Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reasons to Celebrate! A Rejection-Free Disneyland Day!

Thanks for the birthday wishes for my five-year-old, we had a great time at Disneyland (he hasn't had his "own" day at Disneyland before, and he loved it). Also, I'm happy to report that my Blackberry was rejection-free at Disneyland this time around, definitely a reason to celebrate.

Another reason to celebrate, (maybe): I learned on Karen Amanda Hooper's Blog that Literary Agent Mary Cole is having a query letter contest. The deadline is October 31st and you paste your query letter right in the comments. It has to be for a YA or MG book that is completed. The prize? Her critique of the first 30 pages of your ms... here is the link: Kidlit Contest.

And something else! I enjoyed The Maze Runner so much that I want to share the joy. Since I won it in a giveaway (thanks again Mary!) I figured I would pay it forward in a giveaway of my own. I'll put up details this Saturday :)

Last thing for today: I'm catching up with an award, and awards always makes me happy. Thank you to both Melane at Chasing the Dream and Natalie at Sound of the Rain for the Kreativ Blogger Award! The rules for this award are...

1. Copy the Kreativ Blogger picture and post it on your page. (Done)
2. Thank the person that gave the award to you and link back to their blog. (Thanks administered above)
3. Write 7 things about you that we don't know. (Posted below)
4. Choose 7 other bloggers that you would like to give the award to. (Hmmm...)
5. Link to the bloggers that you chose. (I will!! But there is some rule-bending going on here)
6. Let your winners know that they have the lovely award! (Winners, I am letting YOU know. YOU have won the lovely award!!)

I JUST did the ten things challenge, (click HERE if you want to read them) so coming up with another seven things I'm willing to reveal isn't going to be easy... thankfully I'm using my real name and this is a public blog, otherwise I might be concerned about privacy. Here goes!

Diana's Seven Additional Things You Don't Know About Me

1.  I love dipping my food, drowning it really, in cheese.

2.  If I start a video game I will become obsessed with finishing it, down to every last heart piece or whatever. Beating all the levels is sadly not enough. Therefore, I don't start video games anymore... but I did "help" my daughter finish Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

3.  My husband and I were high school sweethearts (awwwwwwwwwwwww).

4.  I love a lot of movies, but if I'm honest with myself, my true favorite are The Three Amigos, The Princess Bride, and the first Pirates of the Caribbean.

5.  Um, um, um, (starting to run out of ideas here!) I don't watch much T.V. Here is exactly what I watch: The Office, 30 Rock, Community, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, and Survivor. I know. Junkfood for the mind. Other shows I happen to know about are thanks to my T.V. addict husband.

6.  I'm an Aries (See? I told you I'm out of ideas!)

7.  I have a Disneyland Annual Pass. The cheapest one, because it financially comes out to the same as two admissions... and we live close enough that we at least do one birthday trip for somebody, and one Christmas trip as a family. And sometimes a in-from-out-of-town family member wants to go, or a friend asks us to go... Okay, okay, you got me, I LOVE going to Disneyland. One of the things on my ten-year To Do list is a kids-free Disneyland day :) Disney Love is NOT something my wonderful husband and I have in common, but I think I might convince him someday. Or not. Either way he doesn't argue about the annual passes, which is worth my loving adoration.

And now for the winners! 
The winner of the Kreativ Blog Award is... YOU! Yes YOU, the person reading this blog right now. I'm writing in the second person here, and if you actually read through my seven additional things you deserve this award! And if you didn't read the seven things I don't blame you! Please accept with my congratulations, and follow the rules above (or break the rules, like I did).I will edit this post and put in a link to your blog, yay! Congratulations, you!! You are awesome! And if you don't feel like posting seven things and all the rest, you are still awesome! Thanks for reading my blog :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Random Wednesday: Quick and Dirty

My random things for today:

a) my son turns five today! 
b) we will be at Disneyland
c) Did you know, thanks to my Blackberry, I was rejected once at Disneyland? Ha! (For any agents who follow this blog, I would appreciate my rejections coming tomorrow, thanks)
d) for all those WIP Wednesdy folks... I'm still at 100 pages

Be back tomorrow with another award!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday Newsday!

This isn't an official part of my blogweek, but there is some fantastic news that must be shared!

Suzette Saxton announced on Shooting Stars that she is now an agented author! Click HERE to read about her offer from Brendan Deneen at Fineprint Literary!

