A Look Back at 2011

It’s once again time to take a look back at what the year has held.  (Where did the year go?)

This past year has been much better than the last one.   Let’s start with writing first.  In 2011 I wrote a blog every day but two (and I shake my fist at you, March 12 and December 9).  I finished a short story (With Honor) and two novels (Dragon Pendant and Life in Dreams), one of which was the result of my first successful NaNoWriMo!  I also e-published The Queen’s Butterflies, which has now sold at least 28 copies.  Not a bad year, as far as writing goes!

In my personal life, 2011 turned out to be a fun year.  I traveled to New York City, Dallas/Fort Worth, Arkansas, Minnesota, Illinois and East Texas, all in one year!  I learned to knit well enough to make Christmas gifts for my dad and sister (with one on the way for mom).  I read 35 books and National Geographics, which is lower than my average but understandable with all of the writing going on.  My social life expanded, too, as my circle of friends got a little more active, and I even started dating someone.  I also lost 20 pounds and won a weight-loss challenge at work, although a few of them have snuck back on in the last couple of months.

Work can also get a nod in my review of the year.  I attended three workshops for my favorite professional organization and presented at two of them.  I successfully nurtured two more major projects to fruition, and my department has stayed mostly intact and very stable.  I love my job, and it’s been a good year there.

There aren’t a lot of negatives to review, and they are small in their impact.  My divorce was finalized, which seems bad but was really a relief to have finished.  I’ve been really tired, probably because I’ve been so very busy, and I’ve had some small struggles with my finances.  (I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to find a second job – apparently I’m overqualified and underqualified at the same time.)

All of these are minor compared to the positives in my life this year, and I am looking forward to another great year in 2012!

Drama

If someone is holding a weapon at you and you have information that can save your life, what would you do?

That’s right, shout it.  Scream it, whisper if you had to, but you’d *tell* them.

At least, I hope you would.  I hope you wouldn’t say things like, “Just let me tell you what happened” or “Please listen” and hang your life on the chance that they gave you permission to talk.

What has inspired this little tirade, you ask?  Drama in the book I’m reading, the third in the series about the wizard with the lightning-bolt scar.  I would give you a spoiler alert, but really, if you haven’t read it yet then you are either not going to read it or should have read it already.

I’m just past the scene with Harry threatening to kill Black in the Shrieking Shack.  Several times (at least three!) Black has a chance to say “But it was really Peter Pettigrew” but he doesn’t say it.  I mean, really!  I understand the concept of drama, and suspense, and if I hadn’t read it before I’d probably be shouting “Kill him already!” instead.  But I find myself shouting, “Just tell him, you idiot!” several times, and it’s just a bit much.

Okay, I feel better.  Tirade complete, now back to the book.  I’m ready for Harry to learn the truth (clearly) and it won’t happen with the cover closed.

Words of Wisdom… Thursday?

Ok, so today’s not Wednesday.  I’m working a weird 6-day schedule at work and it threw my whole week off.  I realized last night that I forgot to do a quote post yesterday, and I had a really fun quote to share!  It’s my blog, so we’re going to do Words of Wisdom Thursday this week.  🙂

No theme today, just one-line quotes that you like!

“Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”  – H.P. and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling

“‘The bird who shall not be named’ is our recommended substitute for the name Mangrove Cuckoo.” – “Follow These Rules to See a Mangrove Cuckoo” from Good Birders Don’t Wear White

During the sixties, my father was the perfect hippie, since all the hippies were trying to be Indians.” The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

A Growing Reading List

I’ve gotten a bit obsessed since fiction has re-entered my life.

Today a friend and I were talking about what we’re reading, and what we have planned to read.  My list grew as the conversation went on.  Here’s what I have on tap:

All of the books about a certain wizard with a lightning-bolt scar.  (If I list the actual name, I’ll get spam comments like crazy.)  I’m currently on the third one, which I should finish tomorrow.

All of Christopher Paolini’s Eragon series.  I just got Inheritance, the fourth book of the trilogy (I know, right?), and I’m planning to re-read the first three before I break into it.

And, in no particular order:

The Hunger Games series
The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo and its companions
All of The Wheel of Time series

There are others that I’m not thinking of, I’m sure.  For now, I’m working on H.P.  and then the dragon books – we’ll see how long the reading binge continues… 🙂

Be Careful What You Wish For…

Last night I said to my sister that it would be really nice if the characters from Butterflies would start talking to me again, as I would like to work on the sequel in 2012.

I discovered the meaning of the saying “be careful what you wish for, you might get it” today as the characters were happy to oblige, but not in the way I was hoping.  I wanted to hear from the adult versions of the main characters.  Is that who started talking?  Of course not!

The creative side of my brain caught a wild hare and started trying to figure out how to split Butterflies into multiple books.  This isn’t a new concept; in fact, I’ve contemplated splitting it into a trilogy several times.  What is new is the crazy idea to split it into 5 books.  Yes, that’s right, five.

