Monday, January 30, 2012

My Can't Look Away TV Show

I've found a television show so mesmerizing, so terrifying, and so addictive, I can't turn the channel when it's on.

It disturbs me so much, after the show I have to mentally picture pretty things, like this gorgeous mountain scene.

Snow near Fremont
Photo by vzaliva

The show? Animal Planet's Infested. (APL Fridays, 9pm)

Each episode chronicles three families who have experienced rodent or insect infestation in monstrous proportions. We're talking scorpions (scorpions!!), brown recluse spiders, some kind of mutant ant, bats, racoons, opossums, cockroaches, bird mites, bedbugs and--my personal favorite in that it freaks me out--the snake house.

The producers are geniuses. They start out with teasers on two of the families, and they work hard to build the suspense before revealing what particular infestation the family is dealing with. Then they cut away to a different family, flipping back and forth between stories and always leaving a cliffhanger at commercials. With interviews of the actual victims and re-enactments, the viewer gets an entertaining hour.

I often watch with a blanket ready to throw over my head. A series of gasps, "ew," "oh my goodness, oh my goodness," and "move out!" "burn it!" and "I couldn't stay a single night in that house" ensues.

My adrenaline kicks in, literally pushing me into fight or flight mode. Positive non-existent bugs are crawling over the surface of my skin, I get itchy. I also become paranoid. Is the kicked up area of mulch around the deck an extended family of possums ready to dig their way in? Could the gray spiders outside be making a move to invade our home?

You would think I'd be lunging for the remote to turn the television to something happy, something pleasant, but no. I become an angry wildebeest if anyone dares touch the remote during my show.

Last year's season of Infested was short, and I hope this year's season features more episodes. If not, I guess I'll have to enjoy the terror for now and wait patiently for the next installment.

Have you ever seen Infested? Are you insanely mesmerized by something that creeps you out?

If you have the January blues, head on over to MVRWA's blog today for my post, Vitamin D Anyone?

Enjoy the final gasps of January!

Friday, January 27, 2012

News I'm Interested In This Week

Once or twice a week I scour the online editions of a selection of major newspapers. Out of the hundreds of headlines, I tend to only read 2-3 articles. These are the three I read this week.

Newspapers B&W (3)
Photo by NS Newsflash


1. According to the Wall Street Journal, the #1 deal-breaker in marriages is...wait for it...

Nagging!

If you'd like more information, you can catch the video HERE. A few of the insights made perfect sense to me.

- Women tend to nag more than men, and we do it because we feel ignored.
- Men tend to shut down when being nagged, and they're less likely to follow orders when we nag.
- When hit with the urge to nag, we should ask ourselves if it's a reasonable request and if we can trust that our husband will handle it.


2. I had a pithy response to the outcry over Mitt Romney's 2010 tax receipts, but the issue at hand is far more complex than I wish to delve into. I will say this, I'm surprised none of the candidates has taken the opportunity to push a flat-tax-rate agenda. Maybe time will tell...

Insert butterflies and rainbows: In my fantasy world,  taxes would be fair to everyone, simple to file, and wouldn't discourage anyone from pursuing the American dream.

3. And onto even more pressing news, last week's issue of UsWeekly says Russell Brand might be sharing a tell-all book about his brief marriage to Katy Perry. All I can say is the guy has crazy eyes and I'm not sure why she married him in the first place. Do we really need to know all of their dirty secrets? (I'm not answering that, because the fact I subscribe to UsWeekly effectively condemns me. I probably DO need to know all of their dirty secrets.)

So that's it.

What news interested you this week?

Have a fabulous Friday!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

5 Easy Questions with Julie Jarnagin!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming…Julie Jarnagin!!

I connected with Julie through blogging, and I was so excited to see her publishing success when Canyon Walls, her debut novel, released last fall! Julie inspires me with her dedication to writing and to her family. She writes contemporary inspirational romance novels—my favorite books to read. 

