Monday, July 25, 2016

Things you never thought you'd have to say to your children.

As the Momma of several fur babies over the years, I used to keep a running list of the things you have to say to your dogs or cats that you wouldn't have to say to your children.  Now in full fur momma mode we addressed our dogs as if they were siblings.

Let's just say several things have been struck from that list since having children. With three children, now I have a shrinking list folks, a shrinking list.  Sometimes we play "child or dog" around here with the aim being to determine who did it or who you had to say it to.

For example:

"Don't lick your sister."
Seems like an easy one?  Child.  Yep, my son who is now seven and will probably be angry that I posted this had a habit of licking people.  We even have a photo of it somewhere. I figure it was because of the response he got when he did it.

"Don't pee on your sister."
Both actually. I had a Rottweiler named Koeby who used to drive me crazy because he followed my female dogs around and tried to urinate where they did. Except he wouldn't wait for them to move. He just peed on them. And then there is my son, who got distracted one day in the bathroom and turned around mid stream to spray his little sister.

"Don't play with the stove." 
Dog. We had a Brittany named George who learned that food was cooked on a stove and sometimes was left on it to cool.  George began jumping up to see if there was anything good. Twice he turned on a burner. When he nearly burned the house down, we got the child proof locks on the burner knobs...because of the dog.

"Don't growl at your brother."
Shiloh with her tough girl biker hat. Terrifying isn't she.

Again, both. For 15 years we had a cocker spaniel that was certifiably psycho. She was medicated for separation anxiety when she was young, and as time went on she became grouchy and cranky. Any time one of the other dogs got near her she'd growl at them to leave her alone. She was old, grouchy and crazy.  Now to my daughter. One of my three year-olds has taken to baring her teeth and growling at her brother and sister when she is angry at them.

Required calling poison control?
Both.  Child for eating small red berries off tree in front yard (why you put a toxin bearing tree in a front yard is another rant) and dog for eating a skink's tail. One got a big glass of milk the other got a psychedelic trip from the hallucinogenic property of the lizard tail.

I'm sure the list will continue to shrink.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Back to School Dreams

A friend just posted on Facebook about her first back to school dream.  Yep, we teachers have them too. I think of them as our subconscious's way of trying to gently ease us into the reality of the new school year coming soon. Sort of the way fall and spring ease us into the coming winter and summer.

This year's first back to school dream came a couple of weeks ago. I think it might have been influenced by my watching Unreal, the show about the making of a Bacheloresque type of show. Myself and a few of the teachers I worked with at my former school (male and female) were participating in a show where the best teacher would be chosen.  Were we being judged on our awesome lesson plans? Differentiation? Data collection and analysis?  No.

The whole thing was more a Miss America meets Bachelor meets America's got talent.  Luckily, I woke up just before the swimsuit portion began.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Who Stole My Baby Name?

This past week with the birth of The United Kingdom’s new royal baby I’ve been struck by how possessive people can get over the names they choose for their children. I’ve actually seen very upset people posting on Facebook and in the comments sections on stories related to the little girl’s birth. Reality check, folks…You’re up set at a young couple who, in some cases, live thousands of miles away. You do not know these people and will never know them, yet you’re irate that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chose the same name for their daughter you chose for yours. You didn’t invent the name. It has been part of this couple’s family for hundreds of years. Even the Duke’s uncle, the Earl of Spencer, released a snarky tweet about the similarity between the name of his 2 year old daughter and his young great-niece. (Dude! You have seven kids. The potential for overlap really isn’t their fault.)
Her Royal Highness, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge

I do understand, to some extent. As a parent I know how much we agonize over the selection of a name for our children. I know we did. We took a book with over 100,000 names in it and two different colored highlighters. We each went through and highlighted the names we liked. Then we made a list of the ones we both liked and started narrowing it down. Was there an embarrassing nickname that could be tagged on the child? How did it sound with our last name? Could we think of a decent middle name to go with it? If we said the name 100 times a day would we get sick of it? (This happened to me with the name Collin. Loved it, but after trying it out over the course of a day decided I couldn’t see myself saying it over and over.)

Again if you’re anything like us, we turned next to the Social Security site and checked to see how popular the name was. We wanted to try to avoid having our child be one of several kids in the classroom with the same name. For our son, the name we chose was down below 150 on the popularity list. For our daughters, neither name we chose cracked the top 100, and one of them was nearly at 800th place. 