Perhaps some of you recall how the lovely Bethany Wiggins, also from Shooting Stars recently received an offer of representation from Marlene Stringer at Stringer Literary (read about it HERE if you missed it). These two sisters are both shooting stars... congratulations Bethany and Suzette!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Caught in the Act: Common Writing Mistakes

For  your enrichment, published author and kind person Carolyn Jewel has an outstanding Writing Workshop full of advice, all for free and all outstanding. She writes romance, but the advice is sound whatever genre you write. I've used it a hundred times at least, and after you check it out you might end up with a new bookmarked website. 

So today the idea is to throw out a few of my common writing mistakes-- the ones I catch myself making even though I know all about them-- and hopefully hearing some of yours, too. I will be referring back to Ms. Jewel's fabulous workshop with links so you don't have to hunt things out yourself... in case you'd like an author's take.

Diana's Top Three Writing Mistakes
  • Using Overdone Phrases and Cliches. Ms. Jewel lists three types of repetition: Micro, Macro, and Mega. I'm guilty of mega repetition (doesn't that sound bad?). It's when a writer uses overdone phrases; things like "He looked up," or "She turned," etc. Her list is more in tune with historical romance, but the idea of using the same ol', same ol' for descriptions is bad, and it crosses genre-lines. 
Do you have any problem areas? Do you know and understand, just as I do, that active voice is the goal but still find your drafts full of passive when you re-read? (Passive voice would be my fourth top writing mistake. Find some explanations and clarity from Ms. Jewel HERE). What are some writing mistakes you catch yourself making?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Quick and Random Post

Hi again! I'm not usually a Sunday poster, but I wanted to say that having the kids' birthday at a "party place" was soooo worth it! I worried all week for nothing! They took care of everything and it was great! :)

Also, if you haven't read The Maze Runner yet, you can read the beginning for free on Amazon HERE, and decide if it grabs you the way it grabbed me. If anyone didn't catch my non-review on it, you can find it directly below this post, and if you MUST read a real review, check out Jessica's or Mary's, but truly, going into the book without any idea of the plot was a lot of fun for me.

Last thing... does anyone else love reading reviews of books AFTER they've read the book?? Maybe I just do it because I don't have anyone in face-to-face life to talk books with :) Anyway, happy Sunday everyone!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Book Talk: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Today I'm excited to talk about the book I won in The Literary Girls contest (thank you Mary!). The Maze Runner by James Dashner

So I'd never read anything by Mr. Dashner before (after reading his blog and envisioning him eating Doritos in his undies, calling him Mr. Dashner is awesome). The Maze Runner is brilliant, but more than that, it's gripping and different and incredibly thought-provoking. The characters, especially Thomas, got into my head so completely that I couldn't relax, worried to death about what was going on and what was going to happen.

Being a writer, I wanted to learn from this story, to take notice of the scenes that filled me with emotion, to pay attention to the expert way the author melded description and action and feeling, but Mr. Dashner wrote such a compelling story that I was helpless against it. I WAS Thomas, and there was nothing I could do but keep reading in the hopes of finding the relief I so desperately wanted. By a third of the way into the book I gave myself up to the enjoyment of the story. I hope I absorbed something in this thick skull of mine.

No plot descriptions from me, as usual. There are probably several dozen very good reviews of the book out there with plot summaries and all, but truthfully, I recommend reading it from page one. No back blurb, no reviews, just open the book and read. That's how I did it, and afterward I read the back and am so glad--so grateful-- that I hadn't had all that information to start out with. All I can say is, the concept is too huge for a paragraph to do it justice. Be warned that it's the first in a planned trilogy, so there is a cliff-hanger ending, but if you like action and adventure with phenomenal characterization, or you just want an excellent book to read, toss it in your TBR pile. And if this book is in your TBR pile, move it to the top. 

Here's an aside: When I was getting the links for this post, I read a bit on James Dashner's blog and found out that yesterday he was in Los Angeles on a book tour, at a smallish bookshop that I go to ALL THE TIME called Mrs. Nelson's. Seriously, the place is fifteen minutes from my house. I would have loved hearing him talk, and would definitely have spared an hour or three of my day to be there. *SIGH* Ohhh welllll. Brightside-enator seems to be broken.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Reasons to Celebrate! And a Heartfelt Award