Let’s get to it!


1. Beverage of choice? 

Coffee in the morning and a Dr. Pepper or Coke Zero in the afternoon. I need my caffeine!

2. Any pets?

 A chocolate lab named Zoe, a yellow lab named Remi, and an evil cat named Baidy. The cat is nice to my three-year-old (because she knows better), she tolerates me and my husband, but she's just plain mean to outsiders. She's basically our guard cat.

3. Dream vacation?

We just took our dream vacation to Hawaii for our ten year anniversary last year. It was amazing. Our next goal is to take a family vacation. We're thinking about camping in Colorado this summer. The cat will protect the house from burglars while we're away. The dogs will be busy digging new holes in our lawn.

4. What are you listening to right now?

I wish I could listen to Christmas music all year long, but I think my coworkers would get annoyed. Lately, I've been listening to Frank Sinatra and Michael Buble. I'm currently writing a book set in Las Vegas and this music sets the tone for me.

5. What's for dinner?

I have an elk roast in the crock pot. It sounds weird, but it's pretty normal for my house. My husband is an avid hunter. There's always venison, elk, quail, or some kind of game in our freezer.

***
Julie, it’s a tough call, choosing between Dr. Pepper and Coke Zero. I love both! How funny that your cat—not your two labs—guards the house! Ooo, Hawaii sounds like a wonderful dream vacation. Was it everything you hoped for? Stick me on a beach with a fruity drink in my hand and I’m a happy woman. Camping in Colorado would be awesome too. We tent camp every year, and we choose gorgeous places—usually on Lake Michigan. It makes all of the packing, cooking, and dirt worth it.

My husband bought me Michael Buble’s Christmas CD this year, and I’m always a fan of the Rat Pack. I’m already feeling the mood of your book! Enjoy your elk—that’s a phrase I’ve never said before—and thank you so much for being my guest today!

***

Julie Jarnagin grew up in southwest Oklahoma where her family farmed and raised cattle, inspiring her to set much of her fiction in small towns. She earned a B.A. in Journalism/Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma and is a member of America Christian Fiction Writers. She is the author of three Heartsong Presents novels: Canyon Walls, Canyon Crossing, and Canyon Cafe. Her articles have appeared in local and national publications. Through her writing, she hopes to share stories that reflect God’s love. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and young son.
To learn more about Julie, head to her blog, be friends with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

January is almost over! Are you glad to see it end or wish it could last longer?
Have a fabulous Wednesday!

Monday, January 23, 2012

What Keeps Me Writing When Life Gets Rough

I have a secret. Occasionally I'm hit with a terrible mood that won't lift. It not only affects my daily life, but it kills my writing. Any number of things might cause it--you know--bad news sometimes gets us down, but I work very hard to not let the mood stop me from working toward my dreams.

Bathtime Traumas
Photo by Riley and Amos

My secret?

Well, I have more than one. Since I like to go big or not at all, I have five.

1. Prayer.

Only through daily conversations with God am I able to find the strength to turn on my laptop and open my manuscript.

2. Sugar.

Many of you know I am a chocoholic. When life is going great, I eat healthier and rarely snack during my writing sessions. But...when life runs me over, I turn to my stash of candy bars. I kid you not, Nestle Crunch and M&Ms have salvaged more writing sessions than I care to admit. I also stock hard candy, such as Lifesavers, during the crazies.

3. Permission to do whatever it takes.

If I'm struggling and sitting in front of my laptop with a glazed look on my face and pigeons fluttering through my brain, I give myself permission to watch a silly YouTube video. Maybe I wrote 125 words and feel a massive urge to crack a can of Pepsi open? I go ahead and do that. And while I'm in the fridge I tell myself that if it takes four sodas, I will get my daily word count in. Whatever. It. Takes.

4. I whine.

My local writer friends listen to me whine a lot. They're wonderful. I could not make it without them.

