You’re doing WHAT?

One of the reasons I started my blog is that I have this fantasy about being an author.  I love to read so why not write?  Well, writing is not for everyone, but I read that blogging is a good way to hone one’s writing skills so here I am.

I’m not the most devoted writer.  I get distracted by work, family, Netflix, shopping, severe bouts of depression, and life in general.  All of those things are probably happening right now as you read this.  I’m an unstoppable whirlwind of sad, lazy American-with-no-PTO.

I’ve been stocking up ideas for years and I started worldbuilding this fall.  I bought some nonfiction, visited some museums, and raked through old CDs and sketchbooks.  One image I have for my main character is one I started drawing when I was about eleven.

Here is the problem of why I might be a very good author but I might be a terrible one:  I have a dialogue inside by head for EVERYTHING.  And I’ve always been that way.  Sometimes it lies to me and tells me I’m unsuccessful and not living up to my potential and then I get depressed.  But SOMETIMES it is like reading a book and loose stories and characters unfold as I do other things like drawing or driving or baking cookies.  I constantly have ideas.  It’s hard to organize, but it is sort of like an old card catalog at the library – if you are interested in STARS you should check out the cards on HOLLYWOOD and ASTRONOMY.  It just goes on and on and on, one topic melting into another until I need to focus on something for real.

This is me getting real.  I entered NaNoWriMo and have a goal of having a rough draft by December.  A whole rough draft.  I just switched to a job with a lighter schedule because I really doubt I’ll ever get somewhere without more education and I start school again in January.  So with a little time on my hands this is a perfect opportunity to really do something different.  Like I need another hobby.  Ugh.

I admit to not having an outline for my novel (though I do have an outline for my prologue that I wrote several years ago) and I don’t even remotely know how my main character is getting to the end of her story.  I do, however, have some research and some inspiration.

I love fantasy and maps but get very tired of European-inspired maps and cultures in every. single. book. I. read. So sometimes I break off and read dystopian fiction, which is barely a scootch away from my preferred genre, epic high fantasy.  I’m not sure if it’s white guilt or  boredom or something else, but no matter how much I love these books and settings I can’t be the only one thinking “this is the same damn thing.”

Don’t get me wrong – the monomyth is fantastic and continuity is what makes it work.  We know that Frodo, Jesus, and Luke Skywalker are going to win and we still watch or read to the end.  Knowing the ending and getting there are two different things.  Plus there is something very peaceful in the hero winning and the bad guy getting what he deserves.  It’s psychologically soothing (if a little delusional) to see the little guy get the gold or the girl or wheatever.  But the MAPS….  Let me show you what I mean.

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This is Gwynnedd, home of Saint Camber, created by author Katherine Kurtz.

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This is a man’s stuttering fantasy about polyamory.

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This is Middle Earth, thank you Tolkien.

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This is the Seven Kingdoms, where everyone is dead, damn you George R. R. Martin.

Yes, I wrote on the pictures of the books.  I own the books.  I took the pictures.  And before you start suing me, Estate of Robert Jordan, know that it took me seven damn books for me to realize I really hate your protagonist and you wasted my time by reiterating the whole story thus far in each book. Also know that I learned a word in my Honors Art class from my crazy art teacher.  It’s something called APPROPRIATION and it’s when you plagiarize something and remake it into your own art. Since it’s art it’s not illegal. That’s all I’m doing.  AND SO ARE YOU.

Each map is Europe.  I’m so tired of it.  The protagonist is always English.  Maybe Ned Stark is from Manchester.  I don’t know.  I still love it but I’m never surprised anymore.

So I collected a group of books that inspired me to think outside the box (or circular journey) of the monomyth:

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Now look at this map!  It’s actually technically science fiction but it has monomyth qualities as well.  It’s a whole planet.  Without England.

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This is the planet Pern, where there are dragons and weird burny mold spores that fall from the sky.

In fact Nickelodeon’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” also has a map like this.  A whole planet, no England.  That’s a TV show and I don’t have a map but if you never watched it, It’s on Netflix.

