A look back

This is going around the blogosphere - saw it on Elizabeth's blog.

Name Five Bad Things That Happened to You in 2005:

1. My grandfather died.
2. My cousin’s daughter was diagnosed with aplastic anemia.
3. Son sent to alternative school for a week.
4. Mother-in-law hospitalized for almost a month.
5. My principal announced she was leaving after Christmas.

Name Five Good Things That Happened to You in 2005:
1. Got an agent
2. Finished a new manuscript
3. Got a WONDERFUL class who make me love teaching again
4. Husband won an Emmy and we had a romantic weekend
5. Started this blog and made wonderful cyber friends.

Name Five People Who Have Touched You in a Special Way in 2005:
1. My students
2. My administrators
3. Jessie Ferguson
4. Mary, the teacher who used to be in my unit
5. Lorelle

Name Five Things You Achieved in 2005:
1. Finished a new manuscript.
2. Got an agent
3. Finalled in 9 contests with 4 books
4. Got the best evaluation of my career
5. Stepped out of my comfort zone and went to a writer’s retreat

Name Five Things You'd Like to Achieve in 2006:
1. Get a book contract
2. Final in the GH
3. Home improvements
4. Balance between writing, day job and life
5. Lose some weight

What is your new year's resolution/what would you like from 2006?

I would like to appreciate my house and make better use of my time. I want to write one new book and one new proposal. I want to get my kids through the state test.

Anybody have any exciting New Years plans? We're going over to a friend's, eat tamales and drink champagne. The dh's first NYE off since 2000!

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Sound familiar?

Tori Scott shared this with me.

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More recommended reading

I heard about this book on Karen Templeton's blog.

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It is hilarious. And suspenseful. A likeable heroine. Two possible heroes. Great supporting characters. I started it last night after midnight, stayed up till 2, woke up and read till lunchtime, finished it after my nap. It was THAT GOOD.

To summarize it would just be too much, but the tag line on the front says, "A bear ate my ex....and that's okay."

That's just the beginning of her troubles. Sooooo, soooo good.

Habits of Prolific Writers

Okay, I said I was going to look into the writing schedules of effective, disciplined authors. Here’s what I found.

Nora gets up, exercises, checks her email, works till noonish, checks her email, eats, works till 4 or five. She writes one book at a time. She credits her incredible discipline to going to school with nuns.

Lucy Monroe, who had TWENTY books out this year (some of them novellas, but STILL), and at least FOURTEEN coming out in 2006, has a similar schedule, though she has school aged children. She checks email for an hour or so, edits her previous day’s work, eats lunch and writes till 4, after which she handles the business end. She also does online classes. She had 13 manuscripts written before she sold, so that may have given her a boost, but still!

I googled “prolific writers” and came up with Alexander McCall Smith. He has three books a year. Kind of a shame after Lucy.

Sherrilyn Kenyon had 8 new books and an anthology come out this year, under Kenyon and under Kinley McGregor. She can write 25-35 pages a day. I think I read in an RWR interview that she’s been able to write 100 in one day. Some days I can’t write 100 WORDS. I couldn’t find what her schedule looks like.

Lisa Kleypas gets up at 4 AM to write. She's now writing for two genres, and has little kids.

Who else can you think of? I was kind of hoping for someone who also works fulltime. Any ideas?

And frankly, only Nora and Lisa seem to have balance.

EDITED TO ADD: Okay, Julie Kenner wrote a billion books while writing fulltime. She had charts and stuff.

And Stephanie Rowe was also a fulltime lawyer when she started writing. I know she said her husband did almost all the housework while she was pursuing her goal of publication. Riiiiight, like THAT'S going to happen.

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The Emily

Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!!

Don't Look Back finalled in The Emily!!!!!!

My last contest besides the GH!!!!

Balance

My big goal this year is finding balance. It feels like for the past three months I have spent every spare minute in this chair, and it’s not a good feeling. My house has suffered, my yard, my plants, my reading.

And yes, my family.

We have built in family time, untouchable family times. Still, I’m usually preoccupied with my story, with working out a problem, so I don’t give them the time they need and deserve.

I need to find balance. I want to slow down. This past year I only wrote one new book, but I revised the hell out of two others. So why was so much time spent in front of the computer?

I’ve made my list of goals for 2006, and guess what? Not slowing down much. I have 3 books to revise, and one to finish. I also wrote that I’d write a new book this year, because I know I’ll go crazy not making something new. But that one, I think, I can let slide if I get the others done.

In addition to writing, I need to start exercising. Really. A lot.

And I need to keep my house better.

I need to enjoy other aspects of life that I used to enjoy, like gardening and crochet and reading. I’ve let so much slide the past 3 years in my struggle to get published.

I’m thinking the best answer is a schedule. Maybe writing an hour in the morning and an hour at night, and that’s it. Maybe if I know that’s all I’m getting that day, I’ll be more disciplined and won’t cruise the Internet so much.

And a walk every evening after dinner.

Clean 15 minutes a day (other than the dishes/laundry that are pretty much every day.) If I work this in while I’m making dinner, that wouldn’t be wasted time, right?

Appointment television can help, too, if I only watch the shows I want to watch and not cruise the channels, I can spend that time reading, or working in the yard.

