Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dear Jane Pen Pal Project

I have been so swamped recently with all the awesome, cool, exciting stuff I have some how managed to get myself involved in. As it turns out, there are only 24 hours in the day, and a significant portion of those are required for sleep if you want to be at all functional.
Whose idea was that?

One of the super rad projects I am working on is the Dear Jane Pen Pal Program over on my site Indie Jane. We are connecting Austen fans and readers all over the world and reviving the lost art of letter writing. Sign ups are running through 9/15 so there is still time to be a part. I would love for some of my blog readers to join us! It doesn't matter what level of Austen-fan you are, if you love literature and letter writing (or want to love letter writing) please join us!

Image provided by Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Issue with Journals

I have issues with journals. Don't get me wrong. I want to be a journal writer. I love those gorgeous leather bound journals. I gaze at them longingly in the book store and think of all the wonderful things other people could write in them. But I am scared. Literally paralyzed by my own fears . . . I have huge, huge issues with writing in them myself. They are so pretty so I want everything I write to be perfect. I cannot handle mistakes. This is why I write in pencil (because it has an eraser) and in word processors. Just the thought of it not being perfect makes me want to never start. I call it avoidance perfectionism. If I don't ever actually DO it, then the concept of it can remain perfect in my mind.

Perfectly undone.

This probably sounds totally weird to most people. But I know there are others like me out there. It spills out into other parts of my life, it's not just journals, but they are a really prime example of it. Case in point. My husband gave me a gorgeous wood covered journal for my twenty-seventh birthday and I haven't written in it yet. I am thirty-two.

There's actually a book for people like me. A "journal" that gives you instructions about how to dirty it up. Do this with that page, crumple up and throw this page away, etc. The problem here is that I would literally get so caught up in following the instructions perfectly that it would completely defeat the purpose of the darn book.

Completely. Defeat.

I got another journal for my birthday this year. The cover is a gorgeous deep brown leather with beautiful flowers. There's a lovely inscription in it. It's from a woman here in our new town, the wife of my husband's coworker. She threw me a surprise birthday party. She has no idea about my avoidance perfectionism because I really do come off as a normal person. It is so pretty I don't want to unpretty it.

I've had it for almost two months.

Enough is enough.

I gave myself permission to unpretty this journal.

I got supplies. Including PENS.

I put pictures in the front. I didn't worry about the fact that my kids tore the picture of Maddie (so sad, I only have one untorn one left), I just tore the others to match.

I wrote in it.

On several pages.

I'm going to try to write in it more tomorrow. And more the next day. I might skip a day . . . I don't know. The point is I can skip and still come back to it. I can jump around. It doesn't have to be orderly or perfect. It just has to be used. This journal was made to be written in.

And once I've filled this one up, I'll start on my wooden journal.

I refuse to maintain a false perfection by just avoiding. I have to embrace the imperfection.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Debut of Chapter One

Here it is! The long awaited (ok, maybe only by me) debut of the first chapter of Awake: A Sleeping Beauty Story.

If you need a quick refresher on what my novel is about, click on over here to read the synopsis. Otherwise, without further ado, here is the first chapter:

Awake: A Sleeping Beauty Story

Chapter One

The last place Alexandra Martin expected to see Luke Reed was at orientation for summer interns at the Museum Guild of Los Angeles.

Quite honestly, Alex hadn’t expected to see Luke anywhere after graduation, except maybe in the occasional news report about minor league baseball and eventually the majors. Rumor had it he’d already signed a contract with a major league team and was going to be playing in their minor league farm system starting that summer. Not that Alex paid any attention to rumors about Luke Reed.

And yet there he was, slouching in one of the museum’s ancient folding chairs, arms crossed behind his head as he gazed soulfully up at the ceiling. What he found so fascinating about the yellowing acoustic tiles Alex couldn’t even begin to fathom. A group of girls seated a row behind him, obviously destined for a summer of interning at the art museum if their black clothing and red lips were any indication, ogled him blatantly. It was entirely possible that he studied the tiles more to avoid their predatory gazes than from any real interest in the ceiling.

Alex lingered in the doorway and wondered for a single heartbeat if she could escape unnoticed. Maybe she could tell the receptionist she wasn’t feeling well and see if she could be excused from orientation. It was, after all, her fourth summer interning at the Gem and Mineral Museum; she was already fully oriented.

But that would be cowardly.

And he’d already lowered his gaze from his contemplation of the ceiling and spotted her.