5. I remind myself that the mood will pass.

Everything really WILL get better soon. I just have to ride it out. Moods come and go. Seasons come and go. Good times come. Then they go. It's the way of life. :)

So if you find yourself in a mood darker than a starless, moonless night, and the very thought of opening your manuscript makes you tremble inside--take a deep breath. Pray. Eat a candy bar. Give yourself temporary permission to be unhealthy, whine, and remind yourself that this mood will end.

How do you keep writing when life gets rough?

Have a wonderful Monday!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Characters: The Jackie O Factor

I'm fascinated by other people's lives. I read a lot of biographies and autobiographies. Of course these books cannot give a full, accurate picture of someone's life. We're only getting a filtered view. Still, with that said, I can't help but form opinions on the people I read about.

Jackie O by Andy Warhol
Photo by raxiii

This January I read several books about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and I just read Slim Keith's autobiography. You're probably familiar with Jackie O, but many of you may never have heard of Slim Keith. Both women intrigued me, but after reading about them, I drew my own conclusions.

Jackie O was known for several things--her style, her grace as first lady while John F. Kennedy was in office, her loyalty to her children, her dedication to her privacy, and her love of good literature--she was an editor for many years. She also used her celebrity to champion historical preservation.

Slim Keith, born Nancy Gross, was also held up as a style icon in the forties, fifties, and beyond. Born into a wealthy family, she married Hollywood showbiz producer Howard Hawks, after he divorced his first wife, of course. She later cheated on him with Leland Hayward, top Hollywood agent, and remarried, enjoying a happy union for roughly ten years before he left her for another woman. She briefly remarried a third time, and lived the remainder of her life on her own. She was good friends with many influential stars and authors, including Truman Capote and Ernest Hemingway.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis married John F. Kennedy, soon to be President of the United States. Five years after his untimely death by assassination, Jackie married Aristotle Onassis, Greek shipping billionaire. They enjoyed an easy companionship at first, but later their relationship strained to the point of non-existence until his death. She spent the later years of her life with a live-in companion, still-married Maurice Templesman, a diamond merchant.

Slim and Jackie took the same route to fame. Both married high-powered men who were in the spotlight. These two women shared a keen intelligence, an eye for style, and an unwavering sense of self. The world focused on them because they were glamorous, interesting--worth focusing on.

So many similarities. While still single, these gals hung out with elite, wealthy men. They had their choice in suitors, and they chose--for first husbands--men who lacked the means to share emotional depth. Both of their first husbands cheated on them extensively. It must have been a shock for these young women to realize their picture-perfect marriages were plagued with infidelity. Jackie and Slim suffered miscarriages and still births. Slim had one daughter; Jackie had a daughter and a son (another son lived only a few days). I feel terrible for their difficult pregnancies. As a mother, I deeply sympathize with the heartache they experienced.

But, also as a mother, I found this fact enlightening: both women took multiple, extensive trips while their young babies stayed home, and they continued to travel sans kids their entire lives. Both employed nannies and governesses and later sent their kids to boarding schools. Jackie even went on record as saying (I'm paraphrasing) if you bungle raising your children, nothing else you do matters much.

I'm sure they did love their children. But in my mid-western, middle class, late-century upbringing, I can't imagine having my mother jet-setting around the world while I'm home being raised by a nanny and later being sent off to boarding schools. How much mothering is going on if you're never around? Hmm...

Yes, I'm judging. And, yes, I'm thinking of the non-stop, exhausting job motherhood is to most of us moms. Have I fantasized about two weeks in Paris with no kids, my sister, and unlimited funds? Oh, yeah!

These women hung out with top entertainers, artists, and diplomats. Flirting was going on--you only need eyes. I can see it in the pictures. When you're admired by the world, you're not going to be content withering away unnoticed while your hubby is cheating on you with every showgirl who walks his way. Playing with fire? You betcha.

Then there were the odd choices in marriage. Slim flat out admits she married her third husband for financial security. Jackie never did admit it with Aristotle Onassis, but let's face it, she wasn't marrying a billionaire old enough to be her father for anything other than security.

