July vs. November

Each November I pledge to myself that I am going to dedicate time to writing every single day with a goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month.  (That’s roughly 1,667 words per day.)  I always sprint out of the gate at the beginning and then by day five or so, I peter out and start skipping a day or two or nine and then write my fingers off for several days in a row, only to lose track of time and realize the month ended last week and I only have 10% written.

So this year, NaNoWriMo.com offered a Camp NaNoWriMo to kick off their fundraising event, by having a Summer version throughout July.  I decided that would be fabulous to participate in because after four years of trying, November is clearly NOT my month for writing.  So I started a “cabin” of my own, only none of my writer friends joined so the last week of June, I opened it up to anyone.  My cabin mates were mostly quiet. Two seemed to interact occasionally with me.  And we were all off and writing.

Two of my kids had to have their wisdom teeth extracted under full anesthesia within a week of each other and the dueling pain meds schedule and accommodation of soft foods combined with palatable textures for the one with Autism became my full-time job.  And before I knew it, it was August and I only had 8,376 words completed.

July is not my month either, apparently.



Now That I Can Breathe Without Tears

This was my post on Facebook the day following the tragic and brutal assassination of five police officers just 20 miles east of me in Dallas. I thought I would share it here and then expand:

“I spent the better part of last night with my ear glued to the radio. I feel like a giant rock is on my chest, I am so heartbroken that this happened here. And I am bracing myself to hear what weak attempt to link this cowardly and brutal assassination of our police officers to either the “open carry” side or the “stricter gun restrictions” side of the argument.
Our police force is NOT a means to anyone’s political end. These were good people who were hunted by a sniper’s rifle while they protected peaceful demonstrators who were exercising their 1st Amendment rights to express their solidarity with people of the other communities who lost young black men in violent deaths at the hands of a few bad cops.
That said, I also firmly believe that every one of those black men who were killed by police officers throughout this country were also good men whose lives were taken out of the fear, prejudice, bad judgment, overzealousness, incompetence, or power-drunken arrogance of a select group of police officers. Just as black criminals do not represent the entire black population, those bad cops do not represent law enforcement as a whole.
My heart hurts today and I just do not want to deal with Trump or Clinton or anyone else’s politically motivated soundbites to further their own campaigns on the backs of Blue or Black coffins.

I am still “in the feels” about all of this. I have been since Trayvon Martin was shot four years ago. I’ve watched from the sidelines and spoken my peace in support of my fellow citizens from within the African-American community. I cannot ever understand how they must feel, having to worry every time their young men step outside the safety of their own homes.

I can only imagine that it is similar to how I feel every September 11th; how I go about my day with my butt cheeks clenched and acid burning a hole in my stomach as I wait for all my children and my husband to return home at the end of that day. How every time there is a shooting, hostage situation, or explosion within our borders the first thing that pops into my mind is, “Dear God. Please don’t let it be a Muslim that is committing this terrible act.” Only this anxiety for my black friends is one that they must endure in the backs of their minds EVERY day and not just annually or during some heinous event.

I want to cry out for them and I want to hug them and I want to scream. I want to be the one who organizes some sort of training program to run through all of the law enforcement academies from coast to coast and make sure that our police officers can learn to see our human sides and not affiliate skin color with criminal capability that crosses all racial lines. How do we turn off that hate? Is there an app for THAT?

I am the person who sees the good in others. I am excited that at my children’s high school on the lower socio-economic side of town, there is a police academy training program where the local community college and police academy choose from our predominately minority population to eventually protect and serve our community. This is affecting positive change in our city. I want this for all the cities. I want to see communities working together to improve the economy; opening and supporting small businesses within the poorer neighborhoods so that money is put back into the community and helping to cut unemployment rates, increase local spending, create pride.

I am not Pollyanna. I know that these things will not solve prejudicial views of all or fear due to racial misunderstandings by law enforcement agents. I know that there is no magic wand to “fix it” in the short term. But I know that what I would like to see happen would definitely contribute to a long-term fix of what’s broke in our country. I will continue to push for education opportunities within my own community. I will continue to teach my own kids empathy, fairness, and to stand on the side of right. I know that the genuinely good people of the United States will continue to do the same. And we can support our brothers and sisters of all skin colors, backgrounds, religions, cultures, and still support our law enforcement officials. I’m going to keep doing my part.

