I can't believe I've never posted this before!

The lovely and uber-talented Natalie Whipple did me the honor of drawing a scene from my book, Jaded.  I felt like the luckiest writer around to get to see my characters come to life through her art.  So without further ado, I present (for those of you who haven't already seen this) Jade and Jet...arguing.  It's just what they do. :)

I highly suggest clicking on this to blow it up.  I absolutely love the expressions on their faces.

Here's a little blurb about the book:

In the world Jade lives in, superheroes are all about the glory.  When she agrees to take a job as an analyst with the International Bureau of Remarkable Genetic Assets (or IBRAG as she prefers to call it), she  hopes to stay working behind the scenes and not directly with the Assets (she has a nickname for them too).   But she’s smart, and her impeccable mission plans quickly get her noticed.  Before long she finds herself promoted to the coveted position of field agent, and despite her reluctance, she’s sent on a mission with a dozen of the world’s hot-headed, self-important superheroes.

Between Deja View’s constant need to tell her, her five minute future,  “The” Hawk’s efforts to perpetually paint her as a damsel in distress,  and the appearance of an old flame, Jade begins to regret ever agreeing to head up the mission to save the world.  Then she meets Jet.  Some supers wear super suits, some wear Armani, but Jet is the first one she’s met who wears faded t-shirts and threadbare jeans.  From the top of his sun-bleached head to the flip flops on his feet, Jet looks more like a surf bum than he does a super-sonic hero

Seven Things.

Kasie gave me a blog award that entails revealing seven things about yourself others may not know.  She challenged me to come up with something she didn't know about me too.  Considering she's my best friend and knows a lot, that may be hard, but I'll give it my best shot.

1.  I absolutely LOVE terrible 80's love songs.  The cheesier the better, and if they have a bad video to go along with the song I love them even more.  But probably my favorite all time eighties love song/video is actually not from the 80s. It's from the movie, Music and Lyrics.  I'll share...

2. At my grad night I made my own music video with friends to Vanilla Ice's, Ice Ice Baby.

3. I  hitchhiked in Mexico. (I don't recommend hitchhiking ever.  It was really stupid.  Aren't you glad you didn't know that before mom?)

4.  I've been stung by a scorpion.

5. I once salsa danced with a member of the Mexican mafia in Mexico City. (Okay, sorry again, mom.  But I didn't actually know he was mafia at the time.)

6. I participated in some very embarrassing fashion trends in my childhood, like the fan bangs coupled with a bad perm and the wearing of overalls half undone.  My favorite overalls were pink and purple flowers.  (I feel like I need to apologize to my mom again.)

7.  In college my fashion sense improve marginally.  Most of the time I looked like this.

But then I would end up looking like this:

Which one time led to this:
The frown on my face is not so much for the broken arm as it is for the fact that my husband had to fix my hair for eight weeks.  It was almost enough to cause a fight (I say almost because we had only been married a few months and were still blissfully unaware of each other's faults).

So there are my seven things.  I hereby pass this award along to Voidwalker and Shannon, two of my favorite new blog reads.

I recieved an award from Laurel that also has me list things about myself.  The timing is very convenient. :) Thank you for your thoughtfulness Laurel. 

A time for reaching out.

I love this Christmas picture.  It reminds me of the simple joy of Christmas children experience.  It also makes me think about how my own Christmas experience has changed throughout my life.  I love this time of year.  The smell of cinnamon pine cones fills my kitchen and a beautiful red and gold wreath greets all who enter my house.  I find that I'm focused on family and anticipating my long visit home.  I read Benjamin a little storybook about the birth of Jesus at night and we sing Christmas Carols instead of Lullabies.  It's just a warm and fuzzy month full of yummy smells and hope and joy and the people I love.  My life is blessed.

Yet, I realize that this is not a happy time for all.  My husband is often on call, and recently that means more time away from home dealing with tragedy and emergencies.  He's a psychologist and this time of year is busy season.  Why?  Because it's also the time of year that tragedies in our lives can seem overwhelming.  Stress can become almost unbearable for those who have lost jobs and are struggling to hold onto homes or just feed their families.  It's also a time when we feel the loss of  loved ones the most.  This will be my first year home without my grandparents and it's hard for me to imagine the holidays without them.  Yet, I feel fortunate because I know that there are many who will spend their first Christmas without fathers and mothers, siblings and children.  I hope that they will receive an outpouring of love and hope from those around them.  I hope that I will be one of those people to help lift the burden of my neighbor in some small way.

It seems to me that the last few years have been trying ones for many Americans.  Unemployment is at it's highest level in almost three decades.  We've experienced terrorism on our own soil and we're fighting two wars abroad.  People are hurting.  But through it all we are being refined.  On a national level,  I've watched with tears in my eyes as stories of heroism and generosity beyond what I could imagine have been displayed in the news.  I love seeing those stories.  But more than that I love seeing the little things that happen everyday and that seem even more abundant during the holidays.   I've seen the true character of so many people I love and respect emerge through their trials this year.  I've seen people I know are suffering reach out to those around them and forget themselves in service.  I've seen generosity from those who have very little.  I've seen dear friends battling sickness and loneliness with renewed faith and hope.  I am in awe of the human spirit.  I'm overcome with the capacity of men and women everywhere to love and give when times are tough. To me that is what Christmas is truly about. I believe giving to each other is a small token we can each pass along to acknowledge our gratitude for the gift of love we all received that first Christmas.

Every year I get older it seems that Christmas changes just a little bit.  The anticipation of receiving gifts gives way to the anticipation of watching a child's eyes light up.  The pleasure of holiday meals and sweets begins to pale in comparison with the gratitude for physical and mental health.  I find that my eyes wander more often to the nativity than they do the Santa countdown clock.  And the excitement of shopping and parties and Christmas skiing trips can't hold a candle to the simple joy of going home.  Perhaps the biggest change is that giving thanks has become less of reflex and more a true expression of my gratitude for life, even the difficult parts of life that refine us, bring us together, and in the end add to the depth of our ability to feel joy and love.

***I realize this is two serious posts in a row.  What can I say, I'm cyclical.  I'm sure I'll be back to nonsense in no time.

