Thursday, December 30, 2010

First Blogiversary!

Today is my blog's one year anniversary!

It's hard to believe it's been a whole year since my first post, and just as hard to believe it's only been one year!  On milestones like this, I like to look back on where I've been, and look forward to where I'm going.

On December 30th, 2009, I was a newbie blogger to the tenth power.  I had no idea what I was doing.  I was afraid anyone would read my posts....And, I was terrified no one would, either.  In my first post, it's evident I didn't even realize there was an entire community of writers that blog.

In the past year, I've connected with so many people who, like me, love to write.  Some of us aspire to publish our work, some of us have seen our work in print, some of you have already sold your novels.  But the common thread weaving us all together is our shared passion.

This isn't the first community of writers I've belonged to online.  I've been a member at (WDC) since 2007.  But, it's not the same.  I post my short fiction there and elicit feedback from fellow members.  It's all about my finished projects.  WDC connects me to the writing community at a different stage in the game, I guess you could say.  I love my WDC home, and it is a place where you get out of the community what you put into it.  The more active you are, the more interactive you will find your experience.  Yet, there are only a handful of writers from WDC who are my true friends, who I feel a connection with that goes beyond cyber-relationships.  And they blog here now!!  (*waves to Mara and Adriana*)

But blogging about writing is unique.  In blogging about my process, about my struggles as well as my triumphs, I come to understand myself as a writer on an ever more intimate level.  And being surrounded by a community of writers who are confessing the same ups and downs, and sharing their inspirational strategies for success, makes me feel less crazy and alone.  

I didn't know, a year ago, the impact my decision to launch this blog would have on my writing and on my life.  It's been an amazing ride, and I want to thank everyone by name -- but that would take a long time.  In fact, I actually began a list, but I realized I couldn't stop adding names.  I started with those of you I have met in real life, and who I often email with, and to whom I sent and received holiday cards, and who regularly visit my blog, and who's blogs I try to visit every new posting, that time, I realized the insanity in trying to pick out certain stars from the universe of those who have touched me in some way.  Like the heavens, those stars are too numerous to count.

Looking forward, I have plans for the blogging year to come.  I've changed my blog's layout, as you can surely tell.  I'm working on that white bar you see across the page.  I'm always going into the coding and personalizing my templates -- computer programming is the ONLY area classified as Mathematics that I actually enjoy.  This time, I pulled the template header image out and doctored it through Paint Shop Pro, since the original header says "FASHION" across the top :P

When I pasted the new image url into the template coding, the white line appeared.  Hmmm...Any ideas?  Anyone?

Also in 2011, I will post on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  Tuesdays and Thursdays will be heavy WIP writing days, with blog visits/commenting during breaks.  I am determined to successfully juggle my writing and blogging schedules, and to FINISH THAT FIRST DRAFT.  (Please feel free to hold me accountable. *waves sheepishly at Jessica, in particular*)

Thank you, blogging friends, for contributing to the best year of my life.  I look forward to another great year of reading your blogs, cheering you on during your writing projects, and celebrating our successes.

Come on, 2011.  Bring it!


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Going Through Some Changes

Anyone who happened by today saw any one of a hundred-ish blog templates I tried out.  Tomorrow is the first anniversary of this blog, so I'm changing it up.  Hopefully, I'll have chosen something...soon.  Bear with me!

Have a happy evening!


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thanksgiving in December

I was up yesterday morning before the sun rose, before the children woke, while the house was dark and quiet.  I wanted to log onto the Web for just a little while, to view some holiday pictures on friends' sites, work on a guest blog post I'm doing on January 4th (more about that to come), and just enjoy the sound of my fingers tapping the keys.  Imagine my dismay/dread/pout/frustration when my hard drive power button didn't respond to a push.

No dull whirl of unseen, internal components, no blinking green lights, nothing.

I checked the connections.  All good.  I checked the monitor, modem, printer.   Everything seemed to function, except the hard drive.

Basically, I had a comatose machine, in a vegetative state.   A headless, metal corpse.

Braced to hear the worst case scenario, I took the drive to Best Buy.  It felt like Christmas all over again when the Geek told me the power box was blown -- just a $60 part -- which he would replace in-store for $50 more. Three hours later the ordeal was over.

Yesterday revealed an unexpected realization:  I don't want to go back to life without my computer!  Let's face it.  A writer doesn't need more than her hand, a pen or pencil, and a sheet of paper to compose.  And it's more than enjoying the online experience.    Simply put, I have come to rely on my online network of friends and family.

I love reading what you've aspired to, attempted, and accomplished.  I'm inspired by your perceptions.  I feed off your energy.  Yeah, I can pick up a telephone and call some of you.  (And I do!)  But the Internet brings so many more of you right to me, right into my life.

I love it.  And there's just no going back.

So thank you, for every word on your blog, every status update, every tweet.  I don't know what I'd do without you!

And, let's all decide right now to back up our flippin' files -- 'cause if my hard drive can pass away quietly in the night, so can yours!