It’s Gotta Be the Heat

I’ve got at least four blog posts saved to draft. They all started out as good subjects to write about, but somewhere around the third paragraph each lost steam so I just chucked them into the draft folder.

I hate that. I know that I’m notorious for starting projects and not finishing them for a long time. It’s not that I’m non-committal. I’m always committed to what I am doing. I think that the issue is more that I tend to commit to several different projects at the same time and I can only divide my attention so many ways. Realizing that this is an easy fix, I still can’t stop myself from saying YES to so many interesting things to do. (Yes, that includes books. I’m reading two simultaneously-ish right now. One is a “how-to” and the other is a novel that sort of caught my eye at the library. I think both are overdue.)

The bottom line is that I AM a finisher. I will eventually complete all 4 of those other drafts in my folder. I will read both books…though admittedly the “how-to” will be the one I return without completing until I check it out again in a month or so when things “slow down.” The novel I’ll read in a waiting room while all 3 teens get dental check ups at the same time because I tend to make all their appointments on the same day if I can get away with it.

Why am I losing steam with the whole writing thing? I blame the heat. It’s hotter than a $12 stereo outside and I just don’t have the energy to think much past remembering to pick the kids up from Summer School. (Yes. I’m THAT mom forcing her kids to take accelerated Physics and Geometry so that they can have more electives options in their fall schedules. And yes, they hate me for it.)  I will probably even re-read the ten chapters of my novel that I started writing and then put away because I got pissed off at my characters for not gelling the way I wanted them to. (Of course I realize that it’s a mechanical issue: The nut loose behind the keyboard.)

But I always complete the stuff I start. I will get to all of it…except for the friggin’ yard sale that I will never have because of the HEAT and my inability to just SIT in it for hours. *sigh* I may have to stop collecting yard sale crap in my room or the “room organization” venture that I started may be the second thing that I don’t complete.

Again, I blame the heat.


Brain Food…NOT About Zombies

ATTACK KIT COMMENT Pictures, Images and Photos
Reading is one of my all-time favorite things to do in the world. I think a dream vacation for me would involve a large comfortable couch in a large room with floor to ceiling bookcases covered in all of the books I am dying to read still.  Of course, in keeping with most of my fantasies, all 5 of my kids would be off in 100% completely safe boarding schools and the room I’m in would have 68 degree F air-conditioning setting that my husband would not be able to adjust.  (He can wear that stack of sweaters over there in the corner.)

I have this burning desire to just go to any of the major book stores and fill an empty shopping cart with one copy each of all the classics that I haven’t read, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Dickens, and throw in some Shakespeare that I haven’t yet shared with my kids. (They LOVED MacBeth and Othello.) I don’t want to
buy Mark Twain because I have a huge collection of his books that I bought at a yard sale back in the early 90’s. It was a big paper bag full of books for $5. WHAT A FIND! I also got a copy of  The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, The Last Days of Pompeii by the baron Edward Bulwer-Lytto, and The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and Six Famous French Novels. Those are all on yellowed paper with that slightly musty “old book” smell.  I think that the French novels book was printed in 1903. Definitely worth the $5 spent, I’d say.  Anyway, I’d also pick up copies of the more recent books by some of my favorite bloggers that I’ve been wanting to read, like Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, Relative Insanity by Shauna Glenn, and the rest of Nuala Reilly’s Fayette series. (Of course, she has to finish the fourth book in order for me to get the full series, so, COME ON, NUALA! Get the lead out!)