Why Write?

I've been out of town this weekend (my first trip to Canada, WooHoo), so I'm a little late on the Happy Thanksgiving wishes to all of my online friends. So happy belated Thanksgiving everyone.  I hope your day was wonderful!

I have a lot to be thankful for this year, not the least of which is getting to know so many of you.  Forgive me for getting a bit personal on a writing blog, but on this Thanksgiving I want to say what writing has meant to me personally over the past couple of years.

In January of 2007  I was a stay at home mom with one two-year-old little boy and the wife of a graduate student.  I was active in my church and community and had several good friends.  I had quit my career about a year before we adopted our son .   I LOVED being a stay at home mom.  I had no desire to go back to work and leave my beautiful child alone during the day.  I loved my life, and I was grateful for it.  Yet, I felt the desire to do something personal, to set a difficult goal and accomplish it, to prove that I still had a brain capable of tackling things other than impossible stains on my son's clothes or trying to figure out how to make dinner without ever cooking.  I was craving mental stimulation.

I didn't want my college education to feel like nothing more than a certificate printed on nice paper.  Unfortunately, my college brain... mush (it happens after sustained periods without adult conversation, I learned).  I wondered what to do.

Then one day as I was jotting down random thoughts in one of my notebooks about characters I was imagining I realized the answer was staring me in the face. I had always loved writing, but I guess I'd never considered that I could actually do anything with it.  But with more alone time on my hands (my husband working and going to school and my son still young and napping) I decided that rather than watch Oprah or the like in the afternoon, I would apply myself and write a novel.  What could it hurt?

At first I was very private, even a bit embarrassed about what I was doing.  After all, who was I to write a novel?  I was no expert in law or medicine.  I didn't have epic or tragic life circumstances.  I was just a simple stay at home mom with lots of random characters and places floating around in my head in a sort of mishmashed, chaotic way.  But then I was talking to my wonderful and supportive best friend, Kasie, and she mentioned that she was writing a book (I think she had already written a couple by that time), and I told her I was writing one too.  After that we began holding weekly writing groups with just the two of us.  We would discuss what we had read and what we thought about what we had read.  We discussed our own work and read each other's drafts.  We read agent blogs and decided to start our own.

Looking back that was the best decision we made along the way.  A new world of information and friendship opened up to us.  We also joined a local writing group that met twice a month.  We connected with writers of various genres and experience.  In short, we immersed ourselves in the writing world and culture. 

Since that time some wonderful things have happened. I've had the opportunity to get to know some of the most creative, most fun and most wonderful people around.  I've gotten to meet several of you in person (Jenn, Michelle, Natalie, Jenni, Linda, Tricia) and found that you are every bit as wonderful, intelligent and full of life as your blogs would suggest (I just have to put a plug in here for Renee too, because, thought I haven't met her, I feel like I have!).  Many of my blogging friends (including Kasie)  have finished multiple books, signed with agents, sold books and had personal successes, or overcome personal obstacles.   Every time something wonderful happens in your life, I sit and my computer and cheer for you.  I love seeing dreams come true on a regular basis. 

You have all taught me so much about writing, friendship, balancing life's demands, and believing in yourself.  You've taught me that I don't have to have extraordinary qualifications to be a writer, but I do have to work hard and persevere.

About a week ago I told my husband that I worried that writing had become too big a part of my life.  I worried that it took up time during the day that I should be doing other things (like cleaning for instance).  I said something like, "Maybe I should just walk away from it all."  He said to me, "Only you can decide what's right for you, but I just have one thing to say, The Candi who writes is much happier than the Candi who didn't write.  I don't think twenty years from now our children will remember how clean the house was, but I do think they'll remember that their mother was happy and that she pursued her goals. It seems to me that's a lot more important than a clean kitchen." (I know, isn't he the best!) 

So this year, I'm thankful for supportive friends, family (all of my wonderfully supportive siblings and parents), a loving husband, a totally impatient son (what else could be expected from a four-year-old), and the joy of writing in my life, and you!


Yes, I'm falling behind on my NaHoCleMo.  Let's just get that out of the way.  It's a bit embarrassing, but I do have three good excuses.  1) I've been sick.  2) I was out of town for three days  3) I don't like cleaning the house.

I was trying to figure out what I wanted to post about today and nothing really came to mind.  I think I've been too caught up with finishing yet another edit on my book (which is done, YAY!).  But then I remembered this book I saw when my husband and I were wandering the book store on our last date.  Which, by the way, we totally saw the guy who plays the PC on the Mac commercials.  He was doing a reading from his book (hilarious).  Apparently, he was a professional literary agent, turned journalist, turned book writer, turned Mac commercial dude.  Anyway... I digress. As we were wandering the bookstore together, because it was a date, I passed into the "New Age" section on the way to the "Philosophy" section (it was where my husband wanted to go and we were taking turns, otherwise you would never find me in "Philosophy" while there were still novels left to be read).  I discovered that there are just as many if not MORE books about vampires and witches and "mythical creatures" (I use quotes because this was a non-fiction part of the store) in the New Age sections as  there are in the YA section. And in the middle of them all was a HUGE shiny book of spells.

These were real spells, people.  I looked.  Like potions and chants and symbols.  Now I'm not one to buy into the mystical arts (at least not in the self-help/non-fiction sort of way), but if I were, I would probably try and figure out the right combination of things to say and do to magically create the perfect book.  It would definitely take some trial and error, but since I did a rewrite this week that I'm rather happy with, I might start with a few key ingredients from the last seven days and go from there.  My spell would include the following elements:

1. A trip to see someoneI adore.   I took a trip to attend my VERY (sorry Jenny) pregnant sister's baby shower.

 She's going to kill me for posting this, but it's part of the spell.  I had to do it.  And Jenny, lets face it, you're a babe! Besides pregnant is totally in right now.

2. Dayquil and a whole lotta germs.  I got sick on the way home and completely grossed out the passengers who were required to share my air for six hours. Every spell requires something disgusting.  Consider this my proverbial rat's tail.

Dude, What's your problem? 

3.  Mood Music.  I just downloaded a new Sarah McLachlan and Michael Buble song.

 I love my shiny, blue box of musical wonder.