Getting my fellas involved would help, too, and address that whole family bit. I know the boy won’t walk with me, but maybe the dh will.

So what do you do to keep balance in your life? I’m open to suggestions.

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Mmm-mmm-good.

Firehouse Subs- Feed the Fire. Fast Food Franchise Opportunity and Great Subs!

We ate here for lunch today, because EZ's was packed. I'm so glad we did!

Things I'd Like to Forget about 2005

Things I’d like to forget about 2005

1) My cousin’s illness, though she’s on the road to recovery
2) The senseless deaths of my brother’s friends this summer that devastated him
3) The ds getting sent to prison school for having flyers for his band he intended to distribute at school
4) My mother-in-law’s month long illness
5) Katrina’s devastation (I know others who REALLY wish they could forget this)
6) Gas prices
7) The rejection of Hot Shot after 18 months at H/S and the resulting rewrite of the back half.
8) The rejection of Beneath the Surface
9) Not finalling in the first six contests I entered this year
10) Not going to Reno/the brouhaha following the awards ceremony
11) My kids doing so badly on the TAKS test that I had to go back for parent conferences IN THE SUMMER
12) The disagreements I had with not one but TWO webmistresses – I’m really easy to get along with, I SWEAR. But I could not appease one of them, no matter what I said.
13) Tom and Katie
14) Britney and Kevin
15) Jessica and Nick (and that Dukes of Hazzard movie, which was previewed at EVERY MOVIE I SAW this year)


All in all, 2005 was pretty good to me. But what would YOU like to forget?

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Duel on the Delta

Don't Look Back finalled in the Duel on the Delta!! I think it goes to Paige Wheeler... the categories changed because there weren't enough entries. But have any of you ever been notified by MAIL before?

Camouflage Heart

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I haven’t done book reviews on this site because, let’s face it, I hate writing synopses. What are reviews, but synopses?

Also, I have a lot of friends with books. A lot of friends with books I haven’t read yet (though I’ve bought them, they’re in my TBR.) And that’s just way too much pressure.

But this book….this book…..

It’s all Paula’s fault. She mentioned a book on her blog that seemed right up my alley. We have jungle, we have hostages, we have special forces hero – yum! Since I’d just finished writing a jungle/hostage book, I was curious, and I ordered it.

BOY am I glad I did. Non-stop action, smart heroine, determined hero, terrific setting, guerrillas, mudslides, floods….I started it Saturday morning (yes, Christmas Eve) and finished it last night.

This is a terrible thing to confess, but I often check page numbers of the books, to see how much more I have to read. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the book, it’s that I have so many OTHER books to read, and I’m gauging. Anyway, imagine my surprise when I looked at the page number for the first time in this book and found I was on page 54! This book moves FAST.

It’s the story of Brian, who has been held in a guerrilla camp for four years. He’s finally planned an escape, timed it just so, just as the guerrillas bring another hostage in. A woman. A terrified woman. He knows he can’t escape and leave her here.

Audrey is in Malaysia for an international adoption. Her sister Nicky has accompanied her, and when Nicky went on a jungle tour, her tour group was taken hostage. Audrey has come after her.

I know, I know, it doesn’t sound like a bright thing to do, but everything in this story makes perfect sense, is wonderfully motivated, and just terrifically fleshed out. This is the kind of book that makes you want to buy an author’s backlist (and I will.) I hope hope hope she entered it in the Rita, because this book deserves to win.

Also saw The Cinderella Man last night. I never could forget it was Russell Crowe, but the movie is AWESOME. JoAnn told me back in June, and I didn't believe her, but this is definitely a movie to own.

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This is post #300!!!!

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Monday Meme

Elizabeth got me again!

Seven Things To Do Before I Die:

1. Go to Europe
2. Make a living writing.
3. travel the US, esp the NE and NW
4. go on a cruise
5. be debt free
6. make a regional conference - outside my region
7. read all the books in my TBR pile

Seven Things I Cannot Do:
1. Plot
2. change a tire/oil/battery/windshield wipers
3. that multiplication trick for the 9s, where you bend your fingers – my fingers don’t bend
4. draw/paint/sew without a pattern
5. control the whims of the publishing world
6. take good photographs
7. Admit when I'm wrong

Seven Things That Attract Me To My Spouse (or Significant Other)

1. patience
2. sense of humor
3. eyes
4. salt and pepper hair
5. he can cook ;)
6. great dad
7. He loves me. I don’t know why.

Seven Things I Say (or Write) Most Often:

1. Holy Guacamole
2. Oh, hoot (I am a 3rd grade teacher, after all)
3. You’ve got to be kidding.
4. d@$* and $&!! (when I'm not teaching 3rd grade)
5. What are the cats doing NOW?
6. Ladies and Germs (3rd grade teacher)
7. Turn it DOWN! (mother of budding rock star)

Seven Books (or Series) I love:

1. Winter Roses by Anita Mills
2. anything by Catherine Mann
3. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
4. anything by Virginia Kantra, especially Sean McNeill
5. anything by Karen Templeton, especially Saving Dr. Ryan
6. Chesapeake Bay series by Nora
7. Camouflage Heart by Dana Marton

Seven Movies I Would Watch Over and Over Again:

1. The Mummy
2. Pride and Prejudice - BBC version
3. Two Weeks Notice
4. LotR trilogy
5. Independence Day
6. Pirates
7. Harry Potter (esp the first one)

Seven People I Want To Join In (Be Tagged)
1. Trish
2. Stef Feagan
3. Stephanie Bose
4. Bonnie
5. Michele from SA
6. Colleen
7. Michelle W

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Merry Christmas, y'all!