Living in Alexandria, Egypt with five kids (who really AREN’T in or even likely to go to boarding schools) on a very fixed income, I don’t get to indulge in my reading addiction much. I occasionally cruise through the used book market on Nabi Daniel Street and come across some wonderful finds. (That’s where I found the Shakespeare in an English as a Foreign Language edition, aka edited beyond belief with a glossary so that my elementary kids would spark an interest.) Also, I’ve found some fascinating old hardbound books, some from authors I’d never heard of before. My favorite among them is by A.E.W. Mason, an English writer. The book I found The Dean’s Elbow is absolutely intriguing to me. It has some mystery, romance, scandalous relationships, and even historical technical information about the textile industry and perfecting dyes for fabrics.  (It was printed in 1930, so don’t go reading it if you’re looking for 50 shades of crap.) My most recent find was a new copy of Agatha Christie’s The Man in the Brown Suit. I used to read Agatha Christie in 8th grade and throughout high school. I had kind of forgotten about her. You know until one of the Inspector Poirot movies would show up on television late in the afternoon. I found a stack of brand new (never been read anyway) Agatha Christie books I grabbed the stack…but after arguing with the bookseller over price, I ended up only buying the one.  (Limited income, mind you….so I can go back and get another later. Maybe even trade back the one I just read, after the kids finish it.)

My reading “bucket list” has now become a “barrel list” and may soon turn into a “dump truck list.” But that’s okay. I know the answer would ordinarily be to order online but that gets costly when I end up paying more in customs taxes than the price of the book. It’s cool. I’m not really complaining. I look at it this way, I’m going to get that fantasy book vacation, God willing, when we move back to the U.S. My sisters both have substantial book collections that I could borrow from and the library is a fantastic place for kids and me to visit. While I kind of envy the book clubs that my friends are involved in, I think more I miss the access to public libraries. Really, guys!  Take advantage of it this summer with your kids. While at first some of them may whine a bit, “But it’s summertime! I don’t want to read!” MAKE THEM. My kids all love the library. Even the one who hates to read (mostly because he has a few learning challenges.)  Let them pick out the books…or give them a selection of some that you really dug in school that you think they may enjoy. I did this with Ismail when we were back in Texas a couple of years ago.  I chose a few authors that I thought he may enjoy and he chose How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell. He thoroughly enjoyed it and the exercise of reading every other page with me, awakened his hunger for reading again.

I recently bought a membership at the American Cultural Center library here in Alexandria. Once I get a few mandatory errands out of the way that involve school registrations and dental appointments, I am planning to make a regular bi-monthly trip with the kids there so that they can once again “get their read on.” I have taken a couple of them to the Alexandria Library but I was so unhappy with the policies there that I swore I’d never go back. (One library is for kids to 12 yrs, one library is for kids 12-17 yrs, and the main library is 18 and up. Parents are not permitted to enter the kids library with their kids and kids are not permitted with their parents into the adult library. Also they have a sign that states the library is not responsible for kids while not with their parents?????? WTH????)

So I’m hoping that my children will bring their English reading levels up to as high as they are in Arabic this Summer. It’s all about the brain-food. And no. I’m STILL not talking about zombies!

