2/08/2011 04:00:00 PM

Finding Love: Teenage, True, and Otherwise

This is not the post I had planned to write when I opened up my browser this afternoon, but sometimes that's how the best posts turn out, so I'll go with it.

I had planned on writing about revisions and finding crit partners, but I opened my google reader feed to see if there was anything going on that I should know about before I posted. (Yes, I read all my blogs my rss feed. I am the penultimate lurker, hehe) What I found was this post by Natalie Whipple about love and our expectations of it, both it book & movies, and in real life.

There is a reader mentality that she talks about that I'd like to discuss.

And this is not the first time I've heard this. I hear this off kilter argument all the timewhen people start ragging on paranormal romance or praising contemporary fiction.

"Oh, that relationship is so unrealistic! That never happens. People don't just take one look at each other and end up getting together. People don't do that undying dramatic love for all of forever."

"This relationship is realistic—they break up and hate each other forever and move on with their lives. The girl loves the guy, but he never notices and that's how it is. Betrayal. Divorce. Boredom. Fights. These are real." 

I understand that in the real world these are the circumstances many times. I understand that a lot of adults feel that it's a false advertising of sorts to imply to YA readers that they'll get that girl/guy they love and be happily ever after 9 times out of 10. It might be. But I've got to tell ya, that happens to some people. It may be complicated and messy, relationships are, it might be the hardest damn thing you've done in your whole life, but it happens. I'd know, it did to me.

On July 12, 2010, on our nine year anniversary, I married my best friend and high school sweetheart. I've never really talked about O and I's story on here or any of my other blogs, mostly because I assumed that anyone reading knew us and already knew the story. But I'd like to talk about it a little bit now, because this backlash that says it can't happen bothers me. It really pisses me off when we tell teens what you feel can't be real love, you're too young. The relationship you're getting into won't last, so it doesn't really matter. Seriously? F*$& that!

I spent much of my adolescent life head over heels in love with a friend of mine. It was destined never to work for a whole variety of reasons, but it was that aching, pining love you find in most YA books. Man, did that relationship ever give me angst ammunition to write YA for years. :) But if you had told me then that what I felt wasn't real or wouldn't last I would have been seriously pissed off. Ya know what? I still would be. Just because it was flawed and didn't work doesn't mean I felt it any less acutely at the time.

If anything I felt it more because I was at that age, not less. I hadn't become bitter of hardened by things going wrong, by all the crap there is to deal with. I felt with my whole heart from the get go. It was a long drawn out thing, with us falling back into familiar patterns and then breaking them and seeing other people. It was during  my sophomore year that I met O. He was a senior and in my creative writing class. He was smart, funny, older and seemingly wiser/more mature. I had a little crush, but he had a longterm girlfriend and I was still in love with the unnamed friend.

We talked during class that year, flirted a little (though unsuccessfully), and then he graduated and moved away for the summer and that was the end of things. See, O and I weren't even really friends. He was that guy you talk to in one of your classes that you never talk to or see outside of school. That's all. We were both wrapped up in other things. Other people. Though he still professes to have been madly enamored with me from the get go. Silly boys.

At the end of that school year I started a relationship with somebody new. It went on for over a year, but crazy happenstance, he was acquaintances and slight friends with O, despite a 3 year difference in grades. Yes, if you're doing the math, I spent a year in high school dating a boy in the grade below me. No, I was not a cougar-in-training. We were the same age, I was younger than most of the kids in my grade.

Anyway, he was emailing O while O worked at Cedar Point over the summer, and I sent an email to O also, saying hi and asking how he was doing. We didn't keep exchanging emails, but it was a gust of air that kept a little ember burning, if you will.

We didn't really talk again for almost a year. The next April, almost the end of my junior year, the boyfriend asked me to come along to O's birthday party. I did. O's long term girlfriend and he had just broken up and she was about to move away. Suffice it to say, I am a terrible girlfriend and O and I flirted like mad. After that night we kept talking. Mostly chatting online, some phone calls. After a few weeks we started hanging out. O lived about a half hour away so I would bum rides with his best friend when he went to see O.

Soon we were inseparable. We were talking constantly when we weren't hanging out together. I was very lonely for a lot of reasons back then and O quickly filled that void. He became my best friend. And it was through our being such close friends that we fell in love. I'm not saying it wasn't messy or complicated, I mean I was still dating somebody else (though, admittedly trying to find a way out of a sticky relationship). It was extremely complicated and messy. It almost didn't work. We even broke up once. It didn't take. (Mostly because Oliver can be stubborn, said you're being ridiculous, and then proceeded to wait for me to also come to this conclusion.)

We were young and sometimes stupid (not that we aren't also sometimes stupid now) and not as mature as we thought. There were times when it was the hardest thing I could imagine, there were times when it almost didn't work, times when I threw my hands up in the air and said, "I quit." But to say that it is impossible to find true love at that age, that is can't last, that what a teenager feels is just lust or infatuation may be true for some, but certainly not all.

Of course, you could argue that almost ten years is not that long, that I have no way of knowing what will happen to O and I, that we could still get divorced. And you might be right, I have no way of knowing what the future holds, but I find it highly unlikely. We have grown into our relationship and still remain best friends. We have moved from the knock-down drag-out brawl (metaphorically) level arguments we use to have, to something else. We still fight, don't get me wrong. But now it lasts less than a half hour and at the first sign of something even remotely funny we're both giggling and the fight is over.

I guess my argument for why I know it's possible for teenagers to find that person while they're young can be summed up as this: When I was a child I asked my father who his best friend was. He smiled and told me, "your mother." I thought this was a ridiculous notion. Mom didn't count, they were married. Wasn't it the guy he went bowling with or one of his work buddies? No, he told me, your mother is my best friend in the world. I shook my head and left, thinking he had cheated and given me a cop out answer.