Before I get to this week's award (two this week! Thank you Wendy and Mary for the Heartfelt Award, and Melane for the Kreativ Blogger!) here are some other reasons I have to be happy:
  • My daughter's troop is having a ceremony tonight. Since I lead this troop, today will be the last day I have to deal with all the ceremony hoopla!!!! Hoopla is the nicest word I can think of to use about all the stuff I'm dealing with, and if you've been a scout leader you understand :)
  • Saturday is our big, 3-way birthday party for the kids. This is really something to celebrate because we're blessed with three healthy, semi-well-rounded children (one has a fear of water heaters, but that's a common childhood condition). It's also a reason to celebrate because we spoiled ourselves and are having it at a "party place" that promises to take care of EVERYTHING! Lovely :)
  • When I got to 100 pages in my wip I switched from Courier to TNR and it went down by a considerable number of pages. This goal of reaching 100 pages is motivating for me, so I kept writing until I reached 100 in TNR. I know, that's very weird of me but I'm happy :) 
Now for awards. This week two wonderful bloggers nominated me for The Heartfelt Award: Wendy at Where Ladybugs Roar, and Mary at Writer's Butt Does Not Apply to Me. Wendy is funny and forthright and enormously talented, and Mary is also funny and sweet, and from her first paragraph in the Nathan Contest, is a talented writer as well. Thank you Wendy and Mary, you both deserve this award right back :)

Do you reach for a cup of cocoa or tea when you're relaxing, seeking comfort, sharing a plate of cookies with family and friends? You know the feeling you get when you drink a yummy cup of cocoa, tea, or a hot toddy? That is what the Heartfelt Award is all about, feeling warm inside. Rules:Put the logo on your blog/post. Nominate up to to 9 blogs which make you feel comfy or warm inside. Be sure to link your nominees within your post. Let them know that they have been nominated by commenting on their blog. Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

My Nominations (Updated!):

1.  Natalie at The Sound of the Rain: She is sincere and sweet and up to her eyebrows in college assignments.

2.  Angie at Notes from the Writing Chair: The posts on her blog are always thoughtful and heartfelt, and so are her comments on mine.

3.  MM at The Sesquipedalian: She may not post often, but when she does it's from the heart, and plus, you will increase your vocabulary score in any standardized test by reading her footnotes.

4.  Karen at Karen Amanda Hooper: Every single post I've read on her blog is clearly from the heart. 

5.  Melane at Chasing the Dream: Her posts are heartfelt and sweet, and she's just finding her way around the blogosphere.

6.  Michelle at Writer Ramblings: A busy blogger (also at Papers, Prose and Poetry) who writes heartfelt posts. 

7.  Anne at Anne R. Allen:  She is so encouraging, so helpful, and always honest. A worthy recipient.

8.  Charity at Charity Joy Bell: Every post she writes is raw with whatever emotion she's feeling; usually joyful, sometimes pensive, always heartfelt.

I'm stopping at seven instead of doing the full nine nominations because I have to take my kids to school, and also because I'm sure there are more than two bloggers left who I would want to give this award to. If you'd like it for your blog, post a comment and let me know, and I will add you to the list :)

Also, the Kreativ Blogger Award requires some question-answering, for which I have no time at the moment, but I am honored by the nomination Melane at Chasing the Dream; I will definitely accept as soon as I can :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Random Wednesday: Camping is 'Da Bomb!

The camping part is further down for your enjoyment. Anyway, sorry if this image is blurry, but what do you see when you look at it? Apparently a four-year-old sees a bomb. 

Not to keep you in suspense, it's the sticker on our water heater in the garage. I pass by this thing every day without the slightest thought. In fact, I don't think I could have said for sure whether there even was a sticker on our water heater before yesterday. 

But my son has been telling me about the bomb in our house for weeks. It would come up randomly, like on our way to preschool he'd say, "Mom, a bad guy snuck into our house and gave us a bomb," and I didn't know WHAT to make of this puzzling bit of information. 

Or in the middle of brushing his teeth at bedtime he'd stop and say, "But we don't have to have a bomb in our house. Let's take it outside." Okayyy, I'd think, and I'd say, "Sure buddy, we'll take it outside first thing tomorrow." 

This kind of comment happened all the time, but never exactly when I had a second to get to the bottom of it, and honestly, my kids talk about such random things that I figured he'd seen something on T.V. and become fixated. Then yesterday (realizing it was like the monster-in-the-closet), I asked him to show me exactly where this bomb was. Mommy would get rid of it! Mommy was here to save the day!!! So he took me to the garage and showed me the water heater. Nice. I explained, and Dad showed him pipes, but I believe he remains unconvinced. 

