Saturday, December 13, 2008

That Song Will Be Stuck in My Head All Day!

As I began to come up with a list of things that I like this morning, My Favorite Things from the The Sound of Music instantly began to creep inside my brain, and for the last three hours I haven't been able to get the words out of my head. That's actually something I don't like...songs that you can't stop thinking about or singing. A few years ago there was a Capital One commercial where an annoying song played over and over again...hands in my pocket, hands in my pocket. For about a year that song was stuck inside my subconscious. I would catch myself doing little things around the house singing it to myself.

As I sit and type this on my computer, I am watching my poor neighbour shovel his driveway in freezing cold, sideways blowing snow, whipping your face at 100 mph, tongue sticking to jacket zipper weather. That is another thing I hate...snow! It's hard to sometimes come up with the "happy" thoughts when you are knee deep (literally) in yuck! Despite my bummer of a mood, I'm going to do my best to pull out a few favorites, starting with the most obvious.

1. My kids and husband. Even in the bleakest of blahs, they are my five favorite people to be around.

2. My mom and her ridiculous sayings. I love my mother dearly, but on regular occasions she butchers the English language. Though I'm sure it bugs her to be laughed at, it's hard not to chuckle when she says things like: "That guy was sure rocking the cradle" when referring to a man dating a younger woman. Or one of my favorites: "Look, furry ostriches!" when driving past a field full of lamas. And a more classic one: "She's going to Hell in a milk carton." I'm not exactly sure where the milk carton part came from, but it was the effort that counted.

3. Seeing people fall on ice in the winter. I know this may seem mean, and I'm not into watching elderly or very small children fall because that's not funny, but have a young man or woman, or better yet an obnoxious teenager bite it and I'm thoroughly amused.

4. Funny sketch comedy. SNL recently did a spoof on the inventor of the Breath Rite Strips. The skit caught me off guard, and was quite funny and had me giggling for quite a while. If you go to YouTube and type in Gas Rite Strips you should find it. It's about flatulence, in case you are sensitive to farting humor.

5. Words. Words that get stuck in your head for no apparent reason. I will wake up in the morning sometimes and have a word in my head. I don't know why, but it's always quite amusing. The other day it was onomatopoeia and a few weeks before that it was discombobulated.

6. Fooling my children. As a parent there is nothing more fun than pulling the wool over your children's eyes. I once convinced my son that his teacher had called us and told us that he had to attend a weekend school session. He would be there for the whole day and that she was trying it out to see if it was something she was going to add to his regular five day school week. We got him dressed and made him a lunch and walked him up to the school. As he stood there looking around wondering where all the other kids were, we told him it was a joke. What makes it the best is that he hates school and was tortured to think he was going to have to attend school on the weekend!

7. Mail. I love getting mail. It's a weird one, but it's true. We've actually gone an entire week without even getting a bill in the mail and that bugs me.

8. Sneaking a piece of dessert from the fridge before everyone else.

Of course I have many more things that I like and could drone on about, but suffice to say most things in my life give me joy and happiness. I am very fortunate.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Roar of the Greasepaint the Smell of the Crowd...


My excellent compadres here at TNG have already touched on quite a few faves of mine. So I'm going to talk about a favorite thing that is, by its very nature, unique to the other half of my life that isn't writing.

I think I may have mentioned once or twice (heh) that I'm an actor. Most of what I do is Shakespeare so most of what I do is on the stage. And one of my absolute favorite things is the back of that stage.

Backstage at just about any theatre - especially in smaller or touring houses - is a treacherous maze of cabling, rigging, counterweights, escape stairs, precariously pre-set props, weapons, dust, sticky tubs of stage blood, nefarious unidentified pointy things that have no business being there, fellow actors all of whom seem to possess more that the requisite number of elbows... and darkness.

Every backstage of every theatre I've ever been in has smelled musty.
It is always either too cold or way too hot.

And it is, without doubt, one of my favorite places to be.

Especially right before the house lights go down. Right before that first blackout and the swell of music signals the start of another show.

In that darkness, in the thick atmosphere of anticipation, when you can actually hear the crowd murmur above the shuffle and quite jokes of your cast-mates and you can see the blue glow of the stage manager's light reflecting up into her face as she speaks into the headset and says "Standby... house lights to half... and... go!"... in those seconds before you step out onto that stage to take your place in the blackness, everything is possible. Everything is poised on the edge. It is a between-place of magic and potential.

It is my favorite thing. Every time.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Abby's Faves

Like Lisa, I’ve been hearing the lovely voice of Julie Andrews in my head, every time I’ve checked the blog all week. And I, too, know all the words – not just to this song but, um, all of them from The Sound of Music. Like Maria Von Trapp, music is one of my favorite things (although, unlike Maria, I can’t sing, and my children don’t follow behind me through the mountains singing “doe, a deer. . .” ).