4. Writer's brew.  Some of you may disagree on the choice, but really there's only one place with 60,000 combinations.  

Seriously, Sonic should start compensating me for all the free publicity I give them.  I would  accept limeades as payment.

5. And last but certainly not least, a Coven.  Otherwise known as Betas.

Don't be offended.  You guys are WAY hotter.  This is just the expression I imagine when you're reading my first drafts.


What would be your magical book-writing potion ingredient?

Juxtapose this!

First I want to say thank you to two lovely ladies who gave me the lovely blog award this week, Natalie Murphy, and Mary.  Two lovely blog awards, I must admit I'm flattered and surprised considering I drew stick figures of horrible death last week. But I will accept them thankfully and, in part, because I like the juxtaposition of pink roses and delicate teacups next to death and horror and my frightful lack of drawing talent.  Thanks ladies!

Now on to the business of today's word rant. (In case you haven't noticed, I like words.  I'm guessing a lot of you like them too since you're writers.)

Juxtapose: to place two or more items side by side, especially in order to suggest a link between them or emphasize the contrast between them.

Unlike last  week's word, literally (I shudder just to type it again), I actually love the word Juxtapose.  For starters, it's just a cool word.  How could it not be with both an x and a j in it?  How rare is that?  Jinx, Jax, Jukebox... It's like one of four words in the English language (yeah, that's a total guess) with that combination.  And as we all know, rarity equals high points in scrabble, one of life's staples of entertainment (also the only game I can ever beat my husband at).

Cool fact about the word, Juxtapose: If you could somehow link two other words together and use all of your seven tiles in scrabble to spell it, it would be worth 73 points (assuming the letters you linked were a and o because those only count for one point).  That's 23 points for the word and 50 points for using all your tiles.  If you were on a triple word score, it would be 219 points, and if your x was on a double letter score it would be 243.  Wow, you just won the whole game with one word.  How many words do you know that can offer you that?  Not literally(it's worth a lame 11 points).
Juxtapose is for sure the only cool word in scrabble.

Then there's the matter of the way it sounds.  If you didn't know what it meant, it could be almost anything, like an awesome invention:
"Have you seen the juxtapostion I just bought for the laboratory?"

Or maybe a deadly ninjitsu move:

"Surrender or you're going to feel the wrath of my roundhouse juxtaposition!"

It also works as a slang.

"Dude, don't be such a Juxta-Poser."

If you're willing to ignore it's meaning, the list of uses could be endless.  And it's non discriminatory.  Did  you notice how I used it for geek speak, tough-guy talk, and colloquial gangsta'?

In conclusion, Juxtapose, only a word, but if used decisively, may win you friends, influence people and unite geeks and gangsters.

***After reading the draft of today's post my husband said, "Next time someone asks you what you write you should say, Juxta-prose."  I love a clever man. ***

Of pets and peeves: Illustrating my point...literally.

Here's a little ground work for my stick figure rant today.

1. in the literal or strict sense: What does the word mean literally?
2. in a literal manner; word for word: to translate literally.
3. actually; without exaggeration or inaccuracy: The city was literally destroyed.
4. in effect; in substance; very nearly; virtually.

Usage note:
Since the early 20th century, literally has been widely used as an intensifier meaning “in effect, virtually,” a sense that contradicts the earlier meaning “actually, without exaggeration”: The senator was literally buried alive in the Iowa primaries. The parties were literally trading horses in an effort to reach a compromise. The use is often criticized; nevertheless, it appears in all but the most carefully edited writing.  

Confession time.  The misuse of the word literally drives me crazy!! How can a word that means one thing have a usage that means the exact opposite?  It doesn't make any sense.  So often people say literally when they actually mean figuratively, but I can't get the image of what they've said out of my head.  And usually it's not pleasant. 

I'm going to illustrate my point here.  I literally am.  Here are a few examples, and I know you've all heard these before.

Someone says, "I literally fell to pieces when it happened."

I think, really, you literally fell to pieces?  And this images pops into my head. 

Thanks a lot random person.  Now I have to walk around with a scene from Mississippi Chainsaw Massacre in my head all day.

Or how about these?

"I literally died when I heard the news."

Great now I'm thinking about The Ring

"I'm literally going to kill myself if he doesn't call."

What horror movie doesn't have a terrifying phone call? 

"I literally had a heart attack when it happened."
"My heart literally burst from excitement."
There's just no way any of this ends well.

See?  Literally and horrible death go hand in hand.  You say literally, and I see this:
Sorry if this is morbid, but it's not pleasant for me either. So lets just agree that you won't ever misuse the word literally.  Or maybe you shouldn't use the word at all.  I rarely do even when it might be considered appropriate.  Like today.  I would like to say that misuse of the word literally is literally a pet peeve of mine, but if I did this is what would come to mind.

You guessed it,  as soon as my pet, Peeve drinks the water... Gremlins.

It's official.

I'm a once a week blogger.  It was already the case, but now I'm making it official.  I blog on Thursdays from here on out.  I've been thinking a lot about the time balance in my life and what I need to focus on, and blogging is one of those things that, though I do sporadically, I still feel is a time drain and pressure that could be eliminated.  But I enjoy it and I love staying connected with all of you, so I've decided to blog once a week.  And I'm excited about it.  My posts will be much better, I think, because I'll actually want to do it.

I know that it may seem that nothing is really changing, but making this once a week blogging thing official relieves the self-imposed pressure I feel to do more.  Now I won't be thinking everyday that I'm failing at being a blogger.  I'll be thinking, WOW I'm the most consistent blogger around! And you all will know what to expect.  For me it's the perfect solution to how I spend my writing time (lets face it, blogging was never going to be my thing).

I just want to give a shout out to Lady Glam here. She is so honest and thoughtful and the very personal post she just wrote really made me think about what I really want. Thanks, Michelle!

So starting this week, I'll see you all on Thursdays!

I finally did it!

This is my own personal version of Natalie's Saturday Sketch, Renee's Photoshop Friday and Kasie's Maddeningly unhelpful advice Monday. Let's call it Stick Figure Thursday.  What, there's no alliteration in that?  Well let's just say that the quality of the drawing is represented by the totally sub-par title.  (And no, don't expect a reoccurring column.  Come on people, this is me we're talking about.)