Fifteen years later, as I married O, I had come to understand exactly what my father meant that day. My parents met in high school and were on again off again for several years until they married. In four months they will celebrate  their 28th wedding anniversary. Do not discount the love you find as a teen, it might not be the person you expect, but they might stick around a lot longer than anyone tells you is possible.

2/04/2011 09:06:00 PM

Overhaul Overload

I am a bit burnt out on anything even remotely connected to website design, but I am finished.

There will inevitably be a few tweaks. Especially as I start adding new content, since I didn't bring over a lot of the old posts, particularly ones about my writing which others likely have little interest in. But I did create a page for my writing, which has a page for each of my main projects with a short synopsis and current status. (My main YA projects are all listed, though none of the adult projects are because the synopses for them are all under revision.)

Also! I made a page for my cooking posts, which I love dearly. Now you can just click cooking and it will bring up a page with all the posts with that label. Neato! I lost the pictures they used to contain, so after I move to the new place I'm going to have to take new ones with better lighting.

So what do you think of the new layout?

2/04/2011 08:04:00 PM

Strawberry Pie

This one's a delicious pie that's perfect for spring. An excellent accompaniment to Easter dinner.
Strawberry Pie
  • 1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs (in my experience this ends up being one packet of graham crackers)
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2  quarts fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 (3 ounce) package strawberry flavored gelatin
Crush the graham crackers as finely as possible.  If you have a food processor, this is perfect for it. If not, just get them cruched as well as you can. I often put them in a ziploc baggie then crush them with a rolling pin.
Mix the crumbs with the sugar, melted butter, and cinnamon until well blended and then press into pie pan. If you use a smaller pie pan you may have some leftover crumb mixture, that's okay.
Bake at 375 degrees for 7 minutes.
Wash the strawberries, cut off tops and slice.
In saucepan mix together the sugar and cornstarch, blending thoroughly. Add the boiling water, cook over medium heat until it thickens. Remove from heat, stir in gelatin. Let cool to room temperature.
Pile the strawberry slices in the pie crust evenly. When the gelatin mixture has cooled poor over the strawberry slices. Place in the fridge to set.
Serve with whipped cream.

2/04/2011 08:03:00 PM

Book Snobbery

There's something that's been really bugging me lately. It's happened around me so many times in the last month that I took the time to sit down and put my thoughts on it into words. I have to say, book snobbery really angers me. There's little that annoys me more.

I don't care what you read, it doesn't make you better than people who read books you don't like. No type of book is inherently better or worse than another, you just like it more or less. Not every book that you didn't enjoy is bad. I will admit there are books out there that may be so poorly written that you may not like them for that reason, but most books weren't bad, they just didn't match your personal tastes. And even when it was writing that turned you off, most of the time it still wasn't bad, it just wasn't a style of writing you enjoy. There are almost 7 billion people on the planet, it's pretty conceited to assume your personal taste is the barometer for quality.
Even if your taste was so amazing that it defined good and bad, there's going to be a variety of quality in any genre. You're going to have a few stellar books, a few stinkers, and a whole lot of stuff in between.
Reading 1-5 books/series in a genre does not make you an expert on the genre. It's not even a good sampling, given how many books are published each year. Do not complain that you read: Harry Potter, Twilight, whatever, and YA sucks. Don't tell me you read one of your mother's romance novels when you were twelve and you're just not into that crap. And for God's sake, don't be one of those people who says I've never read one of those books, but I don't need to. If you haven't read one of those books (no matter which books those refers to), keep your mouth shut, you have nothing to add to the conversation about that genre.
You want the right to talk about it? Look up a list of the best books in the genre and go read at least a dozen, focusing on trying to find ones with stories/writing styles that suit your tastes. If you're not willing to put the time in learning about a genre you haven't earned the right to talk about it derisively. If you do put in the time and after all that reading you still haven't found anything you like, by all means, tell people you're not a fan. Just don't call it crap because it isn't your cup of tea.

2/04/2011 08:02:00 PM

YA vs. Adult Literature

So, now that we've gotten through my thoughts on snobby readers, onto my actual thoughts on YA vs. Adult literature.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I am a 25 year old who reads YA. I'd say about half of my reading is YA. However, I didn't really start reading YA until I was 19-20. When I was in middle school and high school there was very little MG or YA that I was exposed to that I was interested in. I don't even remember the Barnes and Noble I frequented in high school having a YA section, just one that contained picture books and chapter books for younger readers.
I think YA now is a very different beast than it was even ten years ago. And I think a lot of people make assumptions about the genre based on the days of Sweet Valley High. I think those who haven't been exposed to the breadth and depth of the current genre are missing out.
The objection most heard tends to be, I'm not reading that, it was written for kids, as if the person thinks it must be lesser than books for adults. The quality of the genre as a whole is extraordinary. YA is not a dumbed down or watered down read, like some adults expect. Teens are smart. Smarter than a lot of adults give them credit for. And they want robust, well written books just as smart as they are.
The other complaint tends to be, but I want a book about things that matter. YA these days don't shy away from anything. Sex, drugs, and alcohol aren't taboo. Teens will more than likely encounter them and YA reflects that without always turning it into a lesson on how only terrible tings will happen to you if you do them. Which isn't to say that they're glorified in YA, just that they're portrayed realistically.
There are great YA books out there addressing every type of child abuse, rape, addiction, poverty, pregnancy, suicide, loss of a loved one, abusive relationships, stalking, every type of sexuality, etc. There's a book out there for every teen to relate to, no matter what they're going through. And even if they're problems most adults wouldn't consider as severe as those listed above, they still seem like everything to that teen going through it, and they can find books that treat it that way.
Which isn't to say only teens can enjoy these books, because every YA has one commonality at it's center, a coming of age story. And no matter how old you're gotten, we can all still relate to that experience. We all go through it, and it's the core of every YA story.

