Sisterly bonding over literature and the Dread Pirate Roberts

 

Today is my sister’s birthday!

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Here we are three years ago, laughing at the fact that we unintentionally wore twin outfits on a day when we were seeing each other for the first time in probably months. (We are not twins. I am on the right, if you need help with that. Some people do.)

We had a good chat on the phone today while she opened up the gifts that I mailed her.

(It’s the birthdays and other special occasions that making living far apart a little harder. We manage, though.)

I got to put my crafty itch to good use by making her a necklace and earring set with turquoise beads from the local stone and bead store. (Turquoise is one of the December birth stones.)

Homemade jewelry usually seems to be a hit with family members. (I haven’t tried it with my dad, though.) Anything homemade is typically well-received. Plus, those kinds of gifts are fun to make.

In honor of my big sis, I started reading a book she’s been recommending to me for a while.

Okay, I actually just wanted some easy reading this morning. I bought the book a couple of weeks ago (ish) because I needed a fifth paperback to get the 5-for-$1 deal at the thrift store, and my sister had been talking it up for long enough that I decided it was worth 20 cents.

That came out sounding wrong, but it’s the truth.

What I’m reading is The Lightning Thief, the first book of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan.

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cover image courtesy of goodreads.com

One of the many things my sister and I have in common (not that we aren’t really quite different in numerous ways) is a love of young adult fiction  – especially fantasy. We just never grew out of it.

And there’s not a gosh darn thing wrong with that. Books for teens and so-called tweens can be every bit as good as books for adults. Some of my favorite authors, who are excellent writers, write mostly or all books for folks younger than themselves.

I had a bit of a rushed morning, so I haven’t made a great deal of progress in the book, but so far I’m enjoying it and eager to read more.

I’m a bit disappointed that there’s apparently only one film, but then again, I may not even want to read the other books when I’m done with this one.

Sometimes I need to remind myself not to put the cart in front of the horse.

I gave my sister a book for her birthday in addition to the jewelry, one that corresponds to another shared love – The Princess Bride!

At our charming local bookstore, I found a copy of As You Wish, which is sort of a behind-the-scenes tale of the production of the film The Princess Bride.

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Let’s just get a closer look at Cary Elwes in that costume, shall we?

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image source: imdb.com

All righty. I’m good.

Anyway…

The book looked like a lot of fun for someone who has probably seen the film at least as many times as I have, which is firmly in the double digits. Firmly.

Also, this is the same sister (I only have the one) who once gave me a gorgeous copy of the 25th anniversary edition of the book.

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image source: 4shadowsbooks.com

 

Given the evidence, this year’s gift of As You Wish seemed appropriate. I hope it’s good.

Even if it’s only mediocre, there are still pictures of a young, swashbuckling Cary Elwes inside it, and honestly, that’s probably enough.

So, Happy Birthday to my sister, and happy reading to all (and to all a good night).

 


My family, the beta readers

Today’s post is sponsored by Grammarly!

I use Grammarly’s free grammar checker because it’s more readily available than my mom.  Just like with her, I don’t always do what it tells me, but it usually has good advice.

Red Pen

Photo credit: cellar_door_films

My mom has always been my proofreader.  For creative writing and for school assignments, I like to have her look things over.  She was an avid reader long before I was a twinkle in anyone’s eye, and she’s meticulous in her speech and her own writing.

There was no sloppy grammar in my house growing up.  She’d be on it like lightning – and you wouldn’t have thought she was even in earshot.

Mom has high standards, which is part of the reason I was afraid to send her the first draft of my 2012 NaNoWriMo novel, once I had completed it.  Rushing through 50,000 words in 30 days makes for a very rough draft indeed, and I was so burnt out after finishing it that I couldn’t even think about revising for a long time.

There were other factors, such as the less-than-favorable descriptions of my main character’s parents.  I didn’t want my mom to get the wrong idea.

So, I sent the book to my sister. (Actually, I emailed her the file, to be clear.)  I also printed out a copy for my husband to read.  (He liked it!)

As much as I value Chris’s opinion, he’s never been as ravenous about books as my mom, my sister, and myself.  He got into reading recreationally somewhat late in the game, and isn’t terribly keen on fiction anyway.

For that reason, I was really putting a lot of stock into my sister’s verdict on whether the book was any good.  She was even more ideal as a candidate for first reader because she tends to really enjoy young adult fiction. She would know, if anyone would, if my book was a good fit for that category (as well as if it stunk).  Thankfully, she’s a quick reader, so I didn’t have to wait long to hear her enthusiastically positive response.

Granted, she does like the Twilight books, so I took her opinion with a grain of salt.  Ha!

For a while, it was top secret between Natalie and me that she got to read the book.  I didn’t want to hurt Mom’s feelings.  It actually took an entire year for me to admit to her that Nat had read it, and to offer to send her the draft (still quite rough).  Of course, at that point it had been built up just from her waiting, so I was even more worried that she’d think it was super lame.

I did finally get up the nerve, and now Mom has read it and given me very relieving feedback.  She and my sister both had plenty of good things to say about it, and I imagine Mom is working up a few suggestions to send me soon – both thematic and technical.

a good point.

a good point.

My sister wrote her thoughts directly on the copy she had printed, then she mailed it to me.  She gave me real-time commentary on what the characters were doing, how my dialogue looked, and what her suspicions were of what would happen next.