Do I have a point?

Sure.

If the character in your novel grew up in a wealthy, high profile environment, she's likely going to have very different views about parenting, education, and security than the average person. She might have been raised primarily by nannies. She might think traveling to Paris for the weekend quite normal. She may have a deep-seated need for financial security, and if she isn't prepared or equipped to earn it herself, she may be willing to marry for it.

Even if your heroine is more enlightened, her mother may have experienced all these things. This affects the heroine's attitude, her values, and her desires. Or maybe her father still has a bit of that old sixties swing in him--the good ol' boy club where you marry a classy woman but cheat on her every chance you get?

And think twice before having this type of character naturally fall for Joe Blow, the mid-level accountant for a tax firm. She's used to being around entitled, rich, plenty-of-time-on-their-hands men. Yes, she may find Joe's integrity appealing. She might long for a man who will honor his commitments and pour his heart into making her happy--but will she trust him? Will she even notice him? And will her expectations be dashed when their first date isn't a jaunt to Paris? When he presents her with a smallish diamond ring instead of the Hope diamond?

I'm not saying all high profile, wealthy people live like this, but read enough biographies of women and men from the forties to present day, and you'll see how common it really is. Hey, I subscribe to UsWeekly. The infidelity hasn't changed at all. Neither has marrying for celebrity, money, or security.

Do you enjoy reading biographies? Who has fascinated you recently?

Have a terrific weekend!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

5 Easy Questions with Cheryl Reif!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming… Cheryl Reif!!

You know how sometimes you come across a blog and feel an instant connection? That’s how I felt when I found Cheryl’s blog after chatting with her on Twitter. She’s amazingly (had to use that adverb!) intelligent, and her blog always encourages and informs. Plus, I’m drawn to science majors who also write fiction, and she fits that description perfectly. :)

Let’s get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

Coffee, unless I splurge on a gingerbread latte.
2. Any pets?

I’m owned by two dogs, a boxer and a standard poodle.
3. Dream vacation?

Only one? Hmm…either a castle in Italy (like the one in Enchanted April) or a sailboat off the coast of Greece.

4. What are you listening to right now?

Silence! (a rare event in my home)

5. What's for dinner?

Some sort of pressure cooker soup—quick, hot, and yummy.

***
Cheryl, I’ve never tried a gingerbread latte, but boy, that sounds delicious. I, naturally, would spray Reddi-Whip into a tower on top. Your dogs sound fun. Do they get along well? Are they polar opposites or partners in crime? They’re such different breeds; I’m curious!

Enchanted April? I haven’t watched it, but I’m now adding it to my DVD list. First, it has the word “enchanted” in it, and second, I’m all about castles! But the sailboat and Greece sound so good too. Decisions, decisions… Enjoy the silence (blessed silence!) and the yummy soup, and thanks so much for being my guest today!

***
Cheryl Reif ~

I'm a writer on the road...trying to balance a rich writing life with family, friends, home, and bringing home a bit of cash. I write fiction and nonfiction, for children and adults, magazine articles and book-length works, and am represented by Gary Heidt of Signature Literary Agency.

To learn more about Cheryl, head to her blog and follow her on Twitter.

What is your go-to snack?

I’m on a fruit and nut kick, but I always enjoy a good cookie.

Have a fantastic Wednesday!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Adventures in Detroit: North American International Auto Show 2012

Every January, the North American International Auto Show descends on downtown Detroit, Michigan. It had been thirteen years since we'd been there, so we decided to check out the fun this year, even though the weather had turned iffy--temperatures in the low twenties with a light snow falling.
Yep, that's me in a Jeep Rubicon! Photo courtesy of ChryslerGroup
The drive in was uneventful, until we tried to find parking near the Cobo Center. My husband and I played a round of, "Oh, there's a parking garage--whoops, you just missed it," and proceeded to perform a series of legal U-turns until we landed in a garage. Then we repeated the parking space number until we were fairly certain we would indeed find the spot upon our return.