The Camping Part:

Since it's Random Wednesday, and in case anyone wants cutesy camping stories from last weekend's beach camping adventure, here's an excerpt from the family website so I don't have to reinvent the wheel (my comments are in bold):

[Begins with thanking the other family for inviting us, and how inept I expect us to be at camping]. The kids LOVE the ocean, so their fun was guaranteed. Of course, I naturally forgot something kind of crucial: the kids' beach stuff. On a BEACH campout. And in hundred-degree weather. No worries, they jumped into the sea in their clothes! [Our friends had extra towels and sand toys, organized family that they are].

The beach was both sandy and rocky, and the kids had fun gathering and building weird things with the rocks. We roasted hot dogs over the campfire for lunch, then the kids went on playing. The baby did his usual sand-eating ritual [And rolled around in the dirt. You can check out his filthy feet HERE].

For dinner we had take-out Chinese from down the street, [we are not hardcore campers, peeps] then the kids played with their glow necklaces and flashlights, made S'mores and got ready for bed. It felt great sitting by the warm fire, all cozy with friends as the waves pounded a few feet away and the kids slept in tents nearby. I stayed up really late reading a great book, all snuggled in a blanket with a headstrap flashlight (anyone surprised?). [This was actually The Maze Runner and I finished it in one sitting. Riveting, I loved it].

The next day the kids had fruit, coffee cake, potato chips and whatever else they could scavenge for breakfast, then they played with bubble wands while the grown-ups packed up camp. The baby kept asking everyone if he could "splash", and eventually he decided to run into the ocean without us. Thankfully big sister grabbed him, and I carried off his writhing, ferocious body back to camp. He tried again, and by that time he had given everyone the lovely souvenir of bursted eardrums. No one could stop his screeching screams except good ol' Nino, who put him up on his shoulders. They had a nice time exploring trees, much to everyone's relief. [Then we finished packing up and went home. Good times!]

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Getting rid of the Writing Hiccups

Before rolling into my post here's a link to inspire those of you working on your first book. Sometimes first books aren't just for learning; check out this week's How I Got my Agent, at Guide to Literary Agents :)

So today the topic is one I keep seeing pop up on blogs (I don't think anyone's immune, but I could be wrong). Emily Cross blogged about this and so did Melane, and probably many more but those are the most recent I can recall. It has many names, all of them vile... some call it being stuck, others say they've gone into a writing slump, or that they've reached a dead-end, or even that they have full-blown writer's block!

Whatever it's name, being stuck when you want to write is frustrating and hard to get rid of. Like hiccups. And like the hiccups, there are tons of theories of how to get past it, but what really works? Besides holding your breath until they go away...

Push past it and write anyway. 
  • What does this mean? If you're stuck you're stuck, right? Not necessarily. Maybe you're just stuck in a particular scene, or maybe you've reached a point in your story where you don't know how to get from one action scene to the next. So, write the next emotional-punch scene, skip ahead, write the ending, whatever. You can write in the transitions and fill in gaps later. You may find your story takes a new direction, which is great! Go with it. (This may be hard for chronological writers but it's better than staring at your hands, motionless on the keyboard.)
Go back and revise.
  • This may seem like a no-brainer, but try starting at the beginning and re-reading your story. Edit stuff out, add things in, catch things like changes in names or hair color, and maybe you'll get back into story-mode. This doesn't apply if chronic revising is the reason you're stuck in the first place, but if you've only skimmed past your work before, now is the time to take a good look at what you're writing. And this includes going over your plot points (or outline, if that's how you do it). Maybe you'll rethink where your story is going, or even better, find a particular plot point that interests you and you can start writing from there.
Take a break.
  • Give yourself some time off. Maybe circle a day on your calendar when you'll try again, or maybe let the writing come back whenever it wants (I'm more of a circle-the-date kinda gal). In the meantime fill your creative reserves and try not to think about your story. Read all those books in your tbr pile, visit museums and gardens, listen to music, try out a new hobby like pottery or painting, or do whatever else it is you do for fun besides writing (there has to be something).
Go places. Notice stuff.
  • Take a walk and observe the world. People watch (and take notes on them-- or is that weird?), listen to the sounds as you cross a leafy park (are the leaves loud and crunching? Or damp and quiet? How does it feel/sound/smell). Go to the beach, a train station, wherever, and just observe and absorb.
Write something. Anything.
  • Writing is like working a muscle (some say) and the more you do it, the easier and faster things tend to flow. So write in your blog, write a short story just for fun, write some poetry, use writing prompts or do writing exercises out of textbooks or websites. Be careful of one thing though, and that is beginning a new wip. It may seem like a good idea, and sometimes it is, but if you find yourself chronically starting, getting stuck, and then beginning a new wip, you are in serious danger of never reaching your dream. If you've already completed at least one book, then by all means, start and finish stories until you find the right project. If not though, make it to the end of at least one story before you go down this tricky path, so you learn what has to happen for everything to work in a story. I'm just saying.
  • The debate is pretty one-sided on this one. It helps.
As for me, when my third baby came along I got stuck for a whole year, it was insanity. Other than life-altering events though, I will admit that I don't tend to get stuck all that much. I do use a lot of the tools above, kind of like a holistic approach. When inspiration strikes for a particular scene I seize the moment, even if it isn't the very next scene in the story. I people watch and read and visit interesting places and turn my brain on when I'm somewhere unusual. I write everyday, but if I'm on a vacation I force myself to be on the vacation and I go into observation mode. 