This would entail having a short-ish book for each of the three main characters as they grow up, a book with all of them together training at Butterfly Gardens (and introducing the other plotlines), and a final book to conclude the whole story.  This is where my characters started telling me their stories once again.  For each girl to get her own book, we’d see a lot more of the history of each.  If you’ve extrapolated and guessed where this is going, you’re probably right.  The adult versions of my main characters are quiet, but the toddler and preschool versions are talking my ear off!

I’m going to let this idea stew for a few days before I make a decision, although at the moment I really want to ignore this crazy thought.  It means a lot more writing and work, and I was just starting to enjoy reading fiction again.

A Book Addiction

I remembered tonight why I don’t go into bookstores, at least with the intent to purchase.

Usually when I go into one, I have the “don’t buy anything” mentality that keeps me limited.  (It doesn’t keep me to nothing, but I do typically manage to get out with only one paperback.)  Tonight I went in armed with the gift card that I was given by my best friend.

I spent a little more than the gift card.

To be fair, I did purchase the 2012 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, which I needed.  I was going to purchase this anyway, as my old copy is now very out of date and I am planning to start sending queries out again after the first of the year.  This was a somewhat pricey but necessary purchase and shouldn’t really count towards my gift card.  The original plan (before I got the gift card) was to use some of my royalties from The Queen’s Butterflies to buy it.  Reinvesting the book money into getting the book published is a good idea.

I also put down several books that I noticed, and I kept myself from even looking at several of my favorite authors, knowing that I was already in excess of my gift card.  I do have some self-control, but all of this only reinforces that I am a book addict.  There is a piece of advice given to new authors that I don’t really have to worry about: read a lot.  I think I have that one taken care of.  🙂

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you a joyous and wonderful Christmas!

I will be spending my day with family and friends, and I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy the same.

Wearing a Gift

I’ve been spending my day today in comfortable clothes, including a sweatshirt that I got as a Christmas gift years ago.

There is something you need to know about me before this post continues.  I’ve never been a fan of getting clothing as Christmas gifts.  According to my mom, I had a less-than-pleasant family Christmas as a child (in which I received a dress shirt and my sister got a fancy toy purse, complete with plastic keys and a fake compact) that soured me on clothing as gifts.  I may have put No Clothes on my wish list at least once, and my parents (mostly) obliged.  There were a few articles of clothing every year, including one pink sweater that was famously exchanged for hiking boots, but most of my gifts were things that could be read or played with.

This sweatshirt, which was given to me in high school, is an exception.  I was inordinately pleased by this gift, as it has a llama on it.  (I collect llamas.)  Of course, since I’ve had it for *coughs* years now, it is very comfortable and broken in but no longer particularly attractive.  Every time I wear it, I think about Christmas, even if for only a moment.  Yes, there are many gifts I still have and use, but inexplicably this sweatshirt is the one thing I own that reminds me constantly of its origins.

Maybe that’s what comes from being the surprising exception to a hard-and-fast gift rule. 🙂

Winter Songs

I love holiday music, and listening to some in my car today brought me an interesting thought.

When it comes to Christmas music, there are three broad categories.  There are religious songs (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing), there are secular songs (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Silver Bells), and there are the “Christmas” songs that are really winter songs.

This last category of songs intrigues me.  These are songs like Jingle Bells, Winter Wonderland, and Let It Snow that don’t mention a holiday at all.  Quick, think of the lyrics to Frosty the Snowman or Sleigh Ride.  Any Christmas, Hanukkah, or other holiday themes or words?  Nope, didn’t think so.  This leads me to the question: why do we stop listening to them after December?

For most of the country, snow and winter last at least until February.  Let It Snow and Baby It’s Cold Outside are very romantic and legitimately more appropriate for Valentine’s Day than for Christmas.  Sleigh Ride and Jingle Bells could honestly be played as long as there is snow on the ground.  And yet they get filed away with the Christmas songs every year.

Christmas is a big holiday and it has clearly commandeered snow and winter as part of its meme.  At this point I’m not sure that winter, as a season, could take back these songs or any of the other symbols of the season from the colossus that is Christmas.  Perhaps as a gloomy, cold season, its only fair for winter to take advantage of the light and joy of the holidays it encompasses.

Fear and Paranoia

My downstairs neighbor came home from a trip today to find that someone had broken into his apartment.  He came to ask for help, specifically the non-emergency police number, and to find out if I had heard anything.

I gave him the number, but I didn’t hear or see anything unusual.  (Since I didn’t know he was gone, hearing a door open or other activity downstairs wouldn’t have registered as odd.)

I am usually careful when it comes to this type of thing.  I lock my doors even when I’m just walking the dog.  I don’t advertise when I’ll be gone on vacation, even going so far as to not mentioning it in blog posts until I get back.  Still, the fact that there was a crime so close to my home makes me very nervous.

With this new threat, I’ve researched tips online for keeping your home safe.  (Having a loud dog doesn’t hurt.)  Being a naturally careful person, I’ve done all the right things with regards to my personal space.  I’m also planning to be extra-paranoid when it comes to any future travel.  Locking things in my desk at work makes me feel safer, since there is always someone in the office.  I’ve also been known to take things with me on trips, to make sure they don’t disappear.

It’s never nice to have a surprise reminder of just how careful one needs to be.

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