Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hello, Crazy Week. I'd Like To Stop and Breathe Now

This past week was officially The Craziest Week Ever, with all the highs and lows of any quality roller coaster week from school disciplinary meetings about my kindergarten son to getting the acceptance letter for my husband's PhD program to working on remodels and re-carpeting half of the house as we get ready to move and then there were some other exciting things that happened too, metaphorical kettles still getting ready to boil on the metaphorical stove-top.

So now I just want to STOP and catch my breath and maybe take a minute (or a day or a week) to reflect and remember to breathe, breathe, breathe. And oh yeah, take care of all those things that were completely abandoned, like say that thesis proposal deadline that blew past or the pile of dishes or grocery shopping that needs to be done. But back to the taking time to breathe :) I read a delectable book tonight: Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler. This is one of the most passionate and realistic romance stories I've read in awhile, woven among a really wrenching narrative of one family's growth and healing after years of silence and still-raw wounds.

My husband is currently sitting at his desk across the room from me whispering answers at an online tutorial about linear algebra. This is how he spends his free time, no lie. He's so frickin' ADORABLE, I guess that's why I've kept him around the past nine years :)

And tomorrow I'm going to the book release party for Cynthia Leitich-Smith's Blessed. One of the things I'm going to miss most about Austin after we move is BookPeople and the great authors I've gotten to listen to speak and meet.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Awesome Sci-fi Shows

It's a well known fact that nerds rule the world. Almost as well known is the fact that they create awesome TV shows. Some kick-butt shows I've been watching lately:

Fringe: I'm a freaking fan girl for this show this season. It's on it's third season, and whereas most shows are fizzling by this point, this season of Fringe is the best yet--all the slow build-up of mystery and character development through the first two seasons is finally having pay-off in some AMAZING STORYLINES!!!! And of course there's Pacey, ahem, I mean Peter, all handsome with his scruffy delectability!

The Cape: Full disclosure: I love superheroes in any form. This show's a little campy, but the stylized tone and carnival aspect of the show works well, at least so far. Let's see if they can keep it up.

Being Human: The premise for this show sounds like one of those old jokes: a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost walk into a bar... ok, actually they just all live together in an apartment. I love any show that examines what it is to be human from the point of view of a 'monster.' I've been watching a lot of Dexter (season 2 & 3 on dvd) and I love it for the same reason. Being Human is a really fascinating character drama, with, you know, monsters and all their delicious temptations.

I also saw Black Swan yesterday, and it didn't seem as creepy or crazy as everyone had said. I think the gore had just been hyped so I was prepared, but it was intense and awesome.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Darkness Becomes Her - Review

Summary from Goodreads of
Darkness Becomes Her
by Kelly Keaton

Ari can’t help feeling lost and alone. With teal eyes and freakish silver hair that can’t be changed or destroyed, Ari has always stood out. And after growing up in foster care, she longs for some understanding of where she came from and who she is. Her search for answers uncovers just one message from her long dead mother: Run. Ari can sense that someone, or something, is getting closer than they should. But it’s impossible to protect herself when she doesn’t know what she’s running from or why she is being pursued.

She knows only one thing: she must return to her birthplace of New 2, the lush rebuilt city of New Orleans. Upon arriving, she discovers that New 2 is very...different. Here, Ari is seemingly normal. But every creature she encounters, no matter how deadly or horrifying, is afraid of her. Ari won’t stop until she knows why. But some truths are too haunting, too terrifying, to ever be revealed.

My Review:
Holy crap this book is amazing!!! It starts out with one thread, then slowly more and more are woven in until it’s a complex web of unique personalities, history, and the supernatural. The story is extremely compelling and unlike other supernatural fare in its complex history and wicked smart world-building.

Ari heads into New 2, the dangerous secluded sector separated from the rest of the US in what was previously New Orleans, a place riddled with rumors of dangers and the supernatural. Determined to find out more about her mother’s mysterious past, Ari doesn’t flinch as she enters the shady gothic realm. New 2 is a bit like the island of broken toys where all the misfits are collected together, forming their own fiercely protective families. The sense of home that Ari finds among them is endearing and makes events at the end of the novel all the more gripping.

The story starts fast and the heart-racing pace just picks up further and further as the book continues. At the same time, amid the action, there are unusual moments of beauty. The narrative takes unexpected twists and turns, with a slowly revealed past and mythology that unfolds naturally, eventually taking on epic scope. This is seriously some of the best story-telling I’ve read in a long time. As for the sexy Sebastian, I have only one word: YUM.

*I got this ARC courtesy of Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab. Releases Feb. 22!!!

Moving to Minnesota!