Happy Tuesday!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Reading Goals, Evaluated

Artwork by

With only nine days left in the year, it's time to make a realistic evaluation of my 2010 reading goal.  I made a valiant effort, but I won't have reached it.  In all fairness, the goal I set -- to read 50 books in 52 weeks -- was arbitrary, because I had no idea how many books I generally average reading in a year, nor did I know how many I could read.  Some bloggers were signing on to the 100 Books in a Year challenge back in January, and I knew that was too lofty a goal for me.  So I set my mark at half that.  The goal definitely kept my reading momentum high all year.  Here's what I did read:

1. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - by Stieg Larsson (2005, Norstedts Forlag [Swedish] -- ISBN 978-1847242532) Read my discussion here.
2. The Almost Moon -- by Alice Sebold (2007, Little, Brown and Company -- ISBN 0316677469)Read my review here.
3. The Hunger Games - by Suzanne Collins (2008, Scholastic Press -- ISBN-13: 978-0-436-02348-1) Read my review here.
4. The Giver - by Lois Lowry (1993, Dell Laurel-Leaf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books -- ISBN: 0-440-23768-8)
5. Among the Hidden - by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2000, Aladdin Paperbacks -- ISBN-13: 9780689824753)
6. Hush Hush - by Becca Fitzpatrick (2009, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9781416989417)
7. Animal Farm - by George Orwell (copyright 1945, Current Pub. Date 1996, Penguin Group (USA) -- ISBN-13: 9780451526342)
8. The Shack - by William P. Young (2008, windblown Media -- ISBN-13: 9780964729230)
9. A Christmas Memory, One Christmas, and The Thanksgiving Visitor - by Truman Capote (copyrights in order the short stories are listed here: 1956/1984 by Capote; 1982/1983, by Capote; 1967 by Capote, renewed 1995 by Alan U. Schwartz, Current Pub. Date 1996, Modern Library Edition, Random House, Inc. -- ISBN-0-679-60237-2)
10. Sula - by Toni Morrison (copyright 1973; Reprint Pub. Date 2004, Knopf Doubleday Publishing, ISBN-13: 9781400033430)
11. The Pearl - by John Steinbeck (copyright 1947, Reprint Pub. Date 2002, Penguin Group (USA), ISBN-13: 9780142000694)
12. Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Novel & Three Stories (Modern Library Series) - by Truman Capote (Original copyright 1958; Current Pub. Date January 1994, Random House Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9780679600855)
13. Pickles to Pittsburgh - by Judy Barrett (1997; Simon & Schuster Children's --ISBN-13: 9780689801044)
14. Charming Billy - by Alice McDermott (2009; Picador USA -- ISBN-13: 9780312429423)
15. Catching Fire - by Suzanne Collins (2009; Scholastic, Inc. -- ISBN-13: 9780439023498)
16. And Murder for Dessert - by Kathleen Delaney (2009; Poisoned Pen Press -- ISBN-13: 9781615950416)
17. Among the Imposters - by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2002; Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9780689839085)
18. Among the Betrayed - by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2003; Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9780689839092)
19. Among the Barons - by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2004, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9780689839108)
20. Among the Brave - by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2005, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing -- ISBN-13: 9780689857959)
21. Among the Enemy - by Margaret Peterson Haddix
22. Among the Brave - by Margaret Peterson Haddix
23. The Town That Forgot How To Breathe - by Kenneth J. Harvey
24. The Mistress - by Philippe Tapon
25. Mockingjay - by Suzanne Collins
26. Paranormalcy - by Kiersten White
27. Devil Bones - by Kathy Reichs
28. Fallen Knight - by DL Hammon
29. Enzo's Mamma - by Wendy Ramer
30. On Writing - by Stephen King
31. Housekeeping - by Marilynne Robinson

And, I'm in the final chapters of book #32, Nightshade City by Hilary Wagner.

Fun stats from my 2010 Reading Challenge:

Novels read in my genre (literary fiction) = 9
Books by debut novelists read = 6
YA novels (I never read this genre before 2010) = 5
MG novels (I never read this genre as an adult) = 9
Novels read that are over thirty years old =  5
Books I read that I would recommend to friends = 23
Books I read that I would have quit reading if I weren't so stubborn = 3

I'm definitely planning to challenge myself with reading goals in 2011.  What those will be, I haven't decided.  I may set a more reasonable number so that I don't feel like I'm rushing through each selection.  Perhaps I'll add reviewing to my goal sheet.

One thing's for sure:  I still have a stack of To-Read books on my nightstand, to kick off the new year!

Do you set reading goals for yourself?  And Must-Read recommendations for me?

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Dreaded Form Letter

With half the family battling the flu, my Christmas present shopping excursions came to a screeching halt last week.  From my sick bed -- or sick couch, to be more exact -- I did what I could to keep the preparations moving forward.  Basically, all this meant was listing the few things I still need to purchase and sending out the holiday cards.