Okay to wrap this all together, I will tell you that I am working on a novel.  I want to have a rough draft done by the end of December.  I can’t wait for the next Song of Fire and Ice book to come out, but I also think that since I’ve never been to England I probably shouldn’t pretend I know much about it or write about it.  I love maps and geography and I’m appropriating “New World” geography into my story.  I really drew a picture of my protagonist when I was a kid.  I have collected books and visited museums and made photocopies and I watched the Voyage of the Mimi 2 and I dreamed and ruminated and it is time to spit it out.  There is so much more I can say but it will just have to wait for another post.

There is a quote attributed to John Steinbeck that goes

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”

Damn.  I’m doomed.

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Conversion Complete – I now read books made without paper

I feel like a traitor.

Books have been my longest and most stable friendship.  I remember reading stories before bed and then staying up late, paging through picture books.  When I was still very young, Mom read novels and chapter books out loud to us.  My early childhood is marked with weekly visits to story time at the library. One year, during my homeschooled middle school time when we kept track of such things, I read over 100 books.   In one year.  I can still read in the car without getting sick.  The year we unpacked my parents’ collection of sci-fi and fantasy paperbacks was the year I stopped hoping to have been adopted or switched at birth – clearly these people are related to me if they can invest in bookshelves of Anne McCaffrey novels.

My early sense of self was appropriated from Ramona Quimby and Laura Ingalls.  I yearned for a visit to Narnia and the Wump World and to have a special place like Terabithia.  But the most important memory I have of books is muscle memory – the coordination needed to hold a book in one hand, turning the dry, cheap pages of a paperback without tearing them.

Which is why I loved to hate on e-readers and tablets.

That was in the past.

What happened?

I got a smart phone.

It was time to update my phone.  My plan still did not include text messaging and my phone was an ancient model without a Qwerty keyboard.  I took the plunge and downloaded the appropriate apps and adjusted for a few months.

Then my husband foolishly bought me a Roku, and the next step was taken.

See, I already have a Netflix account, but my Roku came with a free trial of Amazon Prime.   I realized I was a perfect candidate for a cloud movie collection since I hate wires and don’t have a DVD player hooked up.  I no longer even have to connect my laptop to the TV to play a movie.  Another step was taken.

The first movie I bought came with a free sample of the novel on which it was based.

Then I realized that I suddenly and desperately needed to read Divergent.

And I didn’t want to drive to the bookstore or wait for the book to be shipped.

And I’m cheap and the Kindle version was heavily discounted.

And now I have a Kindle app on my phone and I have read more in the past 3 months than in the last year.

Now when I look at “real” books I feel guilty.  I hate to love my e-books.

My guilt was made worse the other night when I took my niece on her first trip to the library.  I told her all about the library in advance, describing the mountains of books that they have.  She reads a lot at home but for some reason she just has not made it to Mecca in the past two and a half years that she has been on this earth.

There are toys in the children’s section at LPL so she was understandably distracted by those, but once we focused on the board books she delved right in.  While she browsed and picked I made certain to pick out a few “big kid” books too.  Older picture books can have sturdier paper; safer for her rough movements.

I have not tried to buy any kids e-books for my niece to read, but I have downloaded a few freebies.  Her favorite is a simplistic story with cartoon illustrations and a hide-and-seek theme.  This underlines the problem with the e-reader.  Cheap, free “books” are overflowing the marketplace making selection of quality material challenging and time consuming.  This book is great for what I use it for – an easy distraction and a vehicle to prompt verbal skills and the concept of prediction.  It’s not the best example of predictive text.  It does no more to promote the use of prepositions than There’s a Wocket in my Pocket and it’s not has fun as the real life games and songs that we know can do the same thing.  The illustrations are uninspiring.  The kid just likes shat she can swipe the page with her finger.  Since I’m pretty sure she won’t be attending a Waldorf school, I’m not really worried about her ability to use technology.  I don’t think a digital book is an essential part of her personal library.