Our garage offered a free shuttle bus (an old schoolbus painted red) to the event, so we hopped on and enjoyed a quick trip to the entrance.

Inside, swarms--and I mean swarms--of people merged onto the escalator leading to the main floor. We purchased our tickets, waited in a hefty line for the restrooms, and entered the show.

The first thing you notice, besides the overwhelming amount of people in attendance, is the sheer size of the auto show. We entered into the Mercedes Benz exhibit, and after oohing and ahhing over the luxury vehicles, decided to move toward the back to avoid the bulk of the crowds.

The show is all in one room but each automaker has its own unique space. They go all out on their displays--some with carpeting, others with laminate flooring, and still others with glass-like tiles--to highlight their vehicles. They also used different levels of lighting--some fairly blinded, while others provided ambience--and some featured frenetic, loud dance music, while others employed silence.

Our favorite areas were Ford, Lincoln, Porsche, Dodge, Jeep, Volkswagon, and BMW. Ford and Lincoln in particular exceeded my expectations in giving show-goers the wow factor. Ford offered simulated rides, roped off an area for attendees to watch workers build an engine, and hoisted the new Raptor truck's frame off its body. Ford provided plastic cards (like a credit card) to register and save information on any vehicle you were interested in.

Lincoln screamed luxury. The space relaxed and soothed, and the materials used in the display reminded me of an expensive showroom. They also built rooms to display the benefits of owning one of their vehicles. In one room, you could get inside one of their cars to witness the noise-reducing effects of their design.

We liked Dodge for their innovative trucks, Jeep, because, well, it's Jeep!, Volkswagon because of the disco ball and dance club atmosphere, and BMW because they had a really cool concept car.

Of the concept cars, our family also enjoyed GM's Camaro--the matchbox version--in a flourescent green. It looked cool! For regular vehicles, I loved the Dodge Ram Longhorn truck. The leather seats had embroidered stitching reminiscent of a saddle, and the entire truck was so decadent and big, I couldn't help but want it. Made me want to go out and buy a pair of cowboy boots, too!

Hours later, with aching feet, we said goodbye to the visual feast and made our way to the entrance where we'd originally arrived. Shuttle busses for hotels lined the front, but gone were the busses leading to the parking garages. The temperature had dropped considerably, night darkened the sky, and more snow had fallen, leaving the streets icy.

We asked a security guard about a shuttle, and while friendly, he couldn't give us clear direction on if or when a bus would be able to take us to our garage. A group of college kids started walking in that general direction and we decided to join them, knowing our garage was less than four blocks away. There's safety in numbers. However, we'd forgotten about the long tunnel on the way. So we hiked under a creepy, creepy tunnel with one foot of sidewalk--I felt like I was in a horror movie--and prayed we'd survive. The lack of sidewalks on the street (under construction) didn't help. Finally, we emerged and saw the garage. None too soon, I might add.

Minutes later, back on the highway leading out of town, we watched an accident unfold several cars ahead of us. Like I said, the roads had turned icy, and another mile down the road was an even worse accident with fire trucks, police, and such.

Downtown Detroit has such a different feel from the rest of Detroit city. Minutes away from the glitzy casinos, pretty skyscrapers, and upscale hotels, you're confronted with reality. Much of the city is rundown and dangerous. In the street-lit dimness, we passed a gasoline refinery. The electrical lines looked like dusty cobwebs strung over a forgotten neighborhood. As the miles sped away, I was glad we spent the afternoon viewing the automobiles of today and tomorrow, and I couldn't help but hope the innovation we'd witnessed spread to the rest of the once vibrant streets we passed.

Have you ever been to an auto show? Do you, like me, think you want a ginormous truck even though you're slightly frightened of backing up a big vehicle, and you know you'd never find a good parking spot?

