musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the category “Books”

some days

….are just like that.

I am thinking of people who need to be thought of.

I am appreciating the beauty in tiny moments, but I can’t upload the pictures from this morning’s drive to preschool. In fact, I lost my header photo and can’t seem to retrieve it.

I wanted to do more edits, had an awesome session of it yesterday and finally completed for the thousandth time the emotionally relevant chapter that is twice as long as the rest of the chapters, but I finally accepted that it was okay, because a middle reader can handle one 10 page chapter in a book of 35 chapters that are 3-5 pages each. But see people statement re: doing more edits today, but maybe I still can. And there is laundry, of course.

I wanted to go to a retreat this weekend, but it isn’t in the cards. I am sending Mr. Cynic, and he is cool with that.

It’s a gorgeous day, the library book I was waiting for was finally in yesterday, and I checked it out. I feel like going outside to watch the blue jays and cardinals flit between the changing trees, listen to the wind rustle them, too, and maybe, just maybe read for half an hour uninterrupted, outside, where there is beauty to be found everywhere, if you just look.

That last option is sounding the most appealing at the moment….

And then I will go pick up Toots, and the mayhem will resume. Captain Comic is having a rough first quarter of the school year again, and Mr. Cynic still needs to pack for the weekend and I am not sure when his ride is coming for him.

But yes, tra la la – opting for some time in the warm autumn breeze and light and colors.

i won!

Liz Hum is the author of Vampires Don’t Drink Wine, a new collection of short stories that put Vampires back where they belong, in your nightmares doing twisted murderous things – Not sparkling or dating humans while drinking synthetic blood.

She is an excellent and opinionated blogger here and here. She is married to a Viking and the mother of three Viking children in the suburbs of Chicago. Her No BS meter runs in the red zone all. the. time.

I was lucky and won a hard copy in her blog raffle. Please click on the book cover to purchase her book. I bet she’ll buy her neighborhood bike helmets if she sells enough of them. At 99 cents a piece in e-reader format, that’s a lot of books to sell to keep rabble-rousers safe and blood off the streets.

Maybe. She had to get the idea for the vampires from somewhere….

a few highlights, low key

Pretty low key weekend, but we found a watermelon growing in the cukes.

 Toots had a haircut on Friday, but with the humidity, you would never know. Many women in the salon pleaded for a head of hair with her natural caramel highlights and those curls. Of course, they don’t have to comb them out three times a day. I do, or dreadlocks.

 It was too hot to even blow bubbles, but we did.

 “”But I done wanna yook at you, Mommy. I’m busy here.”

I walked Lucy, also known as The Goo, Goose, Goosie, Lucy Goose. We sat by the lake for a bit. It was cooler than it has been, a few clouds rolled in and spit on us today. I wouldn’t exactly call it rain, but it made things about fifteen degrees cooler. Again, poor cellphone camera capture, but that lump on that branch on the tree across the inlet? That’s a great blue heron. He was magnificent in person. I know, bad tease. I’ll try to remember a better camera next time.

Mostly, this weekend was spent wandering in a big box store, watching a three year old who has been full of beans lately, and reading Sookie
I have come to the conclusion, that I like the books better than the show. The show mucks with perfectly good material way too much. They need to leave a good thing well enough alone. Although, I do love the show, too, but now that I’m well-ensconced in the books, I love it just a little less.
I’m really ready for the boys to come home.