So without further ado, here it is, my creation.  Tada!

In honor of Natalie, I drew it myself; in honor Renee, I added captions; and in honor of Kasie, it will in no way help your life.  Oh yeah, and in honor of Carrie, it makes me snarf!  If the rest of you all want honors then you must start a reoccurring series that somehow relates to the themes I write about (good luck figuring out what those are).

So why the extra blog effort today?  I finished my first book...again.  For the third time.  This time for real, maybe.  And this is a big deal, not because I think I'm going to get an agent with my first book (I mean I guess it could happen, but what are the chance really? ), but because it means that it is no longer hanging over me.  I can now focus whole-heartedly on my two other books (one which is almost done)  without feeling like a loser/quitter/ non-committer. I feel free and happy and light as a feather!   And in the coming weeks I will be experiencing the joy of beta readers who for once have a whole book to tear apart instead of just tearing pieces of a book into even tinier shreds.  I can't wait!

Me, the awesome blog buddy: An exercise in shameless self-promotion

I think you should like me.  I'm biased really, but why should that matter?  In case you disagree I would like to layout a few reasons why I believe you might want to be my blog buddy. 

1. I like YOU! It's true, I really do.  Even if I haven't met you, I like you.  I think my blog buddies are the best. All the ones I've met (Kasie, Jenn, Michelle, Natalie, Linda, Tricia, and Jenni) I just adore.  And the ones I haven't met--I just know you're awesome. 

2. I'm a low maintenance blog buddy. You will hardly ever have to comment on my blog.   I know a few of you may be thinking, that's because I'm  lazy, and while that might be true, I really don't see how that hurts you.  Less of my posts=less of your time reading and commenting on my posts.  I on the other hand will visit and adore your blog how ever often you choose to update it.  See?  There's no downside.

3. My third and final reason for stating that I'm an awesome blog buddy is that I have switched my blog to Blogspot!  It's about time, you're saying.  Yes, I know, but I just felt so loyal to Wordpress.  It treated me well over the last year and gave me multiple pages all on the same site.  But alas it was cumbersome for commenting on other blogs, and I couldn't customize it and make it my own (I shamelessly stole that phrase from American Idol).  So now it's even easier to be my blog buddy.  What are you waiting for??

A partial recounting of the last few weeks, interuppted by my laziness in writing about it. Also, a reference to salacious material, but not actual salacious material.

Warning:  If you didn't like, As I Lay Dying or other such stream of consciousness works, you may not want to read this post, because I am about to go with whatever comes to my mind.

Soooooo, I've been MIA the last couple of weeks since my mother-in-law was in town and we were busy doing stuff.  Fun stuff (hi mom 2, I miss you!).   Some of that stuff included going to Chicago.  I've decided that I love Chicago.  Enough to pay $60 dollars to park there for a day.  Not everyday.  Just A day.  As in one day.  Seriously though, the city is BEAUTIFUL.  Architecturally stunning and so clean.  It's far different than I imagined.  Everyone was nice, even the homeless people.  We kept running into one guy, who my mother-in-law gave money to, in various parts of the city.  He was so friendly (I wonder why).  We saw him on the street.  We saw him outside Cheesecake Factory, we saw him at the park where we let my four-yr-old run around for a bit.  He was like our own personal homeless person for the day.

There was however one blemish on our trip.  Our cab ride to dinner (yes, I know I paid sixty dollars for parking, but we still had to take a cab).  I was absolutely sure that we were going to die, if not from the driving than from the gang of Turkish mafia that would have dumped our bodies in Lake Michigan undoubtedly.  Now you may be asking yourselves, Why would the Turkish mafia want to kill Candice and her family?   And that would be a reasonable question to ask.  So, I'll tell you why.  My husband got in a fight with the cab driver (who informed us he was Turkish).  No, not a fist fight (thank goodness for the plexiglass divider), but they were both quite upset.  Here's what happened.

We walked out of our hotel, which was in the financial district and hence quite deserted on a Saturday night (but we had a stunning view of the opera house, so I got over that). There was nowhere to eat since everything was closed, so we decided to grab a cab and head over to the waterfront.  I was a little nervous about it simply because I hate not having my son in a car seat, but we didn't really have a lot of option if we wanted to eat.  So,  we get into the cab, give the driver directions and then proceed to clutch the seat as he weaves through downtown traffic.  About halfway through our drive, a couple of teenagers in a fancy SUV (who are driving even crazier than the cabby)   Flip off our driver and yell a few unrepeatbles to him.   So what does our cab driver do?  He rolls down his window sticks out his head and at the top of his lungs says the single most foul string of suggestions I have ever heard.

Now I know you all think you can imagine what he said, but I'm here to tell you that you can't!  And least you think I'm naive let me remind you that I worked for the California Department of Corrections as a teacher for several years.  I not only thought I'd heard everything there was to hear, I'd heard it as threat or personal suggestion by a student who wasn't happy with me.  But THIS--this shocked even me.  And really, that's hard to do.

So imagine now my husband.  My clean cut, well mannered, Air Force Officer of a husband (who also happens to not be shy [though he is a very nice guy] and over six two and two hundred lbs.)     Also imagine that my husband is sitting with his mother on his right, his wife on his left, and his four-yr-old son on his lap.  Yeah, it wasn't pretty.  It involved my husband "suggesting" what the cab driver could do with his own mouth (especially when there were children in the car) and the cab driver letting him know that he didn't need to hear what my husband had to say  because he had grandchildren (like that somehow made it better?  Does he make the same suggestions about their mothers that he made to those teenagers?).  Anyway, lets just say that it went on for quite a while, and I was quite afraid we were going to turn into a dark alley at any moment a meet a few of this guys friends.  But we didn't, so maybe the Turkish mafia has more important things to worry about than teaching a couple of tourists a lesson.

And now I could proceed to tell you about our many adventures in high buildings and elevators that go up a hundred stories in a matter of seconds, but really I'm tired of writing this post.   Just the memory of that night sent me into a near panic attack, so I'll just end the stream of consciousness recounting here for a now and say, I missed you all over the past few weeks, and I'm glad to be back!