By the way, we learned from the radio that over 92,000 people attended on Saturday. No wonder we felt crowded!

Have a fantastic Monday!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Are Your Reading Habits Affected by Television?

I purchased the first season of Downtown Abbey, an early 1900's British melodrama, for my mom as a Christmas gift. She and I both love movies set in historical England, and I had a feeling she would enjoy this popular series.

Lyme Park
Photo by binaryape

When I came across Julie Bosman's excellent article "If You're Mad for 'Downton,' Publishers Have Reading List" on NYTimes.com (article is linked) I nodded throughout. Publishers realize an important factor in today's media consumption. Television and movies tend to spark interest in readers, and we have a hearty appetite to learn and experience more on the same topics.

I routinely get way too excited about a subject after watching something on television. Over the holidays, we found a two-hour-long special on the History channel featuring home movies of the Kennedys. I only had a basic understanding of the famous family, but after seeing their big smiles, endless football games, and hearing the biography of the family as a whole, I wanted to learn more. Several trips to the library ensued, and that in turn, sparked interest in the style-mavericks of the 50's. I just ordered a book on Slim Keith.

Also, my husband and I are not the greatest at remembering ancient history. A fascinating television program about why ancient Egypt's civilization collapsed had us debating the when, what, who, and how of that time.

I'm already ordering books to help us figure it out.

Just as television can prompt us to read a wider variety of books, it can also help writers get a feel for what topics interest viewers. The popularity of Once Upon a Time will ensure more cheeky, suspenseful fairy tales are published. The Walking Dead continues to spur zombie fiction. And Downtown Abbey will undoubtedly pave the way for even more fabulous fiction set around WWI England.

Have any television programs spurred you to read a book you might not have picked up?

Have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

5 Easy Questions with Susan Mills!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.
Thank you for joining me in welcoming… Susan Mills!

I found Susan’s blog early in my own blogging experience, and hers was easy to remember. It’s the shoe blog! No, she doesn’t review footwear, but she does post pictures of shoes and relates them to her writing and life. Very clever. One thing I love about Susan is her generosity. Every time she takes a blog break, good things happen to her friends, and she always shares the love. How nice is that?
 

Let’s get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

Coffee-black, no cream, no sugar.

2. Any pets?

A Black Lab named Willie after the K-State mascot Willie the Wildcat and a brand new boxer rescue puppy.

3. Dream vacation?

 Anywhere with a beach. I haven't been to the beach since I was a kid.

4. What are you listening to right now?

A train bellowing in the distance. 

5. What's for dinner?

Whatever everyone can scrounge up. I won't be home to cook tonight, but if I were, I'd probably make something simple like spaghetti.

***
Susan, no cream, no sugar?? The horror! Actually, I’m beyond impressed. My coffee barely resembles coffee by the time I doctor it. Huge congratulations on your new puppy! What did you name him? Is he adorable or what? And how is Willie taking this?

You need to get to the beach. Might I suggest Lake Michigan? We found a gorgeous stretch of white sand called Tunnel Beach in Holland, MI. I can’t wait to get back there this summer. I adore the beach! Spaghetti is my go-to meal, too. It’s fast, hearty, and always delicious. Thanks so much for being my guest today, Susan!
***
Susan Mills is a part time number cruncher and a full time aspiring young adult author. She lives in the Midwest with her husband, three teenage children, a black lab and a boxer rescue puppy. To learn more about Susan, head to her blog, A Walk in My Shoes, be friends with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

What has grabbed your interest lately?

I just read a new Stephanie Laurens book, studied up on the Kennedy family, and I'm really enjoying the Usher song "Without You" right now.

Have a magnificent day!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Popular Genre Shines in Contemporary Art

Last Friday, the Toledo Art Museum lured me to visit. To my delight, it featured a special exhibition called "Small Worlds" with work by several contemporary artists. The collection that captured my interest the most was titled "The City" by Lori Nix.


