Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I *heart* Scotland

I've loved all things Scottish for as long as I can remember. I could listen to their accents all day and never tire of it. Some of my favorite books and movies are based on Scotland. The music is no exception. I'm a big fan of Belle & Sebastian, Silly Wizard, The Whistlebinkies, Camera Obscura, The Proclaimers, and on and on and on.....
John and I went to ATL Sunday night to see a band that I'm slightly obsessed with. OK, maybe slightly is a bit of an understatement. They're called We Were Promised Jetpacks, out of Glasgow, Scotland. Not only is this the greatest name for a band EVER, but the music is addictive too. I highly recommend a listen if you like rock music. They opened for two other bands from Scotland (The Twilight Sad & Frightened Rabbit) who were great as well. But I really went to see WWPJ. They rocked The Masquerade for sure. Afterwards, they were nice enough to hang out with fans. I got my LP signed and took a picture with the band. Very cool guys.
(from the left) Sean Smith-bass, Darren Lackie-drums, John, me, Adam Thompson-vocals/guitar, and Micheal Palmer-guitar.
Of course, I had to let them know that most of their album was on my playlist for writing. So now I have to figure out a way to write in Micheal (guitar) into the novel. haha. He requested to be the killer which might be weird since my character's last name is Jackson.
Anyway, with the assistance of a $70 beer tab (between John and myself), I had a pretty bad hangover the next day. I'm quickly realizing that I can't hang with the youngsters anymore. At least I can't recover as fast as they do. Which is why this blog is just being posted (3 days later).
So go out and get their album "These Four Walls." It rocks. If you can't find it in a store, you can download it from Amazon or from their label's website (FatCat Records).

P.S. (I'm adding this in a week later) If possible, I'm even more obsessed with this band and their debut album. I listen to it all the way through at least 3-4 times a day. And to quote the band, "I'm not even kidding!" I listen to it while trying wake up and cook breakfast for the kids ('Keeping Warm' specifically), and most of the whole album at work with the volume low so I can hear my patient's alarms, lol. I'm sure my coworkers are very annoyed with me for constantly humming the tunes and sometimes singing the songs out loud along with my iPod.
And just so you all know the lengths to which I'll go to see this band .... we had John's parents drive 2 hours to our house to keep the kids for us, and then we drove 3 1/2 hours to Atlanta for the concert. Not to mention, I swapped my regular sunday night shift for a weekday shift to have the night off. Being the opposite of a morning person, this was a big deal.
I'm very hopeful that they'll be playing a show when I'm in Scotland next May. That would be a great 30th birthday present for me :)

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Highlight of My Year

The day has come and gone entirely too fast. Last night was the book signing for Diana Gabaldon's newest Outlander novel, An Echo in the Bone. I've been looking forward to this for some time. For those of you who know me well enough, you know how obsessed I am with this author and her books, specifically the Outlander series. Hands down, the best books I've ever read.
My friend and former coworker, Erin, met me at the bookstore. She drove up from Huntsville, AL for the day. We were like two teenagers meeting the Beatles. I didn't even remember to eat dinner I was so excited. Dagan's stepmom Cara was also there with her own stack of books to get signed.
Diana spoke for about 40 minutes, then answered questions from the audience. The first question was one I had planned to ask: "What if any music do you listen to while you write?"
Her answer was that she didn't routinely listen while she wrote, but that nearing the end of this book she was listening to The Proclaimer's "I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)". I squealed with delight because this song, among other Proclaimer's songs, was on my own Playlist to listen to while writing. It was also the song I was listening to on my iPod when I pulled into the bookstore's parking lot that night.
Several of the questions were pointless, since their answers can be found on the author's website. There were many eye rolls from Erin, Cara, and myself. But the worst part was when this incredibly rude/dumb woman standing behind D.G. interrupted her to shout "I'm back here, and I have a question." I swear there was an audible gasp from the audience. But Diana was poised, and turned to the lady and answered her silly question. Her question was something about Diana's lineage and how her family came to the US in the 1800's. To be honest I didn't pay attention because I was so appalled that she'd interrupted her in the first place.
After answering questions, she read an excerpt from 'Echo' and it was a little racey. Erin, who's 19 year old son had been dragged along for our adventure, was standing behind me red faced with embarrassment because of the content D.G. chose. She whispered to me "I can't laugh with my son right here!"
After the reading, they called the first group of people to get their books signed. We were the third group, so we had a bit of time to wait. I desperately needed a beer to calm my nerves :) Cara mentioned there was a restaurant attached to the store. It looked like a coffee shop to me, but they did in fact have beer. So Erin, Cara, and I had a Blue Moon. And Erin's son Kyle, had a Dr. Pepper. By the time we'd finished our liquid fortification, it was time for our group to line up.
When our turns arrived, Cara went first, myself second, and Erin third. The staff was kind enough to take our pictures and we all took pictures of each other too. I swear to God, my palms were sweating and my heart was racing. I felt extremely stupid. But I walked up for my turn and tried not to act the way I felt. The bookstore staff had placed post-it notes inside each person's book with their name printed so we didn't have to waste time spelling our names. This was great since NO ONE can ever spell my name. When Diana opened my book, she said "That's a very pretty name!" I don't even know if I said thank you or not, because my ears were ringing at this point. I had two other books for her to sign, one for my mom and one for my nursing school buddy Jenny. She was almost done with my books when I finally said something. I told her about my listening to The Proclaimers. And I told her that Erin and I (and our husbands) were taking a Jamie and Claire tour of Scotland in May.