That's so cliché

I've been pondering a question lately, and the question is this:  When is it okay to create a cliché character?  Here are three  answers I've come up with.  Ranging from the obvious to the controversial.

1. In a parody or satire. Though I think it is acceptable to use cliché characters in these, I don't thinks it's necessary.  A certain Merpire  from Carrie's blog comes to mind.

2. When you're trying to use the character as a contrast to a more non-traditional character. Perhaps this one is controversial because, just because a character does something expected does mean their persona is cliché.   At the same time you can find a slew of characters (especially in sitcoms) that fit a very specific mold, the lazy one, the dumb one, the uptight,nerdy one.  Often they're in the story for the MC to play off of.

3.  When you're writing for very young audiences. Again, not necessary, but acceptable.  Like when you're reading a child a story like,  BEDTIME BATTLE (yes, this is a favorite at our house).  The children exhibit very typical bedtime behavior.  My son finds this very amusing because he can relate to it!

What do you guys think?  You are all so much better at this writing analysis stuff than I am.  I just happen to have a cliché character in one of my books (at least I think he might be cliché)  and I'm wondering if it's okay.  Maybe it would be better to make a list of when it's not okay to use cliché characters, but I'm just sure at least one of you would put a single word on that list:  never! :)

My fingers have a mind of their own.

Last night I sent Kasie an email in which I said, "chat for a minute."  NO, I'm not putting that in quotation marks because it's what I said.   I'm putting it in quotes because I put it in quotes in the email.  And no, there was absolutely no reason to put it in quotes.  None. Somehow they just ended up in there.  I didn't even realize that I had done it until after I sent the email.  Imagine my confusion when I saw it. (If you need help here's the visual: messy, after-shower, bed head, glasses, pjs, consternated expression, scratching my head.)  On second thought, don't imagine it.

So I had to wonder, why did I do it?  Was it because I spend so much time typing quotation marks all day that my fingers have a random quotation twitch?  Or was it caused by a subconscious, histrionic need to illustrate the habit Nathan Bransford wrote about in his post on improper use of quotation marks?  Maybe it was the result of a split personality, one side of me that knows the rules of quotations and the other that clearly doesn't.  It's possible.  After all, I wouldn't really know if I had a split personality, would I?

As I started thinking about all these serious possibilities, another, more likely explanation came to the forefront of my mind: my fingers are possessed by a poltergeist finger spirit. Everything started making sense once I embraced this realization. And I'm not just talking about the fact that my fingers like to write "candi" instead of "can". I'm talking about everything in my life!

The added weight I can never get off, clearly the result of poltergeist-finger candybar grabbing. My cluttered office, poltergeist-finger aversion to cleaning. You see where I'm going with this. I'll spare you a comprehensive list, but suffice it to say that there is clearly a problem that needs to be dealt with. I'm going to get right on it.

In the meantime, if any of you get comments, emails, or twitter updates from me that say "your" in place of "you're" or just plain don't make sense, you'll know who to blame.

Sink or Swim, Live or Die

I’m awake at 6:30 this morning, saying good bye to my husband as he heads to work on the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and I can’t help but think back eight years.  It was a typical morning.  I was working as a teacher.  My husband was working as the assistant city planner of our quiet community.  We had just bought our first home.  It was an adorable fixer-upper with plaster walls and thick wood floors that needed to be refinished.

The alarm had already gone off once which turned the radio on in our room.  As usual, I was still asleep waiting for my own personal alarm (Neal) to wake me up when I really couldn’t spare another minute of sleep.

Like every other morning I felt his hand on my shoulder, “Candi, wake up.”  I grunted, probably unintelligibly.  Then his shaking was more insistent, “Candi.  Wake. Up. Our country has been attacked.”

Those were words I had never expected to hear. I rolled over quickly and sat up.  “What!?” I said as he turned off the radio and flipped on the TV in our room, searching for the news.

“Two planes were flown into the Twin Towers,” he said.  I was about to ask him more, but then I stopped.  We both stared at the screen at the image we all know so well.

Live camera crews were on the ground filming the disaster.  They were talking about the mass chaos, speculating on what had happened.  You could hear the shock in everyone’s voice as they watched the scene in front of them.  Then the first tower fell.   It happened so fast and a thick, black cloud of dust and debris rolled like a wave through the streets.  I remember so clearly the horrible recognition of what had just happened, how many people had died in an instant.  Then it happened again.  Then the third plane hit the Pentagon.  My sister lived in Washington DC.  Then the fourth plane crashed. I remember thinking, how long is this going to go on?  When will it stop?  How many more people are going to die?

Above us we could hear the afterburners of the F-14s taking off from the Air National Guard Base that was just a few miles from our home.  That was to become a common sound in the coming months as they continually patrolled the coast.  It always shook the old windows of our little house.

We learned in the weeks that followed that the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history had taken the lives of 2,974 innocent victims and 19 hijackers. A national tragedy gripped the nation.  It’s was as if all of us had been affected.  For weeks all I could do when I get home at night was turn on the news and stare.

Fast forward eight years.  Last week I get a call from my sister.  One of her friends has been killed in Afghanistan, leaving behind a young wife.  She expresses feelings of frustration at news media and politicians who are effusive at times and silent at others.  Their concern over the troops seems to be closely correlated with how much it will help or hurt their agenda to talk about them.  A young man dying in Mesa, AZ is not a national tragedy, but it is completely devastating to one family.  I realize that the September 11th death toll is still rising.  More than 5,000 U.S. troops have died in the war on terror and countless other innocent civilians and foreign troops.

I had a realization as I was walking through the commissary a few days ago. I saw a young veteran at the end of the line where I stood.  He had three prosthetic limbs and one stump.    He had lost all four limbs for his country.  I almost didn’t want to look. It made me feel ashamed of my own weaknesses and selfish tendencies.  It made me feel ashamed of the fact that I’m scared to be away from my husband for a matter of a few months.  In that moment I realized that for the majority of Americans freedom is cheap, even free.  There is no personal cost.  All it takes is a few of their tax dollars.  Big deal.  But for a very few Americans freedom costs an unimaginable price: their lives, their limbs, their loved ones, the precious moments watching their children grow up.