As it turns out all of this was in vain. We named our son, Aidan. The year of his birth it was below 150th place. Two years later it cracked the top ten and has stayed there. And if I count in all the almost Aidan’s… Caden, Braden, Jaden, Hayden, etc., half the boys his age turn when we call his name. (In my defense, I have never watched Sex in the City.)

Our daughter Taryn’s name was 797th place the year she was born. It hasn’t really changed, but her twin?  Have mercy! When our Sadie Jo was born, Sadie hadn’t cracked the top one hundred. This year it has risen to 50th place and this doesn’t count the number of spelling derivatives out there. Just the one’s spelled the same. A friend of mine’s daughter even chose Sadie for her daughter. I joked that they had stolen our name, but was I upset?

Not really. A little disappointed and ego bruised that my names hadn’t been as unique and as different as I thought they would be when I chose them, but not upset. Getting angry or snippy or down right insulting about someone else using the name you chose is just ridiculous. As I said before, you didn’t invent the name. Unless you shook up the Scrabble letters and let them fall and created a name from them, someone else probably thought of the name too. And you didn’t trademark the name, which personally I think shouldn’t be legal (*cough* Kylie and Kendall Kardashian). 

So the next time someone uses the name you chose for your child don’t get snarky. Just realize it simply confirms your belief it is an awesome name.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

God Bless NaNoWriMo, Good Friends and Loki

Thanks to the boost of NaNoWriMo and some serious soul searching, I'm writing again. In addition to the constraints of time and the commitments of job and family, one of the reasons I've not been writing lately is that it wasn't fun. I was worried about what genre things were, what audience, would I have to work with X publisher, etc.

I realized that was the source of my writer's block. Yes, time has been a problem, but the source of my writer's block has been the fact that writing wasn't fun anymore. Somewhere it had stopped being about telling the story in my head and started being about whether or not anyone cared, would like it, where it fit, etc.  So Wrong!

While writers love their readers, we really do, we need to remember that ultimately we write for ourselves. We write for the people that live inside our heads, the people who play out their stories in our minds and who tell us those stories. They trust us to commit them to words the way that they need to be told, not force them into a genre or worry if anyone will get it.

Writing needs to be fun again.

I discovered recently that a friend whose fanfiction I devoured as faithfully as I read her non-fanfic work, was still writing fanfiction despite having focused on publishing her original works. (Not that her fanfic isn't original, it's some of the best and the plots and characters were vastly original.) Here was the brilliant Jennifer Melzer still having fun with her writing.

I was so jealous! 

Tom Hiddleston as Loki from the Marvel franchise
Then came NaNoWriMo and the old urge to write came back. So now a piece I'd played with, written a chapter or two of a long time ago has been dusted off and come out of hiding. I've added 17, 100 words to it in the last week. It's now more than twice the original length and I feel like I'm just getting started.

And every time I get worried about it, I remember a quote from Tom Hiddleston who plays Loki. When advising a young thespian who was going to be playing Loki in a school production, he said the important thing was to remember that through it all, in everything Loki does, he's having fun. It's always about the mischief and the fun.

Go Loki!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Umph Gone

I tend to post in spurts. Not exactly an attractive thought, but there it is. Today I looked over my blog and realized I hadn't posted since September. Part of me isn't surprised.

My writing slowed to a trickle when my son Z was born in 2008. Now, with the birth of my twin girls in September of 2012, I'm afraid it's ground to a screeching halt. And what I've been thinking lately as I rock a child to sleep, fuss about toys that need to be picked up, corral dogs and worry about what I'm actually going to do in my day job that day; I've realized I miss the writer I knew. I very much feel like I'm no longer that person. She was a separate entity from silly little me with my permanent stress headache, far more gray hair and the worry lines around my eyes and mouth.

Even in the very rare moments of quiet I find I can't write even if the opportunity presents itself. I sit at the computer, maybe edit a page or two of one of the multitude of WIPs saved on my computer and can't find the umph to write. Forget romance. You have to feel romantic, feel loved and respected, feel sexy to write romance. Lately all I feel is tired and embattled.

So for those of you waiting for the next story in the series I had begun to come out, I apologize. There aren't many of you, so somehow I don't think I'll be disappointing many people. Readers have moved on, if there were any. I have the next story all mapped out, know what needs to happen, but right now my hero is sitting in a wheelchair, soaked to the skin and very drunk. My heroine is two rooms away trying to get some much needed peace and quiet while his music pounds away loudly. And they've been there for four years now.

Elyssa Edwards isn't doing much better. Her hero is stuck monitoring juvenile delinquents and she can't quite get him out of the scene.