TMA
Photo by joelwashing

(If you would like to view "The City," it is linked to a dedicated webpage in her site. For other collections by Lori Nix, browse her website, www.lorinix.net.)

Lori uses unconventional methods with her art. She defines herself as a non-traditional photographer because she constructs the subject matter she photographs. Another difference in her work is her use of old-school photography techniques rather than digital manipulation to achieve the correct lighting and scale. The result is an impressive, whimsical, stunning, off-putting, clever feast for the eyes and mind.

I could have studied each photo for hours, but it only took a quick peek at one of her pictures to recognize the theme. A cataclysmic event has wiped out humanity, and the photos reflect the world a period of time after the event. In almost (or maybe every) shot, some aspect of nature has overtaken the building or space photographed.

I immediately thought of the popularity of post-apocalyptic fiction. For a few years now, novels and movies have regularly portrayed life after a cataclysmic event. It was really cool to see this genre in art form, except with a twist--the artist didn't need a human protagonist to carry a movie or book, and she was free to imagine the world with nature taking over.

As I strolled from photo to photo, I was disturbed and charmed. She did an amazing job of creating a mood in each scene. One in particular, "The Laundromat," has two depictions--daytime and at night. The daytime photo depressed me more than the night photo. The day photo held no sign of life whereas I found two funny rats in the evening one. It made me realize how much life, the sheer act of living, in any form--humans, animals, insects, even trees--brings hope.

Although I can't guarantee you'll enjoy and interpret Lori Nix's work the same way I did, I can assure you you'll be stunned by the level of detail and craftsmanship she uses to create each scene.

Have you had the privilege of viewing any contemporary art lately? Do you see any literary themes manifested in other art forms?

Have a lovely Monday!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Picky Writer's Day Planner

I adore day planners, always have. There's something exciting and fun about a fresh calendar. Personally, I'm more productive when I write my daily goals out, and it only makes sense to keep them in one place. So with a Staples coupon in hand, I trotted to the store and debated on the best planner.

Project 50 - Day #1 (Moleskine)
Photo by mcgraths

Many of them come wire bound. I don't like this kind because it's impossible to add sections or to take a paper out temporarily. I do like Franklin Covey planners. They have great preprinted sections and usually come with a three-ring binder. However, they are almost always too big for my needs. I don't want an 8.5" x 11" planner, and the smaller versions are too thick.

In the past, I've made my own planner out of a blank three-ring binder, and this year, I decided to weigh the other options first. My planner should be a certain size. It would need to fit into my everyday purse for when I head out on my weekly Idea Hour dates. It would also need to have a yearly calendar with sections for each of the months, tabbed dividers for my business categories, and at least one pocket to store slips of papers or index cards. I vowed I would buy or create the perfect planner, regardless the cost.

The calendar aisle scared me. It's a big aisle, folks. But I gamely perused the selections. You would not believe the prices! Or maybe you would and I'm just super cheap. I liked one but it was too large, and I fell into a coughing fit when I saw that it was $42.99. Ouch. Then I picked up several other models, disregarding each for lacking something in my above criteria.

Thankfully, Staples has an entire section of refills. I snuck to the three-ring binder section and actually found the exact size binder I had in mind. Only 1/2" thick and a compact version (I'm guessing 6" x 8"), I snatched it up even though the price made me cringe.

Then I headed back to the calendar aisle and spent another twenty minutes deciding which refills would suit my needs best. I opted for a smaller version of looseleaf paper, a package of 15 small, clear protective covers, and a tabbed monthly calendar insert. I did not purchase a one-sheet calendar of 2012. They didn't carry any. But I did find a slew of free printable options online when I got home.

My day planner ended up being expensive: $7.29 for the binder, $3.79 for the looseleaf papers, $4.99 for the protective covers, and $10.99 for the tabbed monthly calendar insert. I also threw in a ten pack of colored Sharpies on sale for $3.00. You would have too, admit it. :)

So, not including the Sharpies, I paid $27.06 excluding tax for the exact day planner I wanted. Normally, I would have found a way to create a day planner for under ten dollars, but there comes a time when you know what works for you and what doesn't. This one works, and hopefully, I would only need to replace the looseleaf paper and the tabbed calendar next year.