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Merry Christmas to all of you, with all the blessings of the season.

Let me know how your day went!

Updated:

My watch

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My charm

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My pen - only blue instead of black

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My box

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My hat

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My boy's surprise

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Pretty eyes, when you can see them

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Brother and wife in normal life - think they've been married awhile??

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The teens

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The end

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Things I Owe My Mom

Yes, she’s still around, but I’ve been thinking about her a lot this week (even though she just came over tonight to bring me oranges for the cranberry chutney) and thinking of all she’s given me (and my brothers.)

1) Putting others first (okay, this is more my brothers than me)
When she started teaching, she said her students asked her why she only had one pair of shoes. Yet when I was graduating 8th grade, she made sure I had pretty blouses for the parties, pretty shoes, pretty combs for my hair.

2) Sewing (me, not my brothers),
because she didn’t have time to sew for both of us. I repaid her by working at Winns and spending my paycheck on 99 cent a yard fabric.

3) Crocheting (again, me)

4) Obsessive compulsion – if one’s good, three’s better, and if I want it, I want it NOW. (me and youngest brother)
This could be a genetic thing, though. My grandfather was the same way. We call each other when we get this way, like the other day when I bough NINE skeins of yarn.

5) Traditions (all of us),
like Christmas Eve and going to the Christmas lights and decorating the day after Thanksgiving, listening to Bing Crosby's Christmas album. More than I can think of now.

6) Family (all of us)
My youngest brother loves family get-togethers, weird for a 16 year old. I guess part is growing up essentially an only child, but having older siblings.

7) Love of children (all of us, I think. At least me and middle brother)
and a sense that I’m really helping when I go to work every day.

8) Love of food. (ALL OF US. Did I tell you about going to see the lights last week, eating like pigs at Clear Spring Café, then going to Starbucks AFTER?)
Though she actually likes to cook.

9) Love of home (all of us).
It’s so important for me to be here for my boy, important that the house looks pretty (while not always CLEAN)

10) Love of music (all of us).
She used to put records on in the den and clean. I grew up listening to Helen Reddy, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Sonny and Cher. I don’t particularly like any of them, but I loved hearing Mom sing. She has a beautiful voice. She’d buy us Disney records, too. I knew all the stories by heart.

11) Love of TV/movies (all of us).
I know I’ve mentioned the times we snuggled together in the living room to watch shows. She loved cop shows best. Now she likes mysteries.

12) Love of books (all of us).
Even though she doesn’t read for pleasure, she always read to us, always had money for those wonderful Scholastic book orders.

13) Determination (all of us).
After her divorce, she finished her degree in 2 and a half years. She was determined to be a teacher, to have a job her kids could be proud of.

14) Memories.


There are things I know she wishes she’s given me, like a faith like hers. And I know she doesn’t understand my drive to write. But I’m still very lucky to have her.

I actually have two versions of salutes to my mom, and neither says exactly what I want to say. This one’s just a lot more to the point.

She may well kill me for this picture, but it’s the only one I have of us together. (Something else she passed down – the skill of avoiding a camera.)

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I can’t post Gerry or Dermot with this ;) but I promise I have some good ones coming up, thanks to Michele (no, that’s not a link, or you’ll PEEK!)

Santa's Reindeer

You Are Prancer

You are the perfect reindeer, with perfect hooves and perfect flying form.

Why You're Naughty: Because you're Santa's pet, and you won't let anyone show you up.

Why You're Nice: You have the softest fur and the sweetest carrot breath.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

Broke

Above my computer I have a poster of sunflowers that I bought at Michael’s when my son was a baby. I think the poster was $20 and the frame was another $15, and spending that amount on a poster, a decoration for my house, seemed so extravagant. $35. It took my dh almost a day of working in the kitchen at Chili’s to make that. That’s how we used to measure income.

This week I’ve spent around $150, just on frivolities, like yarn and candy and DVDs. I ordered jeans off eBay because they’re the only brand I know will fit me. We went out to dinner Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Thursday. Eating at McDonald’s was a treat, now we eat there almost every weekend for lunch. Over Thanksgiving break, the boy and I ate out every day, either lunch or breakfast. When we moved from our last house (a rental) to this one, the movers said, "Movin' on up, huh?" Uh, yeah.

There’s still enough of the penny pincher in me to cringe at the prices of some things, to deny myself some things based on price (okay, not MUCH, but it’s only been recently that I don’t buy the cheapest thing on the menu, or buy a DVD that’s not on sale. Okay, I still don’t do that.) I only buy books form Amazon when I have enough to qualify for free shipping. I buy meat and chicken only if it’s on sale.

I wonder if I’ll always appreciate a disposable income (I certainly hope I continue to have one!) I hope I can always remember how hard things were to come by, so I can appreciate them even more.

I watched Must Love Dogs yesterday. Was I the only one rooting for Dermot Mulroney? I know he’s short, but wow!

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Yes, I feel a little guilty. Only a little, though.

