Monday, June 30, 2008

Word of the Week #9

I thought I'd go with another of my favorite words, even though chances are everyone knows it. Well--lo and behold--when I looked up the official definition, there's a lot more to twit than I even knew! It can now be a favorite word 3 times over :)

A) twit - [twit] - noun

1. An insignificant or bothersome person.
2. A weak or thin place in yarn caused by uneven spinning. (Hmm, wonder why this definition is unknown...)
3. A derisive reproach; taunt; gibe.

1. Get out of my way, you twit!
2. The girl from Rumpelstiltskin was probably frustrated with the twits in her gold yarn. (Hey, you come up with a better sentence.)
3. The girl who tried to rollerblade over the railroad tracks had to endure the twits of onlookers when she totally wiped out.

B) twit - [twit] - verb

1. to taunt, tease, ridicule, etc., with reference to anything embarrassing; gibe at.
2. to reproach or upbraid.

1. When I bowled a horrible game last week, my husband only twitted me a little. (True story.)
2. I have to twit at my kids whenever they start throwing toys at each other.

Whew! Who knew there was so much to a twit?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Just For Fun

I love to dance, I love to travel, and I love people. I am not embarrassed to admit I grinned the whole time, and I'm only a little embarrassed to admit that my eyes got misty (must be allergies). Now I want to go to all those places :)

Here's the video: Where the Hell is Matt (2008)

Matt Harding visited 42 countries and danced with thousands. You can find out more at his website, Take a peek at the Outtakes.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

And Another Good Read

Today I'm going to recommend another of my favorite books. This one is quite different from the books/series I've talked about so far. It's not light or fun, but it is very, very good. It has one of those great "A-ha!" endings that take everything you thought you knew about what was going on and flipped it around into a whole new light. Kind of, but not quite, like the Sixth Sense ending. But in this book there aren't dead people and the main character isn't a ghost. (So sorry if I spoiled the movie for you, but if you haven't seen Sixth Sense by this point, then please go rent it.)

If you're in the mood for an excellent read that involves your heart, mind, and addresses real issues with fantastic characterization, go pick up My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. It is one of my all-time favorites.

Short synopsis (from the author's website):
Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate - a life and a role that she has never questioned… until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister - and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable… a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves. My Sister's Keeper examines what it means to be a good parent, a good sister, a good person. Is it morally correct to do whatever it takes to save a child's life… even if that means infringing upon the rights of another? Is it worth trying to discover who you really are, if that quest makes you like yourself less?

My Sister's Keeper has won many awards and great reviews. Jodi Piccoult is a great writer with the talent of getting you inside characters so that you live their life dilemmas and challenges with them. I have read other books of hers, but this one is still by far my favorite. Her most recent book, Change of Heart, is in stores now. (I haven't read it yet.) You can find out more about Jodi Picoult and her books on her website.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Word of the Week #8

scintilla - [sin-til-uh] - noun

Definition: a minute particle; spark; trace

Usage: I caught my daughter on the counter with her mouth full of cake, frosting all over her face, and not a scintilla of remorse as she smiled angelically.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I'm not jealous. (Well, maybe a little)

Last week our city library had a night devoted to the bestselling children's fantasy series of Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, complete with a guest appearance by the author. Book #3, Curse of the Shadow Plague, came out in April, and I decided I better buy it before the Fablehaven night, since I was still #19 on the waiting list at the library--figure 4 weeks per checkout, and we were looking at about a year and a half for our turn. That just wasn't going to cut it.

It took my son about a day to read the book and we were set for the big night. We had a good time rubbing shoulders with the hundreds of other people there, feeding the chickens, drinking magic milk, and dodging hags handing out curses. Actually, the kids chased after the hags, since you had to get a "kiss" from a wandering fairy to lift the curse, and the kisses were Hershey's Kisses. The hags ran out of curses.

I made the kids sit facing the setting sun to listen to Brandon Mull talk. (Shush, kids! Mommy's listening!) The whole time my husband squinted at Brandon and murmured that he looked really familiar. Then Brandon mentioned where he grew up. My husband looked over at me with a grin. "That's it!" he said. It was one of the 11 places his family lived while he was growing up, and he actually went to Scout camp with Brandon, although Brandon would have hung out with my husband's younger brother. Which makes Brandon MY AGE. With books on the bestseller list. I only turned a little green with jealousy.

After Brandon talked we stood in line for an hour--well, my husband stood in line for an hour while I followed kids around the park--to get our book signed. By the time we finally got to Brandon's table, I was practically swooning with envy. A long line of people wanting to get their books signed and take pictures with an author! My book signings usually involve people trying not to make eye contact and giving me a wide berth like I have cooties.

So, pthbthbth on Brandon Mull!!

