Category Archives: books

The Best Library

It should come as no surprise that one of the greatest things I cherish is the value of good books. My library is very special to me and I am definitely one of those people who will pick up MORE books even if I haven’t finished the one (or six) I’ve already spent time reading. When Borders went out of business (sniff) I haunted that place like a bad case of fleas and I probably ended up taking home a couple hundred dollars worth of books to add to my library. I love books! (Don’t get me wrong, I love my Kindle too, but there’s just something awesome about real, solid books. A lot of times I’ll buy a book on my Kindle and then buy it again in hard copy because I feel like it needs to grace my shelves.) I can’t wait to pass on my love of reading and exploring to my daughter.

Last night some wonderful friends of mine threw me and Caroline a second baby shower because nobody was able to make it to the first after the flood. What a fun time! We laughed and played games and I think the whole thing was especially therapeutic because there just haven’t been that many chances to let loose and be silly and laugh amongst friends since the flood. We specified that there should be no gifts, but naturally there were, though I was pleased that the majority of them were….books! Caroline is well on her way to a wonderful library and I am so excited!

Just too appropriate after the flood! I think his name should be Rainy. (Or do you think it’s a her? For some reason I tend to inherently see teddy bears as male…)
Are these not the cutest damn things you’ve ever seen in your life?
Sophie!
Books, books, and more books!
More owls!
Definitely THE coolest! It belonged to a friend’s grandfather and was printed in 1905. If there’s one thing I love more than books, it’s old books. I have a mild obsession.

And though I forgot to take pictures, everyone decorated blank bibs, onesies and socks for Caroline which I thought was just the cutest. I also got a basket of bath goodies, because everyone knows Mommy needs to be pampered too. And a 2-year subscription to Parents (Parenting?) magazine! We had such a fun time and had some great food (one of the girls made a pumpkin spice cake with maple cinnamon frosting, OM NOM NOM) and played games…including one where you had to place a large potato between your knees and waddle over to a glass jar on the floor and deposit the potato inside. It was hysterical. Mostly I was glad to have some time to spend with friends, a few of whom I hadn’t seen for quite some time. Caroline will be well loved indeed!

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Putting the Pedal to the Metal

I haven’t written about the book much lately. I guess it’s kind of been playing second fiddle to everything else that’s been going on around here.

I’ll admit it: I was floundering. I felt like I was not coming up with anything good and I was getting royally stuck. I’d gotten probably about 25% finished and pretty much stalled out. Adding to the problem (mostly mental) was that I hadn’t gotten an “official” stamp of approval from my editor to say that she had liked some pages I had sent her a couple months ago, so I was nervous that when we finally did talk, she’d want me to go back and redo it again. This is mostly due to the fact that between the manuscript that my agency picked me up on and the book I am working on now, everything has changed. Everything. Person, tense, characterization, plot. I’m not just writing a new book, I’m writing new characters too, and that change felt kind of foreign to me at first because I’d spent so long writing my main character a certain way and now I’m changing that. (And for the record I’m glad for that, the characters have all evolved out of what I had and what my editor suggested for me and I really think they’re more three-dimensional now.)

Luckily, I was wrong on that front, and when I spoke to her yesterday, she did like the direction I was going in. We finally laid out a plan of action concerning how the rest of the year is going, and she wants me to try to have a first draft done by November before the baby comes. That will leave only editing and revisions after the baby comes, which–though I will really have to push to find the time–is doable. It has to be. But I figure, this is going to be my job, and I’m lucky enough to not have to go back to my day job after the baby comes, which frees me up to work on this even if it’s just an hour a day. It will get done. A first draft completed this year also means potential publication by next year–so that’s exciting. Considering I was signed by this agency last October and then had such a long pause due to Hurricane Sandy, it really feels good to finally have a potential end date on this project floating around. 

The other benefit to having an editor is they seem to magically know exactly where you needed to go when you were totally stuck. Some of the suggestions she gave me yesterday really left me going “oh jeez, why didn’t I think of that in the first place?” She gave me tons to think about as far as characterization and side plots go, which is something I was really struggling with. Formulating a novel is harder than you might think. It isn’t just–this is my plot and these are points A, B, C, and D. There’s so many side points and arcs and other bits of meat that fill in the skeleton. So I’m still working on that but I have a feeling a lot of it will come as I’m finishing up the first draft. That’s how it’s worked in the past anyway, when I was working on my own schedule. 

So now comes the part where I wade through all the ideas, stick to a few, and really put my nose to the grindstone. I’m filled at once with some really exciting ideas and a looming sense of dread and self-doubt about the whole thing (can I really finish this novel in 3 months??)…but that must mean I’m a writer. 