“Hey Lex, saved you a seat,” Luke flashed her his trademark killer grin - a grin that caused most females of the species to swoon and giggle like they’d suddenly dropped twenty IQ points, but the only feeling it aroused in Alex was minor irritation.

Alex eyed the seat next to him. She supposed it would be horribly rude to sit anywhere else, seeing as he had just announced to the entire room that he had saved it for her. Alex had never been horribly rude to anyone in her life. She doubted she could even pull off horribly rude if she wanted to.

“Luke,” she acknowledged as she stepped over his long legs to reach the folding chair next to him, ignoring the incredulous, mildly jealous, stares from the gaggle of art interns. Alex sat, hugging her backpack in her lap in front of her and resting her chin on the top of it as she stared at the empty podium at the front of the meeting room.

“Aren’t you going to ask me what I’m doing here?” Luke teased her after a few moments of awkward silence.

Without looking over at him she answered, “I would think it was pretty obvious, as it’s summer intern orientation, that you’re here because you’re interning at one of the museums.”

“Hmm, yes, logic always has been your strong suit,” he replied. “You’re at the GeMMLA too, right?” He laughed as Alex’s head snapped towards him, her eyes widening at his use of the word “too.” “Of course you are, you’ve always had a thing for rocks.”

Alex stared at him, her brain refusing to wrap itself around the concept that Luke Reed of all people was going to be spending the entire summer at the Gem and Mineral Museum of Los Angeles.

“Luke,” she finally asked in bewilderment, “what in God’s name are you doing here?”

He flashed her another lethal grin, but Alex was already too off balance to feel her normal irritation.

“I’m spending the next nine weeks doing all sorts of geeky rock stuff with you, short stuff.”

Alex winced at the old term of endearment. “Luke, you and I haven’t been friends since the seventh grade,” she pointed out. When everyone began to notice how talented he was on the baseball field, he had started getting popular, while Alex, who’d possessed no discernible talent other than for schoolwork and being slightly awkward, had remained as unpopular as ever. It wasn’t that Alex had been a social outcast, that would have required her peers taking enough notice of her to cast her out. She just sort of quietly was, whereas Luke’s good looks, charm, and athletic talent had rocketed him into the popularity stratosphere. “We’ve barely even spoken to each other since middle school.”

“Lex, I asked you to the junior formal last year. Doesn’t exactly qualify as not talking to each other.”

“Your mother made you ask me.”

Luke laughed. “Is that why you said no? Because you think my mom made me ask you?”

Alex glared at him, silently daring him to lie to her. “Okay,” he conceded, “she may have mentioned that your mom told her you didn’t have a date to the dance, although I already knew that because you never go to dances . . .”

“There is no sense,” Alex interrupted irritably, “in a person like me ever attempting to go to a dance. That aside,” she continued when it looked as if he might argue with her, “I am sure there is an actual valid reason you’re planning on wasting your summer doing ‘geeky rock stuff.’”


“Yup, what?” Alex asked, exasperated.

“Yup, I do have a valid reason,” Luke answered.

Alex glared at him for a moment, but he didn’t seem inclined to elaborate. “Well, there you go,” she said sarcastically.

She glanced up at the clock, hoping orientation would start soon. The museums had staggered closed days. The only two days all six were open at the same time were Wednesdays and Saturdays. Even the organizers of the summer internship program realized the cruelty of asking teenagers to sit through an orientation on a Saturday in July. So here they all were, every teen within a thirty mile radius who had even thought of setting foot in a museum during the summer, about twenty-five of them, spending their Wednesday morning waiting to get sorted out and dispersed amongst the main museums.

The six museums were grouped together in a hodgepodge circle surrounding a large open grassy area referred to, quite creatively, as “the lawn.” Other than the occasional errand between museums, the lawn was the only place interns from different museums would ever run into each other. This usually happened during lunch breaks since most of the restaurants around the museum guild were priced out of the average high school student’s budget.

The Gem and Mineral Museum was definitely not the most glamorous museum in the Guild, and therefore it garnered the least amount of interest. Becca Ward, who had volunteered with Alex the last three summers, had waved exuberantly at Alex as she came into the room a few moments earlier. Becca had noticed mid-wave that Alex wasn’t sitting alone. She’d raised her eyebrows almost comically high at Alex as she walked by them and took a seat in the back corner with a group of interns from the Science Museum. Alex tried to flash her a “save me” look, but she was pretty sure Becca hadn’t seen it, or she’d just decided to abandon Alex to her fate.