Doing all this sounds weird to people who don't write, but it's how I enjoy life and it works for me, so far no hiccups in a long time... so tell me, what do you do when you reach a writing hiccup? Or how do you avoid getting into them in the first place?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Yes, These are my Son's Feet.

When I saw these feet I had to turn my Brightside-enator on to full power. I will admit it though, we all had a great time.

This week's post is below, happy Monday everyone :)

Perspective and the Great Agent Goosechase

Welcome to another week in figuring out the market, aka the Great Agent Goosechase, (no acronym intended). 

There is an insightful post by Shelli at Market My Words that takes a look at where the unagented among us are heading. I like it because it's all about perspective. Once we find an agent who wants to represent us, it's not like all our anxiety will disappear. There is no finish line, or at least I can't see it that way. Accomplishing one goal sets other goals in motion, and we have to be both nearsighted and farsighted. We need to focus on details down to each word we type, and we need to focus on the big picture and the direction we're going, both at the same time.

Here's my difficulty. Three books in three different stages. (I don't count my first book because it was my learning book, and shall never again see the light of day. I know, I know, how can I abandon a story etc, but its banishment has allowed other books to live, so it was not written in vain).

For the purposes of keeping track, I shall assign them letters. 

Book A
  • As polished as I can make it. A story I really loved and always will... however, is it marketable? Gosh I hope so, but the next few weeks will tell. Agents will be the judges, and me, the lucky writer, will stick to my end of the work and keep writing.
Book B
  • Er, I thought it was perfect when I got to the end. Now I see its many flaws. Huge, enormous, embarrassing flaws. It's definitely like taking off the beer goggles. Did I really write all that? Actually, I don't regret it. I enjoyed writing it, it was fun, but I don't know... major work needed. Major thoughts on whether I should invest any time in this project.
Book C
  • My wip. I wonder if it was a mistake getting involved with this story before doing the rewrites on Book B... like I didn't give Book B a chance. But this one's got a lot more going for it. Seriously, I feel more excited writing about it than I ever did with Book B. My heart literally races thinking about it; it reminds me of my Book A days only better! Oh man, was Book B just a rebound? 
So that's where I'm at. Right now, I'm full-on focused on writing Book C. For better or worse, I barely give that middle book a thought. As for Book A... well, it's out in the world. The Agents have been goosechased and it's all about focusing on writing the one I'm writing. Where are you in all this? I know there are a lot of writers working on their first book... do you think about the story's marketability or worry that it will be the Notorious First Book that doesn't see the light of day? And those of you who've made it past the first book, are you also juggling a wip and querying completed ms? Are you focused only on the book(s) you've finished? Whatcha up to?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!!!!

The magistrates, having read through comments on today's edition of Nathan Bransford's Blog, see a discrepancy in the law regarding the "Coaster's Very First Contest Ever". There is a quandary of significant significance, being that one "Diana Paz," if that is even her real name, did not specifically specify what constituted an entriable entry in the 3rd S-o-A SUFPC, hereby known as the Nathan Contest. Did she mean, how many official entries would be entered? Or did she mean, how many comments would be entered? Why didn't she take the exemplary example of Nathan Bransford's blog and post very clear, very official-looking Roman numeraled rules? Did she realize that referring to herself in the third person and asking rhetorical questions was highly annoying? The magistrates await her response.