Am I missing something when I read books on my phone instead of buying the paper version?  Since I’m mostly reading dystopian YA trilogies, probably not.  It’s brain candy.  I don’t count it as “screen time” for myself because hey, I’m READING, and I know that people who read are smarter.  I like the convenience of always having my book and never having to hunt down a bookmark or (gasp) damage a book’s spine because no bookmarks are handy.  I can read at lunch and I can turn pages with one hand.  As an avid bibliophile and speed-reader, I don’t need to drink in the paper or cover; there are no illustrations in the books I read and I probably imagine them better than some underpaid artist who didn’t really read the book could come up with anyhow.  The thing I am missing is my desire to beat everyone I know over the head with my latest favorite book lend graciously with threat of death if unreturned  a cute “this book belongs to” sticker on the inside.  I wish I could lend my e-books to my friends and family they way I do with my “real” books.

I guess that’s not really my loss, is it?

BU at LIU Post, or, Another Football Roadtrip

I often accompany Chuck when his football games are far away.  When his dad, brother, and/or friends cannot come in my stead.  As I have mentioned before, these road trips usually involve some kind of loving bribery that makes my company and navigational skills payment for a nice hotel room or a shopping spree or outrageously awesome dinner theater.  Yesterday, Bloomsburg played at Long Island University, Post Campus in Brookville, NY.  I tagged along and made sure to document the important parts.

First, the trip is long and full of tolls.  New Jersey and Staten Island are the worst offenders.  Normally, if you can avoid these places, do so.  And prepare yourself for the down time.  Fortunately, I am quite skilled at reading in the car.  Remember, I grew up road tripping – motion sickness is for wimps!  I finished A Dance with Dragons as we entered Nassau County, NY.

We decided to grab brunch as we had arrived a bit early.  The local diner had an hour wait, but then I noticed an IKEA and decided that meatballs would tide me over.  When out of town, I have a rule about never eating in a chain or franchise that I can visit at home.  In the sleepy mid-section of PA where we live, many novel stores and products take time to take root.  We have only recently discovered self-serve frozen yogurt bars!  IKEA is popular enough among my friends and family, but we have to drive to Philly or Baltimore to shop there and cannot get delivery.  Plus, those meatballs are bangin’.

Here is what I found in the parking lot at IKEA:

Do they make kitty Dalek stickers?

Best.  Family. Stickers.  Ever.

Then we went to the game.  BU won, the LIU Post fans were whiny and obnoxious, and a bunch of drunk students heckled everyone who walked to or from the guest seating.

I started reading Freakonomics and worked on some crosswords.  The campus of LIU Post is very pretty and wooded.  This area of “Lawn Guy Land” seems pretty swank.  There are lots of large houses and gated driveways.  Of course, the whole place is part of the flight path for JFK.  That would get old, fast.

Now, don’t laugh at me.  I have never been to NYC. If we had the money or time, we might have made this trip into a long weekend.  Alas, I never have the time or money.  I love the arts, I love cities, and I love history.  I know, I am a total bumpkin.  Look how excited I was just to drive past the city:

Central PA is a weird, ethnocentric type of place.  Most people here dislike New Yorkers  and city life in general.  I don’t think this type of billboard helps anyone overcome stereotypes:

Still, I find the city enchanting, even from a distance:

I abused my navigational powers and directed us to Manhattan.  We drove across the southern tip of the island and got stuck in terrible traffic.  I’ll blame the street festival we saw, but I know the city is not a place to bring a car.  Chuck was less than amused.  I thought it was beautiful, and I need to go back tomorrow.  Or ASAP.  Whatever.  I was busy looking at architecture but I did manage to snap a photo of us entering the New Holland Tunnel.

Okay, you can laugh at me now.

A Post About Boating, OR, Kutztown at BU

Last Saturday was Kutztown at Bloomsburg.  Instead of going to that game, I went to the boat.

I have to do a post to explain boating.

But first I have to explain what boats meant to me before I was a boater.

