Monday, September 26, 2011

Bring on the Banned Books

Happy Banned Books Week! It's a fun week to celebrate. Hundreds of books are challenged every year. The people who challenge these books crack me up and piss me off. By challenging books, they only bring more exposure to them. And they also show how narrow-minded, controlling, scared, and... Okay, I'll stop there, but you get my point.

The American Library Association has a page devoted to Banned Books Week. Check it out here. You can see frequently challenged books sorted by year or decade. I'm sure you'll be as shocked as I was to see some of your favorites on the list.

I'm going to try to read one banned book a week through the end of the year. Every one of those books was created from blood, sweat, and tears. The writers poured a part of their souls into those words, and for someone to challenge their right to be on the shelf is beyond my comprehension. The only thing you or I can do is read the books. Savor the words. If the book could be considered inflammatory, be thankful. That writer had the nerve to write from the heart and say what needed to be said. When you're done, recommend the book to friends.

For me, this issue has nothing to do with freedom of speech. It has everything to do with the right to read whatever the hell I want to. Every reader has a different experience when reading a book. You might hate it, I might love it. How dare someone try to take that literary adventure away from another?

I'll step off my soap box now, but I implore you to read a banned book. Know that the story contained in those pages was powerful enough to scare someone into challenging it. You deserve the chance to experience that for yourself.

What's your favorite banned book?

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Death of My Routine

The day starts as any other. Get the kids off to school and hubby off to work. Write out a lengthy to-do list while juggling football practice and homework, with the hopes of actually getting it all done. Eat dinner, then herd the kids to the bath. Don't forget to schedule doctor's appointments and oops...I'll get to the yard work tomorrow. It's a regular routine. One repeated every week day. On the weekends, subtract school and appointments, and add football games, more chores, and family events. It's only one variation of a day in the life of a busy adult. I'm sure many of you can relate. We all have our busy days, our seemingly never-ending activities.

They quickly become routines, and even typing that word makes me cringe. For me, it's not the busy days that are awful. It's not the day that ends when the kids are in bed, the cleaning is done, the animals are fed, and the house is quiet. Although I do collapse into bed, exhausted.

Even that's not too bad.

The worst day I can imagine is unspectacular because it's routine. It's the day my needs fall by the wayside. No, I don't mean my desire for a pedicure and a vacation. I'm talking about the day I don't follow my passion and feed my soul. It's the day I made excuses and complained about a lack of time because I had so many tasks to do. I didn't make time to challenge myself and acknowledge the extraordinary chaos in my head (otherwise known as my creativity and muse).

My regular routine makes it easy for that nightmare of a day to come to fruition--the day my pen stays on the desk, untouched. My characters are forced to the back of my mind while I cook dinner and play chauffeur. I'm so focused on the inconsequential every day tasks--yes, I group dishes, laundry and such in this category--I forget what I love. The words sit idle and my story remains untold because I'm operating on auto-pilot.

I know better. I occasionally coach people to do the exact opposite of what I'm guilty of. It's all too easy to become stuck in a rut. We simply exist, go through the motions. I'd rather reach too high, fall hard, pick myself up, then eventually achieve. I want to learn, explore, taste, dance and try every creative endeavor that interests me. Especially writing. Dishes and laundry? Not so much.

I've been working hard to create ample time to write and be creative. It's not easy. I'm a mom first. My family's well-being is important to me. Yet so is mine. It's a constant battle to balance it all. Thankfully, I love a good challenge. I'm happy to go to war with my routine. It's great practice for my world domination plans, which have also been sitting on the back burner for too long... *grins*

What do you to get out of a rut?

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Crazy Monday

Happy Monday! Wait...has it been happy?

I'd say it's been a typical Monday at our house, which means it's been bizarre. My 8 year old stayed home from school with a temperature and sore throat. A few hours into our day he managed to run into the wall. He's now sporting a goose egg between his eyes, adding a headache to his list of symptoms. I have no idea how he did this. He claims he was crawling up the stairs, and ran into the wall. He must have been crawling pretty fast. It looks like he's trying to grow a unicorn horn.

After I got him settled with Mr. Happy (don't laugh--it's the name that came with the special ice pack), I sat in my favorite chair to take a breath. I admit I needed to laugh without him watching, because honestly, he ran into the wall. It was funny. But I digress... As I was catching my breath, I looked out the window and saw one of our hens mounting another hen. Yes, at this happy little farm, we raise our hens to explore life to the fullest. Actually, our rooster was literally henpecked, so he's chillin' in a separate pen while he heals. It's not the first time. We have him wrapped up in purple vet wrap and I've affectionately dubbed him the Henpecked Purple Cock. (This is the consequence of being a romance writer and living on a farm). The poor guy doesn't know that while the roo's away, the hens will play. Who knew the barnyard was so full of drama?