Cute Overload! ;)

Cute Overload! ;)

All together now....awwwww!

Titles

I think I got this from Marianne. It's fun - try it!

Lulu Book Title Analyzer

Hot Shot has a 41.4% chance of being a bestseller.

Don't Look back has a 20.1% chance of being a bestseller.

Beneath the Surface has a 10.2% chance of being a bestseller.

Midnight Sun has a 35.9% chance of being a bestseller.

What about your titles?

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Things I Learned From Cleaning Out the Pantry

Oh, that was soooo not fun. Only knowing I had DVDs and crochet to look forward to got me through it.

Some things I learned about myself:

1) I have 7 different cupcake papers. 7. Two Christmas, 1 Halloween, 1 football, one Easter and 2 plain. I use them for muffins, but I can't even remember the last time I made muffins.

2) I had three different Ziplocked bags of crackers. God knew how long they'd been in there.

3) Tea bags collect dust. Ew.

4) NEVER ask someone to bring you back praline syrup from New Orleans. I have 5 bottles.

5) You can't stack soup cans higher than 4.

6) No matter how many cookbooks you have, you NEVER know what to make for dinner.

7) It is wrong to have more baking spices than cooking spices.

8) I have enough ingredients from last year to make more friendship tea.

9) The dh gets irritated when he has to take out a bag of garbage a day.

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Popular Front: SnowDays

You can create your own snowflake!

Popular Front: SnowDays

Pimp My Nutcracker

main

I love being home.

Yesterday I had the kitchen (my room for the day) cleaned by 9 AM. I ran to Michael's, because they had yarn on sale, stocked up (meaning, bought 12 skeins, spent $45), was home by 9:30. I worked on Surface for a bit while drinking three glasses of grapefruit juice, got the mail (including a Christmas package from my agent - how fun!), got an email from her, went back to work on Hot Shot. Made lunch for me and the boy (Totinos pizzas are a tradition), watched All My Children (I'm weird, I like daytime commercials, especially cleaning products), worked on Hot Shot some more. I just need clarification on one thing she wanted me to change. Took a nap, got up, worked on Surface some more, made a goooood dinner of pasta, garlic bread and salad, sat in front of the TV and crocheted (watched Kingdom of Heaven, finally.) Just a perfect day.

Today, the kitchen pantry and fridge, Blockbuster to get Serenity. Cold and rainy today. Perfect crochet weather.

Kinda has a Clooney/Perfect Storm thing going here, doesn't he?

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Movie reviews

Since finishing Hot Shot (for the billionth time), I've watched a LOT of movies. So I thought I'd grace you with my reviews.

King Kong - good, too many close ups of Jack Black (I know, how could this be?), pretty manic action. I've read reviews that the NY scenes were the weakest, but they were my favorite. Lots of bugs, lots of vertigo-inducing shots. LOTS of deus ex machina. I wasn't expecting Kyle what's-his-name from Early Edition, though. No good previews!

Narnia - good, cool effects, especially the lion. And the minotaurs were pretty cool. Can you believe one of my students had to remind me of that word? They showed the preview for Pirates, though!

On DVD:

Fantastic Four - wasn't. I think it's because their powers are a little, well, wimpy. And Reed Richards? Can we say bland? I don't care if it was Ioan Gryffod.

Sky High - not too bad, actually. Kind of a Spy Kids meets X-Men meets Harry Potter. More Spy Kids than the others, with some Power Rangers thrown in. Good soundtrack.

Valiant - why I wanted to see this I don't know. I don't like birds. The good news is that it's just over an hour.

War of the Worlds - I expected to despise this. I actually really really liked it. Never could forget that Tom Cruise was Tom Cruise, though.

March of the Penguins - I'm buying this.

This week - Serenity, Must Love Dogs and Brothers Grimm on DVD!

Pulling Punches

WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Lost and Invasion (the shows have aired, but if you're like me, you may not have seen them yet.)

A couple of weeks ago, I watched two shows that in my mind didn't deliver on the promise made. The first was Invasion, where Larkin found out that Russ had committed a felony as a juvenile. She was angry he didn't tell her, even more angry when she learned it was something violent. So at the end of the story, he told her that he'd killed his uncle, who was a bad guy, because his uncle had killed his friend in cold blood. Yes, yes, good motivation and all that, but what if Russ had just been a bad kid and got turned around by working in the Everglades? Wouldn't that have been more interesting? If he'd done something bad just because he could, and then was redeemed?

Of course, I can't figure out, really, how it tied into his temper tantrum earlier in the show, which caused Larkin to suspect there was more to her husband to begin with. And if he had to work in the Everglades as his "sentence," when did he have time to go to college to meet Mariel?

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The second instance was Lost. For over a year, they've built Kate up as a baddie, right? She committed murder, she manipulated men, she was one tough cookie. Only, we find out that the man she killed was her mother's abusive husband. So she did it in cold blood, but I felt a little let down. That wasn't the action of a bad person. It was a desperate person. Again, I think it would have been cooler if she'd REALLY been bad and was now regretting it.

What do you think? Do you think Shaun and JJ pulled their punches? Have you ever written a real baddie to be redeemed? How did you do it?

We're off to see King Kong today, and I got a call last night from a lady ordering more scarves. I wish she'd left me a message of which ones she wanted so I could get the yarn before the movie.....