No, really. I'm happy for his success (Mr. New York Times Bestseller... He probably thinks he's all that. "Hello, look at my books that sell an obscene number of copies." And you know what makes me grumpy? Brandon Mull is a genuinely nice guy, and very funny. I can't even feel satisfied being jealous of a jerk. Grrrr)

*Note: I have read the first 2 books of the series but the third book is in my stack of books waiting to be read. The first two were pretty good. I'll let you know what I think of #3 when I get to it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Is light reading a waste of time?

I had someone ask me if I had some ideas for some light reading with engaging characters and good writing. So I'll be trying to help out with that request the next little while.

Some people feel that "light" reading is a waste of time. Perhaps they feel a book (or movie, or play, or piece of artwork, for that matter) should convey a deep message that makes you think or re-evaluate your life or beliefs. Don't get me wrong, I have read some books that change me, and I have loved them. They have great value and I admire writers who can create a story that will do that. However, reading for simple entertainment also has its own value. I read a lot of non-fiction, and when my brain needs a break I love escaping into the pages of a good book. It helps rejuvenate me so I can tackle the weightier matters of life: kids, bills, yard work, writing, and the unbelievable cost of filling the tank of my minivan.

So, in keeping with my thoughts on the value of reading just to escape and unwind, this week I'm going to recommend another of my favorite series. I have plenty of standalone favorites, but a series is nice because, if you like it, there are more books with the same characters that you can read immediately. And if you're an addict (like me) you start getting twitchy before that next fix.

I really enjoy reading the Amelia Peabody Series from author Elizabeth Peters (who also writes under the pseudonym Barbara Michaels). Starting in 1884, the first book of the series is Crocodile on the Sandbank.

At thirty-two, strong-willed Amelia Peabody, a self-proclaimed spinster, decides to use her ample inheritance to indulge her passion, Egyptology. On her way to Egypt, Amelia encounters a young woman named Evelyn Barton-Forbes. The two become fast friends and travel on together, encountering mysteries, missing mummies, and Radcliffe Emerson, a dashing and opinionated archaeologist who doesn't need a woman's help -- or so he thinks.

The series is an amazing family saga, encompassing three generations, a world war, and thirty-five years of turbulent history. Amelia and Evelyn married brothers -- Amelia accepting the hand of the distinguished archaeologist Radcliffe Emerson, and Evelyn that of his younger brother Walter. Amelia’s love of Egypt almost equaled her love for her hot-tempered (but extremely handsome) husband. She joined him in his annual excavations, which, except for a few brief hiatuses, continued for the entire thirty-five years.

This series really gets fun once you involve the second generation and run-ins with the Master Criminal, who most definitely has a crush on Amelia. I re-read these books often, and chuckle at the wonderful personality of Amelia. I also like running to the dictionary every once in a while to look up words I don't know, but somehow the characters would actually say those words.

Crocodile in the Sandbank was published in 1975, and the latest installment, Tomb of the Golden Bird, was published in 2006. For more information on the series, visit

Monday, June 16, 2008

Word of the Week #7

inchoate - [in-koh-it, -eyt} - adjective

1. Not yet completed or fully developed.
2. At an initial or early stage.
3. Not organized; lacking order.

Usage: The act of writing forces the author to clarify inchoate thoughts.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Summer Reading

It's summer now, and all of you who will be spending all that time relaxing at the pool or on vacation may be looking for some good books to read. I am going to be sharing with you some of my recommended reading for the summer, since: 1) I am a book addict, (2) I have read a lot of books, (3) my pool and vacation time rarely includes relaxing reading time, so those who can do it shouldn't waste it with mediocre reading, and (4) this is my blog.

I will just talk about some, while actually reviewing other books. Heck! I may even throw in an author interview here and there, too.

So, to get us started I would like to talk about one of my favorite series. I have been reading these books for 20 years, and my copies are almost falling to pieces, especially since my boys have discovered them. They love the books as much as I did (and still do). They are great for children, YA, and adults.

My first recommendation is the Myth Series by Robert Asprin. These books have everything--monsters, mayhem, magic, assassins, and a green demon named Aahz (like in the Wizard of) with a nastily endearing temperament. And funny! These books are laugh-out-loud funny. Robert Asprin weaves fantasy, characters, and satire like a pro.

Note: I was sad to discover that Robert Asprin passed away in May of this year. *sniff*

The Myth series centers around a young mage named Skeeve and his mentor and best friend Aahz. Aahz is a money hungry demon from Perv who has lost all of his magical powers. Aahz takes it upon himself to teach the fledgling mage all he knows of magic and in the process attempts to gain as much wealth and fame as he can for both of them. With this fame comes endless chances for adventure.