2/04/2011 08:01:00 PM

How to Train Your Dragon

I went to see this movie with my family on Saturday. I wasn't expecting much, just a fun movie that I figured everyone in the family would enjoy at least a little bit. I left the theater blown away.  This caught me by surprise much the same way Sherlock Holmes did this past Christmas (which I couldn't resist seeing one last time at our second run theater Friday night). I had originally planned to recommend Sherlock Holmes today, since it will be out on DVD tomorrow, but that will have to wait until next week because I want to get this out while it's fresh.
As a writer, there are certain things I consume for entertainment (books, movies, certain tv episodes) that make me wish I had written them. They're not all that common, I have so many ideas of my own that I'll never get through them all, but some things just leaving me saying 'wow' in jealousy. The flip side of that coin is, as a writer, there's almost always something I would have done differently. How to Train Your Dragon is not only one of the rare things that makes me jealous, but I wouldn't change a thing.
The movie is gorgeous and fun, and would have been worth the admission price for those two things alone. But the perfect pacing, the characterization, and the way everything comes full circle make this a move to remember, in my opinion. There is much more I have to say about this movie, so many things I want to geek out over, but I'll have to do it with O, because I don't want to spoil a single thing about this movie.
I can't recommend this movie enough. I wasn't expecting much when I walked in on Saturday, but I'm certainly glad I went.

2/04/2011 07:56:00 PM


Originally Posted 04/02/2010

There's such a stigma associated with failing that I think we often hold back, for fear of failing. You hesitate to try because you might fail. You don't set a goal, or you set it low so you won't fail. And I can't help but wonder, what's the point?
Yeah, failing sucks. But if you don't try, if you don't push yourself at whatever you're doing, why bother at all? I've come to realize lately, that as much as it sucks to try something and have it go wrong, to set a big goal and not meet it, it's worth it for the times when you set that goal way out of reach, and then do manage to make it.
Now, I'm not saying you should have unrealistic expectations of yourself or the world around you. Something more along the lines of:Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars. -Les Brown 
I set some pretty lofty goals for myself in March. I had a lot of work I wanted to complete, and I would have had to push really hard to complete it all. I failed. But, because I set that goal, I completed far more than I normally would have. And crossing those things off my to do list, even if I didn't cross them all off , felt pretty damn good. It's a new month, what goals can you set for yourself, what can you strive for if you just set aside that fear of failure?

2/04/2011 07:54:00 PM

Sherlock Holmes

When I first saw the trailer for the new Sherlock Holmes movie, I was disinterested to say the least. Sometimes a trailer is just made for you, it hits everything that makes you sit up and say, "I HAVE to see this movie." Sometimes, apparently, it doesn't. Which leads to a squabble with your significant other about whether or not you are "getting dragged to see that piece of crap movie."

By the time Christmas rolled around he had worn me down. I still didn't *want* to see the movie, but I figured I'd go, watch some explosions, and munch on some popcorn. Not a bad way to spend a Christmas afternoon.

HOLY VICTORIAN BATMAN, WAS I WRONG! This movie grabbed me by the throat and didn't let go until the end. Yes, I knew what was going to happen in a lot of places. There is a reason why my friends and family calling spoiling a movie/book/tv show by guessing how it will end 5 minutes into the thing 'Hazen'ing it.' But it didn't matter. Yes, there are a few niggling plot points, and some things I'd change. But, still. It was like Star Trek, I was loving every minute of it enough that those few things didn't matter.

This movie ended up being easily one of my favorites of 2009. It is, in fact, the only non-Pixar movie I have paid to see more than once. Not only did we go see it again with some other friends, but when it showed up in the second run theater we had a date night and payed to see it a third time.

I wish the women in the movie had been a bit stronger, mostly that they had held up to Holmes and Watson, but I think part of the reason they couldn't was because Holmes and Watson were so stellar. This movie just brings out the total fangirl in me and makes me squee every time I talk about it. If you haven't watched it yet, give it a try. If you have, seriously, go watch it again. I know I will be.

2/04/2011 07:15:00 PM

Saving Francesca

Maggie Stiefvater and Tessa Gratton have both talked about how much they loved this book, so when I ran across it at my local Bargain Books I figured I’d give it a try. I bought it with Nobody’s Princess and Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. The stack of them have been sitting on the mantle since I came home with them five weeks ago. In the meantime I purchased a copy of Gail Carriger’s second parasol protectorate book, Changeless and Patricia Briggs’s Silver Borne.

It took me several weeks to get through Changeless (which is a whole other post waiting to be written). There was nothing wrong with the book; I highly enjoyed it. I just get into these reading slumps. They seem to be happening more and more in the last year and half than they ever did before. Each time it happens I fear I’ve lost my love of reading. I’m just apathetic about it, even when I’m enjoying something. But eventually a book like Saving Francesca comes along, and that apathy dissipates.

I finished Changeless yesterday afternoon just before I left to meet O for lunch, so as I was running out the door I went to grab my copy of Silver Borne. I don’t like to go anywhere without a book, in case I get caught just sitting around waiting. Normally I have at least one backup book stashed in the car, but we’d just cleaned it out this weekend and I needed something. Silver Borne has disappeared, however. A roommate must have moved it, because I searched high and low and can’t find it anywhere. So, in a rush I grabbed a book off the mantle and left.

Wow. Thank goodness I did. This is one of those books that just blows you away, refilling the well/recharging your batteries. Not only did I want to reread this book right away, studying it, but it left me ravenous, wanting to burn through my TBR list. The characters in this were so expertly crafted, I’m in awe. It sucked me in and wouldn’t let go. I read it in less than a day, the way I used to read everything. I couldn’t put it down. And I get the feeling that the subtlety of the characterization is going to haunt me for weeks.

It makes me want to go through my WIP and perfect the characterization now that I’ve seen it done. It lit a fire making me want to read and write so much more. I can see why this one was an award winner.