One of my neighbor’s husbands has been deployed for the fifth time.  She has four children.  Another of my neighbor's children listen to their dad’s voice on CD each night say recited prayers and read their favorite stories.  She said that the first year of their marriage her husband was gone 260 days.  To them freedom is not cheap.  But it has not cost them yet more than they are willing to pay.  They know it’s true worth.

One of the most amazing things to me is that those who have paid the highest price for freedom are those who will tell you that it is worth the cost.  My husband sees injured and scarred soldiers whose only desire is to get back and keep fighting.

I can’t help but think about a time when every person in our country knew and understood the cost of freedom.  Almost every family had a father or brother or son that had fought for that freedom.   I don’t wish to go back to those days.  We are incredibly blessed that so many do not have to suffer the horrors of war, but I do wish to share a thought from those who knew what Freedom truly cost and how much it was worth paying the price for.

The following speech is attributed to John Adams:

Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my hand and my heart to this vote…
I know the uncertainty of human affairs, but I see, I see clearly, through this day's business. You and I, indeed, may rue it. We may not live to the time when this Declaration shall be made good. We may die ; die, colonists ; die, slaves ; die, it may be, ignominiously and on the scaffold. Be it so ; be it so ! If it be the pleasure of heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready at the appointed hour of sacrifice, come when that hour may. But, while I do live, let me have a country, or at least, the hope of a country, and that a free country.
But whatever may be our fate, be assured; be assured that this Declaration will stand. It may cost treasure, and it may cost blood, but it will stand, and it will richly compensate for both. Through the thick gloom of the present, I see the brightness of the future, as the sun in heaven. We shall make this a glorious, an immortal day. When we are in our graves, our children will honor it. They will celebrate it with thanksgiving, with festivity, with bonfires and illuminations. On its annual return, they will shed tears, copious, gushing tears, not of subjection and slavery, not of agony and distress, but of exultation, of gratitude and of joy.
Sir, before God, I believe the hour is come. My judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope, in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it. And I leave off as I began, that, live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment, Independence now, and INDEPENDENCE FOREVER !
Freedom may not cost us personally, but my hope and prayer is that it is never cheap in our hearts.  I believe whole- heartedly that for the vast majority of Americans who will never have to see war or it's effects, all that freedom requires is for them to remember and appreciate.  And that is a very small price to pay.

WOOHOO for Natalie!!

I just want to give a huge CONGRATULATIONS to the lovely and uber-talented Natalie Whipple who just landed an agent. And who might her agent be you are all, I'm sure, asking... the ever coveted Nathan Bransford!

So head on over to her blog if you haven't already and offer up your congratulations.  Then look for her books on the best seller shelf in a few years.  She is so so creative and hardworking I know they're going to be there.  YAY NATALIE!!!!!!!

The story of how my life was changed forever.

Also known as the story of how I told many stories in a single post (mostly parenthetically).

Yesterday my life was transformed by a very small thing that will affect me in a very big way.  Let me tell you a story. 

My husband,  the wonderful and amazing Neal (he's a life changing story in and of himself), loves to go to the movies.  We are not one of those couples that gets all creative on our date nights.  We go to dinner and a movie.  It's very predictable, but also quite relaxing and the best place for people of the movie-popcorn-loving persuasion (also another interesting story, consisting of the fact that Neal would pay movie popcorn prices to have movie popcorn to watch a video rental at home.  Okay, that's pretty much the whole story.). 

Anyway, I digress.  Here's the point.  I spend a lot of time at movies.  This means that I spend a lot of time in movie bathrooms.  It's embarassing to admit, but it's true.  The four or five glasses of water I drink at dinner always have an effect on me (sometime more than once, my record is five times in the same movie).  It's bizarre, but I have the world's smallest bladder.  You would think I would learn not to drink so much at dinner, but it's kind of a compulsion, and I don't realize I'm doing it (dang, addictive, restaurant tap water!). 

The result of all this is that I inevitable miss the life-changing, gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, climax of the movie, or worse, I miss the kiss! It's very annoying and it makes me want the $10.50 (well $8.50 now that we're in the military) back that I paid to use the movie theater bathrooms and see all the slow parts of their movies.  It's so not worth the money. 

Well, anyone who has spent any amount of time with me knows how much money I spend for the privilege of using a movie theater bathroom while they actually watch a movie.   This is the case with my dear friend Kasieand her husband Jared.  Neal and I have seen more movies with those two than anyone else on the face of the planet.  They know the routine: sit near the isle on the side with a door, laugh at Candi every time she has to go in and out of the theater, etc, etc.

So the other day Jared, being the thoughtful guy that he is (and never one to miss the opportunity to make himself laugh) gives me the address to this revolutionary internet site he's discovered, www. runpee.com  

No, I discovered,  this is not a joke.  It is a real site (complete with yellow headings and letters that dance).  But the point is it tells you when to go to the bathroom and what you're going to miss! And it's always a boring part and sometimes it has multiple options and if you have an i-phone you can set a timer and it alerts you with a beep that it's time to go!! LIFE. CHANGING.

So that's the story of how my life was forever changed. I didn't say it would be a good one. Now excuse me please... I need to use the WC.

The joy of creating

centerpiece crop 3

I’ve noticed that every writer classifies their writing a bit differently.  It may be a job, an academic pursuit, a hobby, an artistic outlet, or any combination of these things.  For me writing is still a somewhat relaxing activity, though as I become more dedicated and set higher standards for myself it is becoming more work.  

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  There is a lot of satisfaction that comes from working hard and seeing your efforts rewarded in the form of a thick manuscript.  But I do find that I still need a secondary hobby, something that is purely for the love of doing it.  For me that that is often flower arranging.  I usually just make arrangement for my home or my friends and family.  Occasionally I help out with events (like my sister's wedding) but I try not to make it a job.



I love flowers.  They’re so… organic.  Even pictures of them make me happy (except when they're on wallpaper). I just love cutting them from the garden (especially if it’s my garden).  I love taking them in their thorny, twisty, wild state and creating order out of the chaos.  I love using things that are not typically associated with bouquets and throwing them into the mix. 