Before I was a boater, boats were canoes.  Canoes are just another way you can die while camping. Canoes are scary. Boats that are not canoes are scary, too.  Ever see the Godfather? And fishing, which is what you do in boats when you are camping, is boring.  And fresh-caught trout for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, is disgusting.  I like eating fish now, but only fish I didn’t have to catch and gut.  I’m all about farm to table and low-impact food and buying local produce, but if I ever buy half a steer, I’m not going to butcher it.

Being one of seven children, I rarely experienced a hotel or motel until I was on the high school debate team.  We usually camped.   The first camping trip I remember was our trip Out West when I was four.  Mom packed me and my brother Jon (then two) into our Plymouth Voyager and caravanned cross-country with two other vehicles carrying my grandparents, Aunt Mary (mom’s baby sister, who at the time would have been nine at the time), one of my uncles, and some friends.  Like a bunch of hippies we spent three weeks driving for miles to camp in the wilderness of Colorado, Utah, and Arizona, eating the fish we caught and only using flushing toilets when we stopped for gas or visited relatives.  I remember having a blast, but I think my camping experiences went downhill once hot showers became a priority.

Throughout the years we camped at the beach and in the mountains, with family and with friends, mostly in Delaware and Pennsylvania but occasionally we trekked to the Outer Banks or Out West again.  We even camped at my grandparents’ house! I learned how to braid my hair to hide the grease if we didn’t have showers.  Once, I ate nothing but fish and peanut butter and honey sandwiches and raspberry breakfast bars for three weeks.  Bug bites, sunburn, being almost eaten by a bear, twisted ankles and torturous climbs to see pretty waterfalls  (as in, they all pretty much look the same, people!) have turned me into a disappointing non-enthusiast for camping.

Of course, I’m talking about TENT camping.  While I longingly ached for more than a sleeping bag on the cold ground, people known as “Not Real Campers” had travel trailers, fifth wheels, and motorhomes parked in the camping space next to ours.  It was like they were rubbing my nose in it!  They have TV and power and soft cushions on which they can rest.  I guess, since everyone I knew back then thought sleeping on rocks was awesome.  It’s not like I got to go into those vehicles or anything.

My Father-In-Law has a boat. Now I’m a boater.  When Chuck and I first met almost 10 years ago, I fell in love with boating.  These boats have big engines in them and you can use them as transportation, like a car.  They have flushing toilets, showers, and some even have bathtubs!  The beds have mattresses and the windows have curtains, but unlike a hotel, your view is always waterfront.  In the slip, you have cable and internet.  Everything even has cute nautical names like “head” and “galley.”  I’ve been on a boat with a dishwasher in the kitchen and chandeliers in the dining room!

When I first went on one of these boats, I immediately thought of those “Not Real Campers” in their RVs.  They are quite similar.  When you go camping, you can camp in a tent or you can camp in a recreational vehicle.  When you go boating, you can boat in a canoe or you can boat in a powerboat.  Obviously you know which one I would choose.

…….

Okay, so blah blah blah, my husband went to a football game and then did even more football stuff, and I went to the boat.  I just wanted to be sure you understood that I was NOT camping on the water.  Here is the awesome stuff I did on the boat:

  • Read more of A Dance with Dragons.  I guess I am dragging it out because I know it will be an eternity until the next book is published.
  • Did the puzzles in the newspaper.  I like the Jumble and the Crypto-Quip.  The answer is always a pun.
  • Went to a catered dinner at the Nauti Goose.  Again, I love puns.  We met new friends and saw old friend and had some very good food.
  • Took a sunset cruise and watched the sun go down while we slowly rode around on the bay.
  • Back in the slip, my FIL “practiced his religion” (this means he watched college football -the apple does not fall far from the tree) while I shared drinks and cookies with more friends old and new.
  • In the morning, we took another long boat ride.
  • Went out for “lupper” on Sunday at a new place in town called The Port House Grill.  I had the Southwest with a side of their fresh fries.  I gobbled it up so fast it was embarrassing.  Yum!