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(Ooh, looks like WordPress heard my complaints and went back to the original template for new posts!)

Things are good at High Elevation. The nice weather seems to come and go. We had some hot weather and then since then it’s been kind of cool and rainy from time to time. More springlike I guess. The good news is that there is still a lot of moisture up top–when Trail Ridge Road opened about two weeks ago, there was still almost twenty feet of snow up at the top. They’ve had to close it a couple times since then because of snow and bad visibility and ice. The runoff has been moderately slow and the river is running high but not too high, which is a much needed relief after last year’s extra dry season.

Last week I left my job at the bank. I had intended to ride it out until the baby came, but it really did become unbearable. Management was…well, intolerable. I don’t want to go into too many details because frankly it’s not worth my time or effort, but needless to say I’m glad I left. I’m especially glad that a new opportunity came my way which allowed me to leave–in short, a friend in town who owns a local internet company came to me and asked if I was interested in working for her company and running their office. The pay is better, the hours are way better (seriously, who could complain about working from 9-3?), and the environment is just phenomenally better. I get to open up the windows when it’s nice and listen to the river sweeping by. It’s far more relaxed and management has confidence in me that I will finish my tasks without needing to constantly be hounded or followed around. It also appears that they will be flexible with coming back to work part time (a couple days a week) after baby comes, if I so desire, which is something I really couldn’t have done at the bank. I had planned on just being a stay at home mom, but if the opportunity presents itself and works out with our schedule, then I’ll look into it.

We had an OB appointment on Monday. Everything is still good to go. Baby’s heartbeat was 155, but since we have the doppler and tend to listen at home every couple of days, I already felt pretty comfortable about that. I’ve only gained 2 pounds since the beginning of this pregnancy, but the doctor is not too concerned about that. He said he would only be concerned if I had lost weight, and since baby is still so small, drastic weight gain is not really necessary at this point. (Or at any point really. That mantra of “eating for two” is kind of a fallacy. Baby is so small he/she does not need me to eat two meals.) So, I’m pretty pleased with that still. I was kind of worried of ballooning up but my weight has been pretty steady and I’m eating well, so I am not terribly worried about it right now. We have our ultrasound on July 2! This will more than likely be the only one we get during the pregnancy so I’m very excited. Hopefully we will be able to determine a gender too–but, this more than likely being our only one, if he/she is not cooperative, we are pretty much SOL and we will be forced to wait. I am still not having many concrete cravings, but I am craving juicy things. Pickles and clementines especially. I don’t know that there’s a way to explain that without sounding like I’m writing a porno, but you can probably imagine where I’m coming from.

I have been reading “Bringing up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman. I’m finding a lot of wisdom in it. If you’re not familiar, the author is an American woman who had her children in France and found out about all the cultural differences between American and French parenting. My dad is French, and I feel like, in reading this book, many of these parenting methods make sense because I recognized that it was, perhaps indirectly, in part how I was raised (at least the parts that have to do with teaching your child things like, eating your food at dinnertime and respecting your elders). There is a very engaging section on getting baby to “do her nights,” or sleep through the night. In France it is fairly common for babies to start sleeping through the night starting as early as six weeks (though more commonly at 2-3 months). Obviously all babies are different and parenting never goes according to plan, but I think it’s helpful to have a loose structure for how you want to raise your child. Basically everything I read in this book aligns with how I feel naturally about how children should be raised, so I think that’s a pretty good sign that this is a road we should at least attempt. Can’t knock it till we try it!

In a weird way I still feel myself struggling to “connect” with this being inside me. Maybe that’s because it’s still so early, maybe it’s because I haven’t felt movement, I don’t know where it comes from. I definitely have these moments of connection where I feel that magic, but they seem to be fewer and farther between than I would like or would have expected. But I do have these moments of pure excitement of the moments we will soon have with our child. First Christmas, exploring the pumpkin patch, cooking treats together and doing crafts…all these moments that I see in the future happening soon. I really can’t wait to get there. Only 5 months until it all starts!

This week’s produce comparison is….

Dealing with the Ebb and Flow of Creativity

If you’re any sort of creative type, you know that the muse to create–write, paint, sing, act, cook even–is not ever-present. Fickle, even. She operates much like weather patterns in the sense that her comings and goings are often tides that take years to come and then go out again.