Interview with Nuala Reilly, Author

For anyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter, you know that I recently participated in a contest where I had to mention Nuala Reilly 50 times in 7 days to win 2 books.  I’m sure that I was kicked off of several friends lists due to my obsession with winning.  Yeah, I’m a little on the competitive side. While I didn’t win the books, I did win the opportunity to interview the author about AUTUMN VIOLETS, the first novel in a four-part series. Since I was so impressed with the relationships between the characters in this book, I seemed to focus most of my questions on that.  So, here it is….my official interview with Canadian author, Nuala Reilly!
SPRH: Fayette is an ideal little town that gives the reader a sense of “picturesque village that 
meets and marries 21st century industrialized nation.” Did you paint the town of Fayette in
AUTUMN VIOLETS (or even parts of it) from memories made by your family while living in 
Cambridge or some other small town in Canada?
NR: Fayette is based largly (the downtown anyway) on the town I grew up in, Elora Ontario. In fact, the original cover is an artist’s rendition of the downtown core.  I did make some changes, which probably occur only in my head. But the Ryan house is my parent’s house, no question.  I’d like to think that Fayette could be equated to any small town with that charm and appeal though, in Canada or in the US.
SPRH: Have you any professional baking experience to draw on for Moira’s Cakery descriptions?
If not, did you have to do a lot of yummy research to describe her craft? (Because I’d never
even heard of icing like you described for the Bakker wedding cake.)
NR: When I was a stay-at-home-mom with my kids for 13 years, I ran a few businesses from the house on the side.  One of them was cake decorating.  I was completely self-taught and as I did more, I learned more techniques.  During those years I went from making birthday cakes and specialty cakes to wedding cakes.  I have made the wedding cakes of all of my siblings except one, and for several other people, as well.  Interesting fact is now my oldest son is so enthralled by the process that being a pastry chef is now his career path.  He makes all the fancy cakes now.
SPRH: The strong ties between Moira and Sloane are so elegantly laid out for the reader that it is
apparent that you have sisters. The entire love-hate, “want to strangle her but would strangle
others for her” relationship was something I immediately related to.  Was it difficult to capture
the essence of the jealous-proud/endearing-irritated nature of their relationship that we the
readers infer?
NR: It was, at times.  I have three sisters. I am the oldest of them, so I am sure there are moments when that definitely comes across.  There is a delicate balance that happens in strong female relationships, especially those of family. So I spent quite a bit of time trying to ensure that their relationship was both honest and realistic.
SPRH: Further to that, I’ve read other novels where sister characters were quite obviously written by 
an author who is either a man or a woman who doesn’t have sisters. Your portrayal of the 
true nature of sisterhood was so spot on that I actually relived several awkward memories of
my sisters and me. Was Sloane molded out of anyone in particular? Or was she a combination 
of your own sisters? Or just completely made up altogether?
NR: Sloane is definitely a combination of the traits of my sisters and of other women who were strong influences on me as I grew up.  My family has pointed out that Sloane certainly has many of the characteristics of one of my sisters in particular. But I think that is purely coincidental.  At the time that I wrote the book, I did have a sister getting married and so some of the conversations between them are loosely based on our shared experiences. Although my sister was not nearly as, shall we say, headstrong, as Sloane.  Sloane is, I think, that one perfect girl we all knew and maybe we wanted to dislike her because she seemed so perfect. But it’s hard to ignore her innate charm. 
SPRH: Siobhan and Angela are both such strong role models for Moira and Sloane. One picks up 
that Moira learned how to set goals and achieve them from her mother and grandmother and 
seems to still lack all the confidence that Sloane is overflowing with. How challenging was it 
to give the sisters the right balance of character qualities and defects inherited from the elder
Ryan women to make them seem so real?
NR: I’m so glad you picked up on this.  Again, the ladies are combinations of various women in my life, this time more role models of mine than friends. When looking at my own children, I find it incredible the hybrid of qualities that they have, which are not the same in any two children, but which can be absolutely attributed to their dad and myself.
SPRH: Siobhan’s character made me laugh quite a bit due to her less than diplomatic, deadpan 
nature of her words. Does she reflect “future you” in anyway? (Because I can totally see you
being THIS grandmother.)
NR: I would hope that she is a foreshadowing of the future me.  Siobhan is a mixture of myself and what I remember of my own Irish Nana, Lucy, who passed away just before I got married.
SPRH: It’s obvious that Jack and Kevin only have each other in the world and as much as each one
worries about the other, their relationship is still felt to be strained. Was it Kevin’s cancer 
diagnosis that drew them together? 
NR: The relationship between these two was both challenging and a pleasure to write. As a woman, I can’t ever truly know the intimate parts of male relationships, but I talked my ideas for these two over with many male friends and with my husband.  I think it’s clear (at least I hope it is) that they both had very difficult demons to deal with that impacted their relationship during a very formative time and that is why it was strained. However, I think when we are faced with the mortality of a loved one, those old differences seem to peel away and leave a very real, very raw centre that is both painful and beautiful. It was a pleasure to explore this with Jack and Kevin.
SPRH: What was it about Moira that helped Jack push past his “man-whore” ways? Was it more than
just the  green eye connection?  Did his father’s nagging about settling down finally wear him
NR: I have had the connection with someone (my husband) that happens out of the blue and rocks what you think you know about yourself, even though it is rare.  I think in Jack’s case this is true. However, I also felt for him that there was a combination of the pressure from his father, with a need to please him as well as it was just time for him. It’s hard to be a hounddog forever when you are, at your core, lonely.
SPRH: When Kevin finally died, did you feel a sense of loss in your real life? (I went through half a box
of tissue, thanks a lot!) 
NR: Absolutely I did.  I knew that this would be the way Kevin would exit the story. Nonetheless, it was heartbreaking to write. It brought up for me memories of anyone I have lost in my life.  Ironically, shortly after I wrote this, the father of a very dear friend of mine passed away from cancer. I was fortunate enough to be there with the family when it happened. It was a moment (I reflected several weeks later) that made me feel like I had really been true to how a life can end. 
SPRH: The least explored character seemed to be Jaye, Moira’s best friend and business partner. She
had so many great and strong qualities about her and seemed to be a huge influence on Moira.
But I was left with so many questions, like “What’s with the blue hair?” and “Where does she
disappear to each night after closing The Cakery?” She’s so mysterious. (I sort of pictured her
wearing black Adam Ant concert t-shirts with a tiny diamond nose piercing but still wearing pink
lip gloss and high-end perfumes.) Did any of her personality or physical description come from 
any of your own kids or any friends from high school?  Do you relate more to Moira or Jaye as a 
NR: Jaye is amazing and a character I truly loved. She is a mixture of attributes between myself and my oldest and dearest friend Sarah, with a lot of artistic license, of course.  You aren’t the first one to make this comment on her.  When my friend, Kelly, read the book, she told me that Jaye needed her own story.  That is how I birthed the idea for Winter Jasmine, and really, for the whole series.  Jaye is the ballsy-est version of what I feel myself to be. She is a pleasure to write and a force to be reckoned with.
SPRH: What inspired the series titles? Are you an avid gardener? I know that AUTUMN VIOLETS and 
WINTER JASMINE are out now. When can we expect the third and fourth books in the series to
be released and what are their titles? 
NR: I am a terrible gardener.  I have a black thumb, unless it’s vegetables. Those I can grow almost too well and then never seem to be able to handle.  I chose the flowers for their meanings, and the seasons because of the line “to everything, there is a season” which is I believe a Bible quote but I always remember as the song by The Byrds.  The next two books that will be released in this series are titled SPRING DAISIES which follows Sloane and SUMMER POPPIES which will focus on Angela and Siobhan, and the family at large. 
I am also now planning a second series of four to follow four men, and I hope I can do them the same justice I did to Kevin and Jack. 