Mary's Christmas Vacation

So here it is, all laid out in front of me, full of possibilities. What do I want to do over the next 17 days??

Mail Hot Shot to Emily.

Finish revisions on Beneath the Surface.

Party at Cindi's.

Go see King Kong and Pride and Prejudice.

Go see Christmas lights.

Read.

Watch DVDs.

Stay cozy in the arctic blast expected to arrive next week.

Clean my house.

Get at least one home repair done.

Finish up last of my duties as The Golden Network treasurer, including getting the $$ to the new treasurer to start a new account.

Enjoy not having a schedule!!!

Raul report: He's coming home from the hospital this week!

Secret Santa report: Cindi didn't believe me when I revealed myself as her Secret Santa. Then she slugged me for tricking her. But she did love the joke.

School Christmas party: was a blast. My kids showered me with gifts, including a dozen tamales that we ate for dinner last night. I got Christmas decorations, classroom decorations, cookies, a teapot, candles....they spoiled ME for a change!

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Oh, and have you heard the new page counts for the H/S lines??? They cut 60 pages of SIM! 60 pages!! I just added 60 to Hot Shot!

Anyone know WHY?

Deck the House

Deck the House

Mothers

Since I have to go take my mom to work this morning and I FINALLY slept till the alarm this week, here's another cheat.

Just Mom

A woman, renewing her driver's license at the County Clerk's office was asked by the woman recorder to state her occupation.

She hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself. "What I mean is," explained the recorder, "do you have a job or are you just
a...?"

"Of course I have a job," snapped the woman. "I'm a Mom."

"We don't list 'Mom' as an occupation, 'housewife' covers it," said the recorder emphatically.

I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation, this time at our own Town Hall. The Clerk was
obviously a career woman, poised, efficient and possessed of a high sounding title like, "Official Interrogator" or "Town Registrar." "What is your occupation?" she probed.

What made me say it? I do not know. The words simply popped out.

"I'm a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations.

The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in midair and looked up as though she had not heard right. I repeated the title slowly emphasizing the most significant words. Then I stared with wonder as my pronouncement was written in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire.

"Might I ask," said the clerk with new interest, "just what you do in your field?"

Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply, "I have a continuing program of research, (what mother
doesn't) in the laboratory and in the field, (normally I would have said indoors and out).

I'm working for my Masters, (the whole darned family) and already have four credits (all daughters). Of course, the job is one
of the most demanding in the humanities, (any mother care to disagree?) and I often work 14 hours a day, (24 is more like it). But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are mo re of a satisfaction rather than just money."

There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk's voice as she completed the form, stood up and personally ushered me to the door.

As I drove into our driveway, buoyed up by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants -- ages 13, 7, and 3. Upstairs I could hear our new experimental model, (a 6 month old baby) in the child development program, testing out a new vocal pattern. I felt I had scored a beat on bureaucracy! And I had gone on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than "just another Mom."

Motherhood! What a glorious career! Especially when there's a title on the door.

Does this make grandmothers "Senior Research associates in the field of Child Development and Human Relations" and great
grandmothers "Executive Senior Research Associates"? I think so!!!! I also think it makes Aunts "Associate Research Assistants.

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Fried

So a cheat

People over 35 should be dead.

Here's why ...........

According to today's regulators and bureaucrats, those of us who were kids in the 40's, 50's, 60's, or even maybe the early 70's probably shouldn't have survived.

Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets, ... and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. (Not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.)

As children, we would ride in cars with no seatbelts or air bags.

Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.

Horrors!

We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we were never overweight because we were always outside playing.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes.
After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the street lights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day. NO CELL PHONES!!!!!

Unthinkable!

We did not have Playstations Nintendo 64, X-Boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, video tape movies, surround sound, personal cell phones, personal computers, or Internet chat rooms.

We had friends! We went outside and found them.

We played dodge ball, and sometimes, the ball would really hurt.

We fell out of trees, got cut and broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

They were accidents. No one was to blame but us. Remember accidents?

We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms, and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live inside us forever.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's home and knocked on the door, or rang the bell or just walked in and talked to them.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment.

Some students weren't as smart as others, so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade.

Horrors!

Tests were not adjusted for any reason.

Our actions were our own.
Consequences were expected.

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law.

Imagine that!

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers and problem solvers and inventors, ever. The past 50 years have
been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

I know, I know, a v-neck. Slim pickins, guys.

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An Ending I Can Live With

I finished the new ending for Hot Shot this weekend. I went to bed Sunday night not thrilled with it. Monday I was too busy to even reread it (a teacher ordered THREE scarves for this week! ACK!) Monday night I realized what I needed to do. I got started yesterday when I got home from tutoring, made two scarves, went to bed and got up at 4 AM. I finished the new improved ending at 6:07. Now, to see what JoAnn thinks....

Today is the only day warm enough to wear my Grinch t-shirt. Back to sweatshirts tomorrow, and next week is supposed to be REALLY cold! I love it!

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No word on Raul yet.

Secret Santa report: I'm feeling guilty. Cindi is just disgusted with her presents. So is it more important that she not know who I am, or that she gets cool presents every day (she'll get the cool presents, just not till she knows who I am!)