When I was in college, there was nothing to keep me from writing. I wrote so much when I was in school. At least four novel-length books that are currently waiting on my computer to be revisited, reworked, and hopefully some day find their way into the world. I wrote in between classes, during classes, until 3 in the morning, constantly. The summer I worked on the entertainment crew at the amusement park in Denver I was working 10 hour days (plus working at the renaissance festival, for a total of roughly 60 hours a week) and I would still sneak up to the booth in between shows and write during pre-show. And the simple truth was that I had to. Had to write. I was so full of ideas and the muse was definitely with me during that period of time. I was not beyond canceling plans with friends to stay home and write. And the crazy part about this is that I was so busy during these few years, mostly with school work. My senior year I was completing multiple theses at a time and I still finished the novel that ended up catching me an agent.

After I got out of school that manic drive to write kind of faded a bit. I spent several months after I graduated in preparation for sending my novel to agencies. A lot of editing and re-editing. But I was trying to work on new material too, a sequel that probably now will end up being finished much later on down the road than I originally anticipated, due to the new direction my agents have me going in. But it seemed like the harder I tried, the harder it was to work. I bounced back and forth from project to project but was never able to get a whole lot of work done on any of them. Sure, there was a lot going on in my life–I moved 3 times in 14 months, got married, changed jobs 3 times, and now am having a baby–and while I was always busy before, it was a different kind of busy. It wasn’t working 40 hours a week and trying to keep up with a household and find time to spend with my husband. (And actually, throughout 4/5 of my college career, when I got so much writing done, I was single. It does tend to make a difference.) Now, though I am working on a new track and I can sort of see the light at the end of the tunnel (well…make that, I can see the tunnel) with this new project, it’s still hard to make myself sit down and work. By the time I get home from work (especially these days) I am exhausted and don’t have the brain space left to try to work on the book. I try to write at work when it is slow but often it’s difficult to get in a flow when I am being interrupted by customers. I know it’s only going to get worse once the baby comes so I am trying my best these days to really buckle down and get stuff done. I know it’s possible to do all of these things and still have a writing career. It must be or else nobody would ever write books. The trouble is finding the balance between work, life, and writing.

The reason I was inspired to write this post is because I was listening to some music at work earlier and several songs came up that used to be my go-to inspiration songs. I would make playlist after playlist that described scenes and characters and situations in my books, and just listening to them would put me in the right direction. It also got me nostalgic about the years I had in college when my biggest responsibility was a couple pages of homework. I could stay up as late as I wanted and write all night and still sleep in until my afternoon classes. I miss being in school. The routine suited me and my creativity far better than this whole working-to-pay-bills thing. Plus, let’s not forget the benefits of being in school on stimulating my brain. Because I was in school, thinking, reading, it made my brain work harder. Luckily, I am not going back to work after the baby comes–so though it will be hard, I will make this work. The life of the stay at home mom writing on the side has been a coveted one for several years and I’m very happy that I’ll finally be able to do that, even if it requires some figuring out.

Crickets

Well haven’t I been quiet lately…

I do finally have a good direction to go in with the new book. It’s been numerous false starts and rewrites with my editor but I think (“think” being the key word here) that I finally have a good idea of where I am going. We changed the tense and the person (is that the term for it? Basically I went from first person to third person.) It’s much different than I was anticipating but I like it, which is the most important part, so I’m hoping to get a few more pages behind me this weekend.

Look what the Better Half did last weekend! He raised money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation with several other Starbucks baristas and managers in the area and together they raised over $5,000. Of course in the meantime he looks like a convict, but it’s for a great cause I don’t complain. That much.

Spring is still hinting here in Estes Park. We’ve had some mild days but nothing terribly warm so far. We had our first really good snowfall of the year (er, winter…since last winter) last weekend and it was great. Thick, heavy, wet snow like we have needed all year. Still it will be nice to have some warmer weather soon, I’m very excited to start opening the windows and letting fresh air in. Maybe start going after a garden. It’s so hard to gauge what the weather is going to be like up here in the mountain climes!

Anyway, we don’t celebrate Easter (except for celebrating the sales next week!) but if you do I hope you have a pleasant weekend. I know I am still remiss on posting about Hawaii….I will do that soon, I promise….

Fighting a Losing Battle

Or so it feels.

This new novel has been giving me such a fight. As a writer, I rely on seeing the story in my head and putting the words on paper. But it’s been almost impossible for me lately to see this new story I’m supposed to be writing. It’s just not there. And I don’t know why, or where it is, or how long it will take me to see it. Needless to say, it’s been frustrating. It’s been hard to find direction or figure out how I should tackle the beginning…I haven’t even been able to jump around from place to place as the pieces come together. None of it is there. I know it will come eventually, and normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but for some reason I feel bad for not getting anything done. I haven’t been put to any specific deadlines yet, but as in the past, I feel like I will frustrate my editor if I am not moving as fast as I should be. 

Writing is hard.