Alex had figured this year, just like last, it would only be herself and Becca, who would end up at GeMMLA. But now, of course, there was Luke.

The clock slowly ticked down the last few moments to ten when the orientation was scheduled to start. Luke, wisely reading her last comment as signaling the end of the conversation, had resumed his perusal of the ceiling tiles. Alex wondered idly who would be doing this year’s presentation. It was pretty much the same material every year, an overview of the program, usually dryly presented by someone from the Art Museum, as they got the most interns, or occasionally by someone from Science. It was too much to hope it might be someone from GeMMLA, and definitely too much to hope that it might be him. As evidenced by the fact that she was sitting next to Luke Reed and therefore already feeling out of sorts and slightly inadequate, she was just not that lucky today.

Exactly one minute before ten, the door swung open and he walked in, a stack of stapled handouts tucked under one arm. Alex’s mouth went dry and her cheeks flushed as he caught sight of her and gave her a smile and a wave. She could hear the gaggle of art interns whispering furiously amongst themselves. Alex figured they must be wondering how she rated a saved seat from the hot blond athlete and a smile and a wave from the handsome dark-haired advisor. She had to consciously stop the almost frantic giggle that rose up in her throat, because she totally agreed with them.

Luke had also noticed the smile and wave, as well as Alex’s reaction to it. He gave her a little smile, different than his usually casual grin, and Alex had no idea what to make of it.

“Hey everyone, my name is Nicholas Grey, and I am the intern advisor for the Gem and Mineral Museum.” Nicholas dropped his stack of papers on the podium with an audible thud, then leaned against it, ankles crossed with one arm casually draped across the top. In his dark jeans and sports coat over a t-shirt featuring the logo of a classic rock band, he was the epitome of academic chic. Alex could almost hear the art interns rethinking their museum choice.

“I’m also working on my doctoral thesis,” Nicholas continued, “so I’m a student just like you guys.”

Alex was pretty sure Nicholas could not honestly be compared to any of the high school students or soon-to-be-college students in the room. With the possible exception of Luke, no one else here was as comfortable in their own skin. Unlike Luke’s innate athletic grace, Nicholas radiated a sort of calm energy that came from maturity and experience.

“The information we are going to go over this morning is pretty basic and general, just a bit about the program and the six different museums that make up the Guild. You’ll get more detailed info from your respective intern advisors. I’ve got a list of all your names, so I’ll read it off and make sure everyone is here.”

He paused to pull out a pair of horn-rimmed glasses from his coat pocket and slipped them on. It was really unfair, Alex reflected, that Nicholas’s glasses managed to make him look even hotter, while hers just managed to obscure her eyes and highlight the too-small bridge of her nose by slipping down continuously.

“Alexandra, would you mind passing out these handouts while I take attendance?” Nicholas shot Alex another smile.

Alex set her backpack on the floor and wiped her suddenly damp palms on the front of her jeans before she stood up, almost tripping over her discarded backpack. Before she could even react to the fact that she was tipping over, Luke’s arm shot out to the side and he snagged a finger through the back belt loop of her jeans, stopping her forward momentum. Three thoughts flashed simultaneously through Alex’s mind. The first was that she was glad her jeans, as well worn as they were, didn’t rip. The second was relief that Luke had been so quick that he had effectively prevented her from making a total fool of herself and had done it in such a way that only those sitting behind her could even tell there was a problem. Nicholas, standing as he was in front and to the left of her, couldn’t even see Luke’s arm steadying her or his hand gripping her waistband.

The third was that Luke was really, really strong.

“Easy, short stuff,” Luke said under his breath. “Make him guess at least a little.” Alex turned and glared at him with what she hoped was enough force to kill. He just chuckled under his breath and tugged on her belt loop once before letting her go.

Alex concentrated on taking careful, measured steps on her way to the podium and accepted the stack of handouts from Nicholas without fully meeting his eye. As she passed them out, she ignored the snide sideways glances from the art interns, who, being seated behind her, had unfortunately had a great view of her near mishap and the heroic save by Luke. She sat back in her chair and resumed her clock watching, this time counting down the seconds until the orientation was over and she could escape to the calming environs of GeMMLA. She made the mistake of glancing over at Luke once, and when he gave her a broad wink, she realized with a small sinking feeling that her sanctuary, the one place she felt relatively normal, was about to be invaded by the person in whose presence she tended to appear the most unspecial and inadequate. And this invasion was going to happen in front of the one person that she desperately wanted to see her as special and adequate.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hello Beautiful

It's official! I have turned into my mother.