So we plod onward, making no real progress and hoping and wishing for that magical moment when we'll feel like writing again, when we'll have time. Ah, the slippery slope that has killed many a potential writer's ambitions. But when I think of my former editor's admonition, "Butt in seat, fingers on keys" all I can think of is which fingers? The ones changing the diapers, feeding the baby, stopping the dogs from eating each other or the ones that long to go in my ears as I scream, "Lalalalalalalala" and pretend I can't hear the call of adulthood and responsibility shrieking in my face.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I’ve been very naughty about updating this blog. Perhaps I can beg the excuse of having recently had twin daughters, but the truth is that really had nothing to do with it since they are only five weeks old and I’ve been a slacker for far longer.  I’ve read so many books in the time since I last posted that I’ve decided to just give you the best of the books and not waste time on the ones I didn’t like.

Divergent- Veronica Roth

While I'm becoming more and more annoyed with the level of gratuitous violence in young adult literature, mostly because of the vast and ambiguous nature of the label young adult which puts inappropriate content in the hands of younger and younger readers, this book was a good read. Violent, but good. Not violent on the level of Hunger Games which is the very definition of gratuitous violence, but still violent.

The story is well written and engaging but the overall message is a bit disturbing. Intelligence and education make you evil. The world is divided into five factions, Dauntless who honor bravery above all, Candor which honors honesty above all, Amity which honors friendship above all, Abnegation which honors selflessness above all and Erudite which honors learning above all. Guess who the bad guys end up being? Guess who the end up being mindless dupes of the evil intelligencia?

Very indicative of a communist theory where each to his own talents and ability but that those who focus on intellect and learning are not really contributing and are embracing elitism. Remember the Chinese Cultural Revolution? The persecution of academia in Cambodia and Vietnam?

The idea that the military is the brainless arm of the elitist intelligencia is a very sad and dangerous message to be sending. Not to mention the idea that being intelligent makes you power hunger and evil.

Mary Boleyn, The Mistress of Kings - Alison Weir

This is Alison Weir's typical quality work. The story is well researched and Weir admits that the historical record that exists for Mary Boleyn is very thin and a great deal of the "facts" about her life are really conjecture based on biased comments by individuals who would have a serious axe to grind against any Boleyn and who are known to be inaccurate or were not contemporaries of the Boleyns.

This was a bit drier than Weir's usual work, but the subject is so controversial as to require a higher element of academic writing, especially given the fictional accounts of this woman's life that have been popularly accepted as fact.

No Ordinary Day-Deborah Ellis
This is an excellent little story. It's a character driven piece about a young girl in India who is one of the throwaway children of the world. Running away from an abusive home, Valli survives on the streets. But a dangerous disease is eating away at her body, one that terrifies her and will kill her if she doesn't accept the help of a young doctor. In India, even today leprosy is still a problem and its victims stigmatized as evil and unclean.

The story is well written and Valli is a well developed character that people of all ages should be able to identify with.

Bringing Up Bébé –Pamela Druckerman

Some people are bound to dislike this book because parenting styles can be a very touchy subject. Many people take it as a personal affront when someone advocates or uses a different method or disagrees with them. As mothers we tend to over react. This book doesn't criticize any method of parenting used by American parents, but tells us her experiences raising her children in France and her integration and embracing of many components of French parenting

The book is fascinating reading and I found that though I am an American, I could see the reason and the logic behind the French philosophy, a philosophy that the whole culture seems to embrace almost to a person. The idea that children need to experience controlled frustration so they learn to manage it, that they need time to be alone to know themselves and to learn to be alone comfortably, the idea of the "cadre" the structured framework of expectations and rules of the family that allow children freedom and leeway inside the boundaries set makes excellent sense.

Echoes of the Titanic-Mindy Sterns Clark and John Campbell Clark

Very well written and nicely paced. An enjoyable read with good characters. I know that sounds like a simplistic review, but what more do you need to say?

The one hundredth anniversary of the Titanic disaster looms and with it the disaster of another kind. Kelsey Tate is the great granddaughter of a Titanic survivor. Her great grandmother Adele was a power house of women in business before women were supposed to even know what business was. She built her father’s company into a strong and powerful financial institute by investing in the lives and dreams of women and immigrants. Now her legacy and legend are threatened. Kelsey’s father, the natural head of the company has suffered a stroke. The company is facing a hostile takeover and now Adele’s very identity is being questioned. Could Adele, Kelsey’s idol, be a fraud? Did she really steal the identity of her cousin who perished on the Titanic?