Contests

In 2004, I entered 9 contests and finalled in one. I won it, I got a request, I got a rejection.

In 2005, I entered 16 contests. I finalled in 6 (with 4 books), won 2, still waiting on 3, got 1 request.

Overall, I've finalled in 16 contests with 7 books. I've won 4 and gotten 3 requests.

The reason I'm going through this is that a friend asked me the other day if it was worth it to continue entering contests. Except for the biggies, I'm retiring now since I have an agent, and my main focus was to get in front of an editor. But as I look at my stats, maybe contest finalling isn't worth it. I love the thrill, I love looking forward to the days finalists will be announced, but is it worth the fees and the postage? 3 requests out of 16 finals? I've gotten more requests from query letters, even before I had any finals to credit with. And I target judges (except for Brenda Chin) who would buy what I write.

On the other hand, I never would have finalled in the GH without finalling in something else, so that at least was worth it.

What about you? Do you think it's worth the investment?


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Secret Santa update: Gave Cindi an cheap little resin Christmas bear. Had dh write the note, making a plural noun deliberately possessive. Asked her what she got from her Secret Santa. She made a face and said, "First of all, I couldn't read the note, and they PUT APOSTROPHE S!" Ha! My plan is working. Today, cheap Christmas coasters.

I WANT

Okay, once again I may be revealing too much of myself here. I may be a little spoiled. The reason I say is because what I want I usually get.

When I was eight, I was obsessed with horses. My grandparents gave me a pony.

When I was in high school I was obsessed with boys (I know, what's changed?). I saw my dh. I wanted him. He ran. I chased. I won.

The first time I saw this house, I wanted it. The first day we looked. I wanted it. I figured out a way to have it, though it was about $300 more a month than we wanted to spend.

I wanted an SUV. I've always loved classic ones. I saw an old Land Cruiser for $9000 with very few miles. I wanted. I couldn't drive it. It's standard. I bought it anyway and I learned, in the parking lot of the school district's sports complex. Now both cars are standard.

So now you see why it flummoxes me that WANTING to be published is hard. Everything else I've wanted, I've gotten. The dh was the hardest, and that only took 3 years (19 months was planning the wedding).

Maybe that's part of why I won't give up.

I WANT.

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School and stuff

I'm going to ask for good thoughts this week for my student's brother, Raul, who will be undergoing surgery this week for swelling in his skull related to a head injury (he hit his head on the edge of the trampoline.) I've known Raul since kinder, and I've always had a soft spot for him. Now I am teaching his brother, who is very very worried. So positive thoughts would be appreciated.

I heard from three of my former students Friday. Three. In one day. Not unusual, I guess, but they don't go to the same school anymore. One mailed me a letter, one hand delivered a Christmas card and one came to visit. I thought it was strange. But a nice reminder, especially this time of year, that I do make a difference, even if I'm ready to walk out. 14 of my 19 students showed improvement on the last benchmark test, which, after I was depressed that only 7 passed the easy test, made me feel better.

My principal is leaving after Christmas for greener pastures in the main office. We got an early childhood grant in our district, and she's going to head it. Better money, less stress, what more could you ask? She's elated - we're terrified. She's an awesome principal who trusts her teachers. We're hoping the VP takes her spot, but it's not very likely. He's only been in the district 2 years, and they like their own. But he has a similar philosophy to hers, and that's what we're hoping for.

The Land Cruiser gave us a scare when she wouldn't start Friday evening when the dh was ready to come home. We went to get her this morning, popped the clutch to get her going, got her home and found it was a loose wire. Whew!

I'm having a hard time hearing, if there's another noise around (which there always is, either TV or music or kids talking in the cafeteria). I need to make a dr appt for next week. This is so frustrating, especially since I already don't see very well. I don't like getting old!

But I did find new pictures of Gerry!

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What I Want for Christmas

I already showed the dh.



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The End

No, I haven't gotten there yet. Endings kick my behind. This one in particular, since I've already written two. My agent (will I EVER get tired of saying THAT?) thought I blew a chance for a gangbuster ending, so for the past two weeks, I've been working on a new one.

Okay, it may not LOOK like I'm working all the time as I stare into space or watch War of the Worlds (which wasn't as bad as I was told - if it had done well, I might drag out my scary futuristic and give it another look). But I've been thinking about it nearly every waking hour. My MIL even got in on the action. Every day she's called me and said, "What if....?" She was thinking my heroine was pretty heartless for holding herself back from the hero after he's saved her life. That didn't stop her from joining in the fun (for her, anyway.) Still, some of the things she suggested sparked other things.

Now I think I finally have something that will take care of the emotion and the suspense kinda all at once. I think it could be pretty good. I just have to write it and see where it goes. Then I'll email them to my agent, she'll see if that's more like it, I'll boost up the role of a secondary character and out it will go again.

Then back to Beneath the Surface. Guess what I have to work on there?

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Hey, Jealousy

I may be revealing WAY too much of myself here, but I think this is a topic too often shied away from.

Last night we watched Amadeus for the first time in years, and I found myself identifying, rather uncomfortably, with Salieri. Okay, so I’m not ready to burn other people’s creations or challenge God over it, but this week, particularly, I can understand his frustration, his “Why not me?” attitude.