Last year, despite the fact that I generally don't like them, I wrote my first form letter recapping the year, to include with Christmas cards going to out-of-state family members.  I figured since I'm a writer, I should write something more creative than "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" on the cards, although there's nothing wrong with that simple and elegant greeting.

The year before, I slipped an original short story into a couple cards.  The story was fictional, but the characters were heavily based on me and my grandmother, and the plot taken from what I know about her childhood.  The few family members I sent it to really seemed to like it, and that warm feedback spurred the idea to write something new each year.

I tackled last year's letter like an exercise in creative nonfiction -- in a first person story format, rather than narrative essay format.  I tried not to indulge in accolades for what we considered outstanding accomplishments, but which would surely have bored the rest of the family to death.  And I sprinkled sensory descriptions and (attempted) humor throughout.  I was happy with the way the letter turned out, and I heard back from several aunts, uncles, and cousins who enjoyed it very much.

This year's letter was a little different.  I chose "family" as the theme, and rather than talk about the kids making honor roll or my husband's successes at work, I talked about the times I spent in 2010 with out-of-state family members.  I was fortunate enough to travel between Georgia and New York, where my family is based, five different times this year.  Plus, we spent a month with Christian's family this summer in France.  I enjoyed sharing my memories of those trips and the profound impact reconnecting with my family has made on me.  I hope those that receive the letter enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Do you write a year-in-review form letter at this time of year?  Do you like receiving them, or cringe every time one falls out of the card you're opening?  I've been (...or still am, perhaps) on both sides of this fence.  What's your take on them?

And...if you're at all interested, here is the link to the short story I included in some of my 2008 Christmas cards.  It's very short, perhaps 1000 words.  It's called A Little Drummer Boy.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Stretch Arms Wide, Crack Neck, Get Ready...Here We Go Again

Me yesterday, after my second full day in the shopping malls.
Me this morning, after a fitful night of sleep (in which the cat did not wake me repeatedly to "clean" my face), ready to brave the stores for a third day.

So that soon I'll be ready for my favorite part: to lovingly wrap all these wonderful gifts in glittery paper, each adorned with festive curly ribbons and topped with candy canes or foil wrapped chocolates and dangling tags.  Some I'll ship to New York, but most will eventually go under our tree...

...where'll they'll be torn to shreds in five minutes flat. *sigh*

Hope your holiday preparations are going well!!!

And hey, before I dash back into the heinous world of tinny, loop-tracks of piped in Christmas music, I wanted to pass this along:

Jessica Bell @ The Alliterative Allomorph is now offering copy editing services on fictional manuscripts.  If you're interested, read more about what she will do for you by visiting  her blog  and clicking the "Editing Services" tab.   

Have an awesome day!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Call in the Elves! (Oh, they're busy...? I'm on my OWN??)

I appreciate all the awesome comments I've received from you in the past couple weeks.  I'm trying desperately to make my blog rounds, read your news, and sprinkle some blog love on your sites.
This time of year is so BUSY!

I'm dashing out, budget in one hand, credit cards in another, and my holiday shopping list in the third.
Wait...?  (...Stupid math.)

Know that I'm thinking of you!
*throws fistfuls of blog love confetti*

Monday, December 6, 2010

I Have No Gift (bought or made...YET)

  ~ Little Drummer Boy ~ 

Our house has been transformed; no longer is it the artsy abode with bold colored walls -- well, the walls still boast daring tones...  But they are now the bedecked backdrop for twinkling lights, merry Santas, jolly elves, peaceful angels, and sparkling orbs in juicy hues.  Johnny Mathis sang the sound track of my childhood holidays, and watching the children bob their heads and sing the choruses as they hung ornaments on the tree had my soul smiling.  I enjoyed the eggnog better this year than most.  (...maybe I've finally figured out the perfect ratio of brandy to nog...)  All in all, our decorating weekend was a blast.

When the last bobble was hung on the tree, we stepped back to survey our work.  I cupped my chin in the groove at the base of my thumb.  "Hmm," I said, "it's missing something..."

"You're right," declared Sidney, my peppy ten-year-old daughter and future party planner extraordinaire. "It needs presents.  I'll go get some."

I snagged her arm as she strode past, headed for her bedroom closet where I know since September she's been making, wrapping and stowing presents for all of us.  I pulled her into a snuggle, her back against my chest and my arms around her, and the smell of her shampoo, mingled with the evergreen and nutmeg, intoxicated my senses.  A moment of pure joy to remember forever.

And something else for me to remember:  I have not been holiday shopping since September...and the kids only have two weeks of school before they're home for the I'd better take a cue from my daughter and get this Christmas bulb rolling!

Hope your Holiday preparations are underway and bringing you much joy!  

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Hating Game -- BLOGSPLASH!

Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at and by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more. Coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest at


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £200,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

[If you'd like to help promote Talli's book, please copy this post and paste it onto your blog or FaceBook wall.  Christmas and Hanukkah are right around the corner -- and this would make a great addition to your gift-giving list!