  It’s a bit like writing in that there are base core materials and principles for good flower arranging, but how you use them for any given arrangement will vary from person to person.  And even if you use the same elements no two bouquets ever look the exactly the same.  The flowers and hands that craft them are too unique.   



I think it’s a good idea to have sources of enjoyment and relaxation outside of writing.   I personally need other artistic outlets.  I know may of you enjoy photography, drawing, painting, music and any number of other pursuits.  So I’m curious do you consider writing a hobby, a job, a source of enjoyment?  And what do you consider your other pursuits?  Do they help you relax?  Are they your job and writing is your hobby? Is writing your job?  Can it be both a hobby and a job?

Bad Sun!

I'm not feeling too hot after a day at the pool.  The sun is not generally my friend.  So to combat a headache and a mild case of the blues I sent my husband to Buffalo Wild Wings on the recommendation of a local (I've never tried their food).  I'm growing concerned that food is replacing friends (see my last post for further proof of my theory).  Blaaaaaaaahhhhhh!! I just felt like saying that.

I had a break through! Thanks Meijers

For those of you who live on the west coast you may not have heard of Meijers.  I know I hadn't until I moved out here to Ohio.  It's a Walmartesque store, but a bit nicer if you ask me.  Anyway there's one right down the road from me, and I recently discovered it has the best store-brand ice cream!  Their mint moose tracks is inspirational! (Right now I have the desire to say that it is LITERALLY inspirational, but since one of my pet peeves is the incorrect use of the word literally, I will refrain.) 

So my second book is coming along swimmingly at about forty-thousand words (after two months of not writing that is quite good for me).  I've also felt inspired with a new idea that I love!  I want so badly to write it, but with one book in a never ending edit and another two-thirds done, it really wouldn't be a good idea to do more than outline it for now. 

When the time actually does come to sit down and pound it out, you can be sure there will be a red plastic cup full of mint moose tracks next to me.  I have no doubt it will be the fastest book I've ever written, and I'll only have to gain twenty or so pounds to do it.  (I'm estimating, of course. It would be silly to claim that I could actually know how much I might gain during a set sedentary period full of mass consumptions of delicious dairy treats.)


Hi all my blogospherian friends.  I just thought I would pop my head up from the hole I've been hiding in over the past few months and say "hi." It will have to be brief, however, since my eyes still haven't readjusted to the light. 

I've been without the Internet for the past month and it's been... interesting.  At first I thought I might go crazy as I automatically walked to my computer every spare moment I got only to realize that I was completely isolated from the world wide web.  But after a while I got used to my  primitive life in the mountains, and I learned to be content with my cell phone.  I must admit it was a bit difficult to refinance a house with no scanner, fax, copier, or Internet, but I decided if my ancestors could do it the old fashioned way, so could I. 

In the end, I made a few important realizations:

There is life outside the blogosphere *gasps ensue all over the virtual world* Notice that I didn't say life is better outside the blogoshpere, only that it exists.

The post office still operates a daily mail carrying service and stamps now cost a whopping 44 cents! (I say just send an email.)

My facebook friends did NOT dessert me after my prolonged absence.

It's really, really cool to meet blogging friends in real life.

And perhaps the most surprising discovery of all... I did not get more writing done without the distraction of the Internet.  In fact, I got less done.  Who'da guessed?  Not me.

So, I'm going to Alabama this weekend to see my awesome husband, who I've missed terribly over the past month, and I may be out of contact again in a few days.  But then it's home to Ohio to settle into a routine again and get reacquainted with my love of the Internet and catch up with all of you via your two minute Twitter updates.

The new haircut

I got a new haircut today.  I love getting new haircuts! This one gives me maximum sassitude.  It's chin length in the front with a high, a-line stack in the back.  I was really happy with it when I walked out of the salon.  Fast forward half an hour...

I come home to my husband and son.  My husband is a bit surprised by my new haircut and tells me it's nice, but I can see in his eyes its going to take him a little time to get used to it.  My four-year-old son on the other hand immediately comes up to me and says, "Oh mommy, I LOVE your hair.  It's soooo beautiful!"  And the compliments don't stop, "Daddy, look at mommy's hair, isn't it beautiful?"

At this point I turn to my husband with  the look of , well at least somebody knows what to say when I get home from the salon and my husband looks at me as if to say, what do you expect, I'm a guy. (Yes, we frequently have complete conversations without speaking.)  My son is still complimenting me as he climbs up on a chair next to me and proceeds to play with my newly cut hair, "Mommy I really like your hair.  It looks soooo beautiful.  It looks just like a grandma's hair!" (insert that squigley stop the tape noise they put on sitcoms).  The smug look on my face immediately disappears, the penitant look on my husbands face is also gone, replaced by laughter.   My son on the other hand is completely oblivious as he continues to compliment me on my beautiful grandma hair... at least it's short for summer.

Update:  My husband has decided he really likes my hair.  I knew he would once he got used it. :)

Why don't I blog more?

I've asked myself this question and come up with three possible answers. 

Answer 1) My life is super boring and thus not worth blogging about.

Answer 2)You all are such amazing bloggers that you've intimidated me into silence.

Answer 3) I don't as a general rule enjoy writing creative non fiction.

The answer is probably a mix of the three, but I want to focus on the third reason that I'm often short on posts.  I realize that I don't really love writing creative non fiction.  I have tons of thoughts and ideas pop into my head for blogging topics, but then when I actually sit to write them I think, Bleck! I already had the thought why do I want to spend my time writing it?  I could be writing about my fictional characters and that's way more fun!  

So maybe I need to add a fourth reason to my list... Answer 4) LAZY!  Yep that's probably the most truthful answer.

Fortunately, I have all of your lovely blogs to keep me entertained and connected, so though I will continue to blog albeit sporadically, I will do more basking in all your blogs in the meantime.  You all say it so much better than I could anyway!

I love signed books!

I''ve entered two blog contests for free signed books and I thought you all might like to know about them too.  See, I'm not greedy (plus I get bonus points for advertising on my blog!).  So, if a free signed book sounds good to you too, click on over and check out these two links.