Like Salieri, I’m not without my own successes, even on the day I heard the news that had me wanting to beat my head against the wall. Some days it’s just hard for me to see when someone else is making multiple sales.

Like Salieri, it’s one person whose success digs under my skin. It’s not that she isn’t deserving, because she works damn hard. And she may want it even more than I do, though that doesn’t seem possible. But she hasn't been at this as long as I have, and it just doesn't seem fair (I know, I know, I tell my kids, "Who promised you fair?")

Like Salieri, what rankles more than that person’s success is the adulation she gets from others. I don’t know why that bugs me more than the rest.

If I don’t watch myself, I’ll end up Salieri, known for nothing but bitterness and jealousy, my successes long forgotten. Most days it doesn’t bother me. But this week….

I don’t even deserve a picture of Gerry.

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Pet Peeves

Okay, so I'm a touch gripier today.....

So, some pet peeves....

Living with two men who don't do what I ask when I ask, then they forget, and it doesn't get done. We haven't had lights on our tree in two weeks.

Seeing the same commercial during Every Commercial Break. Anyone watch Triangle? Anyone else tired of the Heineken commercial?

Cleanser spray bottles whose tube doesn't go down to the bottom, so you have about a quarter of the cleaner left, but it won't come out.

Overhype on news, and nothing comes of it. Yes, it's cold, but do we NEED to hear about it over and over? At least they didn't promise ice like last time. And over the summer, there was an overturned truck that had blasting caps on it - and it was on the news ALL DAY.

Duty.

Tutoring.

Having a great brainstorm about my book, getting to school and not having time to write it down, so I forget it.

Not being able to find anymore pictures of Gerry.
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I know I left a lot out. What about you?

Launching a Star

Speaking of happiness....happiness is getting an email that your favorite ms finaled in a contest! Don't Look Back finalled in Launching a Star and is going to Micki Nuding.

I'm still working on Hot Shot's ending. Last night I had a dream and I want to make it a new story.....oh, the temptation. And the hero? Matthew McConaughey. (Don't tell Janice.) I realized why he can never be my dream guy - name's too hard to spell! ;)

Happiness is....

Cold fronts (sorry, Trish!)

Fuzzy slippers and flannel pjs and a favorite movie coming on TV

Having a new book or DVD waiting in the mail

A long nap

A long bath

Breakfast with my guys

Road trips

An unexpected hug

A note from someone saying you made a difference to them

Cooking a favorite meal (okay, not so much the cooking but the eating!)

A surprise dinner out

Money in the bank

All the clothes being clean

The house being clean for more than a minute

Great pictures of Gerry ;)

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What about you?

Why Women Are Crabby

Another cheat.....so fits how I feel this week!


We start to "bud" in our blouses at 9 or 10 years old only to find anything that comes in contact with those tender, blooming buds hurts so bad it brings us to tears. Enter the almighty, uncomfortable training bra contraption the boys in school will snap until we have calluses on our backs.
Next, we get our periods in our early to mid-teens (or sooner). Along with those budding boobs, we now bloat, we cramp, we get the hormone crankies, have to wear little mattresses between our legs or insert tubular, packed cotton rods in places we didn't even know we had.
Our next little rite of passage is having sex for the first time which is about as much fun as having a ramrod push your uterus through your nostrils, leaving us to wonder what all the fuss was about.
Then it's off to Motherhood where we learn to live on dry crackers and water for a few months so we don't spend the entire day leaning over Brother John.
Of course, amazing creatures that we are (and we are), we learn to live with the growing little angels inside us steadily kicking our innards night and day making us wonder if we're having Rosemary's Baby. Our once flat bellies now look like we swallowed a watermelon whole, and we pee our pants every time we sneeze.
When the big moment arrives, the dam in our blessed Nether Regions will invariably burst right in the middle of the mall, and we'll waddle with our big cartoon feet moaning in pain all the way to the ER.
Then it's huff and puff and beg to die while the OB says, "Please stop screaming, Mrs. Hear-me-roar. Calm down and push. Just one more (or 10 ) good pushes," warranting a strong, well-deserved impulse to punch the jerk (and hubby) square in the nose for making us cram a wiggling, mushroom-headed 10 lb. bowling ball through a keyhole.
After that, it's time to raise those angels only to find that when all that "cute" wears off, the beautiful little darlings morph into walking, jabbering, wet, gooey, snot-blowing, life-sucking little poop machines. Then the teen years. Need I say more?
The kids are almost grown now, and we women hit our voracious sexual prime in our mid-30's to early 40's while hubby had his somewhere around his 18th birthday.
Now we hit the grand finale: "The Menopause," the Grandmother of all womanhood. It's either take the HRT and chance cancer in those now seasoned "buds" or the aforementioned Nether Regions, or, sweat "like a hog in July", wash your sheets and pillowcases daily and bite the head off anything that moves.
Now, you ask WHY women seem to be more spiteful than men when men get off so easy INCLUDING the icing on life's cake: Being able to pee in the woods without soaking their socks...
Now I love being a woman, but "Womanhood" would make the Great Gandhi a tad crabby. Women are the "weaker sex?" Yeah right!!

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What DO I want for Christmas?

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The question has been asked. And I don't know if I have an answer. There are things I WANT (like an ending for this blasted book), but for Christmas.....hmmmm....