To find answers when all doors close around her, Kelsey turns to the one man she has ever loved, a man whose trust she betrayed many years ago in her quest to follow in her great grandmother’s foot steps.

The Lady Most Likely-Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway

A nice, light little triple romance. This was a lovely way to tie together three shorts. When the Earl of Briarly tells his sister he's ready to marry and take a wife, she's thrilled. Then he tells her to make a list of eligible young women. Going one further his sister invites several young men and women to a house party. The Earl's sister's matchmaking brings together more than just one couple destined to be together.

There are several more- some really great, but most were series and I think I’ll group them in a later post looking at some of the series I’ve really liked this summer.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Reviews and thoughts on free books

There are two things in life that I adore.

1. Free things

2. books

So free books should be an absolute no brainer. Well…not so much it seems. I looked back of this list of book reviews and the previous lists and led me to a realization that saddens me. When I first got my new Kindle I was pleased by the prospect of being able to download the free books to help me find new authors I enjoy reading. However of the twenty books I’ve read that were free reads, I’ve found two authors whose works I would be willing to pay for. Not exactly a good average. I will wade through a lot in the name of free, but I think the lesson here is you get what you pay for.

Side Jobs-Jim Butcher

This book is a collection of several of Butcher's short stories that have appeared in anthologies or have been published in other forms over the years. The stories span the entire series with the first story being before Storm Front and the last taking place just after Changes. Some of the stories are great and some are just okay. I had originally been excited that the novella from Thomas Raith's perspective was included since it isn't in print and sounded interesting. However, I was underwhelmed by it. The premise held promise, but there was something about it that just didn't ever gel.

The best story was "The Warrior". It takes place after Small Favors and deals with Michal and the Fists of God. It was a terrific story about how sometimes the things we do, that we think don't matter or are inconsequential, are the things that make the biggest impacts on those around us.

Giving Chase-Lauren Dane

I cannot figure out the 5 star reviews on this book. Are there two different books out there that are being confused? The premise had promise but the delivery was sloppy, redundant and irritating. The dialogue and character development was absolutely ridiculous and down-right insulting.

Firstly, the errors in grammar and word choice are unforgivable in a professionally published piece of work. I'm astounded that the writer, editor and final line editors all missed the incorrect tenses and missing words in sentences. Secondly the book was redundant. Characters repeated themselves and, worse, the scenes of intimacy repeated themselves. I realize that publishers of romance and erotica...and let me point out that this is true of smaller publishers and not so much the larger houses...have turned characters having unprotected sex into a crime and everyone better break out the protection. I understand the nod to political correctness; still, it is the responsibility of the author to handle that with finesse. This author failed miserably. The repetitive "tearing open" was so jarring and the actions in the intimate scenes were so redundant that it was dull. Fewer scenes described in depth, done better would have been preferable.

Finally, watching episodes of Designing Women is not a substitute for research. All of the characters were repeatedly addressing each other as honey, sugar, darling, etc. I live in Georgia where this book is set and no one here talks that way, especially the men. The men in this book sounded like women--or rather some stupid stereotype of southern women. No man in the south calls a woman in his own age group honey, sugar or darling unless she's his girl. And the women in this book were nothing more than a rehashing of the most simplistic and ridiculous stereotypes of southern women. To hear the author tell it, only the heroine, her closest friends and the mother of the hero are anything but cold-hearted B..'s or well, it starts with an sl- and I don't think I can use it in a review either. This book is downright insulting to the modern Southern woman.

Under the Persimmon Tree-Suzanne Fisher Staples

This is the story of a young girl, Najmah, caught in the middle of the war in Afghanistan. Her father and brother are taken by the Taliban and forced to fight. After her mother and infant brother are killed by American bombs, she is helped by the son of a neighbor who takes her with his family to a refugee camp on the Pakistani/Afghan border. Parallel to Najmah’s story is the story of a young American woman, Nusrat, who came to Pakistan with her Afghan husband so that he could open medical clinics across the border to help his people. As the story opens, that husband is missing. Eventually the two females' paths cross. And Nusrat finds herself frustrated in her attempts to save Najmah and the other children living in such horror.

This was just okay. It is a young adult book, written for the tween crowd, but still it seemed very rushed, as if the author was being held to a strict page limit. Many of the characters were undeveloped and their actions were therefore erratic. The lack of development made it hard to understand or to rationalize why the characters did what they did. Even in a children’s book, these basic elements of a story must be developed.