Peeps! The magistrates have me wrung up with all these technicalities! I didn't go to law school, (that's Reason Number 78 of the hundred reasons why I'm looking for an agent), so I flaked on putting up contest rules (that's why I am worthy of yesterday's award). I see that although there were 2,651 COMMENTS posted on Nathan's Contest, according to Nathan's own comments today, there were somewhere between 2,400 and 2,500 ENTRIES! The magistrates say I didn't specify specifically and all that other hoopla, and that means I have no choice but to give up my other, equally regal faux-ermine cloak and just as brilliant jewel-encrusted scepter! But only for the whole of one day, thank goodness. I would feel naked without both the cloaks on, and as for the scepters, a girl has two hands for a reason. 

In summary: we have two winners!!!!! 

I have magicked the second set of my everyday wear over to Wendy Sparrow at Where Ladybugs Roar, who guessed 2,350 entries and is clearly the winner of Official Entries, (Wendy will a thousand per cent feel bad when she finds out the magistrates put me through all this trouble, but justice is justice), and I had already magicked over the first set to Melane at Chasing the Dream this morning, who guessed 2,500 entries and is also the clear winner of How Many People Entered Comments. Congratulations to you both, hear ye, hear ye! And please remember to sign the waivers regarding the rarely permanent side effects of wearing/using the cloak and scepter; speaking in Old English and being a teensy bit pompous, thank ye thank ye! And now, the proclamations!

The Coaster's Very First Contest Winners
(in random, equally important order)

And naturally I will put up the same special bonus for Wendy that I did for dear Melane: three of my favorite posts from her blog.

The Three Very Best Posts at Wendy's Blog, to date, in Diana's Humble Opinion:

And in case you don't scroll down to people's older posts, here are...

The Three Very Best Posts at Melane's Blog, to date, in Diana's Humble Opinion:

Alright, alright, life goes on. Another reminder that I'm skipping Book Talk tomorrow to go camping, this time due to the peer pressure of campy friends and the cuteness of our hopeful, squishable kids (the boy feels it's fair that he gets to see what camping is like. Regrettably, I see his point). But then that's it. No more camping for a full 12 months!

2,651 Entrants, and the Winner is...

The finalists of the Nathan Bransford 3rd Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge (now closed) will be announced tomorrow! I read some fantastic, thought-provoking, hilarious (in only one paragraph, hysterical!) entries, and I'm looking forward to seeing if any of my faves are the finalists.

While you wait, congratulations to the winner of the Coaster's little side-contest... guessing the total number of entries! The most accurate guess-- without going over-- was made by Melane at Chasing the Dream. Thanks for playing, Melane! The award, as you may remember, is that you get to wear my ermine cloak and jewel-encrusted scepter for the whole of one day. I sent them via magic, and I hope you enjoy the luxurious feel of faux silken fur (I Googled ermine, and they are too cute to REALLY turn into a cloak. Besides, my pet ermine would have hurt feelings). And I'm sure you'll relish the power, and the biceps, that comes from waving a jewel-encrusted scepter around. Side effects may include speaking in Old English and being a teensy bit pompous, but that's only very rarely permanent. AND there's a bonus! Because this was the Coaster's very first contest and I wanted to do something special, I will also link three of my very favorite posts from the winner's blog! I encourage everyone to check out these posts, and Melane's lovely writing blog!

The Coaster's Very First Contest Winner

The Three Very Best Posts at Melane's Blog, to date, in Diana's Humble Opinion:

Thank you to all participants!

Tomorrow we shall have no Book Talk, and here's why: remember the infamous Scout camping trip? Well, our friends who camp and do outdoorsy things together caught wind of this, and they invited us to go camping this weekend. You may recall that we don't camp, but the kids, those giant-eyed, squishable-cheeked kids, they want to go so bad. As much as I hoped the rain might keep falling so we could possibly postpone this inevitable family event, we are going camping on our first ever family camping weekend! Yay!! Yay for camping! Or at least, yay for making the kids happy :)

Next week I will Book Talk about The Maze Runner. This is the book I won at The Literary Girls blog giveaway and I am so excited to start it. Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Reasons to Celebrate!

Award-time! The Not a Flake, I'm a Writer Award is from Mary at Writer's Butt Does Not Apply to Me and goes to those who flake in the real world because of their writing. 