In the morning, this is the most beautiful sight . . . just think, this time last year I wasn't a coffee drinker at all. And now here I have my own pot and everything!

I can't really claim to have fully turned into my mom quite yet, she drinks it black. Hard core. I still have to throw some flavored creamer into my cup. Someday though, someday I will drink it black as night and dark as pitch. And like it.

Make sure to stop by here on Monday to read the first chapter of my novel in it's entirety!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Butterflies in My Tummy

This upcoming Monday, August 22, I will be debuting the complete first chapter of my novel Awake: A Sleeping Beauty Story here and at Indie Jane.

I am a little bit excited and a lot terrified.

I really hope you will come by on Monday and let me know what you think!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fried Green Beans

Someone from church gave us an entire grocery bag full of freshly picked green beans and in my search for recipes to help use them up, I have discovered the awesomeness of fried green beans. These are amazing! They are so addictive! I am not quite sure if they should be considered a health food (fresh green beans after all!) or a horribly fattening snack (deep fried, but the flour coating is minimal at best). Whatever else they are they are most definitely yum! Here is the recipe I have been using, although I just eyeball everything, measuring kills my mojo:

Fresh green beans, I make about 1/2 lb at a time, washed with the ends snapped off
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup(ish) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper

1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
Oil for deep frying (I just use about 1/2 cup in a small saute pan)

Mix the flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder in bowl.
Dip the green beans in milk and then roll in the flour mixture.
Deep fry until golden brown.
Drain on paper towels

Great for snacks, or as a side dish for your summer burgers. Yum . . . burgers . . .

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ten Things I Know to Be True

1. There are not enough hours in my day.

2. I will never be as perfect or as accomplished as I want to be.

3. My eyes are bigger than my tummy.

4. Piles of unfinished projects are both overwhelming and depressing.

5. I suck at prioritizing.

6. Caffeine is a miracle drug to which I am hopelessly addicted.

7. Yo Gabba Gabba was obviously created by people high on illegal narcotics.

8. We only get warm sunny days for so many days out of the year, I should be making sure my kids are out enjoying more of them.

9. I would love to lock myself in a hotel room for a weekend just to write . . . a caffeine fueled writing and editing binge without worrying about anything but the pieces of story in my head. Trifling things like dishes, laundry, nap times, and showering. However, if I actually ever did this the Mommy guilt would kill me.

10. His grace is sufficient.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Advent of Becca

Our friend Becca is visiting us for a month! The kids (and mommy and daddy) were excited out their minds about her coming for weeks before she actually got here. Every time someone would leave James would wig out thinking they were going to pick up Becca without him.

Becca sent Maddie and James a "Countdown to Becca" calendar. Or as I like to call it, a Becca Advent Calendar. It's almost like Christmas! (In a totally non-sacrilegious way).

Becca has been here for a week and we've been busy doing all sorts of fun Montana-y stuff. Here is Becca, Maddie, and James in Reeder's Alley in downtown Helena. Reeder's Alley was originally bachelor apartments for miners, and now it is cute little shops and restaurant.

Some friends from church (also originally from California) took us out Saturday on their boat and we went up the Missouri River through the Gates of the Mountain. Ah-maz-ing. Maddie looks pretty darn thrilled.

We drove up to a "ghost town" in the mountains called Rimini, it wasn't much of a town, or very ghosty, just some old buildings and a few newer houses, but there was a pretty awesome waterfall that we walked up to.

We went rainbow hunting in an afternoon thunderstorm, and we were rewarded with a double rainbow. This may be my new favorite picture of all time.

Here is to another week of fun!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

New Post on Indie Jane

Hello there beautiful people! I have a new post today up on Indie Jane in which I discuss how adaptable Austen is and share artwork from my upcoming Pride and Prejudice children's book. I would love if you could check it out and comment. Thanks!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Just for Fun

Just for fun I created a Wordle word cloud of my novel (as it stands now mid-editing) and then I took an Instagram picture of it, because everything is better with Instagram.

The best part is that none of my overused words appear anywhere on this! Progress my lovelies, progress!

I am hoping to release the first chapter as a sample soon . . . anyone interested?