Then it was over. I needed another beer ;)
Cara and I got another beer, and Erin and Kyle said their goodbyes. Erin and I said "See you in Scotland." But hopefully we'll see each other before then.
I only got about five hours total of sleep last night, and I'm slightly hungover since I never ate last night. And the odds are against me for getting a nap before work tonight. BUT, I'm sure the high of last night will carry me through a 12 hour shift @ Vanderbilt.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

writing continued

So, my writing has gotten easier. And I think better, the more I write. I've been averaging 8-12 novel length (250 words/page) pages per day. I'm constantly amazed at the writing process. I started out with a dim framework of an idea for the story. It has changed a little everyday as I get to know my characters better. What I'd thought to have as flashbacks, has turned into a major part of the story line. So, now I have to re-write some of my earlier stuff to coincide with my "flashbacks." Anyway. I'm still a long way from being close to a finish. I know how it will end, now I have to figure out how it begins, lol.

Monday, September 21, 2009

writing styles and conquering the block

As I mentioned before I'm writing a book. While this is true, I'm quickly realizing what a daunting task I have taken on. The first few days of writing churned out around 4-6 pages per day. I've gone back and tweaked them a bit, and am pleased with them so far.
Today, I'm struggling over a few things.
1. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. I have all these ideas for scenes/chapters and I don't know where to start. Last week I simply wrote whatever scene stuck out in my head and wouldn't let me be. Now though, I can't seem to focus on one to elaborate.
2. I have mostly been writing in 1st person, my main character's. Though I'd really like to tell parts of the story in at least one other character's perspective, maybe two. I like books that do that. I'm not sure I can pull it off. I guess all I can do is try and see.
3. I have ideas for flashbacks, but I'm not sure if they're distracting to the reader or if it might annoy the reader.
4. I just don't know if it's really good. I think it is, and so far, the people who've read it say it's good. But they're my friends and family. I hope they're being honest, but that little demon called Doubt is rearing its ugly head.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sometimes your horoscope is actually useful

This was originally posted via Facebook August 13, 2009. I find that it's appropriate this week since I have started to write a book. Who knows how long it'll take me since most of my days are like this........

"Thursday, Aug 13th, 2009 -- You are not likely to veer off course today, even if an alternate route looks better than the one you have already chosen. One of your strengths now is to be able to recognize that there are different ways to reach the same goal and that what works for someone else isn't necessary your best choice. Graciously acknowledge the ideas that are presented to you and then get back to what you were doing."

Looks like my horoscope is spot on today. So, what started out as the day from hell, is gonna be alright.

To start the day off right, coffee in hand, I have a not so great conversation with my mortgage person. She tells me that instead of $8700 in closing costs (which we couldn't have come up with anyway) it's gonna be $9900! If I had nearly $10,000 sitting around, I wouldn't need to refinance my house! So our refinance is off. But now we can pay cash for our Scotland trip instead of putting all our savings towards the refi.

Fast forward to 10am-ish, and Ian presses some magical button on the remote that cuts off our cable. Every damn channel is ant wars. Steam now shooting out of my ears, I declare TV broken, and that's that. Bronwen waltzes over to the TV a few minutes later, turns it on, and works again.

So lunch time arrives. I'm fixing the boys some nourishment, and I hear what is either water pouring onto the floor, or someone peeing on it. Now, both the little ones are wearing diapers, and I am hoping like hell that Dagan hasn't taken up the habit of peeing where he shouldn't. I look around to find Bronwen holding a tub of Vaseline in one hand and the other crammed in the jar squishing it vigorously. She has the equivalent of boxer's gloves worth of goo on both hands. Good news is, that's the only place the stuff made it. Quick and easy clean up, but now we're out of Vaseline.