Nominees show characteristics like getting wrapped in their stories, daydreaming about their characters, or writer-brain in general. There is also a Not a Flake, I'm a Reader Award for those who get lost in a story and walk around with book-brain, desperate to read the rest, or frantic for the next book in a series or from a particular author.

Do either of these apply to you? Then blog a flaky story, or post your flakiness in the comments, and the award is yours! I will, of course, add you to the Writer or Reader Hall of Flakes.

The Writer Hall of Flakes

My Flaky Story:

This is a Lifetime Achievement Award for me; no single accomplishment can encapsulate the years of flaking that both writing and reading have induced. 

First, I'd like to thank my teachers, who caught me reading books like the dunce-cap kid in Chutes in Ladders and forced me to become more creative and write my own stories while pretending to take notes. 

I'd also like to add a thanks to the school system in general, for teaching me that success can be achieved by sitting still with my hands folded neatly on my desk, eyes tracking teachers or professors anywhere they went as they talked, while the whole of my brain was busy in some other place involving castles or Viking ships or whatever else I was into at the moment. Who says we don't use what we learn at school in real life? That skill comes in handy even as an adult (faculty meetings, anyone?).

I can't forget to thank Mom, who didn't know what to make of m reading marathons. Dragging me off my bed, pale and squinting into the light of the real world, right in the middle of the best part of a story, really taught me how to function at half-capacity. All those poorly carried out chores and forgotten tasks weren't because I didn't care, Mom! It was because my brain was elsewhere!! 

And speaking of brain, I can't have a Flaky Lifetime Achievement speech without thanking the gray matter knocking around up there. Just yesterday I loaded the kids in the car and almost drove off without the stroller. And if I hear a song that reminds me of a character, I'll almost always make a wrong turn or miss an exit. And who will ever forget throwing the checkbook into the library book drop? Sadly, no one. Brain, all my flakiness I owe to you. Thank you. 

Lastly, I dedicate this award to my kids, who have increased my capacity for drifting off into my own world on less sleep than I thought possible, and to my husband, who has to put up with me and my rotten housekeeping, my unnerving habit of staring into space (or staring strangely unfocused at random things like the coffee maker), and all my hermit-like ways. You guys rock!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Actual Rant! The Rainy Library Day

Today I'm ranting about people who make other people feel like moronic idiots, especially when the moronic idiot people already acknowledged their own brainless stupidity. What good comes of this?? Making people feel bad when they already feel stupid is a thumbs down in Diana's Book of Treating People Kindly. Read the book, people!

Imagine a frazzled mom. Let's say, for illustrative purposes, the mom is me. Here are a few of the things that may have led to her frazzled state on this particular day, a Tuesday. A Nathan Contest Tuesday:
  • birthday party planning for three kids. Three birthdays in one month is frazzling
  • fundraiser money due for Scouts, along with reminder emails sent out to parents about this because they are also frazzled
  • the deadline for pictures to be returned to son's school was that morning, and frazzled mom forgot it so she must make a trip to return them because the cost of keeping those pictures would require a lien on the house
  • also forgotten in the morning, the weekly envelope that needs to be signed and returned to daughter's school or daughter will be given detention (which is so unfair. It's not her fault her mom is frazzled), so an extra trip to this school is also required
  • ceremony agenda for Scouts needs to be typed up, because they must show off their skits next week
  • regular social civilities need to be maintained, or frazzled mom will alienate friends and family
  • bills need to be paid, house cleaned, dinner made, or frazzled husband may make frazzled comments and this would lead to non-arguing which is extremely frazzling and highly annoying 
  • trip to the post office needs to be made, because frazzled mom doesn't trust mailboxes to deliver bills
  • library books are due. On this frazzled day. And that is what led to the brainless move.
I was happily finishing all of these tasks, proud of my industrious day. Sure, I hadn't managed to blog yet, or post to the Nathan Contest, but after lunch I wrote some, blogged some, and all was well. I only had two errands left: the post office and the library, which I had purposefully left for last because of the perfect commute loop created with picking up my daughter. So I loaded the boys in the car, swung by the post office, wrote out the checks in the car (because I'm frazzled, remember, so nothing is done ahead), and tossed the bills into the drive-by mailbox (despite my better instincts. I've had negative experiences with drop-boxes in the past, BUT, it's raining and I have three kids in the car. This is extremely difficult for me, I just want everyone to appreciate that). Then I tossed the checkbook on the passenger seat, picked up my daughter from a rainy-day schedule (think long lines of frazzled parents with umbrellas. And Southern Californians aren't used to the rain so the parking lot is a mess). Finally, only one errand left. The library. 