That was a really great idea, and very useful.  Once I get around to really chewing through the revision process, having her input and suggestions right there on every page is going to be an excellent resource.

I’m still working on the early stages of my 2013 novel.  I decided to do things a little differently this time, and let my mom in on what I’m writing while it’s in progress.  Shortly after I sent her my entire 2012 work, I emailed her what I had of my second book so far, to get earlier feedback. I’m planning to ask my sister to do the same thing.  (She’ll read this, so saying that here pretty much functions as me asking, I suppose.)

The idea is to get suggestions while I’m writing, so that if someone has a really great idea, I can incorporate it and/or make changes before I get too far in.  Also, being reassured as I go along that what I’ve got so far is worth continuing has already given me more confidence to push on.

I’m so grateful that I have this kind of support from really well-read, intelligent family members.  I think I’m pretty lucky in that way.  It’s hard to imagine being a writer who wasn’t also a reader, but it’s also hard to imagine being a writer without the encouragement of friends and family who are lovers of the written word.

I don’t know if I could have ended up as a writer without a family who loves to read.  (Lest he get left out of this, you should know that it’s from my dad that I get my love of science fiction.  He introduced me to Arthur C. Clarke and Michael Crichton.)  I have been well-steeped in the literary world for my entire life.

With musical performance possibly tying for the top spot, writing is the thing I love most to do and seem to be best at.  It’s a direct result of the book-filled, language-loving, grammar-respecting household I grew up in, and that was my habitat thanks to the people who brought me into this world and have helped me to get through it unscathed.

Getting published has become a primary life goal for me.  When it happens — and mark my words, it’s going to happen — well, I bet you can guess whose names will be on that dedication page.


The Return of the Prodigal Blogger

Okay, so it’s been a while.  It’s been so long that I’ve probably lost most of my original readership.  With the exception of some loyal family members, I get to start from scratch.  I’ll try to see it as an opportunity.

I don’t want to get into too much detail as to why I’ve been so absent from my blog, but in case there are still some die-hard followers, I’d like to give a little explanation.  I will sum up, for anyone who is wondering, the events of the last year:

Last April, my husband and I bought a house, which was a long, arduous, and tooth-gritting process.  My heart was broken twice by things that could not be.  We successfully acquired a house on our third try, which was in the town we really had hoped to live in all along, unlike the first two.

this is one of the last photos I took of her.

this is one of the last photos I took of her.

Some sad things have happened.  During the final part of our real estate debacle, I had to watch the sudden and rapid decline of my beloved cat companion, Brownie.  Then I had to make the awful choice to end her suffering.

I don’t want to get into it any further.  I’m still working through it.  She was with me for almost 17 full years.  It was hard.  Moving into the new house without her was very bittersweet.

Then, because apparently life wasn’t quite challenging enough yet, I recently lost two very dear family members, both of them my mother’s siblings, in quick succession.  Neither of them were entirely expected, one much less so than the other.

This has been a difficult 6 months.  Actually, it’s been a difficult year.

Here's proof that I've actually been doing work.

Here’s proof that I’ve actually been doing work.

There has been ongoing renovation of our house to keep things interesting.  It wasn’t in bad shape, but it wasn’t clean AT ALL when we bought it, and it definitely needed some alterations to make it work for us.  (The house was split into two residences, so we had to open up a wall to connect an in-law apartment to the rest of the house, so that we could have use of two bathrooms without having to go outside and re-enter through a different door.)

We put a lot of work into making the upstairs ready for us before we moved in, sanding and cleaning and painting.  Now we are in the midst of a total kitchen overhaul, which feels like a terrible decision most days.

In the middle of all the chaos, I took a temporary job in the office of the company my husband works for, filling in for a woman who took maternity leave.  Most of the time, that also felt like a terrible decision.  It was only for a couple of months, but I had been happily, intentionally unemployed for a few years up until now.  Having a job again was quite an adjustment.  I’m awfully glad to be back home.

I ended my job at the beginning of November, which would have given me plenty of time to work on my National Novel Writing Month book, if family tragedy hadn’t struck, requiring travel and time to grieve.  The novel won’t be finished by December, but I will finish it.  My plan is to have it done before my 30th birthday in May.  This ought to give me plenty of wiggle room for putting together what I hope will be my first published work.

I’m optimistic about it, but the going is slow right now.  I have to drag myself to the desk these days, and fend off some very compelling distractions once I make it there.

I did manage to earn enough money at my temp job to buy the MacBook I’d been coveting for many months.  It’s a thing of great power and beauty, not to mention speed.  It can be difficult to get any work done on it while it’s just sitting there being so awesome, and I know there are endless cool things I can do with it.

See all the cool things?  So many cool things.

See all the cool things? So many cool things.

I have to remind myself that I bought it specifically for my writing, since my laptop was letting me down in a big way.  Now I can use WordPress much more easily, as well as edit photos that I want to use in my blogs, and manage all my social media.  (Take a peek at my Facebook page if you want to see a better picture of my lovely new computing machine, and the cheap table it’s sitting on!)

My iPad was great to get me by while I didn’t have a computer, but I just couldn’t bring myself to write anything other than emails and Facebook posts with it.  Now I have very few excuses left for being a delinquent blogger.

On that note, I’m going to wrap this up, so as to leave myself more things to say later.

I plan on coming back soon.  Thanks for reading!