The great thing about the story is that there are 12 novels in the original series. The publishing house that carried them went out of business, but a new publisher picked it up and the 'new' MythAdventures series, co-authored with Jody Lynn Nye, currently includes six more books, with a seventh forthcoming. So you can enjoy over 20 books of Myth fun!

Check out the Myth Adventures website for more information. Oh, and you can buy the first books in the series on Amazon for under $1.00. SWEET!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Word of the Week #6

prolix - [proh-liks, proh-liks] - adjective

1. extended to great, unnecessary, or tedious length; long and wordy.
2. (of a person) given to speaking or writing at great or tedious length.

1. Many of the passages in classic literature lean toward prolix description. Case in point: Moby Dick.
2. The TA in the chemistry lab is such a prolix person that it would be faster to just read the textbook a few times to try to understand the concepts.

Related forms: prolixity, prolixness (noun), prolixly (verb)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Another Enjoying the Journey Review

Stacy Anderson, author of The Santa Letters--if you haven't heard of it yet, around Christmas you will:)--has posted a review of Enjoying the Journey on her blog. Not only is it a positive review but you can tell it comes from her heart. It made me misty-eyed.

Pop on over to Stayin' Alive with Stacy and take a look.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

So You Want to Write a Book

Guess what? You’re not alone. According to some surveys, 80 percent of the U.S. population wants to write a book. And it sounds pretty cool, right? Flashing a shiny, new book with your name embossed across the front cover. (Total Aside: You imagine doing that, but then when you actually have a shiny new book you feel a little self-conscious flashing it to people because you worry that they’ll think you’re full of yourself.) The fame, the book signings with lines stretching out the store and down the block (*snort* maybe if you’re J.K. Rowling or Stephen King).Yeah… the good life.

Well, if you’re one of those 80 percent, then how do you get from wanting to actually writing a book? Drum Roll… The first step is to have a good idea.

Stay with me here. I am betting that a good chunk of people wanting to write a book don’t actually know what they want to write a book about. You know, you just have this nebulous idea that writing a book about . . . well, something . . . would be really cool. You first need to figure out what that “something” is. So let’s delve a little into the realm of ideas.

How do authors get their ideas?

The answer to this is as varied as authors themselves. I get my ideas for non-fiction because of a need in my own life which I notice isn’t addressed very well. For example, I wrote Parenting the Ephraim’s Child because of what I couldn’t find in other parenting books. Think of a book that you would like to read but haven’t been able to find, then write it.

Believe it or not, I have way more fiction ideas than non-fiction ideas. I have a notebook full of story ideas, and these story ideas have come in many different ways.

It may be that I see a news article or hear about something, and think what if. For example, in today’s headlines is the story “Boy Once Confined to Bubble Emerges Seemingly Healed.” A 7 year-old boy who has a genetic mutation called NEMO (what endless title possibilities!) finally emerges from his bubble. This could be a great coming-of-age story. Or what about a fantasy where not only does the genetic mutation cause immune problems, but maybe superpowers too? Or this could be a story from the parents’ point of view. What would it be like to be the mother of this child? How would it impact siblings?

Sometimes I’ll just have an idea for a dilemma. What if you had to pretend insanity to keep from being killed for political reasons, for example. Jodi Piccoult writes excellent dilemma books. One of my favorites, My Sister’s Keeper, is based on the dilemma of one child that has leukemia and parents that have another child to be a matched donor for the first.

You can even take a story and think how you could twist it in a completely different way. Fractured fairy tales like Robin McKinley writes—Spindles End (Sleeping Beauty), Beauty (Beauty and the Beast), and Rose Daughter (another retelling of Beauty and the Beast)—are great examples of this.

The book I am currently working on originally stemmed from a story I told my son on a rainy day to keep him entertained. He asked to be told the story again and again. The idea then morphed when I heard of the title for another book and decided to do a little research. I have combined both ideas into my current project.

I get many ideas from music. Not the lyrics of music, but the feel of a song. The idea for the next book I’m going to write, in fact, popped almost complete into my head while listening to a song in the car one day. I can’t listen to that song when writing anything else, because it belongs to that one book. And when I start writing it, all I have to do to get in the right mood is play that song.

So, there you go. A few ideas on how to get ideas. I’m sure there are many other ways and I would love for anyone to share other ways they get ideas. The point is, ideas are everywhere, and if you’re a writer at heart, you will find them.

Next time I’ll talk a little bit about how not all ideas are equal, or how to choose an idea.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Word of the Week #5

*A personal favorite*

vapid - [vap-id] - adjective

lacking or having lost life, sharpness, or flavor; insipid; flat.
2. without liveliness or spirit; dull or tedious.

Usage: I couldn't force myself to read one more page of the vapid romance novel--as if a buff hero really cares that much about his tunic.