2/04/2011 05:52:00 PM

Ladies, do yourself a favor

Go get fitted for a bra. If you’ve never been professionally fitted, if you’ve lost or gained weight, if you have a special occasion coming up and you need a new bra for the outfit you are going to wear…go get a professional fitting for a bra! I know it can feel silly or embarrassing, but you’ll thank yourself.
I needed a plunge bra in a different color to wear under my wedding dress, so I went to Lane Bryant Friday morning. They were having a sale on, buy 2 bras get 2 free. Great, I thought, I’ll spend a little more than what I was planning and get 4 times as much! So I got my normal size. But when I went to put one on before my fitting I realized that all the walking  I’ve been doing (more on the walking tomorrow) has started to show, and my bra size had changed.
Thankfully, I was able to exchange the bras, and the lovely ladies at Lane Bryant did a sizing for me, and found the perfect fit for me. And I couldn’t be more thankful. It makes a huge difference. After 5 minutes in their fitting rooms listening to other women struggle to figure out what size they needed, I am completely convinced every woman should take the time to have it done. The B cup of a 32 band is not the same size as the B cup of 36. Let a professional help you, and make sure you pass the advice on to the other women in your life. They’ll thank you.

2/04/2011 05:50:00 PM

Grilled Pizza

I was going to post more about the wedding planning today, but it is imperative that I interrupt your regularly scheduled post for the most amazing pizza recipe ever. It will require a grill, a stand mixer or some fierce dedication to great pizza, and some planning on your part since you will need to make the pizza dough a day ahead of time, but it’s worth it!
Step One: Pizza Dough (otherwise known as: You Are About to Hate Me If You Don’t Have a Stand Mixer)
In bowl or stand mixer combine: 2 tblsp sugar, 1 tblsp kosher salt, 1 tblsp olive oil, 3/4 cup water, 1 cup bread flour, and 1 tsp yeast.
Mix on low until combined. Slowly pour in 1 more cup of bread flour.
Once everything comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl (if it doesn’t add a little bit of flour and mix for 30 seconds, repeating as necessary), stop mixing. Dough should be tacky, but not wet. Add 1 tsp garlic powder and 1 tsp dried basil.
Now here comes the hard part if you don’t own a stand mixer. Lightly coat hands or dough hook with olive oil. Knead (by hand if you don’t have mixer with dough hook) on medium for 15 minutes.
Once done kneading remove from bowl. It should remove from hook and bowl easily, barely sticking. Place in glass bowl. Let rest five minutes. When you come back the dough should be smooth, very soft and not sticking to your finger if you run it lightly over the top. Pour two tblsps olive oil over the top and flip dough, coating the ball in olive oil. Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Step Two: The Next Day
Make or purchase your favorite alfredo sauce.
Two and a half hours before dinner remove the dough from the fridge. If you’d like two smaller round pizzas, split dough in half. For one larger rectangular pizza, leave as is. Sprinkle clean counter top with cornmeal. Place dough on cornmeal and cover with damp kitchen towel. Let rise one hour.
Boil 2 split chicken breast in just enough water to cover. When done remove and cool. When cooled remove skin and bones, cube meat. If you’d like to skip the skin and bones part just cook up 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts (bake or boil so they’re nice and soft on your pizza) and cube.
Fry up some bacon. Let drain, then crumble. Set aside.
Come back and punch down dough. Get towel moist again and cover dough. Let dough rise one more hour.
Brush a red pepper with olive oil and place on plate.
Cut the top and bottom off an onion, remove skin, slice and place on large piece of aluminum foil. Brush slices with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with kosher salt, and fold foil into packet, leaving small crack at top to vent steam.
Wash and slice several roma tomatoes, brush both sides with olive, sprinkle lightly with kosher salt, and set aside on red pepper plate.
Cut top off head of garlic (two if you really like garlic), so tops of cloves are visible. Place on foil, drizzle with oil, sprinkle lightly with salt, and fold foil into packet.
Bring all your veggies outside to the grill. Spray grill with olive oil. Place packets, tomato slices, and red pepper on grill. Turn tomato slices as first side is nicely grilled, then remove when other is done. Place red pepper over hottest section, turning occasionally and letting each side blacken. When everything is done remove, set aside. Put pepper in paper or ziploc bag to steam.
Wait 5 minutes, remove pepper from bag, peel off skin. Slice the pepper open, remove seeds, then slice into strips. Set aside. Remove garlic cloves from skin, mash with fork, set aside.
Punch dough down again. Rub your hands with a little bit of olive oil and begin stretching dough out. Once you can’t get it any further put it back down on the counter and let it stand for 15 minutes. Come back and finish stretching it the rest of the way into shape.
Brush one side of dough with olive oil, place that side down on the grill. It will begin to puff up quickly. Once that side is almost browned to your liking brush top with olive oil. Use tongs to flip. Here’s the catch to grilling the pizza dough. If the grill is hot enough the pizza dough will grill very quickly, solidifying before it sags through the spaces between the bars. It will however burn easily if you don’t watch it VERY carefully. If it does burn it tends to be easily scraped off the bottom with a knife or fork. If the grill isn’t that hot you are less likely to burn, but the dough will cook around the bars and it can be difficult to remove. If you’d like to take extra precautions you can cook the dough on a cookie sheet placed directly on the grill. It will take longer, but be more forgiving. If you do this I suggest when it’s mostly done placing it directly on the grill for 15-30 seconds on each side before moving on to the next steps.
Once second side is browned, remove to cookie sheet.
While letting grill cool down to medium heat, spread your mashed garlic onto the crust. Spread the alfredo sauce over top of it. Cover with the best quality mozzarella you can find/afford (the better it is the better it will taste, but it’s still great with basic shredded mozz). Do NOT use water packed mozzarella. Your pizza will thank you for it. Place fresh basil leaves over the mozzarella. Sprinkle with parmesan. Place grilled tomato slices, roasted red pepper slices, and caramelized onions on pizza. Add cubed chicken and crumbled bacon. I also add sliced kalamata olives because I’m an olive fiend.
Place back on medium heat grill. Cover and cook until cheese it melted and bubbly.
Remove pizza carefully. Sprinkle with parmesan. Serve. Enjoy the most orgasmic pizza ever.

