs. Here we go!

1. I've got an Irish name and an injury/ A blessing and a curse cast down on me. - "Red At Night" by The Gaslight Anthem - This song could have been written about me. The things about myself that I feel are my biggest blessings can also be curses, and this song has a great way of showing that you can have the blues and still be hopeful at the same time. The first time I heard this song I had to immediately repeat it several times, just listening in awe. This really is my song.

2. Give me the fevers that just won't break/ And give me the children you don't want to raise. - "Bring It On" by The Gaslight Anthem - Brian Fallon did it again, he wrote another song that resonates very strongly with me. There have been several times in my life where I have taken care of children whose parents did not know what to do with them, did not spend time with them, and in the worst cases, did not want them. It kills me every time. I would gladly take those kids if I could, and I would also take their pain if I was able to so they wouldn't hurt so much. Bring it on.

3. The weekend at the college didn't turn out like you planned/ The things that pass for knowledge I can't understand. - "Reelin' in the Years" by Steely Dan - I have written about this song before, but I have to include it because it fits me like a glove. I went about my formal education backwards, university for a year, transferred to a community college, took time off, went back, took time off, went back, and eventually graduated. Plus, I learned way more working and learning on my own than I ever did in a classroom. This song is kind of my anthem.

4. When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school/ It's a wonder I can think at all/ But my lack of education hasn't hurt me none/ I can read the writing on the wall. - "Kodachrome" by Paul Simon - Before my backwards college education, there was a crappy high school education, if you could call it that. It wasn't all bad, but for the most part I got nothing out of it, educationally speaking. I'm okay though, I rose above my public school education, and even do okay answering Jeopardy questions. And I rock at Trivial Pursuit. Success! ;)

5. Sometimes I'm up, Lord, and sometimes I'm down/ God's gonna trouble the water/ Sometimes I'm almost level with the ground/ God's gonna trouble the water. - "Crush" by The Horrible Crowes - Another masterpiece by Brian Fallon (part of his amazing album, "Elsie", with guitarist Ian Perkins), with lyrics adapted from a couple of old gospel songs. I can feel these words in my soul. I tend to be a very extreme person. I'm either way, way up, or very down, and the line "sometimes I'm almost level with the ground" is me at my worst. Going back to #1 on this list, my extreme emotions are both a blessing and a curse. I would much rather feel too much than not enough, but it can be a rough way to exist in this world too.

6. Come writers and critics/ Who prophesize with your pen/ And keep your eyes wide/ The chance won't come again/ And don't speak too soon/ For the wheel's still in spin. - "The Times They Are A-Changin'" by Bob Dylan - As an aspiring writer, these lyrics really strike a chord with me. Bob's words also remind me to seize the day, don't let opportunities pass you by because that might be your only chance, but don't rush into things. I made the mistake when I finished my first novel of submitting it to agents right away, way before it was ready, and I have now learned to finish out the process, complete my editing, and let the creativity flow until the words and story are as perfect as I can get them. "The Times They Are A-Changin'" is a great reminder of what I need to do and what I have already learned along the way.

7. For twenty nine years we loved that line/ And I would take it easy if I had your mind/ But I'm a cannonball to a house on fire/ And you're slow like Motown soul. - "The Spirit of Jazz" by The Gaslight Anthem - Yes, a fourth Brian Fallon song, but I can't help it, his music is that meaningful to me. These lyrics dscribe how I can't take it easy, even though I would like to sometimes, and how my mind always feels like it's ready to explode from too many thoughts and ideas racing through it. I'm just not a calm person, but that's okay. I wouldn't be me if I were "slow like Motown soul". That's such a cool line!

8. But it don't snow here/ It stays pretty green/ I'm going to make a lot of money/ Then I'm going to quit this crazy scene/ Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on. - "River" by Joni Mitchell - I love snow and it rarely happens around here. The lines in this song about making a lot of money and quitting this crazy scene hit a nerve with me too. I don't think I will ever be wealthy, but I have dreams of making enough money writing where I don't need to do anything else but create more books, articles, and poetry. And sometimes I, like everyone else out there, just wish for an escape, a river to skate away on.

9. Now we see everything that's going wrong/ With the world and those who lead it/ We just feel like we don't have the means/ To rise above and beat it/ So we keep on waiting/ Waiting on the world to change. - "Waiting on the World to Change" by John Mayer - This one surprised me, because John Mayer is one of the last artists that I thought would ever write a song I could relate to so much (I am not a fan), but he did. I have always been troubled by the things that are wrong with this world, the injustices that people face every day, but like the song says, how can we beat it? The Baby Boomer generation changed the world so much, with the Civil Rights Movement, Women's Lib, all of the protesting and amazing, inspirational music that came out of the Vietnam War era, but what has Generation X done? Man, I really hate that name. It's like we don't even know where we belong or what we're doing. And maybe we don't, because there is still a lot of change that needs to happen, but how?

10. And I don't really care if you think I'm strange/ I ain't gonna change. - "Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts - No, I never had a bad reputation, but I have also never cared what anyone thinks about me. If someone doesn't like me, fine. If they do, that's great. I'm not one to go along with the crowd, agree because I'm afraid to disagree, or try to be "normal". I like being different, a non-conformist, and voicing my opinion, even if I'm all alone in my beliefs. I'm not going to ever change that either.

So, do you have any song lyrics that fit you to a tee? Do you share any of mine? Drop me a comment and let me know. Thanks for reading! :)