SPRH: Thank you, Nuala Reilly, for this glimpse inside of the characters of your novel. I can’t wait to read
the rest of the series.

If anyone is interested in checking out these amazing stories, you can find her books at www.nualareilly.com and Amazon.com  and Barnes and Noble and Alibris.  You can also follow her blog, A Writer’s Journey, at   

http://nualareilly.wordpress.com/ .

My Blog Audience

A lot of bloggers get into this venue to let off steam or be heard.  Some are wannabe authors trying to practice and perfect their craft while building up a reader base for once they get published. Some of us are trying to save money that would go toward therapy if we didn’t have a place to vent…and then there’s me…a combination of all of the above. Also, there are several attention whores, who like myself, love to hog the spotlight. That said, I have to admit a little secret about blogger…..they track your stats. This includes some of the URLs that visited my site. And guess what.  I’m being read by someone who works at Yagara….an herbal erectile dysfunction company. I always figured that since I’m writing about mostly women’s issues, girly bits, periods and SAHM stuff that people who work for tampon, bra, and PMS medicine companies would be checking out my blog. I guess I was wrong and those dedicated to helping perpetually flaccid men are following my blog…secretly…or they’re signing up as my cult followers under ‘chick pseudonyms.’   I’m sorry. I shouldn’t make fun of erectile dysfunction. It is a serious medical issue. And I’m just grateful that ANYONE reads my blog. So, welcome and keep reading.

Just found it interesting. That is all.