2/04/2011 05:49:00 PM

Banned Books (Day 1)

So, to start out banned books week posts, link roundup:
The ALA Banned Books website. Where better to go for info on banned books than the American Library Association, people?
How well do you know your banned books? Turns out I only know it 6/12 questions well. More reading for me.
Banning books irritates the crap out of me. Not the I want to grind my teeth and try to pretend it’s not happening kind of way, but the I want to throttle people and shout kind of way. Even more than I hate being told what I *must* read, I LOATHE being told what I cannot read. Not only do I generally find book banners to be ridiculous, repugnant little people, but I have yet to meet a book banner whose reasons for having a book banned I agree with in any way.
The closest I’ve come is ‘I don’t want my kids reading this.’ Great. So don’t let your kids read it. I think you’re probably making a mistake. I personally love Lilith Saintcrow’s policy for her children.
We have a reach-and-read-it policy in our household. “If you can reach it, you can read it, and if you cannot reach it, get a stool!” I am not in the habit of censoring books for my children. If I find something objectionable, I discuss it with the child reading it. We talk about how I feel, how the kid feels about it, and the kid is free to read it as long as we’ve discussed it.
The entirety of that post can be found here. Suffice it to say, if/when I become a parent, that will be my policy. But, regardless of whether or not I think you’re just not letting your kid read it because you’re too lazy to talk about the content with them (though not too busy to make a fuss and get the book banned) what gives you the right to take away another parent’s right to let their children read it? What makes you, you book burning piece of trash (yes, I’m a little touchy on the subject) the end all of what’s good and right and should be allowed for other people?
I think that’s my biggest problem with book banners and burners. Aside from generally being pretty dumb (and Jackson Pearce is right, who doesn’t hate dumb people) they are so arrogant and conceited that they believe their beliefs and ideas are right to the exclusion of letting anyone else choose for themselves or their children. If you disagree with them, you just don’t know any better and they must protect you and your children. And that, folks, makes me want to throttle people. It boils down to book banners being arrogant, conceited ass-wipes so full of themselves they believe they should get to decide what you can and cannot do because they know the truth and you do not. Not. Cool.
More thoughts on book banning tomorrow. But focusing on the banned books instead of the book-banners.

2/04/2011 05:48:00 PM

Banned Books (Day 2)

Shorter post today with much less ranting.
I had a rough childhood. My teenage years in specific. So I say with experience, if you take away a single book that a child would have turned to as a safe haven, you are doing the world a disservice. It doesn’t matter if that book held some fundamental truth about something terrible, making that child realize they were not alone in the world and others had dealt with it, or if it was a matter of simple escapism for a few hours. There are so many kids out there who need it. If you take even one book away, and it could have been helping even one child, the world is a worse place for it.
There were few things that helped me hold on through those years. Books were one of them. It’s why I write. It’s, specifically, why I write for teens. Because that’s when books mattered most to me. They helped save my life. And I fear those banned books, missing from the shelves, won’t be there to save someone else.A