I took this picture on a sunset cruise a few years ago.

Awesome Stuff I Did This Weekend – Edinboro at Bloomsburg

Despite the atrocious weather forecast, Chuck went to two football games yesterday.  Instead standing in the rain watching football, I did some awesome stuff.

FRIDAY:

  • Took delicious brownies to a work party.  Did not bring any home.
  • Hosted the children’s activities at the Lancaster Public Library’s First Fridays For Families event.  Our artists, Jessi and Art, were amazing.  Also, we painted rocks.
  • Went to Frozen Yo Cafe for dinner.  Because I am a grownup and I put fruit on my yogurt so it can be a meal.
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Me with a rock painted like an eye. On my eye.

SATURDAY:

  • Spent the afternoon with Mom wandering around rural North Hampton County looking through antique shops.  The best loot was found at Sleepy Hollow Antiques!  I found a flashlight screwdriver combo for Chuck’s antique flashlight collection and Mom found some cool presents and projects as well- something to save fro Christmas, something for her best friend, a utensil holder for her picnic table outside, and some old books to turn into a cover for her router.
  • Played Spoons with Mom and my littlest little sister (LLS) and my littlest little brother (LLB).  They kicked my butt.
  • Discussed the world premiere of series 7 of Doctor Who with my LLB.  He’s 10, and totally obsessed. Suddenly he seems a bit cooler.
  • Went to Spice India with Mom and LLS.  Was very impressed with LLS as she is 15 and she still managed to find food to eat on their menu!
  • Went to Hobby Lobby.  Didn’t need anything, didn’t buy anything (shocking, I know), but still had fun browsing the entire store with my mom and sister, who are also avid crafters.
  • Came home with presents!  Mom gave me a bottle of Moscato (a regift; the ‘rents don’t drink but could never say no to a bottle of wine!), a scrapbooking organization bag she got on Freecycle, and a sample of K-Cups for my Keurig.  Dad gave me a bulb of garlic he bought at the Garlic Festival last week.  (NOTE:  I will post more about my father’s agricultural interests and how I am a total snob about produce).  The variety is called Spanish Roja and it is spicy!  I can’t wait to use it in cooking and to plant a few cloves for harvest next year!
  • Came home very late in part due to a sobriety checkpoint.  They talked to the lady in front of me for a loooong time.  Don’t drink and drive!

SUNDAY:

  • Read a bout 200 pages in A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin.  I call this “pulling a Carol” after my beloved Notorious MIL, who is known to make reading a priority over almost everything on her days off.
  • Chuck took me out to eat for breakfast.
  • Set up the “new” cat tower that I bought at Sal’s Boutique.  Cats are in love.
  • Went shopping with Chuck.  We bought clothes and OMG so many shoes for me because they were all on major sale.  I have three new pairs of flippies and a new pair or strappy black heels.  And a new filter for my vacuum.  You know, essentials.
  • Dinner at Infinito’s, which is the BEST pizza buffet in the world.
  • Read Post Secret.
  • Pinned a lot of geeky stuff.

What did you do instead of going to a football game this weekend?

My Netflix Obsession

I am obsessed with Netflix Streaming.  I stream movies and TV from my laptop all the time.  Penny (my floofy orange cat) loves watching Futurama with us every night before bed, and I usually run a movie while I play Settlers of Catan, catch up on my Words With Friends, or create stuff in my studio.

Penny Watches TV While Chuck Sleeps

If Chuck didn’t NEED sports I don’t think we’d pay for cable.  I now prefer to wait and view TV shows by the season instead of trying to remember to watch them one hour at a time on a weekly basis over the span of 24 weeks.  More if there are holidays or Olympics or writers strikes.

Sometimes I will post about my current Netflix obsession.  I mostly watch geeky stuff but sometimes I branch out into other genres.  Actually, I read this way, too.  I usually read fantasy novels but sometimes I break it up with memoirs, trendy nonfiction, historical fiction, or classic novels.

I wish I had more time to read.

I should probably stop watching so much Netflix.