I don't feel too guilty about the price either. I use my planner every day, and at the above price, that's about $2.25 a month for recording, meeting, and exceeding my goals. Not bad!

Now that you know all about my thrilling day planner adventure, I'd love to hear how you keep track of your schedule. Do you have a day planner? Use your phone? Google Calendar? Do tell!

Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

5 Easy Questions with Kristina Knight!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming…Kristina Knight!!

Kristina and I met through Maumee Valley RWA and quickly bonded. She has a sassy, quick sense of humor, a huge heart, and she shares my addiction to the Middleton sisters and the royal princes. Kristina oozes patience, especially when dealing with my exuberant brainstorming ideas. Let’s just say I threw out a plot twist involving killing a sister—I believe pirate coins were involved--and Kristina still talks to me. I can't wait to read her contemporary romance novels. Here's to 2012 being your year, Kristina!

Let’s get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

Coke. All the way. Although I'm trying to switch to Coke Zero because I'm not getting any younger and those calories are settling in places they don't belong! Also Cherry-Limeaide from Sonic on really hot summer days...or days I want to *pretend* it's summer.

2. Any pets?

One dog - who is officially 20 years old this month. She's a wonder dog - although she's mostly blind and only listens selectively. Everyone asks how we've kept her healthy: Yearly vet appointments, WalMart-brand dog food and when she was younger we walked. A lot.

3. Dream vacation?

Anywhere warm. Last December we took a family cruise to the Carribbean and that was wonderful...I'm wishing I had another cruise to look forward to lately.

4. What are you listening to right now?

Christmas music. I can't seem to get enough. I've regained my love of the old holiday hymns this year, songs like 'Let There Be Peace On Earth' and the classic hymn-styled 'Silent Night' have gotten a lot of play. Usually I'm an eclectic listener, though - pop, classics, country, contemporary Christian...it all gets played in my house!

5. What's for dinner?

I've been on a crockpot kick lately - and I'm been slammed with work, which makes the crockpot the easy choice. Tonight it's barbecue ribs, homemade mac-n-cheese (because everybody needs a little mac-n-cheese in life!) and some steamed green beans. Or maybe broccoli...that extra cheese from the mac needs to go somewhere.

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Kristina, I love Coke, but I too have made the switch this January, except I went to Diet Coke. We’ll see how long it lasts. And I am so with you on a cruise! The Caribbean sounds fabulous right now, especially since snow flurries swirl outside and the temps dipped to the twenties. We could call it a brainstorming cruise. I won’t even bring up pirate coins or psychotic sisters!

Your dinner makes my mouth water. I would skip the green beans and go with the broccoli. Like you said, the extra cheese from the mac DOES need to go somewhere! Thanks so much for being my guest today. Give your pooch an extra big hug too, okay?



Once upon a time, Kristina Knight spent her days running from car crash to fire to meetings with local police - no, she wasn't a trouble-maker she was a journalist. When the opportunity to write what she wanted - business and family/parenting articles - and to focus a bit of energy on the stories in her head, she jumped at it. And she's never looked back. Now she writes articles for magazines and such by day and writes romance novels with spice by night. And any toddler-free, five minute break she has. She lives on Lake Erie with her husband, 3 year old daughter and 20 year old fur-kid. Happily ever after. To learn more about Kristina, stop by her blog, be friends with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

All month on my author Facebook page, I'm posting tips on how to stay motivated to meet our goals. I'd love for you to stop by and join the conversation. If you have a tip, hop over and please share!!

What are you looking forward to this year?
(My big dreams for this year include signing a book contract, possibly moving into a different home, and celebrating my oldest heading to high school this fall!)

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

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