2/04/2011 05:47:00 PM

Speaking Loudly About Banned Books

I’ve started typing this post three times so far this week. Every time I chickened out and deleted what I had typed. Not this time. This is going to be a hard post. If you’re squeamish about rough subjects, if you know me and don’t want to hear it, if you know what’s coming from the title and don’t want to know: stop reading now.
There’s a man in Missouri named Wesley Scroggins. Perhaps you’ve read articles or blog posts about what he’s trying to do. In case you have not, he is pushing for a book ban on Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel Speak. He wants it removed because he says it is “soft pornography”. The sex scenes he considers pornographic? The rape of a teenage girl.
1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. 60% of those assaults will never be reported to the police. And that man wants to silence a book about surviving and speaking up. A book that has helped more people than most will ever realize.
People like me.
I’ve considered writing this post before. There have been other stories in the news, awareness months, etc that have made me consider it. In the end I never did. When I was growing up, what had happened to me was public knowledge. Everyone around me was aware of what had happened. I didn’t have the choice of hiding it from the people in my life. As an adult I’ve had that choice for the first time in my life. It’s hard to let go of that. To put my story on the internet, for anyone to read, where it will never go away. But the things I’ve been through, the others who have come to me with their stories…I cannot stay quiet. I must speak loudly. For those who can’t, or haven’t, and might be helped by knowing they are not alone.
I was sexually assaulted by my older cousin when I was a child. I could not even begin to give more details than that because, frankly, I don’t know them. I know it started probably around the time I was 6. The things that happened my brain has locked away from me and I can never be sure of what it lurking in there. I have a few memories that I am certain of. And a vast amount of things I used to think were just nightmares my brain had concocted. Until several of them were confirmed to me by family members to be things that actually happened to me. Which makes me fear that they are all memories. I will never have any way of knowing.
I didn’t speak up as a child. Fear. Shame. Not truly knowing how wrong what was happening to me was. There are a lot of reasons why child me kept quiet. I sat through a week long class about it every year through the sixth grade without ever connecting the terrible things we were learning about with the terrible things that happened to me. They had stopped. I never knew why. I’m not sure I cared.
And then a family member revealed why. Because my cousin had moved onto her. I hadn’t spoken up, and he’d had the opportunity to hurt her because of it. I spent the next eight years of my life struggling with that fact every day. Every night as I lied awake, afraid to close my eyes because of what I knew would be waiting for me. I had to speak up about what had happened to me. It just took a little girl, 4 years younger than me, and infinitely braver, to show me it was okay.
Despite the things that happened to me, I am very fortunate. My parents went straight to the police, though my aunt and uncle asked them not to, to “let them handle it as a ‘family’”. I remember the state police coming to interview me around Christmas during sixth grade. I remember the giant teddy bear they brought me to try and make up for the reason they were there. I remember being taken to the state appointed psychiatrist every week for months. I remember our testimony being recorded so we would not have to appear in court. Not have to see the person who had done these things to us. I remember him being sent to prison.
That’s where my luck ran out. The woman I was assigned to was appallingly bad at her job. She told me I would never trust men again. That it was okay to not trust my father, brother, or any of my male friends (ie, all my friends). It had never occurred to me to relate what had happened to any other men in my life. Still hasn’t.
I remember going to parole hearings to keep him in prison. I remember writing a letter to the parole board asking he be kept there because what if it had been their children. Wouldn’t they want that man locked up? I remember being told he’d never be able to contact or get near me again. I remember the day I removed a letter from him to my mother from the mailbox. I remember the day he called collect from prison while I was home alone. I remember being afraid constantly until I was 22 years old.
I also remember the police questioning every other child in my neighborhood to be sure nobody else had been assaulted. Which led to a boy in my grade, a boy I had considered my best friend for most of my life, telling everybody he could what had happened to me. Everybody. Not a thing most 6th graders can be trusted to handle maturely. From that day on there would be people around me for the next seven years who felt the need to tell me what a slut I was because of what had happened to me. Except, stupid redneck children they were, it wasn’t what had happened to me, in their opinions, it was what I had done.
But that was also the beginning of something else. An unexpected consequence of having my secrets shared with everyone around me for the next seven years of school. Every year, somewhere in the school, I would get cornered by kids wanting to tell me what had happened to them. Kids who had never uttered their secret to another soul, kids who often barely knew me, wanted to blurt out everything that had happened to them because they knew everything that had happened to me. Kids who had never had courage to speak out, found that courage in me.
Which is simultaneously an amazing thing and an unbearable weight. To know you’ve helped someone by giving them someone to talk to about something that will eat you up from inside out, like acid etching away at stone until there’s nothing left of you. But I could barely get through life carrying the weight of the things that had happened to me. I struggled with severe depression all through middle and high school as it was. Being a secret bearer for everyone else in my school district that had been sexually assaulted nearly made it impossible to carry on. And yet, I never turned a single person away.
I always knew, before they even began to tell me their story, why they were there. Whenever I was cornered, alone, and the person had that look in their eye, I knew what was coming. I could have made excuses to leave. To not have to hear. To not carry that weight for them. But I didn’t. I had been one of those people, who would have carried the secret their whole lives, if it hadn’t been for one brave little girl who got me to speak up. It was my turn. To listen. And to always suggest they speak up. I don’t think any of them ever did, but I suggested it every time and then added their secret to my burden. Looking back on it, I’m sure carrying that weight was partly penance for not having spoken up sooner and protecting somebody else. The only penance I could find to pay.
I’ve lost count of the number of people who have confided in me. It is large. Frighteningly large. Girls, boys, rich, poor. There was no common thread other than the pain they’d all experienced. The flow of people who have shared that secret with me has not slowed as an adult. I know most survivors don’t broadcast what happened to them. I’m a little different. I never had the luxury of keeping it a secret. Not after that day when my mother asked if it had happened to me too. So, as an adult, I’m very lenient with that information about myself. It’s not who I am, but what happened to me played a large role in shaping who I would become. So I admit to it, freely and often. (Just never before as freely as on the internet.) And the number continues to grow as more people I have met as adults tell me their stories.
Worse than the occasional asshat calling me a slut growing up, was when I started dating. It was okay at first, because during my freshman and sophomore years of high school, I mostly dated guys from other schools. When the guy wasn’t there to hear the guy in the hall call me a slut and laugh, it wasn’t so bad. I shudder to think what it would have been like if the boy I had been absolutely head over heels in love with through most of high school had still gone to our school. He moved away before it all came out, before my cousin was sent to jail, and I think being able to keep him separate from all that, having a friend who didn’t look at me and think only of what had been done to me/see that as who I was, was one of the only things that kept me going back then.
Then I got my first serious boyfriend from my own school. Worse, he lived in my neighborhood, and his brother had been one of the guys who made sure word of what had happened to me spread not just through my grade, but of those higher than me too. We had been dating for less than three months when, excuse my language, his brother began asking very loudly in front of others, if my boyfriend was “going to give it to [me] like [my] cousin did”. The slut comments got worse after that. Sometimes I don’t know how I made it through.
But I did. Not only did I make it through everything, but I found the man I would marry during all that. Granted, I didn’t start dating him until a few years later, at the start of my senior year of high school, but I found him. I won’t lie and say that once we were together I was suddenly all better. But, BIG but here, I am now. Partly because of the stability he gave me, the unconditional love, the healing he helped me through. But, even more than that, because of me.
I will forever have a very big, very visible scar. But every year it fades a little more. It nearly tore open, in fear and panic, the year my cousin was released from prison. But it did not take long before I confronted that fear and tamed it. I am no longer afraid. I am no longer ashamed. Something terrible happened to me and I LIVED. I survived. I’ve been a rock for more people than I can count. I’ve found a rock of my own. And if you’re still reading this, if something similar has happened to you, you can too. If nothing has, consider finding ways to be that rock for someone else. But mostly, please, speak loudly. Do not let little men, afraid of who knows what, silence anyone else. We have enough silence. Silence will never make the problem go away. Speak loudly in every way you can think. Personally, I’ll be donating a copy of speak to a local library this weekend. One copy of that book will be able to speak more loudly than I ever will. I wish I had had a copy when I needed it most.
Author Jim Hines’s page on rape. Awesome guy who has gathered a lot of links for people who need them.
And several more posts in support of Speak