Ghost Story-Jim Butcher

Seriously? I kept expecting Bobby Ewing to step out of the shower. The story itself was really good. But the resolution to the bigger problem of Harry being dead was a cheat and not even worthy of a soap opera. No one expected Harry to stay dead but the solution to the mystery of his killer? Thank goodness it was really only a subplot in the grander scheme of what was happening in the book because if this was the grand finale, I probably would have chucked the book at the wall.

Laird of the Mist-Paula Quinn

If you're not big on historical accuracy and don't mind when an author forgets she's writing about the 17th century, you'll be fine. The author's characterization of the gender roles of this era are not spot on, and her over use of the Highland brogue reads less like authentic dialogue than as affected and difficult at times to read. In some places it is so badly done as to be incomprehensible. I do believe every fourth word of dialogue is "bonny", "braw", or "dinna".

Overall it is a predictable little read for those who don't want to think, which is fine. One of the best things about books is that they help us escape. Just don’t expect a great sweeping historical work of literature.

Also, I don't have a problem, as some have, with the hero being too much of a nasty murdering fellow to be forgiven. At the time, life was brutal. The Campbells and the MacGregors have been just shy of all out war for generations and that means they’ve been hacking up members of each other’s families. Of course one of the leaders of the MacGregors has killed and murdered the girl’s family members. It is what it is. But you can't make him a hero just by making the bad guy even worse than he is, not letting him kill the heroine or her brother and having him say "I love you." This guy is too brutal for that and the author doesn't give the reader enough to overcome that.

Rose Quartz-Sandra Cox

Four ancient women received magical amulets endowing them with a special gift or power. Those amulets still exist and Bella Tremain is the keeper of one. Now mad man Victor Price is in prison for trying to steal the healing amulet, but he's not out of the game. With help from the outside, he's set his sights on Bella's amulet that brings beauty and, more importantly, creativity hoping it will help him find a way to escape.

Cox consistently delivers engaging and well developed characters. Her stories are strong and well written. I'm looking forward to the third installment of the series.

Never a Bride- Amelia Grey

Mirabella has given up hope that her fiancé, Viscount Stonehurst, will ever return to marry her. Their fathers fixed the match six years ago after which he left for the Americas declaring he'd only return and marry her when he was old and gray. Since she was destined to be a spinster what would it hurt if she let a few gentlemen steal a kiss in the garden? Especially if the kisses revealed the identity of the man who drove her best friend Sarah to suicide? When Viscount Stonehurst returns unexpectedly, it creates more than one embarrassing moment for Mirabella.

This is the author's first Regency and it does show. What was surprising is that this isn't this author's first novel, she writes under a different name as well. My biggest criticism of this book was the dialogue. Mirabella is no novice to the ton or to the rules of society. It is not quite believable that she would act if she had no social filter on what she says or that she would be so forthcoming and unguarded with her returned fiancé, especially at first. He is a member of the nobility and she is a merchant's daughter.

In addition, the author does not fully establish why some characters would act as they do in the story. The "bad guy" for example, (he's not the actual antagonist in this story) is not really established as someone who would act as he does. There are no flaws revealed in his character until the last handful of pages when he's "revealed". It wasn't a surprise he ends up being the baddie, but Grey does not establish his character in this vein. Finally, the characters are likable, but they don't work as a couple. The chemistry feels forced.

It's a nice little story, just don't have great expectations.

The Farmer Next Door-Patricia David

Let me start by saying I like this author. I enjoy her Amish stories but this book, while an enjoyable read, was a tad irritating. This was a nice story but I think the author needs to work on her research. This was a problem in a previous book as well. While I'm no expert in Ohio adoption law, I'm fairly certain it takes more than six weeks to finalize an adoption, especially when the child's state of residence isn't Ohio, but Texas. And add in that the adoptive parent moved into the state the same week the process begins?

This was a nice story but I think the author needs to work on her research. This was a problem in a previous book as well. Perhaps instead of spending her time researching alpacas, the author should have taken a few minutes to research other elements of her story. It takes more than six weeks to finalize an adoption, especially when the child's state of residence isn't the same as the adoptive parent. And add in that the adoptive parent moved into the state the same week the process begins?

Perhaps instead of spending her time researching alpacas, the author should have taken a few minutes to Google Ohio adoption laws. A quick search (five minutes on Google) revealed that it takes a minimum of six months after a child is placed in the home before adoptions are final. The boy doesn't arrive until halfway through the story.

Again it's a nice story, but sloppy research is a major flaw.