distracted and frustrated

This post is kind of a way for me to work out hitting a wall in my manuscript. All I want is to finish it. In my heart, I still love it. But after so many edits, this edit is really a bore to do. In my house, two kids are gone for a month, including the most distracting one. In and around my house is a lot of neglected house stuff, largely due to my trying to focus on the manuscript.
When I try to write at home, even if I have my mother-in-law take the three year old out of the house for a couple of hours, invariably I putz around finding other things to do until, lo and behold, they return, and I haven’t even pulled the critiqued manuscripts out of my tote bag.  Like the day last week, when Toots decided waking up throwing up was the way to go that day rather than out of the house with Grandma. I sank her into the couch with Netflix streaming kid videos, and the next thing I knew, I found myself hacking branches in the yard in 100 degree heat, because that apparently was immensely preferable to actually finishing my novel.
And I had a good session on it the day before when I did my usual Tuesday routine of packing everything up and taking it to the library to edit. Okay, so the next day, off to the library I went, and knocked through two chapters in a fairly painless edit session.
As I write this, I look back over this very morning, noting that, yes, I had an early doctor appointment, from which I left a bit upset, mostly just burnt out on doing the specialist shuffle, so I gave myself permission to see another human being, I mean tea chat with a friend, and then another friend who is back in town visiting from far far away showed up, and finally I trotted myself off to the library. I couldn’t settle in as the place was teaming with people, and then the summer camps came tromping through in droves, so I turned right around, having never even opened the laptop.
Home again, Toots was getting a dose of the one program I don’t let her watch, which frustrated me, because I thought I was pretty clear about that to Grandma, but I didn’t make a stink about it. (Do we really need one more show for her to request immediately and often?) I preferred to focus and to attempt to write during and after lunch, Toots’s nap time, and when Grandma typically goes upstairs for a reading rest of her own.
Well, then I started getting ideas. My, isn’t it a lovely day out there, not a hundred degrees, now that we had a good thunderstorm last night. I know! I’ll go out to the picnic table around the side of the house that has a little privacy and an outlet! I got all set up and touched my black keyboard in the sun – youch! like a stove burner that has been left on.
Trot everything – drink, lunch, boiling laptop back inside, two trips – turn on the a/c in the office, and try to “white noise out” that Toots is not interested in napping at that time. Stare at my laptop screen and start typing this instead.
So what is my problem? Why am I having such difficulty with starting a single editing session? Any session for that matter? The excitement is inside me to Git ‘er Done!  Yet instead, here I am devising ways to rearrange the office so that I can work better, more comfortably, get more organized, etc. Frankly, I have rearranged the place a dozen times, and nothing seems to work, and that box of papers that grows and shrinks but never disappears is still in more or less the same spot – not in the file cabinet – it has sat for the past five years since we moved it to Virginia from Massachusetts. Don’t ask me how many residences that thing has moved from or the decades involved, I implore you! It is my my little hoarder albatross. It’s a smallish box, I swear.
I have little over a week before I retrieve the boys and my mayhem returns to its full tilt, after a camping trip with all the kids.  I have about twelve, albeit, short chapters to go, a bunch of query letters to write and send, and a writing group twiddling their thumbs to see this last draft before I send it out.
Maybe just putting it down where I can see it: twelve chapters in about as many days, is what I needed to do. I sure hope so. Once I get started, I’m good for at least a chapter a session, so now, I just need to do it. Hello five a.m. for the next week?   Any suggestions would be appreciated. 

quiet & things

Back from camping, this week was mostly much needed downtime. 

My writing group had a lunch meeting after a hiatus period due to travels of each, and surgery of one. We had a logistics meeting discussing where we all were at the moment in writing, how we want the group to function, and dare we invite some new blood in after loosing two members to moves somewhat cross-country in the past year. We all agreed on new blood, some of us moaned about the current transitory state of publishing world, the other members all recently submitted works and are in that sea of rejections and non-responses. I ended up being the cheerleader to keep them all from quitting writing, and thankfully it worked. They are all too good to not be read out. 

One had to remind herself of why she writes besides trying to publish. I not so eloquently put it, “If I’m not writing, I am miserable to be around. Might as well shoot me it the head.” And the rest, thankfully, recognized that in themselves.

Speaking of writing and rejections, I saw a bit of an interview last night in which the author of The Help claimed to have received 60 rejections over the course of three years. Now she’s a best selling author with a highly anticipated film on its way to release. 

So there’s always hope.

I had one good writing session this week. Polished up another chapter. I am hoping to get more in this week, especially while the boys are out of state with their father. I really want to knock this revision out and get it in the same state as my writing group compatriots. Although, if I feel as hopeless as they did before my cheer session, maybe not. Who am I kidding? I want to get the book out of my hands and into the public. And I have other starts and ideas to work on.

It’s quiet. Too quiet. I find it disorienting, though it is what I loved most about my pre-motherhood. I really loved just curling up with a book because I felt like it and no one interrupted me for anything darn thing. Or just going outside for a walk to clear my head. Not that it needed much clearing then. And writing for endless hours because my head had empty rooms to wander around in.

Now I want to be interrupted. Curses.

I miss the boys. I miss my grown up talks with my really perceptive teen. I miss Captain Comic yelling and stomping through the house because I am ruining his life or crushing his dreams because I won’t buy him a real movie camera. Hm, just Googled, looks like that would run me about $67K, used. I would sooner replace Big Bertha, my rusty year 2000 minivan, and the fence. Or maybe try to put in that second master suite to the house.  Or sock it away toward the kids’ college educations, half of one of them anyway. I miss how he always makes me laugh.