I may want a Tivo. I've stoppped taping shows I know I'm going to miss, because searching for a blank tape and programming, then going back to the other room (the only one with a VCR) to watch the show is just too...okay, I'm lazt and I don't like change.

I may want a housekeeper for a day. Just to get me back on track. Of course, I WAS back on track. It only took a week (and revising an ending that is driving me out of my mind) to get off track.

I could ask for the trip to Atlanta, but that's 7 months after Christmas! And I want to open something.

I could ask for Buffy/Angel/Law and Order DVDs, but I have some that I've not watched yet. Still, to HAVE them.

Books on CD, maybe, but I already have Nora's new hardcover, and Jennifer Crusie's only got Bet Me on CD, and I have that one.

What are you asking for?

And I'm still not sure what I'm getting him!

All My Children

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You know how I love my kids in my class. This last week was a toughie. What these kids have to deal with.....

One had to be removed from school because he has a degenerative respiratory disease and an immune system that can't even fight off the common cold. We're hoping he can come back in the spring. We were all crying.

One had to choose whether he wanted to live with his grandmother or his mother. He chose his grandmother because she can take better care of him and his disabled brother. He won't be seeing much of his mother because she and his grandmother get in fistfights.

One lost everything in New Orleans.

One lost her dad last year and sometimes cries all of a sudden.

One cries for his mother, who took his sister and moved out, leaving him and his baby brother with the dad. The dad is great, don't think he's not, but he wants his mom.

One has a brother who had a severe head injury and will be going into surgery in two weeks.

One has ADHD so bad the medicine doesn't help.

One can barely read, and was denied special ed because he's soooo low.

I love being a teacher, but I'm also a mother, tutor, social worker and friend to these kids. Some days I'm the only stability they have.

But heaven help them if they don't pass the state test :P

Secret Santa

Do y'all do Secret Santa where you are? You know, pick someone's name, gift them with little presents and clues for the week before Christmas, then reveal yourself and give them a big gift on the last day?

It's a big tradition in my district (I say this because I've been at 3 schools there and my mom has been at 2.) Well, this year I picked the hardest possible person.

My best friend.

We've taught together at three schools, we're right across the hall from each other, we know each other too well.

How am I going to fool her?

Here's my plan: I bought her really cheap, tacky presents for the daily gifts. Last year a man picked her and she got crummy gifts, and I'm thinking this will throw her off. On the last day, I'll give her her REAL daily gifts along with her big gift. What do you think? I feel a little mean doing that, because she will be disappointed. But she's also one to take a joke, you know? (She's the one who dressed up as Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite for Halloween.)

We're also supposed to leave clues. Here's where I need your help. She knows almost everything about me. I have no idea what to put. Of course, real clues about me combined with the tacky presents (okay, the little nutcracker really IS cute) might throw her.

Any ideas what I could give her as clues?

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Christmas baking

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You know, I’m thinking I may be revealing a bit too much of my mania on this blog ;)

If you think I’m a Christmas freak now, you should have seen me a few years ago. I had enough Christmas clothes for every school day between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Actually, I just gave away a couple of the jumpers and skirts this year because they don’t fit anymore. (Now I only have 11, but three are in sorry shape, so that leaves 8. And most are sweatshirts – not too practical in South Texas.) But I used to start sewing Christmas clothes in the summer, as soon as the new fabrics would come out.

My other mania is baking. I’d buy those little books at the checkout counter every year, sometimes 4 or 5 of them, and make the recipes I found in them. My Christmas shopping list was as long as my arm, and cost a small fortune. Every weekend from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I’d bake 2, sometimes 3 or 4 varieties of cookies and freeze them. I learned the value of parchment paper and a good oven timer. I had every counter surface covered, as well as my long table. I’d have cramps in my hands from squeezing piping out of a tube. I’d send the dh for burgers because if I tasted one. More. Sweet. Thing….

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By the last week of school, I’d have at least 8 tins filled. I’d take them to school, put out a tablecloth and a pretty platter, and open them up.

I was very popular.

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Of course, they’d eat all the cookies, then I’d have to bake more for the family. It was a vicious cycle. THEN I’d have too many left over and throw a lot of them away.

So, what to do this year? I’m not as pressed for time as I was. Still, the idea of all that baking….

I may just stick to the classics – gingerbread men, sugar cookies, molasses cookies, pretzel bark (easiest recipe ever) and sugar plums, which I used to make as a girl before I lost the recipe, only to find it again last year (it’s at Wet Noodle Posseif you’re interested!). That means no truffles or chocolate crinkles or any of the other tried-and-not-so-true recipes from those little books. And really, why go to so much trouble when you can buy them ready made??

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Goodreads

M.J. Fredrick's books on Goodreads
Breaking DaylightBreaking Daylight
ratings: 11 (avg rating 3.33)

Beneath the SurfaceBeneath the Surface
ratings: 11 (avg rating 4.00)

Hot ShotHot Shot (Samhain)
reviews: 2
ratings: 10 (avg rating 4.00)

Where There's SmokeWhere There's Smoke
ratings: 6 (avg rating 4.00)

Good Reads

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MJFredrick
I'm a mom, a wife, a teacher and a writer. I have five cats and a dog to keep me company. I love bookstores and libraries and Netflix - movies are my greatest weakness.
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