2/04/2011 05:38:00 PM

Link Salad

Originally Posted 10/03/2010

After the last post I’m a little emotionally drained of new material. Thus: link salad.
This is in the oven right now. If you haven’t tried it, go do so. Your taste buds will thank you. It has quickly become one of my favorites.
This post is a month old, but rereading it in my starred folder of google reader, it held extra weight this month. Aspiring writer? Aspiring anything, really? Go read it. Sometimes you think it would make everything better if you just had an idea of what’s waiting, but this is a good reminder why you really shouldn’t know.
I’ve been floundering a bit with my writing lately. It’s a mini crisis of sorts. It feels like I’ve been pounded with back to back stuff from life for so long that I’ve reached this point of exhaustion. Sometimes I get so caught up in making sure everyone around me is taken care of that I tend to forget about me and the things that I want for myself.
Sometimes I forget the cost of writing. Or the cost to me of not writing. So I need to just take Lilith Saintcrow’s advice, take care of my needs, sit my ass in the chairand write. And if I can’t seem to do it, Jenna Black has some good advice at keeping my ass there.
So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go devour my enchiladas, watch an episode on my dvr, finish a good book, and get some sleep so I can get up in the morning and start chipping away at the WIP.

2/04/2011 05:35:00 PM


What a crazy year. Lots of unexpected family stuff. My kitty nearly died. But we saved him. It was a very frightening month or two.
We were worried we might lose my grandfather, and after a few scary months things are looking up. I got married! Didn’t see that one coming, even though Oliver and I had been together 9 years. My little brother got married. My little sister got pregnant and is due any day now. Our house was broken into. Our neighbor’s was broken into and Oliver and I called 911 and chased the burglars. We adopted a dog.
Like I said, a crazy year.
So, my resolutions/to do list for 2010:
  • revise Queen of Freaks Done! Approximately 7 times.
  • write Queen of Freaks synopsis
  • revise Queen of Freaks synopsis
  • draft Courting Death
  • revise Courting Death
  • submit Courting Death Only to Writer’s of the Future, but I think it counts. It needs some editing before I submit again.
  • send Queen of Freaks to betas
  • revise Queen of Freaks for feedback Trunked Queen of Freaks instead of moving forward with it. It was the right move. Maybe I’ll come back to the idea some day, but I would need to rewrite the entire thing from scratch, and I just don’t have it in me currently.
  • query Queen of Freaks
  • draft adult urban fantasy  Began working on Feral instead. Have not completed Feral, but I have made good progress…after scrapping everything three times and starting over until I found the right story and the right starting place.
  • draft 12 short stories  Just 1 completed. A half a dozen more started. I have hopes of coming back to a few of them this year.
  • read 100 books  Nope. Only 34 this year. I had trouble finding things that I really fell in love with this year. My tastes were changing and it was hard to pin down what I needed in books afterwards.
  • blog 200 times Ha! Try 51, plus drafts for 12 more that were about topics that it was difficult to articulate my thoughts on in a way that I was satisfied, and thus need to be revised and polished before they could be posted. Plus 2 more about Doctor Who, and 1 for the Vampire Diaries that I never posted because they felt a little too fan-girlish.
I’m not going to list all of the books I read in 2010. I’m not sure I even remember what they all are, I only wrote 34 of them down. But! I do have a few I want to gush over.
I still adore Ilona Andrews, Richelle Mead, Devon Monk, Kim Harrison, Gail Carriger, Caitlin Kittredge, CE Murphy, and Patricia Briggs. There are others I really love too, but each of those writers has a series which is a guaranteed pick-me-up, even when I feel like I’m in a reading slump, and they surely didn’t let me down this year.
New to my author/book love list this year:
Kristin Cashore: Graceling was amazing. I’ve been holding off on reading Fire until I know when Bitterblue will be out because I know I won’t be able to hold back once I start reading and will gobble it up, leaving me desperate for the next.
Robin McKinley: Don’t know how I went so long without reading her books, but started with Beauty this year and am working my way through everything else. This is pure love. I longed for these sorts of books when I was young. I really wish a librarian had put them in my hands back then.
Diana Wynne Jones: Ditto. For the number of times I’ve watched Howl’s you’d think her books would have been devoured long ago, but no. Oh, Howl, how I love thee. I’m in the middle of Fire and Hemlock.
Melina Marchetta: Saving Francesca had been sitting on my shelves for the longest time before I finally read it. Should have picked it up when I first bought it.
Suzanne Collins: Didn’t read The Hunger Games until this week. Burned through the entire trilogy in 2 days while I was sick. The Hunger Games was definitely my fave of the three.
And, to finish up, my resolutions for 2011:
  • write at least 250 words per day and keep bumping up the word count as the weeks pass until I find the comfortable daily output to aim for that stretches what I can do without the quality suffering because I’m pushing for a higher word count
  • read 100 books
  • at least 10 of them nonfiction
  • at least 10 of them classics
  • at least 15 of them not YA or fantasy
  • finish drafting Feral
  • draft sekrit project YA
  • write at least 6 short stories
  • blog  3 times/week
  • walk at least 5 hours/week
  • make a budget
  • sort through all of Oliver and I’s stuff and throw out/donate anything we no longer need
  • organize what’s left
  • buy some plastic drawers and organize all my different craft supplies in them
  • make a point of getting together with my family at least once a month
  • make a point of getting together with Oliver’s family at least once a month
  • sort/sell/giveaway our comic collection. just do SOMETHING with them.
And now I’m off to finish cleaning our bedroom and organizing the clothes and all the belongings in it. I’m already well on my way towards the getting rid of what we don’t need and organizing what’s left. I hope to be done by the end of the week. And it will certainly make moving easier in a couple months.

2/04/2011 05:34:00 PM

2011: So far we've had the good and the bad. Must we have the ugly?