Other than that, I have been battling weeds and squash bugs, a Normandy style invasion of which destroyed my beautiful squash plants, again. And Toots and I have been having fun with each other and with friends. 

So this Saturday is an extra quiet one, and I almost – note almost – feel a smidge ho-hum. 

on writing

I went to the library. I resisted. I stared at the screen, the document, out the window and at the critiqued copies.

I wandered the library stacks looking for the the next Charlaine Harris book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. It wasn’t there. I looked at bindings. I couldn’t remember who else I wanted to read. Nothing else appealed.

I opened facebook. I kvetched. I closed facebook.

I picked up one of the critiqued copies and started reading the chapter I needed to work on. I wrote in what needed to be added, in the margin. I stared at the screen, knowing I needed to start typing. I looked out the window. It is a stunningly gorgeous day. I thought I’d rather be weeding my garden.

My phone buzzed. It was a call from my father. My father rarely calls. Does he want to ask about my garden? Does he want to talk about his? Did something terrible happen to Mom? To one of my brothers, anyone in their families?

I took the phone out front and called him back. Mostly he wanted to talk about gardening, but he also wondered if he left a hat here when he last visited. He found it in the garage before I called him back. He laughed at himself. We talked about growing beans, and his single radish that came up.

I returned to my seat. I started to type. I texted two different friends to see if they wanted to meet for coffee. I typed a little more while they both teased me via text.

I typed some more, then noticed the time. I needed to make a run to a store across town before I came home in time for the boys to arrive home from school. One of the friends said she had something for me. I stopped at her place. We chatted, major girl talk. She gave me purple Thai basil to grow in my garden, because she realized she wasn’t going to eat it no matter how pretty it looks in the sunshine.

I came home. I think I forgot to disconnect the USB before I turned off the laptop. but I saved my changes, minimal as they were on the desktop.

I know this doesn’t sound like I did much writing or editing, but I did. I changed the way I thought about the chapter, and I only need to type about half of it, hopefully tomorrow.  I have edits in margins I can type in, and I gave my brain room to roam as I wandered the labyrinth of library and mind. And that my friends, is how I write.

What did you do today?


I made some headway during a writing session at the library this morning. I’m in a section that just needs some tightening, mainly. But mostly, I am happy to be in a part of it that I am really pleased with already. Now if I can just commit to type-type-typing away.

I did a little bit more research on Galileo again, too. Just a refresher that helped a lot, because I had made up a comet that he spotted in 1603. That wouldn’t have happened. The telescope wasn’t invented until 1608, and he made improvements to the first in 1609. So 1603 became 1609 in my manuscript.

I am all about accuracy, even when I am making it up.  It’s the little things that you pay attention to that really make a work of fiction believable.

lazy sunday afternoon

After Saturday night’s storm, Sunday couldn’t have been more perfect weatherwise.
I parked myself under the wisteria with an interesting non-fiction read that I have renewed at the library for the third time. It’s fascinating, but I can’t or don’t sit down long enough to just read a good chunk of it. If you’re curious, it’s called Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation by Mitch Horowitz. I was familiar with a lot of the material he covers, but I really like how he puts it all together and shows a real chronology of the history of faith in America in all of its complexity.
Honey came out and joined me for a cuddle on the chaise for a bit, as Mr. Cynic mowed the front yard. Then Honey went in and woke up Toots from her nap. She came out for a cuddle with me, too.
Toots then got busy playing all over the yard with her daddy and I looked at the wisteria’s wild dreadlocks, and decided to tame them a bit. I got out the ladder and string and started climbing and pulling at vines. While I was up there, someone came to chat, kind of.
Captain Comic: Hi Mom. What are you doing?
Mom: Hey Buddy, I’m fixing the wisteria. Whatcha been doing this afternoon?
Captain Comic: Stuff.
Mom: What kind of Stuff?
Captain Comic: Supercool Stuff you wouldn’t understand.
Mom: What kind of supercool stuff – drawing comics? 
Captain Comic: Groan growl.  
And he circle paced around once more and headed toward the trampoline from where I heard squeaks and jumps as I went back to the business at hand. 