SO! I'm going to listen to my horoscope. I'm going to "graciously acknowledge the ideas that are presented" and start writing all my daydreams/ideas down on paper (or a Word document most likely). Who knows, maybe I'll have enough for a whole book. Goddess knows I've read plenty of them.

Here goes. I'm making lemonade out of my lemons. If things keep going like today, I'll need some Vodka to put in it though.

Old Christmas Story

This was originally written December 4, 2007. I was 6 months pregnant with Bronwen at the time. So, here's our story of going to see Santa.......

So today's the big day. We're going to see Santa. And like all excursions in my family, there were plenty of obstacles. I picked up Dagan from school as usual, no problems yet. He sat down to have a snack and some juice before the big trip to the mall. Ian was asleep on the couch. Now, Dagan knows we don't play with things at the kitchen table....It's a rule, always has been. He decides to try to open a big yellow highlighter, which is difficult for 6 year old hands. He pulls as hard as he can and WHAM!!!!!! The cup of juice next to his hand goes flying all over me and the floor. I'm about to lose it. So, in my usual fashion, I fly off the handle and ferociously tell Dagan that "this is exactly why we don't play with stuff at the table!!!!!" I swiftly clean up the mess. By now, Ian is awake. I fed Ian, and get the boys dressed in their new duds, and off we go. We find the mall okay (we've never been to the swanky mall in Brentwood/Cool Springs before). I get out of the car, lock the doors (still open), and open the trunk. As I close the trunk, the last open door swings shut with Ian and my purse safely locked inside. To my ever increasing demise, Dagan had already exited the car having securely shut his door. Which, by the way, he can't seem to do any other day of the week. Thankfully, a nice rich lady let me borrow her phone and I called John. He's on his way. Thank the Gods! Another generous passerby offers to get security for me. Two old guys and a kid who didn't look old enough to be driving the security truck show up. Dagan and I are freezing, and Ian is very content and warm in the car. Security calls the Fire dept. After a 5 minute wait and maybe another 5 minutes to break into my car, Ian (as well as my purse/phone) is FREEEEEEEEE!!!! This is what Christmas is all about. Helping our neighbors and being kind to others. So spread the holiday spirit, and be nice to people even if you're in a bad mood. It'll make your day a little brighter. P.S. The visit with Santa went great. Both the boys look handsome as ever!

Memory of 9-11

This was written on the morning of September 11, 2009........

Eight years ago, I was walking in my neighborhood, trying to start up contractions. I was overdue by at least a week already, and just plain tired of being pregnant. I tried every little trick suggested (sex, riding down bumpy roads, walking) and none of it worked.

So on that ill-fated day, I came inside from yet another attempt at going into labor, to find the world in turmoil. My answering machine was flashing like a strobe light with messages, mostly from my mom. They all said something along the lines of “turn on the TV.” So I did. You all remember what we saw.

The next day, I reported to my scheduled OBGYN appointment. Everyone was so dejected. Shell-shocked. Can you believe it? Of course you know the gas prices will go up. My sister lives in NYC. What are we going to do? My father works at the Pentagon. All of these things, thought or said, were fresh on everyone’s minds.

There was no progress with a “natural” labor, so I was sent to the hospital to start induction. I spent the next 58 hours trying kick-start my labor by means of medications and uncomfortable monitors. Finally, on September 14, 2001 at 21:38 I had a healthy baby boy via cesarean, William Dagan Aston.

The whole time I was in the hospital, five days total, I really hadn’t absorbed the events of 9-11. Driving Dagan to school today we were listening to the radio. We heard lots of things about the events that happened eight years ago. Dagan asked me about 9-11. I said that some very bad people kidnapped some planes with good people on them. Then they crashed the planes and killed thousands of innocent people.

It was more upsetting to tell an 8 year old what happened than to remember it. It gave it a voice. Made it real all over again. I found myself in the line to drop off kids at school teary eyed, snot nosed, in my pajamas, and out of coffee. Driving back home, my thoughts still on 9-11, I thought there’s no way to explain that day. Just saying some bad people killed some good people doesn’t begin to cover it. For those who were not old enough to know what was going on or weren’t even born yet, there isn’t anything we can tell them. Only facts. Just like the Kennedy assassination and Pearl Harbor are to my generation. We know a terrible thing happened, but it doesn’t affect us as much.

I hope you all remember, as if we could really forget. Just like the Holocaust and slavery, September 11, 2001 should never be forgotten. And if you find yourself explaining to a child some horrible event in history, you might get emotional and maybe even tear up like I did. Or not. It doesn’t matter. As long as we tell them.