Changes they are a-coming. D (the hubster) just got the call this morning and was offered a fellowship at the Awesome University, and it's one of the top in his field. We only sent out the PhD applications last month to places all over the US (and one in Canada), and already we have a destination! Super excited, and unexpected this early. My honey buns is just that smart :)

So, yeah. The climate might be a tad bit different from where we live now: Texas. I was hoping we'd get to move somewhere north--you know, where strange white stuff falls from the sky occasionally. But Minnesota? Sheesh, pretty sure the snow overload is gonna take some getting used to. Then again, I've wanted out of Texas ever since we moved here from Chicago, so I'll take whatever gets us out of the baking, sweaty sunshine.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Living in the Present

At a time when lots of stuff is swirling around, pans in the fire and such, Alan Watts helps me take a step back and see the big picture. We can't live biting our nails hoping for such-and-such a future, we can only learn to live in the now. Sounds cliche, but I think this is a deep truth:

“On the contrary, the measuring of worth and success in terms of time, and the insistent demand for assurances of a promising future, make it impossible to live freely both in the present and in the ‘promising’ future when it arrives. For there is never anything but the present, and if one cannot live there, one cannot live anywhere.”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Oh Jr. High, Thy Name Is Awkwardness!!

Jr. High: In which there were cool people. And then there was me. Full disclosure: this was me in Jr. High, too tall, worried about my weight all the time because I was the size of a full grown adult in 8th grade, and covered with the extreme kind of acne covering my face, chest, arms and back, this pic was on a good day (though looking at it now, I just think, aww, you were prettier than you knew, and what a lovely shade of hair! my hair hasn't been it's natural color in so long I've forgotten):

Another blogger mentioned the on-going popularity contests we engage in, even as adults. Which makes me think, spot on. Believe me, to anyone who's still lingering in the morass that is Jr. High and sometimes High School: IT DOES GET BETTER! Sometimes I read intense YA books or watch shows with teen characters, and I think, lordy, I'm so glad I'll never have to re-live my teen years!!

But at the same time, for better or worse, so much of who we are, how we respond to life situations, is formed during those angst-ridden, hormone-raging years when you feel equal parts invincible and terrified every moment.

Friends I'd had in the preceding years ditched me, and as much as it's a cliche about 'finding a seat at the lunch table', I was one of those 'seating optional' people. Some people had the established seats, but there were a couple at the end of the table that if I scurried quick enough, I could grab, but if I didn't, it was lone dining for me!

For years afterward, through a lot of my college and early adult years, I was wicked shy because of it, a total people pleaser, would be a doormat if it could ensure I'd have a spot at whatever adult version of 'The Table' is. I was meek and quiet, made a mask I knew was socially acceptable, didn't voice my real opinions. And yeah, if you can't tell by my loud pink hair and unapologetic love for tattoos? I finally got over it. Grew comfortable enough in my own skin to be okay if people didn't like me, to be loud enough to finally make my voice heard, and to have enough confidence in what I had to say.

But oh, it still lingers, that awkward Jr. High girl's voice in my head, wanting to be liked, to have an established place at life's table, to have incontrovertible evidence of my popularity out in the world! So let's all raise a glass to all those scrambling voices inside us, and maybe I don't want to entirely 'overcome' that shy girl I was--I had plenty of awesomeness inside too, I just didn't realize it till later :) --but maybe we'll learn to embrace our past selves and let it make us more compassionate in the future.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Weekend in Pictures!

Words can be boring. Here's my life in pictures instead :)

First, some of my favorite things: playing with my munchkin and my favorite tree out my window:

This weekend was busy completely clearing out two rooms in our house (we're getting new carpet, getting ready to move):

And then there's all the stuff currently nesting in our living room, to get rid of in another garage sale, or Goodwill, or recycle:

I worked on my outline for my book:

and organized the tons of books I got from the university library in categories for my thesis:

And last but not least, several lovely things that have come in the mail, let's call them belated Christmas presents: kick butt new purse (it's not nearly so shiny in person) and Florence and the Machine album :)

One Seriously Cool Book Trailer - Tiger's Curse

So I just came across what I think is the best book trailer I've ever seen--Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck. So often book trailers are full of amateur footage or lots of boring still shots with ok music in the background. But the book trailer for Tiger's Curse seriously kicks it to the next level:

Tiger's Curse, by Colleen Houck from Sterling Publishing on Vimeo.

Friday, January 14, 2011

And Out It Goes!

So, my novel GLITCH is officially out on submission to editors! Agent Dude has gotten some bites on it, and now it's just wait time (in my head I'm assigning a month or two wait time so I don't go bananas in the meanwhile). I'm wiggin' out a little bit, but mostly am keeping my brain busy with other things like finishing my thesis proposal and getting the house ready to sell. And devouring newly obtained YA lit:

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand: This is one of the MOST GORGEOUS COVERS ever. Seriously, maybe you have to see it in person for the full effect, but the matte purple backround, raised image of the chick in the foreground and silver script--so gorgeous. And the book inside sounds pretty exciting and I've heard good reviews too. I've been excited about this one for awhile and bought it yesterday. I'm diving into it tonight!

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl: I know this was released a few months ago, but I just finally got my hands on a copy from the library. I liked the first one, we'll see how the author's keep up the tension and story in book II.