The wisteria on the fence is still a bit wild, but at least she doesn’t look like Coolio circa 1994, or Weird Al Yankovic, for that matter. She smells a lot better, too, I bet.

vote for me – american gods

I love Neil Gaiman’s writing, from Black Orchid, Sandman, and Books of Magic graphic novels to  Good Omens with Terry Pratchett, Anansi Boys and the Newbery Medal Winner The Graveyard Book. My favorite book of his is American Gods. I am nearly as well versed in world mythologies, but not nearly as easily referential as Mr. Gaiman, nor so quick to bring forth the old stories into a new millennium in amazingly inventive tales. Nor am I anywhere near as prolific – since it is taking me nearly a decade to write my first novel in a time he has written and published, well, many many more, as well as screenplays, and much more.

The tenth anniversary of the publication of American Gods is bringing with it a new audiobook edition. With that on the horizon, there is a contest to be a reader for it – a chance for his myriad fans to play a character in my favorite novel.  Of course you realize, I am utterly enthused about the prospect of playing a Neil Gaiman character.

Here’s where you come in. Anyone can vote once per day until mid May. Please vote for me. I am ‘cathysea’ in the voting gallery. And then, please go back and vote for me again tomorrow, and the next day and so on.

I would be immensely grateful to you for furthering my opportunity to be a part of a book I’ve read nearly as many times as I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, in about one quarter of the years I’ve been reading my other favorite book, which I have read nearly annually since 1974. I always find something new in American Gods each time I read it. It’s very nuanced and a great old fashioned murder mystery, too. I think what I love about the book the most though is how it shows the transplanted author’s genuine love for the expansive landscape and character of his adopted home and all of our influences.

Please click on the link above, vote for me, and spread the word via blog, twitter and facebook, etc so that I may have a chance to be a part of my favorite book in the UNIVERSE.

list it tues: list of lists & a book review

I am so far behind this season, I can’t see straight – note item 2’s missing s.

But I ate up a book in about three days. It’s been a long while since I’ve done that, but I felt crappy with a cold, and about the best I could do was lie around and read.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I still have mixed feelings after finishing this book. I know I am coming to this party late, to review a best seller. But I think I needed the time it took me to approach The Help. I am a great lover of To Kill a Mockingbird.  Any other book that wants to cover racial issues in the South before 1970 is treading really difficult waters, especially in an attempt to personalize issues of segregation and racial relations after Harper Lee’s seminal work.
I must admit I like the book better after reading Stockett’s closing words about growing up in a similar situation to what she illustrates. The relationships between black maids and their white family employers are revealed through the narratives of two black maids and one white daughter who is seeming to finally come of age after college, and back in the home and town of her childhood. Skeeter is the one who turns Jackson’s well-established order inside out, but she can’t do so without Aibileen and Minny.
A lot of my difficulty came from the colloquial nature of the narrations, something I usually enjoy. When the book opens with a black voice written by a white author though, I cannot help but feel a bit suspicious that things will turn out too close to say, Song of the South. But throughout the book, I think Stockett shows an awareness of wanting to avoid that as well as a conscience about how difficult the waters are to tread.
But here’s what I like about the book.  She treads very cautiously through these stormy waters.  She has to, and that is what was made clear to me in her afterwords.  This book was her way of understanding and apologizing to the maid who brought her up, who died when Stockett was just sixteen, and who was clearly a strong mother figure to her. Because of her experience growing up in Jackson, she really is able to write the affection Skeeter has for her lost maid, and the affection Aibileen has for the baby girl in her care.
The characters are lively, if a bit stereotypical to begin with, but I think Stockett grows as a writer through the book in her ability to understand what life must have been like for these women. The primary point Stockett makes is about the delicate line that had to be walked through dangerous times in about the most dangerous place, Jackson Mississippi leading up to Martin Luther King’s March in DC and the assassination of Pres. Kennedy. Thankfully those incidents are far in the background of the story.
I do recommend it, it is a quick read, even at 451 pages. It was a great escape while I wasn’t feeling well, even if it wasn’t a comfortable one. But that’s just the kind of book that I really enjoy.  I don’t like easy reads nearly as much.  I want a book to stay with me.  I think this one will.
Addendum again: in my rush to get something up earlier today, I once again forgot to point the way to more listers who participate.  Please click on the green List it Tuesday square in my side margin to see them starting in artsyville! Oh and while you’re there, do wish aimee a very happy 40th birthday!!!

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