Contest for the signed copy of The Double Daring Book for Girls

Contest for the signed copy of Darkness Comprehended

Good Luck!! But hopefully not too much luck because I want to win at least one!

Love my boys!!

Since I'm outta ideas, I thought I'd post my new family pics. Thanks Steph~



My little angel (most days).



Love ya, babe! After ten years you still make my heart beat a little faster.



No, I'm not dead!  I'm alive and doing well.  My blog on the other hand...


I discovered it's hard to come up with a creative blog post when your brain is busy contemplating an enormous move, crazy summer of travel and a myriad of other things.  Hope you all are doing well!!

Does writing ever make you feel this way? Just asking?

The Brain: Pinky, there are times when I feel I'm bearing my soul to a tube of caulk.

Pinky: Mmm! Caulk!

The Brain: ...And yet I continue.

pinky and the brain

Just for fun.

Just a funny little side note. I decided to final participate in Evil Editor's caption contest and got my caption published here. I think I should have attached a warning when I sent in my caption: Public airing of this caption may result in incessant future entries. Publish at your own risk.

The artistic temperament?

For me writing is an emotional endeavor. And I think it would surprise a lot of people who know me that I often do my best writing when I'm sad or discouraged. That's not to say that the writing itself has to reflect my emotions; it doesn't. Quite often I find myself writing the opposite of what I'm feeling.

I'm generally a very cheeful, optimistic person, so perhaps writing is a way that I deal with darker emotions. Whatever the cause, the examination of emotion is my impetus for writing. And new experiences only add to my desire to write. Sometimes those experiences are vicarious through empathy. Sometimes I only feel the echo of an emotion as I watch it acted out in a movie. But one things for certain, the more emotion I experience in life the more capable I feel of putting life on the page.

Perhaps that's why writer's, aritsts, musicians and others are generally temperamental (and by temperamental I mean prone to emotionality) . Granted I'm making generalizations, but it's an interesting topic to contemplate. Is the artistic temperment a prerequesite for success in the arts? Perhaps it's a result of our chosen avocation? Or maybe it's an unsupported stereo type? What do you think?

“There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul.”
- Arnold Bennett

Where do write from?

<pWriting is an emitional endeavor for me. I find that I do my best writing when i'm feeling someemotion deeply. for me that em

Unexpected Characters

I have a very vivid memory from my junior year in college. I had just finished a four month internship in Puebla, Mexico. I was living in a small village a couple hours south of Mexico City and ten minutes from the base of an active volcano. The population of the village was mostly indigenous and very, very short. I was like a giant among them.

Oft times as I walked to one of my appointments a little boy named Predo, who lived along my path, would yell, "Mira! Ya viene La Grandota!" (Look! Here comes the Giant Woman!) I know... it was very flattering to hear everyday. Little Prdo would then proceed to run up behind me, grab both straps of my backpack, plant his heels in the dirt, lean back and 'surf' behind me while all the other little kids laughed hysterically. I, of course, played along everyday, happy to be of service as the one woman, town freakshow.

None of the houses (including the one I lived in) had a phone, so I would trek to the village plaza (giving Predo the requisite backpack ride) a couple times a week to call my parents and let them know how I was doing.

The particular phone call I remember so well happened to be the night before I was coming home. I was reminding my dad what time my plane would be landing in Phoenix and he said, "Your mom isn't going to be able to come with me. She's sick." Now I knew my mother had been worried sick about me the entire time I had been gone, so I was a bit surprised by this statement. "What kind of sick?" I asked, suddenly afraid that I was about to hear something devastating over the phone. "Pregnant sick" came the reply.

After a few seconds of stunned silence, I began to cry, mostly from happiness, but there was a bit of added gusto in my weeping from pent up exhaustion. That night I was, as usual, the town spectacle, adding to my title and becoming La Grandota Llorona (The Weeping Giant Woman).

My little brother was born about six months later, the tail end of six children, twenty-one years my junior. He has become the unexpected character in my family's life. Not only because of the age difference, but because of his personality. He is like a little whirlwind of life in my parents household, keeping them from growing old to fast and keeping all his older siblings in stitches from his constant silly antics. I can't imagine our family's life without him.

I've decided that the best things in life are mostly unexpected, and don't usually come at convenient times. As I look back over the past several years I can see so many things that have brought me to where I am today. Sometimes I cried when they happened. Sometimes I felt overwhelmed or afraid, but in the end they enriched my life beyond my comprehension. I think of my desire not to get married in college (I did). I think of the day my husband decided to close his business and go back to school, or the day we decided to pursue adoption, or the day I felt so discouraged that I had to sit down and write until I felt better (I haven't stopped writing since, but I do feel better). All these moments in my life were unexpected, full of overwhelming emotion but also full of hope and possibilities.

So now as I face the thought of moving to a new place, across the country, away from everyone and everything I know, I think about the events and characters that are about to come into my life. I would be lying if I said that I don't feel a bit of trepidation, but then all I have to do is look at my son, my husband, my little brother and remember that the three best things in my life came along at times or in ways that were completely unexpected.


How long does it really take to write a novel?

“I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”- Mark Twain

How long does it actually take to write a novel? I'm not just talking about the time to sit down and write a first draft from beginning to end. I'm talking about the time spent writing an outline or jotting down notes and the time spent editing and revising and editing and revising again. I wonder how long it really takes.

I've been trying to figure this out for my own writing. And it's kind of hard to do. My first book took a year to write, but I was learning a lot during that year and probably wrote twice as many words as actually ended up in the book. My second book will probably take about five months to draft, but then I imagine I will spend another month or two editing. And I'm sure I'll probably edit a few more times in the future. I'm not a super speedy writer like many of you are, but I'm also not the type to spend my entire life on a single masterpiece. I think my average will end up being about nine months for one completed,edited novel, with some overlap between novels.

What kind of writer are you? I've noticed many of you write books in a matter of a few weeks. I'm curious, do you spend a lot of time editing them after? Are they pretty well developed at that point? Do you set them aside and come back to them? Do you find that you have to cut a lot, or do you add to them? What's your personal writing strategy and timeline?