And last, thoughts from the always-inspiring-and-sanity-reminding Natalie Goldberg:

The deepest secret in our heart of hearts is that we are writing because we love the world, and why not finally carry that secret out with our bodies into the living rooms and porches, backyards and grocery stores? Let the whole thing flower: the poem and the person writing the poem. And let us always be kind in this world. -Writing Down the Bones (120).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Zen & A Tree in Winter

This month long break from grad school has been immensely different than I'd anticipated. Full of tumult and crash and quiet. It's been far less about getting work done and instead working on me. Working on some transformative practices (meditation, reading and soaking in Natalie Goldberg and Alan Watts), and in a strange way, learning how to let go and not think all the time, letting go of that chaos mind, or at least, like Goldberg says, developing a relationship with it.

I barely got any fiction writing done, and only now, a week before classes start, am diving deeply into working on my thesis. Oh well, 'the best laid plans of mice and men'...

There's this tree outside my window that I've been spending a lot of time with. In Writing Down the Bones, Goldberg's friend says to her: "Natalie, you have relationships with everything, not just people. You have a relationship with the stairs, your porch, the car, the cornfields, and the clouds." (118). I love this, and it's not in some cheesy new-age way that we are one with everything in the world (well, in part it is exactly that, but not in the cheesy way!). So me developing a relationship with my tree is about... well, I don't know exactly what it's about, part of the beauty of all this is not having to fight to put things in words anymore.

I might not know what it's about, or what it means, but I love looking at this tree. I love the way, that no matter how heavy the branches, every one curves up at the end of their arm, reaching up toward the sun. I like it's naked winter form, the way the tiniest wind can shake all the hundreds of little twig branches, different ways all at the same time. I like the way that near mid-trunk, there are these two branches that look exactly like a ballet dancer or a gracious host or entertainer with arms outstretched to the tips, beckoning you forward.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss - Review

First of all, I LOVED THIS BOOK. I have not found a contemporary romance so compelling in a long while. The characters are complex, but the author slowly builds a layered picture of all thier underlying motivations, even the unconscious ones that compete with what they know they should do. Not to mention that the relationship between Etienne and Anna is sexy and realistic and full of delicious tension. Even apart from the romantic aspects though, this story was just so well-written. Paris was more than just a romantic backdrop, it was a character.

My one hick-up with this was it's title--Anna and the French Kiss--it makes it sound so fluffy and kinda cheesy, but this book was so much more than that! Paris was a real place, full of culture, and landmarks and, I don't know how to describe it other than to say it had a real sense of place. Perkins made it come alive instead of doing what so many others have done with location-based novels. It's great the way Anna gets to know the city slowly, the culture shock she goes through, and the way she slowly develops a relationship with Paris itself. So, so good. It's the first book I've read in 2011, and I think that it's one that will stick with me and end up in next year's top ten list! Four stars!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Winter Meditation

My house is the opposite of serene lately, but I'm still trying to find some meditational space. We're getting new carpets in half the house, after which, we want to put said house on the market, so we've been doing some deep cleaning, organizing, and--the most cathartic--getting rid of sh#*. We've taken two trunkfulls of old paper and cardboard to the recycling center, and have a living room full of stuff to sell in a garage sale, and if it doesn't sell, cart to goodwill. We're finally not holding on to random nicknacks or old school folders, only keeping the really meaningful things, and chunking the rest. Lightening the load feels excellent, makes me feel like we're ready for fresh beginnings, for change.

I'm in mid-process of change too, trying not to figure out what I want, but how to want what I should want. I want love and compassion to grow in me organically, not trying any more to force myself to feel something, which only produces guilt and bad feelings. So I'm trying out meditation again, or as Natalie Goldberg describes, getting to know one's own wild mind.

I love the trees in winter, and winter as a whole in Texas. It feels clean, fresh. I know those are adjectives usually reserved for spring, but winter in Texas is a whole other animal. The grasses turn golden in the hills, like fields of wheat, and when the wind blows, they move like an ocean. It's quiet, serene. I want to let it soak into me, to live in my expanding chest. It's beauty, and it is very good.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Between Stasis and Expansion

A week far too crazy and emotional. New year really starts tomorrow with the first Monday of the year. I don't know if it's the nature of the holidays or the fact that artificial cycles like holidays we mark on a calender have real psychological effects, but the end of last year was... momentous, I guess that's the word for it, when everything that had been in stasis is shaken up, tumbled around, the after-effects of which are still rippling through the pond? I find more and more that life is about learning to live in the balance between order and chaos, stasis and change, structure and infinite expansion.

We're doing a lot of purging around here, taking trunk-fulls of old paper and cardboard to the recycling center, putting stuff aside for a big garage sale next Saturday, listing furniture on Craigslist--taking all the tangible steps to lighten the load of STUFF to prepare to sell the house. It feels cathartic getting rid of the old, and looking forward toward the new.