I always go into the library to return books. Firstly, because I love the library, and secondly, because as you know the drop-off seems risky to me. The first and only time I used it, the library workers reshelved my books without checking them in and I had to argue with them that I had returned them. Ever since, I go into the library and ask that they please scan the books, right there in front of me (in a nice, "Are these overdue?" way, of course). But it was raining. And I have a two year old with a yucky cough. Plus the four-year old fell asleep. And the eight-year-old is hungry and tired from afternoon learning. And I did it for the bills. So again, against my better instincts, I pulled up to the drop-off, ran around the front of my car in the ever-increasing rain, opened the passenger side door, and began unloading the books that were piled high on the seat. Some of you sharp-eyed readers may already know the mistake I'm about to make... the boneheaded, braindead move I made as I hurried to get those books out of my car, but in my defense it was very rainy and Southern Californians aren't used to the rain. So here it is. Somehow, in that pile of library books, the checkbook had gotten mixed in. I watched it slide down into the giant metal receptacle with mine-own-eyes. 

Really? I really have to take my coughing baby and sleeping preschooler and hungry second grader into the library to figure this out? Yes. I acknowledge the brainless stupidity of what I'd done. And here's what happened next:

1.   There is no parking. None. 

2.   The eight-year-old declares she has to go bathroom. Bad. The rainy-day lunch schedule threw her off and she forgot to go at lunch. I told you Southern Californians are no good in the rain.

3.   The two-year-old starts screeching. He does this when he's aggravated, especially when strapped into something like a carseat. It's loud and it hurts and makes frazzled parents want to turn around and go ape-crazy on the kid. But I don't. It's not his fault he's been stuck in a carseat for almost the entire day.

4.   When parking opens up it's at the across-the-street lot. That's okay, I'm grateful. Eight-year-old is now frantic and I'm imagining a trip to the doctor and urinary tract infections and feel like an official Bad Mom. 

5.   At last we're in the library. I shake out the Dora the Explorer umbrella (the daughter hates this thing, but it still works so why waste it?) and rush the kids into the bathroom. The two-year-old now has a runny nose to match his yucky cough. Bad Mom to the second-degree.

6.   The four-year-old refuses to try to go bathroom. Waking him from a car ride nap is always a recipe for disaster, and his scowl is fierce. He's not prone to accidents so I decide not to push it.

7.   The librarian takes in our dripping, coughing, scowling appearance. She tells us to please wait in line. She doesn't smile.

8.   We wait in line. It's not long, but the eight-year-old has to periodically state that she is S-T-A-R-V-I-N-G. When we're next, the four-year-old announces that he has to go to the bathroom. I tell him to hold it.

9.   I explain to unsmiley librarian that I have actually thrown my checkbook into the book drop receptacle outside. I tell her how stupid I feel, and by the way she starts shaking her head at me I can tell she agrees. She crosses her arms and everything! I feel like she's the principal or a severe, condescending justice of the peace. Above the noise of my four-year-old insisting to be taken to the bathroom, my daughter's declarations of hunger, and my two-year-old's congested screeching, the librarian asks me, "Why did you do that? (Dummy!) I'm very busy!" She didn't say "dummy", but it felt like she did, and the deflated balloon that was my spirit shrivels to the size of a piece of chewed up gum. I now feel like a moronic idiot. Rather than answer her inspired question, I ask her if she can help me. She cannot. There is no one else to work the counter. I look behind me. There is no one in line, but I suppose she has a job to do. 

10.   The crusty old library lady begins organizing books and I ask her when another library worker will begin a shift, and she says there are already other library workers in the library, helping patrons find their books. In fact, one appears a second later and I ask, "Can she help me?" The librarian doesn't answer, but she rolls her eyes (for reals) and disappears into the back. The four-year-old, who has been yelling at me for some time that it's not good for his private to hold his pee-pee marches off to the bathroom without me. I chase after him and the librarian comes out with a set of keys. I apologize and tell her I need one teensy second. She shakes her head again and turns her back to me, and a small part of me almost let's him have an accident all over her floor.

11.   Out of the bathroom at last, the nice library worker girl takes me and my grumpy kids outside and we recover my checkbook. She's kind, and says that things like that happen all the time. 

12.   I walk my wet kids across the street to the car and decide they deserve hot chocolate. From the drive-through Starbucks. Mommy's had a long day.