I would also add coffee, dark chocolate, Trader Joes, sunshine, good books, good movies, onesies, sweaters, and hardwood floors to my list of favorite things. And I could go on. But I thought it might be more interesting to write about the favorite things of Abigail Reed, the main character in The September Sisters instead. Here are her top five favorite things (in no particular order), and also how they have roots in some of my own favorite things.

1.)Snow: A big span of The September Sisters takes place over the winter, and when Abby has snow days from school, a lot of interesting things happen to her. As a child, snow days were my absolute favorite things – no school, hot chocolate, sledding down the neighbor’s hill with my sister. For Abby the snow means all of this, plus, it takes on special meaning for her and her next door neighbor, Tommy (see # 2).

2.) Tommy: In a year filled with loss and disaster, Tommy is her one bright spot, the one person she comes to trust, and maybe even love. I never had a Tommy in my life, per se, but I did have a first kiss and a first love, which are some of my favorite memories of being a teenager (especially since I am now married to that first love.)

3.) Shakespeare’s Sonnet # 116: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds. . .” It has very special meaning for Tommy and Abby in the book, and it’s also my favorite sonnet. My husband wrote it to me in a card once, when we first started dating, and then we later put it in our wedding program!

4.) Her sapphire heart necklace (see pretty, sparkly cover above!): Abby and her sister Becky both got these as presents from their grandmother. When Becky disappears, her sapphire necklace, found in a field, is the only clue. Afterwards, Abby treasures her own necklace even more deeply. My own grandparents once gave me and my sister gold pearl necklaces – actually, we both thought they were sort of ugly, not our favorite things at all. But when I was writing the book, my grandfather got sick, and I thought about the necklaces, about what it was like to have something like that, a physical representation of someone’s love. And I realized those are my favorite kinds of objects, even if they’re not always the prettiest.

5.) Books: Abby’s favorite subject is English, and books allow her an escape. She loves To Kill a Mockingbird, but in some ways, her misinterpretation of it yields disastrous results! This is sort of a no-brainer, my favorite things are books, too! Good books, books that make me think, laugh, cry, want to write. (Click here to read my post on my favorite books.) You’ll see To Kill a Mockingbird didn’t make my list – but I’m certain it would make Abby’s!

So there you have it – a little more about Abigail Reed, which maybe even also says a little more about me! If you want to know more about Abby, you can read The September Sisters, which will be out in 74 days (or so says the super-cool widget to your right!!) For more about me, check back next week!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

These are a few . . .

of my favorite things. When I saw the topic for this week I couldn’t help thinking of The Sound of Music song. I know it’s corny, but I love that movie . . . still. I know every word to every song and most of the dialogue. Hey, I suppose the movie itself is one of my favorite things. That’s a start.

But laughter and humor top my list. Anything funny gets me going. Reruns of I Love Lucy, Seinfeld, and The Beverly Hillbillies are my favorites but my all time favorite funniest movie is What About Bob? with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss. Talking about knowing all the words. Even my boys know all the lines to that one, as they spent their childhoods indulging their mother’s remedy for anything that ails. If you’ve never had the pleasure, crawl on all fours if you have to, right NOW to Blockbuster!! You won't be sorry.

Fannie Flagg, one of my heroes, has a novel called Can’t Wait To Get To Heaven. I think I’ve talked about this before but it bears mentioning again. I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I read parts of it. It makes my favorites list. Go Fannie. I hope to be you when I grow up.

As for foods that tickle my palette, my hands-down favorite food is King Crab Legs. McDonald’s French fries, expensive white chocolate, filet with bĂ©arnaise sauce, and caramel cake run a close second. Notice there’s not a thing healthy about any of these delicacies but making healthy choices is not our topic. I very infrequently indulge myself with these perfect foods but when I do, I’m oh so glad I did.

I love to watch snowfall. Sunsets over the ocean are amazing and I am reduced to a puddle by long back scratches. As for that last one, I pay well by the way. My kids, whom I beg for back scratches from, never seem to need the money. I guess that’s a guy thing. Oh well, maybe I’ll get a granddaughter one day and she'll take me on as her full-time job.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Five Faves

I started off writing this post about my favorite "general" things like movies, television shows and restaurants. But then I realized it started to read like a personal ad:

Likes: funny movies, long walks on the beach, men with a sense of humor
Dislikes: arrogant men, unreliable people and cold scrambled eggs

So, in an effort NOT to make this post sound like an ad for online dating, I’m going to focus on my five favorite writing-related things. Here goes:

1. When inspiration strikes for the first time. Ever since I started seriously pursuing a writing career, what I call my inspiration "antenna" is always on full-alert. I’m always looking for a new character idea, quirk, plot twist or name. And it’s surprising how many can be found by reading the newspaper or watching a television show. When I do get a new idea, it’s like the honeymoon stage of a relationship—"This is the best idea ever! This idea will never lead me astray. It will call me every day and never cancel plans. It might even buy me an engagement ring some day."