I jinxed my kitty by talking about him. The day after my post he ate my roommate’s peace lily. Which is apparently highly toxic to critters. But, after a scary stay at the vet’s, he just came home. He may also now be the most expensive thing in said house. 
That was the bad. What was the good? My new nephew was born this morning!

Landon was this morning, bumping Oliver and I into the double digits for nieces and nephews, though he is the first on my side of the family. We got to stop by the hospital this afternoon and see him before we had to go pick Baal up from the vet. He is so cute and tiny. Also he has super long fingers. I wonder if my newest nephew is destined to be a pianist.
Personally, 2011, I’d be perfectly happy if you’d skip on the ugly. So, I mean, feel free to save yourself some time and just skip it. I’ll bask in the good.

2/04/2011 05:24:00 PM


I love cooking. I love that thrill of trying some new recipe, something you’ve never made before. I’m always a little disappointed when it doesn’t turn out or it’s just not to my tastes. But! When something new turns out well, when you take that first bite and you know this a new favorite, and OMG! how did I not know about this, I made something great today. That, my friends, is one of the best feelings in the world.
I bring this up because A: I made this last night. It was AMAZING! I’ve never had the dish at all, let alone made it at home. And, even though chicken and pasta are far from Oliver’s favorites (he complains loudly whenever I announce I’m making one or the other, let alone both), he was blown away by it. We stuffed our faces with it the last two nights. That’s how good it was, he ate leftovers without complaining. He still talked about how great it was. Go forth, make yourself some. Now. Well, not now, because it’s 9:30 at night now, but soon. You will not regret it. Unless you’re vegetarian. Then go make it with some eggplant slices dredged in egg and coated with panko  (japanese bread crumbs). You’ll still thank me.
And, finally, B: Because I’ve come to realize how similar writing and cooking are. Bear with me. You have a recipe for either. I know, I know, everyone hates formulaic fiction. But there’s still a recipe that’s followed in good fiction. You need characterization. Enough to make your characters feel real. And part of that is making sure their motivation is visible and understandable, even if the reader wouldn’t react in the same way. You need worldbuilding. Enough to suck the reader in and make them feel like they’re living in the pages of your book. You need a plot. Even if it’s about a person changing, there still has to be a plot. You need conflict to drive that plot, lest it fizzle out. Proper grammar allows the story you are trying to tell to be understood. There are a dozen more things.
Just like cooking, they can be combined in different quantities for different effects, but there is still a base formula to follow. And just like cooking, when you write something new and it falls flat there is the disappointment. Maybe you can fix it with a few tweaks, maybe the dish needs to be dumped out and remade from scratch (hello, completely rewriting the book), but at least you probably know where you went wrong and have an idea of how to fix it this time. You might not. It might take four or five tries. You might never get it right, or vow never to make it again. Much like me and pork chops until this last year.
But in both writing and cooking, maybe you should give it another shot later on. Don’t give up on something forever. Just because you don’t have the skill to make something now, doesn’t mean you’ll never have the skill needed. In the last five years both my writing and my cooking skills have steadily grown. Every time I do either of them a lot, when I get to the end of a big push I can look back and see how much better I am than I was before.
And just like cooking, when you get it right there’s that stupendous thrill when you take a bite/reread a section and realize, not only did it turn out, but it turned out really well. Especially when it’s something new, some new experiment you have tried before. Fried rice when you’ve never made asian food, or a science fiction short story when you’ve written few short stories and no sci-fi. Man, that feeling really is the best. So off I go, with a belly full of a delicious new recipe, to work on that sci-fi short story that’s turning out better than I ever would have expected.

2/04/2011 05:22:00 PM

Website Redesign

I get bored easily. I dye, cut, or shave my hair on a whim because it's been the same for too long. I randomly feel the need to repaint, redecorate, and rearrange my surroundings. It's just the way I am. And it's been a year since I designed my website, so it's definitely time to change things up in that department.

I realized how much I hated having to load up Dreamweaver and start planning and changes I wanted to make to the site. That was before the real work even began. Once I had made the changes and fought through something going wrong every step of the way, I finally had to upload the changes. Of course, once I was done I would inevitably realize I'd done something wrong somewhere along the way or it didn't show correctly in a certain browser (*cough* Safari and IE, I'm looking at you *cough*).

So, I decided that not only was I going to redesign the site, I was going to make a fundamental change to it. Blogger now gives you up to ten 'Pages'. Nifty, static pages that they are, they were essentially the same pages I had linked at the top of my old site. Which means that I essentially have no reason not to use Blogger as the base for my page and simply host it through my own domain.

It means content changes will be easier. All the stuff for my page will be backed up, not only across 2 of my computers and Dropbox, but through blogger as well. Whenever I'm the teensiest bit bored I can change the style of my page with relative ease and thousands of gorgeously built layouts to choose from. All in all, it works much better for me. 

What does this mean for you, if you're visiting my site or getting this through an RSS feed? That it might be a little dusty around here as I renovate over the next week or so. Also, if you're getting this through a feed, I apologize in advance. Because of the rebuild I will have to post any of the old entries I would like to save. Which might flood your reader. I am very sorry. Please know that I am not reposting all entries, just the ones I feel have some merit worth saving, and that it will be over sometime in the next fews days. Thank you for your patience. 

2/04/2011 04:57:00 PM

Pot Roast

Some pot roasts can be dry and gross. But a good, moist roast can be the simplest dish in the world.
Pot Roast
  • a 5 pound roast
  • 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 packet dry onion soup mix
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • several tablespoons of flour
Put the roast in a crock pot. Add cream of mushroom soup, onion soup mix, and water. Stir to combine.
Set to low, cook 7-9 hours.
Fifteen to twenty minutes before you're ready to serve dinner, remove roast to platter. Whisk in flour 1 tablespoon at a time until gravy is thickened.