And in other Monday news, my husband has a few of his co-workers convinced he's the cover model on Stone Cold Seduction. I might be a bit biased, but my husband really is that buff. However, he's not the hot dude on the cover. Although now I'm giving serious consideration to making him gargoyle wings for Halloween...

How was your Monday?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bookstore Confessions

This is a new feature I'll be doing regularly. I frequent a couple bookstores on a weekly basis--for writing, reading, coffee and general people watching. I've seen some crazy stuff. And crazier people. I thought it would be fun to chronicle some of the most hilarious or horrible things I've seen. The good stuff doesn't all happen in the books! I've enlisted the help of a few bookstore employees. I'm keeping their identities a secret to protect the innocent (and the guilty). These men and women are awesome, intelligent and impressively patient to put up with readers and writers behaving badly. *Sigh* Sadly, it happens.

This week, I'll start things off with my observations and a few guidelines. Nothing beats a trip to your local brick and mortar store. I'm a book store junkie. If you are too, or know someone who is, here are a few handy tips to assist you with the perfect book buying experience (all taken from real experiences):
Don't pitch your partially finished, unedited manuscript to the manager at your local bookstore. They sell books. They won't pimp yours. Remember, you're there to buy or browse, not sell. Besides, if you think this is a great place to sell your book, your book is probably nowhere near ready for publication. Head on over to the writing section, and pick up a few books for aspiring writers while you're there.
Do act appropriately. For example, if you're interested in a book about adults who stray from their marriage, that's your business. Please don't ask the staff if they would consider cheating on their significant other, or who they'd consider as potential cheating material. No really.

Don't piss off the baristas. This includes ordering a latte that no one has ever heard of just to sound important. If you ask for a white chocolate mocha without chocolate, but with a dash of caramel syrup, no foam, and make it a cappuccino it's poor form. And ridiculous. If you then come back to complain that the temperature of your latte was supposed to be 165 degrees, not 167, you look doubly foolish. Even other customers want to bean you in the head by this point.

Do be respectful of the other bookstore patrons. It's great that you were on the local news station because you witnessed a burglary and called 911. But if you have a conversation loud enough that people two counties over can hear it, we're not impressed, only annoyed. Likewise for your amazing interview skills with potential wedding photographers, and how you discovered your husband was cheating. And along those lines...

Do bring your iPod and headphones if you plan to sit and read or write. Some conversations are fascinating, but many are better left unheard.

And finally...

Don't come in and sit to read a "new" book while drinking coffee a few days in a row. I'll admit, I think it's awesome a retired man would make such an effort to read a Nora Roberts book, but that's what libraries are for. The purchase of a cup of coffee doesn't give you the right to read a book without purchase. From start to finish. Three days in a row.

So there you have it. My first list of helpful hints for a wonderful bookstore experience. What's your worst/best bookstore story?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Multiple Personalities

Okay, I admit it--I have multiple personalities. Writing personalities, that is. It's not much of a confession. I'm pretty open about writing in different genres. Only recently has it become an issue, however. It requires me to shift gears for more than simple head hopping (switching from character to character). I have to stop and think about who my reader will be, and what their expectations are. I'm writing for characters of all ages and backgrounds while working on urban fantasy and middle grade, and even being a yoga teacher (planning a class is a lot like writing a script). It's easier said than done.
Here are the issues I'm currently running into:
  •  I'm not present during conversations because all I can think about is how your dialogue might look if I wrote it down. How I might tweak it, punctuate it, and fix the grammar. Don't worry, I'm not really going to use it. Unless you say something interesting or off the wall, and then it's fair game.
  •  I watch and listen to as many kids' conversations as I can. For the life of me, I cannot figure out the path their minds take. It's equally fascinating and frustrating. My 9 year old says the craziest things some times. She's currently fascinated with of our rooster with the hens. Out of the blue, she'll discuss the mechanics of it in a very matter of fact way, while I try to figure out if this is where I talk about bees, since she's already covering the birds.
  •  I forget--and I mean completely forget--to cook dinner, at least 4 nights a week. I've started using my crock pot to circumvent this issue, because my poor kids have done "snacky dinner" too many times now. It quickly loses it's appeal. Who knew you could get sick of PB&J or a fridge free for all?
  •  The employees at the bookstore I frequent think I'm nuts because I'll buy a few middle grade books, a few steamy romances, and one or two urban fantasy. I'm happy to admit they're all for me, but I can see why people would get confused. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda isn't great company for The Very Virile Viking.
*Note* I highly recommend both of these books. Origami Yoda is my new favorite character, and Sandra Hill, author of the viking series, is hilarious.
  • Sometimes when I'm writing or reading about paranormal characters, I get the urge to put them through a few rounds of sun salutations. Only because it might relax them a bit. Seriously, Professor Snape wouldn't have been quite so testy if he'd had a little OM in his life.
What it boils down to is wearing a lot of hats, and remembering to keep them on straight. And only wearing one at a time. Which is prudent, but not always as much fun. *winks*

Does anyone else run into similar issues when writing or reading multiple genres?