2. Revisions. I know we’ve covered this topic, but I have to say it again: Love. Revisions. I. Do. I’d much rather be staring at a page full of crappy writing than a blank one. And I won’t torture you all again by prognosticating my love for revision accessories. I’ll just point you here.

3. Reading back over those passages that make you buzz. You know the ones—passages that you don’t remember writing; that make you step back and go, "Whoa! This is really, really good. When did I become such an awesome writer?" Passages that click along and seem to shine just a little brighter than the surrounding words. It gives you a little jolt of electricity with the knowledge that, yeah, this writing stuff is pretty amazing.

4. Laughing at my own work. This is kind of connected to #3. There’s one part in Book #2 where I crack up every time I read it. And each time I do, my husband always looks at me like I’ve taken too many cold medicine pills. It feels sort of strange, laughing at your own writing, arrogant almost, but I can’t help it. Clare’s hilarious.

5. Connecting with other writers. This one is a no-brainer. Writers share a special bond; the secret word that gains access to a creative clubhouse o’ fun. Despite what other people in our lives may say, no one really "gets it" like another writer. The thrill of seeing a full page of words, the smackdown wrestling match of revisions and the heartbreak of rejection. So, thank you fellow Novel Girls! You’ve been wonderful fellow passengers on the Crazy Train that is publishing!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Favorite Things...

This week we're talking about favorites, and of course if they're my favorites, then they're also things I love. So here we go...some of my favorite and loved things! For this post, I'll leave my love of coffee and writing out of it, as those are pretty much known by everyone who knows me by now! What else do I love? Here's a random list of ten, right as they come out of my head:
  1. I love reading an excellent book. The type where you can't wait to pick it up and read more, and because you're reading it every chance you get, the end comes way too fast. A book that the beginning hooks you, the middle entrances you, and the end gives you the perfect payoff. A book that sticks around in your memory for weeks after you've finished it. A book you know you'll read again.
  2. I love cool, rainy days. The type of rain that comes without thunder or lightning. The type of rainy day that begs for hot cups of coffee/tea/cocoa, board games, watching movies, and hanging with your family inside. The sound of the rain smacking against the windows and the roof, while you're dressed in something warm and cuddly.
  3. I love coffee shops. Notice I'm not talking about the actual coffee, just the shops. From the scent when you walk in through the door, to the sound of people chattering all around you, to relaxing and chatting with whoever you're at the coffee shop with. It's relaxing yet energizing, and I always leave feeling refreshed.
  4. I love Christmas. From the shopping (as long as I have the money) for the perfect gift for the people in my life, to baking Christmas cookies, to the crazy early, rushed Christmas morning, to the big holiday dinner. The preparation, the lights, the scent of pine, and if we're lucky enough--the sight of fresh snow outside the windows. Oh--and singing Christmas carols! The warmth, love, and friendliness of the season just makes me smile.
  5. I love airports. I know, crazy, huh? But I do. The rush of people, the thrill of traveling, the chance of meeting someone new and finding yourself in a really cool conversation. The excitement of where you're going, or the relief to be coming home.
  6. I love coloring. Give me a brand new coloring book, a box of crayons, and I'm in heaven. Leftover from my childhood years, but the feeling hasn't changed. There's just something so relaxing in coloring in a picture. And all these years later, I still love the smell of Crayola Crayons.
  7. I love hearing people laugh. Whether it's my kids, my friends, or complete strangers, the sound of laughter just makes me smile. I even love the differences in how people laugh--from the giggly, high-pitched laugh of a child, to the deep, rumbling laugh of a man, they're all a perfect way to add joy in a day. Don't believe me? Take a trip to a playground and just sit and listen to the kids laugh as they play. You'll likely walk away with a smile on your face and a bounce in your step.
  8. I love going out to the movies. While I tend to be a stay-at-home sort of gal, there's something just downright fun about going out to the movies. From the popcorn (with Junior Mints!), to the previews, to the darkened theater, to sharing the experience of the movie with a roomful of strangers. It's just fun.
  9. I love slow, lazy mornings. There's not much better than getting up in the morning and not having to go anywhere and not having to do anything. It seems the entire day is filled with possibilities--like an empty sheet of paper just begging to have a picture drawn on it. Anything is possible when there are no plans already formed.
  10. I love good surprises. Whether it's a surprise email or phone call from a friend I haven't heard from in a long time, or an unexpected package arriving in the mail, or flowers being delivered to my door for no apparent reason, good surprises can brighten my spirits in an instant.
Those are some of the things I love. What are some of the things YOU love?